Tuesday, December 29, 2015

John Bradbury (aka Prince Rimshot, aka J.B.) RIP

F%CK, I really thought I was done w/ this year!@#$%!!! But can't let the loss of a very special hero of mine go w/o a very special post...

Thankfully, the world of music is filled w/ a wide and wonderful variety of players. Yesterday, we caught wind that true rock and roll legend Lemmy Kilmister broke on through to the other side. Still, even in today's digital age, it's only a handful of musicians that gain such international recognition for their blood, sweat, and tears. Well, drummer and multi-instrumentalist John Bradbury was another one of this rare breed, laying down the crucial beat for The Specials, The Special AKA, and J.B's Allstars. I first heard J.B's trademark rimshot on the B-side The Specials debut single "Gangsters," a self-titled instrumental credited to The Selecter (*hear below) which later spawned a full group of the same name. As a somewhat culturally isolated youth, the music of The Specials played a MASSIVE part of my teenage development in the 1990s, giving me a sense of identity and pride. I never stopped listening to their music as time pushed along, despite being saddened by the lack of respect between members of 2-Tone's signature band after reuniting w/ original vocalist Terry Hall in 2008. Even w/o founder Jerry Dammers (or toaster Neville Staples), The "Specials" put on one a hell of a show in Vancouver in March of 2013. In unity w/ the heavy, yet sympathetic sound of original Specials' bass man Horace Panter (and creating one of the baddest rhythm sections EVER!@#$%!!!),  J.B's beat hit as hard as a professional boxer and certainly got the Commodore moving and grooving just like the good old days... Word through the grapevine was that there would be more touring in 2016 so Bradbury's certainly comes from out of the blue to his fans. Thanks for putting a little more purpose into my step J.B. I'll carry that razor sharp rude boy attitude w/ me for the rest of my life and continue to help to share your musical message any which way I can... I send my best to your family, friends, and band mates. PEACE!!!

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Earlier this month, I recall lying on my couch in something of a state. I was tired, overwhelmed, and a bit disappointed at my TOTAL lack of motivation. With so much to do, but little inspiration, I fooled myself into thinking that I was wasting my time and that I hadn't accomplished all that I had set out to do this year. Looking back, I was simply recuperating from a year JAMMED w/ music, travel, dancing, eating, connecting, and much communication. Let me retrace my steps...

2014 ended in a BANG after the launch of Native North America (*NNA V1 as it will come to be known throughout the rest of this entry) and a quick stop at Vancouver General Hospital to remind me that I was 40, not 25...  Still buoyed by the NNA V1 gatherings in Toronto (w/ Duke Redbird) and Vancouver (Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback), it was a pleasure to hit the island and up the coast to Powell River and Robert's Creek w/ Willie/Linda and Dada Plan for a labour of love tour in January. February saw various DJ duties and a Thin Lizzy record release PARTY at the Lido (w/ contributions from Thin Lizzy founding members Eric Bell and Brian Downey). Sláinte! March was fairly chill, but it was a killer treat to see/hear Dada Plan launch their 2nd LP at the Western Front in April w/ such panache (*keep your eyes/ears peeled for the group's third in 2016!). A trip to Winnipeg in late April and into May was incredible. As always, it was a pleasure and honour to connect w/ the hommie Birdapres. This was followed by my first trip to Texas to participate in the Austin Psych Fest (Levitation) alongside Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback. I'll never forget the thrill of playing Willie Dunn's "Peruvian Dream Pt. II" to over 8,000 people before the 13th Floor Elevators reunion and to watch my friends Willie/Linda perform to an appreciative and respectful audience. Such a trip!@#$%!!! Willie/Linda played at SFU and at the Interurban Gallery in May and were the subject of two separate documentaries, one of which you can peep HERE! At the SFU event it was incredible to do another 16mm screening of Willie Dunn's The Ballad of Crowfoot, essential viewing that will be featured on an upcoming anthology of Dunn's music and film (for Light in the Attic Records). Toronto was up next at the end of May and into June. I was not only able to catch one of my favourite British guitar bands of all time (RIDE), but host a follow-up NNA V1 gathering, this time featuring a rare performance from Eric Landry in addition to more poetry from Duke Redbird and a screening of the NFB feature, Cold Journey (*not to forget special guest Shingoose, who was in the house all the way from Winnipeg w/ family!). The following weekend was the first edition of the Vancouver edition of Levitation. Watching Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback perform to an eagle perched high on a tree to the left of the stage was a special memory. Also to connect w/ Oslo's Joao (and posse) as well as the good Al Lover from SF, my fellow Levitation DJs. Playing records at the Lido and the Khatsahlano street party (all reggae 12" 45s for that one) in June and July was a hoot. Of note, but certainly bittersweet was the completion of my divorce at the end of July. July 27 was marked on my calendar as "NEW LIFE : )", very dramatic, but in reality, not much has changed (I bow my head). August saw a return to Winnipeg for a special NNA V1 event at Plug In ICA. This gathering was made extra special by a live performance from none other than Shingoose as well as a talk from NCI's David McLeod, who not only spoke with great passion and knowledge, but shared a mind blowing slide show of Indigenous vinyl recording artwork from his personal collection. Light in the Attic had their annual block party mid-month and it was BOSS to re-connect w/ the good folks of Seattle (and the L.A. LITA crew). Willie/Linda also played in downtown Victoria (w/ a Sipreano DJ set). Unable to catch my breath, September was the most chock full month yet. Unfortunately this made my regular summer Sasamat swim sessions difficult to continue, something that brought me great strength and peace this past year like never before. My first trip to Yellowknife, NT, to host a NNA V1 event at NACC (featuring Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback along with John Angaiak) was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. The land, the people, the sky, the food, I will never forget my time there. Each and every Saturday in September was spent spinning vinyl records round and round at the ol' Lido (*thanks again Matt/Kim), including a multi-birthday jam for myself, Kamandi, WZRDRY A/V, and probably a few more September babies that are slipping my mind. Apparently, we set sales records at the bar that night which was cool and The Stunt Man had the dance floor PUMPING like never before (or until they bring him back ; )! Seeing Paul Weller for the first time on September 29 w/ Kamandi was sweet. He even played a version of the Style Council's "Long Hot Summer" which almost made me forget that the summer of 2015 whipped by so darn fast... October was made memorable with concerts by FIVER, Aileen Bryant, Dada Plan (at the Planetarium), Steve Lambke, and Destroyer (which I got to play records at, thanks Dan! As well as at the Mac Demarco show, both at the Commodore). There was also a trip to L.A. w/ The Stunt Man (Hi Eva!) where we ate killer tacos on a street named after Chevy Chase. November kept tings rolling w/ two more RIDE shows (YES!!! and YES!!! PLEASE COME BACK SOON!!!) and an appearance alongside Willie Thrasher and Linda Saddleback on Nardwuar the Human Serviette's CITR radio show to promote the re-release of Willie's 1981 CBC-produced Spirit Child LP on LITA. We marked this special occasion with a special gathering at the Lido. Not only did we have Willie/Linda in FULL effect (and gratefully after some health scares earlier in the fall for Willie), but a very special performance by NNA V1 featured artist Gordon Dick Sr. (Siwash Rock, Sound Tribe) who shared original material. Thanks again Gordie! December (still in progress, oh my) continues to amaze w/ another Willie/Linda gig in Victoria at the Copper Owl and a Grammy nomination for NNA V1 in the "Best Historical Recording" category. Um, "Hi Mom!" (RIP). 2 solid weeks of press later (including CBC TV, radio, and numerous print publications) and my mind is focused on 2016...

Ok, I basically just recited my 2015 calendar to you! More than happy to read this to you in person if needed/interested! Give me a holler! : )

More bits, bobs, shouts, and links: Thanks to the Goldstone Bakery in Chinatown for making the best Singapore vermicelli in Van, On Lok still on lock! HK BBQ all the way, King's Palace won ton soup, vinyl (the climate and the majority of people associated w/ the world of used records is making me retreat into my shell, but I KNOW that I found some gems going down the road this year... BIG thanks to Birdapres, though my touch hasn't completely evaporated), being single is weird (sorry) even for someone who enjoys his own company, I need to dance (outside of my home) more, The Beatles (always), MASSIVE thanks to all of the listeners who have been grooving on NNA V1 and Spirit Child and any of the reissue projects I've worked on this year (more to come!), BIG thanks to all of the media and social networkers who have helped to raise awareness about these projects, of course, the OG music makers, what's in MY fridge, writing about Maestro Fresh Wes' The Black Tie Affair for Exclaim! (w/ a Twitter nod from the Maes to boot! : ), sick hang w/ Chan in Seatown (nice to re-connect in person, still thinking about that soup!), Gino Vannelli (always), music video dreams (or were they?), walking (I still LOVE walking everywhere), the city of Winnipeg, so nice to see such a diverse mix of people at the various NNA V1-related gatherings, great to meet more of the NNA V1 artists in person (hopefully more links in 2016), my dear '95 Toyota Corolla (still rolling after all of these years, excited for cassette player #3), CRUSHING Sasamat Lake, RIDE (yes, again!!!),  THIS meal, Voluntary Tees (#1-3), Powell River, PRIDE, apocalypse ash swim, Destroyer at the Commodore (HOLY MOLY!!!), SEEKERS INTERNATIONAL at Mutek MTL, WZRDRY A/V's DJ set at the Lido (*honestly, right up there w/ the best I've ever heard, OG styles!@#$%!!!), DJ'ng at the Rickshaw Theatre, I always LOVED Arthur Lee's Vindicator, Primal Scream up close and personal, Grammy groupies, labours of love, feeling blessed, MOR passion, MOR mystery (yes, still), Arcee's appreciation of Sip talk (radio), always Kaewonder,  the fresh pineapple I bought today, grapefruits have been keeping me company recently, Linda McCartney (always), The Flame (always), mantra songs of 2015: "Revolution," "Overkill," and probably a couple more I'm blanking on, Birdapres rap show at the Red Lion, dim sum w/ Bird in Peg, old school or traditional restaurants over the latest, trendy or "greatest," "I just don't give a fuck dude" - Birdapres (*"No, not true... Positive. Positivity..."), music over format, dreaming of Japan, 2003 beats, up Island storms, land line RIP, Tayara Papigatuk (Sugluk) and Edwin Quinney (Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys) RIP, Noel Ellis re-release soon come, "Creation Never Sleeps, Creation Never Dies: The Willie Dunn Anthology 1965-1984," good things ahead, and more and more and more... PEACE

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Edwin Quinney RIP / Native North America (Vol. 1) year one

Life, as we all should know, is a fragile state and there is no greater reminder of this delicate existence than death itself. As a music historian with a focus in the latter half of the 20th century, I have always been aware of the time sensitive nature of my work, a feeling that has been reinforced throughout the years by the passing of some of my musical heroes. Such loss, especially for the families and close friends involved, never gets easier. I think of the late keyboard king Jackie Mittoo, who passed away in 1990 before I had the opportunity to meet him, I think of composer/arranger Doug Randle, a dear friend and inspiration, and I think of singer songwriter, poet, and filmmaker Willie Dunn, who I feel truly blessed to have spent time with before his departure from this earth into the spirit world on August 5th, 2013.

Tomorrow is the one-year anniversary of the release of Native North America (Vol. 1): Aboriginal Folk, Rock, and Country 1966-1985. Over 10 years in the making, it was such an honour to help share this still relevant music with fans old and new. The positive response from the artists themselves and music lovers and media around the world has been overwhelming to say the least and made extra poignant by the absence of Dunn, to whom the project was dedicated to. Last week, I received word from Light in the Attic Records founder and co-owner Matt Sullivan that yet another key player of the 23 artists and groups featured on the compilation had passed away. Edwin Quinney, the guitar wielding leader of the Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys—whose song “Modern Rock” is the sole instrumental on the set—lost his life to cancer this past September. I hadn’t spoken to Edwin since the summer, but I remember his warm voice coming through my cell phone as I looked up at the tall skyscrapers near Bay and Bloor while working in Toronto, a sharp contrast from Quinney’s rural Alberta home.

Over the course of numerous phone calls to Saddle Lake over the last few years, it was always such a pleasure to speak with Edwin, to hear about his music and his life. On one occasion, I asked him about the tattoos on his arms and he told me that as a young man his cousin had convinced him that they would only last 5-10 years, after which he let out a hearty chuckle. He also told me about his prized guitar which I’ll let you read about below in my biography of the Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys, taken from the Native North America (Vol. 1) liner notes book:

A country boy at heart, Plains Cree guitarist and bandleader Edwin Quinney (1947–) has always preferred the Prairie’s fresh air and wide-open space to the big city bustle. Quinney’s parents were farmers, and he was born into a large family of 13 children on the Saddle Lake Indian Reserve 125 in the province of Alberta. In the 1950s, the region was focused exclusively on agriculture. Although his family lived with no electricity, Quinney was exposed to battery-powered radio at an early age. Country music legend Hank Williams quickly became his idol. Inquisitive and musically minded, Quinney wanted to try playing himself. At this point, he had already started singing alongside his mother at Full Gospel church gatherings held at local homes. At 15 years of age, the teen did farmwork to raise the money needed for his first guitar, which was ordered via the Eaton’s catalogue and delivered through the mail. Quinney’s uncle, who lived across the street, also played and taught his nephew a few tricks when the instrument arrived. A chord book that came with the package revealed even more, but tuning his new six-string was another matter altogether and required numerous trips to his uncle for help. In between classes at the nearby R. B. Steinhauer Protestant Day School, where he learnt to speak English, Quinney strummed as much as he could. Years later, he attended the Alberta Vocational Centre (AVC) in the provincial capital of Edmonton (171 kilometers from Saddle Lake) for high school upgrade, but he found the larger city’s pulse much too hectic. During such times, playing guitar was a peaceful respite.

In addition to singing, Quinney also learnt a bit of fiddle and bass guitar along the way, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that he started his first group. He saw a need for live entertainment in the region, and in 1977 he gathered together a handful of music-minded relatives and friends. The band would give its members a positive outlet on weekends and help them to abstain from alcohol (the group would later play many sobriety functions). Quinney’s youngest brother, Ronnie (1958–), played bass; Vern Cardinal (1955–) was the drummer; Archie Steinhauer (1960–), Quinney’s cousin, was on rhythm guitar; and blind Métis fiddle player Clarence Desjarlais (1936–), from Lac La Biche, Alberta, filled out the lineup. Soon the nameless group was taking bookings. It was winter, and snowdrifts were becoming a common sight in the area. Harkening back to his country music roots, Quinney recalled the handle of Hank Williams’ backing band, the Drifting Cowboys—a perfect fit to match the new band’s country style and reflect the windblown seasonal conditions. They added Saddle Lake to their name to represent their community and were ready to hit the road. Dance music of any style was the order of the day: country, waltz, blues, boogie, and good old-fashioned rock and roll. As word spread, the band’s weekend calendar was quickly filled with bookings a year in advance. The Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys performed throughout the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan at events both big and small. They played to mixed crowds as well as to mostly Native audiences at weddings, banquets, and community fundraisers. They even made a series of guest appearances on CKSA-TV in Lloydminster, Saskatchewan.

Through a business contact of Quinney’s, the group travelled as far as New York in 1982 to perform. They also recorded an LP (Country and Rock & Roll Sound [SL 001/82]) and a cassette (Live at New York) on their journey. Outside of the band’s rural Alberta comfort zone, everyone made sure to have a fun time. Desjarlais got his fiddle fitted with an electric pickup on the trip, and Quinney purchased some snazzy stickers for his Peavey guitar. Country and Rock & Roll Sound’s “Modern Rock” also broke the mold for Quinney, who aimed to write a song with a nod to the new wave sound he heard on the radio in the early 1980s. With two full-length recordings in the can, the group now had merchandise to move. One thousand copies of the album and cassette were produced altogether and were sold off the stage as well as at a store in Lac La Biche. As the Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys was a hobby band, the members stayed busy during the week with day jobs. Quinney, for one, worked in the accounts departments for Indian Affairs as well as the Saddle Lake band. He also served three terms over nine years in the local Tribal Council. The group performed until 1994. Today Quinney is retired and occasionally plays guitar, though his beautifully stickered Peavey was stolen in 2000 and has yet to resurface. Desjarlais passed away in 2007. The other band members still live and work in the region. While the Saddle Lake Drifting Cowboys’ albums and cassettes long ago sold out, a framed, autographed LP hangs on the wall of a liquor outlet/general store in Foisy, just outside of Saddle Lake. It’s a special memento of all the good times.

In a strange way, death has always been a motivator in my work. I found that digging through the crates was a peaceful respite after reeling from the passing of my mother, also to cancer, in 1999, and I have definitely found myself racing against time to learn as much as I can about the pre-digital era of Canadian music history in the face of more loss. Day by day, we are all getting older; so remember to take the time to speak with our seniors and elders. We have so much to share and learn from each other and I know that the more that this happens, the world will be a better place.

Eternal love,
Kevin “Sipreano” Howes

Post-script: Word from Saddle Lake is that Edwin’s funeral was very well attended, a testament to his personality and contributions to his community and region. Family members are looking for a copy of the band’s Live in New York cassette if anyone has come across or has access to a copy. Don’t hesitate to reach out.

Friday, November 20, 2015

My Wildest Dreams

*The last couple of weeks have been intense and somewhat insane (in the best possible way)!@#$%!!! It was nice to hear this Moody Blues track at IKEA (could be found dancing down an aisle) while buying a salad spinner w/ Kamandi (sorry, no butter dish there TSM) and was VERY surprised to see Kamo pull this at Apollo Records about a half an hour later. Of course, like the good hommie he is, the record was passed my way. I was even able to return the kind favour my floating my old DJ spar a promo 12" of Men At Work's "Overkill" (Doug and the Slugs + The Police). No, I am not fucking around here (keep jerking off about yer $100+ "rarities" like the biggest drip, profits and prestige, fuck that)... Cheap 80's for days!!!

Highlights (possibly to be expounded on at a later date):

- Digging trip w/ Birdapres
- Bird mashes the Red Lion in Powell River
- The time was not right for that house call, it will work as is intended
- Nardwuar the Human Serviette Radio Show w/ Willie Thrasher and Sipreano
- Nardwuar ("To be continued...")
- Bobby Gillespie's boots (up close and personal at the QET)
- Kokanne beer can on Innes' amp set up
- LOVE-era Cult
- Macey's coat (and rad vibes)
- Blasts from the past (KDN : )
- Psychedelic casino soundscape
- RIDE twice as nice in Seattle and Vancouver!!
- Fosters
- Andy Bell's outfit in Vancouver (looking good man : ) like Sip some said in the audience. LOL...)
- Mexican food in Burlington
-Kamandi's free steel band record (*OMG all that generosity pays off, eh, thanks again my brother)
- Spirit Child record re-release party goes off the hook at the Lido
- Gordon Dick Sr. LIVE and DIRECT acoustic set
- Always dancing (AEM : )
- Kloochman Park re-tuning
- Homemade stab at Singapore Vermicelli (*will I ever get it right???)
- Sleep


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Spirit Child (Vancouver Sun's Album of the Week)


Spirit Child
Willie Thrasher
(Light In The Attic)

4 out of 5 stars

The Native North America Vol. 1 compilation released by Light In The Attic in 2014 was a masterpiece of archival work by Vancouver DJ Kevin “Sipreano” Howes. It remains a must-own collection of aboriginal folk, rock and psych music that would have likely been lost otherwise, and it made music fans rediscover some amazing talent, including B.C. folk-rocker Willie Thrasher.
Thrasher is the first of the artists on the NNA lineup to get a proper solo reissue. Spirit Child was Thrasher’s 1981 debut as a solo artist. Formerly of Inuit rock band The Cordells, Thrasher culled his inspiration from Creedence Clearwater Revival and Neil Young, which are the most obvious points of reference on Spirit Child.

The songs are ramshackle, bruised and vital, driven by Thrasher’s acoustic guitar and wobbly vocals. The gripping Forefathers has Thrasher singing about his Inuit land, “where we don’t need no oil or gold.” It’s a soulful ode to nature. On Wolves Don’t Live By The Rules, Thrasher channels his inner Steppenwolf for a rollicking song about freedom.

The album is populated by a colourful cast of characters (Eskimo Named Johnny, Old Man Carver, and Old Man Inuit, where the titular old man speaks the lyrics in his native tongue) and places (Shingle Point Whale Camp). The stunning Beautiful is a classic country tune with pedal steel guitar, where Thrasher praises the beauty of the land that surrounds him. It’s the simplest statement, but it evokes enormous emotions.

Again, the reissuing work by Howes and Light In The Attic is top notch, replicating the original album cover (complete with the logo of the CBC, which served as recording facilities for Thrasher) and adding the colours and design work of the NNA box set.

It’s a nice touch and a great complement to a collection that can only keep growing.

Willie Thrasher plays The Lido Nov. 18.

Re-posted from the Vancouver Sun

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Yugo Demo


*Super sweet to see this book land on my doorstep yesterday all the way from Cape Town, SA, and only a day before today's sold-out Rodriguez gig at the Vogue Theatre (the first of two I should add)!!! It was such an honour to have helped to document/raise awareness about one of the most magical musical stories and musicians of our time alongside Light in the Attic Records. May his songs continue to play on... PEACE

RIP Allen Toussaint

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Spirit and the Feeling

I carry the spirit of northern soul
Of skinhead reggae, rap, psych, ravers, and tunes that roll
You don't believe me? Look into my eyes...

I can rock a party with folk songs (or so I used to say)
The bits and sometimes bobs of those uniformed days are now in the closet, something to remember on another rainy, Vancouver day
Or even to reassemble in a twisted fashion style when occasionally off to play

Catch me on the floor

I still dance, and I move, and I shake

But really, it’s now my work that shares this tale and the tales of those who gave it their everything in the pre-digital age
Stories literally jumping out of circular grooves, record after record, and read aloud on yellowing pieces of paper

The line is drawn, but it's not visible to the eye, simply felt
I can only pray that I am not left behind when my gris-gris is weak
For to run with the pack can be rewarding

Crystal clear vision and booze soaked floors are a thing of the past for many crews and bands long since dismantled
We used to congregate in bars and clubs no longer here and pick up the pieces where we could
This energy remains in youth and while many men and women have passed by and on
Their memories still burn deep within our hearts

As we get older, old gangs fragment, new ones combine, families sprout blossoms, and life never ceases to push straight ahead, even in the face of death

I can never stop believing in all of these things

The feeling remains far too strong

Catch me in the woods or on the road

Always learning


Friday, October 23, 2015

The Musical Pope (Earle Heedram, aka The Mighty Pope)

There are people that you meet who change your life forever. Earle Heedram, aka The Mighty Pope is one of those for me. Today, is Pope's 70th birthday and I would like to share some of his musical history w/ you. Here's to many more happy years ahead my friend!!! I feel blessed to have have shared so many good times in your company. I am raising a toast from the coast!!!

The Mighty Pope (born Earle Heedram, October 23, 1945) is a Jamaican-Canadian singer, recording act, and one of the first Afro-Canadian solo artists to release a major label long playing album in Canada.

Known for his vocal strength (hence the "Mighty" prefix in his stage handle) and sharp visual presentation (custom tailored suits, shirts, capes, and footwear), he was marketed as a something of a "sex symbol" at the height of his recording career in the mid-to-late 1970s.

Early years
Pope (who received his nickname via a Vatican-shaped plot of land his father owned in their native Lucea, Jamaica) came to Canada in 1965 and after adjusting to the culture shock of his new surroundings (people, transportation, architecture, food, weather, media/advertising), wasted no time in immersing himself into the heart of Ontario's growing Jamaican musical landscape. Due to immigration reforms and the 1955-1960 West Indian Domestic Scheme, by the mid-sixties, Canada's Jamaican population was expanding significantly and there were already a handful of clubs (Club Jamaica, W.I.F. Club, Club Trinidad, etc.) catering to those immigrants who wished to celebrate their native culture through music, social events, and food. Although Pope had only seen fairly limited performing experience in his native Jamaica (performing with Byron Lee, see below, as well as other regional musicians on the local talent show scene), he quickly became the R&B commodity on Toronto's Yonge Street strip (Hawk's Nest, Le C'oq D'or) after reinvigorating The Sheiks, the house band at Club Jamaica (located where Eaton Centre now exists, managed by Mr. Fitz Riley), as lead singer.


The Sheiks

In 1964, The Sheiks (including vocalists Jackie Opel, Lynval "Eddie", Spencer, and singing MC Bobby Rousseau) were the first group of non-folk playing West Indian musicians who came to Canada, initially to promote the indigenous Jamaican sound of ska, yet never returning to the islands after seeing potential musical work opportunities in Canada (though notable Studio One vocalist Opel did venture back to Jamaica after his first taste of the Canadian winter). After Spencer's departure from the group to perform as a solo artist (where he saw early breakout success), the outfit was in dire straits. Pope's arrival on the scene in 1966 reignited the band and within the year, they were cutting their debut Canadian recording in the studio. The Sheiks (featuring The Mighty Pope) cut one R&B/soul single, released on the short-lived Toronto-based independent Raymond Records label called "Eternal Love" (b/w "Centennial Swing", 1967) (included on Seattle-based Light In The Attic Records' 2006 compilation, Jamaica To Toronto: Soul Funk & Reggae 1967-1974).

The Hitch-Hikers

Along with Sheiks guitarist/co-song writer Rupert "Valentine" Bent, Studio One drummer Joe Isaacs, Pope was soon courted by American-born Rock and Roll legend Frank Motley (an innovator in the transition of rhythm & blues into rock and roll during the 50s with his dual trumpet technique) to front his Hitch-Hikers combo (another mainstay of Toronto's R&B community) replacing the popular singer Jackie Shane. The band's Grenada-born bass player, George Phillip, was already in Motley's fold (joining his then-"Motley Crew" after departing the 1964 incarnation of The Sheiks). The Pope fronted Hitch-Hikers kept a very active performance pace with constant dates all over Ontario and Quebec (routes already traveled by the Pope-fronted Sheiks). Recording their debut LP in 1970 with Canadian label Paragon, The Hitch-Hikers featuring The Mighty Pope combined a mix of Pope and Bent-penned originals and tough R&B/funk covers by the likes of Eddie Bo and The Meters. With no industry or much promotional support, the disc sank. After a series of line-up changes with The Hitch-Hikers (seeing Motley, Bent exit and the addition of Jamaican-Canadians Wayne McGhie on guitar and Jimmy Carver on keyboards and one-time Skatalites trumpet player, Johnny "Dizzy" Moore), the band released one more single, "Mr. Fortune" on the Heart label before packing it in for good. 

Solo career

After fronting minor combos Ram and the Wild Oats, Pope eventually went solo and saw even greater commercial success. With a rigorous schedule of non-stop touring, Pope continued to gain recognition and adoration. By the mid-seventies, his dynamic stage act caught the attention of management and subsequently RCA Records Canada, who released his self-titled The Mighty Pope soul LP in 1977 (notable for being the first major label solo LP recorded in Canada by an Afro-Canadian artist, breaking down walls and barriers for future generations of Urban artists). It contained the single, "Heaven On The 7th Floor," a #14 hit single in Canada. Harry Hinde (Tundra, Charity Brown, Shania Twain) produced the disc with arrangements from Eric Robertson (The Majestics, Moe Koffman, Roger Whittaker) and most impressively, Motown and Detroit music legend David Van De Pitte (Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On" to name but one). Four 7" singles from the long player were released altogether. "Heaven On The Seventh Floor" broke the Canadian Top 20, while "If You Want A Love Affair" received worship from the UK's dance-fuelled Northern Soul scene.

In 1978, Pope signed with Quality Records after sessions for a second RCA album were aborted (unreleased demos were recorded in Detroit throughout 1978 with Van De Pitte). New producer John Driscoll surrounded Pope with top-notch talent for his next recording project, amongst them, Italian-Canadian disco icon Gino Soccio, for his second solo album, "Sway." The album quickly shot up the club charts worldwide and was additionally picked up for American release by RFC Records. The first 12" single was a remake of the Bobby Rydell's 1960 hit "Sway" followed by dance floor smash "Sweet Blindness". Both songs were remixed by Jim Burgess and scored Top 40 placement on the U.S. disco charts assisted by promotional tours to Studio 54, national TV, media, and extended cross-Canadian touring.

With changing musical tides, Pope's induction to the world of disco was short-lived and by the early 80s, RFC Records had folded. Still, Pope continued to perform soul, R&B, and pop in bars and clubs across Canada until the early 90s when he decided to retire from the business and focus on family With his musical career revived by 2006's Jamaica To Toronto archival reissue project, Pope was soon performing in Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver, BC to receptive audiences old and new. He is currently preparing for a nationally televised CBC performance as well as writing songs for a series of upcoming releases.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I never really liked Nirvana. Of course, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was a catchy radio/video hit, but grunge didn't do too much for me after a late 1980s/early 1990s high school soundtrack of Public Enemy and the English Beat. Dressed in thrift store threads and band t-shirts, I found the Seattle-based rockers negative and whiny. In 1991, I broke my back jumping off of a 40-foot cliff at Whistler mountain and landed in VGH's GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre for a couple of excruciating weeks. Thankfully, my friends and family were very supportive. I even got a MASSIVE get well card from my Centennial Grade 12 classmates, though I still felt like an outsider after having moved back to B.C. from Ontario prior to the start of Grade 11. Another gift was a copy of Nirvana's Nevermind on cassette, which arrived in the mail from my old pal and ski buddy Lany Jaros. This was in the days of the Sony Walkman so I proceeded to give the tape a spin. Barely making it through to the end, I put the case on my bedside table and never touched it again. The music, for me, was so depressing during a time when I needed a positive mental attitude and a healing spirit. Unfortunately, the songs of Kurt and company weren't gonna cut it as therapy. As I recovered from my injury, music certainly played its part, and once back on track health wise, it became more and more of a passion for me. A few years and another Nirvana album later, Kurt Cobain killed himself. Even though I wasn't a fan, I acknowledged their importance in the pop culture landscape and Cobain himself as an inspiration to many people my age. I even bought a copy of the Rolling Stone magazine that came out after his passing during a regular trip to New Westminster for a meal at Hon's Wun-Tun House. Thinking back to the candlelight vigils held in his memory, his passing easily had the impact of John Lennon's assassination to the 1990s generation. But as it does, life goes on... That same year, I was lucky to get a job at HMV #852 in Coquitlam Centre, a mall notable for its angular interior design and as one of the key filming locations for Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains. During the height of the CD boom and with minimal corporate interference, a few music loving staff and I were able to create a virtual music library there for our research and enjoyment. Yes, we sold discs to the public too. In fact, we sold TONS of them, but for me, it was mostly a place where I immersed myself in the breadth of recorded music: independent new age, underground rap, dub reggae, jazz, soul, R&B, post-punk, 1970s German rock, 1960s psychedelia, not to forget the latest UK imports. But back to Nirvana. On November 1st, 1994, DGC Records released the group's MTV Unplugged in New York CD. Needless to say, in the wake of Cobain's suicide and leading up to the impending Christmas rush, it was a huge success. The performance, recorded a half a year before Cobain's death, featured stripped down versions of Nirvana hits and a selection of covers including David Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World." Without the layers of electric guitars, throbbing bass, and pummeling drums, you could really hear the songs. I finally got it! And though I didn't buy the album, I always enjoyed hearing it played over the store's sound system, on radio or television. By then I was immersed in the post-Stone Roses sounds of Oasis, whose Definitely Maybe debut had just been released in August of that year. More recently, it gave me a chuckle to hear that Cobain's daughter Frances Bean was more of an Oasis fan than a Nirvana one. I understood. Still, the latter's Unplugged set will no doubt serve as a continued revelation for me as the years go by... It's something I look forward to returning to.

*The sweater that Kurt wore for the MTV Unplugged in New York event is currently being auctioned

Monday, October 5, 2015

That's Entertainment

A police car and a screamin' siren
Pneumatic drill and ripped-up concrete
A baby wailing, a stray dog howling
The screech of brakes and lamplights blinking

That's entertainment
That's entertainment

A smash of glass and the rumble of boots
An electric train and a ripped-up phone booth
Paint-splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat
Lights going out and a kick in the balls

I say that's entertainment
That's entertainment

Days of speed and slow-time Mondays
Pissing down with rain on a boring Wednesday
Watching the news and not eating your tea
A freezing cold flat and damp on the walls

I say that's entertainment
That's entertainment

Waking up at 6 AM on a cool warm morning
Opening the windows and breathing in petrol
An amateur band rehearse in a nearby yard
Watching the telly and thinkin' 'bout your holidays

That's entertainment
That's entertainment

Waking up from bad dreams and smoking cigarettes
Cuddling a warm girl and smelling stale perfume
A hot summer's day and sticky black tarmac
Feeding ducks in the park and wishing you were far away

That's entertainment
That's entertainment

Two lovers kissing masks the scream of midnight
Two lovers missing the tranquility of solitude
Getting a cab and traveling on buses
Reading the graffiti about slashed-seat affairs

I say that's entertainment
That's entertainment