JAIMIE VERNON – THE DAVE RAVE CONSPIRACY

Merch table_Hamilton_Dave Rave_2002Excerpted from the upcoming Bullseye Records 30th Anniversary book “Bullsography”
I was plugging away on an old Underwood electric typewriter out of a one-bedroom apartment in Pickering Village in the late 1980s putting out a fanzine called Great White Noise magazine when I received correspondence from legendary Pig Paper fanzine guru Gary Pig Gold….

Underwood typewriter

Gary wanted to know if he could do a column every month which would be his own vision of the Canadian and New York underground from his vantage point in Mississauga, Ontario and (later) New York City itself. I was thrilled to have him on board. He was punctual and asked for no money in return. He became part of the magazine’s early street cred success.

Dave Rave cassetteFlip ahead into the early 1990s and Gary’s not only a member of The Dave Rave Conspiracy band based out of New York City now, but he had produced the band’s debut album ‘Valentino’s Pirates’ which they were trying to get into the hands of the masses. I got a cassette copy of the album in the mail one day with a note: “Wanna meet Dave?” I was only starting to grasp the history of Canadian music at this point and only knew Dave, intuitively, as a former member of Teenage Head; a Hamilton boy that had left the Hammer to seek fame stateside. I was excited by the idea of getting to meet him and Gary for real (Gary and I had only ever talked on the phone).
UIltrasound The night came – it was an album release party at Yvonne Matsell’s long lamented Ultrasound Showbar on Queen Street West which occupied the second floor of Dan Aykroyd’s old X-Rays restaurant. I knew nothing about the Dave Rave Conspiracy’s material. I listened to the tape Gary had sent me as much as I could before the show and was digging the power popistry of tunes like “When Patti Rocked” and “Weight of the World”. It was Beatlesque in places and jangly but had an underground, bohemian vibe to it. Unpolished and raw, it was a window into another musical world. A world I would eventually identify as the very heart of Hamilton itself.

Gary and DaveThe evening was a blur. There were famous people there who came to wish Dave and Company well. I finally waited after the show to be introduced to the band by Gary: bassist Lauren Agnelli (formerly of the Washington Squares), guitarist Coyote Shivers (a Hamilton lad who would go on to marry supergroupie/Playboy Playmate Bebe Buell – mother of Liv Tyler), drummer Billy Ficca (formerly of New York legends Television) and the man of the hour, Dave ‘Rave’ DesRoches himself. I was humbled. I was in a band struggling to make it into the world and these guys had already done it and were coming back around for a second orbit. The night left an indelible impression…that musicians could actually be decent guys who put their socks on one foot at a time.

Fast forward many, many years and it’s the dawn of my label Bullseye Records’ ground explosion. I was licensing product from Classic Rock and alternative Valentinos CDRock acts left and right. I approached my old friend Gary Pig Gold and asked him what was happening with the old Dave Rave Conspiracy material. Gary had started up a label called T’Mlou Records with Shane Faubert of the American band The Cheepskates. They were looking for representation in Canada. I offered to distribute two compilations they released and a remaster of ‘Valentino’s Pirates’ . We offered to help pay some of the remastering and packaging costs for. Super designer Ralph Alfonso was enlisted to duplicate the Russian artwork from a 12” version that had been released by the USSR’s Melodiya (the first North American pop act to do so) under the less Cold War reminiscent name of The Dave Rave Group.
Dave RaveI finally met Dave again just before Bullseye re-issued that album in 2001 – exactly a decade after our first encounter. Gary was back in Mississauga visiting his folks and was going to be seeing Dave in Hamilton and wanted to know if I wanted to come along and talk about re-releasing the long-lost ‘best of’ album by Dave’s post-Teenage Head band The Shakers. I was all in. As the hosers we all are, at heart, we ended up at a rundown old Tim Hortons on Main Street to sip coffee and shoot-the-shit.

But there was a surprise fourth member in our party. Dave and Gary thought it was imperative I meet another Hamilton music Florida Razorsveteran – Jason Avery from the Florida Razors. We had a nice chat and Dave & Gary became an advocate for Bullseye releasing the Razors’ ‘best of’ package being planned. Jason was very interested in what Bullseye might be able to do for the group’s catalog of stuff as the Razors had toured with and ran a parallel career with the Shakers. The band was also the launch point for Canada’s first man of brooding song and Dave wanted me to meet him too.

Things were moving really fast. A few months later Dave had planned for us to meet for breakfast near
West TownHamilton’s mountain at a greasy spoon called the West Town on Locke Street in Hamilton. It was the perfect venue. The diner was a throwback to the 1950s (but was opened in 1991!) – creaking, time warn linoleum flooring, beat up old booths, and a rustic soda counter that had marred stools and a disheveled, broken countertop. It was like a set piece from the anti-Happy Days. There in the middle of the room with his back toward the door was a hulking, hunched outline of a lumberjack with black flowing hair.

Tom WilsonDave was sitting across from him and could see me approaching. They both stood up. Tom Wilson wiped his beardd with a napkin to remove some food and reached out to shake my hand. His voice was low but boomed like a bass tremor. This was the guy that I knew from MuchMusic as the unhinged frontman for the band Junkhouse. Well, that was the image he cast and one that was far from representing the real Tom that I got to know. The meeting went well. Tom was very low-key and clearly not the type to get too excited about promises and marketing pitches – he’d been through the major label grind with Junkhouse already.
Beat Music I decided to bypass the schmooze. He made me aware that the Florida Razors CD was already in production. He needed distribution. He didn’t want to do it through his label, SONY, because they’d bury it. They’d manufacture for him, but he didn’t want to see the disc ignored. I spoke to his concerns and offered him wholesale cost for the 1,000 units – cash. There was a momentary sparkle in his eyes as he peered over the top of his trademark sunglasses at me.  We would get along famously.

Shakers_Guest PassAs a direct result of my assuming distribution for The Shakers and The Florida Razors CD ‘best of’ packages, both acts did full reunions to promote the releases. Which was no mean feat. The Razors’ bass player was American Carl Keesee. He needed to be cajoled from Texas to return to Canada – and to Hamilton – to participate. And so he did. And so they did. There were alternating gigs at Mermaids – which was owned by Shakers drummer (and Dave Rave’s first cousin) Claude DesRoches – La Luna and ultimately a huge fundraising gig at Mohawk College where both bands played full sets and donated the proceeds to charity. Tom Wilson even donated Junkhouse and his solo CDs to be sold that night as well. He wasn’t exactly rolling in dough at the time so his generosity in giving up that revenue was duly noted. The man is a sweetheart. We’ve remained friendly all these years – he even bought back the surplus of Florida Razors discs not long ago as he was getting asked for them during his tours with Blackie & The Rodeo Kings.

Trews But back to Dave Rave. For a few years Bullseye would become his home. My vice president in charge of everything, Lisa Millar, clicked with Dave from the minute they begin working promo together. The next Dave Rave Group album was recorded in 2002 and featured a young, unknown band called The Trews on it. Dave would be instrumental in their discovery and has been co-writing with them ever since. Lisa worked the hell out of the record in Canada and the US. Dave is a force unto himself – someone that can do 180 shows a year and doesn’t need a day gig because he can make money on the road.

Everyday MagicThe ‘Everyday Magic’ tour mutated into something called ‘The Grand Song Caravan Tour’ which started as a Festival Express type adventure minus the train (or the Grateful Dead). It was initiated by Ralph Alfonso’ Bongo Beat label on the west coast in Vancouver initially. The line-up was to be Ralph, Tom Wilson, Dave Rave, and Kathleen Edwards. Then something extraordinary happened a few gigs in. Kathleen appeared on David Letterman’s Late Show and her career went supernova by the end of the first week. She had to bail on the tour. Then Tom got invited to do a national tour with Jann Arden and all momentum was lost.
lisa_dave Dave and Lisa decided to take the idea and run with it. We reconvened in Toronto at Casa de Bullseye and put ideas to paper. The Grand Song Caravan Tour would rise again, this time with Dave Rave leading the charge.

DAVE RAVE AND THE SHAKERS PLAY TWO REUNION SHOWS THIS MONTH:
Tonight at the Bay City Music Hall in Hamilton (8PM) and July 18th at The Cadillac Lounge in Toronto (9PM)

NEXT WEEK: DAVE RAVE AND THE GRAND SONG CARAVAN

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.com http://gwntertainment.wix.com/jaimievernon

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: