10.02.2010 10:21 PM

The top 100 Canadian singles: my take

The best Canadian single ever.

I love Top Ten lists, and Top One Hundred lists are even better.

This list is pretty good, but I have edited it, because – well –  I know better.  The numbers you see refer to are Bob Mesereau’s original ranking.  The ones that are absolutely brilliant picks, in my opinion, are 1, 5, 23, 32 (yay, Moe!), 36, 55, 62 (in particular), 80 and 90.  Putting The Demics on there is a stroke of genius, but it should’ve been number one, of course.  (Here it is, if you want to hear it again, which you do.) Missing: DOA (“Disco Sucks”), Young Canadians (“Hawaii”), Modernettes (“Barbara”), Viletones (“Possibilities”), the Forgotten Rebels (“Surfin’ On Heroin”), and – if you ask my daughter – maybe even these teenage jerks.

On the stinker list, anything by Bryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn or Celine Dion is a source of enduring national shame.  We should revoke their citizenship.  Better yet, throw them in Millhaven.

Anyway.  The ones where I agree with their inclusion – that is, The Good List – although not always their ranking:

1. The Guess Who — “American Woman”

2. Neil Young — “Heart of Gold”

3. The Band — “The Weight”

5. Leonard Cohen — “Hallelujah”

6. Steppenwolf — “Born to Be Wild”

7. Gordon Lightfoot — “If You Could Read My Mind”

8. Bachman Turner Overdrive — “Takin’ Care of Business”

9. Ian and Sylvia — “Four Strong Winds”

11. Joni Mitchell — “Big Yellow Taxi” / “Woodstock”

12. Rush — “Tom Sawyer”

13. Blue Rodeo — “Try”

14. Tragically Hip — “New Orleans is Sinking”

15. Gordon Lightfoot — “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”

16. Leonard Cohen — “Suzanne”

18. The Guess Who — “These Eyes”

19. Gordon Lightfoot — “Sundown”

20. Sloan — “Underwhelmed”

21. The Band — “Up on Cripple Creek” / “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”

22. Maestro Fresh Wes — “Let Your Backbone Slide”

23. The Diodes — “Tired of Waking Up Tired”

25. Rush — “The Spirit of Radio”

26. Rough Trade — “High School Confidential”

27. Martha and the Muffins — “Echo Beach”

28. Stampeders — “Sweet City Woman”

29. Arcade Fire — “Wake Up”

32. The Pursuit Of Happiness — “I’m an Adult Now”

33. Ugly Ducklings — “Nothin’ “

34. Sloan — “Coax Me”

35. Rush — “Closer to the Heart”

36. Teenage Head — “Picture My Face”

37. Guess Who — “Shakin’ All Over”

38. Five Man Electrical Band — “Signs”

39. Blue Rodeo — “Lost Together”

50. Terry Jacks — “Seasons in the Sun”

52. Neil Young — “Cinnamon Girl”

53. Alanis Morissette — “You Oughta Know”

54. Feist — “1234”

55. Arcade Fire — “Rebellion (Lies)”

56. k.d. lang — “Constant Craving”

57. Neil Young — “Rockin’ in the Free World”

60. Tragically Hip — “Bobcaygeon”

62. The Demics — “New York City”

64. Tragically Hip — “Ahead by a Century”

65. Blue Rodeo — “Five Days in May”

66. Hank Snow — “I’m Moving On”

72. The Kings —“This Beat Goes on/Switchin’ to Glide”

73. Neil Young — “Old Man” / “Needle and the Damage Done”

80. Teenage Head — “Let’s Shake”/ “Somethin’ On My Mind”

86. Stompin’ Tom Connors — “The Hockey Song”

87. Tragically Hip — “Wheat Kings”

90. New Pornographers — “Letter from an Occupant”

91. Guess Who — “No Time”

93. Neil Young — “Hey Hey My My”

94. Paul Anka — “Diana”

95. Daniel Lanois — “The Maker”

96. The Spoons — “Nova Heart”

The Stinker List, the things that make us ashamed that these people are in some way Canadian and/or only got airplay because of CanCon, and we don’t know who they are and don’t really care to:

4. Bryan Adams — “Summer of ’69”

10. Anne Murray — “Snowbird”

17. Tom Cochrane — “Life is a Highway”

25. Crowbar — “Oh What a Feeling”

30. Barenaked Ladies — “If I Had $1,000,000”

31. Robert Charlebois — “Lindberg”

40. Ron Hynes — “Sonny’s Dream”

41. Men Without Hats — “The Safety Dance”

42. Rheostatics — “Claire”

43. Lighthouse — “One Fine Morning”

44. A Foot In Coldwater — “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want”

45. Corey Hart — “Sunglasses At Night”

46. Loverboy — “Working For The Weekend”

47. Trooper — “Raise A Little Hell”

48. Parachute Club — “Rise Up”

49. Alannah Myles — “Black Velvet”

51. Malajube — “Montreal -40C”

58. Michel Pagliaro — “Lovin’ You Ain’t Easy”

59. Bruce Cockburn — “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”

61. Joni Mitchell — “A Case of You” / “California”

63. Bryan Adams — “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You”

67. Harmonium — “Pour un instant”

70. Celine Dion — “My Heart Will Go On”

71. k-os — “Crabbuckit”

74. Jean Leloup — “1990”

78. Bruce Cockburn — “Wondering Where the Lions Are”

79. April Wine — “You Could Have Been a Lady”

81. Joni Mitchell — “Help Me”

82. Trooper — “We’re Here For A Good Time”

83. Lighthouse — “Sunny Days”

84. Jean-Pierre Ferland — “Le petit roi”

85. Bryan Adams — “Cuts Like A Knife”

88. Gilles Vigneault — “Mon pays”

89. Spirit of The West — “Home For a Rest”

92. Mashmakhan — “As the Years Go By”

97. Beau Dommage — “La complainte du phoque en Alaska”

98. Ron Sexsmith — “Secret Heart”

99. Bryan Adams — “Run to You”

100. Wintersleep — “Weighty Ghost”


  1. Raymond says:

    No Headstones?
    No Noise Therapy?
    No Smalls?

    No Tea Party??

    Good grief.

  2. Marc-Andre Chiasson says:

    Usually, I agree with your view of the world Warren. However, I’m kinda pissed that you feel that songs such as Seasons in the Sun are worthy of the A list whilst you relegate all the francophone ones to eternal damnation. Particularly disappointed that you see nothing worthy of recognition in

  3. smelter rat says:

    Never, never, never slag Ron Hynes.

    Aside from that I have no real beef with your rankings. I had no idea that A Foot in Cold Water were Canadian. You learn something new every day.

    ps. Never never slag Ron Hynes.

  4. ghoris says:

    I see Joni Mitchell is on both lists – which is it?

    Also, Maestro Fresh Wes (who was the definition of a CanCon All-Star if ever there was one) makes the ‘good’ list, but k-os makes the ‘stinker’ list? The hell?

  5. Winston Higgs says:

    And yet again, as in the “Oh, What a Feeling!” fiasco, our dear Jane Siberry is left outside on the stoop in a cardboard box (cue the violins). I am somewhat crestfallen…perhaps two ounces of Corb Lund with a Weakerthans chaser will pick me up!

  6. Paul R. Martin says:

    Favourite lists are so personal. For example, I hate Hey Jude yet it appears to be the favourite song of a lot of people. One of my all time favourites is King Harvest by the Band and shame on you for not including it. Where is Fly at Night by Chilliwack?

  7. Will M. says:

    I’m sure Bryan Adams is heartbroken.

  8. Paul R. Martin says:

    I just noticed that The Cowboy Junkies are not on the list. A gross omission in my opinion. I would probably add some more Hank Snow songs. Where is Little Darlin? Ian and Sylvia?

  9. James Curran says:

    No Nickelback, Chilliwack, Queen City Kids, Sam Roberts. How about Vanessa Paradis “Joe le taxi”? No Avril Lavigne? Crash Test Dummies and Great Big Sea?

  10. Molten Core says:

    I actually submitted a list for this ‘project’. Of my top 10 only 3 made the cut. Here’s the list I gave. (they are Top 10 of course, jimo). but hey -no Celine Dion on here!

    1. The Ugly Ducklings – Nothin’
    2. The Viletones – Screamin Fist
    3. Luke & The Apostles – Been Burnt
    4. Gordon Lightfoot – Black Day in July
    5. 54-40 – I Go Blind
    6. Rough Trade- All Touch
    7. The Diodes – Tired of Waking Up Tired
    8. The Guess Who – These Eyes
    9. The Barenaked Ladies – One Week
    10. The Odds – Someone Who’s Cool

  11. On your Stinker List, it is a strange irony that you have Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” in between Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway” and Brian Adam’s “Summer of 69.” When I was a young kid forced to ride in the car with my parents, they had the radio turned to some oldies’ station. I’m assuming it was AM radio. As we drove up highway 69 near Parry Sound, Ontario, I was forced to listen to Anne Murray’s “Snowbird.” No wonder Bobby Orr escaped to Boston.

  12. I’ll agree that “American Woman” is the best song. I will disagree that the Barenaked Ladies “If I had $1,000,000” should be on the Stinker List. Warren, you must be fond of listening to oldies music on AM radio. Is Anne Murray’s “Snowbird” up your alley?

  13. Cath says:

    I love that RUSH is there. Best Canadian band EVER IMO. My brother had his stag party at a RUSH Concert, named his first boy RUSH and now, 40 “something” saw them in Toronto last summer and again in Boston in September.

    I can’t stand Anne Murray.

    What? No David Wilcox?? He Ain’t Nothing But A Bad Apple

  14. Bob says:

    Where is the theme to Kids in the Hall?

  15. V. Malaise says:

    No-no-no! You guys are seriously misguided.

    Nazareth… This flight tonight…

    Look out the left the captain said
    The lights down there that’s where we’ll land
    Saw a falling star burning
    High above the Las Vegas sand


  16. James Curran says:

    shoot! I forgot Messenjah. Best Reggae band Canada ever had. Played every bar everywhere! Must have seen them 30or 40 times.


  17. rob says:

    Headstones should have made it, and how about the Forgotten Rebels?

  18. Paul R. Martin says:

    How could I have forgotten “The Blackfly Song” by Wade Hemsworth? It should be #1

  19. Steve T says:

    Good props to Moe Berg and TPOH. Highly underrated band, in my view. Every song on Love Junk is brilliant.

    Also kudos for putting Life Is A Highway on the stinker list. Hate, hate, hate that song (due in some part to the fact it was played ad nauseum on the radio when it came out). There is a lot of good stuff that Cochrane wrote, but “Highway” was like his career brain fart.

  20. Derek Pearce says:

    Hmmm, I don’t get the hate-on for Lovers in a Dangerous Time. I was too young, but I know a few gay guys who lived through the 80s get chills hearing it. Maybe I wasn’t too young, because I remember that song and connecting it to being scared of what was going to happen to me when I grew up. Anyhow, glad to see Sloan on the good list. Love those guys.

    And what pray tell am I doing up so late, Warren? Why, I’ve just got home from sign duty on my fave Ward 29 candidate’s election campaign for which I’m volunteering! (NOT Pitfield or the NDPer btw).

  21. Damien Walsh says:

    Seasons in the Sun!?#?, I almost fell off my chair…. you’re pulling our leg on that one

  22. Richard says:

    Ironic that Bryan Adams, who has famously railed against CanCon and its very existence, is on your stinker list because of a perceived boost from CanCon regulations. You may not like him, and he’s put out a couple stinkers over his 30-year career, but c’mon, Summer of ’69 is anthemic!

  23. Domenico says:

    My nomination for best list: Young Canadians song: Hawaii.

  24. WJM says:

    There ought to be Great Big Sea.

    On the stinkers list.

  25. Ted H. says:

    Vignault’s “Mon Pays” is a classic and evocative Canadian song, you will find nothing like it from American singers. Despite their success I can’t stand anything from Guess Who or BTO. Caveman rhythms, dumb lyrics and Burton is a jerk. I am embarassed that they are Canadian.

    • james Smith says:

      On the flip side was it Patsy Gallant’s version “I’m a star in NY I’m a star in LA” that should be at the top of the stinky list.

      Mr K, Bruce Cockburn?!!!!

      Guess you don’t like fellas who can play the guitar. You may not like the folk music stuff, but this fella can play. His stuff from the ’70’s is amazing.

      PS no Diods?

      • WJM says:

        Maybe he can play. But he plays garbage that he writes himself. He is the prototypical Douche With A Guitar.

        • james Smith says:

          Can’t please everybody, sun wheel dance & night visions are still some of my favs.
          I think the prototype you’re looking for is a fella named Springstein.

  26. Steve Gallagher says:

    Messenjah got me through 7 years in old TO.

    Great band!

  27. james Smith says:

    Don’t know if it is still the case due to Ms Dion’s THE HOTDOGS GO ON, but for a long time that was one of the all time biggest sellers world wide; & it’s a rip-off.

  28. Craig McKie says:

    68.69,75,76, and 77 have gone missing. WTF? Is this another Tory screwup?

    BTW, Cockburn in Lovers in a Dangerous Time (unampliifed guitar version) evokes strong memories of those dangerous times for me as a newly minted senior citizen. Gotta go grab my rocket launcher for Bruce.

  29. hitfan says:

    Was “Hallelujah” ever released as a single by Leonard Cohen? Good song, but unless it exists as a 45, cassette or CD single, then it doesn’t qualify 🙂

    Now, I understand your disdain for the “Stinker List”. When I listen to radio, all rock stations play Tom Cochrane in order to fulfill some CRTC affirmative action requirement. I’ve often wondered if any of these artists would be viable if the CRTC rules did not exist. I’ve a funny anecdote about Tom Cochrane. Back in 1991, he played a concert at my college in Kirkland Lake, Ontario. He basically just did a one hour set (no encores, going through the motions) and then he and his posse took off to the main watering hole (The Franklin) where the house band spotted him, and they invited him on stage to belt out a few cover tunes (he complied). Apparently, the drunks at The Franklin got a better show than what the college students got when they paid to see him. Or so I heard.

    I do take issue with your attack on “The Safety Dance”. It’s not my kind of music, but it’s quite a clever song with some complex time signature changes.

    Rush’s “Tom Sawyer” (which actually did exist as a single) should be number one. Before downloads and torrents destroyed the traditional music label industry, every single Rush album has gone at least gold or platinum. Rush is internationally respected, and they don’t need a fake CRTC subsidy to sustain them.

    Neil Young and Bryan Adams are technically Canadian, but aren’t they more products of non-Canadian music industries? (Young first appearing on an American label and Bryan Adams being primarily a British recording artist). But by that measure, then Heart (not listed here) is a Canadian artist.

  30. hitfan says:

    Now why do you attack “Mon Pays” by Gilles Vigneault? It’s a modern folk song of Quebec, in fact it is their most beloved song. I’m pretty much an assimilated “sellout” French Canadian as you can get, but when I hear “Mon Pays”, a tear wells up in my eye and I feel a huge swell of emotion in my heart. If any anglo politician snidely dismissed this song publicly, it would create a huge uproar in Quebec.

    Patsy Gallant did an “English” version, but turned it into disco crap: “From New York to L.A.”. Yeah–she spiced it up with good old fashioned American-Hollywood hedonism which gave more ammunition to the separatists so they could feign more outrage.

  31. Hainesy says:

    The fact that DOA’s F*** You isn’t on the list is a crime. To quote Mr. Sh*thead, “We don’t care what you say”

  32. Brendan Kane says:

    Technically speaking, “Hawaii” was an EP. But there was a free single that came with the EP, “Automan”:


  33. ed O"Quinn says:

    what about jack scott who had 19 songs on the hit list Best been Burning Bridges

  34. Colin says:

    How could you put April Wine on the Stinker list? Or Trooper for that matter. Also A foot in cold waters song is amazing.

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