“My immediate King Sunny Ade memory is summertime 1983, way the hell up the trails of the North Shore mountains. The acid is kicking in nicely and Motron decides to put Synchro System on the blaster. The now sound of Nigeria suddenly imposed upon the melting, lysergic edge of western civilization. And it worked, like displaced tourist music, which is generally what you want whilst tripping the beyond within. The live show was also transcendent a few weeks later, Commodore Ballroom, the King and twenty-odd of his African Beats working grooves within grooves within … well, you get the picture.” (Philip Random)
The Enigmas are the great Vancouver band of the early-mid 1980s that most folks seem to have never heard of. They had the whole 60s garage-psyche thing more than just down – they actually transported you there, not so much back in time as into a whole other dimension that was tighter than punk and/or hardcore, and sexier, but every bit as hard and fast. If a proper recording existed of their umpteen minute live version of the Count Five’s Psychotic Reaction, it would be way up near the top of this list. As for the Windshield Wiper, it’s a dance. The record even came with a diagram.
Speaking of Vancouver bands of the 1980s that never got their proper due, why the hell is Sons of Freedom‘s Super Cool Wagon not the Hockey Night in Canada Theme? Seriously. Found on one of the great overlooked debut albums ever released by a Canadian band (or any other nationality for that matter), it’s truth in advertising: super powered, and it just crunches coolly along, afraid of nothing, elbows up all the way.
“To be clear, the stuff that came to be known as Grunge was alive and raw for years before most of the world ever heard about it. Look no further than Slow, straight outa the mean streets of Vancouver’s plush west side, teenagers with an equal love of punk rock and the likes of Aerosmith, Alice Cooper, ACDC, The Rolling Stones (anything and everything as long as it howled). I remember seeing them one night in 1985 at a small club. Maybe thirty seconds into the opening number (a Temptations cover), the singer (a guy named Tom) was up on the front row tables, kicking everybody’s beers over, instigating rage and ecstasy, smashing atoms by the truckload. Bad boys indeed.” (Philip Random)
“In which Jello Biafra hooks up with Vancouver’s own DOA to deliver a surprisingly faithful cover of one of the essential Rock Anthems (speaking of Eric Burdon). Maybe the essential rock anthem. I think I heard Bruce Springsteen say that once. This situation’s killing me. Might be school, might be a job, might be prison, a bad relationship, your family, your own asshole. Doesn’t matter where you are, there’s only one way to go, and that’s OUT. With a vengeance.” (Philip Random)
Sweeny Todd were mostly a Vancouver thing, though they did have one big deal hit. But then singer Nick Gilder split, leaving a gap in the lineup for an androgynous glam male voice. Enter local teenager Bryan Guy Adams, but only for one album, because then he also split, cutting his hair and dropping the middle part of his name (and all of the glam), bound as we he was for Bruce Springsteen lite world domination. Which is a pity, because If Wishes Were Horses (the song and the album) had some serious pixie dust in its veins.
Curious George were one of many solid (if messy) punk-hardcore-whatever bands slamming around Vancouver in those curious years of perpetual struggle (otherwise known as the 1980s), their cover of this rather tired Pink Floyd original driving home the point that it’s seldom the song that’s wrong, only the performance. There is nothing wrong with this performance.