The top 10 songs by The Poppy Family feature a list of favorite tunes produced by a Canadian psychedelic rock group that originally hailed from Vancouver, British Columbia. From 1968 until 1972, Terry Jacks and Susan Pesklevits led The Poppy Family to become household names among a fan base who loved their brand of rock music. Both nationally and internationally, The Poppy Family produced one hit after another that kept the couple in the limelight even after guitarist Craig McGraw and drummer Satwant Singh were released from the band’s lineup in 1970.
Mr. & Mrs. Jacks
In 1967, Susan Pesklevits and Terry Jacks became man and wife shortly before The Poppy Family was officially formed with Craig McGraw. First, as a trio, McGraw introduced tabla drummer Satwant Singh to Terry and Susan Jacks and it would be this lineup that would start its recording career off with its unique musical sound. As for the group’s name, this came about from where “family” was defined by the marriage between Jack and Susan while “poppy” made reference to the popular flower.
When The Poppy Family began its career as a recording artist, it was first billed “The Poppy Family featuring Susan Jacks” as it was she who sang as lead vocalist the most often. At the time, Terry Jacks was primarily serving as a rhythm guitarist who occasionally sang vocals alongside his wife.
Upon going to Japan for Expo ’80, The Poppy Family was a four-person band. When it was over, McGraw and Singh were out and the married couple continued to perform together as a band. Although the name was still in place, Susan Jacks mainly performed as a solo artist while Terry Jacks continued to perform alongside her. There were a few duets the two had together but it was mostly Susan Jacks who called the shots on behalf of The Poppy Family’s musical direction.
The first studio album produced by The Poppy Family was Which Way You Goin’ Billy, which was released in 1969. This was the recording that featured all four members of what became one of Canada’s favorite new rock groups at the time. Prior to the album’s release were 1968’s “Beyond the Clouds” and 1969’s What Can the Matter Be?.” Poppy Seeds was the second and final studio album credited to The Poppy Family before its run was done as a recording artist was done. Despite six singles released from it making appearances on various music charts in more than one nation, none of them were able to topple “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” as an all-time The Poppy Family favorite.
When not recording music for albums, The Poppy Family were popular performers on television before officially dropping the name in 1972. As husband and wife, Terry and Susan Jacks continued to perform together until going their separate ways from each other in 1973. Susan Jacks continued as a solo artist with I Thought of You Again while Terry Jacks recorded and released Seasons in the Sun. As individuals, Susan and Terry enjoyed tremendous success as recording artists.
Susan’s track record had her receive multiple Juno Award nominations as she continued working as one of the most prolific singer-songwriters clean through the 1970s. In 1980, she married Ted Dushinski, a professional football player for the Canadian Football League. Even after moving to Nashville, Tennessee, Susan Jacks continued to shine as a performer but now specializing in the genre of country music. As of 2010, Susan Jacks has been inducted into the BC Entertainment Hall of Fame.
As for Terry Jacks, by the time the late 1970s hit, he began to spend less time in the spotlight as a performer. His iconic hit, “Seasons in the Sun” became one of the biggest hits of all time. Originally, it was supposed to be a song for The Beach Boys to perform but they opted to leave it out of their recorded works. In 1973, Terry Jacks recorded it for his album instead and it was released as a single in 1974. This song forever cemented him as a legend as it quickly became a cult classic, as well as a multi-award winner and best seller. Just like his former wife, Terry Jacks was a prolific singer-songwriter that continued to bring forth one hit after another until he decided it was time to slow down.
In 1996, the release of The Poppy Family’s lone compilation album featured a combination of the former couple’s previous recording material, as well as what Susan Jacks produced as a solo artist. A Good Thing Lost also had remixed versions of “That’s Where I Went Wrong” and “There’s No Blood in Bone.” There was also a previously unreleased recording of “Evil Overshadows Joe.” Produced by Terry Jacks, the album mostly received favorable reviews from music critics who reminisced about the easy-listening rock that earned The Poppy Family its name as international stars.
Top 10 Songs by The Poppy Family
#10 – Beyond the Clouds
In 1968, The Poppy Family made its single debut with “Beyond the Clouds.” It became a minor hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart at number seventy-five. This came from the group’s first studio album, Which Way You Goin’ Billy, as part of a tracklist that would win over a national and international fan base, thanks to the incredible singing voices of Terry and Susan Jacks. Adding special flavor to this song were the tabla drums performed by Satwant Singh and the sitar guitar performed by Craig McGraw.
Between the tabla and sitar performances, along with the singing talent of the Jacks, “Beyond the Clouds” had a psychedelic-pop sound that was beautifully designed as a song about heartbreak. Before it’s over, Susan Jacks turns the pace of “Beyond the Clouds” into a song of hope. Among the fan base who listened to it, it was a great pick-me-up. While it was a minor hit across Canada, the regional fan base in Vancouver couldn’t get enough of “Beyond the Clouds.” It remains one of the classic favorites for the Canadian West Coast city.
#9 – What Can the Matter Be?
When it was released as a single in 1969, “What Can the Matter Be?” became a number fifty-three hit on the Canadian Top Singles Chart. It was the second of five released singles from the album that became a hit on one of Canada’s best-recognized music charts. As lead vocalist, Susan Jacks delivered an incredible performance, along with her husband at the time, Terry Jacks. Teaming up with them on guitar and drums were Satwant Singh and Craic McGraw.
This song, along with the rest of the tracks featured on Which Way You Goin’ Billy won over the attention and fan appeal that would first stretch across Canada. There was a soft rock style, plus a hint of international charm, that made The Poppy Family stand out as a group. Their unique pop-rock sound worked well as far as the fans and music critics were concerned. The song itself was a gentle approach to a few sensitive social issues such as marijuana use, pollution, and racism.
#8 – No Good to Cry
On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, “No Good to Cry” became a number eight hit. It squeaked into the US Billboard Hot 100 at number one hundred. This 1967 original was first recorded and released by the Connecticut-based Wildweeds while it still performed as a soul music group. What started out as a regional American gem became an international hit when The Poppy Family covered this classic with its toned-down version from its second studio album, Poppy Seeds.
This song, along with the album, marked The Poppy Family’s shift from psychedelic-style pop rock to something that had a bit more country flair. When the Wilweeds had its version released in 1967, it was a regional favorite that also managed to become a number eighty-eight hit on the US Billboard Hot 100. At the time, Al Andeson and his band had yet to embrace the country-pop sound. This is the same Anderson who became NRBQ’s lead guitarist from 1971 until 1993.
#7 – That’s Where I Went Wrong
“That’s Where I Went Wrong” was a follow-up single behind the big hit, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?.” It also performed well on the music charts worldwide for The Poppy Family as it peaked as high as number nine on the Canadian Top Singles Chart, at number twenty-nine on the US Billboard Hot 100, and at number twenty in New Zealand. It also became a number sixty-one hit in Australia. On the Canadian Adult Contemporary Songs chart, it peaked as high as number eight.
This single also climbed as high as number seven on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary Songs chart. Although recorded in 1969 for the group’s debut album, “That’s Where I Went Wrong” wasn’t released as a single until 1970. Written by Terry Jacks, Susan Jacks lyrically performed this song as someone riding a bus as she traveled between towns. When she encountered a stranger who took an interest in her, she began to share details about a relationship that left her out in the cold. Instead of blaming him for it, she confessed she made the mistake of completely trusting him before he sent her off on her own.
#6 – Good Friends?
“Good Friends?” became a single released by The Poppy Family that peaked as high as number ten on the Canadian Top Singles Chart but narrowly missed charting on the US Billboard Hot 100. As for the Adult Contemporary Songs chart for both nations, it peaked as high as number one in Canada and at number thirty-four in the United States. From the Poppy Seeds album, “Good Friends?” became the final single from Susan and Terry Jacks that would be a top ten hit. It was among their last as a couple. Already by this point, The Poppy Family was a band by name only.
It never was quite the same after Craig McGraw and Salwant Singh were taken out of the lineup. It was clear the honeymoon between Terry and Susan Jacks was over and the two would go their own way to embark on solo careers. Almost as a prelude to what was to come, “Good Friends?” was a breakup song that had both people in the relationship wondering if they’d still be able to maintain their friendship. As fate had it, the exes never stay in contact with each other as they move on with their own lives. This song was released as a single in 1972, approximately one year before Susan and Terry Jacks officially broke up as a couple.
#5 – Of Cities and Escapes
Although not released as a single, “Of Cities and Escapes” became a favorite after it was released in 1969 as part of the tracklist belonging to Which Way You Goin’ Billy?. As far as members of the hip-hop community are concerned, much of The Poppy Family’s musical material from its debut album served as ideal content to sample from in their songs.
Deltron 3030 used this song, as sample music for its recording of “Madness” in 2000. “Of Cities and Escapes” was a rare gem from The Poppy Family as Terry Jacks took on the role of lead vocalist to this gentle classic. Sung as a man concerned about the political and social direction of the big city, one of the highlights of the song was the sitar guitar that dictated its somewhat dark mood.
#4 – Tryin’
“Tryin'” was a single released by The Poppy Family that became a number twelve hit on the Canadian Country Songs chart. It was the first and only occasion Susan and Terry Jacks would experience this achievement as a couple and as The Poppy Family. However, it wouldn’t be the last for Susan Jacks. Her name would appear on Canada’s country music charts again as a solo artist, namely for 1974’s “Anna Marie,” 1981’s “Evergreen,” and 1984’s “Another Woman’s Man.”
The best of these country hits featuring the vocal talent of Susan Jacks was, however, “Tryin’.” Released as a single from Poppy Seeds in 1971, “Tryin'” was a ballad performed by a heartbroken woman who was trying to move on from a relationship that had run its course.
#3 – I Was Wondering
“I Was Wondering” peaked as high as number three on Canada’s Adult Contemporary Songs chart while it came in at number one hundred on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released as a single in 1970. On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, it peaked as high as number twenty-seven. This was a song written by Terry Jacks that focused on the death of a romantic relationship between two people who used to love each other.
By the song’s end, the touching vocals performed by Susan Jacks suggested each person’s happiness begins from within. The start of the 1970s had members of society trying to get in touch with their emotions and what “I Was Wondering” did was address those issues in the form of an easy-listening song. The Jacks did the job quite well as “I Was Wondering” became one of the highlights from The Poppy Family’s second studio album, Poppy Seeds.
#2 – Where Evil Grows
On the Canadian Top Singles Chart, “Where Evil Grows” peaked as high as number six. It also became a number forty-five hit on the US Billboard Hot 100 after it was released as a single from the album Poppy Seeds. The legacy of what became one of The Poppy Family’s most popular songs can also be heard in 2020’s Sonic the Hedgehog as Jim Carrey’s character, Dr. Robotnik, danced to it as he was up to his no-good antics against the hero character.
Although performed as a mellow, easy-listening gem, “Where Evil Grows” featured Susan and Terry Jacks singing about the surge of evil that was growing within as a result of spending time with the key influencer who was responsible for it. This beauty laid out what makes love-hate relationships between two people behave like such a powerful addiction.
#1 – Which Way You Goin’ Billy?
Originally, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was titled “Which Way You Goin’ Buddy?” and was changed to a song performed from a woman’s point of view. Now as a song featuring the name of her brother, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy” was recorded in 1969, then released what became The Poppy Family’s most popular song of all time. On the Canadian Top Singles chart, it went straight to number one. On the US Billboard Hot 100, it peaked as high as number two. Although Billy’s name was used in the title, the song was about the end of a relationship between a couple.
After this song was released, it proceeded to sell about four million copies around the world. “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” was popular enough to peak as high as number seven on the UK Singles Chart and at number ninety-five in Australia. The charm behind this song not only came from the heartbreak-style performance by Susan Jacks but the sitar guitar played by Craig McGraw and the tabla drums played by Satwant Singh. This was a song that was instrumentally unique that put The Poppy Family on the map as an international fan favorite.
The legacy of “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?” includes two Gold Leaf Awards it earned in 1970. Today, the Canadian version of the American Grammy Awards is referred to as the Juno Awards. It also became certified gold by the Recording Industry Association of America.
Top 10 Songs By The Poppy Family article published on Classic RockHistory.com© 2023
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