JAIMIE VERNON – BULLSOGRAPHY: Sneak Peek #1
The label was started in 1985 by the band I was in at the time Moving Targetz. After some formative vinyl releases, we went through a shift in personnel and following some false starts in 1989 (current Saga drummer Mike Thorne sat in with us for awhile) that didn’t yield a band but did yield some recordings and interest from record labels and publishers, we tried yet another new version of the band in 1990 and hit the road.
Mach CCMMVII of MOVING TARGETZ played its first gig at Lee’s Palace in Toronto on December 1, 1989 and then returned on January 8, 1990 with full intention of recording a live record, but our new guitarist’s playing had been tentative at best (he had gone full Stu Sutcliffe on stage) and the idea was scrapped. With myself on bass, Duanne Welsh on drums and lead vocals supplied by the married team of Ivan and Sharon Judd, former member Glenn Belcher rjoined the band onstage for one song, after plenty o’beggin’, and before you could say ‘Hasta la bye, bye’, the guitarist knew his duck was cooked and quit the band to become a drug trafficker. No, seriously. He did time in jail after getting busted smuggling cocaine into Canada from Mexico at Pearson International Airport years later.
Nevertheless, our recording of the original song “Creation” from our 1989 Bullseye Records EP ‘Not Just For Those Who Believe In God’ was released on CIRPA’s Canada: Tune Into the Future compilation CD for release at Midem, France during their annual music industry conference. With Glenn Belcher returning to the band as guitarist full-time we finally started our next studio album. The first session was February 28, 1990 with my go-to producer Brian Gagnon (The Hunt, Frank Soda) and I recording an ode to the previous Moving Targetz incarnations of the past called “Return On the Radio”. Then the whole band returned to Mysonics Studio in Scarborough with Gagnon at the controls on March 4 where we spent the entire day recording bed tracks for 12 songs.
To finish the recordings we needed money and so began the Bigger Than Bowling Tour ‘90 which scraped the bottom of the Southern Ontario club scene from March to October. With help from our new “agent” – and I use that term loosely – we suffered frostbite at Toronto bar The Spectrum, went deaf at The Gasworks (again), alternated weekends with upcoming hair-metal superstars Harem Scarem at the Flying Squirrel Roadhouse in Oshawa and Ajax, did an opening slot for The Kings (“This Beat Goes On/Switchin’ To Glide”) at The Bedrock in Scarborough, were treated like crap but got fed buffet meals at The Marquee (all three appearances), played a three-nighter in Penetanguishene in Northern Ontario at the notoriously rough-and-tumble Brulé (making $2100 which was a million bucks back then), got fired by The Agency for being “too Queen Street sounding” in Brantford, Ontario at the Coach House and lost a battle of the bands to a Boy Band called Tara Tuma at the old Diamond Club in Toronto.
We spent our downtime working on the album with Gagnon at Mort Ross’ jingle house called Player’s Studios in Toronto. Our fan base was growing via our homegrown newsletter, The M.T. Head Express, and to satisfy anticipation for the next album we released the teaser EP Cocked & Loaded – Live: Bigger Than Bowling Tour complete with a free condom attached (given to us by former B-GIRLS bassist turned public health nurse Cynthia Ross – Mort’s daughter)!. The five songs were just studio tracks, including a remake of mine and Ivan’s former band SWINDLED’s song “Nazi Dog” and THE DOORS’ “Roadhouse Blues” dressed up to sound “live” with little or no overdubs and some cheesy crowd noises for ambience from the jingle house’s library of cheap parlour tricks. I believe we utilized Sound Design’s TM ‘small hall’ applause tracks #10 and #11.
Having been to the New Music Seminar in New York in 1989 to try and secure us a record deal, I returned for NMS 11 in July 1990 with a new Moving Targetz EP called Takes Manhattan Too featuring “Here As Now (Edit)”, “Nothin’ In Particular”, “How Does It Feel?” and a studio outtake of “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” featuring Gagnon on lead vocal (it was a quick out-take that was fun).
Rather than indulging in the seminars this time around, I booked a day full of meetings only – driving in for the day by car from my ex-wife’s friend’s place in Connecticut. I met with many of the folks from 1989, mostly notably Jerry Love of Famous Music Publishing again. He was very cordial and listened intently but told me we weren’t what they were currently looking for. It had taken so long to get our ducks in order that our sound, our songs, had become stale – at least in the ears of the industry. I was undaunted. It was one man’s opinion. There were others I could give the tape to. And I did. I spent the remainder of the day walking the short city blocks hitting the head offices of all the major labels with demo tapes and promo packages. These too would eventually meet with rejection.
It was partially the PFO letters (Please Fuck Off) from the label minions that trailed behind me from New York that gave drummer Duanne Welsh angst in his pants and he left Targetz to join DOC ROCK & THE WILD BUNCH leaving us drummerless and without a finished record. Regardless, the actual live act was starting to progress away from its recorded sound anyway so Duanne agreed to stay long enough for us to find a replacement. Stacey Washington, came on board for our final “Bigger Than Bowling” show at Toronto’s Marquee Club in December 1990. MOVING TARGETZ Phase 999 would prove to be a wickedly serious rock and rollercoaster ride.
DEADLIER THAN DARTS
After Xmas we regrouped and launched a second southern Ontario assault, The Deadlier Than Darts Tour 1991, which Stacey and I booked and co-ordinated ourselves. Being self-managed we were able to land better shows (usually with better pay) like The Spectrum, The Nag’s Head [where, for the first time ever, we had our asses handed to us on a day-glo coloured plate by punk auteurs RANDOM KILLING], Hot Rocks in Brampton, The Opera House, The El Mocambo and The Hard Rock Cafe (Skydome).
The entire ‘tour’ started off rather auspiciously with a gig at Donnie Blais’s 1000 seat dance club-cum-rock-palace called Entex. It was a pissing, freezing rain-soaked night that we decided to make the best of by celebrating Ivan’s birthday. Alas, it was all overshadowed as the Gulf War officially started with much fanfare and bigger explosions than we had in our stage show.
But things actually looked up for a change as we continued getting better rooms and better shows. With Duanne Welsh’s new band DOC ROCK opening for the recently reformed GODDO at the Purple Onion in Oshawa (where they set an attendance record of over 1,100 people), Duanne managed to get us a face-to-face with the club’s owner where we begged ourselves onto a bill opening for TROOPER to a crowd of 900.
The crowd loved us – having sold enough advance tickets on our own to get invited back regardless – and Ra McGuire and the band were impressed enough by our set that they invited us on a jaunt through the Wine Region of Ontario; only later did I find out that Stacey and some of his friends raided TROOPER’s dressing room for all their beer – which could have been embarrassing had I been confronted about it.
We did a rather brutal weeknight gig to an empty house at Wally Gator’s in Hamilton – the place where I learned to despise THE TRAGICALLY HIP (that kind of thing tends to happen when the DJ decides to play all of ‘Road Apples’ from beginning to end after every set). I hoped to God we’d get sent home early just so I didn’t have to listen to them ever again.
We played Front 54 in Thorold on an opening spot with Lee Aaron (who we never got to see because the return trip home was a three hour drive and it was a school night so we left immediately after playing), the Aqua Duck in Welland on Valentine’s Day opening for a Guns ‘N’ Roses tribute band called Runs ‘n’ Yer Hoses. The highlight of that event was meeting a fan who had been writing to us through the M.T. Head Express newsletter. Her brother would later be sent to the Gulf War and she eagerly anticipated the new studio album to send to him overseas to help him cope with the alienation over there.
While down there we hooked up with the KILLER DWARFS at Bakersfield’s in Niagara Falls; in true clichéd Canadian fashion there was a horrendous blizzard causing power lines to fall down and block access to Lundy’s Lane – where the club was located – and so no one but the most rabid of KILLER DWARFS fans (known as DUNKs) showed up. Russell Graham (aka Rusty) was his usual madcap self even in the face of an audience that was comprised almost entirely of the bar staff. But a rather large woman – weighing in at a mere 300 or 400 pounds – attempted to get a little more of Russell than he bargained for.
The Dwarfs made a famous video of a song called “Keep The Spirit Alive” from their ‘Stand Tall’ album where Rusty sang the entire tune from inside a crate. Night after night on tour, the band would re-enact the video using a large roadcase at the front of the stage where Rusty would hole-up using a wireless microphone to sing the entire song from within the case and emerge, triumphant, at the end of the tune to great applause. Only, this lovely lady was really, really drunk and wanted Russ to become her ‘kept’ man. So after he entered the crate, she sat upon it and then lay down upon it at which time he couldn’t get out. The small crowd howled with laughter as Russ went from being unawares to suddenly quite aware that he was trapped in the roadcase; one without air holes. It would take several bouncers, the soundman and members of Targetz to remove the rather ambitious woman from the lid of the box. When Rusty finally surfaced he gave a “WTF?” glance around and continued the show without missing a beat.
TAKE THE MONEY AND RUN
Before we were to return to Oshawa to open for Haywire at the Purple Onion (more about that debacle in a minute), we did a stop-gap show on the back-end of the three-night weekend at Gilmore’s strip club on the North Queensway in Etobicoke. We’d played there with the Clarke/Tedd/Kennedy/Vernon version of Moving Targetz in late October 1985. I figured it was as good a place as any to make a few bucks. Gilmore’s was merely a cash grab for us so that we could get back into the studio and finish our long suffering album.
I set the gig up myself with the club offering us $500 to do an early Sunday-night (9:30 PM to 12:00 PM). With it being a Sunday and the club being in an industrial area I knew the crowd would be thin. For us to cop the $500, we had to guarantee 100 bodies in the room. With several weeks advance on the show, I placed an ad in NOW Magazine looking for two “aspiring” bands to do the opening slot knowing very well that any high school or college garage band who wanted their “big break” were going to bring friends. I’d offer each act $100 for coming out, they’d be grateful to play their first professional gig and we’d take the remainder of the cash for arranging the entire event.
Well, the night of the show 210 people showed up…but after the second band got off the stage the crowd, predictably, thinned out to about 80 people for our headlining set. Following our performance I attempted to get paid from the floor manager. He refused to pay me citing our meagre 80 attendees and not the 100 I promised him on the phone. I insisted on getting the full paycheck because we’d put 210 bodies in the room — as promised. He still refused.
I went back to the band to get re-enforcements. Drummer Stacey Washington accompanied me to the club owner’s *office* — which was in the bar’s kitchen — and Stacey proceeded to go all Heath Ledger’s Joker on the guy pushing him back into a chair and pinning him against the wall while knocking things randomly off his desk. Like true gangster fashion, this guy pushed a button beside his desk and two rather large no-necked bouncers appeared in the kitchen door ready to tear our arms off. I surveyed the scene, and realized we were trapped in a room with two thugs and a pissed off manager. There was no other exit in the room. So, I grabbed Stacey by the arm and said, “We can’t win this one. Let’s cut our losses and get out of here alive.”
We pushed our way passed the tree stumps and proceeded to pack our gear and leave. The band did a huddle in the parking lot and I had to explain that we didn’t get paid. Just then Stacey pulls a wad of cash out of his pocket…$280 to be exact; it seems that while tossing the stuff from the club owner’s desk around Stacey grabbed a fistful of 20 dollar bills and shoved them down the back of his pants while pinning the guy against the wall.
We divvied up the dough to cover gas and gear. As our convoy of cars began to leave the parking lot I saw the bouncers bursting out the front door down the street behind us and.a pathetic footrace commenced in my rear-view mirror. The club went out of business a few months later.
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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