Canada Calling! With Your Host, Bruce "e-Mole" Mowat
This Month's Topic: The Greatest Canadian Rock n' Road Story Ever!
By: Bruce Mowat
Back in 1999, Dave Bidini assembled ON A COLD ROAD: TALES OF ADVENTURE IN CANADIAN ROCK, a collection of Canuck rock 'n' road stories. Since Canadian touring acts generally have longer stretches of road to contend with (remember ol' Neil Young's adage: "there's a lot of trees between gigs") the stories tend to be longer and nuttier. On a related note: this also explains why 75% of the celluloid output of that hoser, Bruce McDonald, falls into that aforementioned category.
Bidini and his band The Rheostatics are much revered up here for capturing the essence of Canadiana (or some such thing) on their many recordings, but Dave missed out on the best road tale of them all. Yup, it's even better than IMWT columnist Gary Pig Gold's contribution to that tome. Sit back & let me tell you about it...
It involves Colin Cripps, guitarist and "special friend" to Ottawa singer/songwriter (our nation's capital!) Kathleen Edwards, back when he was a fresh-faced teen-to tween -ager just starting out in the Canadian music industry (sic) in a band called Klyde.
Back then, his band played the cover bar circuit, but even then, Cripps & Co had dreams, aspirations, CAREER GOALS, even. At one point, the band came up with an epic "rock opera". The text of the opus, the "libretto" if you will, was an ambitious piece of work detailing the on-going battle of The Forces of Good Versus the Forces of Evil. This was the late '70's and rawk peeps did these kinds of things. Remember?
It is not clear in my mind if the opera was actually executed for Klyde- and Cripps' - most memorable performance, but let's say it was, for the sake of our narrative. I mean, what's a bit of embellishment between friends, eh?
It's a summer day in the late seventies, when Cripps gets the phone call. The band has scored a gig - a paying gig! Specifically, five C-Notes, which was good dough back then. Geez, now that I think of it, five bills is good pay nowadays. That's kind of depressing when you think about it, but I'm digressing here. Back to our story...
Hey, hey, hey but that's not all Klyde is offered: the job comes with a generous beer n' food rider! And artistic licence: they can play whatever they want! Which means A Night Of The Opera ! An aesthetic coup! Woo Hoo!
The performance is to be staged in a secluded wooded area just outside of the "Golden Horseshoe" urban build-up (i.e. Toronto/Hamilton/St. Catharines et al). Specifically, the stage is set up by a swimming pool, with quaint little Quonset huts set up around it. This strikes the band as somewhat odd, but never mind. Act One is about to begin...
The main characters in the War between The Forces of Evil and Good are introduced to the cocktail-sipping audience and the plot is unfurled. The response: minimal, if anything. Klyde is awash in a sea of indifference, but what the heck: they're still getting paid and there's cool bevvies 'n' swell nosh backstage. Maybe after a few more cocktails, the audience will respond to their work of genius, right?
Wrong. Act Two opens and couples are either talking louder over the sound of the band or retiring into the cosy confines of the Quonsets. As the set progresses, the effects of the cocktails and other recreational substances available are taking their effect, but not in the way the band had expected. Couples are disrobing en masse, jumping into the pool, and publicly fondling, feeling, and outright copulating in positions the by-then wide-eyed Cripps"had never seen before and has rarely seen since".
Unaccustomed to such debauchery, the flummoxed young band retired backstage to fortify themselves, where the first of many invitations to "join in" the fun was offered. There is some debate as to whether the group's singer - a future Rod Stewart impersonator (who's name escapes me, sorry) recently spotted entertaining Canadian peace-keeping troops in Afghanistan- actually participated or not. Nobody is really saying anything at this point in time..
By the time Act Three rolls around, it is painfully evident to everyone present at this de facto orgy don't really give a flying fug whether The Forces of Good or Evil win in the end. It was later revealed to the awe-struck lads that this memorable gig was sponsored by, and presumably paid for, by the Ramblewood Swingers Club, who would later make the area news headlines by being busted for gross indecency, blah, blah, blah. Remember, this was the pre-AIDS era. Some people around here did that kind of thing, mainly during the brief window of what is known euphemistically (but not this year! Whew!) as the Canadian "summer".
Over the next 20+ years, Cripps' career trajectory included stints with future Miniatures & Hunter Eves producer, Dan Achen, in the Heavenly Brothers, to three releases with the moderne folk-rock outfit, Crash Vegas. The latter outfit had Daniel Lanois' kid sister Jocelyn, playing bass in its' earliest incarnation.
Cripps produced - and performed with - Junkhouse for its final studio release, 1998's Fuzz, and has recorded and performed with Blue Rodeo's Jim Cuddy. Recently, his production on the new Oh Susanna CD earned a rave review from Mojo magazine.
Failer is the name of the most recent Kathleen Edwards CD. I have no idea what it sounds like, as I am not on her US label, Rounder Records, or any other sort of record company mailing list (save for Mint & Sonic Unyon). This is not necessarily a bad thing: I avoid getting a lot of crap that way. I can tell you that some pwess pweeps have described Edwards as a "happy Lucinda Williams" and that she tends to use the word "fuck" a lot during her interviews. Edgar Breau of Simply Saucer saw her & Colin play at a free festival in Hamilton and gave them a thumbs-up, so that's a recommendation. The pictures are from their recent SARS-Aid show at Downsview Airport, where they played in front of a bazillion or so sunburnt tourists, opening for AC/DC and - oh yeah - the Stones.
BTW, the single best piece of "fiction" to emerge from the Downsview PR circus can be found at http://ca.groups.yahoo.com/group/e-mole/message/537. The underlying message? Don't believe The Hype!
My fellow Canadians; the snail mailing addy for this and my internet radio show The e-Mole Radio Hour is #3, 431 Barton Street East, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8L 2Y5. Send stuff - IF YOU DARE!
PS. Note to Chica Lishis... the ref. was to some band dude you were blathering on about. It's quite alright... next time I'm in Portland, cocktails are on ME.