I’ve been listening to CBC’s 50 tracks show since the summer (50 most essential songs of all-time), and while lists are always necessarily incomplete, the process itself has proved interesting. They were so successful with it this summer they’ve been doing a 50 tracks on the “most important Canadian pop songs”. It never occured to me until they started to play the the Diodes’ “I’m Tired of Waking Up Tired”, the Demics’ “New York City”, and then DOA’s “Disco Sucks” last week that this list might include punk. When DOA’s “Disco Sucks” made this list I couldn’t believe it! If DOA could make it on a list of 50 “most important Canadian pop songs of all-time , why not the Nils’ “Scratches and Needles”? So I wrote my case for nominating the Nils with this email I sent in this morning.
I nominate The Nils’ “Scratches and Needles”. This song, written by a
sixteen year old Alex Soria in 1982, is a Canadian punk classic. If
DOA’s “Disco Sucks” anticipated hardcore and thrash, “Scratches and
Needles” anticipated the pop-punk of Husker Du, Nirvana, and Sloane.
The song was initially released on a cassette called “Now”, which was
limited to 300 copies that were mainly sent out to college radio
stations, fanzines, and a few labels. Better Youth Organization, an LA
punk label, loved the song so much they paid for it to be re-recorded
for their “Something to Believe In” compilation. Despite the fact that
the Nils were complete unknowns outside of Montreal at the time, BYO
made “Scratches and Needles” the first song on a record that included
well known punk bands like DOA and Youth Brigade.
Jack Rabid, publisher of the “Big Takeover” magazine, calls the Nils
“one of the great straddlers of punk and pop North America ever
In 1983, just when punk rock was in danger of being synonymous with
“thrash”, the Nils’ “Scratches and Needles” comes out and shows us
another way. From the opening guitar riff, this song grabs not just
the punks, but anyone with an ear for good pop. It has melody, great
lyrics, hooks aplenty, and anticipated the pop-punk revolution that
would peak with Nirvana’s “Nevermind”. The Nils’ “Scratches and
Needles” is one of the great Canadian punk songs of all-time. It
inspired a generation of kids who loved the high energy of punk mixed
with a pop sensibility.
Shockingly, I got a reply from Jian Ghomeshi within 90 minutes of sending it out. His response?
nice letter, john. thanks for writing. you might want to listen this
week…you might like what you hear.
Could it be that this week we’ll be hearing a discussion of the historical significance “Scratches and Needles” to Canadian punk/pop? These shows are taped, so I doubt my nomination email has anything to do with this. The fact that he replied so quickly (or at all) suggests that the song has already been discussed, and that’s all I’d like to hear. I’m listening!
Once again on Alex’s favourite songs to cover….
X – White Girl
X were one of those bands Alex and I and most of our friends have never stopped listening to since our high school days. Before I met Alex I had already bought and loved “Los Angeles”, and when we first met in 1982 he loaned me “Wild Gift”. We were big fans, even as we listening to the likes of the Germs, DOA, and Black Flag. I can remember Alex freaking out when I managed to get my hands on the “White Girl” single for a measly 2 bucks. In 1983, having already opened for the Ramones just over 12 months earlier, The Nils opened for X at the Spectrum. Over the years, “White Girl” would stand out as one of our favourite “pop” songs of the 80s. Its got it all – great guitar riffs, harmonies, and melody. I’m pretty sure the last time I heard Alex play this song was with Chino, and it always brought a smile to my face. Just a great song!