JAIMIE VERNON – THE INTERCONNECTEDNESS OF ALL THINGS

Vernon_Penny_LaneA small debate unfolded online this week concerning hard work vs. luck. I have always maintained, and still do, that all my successes have been from hard work. All my failures have been from my lack of hard work. Luck is something reserved for casinos and in finding four leaf clovers (ironically).

HitchhikersGuideThere are times, however, when a series of random events unfold to reveal an opportunity to seize a moment, a day, or even a year that’s a very distant decade away. You don’t know it at the time but like the late Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide To the Galaxy says you come to find out there is an interconnectedness to all things – or at least some things.

In 1991 I was diligently pursuing a full-time job and spending my ex-wife’s pay cheque trying to keep a band afloat, a record label in retail outlets and an all-Canadian music magazine in the public’s eye. Great White Noise was a pet project that was parts subversive publicity for my band and label and an excuse for this fanboy to talk about his personal passion – music. And once you start getting free shit from the industry trying their best to market THEIR brand it becomes addictive and co-dependent. By dumping the magazine into the foyers of Toronto nightclubs and the entrances of record stores, GWN found its way into the hands of all kinds of music people – fans, industry and other musicians included.

Wax HoundsThrough a number of people who contacted me through the magazine I was able to find myself at a ‘meeting’ of the Canadian Wax Hounds – a loosely knit group of music aficionados who mostly loved Canadian music and really loved listening to it on vinyl. One such gathering was held at a bar called Cheers on The Danforth in Toronto one Sunday afternoon where invited guests included Greg Godovitz who was there to discuss not his biggest success, Goddo, but his earlier brush with fame, Fludd. Also on the bill was John Bjarnasson of Whiskey Howl, and Yorkville legend and folk artist Cathy Young who was there to regale us of stories about the Summer of Love and to play us a few tunes live. If that weren’t amazing enough – especially in the pre-internet days where artists like this were firmly out of reach (if not out of touch) – the day centred around a reunion of one of Toronto’s, and Canada’s, most famous teen sensations: The Lords of London;

Sebastian Agnello, Hugh Leggat, Danny Taylor and Greg Fitzpatrick. John Richardson might also have been there, but I only have photos of the earlier guests and not of the whole band Lordstogether so I don’t recall. Regardless, Sebastian and I would later connect online through an old Yahoo Groups newsgroup many years later. He would invite Greg Fitzpatrick. Godovitz, Bob Segarini, Richard Patterson (of the Esquires/3’s A Crowd) and other Canadian classic rock stars would also climb on board. The community grew and we’d find ourselves moving our conversations off line and into the real world – usually at the Yorkville revival club Blues on Belair run by Luke & The Apostles keyboardist Peter Jermyn and his wife Diane. The magazine was long gone by then but my passion for writing about Canadian music carried on and informed the initial launch of my Canadian Pop Music Encyclopedia online in 1998. Sebastian and Greg Fitzpatrick of the Lords were quick to give me all the pertinent info about the band for the Encyclopedia. As time went on I corresponded less with Greg and more with his brother David who got to see his brother’s star rise from a perspective outside Lords of London and Greg’s other band, Nucleus. David was also very handy with information about many Toronto area acts from the late 1960s and early 1970s. We stayed in touch via email. Around the time I lost contact with him I discovered Greg again back on Facebook and eventually re-found David as well. From his Facebook profile I came to realize that he, too, was a musician of some note. Surprisingly, it never came up in email conversations prior to FB.

Men in PlaidNow, at the exact same time that I was writing the Encyclopedia and having great conversations online with the Canadian Classic Rock mailing list on Yahoo, I was trying to get my record label up and running full time. I’d managed to attract two former members of Klaatu to the label with new product by both of them through 1997/1998. I’d also launched a successful tribute CD to Klaatu in 1998. The question then came: who to pay tribute to next? Through a straw poll on various newsgroups and with the prodding of music journalist Gary Pig Gold, the answer was The Bay City Rollers.

It seemed like perfect timing. The band was in a sort of classic revival mode in the late 1990s even though a reunion wasn’t in the works. By this point my wife had already taken me to Bay City (yeah, the real one) where I was only one of 5 men in a room full of women reliving their Mar19_0612 year old crushes at a convention dedicated to the band. The special guest that weekend was Ian Mitchell (with Sharon and Jaimie Vernon)  – who had been in The Bay City Rollers the band a whopping 9 months…but whose life was irreversibly altered by the experience. He was the only non-Scot in the group and he regaled us suffering husbands back in his hotel room with a drunken Irish ode to road stories during and after his stint with the Rollers. I felt a kinship with him. We’d eventually cross paths and hang out a few more times over the years (including once in Kingston, Ontario for Sharon and my wedding anniversary).

The event itself became an annual affair and in 1999 my wife decided to host the Toronto version of said event calling it “Shang-a-Lang”. This convention was a big step up from the Bay City gathering as Sharon was well on her way to being the awesome event planner and organizer she is now [she’d go on to co-ordinate the live reunion of Klaatu in 2005 for fans only]. This was the litmus test. Running her own event. A downtown Toronto hotel was booked and Roller fans came from around the globe to reminisce, share memorabilia and listen to the Duncan-w-JaimiesGuitarperformances of Stewart “Woody” Wood and the final singer for the Bay City Rollers – after they’d become merely The Rollers – Duncan Faure. With input from my label as a springboard for the planned BCR tribute CD, we helped finance Faure’s trip from South Africa along with his entire band. To make it valuable for everyone, Duncan would perform at “Shang-a-Lang” as well as several in town gigs – including one I roadied for at C’est What?

The shows went great. The memories were abundant. Duncan was a gentleman – though he seemed completely baffled by things like foot pedals and guitar chords. After some technical problems on stage I offered his guitarist my Fender Lead III electric to keep the C’est What? show humming. The entire convention was deemed successful (depending on which fan you ask) though not entirely profitable. Sharon and I took a loss. But I had some great memories especially in chatting with Duncan about his days in The Rollers and his early band with Trevor Rabin called Rabbit.

Fitz_Duncan1Now, the reason I tell these two completely disparate and unrelated stories about David Fitzpatrick and Duncan Faure is to tell you THIS: These two totally unrelated people in my life have coalesced into a musical project that just landed on my desk. I’d say cue the Twilight Zone music, but the tunes on the CD speak for themselves.

David Fitzpatrick, through determination and hard work in getting his musical career to finally take hold in the public’s eye, has assembled two CDs under the banner of Fitz & Them. It’s a labour of love that sees a group of like-minded seasoned veterans create music for music’s sake. With recording taking 10499585_10152488905415479_1402463379241492831_oplace in both Newfoundland and Colorado, Fitzpatrick along with fellow engineer/producers Clyde Wiseman and Dan Matthews make a seamless homespun masterpiece that spills onto two stand-alone discs: ‘Get Together‘ and ‘Pickin’ Up the Pieces‘. David is the ringmaster and one-man-band holding each of the 20 songs together (ten per disc). Duncan Faure’s contribution to the two albums is both as backing singer and piano player on his own songs “Bordentown”, “I Was Eleven” (originally found on The Rollers’ ‘Elevator’ album)

and “Amazing Day” but the Chet Powers remake of “Get Together”. Duncan’s Anglo-centric approach to songwriting (think Paul McCartney via Elton John and Gilbert O’Sullivan) and David’s own tunes – 9 self-written compositions including a tribute to his late father called “The Hands of Time

– which are steeped in 1970s Adult Pop/Country and you’ve got a record for audiences that have been ignored by working musicians, and radio, for decades.

But this is more than the David and Duncan show. Greg Fitzpatrick makes a guest appearance singing his own tune “Economy Hall” and Richie Furay – of Buffalo Springfield fame – pops up on “Get Together” and his own “Pickin’ Up the Pieces”. If that weren’t enough, the ensemble featuring Billy Joel’s drummer Liberty DeVitto, Bruce & Bill Elliott, Glenn Simmons (of The Wonderful Grand Band), Rick Roberts and Clyde Wiseman add some great cover tunes to the mix as a means of showing their diversity and great harmonizing of which Leepy Lee’s “Little Arrows” (which sounds better than one might imagine) and Queen’s ” ’39” are standouts.

This is a truly unified project. Kudos to David for pulling it off and having it work seemlessly across both discs. It’s hard to wrangle cats. It’s even harder to wrangle musicians. And here, Fitz & Them does it twice! http://www.reverbnation.com/fitzthem

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL FIND

THIS WEEK’S VIRAL OLDIE

Send your CDs for review to this NEW address: Jaimie Vernon, 4003 Ellesmere Road, Toronto, ON M1C 1J3 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 orhttp://www.bullseyecanada.com

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