JAIMIE VERNON: LIFE’S A CANADIAN ROCK: BOOK 2

YouthInAsia1CHAPTER 1 – We’re Moving Targetz…and You’re Sitting Ducks

April will be the 30th anniversary of the formation of my second “successful” band MOVING TARGETZ. Technically, the band already existed before I insinuated myself into the line-up. I merely co-opted the players and renamed them. The story you’re about to read is true. Moving Trgets logoThe names have not been changed because people really like to see their name in print. It’s what musicians live for if not for the monetary pittance.

My first band, SWINDLED (soon to be immortalized in book form on Amazon for which I’ll have links and contests and giveaways in the coming Pic 1weeks), was my coming-of-age band from 1980-1982. Four young lads from Liverpool…Road…who went to the big city to visit the Queen…Street bars and survived two years on the scene before self-destructing in August 1982 with nothing but memories and a 7” single collecting dust in our attics and basements. The bass player went off to do his thing while the drummer (Jay Clarke), the singer (Ivan Judd) and myself – on guitar – carried on in a six-piece called Youth In Asia which also included Jason’s brother, Nick, his drummer pal Paul O’Connor (yes, a second drummer, kids!) and my old Elysium Moon bass mate Gord Giblin.

pic 2Paul and Gord were still attending Lester B. Pearson high school and they caught wind of an upcoming Battle of the Bands. Inquiries were made and the school was willing to allow us to perform there, not as contestants but as special guest former alumni. Ivan was the only one who hadn’t attended Pearson and so we were invited to be the bonus feature when the event was held in the spring of 1983. This became our motivation to get our shit together and establish a battle plan.

pic 3We finally acquired a decent P.A. system. Jay took out a loan to buy up all the outboard gear from Tom Jardin at Earthbound Sound where we had recorded the Swindled single. We also auditioned several of our friends to see who could operate a mix-board during rehearsals and in the event we went on the road.

We called on our punk guru friend John Edwards as business manager and left him to find a sound tech. John, to his credit, thought that our first drummer for The Swindle, Jim Greeley, might be the best man for the task as John himself was busy with his new rock act Stryder and was way too busy to babysit six ass clowns in a bunker in Pickering, Ontario.

OlsonJim turned out to be a worthy addition to our sound and even managed to get Ivan’s vocals up in the mix so that we could run recordings of our rehearsals that were sonically better than anything we’d done since Swindled’s 7” single.

Reduced to a 5-piece – with Nick soon out of the group – we started getting tighter as we continued adding more songs to the set. We incorporated Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave” and The Clash’s “Somebody Got Murdered”  and two more original tunes in “Crime Pays” (about Canadian serial killer Clifford Olson) and “Name of the Game” (which would be reborn as “Drugstore Roulette” about the deadly Tylenol killings in the US). It wasn’t apparent at the time but we were on the cusp of the punk/nu-metal movement with our brand of hybrid song preferences.

The Clash

The next order of business was a band name. Unlike bands in my formative years, we didn’t yet have one and were already performing together. Everyone knows that all bands are created by name first, repertoire and activity second.

To be perfectly honest, Ivan and I had already, secretly decided to call the group Euthanasia which would have been Swindled’s new name had we not chosen Cambodians on Safari instead. When we presented this notion at one of our post-rehearsal drug and beer meetings (where, invariably, I was the only one not stoned or drunk) it was met with intense resistance. No one liked the connotation. We debated any number of alternative names like Simian Quake, Lost In The Suburbs, Zyntax, Accapellago and Alfa Laval. Gord pushed heavily for the latter until I pointed out that it was the name of an existing, trademarked company in Scarborough. He knew that and didn’t see the problem with it. I told him I’d be willing to settle for Alpha Level, but Ivan feared people would think we were a British New Wave act.

I went home and slept on the conundrum. I was adamant about holding on to the name Ivan and I chosen. It was an easy-to-remember mononym like Swindled and it conjured up immediate visceral reactions from people.

explosiveAs a compromise it occurred to me that we could spin the word Euthanasia into a play-on-words by calling it YOUTH IN ASIA and giving it a second connotation. I created a logo overnight to prove it could be done by reducing it down to a contraction of Y.I.A in large, stylized block letters that could be stenciled on the bass drum skins of Jay and Paul’s drum kits. The letter “I” would be the focus of the logo as it contained an inverted image of an explosion stolen from the warning label of an aerosol spray can. Everyone liked it and all seemed good.

PARTYITIS

YIA_12As we pushed on late into 1982, the band was spending less time playing and more time partying afterwards. Eventually, it got to the point where it was an hour of rehearsing and 2 ½ hours getting wasted. I would have been bored shitless if these guys weren’t at least nice people and a lot of fun to hang out with. Paul O’Connor was always the brunt of our juvenile fun. He loved to tell jokes. He was the entertainer in his group of friends, but amongst us he was the ‘newbie’ and we would never let him complete a joke – especially if it appeared to be taking too long to hit the punchline. Inevitably the exchanges went like this:

PAUL: “A rabbi and a priest walk into a bar…”

US: “What was the name of the bar?

PAUL: “Umm…I don’t know…umm…Tapps, I guess.”

US: “Why were they in the bar? These guys aren’t supposed to be drinking.”

PAUL: “Well, maybe it was a business meeting.”

US: “They’re from different religions, what possible business could they be doing together.”

PAUL: “I don’t know…FUCK! It’s not important to the joke. Can I finish the joke, please?”

US: “Sure, Paul, sorry. We’re just yanking your chain.”

PAUL: “As I was saying…this rabbi and a priest walk into a bar and the bartender says – “

US: “Was the bartender a man or a woman? Please let it be a woman….one with big tits!”

PAUL: “Arrrrrrrgh….I give up. You guys are fucking assholes”.

And we laughed and laughed.

Interestingly, he came from a family of older brothers who were all drummers. Each of them was incrementally better than the next. Middle brother Kevin O’Connor played in Lone Boney and Pink Floyd tribute act Off the Wall as well as a recent Rush tribute act called Fly By Night. The oldest brother, Mike, could give Paul DeLong and Neil Peart a run for their money.

THE RAMP UP TO OBLIVION

YouthInAsia_1982With Paul, Ivan and Jay all with full-time jobs, I too wound up getting an office gig with my aunt and my mother at Seiko Time in early November. We soon started seeing less and less of Gord.  He’d been there that fall while we added Ivan’s original song “Fly to a Flame” and our collaboration “Sidewalk Stewardess” to the repertoire. We even managed a heavy arrangement of “Back In the U.S.S.R.”.

What we didn’t know was that he was getting hassled by his folks again about cutting school and spending too much time partying. The climax of these escapades was Gord witnessing our good friend Brian Turmon – guitarist from our old Good Times Roll Band – do a header off the top floor of a construction site and putting an industrial length piece of metal rebar through his head (yes, he survived).  Gord’s band focus was never quite the same after that.

Regardless, we pressed on, did some promo photos, learned more cover tunes and sat out most of December 1982 while Ivan had a large cyst removed from his sinus cavity.

We reconvened in January 1983 and received the news that Ivan’s girlfriend, Sharon, had been gifted a house in Ajax just before Xmas time. It would allow her and Ivan to move the family into a new home – which included kids from her previous marriage – and start a new life. What would soon be made clear is that plan did not include Youth In Asia. Sharon was quite vocal about not wanting to live the rest of her days with a band in her house.

Ivan’s whole life had been about Rock and Roll and singing and without a place to do that it would mean upheaval on a major scale. I’m not sure why we didn’t just chip in and get a rehearsal spot, but Ivan dug in his heels and through no small amount of compromise (on Sharon’s part) we ended up moving the band into the house’s basement in March 1983.

With us deep in the heart of suburbia and a large contingent of neighbours to offend within earshot, we were limited to 10PM curfews on weeknights and afternoon sessions on Sundays. The basement was unfinished and looked like a cavernous concrete Cold War bunker with little to no insulation. We had salvaged some carpeting from the rehearsal room in their old house and dampened the sound as much as possible to keep it from rattling the walls but it was still cacophonous and untenable.

YouthInAsia_1983_rehearsalTo make matters worse, Gord just stopped showing up to rehearsals. We were still confirmed for the Pearson Battle of the Bands and had been driving ourselves toward that goal for 8 months. Now we had to find a bass player quick. Luckily, Jay was still well connected to many of his high school band mates and called on Dale Roberts who would have automatically gotten the job anyway for no other reason than he owned a Rickenbacker bass….like the model Geddy Lee of Rush used.

Dale had been in a very thorough and diligent cover band for many years and had found our playing (well, my playing) crude and rudimentary so it must have been like amateur hour for him. He was a phenomenal bassist and brought the rhythm section to new heights.

RonnieJamesDioWith Dale’s addition, the guys wanted to push the musical boundaries and suggested things like the Ronnie James Dio driven Sabbath song “Neon Knights”. Ivan, ever the trooper, gritted his teeth and gave it a shot. But the tune was beyond the top end of his vocal range [I mean, really, who the hell can sing like Dio?]. Instead, I suggested a reworking of Elton John’s “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” which Ivan was able to nail and it became a great tune for guitar – something that Nickelback would discover decades later. 

The vocal limitation on a song like “Neon Knights” , however, became a lynch pin in a series of contentious issues amongst the worker bees on top of Sharon continually butting heads with us over the noise issues. Jay became particularly fed up with the griping and quit in a fit of pique at one point.

She and Jay eventually made amends but Ivan was caught in the crossfire. It put him and Sharon into frequent shouting matches both during and after rehearsal just like the early days of Swindled. Ivan was forced to play diplomat and in an effort to keep the domestic harmony, he asked us to respect her wishes. The band saw it as a betrayal. The guys wanted out and if they couldn’t drop this house on the Wicked Witch of the West, they would drop it on The Wizard of Oz – Ivan.

SCHOOL’S OUT…FOREVER

YouthInAsia_1983On April 18, 1983 the Pearson Collegiate Battle of the Bands was held in the school’s auditorium. I hadn’t been in that school since 1981 and it was exciting to be back and show another generation what we’d accomplished. Several acts had gone on before us in the competition – Exodus, Zimbabwe & The Tequila Monsters and Appalling Taste. We were the special guests and there was a certain amount of excitement leading up to our appearance. We were there to close the event.

We were given 20 minutes to play and we kept the set to three original tunes – “Fly to a Flame”, “Son of the System”, and “Crime Pays” (with the return of Nick Clarke on lead guitar) plus two cover tunes in “Children of the Grave” and “Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting”. It may have been my worst musical performance ever not just because I was handed an unfamiliar guitar amp to reproduce my “sound” at the last minute, but because I was totally distracted by the fact that I already knew how the gig was going to end.

scan0074We left the stage to resounding applause and as Ivan came back from the parking lot with his van so we could load the gear out, Jay and I took him aside. We quit the band right then and there. It was like dumping a long-time girlfriend. Ivan was in shock but not entirely surprised. We wished him luck living out his domestic life with Sharon but we couldn’t handle their collective drama anymore. I regretted every second of the break-up. Ivan and I had been close but I was a chicken shit and hated conflict. Fortunately, Ivan eventually forgave me and he and Sharon would remain two of my closest friends – and both future band mates in two other music projects.

Meanwhile, Jay, Dale Roberts, Paul O’Connor and I attempted to continue – at a $5 an hour rehearsal spot in a third floor attic walk-up of a house at College & Landsdowne – but we had no assets. I was the only one with any singing chops. I could sing back-ups but I didn’t have Ivan’s power to sing lead; all my experience and knowledge, musically, was wrapped up in the original tunes I’d been playing for three years and 95% of those weren’t mine. So, we were left with a handful of cover tunes and jams of Prog Rock wankery. It was immediately clear that we’d thrown the baby out with the bathwater and now the artistic tub was completely empty. But, I was unfazed and already planning my next move.

APPALLING TASTE

bandmanagerI had decided I wanted a break from making music and instead wanted to try my hand at managing. I’d been through several bands at this point – with one of them achieving at least a modicum of success – and so, a week after the Battle of the Bands, I tracked down APPALLING TASTE’s de facto leader, Simon Bedford-James and offered my services as band manager.

I knew Simon from Grade 10 homeroom at Lester B. Pearson Collegiate. He was smart enough to skip a grade but remained in the grip of the “uncrowd” which included Appalling Taste’s introverted lead guitarist Greg Potts who was so shy that he quit the band before I even spoke to anyone about the “management” idea.

Inversely, Simon’s enthusiasm was overwhelming and within days he and I began forging a battle plan; hire a new lead guitarist, change the band’s name and re-invent Appalling Taste as a functioning original Anglocentric act. It was a tall set of aspirations, but the rest of the guys were never told so it never intimidated them. The line-up stood with Trevor Duce (vocals), Simon Bedford-James (guitar), Austin So (bass) and Gord Jones (drums). My first task as ‘manager’ was to find a lead guitarist to plug the gap left by Greg Potts.  I sat in as guitarist until such time as we could steal one from another band. That day never came.

trevorTrevor Deuce left shortly thereafter when we refused to play his only original composition “Galaxy Projectile” – which was truly atrocious [Sadly, Trevor passed away not long ago] . And so, on May 4, 1983 we re-christened the band MOVING TARGETZ – a name that came from the 1976 Flo & Eddie album of the same name. I added the New Wavish “Z” to the end to make it unique to us.

Simon and I became fast friends and a major songwriting partnership was hatched – eventually, we would compose more than 80 songs together. Now this Pre-Fold Four, as it were, could add original music to their repertoire of Beatles, Who, Kinks, Bowie and Velvet Underground tunes. One of these originals, a hold-over from my days with Youth In Asia, was “Turn on the Radio” which became a signature piece that would endure through nearly every incarnation of Moving Targetz.

pic 6However, actually getting great songs to an audience was another matter entirely. The impetus for most of our early line-up changes usually stemmed from the person who supplied the rehearsal space (read: someone’s parents’ place). Gord Jones was sucked into talking his folks into enduring the sonic assault. This lasted until August 1983 when Mom & Dad felt he should stop making noise and start worrying about school. Gord Jones left Targetz and the band re-convened at drummer Jay Clarke’s new residence on the grounds of Cedar Ridge Art Gallery in Scarborough – which was a historic mansion-turned-museum. He and his girlfriend were living in the Carriage House – a dark and damp cottage with a living room, a bedroom, a bathroom and a kitchen. We rehearsed in the living room.

We managed to scrape together enough material as a band and Austin So’s alma mater – St. Michael’s School For Boys in downtown Toronto – was just the place to unleash it. The school was holding its annual variety show and Austin felt Targetz was finally semi-presentable. Wrong.  Jay made it very clear immediately that he was no longer interested in performing live and bailed out days before the show. Fortunately, Gord Jones filled in at the last minute. On November 4, 1983 Targetz made its first ever public appearance and “Turn on the Radio” had its debut.

yogurtExcept for a brief side project called THE YOGURT CULTURE CLUB, Targetz returned to a state of flux while Jones and So spent the remainder of 1983/84 finishing high school. Though they substituted nicely, former Youth In Asia bassist Gord Giblin and the drumming homebody, Jay Clarke, weren’t interested in making TARGETZ a career goal. Undaunted, Simon and I began a tiresome search for new blood – hopefully with a rehearsal space.

In January 1984 Simon tracked down some artsy Toronto musicians loosely  calling themselves SYNCH ‘84, which was a trio of  Tom Siebenga (guitar), Ray Williams (bass), and Brian “Just Brian” (drums), in need of a more rounded sound (read: they sucked). Simon hopped on keyboards and I added rhythm guitar.  By February Siebenga and Simon were at each other’s throats. Tom’s girlfriend, Jan, was brought in to do backing vocals and as a means to balance the power struggle. Shortly after the six-headed hydra sorted out its personality problems (or so we thought), Simon’s brand new keyboards were stolen from a rehearsal space in a dance studio at Dundas & Broadview in Toronto. We quickly took the hint.

From February into April, Simon and I formed a concept band called THE DOLPHONICS with his girlfriend (Austin So’s sister) which was loosely based on a missing David Bowie album called The Visitor from which The MaryKayMan Who Fell To Earth movie was based [Okay, so we were bored!]. The project did yield two albums worth of material – PG13 and 36BC – including a song called “Private Life” that would be recorded on the 2nd Targetz album in 1988; There was also The Yogurt Culture Club V2.0 called MARY KAYE AND THE COSMETICS; and Moving Targetz The Recording Project with Simon, Austin So, Jay Clarke and I recording back in Jay’s living room.

BambiSlamNone of these distractions were satisfying (or rewarding) so, Simon and I packed up and moved on once more. Enter singer Ivan Judd (exSWINDLED, YOUTH IN ASIA), drummer Jim Greeley (ex-THE SWINDLE), and NASTY HABITZ roadie Roy Fielden (bass). Through April and May 1984 the five of us struggled through a dozen cover tunes in Ivan’s new Ajax home, but Mr. Greeley spontaneously combusted for the second time in his career and Roy Fielden, also a drummer, tried to keep the rehearsals light and fluffy. But, it was obvious that this line-up, too, was destined for that big delete bin in the sky. Exit Roy, Jim and Ivan. [Roy would go on to alternative rock infamy many years later under the name The Bambi Slam.

Enter Derrin Richmond (saxophone) who Simon met at his day gig at a hotel who then brought in Mark Sale (drums), and Anders Anderson (bass). It was hate at first sight. After some walking papers were issued, Simon, Mark Sale and I began working on original material, occasionally with Austin So until a fortuitous meeting between Simon and guitarist Saverio Schembri through the same hotel bellhop job. Sav auditioned as bassist and we worked slowly at building our repertoire throughout July and August.

As usual, the band had a setback in September when Mark Sale decided that he’d rather play hockey over rehearsing [Do you notice a trend here?]. I temporarily hooked up with my old band mates from THE SWINDLE for a short lived reunion under the new handle of  T.I.M.O.T.H.Y. – This Isn’t More Of That Horrible Yelling [oh, yes, it was!!]. Once Simon had found a pic 7new rehearsal spot in his own parents’  basement, we reconvened with Saverio and his  schoolmate Gasper Ciao (drums) to resurrect TARGETZ once more. And before you could say “who’s that drummer?” Gasper was gone. He never forgave me for hating his favourite band Rush.

October 1984 proved to be a turning point. Simon’s connections through his job at Howard Johnson’s hotel put him in contact with a guy by the name of Dave Tedd – a would-be piano stylist, vibraphonist and drummer. Dave quickly hopped on board, Sav switched to rhythm guitar, I became designated lead guitarist, and Simon moved to bass. He also changed his name to Simon Truth as it was easier to remember than Simon Bedford-James. This version of Moving Targetz was destined to stay together longer than 5 minutes and would soon invade Toronto as Swindled had done before it.

NEXT WEEK: CHAPTER 2 – The Wonderful World of Moving Targetz

Send your CDs to: Jaimie Vernon, 180 Station Street, Suite 53, Ajax, ON L1S 1R9 CANADA

=JV=                                                                            

Jaimie’s column appears every Saturday.

Contact us at dbawis@rogers.com

DBAWIS ButtonJaimie “Captain CanCon” Vernon has been president of the on again/off-again Bullseye Records of Canada since 1985. He wrote and published Great White Noise magazine in the ‘90s, has been a musician for 35 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 17 of those years. He is also the author of the Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia and a collection of his most popular ‘Don’t Believe A Word I Say’ columns called ‘Life’s A Canadian…BLOG’ both of which are available at Amazon.com or http://www.bullseyecanada.com

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