Thursday, January 30, 2020

Uranus the Band.....Interview Part 3

This is Part 3 and the final of our lengthy Uranus interview. In this part, the boys decide it's time to get some management involved and break into the big time. Let's call this part;

Uranus and Management

Dexter:  Time to get some suits involved in this rock’n’roll.

London Free Press courtesy Jack Whiteside

Frank: And I thought, ya, that’s what you’re supposed to do, get a manager. So I got this tape, and there was this guy from CFPL (London radio station) that was sort of a fan of ours, and he sent it to these managers (Trilogy records) in Toronto. So they came down, one of the managers came down and saw us when we were playing at Forest. And so he came in and talked to us and said ‘is there a Jack Hwiteside here, he pronounced it with the H’. That was the first time I ever saw this guy, Ross Munro, and he was one of those guys with the big disco curly hair you know. They didn’t know what to make of us, they had big hair bands, that’s all they had. They didn’t know anything about rock’n’roll. These guys were kinda greasy business guys, slimy guys. This one guy, there was 2 of them, Ross Munro and…

Jack: And Steve Thomson. Well these guys from Toronto, I don’t know how they heard about us. But we were playing around and people would go crazy for us when we were playing.

F: (The one guy) He was so slimy, he had to go to the doctor because he was shaking hands too much. And the doctor told him to lay off shaking hands…laughter…He was one of these guys that goes around shaking hands all the time. They said ‘it was kind of interesting, the things you guys did here’. So we asked them if they liked the reggae version of ‘All Along The Watchtower’ and they didn’t even know what reggae is. They said ‘what’s reggae?’  And I said ‘music from Jamaica, it’s got a beat on one and the 3’.
But they said ‘we like the sound of it’. So what we were concerned about, was working. And they sort of cornered us, they said ‘would you like to be a part of our stable?’ Laughter…They had all of these bands that were part of their stable.

WW: Any idea of who any of the other bands were?

J: Hairbands, like cover bands. They had nothing to speak of, they were just bluffing most of the time.

Photo courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: Ya, what we said was ’if you guys can keep us working all the time, that’s fine. Take the tape and see if you can get us good jobs’. So they had a manager’s fee and an agents fee, they did both. And they also said, ‘we’ll put out a record for you too, what we’ll do is pay for all of the studio time and everything’. So we signed for this and they did their manager bit, as it was a barrier to us because you couldn’t go down to CKSL with your record. So the only way you could do it, was to get some greasy manager from Toronto to do it. And they wore those satin jackets, you know. So Ross Munro was sort of the liason between us and the other guy, the other guy didn’t know jack shit about music at all.

WW: Let’s talk about recording in Toronto at Phase One Studio.

J: They came out to a gig and they saw us and they saw how everybody reacted and they said ‘Boys, you want to make an album?’ kinda like that, with the 10 gallon hat, and we said OK. And I said, give us a months notice and 2 weeks in the studio. What we got was 2 weeks notice and 3 days in the studio. What they wanted to do, was just capture our live sound, which they kinda did because most of it was one take, live off the floor, minimal overdubs but it’s under produced. They minimized it too much in my opinion. You know what I’m talking about? Like heavier, it came off too little.

F: We did the whole album there, and they chose ‘You’re So Square’ as the single to push.

D: I loved that studio! That was so cool when we got onto Phase One for the big time. That was the best! And the thing about ‘You’re So Square’, that was the one song that wasn’t even supposed to be done.  It was a song we were thinking about doing, back at Frank’s house we were gonna rehearse it and try it just as one of our songs in our repertoire. Well it turns out, we had a little bit of extra time in the Phase One studio and we just went over ‘You’re So Square’ and there it was! 2 takes maybe. They wanted ‘Under My Thumb’, but Streetheart got ahold of it. I listen to our version, and it’s kinda shitty and then you listen to Streetheart’s with full production and it’s all slick and it’s all there, it was too big of a production number for Uranus to tackle. We were more of a real meat and potatoes kind of band when it came to recording. That was the bands best sound. Real basic, just like ‘You’re So Square’, ‘Maybe Baby’, any of those rockabilly type tunes. They got the reggae stuff down really nice and all of that too, but when it came down to really beefy production tunes, the band was not there for that. They were just very real, in your face analogue, out of my amp, maybe a bass line at the most, real basic, that’s the best the band is going to sound. I think the trickiest thing they ever did, was to get Frank to double up the vocals. Get him to sing with himself in tune.
But that’s how the hit transpired, it wasn’t supposed to be, it wasn’t scheduled as one of our songs to record, but we had a little bit of extra time.

J: In the studio, with ‘Secret Agent Man’, we were almost out of time, and they said, listen to this song, you’ve got to record it. So we did it in one take and that’s the B side of the single. We’d played it live before, but we didn’t have time to plan anything out. We didn’t know what was going to end up on the record.

Jerry: We went down for a couple of days and I remember being really sick with a cold. I only remember going to the studio for one day, but it was probably 2 days and they had an echo chamber, and it was really an old school echo chamber because what it was, was an empty kind of loading dock in a warehouse area and they put some speakers out there, in fact they were our PA speakers, our Marshall PA speakers out there, then they put a mic at the far end of the room. And it’s a really big cavernous room with a high ceiling so it just echoed. They pushed the music through the speakers and then miced it at the far end for real echo. That’s funny, cause just this afternoon I was reading about Chess Studios, and that’s essentially how they did it, so I’m sure it was a common thing to do back then.

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

WW: Did you guys have any say in the album cover?

J: No, not at all. We had no say in anything.

WW: And then you have a song in the top 10, You’re So Square!!

Sitting at #3!!!!! Courtesy Jack Whiteside

J:  Then the album came out and it started to get airplay and stuff. We were number 3 on CKSL (the same radio station that Frank tried to get to listen to the band previously). Pink Floyd, Blondie and then us. And we watched it going up like this. And that was the days when those guys had some input on what they could play and how it would chart. We were on what they call the CHUM chain. Which means it was playing out east, like Fredericton it was big and here and it dotted all around and Vancouver.

D: But you gotta think back to the time, the song that was riding up the charts was ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’ (Queen), The Stray Cats were coming out, there was a slick rockabilly thing going on, on the radio, so if you’ve got Queen doing rockabilly and you’ve got Stray Cats doing rockabilly, it was a natural. Our guys in Toronto were smart enough to see that, boom, and there it is. They created this whole square wave thing. They were good guys no matter what anyone says, Steve Thomson and Ross Munro.

Jer: That was all to do with Ross Munro and Steve Thomson. It was the timing thing for sure!

J: I hate to say this, but I think we got a little bit on the coattails of that Queen song, ‘Crazy Little Thing Called Love’, because it harkened back and then they thought I sounded like Elvis or something..laughter…

F: Ya cause it (our song) sounded sort of the same. They had kind of a rockabilly sound, that echoey sound and we had a similar sound. And when it came out on the record, it came out with this big (makes booming bass noise).

D: So the biggest thrill in my life relating to what you’re talking about, the hit record. There used to be a restaurant in London on Dundas St called the Casino. I loved that restaurant and Sunday was my day, I was always gigging somewhere. My thing to do, when I was in town on Sunday, was to go to the Casino, have my clubhouse sandwich and drink copious amounts of alcohol and maybe see a show at the New Yorker. My biggest thrill in life, I would have to say, was sitting there and we came on the radio, CKSL, and I was like ‘WOW!’,that’s really nice,  I’m on the playlist with all the other guys, all the big guys. ‘I’m having my lunch, my sandwich and I’m on the radio with all those other people. That was cool! That was definitely the highlight of the record for me!
And then (years later) when you’ve got cover bands in bars. covering your song, heard that twice….the biggest thrill in my life!!!

The 2 singles released on Trilogy

WW: So after the record came out, did you start to tour more?

D: We played a gig on Rideau St in Ottawa and we also played the Chaudiere, in Quebec, and it was a hot, hot club. We even brought more gear because it was a big Quebec bar, you’ve got a big balcony, a 2000 seater plus. The dance floor was on hydraulics, that’s how big the place was. When I was playing in Ottawa, that’s where I’d go to drink after hours. And I told the guys, this is a big gig, we’re gonna need a lot of gear, a lot of lights, this is where the cream played and they paid the bucks. The boys (road crew) just couldn’t get a tap on the power, they kept blowing one of the breakers and our lights would keep going out and the PA would keep shutting down and they couldn’t tie in right. They didn’t have a handle on it, they weren’t electricians, they weren’t big time, they were just small time and they could plug their PA into this and it would work. The stuff they had, all the extra equipment they got, they didn’t know how to hook it in properly. We kept blowing up and we lasted there 2 days and we were supposed to play for a week. These guys were like the French Mafia and they called Frank into the office and Frank comes back with all of our dough, like ‘here’s your money, get the fuck out of my club’. Laughter. This was after the record. That was the only reason we got in there, cause we had a hit record, so there’s pull. You can get in places if you have a hit record and you play polka.

WW: So you guys did a CBC television thing in Vancouver?

D: First thing was to go out and go on CBC, in Vancouver. They flew us out there and boom, boom, boom. So you do the TV show and now you’re nation wide. This is management, this is how they work. Now you’re nation wide, you’re on Star Charts (actually Good Rockin’ Tonite) with Pat Benatar, Michael Jackson and all those…

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: This was before MTV and that sort of stuff. But they had a show, Reach For The Stars or something like that (featuring Terry David Mulligan, called Good Rockin’ Tonite). They wanted us to do a lip synch version of ‘You’re So Square’ and ‘Maybe Baby’. They flew us out to Vancouver, and they picked us up at the airport in a limousine, like we were real stars! And they put us up in this fancy hotel, with a little kitchenette, and there was a big living room, it was a suite. And everyone had their own rooms and it was fabulous. So we went out there for 3 or 4 days doing this taping thing. I remember there was this big huge studio and there was makeup people, and powder in the faces and everything. And then they wanted us to do this…Jerry and I had the best looking hands…laughter…You know the way ‘You’re So Square’ comes on with the (snaps fingers). So they wanted us to do this, and they had these 4 big huge cameras on big booms. coming down and swooping down on our hands and Jerry and I couldn’t get the count right, because it just comes in, right….laughter. So this effeminate guy, that was doing the directing, he says ‘ oh good god, who did this tune anyways, did you guys do this tune?’ He’s really berating us, and he says ‘it’s on the 2 and the 4…1 2 3 4’. And it wasn’t, and we couldn’t get it, cause there wasn’t a count in. It took us a long time just to get that….laughter…And then we finally got it, then we did the rest of the thing. But I’ve never seen it. Jack said he saw it. I don’t even know if it exists now. It was all lip synch, and I wanted to do a thing where I dropped my pick and pick it up…laughter…They had these girls, doing a dance, either ‘Maybe Baby’ or ‘You’re So Square’ they’d do this thing, where they’d go like this, pull out their bubble gum, behind us…….

Jer: That’s what everybody did in those days….laugher…so I’m glad I got to do that, pretend I was playing on TV.  What I remember is that it was a pretty good deal, you go out to Vancouver, you get paid, they put you up for a couple of days, first time I’d ever been to Vancouver. The studio probably took 2 hours or whatever, and then the rest of the time you got to wander around the city and check it out, it was cool.

J: It was just a patchwork of stuff that they had recorded on the sound stage. And he (Terry David Mulligan) would say, this week we’ve got so and so and so and so and they never met, it was all just pre-taped. All lip synced and pre-taped and they picked ‘You’re So Square’ and they said ‘this is a great song this is the kinda song you want to hear on the car radio when you’re driving down the road’. And I thought, why can’t we just do this in Toronto? But they flew us out there (Vancouver) on their nickel because of that big sound stage. It was huge. That’s a picture of me on the TV (pointing to picture). It didn’t air for awhile. And the episode that it aired on, Michael Jackson was on it at the same time. And my folks, the only way they could see it, to see me on TV, they had to go to Stratford (town outside of London) and rent a motel room and turn the TV on to see it. And somebody took a picture of it.
But we did 2 songs, ‘You’re So Square’ and the second single they picked out was also me singing, ‘Maybe Baby’. And they rented instruments for us and I broke a string while we were lip syncing….laughter…

Jack Whiteside on TV Picture taken by his parents, courtesy Jack Whiteside

WW: But you got to meet Terry David Mulligan?

J: No, not at all. He was just a host. They had a dressing room and flowers for us and everything. And we’re walking around Vancouver, and we look in a record store window and there’s a big huge display of the Uranus album, like phony covers, but a whole window display!

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

WW: What do you remember about the cross Canada tour you guys did next?

D: So now you’re on national television, so you come home. They treated us really well by the way, a great time. So we came home and now you’ve gotta go out and support that. So away we went, jump in the big old Budget truck that we rented and couldn’t afford and hired the guy we’ve been working with all along, Bruce Dawson on sound and it was all good.

F: So the first gig was in Vancouver (opposite side of Canada), which was kinda strange. We spelled each other off in driving. Except it was mostly Jack and I and Bruce and just went straight out. I remember we finished off a gig at The York, and then we left directly after the gig. Like at 1 o’clock (in the morning) we loaded up the truck and left. We were just driving and driving and driving. Bruce had this little mattress kind of thing, so we could spell each other off, but it was just useless. Any bump you’d go over and you’d just go jump. It was really horrible. We were popping a few bennies to stay awake and just driving straight through.

J: We actually followed Teenage Head on this circuit, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver. We had a PA and we had one roadie (Bruce), and a sound system. We had everybody and everything in this big truck and that means you’re sleeping on your amps and shit.

Uranus on tour!!! Picture by Bruce Dawson

Jer: That was a tough trip. I remember the cube van, with the very fancy couch, that was incredibly uncomfortable. It wouldn’t be bad to sleep on, but that’s what we rode on. A couch is a shitty thing to put in a van, because you need a seat with a stiff suspension. We drove and drove and drove till we got about an hour out of Calgary and then we ran out of gas. That wasn’t the same tank of gas that we started on, but we ran out of gas and it was 5 o’clock in the morning and we’re in the middle of nowhere. I can’t remember how we ended up getting gas, maybe Bruce Dawson hitchhiked up the road and found a gas station. The odometer has been disconnected so you don’t have to pay the mileage on the truck.

F: We spent one night in the Rockies, at Banff we camped at the National Park and we saw this grizzly bear, and people were warning us about grizzly bears. Then we got out to Vancouver and we had pretty good gigs out there and the manager got us a pretty good place to stay. We played 2 places in Vancouver, The Savoy and Gary Taylor’s Rock Room I remember the Savoy was in Gastown.

Telegram wishing Uranus good luck. Courtesy Jack Whiteside

Jer: But the cool part about it was that we got to play 2 weeks in Vancouver at 2 nice clubs, at one of the clubs we had an opening act, I can’t remember who. We played down in Gastown, a really cool part of town. On one side of the street are all the drug addicts and prostitutes. So it was 2 weeks in Vancouver, we had a nice place to stay, we kinda had a suite there and some guys would sleep on the couch and some guys would get a bed. When you’re in your 20’s you can do that, because you’re always drinking and you can tolerate a lot more. That was fun. There were a bunch of people from London who were living in Vancouver at the time and they would come out and see the band and it was a lot of fun. You could never travel under those circumstances these days, but I’d certainly recommend it if you’re between the ages of 19 and 28.

Uranus playing in Vancouver. Courtesy Jack Whiteside

D: The western tour was great. But we played the clubs during the beer strike, whatever year that was, so all you could get was Cider. You couldn’t even get beer. That bummed Jack out, but I like the cider and still drink it to this day, I even have some at home, BC cider, I love it. And I got to meet Wally (John Watson nicknamed Wally), he was the drummer for Doug and The Slugs, and we partied quite extensively. We went down to Wreck Beach and watched a bunch of naked people in the …laughter…had a great time!

Jer: Then we played Red Deer for 3 days.

D: Red Deer Alberta….wooooo, scary, very scary, they might as well call it Red Neck Alberta, not Red Deer. And we just didn’t fly there, they were expecting (Bob) Seger or country or something. Red Deer was not for Uranus. So we had a couple of those and you’re stuck and it wears on you.

Jer: Calgary for 3 days.

D: Calgary was awesome, we were playing there during Calgary Stampede and we even had the top notch Beatles clone band get up on stage with us and the girls were going crazy. It was like a 2000 seater room and it was jammed. You want to talk about having a good time, when you have that many people having fun!

Jack Whiteside checking the flowers! Picture by Bruce Dawson

F: I think it was the Beatlemania guys. They looked the part and they got up and jammed with us, then they did a coupla tunes by themselves. Edmonton was great, it was really rocking. It was packed every night and it was like it was a weekend every night. People had heard of us because we were on the radio. We were pretty hot in Edmonton, the people really dug it. It was a fabulous gig I really remember that one.

Jer: And that was it. We had 4 weeks and that was it. There was nothing between here and Edmonton, you didn’t play a gig in Winnipeg or Sault St Marie or something like that.

J: We barely made it back, we had to get a tow truck because the truck broke down. There’re pictures of that, the last leg of the journey is with a tow truck with our truck on an angle.

F: Ya, it wasn’t very much (of a tour), then it was back to Ontario Place (Toronto) At Ontario Place we played with Teenage Head, we opened up for them. We should have been playing on the way out and on the way back, but they didn’t set it up.

J: When we got back, like the album is out and the single is out and we played really well. We played Catholic Central High School (London high school) and they paid us $800 and all of the girls were screaming, literally. Because it was on the radio, and we’re signing autographs and everything and someone knocked on my door one time to get my autograph. That’s the power of AM radio!

WW: Well let’s talk about some of the radio appearances.

F: Oh ya, there was a lot of radio stuff. There were a lot of radio interviews. I remember CHUM FM, nobody wanted to do it, so I had to do it. That was when we were playing there (Toronto), but I don’t know if they used it or not. Because I didn’t know how to do radio interviews..the Shiite, I didn’t know how to shoot the shit. They’d ask me questions, like they were trying to say it was our debut in Toronto, and we’d played Toronto lots of times before. And I’d go ‘what do you mean it’s our debut’ but this is the hype. And they’d ask me ‘where’s it to from here, from Toronto?’ And I’d say ‘well we’ll pack up the truck and we’ll go back to London’…laughter…and the manager’s going crazy, he’s pulling his hair out…’no you’re supposed to say you’re going to Europe or’ and I’d say ‘are we?, are we going to Europe’ and he’d say ’no, but you say you heard that you were going to Europe, we’re working on something’. So I didn’t know how to shoot the bull properly, cause they’d ask me a question and I’d just answer it literally…laughter…
It was good when I was working with Jack, with 2 front men, cause he could do the rap. I didn’t like that kind of stuff.

J: There was CFNY live over the air.  People told us after we broke up, that they (CFNY) were playing our song (Gilligan’s Island) on the radio station all the time. It was a live to air (at a car show) and there was nobody there, so we had the double pressure of playing in Toronto, and it’s live on the air, to try not make any mistakes because it’s on the air and there’s nobody there. It’s like a ghost, a few people walking along and potted plants here and there…laughter…it was a joke, it was a real double whammy, not just a normal gig with nobody there, we could do that, but a gig going over the air and we’re supposed to be (makes crowd interaction noises) laugher…but it was a joke.

D: Ya, I remember that, the only reason I remember the gig is because I blew out a bass drum head, the first thing that happened, is the bass drum has a beater, right, it’s got a metal shaft that goes up to a foam ball, well the foam ball snapped off and the metal stick went right through the head, so I had to go down to Steve’s Music for that gig and get a new bass drum head. And we were so poor half the time, and it’s all that I could do to borrow a couple of bucks even to get that. I didn’t mind the poorness of it all, people took real good care of us, people would feed us and buy us beers. You know we were making more at home, and being at home, so naturally you don’t spend as much money.

Jer: Playing in London was always great. People went out then, people always came out and we had a good crowd. People came out every night of the week it seemed and you could play a gig for 6 nights. When we played The Firehall, we played for 6 nights, figure that out, different times.

WW: Let’s talk about touring with Ronnie Hawkins.

F: The managers got in with Ronnie Hawkins, cause Ronnie had the exact same sound system as we had. They wanted us to do a gig with Ronnie Hawkins, a little tour, Orillia, Penatang and Midland and up around there. There was a little festival in Midland that we were going to do. They said ‘Ronnie wants you to open up for him, but he can only pay you $100’. I thought something sounds a bit fishy’. So I said ‘well, I don’t think Ronnie knows us, and what he wants is our sound system, I know that he has the same sound system as us’. And they said ‘No, no, Ronnie really likes you’. And I said ‘he likes us for us?’ and they said ‘ya’.  I said ‘Ya, OK, we’ll do the gig’, but the rest of the guys were against it. So I calmed the other guys down and told the guys later, if he likes us for us, we’ll just go up with the old Marshall PA, this little tiny thing, we won’t use the big system. We can’t take the big thing up there anyway, because we’ll go in the hole. So we went up with the little system and Ronnie Hawkins, sure enough his guy was out on the east coast with their sound system and that’s why they wanted us to do the gig, was our sound system.

J: It was on the condition that he got to use our PA, which he didn’t realize (was a small one) which saves him a lot of hassle, no sound guy, no roadie, no PA. We had these 2 Marshall cabinets, Marshall is not known for their PA, that’s what we used. And when he was playing he said, ‘I’d like to thank Uranus for use of their PA equipment, strange equipment, but nice equipment’….laughter…but we told him, this is what we’ve got, we’re not shelling out for anything. And if he wants it, fine, and we’d open up for him and then he would play.

F: So we did these 3 gigs with Ronnie Hawkins and we just put up our little Marshall. We chummed around with him for a bit, he’s crazy, but he’s really cool, but he’s nuts, right. And I remember him seeing Dexter all pissed up, and Ronnie said to me ‘is that your drummer?’ and I said ‘ya’. Then he says ‘if that was my drummer, he’d be gone in a second, you’d better get rid of that guy’. And I said ‘no, no, he’s my friend, he’s my pal, I can’t do that’. He said ‘you gotta learn in this business, you can’t have friends fucking up on you’. We got to jam around with his band, in the rooms and stuff. There was this guy called Cocaine Carl, he was a fabulous player, a really good jammer.

J: His band was great, his guitar player was great.

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: There was this guitar player called John, and Ronnie Hawkins used to refer to him as the boy wonder. And he would always refer to him as a 16 year old wonder, but he was the same age as us, about 24, so it was just bullshit, Ronnie’s bullshit. But Ronnie was a funny guy to see and play and we talked to him quite a bit and it was kinda neat to play with a guy like that, that’s been around for a long time. A rockabilly guy.

J: We did a bunch of gigs with him. We played the El Mocambo with him too, we opened for him and Whittaker (Keith from The Demics) was there. They threw him down the stairs that night, he was slagging Ronnie Hawkins that night and he had come to see us, but it was his duty to slag Ronnie Hawkins, because he was the dinosaur and they bounced him down the stairs and fucked him up a bit.
The bands we were playing with, when they sent us out on gigs, they’d take a look at us with our little PA, like we’d be playing in Toronto and you’re judged by how much PA shit you cart in. You still had hair bands, like loud long hair bands and they’d look at us, with this little PA, and we’re doing like ‘Dixie Fried’ in this big giant bar in Toronto with this little PA and just 4 guys with short hair and no front man, nobody hanging around and they didn’t know what to make of us. Well the punks and stuff, they had their own built in thing, they didn’t have to go through any of the mainstream stuff, big gigs, they had their own little scene and gigs.

WW: So you didn’t get into the punk circuit at all then?

J: No, not at all.

WW: That’s probably where you should have been.

J: Well I don’t know about that. They never embraced us and we were still tied up with these guys (management) that thought they were gonna make us stars.

F: So when the record sort of hit, we started going on the cross country tours and that and then things sort of went sour with the band and the soundmen, the 2 bikers. Ben hated the managers with a passion. I didn’t like them, I thought they were greasy too. Ben took it as a real personal thing that we would side with the managers as opposed to siding with him, he took sides right. He said ‘Let’s just dump those fucking managers, and let’s get back to just being ourselves out on the road, just you guys and us’. But we signed with them, we were in now, and I said ‘I don’t like them as much as you’. And he (Ben) was just thinking of it as us or them, and Bruce, he was always cool. So Bruce and him got into an argument about it and Ben just said ‘fuck it’ and he quit. He was out of the scene, so that was kind of a sour note to see that go and we were all getting sick and tired of a lot of the shit the managers would lay on us. And they never paid us any of the money they got for the record.

WW: No royalties?


WW: You didn’t end up paying for your studio time, did you?

F: No, we didn’t pay for any of that. But they ripped us off for a lot of other things. And then the gigs started getting weird. They booked us at a lot of places, because that was one of our stipulations, to keep us working all of the time. But some of the gigs were pretty weird. They were working on us to go to Europe and stuff like that, but we never went through with it, we just packed it in. Cause the gigs were getting weird, and we were all getting sick of that. But Dexter was the only guy that wanted to keep going.

D:  Ross and Steve, good guys. I believe they played fair. They played total ball with us and they gave us the break we needed. My feelings (long pause) and I know exactly what went on in the business and I’ve been in the business for a long, long time. Everyone’s gotta get a piece, and they (the rest of the band) resented that. Frank and Jack and Fletch just resented it every time that we went out to do a gig and there’d be less money than we were expecting and there’d be ‘what am I doing this for?’ It’s what they wanted to do, they wanted to write songs, have a hit record, blah blah blah, you gotta get out and do it. They wanted the instant reward, other than the handclaps, they wanted to see money, they wanted to see everything. You gotta pay to play, you know. They’re gonna give you all of this, but they’re not doing it for free…laughter…
They only took what was required from us, money, time, access to a lot of gigs where we didn’t really make any money, exposure, every pro loves that word exposure.
Oh, it means ‘no pay, travel time, oh ok, it cost me money and be lucky if I get a dinner out of the damn thing’. But you gotta get that exposure.

F: It was Jerry that first approached it.  We always had 3 rooms, Jack would bunk with Bruce, Jerry and I would have a room and we’d always give Dexter a room by himself….laughter..I remember Jerry lying in bed and saying to me ‘you know I think I’m at the end of my tether’. And I kinda thought that way too, and I said ‘Let’s talk to Jack about it’ and we talked to Jack about it the next day and he said ‘I was thinking the same thing, but I didn’t want to say anything’.  After a Huntsville Ontario gig, July 1980 is when we broke up. We really should have just taken some time off to get back to what we were all about and re-group and that kind of thing. But we just wanted to pack it in I guess. We were all getting sick of it then, but Dexter was the only one that really wanted to tough it out.

F: We did gigs after that, but that’s when we decided to pack it in. But we still did gigs as Uranus, but not on the road and not with the managers. And they said they were going to sue us cause we were doing gigs.

J: This is what nobody knows about. I had to phone these guys (management) to tell them that we had broken up. Jerry wanted to quit first, so we quit. And then I had to phone them and they just reamed me out on the phone for a half hour or more, yelling and screaming, you can’t do this, we’ve got this all booked and what are you talking about. Well I had to say, you can’t get blood from a stone, we don’t exist, so we can’t play anywhere or record anymore, because we’ve broken up.

D: Ya, there was a question at the time of a lawsuit. We were under contract for 3 years and all that came down to, they knew we didn’t have any money and they weren’t going to get any money out of us.  Don’t forget they were lawyers.

J: So you can imagine this, these 2 guys flipping out and seeing all of their dreams going down and they had us going out east (Eastern Canada tour) and we said no. And they said, ‘oh you can’t handle the success’. And we said ‘no, we’d been together for easily 5 years at that time and we’re all professional musicians and you get paid when you play, we’d learned our craft, there was no DIY, you’re in a band stuff. We’d all paid our dues, we’d all learned our instruments and you get paid to play’. And they had all these freebies for us to play, ‘good exposure boys’. Playing in record stores and shit, which other bands are doing and you’d go along with it because that’s what you did, but we didn’t buy into it and we didn’t want to do it.

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: One of the things that pissed me off, is it said in the contract that they as their corporation, it was Trilogy, would pay for all promotion things. So when they wanted us to do these free gigs, to promote the album and stuff, I said no. If you’re going to pay for promotion, then you pay us to do the gig. You pay us to do the work, cause that’s promoting, and you said you were going to pay for promotion. And they said, no no, and Jack argued on their side and said ‘come on, it’s our record’. But I said ‘no, you pay us, because that’s part of the promotion’. They didn’t see it that way, and there were a few arguments about that. And then we’d do more and more gigs. There wasn’t any time to do any practice, cause we said that we wanted to work all of the time, but that sort of worked against us. We never had any time to re-group or learn any new songs and practice to see where else we were going. I kinda wanted to do some more original stuff and Jack wanted to keep doing rockabilly stuff. I liked the rockabilly stuff, I thought maybe we could write our own rockabilly stuff. But that was sorta near the end, but it was all due to that manager sort of stuff.

WW: Did Trilogy offer you any more studio time, a follow up to the record.

F: They started to get behind us, they wanted us to do some more stuff. They were kinda hurt when we said we were gonna pack it in. They said come on think it over because we’ve got some more stuff coming up. But we decided to pack it in.

J: Then the Free Press (London daily newspaper) is phoning me and it’s in the newspaper with the headline “Uranus breaks up at zenith, stars to follow’, some bad pun or something. This is the quote, ‘we saw the soft underbelly of the Canadian music industry and we recoiled’. Cause we could tell, it was just going to be more of the same, it happened to every band and they just went along with it. We kept the name, but that was fairly shortly lived.

F: So we just finished the gigs that we had, do the bikers picnic and then pack it in after that. In the fall of 1980 Ralph Dame joined (on bass). None of us had jobs and we had to get some money somehow.

D: They just wanted us to finish out the contract for them and they had Ronnie Hawkins who owned Ye Olde City Hall (London club, corner of Wellington and Dundas), so we did a number of engagements for them up there, just engagements where they took their chunk. We were signed up for 3 LP’s and that’s what really hurts, man you guys had the opportunity at Phase One, management backing you.  They could have gone a little further cause all the cards were in place, they had another tour lined up, another cover going (‘Maybe Baby’) and you’re pushing it with 2 covers on the radio, but that’s OK, at least it was in the works. ‘Maybe Baby’ was slated to come out next as we carried on with the tour, it was all timing, it was all thought out, these guys aren’t stupid. Everything was in the works, the eastern tour was in the works, another 45 was in the works all you’ve gotta do is roll with it, suck it up and go on the road. It came back here and it went ERRRRRRR…(loud sound of rubber tires stopping quickly on pavement) brakes on full, I’m home, I ain’t going  nowhere.

WW: When Uranus got back together, did you play in the band at all?

Jer: No, that was Ralph (Dame). I don’t remember all the details. I went back to school and that was a period where there was no way that I could do it. Cause it was doing gigs in the middle of the week. I had my fun and I figured that was enough. I don’t know if we were in a rut or whatever it was. We rode it pretty good for a spell, I don’t know how long that spell was. We did the trip out west, then there was a trip out east coming up and we said, I dunno, it’s just too tough. Even then, it was just too tough. I think we took that whole thing as far as it was gonna go and we realized it at the time.

WW: Any idea of how well the album did across Canada?

F: I think they got 10000 printed and I bought up the last little thing from them. They only had about 80 albums left and that’s all the money I ever made from that album. It was my own deal, I went to them and said we were reforming and were gonna do a couple of Uranus gigs and I said do you have any stuff around that I can get from you? And they said ‘we’ve got about 80 albums, and a bunch of singles and some posters and stuff and you can have the whole bunch for $300 or something’, I was talking to them on the phone, right. So I said OK, and then I thought, we never got a dime for this stuff, so they should be giving me this stuff for free. So I came down, and I said ‘listen, you guys never gave us a dime, I’ll tell you what, I’ve got $50 in my pocket, why don’t you just give me everything you’ve got for $50?’ So I got all of the stuff, brought it back down and we flogged it (the album) off the stage for $4.

WW: Let’s talk about playing live to air from the Embassy Hotel on CHRW (university radio  station) in London Ontario.

J: I don’t know how they came about to want us to do that. We were out of place there, as there were more of these alternative kind of bands playing there. And we were becoming the establishment in 2 years, the old farts or the old guard or something. And at that time there were a million bands, they were in the audience and then they were in a band. I don’t remember a lot about that night, it wasn’t an exceptional night as far as the audience was concerned.

WW: Afterthoughts….

Jer: If we’d never met Ross Munro and Steve Thomson then of course we’d never have made the record or been on Terry David Mulligan or any of that shit, and that’s why all that stuff happened, because of those guys. I don’t know why they were interested in us. And we sounded pretty good, I listen to those recordings, that recording from CFNY sounded pretty good. We had been together a couple of years and played those songs umpteen different times. To me, playing in Uranus was no different than any other band.

What Wave Archives

J: We owned this town for 2 years easily, 78, 79, 80 around that time.  And The Demics fucked off to Toronto fairly fast. Uranus has always been a London band literally. We reigned, people were lining up and shit.
We’re in the Canadian encyclopedia of rock’n’roll. And my parents had a new respect for me when the album came out. They let us practice at their place and learned to ignore it and they were pretty good about it. We’d play in the basement and they let some of the guys crash over. You’d get kicked out of the house when you had hair down to there and get called down to the office to see the principal.

D: We had some good times, we had some great times. Before we hooked up with Ross and those guys we were doing the local thing and going up to Kincardine. We had a fan base. I’ve got no beefs with those guys (Ross and Steve) but I get the feeling from Jack and Frank that they really hated it.
I just think that you had to do, what you had to do. I don’t feel that the band, or key members of the band were ready for quote/unquote; the big time. You have to spend, as an actor, musician, artist of any sort, even as a good salesperson, you’re going to have to do some road time and bite it. You gotta bite it, and there was definitely a problem with that.
And I’m telling you right now, the only reason the band didn’t succeed, is that they couldn’t handle it, they’re homeboys, they want to be in front of their friends and their fans here at home, they didn’t want to get out there in Red Deer Alberta, Halifax or anywhere, they just wanted to be home. As much as I love Frank and Jack and Fletch, if anything goes wrong, they’re homebodies, ‘ahhhh, this sucks, I hate this’ but you gotta go with it. They had the song power, they had the writing ability, they had the band, they had the people behind them.
Even today, like shit, I really made a mistake, I could have my doctorate in music right now, I could have gone to the Conservatory, instead I went for the rock’n’roll., god damn stupid fuck…hahahahaha…..It was Really a Good time!!

London Free Press courtesy Jack Whiteside

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Uranus the Band.....Interview Part 2

This is Part 2 of a rather lengthy interview with the band Uranus. In this part, we learn about the Ricky McLagen Review, Cheeseburger Deluxe and Uranus. And we learn about the very beginnings of the punk/new wave music/art scene in London Ontario....let's call this part:

Ricky McLagen Review and Cheeseburger Deluxe

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

Ricky McLagen Review

Jack: So then we (Jack and Cam Marshman) came back (to London) and we said we’ll play on our own, as a duo. And we started to play at the York Hotel (now Call The Office) for $15 a night, like a Tuesday night with just bass and guitar. The York was still kind of a hip place to play, and when we would come to London as Choker we would hang out there and we had a lot of fans in London still. Then we had a trio with Paul DeAngelis, a drummer and me and Cam, so 3 guys from Choker and we traveled all around, still not playing anything on the radio but we made a few concessions, we were always doing Elvis and Buddy Holly stuff.

WW: What was this band called?

Jack: The Ricky McLagen Review. First just as a 3 piece, it was just Ricky McLagen. It was just a guy I went to school with and we picked the name because he had a sister named Lulu, Lulu McLagen. I dunno, it just sounded good, there was no Ricky. And we got bought off and shipped out and we were playing as a trio and we were in over our heads. We had a guy in London who booked trios, send you anywhere because they only had to pay you so much. It was good enough money, but we’d get misbooked all the time. What they wanted was, ‘Stairway To Heaven’, but really quiet, so you couldn’t please everybody all the time. So we’d try and suss the place out, and pass ourselves off as an oldies band if we have to, or go more country, old country, Merle Haggard and Johnny Horton, still we always had a disdain for showmanship. That was one write up, it said ‘despite their disdain for showmanship…’ That’s a plus, I think in some ways.

London Free Press courtesy of Jack Whiteside

Frank: I went back to school in 74 at Western (University). I went back as a mature student and I started flunking out cause I was playing in bands, I never took it that seriously. Then 75/76 Jack and Cam moved back to London and that’s when they came to my house (as Ricky McLagen Review). Jack didn’t know me that well, and Cam says, ‘we should get this guy on piano, and he plays a little guitar’. At that time they were doing a lot of different stuff, stuff that I’d never done before. Some rockabilly and some Bo Diddley and stuff like that. So Jack came over to the house, and I was out at the time and Jerry let him into the house. And Jack wanted to find out what kinda guy I was, I had one of those little record players that fold down, and had the speakers on the side.

 J:  So I looked over, and it was ‘Greenback Dollar’ by the Kingston Trio and I said ‘He’s in!’….laughter….anybody, like that’s hip to be square to be listening to ‘Greenback Dollar’ and then he was in. We basically said, why don’t you come and play piano with us, cause he was a piano player, a blues guy. So I said, if you don’t know the song, just tinkle…laughter…meaning like Floyd Cramer, those are my words. Cause he could sing and add another dimension and do a bunch of different stuff.

Setlist courtesy of Jack Whiteside

F: That was about 75/76 and we started playing out at The York and we had a coupla gigs at The Vic. They were into some stuff like The Everly Brothers and other stuff that I’d never done before. They started to do more rockabilly, Buddy Holly and stuff like that and that’s when I started getting into that with those guys. And I’d always liked Dylan, so I thought this is a chance for me to do some Dylan stuff, cause the blues bands would never want to do that. I really liked it because I was learning new stuff on the piano. We used to play at bars that had a piano. I had an amp and I had this little thing called a DeArmand.  It was a contact mic, I would take a cap off of a salt shaker and it would fit perfectly on the back of one of the beams in the back of the piano and ram it in there. And then it sounded really amplified and it came out good. We did that for awhile, then I got a Fender Rhodes in Nashville, smuggled it across the border without paying duty. And we did some commercial tunes to get some jobs, so we’d do stuff like Eagles ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ and stuff like that, ya it was crappy, but we’d do that as little as possible. And then we’d branch off and do some country stuff to get some country gigs. We’d do it just to get gigs. But we were playing quite a bit, and we toured all around Ontario and stuff like that. Sometimes those guys would do a 3 piece gig without me, cause there was no room for a piano. That was alright, cause some gigs the money wasn’t there, so they’d do a 3 piece.

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

J: Anyways, but sometimes, and this isn’t very nice, but sometimes, we just wanted the 3 piece money and we’d just leave Frank, and say, ‘oh that’s just a 3 piece thing’…laughter, I still kid him about that. I’d say, ‘Hey Frank, you remember that gig in Espanola?’ and he would say ‘that was the 3 piece PRICK band’…laughter…I didn’t know him well enough, but I shouldn’t have done that. Eventually it was the 4 piece Ricky McLagen Revue, we played in London a lot and about half in Toronto, 6 nighters and matinees and the amateur contests.
But this is also where the Blue Boot (later re-named Cedar Lounge, north west corner of King and Talbot in London) comes in. And what was going on at the Blue Boot was bluegrass and all of the native people were going there. I came back to London, and it was still the dark ages of bluegrass…
The Sheiks and these people are playing at the Vic, or the York. Anyways, Cam (while still in RMR) ended up playing with this group, I don’t remember what they were called, Neal McAuly was their guitar player and we gradually, through Cam and I, got the McLagens into the Blue Boot. And then we would play there and it would start changing, there was a drummer you know, and there were a lot of native people there. And it was this great old hotel, old timers, drinking draught. They’d be there when you came to set up in the afternoon and they’d be there when you started playing at night. And you had to watch yourself because it was dangerous. They had a railing, not chicken wire, but a railing right in front of the stage. There were fights and people throwing stuff and shit. Everybody felt that, there was The Flying Horse, The Flying Chair, The Flying Fist, you really had to be careful, you couldn’t look at some chick in the audience, cause if you looked wrong, the boyfriend would be down your throat. But my point is, we started converting (changing from bluegrass music to rock’n’roll) that place.

Courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: We did that from about 75 to early 77.

J: That ended because our drummer, Paul went off to do something or other. Cam, he was always getting gigs cause they were always looking for bass players and that’s basically when Uranus started.

Cheeseburger Deluxe/Uranus

Frank:  Then in early 77 we (RMR) disbanded and formed Uranus, first it was Cheeseburger Deluxe (that lasted about 4 or 5 months) and that was with Jack, Jerry (on bass), a guy named Steve Alfred on drums, myself on piano and guitar and Tim Woodcock on guitar.  We didn’t know what kind of name we wanted. I actually thought that Cheeseburger Deluxe was kinda cheesy…laughter… but Uranus was kinda stupid too, cause it sounded like an arena type band…I think it was Jerry came up with that name, or it was kinda him and me talking about it and we went through the whole joke thing about it…and we were both laughing. We started branching out a little more to some of the stuff that was coming out. When RMR was playing, I started reading in magazines about this punk stuff coming out in Britain. I’d heard about the Ramones before. And I really liked that there was this kind of opening up, and there were a lot of bands happening and getting away from this big arena rock with the big huge shows and all of that. And I thought this is more like it, I thought that was really cool. And when we formed Uranus, we still had a lot of blues influence, cause Tim liked to do strictly blues and I liked playing blues.  Then we started playing The Blue Boot and stuff like that…The Blue Boot and The Firehall and The York and all of the bars were playing bluegrass. There was this bluegrass lock on London. And that’s when Jack used to call it the dark ages of bluegrass in London…and we kinda broke that. We were one of the first bands to break that bluegrass cycle. And because of Jack’s influence, we started playing more Buddy Holly and early Elvis and Roy Orbison and stuff like that. So there was that kinda bridge thing happening and then Woodcock quit, Jack likes to say we threw him outta the band, but he definitely quit.

Uranus with Tim Woodcock, far right. Photo by Bruce Jones

Jer: Tim left to go to guitar making school in Arizona and we got a guy named Neil McAuly.

F:  Then Steve Alfred left…then Jerry said ‘we can ask Dexter, but I’m just a little worried about him cause he’s kinda crazy to work with but he’s a really good drummer’. I thought we just had to get this guy.

Neil McAuly on guitar. Photo by Robert Diebert

D: I was going to go to the Conservatory (of Music) there (in Toronto), I had my grants and loans for music, I was accepted by the Profs and the Dean and sure as shit, about a month before school started, I was selecting my courses and Frank calls me. I was living with a girl (in Toronto) and having relationship problems. Frank says ‘c’mon Dex, come on back to London, we got a band and it’s going to be a hit’. And I said. ‘but Frank I’m going to go to school for music and do something with myself’. And Frank says ‘C’mon we’re going to be a hit, we’re going to do recordings and we’re going to make it’. I didn’t have a car or nothing and him (Frank) and Jerry showed up in this old beater and they picked me up in Toronto and off we went back to London.
That was 78, there was a lot of living room time. I came back here with nothing, no money, and Frank knew that. So he let me stay with him at his Mom’s house that he was staying at. And if they moved I had to move too cause I had nowhere to go. They weren’t gigging enough to support me. It was like the York Hotel for $25 or $30 for the week and a couple of free beers. It wasn’t a living but we created music. We stayed fast to working on our tunes. There was a lot of writing going on, like Frank was honing ‘I’m Wonderful’ and ‘5 Bucks’, those were his tunes. Jack had some pretty good tunes. Jack and Frank, I feel, were a really good chemistry together, they really were. I think Jack and Frank together were a good yin yang as it were and they worked really well together. And then they had a great rhythm section behind them that had years prior to that band, so they were already tight, Jerry and myself. And with strong blues roots, which keeps everything just on the up and up, we’re not outside, we just want everything to go Boom Boom Boom to keep everything tight. It was a good time, there never was any real money.

F:  And when he (Dexter) came down, I thought he was just dynamite, his playing was just fabulous. So we played in that form, with Neil McAuly and myself, Jerry, Jack and Dexter, but it wasn’t very long because Neil quit. We did a gig up in Kincardine and we did some rock and roll stuff on the road that freaked him out. It freaked all of us out, but he thought that that was what we were all about.  He said he couldn’t keep up with that kind of lifestyle so he just packed it in. He was a good player.

D: He (Neil) couldn’t take the shenanigans.

J: We were starting to do more and more rock’n’roll, Rockpile stuff and trying to get away from the 12 bar blues and all those guys. Then we started getting real popular at The York and the Boot. But the turning point, was when we got Frank….’let’s get rid of the fucking piano, cause it’s hard to lug around and it doesn’t fit in with all this rock’n’roll stuff’. When we did that, it freed Frank up, he played acoustic guitar and then people could see him moving. You could see me moving and it just added so much and that was the perfect thing to do. And when we did that, that’s when Uranus began to me.

F: It took awhile for me to switch cause I was still playing a lot of piano. I was more and more playing the guitar cause it was easier to move, but we still had the piano around.
And then we started getting into some of the newer stuff that started coming out in 77. We were doing some Elvis Costello and some Nick Lowe and stuff like that and did some Dave Edmunds. And it was for certain occasions we’d learn some songs, like when we had to play a wedding, ‘I Knew The Bride When She Used To Rock And Roll’…that’s when we learned that song and we’d just add it to the repertoire.

J: We were doing ‘I Knew The Bride’ and ‘Back To School Days’ and people were really starting to dig this stuff and we said let’s just go for this, cause that’s what they want. I’d always done stuff like ‘Matchbox’, like fast rock’n’roll, stuff.

Legendary Stork Club in Port Stanley. Courtesy Jack Whiteside

F: And then we started leaning a little more to rock’n’roll and rockabilly and stuff like that. But it was still a mix. And we kept hammering away playing the York and the Vic and it kept getting better as we went along. And I thought, this is the best band I’ve ever been in. And at that point with Dexter, Jerry and Jack, here’s what I really, really want to do. We would practice like crazy, we’d practice everyday, almost everyday like a job we’d be over at Dexter’s place.

WW: Why do you think you were getting so many different kinds of people out to your shows?

J: Well, we knew a lot of people, and we knew different kinds of people. Like we knew these guys that were hockey players, Doug Mitchell was a friend of ours and he was an artist and we met all these guys and they would play hockey every Saturday night for years. And after the game they would go to the Vic for last call and just get rivers of draught…laughter… and so we would go there because we didn’t have any money and just partake of the draughts…laughter…. And then they started hiring us for their hockey awards thing on these farms on these flatbed trucks and stuff.

F: It was a cross section of people coming out to see us. We had a biker contingent and some of the punkers coming out to see us and a lot of students and professors from Western. Jack would say, ‘hey there’s some bikers coming out, why don’t we do ‘Motorbikin’ by Chris Spedding?’  We’d do that and the punks would love that too. The bikers would go crazy when you do ‘Motorbikin’, they thought it was great and it was just for them.

J: The bikers liked us. The motorcycle enthusiasts, not gang guys, no patches or stuff. Kind of scary guys and I knew some of them, growing up in the East end, the tough guys. But they liked the rock’n’roll and who else was playing it, nobody. You could go see the radio bands, but no, this was better.

F: The bikers would follow us around a lot, they’d come to little places outside of town, like Goderich and Aylmer and places like that. So when we got gigs out of town, these bikers would roll in, 30 or 40 bikes…

J: We played in Forest, towards the Bend (Grand Bend, on Lake Huron), a nice place and all of the bikers would come out and there’d be 30 bikes out front and we’d come in and all the owners came out and god, they were scared! Until they (the bikers) started buying just jug after jug after jug of draught and they saw all the money. They’d just sit there and drink jugs all night and listen to the band and after, they’d all get out there and get on their bikes. All 30 bikes lined up and through some unseen signal, all you’d hear is vroom vroom vroom and they all started up. And another unseen signal, they all headed out down the road in a line and I used to love that. We used to play at their picnics all the time every year. We weren’t afraid of those guys.

Uranus at a biker or hockey picnic. Photo by Bruce Jones

F: So 2 of the bikers, Ben Webster and Bruce Dawson came up to us and said ‘we want to make a deal with you. We’ve got this state of the art sound system and we want to work with you and do sound for you and stuff like that’. So we said ‘what do you know about sound?’ And they said nothing, so we worked with them for a little bit and Bruce became really good, Bruce was a quick learner.

J: Bruce got to be the sound man, because he had the best stereo at home, or the best sound in his truck or something like that…it’s like the best guitar player gets to be the lead guitar player. So he was the sound guy and the other guy was the light guy, so fine, just tune it in and let’s have some fun, it’s easy, it’s not Pink Floyd it was just good little rock’n’roll songs, make it loud enough for them to dance to it and we’ll be fine.

F: So we’d get him at rehearsals and we’d work on getting the sound down. We’d want little echo things at a specific spot of the song and we’d write out a setlist and what to do and where to pan and echo. And he really got that down, and our shows started to get really going. And Ben, he didn’t do too much sound, he did a bit, but he wasn’t as good as Bruce, who was really good.

WW: Let’s talk about recording at Roger Quick Studio.

F: So we did the recording of ‘Lonesome Train’ and ‘All Along The Watchtower’ as sort of a reggae kind of version out at this guy’s (Roger Quick, long time country artist who released many records) place in Parkhill Studios. He took an interest in us, and he said ‘come on out and play at Parkhill’.  It was an old country singer at this Parkhill Studio and this guy did a terrific job on recording us. It sounded really crisp and clean and good.

D: Ya, that was great, that was the best recording. It was awesome, like the later digital recording of the Uranus album, ‘You’re So Square’, after the LP, like the digital CD (Unidisc Records), a little juicier. But the Roger Quick stuff really had an edge to it, it was really nice, it was analogue, it was hot, it would sizzle, it was old school!

Jer: I can’t remember what else we recorded there, maybe 4 tunes. I remember there was a young guy that did the engineering there, and it was 4 track.

WW: But none of that was released was it?

Jer: No,no, I’m not sure what the story was there.

WW: Did you record the first 7” at Awes Studio?

J: Ya, it was on top of the CKSL building (downtown on Richmond St west side between York and King) and we made a little EP, but we were supposed to make an album, but it just kept going on and on. We did more than that, but not enough to make a whole album, so they just picked those 4 to put on an EP. They had these lame engineer guys from Fanshawe. And this kept going on and we kept going up there, like what the hell, let’s just keep doing tunes. That was in February 1978.

D: Ya, Phil Chedore, I think that was the guy that was up there. It was cool, he gave us a lot of free reign up there. That’s where the EP came from, but nobody seems to have any of the rest of it. Maybe they used the masters and recorded over them, you could do that back then. That was a great experience. We did that song, ‘Don’t You Just Know It’ and I had a copy of it on cassette somewhere. It was a good studio experience up there with those guys, I thoroughly enjoyed it. I love studio time.

WW: So you put the first 7” EP yourself?

F: Yep, we did maybe 1000 copies or 500. We sold them off stage and that kinda thing.

EP that was recorded at Awes Studio. There was no picture sleeve

J: Ya, we kind of did an end runner on those guys, cause they weren’t coming through for us. We actually drove to Toronto to the factory and picked up the boxes of records. There’s one song on the record that’s unfinished, that I sing, that I wrote.  There’s supposed to be a harmony vocal on it and my vocal sounds really stupid just by itself. It’s called “Handcuffs”, nobody’s proud of that…laughter..’I’m Wonderful’ is good on that one. And I remember the first time I started hearing about punks and punk rock when we were recording there. So I’m at Awes Studios and I’m walking down the stairs and I met Keith Whittaker (singer of The Demics) and he knew me because he used to come out and see us as Choker. So he knew about my band and that we had gone to Toronto and came back to London and broke up and we didn’t crack Toronto and blah blah blah. But he used to come out and see us and he knew my band and stuff. And so I’d talked to him and I saw these guys with leather jackets on….it was Keith and the artist guy, Gerard Pas who used a cane and had polio, he was actually a Timmy (award for physically disabled children). And they had written, on his jacket, ‘gimp’, on him in like red and blood and stuff and I thought, oh man, that’s kinda…And he was kinda going along with it, because they were all just hopped up and they were going on about burning Beatles albums and how nobody likes The Stones anymore and this and that and the attitude and everybody is wearing leathers and stuff. But we just thought it was an underground passing little thing.

Blue Boot poster courtesy What Wave Archives

WW: So why did you do your own record, was it because of the punk bands at the time doing their own records?

F: No, we just wanted to do something. We never got a contract or anything. We always thought if we wanted to do something, we’d have to do it ourselves. I would even have cassettes of the band, I thought they sounded really good and I’d take them down to CKSL (local AM top 40 radio station) and they would just throw me out. They didn’t want nothing to do with it. And then I’d say, ‘how about playing some local stuff’ and they’d say ‘we play all the hits all the time’, is what the guy used to say to me on the phone. That just means you’re just following the rest of the world, so why don’t you just play some local stuff. And he’d say ‘I’ll tell you what we do, we play all the hits all the time’…and he kept repeating that. And I said ‘OK’, and I started getting really despondent about the whole music scene. Like what are you supposed to do, how are you supposed to crack the scene, are you supposed to get a manager and this and that?
WW: Were you guys working non music jobs at the time?

F: No, I wanted to do music full time. I think Dexter used to get the odd job working, cause he used to go through money like crazy…laughter. At that time around 77/78 we just did it boom, whole hog, all music. At that point I thought, I’m not in any more blues bands, I’m in a rock’n’roll band. That’s what I referred to us as. If somebody said ‘what do you do?’ I’d say ‘we play rock’n’roll’…that’s it’. And then we started getting a really big following and it was pretty exciting too.

J:  Because you’ve got Frank out there and he’s moving and grooving and we’re jiving each other and stuff. Frank lost a lot of weight and stuff and he looked good. So visually, it was much, much better and we were just getting tighter and tighter and choosing better, tight little rock’n’roll songs and originals that fit. You know, we did ‘High School’ by The MC5 and stuff like that. So then, we were getting this big following at The Cedar Lounge (formerly The Blue Boot Hotel). We had this little residency there by now, and we got this for groups (not the bluegrass and folk stuff). So one time we had this out of town gig but we didn’t want to lose the residency, so we said we’ll get a band for you.

Poster What Wave Archives

F: We knew all of those bands that were starting up, like The Demics and stuff. We were friends with those guys, even before they played.

J: So I said, Keith (Whittaker of The Demics) how about your band?  And I said Keith, what about this, cause he was bugging us and said he had a band and he had the accent and I said why don’t we get your band to play? More or less as a joke, cause we didn’t know anything about them and it was sort of a put up or shut up. They had played one or 2 gigs, maybe up in a loft (Mike Niederman’s loft December 1977) or an art opening or something. And I said play for the public, play downtown!

F: (Aug 78 approx). I went to Chester, the guy who owned the place (Blue Boot), I said ’give these guys a chance, cause this is gonna be new stuff’, he said ‘I dunno’, even when we went from the bluegrass to rock’n’roll, ‘I dunno about that’.  I said’ take a look at your books, if you’re interested in money’ and he did and he said ‘well OK’ so they (The Demics) got a job and the whole place went completely wide open.

Poster What Wave Archives

J: But what happened, is that it all came out of the woodwork, all of the punks, everybody who was secretly aspiring to be a punk showed up for these guys and the rest is history. It didn’t blow up in our face, it was just good all around.

WW: So you would alternate weekends with those guys…

J: Ya, so we could both fill the place. And the best thing was, the cross over audience. At first it was, what the fuck is this stuff? And I’d go, this is rock’n’roll and people were dancing and people were grooving. So their audience would come over and see us and our audience would go to see them, the bikers and those guys. And there’d be no reason to be afraid of those guys, it’s just fun. A lot of posing and a lot of poseurs. We got them in the door, but they did the rest themselves (The Demics packing The Cedar Lounge), I wouldn’t take anything away from them.

F: Then it was everything after that, like NFG (local punk combo) came in and started playing. And all of those guys really dug us, they’d come out to see us play, the cowboys (some early punks dressed like cowboys) and Keith Whittaker and those guys used to come out and see us lots too. We’d jam and they’d get on stage and stuff. I remember Keith coming up to jam with us, doing some Elvis Costello tunes and stuff like that or Nick Lowe songs. But I can’t remember them (Demics) doing a gig with us, unless it was at the Polish Hall…

J: Oh ya, we played a few gigs with them. We played one big gig with them at the Polish Hall, a Halloween gig with them, 78 or 79. And we alternated sets with them, because we didn’t know who was the headliner and we had our mutual respect. By that time I was hanging out a lot with Keith and Lyndon (Andrews, local artist who did many of the posters for both bands), we’d go to the York almost every day and drink draught and play crib. They (Demics) had 4 guys, they had good chemistry, they were reasonable good rock’n’roll guys. They were cool and we hung out a lot. We did a gig in Toronto at the Horseshoe with us, The Demics and The Regulators (another London new wave/punk band). There was hardly anyone there. That’s where I asked the guy to turn down the monitors and Whittaker couldn’t believe it, that I had too much monitor. He was always like ‘MORE MONITOR!!”…that’s always a joke with Frank. These guys had no dues, they just came up from out of nowhere and suddenly they can hire a PA guy and have a big loud sound. They sounded good because they rented a PA every time because they weren’t concerned about the money. I used to go down and see those guys and I enjoyed myself.

WW: So you guys went up to Thunder Bay (in Northern Ontario) to play?

Courtesy of Jack Whiteside

D: Ya, we did a couple of shows for Greenpeace in Thunder Bay, that area. A friend of Jack’s, old friend, he was doing some stuff with Greenpeace, save the whales, save the trees, save the bar mitzvah, save whatever. We did a number of shows up there and it was amazing! Like we’d open up for rock bands, like in arenas, doing a couple of these things in arenas and stuff like that. We were amazed, it was like a regular rock show, the guys got a big guitar rack the size of this table with 20 guitars on it and you can’t even see the drummer for the drums and we’re opening for these kind of guys…laughter, it’s just a joke, right?
It was really cool though, cause we also did some club dates up there, which really in a way defines a fan base. We did this one place called Bunnies Motor Inn, in Thunder Bay, I think it’s still there, but it’s called something else. We had about 12 or 15 people from London come up on bikes, cars, plus friends from the area that knew Jack and this guy Win Anderson, who promoted the whole thing. And one night at Bunnies Motel there was a whole floor with all of our fans, in the motel and we partied all frigging night long. I mean, it was a good night, great time. We did a lot of stuff like that, really good times and no one remembers. We had people coming all the way from London to Thunder Bay, that’s like 18 hours solid driving. It was a great time! The people that came to see us, from back here in London partied their asses off! It was almost like something out of the 60’s, you go in any door and there’s people doing all kinds of wild things… laughter…’what’s behind door # 2, oh, they’re all naked’. It was rock’n’roll. I remember to this day walking into one of those rooms and I sat down on a chair and I looked around and everyone was naked. And then I went into another room and they’re all getting high, and then go into another room and they’re all drinking and doing shooters. But they were all people that you knew, so you were welcome in any room and it was a hell of a party! It was really bizarre and they were all our friends and we’re 1000 miles from home. We did a few of those little mini tours. But this Thunder Bay stuff and the little tours was before the record guys. This was our friends in the industry trying to get us gigs and do a little traveling. There’s a picture somewhere of (Jerry) Fletcher driving the truck with a U Haul by Lake Superior. Time to get some suits involved in this rock’n’roll.

Here's a link to Part 1, the beginnings: