Book lists top Canadian singles

Randy Bachman emerges as the "king of the Canadian single" in the new book The Top 100 Canadian Singles.
The Top 100 Canadian Singles was compiled with input from more than 800 musicians and music lovers. (Goose Lane Editions)
Randy Bachman emerges as the "king of the Canadian single" in the new book The Top 100 Canadian Singles.

A followup to Bob Mersereau's The Top 100 Canadian Albums, the list is sure to provoke debate among music lovers.

Guess Who song American Woman is No. 1 on the list, one of four Guess Who singles chosen by a group of music lovers who helped compile the list. There are also two by BTO, including Taking Care of Business at No. 8 and two by Trooper, the power trio produced by Bachman.

"He's responsible for eight — he's the king of the Canadian single," Mersereau told CBC News in an interview Thursday.

Neil Young, who had eight albums in Mersereau's Top 100 albums list, has just five singles, but Heart of Gold took the No. 2 position on the list.

In compiling the book, Mersereau, a reporter with CBC in New Brunswick, found he was evoking a lot of powerful memories.

 The Top 10
  1.  American Woman/No Sugar Tonight, The Guess Who
  2. Heart of Gold, Neil Young
  3. The Weight, The Band
  4. Summer of ’69, Bryan Adams
  5. Hallelujah, Leonard Cohen
  6. Born to be Wild, Steppenwolf
  7. If You Could Read My Mind, Gordon Lightfoot
  8. Takin’ Care of Business, Bachman-Turner Overdrive
  9.  Four Strong Winds, Ian & Sylvia
  10. Snowbird, Anne Murray

"I wanted that celebration of the first time you hear a song, whether it's on the radio or you buy it — that joy that we all had at some point in our life discovering these songs for the first time," he said.

He polled 800 musicians, celebrities, industry insiders and critics to help him put together his list, with a smattering of fans to give weight to the popular songs.

Among them  were musicians such as Joel Plaskett, Sarah Slean and Éric Trudel and media personalities such as John Roberts, the original MuchMusic VJ who is now an anchor with CNN in Atlanta.

"He was really keen," Mersereau recalled. "He was one of the first VJs in Canada and was there at the start of the video era interviewing everybody. And as it turns out, [even though] he's down at CNN he still loves Canadian music."

Bob Mersereau remembers the thrill of hearing a song for the first time and tries to capture that feeling in his new book. (Karen Ruet/Goose Lane Editions)
Mersereau took a great deal of care tracking down photos of the artists — each from the year the song was recorded — some of which have never before been published. He also hunted stories about the songs, from fans and from the musicians that wrote them. 

CBC personality Stuart McLean chose Percy Faith's  Theme from a Summer Place, an unusual choice, but one of his first memories of hearing music on the radio.

Foot in Cold Water's Make Me Do Anything You Want  from 1972 clocks in at No. 44, but it was Alex Machin's story about writing the song that most gripped Mersereau.

"I always thought it was a love song, but the actual story is that …he was actually down on his knees, so frustrated that he couldn't break through and have a hit, that he was talking to God," Mersereau said.

Mersereau said the book has been in the works since his The Top 100 Canadian Albums came out in 2007.

"I thought of singles because singles are what I grew up with and I wondered are singles dead? Does anybody still buy singles?" he said.

"Then I realized with downloads, everything's a single now. People don't buy albums any more — they go online and buy the songs they like."