The stories behind your favourite songs.
In 1978, the Canadian rock band, Trooper, released an album called Thick as Thieves. On that album was a song called, “Raise a Little Hell”. I was fourteen years old at the time. To say that Trooper’s song catalogue played a significant impact on the soundtrack of my youth would be a massive understatement. As a teenage boy growing up on Cape Breton Island, bands like Trooper, April Wine and Boston were the soundtrack of my youth. I grew up believing that guitar-driven, arena rock was what rock n’ roll was all about. If you had been able to flip through my collection of albums during and right after my university days, you would have found plenty of Styx, Bob Seger, Tom Petty, Kansas, Journey, Foreigner and the like. There has always been something satisfying about good old three or four chord guitar music, catchy vocal hooks and good drumming. For me, that love affair all began with Trooper and their string of hits that were as strong and impressive as any in Canadian music history. Besides, “Raise a Little Hell”, Trooper could trot out “Boys in the Bright White Sports Car”, “Oh Pretty Lady”, “The Santa Maria”, “Two For The Show”, “Round, Round We Go”, “General Hand Grenade” and, of course, the classic, “We’re Here For a Good Time, Not a Long Time”. While all of their albums sold pretty well in Canada, their greatest hits collection called, Hot Shots sold in the millions, making it one of the best selling albums in Canadian music history.
But out of all of Trooper’s classic tunes, the one that tends to be remembered the most is “Raise a Little Hell”. It is the only one of their songs that made any sort of impact south of the border, becoming a Top Ten hit there. However, more importantly for Trooper, “Raise a Little Hell” has gone on to become known as being more than simply a good rock song. What has happened over time is that it has come to occupy the same sort of rarified space that a song like “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes does, making it one of the most popular and easily recognizable sports stadium hype songs in North America. In fact, a recent poll conducted by Rolling Stone Magazine rated “Raise a Little Hell” as being the seventh most popular sports song of all time. In Canada, for many years the Ottawa Senators hockey team used to play the song each time they scored a goal. It has a fist-pumping, rah-rah spirit embedded within its chords and lyrics making it a difficult song not to move along with whenever it plays. For me, the first time I heard “Raise a Little Hell” properly…by that I mean…loudly, through a good stereo…was when I stood on the main street of my hometown as a teenage boy with my friends on a Friday or Saturday night, as the cars with souped up stereos drove round and round, blasting their eight tracks or cassettes into the night sky. Those were heady times for this small town boy. I thank Trooper for helping to make me feel grown up.
Trooper began way back in the 1960s when singer Ra McGuire and guitarist Brian Smith decided to form a band. Initially, they called themselves Winter’s Green and mainly played gigs in and around Vancouver. As the 1970s dawned, the band changed their name to Applejack. It was as Applejack that early Trooper classics like “Raise a Little Hell” and “Oh, Pretty Lady” were first played in public. At one of those Applejack shows, the band was spotted by Canadian music legend Randy Bachman. He had formed a record label by this time and signed the band to a contract. Once in the fold, Applejack became known as Trooper. The lineup at the time of signing stayed fairly consistent for the next four decades! Under Randy Bachman’s initial guidance, Trooper released their debut album and headed out on the road. Over the course of their forty plus year career, Trooper were known as a band that would travel anywhere and everywhere for a gig. They even came to my neck of the woods on Cape Breton Island! As Trooper began to develop hit songs, they outgrew their relationship with Randy Bachman and signed with MCA Records. It was while with MCA during the mid to late 1970s and into the 1980s that Trooper had its greatest success. Over the course of their career, Trooper released albums that went a total of six times platinum. They have received several SOCAN Awards, which are presented to a band or artist each time one of their songs receives over 100,000 plays on Canadian radio. One of the biggest tributes Trooper has received was when their greatest hits album, Hot Shots was covered, song for song, by Canadian punk bands for a benefit album called Shot Spots. Punk legends, DOA covered “Raise a Little Hell”. SNFU covered “We’re Here For a Good Time, Not a Long Time”. You can listen to SNFU’s irreverent tribute here.
Just last year in 2021, Ra McGuire and Brian Smith decided it was time to retire. That is funny to me because I actually retired before they did (in 2018). It is really something to think that my entire teaching career was bookended by these two men and their various friends who played in Trooper. If you ever happen to find yourself in Ottawa and have some time on your hands, head on over to the National Archives. Once there, ask to see the Trooper collection. The band has generously donated much of their original lyric sheets, their financial records, posters, playbills, stage props, etc. as part of the Archives quest to accurately document the Canadian music scene in the 1960s-90s. Who knew that archivists would be so willing to “Raise a Little Hell” on their own. 🙂
Thanks to my high school pal, Allister Matheson for nominating this song. He spent just as many nights downtown while the cars shot the drag as I ever did! As always, I accept requests for just about any type of song from any genre and any era. If there is a story to tell, I will do so to the best of my ability. So, feel free to drop a few suggestions in the comment box and I will see what I can do for you. In the meantime, make the day great by listening to some great Canadian rock! Check out “Raise a Little Hell” by Trooper in the links below. Bye for now.
The link to the official website for Trooper can be found here.
The link to the official website of The National Archives of Canada can be found here.
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