The first Canadian band to ever top the US charts was Guess Who. No, it’s not a question, it’s a band, a band whose powerhouse ballads and rocking anthems gave them more success in the ’60s and ’70s than most other Canadian bands combined. The group may have disbanded in 1975, but their legacy lives on in the form of eleven studio albums and a songbook full of classic tracks. But which of those tracks ranks as the greatest? Find out as we count down the 10 best Guess Who songs of all time.
10. Shakin’ All Over
Technically, “Shakin’ All Over” wasn’t released by the Guess Who. It was released by Chad Allan and the Expressions, the former moniker of the band before they ditched garage rock for pop-rock (and just a hint of psychedelia), dropped Chad Allan for Burton Cummings and switched their name to Guess Who after a publicity stunt backfired. But technicalities aside, it was still the band and it’s still a great enough piece of mid-’60s garage rock to make our list.
9. Hand Me Down World
People say the ’60s was rock and roll’s finest moment, but the ’70s weren’t exactly a doozy either. In 1970, Guess Who celebrated the turn of the decade with “Share the Land,” a great album with some great tracks. Among them was “Hand Me Down World,” a guitar-dominated, mid-tempo number that cut the fluff and delivered some straight-up, no-nonsense rock. Burton Cummings is in fine form, soulfully winding his way through lyrics that take a long, hard look at the world, and don’t necessarily like what they see. It’s not the album’s best moment, but it’s still a very fine thing.
8. Clap for the Wolfman
As ultimateclassicrock.com writes, “Clap for the Wolfman” is somewhat reminiscent of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” A tribute to legendary DJ Robert Weston Smith (or Wolfman Jack, as he preferred to be known), the song is littered with musical references to the Crystals’ “Da Do Ron Ron,” Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl.” and other 50’s greats. But whereas McLean’s song was poignant and folky, the Guess Who’s is funky, jaunty, and designed to get your foot tapping.
7. Share the Land
Burton Cummings isn’t the kind of man to beat around the bush. If he sees a problem, he calls it out. But he doesn’t just like to lament about where we’re going wrong as a society; he likes to offer a solution to how we can do better. The titular track from the 1970 album “Share the Land” gives us Cummings’ version of a brighter future. A future that involves living together, laughing together, and loving together. In the COVID era, it all sounds a bit idealistic, a bit innocent, and a nightmare for social distancing. But this was 1970, so we’ll forgive the nativity and call it out for what it is – a cheery, cheering number with a catchy communal chorus and some top-notch guitar work.
Cummings might have spent the majority of “Laughing” wailing about the “…best years [that] have come and gone,” but whatever he was talking about, it certainly wasn’t the band. This was 1969, a year into what Wikipedia describes as the Guess Who’s ‘Classic Era” and a year away from their biggest and best selling hit of all time (if you want to find out what that is, skip ahead to No.1 on the list). The song itself is a gem: few people manage to do soulful and catchy quite so well as Cummings, and here, he does it with even more brilliance than usual.
5. These Eyes
After a few years in the wilderness, 1968 spelled the start of good times for the Guess Who. Their album “Wheatfield Soul” is a gem of an album packed with some of the best songs of the band’s career. “These Eyes” is one of them. Highlighting the band’s trajectory from a teenage garage rock band to a mature, pop-rock ensemble, the soul and jazz inflections that would characterize their later work are already out on proud display.
4. Glamour Boy
The Guess Who never got much respect from the critics when they were around. Lester Bangs loved them, but he was about the only one. But almost half a century after they went their separate ways, they’re still remembered and still loved in a way a lot of their more critically acclimated counterparts aren’t. Maybe they knew how things would pan out at the time. Their confidence in taking a dig at some of the era’s glam rock stars on “Glamour Boy” certainly suggests so. Described by All Music (www.allmusic.com/album/10-mw0000846052) as one of the best songs from the album “10,” it’s a stylish, biting track with some stunning hooks and a typical display of awesomeness from Cummings.
3. No Time
There’s nothing indirect about the lyrics of “No Time.” As two-fingered salutes to former lovers go, lines like “On my way to better things … I found myself some wings,” and “No time left for you” say it all. If you ever find yourself in need of a brush-off song, this is it.
Taken from 1969’s “Canned Wheat,” Undun gives us the band relaxed, on pointe, and delivering some of the best music of their life. A little bit jazzy, a little bit poppy, and 100 percent funky, it set the tone for the album and the foundation for the following year’s monster smash hit, “American Woman.”
1. American Woman
“American Woman” is the Guess Who’s biggest hit, their most well-remembered song, and unquestionably their finest moment. Even if the name of the band means nothing to you, there’s a very good chance you’ve bopped along to “American Woman” on the radio or belted it out in the shower. It’s a song that, fifty years on from its release, has become part of the collective consciousness. From the first bluesy note to the final rocking chorus, it’s a song that gets inside your head and stays there. If there’s a reason the Guess Who were the most successful Canadian band of the 70s, it’s this.