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Expo 67!

“Centennials belong to citizens”                 

 – Peter MacLeod



EXPO ’67 (words and music Mike Ford 2006)


While the U.S. has been rattling their nuclear sabres

They wonder what’s got into their good gray neighbours

Who are throwing such a fun phantasmagorical bash

And it’s big and it’s bold and bilingual and brash


Allons Allons à Montreal (A global Be-In)

Felicitons Montreal (Psychedelic on the St Lawrence!)

Say goodbye to famine, strife and war

And say hello to the groovy glow of a global cornucopia with goodies galore!




Terre des Hommes à Montreal (it’s for you too, ladies!)

A la Maximum à Montreal (a now-a-go-go celebration!)

Au revoir to square and boring and uncool

And say bonjour avec amour to the wonders of the Polymer Molecule




Choose a movie’s ending at the Kino-Automat

Or say hello to Moshe Safdie and his cat at Habitat

Or have a Gander on what Gutenburg recorded his gazette

Or ride a hovercraft or gondola or supersonic jet

Or see an engine whizzing winningly on Wankel Rotaries

Or see a Dead Sea Scroll the only time it’s overseas

Or a Kaleidoscopic trip upon the trippy Gyrotron

To a spool of what was spun by Mr Gandhi though he’s gone

Or we can frolic and play footsie in a fountain of youth

Or bow before the Spare Part Man or holy Sacred Tooth




Where every nation, creed and colour is your friend

But once we’ve seen tomorrow’s dream, how can we ever go back to the real world again



(a transistorized utopia! The medium is the massage! The world of tomorrow today! Put down that mop Mrs. Canada! A computer smaller than a car! Those groovy peace-keepers! A hundred years young! Yeah! I’m There! See You in Montreal!)


Composer Notes

Like ‘Let’s Mobilize!’, for Expo I wanted to go as far as possible creating something that came directly from the time and place being sung about.  Also similar to Mobilize, this one is about a mass frenzy of sorts – in this case the biggest event of Canada’s 100th birthday year, and arguably the largest and most successful World’s Fair of the 20th Century.  The song, arrangement and recording style are all meant to be an advertisement for Expo ’67.  I was able to visit the Man and His World site with my family in 1972, but the accounts of friends and relatives who were there in ’67 all echo the superlative-laced P.R. of the event itself.  It is apparent that Expo ’67 was one of those rare things that was as awesome as promised.

A Canadian almost half a century later can get quite a vicarious thrill going over the reports, photos, programs and accounts of Expo ’67 – because it was so big, so optimistic, so world famous….and it happened here.  It’s almost hard to believe.  There are a handful of ‘World’s Fairs’ that years later appear to sum up the hopes and accomplishments of humanity for their specific era - Paris One could perhaps take the civic and patriotic thrill of the recent Vancouver Winter Olympics and multiply it exponentially to begin to get an idea what a phenomenon the ‘Montreal Universal & International Exposition’ was.  The fact that for the Centennial year Canadians were having grand parties and undertaking grand projects in every city and town coast to coast only adds to the incredible glow that Expo ’67 seems to radiate, all these years later.  I wanted my song to give an idea of the bright larger-than-life spectacle that was Expo, while imitating musical and public relations styles of the time.  In part, I tried to poke a bit of fun at the sense of infallibility that 1967 seemed to have.  In short, could we ever have been so bold?  So hip? So proud?

Larger Theme   Expo 67, and the mania around it, happened, for more than any other reason, because it was Canada’s Centennial year.  In 2017, Canada will reach 150.  What will that mean?  What will occur?  What can students propose for celebration and commemoration?  What imagined projects, from the very small to the very large, could be suggested, using the energy or excuse of that milestone ? (see activity page)

I wanted the Lyrics to reflect the vast range of sights and sensations that made over 50 million visitors come to Expo, while at the same time reflect terminology and attitudes prevalent at that time.

The Intro sets the stage – In 1967, if people around the world had any image of Canada at all, it was generally one of Rocky Mountain chalets, acres of wheat, or just trees, snow, and a few hardy lumberjack types as population.  Expo was a massive bolt out of the blue.  ???Life magazine asked the question “just what are our good grey neighbours up to?”.

Buzz words of the era are sprinkled through the verses: a ‘Be-In’ was a form of social consciousness raising event. ‘Psychedelic’ specifically refers to hallucinations, distortions of perception and altered states of awareness, but also has come to describe some styles visual and musical arts that come from that era. ‘Now-A-Go-Go’ was, briefly, one of the ‘hip’ terms describing a trendy place to be or hot new sound the record companies wanted you to know about. 

The French language in the piece is meant to be a little bit ‘off’ – as if this song is a jingle created by an advertising firm that didn’t actually have a fluid French speaker in their employ (a la maximum instead of au maximum, forced pronunciation, the voice-over guy isn’t quite sure how to say ‘Montreal’).

The Bridge section features a list of attractions at Expo 67…the two that had the biggest impact are the revolutionary architectural structures Habitat (by Montreal Architect Moshe Safdie) and the Geodesic Sky Break Bubble (by American Architect Buckminster Fuller).

In researching period articles about Expo 67, and guide books and programs of the Fair itself, I couldn’t help but noticing numerous examples of male-centric commentary – much like some of the ground covered on the TV series Mad Men - comments that today would seem quite inappropriate and sexist.  From our 21st Century vantage-point, these examples are the most old-fashioned thing about Expo.  In a few spots of my song I take the lyrics in that direction as a parody of that ‘playboy’ mindset (“put down that mop, Mrs. Canada !” etc.)

The ‘Voice Over Guy’ character that provides running commentary through the song is meant to imitate the smarmy kind of advertising pitch man of the era (we have our own similar versions today).  I had originally envisioned CBC anchorman Peter Mansbridge  recording that part (several of his colleagues told me he’d be thrilled to do it) but apparently lawyers and contracts and such would not have permitted that.  I realized my   Moxy Früvous colleague Murray Foster would be perfect for the part (Murray also plays all the bass on this album, and on every song I’ve ever recorded) and in the studio realized that was an understatement.  His voice and affected mannerisms were ideal, and a number of the interjections are his own ad-libbing.       


Activities & Lesson Ideas


Activities / Projects Design your own Expo – preparing for 2017

“Centennials belong to citizens” – Peter MacLeod

Expo 67 is an evocative focal point for the phenomenon that was Canada’s centennial year – a year of unparalleled spirit, optimism, imagination, celebration and good works in this country.  The 100-ness of it was just a number, not intrinsically more important than the 97th year of Confederation or the 104th.  But it is a milestone that became an invitation – to imagine, to create, to reassess and reinvent - to attempt new things; big projects, small whimsical ideas, revolutionary plans or caring initiatives. (examples)

A crucial element to that 1967 spirit in Canada is that it was first and foremost a citizen-driven thing.  Coast to coast, people encouraged each other to make their own Centennial plans, projects and creations – government and business played catch-up. 

So….2017 is getting closer and closer.  The 150th year of Confederation.  Once again, it is not a celebration of a number, but an invitation.  An excuse to GIVE OURSELVES PERMISSION TO RE-IMAGINE, RE-CREATE.

What is your Canada 150 idea?

Whimsical? - 20,000 Saxophones all playing together in one spot / Earthshaking? – A massive army of citizens diverting toxins away from every lake & river in Canada / Athletic? – Jogging from the south end to the north end of your province / Eco-Entrepreneurial? – creating a safe clothes-drying line for hi-rise balconies coast to coast / Genealogical? – Involving your entire family tree in an international internet geo-cache game

For your idea, create a project proposal with written, visual and live demonstration components.  Present ideas concerning Scope, Interactivity, Budget, Potential Benefactors.  Tell us how your idea connects with one or more of a needed service, invention, solution, commemoration, infrastructure, artistic challenge, business growth etc…

References / Suggested Readings

Bantey, Bill Bill Bantey’s Expo 67 Montreal: Gazette Printing Company, 1967


Berton, Pierre 1967: The Last Good Year: Toronto: Doubleday Canada: 1997

(title since changed to 1967: Canada’s Turning Point)