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Toronto in Album Art: The 1980s

Posted by Guest Contributor / November 7, 2012

Toronto album covers 1980sThe 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
Rush Moving PicturesThe 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
Music for Subways TorontoIn 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
Martha and the MuffinsThe 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
Gordon Deppe Listen to the CityListen 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
CHFI Candlelight and WineThe sun sets over Ashbridge's Bay Park on this 1982 entry in CHFI's "Candlelight & Wine" series of compilation albums.

Leroy Sibbles - Evidence
Leroy SibblesJamaican-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
Toronto By NightA.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 StevensCraig 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
Roy Thomson HallThere 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
2012117-q107.jpgQ107 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.

Q107 Homegrown


Writing by Beau Levitt



Michael / November 7, 2012 at 11:49 am
No Martha and the Muffins? Maps don't count?
erin / November 7, 2012 at 12:09 pm
Kindly see the third album down, Michael.
Hurst / November 7, 2012 at 12:57 pm
user-pic's where that shot of Leroy Sibbles was taken:

Love the these album posts.
Fig / November 7, 2012 at 01:35 pm
Cool post!
scottd / November 7, 2012 at 03:07 pm
great post. including the "Candlelight & Wine" cover took it to the next level!
Francis / November 7, 2012 at 03:27 pm
Man, Toronto owned the 80's.
CaligulaJones / November 7, 2012 at 03:29 pm
Actually, 1990 is the last year of the 1980s. But who needs math these days?
mike in parkdale / November 7, 2012 at 03:54 pm
I have that Leroy Sibbles record. + cool points for me
Mm / November 7, 2012 at 06:47 pm
Amazing post, ahah!
Bob But Not Doug / November 7, 2012 at 06:59 pm
Roy Thompson Hall looks like it died and went to heaven!
Adam Sobolak / November 7, 2012 at 08:08 pm
One noteworthy omission: Bob Segarini's "Goodbye LA" (actually 1979; but, what the hey)
more 80s anything / November 9, 2012 at 12:38 am
bring on the nostalgia..
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