Reel Toronto: Music Videos of the 1990s
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Reel Toronto: Music Videos of the 1990s

In this special edition series, and inspired by a reader’s suggestion, Reel Toronto looks at just a few of the classic (and less classic) music videos filmed in our fair city over the years.

Ah, the 1990s, when stuff got all alternative. Today, youngsters, all the stuff you think of as normal? Well, it used to be alternative. So life fundamentally changed in a very short period of time, and it’s kind of hard to wrap your head around.
We love this video, and it’s also a damn fine cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time” by a band that hadn’t yet released their actual debut album. Yes, the Barenaked Ladies were young, innocent, and driving around Scarborough on the back of a truck.
It captures wintertime Toronto perfectly, and shows that a subtle, gradual shift from black-and-white to colour can be far more effective than any other modern bling y’all want to throw into your videos. Oh, and it has cameos by dudes from bands like Rheostatics and Skydiggers, so you’ve gotta love the indie spirit of the whole thing.
It’s also (gulp) twenty years old, so native Scarberians can probably recognize a lot of the specific locales more easily than we could.
It starts with the band picking up Jim Creeggan in front of a now-defunct Woolworths, then cruising down Eglinton Avenue past this strip plaza.
They also visit the long-gone A&A Records, but you can definitely see The Real McCoy Burgers & Pizza on Markham Road, and there’s some cavorting in the hydro field south of Ellesmere.

“Check the O.R.” is perhaps best known as the video in which a pre-fame Tom Green raps his heart out. Sure, it’s a bunch of white boys from Ottawa representing at Jane-Finch, but it’s so much fun you can’t possibly fault them for it. Also, “Check the O.R.” has Green saying stuff like “I lay more chicks than Mother Goose,” which will always be one of our favourite stupid rap lyrics. Ever.

Roni Size isn’t a Toronto native, but the Brit shot his video for “Brown Paper Bag” here anyway. It’s sort of an extended chase scene that takes place mostly on King Street in the financial district, but it also runs past this Chinatown Green P lot.
It could’ve been shot in almost any city, but with unabashed shots of TTC streetcars, the Queen East bridge, the St. Andrew TTC entrance, and brown hundred-dollar bills, this video doesn’t try to hide where it’s at.

Remember Edwin? We’ll never be as musically successful as him, so we don’t want to be too harsh, but come on…it’s Edwin. Before he was Edwin, he was the singer in I Mother Earth, who were one of those mid-’90s “alternative” bands. But then dude went solo and, many years before Daughtry, showed how hardcore a man with one name can be.
The video for “Trippin'” was filmed at the same TD Centre exterior as “Brown Paper Bag,” and it starts with a scenario deftly borrowed from Radiohead’s “Just” (i.e. businessman mysteriously lies on the ground, people gawk, etc.). We have it on good authority that Edwin had no computer assistance to get up there on that lamppost, so, props. That’s 100% Edwin (with a digitally erased wire rig).

Speaking of hep 1990s alternative acts, we can’t leave out Our Lady Peace. They could do whiny, pre-emo “alternative” music with the best of them, and “Thief” is no exception. Okay, and it’s kinda catchy in its way.
The entire thing takes place in an apartment courtyard over in St. James Town. It looks like it’s roughly around here, given that you can see both the white buildings on the right and the narrower brown ones on the left in the video.
And before you fact checkers start questioning the ’90s-ness of this video, Wikipedia notes that it was shot in May 2000, but the song is from 1999’s Happiness… Is Not a Fish That You Can Catch (now that’s an alternative album, folks!). So there.
Also according to Wikipedia: “It was shot entirely under a rainy setting on an otherwise sunny day, to impose the mood given by the song.” How about that?

And as we are still basking in a post-Valentine’s Day glow, we’d like to end on a romantic note and drop some lovey-dovey, husband-wife action on you. Thus, Our Lady Peace’s Raine Maida’s lovely wife Chantal Kreviazuk and her local video, “Dear Life.”
Once again, we find ourselves outside the TD Centre. This may be the most Mies van der Rohe-heavy article we’ve done, and that’s okay. If you still haven’t had your financial district fix, you can also see the Royal Bank tower and Brookfield Place’s atrium amongst other bastions of commerce.
As with our 1980s column, we know this is just the tip of the video iceberg, and we still have another decade to go before we’re all caught up.

Got a video we should include in this series? Email us at [email protected]!