Rebel yell

The CD will hook you with its eclectic, danceable selection of music.

Before it fell into the Gap and the sidewalks blossomed with suburban kids on designer drugs, Queen St W was a frenzy of artistic and political possibility.

I had no idea the art scenes I’ve come to love in this city came from such an interesting inception until I saw Queen Street West: The Rebel Zone, a documentary – with a killer soundtrack – conceived by Toronto icon, Lorraine Segato, of the politico-pop ’80s band The Parachute Club.

If you missed the delightful doc, the CD will hook you with its eclectic and consistently danceable selection of music.

Between 1975 and ’85, Toronto grew to become an international hotspot for music – being smack dab in the middle of NYC and the UK’s already vibrant punk scenes – Toronto drew much attention with bands like The Diodes, who literally brought the punk scene to Toronto. The CD includes their song “Time Damage,” a perfect pogo back to the birth of DIY culture.

According to Segato, New Wave “sprang directly from punk’s ashes,” and bands like Rough Trade brought high energy and visual complexity to the scene. “Using style as a political weapon,” Rough Trade frontwoman Carole Pope brought out the raw and the sexual in songs like “High School Confidential” (censored on the radio because of girl-on-girl lyrical content) and “Birds Of A Feather” (a scandalous little ditty that brings to mind their legendary stage shows), which appear on the CD.

Other soundtrack highlights are the pop hit “Echo Beach” by Martha And The Muffins, and the positive political anthem “Rise Up” by the Parachute Club.

The Cameron House was the meeting point for musicians and artists during the Queen West decade. Owner Herb Tookey allowed artists to stay in the rooms above the bar in exchange for playing in the back room. He created his own paper currency that artists could use. Singers like Molly Johnson got her start there. “Herbie told me to learn 10 songs and I’d never be broke again,” she says, smiling “And he was right.” Her offering is a duet with Aaron Davies, “Neon Blue.”

The band I found most interesting politically was the Hummer Sisters, who billed themselves as “too young to pantsuit, too old to punk,” and who once ran for mayor of Toronto, coming in second with 1,200 votes. Unfortunately, their track is the least appealing. I don’t relate to the ’80s love affair with the saxophone solo.

Legendary Toronto poet Lillian Allen provides the perfect introductory track on Rebel Zone with “Equal Rights And Justice,” an infectious and powerful spoken piece from a writer who introduced Queen St to the rhythmic sounds of dub poetry.

Truth And Rights, Mary Margaret O’Hara and Jane Siberry also contribute to the 22-track release.


* Queen Street West.


Sony. $17.99.

Read More About:
Music, Culture, Toronto, Arts

Keep Reading

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 15 power ranking: Losing is the new winning for one queen

Who is the champion of this season’s LaLaPaRuZa tournament?

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 15 recap: LaLaRuUnion

Our eliminated queens are back to battle it out in a lip sync tournament

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 14 power ranking: The final three

For the first time since Season 12— and the first time intentionally since Season 8—we have just three queens in the finale

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 14 recap: An open book

A “House of Hidden Meanings”-inspired memoir challenge gives us one last elimination