Cross Country Checkup

Tired of hearing the song Patio Lanterns? Kim Mitchell gets it

When a friend told Kim Mitchell that his quintessentially Canadian summer song was a hot topic on Cross Country Checkup, the musician himself phoned the show's toll-free line to share the song's backstory.

The Canadian musician called Checkup on Sunday to share the story behind the song

Canadian musician Kim Mitchell is pictured in Toronto on April 11, 2016. Mitchell, who is perhaps best known for his 1986 hit Patio Lanterns, was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press)

If you've heard enough of the song Patio Lanterns, the man behind the hit says he understands.

"I'm sick of it too — no, I'm just kidding!" Toronto-based musician Kim Mitchell told Cross Country Checkup, with a laugh.

Speaking with former CBC television and radio host George Stromboulopoulos, Checkup's Ian Hanomansing said there has been a backlash to the much-played summer jam. 

On Twitter, Patrick Johnston wrote: "Fire Patio Lanterns into the setting sun." 

While Stromboulopoulos argues it's an "amazing song," he says the backlash is hardly surprising. 

"Canadians love to hate their own stuff," he said.

So, when a friend told Mitchell that his quintessentially Canadian summer song was a hot topic on the air, the musician phoned the show's toll-free line to share the song's backstory.

Written in a van

Mitchell won the 1987 Juno Award for Album of the Year with his second release Shakin' Like a Human Being, which features the divisive track. 

The song was partially written, he said, while driving around Toronto in his van.

"[My] cowriter, as he was getting out of the car, just gave me a set of lyrics. And I sort of stopped right there, and in my truck, my van, I pulled my guitar up and started to write it," Mitchell recalled.

But after recording more songs than could fit on the album, Patio Lanterns almost didn't make the final cut.

"I wanted to take it off the album, which is unusual," Mitchell explained.

"There's just certain songs an artist will start to record and things could go really smooth or they are an effort. But this one, we had to climb the mountain ... So I was like, 'You know, I'd take Patio Lanterns off this, man. If I never hear it again, I'd be OK.'"

Colleagues encouraged him to keep the upbeat number on the record — and listening back, he says he's proud of all the work that made it to print.

"Thank you to the fans for digging the tune. And those who don't, man I don't blame you," Mitchell said, laughing.

Favourite summer song

When asked for his favourite Canadian song of the summer, Mitchell reflected on summer nights playing music festivals and chose Tom Cochrane's Good Times.

"I remember one night the ferris wheels were going, the smell of all the deep fried food in the air, and there's about 10,000, 15,000 people out front — and Tom Cochrane was doing Good Times," Mitchell said.

"I just love the imagery that he was putting out in that song and the lyrical content."

Mitchell says he hopes he'll be back on the road again in 2022. 

Written by Jason Vermes

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