Music: Have Not Been The Same, even now


You get used to running into authors on the Maclean’s staff. Weekly deadlines and and an elevated ambient level of intellectual pretension ambition have built up a hefty staff library. Michael Friscolanti, Michael Petrou, Anne Kingston, colleagues Feschuk and Potter, and many more have put paper between covers. Geddes wrote a lovely novel. Even the boss finally finished his Hearst book.

But one of the most pleasant and unexpected surprises came a couple of years ago when I was chatting with Michael Barclay, an editor who often pauses from more vital chores to do a second read of my column on Tuesday nights to check for egregious errors. Barclay revealed that he’s an author, with Ian A.D. Jack and Jason Schneider, of Have Not Been the Same: The CanRock Renaissance 1985-1995. Since that extraordinary book has now been revised, updated and re-released in a tenth-anniversary edition, I thought I’d tell you about it.

Have Not Been the Same chronicles the decade when the rise of independent record labels, easy(-ish) CD distribution, college radio and shows like Brent Bambury’s Brave New Waves on CBC Radio produced an astonishing expansion of Canadian rock, alternative, punk and otherwise guitar-intensive music. What strikes you first about HNBTS is its breadth and depth: the new edition runs past 700 pages, with separate chapters on important regional music scenes (Halifax, Montreal, Vancouver) and on key bands (Sloan, Tragically Hip), but just about every band that made any kind of name for itself is in here. The bands that served as my touchstones after my undergrad are all here — Bourbon Tabernacle Choir, Jerry Jerry, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet.

But this is not merely a compendium. It’s a tremendously sympathetic audience with dozens of musicians, so it’s full to bursting with first-hand accounts of memorable gigs, epic or catastrophic tours, triumphant or (more often) messed-up shots at the big time. Barclay and his colleagues do not fetishize the minor players or penalize the bands that made it big for their success, so Daniel Lanois, 54-40, Blue Rodeo, kd lang and the Tragically Hip get as much respect as, and in most cases more attention than, the Nils, Hayden and Jellyfishbabies. The result is one of the most important Canadian social histories I’ve seen on any subject. And it’s far more entertaining than I just made it sound.

During the decade in question about 80% of my attention was going to jazz music, but I still washed up at Foufounes Electriques, the Rivoli, Call The Office and their dingy equivalents perhaps 30 nights a year. This book has been invaluable for making sense of that heady time. As a bonus, iTunes has released a series of playlists with music that’s referenced in every chapter of the book. I sorted through it this morning to download music from a bunch of bands I’d managed to miss over the years — Sloan (yes, I know, sheltered life), Thrush Hermit, Lonesome er, Handsome Ned, D.O.A. For younger readers or those who’ve had to weed their CD collection as they grew up and moved, the playlists provide a handy soundtrack.


Music: Have Not Been The Same, even now

  1. Bourbon Tabernacle Choir! Haven’t thought of them in donkey’s years. 

    I absolutely loved BTC, and fancied the female singer, saw them a bunch of times live while I was in university. 


  2. Name of the book from the band Slow, Have Not Been the Same, the band that shut down the Expo 86 punk stage. Legends! http://youtu.be/1RzA0VHcsBY @InklessPW

    • Expo 86 punk stage. Legends!

      That was Slow?  Had no idea. Did not listen to Slow until much later.

      All I remember I was teenager in Toronto and in spring we were told we could fly to Expo ’86 in Fall if our parents had money. I very excited about going to Van and some partying with west coast teenagers but when we returned in Fall we were told by Authority/Teachers that trip was cancelled because of some hooligans at concert and they could not guarantee our safety. 

      Started me on path of switching from left wing to right wing.

      • Interesting. I was a right little fascist until I started listening to the music of that era. Switched me from right to left. Well, okay, centre-left with a few right wing tendencies now and then. But still.

        • A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.

        • I switched from left to right because Authority/State blocked my pursuit of happiness. I wasn’t listening to Slow at the time, never heard of them. 

          Why you switch from right to left because of music?

      • Do you feel any safer yet?

        • I don’t feel more or less safe because no one can guarantee your safety and I live in leafy part of town where not much crime occurs. I do feel over-regulated tho. 

          And I still regret not being allowed to party with west coast females because some people I didn’t know rioted six weeks before we were due in Van.

  3. Brave New Waves insomniac/nerd here. Spent way too much time and money seeing these bands back in the day. Can hardly wait to pick this up.

    • Just ordered it from Amazon with my Feschuk caption contest winnings. Woohoo!

  4. Thanks for this Paul.  This book would be a great companion piece to another look at a fun and fertile time for Canadian music, The Last Pogo, that captures the excitement of the Toronto punk scene in the late 70s.

    I remain true to my progressive middle-class upbringing and try to honour the ethos of bands like the Clash but since I am adult now I also know that the economy needs to functioning if we are to do anything together as a society.

    Anyway, here’s a clip from The Last Pogo:


  5. Foufounes Electrique! I haven’t thought about that place in years. I lived in Montreal from 1986-89. For some reason, there were a ton of Western Canadian exiles living there at that time. Jerry Jerry was living in Montreal then. So was Ray Condo. I don’t know what drove all those Anglos to Montreal. Perhaps it’s because it was a recession and Montreal was the greatest city to live if you had no money and still wanted to have fun.

  6. Glad you’re catching up on Handsome Ned

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