With the introduction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s (CRTC) broadcast regulations in 1970, the Canadian recording industry made rock a major focus of its activity. In 1971, the Canadian content law was passed ensuring Canadian artists weren’t overrun by American media outlets. The Juno Awards began as a reader poll conducted by Canadian music industry trade magazine RPM Weekly in December 1964. A similar balloting process continued until 1970 when the RPM Gold Leaf Awards, as they were then known, were changed to the Juno Awards. The first Juno Award ceremony was held in 1975 and played a role in addressing the concern about Canadian content. This led to increased production and with the international popularity of The Guess Who and Neil Young at the end of the 1960’s, opened markets outside Canada to the country’s musicians. Success abroad usually ensured success in Canada. Led by Anne Murray and The Poppy Family, the early 1970’s were a golden age for Canadian music. Many performers from the late 1960’s came to the forefront in the following years, among them The Bells and Andy Kim from Montreal, Chilliwack from Vancouver, Five Man Electrical Band from Ottawa, Lighthouse from Toronto, Wednesday from Oshawa, and The Stampeders from Calgary.
With the introduction in the mid 70’s period of rock music on FM radio stations, where it was common practice to program extended performances, musicians were no longer limited to songs of three minutes’ duration as dictated by AM stations. The still nascent Canadian music industry had little independent music media and a limited distribution infrastructure. Two internationally renowned bands to arise from this industry were Bachman–Turner Overdrive and Rush, both featuring acclaimed managers. Bachman–Turner Overdrive’s manager, Bruce Allen, went on to produce Loverboy and eventually manage such major pop stars as Bryan Adams and Anne Murray. Randy Bachman (formerly of The Guess Who) released his new band’s first album under the name Bachman–Turner Overdrive in spring 1973, which won two Juno Awards despite being largely ignored in the US. Their second album Bachman–Turner Overdrive II hit #4 in the U.S. BTO II was certified gold in eight countries. It also yielded their best-remembered # 1 single, “Takin’ Care of Business” written by Randy Bachman. 1974’s album Not Fragile went straight to the top of the charts, and the single “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” hit #1 in the U.S. and #2 in the UK. One of the largest exports to date is Rush, that boasts 25 gold records and 14 platinum (3 multi-platinum) records, making them one of the best-selling rock bands in history by 2005. Rush currently place third behind The Beatles and The Rolling Stones for the most consecutive gold and platinum albums by a rock band.
Following the hard rock scene a small wave of acts emerged from all across Canada, including Moxy, A Foot in Coldwater and Triumph from Toronto, Trooper from Vancouver, and April Wine from Halifax. Canadian cultural critics have noted that the late 1970’s were a lesser era for Canadian music. Many of the acts who had defined the earlier half of the decade were no longer recording, and the new artists emerging in this era simply didn’t seem to be able to capture the Canadian pop zeitgeist in the same way. Nevertheless, a number of established Canadian acts, including Rush, Bachman–Turner Overdrive, Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush, Bruce Cockburn, April Wine, Pat Travers, FM, and Neil Young, remained influential and recorded some of their most popular material of all during this period, and former “The Guess Who” lead singer Burton Cummings emerged as a popular solo artist in soft rock.
Also notable is folk rocker Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” a song written in commemoration of the sinking of the bulk carrier SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior on 10 November 1975. The incident is the most famous disaster in the history of Great Lakes shipping. The single reached #2 on the Billboard pop charts in November 1976, making it Lightfoot’s second most successful (in terms of chart position) single, with “Sundown” having reached number one in 1974.
Another of this period’s most influential and popular rock bands, Heart, resulted from the collaboration of two sisters from Seattle with a supporting band from Vancouver. Some popular francophone bands of the time included the rock group Beau Dommage from Montreal led by Michel Rivard and the progressive rock group Harmonium also of Montreal. Artists like The Kings, Prism, Crowbar, Nick Gilder, Ian Thomas, Goddo, Harlequin, Mahogany Rush, Moxy, Streetheart, Max Webster and Ironhorse saw their greatest success during the late 70’s period.
Many acts have had equally vital, if less remunerative careers outside the mainstream in punk rock and its derivations, generally distinguished by a tendency to extremes of one sort or another. Whether in instrumental intensity, lyric content, or performance style Canadian pop music evolved with the times, reflecting worldwide trends. In the late 1970’s, as punk rock, disco, and the emerging new wave ruled the landscape, Canadian groups such as D.O.A., The Viletones, The Forgotten Rebels, Rough Trade, Diodes, Teenage Head, The Demics, The Young Canadians and Subhumans emerged and continued in the 1980’s with popular bands like SNFU, Dayglo Abortions and Nomeansno. Rough Trade were particularly notable for their 1980 hit “High School Confidential”, one of the first explicitly lesbian-themed pop songs to crack the Top 40 anywhere in the world.