Two of our top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1975 came from a new rock group known as Heart. When this particular group made its studio album debut with Dreamboat Annie, the Wilson sisters made a huge impression on both the American and Canadian fanbase. Another two songs featured on the list came from already-established Canadian fan favorites, Rush. 1975 was an amazing year for Canadian rockers as they increasingly made their presence felt like world-class talent that had no trouble winning over an audience worldwide. Rock music became edgier and heavier as there would be a surge of guitar gods that would earn their place in history as all-time greats.
Lots of Heart
Making their recording debut in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, Heart was actually founded as a rock band in Seattle, Washington, USA. The founding members, Roger Fisher, and Steve Fossen, originally had White Hart as its official name before it was changed to Heart in 1973. By this time, Ann Wilson was already part of the lineup as the lead singer as she was brought on to replace Gary Ziegelman. Her younger sister, Nancy, didn’t join the lineup until 1974. Although technically born American, the bandmates relocated to Canada after Roger’s brother, Mike Fisher, fled across the border so he wouldn’t be drafted into the United States Army.
As a band, Heart became a local favorite in Vancouver, British Columbia. After signing a recording contract with Mushroom Records, Dreamboat Annie became Heart’s debut album which was released in 1975. Thanks to the hit singles “Crazy on You,” “Magic Man,” and “Dreamboat Annie,” Heart quickly became one of the most popular rock music acts across America and Canada. Heart’s first album went on to become certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), as well as double platinum with Music Canada. It also became certified gold by the Australian Recording Industry Association (ARIA).
What a Rush
While Heart was wowing the world with its brand of rock music, the Ontario-based Rush was officially reborn as a progressive rock band after Neil Peart joined Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson as their new drummer. Not only was Peart fantastic with the drums, but he was also a brilliant lyricist. 1975’s Fly by Night was a solid testament to this fact Peart’s “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” stood out as an all-time favorite. The first of two albums the terrific trio released in 1975 became certified platinum by Music Canada and the RIAA.
The second, Caress of Steel, continued the progressive rock pattern that included “The Fountain of Lamneth” and “The Necromancer.” At the time, some critics felt Rush’s third studio album was not as polished as Fly by Night. It didn’t quite sell as well but still earned gold certifications from Music Canada and the RIAA. Caress of Steel was the predecessor of Rush’s iconic album that was to come, 2112. “Bastille Day” came from Caress of Steel, which became one of the most beloved classic rock favorites of all time by the fans.
1975 also marked another fantastic year for Bachman-Turner Overdrive as Randy Bachman’s group had no trouble capitalizing on BTO’s surge to superstardom after the incredible success of 1973’s Bachman-Turner Overdrive II. Like Rush, BTO recorded and released two studio albums in 1975. The first was Four Wheel Drive and the second was Head On. “Hey You” was the iconic hit from Four Wheel Drive, as was its title track.
The fourth BTO studio album joined the ranks of the previous three as gold-certified with the RIAA, as well as platinum-certified with Music Canada. It also earned silver certification from the British Phonographic Industry (BPI). While Head On also earned gold and silver in the US and Canada, respectively, it was the final album from the group that would do so. At the 1976 Canadian Juno Awards, BTO beat out April Wine, Beau Dommage, Harmonium, and The Stampeders as 1975’s Group of the Year. The Junos also recognized Four Wheel Drive as the nation’s Best Selling Album, as well as “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet” as its Best Selling Single. Although the single was released in 1974 from BTO’s third studio album, Not Fragile, it dominated the Canadian music charts and radio stations clean through 1975.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1975
#10 – Bastille Day (performed by Rush)
“Bastille Day’ was a song about the storming of a fortress that began the French Revolution in 1789. Neil Peart’s storytelling genius as a lyricist focused on revolutionaries who became fed up with politicians who were abusing their authority as the French nation’s government. This became one of Rush’s signature songs and it was often played as the opening performance during their concerts. The wonderful complexity of “Bastille Day” featured Geddy Lee’s feverish performance with his bass guitar and Neil Peart’s rhythmic drumming before Lee would burst into what sounded like an angry vocalist. “Bastille Day” acted like a blunt force musical weapon that dictated the tone of Caress of Steel to become the progressive rock album so loved by music fans worldwide.
“Bastille Day” was classic Rush storytelling in the form of music. The subtexts used in the lyrics, came as a source of inspiration after Lee read A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. The 1859 novel shared the hero of the story’s eighteen-year imprisonment at the Bastille fortress in Paris, France. As soon as he was released to live in London, England, he met his young adult daughter for the very first time. “Bastille Day” was dramatic as each chorus sped up its pace before reaching its dynamic conclusion. Intentionally designed to mix fact and fiction together, “Bastille Day” was also a song that featured Rush playing as a band that could successfully jump between a range of genres and make it look easy.
#9 – Four Wheel Drive (performed by Bachman-Turner Overdrive)
While “Hey You” was the single officially released by Bachman-Turner Overdrive that became Canada’s number-one hit on its music charts, “Four Wheel Drive” became an iconic classic that would stand the test of time as a fan favorite. “Hey You” and ‘Four Wheel Drive” both became popular global rock classics but the album’s title track became a signature classic that best defined Bachman-Turner Overdrive as a rock group. Founded as a four-man band from Winnipeg, Manitoba, three of them were brothers. Randy, Robbie, and Tim teamed up with Charles Fred (C.F.) Turner in 1973 and formed what became one of Canada’s favorite rock groups of all time. Fans of Randy Bachman will fondly remember him from The Guess Who, which also joins the ranks of Canadian rock gods who won over a worldwide audience.
“Four Wheel Drive” didn’t have Tim Bachman in the lineup as he left Bachman-Turner Overdrive in 1974. Replacing him was Blair Thornton as the latest “gearhead,” a nickname fans called Bachman-Turner Overdrive with great affection. Loaded with raw energy, “Four Wheel Drive” demonstrated how awesome the guitar riffs and guitar solo turned this song into what felt like a high-octane rush around the speed track. Four Wheel Drive dictated the classic rock groove with a tracklist that earned Bachman-Turner Overdrive its fourth certified platinum in a row by Music Canada. It was also the group’s fourth album in a row to become certified gold with the RIAA.
#8 – Land of 1000 Nights (performed by Mahogany Rush)
Led by guitarist Frank Marino, Mahogany Rush was a group that was founded in Montreal, Quebec, in 1969. Marino was to Canadians what the legendary Jimi Hendrix was to Americans. He was their guitar genius that would remain in history as one of the all-time greats ever to play the instrument. “Land of 1000 Nights” became the group’s iconic classic that came from its third studio album, Strange Universe. Although not recognized as a chart-hitting single, it was a shining example of how talented Marino was as a performer. Going into the late 1970s, the group was billed as Frank Marino & Mahogany Rush.
The legacy of songs like “Land of 1000 Nights” was something Frank Marino will credit to his experimentation with narcotics. While on an LSD trip, he evidently had a vision of the late Jimi Hendrix that would officially dictate the course of his career as a musician. This is what prompted him to switch from playing drums to guitar as he was coming down from his high. Learning to play the guitar was therapy for Marino that would ultimately lead him to become one of the greatest guitarists ever to strum the instrument. When he chose Mahogany Rush as a band name, it was used to describe the experience he had that would lead the man to enjoy such a successful recording career.
#7 – Oowatanite (performed by April Wine)
The moment the clanging of what sounded like a frantic train station bell went off, April Wine fans knew 1975’s “Oowatanite” was about to burst into what became one of the group’s most beloved hits. The raw energy behind “Oowatanite” had this single chart as high as number eleven on the Canadian Top Singles Chart when it was released from the group’s fourth studio album. Stand Back also featured another iconic hit, “Tonite is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love,” which became a number-five hit on the same chart.
Stand Back became one of April Wine’s most successful studio albums as it sold enough copies to become certified platinum twice over by Music Canada. Between the bells and the guitar riffs, “Oowatanite” was a high-octane song that had Jim Clench perform as the lead vocalist. For him, “Oowatanite” was his best single while still part of the April Wine lineup. He left the band in 1975 and was replaced by Steve Lang. In 1978, Clench briefly replaced Randy Bachman as BTO’s new lead singer when the founder of the Manitoba-based rock group chose to pursue a solo career. BTO experienced its first breakup as a band in 1979. After that, Clench moved on which included performing with fellow Canadian recording artists, Bryan Adams and Loverboy.
#6 – In France They Kiss on Main Street (performed by Joni Mitchell)
1975 witnessed Joni Mitchell embrace her love for jazz music even further. The Canadian queen of folk rock was also the nation’s version of the legendary Janis Joplin as Joni Mitchell’s talent with the guitar was virtually unparallel. “In France They Kiss on Main Street” was a single that came from her seventh studio album, The Hissing of Summer Lawns. Although recorded in 1975, the single wasn’t released until 1976. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number sixty-six. It was a number nineteen hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. The awesome combo of David Crosby, Graham Nash, and James Taylor sang as backing vocalists as Joni Mitchell once again laid out another fantastic song that became a highly favored classic. Joni Mitchell’s take on what earned France its reputation for romance was gracefully performed as a timeless contemporary classic.
#5 – Rainy Day People (performed by Gordon Lightfoot)
There was a special aura to Gordon Lightfoot’s music that made him a popular favorite among fans who shared an appreciation for folk-style rock. “Rainy Day People” was a single released by Lightfoot that became a number twenty-six hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as a number ten hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. On his home nation’s Adult Contemporary Songs chart, as well as the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart, “Rainy Day People” peaked at number one. This easy-listening classic also made its mark on the US Billboard Hot Country Songs chart at number forty-seven. Between the beautiful acoustic guitar and Lightfoot’s unmistakable vocals, “Rainy Day People” laid out a great lyrical tale about the honest and insightful attitudes of certain members of the population who seem to make the world an easier place to live in.
#4 – Crazy on You (performed by Heart)
In 1975, Heart made its explosive debut with its debut studio album, Dreamboat Annie. “Crazy on You” was the third single released in Canada but the first released in the USA. It was a number twenty-five hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart and a number thirty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. In Belgium, it peaked as high as number thirteen while in the Netherlands it became a number two hit. Heart quickly established itself as an international rock star straight out of the starting gate.
Regarded as one of Heart’s signature songs, “Crazy on You” has become a classic rock station favorite worldwide. What made this song iconic starts with Nancy Wilson’s incredible acoustic guitar performance at its beginning. Pair it up with Ann Wilson’s unmistakable vocals and Robert Fisher’s electric guitar performance and “Crazy on You” became one of the all-time favorite rock tunes of the 1970s. The guitar riffs were inspired by 1970’s “Question,” one of the most popular songs recorded by The Moody Blues.
“Crazy on You” was about the desire to engage in a night of unbridled passion with a love interest. This fast-paced rocker was one of the most aggressive tunes as it was inspired by all the events that took place during the timeline of the highly controversial Vietnam War. This song was released a second time by Mushroom Records in 1977. Early 1978 witnessed “Crazy on You” chart again, this time at number sixty-two on the US Billboard Hot 100 and at number sixty-eight on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. In 2023, it charted yet again, this time as high as number twenty-five on the US Billboard Hot Rock & Alternative Songs chart. This came about after it was featured on Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 3.
#3 – By-Tor & the Snow Dog (performed by Rush)
“By-Tor & the Snow Dog” was a song that pitted a mighty warrior-like dog up against a meek and mild snow-white dog. For a dramatic eight and a half minutes, the two engage in a song that was broken down into four parts. The first was “At the Tobes of Hades,” which laid out a classic good versus evil fantasy-like story. “Across the Styx” was the second, then followed by “Of the Battle.” It would be the third part of this song that served to be the most dramatic as the Snow Dog emerged victorious over By-Tor. This part of the song was also broken into four parts as each one dictated the course of the conflict that raged between the two dogs. “Epilogue” drew “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” to its conclusion as the unlikely hero of the story came out on top after beating what seemed like impossible odds.
The inspiration behind “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” came from Howard Ungerleider as he nicknamed the two dogs owned by Rush’s manager at the time. What started out as an inside joke wound up becoming one of Rush’s best songs the trio from Ontario ever recorded. “By-Tor & the Snow Dog” also wound up becoming a prequel to the mythological-themed “The Necromancer,” another song that would be recorded and released in 1975. Also one of their most popular, that one came from Rush’s third studio album, Caress of Steel. “By-Tor & the Snow Dog,” loosely mentioned Ray Danniels’s German Shepherd as it had a reputation for biting anybody who visited the band manager’s home. As for the Snow Dog, this was the meek and mild little terrier who became an unlikely hero by the song’s conclusion.
#2 – Cortez the Killer (performed by Neil Young)
From Zuma, Neil Young’s seventh studio album produced one of his most iconic cult classics, “Cortez the Killer.” Released in 1975, Young teamed with Crazy Horse to record what became one of the best albums featuring the greatest guitar solos in rock history. While attending high school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Neil Young took an interest in Spanish history after some of it was taught in class. Upon learning about a conquistador named Hernan Cortes, “Cortez the Killer” made reference to him, the Aztecs, and the Spanish conquest of the New World.
When “Cortez the Killer” was released as a song, not everyone embraced it with open arms as the American and Canadian fans did. Spain’s Francisco Franco had it banned until the day of his death. It was also criticized as an inaccurate view of Mesoamerica, despite the fact Neil Young already pointed out that the song itself was loosely told as a fictional story and nothing more. It was never meant to serve as a history lesson.
#1 – Magic Man (performed by Heart)
“Magic Man” by Heart was a single that was released from Heart’s debut album, Dreamboat Annie. It somewhat served as Ann Wilson’s autobiography as the young woman who fell for the charms of an older man. In this case, it was Heart’s manager, Michael Fisher. Originally from California, Ann headed north to Seattle, Washington, where she joined the rock group’s roster. She was soon followed by her younger sister, Nancy. Before Heart officially became recording artists, they crossed the American-Canadian border as they moved to Vancouver, British Columbia. The album version of “Magic Man” featured a two-minute guitar solo performance that was matched with Howard Leese’s synthesizer performance. The single version omitted much of the instrumental break.
“Magic Man” was first released as a single in 1975. This was before Dreamboat Annie and its third single, “Crazy on You,” which both were released in 1976. The success of “Crazy on You” after it was released prompted “Magic Man” to hit some of the music charts. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number nine hit. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-six. Among the nations of Australia, Belgium, and the Netherlands, “Magic Man” became a top ten hit. Although “Magic Man” already charted in Canada when it was released the first time, it wasn’t until after the release of “Crazy on You” did it finally gain the amount of airtime it deserved as fans across the nation often called in to hear it played.
What made “Magic Man” stand out as a cult classic was the blend of different music styles that ranged from funk to hard rock. This became one of Heart’s most beloved signature tunes as fans couldn’t get enough of Ann Wilson’s incredible vocals or the talented instrumental combo of her sister, Nancy, and the rest of the band’s roster. Heart was one of the most unique bands that stood out in the 1970s. A female lead singer and a female guitarist that could perform so well with their male counterparts in a band was extremely rare at that time. Even today, there are few musical groups that shared the incredible talent pool that made Heart one of the all-time classic rock favorites music fans love so much.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs Of 1975 article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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