Among the top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1972, the music industry as the world knew it would become privy to some of the best rock music ever recorded. As a genre, rock ‘n’ roll continued to have the influence of blues, folk, and jazz play integral roles in some of the biggest hits ever to reach the ears of music fans worldwide. If there was that one year from the 1970s decade that really stood out for Canadian recording artists, it was 1972. Many fans (especially Canadians) will credit the official introduction of grunge rock to the legendary Neil Young. Young’s popularity exploded to unprecedented new heights after the release of Harvest and its two prized singles, “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man.”
1972 was Neil Young’s year after he recorded and released the immensely popular Harvest as the Canadian singer-songwriter’s fourth studio album. It was the first time a Canadian recording artist topped the United Kingdom’s album charts when it was first released. Globally, Harvest became a multi-platinum album that remains to this day as Young’s most successful album ever produced. As of 2015, Harvest was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. 1972 was the year Neil Young forever cemented himself as a world-class recording legend.
He was seen as more than just another star in the eyes of millions. He was justifiably seen as the “Godfather of Grunge” that would dictate the course of the music industry with his enigmatic influence. Today, Neil Young still represents Canada as one of the greatest musical talents in history. He was (and still is) so much more than an influential musician. Truly a man whose heart is made of gold, he buddied and mentored fellow legends such as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, just to name a few. It was this Neil Young who joined David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash to become Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young in 1968.
While Young’s career continued to blossom, the rest of the roster of Canadian recording artists were experiencing new heights of popularity themselves. 1972 marked April Wine’s first real breakthrough that would pave the way for this group to become one of Canada’s longest-running, most beloved rock groups of all time. This was also the case for Lighthouse, even though they were already popular before 1972 hit. The 1973 Juno Awards awarded the band from Toronto, Ontario as Best Group.
There was also The Guess Who still going strong and the musical prowess of yet another Canadian legend, Joni Mitchell. Some of the influence of 1972 Canadian rock music has been so powerful that it remains in regular rotation among some of the most popular radio stations that appreciate classic rock for what it is.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1972
#10 – Heartbroken Bopper (performed by The Guess Who)
“Heartbroken Bopper” was a single released in 1972 by The Guess Who from its ninth studio album, Rockin’. It became a number twelve hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, as well as a number forty-seven hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. This was a song of reflection as Burton Cummings sang as a young man realizing his days as a teenybopper was coming to an end as he reached adulthood. The song pointed out that the former teen used to perform with a band before it left town.
He would have joined them but his parents refused to let him go. Now as an adult, he feels as if his glory days are now behind him. The characteristics of “Heartbroken Bopper” has often been compared to Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a song pointing out one doesn’t have to reach the age of retirement to feel the bitter sting of lost youth. The start of “Heartbroken Bopper” sounded like a group of musicians playing different sounds with their instruments before breaking into awesome riffs that make this such an incredible song to listen to.
#9 – Love Me, Love Me Love (performed by Frank Mills)
Best known for 1974’s “Music Box Dancer,” Frank Mills had a 1972 hit with the wonderfully charming “Love Me, Love Me Love.” Written by Mills, the song was about an organ grinder who had a little monkey and a tin cup. It would dance for joy each time somebody put money in it. The organ grinder would quote “If you love me, love me, love, why did you ever leave me…” as a lonely tune suggesting he was abandoned at some point in his life. “Love Me, Love Me Love” ended with the heartbreaking reality that the organ grinder died. However, his music lived on in the narrator’s memory as someone who used to pass by where he and his monkey companion used to play.
The song came to Mills as a source of inspiration after learning about these special organs that were called serinettes. They were originally invented to teach canaries how to sing particular harmonies. When musicians realized they could use these to play outside and make money, this became a popular street corner attraction throughout Europe as of the 1760s. Going into the twentieth century, organ grinders became a thing of the past among European cities. In New York, they became popular until they were banned from the streets in 1935 by then-mayor Fiorello La Guardia.
This led to the destruction of hundreds of organs. This unfortunate fate included the loss of recorded music that was popular back in the day. Before the invention of the record player, the barrels of these organs were the only method possible to keep a permanent recording of popular music. If you’re feeling nostalgic, “Love Me, Love Me Love” works as a timeless rock classic that deserves mention.
You may need at least a tissue or two when hearing Frank Mills perform this gem play from start to finish. Although not a slow-paced ballad, the lyrics Mills shared about a man’s fate of misfortune made quite an impression. It’s a great song to think about when passing the street corners of today that has a struggling musician attempting to do the same thing the man whom Mills sang about did.
#8 – Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon (performed by The Guess Who)
As performers, The Guess Who developed a special fondness for Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. This came through loud and clear with “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon,” a 1972 single that was released for the album, Live at the Paramount. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it became a number nine hit. Although the song was strictly themed for Canadians, it even made a chart appearance on the US Billboard Hot 100 at number ninety-six. Originally, “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” was a live performance that ran for over six minutes. However, to make it radio-friendly, it was shortened to three and a half minutes.
In addition to mentioning Saskatoon, The Guess Who also referenced other Canadian cities, as well as Hong Kong. Despite the song’s popularity, it was never issued by the band as a studio recording. As far as the fans are concerned, the live version of this Canadian rock classic is perfectly fine. This is one of those timeless tunes that continue to receive regular airplay on classic rock stations across Canada.
Among the residents of Saskatchewan, “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” has a special meaning as it mentioned what The Guess Who referred to as a small town was actually one of the prairie province’s biggest cities. Saskatoon was also the old stomping grounds of another musical legend, Joni Mitchell. Canadian actress and longtime squeeze of KISS’s Gene Simmons, Shannon Tweed, also came from the Saskatoon area. Although technically a city, it has always been referred to as a classic prairie town due to its surroundings of rich agriculture and prominent farms. The radio edit version doesn’t do “Runnin’ Back to Saskatoon” justice. In order to really appreciate this song, it needs to be heard in its entirety.
#7 – Old Man (performed by Neil Young)
One of the most popular songs recorded and released by Neil Young was “Old Man.” After it was released as a single from his 1972 album, Harvest, it became a number four hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number thirty-one. Easily one of Young’s most endearing songs ever recorded, “Old Man” was written for a certain caretaker and his wife who worked at a Californian ranch the Canadian-born musician purchased in 1970. Singing along with Young were Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Their incredible contribution to this touching song added the extra charm it needed to turn it into a cult classic that would stand the test of time.
Louis and Clara Avila were the caretaking couple whom Young befriended at the Northern California Broken Arrow Ranch. The inspiration Young received while conversing with them had him realize how fortunate he was to become wealthy enough to purchase the kind of property most people could only dream of. When it was remarked his ability to do so at such a young age, the singer-songwriter from Winnipeg, Manitoba, was triggered to write “Old Man” as a gentle song of reflection about life.
Young continued to live and own the ranch until his 2014 divorce from his wife, Pegi. As part of the divorce settlement, he gave the ranch to her and their son, Ben. As for “Old Man,” this remains a cult favorite among fans worldwide. It’s more than one of many great songs from Young’s musical portfolio. This became an important piece used for documentaries and tributes ranging from private functions to highly publicized ones.
#6 – Pretty City Lady (performed by Bob McBride)
Toronto-born Bob McBride began his career as a recording artist after replacing Lighthouse’s Pinky Dauvin as its new lead singer in 1970. As a solo artist, 1972’s “Pretty City Lady” was a single he released while still part of Lighthouse’s lineup. His debut album, Butterfly Days, became certified gold by Music Canada, thanks to the first of three hit singles that came from it.
In 1973, he earned a Juno Award for Outstanding Male Performance. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number sixteen. It was a number twelve hit on its Adult Contemporary Songs Chart. After experiencing his first taste of success as a solo artist, McBride’s relations with his fellow Lighthouse bandmates took a turn for the worse. After failing to appear for a recording session in New York, Skip Prokop lyrically performed what became one of Lighthouse’s greatest hits, “Pretty Lady.
As a solo artist, McBride was never quite able to capitalize on the success of Butterfly Days and “Pretty City Lady” as well as he hoped. As a song, it really is quite a gem to listen to between the incredible guitar performance and McBride’s phenomenal singing voice. It was a song about a special woman who captured the singer’s heart, prompting him to perform this charming mid-tempo love song.
#5 – You Could Have Been a Lady (performed by April Wine)
Originally, “You Could Have Been a Lady” was a song recorded and released by the British R&B group, Hot Chocolate. It was written by the songwriting team of Errol Brown and Tony Wilson. It was released as a single in 1971 and it became a number twenty-two hit on the UK Singles Chart. A year later, a Canadian rock group led by Myles Goodwyn covered “You Could Have Been a Lady.”
For April Wine, it became their first big hit as it peaked as high as number two on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it was a number thirty-two hit. The inspiration behind “You Could Have Been a Lady” came from the American jazz influence of Eddie Harris. This would become one of April Wine’s signature songs as the group from Halifax, Nova Scotia, enjoyed an incredible career as recording artists from 1966 until 1986.
After taking a break for six years, April Wine went back to the recording studio in 1992. Even today, April Wine remains one of Canada’s most beloved rock bands, even though Myles Goodwyn has technically retired from performing. What made “You Could Have Been a Lady” so epic when it was released in 1972 was the opening guitar riffs before Goodwyn and his crew broke out into lyrics.
This guitar-heavy classic rightfully earned its place as an all-time favorite among Canadian rockers, as well as the rest of the world. On Record was April Wine’s second studio album, which also produced a cover version of Elton John’s “Bad Side of the Moon.” Both of these songs from April Wine’s recorded performances have since become staples on classic rock stations across the Canadian nation.
#4 – Last Song (performed by Edward Bear)
Founded in Toronto, Ontario, in 1966, Edward Bear was named after the infamous Winnie the Pooh character. It started as a three-man band with Larry Evoy, Craig Hemming, and Paul Weldon. However, Hemming opted out shortly after Edward Bear was formed and Danny Marks replaced him until 1970. He would then be replaced by Roger Ellis. 1972 witnessed the release of the band’s third studio album, which was simply titled Edward Bear.
This bluesy rock group recorded and released “Last Song” as a single and it became a number-one hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, the Canadian Adult Contemporary Songs Chart, and the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs Chart. On the US Billboard Hot 100, “Last Song” became a number three hit. It was Edward Bear’s first big hit since 1969’s “You, Me and Mexico.”
“Last Song” earned Edward Bear a 1973 Juno Award for Outstanding Group Performance. It was also certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) after selling over a million copies. By this time, Edward Bear’s lineup responsible for “Last Song” and “Close Your Eyes” had already gone their separate ways. The classic Edward Bear that won over a national and international fan base was no more.
Since going their separate ways, “Last Song” came across as a prelude to what was to come as it seemed as if Edward Bear’s days were already numbered. As a vocalist, Larry Evoy was the cream of the crop, and why his rock group had so much appeal. Technically speaking, “Last Song” was a song Evoy wrote based on a personal experience he had with a special lady in his life at the time.
#3 – Sunny Days (performed by Lighthouse)
In February 1972, Lighthouse recorded a life performance inside New York City’s Carnegie Hall. Lighthouse Live! was the first album recording by a Canadian artist to become certified platinum. This was followed by 1972’s Sunny Days, an album that would become certified gold. Both of these certifications came from Music Canada. Add a flurry of nominations and wins between 1970 and 1975, and it’s easy to see why Lighthouse became one of Canada’s most beloved rock bands of all time. The group’s recording career also brought forth three certified platinum albums and nine certified gold albums. When Lighthouse was inducted into the Canadian Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, it added a nice little feather to the group’s cap.
1972’s hit single, “Sunny Days” became one of Lighthouse’s best hits that would ultimately become one of their signature songs as well. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number four. It was a number thirty-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. The single also became certified platinum by Music Canada. What made “Sunny Days” and Lighthouse so popular was the orchestra-style rock that went into the band’s performances.
Founded by Skip Prokop, Lighthouse’s rise to fame really took off after Bob McBride joined the lineup in 1970 as lead vocalist. What made “Sunny Days” stand out was the mix of Chicago-style jazz and contemporary rock, which was Lighthouse’s trademark sound. This song also appeared on the Adult Contemporary Songs chart in Canada at number eleven, as well as on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart at number thirty-seven. “Sunny Days,” without a doubt, was one of the brightest singles to grace the energetic genre known as rock ‘n’ roll.
#2 – You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio (performed by Joni Mitchell)
When Joni Mitchell wrote and recorded “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio,” it was her response to come up with a hit song for the record label she was signed with at the time. It was recorded with the intent to be released on Mitchell’s fifth studio album, For the Roses. She, along with David Crosby, Graham Nash, and fellow Canadian Neil Young, recorded this song together. It was Nash whose harmonica performance was featured in the single release. “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” became a number ten hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart and a number twenty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. It also became a number thirty-seven hit in Australia. On the Adult Contemporary Songs charts, it peaked as high as number three in Canada and at number thirteen in the US.
Mitchell’s combination of acoustic and lyrical performances spawned “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” to become an inspirational favorite for recording artists such as Gail Davies. Her country version was recorded and released a decade later. The country music charts belonging to Canada and the US had the song peak as high as number seven and number seventeen, respectively. For Mitchell, “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” and For the Roses continued to catapult the Canadian woman’s career to new heights.
In 2007, these were added by the Library of Congress to its National Recording Registry. The music featured here witnessed Mitchell begin to dabble in jazz music. This musical style found its way into the majority of her recordings throughout the 1970s. What made this song so appealing was Mitchell’s reveal of who she was as a person and an artist at that time. In a frank “take it or leave it” attitude, she gently portrayed herself with blunt honesty. For women, “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” became a folksy rock anthem that’s just as appreciated today as it was in 1972.
#1 – Heart of Gold (performed by Neil Young)
Hands down, Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold” from Harvest remains at the top of the list as a genuine rock classic. This doesn’t just apply to Canadian rock music but worldwide. Deservedly, it became a number-one hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100. This desperate quest of a man looking for the perfect lover was not only the biggest hit of his career but one of the most popular songs that has yet to lose steam as a cult favorite.
Singing as a miner seeking that “Heart of Gold,” Neil Young literally hit the jackpot with a song that chiseled its way into the hearts of so many fans worldwide. With the RIAA and Italy, it became a certified gold seller. With the British Phonographic Industry, it was certified silver. Oddly enough, no official certifications of this single were made in Young’s home nation, Canada, even though it topped virtually all of its official music charts. “Heart of Gold” remains that one song fans around the world instantly identify as Neil Young’s best.
Was it the beautiful harmonica performance that made “Heart of Gold” stand out? Although it added more charm to this fantastic song, it was the vulnerability heard in Neil Young’s singing voice that was one of its two biggest highlights. The other was the backing vocals provided by the dynamic duo of Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor. Even though “Heart of Gold” was first recorded in 1971 neither the single nor Harvest was released until February 1972. Not long after it was, it became Young’s signature song that still receives numerous requests from fans to have it played on the radio.
Nowadays, they couldn’t care less if it’s a rock station or country as “Heart of Gold” can easily suit both genres. There are few songs in the great history of classic rock music that can measure up to “Heart of Gold.” This wasn’t just another extraordinary song from the legendary Neil Young. It symbolized exactly what makes a romantic person one of the most appealing human beings on the planet. There was zero doubt Neil Young was a gentle and kind soul who often wore his heart on his sleeve as a musician, singer, and songwriter.
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