JAIMIE VERNON – TO THE BOOKMOBILE
Last week I wrote about working on Skip Prokop’s upcoming biography project and how we’re attempting to raise funds to get the thing written and published. https://kapipal.com/projects/skip-prokop-biography-project/
To be clear, this isn’t my first rodeo. Aside from the two Encyclopedias I wrote and published, two books of blogs and my early punk band book, it was 15 years ago this past March that Greg Godovitz and I took his book, ‘Travels With My Amp’, out on tour to see if anyone saluted. And they most certainly did.
I’d already licensed the Goddo back catalog from Greg in March of 2000 and we were working on Goddo’s second live album, ‘2nd Best Seat In The House’, as Goddo tooled around Southern Ontario on what would become a 5 year comeback story, so when Greg told me he had a book already written and in need of publishing I jumped at the chance.
Greg had run into the owner of a small vanity publisher named Abbeyfield Publishing – an ex-City of Scarborough Councillor named Bill Belfontaine – and we sat down over breakfast at a greasy spoon on Gerrard Street in Toronto on September 27, 2000 to hash over a plan make Greg’s book a reality.
The plan was to create near-complete galleys of the finished book that could be used as promotion and a sample of what the finished product would look like to book distributors and book stores proper which would be arranged by Bill Belfontaine and his Rolodex of contacts. My wife Sharon and I spent several weeks editing over three hundred pages of Greg’s account of his hedonistic baptism-by-fire account of the Canadian music business. He had been in two relatively successful Canadian acts called Fludd and Goddo so there was plenty of road stories and studio follies to keep readers entertained (and/or disgusted).
Karen Petherik of Intuitive Design was an associate of Bill’s and she helped with the scanning of photos and layout. By November 26 we had the finished manuscript in hand. Now we needed finished books by December 15th – the date we’d set for the book launch. Bill’s printer couldn’t do the covers and the books, with binding, for 200 units in time for the event…he would have needed four weeks as he had other Christmas print orders already in the pipeline. We fell back on Plan B. Or, rather, I had to create Plan B.
I told the printer to work on printing covers only – which I’d designed – and I would get the 200 manuscripts printed if he could bind everything together afterward in time for the book launch. It was doable. I took the 360 page beast to Staples Business Depot and asked them to do 2-sided copies of the entire thing times 200 units. I think the customer service rep peed a little that day. It took them a week.
During the first week of December I had boxes of printed manuscripts on 8 x 10 white bond paper delivered by hand to the printer in Etobicoke. They took the boxes from me and set about trimming the excess pages to a manageable 6 x 9” book format and to have the covers perfect bound to the spines. It was literally a massive gluing exercise that would take another week. No one but the printer and I knew how it was done. Greg didn’t know until I told him later. I didn’t want him worrying.
The party went off without a hitch December 15, 2000 – Greg and his band at the time, The Greg Godovitz Orchestra & Chorus, featuring Bob Segarini and the newly added Brad “Mr. Anger” Lovatt performed songs from Greg’s past while Q107-FM DJ Al Joynes MC’d. Greg also read some short passages from the book – a pre-cursor to his 2004 ‘Storytellers’ live series (but that’s a blog for another day) and the Who’s Who of Toronto music royalty ate it up…and bought the books. Those first 200 units are now collectable as we’d later go back and make corrections when we went to do a proper print run in early 2001.
Through all of this publicist Cori Ferguson was pushing buttons and stirring up media interest. She would pave the way for us to take the book on the road. In February 2001 we brought in Ragna Stam’mler as media manager for the book tour. She spent the entire month lining up interviews on radio, television and in print-media for Greg. It would last 10 days and take us to six cities.
Greg flew to Montreal March 4, 2001 to meet Graeme Bishop – Frank Marino’s manager – as the ‘Travels With My Amp’ promo tour began in earnest. They wasted no time as Greg did an interview that evening with John Austen, Associate Editor of the Suburban newspaper.
Things fell quickly into gear the very next day:
March 5, 2001 – Greg Godovitz interviews in Montreal; 7:00 am – On-air interview at CHOM-FM with morning show deejays Steve Anthony and Andrew Carter; 1:00 pm – Interview with freelance writer Mitch Joel at Le Bistro Dell’Arte at Cantlie Suites Hotel (where Greg is staying); 4:30 pm – Interview with Bill Brownstien of The Gazette at the hotel; 7:30 pm – On-air interview with Gordo Fry of The Buzz at 92CITI-FM, Winnipeg.
March 6, 2001 – Jaimie drives to Montreal to pick-up Greg in a massive snow storm; Both return to Ottawa for interviews: 1:00 pm – Meet with Kath Thompson for taped interview at CKQB/The Bear 106.9; 3:30 pm – Meeting with Rick Overall of Cabaret, daily live webcast on epress.ca; flight to Winnipeg 6:45PM
March 7, 2001 – Jaimie & Greg in Winnipeg for day of interviews; 8:05 am – On-air interview with Jay Enright on The Big Breakfast at the A-CHANNEL; 10:00 am – Meet with Bart Kives of the Winnipeg Free Press at The Fyxx Coffee Shop; 12:00 pm – Meet Darryl Sturdan of The Winnipeg Sun at Fort Garry Hotel lobby for follow-up interview; Final interview at CITI-FM with Howard Mandsheim and Gary MacLean (MacLean & MacLaen) on air; flight to Calgary 6:45PM
March 8, 2001 – Jaimie & Greg in Calgary for day of interviews; 6:30 am – Arrive for on-air interview on The Big Breakfast at the A-Channel; 12:00 noon – Meet with Donna Chambers for on-air interview on CFCN News At Noon at CFCN-TV; Immediately after CFCN interview – Taped interview with Stone Malone (asst. music director) for The Verge at CJAY92; Blew out interview with Rick Overwater of the Calgary Straight and head to airport to rebook flights to Edmonton earlier in day and to Vancouver earlier the following day.
March 9, 2001 – Jaimie & Greg in Edmonton for day of interviews; 8:00 am – Arrive for on-air interview with Shaye of the morning news show at Global TV; 10:30 am – Meet with Elise Campbell of the A-Channel for interview at clothing store Devine; flight to Vancouver; check in at hotel; visit Tom Lavin at Blue Wave Recording studio – meet Terry Jacks; invited to Powder Blues show in East End; dinner at Hy’s (fire in kitchen); go to see Powder Blues.
March 10, 2001 – Jaimie & Greg have brunch with Ralph Alfonso; visit vinyl flea market; 13:00 – 16:00 – a remote phone in for Greg for CJAD in Ottawa (Graeme Bishop to follow-up with details); Day in Kamloops at Neptune Records w/ John Cody (BTO); go to see Colin James @ Commodore Ballroom.
March 11, 2001 – Day of rest for Greg.
March 12, 2001 –Greg day of interviews; 11:30 am – Arrive for on-air interview with Michael Eckford and Fiona Forbes of Urban Rush at Shaw TV; 1:00 pm – Greg Lunch/interview with Tom Harrison of the Vancouver Province at The Bread Garden; Jaimie lunch with Frank Soda and then meeting with James Larson (Hellfield); 4:55 pm – Arrive at mycitiradio.com for live interview on Chad Varhaug’s webcast; Greg hijacks Monday night jam at Culpepper’s in Vancouver and jams for the evening with Jerry Doucette, Paul Dean (Loverboy), and Tom Lavin (Powder Blues).
March 13, 2001 – Jaimie & Greg fly back to Toronto. Canada 3000 airlines loses Greg’s luggage.
On March 15 Greg was back out doing interviews in Ontario including an ill-fated appearance on TSN’s Off The Record with host Michael Lansberg which required Greg to hold his own on the topic of sports for an entire hour. Something Greg had little reference to. Sometimes you have to take one for the team, as it were, to promote your newest project. Greg handled it with aplomb and diplomacy.
Yet another high profile interview was a TV appearance on the Jane Hawtin Show where she attacked him out of the gate as a misogynist who went through women as readily as bottles of beer. Despite Greg’s admitted Lothario tendencies – clearly outlined in the pages of the book – he found the painting of his character with a broad brush rather one-dimensional. Greg also liked wine.
With Goddo touring throughout the remainder of 2001 the book was selling solidly at every gig. During a triple bill with David Wilcox and Kim Mitchell the Bullseye merch table was about 60 people deep from fans wanting autographed copies of ‘Travels With My Amp.’ David and Kim’s merch people sold nearly nothing. Godovitz had arrived.
The Toronto Star and The Globe And Mail did feature stories and The Toronto Sun serialized chapters from the book for five consecutive days. Under any circumstance this would have been a huge success. Our problem was that the books weren’t in book stores. Bill Belfontaine had hooked us up with Hushion House book distributors but Chapters and Indigo in Canada had just merged – and wiped out long-standing book stores like Coles and WH Smith. We were only able to get 100 books in circulation. In most instances, that was only one or two per store.
Greg was disappointed, but it didn’t matter. We sold out the second printing the day we did an autograph session at the short-lived Tower Records store in the Eaton’s Centre. The store manager was a monster Goddo fan and gave us carte blanche to bring in Greg’s trio – now re-christened The Anger Brothers – to entertain the 400 people queued up on Yonge Street to meet the ‘Pretty Bad Boy’. They even had a giant wall board created to welcome Greg.
In the end we managed a third printing and sold nearly 4000 books by hand – less the 100 at retail – which kept momentum rolling long enough to get Goddo’s next studio album, ‘Kings of the Stoned Age’ out the door and position Greg’s aforementioned ‘Storytellers’ performances in 2004 – itself leading to a DVD in 2005 called ‘Up Close & Uncomfortable’.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you sell rock and roll on the written page.
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Jaimie “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