If you’re a student at Ryerson, you no doubt have a love/hate relationship with Toronto’s public transit. On one hand, the TTC is your chauffeur to campus, your escape plan on the weekend, and your designated driver after a late night of partying. On the other hand, owing to frequent mechanical failures and delays, it’s also the acronym you curse under your breath when stranded on a street corner in the pouring rain.
Regardless of what you think, the red and white TTC buses, subways, and streetcars are an iconic part of Toronto’s cityscape – so much so, in fact, that they’ve made appearances in numerous music videos shot in the city. These vintage clips of Canadiana offer a rare example of Toronto actually playing Toronto onscreen (rather than serving as a stand-in for New York or Chicago). So the next time you find yourself mired in an existentially troubling transit delay, why not pass the time by queuing up a couple songs from a genre I’ve dubbed “Rocket Rock”.
Every Subway Car – Barenaked Ladies
When you think government mandated Canadian content, you think the Barenaked Ladies. The music video for the Scarborough band’s 2010 single Every Subway Car somewhat unsurprisingly does double duty in showing off our subways. Not only does the band perform in front of one in an abandoned rail yard, but the unnamed protagonist of the narrative sections also tags a car with an elaborate graffiti image.
Romantic Traffic – Spoons
Unless you were knee deep in the Canadian new wave scene during the eighties, you’ve probably never heard of Spoons. But these plucky Burlington natives scored a hit in 1984 with their song Romantic Traffic. Opening with a point-of-view shot of a subway pulling into Bloor-Young station, the remainder of the video is shot on the TTC transit network – including a sweeping shot over the Bloor Viaduct.
Check the O.R. – Organized Rhyme
Few people know that before Tom Green became the face of gross out humour and stunt interviewing, he was a member of three-piece Ottawa hip hop group Organized Rhyme. The group’s debut single Check the O.R sees Green and his crew stepping out of a TTC bus at Jane and Finch. Although often remembered as a Vanilla Ice era novelty act, this video scored the band a MuchMusic Video Award in 1992.
Take on the Night – Diemonds
The most contemporaneous performers on the Rocket Rock playlist, Diemonds are a local hard rock act from Toronto. The music video for their single Take on the Night sees the band aggressively power walking through vacant subway stations in full glam metal garb. Other Toronto locales are showcased in this video as well, including a few clips shot underneath the Gardiner Expressway.
Spadina Bus – Shuffle Demons
It’s difficult to describe Spadina Bus. Released by the jazz fusion band the Shuffle Demons in 1986, this freeform ditty about riding the titular transit line became an inexplicable Top 40 hit in Canada. Although a streetcar has long since replaced the actual Spadina bus, this musical homage will forever persevere owing to the virulent catchiness of its chorus. Sp-sp-sp-sp-sp-sp-sp-sp Spadina bus!