Shakin’ All Over, a documentary about the Canadian music scene of the mid-60s and early-70s, debuted on CBC television on Monday night. It’s based on Before the Gold Rush: Flashbacks to the Dawn of Canadian Sound, a book by Nicholas Jennings. Before the Gold Rush is an excellent book, but the documentary version adds a whole new dimension to the project. Shakin’ All Over features a lot of fabulous archival footage, much of which has never been broadcast before, interwoven with more than sixty contemporary interviews, some with figures from the time reflecting back on their experience, others with a new generation of Canadian musicians paying eloquent tribute to those that went before and to their enduring influence.
Shakin’ All Over features all of the Canadian legends that you would expect to find at its centre: Neil Young, Gordon Lightfoot, Joni Mitchell, Buffy Sainte-Marie, The Band, Leonard Cohen. But it also devotes considerable time to lesser known or at least more quickly forgotten musicians and bands. The interesting thing to me about the latter category was that even when I didn’t recognize the names and faces, I usually recognized the songs. For example, I didn’t recall the band name “Crowbar,” but their song “Oh What a Feeling” was immediately familiar.
I don’t know if or when Shakin’ All Over will be rebroadcast in Canada or broadcast anywhere else in the world. But apparently a DVD version is in the works, so it should be available to one and all eventually. It’s certainly worth seeking out. In the meantime, let me leave you with one of my favourite archival clips:
Leonard Cohen: “I always thought of myself as a singer and kind of got sidetracked into literature.”
Interviewer: “Can you sing?”
[Cohen smiles and looks down as if concealing a laugh.]
Cohen: “Well, I think that if the song is really good and it's your own, what comes out is music.”