The top 10 Canadian rock songs of 1967 include musical material that came from a collection of singers and songwriters that was on the verge of taking the world by storm. Before earning their names in the spotlight as pop culture icons, notable Canadians such as Randy Bachman, Burton Cummings, and Neil Young were already paving their way as world-class musicians. In the meantime, already-established talents such as The Collectors and Leonard Cohen. Fans of Canadian rock legend, Bill Henderson, will also remember him as one of the founders behind Chilliwack.
By the time 1967 hit, there was already an established Canadian rock group that adopted The Collectors as a name in 1966. Before this, Bill Henderson and Howie Vickers started off as members of a house band in 1961. Originally based in Vancouver, British Columbia, The Collectors performed music for CFUN radio and its popular program at the time, C-FUN Classics. 1967 marked The Collectors’ recording debut, along with the hit single, “Looking at a Baby.” After the release of The Collectors in 1967, 1968’s Grass and Wild Strawberries became the group’s second studio album.
It was also the last as Vickers left the lineup in 1969. This left Henderson to officially take over as he became the new lead vocalist. What became the end of The Collectors marked the beginning of Chilliwack. Where The Collectors left off in 1969, Chilliwack picked up in 1970. Accompanying Henderson as the transition from The Collectors to Chilliwack took place were Claire Lawrence, Glenn Miller, and Ross Turney. Together, these men rocked the Canadian audience with one iconic performance after another that turned Chilliwack into legend.
Another established group at this time was The Guess Who. In 1958, Chad Allan formed a rock band that started out as Allan and the Silverstones. After undergoing a series of lineup changes and different band names, the group officially became Chad Allan and the Expressions in 1965. However, when the group the cover of Johnny Kidd’s “Shakin’ All Over,” Quality Records disguised the band’s name as Guess Who? as a publicity stunt. This resulted in radio stations and disc jockeys referring to Allan’s group as The Guess Who.
Although 1965’s Hey Ho (What You Do to Me!) was an album credited to Chad Allan and the Expressions, “Guess Who?” was prominently displayed on the cover. This came at a time when an eighteen-year-old named Burton Cummings replaced the band’s exhausted keyboardist, Bob Ashley. Cummings and Allan shared the role of lead vocalist for a few months until Allan left. The departure of Allan now had the band officially labeled as The Guess Who? until the question mark was dropped in 1968. This was an unusual case where a band’s name was chosen for them by an outside influence instead of the bandmates deciding it for themselves.
Yet a third already-established Canadian-based rock group was the Jack London & the Sparrows. Founded by British-born Jack London in 1964, he teamed up with Dennis Edmonton and Dave Hare. Together, they started out as a beat group that first relied heavily on the musical British invasion’s influence as London’s migration to Canada from the UK also brought with him a musical background he identified with as Dave Marden. By mid-1965, the Sparrows underwent a lineup change that included Dennis’s brother, Jerry Edmonton, joining in as the band’s drummer. It also brought on board German immigrant, John Kay.
In addition to the band’s new roster, the Sparrows dropped the British influence in favor of a bluesy rock sound. These changes played a key role for the band as they started to produce a series of hits that would get the Sparrows recognized nationwide. In addition to becoming club favorites in Canada, the Sparrows also made a positive impression on New Yorkers with the group’s highly energetic performances. However, by 1967, Jack London was out of the picture while Kay and his fellow Sparrow bandmates had relocated to Los Angeles, California. It would be at this time Sparrow would become reborn as Steppenwolf.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1967
#10 – Twisted (performed by John Kay & Sparrow)
Released in 1967 on the B-side of the same record as “Square Headed People,” “Twisted” was a song credited to John Kay & Sparrow. He, along with fellow Canadians, Dennis and Jerry Edmonton, performed this song as a bluesy, yet festive boogie-woogie song, similar to the style John London & the Sparrows were known for from 1964 until 1966. While it may not stand out as a hard-hitting Steppenwolf classic, “Twisted” did reveal the songwriting talent of Canadian guitarist Dennis Edmonton, who’d later assume the pseudo name of Mars Bonfire. The direction this songwriter took paved the way for hard rock and heavy metal to make its influence, starting with the iconic hit, “Born to be Wild.”
#9 – Flying on the Ground is Wrong (performed by The Guess Who?)
Written by Neil Young, 1967’s “Flying on the Ground is Wrong” was a single The Guess Who? released featured on the A-side of a recording while “If You Don’t Want Me” was on the B-side. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it became a number thirty-six hit. This was written by Young for the Winnipeg-based group before it would be recorded while he was part of Buffalo Springfield’s lineup. Fans of the iconic band from Winnipeg had yet to hear the hard rockin’ numbers that would catapult The Guess Who to international stardom. What they did hear was the beginning of a fantastic rock group that started out as a garage-style rock band. They also got a taste of Neil Young’s songwriting skills that would have him recognized as the Godfather of Grunge.
#8 – Pretty Blue Eyes (performed by The Guess Who?)
Originally performed as a single by Steve Lawrence in 1959, “Pretty Blue Eyes” was a song The Guess Who? covered in 1967. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it became a number forty-eight hit for a rock group whose name was changed due to a publicity stunt that apparently went a bit too far. Technically, the band was supposed to be referenced as Chad Allan and the Expressions but it seemed as if fate had other ideas. The incredible vocal talent of a young Burton Cummings served as a small hint of things to come from a truly gifted singer who became one of the brightest Canadian-produced stars of all time.
#7 – So Long, Marianne (performed by Leonard Cohen)
One of Canada’s best musicians who also have a knack for incredible songwriting, is Leonard Cohen. Folk rock as the world knows it still owes much of its roots to this wonderfully gifted poet as he influenced so many musicians and recording artists ever since he first made his mark in the 1950s. “So Long, Marianne” was a song about a Norweigan woman Leonard Cohen met in Greece in 1960. She, along with her six-month-old son, was left behind on the island of Hydra by her husband, Norweigan writer Alex Jensen. Cohen took it upon himself to bring the mother and son back to her homeland before later inviting the two to live with him in Montreal, Quebec.
Throughout the 1960s, they were a family that spent time together in Montreal and New York, as well as on the Greek island where they first met. The song was recorded in 1967 while Leonard Cohen was in New York as part of his debut album, Songs of Leonard Cohen. Originally, “So Long, Marianne” wasn’t meant to serve as a farewell song to his beloved but that’s how it became. In 1966, the couple took a break from each other before ultimately separating for good.
#6 – Square Headed People (performed by John Kay & Sparrow)
Fans of John Kay are likely to remember him best as the founder and lead singer of the iconic classic rock group, Steppenwolf. Before this, however, he was the lead vocalist for a Canadian rock group, Sparrow. Originally founded in 1964 as Jack London & the Sparrows, by the time 1966 hit, London was out and it was Kay, along with Dennis and Jerry Edmonton, who were in charge. Together, they moved to Los Angeles, California as the appeal of the warmer climate lured these Canadian men to trek southwest.
In November 1966, Sparrow debuted as It’s Boss before becoming Steppenwolf in 1967. In the meantime, “Square Headed People” was a song that was recorded, released, and credited solely to John Kay. This was released in 1967, along with “Twisted” on a record that was credited to John Kay & Sparrow. What made this song a delightful gem was the merge of blues, jazz, and psychedelic rock. Viewed as a “Steppenwolf-lite” classic by many of the group’s fans, this song served as a prelude to what was yet to come.
#5 – Mr. John (performed by Kensington Market)
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Kensington Market was a rock band that credited its name to the city’s downtown neighborhood. From 1967 until 1969, the group became one of the first Canadian rock bands to develop a music style that was separate from the sounds coming from British and USA-based rock groups. Founder Keith McKie was the group’s singer, songwriter, and guitarist. After Bernie Finkelstein sold his rights to manage The Paupers, he was on the hunt to find new talent. He found this with McKie and the lineup of Alex Darou, Gene Martynec, and Jimmy Watson. When these men made their debut at Toronto’s infamous Night Owl in June 1967, they were highly acclaimed for their inventive approach to rock music. This led to a contract with Stone Records that would see four singles released. Among them, “Mr. John” made an appearance on the Canadian Top Singles Chart as it peaked as high as number seventy-six. “Mr. John” joined the ranks of Kensington Market’s collection of gentle lyrical rock songs that wonderfully mixed together classical, folk, and jazz in perfect unison.
#4 – Simple Deed (performed by The Paupers)
What made “Simple Deed” stand out was the drum performance laid out by Skip Prokop and his bandmates. Along the way, it tightly skipped as the incredible bass weaved its way through a song that became one of The Paupers’ most beloved classics. 1967 witnessed The Paupers reach new levels of popularity as the talented lineup won over American and Canadian crowds as it often traveled back and forth between Ontario and New York to perform. What adds to the appeal of “Simple Deed” was how well Prokop’s group performed and sang together in harmony. At the time, Adam Mitchell was the group’s lead vocalist before he briefly moved on to pursue a solo career.
#3 – Looking at a Baby (performed by The Collectors)
Since 1961, The Collectors had been rocking before an audience before Bill Hendeson and Howie Vickers recorded and released 1967’s “Looking at a Baby.” Already well known as a house band from Vancouver, British Columbia, The Collectors became a nationwide favorite as soon as radio stations played a song that became a number twenty-three hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. In Toronto, Ontario, its iconic radio station, CHUM, peaked “Looking at a Baby” as high as number four. “Looking at a Baby” had The Collectors excel as they sang in harmony a song that shared the beauty of innocence. Using the reference of a lady while looking at the world, The Collectors delivered a wonderful song of hope for listeners to enjoy.
#2 – Half Past Midnight (performed by The Staccatos)
“Half Past Midnight” was a song written by Les Emmerson that would be recorded in 1967, then released in 1968, as The Staccatos’ second single as a Canadian-based rock group. It became the band’s biggest hit as it peaked as high as number eight on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. In 1968, it was part of a joint album The Staccatos shared with another Canadian rock band, The Guess Who?. Each band had its own side to a record titled A Wild Pair. This was released in 1968. By then, The Staccatos renamed itself Five Man Electrical Band after it was suggested the old identity sounded outdated. The ticking of the clock combined with the harmonious performance of this incredible band gave “Half Past Midnight” a special charm that rightfully earned its place as a Canadian rock classic. This was pop with a psychedelic attitude as it served as an electrifying transition of a group of men that changed course from The Staccatos to the Five Man Electrical Band.
#1 – Suzanne (performed by Leonard Cohen)
Written and published as a poem in 1966, Leonard Cohen’s “Suzanne was first recorded as a song by The Stormy Clovers, then by Judy Collins that same year. Cohen would do the same in 1967 as his debut single from the album Songs of Leonard Cohen. As a song, “Suzanne” has become so popular that several recording artists have covered it over the stretch of time. According to music critics, “Suzanne” was regarded as one of the songs Cohen ever wrote. The story behind the song came from Cohen’s friendship with a dancer named Suzanne Verdal. Although the lyrics suggested there was a romantic relationship that took place between Cohen and Verdal, their friendship was kept strictly at a platonic level. Cohen’s version of “Suzanne” was released as a single in 1968 but it failed to make an appearance on the music charts. This wouldn’t happen until after Cohen died in 2016. At that time, it became a European hit that peaked as high as number three in France, and at number nine in Spain. It also became certified silver by the British Phonographic Industry after selling over two hundred thousand copies.