Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk: By Sam Sutherland

Perfect Youth: The Birth of Canadian Punk
By Sam Sutherland
(ECW Press)

On the eve of the Ramones’ first visit to Canada in 1976, Canadian journalist Sam Sutherland describes a live music culture dominated by professional musicians’ unions and Led Zeppelin/Trooper cover bands, and if you were wanting to play live and you couldn’t fit into one of those pigeonholes, well then, too bad for you. Of course, punk changed all that forever, and now just about every Canadian city has thriving scenes offering live, original music.

But that wasn’t always the case. By conducting numerous interviews and drawing from a handful of other books on related topics, Sutherland lovingly chronicles the spread of punk music and style across the vastness of Canada.

Bouncing around from city to city and band to band, Sutherland describes the almost house-by-house process by which little seeds of punkdom sprouted up in every Canadian province and big metropolitan area between 1977 and 1982, the process being more like a slowly spreading infestation of evil, insidious fungus than any kind of cultural revolution. Many of the interviewees describe the near-universal hatred, disgust and scorn that punk was greeted with by both disco and arena-rock audiences of the time, as well as the misconceptions that established rock stars often had about the scene.

About all the early punk bands had in common was that a) they weren’t disco, and b) they weren’t Led Zeppelin. Just about everything else was negotiable. Hence, there is wide stylistic variety present in the bands he profiles, from the power-poppy Diodes to hardcore progenitors DOA to ’60s garage-rock throwback Teenage Head, and to countless others he mentions, many of which were far above average and well worth checking out.