In typical Canadian fashion, the American success of Joni Mitchell, The Band and Neil Young came not because the musicians had conquered their homeland, but because they had to leave if they wanted to succeed.
Bob Mersereau’s detail-packed, propulsive journey through 50 years of Canadian music flows with style and ease, dipping in and out of places –Toronto, Winnipeg, Halifax, Laurel Canyon, Greenwich Village— and scenes effortlessly. He keeps an eye on a chosen handful –Young, Mitchell, Robbie Robertson, Paul Anka—sticking to the rock/folk realm with respectful asides to French (Celine Dion), pop-country (Shania Twain) and the more recent rises of Alanis Morissette, Avril Lavigne, Broken Social Scene and Arcade Fire.
A pervasive Canadian inferiority complex is unfortunate —stop pointing it out and maybe it will go away— but it doesn’t hurt the wealth of information, knowledge and trivia-night fodder on display here.
The History of Canadian Rock ‘N’ Roll
by Bob Mersereau
$24.99, paperback, 320 pp.
Backbeat Books, March 2015