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Chapter 14

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 5 months ago

Chapter 14

 

The crowd begins to gather for the Grasstown Smoke In - later that night the Vancouver Police Riot Squad would attack on horseback and it would become known as the Gastown Riot.

 

 

In the midst of the newest Burner crisis deeper trouble was brewing. The early 1970’s continued to be dangerous times. America was burying its Vietnam dead at an unprecedented rate to violent opposition. The general civilian fury against authority reached all the way to Vancouver. The Gastown Riot was a flash point.

 

The Yippies, always public relation wizards who could strike the establishment at its weakest point, started a peaceful marijuana smoke in with about 1,000 people in Vancouver’s Gastown Maple Tree Square. In 1970 Gastown was the new name for Vancouver’s old waterfront district. Although it was being gentrified, it was still home to retired loggers and fishermen who lived in single rooms and spent their waning days in cheap bars.

 

Mounted members of the Vancouver Police Riot Squad attack the crowed during the Gastown Riot

 

The smoke in had just gotten underway when Vancouver Police ambushed the crowd in riot gear and on horseback. They beat hippies like they were depression-era hoboes and chased average citizens into bars, retail stores and coffee houses where they were hauled out and arrested. There is one documented case where a husband and wife having dinner with their seven year old daughter in The Old Spaghetti Factory had to flee from the resteraunt when riot police burst in. They ran down the sidewalk shielding their daughter from police batons. It was widely agreed the following day that it was a police riot – Chicago writ small. The Dohn Royal Commission of Enquiry later called to investigate it found this to be exactly so and recommended that horses be taken away from the police. It was a public relations disaster for City Hall. There was an outcry for them to mitigate the damage.

 

 

 

As the civic crisis unfolded the band held a meeting after practice to grapple with the dilemma of finding a new fifth Burner. By now we were so used to having a fifth musician that the prospect of playing as a foursome was hateful. There just wasn’t enough protein in the sound to give the audience a solid punch. Experience and circumstances forced us to reduce recruitment criteria to the bare bones. I knew no one who fitted the description, and sat glumly silent while the rest discussed diminishing possibilities. It was like scraping the bottom of a worn out barrel that had already leaked its contents. It seemed the Burner mold had been broken. Finally Tim had last ditch idea.

 

“What about Peter Sinclair’s old band. Didn’t they have a piano player? I think they were called Dirty Trout.”

 

“Only a fool would play for a band called Dirty Trout,” I muttered gloomily.

 

“Peter Sinclair played for them,” Al reminded me. “He turned out all right.”

 

“That was different. He didn’t know what he was doing.”

 

“I am told,” Steve speculated, “that Dirty Trout is New York slang for a used condom found floating in the Hudson River.”

 

“Really?” Suddenly I had new respect for the group.

 

Tim Francis - Burner Boys drummer

 

There was a collective burden of guilt about raiding Dirty Trout for another member. This would surely kill it. Nevertheless our survival was at stake. Curiously, during the entire life of the Burner Boys no one ever raided us for members. It was as if being a Burner Boy rendered us as contaminated goods.

 

No one knew the mystery piano player’s name until I found out through Melanie Thompson, a beautiful young woman who was in love with me. If I’d had any brains I would have married her on the spot and gone off into an accounting career. Soon she came back with a name - Rod Dirk. Al called him. He satisfied all requirements – he was broke, lived with his parents and dumb enough to want to join. The main drawback was he lacked his own piano. Renting a Fender Rhodes electric piano would cost seventy dollars a month. Incredibly, after nearly a year of playing, Burner Finance was incapable of producing the down payment. I had to borrow the money from my out of work brother.

 

He learned our songs quickly and as he did I realized what we’d been missing without a piano. It gave the band’s harder, tighter sound a percussive volume that no jangling lead guitar could. Rod was dark haired, slim and wiry. His father was a wealthy realtor nick named Magic, and the family lived in a huge house on a hill reached by a long curving driveway. About the most exciting thing that ever happened there was Rod would have his buddies over where they would jam and then sit around and eat peanut butter sandwiches. All this was watched with interest by Rod’s dog, Snooper. His somewhat sheltered life seemed to have made him quietly compliant. This worried me as it might translate into a bland, lackluster stage presence but we were in no position to be choosy.

 

We were also writing more songs. As we got better and better at giving back to the crowd what they gave to us, we developed a sharper awareness of a kind of vibe that seemed to be singing through the fabric of the air itself. It was as if playing hard every night and absorbing the energy of the crowd slowly opened our eyes to the fact that new songs were everywhere, lying thick on the ground like fallen leaves, waiting to be written. You just had to be careful. Watch and listen closely and they would reveal themselves. Yes, the songs would come to you.

 

Today sociologists would probably describe it as being hard wired to Pop Culture. This is selling it short. Pop Culture is defined as what is commonly liked or approved. This was more. This was developing the trick of instinctively knowing what would be commonly liked or approved in the future, before you wrote it. It was like creating Pop Culture from scratch.

 

It was in this heightened state of awareness one afternoon I hitch hiked to band practice. Even though by now we were widely viewed as being a successful band of some celebrity we were still broke. There were never enough cars to go around; cabs were out of the question so I had to thumb to practice. I remember becoming agitated because there were no rides and I was late but then a VW bug swooped in. I jumped into the passenger seat, happy and relieved.

 

The driver took off at speed and I started to relax. Suddenly a song blasted over the VW’s radio. I had never heard it before and was totally blown away. I had an instant need to know who it was.

 

“What’s that?” I cried, pointing at the radio.

 

“What’s what?” replied the driver.

 

“That,” I pointed toward the radio with my index finger.

 

“Oh. I deliver chicken.”

 

“What?”

 

“I deliver chicken?”

 

“That’s the name of the song?” I became excited.

 

“No, no,” he reached down and picked up a clipboard that had been leaning on the radio and showed me his order book. “I deliver chicken. That’s my job.”

 

“It’s your job? That’s it?” I cried in delighted disbelief.

 

“Yeah. I deliver chicken.”

 

“THAT’S A GREAT NAME FOR A SONG!!!” I roared with joy.

 

Now it was his turn to be confused. “What song?”

 

“I’m in a band. I write songs. That’s a great name for a song. Don’t you see?” I shouted like a crazed professor.

 

“Oh, yeah,” he said half-heartedly, agreeing more to keep me happy. “I guess it is a good name for a song.”

 

He rattled to a halt and he let me out. “Thank you, THANK YOU!” I pumped his hand furiously. “I’m going to write it today. Right now. Right after band practice.” I do believe he was glad to be rid of me, thinking I might be on a day pass from a local home for people who believed they were in bands.

 

I wrote the lyrics the same day. It was just like picking them up off the ground. . The next day Al wrote the music. The following day we put it together in the basement. Steve laid down a blazing pumping blues rock bass line so hot it soon became be our standard opening number. People couldn’t stay in their seats.

 

I was glad we had a new song to showcase because I was worried about Rod’s first exposure to Burner life and the now highly programmed audience at the Big O. They were like animals that had been imprinted with music. Raised on a steady diet of original Burner songs they could get nowhere else – not on radio, vinyl records, or even the newly emerging technology of eight track cassettes - they now came in their hundreds. They danced and yelled to the music they loved and would brook no substitutes. Usually the Burners operated on a two back, three up formation where Tim and Steve hung in the background while the front three were expected to give a show. After Peter Sinclair’s spectacular guitar playing and the flamboyant Horowitz I worried that Rod would fail to hold up his end and be intimidated by our grease ball constituency.

 

Worse, this was to be a command performance by non other than Teddy Rogers, the bartender, manager and alpha male of the Big O. It was his birthday. In the primitive world of the Big O it was a high honor –something like being asked to play music for the main chief of an isolated island while they dined on roasted grubs and spitted the shrunken heads of their enemies. Teddy Roger’s wife had arranged the whole thing. The entire Club 140 had been rented and was off limits to the uninvited.

 

The two hundred and fifty people who got in by personal invitation were the cream of grease ball society. I had an uneasy feeling about it all so roved among the crowd. I walked up and down the rows of tables. Martin O’Brien was dressed in a bow tie and grinning pirate teeth with his gaggle of teenaged girls. The biker Gary Free sat like a bad tempered sultan in the back row with his pale, lard assed wife, Joy Free, waiting to be entertained. Horowitz’s groupies were there, crossing and uncrossing their legs and winking at Steve and Tim. There was Red Baker, our six foot five native Indian longshoreman protector with his entourage of rez groupies and bloods. Teddy Rogers, in black suit and tie stretched to the limit across his immense gut sat at a private table next to the stage like William Howard Taft, the fattest President in U.S. history.

 

That’s when I walked the crowd. I did this frequently at gigs to judge the danger to the band. In doing this I caught one fool who didn’t look right - in a cheap suit with watery eyes next to the door. Suddenly I realized Teddy Rogers wife was following me and already hot on his case. Somehow she knew the complete guest list in her head.

 

“You,” she pointed a finger at him. “Get the fuck of out here!.”

 

He returned a sappy smile.

 

”This is a private party. You are not invited. So fuck off.”

 

“Okay, okay I will,” he agreed.

 

“Teddy will kill you!” she shrieked. She was like Edith Bunker stoned on crack. Then she stalked off to Teddy’s table.

 

“Bugger off,” I warned him again.

 

He gave me the smug, rubbery smile of a televangelist.and mumbled some verbal balm. He wasn’t going anywhere. Deliver me from assholes, I thought. Two hundred people in the club and I had to deal with the only one with a death wish.

 

By then I had no more time. We had to crank up the band and give Teddy Rogers his due. “And let’s all wish a happy birthday to Teddy Rogers, the only man in North Vancouver who delivers every time to all his lady admirers. Here’s a song about how Teddy delivers.”

 

Teddy chortled in the corner table. With his great gut, white shirt and black tie he glad handed like the crooked governor of a southern state. He was feeling gregarious and not adverse to blandishments from people like me who were afraid of him.

 

We kicked into the brand new song, I Deliver Chicken. People leapt from their seats as if spring loaded. Suddenly, everyone was on the dance floor. The power of the song was truly unexpected. I turned around to look back at the band in total delight when I saw an even more amazing sight. Rod Dirk, the pianist about whom I’d been worried started off slow on the song. Then, apparently, the music and crowd’s energy seized him. Suddenly he kicked out his piano stool and started hammering out machine gun rapid stuttering rock ‘n roll chord bursts and mad glissandos up and down the keys. He danced like a mad bastard. It was like Jerry Lee Lewis meets Spike Milligan. The only thing missing were the mad sound effects – whistles, gongs, gunshots. In those few moments I knew Rod Dirk had the right DNA and was a congenital Burner Boy. I was so relieved and happy I almost missed what happened next.

 

Rod Dirk... finally the fifth Burner had arrived!

 

Teddy Rogers had been nagged by his wife to go and bust the interloper. By now I Deliver Chicken had pulled everyone up on the dance floor so that’s where he went to look. Ignoring all warnings the suicidal idiot was dancing by himself in his cheap Goodwill suit. That’s when Teddy kicked his feet out from under him. As I watched the guy landed on the floor Slowly he raised himself on all fours like a dog. Then Teddy put the boots to him – that is, leather dress shoes finely polished by his wife for his birthday party but weapons nonetheless. As I watched in horror Teddy’s bankers caught the guy under the chin as he floundered helpless on all fours. Every time Teddy kicked him under the chin I could hear his jaw clack shut and his teeth click so he sounded like an alligator:

 

“Clack! “

 

“Ow!”

 

“Clacka CLACK!”

 

“STOP!”

 

“CLACKA! CLACKA! CLACKA! CLACKA! CLACKA! CLACK!!!”

 

As we kept playing and Rod’s piano kept pounding I felt like I was seeing what the Rolling Stones had experienced at Altamont when the Hell’s Angels at the front of the stage laid about them with pool cues. I was about to shut down the band so the guy wouldn’t get beaten to death when suddenly Red Baker, our six foot five native Indian mentor and Teddy’s best friend rose up like a genie from the rear seats. He grabbed a handful of Teddy’s hair from the back.

 

“TEDDY, NO!!!” he roared.

 

Red Baker yarded back on Teddy’s hair causing him to look straight up in the air. This didn’t stop the attack. The only difference was Teddy’s cigarette was now pointed skyward. He kept flailing his foot, kicking the guy in the jaw. Then his wife ran up behind Red Baker and yanked on his hair hard.

 

“KILL ‘EM TEDDY!!” she shrieked.

 

This caused Red Baker’s head to snap back too so his cigarette was sticking straight up. Teddy Rogers’ wife then gave another violent tug which caused all three to loose their balance and slowly tumble backward. They did this, wheeling their arms in a shower of cigarette ash and sparks and collapsed in a smoking writhing heap of arms and legs halfway down to the door of the Club 140. I stood speechless while the scene unfolded. Only a terrorist bomb could have been more spectacular. Finally I turned around to Rod.

 

“Look what you did,” I pointed to the pile of struggling bodies. “Go easy on the smokestack lightning.”

 

Thus at a single stroke The Big O took Rod Dirk to its heart. The next week a bomb threat was phoned into the Big O, possibly by the disgruntled man Teddy had beaten up, but it fizzled when everyone refused to leave their beer. That same week we broke all records for attendance at the Club 140, a record which stood until the hotel was torn down ten years later.

 

In the meantime the Yippies were planning a tactical maneuver to counteract the bloody trouncing they had suffered from police billy clubs in the Gastown Riot of the week previous. Going to their strength, they organized a benefit dance at the Pender Auditorium to finance bail for all their brethren who had been jailed and charged. Once again they called us to play with Uncle Slug. Although the money would be minimal we agreed to play because it would be a high profile gig. Where Teddy Rogers’ birthday party had hosted the cream of grease ball society, the Yippy Benefit would draw the elite of publicity minded activists and the newly evolving politically correct. In 1970 the politically correct were just a gleam in Satan’s eye and not the ubiquitous annoyance they are today. Little did we know it but we were walking into a trap.

 

Still I was growing fond of the Pender Auditorium. Situated in the old part of the city next to the Niagara Hotel with its fabulous two story high animated blue white and green neon sign of the cascading Niagara Falls it gave one a feeling of stepping into the 1950’s when gangsters, gamblers and reporters rubbed shoulders in the city’s supper clubs. I decided to dress appropriately. Instead of my usual suit and tie I found a black and silver bowling shirt of my father’s with a fantastic, embroidered motif of golden bowling balls scattering ten pins. This I placed on a hanger directly backstage, crisp, clean, and ready to make an impression. The Pender Auditorium was one of those old fashioned ballrooms situated on the second floor. .As the crowd was forming I got a beer and went outside onto the rear fire escape behind the stage. Standing on the flimsy thing I felt exhilarated. The view of the old time city was panoramic – the huge, revolving ‘W’ of the old Woodward’s Department Store, the pulsing neon lights everywhere – one almost expected to see post war Desoto taxis and Packard’s lining the streets below, and the sidewalks crowded with ex servicemen. Then I heard a voice.

 

“Hi there.”

 

I turned around. It was Carrie, the sex obsessed groupie who had followed me home to Burner Mansion and fucked me to a nub. She was wearing a Pepto Bismal pink granny gown that didn’t conceal her huge breasts and slim figure. I hadn’t seen her or heard from her in six months.

 

“Carrie,” I said nervously. “How did you get back stage?”

 

“I said I knew you. Can I have a sip of your beer?”

 

I passed her the bottle and gazed out toward the city’s nightscape, pretending to lose myself in reverie. The last thing I needed was to get my leg caught in a human sex machine prior to an important gig.

 

“Mmmmm, that’s good,” she said seductively. “Where’s your van?”

 

“In the alley,” I pointed three floors down.

 

“How about you and I go and finish this beer in the van?”

 

“I’ve got to play in a couple of minutes,” I lied.

 

“It’ll only take a minute,” she slid her hand between my legs.

 

One of the goals of Buddhism is to teach devotees how to live in the moment. In my time I’ve done a power of meditation to try and achieve this state. Yet for my money nothing jolts you back to the present quicker than having your crotch grabbed by a woman. It also caused sudden rapturous visions to flash through my mind. In the next instant I believed there was a great day coming and any moment now I could become King of Canada. Nevertheless I cut it short and took the moral high road.

 

“There’s no way. I’ve got to go on stage. See here,” I pointed to my bowling shirt hanging near the doorway. “Once I put that on I’m gone.”

 

Then she changed. A black look came across her face. Like flicking off a light switch she suddenly became a darker and far more unpleasant person. “Bastard. You’re just like all the rest. Assholes like you don’t give a shit about women.” She whacked me across the chest. “You can take your fucking band and shove it up your ass!”

 

With that she fled, snatched my new stage shirt off the hanger and galloped off down the stairs like a wildebeest. I remember thinking she was surprisingly quick on her feet for such a large chested woman. I followed her down but she had a big lead. By the time I got down to the street she was gone, along with my shirt. Perhaps she stole shirts from all the men who passed through her sad kinky life – a woman’s answer to panty raiding.

 

I came back up stairs winded, mad, and wondering what contest in hell I had won to attract such women. In a funk I speculated on the perverse clockwork of the female mind as I put on the only stage clothes I had left – a double breasted suit jacket and an orange t-shirt. Feeling under dressed and miffed I walked on stage and was relieved to see we had drawn a big crowd. The dance floor was dark with bodies. Wanting to kick in with an old timey barn dance feel we opened with I’m Satisfied With My Gal, a good time jug rock song that often got people clapping in time. It was set up with an answering verse where I would sing the first line, Al would sing the second, me the third, Al the fourth and we joined on the chorus line. The general effect was like George Burns and Jack Benny having an argument over jug band music. It went thus:

 

Dave: Well she’s got great big

Al: No she don’t

Dave: Yes she does

Al: Oh no she don’t, Dave

Both: I’m satisfied with my gal.

 

Dave: She don’t wear no

Al: Yes she does

Dave: You just haven’t seen her

Al: Neither have you, Dave

Both: I’m satisfied with my gal

 

Dave: She’s got great big feet, lovely legs

And I love her dimpled chin

Golden hair, what a smile

And oh what a mama she has been

 

Dave: Al, will she let me?

Al: No she won’t

Dave: Oh yes she will

Al: In your dreams, Dave

Both: I’m satisfied with my

I’m satisfied with my

I’m satisfied with my gal.

 

Halfway through the song we were already getting a better reaction than I ever could have hoped. Not only was the crowd pressed tight to the stage but seemed to be waving their arms and hollering encouragement. Perhaps I didn’t need my bowling shirt after all. Delighted, I waved back. It wasn’t until we finished the song and could actually hear what the front rows were shouting that the truth reared its ugly head.

 

“MALE FASCIST PIGS!” screamed one woman.

 

“BURNER BOYS MUSIC EXPLOITS WOMEN!” shrieked another.

 

It took me a moment to connect the dots. “Wait a minute,” I said into the mike. “Let me get this straight. You’re actually saying that the song we just played is offensive?”

 

“IT’S MALE SEXIST BULLSHIT!” a third woman yelled at me.

 

I nearly swooned with disbelief. As I peered down I could see now that it there was a solid block of Women’s Libbers four ranks deep who were practically frothing at the mouth. Obviously they had arrived in a phalanx and were itching to bitch about something. Now they had found it. Behind them the bulk of the crowd didn’t know what was going on except the music had stopped.

 

“It’s an old jug band song,” I tried to reason with them. “People have been playing it for a hundred years and not one person has complained.”

 

“I WANT TO SPEAK!” screamed one woman, obviously their leader.

 

Foolishly, in a mistake I will never repeat, I passed her my mike. She unleashed an unintelligible torrent of hard core woman’s lib lesbian arch bitch political sputum. Finally I came to my senses. Our show was being ruined because we had played an utterly innocent song and now the unrest was spreading to the rest of the crowd. I reached for the mike.

 

“I’M NOT FINISHED!” she screeched.

 

I wrestled it from her hand. “Sorry about that folks,” I tried to pull the show back together. “We obviously have some people up front here who don’t like to have fun.”

 

Denied the microphone, the leader now set up a chant among her clan. “No more sexist music. No more sexist music. NO MORE SEXIST MUSIC. NO MORE SEXIST MUSIC!!!” They clapped their hands and stamped their feet in time to the mantra.

 

It was a threat and a challenge. We had to roll over and vet our song list to eliminate anything they might find remotely offensive or things would get uglier. I turned to the band. They seemed frozen, not knowing what to do. For my part I had already had my shirt stolen by one whacked out woman and now dozens more were try to hijack our show through bogus intimidation. I paced about on stage for a few moments. As Burners we might be broke, passed over and worn down but no one fucked with us like this. The only thing we had left was attitude. I felt an act of total defiance was called for. Anything less would be unBurnerlike. It all hinged on the next song we played. The crowd was waiting. At that moment I thanked God for giving me the ability to write our latest song, I Deliver Chicken, and for giving me the chance to play it now when it was needed most.

 

I looked down into the ranks of Women’s Libber’s and spoke into the mike. “Here’s a little cock rock for all you babes in the front row,” I winked. Then I turned to the band and said one word. “Chicken.”

 

Steve Renshaw - Burner Boys bass player and youngest Burner

 

Steve’s blues rock bass thundered into the auditorium. The rest of the band cut in. It was the most powerful dance song we’d ever written so the crowd became instantly animated. Suddenly we were back on top. But that was nothing compared to the treat that was in store for the Women’s Libber’s, to whom I now leaned over the stage and sang.

 

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

 

I Deliver Chicken

 

 

If you’re interested at all

I deliver chicken

See the menu on the wall

I deliver chicken

Phone in orders day or night

It’ll make you feel all right

I deliver chicken

 

It comes hot with chicken sauce

I deliver chicken

Work at nights I’m my own boss

I deliver chicken

Hear me knockin’ on your door

People always ask for more

I deliver chicken

 

Who’s the one who doesn’t want some?

Who’s the one who’ll do without?

You’re fingers you’ll be lickin’

I deliver chicken

 

I get off on chicken breasts

I deliver chicken

Necks and legs and all the rest

I deliver chicken

Someone said if I was smart

I would always leave the heart

I deliver chicken

 

Business has been picking up

I deliver chicken

I may have to buy a truck

I deliver chicken

Rent another telephone

Listen to ‘dem chicken bones

I deliver chicken.

 

Who’s the one who doesn’t want some?

Who’s the one who’ll do without?

You’re fingers you’ll be lickin’

I deliver chicken.

 

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

 

 

The effect was terrific. I can only compare it to prodding a bull’s toucus with a hot poker. They went ballistic. At first they only shouted and screamed, but as the song went on they got even madder. As I pumped my hips toward them I thought they would begin spitting froth and speaking in tongues like religious fanatics pushed far past the point of rage and frenzy. At one point they got so crazed it looked like they might turn on each other, biting and gnawing like crazed minks. It was one of the most satisfying moments of my life.

 

Then a solid rank appeared through their midst like a line of battleships. These were mothers with children perched on their shoulders - the symbolically heavy feminist hitters. I couldn’t believe a responsible, caring mother would subject her child to this kind of loud fray when suddenly I felt a warm liquid squirt on my trousers. Before I had time to react there was another spurt from the front row which landed on the lapel of my suit coat. I rubbed some on my fingers and sniffed the warm, sickly sweet smell. Then another stream flew forward, which I dodged. They were hurling warm formula from baby bottles as a last ditch anti-Burner weapon. Luckily I was able to duck most of the rest until they had tossed away all of their infants’ food for the sisterhood. The stage was sticky with it.

 

I turned to the band who were all wearing immense grins – even Al, who was hiding behind a stage curtain to avoid being splattered. We immediately broke into another song which I announced over the heads of the Woman’s Libbers to the audience behind. Ignoring them this way was especially pleasurable as it seemed to drive them into a murderous funk. For the rest of the set we played every song we could think of to infuriate them. It was like poking a cadged Wolverine with a stick. Finally we took our bows and walked off to extended applause from the normal part of the audience.

 

In the meantime Uncle Slug had set up behind us and was waiting for us to remove our gear. There was a brief lull. As we sat backstage and shared a beer with Uncle Slug I fingered my lapel. The stuff had dried and I now smelled of baby stink. Uncle Slug commiserated us on drawing so much heat and privately dreaded what awaited them. During this brief interlude the stage was unguarded.

 

That’s when they attacked in a second wave. The women who got up on stage didn’t try to kick in drums or trash guitars but instead looked around for things to rip off. When we got back out onto the stage they had melted back into the audience but a lot of small items had been stolen, including the set of ten M. Hohner blues harps used by Uncle Slug’s lead singer. It was a real violation. As I stood on stage breaking down our equipment I saw the entire cadre of Woman’s Libbers glaring triumphantly at us. Many now stood beside their boyfriends, who hung their heads in shame like the sniveling pussy whipped wimps they were. Then, having done the damage, the Women’s Libbers waltzed off in black irony on the arm of a male companion. Like so many do right organizations they were too blinded by self righteousness to see their own hypocrisy and too dumb to grasp even the most basic meaning of our songs. I’m Satisfied with My Gal was an innocent, comedic jug band song and I Deliver Chicken wasn’t sexist at all – it was a parody of sexist music and thus poking fun at it. After all, who can call a chicken delivery man sexy?

 

But it wasn’t over. One should never underestimate the low character of the high minded. One of the Woman’s Lib organizers was the daughter of Jack Wasserman, the most widely read columnist in Vancouver. As if we hadn’t suffered enough abuse, the following Monday we were smeared in the Wasserman column in a totally distorted version of events.

 

That did it. It was time to sic the dog on them. I did some research and discovered the name of the ringleader – Donna Lieberson. Then I wrote a furious article accusing her of everything from being a thief to an insane bull dyke to endangering the safety of children as well as branding her a dangerous, half witted zealot. To our surprise and delight the next week The Georgia Straight published the entire piece in a double page center spread headlined, ‘The Great Cock Rock Controversy’. The following week Donna Lieberson struck back. In an attempt to balance the story the Straight published an article written by her, but it was merely a dogmatic rant quoting the Woman’s Lib playbook chapter and verse. If anything it proved the Burner version to be true. Good had triumphed over evil. Satisfied we had won, I did my best to forget about Donna Lieberson.

 

But it still wasn’t over. Five years later I was about to get married. My wife to be had spent weeks searching for a hat that matched the particular off white shade of her wedding dress. With the wedding only days away she was getting desperate. On a Saturday afternoon I drove her to the few remaining hat shops she hadn’t tried, but there was nothing. Giving up, we were driving home through Gastown when she spied the ideal hat – indeed, the only hat in all of Vancouver that would work – in a shop window. We dashed in before anyone else could buy it. The owner was behind the counter. She looked up.

 

“You?” I cried in dismay.

 

“YOU!” Donna Lieberson glared at me. With the passing of time she had taken on a frumpy, anonymous, look, the kind of person who can blend into a neighborhood and still be a serial killer.

 

“I see you’ve done well for yourself,” I said with false bonhomie. “Congratulations.”

 

She remained silent.

 

“Here’s the thing. We’re getting married here and that hat in the window is the only one we’ve found that matches the wedding dress. We’ve been looking for weeks. We were wondering about the price.”

 

I am a hat person. I’ve worn them all my life and have a good knowledge of their value and worth. The broad brimmed straw hat in the window was worth at the most twenty-five dollars. I could see Donna Lieberson’s mind ticking over like an evil timepiece. In retrospect I shouldn’t have asked how much the hat was, but how far she wanted me to bend over.

 

“A hundred bucks,” she quadrupled the price. This was an immense sum in 1970’s money, worth at least two major trips to the supermarket and almost impossible to meet for newlyweds. Her pathology hadn’t changed.

 

“Is there nothing you won’t stoop to?” I abandoned all pretense of civility. I wrote a check, ripped it out of the book and handed it to her. Not only did she want every piece of my ID as backup, but in a final slap in the face she demanded all of my fiancée’s I.D. too.

 

“Do you want me to leave one of my shoes behind as part of the mortgage?” I asked as a parting insult when we left.

 

To my amazement she paused and seriously considered it. She examined our I.D. again. “No, I’ve got enough here,” she finally waved us out of the store. It was just as well for her she demanded all the security because on the trip home I argued passionately for draining all funds from our account for the next two weeks so the check would bounce.

 

Still, I should have thanked her. Due to her ugly mean streak The Burner Boys had profited by Donna Lieberson, striking gold repeatedly from priceless publicity. She was the perfect foil. We were in the eye and on the mind of the public.

 

This in some way explains why we got our next call. The Yippies had put tremendous pressure on City Hall to make good for the bloody Gastown Riot two weeks previous, where the only people out of control had been the mounted police. Finally, in a kiss-and-make-up gesture by Mayor Tom “Terrific” Campbell - a cross between Richard Nixon and Archie Bunker – the Gastown Party was announced. It was out of character for Campbell to publicly admit a mistake. It indicates how bad the riot must have been for him to throw a free party for the hippies and dope smokers he despised. He must have hated it.

You’d expect a gig staged by Mayor Tom Campbell to headline dinosaur big band dance orchestras like Dal Richards who had played in the Panorama Room atop the Hotel Vancouver for 76 years straight. Instead they left it up to the Yippies to plan their own party on public funds, probably because there was almost no time. We had hardly any notice.

 

Still, this was enough time for word to spread that we were the opening band at the Gastown party. Our fans were more excited than we were when they found out their very own Burner Boys has been picked to open the huge Gastown party. My neighbor, the biker Gary Free took it as his personal responsibility to prepare me for the gig. The party was worthy of a world tour launch – including expensive liquors, hash, speed, cocaine and tequila. It started at two in the afternoon and gradually increased in pitch until the Burner van picked me for Gastown. As a result we arrived just at sundown but I was in an altered state – where it feels like you have already been up for two days. It was only seven o’clock. We played at eight.

 

First we discovered there was no stage. Instead, the powers-that-be decided we would play on top of the marquee of the old Europe Hotel, a triangular structure similar to New York’s Flatiron Building. This small space was at the narrow end of the building facing Gastown Square. The only way to get to the stage was to climb the sweltering narrow stairs inside the Europe Hotel and lug the heavy speakers out through the room behind the marquee.

 

The Europe Hotel - The Burner Boys played on the little triangular balcony above the door

** See bottom of page for a close up of the Europe Hotel balconey

 

We opened the door to the room and found a very surprised occupant. It was the self-proclaimed “Mayor of Gastown”. He was a retired sailor and enterprising wino who appointed himself thus in the hopes of finding steady work, or at least cadging free drinks. He sported a top hat, long white muttonchops and cane and looked like Pierre Burton after a month-long binge. No one had told him about the Gastown Party, much less that his room was the official backstage. We caught him completely by surprise. Nevertheless, if he wanted to stay Mayor of Gastown he was in no position to argue. He sat on the edge of his rumpled bed, in no fit state after an afternoon downstairs in the Europe Hotel bar, and blearily watched as we, in hardly a better state, lugged equipment through his hovel. His room was a rank, disheveled mess, much like The Mayor himself, whose shirt was unbuttoned to the belt because of the extreme heat, showing his mottled pink belly.

 

Until The Gastown Party the biggest crowd the Burner Boys had ever played for was the low key Easter Be-In in front of ten thousand doped out hippies. Now, a few feet away, down in the square, twenty thousand people milled in the gathering moody darkness waiting for any excuse to start a riot themselves. After being beaten by cops mounted on horseback they were understandably skeptical of anything put on by local authorities. Van Morrison had just finished a free set in the club across the square, the Red Caboose, but we were to be the first public act.

 

"As I peeked over the precipice of the marquee all I could see were masses of swaying darkness illuminated here and there by waving torch lights." - Dave Jenneson commenting on the view from the Europe Hotel balcony just before the Burner Boys play at The Gastown Party. Steve Renshaw adjusts his amp before beginning the largest performance of the Burner Boys career.

 

The problem with playing from atop the marquee was that, after darkness fell you couldn’t see the mob below because no one had thought about lighting Maple Tree Square. You could, however, hear and feel them, like a huge, dark pulsing organism. As I peeked over the precipice of the marquee all I could see were masses of swaying darkness illuminated here and there by waving torch lights. I sensed they were surly and suspicious after the Gastown Riot, but for us it was just like being in a huge cabaret. Instinctively, from playing endless nights in the Big O we began to feel at home. We knew how to handle a crowd like this.

 

“ARE YOU READY TO GET IT ON?” I shouted into the mike.

 

When playing the Big O I’d get an instant response from this - a sharp roar, but Gastown Square was so big the sound took time to travel - two or three seconds for the crowd to hear what I’d said, then react, then to bounce back from twenty thousand throats. It was a bouncy, spongy, delayed action effect, something like the mushy feel of trying to steer a very large boat. Yet when it came, it was immense – a rising, accumulating thunder.

 

“YEAHHH!” they roared.

 

I yelled back at them. The acoustics were so bad it wouldn’t have mattered what I said. Another second passed. They roared back in approval. It was like controlling the sea. We immediately kicked in with a Burner boogie we had just written called Old Fashioned Blues. Now our songs were taking on a completely unique sound. Old Fashioned Blues was our tribute to our jug band roots.

 

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

 

Old Fashioned Blues

 

Don’t try and hide if

If you really like it

It will get you every time

No matter where you try and hide

Now it’s a little bit like country

And a little bit like jazz

You know I used to think I had a good thing going

Until I saw no one was pulling off the old pizzazz

Of a genuine jug band

Old fashioned

Old fashioned

Old fashioned blues

 

It was 1930

And the hall was kind of dirty

Not having been cleaned

From the night before

I got a ride in with Bill Evans

We never made it till eleven

You could hear them sweating, you could hear them shout

The kazoo was screaming as the crowd rocked in the razz

Of a genuine jug band

Old fashioned

Old fashioned

Old fashioned blues

 

I’ve got lead in my belly

And a pistol in my hand

Join the hue and cry now

God bless the one night stand!

Now if there’s something wrong inside you

And you feel you’ve got to hide

Why don’t you take advantage of a sure fire deal?

Why don’t you come inside and feel the sin and smoke and jazz?

Of a genuine jug band

Old fashioned

Old fashioned

Old fashioned blues

 

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

 

 

By the massive roar that followed we knew we had them. While we played, items were constantly passed forward through the Mayor’s room, which was now packed with well wishers – beer, whiskey, joints, cocaine – it made for a wildly uninhibited show. At one point I leaned over the marquee urging the crowd on and shattered the tube neon of the Europe Hotel sign with my fist. It slashed my hand. The crowd ate it up as if it were planned to add to the show’s drama.

 

I turned to the band, held up my bleeding hand and dazedly announced, “Look! I’m a hero.”

 

I turned to the band, held up my bleeding hand and dazedly announced, “Look! I’m a hero. - Dave Jenneson after cutting his hand on the neon sign of the Europe Hotel

 

But the Burner Boys delivered. For the band that followed, Uncle Slug, we handed them the crowd on a silver platter. What happened for the next few hours was unclear. Pumped from the show and feted by fans with free drinks and drugs we became separated in the crowd. At some point I looked for our van but it was gone. By now abandoning a band member was no big deal.

 

I found myself alone in the middle of Maple Tree Square. I realized I hadn’t eaten all day. Suddenly became insanely hungry. I still had my band clothes on. I felt my pockets. Broke. The need to eat outweighed the need to get home and sleep so I started panhandling. In a mere two hours I’d managed to cros the line from rock singer to bum. I leveraged my position as lead singer for The Burner Boys and got contributions of a dime here, a quarter there, and a lot of pennies. When the weight of the change in my pocket felt heavy enough I made a slow, erratic trip 15 blocks to the White Lunch on Granville Street, the cheapest place to eat in Vancouver. It was a 1930's style downtown cafeteria which had once seen high times, but now where the dregs of society went. I reeled in and loaded my tray with bean soup and mashed potatoes. When I got to the cashier I dumped my change into her hands and gave her a defiant look that said, call the police if it isn’t enough. Then I went off to one of the old, dark wood paneled booths to eat. Across from me a bulky unformed Canadian Army colonel in his 40’s, obviously gay and looking extremely uncomfortable, was trying to pick up a slobbering drunk by stuffing him with food and coffee.

 

Then I noticed something else – a pretty Chinese girl was watching me from another booth. Soon she joined me, seeming to take a sociological interest in my state of affairs. She asked enigmatic, probing questions.

 

“Why are you here?”

 

“I was hungry.”

 

“Are you homeless? Or do you live in a hotel room? Usually homeless people don’t spend money on white pants and white shoes.”

 

“I’m the lead singer for The Burner Boys. I just finished singing in front of front of twenty-thousand people at The Gastown Party.”

 

“Then why are you here?”

 

“I got lost in the crowd and missed my ride. Then I got hungry. Then I was broke.”

 

“How can you be broke after singing in front of twenty-thousand people?”

 

“That’s what I’d like to know.”

 

“Why didn’t your band pay you?”

 

“Because they’re broke too.”

 

“Then why are you in this band?”

 

I reached across and placed my hand on hers. “You know, that’s a question that needs to be asked and you’re the first person to do it. My friend Al and I had been writing songs for five years before the band and knew our songwriting was good. So we started the Burner Boys with the idea that we’d play nothing but original songs. A completely original band. Think of it! That’s what we’ve been doing. It’s taken a year but now people love our music. Believe it or not, artistically it is going exactly as planned.”

 

“So what’s the problem?”

 

“We can’t catch a break. The music industry refuses to discover us. Twenty thousand people and I had to bum money to get bean soup and mashed potatoes. It’s killing us.”

 

“That’s very sad. Is that why you are so unhappy?”

 

“Unhappy? Unhappy? See here,” I held up my hand, cut up from breaking the neon tubing, “I’ve even bled for them.”

 

Having poured my story out I looked around The White Lunch. Now most of the dark wooden booths were occupied by lone junkies smoking and nursing cups of highly sugared coffee. Across from us the gay Canadian Army Colonel had just succeeded in packing his drunken pick up off to some sad hotel room.

 

“What time is it?” I asked. “Are the busses still running? It feels late. I’ll have to hitch hike home. I’d better get moving.”

 

“Why don’t you come home with me?”

 

After presenting myself as an abject failure on every level this was the last thing I expected to hear.

 

“I’ll call a cab. You wait here,” she said matter of factly.

 

“Are you sure you haven’t mistaken me for someone else?”

 

“Stay there.”

 

I am afraid of Chinese women. This is because they often display only trace elements of emotion where I show buckets full so it isn’t a fair contest. I never know what they are thinking. In this case I sat as a dumbfounded human wreck. I couldn’t imagine what she saw in me. Nevertheless she quickly returned and whisked me into a taxi in a businesslike manner. Sitting with her in the back seat I was only vaguely interested in what would happen next. In my entire life no Chinese woman had shown me flicker of interest and there was no reason one should start now when I was at the absolute bottom of my game. It didn’t make sense. Perhaps she was taking me back for further study. We drove beneath bright neon lights then along narrow streets of agreeably large shade trees until we came to her home. It was three story old fashioned Craftsman house.

 

“That’s some house,” I said. ‘You own it?" At that point in my life I believed all Chinese people were secretly rich.

 

“I only rent a room and share the facilities,” she led me up the big stairs and past the long veranda. We sat inside the big, darkened deserted living room on a couch. She went into the kitchen and brought out Chinese tea. It was still so beyond me that she would think me desirable after my spectacular fall from star to bum I didn’t make any advances. Finally she seemed to get impatient.

 

“I’m going to bed,” she got up and went up to her room.

 

Left alone, I prepared to sleep on the couch.

 

“Aren’t you coming up?” came her voice down the stairs.

 

Still not quite believing what was happening to me I climbed the stairs. When I got to her room there wasn’t much left to do but crawl into bed with her.

 

“You interest me,” she rested her head on her elbow and regarded me as if I were a lab specimen. Then she returned the enigmatic line of questioning she had started at the White Lunch. “Why are you here?”

 

At this moment my mental agility was at its lowest ebb. Worn out with her questions, no clever answer came to mind. I was faced with one seldom recommended option. Tell the truth. I replied with the stupidest thing I have ever said, quite possibly the stupidest thing ever said in the history of human sexual relations.

 

“Because I’ve never screwed a Chinese broad before.”

 

There was a pained silence.

 

It got me ejected almost before I had finished saying it. I found myself back on living room couch where I spent the next few miserable hours nude, shivering and trying to sleep. When dawn came I looked down and saw my clothes in a neat, basketball sized bundle on the carpet in front of me. I got dressed, went up to her room and tried to talk my way in like a bad dog whimpering to its master. The only response was a locked door and silence.

 

I gave a philosophical shrug, left, and hitch hiked home, still in my band clothes, arriving in plenty of time for band practice. In the hot, mildewy basement spirits were high from the night before. We were convinced we’d turned a career-changing corner with the Gastown Party. Despite my disaster with the Chinese girl I was particularly up.

 

“Think of it,” I said. “There were club owners and talent agents in that crowd. There had to be. Important people heard us. That means more money. Mark my word, the phone is going to ring now.”

 

The phone had to start ringing. The Burner flame was beginning to flicker.

**A closer look at the balcony the Burner Boys played on the night of the Gastown Party

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