We start off this list with one of the handful of songs that I can say with certainty were being listened to by these ears of mine back in 1990. I can blame the Canadian Content radio rules for the overplaying of this track so that it caught my notice, but blame also belongs to a certain high school friend named Brian, who would eventually make me a cassette tape copy of the album on which this song appears, a copy I still have to this day.
For those of you reading this from outside of Canada and who might never have heard of this group, The Northern Pikes were formed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada in 1984 as a quartet and were headed by principal songwriters and singer/guitarists, Jay Semko and Bryan Potvin. The band released four albums on Virgin Records Canada before breaking up in 1993, citing exhaustion as a reason for their dissolution. They later re-formed in 1999 to help their label put together a greatest hits collection and then, to tour in support of said compilation. The success of that original reunion tour and the new passion that resulted saw the band release two more albums and they still exist today as a trio.
“She ain’t pretty” is the band’s best known song from their best-selling third album, “Snow in June”. Notice, however, I didn’t say it was their best song. I’m not even sure it’s the best song on that album but it was definitely the song that drew me in originally. That and its cultural significance for Canadian rock and its popularity are good enough reasons to me for the song to win out over any of the other great, and perhaps, deeper tracks on the album and earn on a spot on this list.
Written by Bryan Potvin, “She ain’t pretty” tells the sad, sordid tale of a Joe Normal dude who meets and becomes infatuated with a physically attractive woman but who turns out to be quite a horrible person – a “model from Hell”. Listening back to it now, the blues rock and rockabilly swagger has a timeless quality, even though Potvin’s raw vocals has a definite eighties edge to them. But really, the story seems to lack credibility. Why would such a woman who wore a mink even bother condescending to a date with a jeans wearing, dish washing, musician hack? This is a question that never occurred me back in the day. Instead, I was enamoured with witty lines like: “Her ego wrote checks incredibly fast but her personality didn’t have the cash”. Even still, it’s a fun track that never fails to bring a smile whenever it pops up.
Finally, I just want to give additional props to the creators of the music video for the song, whoever they were, because it was and still is quite entertaining and incidentally, it was nominated for a Juno for its innovative use of claymation morphing techniques.
For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.