Most music fans are at least a little aware that punk started with the Ramones in NYC, followed shortly thereafter by the punk explosion in England. What you may not know (I certainly didn’t) was that Canada had their own punk scene in the late 70s/early 80s. Here’s a look at some of the bands that rocked the provinces.
The Modernettes were part of the Vancouver scene for a few years and produced this perfect little gem of a pop-punk song and video. Super catchy and fun, it’s a shame it never got wider attention.
The Modernettes also paid tribute to the Velvet Underground with this cover of Femme Fatale that puts a sort of power pop spin on it. Personally, I like it better than the original.
According to their website, the B-Girls formed in 1977 while in the bathroom at a Thin Lizzy concert. In the best punk tradition, none of them could play an instrument but that didn’t stop them. The all-girl band soon left Toronto for the CBGB’s scene in New York City and took a run at stardom, opening for The Clash and Blondie but never quite breaking through. Their look and sound was more 60’s influenced than pure punk, I can see why they fell in with Blondie. It’s a shame they never got more play, they could have beaten the Go-go’s and Bangles to the punch.
Teenage Head hailed from Hamilton, Ontario and might have been the most promising Canadian punk band. Combining a raw, punk sound with 50’s rock influences and some real showmanship and charisma they only needed a big record deal to put them over the top. Just days before embarking on a series of showcase gigs in New York City, one of the band members was seriously injured in a car accident. The gigs were canceled, the band lost momentum and never really recovered. Here they are with Let’s Shake, one of their big Canadian hits.
Let’s not forget Montreal in all this. As always, they do things a little differently there. Case in point is The 222s, combining catchy punk pop with a lead singer looking like a very young, glammed up Iggy Pop. Here’s one of their Canadian hits, I Love Susan.
They also did a pretty rocking cover of Michel Polnareff’s La Poupée qui fait non. Wikipedia mentions the band getting tangled up with Canadian gangsters over this song, recording it under the supervision of a mobster who pulled a gun on them and screwing up the song by replacing the lead singer’s voice in the chorus with the mobster’s sister. The song was still a regional hit but man, that chorus really seems out of place.
I didn’t know anything at all about Canadian punk before researching this post and I feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface. I highly recommend checking these bands out on Facebook and YouTube and going down the rabbit hole, there’s a lot of great music north of the border.
If you’d like to learn more about Canadian Punk, check out Bloodied But Unbowed, aka The Punk Movie and website. There’s a ton of information at the site, including video interviews and information on where you can still see some of these bands.
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