JAIMIE VERNON – HEY, NINETEEN

Jaimie_Sharon_2nd_photo_July1994

As you read this my wife Sharon Vernon and I have just celebrated our 19th anniversary. We went to Cleveland to see two of her favourite bands – the American act Red Wanting Blue and Canadian rock darling The Trews who I introduced her to (musically) in 2003 after seeing them in a club in Halifax during the ECMA’s. We’ve done a lot of that on our anniversaries – going to see live acts. That includes Lighthouse on our 17th and Ian Mitchell of the Bay City Rollers (see story below).

Jaimie_Sharon_1stphoto_Jun23_1994 Love LettersI consider it a well-rounded Rock and Roll home. When we put our musical influences together it isn’t a cosmic clash like Superman vs. The Hulk. It’s more like we’re Wonder Twins in the form of melody and bravado. We’re Soul Mates with a capitol ‘Motown’. We’ve been dancing together on this musical ride for 18 years (as of today!) plus the two years of limbo dancing before that. Here we are still rocking each others’ worlds. There’s a little less slow dancing, but we still shaking our tail feathers when we can.
I count my lucky stars cause my first wife wasn’t as tuned in to the musical cosmos. Oh, she liked music – her favourite cure for a hangover was vacuuming while blasting Teenage Head at full volume early on a Sunday Swindle86morning. We met because I was in a rock band and as friends of the lead singer, saw something in me as husband material. But I wasn’t that guy. Not yet, anyway. Her life path was to get married, get a high paying job, more education, a new car, a house and children. All in that order. Of course, she wanted all this accomplished before her 30th birthday and I was informed of this when she was 29. I was an immature musician who had an office job only as a means to pay the rent and buy records for my growing collection. My life plan was to be a Rockstar and….well that was it, really. There was no forethought beyond writing a hit song or two, building my newly created record label and collecting royalty cheques long into my retirement. Needless to say, our personal soundtracks weren’t in sync.

I decided to find someone who liked what I liked and could talk Rock and Roll. As circumstance would have it I was writing a music magazine called Great White Noise to promote my band, my label and other Canadian artists. I put a call out to would-be writers so that the colour of the magazine wouldn’t always be a twisted shade of me. Sharon sent me a letter – first to congratulate me on daring to be 100% Canadian and secondly, to offer her own writing skills as a prodigal music fan. She also won a prize after being the only person to answer the question: “What does CANADIAN music mean to YOU?” The prize was a Made In Canadacomplete vinyl set of the ‘Made In Canada’ compilation albums I acquired from Paul White at BMG Records as a giveaway. This was 1990 so these were limited edition pressings. I decided to meet up with her and hand the prize over personally. Sharon and her sister, Maureen, met me at the El Mocambo on a night my band, Moving Targetz, was headlining. It was cordial and friendly and we got along well. Little did I know that both women would change my life forever.

Party1Soon Sharon was going to gigs and covering the Toronto music beat for me and the magazine flourished. Major promoters like Donald K. Donald, MCA, Against the Grain and CPI were giving us access to everything within driving distance; and through the generosity of Polygram’s Ivar Hamilton a trip to Michigan with my photographer Joanne Michner to see KISS and Great White on what became the recording of the KISS ‘Alive III’ CD/DVD.

Duke Street Eventually, I moved the record label and magazine offices downtown to a loft over top of the Duke Street Diner at Ontario Street and Adelaide in Toronto. It was our Rock and Roll headquarters. We conducted interviews in the Diner – Warner Music generously allowed us access to their most popular artists at the time including Toronto’s Harem Scarem [I would end up releasing four of their albums on my label many years later]. We did the writing and mock-ups in the offices upstairs and Joanne got us press time at Web Offset in Pickering. We shared space with Paul Anand Music who did cassette duplicating and CD manufacturing. It was a haven for indie music. He’d manufacture discs and we’d review them in the magazine – my label, Bullseye, even distributed many of them to retail like Brass Bikini, Facepuller and The Smiling Canaries. Sharon became co-editor and we brought on a few more writers like William C. Smith Sharon1993aand Richard Crouse (yes, the famed movie critic).

Sharon and I worked late for nights at a time. We’d become fast friends and not much more. Yet, there was a kinetic energy between us. I sat in one office. She was in another down the hall. We’d get almost nothing done as we’d yell jokes and funny thoughts at the top of our lungs or run back and forth between the offices sharing the next ‘brilliant’ idea. We also went to gigs together and often wrote “He said, she said” critiques of the same shows.

Two events stick out in my mind in solidifying our rock and roll romance. The first was our ‘first date’ – though we didn’t really identify it as such until years later. We’d gone to the old Kingswood Music Theatre at Wonderland in Vaughan, Ontario to see Soul Asylum and The Spin Doctors. The Docs were riding the crest of the hit record ‘Pocket Full of Kryptonite’ and when the song “Two Princes” came up I jumped out of my seat and began imitating drugged out, Hippie freak vocalist Chris Barron. His shtick entailed every move he’d seen 300in ‘Karate Kid’ and ‘Karate Kid II’. The crane, the kick, the Pat Morita wax-on and wax-off motion. But when I did it, I did it in slow motion…as if his ‘shrooms had finally taken control. Sharon laughed so hard she was crying and probably peed just a little bit too. Few people have ever gotten to see that carefree version of me. I could safely act like an ass without recrimination. I felt like myself around her especially when music was the catalyst.

Bryan AdamsThe second event was Sharon and I hanging around at Molson Park in Barrie to see Bryan Adams, Sass Jordan, Extreme and Steve Miller. She had worked for MCA Records with Cam Carpenter , Andrea Orlick, John McDermott (a salesman who became an international singing sensation) and future MuchMusic ‘s ‘Conspiracy Guy’ Rick Wharton in the 1980s and so was comfortable kibitzing with crew, industry wags and band members backstage and side stage. She introduced me to Pat Steward who was drumming for Adams. I became a bigger fan of his when he later joined one of my favourite bands, The Odds. We decided to catch the show from the audience’s perspective and sat far enough away from the stage so we could talk and still catch the energy coming off the stage. As the two of us sat on the ground and baked in the sun not far from the soundboard she moved closer to me. When she leaned in to talk she’d touch my arm or my shoulder or (gasp) my thigh. I put my hand against the small of her back…and she didn’t move away. We’d crossed the invisible line and unbeknownst to me, I fell in love that day.

We never acted on any of it until I decided to get out of my miserable marriage. By then the magazine was gone and I was playing in the best band I’d ever been in with Sharon’s sister Maureen called Spare Parts.

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I finally plucked up the courage one night and told her how I felt. She was not surprised. I was also relieved to find out she also liked me. The awkwardness of stepping across the line between best friends and an actual couple had been easier than I thought. The fear of unrequited love has become the subject of a thousand love songs. Every human dreads the rejection…but I was handed a Hollywood ending. The first kiss was sheer magic.

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However, the Hollywood ending meant a rough first year as I navigated through a divorce. Sharon stuck by me and gave me enough space to map out my future which she knew might very well NOT include her. I lived alone for awhile in a boarding house in Ajax with my great-grandmother’s pull-out couch and bags full of clothing.  We’d travel to gigs to inhospitable locations around Ontario with my band Spare Parts and be together as much as possible. We’d also go to fun shows like Kings X in Toronto and Cheap Trick at Lulu’s in Kitchener where some drunk asshat poured an entire pitcher of beer down her little black dress. Needless to say, that dress had to be removed back at the hotel later. We sat in the Golden Griddle pancake house the next morning nursing our love hangovers. The prudes in the 1950s were right. Rock and Roll can lead to all kinds of shenanigans. The merging of record collections was grand!

A lot of years have passed and music has always been behind most of the best memories between us. We sat backstage with Rosalie Tremblay’s Detroit musical discovery DC Drive while BJ Thomas performed “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” outside the trailer door; We went to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania to meet Donny Osmond and piano player Jim Brickman; We saw the Knack in Hamilton and got to rub elbows with Doug Fieger before his untimely passing; We’ve been to Hard Rock Cafes in half-a-dozen cities and had drinks in Harry Connick Sr.’s New Orleans jazz club; We’ve rocked David Bash’s International Pop Overthrow Festivals in Toronto, New York, Chicago and Los Angeles – hell, Sharon even road managed The Kings (“Switchin’ to Glide”) at Healeysthe California event in 2001. We also threw some extravagant Christmas parties organized by Sharon for my record. One of the big highlights was doing so at Jeff Healey’s bar – and having Jeff come by and celebrate with us and the likes of The Kings, Honeymoon Suite, Klaatu and so many others. Sharon has organized two fan-based music conventions in Toronto – Klaatu*Kon in 2005 and Shang-a-Lang in 1999. The former was a reunion of my childhood favourite band Klaatu and the latter, revolving around the Bay City Rollers.

Ian MitchellThe Roller event has led me to a higher appreciation for the one-time boy band and acquaintance with its cast of rogues and former stars. At the 1999 event I met Duncan Faure and Woody Wood. I’d already met Ian Mitchell in Bay City in 1996 for that convention and he played gracious host to the five husbands that had been dragged along amongst the 20 or 30 women folk. Ian would later console me after Sharon dragged me to Kingston, Ontario to watch him play in a dive bar on our wedding anniversary one year! In hindsight, I’m glad she did. Ian and I remain friendly to this day.

DerekSharon and I would also kill two fan-based obsessions at once when we flew to Liverpool, England in 2000 for another Rollerfest where drummer Derek Longmuir mingled and entertained with the ladies – and the few husbands who ventured along for the ride. It also allowed her and I to pay tribute to the greatest band of them all – The Beatles. We took the Magical Mystery Tour and walked hallowed ground. We then went to London and visited a friend of hers who’d just published a book on the Rollers. We ran out of time for the Abbey Road walk, but it was rock and roll heaven nonetheless. She wants to see a real Beatle one day. That’s a wish I want to see fulfilled. I’ve seen Paul twice and Ringo once but it was before I knew her. We did see Pete Best together and it was surreal and embarrassing for everyone in the room that night. It’s gotta be Paul or Ringo or nothing.

Henry VIIIIf we ever get back over to London together again I also owe her a Rolling Stones pilgrimage. She’d seen them live several times including Atlantic City when she worked for Michael Cohl’s CPI promotion company. But we’ve never shared her love for that band together.  The closest has been a viewing of the 1983 concert film ‘Let’s Spend the Night Together’. She respectfully walked me through it as a non-fan one night and popped my Rolling Stones cherry. My appreciation for the band has grown. It was payback for blowing her mind with Pink Floyd’s live ‘Division Bell’ tour in 1994 which was, in itself, payback for her taking me to see The Eagles at CNE Stadium (Sheryl Crow opened and blew chunks). Timothy B. Schmidt’s “Love Will Keep Us WeddingCouple_March15_1996cAlive” from the ‘Hell Freezes Over’ album became ‘our’ song.

My love for my rock and roll wife cannot be measured. It’s why our BBQ’s, Christmas parties and our wedding itself was filled with rock and roll guests. Our house is always filled with music. We have different tastes but we speak the same language. And sometimes that’s all you need as a reminder of what a marriage can be built on. Happy Anniversary, Punkin’. You still rock my world.

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 33 years, and recently discovered he’s been happily married for 16 years. He is also the author of the recently released 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’ is now available at Amazon.comhttp://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

2 Responses to “JAIMIE VERNON – HEY, NINETEEN”

  1. What beautiful tribute Jaimie

  2. Heartfelt…. wonderful. A loving love letter. May you rock reach other’s worlds for many, many more years to come.

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