SameDiff BNL

Barenaked Ladies: Toronto we love you, September 22nd, 2000.

In 1992, Toronto and the Barenaked Ladies just couldn't see eye to eye. The zany Canadian popsters from nearby Scarborough wanted to play a show in the city's Nathan Phillips Square for New Year's Eve. But Mayor June Rowlands denied their request, saying their name "objectified women."

"Check us out now," said the band's guitarist/vocalist Steve Page on Thursday, September 21, as he picked up the key to the city from Deputy Mayor Case Ootes. BNL also finally got to play a concert outside City Hall in celebration, and it included their breakthrough hit "Brian Wilson."

"If your mother or my mother saw a headline that says, 'City of Toronto presents Barenaked Ladies' they'd be really concerned," a spokesperson had said back in 1992. Our mother would be mildly turned on, but that's a longer story.

When asked by the Canadian Press agency if the uproar over its name hadn't helped get the band some much-needed free publicity, Page disagreed. "At the time we were really embarrassed," he said. "We thought it was kind of too crass to think about. But in retrospect, it really did do a lot of good for us."

While the incident made national headlines, it caused some bad blood between the group and the Canadian city. When Rowlands changed her mind and offered BNL the key to the city in 1996, they turned the offer down. Page said, "They weren't nice to us in the press, so we thought, 'Why should we be nice?'"

"We're a new city with a new spirit and a band like this one perfectly reflects our spirit and pride," Ootes said during the presentation. "The Barenaked Ladies will always be welcome on this square."

"It's nice to be experiencing kind of a party vibe at home," said vocalist/guitarist Ed Robertson. "For a number of years we've been seeing real incredible success south of the border. It's been a bit of a lunch-bag letdown when we come back home, so to see Toronto partying with us is really great."

Ironically, while the Barenaked Ladies scored a No. 1 in the U.S. with "One Week," their longtime popularity in Canada has waned. They're hoping to recapture their Northern fans with the new album Maroon and the release of a documentary, Barenaked in America, directed by Beverly Hills, 90210 star Jason Priestley. Maroon has already sold 17,800 copies in Canada during its first week of release.

As for that name, Robertson and Page said they came up with it when they attended a Bob Dylan concert. Page said, "We thought it was kind of funny, and we never thought we were going to be a real band so we never thought we were going to have to deal with it."