The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia is not something I originally intended to write. In 1986, a year after forming Bullseye Records for the betterment of Canadian Rock (or so I’ve been told), I began receiving demo tapes from bands who were looking for the Big Prize. I didn’t have the money to sign all these acts, or any of them as it turned out, but I felt I should do something to try and help them. But what?
Being a fledgling musicologist I had also acquired enough records, posters, newspaper clippings, back stage passes, lapel buttons, and magazines to break all existing fire codes. The exponential growth of these collected music related by-products was threatening to occupy the last square foot of sleeping space my 1st wife and I shared. Something had to be done. While sorting through the quagmire it immediately became clear that there was a theme developing; I was quick to draw the conclusion that the majority of Canadian music came from independent sources – that is: not produced by any of the big seven record labels – CBS, A & M, RCA, MCA, Polygram, Capitol, and Warner Brothers. I was excited by the notion that a country of 27 million people (at the time) was still supporting their musical talents via a cottage industry…the independent music scene.
I decided to take it upon myself to let the world know that 90% of all Canadian music was being ignored and wholly undiscovered. The fact that most of that music was better than the 10% the major labels had been pumping out was a call to arms for effective action to be taken; a jaded market being told that they’ll soon like Song “A” from Band “B” if they’d just tune into Radio Station “C” needed some re-education. In my arrogance and naiveté I plunged headlong into writing “Absolutely Indie: A Discography of Canadian Independent Music”. With a trusty copy of the industry ‘Bible’ at my disposal – Norris Publications’ “Canadian Music Directory” – I wrote letters to the smaller Canadian music labels asking for help and guidance.
The first response I got was from the members of This ‘Blue’ Piano via a cassette and EP and then Medd & Shaw, followed by John Moorhouse – all very exciting in and of itself because it showed that the acts wanted to be included. Pretty soon I was swamped, and a little intimidated, by the sheer volume of responses and additional research material thrust into my lap and I hadn’t even started writing the actual book yet. Though, in all honesty, the additions to my record collection were much appreciated. It was immediately apparent that the scope of the book was too general so I decided to narrow the focus to “official” releases that were available commercially on vinyl (remember that?).
A trip was made to the National Archives in Ottawa during the summer of 1986 where, after a cursory search through their 50,000 album database, I realized I would be out of my mind to attempt this. And yet…I followed through with hand typing all the research information I had gathered over the next year (remember typewriters?). The playing field was changing too rapidly; information I compiled on the activities of any Canadian act became obsolete overnight. I had hundreds of pages documented and there was still so much missing. The whole project became too overwhelming and I lost interest soon thereafter.
Time warp to late 1989 where I’m editor of a fan club newsletter for my Toronto area rock band Moving Targetz. In it I began injecting some opinions about the state of the Canadian music industry. People, in turn, responded to that with letters (remember snail mail?) asking about some of their favourite Canadian acts who had either landed in that big bargain bin in the sky or just plain expired in a horrible, flaming career crash. Thus was born Great White Noise magazine. I re-launched my part-time vanity record label with a flashy office, a telephone, an IBM 386 PC clone (remember those?) and set about resurrecting Great White Noise as a flip-cover, two-sided magazine using my original book research as a springboard for the second section entitled Absolutely Indie. Sharon Vernon (nee Leeson) became my assistant editor and she, along with chartologist William C. Smith, and photographer Joanne Michner spent 1991 thru 1994 chronicling the entire CanCon music scene and then some.
Eventually, our support system atrophied due to lack of a sustainable advertising revenue base, as did my personal life, and the little magazine that ‘could’ was shelved indefinitely. Meanwhile, I had acquired 3 filing cabinets full of vital information that still needed a good home. Thus was born the new and improved book idea. The fact that a musician of non-celebrity status should be chronicling the history of Canadian popular music raised a red and white flag on how staunchly apathetic, and often pathetic, we’ve become in maintaining our own Canadian music legacy.
Enter John Sakamoto, editor of the internet’s Jam! Showbiz section of the, then, Toronto Sun newspaper website at Canoe.ca, to single-handedly resuscitate this project by asking the impossible: could the Great White Noise staff be convinced to reconvene and put together an electronic Canadian music encyclopedia in a mere 60 days? We decided not to belabor the point. It was just time to get on with it. The original, online, Canadian Music Encyclopedia was written hastily between May and August 1998…mere months after the birth of my son. What initially should have taken 60 days became a monkey on our backs in the wake of caring for a newborn child and battling one of Toronto’s worst heat waves in decades. The new-look Jam! Showbiz website was pumped up a notch in September that year with the debut of our 750 music biographies and discographies from CanCon’s illustrious history. That edition of the website was called the Great Canadian Music Encyberpedia. In no time flat we were slapped with a cease-and-desist order from an Internet company declaring ownership of the name ‘Encyberpedia’. We immediately rechristened the resource The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia in 1999.
Response to the posted information was immediate and well received via email links directly from the artists’ pages. We were overwhelmed with praise from folks thrilled to find out what had become of their favourite heroes, criticism for the material yet to be written, and presumed omitted, plus unfathomable pools of information from the artists themselves and their representatives both past and present.
In the March 18th, 2000 issue of ‘TV Guide Magazine’ Brian
Hartigan, in his “Click” column,
“…this is one of those rare Web sites that would work good (sic) as a reference book.”
It took 12 more years to fill it with enough content to make it so. The technology changed the accessibility of research materials for the better and, finally, after editing the text from June 6, 2011 to February 22, 2012 the first volume (A thru K) was released on its own. In October 2012 the second volume (L thru Z) was released. What you now hold in your hand is a special edition featuring the ‘best of’ these two books made exclusively for customers of Long & McQuade Musical Instruments in Canada.
In 2017 Chris Jameson of The Record Vault – a company that runs record shows throughout Southern Ontario – wondered if I wanted to create an exclusion version covering the vinyl era. And so we did. The first pressing sold out in September 2018. I quickly worked on a revision for 2019 and that was launched in March 2019.
The Encyclopedia at the Canoe website, through acquisition, mergers and executive house cleaning, went off line in 2018. But The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia is a living document and the need to get it back on line became an imperative. And so…here we are.
Use this Encyclopedia as a fact finding resource. Fill your head with hopelessly trivial information about music many have never had the chance to hear. Stump your friends and family. Track down the audio by these artists on YouTube videos, Facebook or their webpages, and be sure to buy the music from the active and re-issued acts contained herein. As the Killer Dwarfs were wont to say: Keep the Spirit Alive!
write to: firstname.lastname@example.org
(c) 1998 – 2023 Jaimie Vernon.
All rights reserved. Duplication in whole or in part in any medium is prohibited without written permission. The Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and its logo are trademarks of Bullseye Records of Canada Inc.