Playlist: Toronto Retrograde

As Toronto hosts the 2015 Pan-Am Games, images of the city are appearing on TV regularly. It reminds me of how iconic our city has been over the years, especially in my youth when music videos drove pop culture, much of it bred by local talent.

And so, a playlist tribute to Toronto’s places and landmarks exposed by 80’s and 90’s pop culture .

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1. Having an Average Weekend, Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (Matador, 1996)

Bay & College: The long-since displaced Addison car dealership flashed on the screen during the iconic opening of a now classic sketch comedy TV series, The Kids in the Hall.

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I’m an Adult Now, The Pursuit of Happiness (Capitol, 1988)

Queen & Soho: The empty lot on Queen street has gone through many incarnations but never gave way to new structures. It is a parking lot to this day, abeit surrounded by a much gentrified retail landscape compared to what’s depicted in this 1988 video.

 

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Lovers in a Dangerous Time, Barenaked Ladies (Reprise Records, 1997)

Markham & Brimorton: This suburban neighbourhood is the likely location for this memorable video. The Real McCoy Hamburger & Pizza joint pictured is still there today (1033 Markham Road).

 

Photo: Rick McGinnis

Photo: Rick McGinnis

Lakeside Park, Rush (Anthem, 1975)

CNE / Ontario Place: Although a fairground near drummer Neil Peart’s hometown of Port Dalhousie was the true inspiration to this song, it could easily have been about summer nights at the Canadian National Exhibition and Ontario Place. Those of us old enough to remember the original Ontario Place Forum fondly recall open air concerts by the lake from some of our favourite bands.

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Romantic Traffic, The Spoons (Ready Records, 1984)

Yonge & Sheppard: Shot in Toronto’s subway system, it was one of the more ‘democratic’ music videos of the era as most everyone who heard this song had been to the same locations many times.

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Photo: Enzo DiMatteo

Echo Beach, Martha and the Muffins (Virgin Records, 1980)

Sunnyside Beach: Echo Beach is an imaginary place but the song is said to have been inspired by this popular beach in Toronto’s west end.

 

 

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Spadina Bus, The Shuffle Demons (Stubby Records, 1986)

Spadina & Dundas: Toronto’s native beatniks made Chinatown cool and introduced a form of jazz into 80’s popular music at a time when the synthesizer reigned. It was also a welcome dose of goofiness amidst the pulled-down goth hairdos of the time.

June 01,1964 file photo

June 01,1964 file photo

Fifty-Mission Cap, The Tragically Hip (Universal Music, 1992)

Maple Leaf Gardens: A Toronto playlist would not be complete without mention of our long-suffering hockey team. The hockey card trivia cited in these lyrics bring back memories of hockey card collecting and trading.

 

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Rise Up, The Parachute Club (RCA, 1983)

Roy Thomson Hall: Our distinctive volcano-shaped concert hall was in its inaugural year when the Parachute Club shot this feel-good summer video.

 

Photo: Jorge Zontal

Photo: Jorge Zontal

Never Said I Love You, The Payolas feat. Carol Pope (A&M, 1983)

Queen Street West: Carol Pope is an icon of alternative Canadian music – a scene that flourished in the arts-infused western reaches of Queen Street between University Avenue and Dufferin Street.

 

 

Photo: spiritofradio.ca

Photo: spiritofradio.ca

Spirit of Radio, Rush (Anthem, 1980)

340 Main St. Brampton: The humble suburban address of one of the most influential radio stations in popular music. CFNY was incubated in this space and grew to become THE station for Southern Ontario’s youth through the 80’s. Rush wrote this song as a tribute to the station and a philosophy that put music first, challenging the commercial norms of the day.

 

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