Rock group 54.40 was formed in Tsawassen, BC, in 1979 by former high school classmates Neil Osborne (vocals, guitar) and Brad Merritt (bass). The group took its name from the slogan "54.40 or Fight!," coined in 1848 by US president James Polk for a Manifest Destiny movement that believed the Canada-US border should be moved north to the 54th parallel, 40th minute (the present-day border of Canada and Alaska).
With drummer Ian Franey, 54.40 debuted as a trio at Vancouver punk-rock club the Smilin' Buddha Cabaret on 31 Dec 1980. A 6-song recording was released early in 1982 by the artists' collective MoDaMu (Modern Dance Music), operated in part by the group's future managers Allen Moy and Keith Porteous. Phil Comparelli (trumpet, guitars) joined the group in 1983. Franey was replaced on drums by Darryl Neudorf, who in turn gave way in 1985 to Matt Johnson.
Throughout its career, 54.40 has been likened by critics to American group R.E.M. and hailed as the first of Canada's post-punk rock groups to be signed to an American record deal. The group found its greatest success at home, however, as a result of steady national touring that began in 1986. "Nice to Luv You" (1992) was its first bona fide hit single, propelling the album Dear Dear to platinum status. The subsequent albums Smilin' Buddha Cabaret (1994) and Trusted by Millions (1996) also exceeded the 100 000 plateau. 54.40's best-known songs include "Baby Ran,""One Gun,""She La,""Ocean Pearl,""Lies to Me" and "I Go Blind." The latter was recorded in 1995 by US group Hootie & the Blowfish, who had been performing "I Go Blind" live for more than a decade. Their version is included on the soundtrack album for the TV series Friends and became a top-20 hit in America early in 1997. Recent albums have included Since When (1998), the double-CD live set Heavy Mellow (1999) and Casual Viewin' (2000), the latter based on the band's travels in Thailand, Kenya and Morocco.
The group contributed songs and music to an electronic dance side project titled Paloma and featuring vocalist Coco Love Alcorn. Radio Love Songs: The Singles Collection is a career summary and best-of released in 2002. It was followed in 2003 by the studio album Goodbye Flatland, which was loosely inspired by Osborne's reading of philosopher Ken Wilber's The Theory of Everything.
The band, which by now featured keyboardist Dave Genn (ex-Matthew Good Band), signed with Toronto-based True North Records in 2005. Its 11th studio album, Yes to Everything, was produced by Warne Livesey (The The, Midnight Oil) at Bryan Adams' studio The Warehouse in Vancouver. Northern Soul was released in 2008, followed by Lost In The City in 2011. 2011 also saw the group inducted into the Western Canada Music Awards Hall of Fame.