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On a Cold Road: Tales of Adventure in Canadian Rock

3.72  ·  Rating details ·  401 ratings  ·  28 reviews
David Bidini, rhythm guitarist with the Rheostatics, knows all too well what the life of a rock band in Canada involves: storied arenas one tour and bars wallpapered with photos of forgotten bands the next. Zit-speckled fans begging for a guitar pick and angry drunks chucking twenty-sixers and pint glasses. Opulent tour buses riding through apocalyptic snowstorms and cramp ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published October 1st 1998 by McClelland & Stewart
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Janelle Z
May 29, 2009 rated it it was amazing
The idea for Dave Bidini’s book On a Cold Road: Adventure in Canadian Rock first came about when excerpts from his tour journal were published in the Toronto Star. The dairies depicted the experiences of Bidini and his band The Rheostatics when they opened for the Tragically Hip on a cross-country tour. The Rheostatics are not new faces in the Canadian rock scene. Since 1980, rhythm guitarist Bidini, drummer Dave Clark (later replaced by Don Kerr), lead guitarist Martin Tielli, and bassist Tim V ...more
Barbara McVeigh
On a Cold Road is the first book on my list for Canada Reads 2012. The point of Canada Reads is to find the most quintessentially Canadian book for the year to recommend to all Canadians to read.

On a Cold Road delivers what the subtitle says: tales of adventure in Canadian rock by documenting the Rheostatics as they open for the Tragically Hip on a cross Canada tour. Interspersed with Bidini’s poetic expressions of band life, are interviews with the founders of Canadian rock. The book begins qui
Oct 04, 2018 rated it liked it
A west to east story of The Rheostatics’ tour with The Hip that was awkwardly interrupted by yarns from other Canadian musicians. I wish it had been more linear, more focused. I also wish Bidini hadn’t relied quite so heavily on his thesaurus. Over all decent writing, bits of Canadian music history and a somewhat interesting memoir.
Apr 20, 2019 rated it did not like it
Shelves: abandoned
Not what I thought it was going to be. I expected Dave Bidini's adventures with The Rheostatics, not a short sample from him followed by a bunch of other takes from mostly people I'd never heard of.

Abandoned in chapter 1.
Marcel Pierre
Apr 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Do not call yourself a Canadian music fan till you've bought and read this book.
Scott Taylor
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
For any Canadian music fan!
Christina Vasilevski
Review originally posted on

About the book: In the mid-90s, Bidini’s band, The Rheostatics, was the opening act for The Tragically Hip on their “Trouble at the Henhouse” tour. On a Cold Road is Bidini’s memoir of the tour, compiled from the journal entries he wrote during it. However, the book also aims to serve as a collective history of touring across Canada, and includes anecdotes and recollections from Canadian musicians from the 50s, 60s, and 70s.

What I liked: In
Mar 27, 2013 rated it liked it
Recommended to Dorothy by: Canada Reads 2012
This book was one of the five selected for the Canada Reads 2012 short-list. This year the contest focused on non-fiction books for the first time. Each book had its Champion, the person who would argue their book’s merits and defend it against the other contenders. After each day’s debate, one book was voted off by the Champions. Moderated (at times refereed) by Jian Ghomeshi, it was “must listen” radio for the four days of the debate.

It was through listening to this broadcast that I first beca
I didn't love the book nor do I think it's one I recommend for Canada Reads. It was too scattered for me; there's this central narrative from the Rheostatics interspersed with stories from these other Canadian bands but I couldn't tell where Dave Bidini was going with it all. Either write about the Rheostatics or about the other bands. Or if a combination is absolutely necessary, change it somehow. I can appreciate that it was more of an oral history and I did think the format was interesting bu ...more
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
I am not a Rock afficiando, but I had heard of the Rheostatics before I took a writing course recently at U of T taught by none other than Dave Bidini. He has 10 books to his name all on music or sports, neither of which particularly interest me in a book format - or so I thought. Dave was an outstanding teacher and very regular for a rock star so I set forth to explore what he has written. I could not put this book down. I am familiar with a lot of the names and some of the music but it was rat ...more
Oct 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
So, I didn't actually mean to read this book last night, because I started it at midnight, but then I didn't put it down until I was finished. It's basically the tour diary of the Rheostatics' Dave Bidini from when they opened for the Hip, interspersed with hilarious vignettes from earlier pioneering Canadian artists. I wish there had been a bit more information about who they were -- I had to google all of them; even if I recognized their names, I wasn't sure which band they'd been in, except t ...more
Jul 05, 2012 rated it liked it
Shelves: can-lit
I did enjoy this book, but it took me a while to find and feel comfortable with the rhythm of the writing - anecdotes from dates of the Rheostatics cross- Canada tour with the Tragically Hip, interspersed with related and relevant anecdotes from a large group of Canadian musicians. Some of the musicians I recognized, some I had to be reminded of, some were unknown to me. I was continually going back to the list of names/groups to try to place the speaker and the era to which they were referring. ...more
Jan 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Recommended to Pooker by: Angie Abdou & Canada Reads
This was the second read for this book and I think I enjoyed it more the first time. The first time I read it I was delighted to find "stories" about musicians I knew. I was also startled to realize that in 1996 and perhaps the case remains today that young musicians start off in the same way as they did in "my day" (25 years prior to 1996) with their buds in garage bands and they tour for the sake of promotion by bus & on a wing and a prayer and peanut butter.

The second time I read it, while I
Tina Siegel
Jan 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Wonderful book! I was a bit skeptical when I started it, but Bidini turns out to be a terrific writer. His prose is clear and easy and he knows when to add a poetic flourish. I enjoyed his self-deprecating humour and his passion for music. I really wish there'd been more of him and fewer anecdotes from other people (which made up a significant portion of the book).

The only other caution I'd have is that, unless you're massively into Canadian music, all the name dropping may get a bit tedious. Ig
Jan 05, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: canlit, non-fiction
I really didn't know what to expect from "On a Cold Road". I thought the book was a tour recap by Dave Bidini, a member of the Rheostatics.

What I got was an overview of Canadian rock from the 60s to the 90s. Bidini's stories of his tour with the Tragically Hip is interspersed with stories from Canadian rock greats such as Ronnie Hawkins and Kim Mitchell.
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was ok
This is probably a much better book then I am giving it credit for. I found the parts when Bidini wrote about his experiences with the Rheostatics to be the best parts of the book. However, I did not enjoy the many quotes from musicians. I could understand why people would love this book - I was just not the right audience.
Nov 01, 2011 rated it really liked it
While fans of the Rheostatics will particularly enjoy this memoir of the band's time on the road, it has a wider appeal for readers interested in Canada's rock music history. Bidini has included some of his rock and roll friends' tour memories on a variety of related themes, creating a multi-faceted view of the road, its charms and its perils.
Mar 30, 2012 rated it it was ok
Although it was an interesting read, I didn't find the structure worked well for me. I suspect this is because I didn't know who half the musicians were. I would have much preferred more detail about their own experiences.
Selina Young
Nov 23, 2011 rated it really liked it
My love of the Rheostatics aside, I really liked this book. Dave is a very witty & real writer and as a music fan I really enjoyed hearing about being on the road - I felt like I was along for the ride too. And who wouldn't love Reading bout a concert they were at?! ...more
Will probably borrow from my dad, assuming I can get that copy away from my brother (this is one of his favourite books)
Cathy Genge
Feb 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
Great stories about rock bands touring in Canada. Many legendary artists provide insights and anecdotes. Bidini writes very well - the shinny hockey game story is great!
Lauren Simmons
Jan 20, 2012 rated it really liked it
At times rambling, especially with the interspersed interviews from figures I wasn't familiar with, but still an incredibly moving and profound account of music and our country.
May 12, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Thsi book is great if you love Canadian music!!! Esp. if you like the Rheos! :)
Jan 20, 2016 rated it really liked it
Great book for the Canadian music lover.
Aug 03, 2012 rated it really liked it
Great look at life in a rock band. Would love to see someone do a similar book with artists of the 80s and 90s.
Aug 12, 2014 rated it liked it
If I were his wife, after reading this I'd say "You left me to manage the household, intermittently alone, for a decade-plus, for this?"
Robin Rideout
Aug 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
There were parts of this book I really enjoyed. I love the behind the scenes look at Canadian Rock. Some of the bands I definitely needed the reference guide for.
Rob Lazenby
rated it liked it
Jan 29, 2012
TBRpile yuju
rated it it was amazing
Apr 05, 2019
Sudarsan Dme
rated it it was amazing
May 28, 2015
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DAVE BIDINI is the author of nine books. His play, "The Five Hole Stories," was performed by One Yellow Rabbit and toured Canada in winter, 2009, and his two "hockumentaries," The Hockey Nomad and The Hockey Nomad Goes To Russia were Gemini-nominated films, and The Hockey Nomad won for Best Documentary.

Bidini is the recipient of numerous National Magazine Awards, and is a weekly columnist in The N

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