As psychedelic as possible, under the circumstances
January 30, 2018 6:45 PM   Subscribe

We're taking a meandering musical trip through late 60's musical Canada starting in Toronto's Yorkville, where hippies and draft dodgers like "Bill" (William Gibson) were gathering. In one attempt to make sense of it all, in 1968 the NFB (National Film Board of Canada) gave cameras to a group of kids and made Christopher's Movie Matinee - check out this great scene which refers to Yorkville and makes some timely observations.

The movie has a soundtrack by 3's A Crowd, who were originally from Vancouver - they played at Expo 67 where they were spotted by Mama Cass who ended up co-producing their only album. Here they are playing I Don't Want To Drive You Away from 1968. Bruce Cockburn joined 3's A Crowd in 1969 - here's the promo video for the trippy Electrocution of the Word.

South-west of Yorkville is the University of Toronto where in 1967 John Mills-Cockell, Michael Hayden, Blake Parker and Dik Zander formed Intersystems. John Mills-Cockell was a pioneer of the Moog synthesizer (he picked his up the same day as Wendy Carlos) - one of the first Intersystems live concerts was at the Art Gallery of Toronto in March 1968 (at the same time John Cage and Marcel Duchamp were playing chess nearby). They released three LP recordings: Number One (1967), Peachy (1968) and the brilliantly named Free Psychedelic Poster Inside (1968).

South of the university and immediately east of Kensington Market is Baldwin Street - in 1968 the Yellow Ford Truck business opened on Baldwin Street and SUPA (Student Union for Peace Action) was started. The band Kensington Market chose to name themselves after this neighbourhood - their first LP was titled Avenue Road which runs north-south by Yorkville; here the track Coming Home Soon. For their second album (Aardvark) they had John Mills-Cockell on keyboards. Consider Dorian or Cartoon. After Kensinton Market, John Mills-Cockell then formed Syrinx with percussionist Alan Wells and saxophonist Doug Pringle - they got a hit with Tillicum which was used as the opening music for the tv show Here Come's The 70's (warning: naked bum + plane crash) which comes with a French version. Here's footage of Syrinx with the Toronto Repertory Orchestra playing Ibistix, here's audio of December Angel. John Mills-Cockell also played on Anne Murray's third album Honey, Wheat and Laughter; you can hear him at the start of Musical Friends (written by Bruce Cockburn). Also on this LP is The Call which was written by Gene MacLellan - he also wrote Songbird. And by the way, from the 1971 LP Anne Murray / Glen Campbell please do check out this complete gem.

In Yorkville, Bernie Finkelstein managed Kensington Market as well as (for a time) The Paupers who put out two fine albums: Magic People and Ellis Island (Southdown Road, Numbers). The drummer of the band was Skip Prokop who would go on to form Lighthouse, and he played on Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield & Al Kooper as well as other session work including with Janis Jolin. After Bernie Finkelstein, Albert Grossman took over management and got them a booking at the Monterey Pop Festival where they played like a complete disaster when their bassist (Denny Gerrard) took bad acid and everything went sideways. An early Paupers single was Copper Penny which is how Kitchener's Copperpenny got their name - this is I've Been Hurt Before from 1969.

North of Kensington is Sussex Avenue, where the members of Bent Wind lived and practiced (and made psychedelic candles to sell at nearby Rochdale College) and so they named their 1969 album Sussex - from that LP here's Mistify. One of the last live performances of the original lineup took place at Etobicoke Collegiate Institute in February, 1970 where they played a double bill with Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck from Vancouver.

Some other bands busy in Toronto back then: the Ugly Ducklings were a garage band out of Toronto who opened for the Rolling Stones in 1966; check out Nothin' or Just In Case You Wonder off their only LP Somewhere Outside. A Passing Fancy had a few singles such as I'm Losing Tonight and She Phoned; they also played Expo 67. There was blues and R&B going on in Toronto - Luke And the Apostles played at the Purple Onion and they ended up opening for the Jefferson Airplane and Grateful Dead at the O'Keefe Center. Shortly afterwards they broke up ; Luke Gibson joined Kensington Market and Mike McKenna joined the Ugly Ducklings. Here's Been Burnt, You Make Me High, Good Morning Little School Girl. Also worth mentioning Mandala (Dominic Troiano on guitar) were playing tracks like Opportunity and they put out the LP Soul Crusade.

On the west coast in Vancouver the hippies were loitering in the public square and causing a scene. The CBC started Let's Go in 1964 and broadcast great stuff. On the CBC show Where It's At Lulu introduces a completely crazy performance by My Indole Ring which pairs nicely with Orange Float Petals. John Mills-Cockell pops up in Vancouver, playing with Hydro Electric Streetcar - here are two tracks by them High Memory and I Realize which come from the Cool Aid Benefit, a fundraiser for Cool Aid House. The bands appearing included Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck, Mock Duck, Papa Bear's Medicine Show, Hydro Electric Streetcar, Route 9, Blacksnake Blues Band and Spring. Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck put out two albums: Home Grown Stuff and Starting A New Day - see also tracks like : Times Are Changing, One Ring Jane, Love's Been A Long Time Coming and Someone Think. A couple other Vancouver notables are The Collectors (they later became Chilliwack) who had their first hit with Looking at a Baby and put out a couple videos like Lydia Purple and Sheep on the Hillside. My favorite Collectors track has to be She (Will O' The Wind). The Collectors were also Electric Prunes for one album (Mass in F Minor) when they were brought in to the studio to help complete the troubled LP, one track of which was used on Easy Rider. One final musician from Vancouver - Tom Northcott was also a where it's at with tracks like Make Me an Island or Who Planted Thorns in Miss Alice's Garden.

The nation's capital Ottawa was home to The Esquires, recipients of the first Juno award (known as the RPM award in early years). The Esquires were signed to Capitol Records in 1963, and backed Montreal singer Andy Kim on the Dick Clark show. They had a hit with So Many Other Boys, and here's Why Should I Care. Ottawa-born Bruce Cockburn was in The Esquires, then moved to Toronto and was in Flying Circuc which changed their name to Olivus, who opened for Jimi Hendrix and Cream in 1968. The superb Half Past Midnight (b-side: Weatherman) was the biggest hit by Ottawa's The Stacattos, spending 3 weeks in the top 10 during Expo '67. Also by them: Didn't Know the Time, Song that the City Sings and She Is Tomorrow - the last two from the Wild Pair LP (promoted by Coca-Cola) giving a side each to The Staccatos and The Guess Who which eventually sold 85,000 copies. In 1968 the Stacattos became the Five Man Electrical Band.

That Wild Pair LP features The Guess Who so let's stop briefly in Winnipeg with Chad Allen and the Expressions and early hits like Shakin' All Over. Chad Allen left in 1967 and the duo of Burton Cummings and Randy Bachman got busy: This Time Long Ago, When Friends Fall Out, Flying on the Ground is Wrong (a Neil Young track), Somewhere Up High, Very Far From Near, One Tin Soldier, and HeyGoode Hardy (Hagood Hardy). Over to Calgary which was home to the 49th Parallel - their eponymous LP has some great tracks like She Says, Twilight Woman, Close The Barn Door, the trippy Lazerander Filchy and Citizen Freak (buy a car, impress the neighbors, your shoes are made from alligators). Here's a song called Calgary by Great Speckled Bird (the album was produced by Todd Rundgren).

And here's some random stuff: Expedition to Earth put out one single: Expedition to Earth (b-side: Time Time Time) and it's looking like we might finally get to hear the album. J.K. And Co. got help from Mother Tucker's Yellow Duck on Suddenly One Summer (Jay Kaye was only 15) with cuts like Christine, Fly and Nobody. The Plastic Cloud (from Bay Ridges Ontario) put out one (very rare) eponymously titled release which includes such tracks as Civilization Machine, Epistle To Paradice, The Dainty General Rides. The Folklords only LP Release the Sunshine is well worth checking out: Suzanne Marie, Don't Hide Your Love From Me and Child. And finally, out of Oshawa Ontario, the band Reign Ghost who put out two albums of fantastic freak music - their first (Reign Ghost) has tracks like Eyes Knows, So Does Ears and Carolina and Travels of the Blue Paradox (here is the entire LP). Three tracks from their second album (Featuring Lynda Squires): Ain't It Great (How I Love You), Solar Nice and More Than I. Lynda Squires joined the cast in the Toronto production of Hair and the band folded, to become Christmas.

For those that read this far, some bonus links:

- Joni Mitchell playing The Way It Is on CBC tv
- CBC radio interview from 1967 with Pink Floyd
- Leonard Cohen on This Hour Has Seven Days
- Hunter S. Thompson and a Hell's Angel on CBC
- Dr. Martin Luther King audio from the Massey Lectures in 1967
- Malcolm X on Front Page Challenge in 1965
- Harry Belafonte interviewed in 1967
- Tim Horton almost gets emotional when they won the cup
- The very best in weather forecasting (the map is lousy with lows)
posted by parki (18 comments total) 70 users marked this as a favorite
This is my 'hood! I used to live in Baldwin Village and now am up on Spadina Rd (not Ave thank you very much). Yorkville has been a mink mile for decades now, and Rochdale got shut down and turned into an old folks home. But having the university and Kensington in the middle of the city means that there are bits and pieces of the hippy life still kicking around. A few of the older people in my 50's co-op turned condo were clearly part of the Rochdale scene, and you'll find places like Karma Co-op Food Store in the laneway behind million dollar houses in Meghan Markle's now-former neighborhood.

My folks were hippies but they didn't live in Toronto back then so I've never picked up anything about these bands from them. And few if any of the bands listed above are played on Canadian radio these days. The only band I know from Yorkville in the 60's is The Mynah Birds - they were supposed to sign with Motown but word got out that their lead singer, Rick James, was AWOL so the deal fell apart and their guitar and bass players, Neil Young and Bruce Palmer, decided to set out and go to California in a hearse and formed Buffalo Springfield.
posted by thecjm at 7:14 PM on January 30 [3 favorites]

*low whistle*

This is gonna take a while to get through. Thank you.

I got thinking "Ok, what on this smorgasbord have I never tasted?" "Ugly Ducklings? Not familiar. Let's do it."

*clicks on link to Just In Case You Wonder*

Holy fuzz tone!
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:26 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Tried to write a comment a couple times....can’t believe this.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:28 PM on January 30

Came for 19 year old William Gibson, found the next 2 weeks worth of YouTube. Gratified that “Bill” at 19 and presumably on something psychoactive is still able to be a fairly lucid observer.
posted by q*ben at 8:34 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

i will probably have something to say about this in a few days
posted by chococat at 8:43 PM on January 30 [5 favorites]

a meandering musical trip through late 60's musical Canada starting in Toronto's Yorkville,

Jon Kay from Steppenwolf (who experienced both) described Yorkville as being a far more successful "experiment" than Haight-Ashbury. Or more to the point, by the time he got to the Haight, whatever magic it once had was gone. But his time in Yorkville was magical.
posted by philip-random at 9:03 PM on January 30 [1 favorite]

Came to see if Gibson would report that he'd stayed up all night tripping and in the morning the sky was the color of a TV set tuned to a dead channel; stayed for his musings (surprisingly astute for someone who seems utterly stoned) about the difference between hippies and nonconformists.
posted by Halloween Jack at 9:12 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Well... there's some stuff to ponder here. It's true that hippies are conformists.

Holy fuzz tone!

Various late 60's Canadian bands had very nice fuzz tones, yes.

Kensington Market

Aside from the often mentioned second keyboard player for Kensington Market, the original keyboard player Gene Martynec also made synth and audio experiments, with some uncanny sounds on some Bruce Cockburn albums...

...and there's always more to say about these times, maybe continue with Before The Gold Rush and work out from there. Not that I'm not impressed, I'm impressed. Quite the list.
posted by ovvl at 9:32 PM on January 30

Great post! I love Christopher's Movie Matinee! Mind if I add one thing here? I know this is about music but the story of Rochedale College, (mentioned above briefly) an experimental free university / housing co-op is a really important part of the story of Toronto hippie culture. And pretty interesting in its own right and sadly not as well known by younger Canadians. If you can track it down, Ron Mann's NFB documentary Dream Tower is worth a look.
posted by Ashwagandha at 9:39 PM on January 30 [2 favorites]

Slow clap.

Amazing post about a time and people that most didn't know about or have forgotten. So well done!

I'll be back in a few weeks after I digest all of this.
posted by ashbury at 11:48 PM on January 30

These are the neighborhoods I grew up in (the first house I lived in after I was born was a block away from Rochdale). I'm going to spend some time today really digging into this.

I would not be at all surprised to see my parents in that NFB film, even though they were more into the folk scene in Yorkville than psych rock.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:51 AM on January 31

Wow! Epic post!

Seconding Dream Tower as excellent backgrounder. Who knew that the band that was to become Rush recorded their first demos in the studio in Rochdale's basement? Or that the Unknown Student statue used to face the other way, its bare bum mooning Bloor St?

Some of the Toronto Quakers I know were part of the Yorkville coffee house scene, and I've occasionally heard little snippets of the most genteel name-dropping, with comments like: “a house party ... a thin young man from Minnesota with a guitar he couldn't really play, singing Leadbelly songs not very well ... still went by Robert Zimmerman back then, of course ...”. Some of them are no longer with us, like the fine old thespian who described playing The Incredible String Band's The Minotaur's Song on repeat for an entire weekend while on PCP during the summer of 1968.
posted by scruss at 6:18 AM on January 31 [1 favorite]

Various late 60's Canadian bands had very nice fuzz tones, yes.

Wener Herzog should make a semi-eponymous documentary about late 60s/early 70s Canadian fuzztone.

But I gotta say this post pretty much has my weekend planned out for me...
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:13 AM on January 31

Amazing post, thank you!

I work in the Special Collections department on the 5th floor of the Reference Library (across the street from Yorkville, which...well, it's just so hard to believe it was ever a hippie enclave); anyone with an interest in this time and music is invited up here to check out the posters in the Suddon collection (not in our digital archive due to copyright issues); a father-and-son team collection of (mostly) telephone pole posters from downtown Toronto stretching from the late '50s to the early '90s. The posters range from every imaginable subject you could advertise on a poster, but there are a *ton* of concert posters and many from this golden music age of Yorkville. MeMail me for more details if you're so inclined.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:34 PM on January 31 [7 favorites]

Oh, look- the Yorkville people are meeting with Allan Lamport.

What an asshole.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 5:28 PM on January 31 [2 favorites]

Hell of a post.
posted by dougzilla at 10:43 PM on January 31

Still crawling my way through this fantastic post, which is very relevant to my interests.
One of the links you have labelled as Yorkville (shitty stock music alert; look for the people walking by with Honest Ed's bags!) is actually Mirvish Village, which sadly is no more. The last of Honest Ed (Mirvish)'s iconic store was torn down today.

you'll find places like Karma Co-op Food Store in the laneway behind million dollar houses in Meghan Markle's now-former neighborhood
Karma is down the street from us, as is Ms. Markle's house. It completely blows my mind how much houses are going for around here. We bought here in 1997 for what's NOTHING now; people thought we were nuts. We loved the neighbourhood so much and still do but it's a little out of control with the prices.
posted by chococat at 7:36 PM on February 6

"The last of Honest Ed (Mirvish)'s iconic store was torn down today. "

posted by parki at 9:12 AM on February 17

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