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Documentary revisits Cdn. pop from 60’s
Canuck music history doc boasts never-before-seen performances
One of the clips in Shakin’ All Over is an old footage of the Squires with Neil Young, top left corner, jamming together.
You won’t believe the sight of David Clayton Thomas and the Shays performing on American television in 1965.
That’s not the only reason to watch the two-hour documentary Shakin’ All Over: Canadian Pop Music In The 1960s. But the Thomas clip will stick in your noggin because it’s so damn bizarre.
The producers of the NBC musical-variety show Hullabaloo must have thought, “Hell, these guys are Canadian, so let’s go with a hockey theme. Anything else might scare ’em.”
So there’s the group, performing the song Walk That Walk on a ridiculous set that is painted like a hockey rink. Large logos of the six NHL teams that were in existence in ’65 hang in the background, alongside a scoreboard.
The most goofy thing of all? There are some stoic female models — mannequins maybe? — wearing hockey jerseys and posing stiffly with sticks, amid the musicians.
The girl standing guard in front of the net is donning a Maple Leafs sweater, so feel free to make up your own joke about the current quality of the club’s goaltending.
Anyway, it all comes across as comical but slightly demeaning. These days hockey has been romanticized so much that Canadians might take such treatment as a compliment, but that’s a rant for another day.
The whole point of Shakin’ All Over is not to demean Canadian music, but to celebrate it. The documentary deals specifically with the era prior to the 1971 Canadian-content laws that force Canadian radio stations to play a minimum percentage of Canadian music.
The great thing about Shakin’ All Over is the rare clips. Even if you’re familiar with standard rock ‘n’ roll archives, there will be dozens of performances here that you never have seen before.
But be forewarned: While there are segments reserved for big-time acts like the Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Anne Murray and Neil Young, a lot of this stuff is very obscure. That might turn you off, or on, depending upon your level of fascination with Canuck musical history.
You’ll see a group called the Great Scots, fully attired in kilts.
You’ll see Tom Baird, keyboard player for the Classics, playing solitaire with one hand and piano with the other.
You’ll hear Jerry Mercer, the drummer for Mashmakhan (which had a big hit with As The Years Go By), recalling that the band went from playing in a church basement in Montreal on a Wednesday to a full stadium in Japan on a Saturday. “We were almost like the Beatles there,” Mercer says.
Yeah, almost.
A small criticism of Shakin’ All Over is that it doesn’t end in a particularly succinct way. One minute Crowbar is playing a concert with a stripper, then boom, the closing credits are running.
Overall, though, Shakin’ All Over is a sharp showcase for a bygone era. And whether you’re a hardcore music nut or someone who just likes watching weird archival footage, you never, ever will forget the hokey hockey set on Hullabaloo. Groovy, man.