Toronto in Album Art: The 1980s
The 1980s saw record companies, aided by CanCon laws and MuchMusic's successful debut in 1984, truly supporting and promoting homegrown acts to an unprecedented degree. Bands like The Tragically Hip and 54-40 not only didn't shy away from but enthusiastically trumpeted their Canadian-ness in a way that would have been unthinkable to most earlier artists (musicians from Quebec being a notable exception). Nonetheless, Toronto locales were still a relatively uncommon sight on LP covers. Here are some exceptions to the rule.
Rush - Moving Pictures
The cover of Rush's multi-platinum 1981 album features both the front entrance of the Ontario Legislative Building and visual puns a'plenty.
Various Artists - Music For Subways
In 1979 the TTC began holding auditions and issuing official licences for buskers, and two years later this album of songs by the original eight performers was released. Rick and Gina Rae were also a local nightclub act, and their medley of "Five Foot Two" and "Please Don't Talk About Me" ends with the sound of a train pulling out of Finch station.
Martha and The Muffins - This Is The Ice Age
The Bank of Montreal tower, looking unusually enigmatic, peeks over the roof of guitarist Mark Gane's Bloor St. apartment on the cover of this 1981 album by Martha and The Muffins (whose 1979 LP Metro Music featured a map of Toronto).
Gordon Deppe - Listen To The City
Listen To The City, a solo album by the lead singer of Spoons, was the soundtrack to a 1984 dystopian drama by acclaimed Toronto documentarian Ron Mann. The cover features fellow Spoons band member Sandy Horne getting some thinking done in front of the downtown core.
Various Artists - Candlelight & Wine
The sun sets over Ashbridge's Bay Park on this 1982 entry in CHFI's "Candlelight & Wine" series of compilation albums.
Leroy Sibbles - Evidence
Jamaican-Canadian reggae artist Leroy Sibbles was the lead singer and bassist for The Heptones before he moved to Toronto. 1982's Evidence shows him posing in front of the CN Tower. Part of it, anyway.
A.B. Crentsil's Ahenfo Band with A.M.P.S. - Toronto By Night
A.B. Crentsil is one of Ghana's biggest highlife singers, but 1985's Toronto By Night was recorded here and sports a beautiful shot of the nighttime skyline as viewed from the Islands.
Craig Stevens - Just Another Night
Craig Stevens was one in a line of performers at The Organ Grinder, an Esplanade restaurant for kids which closed down in 1996. The cover photo for Just Another Night, which includes this spirited medley of tunes from Star Wars, appears to have been taken a bit north and east of Metropolitan United at Church and Queen.
Various Artists - Superstars Salute New Massey Hall
There were two versions of this 1981 benefit LP (the other one had songs by stars like Rush and BTO), the proceeds from which were donated to the New Massey Hall (the original name for Roy Thomson Hall) Building Fund.
Various Artists - Q107 Homegrown
Q107 released at least fifteen Homegrown albums throughout the '80s and '90s to promote local acts, and many of the covers featured illustrations of the city (the last one here, featuring the then-brand new SkyDome, is a bit of a cheat because it was released in 1990). "Acid Rain" and "Coming To Get You" are from Volume 2, while "She's So Right" is on Volume 4, which shows a band being abducted from the waterfront by a rockin' UFO.
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Writing by Beau Levitt