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This Beat Goes On: Canadian Pop Music in the 1970s (2009)

by on 2013/02/04

This Beat Goes On (2009)“We had a hit record, and the rest was geography.”

* * * *

A review of This Beat Goes On could easily boil down to (at least) three sets of lists: genres covered, original artists featured, and new artists to comment on their forebears.

To do so, however tempting, might have an undesired effect, another day spent filling page after page with dozens of well-known names.

To say the Canadian pop music scene exploded in the Seventies would be an egregiously lazy understatement.

Watching this documentary, I was struck less by anything intended (I assume), and more by a series of smaller revelations . . . though, given the era, the term “flashbacks” is equally appropriate.

Produced as a follow-up to Shakin’ All Over, the intent, approach, and production are similar, with only the numbers, fashions, and names being updated. In my estimation, “more of the same” is pretty much ideal, loving as I do so much of our retro music.

  • I saw the name “Streetheart” and flashed back to the Orillia Square K-Mart, on a weekend when I pawed through the vinyl and compact cassette tapes.
  • I heard the song “Screaming Fist” and remembered old friends at a Viletones reunion in Toronto.
  • I watched Haydain Neale and realized he would die within months of the interview.

That last one really struck me. We’ll all see this footage and have our own unique associations – there’s far too much covered for the average Canuck not to see something familiar – but Neale’s appearance confirmed the ephemeral nature of even powerful touchstones. And the 1970s is closing in on half a century ago to boot.

Dealing as it does with a pre-music-video era, roughly half of the footage is live concert performance, and the rest of it is mostly new interviews. The abundance of acts leads to grouping by genre, with occasional references to wider issues, conceptual rather than chronological this time.

Among those issues is the elephant in the room, the so-called “CanCon”. (It’s a term we ourselves use, albeit generically.) A regulation developed amid considerable controversy, it’s a mandate for radio to play 30% Canadian content. Some call the proportion and definition arbitrary. Others laud its apparent success in realizing new talent and infrastructure. It’s an oft-recurring theme in this decade’s coverage.

Other topics include: the evolution of established artists, and the emergence of newer ones; struggles with profitability, and the pressure to go mainstream; new channels of national recognition, and a greater resistence to emigration; the influence of American blues on Francophones, and European electronica on Anglos; an influx of female talent, more overt provocation, and censorship.

Such videos serve a valuable purpose, as much for education as fun. This Beat Goes On may not be exhaustive, or even very deep, but it does fairly well for its ninety minute duration. Perhaps I’m biased by rose-tinted nostalgia for a time I look back on with fondness. I wish for those younger than myself to find a way to enjoy it. The fresh faces in some interviews give me hope that the chance is quite good.

* * * *

Unrated, but contains clean language, polite nudity, and possibly songs abo’t drugs.

90 minutes

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