TORONTO–Internationally lauded Bryan Adams led the pack of Juno Award nominees at Canada’s 21st annual Juno Awards, held March 29 at the O’Keefe Centre here. But he was soundly beaten by local favorite singer/songwriter Tom Cochrane.
In a down-sized, two-and-a-half hour show, broadcast on CBC-TV and hosted by actor/ex-CHUM DJ Rick Moranis (winner himself of a Juno in 1983 for the McKenzie Brothers’ best comedy album), five-time-nominated Cochrane swept the four major categories in which he went head-to-head with Adams, including male vocalist, album (for “Mad Mad World”), single (for “Life Is A Highway”), and songwriter (for “Life Is A Highway”) and “No Regrets”).
Despite Adams (with six nominations in 33 categories) beating out such acts as Blue Rodeo, Celine Dion, Colin James, and the Tragically Hip to win the Canadian entertainer of the year award–the sole category determined by public balloting for which Cochrane had been eligible–the 1,500 members of the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences practically ignored Adams in casting their ballots. The only Juno win for Adams was for producer of the year, shared with John “Mutt” Lange. Adams, however, was also given a special achievement award by CARAS– but not a Juno–honoring the international success of “(Everything I Do) I Do It For You.”
Cochrane’s sweep, widely viewed as both long-overdue recognition for the Toronto-based performer and for his album “Mad Mad World,” has notched up sales of 500,000 units. The sweep has also been seen as an industry snub of Adams over his recent statements that Canadian radio and its content regulations bred “mediocrity” and propped up artists who might well be stars but who couldn’t “get arrested anywhere else in the world.” Adams made the comments following a Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission statement decreeing that the songs on “Waking Up The Neighbours” were non-Canadian because they had been written with non-Canadian Lange and had been recorded outside of Canada (Billboard, Jan. 25).
Adams’ controversial Cancon comments, which have spurred sizable public awareness in the business here, coupled with the Adams-Cochrane Juno competition, sparked enormous advance-press speculation about this year’s awards.
Though the two performers profess that there is no rivalry between them, their respective albums, Adams’ “Walking Up The Neighbours” and Cochrane’s “Mad Mad World,” as well as their individual singles, have been neck-and-neck on the charts for months. As well, Cochrane was once handled by Adams’ outspoken manager, Bruce Allen, whom he left in a reputed bitter dispute in 1985.
“Man, it doesn’t rain, it pours,” Cochrane crowed after accepting the award for best male vocalist, beating Adams for the third time. And this is a very sweet rain.”
Later, after Cochrane shook up the crowd with a frenzied performance of “Life Is A Highway” and accepted the male vocalist of the year award, a camera caught a dejected, seated Adams; it was one of the night’s more telling moments. “Bryan and I are real good friends,” said a jubilant Cochrane in accepting the award. “I just wanted to get that off my chest.”
Though Adams’ much-publicized dispute with Cancon regulations was generally downplayed on the show (aside from quips by Moranis), it was a hot topic backstage.
After the show, Cochrane, talking to the media, countered Adams’ viewpoint of Canadian music. “There’s some incredible music being made in this country,” he said. “Anyone who says Canadian music is mediocre can go to hell.”
An unrepentant Adams retorted, “I have no regrets. I think I said the right thing. I don’t believe we need [Cancon regulations] in Canada. Canadian music is strong enough and we don’t need the Canadian government to tell people what to play.”
“I didn’t expect to win single of the year,” said Cochrane, a few hours after the awards were presented. “That was a real surprise. I had actually voted for Bryan and thought he’d win. Bryan came back in my dressing room and congratulated me.” Of his exuberant performance of “Life Is A Highway” in the telecast, Cochrane said, “Jim Cuddy [of Blue Rodeo] pissed me off. He told me not to go out there and be wimpy.”
There were numerous upsets and surprises in this year’s Junos, including newcomers Crash Test Dummies winning group of the year over veteran bands such as Rush, the Tragically Hip, Glass Tiger, and Blue Rodeo; and the remix of “Everyone’s A Winner” by hard rock band Bootsauce winning as best dance record against discs by dance-oriented acts like Candi & the Backbeat, Love & Sas, Debbie Johnson, and Alanis. That factor is expected to fuel controversy in the dance community.
Among the acceptance highlights was newcomer Cassandra Vasik, who, after depositing her gum on the podium, accepted an award for country female vocalist; she beat out Anne Murray, Carroll Baker, Joan Kennedy, and Cindi Cain in the category. And newcomer Alanis made a tearful acceptance of the most promising female vocalist.
While there were strong performances by both Adams and Cochrane–as well as by the Crash Test Dummies, harpist Lorenna McKenitt, and cellist Ofra Harnoy–the performance highlight of the evening was the Hall of Fame tribute honoring Canadian folk pioneers Ian & Sylvia, which included standout performances of their songs by the duo Kashtin and singers Jane Siberry, Neil Osborne of 54-40, Molly Johnson of Infidels, and Andy May of the Skydiggers, with backing by Blue Rodeo. “This has been longer in coming than springtime in Alberta,” said Ian Tyson on receiving the award. Asked backstage if the couple–divorced for over a decade and involved in separate careers–would consider touring together again, Sylvia Tyson quipped, “If the price was right.”