"Tired Of Waking Up Tired" by The Diodes


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1970s punk from the Queen Street scene

The Diodes may very well be the most important punk band in the history of Toronto. They were formed in 1976 — playing together at the Ontario College of Art just as the Queen West punk scene was about to become one of the greatest punk scenes on Earth. And The Diodes played a founding role.

It was The Diodes and The Viletones who quickly became the giants of the scene: their infamous rivalry pitted the art school background of The Diodes against the working class thuggery of The Viletones. But it was still a tightly-knit community. In 1977, The Diodes turned their rehearsal space in the basement of a small office building (on Duncan just south of Queen) into a punk club called the Crash 'N' Burn. That summer, they invited all the best punk bands in the city to come play — The Viletones included. For a few, brief, glorious months, bands like The Curse, The Dishes and Teenage Head shook the building to its foundations. But it didn't last: The Liberal Party of Ontario had an office upstairs; by the end of the summer, their complaints about the noise and rowdiness forced the club to shut down.

By then, word had gotten around. That August, The Diodes became the very first Toronto punk band to sign a deal with a major label. The year after that, they started playing a brand new song. "Tired Of Waking Up Tired" would prove to be one of the most popular tracks to ever come out of the Queen West punk scene. Chart even put it at #17 on their list of the Top 50 Canadian Singles Of All Time.

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Listen to more Queen Street punk here.

You can find links to buy Didoes records here.

Special thanks to Ralph Alfonso (The Diodes "manager, designer, lighting guy, roadie, publicist" and co-founder of the Crash 'N' Burn)  for his help with this post.

"Charlena" by Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights

Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights at The Edison Hotel (Yonge & Gould), 1962

LISTEN: "Charlena" by Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights

1960s rock & roll from the Yonge Street Strip

This catchy tune from Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights was the very first #1 single in Canadian history. The band had been around since the late 1950s (originally formed with a different name and a different line-up), but as "Charlena" hit the airwaves during the spring of 1963, the group was launched into a whole new level of stardom. Now, they were one of the most famous bands in Canada. They were in high demand at high schools dances, got invited to play dance halls all over Southern Ontario, and even landed a couple of gigs at Maple Leafs Gardens — one of them opening for The Rolling Stones. Not only that, the fact that "Charlena" had climbed all the way up to the top of the CHUM Chart proved that Canadian bands could get air play too; the song marked the beginning of a whole new era for Canadian music.

And they didn't stop there. Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights were far from one hit wonders. After the success of "Charlena", they released a whole slew of excellent songs — from the rowdy rocker "That's Alright" to the slow burning ballad "You Hurt Me" to the bluesy chain-gang tune "Work Song."

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Listen to more songs from the Yonge Street strip here.

Photo via Garage Hangover. 

Special thanks to Richie Knight & The Mid-Knights bassist Doug Chappell for his help with this post.

"Soul Bird" by Jackie Mittoo

1970s soul from the Jamaica-to-Toronto scene

Jackie Mittoo was one of the greatest Jamaican musicians ever — which is really saying something. He was discovered as a teenager in the 1960s by Coxsone Dodd, the legendary record producer who founded Studio One and also discovered Bob Marley. Mittoo played keyboards for some of the best bands in Jamaican history: The Skatalites, The Soul Vendors and Sound Dimension; Pitchfork calls them "three of the greatest house bands of the 60s... anywhere not just in Jamaica". But by the end of the decade, he was ready for a fresh start. And so Mittoo joined a growing wave of immigration heading north from the Caribbean to the booming Canadian metropolis of Toronto.

Here, he started playing local clubs — like the expat West Indian after-hours joint, Club Tropics (on Queen just east of Yonge). While he always kept close ties to home — returning frequently to record in Jamaica — he also became a leading figure in Toronto's suddenly incredible reggae scene. It was in 1971 that he recorded an album called Wishbone, which was recently listed by NOW Magazine as one of the greatest albums in the history of our city. It included this track, "Soul Bird", one of many joyous, horn-drenched tunes on a record Mittoo himself once called "a blast of sunshine from the islands":



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You can buy Jackie Mittoo's Wishbone as part of Light In The Attic's amazing "Jamaica To Toronto" series of reissues here.

Listen to more from the Jamaica-to-Toronto scene here.

"Honkin' At Midnight" by Frank Motley & His Motley Crew

LISTEN: "Honkin' At Midnight" by Frank Motley & His Motley Crew

1960s R&B from the Yonge Street strip

Frank Motley started off his career in the United States, learning to play the trumpet from jazz legend Dizzie Gillespie. And not only that: soon, he could play two trumpets at the same time. In the late 1950s, he headed north to Toronto, where he made a name for himself playing bluesy jazz and swinging R&B in downtown clubs like the Zanzibar and the Sapphire Tavern. That made him one of the pioneers of our city's very earliest rock scene, which would soon be shaking the Yonge Street strip to its foundations, earning Toronto a reputation as the hardest rocking city of its time.

"Honkin' At Midnight" may very well be Motley's greatest track, but it's far from his only memorable tune. His version of "Hound Dog" is at least as good as the version Elvis recorded — maybe even better. And when his next band — The Hitchhikers — backed singer and drag queen Jackie Shane at the Sapphire, the result was one of the best live albums Toronto has ever produced.

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You can buy Frank Motley's "Honkin' At Midnight" CD here.

Listen to more songs from the Yonge Street strip here.

All songs are posted to promote the artist and the history of Toronto. When possible, I've sought permission from artists, but if you're the copyright-holder and would like the song removed, please contact me here and I'll be happy to do so.