Maple Leaf Mayhem

After the 1971 implimentation of CanCon, the mandate that stated radio and television stations must include 25% Canadian content (it was later increased to 30% and then 35%), Canadian artists found they had a voice on the radio, and this meant that it became possible to attract wider audiences and possibly sell more albums. In repsonse, American record labels opened subsidiary offices in Canada. Bands got signed, albums released, and music played on the radio. Canadian music found its way onto the American airwaves as well, and bands toured in the States opening for American acts. More and more Canadian bands were scoring chart hits down south some even overseas in Europe. It was the time of the Canadian Invasion in the early and mid-seventies.

In particular, Canadian hard rock bands were doing well, and as the seventies were coming to an end, more new groups began forming. Toronto was especially a hotspot for new bands, mostly because that’s where all the big American labels had their Canadian offices. Rush had already managed to crack the Big Time and Triumph were hard at work. Other acts like Max Webster, Coney Hatch, Goddo, and Santers emerged with hopes of following suit. But Vancouver also had its share of bands like Chilliwack, Trooper, and new bands like Prism, Loverboy, and Headpins. The Prairie provinces who had delivered Canada’s first big time rock band The Guess Who, now had Streetheart and Harlequin, and a young outfit named Kick Axe was soon to come together as well.

Though success was now within reach for Canadian bands, things weren’t exactly easy. Having a deal with the Candian arm of an American label didn’t necessarily mean a band could get an album released in the States with the parent American label; they were busy promoting their own native bands. Some Canadian bands did get signed and have albums released but then found themselves on tour opening for American bands with their albums barely available anywhere. American record companies were not always eager to promote their northern acts.

But there was another market that was quite hungry for Canadian music. Across the water on mainland Europe, many nations’ radio stations were state controlled and were not so generous with air time for hard rock and heavy metal acts. Seen as music for pimply-faced teens with no strong educational hopes, the harder and heavier stuff was often kept for special radio programs and limited to one or two hours a week. However, there were plenty of people with a desire to hear something new and cool from the American side, and while American labels were busy plugging their bands at home, Canadian acts were dying for more exposure.

Thus it was that magazines like Sounds and Kerrang! were more than pleased to introduce new artists from the west and many Canadian bands were welcomed. Saga found a big audience in Germany and other artists like April Wine, Helix, and Lee Aaron did rather well in Europe also. Canadian bands had such skill from their hard earned experience playing small gigs around their own large country and had a style that was neither British nor American, and so it was that European music journalists easily found words of praise for the struggling bands from the Great White North. Sounds magazine writer Geoff Barton even coined the phrase Maple Leaf Mayhem.

Most of the information stated here comes from an article by one Mr. Paul Suter who wrote for both Sounds and Kerrang! and in his article for Candy Rock he describes very well the story behind the struggle. He is also not short of pity for all the remarkable talent that sadly was unable to take a big bite of success largly due to the challenges of being from Canada in a time when the business side was still not ready to deal with them adequately.

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