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Al Hawirko-Horowitz-Harlowe

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 1 month ago

Quick background on Al Hawirko/Horowitz/Harlowe

- this page contributed by Al Harlowe - 




- Al Harlowe onstage in Sgt Pepper's jacket 2006 -


Segment 41 was formed as an adjunct to petty criminal activity among our little gang onthe North Van waterfront. Frank Seabolt on drums, Ron Macy on guitar, Steve Renshaw on bass, and me on guitar, vocals and harmonica. First gig was 1965 at the North Van Rec Centre basement, Friday night teen dance series. Then the Stardust Roller Rink, frat houses at UBC etc. In 1966 we had a weekend residency at the Last Gasp club in Haney. We were cut short playing Windsor high school for featuring Fugs songs and our own off-colour compositions, very much in the vein of the Rolling Stones-meets-the-Sex-Pistols circa ’66. While waiting in the principal’s office for further discipline, Frank Seabolt took a dump in the old guy’s waste basket, paperwork courtesy of handy documents on the desk.


Segment 41 also played the 1966 Teen City at the PNE. We were driven right up to the stage in a snorting ’57 Ford rod, courtesy of our bodyguards, Ted Rogers and the Lonsdale Lobsters gang. They stood in a row in front of the stage, arms crossed, sunglasses on, making us look like we needed bodyguards. Afterward we made an equally loud & snorting exit, just like the Beatles or Stones would, with PNE staff opening a side gate to let the ’57 Ford through, while we flicked cigarette butts out the windows.


So Segment 41 to me was one serious band—coupled with our waterfront delinquent culture, we thought we were out-doing the Stones in the lifestyle dept.


I took Lindsay Mitchell to a Seeds of Time rehearsal in September 1967, on an invitation for me to join. Lindsay joined instead. My exit that same day resulted in my subsequent tenure with the Paisley Rain. I was genuinely interested in assuming Lindsay’s place in that band, especially as they had something very special indeed—Morris Hillen on bass. I reckoned he and Rick Enns were the only games in town—like Rick, Morris played superbly, ran his bass stereo through two Fender Showmen amps, looked great onstage and sang like a bird. So I went for it, hoping to assume a sort of Pete Townshend role, with Bill Duncan on vocals and occasional organ. They seemed to have good management, too, in the guise of local radio exec John Stott.


As it happened, a number of good things came of it—they were riding a wave of local popularity, so we did some very decent gigs, including Playboy’s foray into Vancouver at Isy’s, Oil Can’s, and the Retinal Circus, which incidentally, Segment 41 also played. I also went on my first bona-fide road trip with the ‘Rain, through Kamloops and the Okanagan. Not bad.


Ultimately their light was dimming though—the guys did not get along well.


The Trees were immediately born. I’d discovered Daryl Sherman, re-enlisted Frank Seabolt, and invited Jim Elliott on bass. We played both the Aldergrove & Strawberry Mountain festivals.


Meanwhile the Seeds were getting so much better as a band & becoming upwardly mobile, which finally convinced me to blend what I was doing with what they were doing. I was only there for an hour—I really was an outsider. Our recording of “Supergirl” remains an attestment to the fact that there was a synergy during my stay in the Seeds. I probably shoulda left right after that. Between the heroin and stormy women problems, I moved to England in ’73.


Back home in ’74, the Witz Kids with Steve Renshaw, Tim Francis and ex-wife Gerry Dunster led to the Harlow band with Steve and Will McAlder, among others. We made some very good recordings which caught the attention of Bruce Fairbairn and his new project with Jim Vallance and Lindsay. Goodbye Harlow, hallo Prism. In retrospect I shoulda stayed with Harlow.


Brush With Greatness: My brief tenure as a Burner Boy:



Al Hawirko on right played briefly with the Burner Boys



I had known the Burner Boys individually since primary school, in the case of Al Hovden, who first came to my attention when he played the role of Captain Vancouver in the 1958 BC Centennial Parade on the school grounds of Ridgeway Elementary in North Vancouver. I thought he did a grand job of this, decided I needed to get to know him better, while hoping I could play the same role next year, when I too was in the second grade. I didn’t realize centennials didn’t come around quite so often, and it would be another hundred years until the role would come up again. But I introduced myself to the seven year-old Al Hovden.


Burner Steve was the one I became closest to, as we formed our first band together during junior high school, and with our time divided between smashing windows and hopping freight trains on the waterfront, formed a kindred bond with shared passion for music and juvenile delinquency. Thus the mid-Sixties were pleasantly consumed.


Flash forward to Burnermania circa 1970 or so. Their zesty brand of rock and jug band kept local dances halls hopping, with a semi-residence at the Club 140 in the Olympic hotel likewise benefiting from their witty performances.


I was but an audience member, not a participant until an employment opportunity opened up in 1971 (Help, Dave; was it ’71 or ’72?).


One of the Boys was unable to play a date in Williams Lake, BC. I can’t recall if the absentee was Rod Dirk, Pete Sinclair or Gordon Walkinshaw, but I had to be the fifth, my Brian Jones to Al Hovden’s Keith Richards. The band had specifically asked me to emphasize my slide guitar playing, which I reckoned was to create a more interesting departure for them, as I didn’t recall a lot of slide work being the normal fare for Burner music. I knew the band’s material well enough from hanging out at their gigs, so with no rehearsal, I grabbed my Gibson Firebird III guitar and overnight bag, and we all piled into the band’s Econoline van, aiming it at Williams Lake. The van’s interior was customized with dozens of hotel room keys hanging from the sun visors and headliner over the windshield, testifying to Burner tours past, a sort of rock band version of the earlier pom-pom craze of windshield adornment.


Aside from the steady supply of beer for the drive, I recall passing a field of sheep somewhere north of Cache Creek, with Big D enticing the guys with, “Look , there’s Heidi, Lamb Chops, all the girls ready for a quickie. No-one will find out; pull over!”


We didn’t stop as requested, but pushed on to Williams Lake to set up for the evening’s gig, a dance at a local wooden public hall. P rior to the show, Big D was outside milling with the gathered crowd, and as he had a beer in hand, was arrested and taken to the local police station. There may have been an additional outstanding warrant on him, but nonetheless, the band was scheduled to play within minutes, now minus its vocalist & frontman, its main personality.


Big D was not your typical rock star wannabe. He didn’t even try to affect that stance. While not of the wiry frame, layered hair and sculpted facial features of the gum-chewing rockers of the day, Big D had a high-energy stage presence and way of moving that worked well. The white shoes, various cuts of sports jackets, even square-dance lace ties told you he was here to testify. I always imagined if Hemingway and the Lost Generation gang had decided to rock in Paris during their stay in the 1920s, Big D would be their man. He was literate rock. But none of that helped us in Williams Lake.


I recall we were forced to derivate somewhat from the usual set list, and I was asked to sing a few. The Burner Boys’songs embodied the band’s image as good-time social commentators, through the keen wit of titles like “Grease Ball Heaven”, spanning a stylistic breadth from that song’s doo-wop to the polka two-step of “I Deliver Chicken”.


My usual forte was fronting in a more self-possessed macho bluesy Brit-pop fashion, well within the rocker pantheon. The Burners’ rock-chopping “Get It On”, my favourite, was the place where our styles meshed best. I’d have been happy repeating that song all night, unadvisable as that might be. So I remember we got by with some R&B fare like “Knock on Wood” and a few others until, much to all our relief and delight, Big D was released from custody and took the stage to perform the rest of the evening. The details of his bail are gone from memory, but it was a happy affair as I played guitar for one evening as a Burner Boy.


I roomed with Al Hovden that night, in what seemed like the hotel equivalent of the old wooden meeting hall we played; an old wood-panelled hotel, with wall-mounted sink and bathroom down the hall. Between the venue and hotel, I had a strange sense of stepping back in time to the wild west.


We had a grand tour, and I assume all went well, though I was never asked to hold a permanent seat in the Burner orchestra. I requested the band drop me off in New Westminster at the residence of my old German friend, Peter von Gerloff, who lived in a grand, claustrophobic old house, full of antiques, suits of armour & tapestries. I hung around there for a few days and contemplated my career as a Burner Boy.


Not long afterward, Burner keyboardist Gordon Walkinshaw contacting me to “get together and try a few things” musically. He was an older guy, and so I assumed there could be a sort of Ray Manzarek role he might play in some future lineup of my own band, or perhaps a band he had in mind. I agreed to meet with him.


He lived in a milk truck at the time; this was the address I was given as the venue for our rehearsal. When I arrived he got straight to business, reading off a song list of pop cover tunes of the day, stuff that would go down well at a legion or lounge. He simply wanted to know if I could vamp through these tunes and sing most of them. I had never played in a cover band up to that time; the thought hadn’t occurred to me. I thought we were going to explore our own songs, arrangements and musical chemistry that might launch us as the Next Big Thing, record contracts, fame and fortune. Gordon was quite stern in his resolve that this was merely rent rock. He didn’t even wish to play the tunes all the way through; just bash at each and quickly move along. There was obviously rent to be paid, maybe on the milk truck. I didn’t last to the end of the list; it was a very short rehearsal. I never saw Gordon again; I just wasn’t his man.





Al Harlowe currently plays in the great Canadian band Prism


Comments (1)

Anonymous said

at 2:31 pm on Jan 11, 2007

Al, this was very entertaining. Thanks for not mentioning me in your move to England. Dave has already shattered my pristine reputation in earlier chapters.
Best regards,
Robyn McMillen Rands

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