Cum Here The Band – April Wine – Part II
In Part I I wrote about my introduction to April Wine as a youth. Part two is more about my teenage years and how April Wine played an instrumental part in the prompting of, and toward the learning of my instrument of choice – the guitar. See how the tunes of April Wine serves as a soundtrack for my adolescence. Read on!
FROM THE BASEMENT TO THE STAGE
Luckily for me I had an older brother who bought a lot of vinyl back in the day which provided me insight into some rock and roll that was not available to most of my peers. While my friends parents were buying them K-tel “Looney Tunes” and listening to “One Eyed Purple People Eater”, I was getting exposed to Atomic Rooster, Montrose, Slade and some little up and comer British unit called Led Zepplin. I remember delving into his album collection when he was away from the house and playing the albums to my heart’s content. I recall he allowed permission, however, I had to take the greatest of care in the handling of his records. So with each selection, I had to ever so carefully remove the vinyl from its paper sleeve. I’d then cradle it by its edges, only letting my pointer fingers balance the LP as I placed it on the spindle of the record player that protruded about three inches from the playing surface. After, balancing it there and placing the arm over top of it to hold it steady, I hit the auto button that set in motion the “clinking and clanking” of the mechanics that eventually served to drop the record onto the playing surface. Thereafter, I’d eagerly await for the inherent hissing before the stylus fell into the grooves and the songs began to play. With that, I would read the liner notes and study the album cover of each successive discovery.
At this point in my adolescence, I had already felt the magic of holding a real electric guitar in my hand and have played it through amplification. Not just any amplification though. Amplification with “fuzz”! Fuzz was the terminology we use for distortion by us kids and was usually obtained by cranking a the amp to ten, or if you were lucky enough you were able to afford a choice Boss distortion pedal. At that time my guitar was courtesy of my dad who was a guitar picker. It was a red sunburst Fender style Stratocaster knock off by Sears called a Harmony. Plugged into a 30 watt Gibson amp and I was instantly a “Guitar Hero” or our version thereof back in the day. I like the feel, I liked the look of the guitar. I started buying Guitar Player magazine and cutting out pictures of all the different models and taping them to my bedroom wall. So it only stands to reason then, I remember one day my brother bringing home the April Wine Electric Jewels album, and how I instantly gravitated toward it for closer inspection. I remember thinking “that would be one sweet axe to have.” to myself. I was enthralled by the unique design and I just had to hear it. So on the turntable it went. Already well schooled on the sounds of April Wine from the Stand Back release, I was not disappointed. All the tunes were well penned. As with all albums since, it comprised of both some rockers and ballads.
* Complimenting Myles Goodwin’s ballads and middle of the road rockers, the album featured another outstanding heavier tune sung by bassist Jim Clench.
THE FINNISH CONNECTION
By grade nine I had already had a good grasp on the guitar and started to hang with other dudes in High School with the same interest as I. Just a little back story I think appropriate to mention. I grew up in a small town in Northwestern Ontario of about three thousand. However, in the surrounding area there were another four smaller towns that complimented that population. Being somewhat insular throughout my primary grades, it was great to learned that there was a whole new population that existed out there that needed introduction. Moreover, because the town served as a central service area for the region, many of the First Nations in the area – most of which were remote fly in communities – attended our school too. In retrospect, we did have quite a diverse population in terms of nationalities that were represented both in town and in school. That being said, for the most part, the prime population of our region and town was mostly comprised of either French or English families. The remainder, was only represented by a small percentage of other European populations or “Indians”. That’s where this part of story begins.
Growing up, I was deemed, as were my peers, as the last of the baby boomer generation. Given our town was pretty well a two industry town that was booming both in mining and forestry, the hometown provided a great place for young men with their new families to settle and start their lives. I didn’t pay much note of this back then but, I was grateful for the amount of kids I had to play with in the neighborhood. I think every family our the block and adjacent blocks had three to five kids. In our little section of town, which we called Jonesville, there was mostly English kids with a smattering of French kids who all got along surprisingly quite well. On occasion, the worst disparaging word we could conjure up for the French was “Frogs” but that was never enough to think of revisiting the Plains of Abraham. Life was good! However, there was another population of people starting to move into the neighborhood that we learned to term as “those damn immigrants”. A term I guess we borrowed from the older stock in Jonesville who felt their jobs were being threatened. In any event, most notably, “those damn immigrants” were primarily of Finnish descent. Well it seems the Finnish influx were starting be well represented in the “hood”. And because they had funny accents and barely spoke English, they naturally became easy targets for teasing and taunts by the “gang”. I have to admit, even myself being one of the “gang”, I kind of felt sorry for them when things got a little nasty. I suppose that was because I too was an outsider of sorts only a few short years before, because I was one of “those damn Indians”. Well, long story short, it wasn’t too long before “those damn immigrants” were hanging out with “those damn Indians” and thus the Finndian posse was born!
Pasi and Petri, that was their names. Pasi was six and Petri was five when they immigrated. They also had a younger brother and a younger sister. In any event, we grew together along with the English and French without too much notice, except for a few occasion where we were reminded we were “different”. The older and tougher guys attended to that whenever they felt compelled to call names. Well as time progressed and we were approaching our tens, I recall the first time I found that we another thing in common more than being “those damn” kids. I remember one day, Pasi invited me into his home after telling me he had built a “recording studio” and had just set up some drums. My curiosity was piqued, so I asked him to show me. Upon entering his house, he escorted me to a place at the back of his living room. At the back hung a large white bedsheet! Four hundred thread count I think, ’cause you know how ten year old kids always note those sort of things! Anyways, I stood there in awe awaiting the reveal. Excited, not only because I was about to see a real live recording studio but because I was going to, first time, see drums! I one fell sweep of his arm, Pasi pulled back the “curtain” to reveal his set of drums. Well a set of drums of sorts? In some sort of genius arrangement of chaos, there were mops and brooms supported strategically by well place chairs propping up pie plates. Another assortment of pots doing much of the same. But the best of all was the egg carton cardboard box affixed with some odd assembly of levers that made the box “thump” when press with the heel of your foot! The heel! I think that oughta have been patented in favor of the traditional bass foot pedals we see nowadays. I just remember telling him “That’s so cool!” . It was then too that I disclosed ” I play guitar!”. The stage was set! Why hadn’t we seen it before? It wasn’t too long that we brought Petri into the fold. Shortly thereafter, we decided that we would form a band , get really good, then we would put on a concert at the local Rotary Park, charge tickets to the English and French and make lots of money! The future looked bright!
Fast forward a couple of years. Well Pasi and Petri moved uptown. Back then it seemed a world away. Actually, it was only about a mile away. During our first couple years of high school, I’d make the trek uptown with my guitar and amp in tow to attend to a fairly consistent and disciplined practice regime. The first real song we learned? You got it! It was none other than April Wine’s Tonight Is A Wonderful Time To Fall In Love. A simple but infectious three chord rocker.
Actually, if you have just listened to it, the song has a modulation at the end. I remember the first time tackling that song and Petri piped up something to the affect ” I just learned to modulate last night”. I didn’t know what that meant but, I remember replying “that sounds dirty! Hope you ma didn’t catch you!”. We always had fun! Then he explained modulation was a music terminology to go a key signature higher. That was news to me! “Whatever Petri.” I thought “I’m just going up higher by two…uhm …frets that is.” He was always more technical than I. Thereafter, we learned We’re An American Band by Grand Funk Railroad and some Boston and Foreigner tunes. We were getting to be pretty damn good as a guitar band, me and Petri, if I do say so myself. All the while, Pasi was holding down the beat quite effortlessly. Often times, while practicing, I’d glance over and there was Pasi twirling his sticks between beats and staring off into the light shining through the little basement window beside him. We were officially a basement band! Yet, our mission was not complete. We had yet to finagle a red cent out of the English or French!
In Part III, we’ll learn more about our cool basement band that never did have a name, how we graduated to the stage, my first April Wine concert and a “where are they now” conclusion. Thanks again for taking the time to read my blogs. Check back in a couple of days to learn…as veteran radio broadcaster, Paul Harvey used to say…”the rest of the story”. On that note, here’s some funky April Wine…