You heard me loud and clear: Canadian rock ’n’ roll!
While North Americans have obsessed about our neighbors to the south crossing our borders in massive droves, we’ve turned a blind, albeit nostalgic eye to the north as Canadians cross the border and infiltrate our culture.
Such was the case on the eve of Independence Day when longtime Canadian rockers The Guess Who invaded Coralville’s 4thFEST and wooed more than 1,000 unsuspecting American citizens at S.T. Morrison Park.
Three generations of The Guess Who jam to "No Time." Pictured from left to right (1st to 3rd generation) are Derek Sharp, Laurie MacKenzie and co-founder- Jim Kale.
However, when you delve below the surface of their seemingly innocuous lyrics, as in the case of The Guess Who’s most famous hit, “American Woman,” you can’t help but feel the anti-American sentiments brewing and biting off the hand that fed the group its '70s fame.
American woman, said get away
American woman, listen what I say
Don’t come hangin’ around my door
Don’t wanna see your face no moreI don’t need your war machines
I don’t need your ghetto scenes
Coloured lights can hypnotize
Sparkle someone else’s eyesNow woman, get away from me
American woman, mama let me be.
Metaphorically, it is clear that the “American woman” in the song is the United States and the narrator, Canada, is tempted by certain aspects of the American way of life but isn’t willing to accept the dark side of our capitalistic ways such as ghettos scenes and war machines. In light of these messages, the Coralville crowd adopted the Canadian anthem and was hypnotized by the song as they nodded their perfunctory heads and sang along as if reciting the “Star Spangled Banner.”
Despite the crowd’s complacency, front man and lead singer Derek Sharp (pictured left) took no chances and came out of the patriotic closet. Sharp, who has been touring with the band since April, joining after Carl Dixon was in a serious car accident, told the audience that he was celebrating his first Fourth of July as a citizen of the United States. He confided that he has been living in North Carolina for the past 17 years and recently received his U.S. citizenship. However, Sharp was reluctant to completely sever ties with his Canadian homeland.
“I’m still a citizen of Canada as well,” Sharp announced to the crowd, most of whom had no idea The Guess Who was Canadian bred in the first place. “Now I’m a citizen of the best two countries in the world!”
The Guess Who is not the only group to infiltrate our borders, but it is the first Canadian rock group to usurp the No. 1 slot on American charts, doing so in 1970 with “American Woman.” Before that, the band’s occupation in the United States was overshadowed by the British Invasion, which took root in 1964 when the Beatles landed in America. The Rolling Stones led the second wave of the British invasion 18 months later, followed by third wave spearheaded by The Who two years after that.
The British Invasion gave the The Guess Who more freedom to move about the U.S. and establish its roots without drawing notice from the watchful eyes of J. Edgar Hoover or the pop charts. Granted, the group traveled under its alias name, “Chad Allen & the Expressions,” until the group’s record company, Quality Records, attempted to create a mystique about the band by crediting its hit single to the “Guess Who.” The name stuck, and the group was outed in the U.S. and could no longer fly under Hoover’s ubiquitous radar.
The Guess Who, however, is by no means the most famous Canadian rock band to infiltrate our borders. That honor goes to “godfather of grunge” Neil Young, who crossed the border in the late '60s with his group Buffalo Springfield (two distinct American names, eh?). Uneasy about anti-Canadian sentiments, Young’s solo career took a detour with Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young, thus placating American audiences before unleashing his barrage of anti-war and protest songs, most notably “Four Dead in Ohio,” “Alabama” and “Southern Man.”
The latter two songs did not go unnoticed by homegrown Southern rockers Lynrd Skynrd, who took offense to the Canadian rocker’s racial undertones and slight against the South:
In Birmingham, they love the governor (boo boo boo)
Now we all did what we could do
Now Watergate does not bother me
Does your conscience bother you?Tell the truth...
Lynrd Skynrd fired back with its Southern anthem “Sweet Home Alabama,” which not only expressed its regional pride but also took a jab at Young:
Well I heard mister Young sing about her [Alabama]
Well, I heard ole Neil put her down
Well, I hope Neil Young will remember
A Southern man don't need him around anyhow
Since The Guess Who first invaded America in 1965, several other soloists and groups have followed and found success, including Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, 40 percent of Steppenwolf, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Rush, April Wine, Triumph and, lest we forget, Loverboy.
Forty-three years later, The Guess Who is still rocking and taking jobs that American bands don’t want, such as playing the 4thFEST in Coralville. However, only two of the five original members graced the stage to serve up some of the band’s greatest hits, blinding the baby-boomer audience into a nostalgic stupor.
(Note: The following footage was shot on location by non-union cameramen from Canada, who also were not legal citizens of the Unites Sates during the filming, thus explaining the Blair Witchian feel throughout the song.)
The Guess Who Invade Iowa (“No Sugar Tonight”)
Meanwhile, The Guess Who, among other Canadian musicians, are stealing jobs from hard-working white Americans, most of whom the pundits discovered supported Sen. Hillary Clinton’s failed presidential bid. Ironically, Clinton’s hands are less than bloody when it comes to insourcing Canadian musicians, when considering a plethora of washed-up American ‘70s bands or contemporary garage bands would have sufficed.
After all, it was Hillary who adopted Canadian diva Celine Dion’s song “You and I” as the official theme song of her campaign. To add insult to injury, the song had already been commissioned by Canada’s national airline, Air Canada. So not only did Clinton insource Canadian music, she helped outsource the Canadian airline’s marketing strategy through her campaign.
The Guess Who finished its 70-minute set, billed to the City of Coralville at a price tag of $35,000 (that’s 35,000 American dollars, folks, or $200/minute), with “These Eyes.”
…These eyes watched you bring
My world to an endThis heart could not accept and pretend
The hurtin's on me yeahBut I will never be free no no no
You took a vow with me yeah
You spoke it - you spoke it…
Similar to “American Woman,” I’m sure the “you” in the song is the U.S., and I for one guarantee that when The Guess Who returns to Iowa Aug. 23 in Davenport, these eyes of mine will be watching.
And I’m sure I won’t be alone.