by Mike Usinger
December 28, 2022
Remembered as one of the true taste-making giants of the Vancouver music scene, Tom Harrison has died following a reported stroke on Christmas day. He is being remembered today as a writer with endlessly good taste who was instrumental in his support of bands that others were often initially afraid to champion.
Buck Cherry of the Modernettes wrote on Facebook: “It’s impossible to describe or credit just how invaluable Tom was to our scene and it’s no stretch to say none of us would have had the careers we’ve had had he not championed us from the very first. And when he went from the Straight to PacPress, I don’t think there was a major city outside London that got the kind of attention in the legit press we all did.”
As noted by Cherry, Harrison first rose to prominence as a writer with the Georgia Straight. While with the paper in the ’70s he gave renegade imports like the Clash and Sex Pistols, and, more importantly, local heroes like the Modernettes, Pointed Sticks, Subhumans, and D.O.A. their first ink at a time when the rest of the world was doing its best to ignore them.
(Read, in Harrison’s own words, about his time at the Straight here.)
The acts that initially shaped Vancouver’s underground scene would become part of a hugely important worldwide underground movement, inspiring others to pick up guitars in the years and decades that have followed. Whether you’re talking the New Pornographers, Mother Mother, or Bif Naked, they all in some ways stand on a DIY-music foundation that Harrison was instrumental in building.
While the Straight is where he made his name, it was the Province where Harrison established himself as one of the country’s most relentlessly passionate music writers. While continuing to champion the West Coast’s booming underground scene, he was instrumental in turning the spotlight on unknown acts that pushed boundaries, from a then-unknown Sarah McLachlan to crossover kings Death Sentence to quirk-pop faves Bob’s Your Uncle to hip-hop pioneers the Rascalz
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