Torontoist stopped by the Gladstone Hotel last Tuesday for the launch party of two exciting new documentaries airing on the CBC starting this Thursday night. This Beat Goes On and Rise Up chronicle Canadian music’s growth in the ’70s and ’80s, respectively. The films were made by the two key players responsible for 2006’s Shakin’ All Over, which dealt with the ’60s: director Gary McGroarty and writer/researcher Nicholas Jennings. Jian Ghomeshi narrates. Viewers are treated to an impressive collection of clips: concert footage, television appearances, and music videos, as well as interviews with classic and contemporary Canadian pop stars (think rock royalty like Burton Cummings sandwiched between Hot Hot Heat and k-os).
McGroarty and Jennings, both based out of Toronto, spent three years making the films and conducted 150 interviews. They also spent a “mind-boggling” amount of time clearing licensing rights to roughly a hundred songs and seeking performances from different sources, according to Jennings. “We spent a lot of time sifting through performances and choosing the right ones. It was a huge time-consuming process.” What’s most impressive is how much ground the films cover: genres from punk to blues to hiphop are given their time in the spotlight without feeling like an afterthought. “We could have saved ourselves a lot of time and just focused on a handful of the biggest names in Canadian music,” says Jennings. “But it didn’t feel to Gary and me like we were doing it justice.”
As a result, some of the most memorable moments feature what Jennings refers to as “cult classics.” We learn how Vancouver band Slow predated Nirvana’s scruffy grunge sound by a number of years and how the influence of reggae, soca, and calypso shaped the sounds of bands like the Payola$ and the Parachute Club. We also get a bit of insight into the factors that boosted the Canadian music industry, from the CRTC’s controversial CanCon regulation to the introduction of MuchMusic.
The interviews contribute to the overall warm, fuzzy feeling in a big way, like when Nathan Wiley describes how he felt watching Neil Young perform on Saturday Night Live or when Steven Page recalls his crush on Sandy Horne of the Spoons. “It’s a testament to how much Canadian artists like talking about Canadian music,” says Jennings. “We tend to be more reserved about our accomplishments. Gary and I wanted a chance to really celebrate it. It’s one of Canada’s richest resources.”
This Beat Goes On and Rise Up air on the CBC over four consecutive Thursdays beginning Thursday, August 27 at 9:00 p.m.
All photos by Joel Charlebois/Torontoist.