A Preliminary Guide to Vintage Canadian Psych Pop
by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


I was sitting with Adam Waito several months ago, at a time when there was no ice on the ground and clear black night skies. He had probably just finished playing a killer set with his band, Adam & the Amethysts. Adam released one of our favourite albums of this year, a record that's handsewn folk and brash electric pop and with a faint psych corona skirting its choruses. You should buy it here (CD) or here (digitally).

Anyway, Adam had probably just finished playing a killer set, killer in the way it killed all my worries, slew all my fears. And we were sitting under black night skies and he started telling me about Canada's lost psych music. A hundred bands that did not gain repute, that disappeared into the sands of time, with only crazy collectors now digging these LPs out and going: "Holy bejewellings! Look what we missed!"

I was fascinated. The albums he talked about sounded like they ought to be my favourite albums in the world. Great, forgotten psych bands from Thunder Bay? From Winnipeg? From Montreal?

And so I convinced him to write this, a Preliminary Guide to Vintage Canadian Psych Pop. The music is killer, the curatorship sublime. Most of these albums are out of print. If you dig the post, please leave a comment! (We'll try to convince him to come back.) -- Sean

My preoccupation with Canadiana and with finding new music has led me to discover some rather incredible Canadian acts from the '60s and '70s that range from completely obscure to relatively unknown. Now, I'm no authority on psychedelic music. These are just some bands that have managed to find me (mostly through the Internet) and I've tried to include some tidbits about them.

With reverence for the naturally majestic and decidedly fucked-up colony of Canada, I would like to share a few choice unsung heroes of psychedelic pop from the land North of America with you, the readers of Said the Gramophone. These are some songs that in some way compel or inspire me.

The Rabble - "Candy" (1969)

The Rabble formed in 1965 in Pointe-Claire on Montreal's West Island, and their big break came when, in '68, they got to replace Cream at the last minute at The Paul Sauve Arena in Montreal. "Candy" is playful and irreverent and to my ears anticipates some of the poppier early punk bands that would emerge a decade later. You can party to this song in Montreal quite easily today, let me tell you.

Jarvis Street Revue - "Mr. Oil Man" (1970)

This is sprawling heavy-psych epic that, I'm proud to say, hails from my hometown of Thunder Bay, Ontario. It's the flagship track from a rare environmentalist concept album of the same name, whose heavy-handed eco-message is only matched by its heavy-as-hell acid-guitar. Long before the corrupt oil industry was grim reaping the political consciousnesses of pretty much everyone, JSR was prophesying that there will be blood, and did so with creative, fuzzed-out - if a little long-winded - intensity. So damn cool. It's been bootlegged as well as officially reissued if you feel like grabbing it without paying close to a grand for a rare original LP on Ebay. Me, I've still got my fingers crossed for an original copy in a thrift store record bin when I'm home this Christmas holiday.

Christmas - "Something Borrowed" (1970)

Speaking of Christmas, that's what this next Oshawa, Ontario band was called, and if I do say so, it's one of the best band names ever. Christmas features ex-members of another great '60s band Reign Ghost (formerly of The Christopher Columbus Discovery of New Lands Band, another mind-blowing band name). This is a pretty straight-ahead folky pop rock song from their album Heritage that will stick to your ribs right near your heart.

A Passing Fancy - "Island" (1968)

This song is beautiful and amazing with its organ, church bells, and sad pop melody. A Passing Fancy were a Toronto band that emerged from the '60s Yorkville scene. A career highlight was playing Expo '67 in Montreal. Formed in '65, they released a number of 45s and one LP before disbanding in 1969. One of the members is now the president of a hockey card company. I have to say, this song just really does something special for me."

Borealis - "Old Age" (1972)

Borealis were a psych-pop band from the Maritimes (Newfoundland I think). "Old Age" is a really simple and lovely song from their Sons of the Sea record, with its spinning-speaker guitar, restrained rhythm section, and delightfully amateurish vocals. It's a heartbreaking and cute ode to the singer's deteriorating grandfather. At a time when not a lot of rock albums were being recorded in the Atlantic provinces, the album apparently wasn't too successful, although they supposedly had a track on the St. John's top 10 for a couple weeks. The full title was Sons of the Sea/Professor Fuddle's Fantastic Fairy Tale Machine.

Brazda Brothers - "Lonely Time" (1973)

As recent migrants from Europe (I'm not sure where), they were supposedly inspired by the natural beauty of their new home of Galt, Ontario, and recorded this LP in only six hours in Toronto. It's a really beautiful record, made special by their odd accents and slightly-off vocals, as well as brilliant bursts of organ.

Elyse Weinberg - "Deed I Do" (1968) [buy]

Finally, Elyse Weinberg is an amazing woman whom I had the privilege of meeting during Pop Montreal this year (we sat on a songwriter's panel together at the Symposium). She played this song with members of the Saffron Sect playing sitar and tanpura at her show at the Casa. She was amazed that there were young folks who knew how to play a song from an obscure album she made 40 years ago. Anyway, the live rendition was magnificent and that album is called Elyse and is really heartbreakingly awesome. Hopefully she won't find this and be mad that I posted her song online. She's from Toronto and used to hang out with folks like Neil Young, but who really cares, because she's amazing.

If you want to hear some other great Canadian bands from the late '60s/early '70s, check out Plastic Cloud, The Plague, The Poppy Family, Reign Ghost, Terence, It's All Meat, and duh, the Guess Who. Most of these bands have been reissued or bootlegged or posted online, so have fun!

[Adam Waito is from Thunder Bay and lives in Montreal. He has played in bands such as Telefauna and Miracle Fortress but now leads Adam & the Amethysts, whose Amethyst Amulet is one of the great undiscovered albums of 2008. (BUY: CD/MP3)]


(Previous guest-blogs: The Whiskers, Silver Jews, artist Ariel Kitch, artist Aaron Sewards, artist Corinne Chaufour, "Jean Baudrillard", artist Danny Zabbal, artist Irina Troitskaya, artist Eleanor Meredith, artist Keith Greiman, artist Matthew Feyld, The Weakerthans, Parenthetical Girls, artist Daria Tessler, Clem Snide, Marcello Carlin, Beirut, Jonathan Lethem, Will Butler (Arcade Fire), Al Kratina, Eugene Mirman, artist Dave Bailey, Agent Simple, artist Keith Andrew Shore, Owen Ashworth (Casiotone for the Painfully Alone), artist Kit Malo with Alden Penner (The Unicorns) 1 2, artist Rachell Sumpter, artist Katy Horan 1 2, David Barclay (The Diskettes), artist Drew Heffron, Carl Wilson, artist Tim Moore, Michael Nau (Page France), Devin Davis, Will Sheff (Okkervil River), Edward Droste (Grizzly Bear), Hello Saferide, Damon Krukowski (Damon & Naomi), Brian Michael Roff, Howard Bilerman (producer: Silver Mt. Zion, Arcade Fire, etc.). There are many more to come.)

Posted by Sean at November 27, 2008 12:14 PM

noooo elyse weinberg's song doesn't work :(
great post, its really inspiring to hear great canadian music

Posted by alyssa at November 27, 2008 2:04 PM

Oops! Elyse Weinberg link has been fixed!

Posted by Sean at November 27, 2008 2:14 PM

Excellent post.
Even though they don't get a song, great to see The Poppy Family mentioned. The Gramophone definitely needs to post some Poppy Family someday.

Posted by jer at November 27, 2008 3:08 PM

Emily (of the diskettes) has an uncle that played drums in the Rabble. I've never managed to score the 2nd LP but the first is amazing!

might i also recommend this resource as a guide and pocket book saver:


Posted by david b at November 27, 2008 11:14 PM

It's true. Uncle Rabble-drummer really is my uncle.

Word has it they would pop balloons full of shaving cream during this song:


Posted by Emily B. at November 28, 2008 10:26 PM

More Brazdas! Good stuff....

Posted by zach at November 29, 2008 8:38 AM


Posted by Sarb at November 29, 2008 11:53 AM

this is awesome x 100.
i want more, please.

Posted by miss s! at November 30, 2008 9:25 AM

these are all amazing. the Brazda Brothers especially. thanks a lot for these.

Posted by desilhouette at November 30, 2008 5:30 PM

wow. these are so great.

also i just purchased the adam and the amethysts album after reading that post. hadn't thought anything of 'the return' when you posted it back in may i suppose. probably never even listened to the mp3, it's so hard to listen to everything that gets downloaded from mp3 blogs.

but anyway, amethyst amulet is a marvel. well done. a lovely thing. i'm only a day in, but i think this is one of my favorites of the year.

Posted by jay at November 30, 2008 7:20 PM

I think this is my favorite post ever here. And yes, more Brazda Brothers. And Borealis.

Posted by Corinne at December 1, 2008 11:47 PM

after a few "revival shows" Christmas are rumored to be gearing up to do a re-union show (orig. members). here's a link to a clip of the re-vival gigs, bob bryden & backing band.


Posted by orangutang at December 4, 2008 9:05 PM

so cool! Psychadelic pop sounds so wonderful in the middle of prairie winters.

Posted by Katherine at December 5, 2008 12:32 AM

Nikki Sixx was in a band called Christmas before he was in Motley Crue. (Does anyone know how to add umlauts in comments?)

Posted by Urgh at December 5, 2008 2:59 AM

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about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

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