Ignored 44: Notes from 1980s CanCon


The first six years of MuchMusic were underrated as outlet for youngsters to experience legit Canadian-produced episodic viewing.

This was years before Much regressed into its “do they even play music videos anymore, man?!?” phase. And yet, many CanCon hits of that original era had videos that basically amounted to bite-sized television shows. Flimsy story archs, piss-poor acting, sets that looked suspiciously like that industrial park in Rexdale where your Uncle Steve worked, etc. What many 1980s CanCon videos lacked in quality, they made up for in…. uh, pinache?

Like pretty much everything else, many of these “television shows” are now available on YouTube. Collectively, they are pretty entertaining when taken at face value.

These are seven of my favourite CanCon video narratives of 1984-1989. Spoiler alert: the text below is full of spoilers!

Doug and the Slugs sing “Day by Day”


Summary: Doug learns he gets dropped from his record label by an evil robot boss. All his stuff gets repoed, including a potted plant. Doug is now a vagrant. He decides to start his own record label in an shabby office. His bandmates help Doug with his fledgling SMB, largely by carrying boxes of records into the back of an awaiting van. Things start to happen for Doug’s label (Propaganda Records). Doug ponders options on a rooftop in downtown Vancouver. Doug and the Slugs eventually sell tons of records via Propaganda. Sadly, the label’s office still looks terrible. The End.

The Pursuit of Happiness sing “Hard to Laugh”


Summary: Moe Berg sorts old photos of (assumedly) he and an ex-girlfriend. It appears his relationship is over. All her stuff goes in a cardboard box, which he then kicks with authority. Looking a bit like a taller Axl Rose, Moe carries the box full of belonging down the street, past some construction workers laying asphalt. He runs toward a garbage truck and he pitches the box into the rubbish pile with a look that can be best described as, “Good riddance!” Smash cut to the dump. Moe is digging around with a shovel. Seems like he wants the box back for some reason. The End.

The Box sing “Crying Out Loud for Love”


Summary: The guy from the Box is driving WAY to fast down a narrow coastal road. He looks blankly at a decrepit barn. The scene now switches to some fine-looking lady riding a ferry, gazing yonder. She is really rockin’ the windblown look! Back to the dude from the Box, he’s still driving except now he’s also smoking a cigarette and chugging from a full bottle of Sunny Delight. Whoa! He’s also now driving on the wrong side of the road. This guy is clearly a bad seed! He decides to take a break by the seaside to smoke another cigarette and remember happier times with the windblown lady. He put his hazards on, at least, when he parked. Now, SHE  is smoking in a dark room with venetian blinds. He pulls into a seedy motel. Uh-oh!! The final shot shows windblown lady looking quite sad, while starring out the window. The End.

Boys Brigade sing “Melody”


Summary: A great shot of a rather skimpy looking Toronto skyline. We’re now in a bar called After Midnight with a disproportionate amount of fellas with receding hairlines. It seems like an afterwork place because some people are dressed in suits. Boys Brigade play while the odd person dances. A dark-haired lady (can we assume THIS is Melody?) flashes some bedroom eyes and looks like a young Anjelica Huston in the process. She’s quite the dish and wearing a vinyl jumpsuit. Here’s Melody on the dance floor! She totally working it and yet appear stone sober. #YOLO A badass named Sam enters the bar. He’s wearing a red t-shirt and leather jacket. As he shoved the door man out of the way, Sam clearly is not somebody you’d like to meet in a dark alley. He drinks some other guy’s drink, right out of his hand. Ballsy! Just as Melody is about to start macking on the singer from Boys Brigade (who sounds like Lou Reed BTW), Sam confronts Melody and leads her off the dance floor. It appears her night at the After Midnight may be cut short. Random shots of bar patrons and some slow motion shots of Melody dancing and spinning. The menacing Sam is suddenly M.I.A.. Melody is now writhing and clutching the walls. She wants the singer from Boys Brigade in the worst way. Melody now vanishes into thin air on the dance floor. Total WTF?? The End.

Jane Siberry sings “One More Colour”


Summary: Jane Siberry is walking a cow near a cottage. She is in a kitchen with what appears to be a cow puppet. She may be on the verge of some baking. She pours a cup of tea and the cow puppet watches. Jane and the cow puppet look out the window to see Jane walk the actual cow. Just stay with me here… Her outfit has a vaguely Russian look to it. More walking the cow while singing. The cow chews its cud. Jane dances a bit. She looks like she doesn’t have a care in the world. Jane and cow pass two old people who are looking at something in the sky. There’s now a kid in a cabin, watching a reel-to-reel film while a cherry picker is parked outside. It appears to be a science film, maybe. By Gawd… Jane and the cow are now right outside the cabin! Jane gives the signal and the guy driving the cherry picker causes the walls of the cabin to collapse. The inhabitants appear as if they’re having a religious moment. The cow still looks unimpressed. Oh, and the roof? It’s dangling from the lift on the cherry picker. More walking with the cow. A bunch of other randoms look up at the sky, and Jane w/ cow keep walking. The End.

Luba sings “Let It Go”


Summary: The weather sucks. Wait a minute! Here comes… Luba: the blimp!! Luba and friends wave from the mighty air vessel. Luba sings her song while flanked by a bunch of avant-garde types. A crowd gathers on ground and jump up-and-down in excitement, at the site of the blimp. This was clearly shot on a green screen. The crowd on the ground is very eclectic and includes punks, dweeb and b-boys, amongst other cultural archetypes. There’s now a big, fiery explosion behind Luba but nobody gets hurt or even notices. One of Luba’s pals is wearing a colander on his head. The blimp floats away. I always liked this song. The video is not unlike the Parachute Club’s “Rise Up” except it’s in the air instead of in the streets of Toronto. The End.

Kim Mitchell sings “Go for Soda”


Summary: An 1980s teen (holding a phone) says to another 1980s teen, “These girls don’t want to have anything to do with us, man”. The second teen looks sad. The talker is holding the phone and the wall is covered in writing. In short, it looks like they’re squatters. The Teen #2 says in a really odd voice, “Gimme that!!” RE: the telephone receiver. Teen #1 lumbers off into their disgusting living room. Teen #1 smokes a cigarette while Kim Mitchell is on the TV. Big moment: a pint-sized Kim jumps out of the TV (yes, you read that right) and lands on the coffee table, scaring the (crap) out of Teen #1. Kim dances funny and admonishes Teen #1 for his smoking. Kim’s hair and mannerisms kind of resemble Iggy Pop although his hairline is already really suffering at this point. Anyway, Kim kicks the cigarette towards Teen #1 who juggles it. Kim then proceeds to stomp on the remote TV changer until it lands on a news report that (I think) is about people dying from cigarettes and alcohol. The newscaster throws his notes out of the TV, slammed his toupee on the news desk and walks off screen. Seriously unprofessional; Tom Gibney would never pull a move like that. More channel stomping by Kim and we have a five-second segment that is somewhat similar to the video for Ministry’s “N.W.O.”. Teen #1 tries to grab Kim but he narrowly avoids it and ends up on a windowsill. Basically, this is what it would be like to have a leprechaun or imp running amok in your house. Kim jumps back into the TV and gives us some hot guitar licks. Then, a full-sized Kim appears, dressed like he’s going to do some aerobics. He asks Teen #1 to come with him into the other room. There’s a big flash and all of a sudden, not only is Kim really small again but his equally diminutive band have now joined him, for an impromptu performance in the refrigerator. Considering these teens appear destitute, there’s a decent selection of fresh produce in the refrigerator. One of the tiny musicians kicks a tomato. Splat! More hot guitar licks and then a tiny audience appears just above the egg tray for some good-natured fist pumping. By this point, Teen #1 is digging this whole scenario and head-bobbing to the song. All of the sudden, the four-piece band turn into four cans of soda. Teen #1 enthusiastic grabs an orange soft drink and pours a generous swig into his mouth. Strangely, the can doesn’t touch his lips so the soft drank basically cascades into his mouth. Full-sized Kim is back but he now appears to be a ghost. Teen #1 doesn’t care in the slightest. He is rockin’ out hard! Kim disappears and re-emerges on the TV (where he belongs) for the final time. Looking a bit overwhelmed and slightly stoned, Teen #1 floats back to the kitchen. He hangs up Teen #2’s phone conversation and says, “Might as well go for a soda”. Teen #2 looks confused and slightly pissed. The End.


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