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Chapter 12

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 10 months ago

Chapter 12

 

 

 

Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash around the time they ran into the Burner Boys

 

Banished back to the bottom-feeding demographic of the Big O we actually began to thrive. It became our second home. Within a few weeks, for the first time in history there were line ups at the Club 140.

 

New and unlikely fans began to appear. I was surprised to see my 300 pound California biker neighbour, Gary Free. He was normally too lazy, drunk and stoned to venture far from his front porch. There he held court all day to the vassals of his slum empire with a gallon of cheap Calona Royal Red Medium wine and an ounce of weed. I noticed him standing at the back of the club with his partner, an oily runt named Little Gary. His face wore a dark look. During the break I avoided him and slipped out to the pub where the beer was cheaper. Suddenly I felt my head jerked violently back over my chair. I stared up into Gary Free’s pock marked, bearded face. I thought he was going to wring my neck for playing Greaseball Heaven but in the next instant he planted the biggest, ugliest, wettest biker kiss on me in history. His beard ground into my face like sandpaper. His tobacco stained tongue probed my mouth. It roved around. He had my head yanked back by the hair hard over the chair so I was helpless except to wheel my arms and kick my legs. It was like being violated by a drunken ape. This went on for a good ten seconds. By the time he let me go my eyes were watering.

 

As I bent forward in my chair spitting and coughing and trying to rinse my mouth with beer he gripped my shoulder and grunted, “Righteous music, man.” This might have been the ultimate biker compliment but it came at a high price. If there is a phobia for a morbid fear of being tongued by a Hell’s Angel I have it for life.

 

The next day he informed me the music made him feel so up he had picked up a fat woman in the club. They waddled off together to the children’s playground next door and humped on the dewy grass next to the teeter-totters to the thumping bass throbbing though the walls of the Big O – probably some of the sorriest lovemaking in human history.

 

Martin O’Brian now regularly arrived with a gaggle of about twenty people who took over four tables every night. He also arrived with a fresh woman on his arm – Ruth Hammond – wilder than anyone previous for what happened next. I forever regret the fact that I was too dumb to know what was going on that night. The dance floor was packed and it was hard to see from the stage when a loose circle formed in the middle of the crowd that night. We played hard. Sweat poured down our faces as a rhythmic clapping became evident. From my viewpoint on the stage it resembled a primitive rite, like cannibals or head hunters working themselves up for the hunt. What was really happening inside the circle was Martin O’Brien was dancing like a naked demon around Ruth Hammond who lay on the floor writhing in nothing but her panties. Occasionally he would whirl her on her ass on the hardwood floor like he was playing spin the bottle. Then he dived on top of her and started screwing. More remarkable, waiters cruised by with loaded trays and peeped down at the action with lively interest, there apparently being no rule in the Big O’s Employee Handbook requring them to prevent public fucking. Finally there was an orgasmic shriek and what sounded like the howl of a wolf. Then a huge cheer. The circle closed in again like nothing had ever happened. There was no recrimination. The only fallout was that Martin O’Brian’s new girlfriend got the life long nick name of Dirty Gaunch Ruth.

 

Incidents like this cranked the level of the Club 140 over the red line. Now anything went. The Big O began to feed off its own energy like the vortex of a dark tornado. One could almost see a powerful funnel cloud above the place sucking up people, dirty ashtrays, thousands of empty beer bottles and even stray dogs. Teenagers, married couples, bikers, office workers, teachers and hippies plus the residual riff raff overflowing from the bar poured in. It became a center of gravity. Even a few of the Bob Huish fans hung doggedly on. I watched a young girl with wild hair in her early twenties prowling intensely around the club. By her body language she clearly wanted to dance then screw, not necessarily in that order. Finding no takers she grabbed The Night Watchman, sitting in the back in his only suit, taking him by surprise. The poor bastard went out onto the dance floor and grimly shuffled while she did a drug addled stomp and practically undressed him.

 

Throughout all this Larry was making a mint.

 

This wasn’t lost on the fat cat establishment living the high life in the upper residential heights of North Vancouver. There was good money to be made flogging live music in the Lower Lonsdale area where young people lived thick in cheap apartments. Smaller venues sprang up around the hotel. One of the first was the City Meet Market, started by an opportunistic City Councilor named Francis Faminow. It was a sinless alternative, featuring coffee, folk singers, poetry readings and badly written plays –just right for the square audience who wanted to go to the Big O but were afraid they’d come out with a tattoo and the clap.

 

We dismissed the place with a sniff but then word filtered down that Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash would be appearing there. This was unprecedented. Nobody even remotely famous had visted Lower Lonsdale in living memory. Obviously the Meet Market’s owner had more influence with the musical aristocracy than Larry could ever hope for. I could imagine him meeting Joni Mitchell at some high social function and trying to sell her tickets to the meat draw.

 

This news was irresistible to us and we got ourselves booked for a guest set. We were playing better than we ever had before but we still suffered from an almost total lack of exposure. Nevertheless, like peasants on a religious pilgrimage we stubbornly held onto one article of faith. Our success would come one day like the random collision of planets - ourselves being one of the planets with the other being some fabulous figure from the music business with immense wealth and limitless connections. It was rather like expecting to see Phil Spector show up at the Club 140 drunk with a suitcase full of money, but it kept us going.

 

By contrast Joni Mitchell was riding a tidal wave of success – albums like Ladies of the Canyon'' and Strawberry Statement with monster hits such as Raised on Robbery, The Circle Game and Big Yellow Taxi made her a queen of AM airplay. Graham Nash was also doing screamingly well. His band, Crosby Stills Nash and Young had just released their Déjà Vu album which was spinning out hits like a Wurlitzer. Pop folk rock songs like Teach Your Children Well, Wooden Ships and Our House had them being hailed as musical geniuses. Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash were also rumored to be having a torrid affair so hopefully they would be in splendid moods.

 

Better still, Al and I had made contact with the local A&R man for Capitol Records and arranged for him to come to the Meet Market for an audition. This was our first bona fide break. The songs we’d been writing and performing were now as catchy as any on the radio. Clearly any audition would go better if the Capitol Records man saw Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash cheering wildly in the audience. It was also a good fallback. If the record man was left cold, perhaps, as artists, Joni and Graham would recognize our true talent and offer to place us under personal management. It was a faint hope, but hope nonetheless.

 

We showed at six at the Meet Market to check out the venue. Compared to the Club 140 it was depressingly bright and cheerful. The chairs and tables, hardwood floor and stage were all of blond wood. Daylight poured through the large windows to the right, giving it the look and feel of a Swedish dining room. The gathering audience was composed largely of young women in corn blond pigtails dressed like Heidi and their nerdy boyfriends, with the occasional uncle thrown in to make sure things didn’t get out of hand. I watched them sit and chat vacantly over coffee. In 1970 there was no Starbucks – no Americanos, lattes, cappuccinos or iced frappes, and espresso could only be found in rare spots deep downtown. These people were sitting in a hot room after five drinking watery diner coffee and pretending they were having fun. As I watched I shook my head in genuine sadness, pictured the Club 140 in its state of advanced frenzy and thought how far we have come.

 

After three quarters of an hour nothing had happened. Then an out of town foursome set up and started playing airheaded jazz. It was all over the place – wandering bass, two guitars playing in talentless conflict and a drummer reduced to doing endless rolls and fills trying to keep the song together. Ten minutes later it thankfully ran out of steam. There was polite applause. Some fool in long hair and a logger’s shirt stepped forward to introduce himself as the author of this abomination.

 

“I’m from New York.” This was meant to impress.

 

The audience clapped a bit and drank more weak coffee.

 

“By New York,” he said in a husky, hipster voice, “I mean upstate New York.”

 

More smattering applause as the audience tried to figure out the advantage of listening to someone from upstate New York as compared to the rest of New York.

 

“This next song is called Winter’s Spring. That’s Winter’s Spring,” he emphasized, as if this made a whit of difference to the inane title.

 

The audience sat stupefied, and rightly so.

 

“I wrote this when I was in New York. That’s upstate New York.”

 

By now I was ready to throw my shoe at this ass.

 

Out of boredom or perhaps in spite we hurried the two blocks back up to the only place we knew and understood. At the Big O we drank with the rapid action of one armed bandits, wanting to achieve nine beer nirvana in as short a time as possible. Our guest set was scheduled for nine o’clock, but Peter excused himself early, claiming he had personal business. I secretly hoped he was dashing up to the nearest Jehovah’s Witness Kingdom Hall to throw in a last minute prayer for our deliverance from the small time. The rest of us left at seven-thirty sharp and hurried back to the Meet Market, anxious to schmooze the Capitol Records man.

 

In 1970 record executives had not yet acquired the hip veneer of bell bottom leisure suits and paisley shirts. Instead they dressed like Men in Black. We scanned the audience but saw no one looking remotely corporate. As the minutes ticked by we watched and waited, but soon reality sunk in - we had been stood up. Being stiffed by penny ante booking agents was one thing, but no one imagined a Capitol Records man could be so flakey. We felt bitterly betrayed, as if venturing away from the Big O had been a fool’s errand. Then Peter arrived. His personal business had been to go to the liquor store and buy a mickey. Apparently the anticipation of playing for a big time record executive was too stressful for him. At the liquor store he met Wirehead, Al’s younger brother. Together they wandered back down to the Meet Market like a pair of winos polishing off their bottles in record time.

 

They found seats at a table. As I watched in dismay they were soon underneath it. I’d always believed being drunk under the table was a jocular figure of speech but I now saw it indeed had a basis in fact. The owners scowled at this outpost of bad taste but thankfully did not eject them.

 

By the time we had to go on stage Peter was just sober enough to play. I ran my eyes quickly over the audience, now standing room only, looking for evidence of Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash but now they too were apparently no shows. This night was supposed to be our Main Chance but now was falling into a state of wretched collapse. It was too much to take. I felt the bile rising.

 

“Good evening,” I announced to the crowd. “We’re the Burner Boys. We made it, unlike Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash who were supposed to be here. But don’t worry. I have it on good information that they’ve rented a room up at the Big O. They are in bed right now going ‘our house, is a very very very fine house,’” I sang the refrain from the Graham Nash hit song, pumped my arm and thrust my hips suggestively in time to the rhythm. The intent was unmistakable. The audience broke into nervous, embarrassed laughter. I felt Al nudge my elbow.

 

“Dave,” he hissed. “Over in the corner. They’re here.”

 

I peered over into a far dark corner. Sure enough, there stood Joni Mitchell and Graham Nash, laughing politely but looking decidedly put out at the idea of a local lout having the nerve to get up on stage and publicly speculate on the depths to which their private love affair had fallen. We started playing. They left. They looked rather too put out, I thought, for my modest attempt at levity. By a stroke of irony as soon as they left we cranked up, blew away the audience, got standing ovations and actually had them singing along with us. It was an empty victory. It wasn’t like we wanted to cure cancer or conquer ignorance –we merely wanted an even break like other bands seemed to get at some point in their careers. We were bitterly disappointed. We could only share the faith the opprortunity would present itself again.

 

As we made our way back to the Big O through the hot July night for a compensatory nightcap I tried to see the bright side. Looking at the big picture I told myself it was probably better we weren’t discovered that night. Going off and away the next day on a huge Burner Boys/Joni Mitchell/Graham Nash National Tour would have interfered with Tim’s upcoming wedding plans. I imagined us playing The Hollywood Bowl or Shea Stadium racked with guilt over leaving Tim’s fiancée waiting. It would have been un-Burner like and bad form.

 

Al, Dave, and Peter Bury after Tim and Jerry's wedding

 

Considering the gritty nature of Burner culture one would expect a band wedding to take place in an auto wrecking yard surrounded by drug dealers, vicious dogs and unsightly but well meaning bikers. Instead it was like surfacing from the brackish waters of the Big O and briefly entering a land of fresh air, light and lyrical beauty. The ceremony took place on a rocky outcropping in Whytcliffe Park overlooking the Pacific. It was conducted by a minister of the Bahá'í Faith. He and many other guests wore sparkling white robes with long garlands of brilliant summer flowers. A singer named Melinda Whittaker performed one of her songs, accompanied by Al and Peter. It began.

 

As the canvas unfolds, the painter's vision must be bold

 

As I listened to this soothing music I reflected that Tim and Jerry had chosen the religion wisely. In the ceremony it was explained that in contrast to most other religious dogma, Bahá'í teaches that the physical desires of human beings are not evil or bad. Everything in God's creation is regarded as fundamentally good. In fact, the very purpose of the human body and its physical faculties is to serve as a proper vehicle for the development of the soul. For example, the human sexual urge is considered to be a gift from God. According to Bahá'í standards the Burners were not lowly dope, booze and pussy hounds but in fact advanced spiritual beings following Godly physical urges, well on our way up through the divine clockwork. This was a welcome confirmation. I’d long suspected we operated on some hard-to-define yet holy plane of poverty, creativity, and powerful physical urges. Now the Bahá'í doctrine had given us the stamp of approval. If, saint-like, we kept up our behavior of drinking, smoking and bothering women our souls might well acquire enough celestial merit not to get all the way to heaven, but at least to one day get a decent break for the band here on earth. Basking in this religious tolerance the Burners behaved like angels throughout the wedding. I hoped that Peter, faced with the hellish consequences of the Darth Vader-like Jehovah’s Witnesses who seemed to be increasingly riding his ass, would convert to Baha'i on the spot.

 

Armed with this fresh spiritual validation we submerged again beneath the muddy waters of the Big O. The average fan still had the manners of a camel and the breath of a goat but now we played with renewed determination. All we had left was the belief that the harder we worked and the better we got the quicker deliverance would follow. Now the Big O began to reflect in our music. Sometimes songs were written from a sense of bitter irony produced by playing there night after night. During a gig when we had the crowd’s number, the frenzy reached such a pitch that it almost became solid fever. The floor was packed with sweaty bodies, powered by coke, booze, speed and music. Sexy women whirled and undulated in front of the stage. After every song fans stood and shouted ‘Get It On’. It was the hippest thing they could think of to yell.

 

Our bodies absorbed the energy. Mostly we rode it but sometimes it got into our heads and infected us like a virus or a drug, making us almost delusional. Instead of merely playing we became one with the crowd. It was more like we were at a crazed party at which we were the stars. Anything could happen. It was like a lucid dream.

 

Then, suddenly, the lights came on. 2 AM. The bar shut. Everybody left.

Instantly. Where there had been a sea of hot humanity there were now only tired waiters clattering empty beer bottles, dumping ashtrays into big tins and wanting to go home.

 

One night I was so hopped up the sudden ending hit me like a physical blow. I stared at the empty dance floor. I wanted to cling to the energy, the chance of more. Anything. I’d worked all night. It was my turn. But no - instead I went home alone and lay wide awake on my bare mattress. What I needed was a sleeping pill and a dose of saltpeter. What I had was a pen and paper. I started writing. Every time I tried to sleep another verse would write itself in my head and I’d get up again. When it was finished I lay back exhausted. Still I couldn’t sleep. Nothing I did would make morning come sooner.

 

When it did come I felt like I had been to hell and back. Perhaps I had. I left my slum and walked the few blocks up to Al’s mother’s place and handed him the lyrics. As I drank lukewarm tea, smoked and dreaded the haggard, jet lagged day that follows a sleepless night Al started working on the song. Within a few hours he’d turned it into one of the best rock numbers we had ever written. Ironically our audiences took it as a tribute. It was another example of giving back to the crowd what they gave you, for good or ill. This was two years before T. Rex released a song by the same name and made it an international hit. A year after T. Rex, in September 1973 Marvin Gaye released Let’s Get It On, another international hit.

 

****************

 

 

Get It On

 

Box full of faces

Just look at the crowd

Fill in the spaces

With the powdery cloud

And pity the hands tries to grab the good times when they’re gone.

Get it on!

Get it on!

 

Pay for the package

It’s a buck at the door

Down in the back

You can fuck on the floor

Yes you are the ones to whom I dedicate this song

Get it on!

Get it on!

 

I felt so tired all my frenzy was gone

Then someone in the back yelled

Hey man, GET IT ON!

 

Street full of midnight

And a face of regret

Something don’t feel right

But I can’t see it yet

Then I looked up and I saw all the people were gone

Get it on!

Get it on!

 

Eardrums are bursting

As I lay on my bed

Body is thirsting

Because he ain’t been fed

You gave me your heart but it turned out to be just a con

Get it on!

Get it on!

 

I felt so tired all my frenzy was gone

Then someone in the back yelled

Hey man – GET IT ON!

 

****************

 

Poster for a benefit concert at the Pender Auditorium.

 

As our song book of unrecorded hits grew ever fatter our luck changed again. We caught the attention of the Yippies. On May 8, 1970 Vancouver YIP (Youth International Party) had staged its first horror show — a demonstration against the Hudson’s Bay department store for discriminating against hippies. This turned into a riot. Demonstrators moved from the store and took to the street. The American consulate was attacked and one motivated Yippie stole the Great Seal of the United States. The U.S. flag was taken outside and burned. There were arrests. One Yippie, convicted of freeing a prisoner and assaulting a cop, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years by a judge who denounced rioters as “modern savages.” Their secret agenda was to turn thousands of docile hippies into radical anarchists, like a tribe of dope smoking Vikings. They produced flashy publications and did everything from invade America at the Blaine border crossing, to try and bring down a right-wing mayor, to build a people’s park on multi million dollar private real estate, to cutting a hole in the fence of Okalla Prison and invading it on behalf of the prisoners in a ‘Be Out’. Along the way many were arrested. One Yippie collective began holding benefit concerts; ostensibly to raise money for harassed hippies but really to help keep their own members out of jail.

 

Although I had never met a living breathing Yippie I thought they had the right idea. Like us, they had a take no shit attitude where the best defense was an offensive display of public defiance. Perhaps our reputation had preceded us.

 

Steve walked into practice one night. “The Yippies want us to play at a benefit,” he announced.

 

I stared gloomily out over the empty dance floor of the Club 140. We were still smarting from the Joni Mitchell debacle “Benefit for who?” I asked.

 

“Themselves.”

 

“What makes them so deserving?”

 

“It’s for a legal defense fund.”

 

“What about us?”

 

“We get free publicity.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

“Fuck ‘em then,” Tim waved a hand, as if dismissing an army of jailed Yippies.

 

“Its just one gig,” said Al. “At least we’ll get some publicity.”

 

We looked at Peter for his opinion but he was strangely silent. His mind seemed to be brooding elsewhere. We took a vote and decided to do it. It turned out to be one of the wisest decisions we ever made. Our name was plastered all over the city on big posters. We played the Pender Auditorium to a huge crowd. An added bonus was playing with a redneck hippy blues band called Uncle Slug. They were among the best bands we ever played with - a joy to watch and listen to. They seemed to have some magic formula for putting out pure raw blues rock and throwing people out onto the dance floor. Elements of Uncle Slug went on to form Doug and the Slugs, rightly regarded one of the most influential Vancouver bands until lead singer Doug Bennett died suddenly in Calgary in 2004. We were so impressed it was the only time we were forced to have a pep talk before going on stage, as if facing a tough opposing football team. Although our music was substantially different we vowed to beat Uncle Slug and outplay them.

 

It paid off. Booking agent Sam Feldman noticed us. Within a few weeks we were booked to play Penticton’s Peach Festival. Penticton is a resort town 250 miles east of Vancouver cradled by tree trimmed mountain slopes and dramatic cliffs. The semi arid desert climate provides endless sunshine. As such, Okanagan Lake on which it sits is packed with young women each summer much the way a game warden would stock a pond for fishing season. The morning mists one saw rising from the water were actually clouds of hormones from the night before.

 

 

Better still we were opening for The Northwest Company. This was a huge leap in status. The Northwest Company had been releasing singles since 1967, were widely known and eventually went to form Blue Northern with Billy Cowsill. In 1974 they would go on to record one of our songs - If Heartaches Could Kill Me- as a single, but in 1970 they were less neighborly. We begged them to let us use their massive state of the art P.A. system but they turned us down flat. In return we stole their imported Heineken beer. Thus we were forced to erect our wimpy P.A. system and try and fill the huge outdoor venue so we played loud and hard. It turned out not to matter. Just being on the same bill with The Northwest Company jolted us up to star category.

 

Added to this we had another brand new song which had never been played live before. It is always an exercise in angst to debut a song. Weeks, sometimes months of work are put on the line in three or four minutes on stage. There is an awful moment when the song is over and you wait balances between success and failure. With most new songs there is only polite applause and it takes another month of work until you get it right. At Penticton we rolled the dice and won with the blues rock song Blue Telegram.

 

*******************************************

 

Blue Telegram

 

Last night I gave you a letter

Today you said it was burned

I swear I’ve never tried so hard

For so little in return

I don’t want our love to end

But all you ever send is a

 

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend

 

No answer when I call you

So I took a little walk downtown

If I can’t see you one more time

I’ll jump into the river and drown

I’m asking you again

But all you ever send a

 

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend

 

They dressed me up in a brand new suit

And they laid my body down

I’ve never looked so fine as on my funeral day

And still you won’t come around

I didn’t want our love to end

But all you ever send is a

 

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend

Blue telegram

I thought you were

I thought you my friend

I thought you were

I thought you were my friend.

 

******************************************

 

When it was over there was a huge, gratifying roar, the loudest of the night and by far the best reaction we had recieved to any new song. We all looked at each other with the crowd screaming and felt we had turned a corner creatively and musically.

 

Afterward women swarmed backstage wanting pick off a Northwest Company member. We had seen one or two groupies before, but after a gig with a nationally known band they came in herds. We sat and watched this in awe.

 

"Tell me if I'm wrong, but I believe we're about to get laid," I nudged Al and opened another beer.

 

"Don't count your chickens," replied Al, ever cautious.

 

"Where's Peter?"

 

"He went out to the van."

 

"We can't let him miss this," I said. "He'll never forgive us. I'm going to get him."

 

I hurried out to the Burner van but found a police car pulled up beside it with a Mountie slapping his hand on the window. Peter was passed out in the front seat.

 

"What's the problem?" I asked the cop.

 

"Do you know this person?" he jerked a thumb at Peter.

 

"He's our guitar player. He's having a nap."

 

"No sleeping in vehicles," the cop said. "Go find a motel."

 

"We have a motel. He's just having a nap."

 

"No sleeping in vehicles," the cop repeated stiffly. He was clearly a rookie, out to make a name for himself in parking lot justice. "Get him out or I'll arrest him and have it towed."

 

Now we both started slapping on the windows. Eventually Peter was roused. He opened the door "Quit making so much fucking racket!"he said grumpily.

 

"No sleeping in vehicles," the cop said. "Out."

 

Peter climbed groggily out. The cop used the opportunity to shine his flashlight around the interior of the van looking for evidence of more parking lot crime.

 

"What's this?" he barked.

 

For a moment both Peter and I stood in the parking lot and winced at the possibility of him finding a roach in the ashtray. We peered into the van.

 

"What?" I asked.

 

"THIS!" he grabbed a set of motel keys from the roof liner around the top of the van, producing Exhibit A.

 

"That's our key collection," I answered truthfully. Since the band had started we'd made a habit of stealing the motel keys from every town we'd played and sticking them in the roof liner above the cab of the Burner van. We now had at least thirty and they were a source of pride, rather like a collection of scalps. They also made the van jingle agreeably when going over bumps or rounding sharp corners like a giant tambourine.

 

"This is stolen property!" the cop said. "Hand them out."

 

Peter climbed back into the van and did this. "Are you going to turn us in?" he sneered as handed the keys to the cop.

 

"You think its funny?" the cop jangled the handful of keys as if he had stopped a major crime wave.

 

"What are you going to do with them?" I asked.

 

"Why, I'm going to put them all in a mailbox and send them back."

 

"You have the power to do that?"

 

"Of course," he said officiously. "See here," he held one up, "each one has the return address of the motel on it with guaranteed free return postage."

 

Peter and I looked at each other. He rolled his eyes. There was no question the cop was on top of his game when it came to errant motel keys. We knew when we were beaten. We remained silent.

 

"And no more sleeping in the van," he warned as he left.

 

"You're a fucking asshole," Peter started to say but I put my hand over his mouth. The cop turned around and gave us a sharp look.

 

"Come back inside," I put an arm around Peter's shoulders. "It's warmer. Besides, I think we're all going to get laid."

 

By the time Peter and I returned all the Northwest Company members had been scooped up by female fans. The rest of us sat on a backstage bench, swinging our legs like excited children promised a free carnival ride. Sure enough the remaining women, unable to procure the genuine article, had to make do with a Burner Boy or go home empty handed. Soon we were all in the arms of some young tanned beauty for the night. It was a highly motivating experience, better than being discovered by a dozen Joni Mitchells.

 

The next night we played a hundred miles north in Vernon. It was a repeat of Penticton except a heat wave had struck. Now we had our mojo in gear. I remember making wild love all night to a voluptuous woman as perspiration dripped from her breasts. In the wee hours I walked out with her onto the beach of Kalamaka Lake to cool off and looked up into the heavens, undimmed by big city lights. As I did I had the distinct feeling of falling upwards toward the stars.

 

We returned to Vancouver the next day in the van heated like a double boiler. Crammed in the back we were like sweating exhausted satyrs – those horned, half-man, half-goat creatures from Greek mythology who constantly had erections and survived on wine, sin and sex. Nevertheless we took comfort in the feeling we had broken through a palpable barrier. If we could just keep performing on this stratospheric level and writing commercial songs some sort of recording contract would surely follow. It had to.

 

Arriving back in Vancouver on Sunday night we were utterly spent. With playing, traveling, drinking and fornication we’d each had about two minute’s sleep since the previous Friday morning. A four day recuperation period was called so we could get the deep rest required.

 

The following Thursday – July 19, 1970 - we assembled at the Club 140 refreshed and ready to take on the crowd. At first it seemed like business as usual. Then Peter was late. At 8:30, half an hour before we were to go on, Al phoned Peter’s house but got no answer. We went on at nine and played as a foursome, worried that the previous weekend’s horrendo enduro had somehow damaged his health.

 

During the first break Al anxiously phoned again and got no answer. Then he phoned Peter’s parents, a scrupulous Jehovah’s Witness household. He returned grim faced. Peter, he informed us, had quit the band, probably due to a massive jolt of religious guilt incurred by getting laid twice in one weekend by different women who were total strangers. Worse, it was impossible to talk him into rejoining. He had decamped to Montreal.

 

Shattered, we finished the gig as a foursome. On the brink of rising success we had lost the best musician who ever played with us. There was no doubt we would soon get more calls from booking agent Sam Feldman for high profile venues. The question was how to replicate another Peter Sinclair. We sat afterward, out of ideas, facing another agonizing, frustrating hunt for a fifth Burner with time running out. I would rather have lit my hair on fire and put it out with an ice pick.

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