Pick of the Week
“Roller”, April Wine (1979)
In my mind this is one of the greatest Canadian bands of all time. This is a case where Cancon certainly helped a Canadian band. What has always left me really puzzled is why they did not do better in the U.S., at least not like their contemporaries, like Rush? I question what their management and the record companies were doing. They were always a consistent, enduring, solid band that produced many, many fine rock songs and great ballads. Goodwyn's voice was better than Geddy Lee's, any day of the week - a great rock voice for sure.
In 1969 the Henman brothers of Nova Scotia, with their cousin Jimmy got together with fellow musician Myles Goodwyn. They moved to Montreal from Halifax in 1970 to produce their first record on Aquarius records with the Goodwyn penned “Fast Train”. Jim Henman left the band in ’71 to be replaced by a different Jim, Jim Clench of Montreal.
Producer Ralph Murphy heard them and it became his mission to give them an international hit. They did very well with “Could Have Been a Lady”, which was song first recorded in England by ‘Hot Chocolate’. It went number 1 in Canada, and cracked the top 30 in the U.S. They also covered Elton John’s “Bad Side of the Moon” that did reasonably well.
They were just getting warmed up. In 1973 they put out the album “Electric Jewels” with a hard edged sound. It produced rockers “Just Like That” and “Weeping Widow”. There was a line-up change during the production of this album which saw the founding Henman brothers replaced with veteran drummer Jerry Mercer1 and guitarist Gary Moffet.
Now they quickly spun out three classic albums that have stood the test of time: ‘Stand Back’ (1975), ‘The Whole Worlds Goin’ Crazy’ (1976) and ‘Forever For Now’ (1976). “You Won’t Dance With Me” went platinum in Canada which was a huge musical milestone. The album ‘Stand Back’ went double-platinum. By this point Goodwyn was writing most of the songs himself. After this stretch, Clench was then replaced on bass with Steve Lang.
In 1977 April Wine was used as a ‘smoke screen’ to pose as the headliners at the El Mocamba club where the Rolling Stones were appearing under the moniker “The Cockroaches”. “Live at the El Mocamba” became a solid album of live April Wine performances of the hits to that point, and a new song “She’s No Angel”. After this, Brian Greenway joined AW as the fifth member of the group, playing guitar, harmonica, signing and helping Myles with the writing. Myles even moved over to keyboard with surprising skill.
Finally with their seventh studio album they were heard on the international scene. The album ‘First Glance’ (1979) with its hit “Roller” The album and the single stayed on the U.S. charts in the top 30 for eleven weeks. Bands like Rush, Journey and Styx requested them to open for them on their U.S. shows.
The next album, the hardest rocking yet, “Harder...Faster” in the summer of 1979 was even more successful with U.S. radio-friendly “I Like to Rock” and “Say Hello”, which kept them on the Billboard charts for over 40 weeks. This also garnered them many gold and platinum awards on both sides of the border.
The follow-up “Nature of the Beast” in January of ’81 kept them on the charts with the song “Just Between You and Me” broke the U.S. top 20 and by year end with the help of other songs like “Crash and Burn” went platinum in the U.S. They were finally international stars! It just took a while.
Myles Goodwyn had been writing and touring flat out for a long time, so he needed a break. He took about a year off and then followed up with two more decent albums “Power Play” and “Animal Grace”, which produced the songs “Anything You Want” and the ballad “This Could be the Right One. The cost though was that the songs they were producing now sounded very commercial.
For a while Myles went solo, moved to the Bahamas, made one o.k. album and enjoyed his well-earned rest. After 8 years he moved back to Montreal and the band were put back together. They then did ‘Attitude’ with Jim Clench returning once again. In 2001 they did “Back to the Mansion”. Neither of these did fantastic, although ‘Attitude”, with the single “If You Believe in Me”, made it gold in Canada. “Roughly Speaking” came out in 2006 to be their 16th studio album. 2010 marked 40 years of them being together as a band (well at least Myles for the whole ride).
April Wine is a staple of Canadian music. You basically could not have lived in Canada in the 70’s and not heard of them. In concert they sold out everywhere they went. Granted the lyrics are often not deep, but the spirit shines through. They are still playing dates in Canada and the U.S. - but Mercer2 and Clench3 have left the band.
Gary did I miss anything important here?
Worth checking out are::
Forever For Now
I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love
Comin’ Right Down on Top of Me
Don’t Push Me Around
Just Between You and Me
Tonight is a Wonderful Time
Cum Hear the Band
Rock & Roll is a Vicious Game
The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy
Hot on the Wheels of Love
Sign of the Gypsy Queen
Right Down To it
Get Ready for Love
1. Jerry Mercer had been in the band “Mashmakhan” which had produced one of the oddest hits ever with “As the Years Go By”, which still gets decent radio play in Canada now.
2. Mercer was 70 years old when he left the band in 2008.
3. Clench passed away in 2010 at the age of 61.