Where would we be without public service announcements? Dead probably. Without these nifty lil’ television creatures we would all have guzzled poison, gnawed on exposed electrical wire, and set ourselves ablaze without wearing proper self-immolation clothing. We are in your debt, PSAs.
One sublime element of the PSA package was the bonus of getting a song included in the mix too. If you’re gonna have a bear in an astronaut costume inform you about the dangers of smoking, why not do it with a hip happenin’ spacebear pop-rock tune?
Here’s a look at the most memorable songs (for reasons good and bad) to emerge from Canadian PSAs, including topics like stranger danger and mystery drugs that will be stuck in your head even on the day that the Grim Reaper takes you to the big Body Break in the sky.
Get on your hoverboard, eat only what blue monsters tell you to, and give a big fat middle finger to the charts. These are the real hits.
Stay Alert, Stay Safe
Created to inform children about stranger danger, spokesbunnies Bert and Gert look like they hoverboarded out of a furry raver’s wet dream just before the big finale. (Unsettling unnecessary knee pads ahoy!) These Stay Alert, Stay Safe PSAs presented an image of a terrifying future where the only creatures you can trust are a pair of disturbingly chipper rabbits that monitor the activities of children on their lonesome. Do they fuel their hoverboards with the blood of children that stay inside their homes? That’s the vibe B&G are putting across. Matching their energy is one of those PSA musical offerings that sound NOTHING like an actual genre of music that exists. It’s more music-adjacent than anything. Still, “STAY ALERT! STAY SAFE!” has burrowed itself into the tender bits of our brains with lines about things not being what they seem sticking around for good measure.
Don’t You Put It In Your Mouth
Sometimes in life you need a pair of blue monster children to encourage tots be more discerning with what objects and liquids they shove in their barf hole. Blessedly, these horrifying creatures (LOOK AT THE MURDEROUS GLINT IN THEIR “EYES”) are equipped with a jaunty tune rather than Chick tracts to get their message across. If you’re going to chug a litre of ammonia, why not ask for the permission of a parent or guardian first? Or better yet, enjoy a muffin or a a sentient beet instead. Mmm… Beet eyes!
Participaction (Do It)
Long before “Just Do It” bubbled up from the marketing wing of sneaker giant Nike, “Participaction” tried to shake Canadians out of their Cheezie dust fog of inactivity with an upbeat jingle about (just) doing it. Next time you’re at spin class be sure to scream out the lyrics like an unhinged maniac to achieve maximum results.
Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod (a.k.a. your special TV mom and dad) doled out fitness tips galore and celebrated the year of the potato while backed with the most ’80s-y slice of musical accompaniment this side of “The Safety Dance.” Did you know that the Body Break theme had lyrics that extended beyond a wail of “BAAAAAWWWWWDY BREAK” and an empowering “whoosh” sound? It’s true! And wildly unnecessary!
Oh, Hal and Joanne. You were so charming that Canadians would have killed in your name. Would they have exercised in the name of Hal and Joanne? Probably not, but that’s like waaaaaay harder than murder.
“If you sit and sit you’ll turn to goo,” warns a blue figure that hangs out on a white t-shirt. A BOLD ANTI-GOO STANCE FROM A BLOB WITH LIGHTNING FOR HAIR! And why shouldn’t you take bodysculpting advice from a shapeshifting lump? After all, he’s got a zippy song that serves as the lost Canuck cousin to ABC’s Bod Squad PSAs.
Hinterland Who’s Who
The nature-focused Hinterland Who’s Who series would work fine if you subbed out the gentle flutework for Bachman Tuner Overdrive’s “Takin’ Care Of Business,” but there’s something special to that familiar intro. It takes a special touch to roll out something that can be recognized instantly as the official national anthem of Canadian wildlife.
Real Talk: At certain times of night, the Hinterland Who’s Who theme was oddly menacing in a The S From Hell sorta way.
Recipe for a perfect murder: Show someone this Concerned Children’s Advertisers PSA on a constant loop and watch them drown in a flood of their own tears. This minute-long clip was perplexing to tons of kids like me that were busy scarfing down Alpha-Bits and waiting for My Pet Monster to come back from commercial, but the expertly borrowed use of “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and EMOTIONAL REUNION HUG has felt like a roundhouse to The Feels more and more as the years go by. Any Canadian over the age of 25 that doesn’t shed a tear while hearing this Hollies classic is some sort of heartless robot. Scratch that. I refuse to believe that ASTAR wouldn’t cry his cybertronic eyes out when this came on during Planet Danger TV ad breaks.
LUBA IS HERE TO TEAR SHIT UP! Our nation’s favourite Luba (non-Goy edition) encouraged young’uns to stay away from lighting up with a gargantuan anti-smoking pop anthem. Like a lot of ’80s PSA fare, it was somehow cheesy and RELENTLESSLY INTENSE at the exact same time. Come for the song, stay for the message, follow it up with 20 years of research into trying to figure out what the fuck is going on with the choreography on display.
Drugs Drugs Drugs
“DRUGS! DRUGS! DRUGS!” It’s the greatest hook in Canadian music history and we look forward to the Heritage Minute that details its glorious creation. This drug awareness anthem has squatter’s rights in the brains of anyone that’s come across it and it gives certain drugs (like medicine and possibly fentanyl) a pass provided it’s cool with your mom or dad. Don’t have a dad? Ask someone with a moustache or maybe a large dog that you respect. They should be capable of giving you trustworthy drug advice.