This Beat Goes On – Canadian Pop Music in the 70s is a seminal CBC documentary about Canadian music. It is something anybody interested in Canadian art should see a few times and features a who’s who and the Guess Who of music. You can see this two-part documentary at least once Thursdays August 27 and September 3rd 2009 at 9 P.M. on the CBC. You should also buy it if and when the CBC releases it on DVD (and it should).
This Beat Goes On seems to start midstream. In 1970, there was already a healthy enough Canadian music scene and the Guess Who, Joni Mitchell, and Gordon Lightfoot were already established. Canadian music was allowed to flourish in part because of the CRTC’s Canadian content rule established by Pierre Juneau in 1970 and by FM radio taking over AM as the place to hear good tunes.
Unlike many documentaries about things Canadian, This Beat Goes On remembers that Quebec is part of Canada. This means major bands like Offenbach are covered. Offenbach segues into the Canadian blues scene with bands like Downchild Blues Band, Dutch Mason, and the very odd David Wilcox.
The segment about Quebec rock with Charlebois, Beau Dommage, Harmonium, Richard and Marie-Claire Seguin and many others is an excellent primer on the subject. It is quite telling that 70’s Quebec musicians were listening to their English counterparts but Canadian musicians were barely aware of what was going on in Quebec.
Other segments include one on singer songwriters like Mitchell, Lightfoot, Valdy, Dan Hill, and so on. Part one of This Beat Goes on closes with Rock and bands like Trooper and Prism.
This documentary could really, really, really have done without the “comic” commentator who sometimes appears. The guy is lamer than a Saturday Night Live rerun and his presence takes a lot away from the real artists’ comments.
Some of the comments made about and lessons learned from the evolution of Canadian music and the music business in the seventies can and should still be applied to Canadian arts, especially Canadian cinema.
Part one of This Beat Goes On airs August 27th 2009 at 9 P.M. on the CBC. Part two airs September 3rd at 9 P.M. on the CBC