Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Show 45: The Sounds of Expo 67!

It was 40 years ago this week that Montreal welcomed the world to Expo 67, one of the most successful World's Fairs ever and one of the greatest events, if not of the 20th century, then in my lifetime at the very least.

I’ve often spoken of Expo 67 to friends and acquaintances… Most have a hard time believing my vague memories of being pushed around in the rented green stroller with the rounded front… or of the big blue robot like sculpture. I guess it’s because they realize I was only 2 years old at the time. But whenever we’ve been lucky enough to see any documentary footage of Expo, there for the non-believers are the green strollers and all the other stuff I’ve described.

Truth be told, I returned to the Expo site a number of times even after 1967 – when the site became known as Man and his World. So the memories I share may actually be those of a 4 or 5 year old. But vague though they may be, the memories remain deeply embedded in my mind, and my impression of Expo as the epitome of 1960s space-age cool has grown stronger with time. Friends also laugh at me when I say that it’s been downhill for Montreal since 1967. The eyes of the world were focused on our city that year and we just couldn’t be topped as THE place to be. Maybe we managed to coast on that reputation for close to another decade… but by the time of the 1976 Olympic Games, the thrill was gone.

This week, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of Expo 67 in sounds and music.

But first, a couple of things to set the mood.... Let's start off with a picture proving I was there (this may actually have been taken at the Expo site in 68 or 69 though):

Next, here's an excerpt from my book, Mental Notes, that describes a few of my early memories of Expo and the Expo-era:

Vague, very very vague... green strollers with black numbers painted on the front... looked like little shrunken VWs maybe... and a big cubic robot painted blue iron with a spinning head and making wonky sounds like something that was supposed to be futuristic or outer space sounding but wasn’t really, just like other 60’s ideas of futuristic stuff like electric espresso coffee makers that looked like Flash Gordon rocket ships.

And the house was full of relatives and other people who came not only to see us but to see the big Expo, of course. Uncle Mike and the rest of them from Hamilton and Niagara Falls, Ontario came over a few at a time and sometimes it was so busy that some of them had to sleep on inflatable mattresses. Jean and his wife actually came over all the way from France and I remember getting a toy truck, a yellow oil rig with European gas station logos on it. And, on more than one occasion, Mom said “This place is turning into a real hotel” but she enjoyed it though, I could tell.

Years later, the big, round Expo pavilion caught fire and didn’t really burn down but just kind of melted.

Years after that, eating Szechwan food at a company Christmas dinner, two guys tell me tales of how they worked there during the summer back when I was still just a pup in a green stroller.

Also, here are a bunch of links to websites filled with everything you need to know about Expo 67:
Expo 67 - A Virtual Experience (at Collections Canada): Complete information on Expo 67 history, pavilions, activities, links to news reports, on-line games, virtual tours, etc.
Expo 67 - Wikipedia entry: good brief history and facts & figures about the fair.
John Whelan's incredible Expo 67 site: a great photo collection of absolutely everything there was to see, buy, read, watch, or listen to at Expo... many audio files too (some of which were used to put together today's show).
News reports from the CBC archives
Expo 67 2.0: a blog about expo's 40th anniversary celebrations.
expolounge: a weblog dedicated to retro passions, including, but not only limited to, Expo 67.
Expo 67 video footage at YouTube

Now on to the sounds and music. Sound montages used between the songs were made from the Sonologue souvenir recording, "Sounds of Expo 67," featuring narration by Paul Reid.

The first two songs are the French and English versions of the official Expo 67 theme song...

* * *

Song 1 : : Un jour, un jour
Artist : : Michèle Richard
Album : : Montréal en 28 chansons

* * *

Song 2 : : Hey Friend, Say Friend
Artist : : Donald Lautrec
Album : : 45 RPM single

* * *

Songs 3 and 4 I pulled off a DVD of a National Film Board of Canada short called "Impressions of Expo 67." I have no clue who composed this music, whether it was original music written for the film, or just a couple of production tracks. The one I titled "Impressions 2" actually kind of reminds me of some of the strange sounds that used to be heard in the Man the Explorer pavilion at Expo...

Song 3 : : Impressions 2
Artist : : Unknown
Album : : Taken from the NFB short film "Impressions of Expo 67"

* * *

Song 4 : : Impressions 1
Artist : : Unknown
Album : : Taken from the NFB short film "Impressions of Expo 67"

* * *

The "theme" song to La Ronde amusement park, right next to the Expo 67 site (It's still in operation today, run by the Six Flags company, I believe).

Song 5 : : La Ronde
Artist : : Marc Gélinas
Album : : 45 RPM single

* * *

A catchy song associated with Expo 67, celebrating Canada's centennial.

Song 6 : : Ca-na-da (A Centennial Song)
Artist : : Bobby Gimby
Album : : 45 RPM single


Anonymous said...

How do I get a copy of CA-NA-DA by Bobby Gimby? I want to use it for a slide show and ITunes doesn't have it. I'm a novice at this and don't know where to go for it.

John T. said...

Real Player format available of the English and French versions here: