Books + Music

Treasa Levasseur on why Rheostatics named an album after Paul Quarrington's novel Whale Music

The singer-songwriter shares the real story behind the connection between the novel and the album of the same name.
Treasa Levasseur, a Canadian singer-songwriter, on the connection between Whale Music, the novel, and the album that came after it. (Treasa Levasseur/Vintage Canada)

Paul Quarrington was a beloved author and musician who died in 2010. His novel Whale Music was loosely based on the life of Brian Wilson, the eccentric superstar of the Beach Boys. The book won the 1989 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction. 

Treasa Levasseur has a column on The Next Chapter where she compares books with the albums they inspired. This week, she's looking at Whale Music and the Rheostatics' album of the same name. This segment originally aired on March 5, 2018.


"Rheostatics frontman Dave Bidini told me they wrote the whole album before they decided to call it Whale Music. The band felt at the time that the level of gravitas being afforded to Canadian literature was not happening to Canadian music. So they thought giving the album the title of an award-winning novel, which is somewhat thematically related, would lend a gravitas to the album."

Budding friendship

"Dave Bidini finds Paul Quarrington, calls him up and says, 'Can I take you for Chinese food on Spadina?' and the band asks him if they can name their album Whale Music. That night, they take him to see them play at the Horseshoe Tavern and they have the whole audience yell out, 'Thank you, Paul!' This begins a long friendship between the Rheostatics and Paul Quarrington."

Treasa Levasseur's comments have been edited and condensed.