The top 10 Canadian rock songs of 1978 featured a combination of big hits that were listed on the music charts and favorite classics from some of the best albums ever produced. The 1970s marked an era of music where electric guitar reigned supreme, along with the surge of experimental sounds that further shaped the genre of rock and roll. What the most iconic recording artists in Canadian history did during this time was blast open the doors for the nation’s music industry to sit up and listen. This influence did more than tune a nationwide audience to some great music. It also inspired fans around the world, as well as newcomers to the music industry that would do the same going into the 1980s and 1990s.
Canada’s 1978 Music Scene
1978 marked a year of Canadian rockers continued to make important strides within the nation’s music industry. At the same time, some of them made an impression on the American fan base as well. Already established among the elites, groups like April Wine, Prism, Rush, and Trooper continued to make their presence felt as chart-hitting favorites. There were also notable solo artists such as Gino Vannelli and Neil Young who kept their fans enthused with one fantastic song after another. The 1979 Canadian Juno Awards looked upon the accomplishments of all the recording artists its nation had to offer throughout 1978.
It was the year that awarded Gino Vannelli Male Vocalist of the Year while Ann Murray once again was announced Female Vocalist of the Year. Nick Glider was able to secure the win as the Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year while Claudja Barry earned the female equivalent. Rush won Group of the Year, beating out Chilliwack, Prism, Triumph, and Trooper. This was also the awards ceremony that inducted Hank Snow into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame.
The biggest hits in Canada recorded by Canadian artists included Nick Glider’s “Hot Child in the City,” Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch,” and Gino Vannelli’s “I Just Wanna Stop.” While these songs rightfully deserved the recognition they received, there were also some great classics that earned their place as timeless fan favorites. They’re just as great to listen to today as they were when they were first released. While the late 1970s relished in disco music as its popularity grew, the heavy rockers continued to prove their might in a genre that continued to be just as vibrant as ever. For the love of great guitar and the vocals that usually go with it, classic rock as we know it will never fade into obscurity for as long as the fans continue to rock on.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1978
#10 – Roller (performed by April Wine)
Released as a single in 1978, “Roller” came from April Wine’s seventh studio album, First Glance. On the Canadian Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-five. It became a number thirty-four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. Since then, “Roller” has become a classic rock staple that’s still regarded as a favorite on American and Canadian radio stations. Performed by lead vocalist Myles Goodwyn, the song was about his time with a woman who had a reputation for high-stakes gambling.
Composed as an adventurous rocker, April Wine’s “Roller” became a favorite song of choice for many movies and television episodes over the years. These include its content featured in 2001’s Joe Dirt, as well as 2013’s The Americans. Between the lyrics and the riffs, “Roller” also became a favorite highway tune for travelers as it was about trekking from California to Nevada for some Vegas-style fun.
#9 – Flyin’ (performed by Prism)
In 1978, Vancouver-based Prism released its second studio album, See Forever Eyes. At first, it mostly received negative reviews by the critics and it was deemed a commercial failure at the time. “Flyin'” served as the album’s standout song that became a number fifty-three hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. On the Canadian Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number forty-one. As lead vocalist, Rob Tabak delivered yet another great performance that contributed to Prism’s success as a recording artist. The guitarists, Lindsey Mitchell and Al Harlow were, as usual, in fine form as their riffs turned “Flyin'” into a rockin’ ride experience Prism’s fans will agree was nothing short of wild and spectacular.
#8 – She’s A Dog (performed by Simply Saucer)
Hailing from Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, Simply Saucer began as a psychedelia meets punk band in 1973. The group got its name from Pink Floyd’s 1968 album, A Saucerful of Secrets. “She’s a Dog” was released as a single, along with “I Can Change My Mind,” as the group’s only single before the lineup at that time went their separate ways in 1979. Lead vocalist, Edgar Breau, moved on as a solo artist while his bandmates formed their own rock group, The Other One. The influence of European progressive rock made “She’s a Dog” a regional favorite among rock fans when it was first released. Unfortunately, the rest of the Canadian nation wasn’t as privy at the time to listen to what eventually became a cult classic.
“She’s a Dog” was recorded and released during an era when Canadians had yet to fully integrate punk music as a subgenre of rock and roll. The blast from the late 60’s past embedded into this song is what made it such a gem. The influence of Pink Floyd and Velvet Underground can be heard here as the whimsical ‘She’s a Dog” really came across more as a punk number than punk. It was, however, a major breakthrough for Simply Saucer as the group was finally seeing a breakthrough that should have been enough to earn nationwide recognition. However, the song itself really didn’t get much attention until 1989. It would be that year “She’s a Dog” finally got the classic rock recognition it deserved.
#7 – Appaloosa (performed by Gino Vannelli)
Although born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, Gino Vannelli came from Italian descent and was mostly raised in the city’s version of Little Italy. Vannelli came from a musical family whose father sang with popular Montreal-based dance bands. In 1972, Gino and his brother, Joe, moved to Los Angeles, California, as aspiring musicians hoping to score a record deal with A&M Studios. At first, it seemed like a dismal attempt but the determination paid off and Gino Vannelli earned his first record deal.
In 1973, he made his album debut with Crazy Life. This was later followed by four additional albums before 1978’s Brother to Brother. It was 1978 that marked Gino Vannelli’s biggest year as “I Just Wanna Stop,” became one of his highest-charted singles as a recording artist. It became a number one hit in Canada, as well as a number four hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. In 1979, he won a Juno Award for Best Male Vocalist and was a co-winner with his brother for Best Production for Brother to Brother.
However, “Appaloosa” was the timeless gem that won over the fans that would become Vannelli’s true cult classic. This was the opening track to an album that wasn’t officially released as a single until 1984. Although it failed to chart, it played a significant role as Vannelli made his big comeback with his eighth studio album, Black Cars. The song illustrated this beautiful breed of horse as a symbol of spiritual freedom. What made “Appaloosa” a classic was how Gino Vannelli could turn complex chordal and rhythmic arrangements into a pop-rock favorite fans would listen to over and over again.
#6 – Raise a Little Hell (performed by Trooper)
“Raise a Little Hell” became one of Trooper’s most popular hits after it was first released as a single in 1978. This came from the Canadian rock group’s fourth studio album, Thick as Thieves. Still just as popular today as it was in 1978, “Raise a Little Hell” has become a staple song played at sporting venues in Canada and the United States. When it was released, it became a number fifty-nine hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 and a number twenty-seven hit on the Canadian Singles Chart. “Raise a Little Hell” was Trooper’s answer to dealing with all the unpleasantries that occur in a person’s life. Instead of sitting down and taking what’s seen as abuse, it was a heavy rock song of encouragement to make some noise as you stand your ground. As awesome as it was to listen to this song as a studio recording, the live concert experience has been known to raise some goosebumps as well.
#5 – Straight On (performed by Heart)
Although Heart was founded as an American rock band by Ann and Nancy Wilson in 1973, it wasn’t until they moved to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada that they made their big commercial breakthrough as recording artists. Originally from Seattle, Washington, USA, the sisters relocated their band to the Canadian coastal city to the north. It was here they sent a demo tape that would earn them a recording contract. 1975’s Dreamboat Annie was the group’s debut album and its nationwide success led to its release in the United States. The two classics from that album, “Crazy on You” and “Magic Man” paved the way for Heart to become one of the most popular rockers at the time.
In 1978, Magazine marked the re-release of Heart’s third studio album after the group endured a legal battle with its previous label, Mushroom Records. A few months after Magazine was released was Dogs & Butterfly. From this album, “Straight On” was released as a single. Also a 1978 release, it became a number fifteen hit on the US Billboard Hot 100, as well as a number fourteen hit on the Canadian Singles Chart. The formula of funky bass featured lead singer Nancy Wilson as a hearty gambler heading straight into the arms of a potential love interest. Between the range of her vocals and the guitar riffs, she exchanged with her sister, Ann Wilson, “Straight On” became a bluesy-style favorite that continues to stand out as a genuine classic.
#4 – La Villa Strangiato (performed by Rush)
Regarded as one of the best classic rock instrumental songs of all time, “La Villa Strangiato” came from Rush’s sixth studio album, Hemispheres. Released in 1978, this lengthy song was the first rock song performed by Rush that was strictly instrumental. Inspired by Alex Lifeson, “La Villa Strangiato” portrayed a series of events he experienced in a dream. The classical guitar opening of this song progressed into a beautifully complex performance that would finish off with a flurry of bass and drums performed by fellow musical geniuses, Neil Peart and Geddy Lee. “La Villa Strangiato” was a song that had twelve parts to it, each with its own musical score that dictated the story as it was told.
The song itself included “Monsters!” and “Monsters! (Reprise)” two compositions that came from Raymond Scott’s “Powerhouse.” Although technically it wasn’t a copyright infringement issue, Rush opted to financially compensate Scott and his family as a professional courtesy. It was admitted the inspiration for Scott’s popular song triggered the desire for the course of “La Villa Strangiato” to include a familiar musical score as an ideal fit. This song is a timeless classic and has been regarded as one of Rush’s best works as a recording artist. This special musical trip inside the imagination of Alex Lifeson is definitely worth the ride.
#3 – Comes a Time (performed by Neil Young)
As a performer and recording artist, Canada’s Neil Young is a legend. This Toronto, Ontario-born musical genius released his ninth studio album, Comes a Time, in 1978. Its title track, along with the rest of the songs featured on the recording, revolved around Neil Young’s viewpoint on love and the world.Neil Young’s trademark folk sound was prominent in the recording, along with the mix of country and rock. “Comes a Time,” along with the album, eventually became a favorite for millions of fans around the world. The beauty of Comes a Time was how well it played off Neil Young’s previous album, Harvest. “Goin’ Back” was the first song on the tracklist and was suggested at first that it was a carryover from the 1972 album. It sounded somewhat similar to Neil Young’s hit, “Heart of Gold.” However, “Comes a Time” was an airy groove that served as a source of inspiration for the country rock music scene going into the late 1970s.
#2 – Heartless (performed by Heart)
Originally in 1977, Magazine was a partially completed album that was released by Mushroom Records. Along with Portrait Records, they gave Heart some grief before a Seattle-based court ordered Mushroom’s release of Heart’s second studio album to be recalled. This allowed Ann and Nancy Wilson to put the finishing touches to their latest album credited to Heart. This included “Heartless,” a single that would be released in 1978, along with the authorized release of Magazine. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it became a number twenty-four hit. In Canada, “Heartless” peaked as high as number eighteen. Starting out as a slow synth, it broke into a heavy rocker that sounded like the Wilson sisters were trying to flee from an uncompassionate lover. The song itself seemed to serve as a biography, based on the experience Heart had with Mushroom Records.
#1 – Hot Child in the City (performed by Nick Gilder)
The inspiration behind “Hot Child in the City” came to Nick Glider after witnessing young teenagers engaged in the practice of prostitution while he was in Los Angeles, California. It was released as a single in 1978 from his second studio album, City Nights, and became his most popular hit. The song peaked as high as number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 as well as Canada’s RPM Top Singles Chart. Originally born in London, England, Nick Glider was primarily raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Before going solo, he was the lead singer of Sweeney Todd.
In 1976, the group scored a number one hit “Roxy Roller.” Both of these songs have become more than just Canadian cult classics. They’ve become retro fan favorites around the world. Also in 1978, it became a number three hit in New Zealand and a number eighteen in Australia. Although it didn’t earn a spot on the UK Singles Chart, it did become a popular dance favorite in their clubs and on television.
“Hot Child in the City” earned a 1979 Canadian Juno Award for Best Selling Single and Gilder’s winning a Juno for Most Promising Vocalist of the Year. Glider, along with fellow songwriter and Sweeney Todd bandmate, James McCulloch, moved to Los Angeles after parting ways with the BC-based glam rock band. They were among scores of hopefuls that set their sights on the big city that had a reputation for producing celebrities. It also became a place of broken dreams as wannabe stars found themselves in certain situations they hadn’t banked on. If there was a classic rock song that best-defined cities like Los Angeles as a hotbed of activity for people trying to learn more about themselves, “Hot Child in the City” was it.
Top 10 Canadian Rock Songs of 1978 article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
Classicrockhistory.com claims ownership of all its original content and Intellectual property under United States Copyright laws and those of all other foreign countries. No one person, business, or organization is allowed to re-publish any of our original content anywhere on the web or in print without our permission. All photos used are either public domain creative commons photos or licensed officially from Shutterstock under license with ClassicRockHistory.com. All photo credits have been placed at the end of the article. Album Cover Photos are affiliate links and the property of Amazon and are stored on the Amazon server. Any theft of our content will be met with swift legal action against the infringing websites.