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Chapter 9

Page history last edited by PBworks 16 years, 8 months ago

Chapter 9


New stage moves revealed themselves by the second as I danced - Dave Jenneson.


The one drawback to our surprise triumph at the Easter Be In was Walkinshaw. His problem was too many Chinese Legion Halls.


While we played our hearts out trying desperately to make our mark in front of 20,000 people, he literally read a comic book. He’d developed the habit of playing with his left hand only so with his right he could leaf through a pile of underground comics sitting on top of his organ. He had various popular titles – Big Ass Comics, The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers and The Checkered Demon. As he played and read he yawned, as if sitting on a boring bus ride to the suburbs.


This might have been acceptable, satirical Woody Allen-style Stage Theater but with Walkinshaw it was real. He’d played so many weddings, Bar Mitzvahs and funeral receptions that he could mimic any kind of musical style, but after years as a bottom feeder he had fallen out of love with it. He was like a musical gum machine. Pop in a nickel, pick your flavor, bluegrass for example, and out would pop a bluegrass gumball - a cheap, crappy flavor that was no fun to chew on, but bluegrass nonetheless. It meant nothing to him. He could learn one of our original songs in about three minutes, dump in some licks and that was that. He wouldn’t take the time to understand the song and provide a meaningful part. Perhaps he simply did not have the ability. The result was a uniformly bland wall of sound behind every song that happened to be in the right key. The truth was we were getting better, which made Walkinshaw’s creative laziness stand out more and more.


Thus we were forced to secretly run an ad in the Georgia Straight looking for a new fifth Burner. The first person to respond was Michael Trew, a UBC music student. We snuck him into Burner Mansion before practice on a rainy afternoon in May. He wore a knee-length blue coat and tucked his straight, shoulder length black hair neatly behind his ears. It gave him a severe, Quaker-like look. He sat down at the piano bench as if he were going to perform a recital and played with a slightly elevated nose. His fingers raced up and down the keyboard as he played scales with dizzying speed. He could even sing, whereas Walkinshaw honked like a goose. After five minutes he’d blown us away with a display of classical virtuoso ability.


We sat quietly when the piano notes stopped ringing. He was clearly better than all of us put together. No one knew what to say.


Finally Tim broke the silence. “Yeah,” he said laconically as he stretched out on the couch. “That’s good but can you play our stuff?”


“Of course I can,” replied Michael Trew. “They’re just songs.” His reply carried with it a whiff of privilege.


“Good,” said Tim. ”Then let’s hear you rock.”


We set up and started playing all our original stuff while Al stood over Michael Trew’s shoulder and shouted chord changes. It immediately sounded better because it was more tightly percussive and he seemed to play twice as many notes as Walkinshaw played per song, which, pound for pound, I felt was a good thing. We made him leave the room so we could vote.


“He’s got Walkinshaw beat hands down,” said Al. “I say yes.”


“If I have to choose between the two I’ll take him,” said Tim.


Steve sniffed. “I guess he’s better than Walkinshaw. It’s a pity,” he added,”that he’s so unlikable.”


I thought Steve had hit the nail on the head. For some reason Michael Trew struck me as a rich kid – someone born on third base but thinks he hit a triple. Nevertheless, weighing the good with the bad, I too voted for him.


A few hours later Walkinshaw showed up for practice. No one knew how we were going to fire him or who was going to do it. To make matters worse he was happy and chipper for once. We started practice. The tension grew. We came to a hard part in Bald Headed Baby we were trying to fix and for a change he was full of suggestions. Our expressions became more grim. We paced the floor like wolves, waiting for the right time. Still he soldiered on. It was heartbreaking. Finally Al walked up and placed the gun to his head.


“Gordon, I’m sorry but this just isn’t working.”


At that moment we all felt ghastly. Walkinshaw had done nothing wrong except display a creative laziness which was probably incurable. I winced and waited for him to either start pleading or cussing us out. He did neither. He merely shrugged as if he had been told he had boarded the wrong city bus and packed up. Somehow that made it more heartbreaking. I have never seen anyone react to being fired with so little emotion. It was like it happened every day. Perhaps it did. Walkinshaw took his comic books and went home. Hopefully he wasn’t caught with them. About this time the police raided the offices of The Georgia Straight, Vancouver’s underground newspaper and arrested publisher Dan McLeod for possessing obscene material - the same comic books Walkinshaw read on stage.


Like Walkinshaw, Michael Trew learned our songs in nothing flat. Whereas Walkinshaw blandly filled in the blanks with fat organ chords Michael Trew used the songs as a backdrop to display his personal advanced skills. Instead of playing with the songs he played on top of them, as if our carefully thought out arrangements and lyrics were nothing more than accompaniment where he was the constant soloist. It made our solid raunchy music seem busy and odd. Still, his parents had bought him a brand new Fender Rhodes – the fabled instrument we’d been seeking all along – and its percussive bright sound was an immediate improvement. We knew it was a trade-off, but felt we’d be able to kick him into shape in the coming months. We were like a family of four brothers searching for a lost sibling, the elusive fifth Burner. We were prepared to give anyone the benefit of the doubt.


Luckily the following week we were able to road test Michael Trew.




Sneak Snyder - our new "booking agent".


Sneek Snider showed up at Burner Mansion. He had just got out of jail and brought a gallon of wine and his new young squeeze, Bevy Tanchuck. Jail seemed to have treated him well. He wasn’t bitter about doing three months for possession of marijuana. On the contrary, he was delighted about the more serious crimes he had got away with, like smuggling in large amounts of Maui Wowie from the Hawaiian Islands via fishing boats and small schooners. He had, he informed us, seen the Burners on the Be-In broadcast on national television and, with his new partner Brian Stevenson, leveraged that into booking us into a series of gigs on Vancouver Island and the Sunshine Coast. Ever proactive, Sneek had done this without our knowledge or consent.


The Burner Van sat in the gravel driveway of Burner mansion the morning we were about to leave. Everything was packed. Edna Jensen, the owner of the house, had returned home the night before from her stint as cook on a freighter and had been appalled at how empty the cupboards were. When the van was packed the four of us went back into the kitchen to have a breakfast that would hold us for the long trip. Michael Trew followed us in.


His first mistake was watching us eat. There was a pot of leftover boiled sliced beets, a jar of olives, the last of the mayonnaise and assorted slices of dried bread. The four of us wolfed at it. I made a beet sandwich. The problem with this was that the beets bled red juice through the bread. It must have looked like I was eating a ragged hunk of bloody cloth. If it was possible to make it worse I slathered the beet sandwich with mayonnaise to make it more edible.


Watching this, and standing in his long, straight-backed coat next to the kitchen door Michael Trew began to gulp frequently. His adam’s apple worked up and down, indicating signs of revulsion. Finally he fled out to the van and stood by the passenger door.


That was his second mistake. The passenger seat in the Burner Van was such a highly regarded prize that it was beyond the Burner rules of fair play, democracy and voting. There was no civilized system of seat rotation or taking turns. It was violently contested. Anyone who got it could expect a comfortable ride while the rest suffered in the back, crowbarred in amongst the speakers and amps. I would often go out and sit in the van half an hour before we left just to get it.


Thus Michael Trew, that son of privilege, stood next to the passenger door, fully expecting to be shown to the passenger seat to which he no doubt felt sure he was entitled. Suddenly the kitchen door slammed open. In the next instant Al and I converged on the van, running low to the ground like torpedoes. Michael Trew smiled blandly as we closed in on him. I hit him with my shoulder and threw him aside. It knocked him to the ground. I kept going. I was almost there. At the last second Al grabbed me by the back of my collar and hauled me out. I fought and kicked. A fist fight erupted. Steve and Tim ran out and broke it up. I lost. Al got the seat while I walked around the van delivering angry kicks which made the vehicle boom loudly. I ignored Michael Trew who sat on his ass on the ground, thunderstruck. We sent him to the back of the van where he belonged and set out for Campbell River. He may have passed the grade musically, but a much more exacting test was about to begin.


Being stuck in the back of the windowless van had other shortcomings. If it was winter you froze and in the summer you roasted. Those in the back were always craning forward trying vainly to take part in more the important front seat conversation. In doing this they were frequently told to shut up, especially when Tim was driving, because of their inferior position in the van. It was galling. Consequently people in the back were denied input into vital, on-the-road decisions like where to stop for gas, food, a piss or, more importantly, beer. There were no redeeming features about being there.


When we got to the ferry Michael Trew rattled on the side door, expecting after his recent indignity to at least be allowed to get out and stretch his legs. To his surprise he was ordered to the rear of the van and told to make himself invisible among the big uncomfortable amps and speakers of the P.A. system. This was standard operating policy. The ferries charged for a vehicle and driver, and after that every passenger was extra. So when the Burner van rolled past the toll booth there was only a driver, with the rest of the band stuffed back among the equipment, contorted into painful positions and moaning softly like slaves in the hold of a ship.


We were lucky to get on at all. The radical ferry worker’s union had just staged a fleet-wide strike protesting the fact that the recent issue of McLean’s Magazine, available in the ships’ magazine shops, carried an ad for Seagram’s whisky. How this offended a union run by good ole boys with red noses was a mystery.


Finally Michael Trew was released on to the car deck of the ferry. He seemed a little miffed. With his anal manner and severe appearance he looked like a young, puritanical church deacon who would have sentenced the witches of Salem to hang. Nevertheless, he made the best of it and tried to get into the spirit of the road trip.


“Well,” he rubbed his hands together. “Let’s get some breakfast. I’m starving.”


“Breakfast,” Steve replied crisply, “was at eight o’clock this morning at Burner Mansion. We have no budget to eat on the ferry.”


Michael Trew stiffened. “I expect to be fed if I’m on a road trip.”


“You could have had beets,” I suggested. “And there was some mayonnaise left in the refrigerator. You could have made a beet salad.”


This remark put Michael Trew into a slow burn.


“You’ll be fed eventually,” Steve said calmly. “Just not right now. The place we’re playing tonight has plenty of food. You can steal as much as you want.”


Michael Trew’s eyes narrowed. “Unlike you I have money to pay my own way. I’m going upstairs to have breakfast.”


We gave a collective shrug. He stalked off up the stairs like an angry little Hitler. With nothing better to do we followed him like a curious pack of hungry dogs. For the next hour we lazed in the passenger seats and watched him fume over his breakfast in the cafeteria. The trip had taken an early and unfortunate turn.


Al tried to look on the bright side. “At least one of us has money.”


“It’s probably not even his money,” I sneered. “I bet his parents gave it to him.”


“I’m glad they did,” said Steve. “We may need it later.”


Michael Trew finished his breakfast, took a lengthy walk around the ferry and eventually joined us. He wore a petulant expression, like a rich child not getting his own way. Things were tense.


“Cigarette?” I offered.


“I don’t smoke those things. They kill you.”


That pretty well killed the conversation. But something else was bothering him. Finally he spoke. “What’s the deal with the front seat?” he asked peevishly.


“What do you mean?” Tim asked.


“I want to have my turn next. I hate being in the back.”


“There are no turns. Its first come first serve,” Tim informed him. “Every man for himself.”


“Thanks for reminding me,” I said and got up. “Who’s got the keys?”


What’s your rush?” Michael Trew asked.


“I’m going downstairs to get the seat. It’s a hell of a long trip up to Campbell River when you’re stuck in the back. It really sucks.”


In 1970 the Vancouver Island Highway was a highway in name only. Shortly after the ferry landing at Nanaimo it became a twisting two lane road. Whereas today it is an efficient, sterile stretch of four lane highway passing through nowhere, then it was more like traveling through some imagined American heartland of the 1940’s. Passing through towns like Qualicum Beach, Fanny Bay and Bowser we saw scenes that hadn’t changed in half a century –wooden depression era schoolhouses, log cabin motels with wooden Indians guarding the gates, funky cafes in the middle of nowhere to serve the road trade. It was the kind of trip Jimmy Stewart might have taken with his family in It’s a Wonderful Life. Stuck in the back, Michael Trew would have missed all of this.


We crossed a narrow iron bridge and followed the road down to the sea where even more intriguing features revealed themselves. An old fashioned hotel called the Oyster River Inn perched idyllically on a river bank, whispering good food and the coldest of beer. Others like the The Fanny Bay Inn were right on the water where the salt air would stiffen any appetite, and thirst. Around these hotels were slag heaps of shimmering white oyster shells


By now it was three in the afternoon. Breakfast had long worn thin. Steve was driving. “Look at all those oyster shells,” I pointed. “These people have fresh oysters coming out of their ears. We can get cheap food here. Let’s pull over.”


To my amazement Steve did it. Burner Finance often depended as much on responsible accounting practices as the relative hunger and thirst of the accountant


Michael Trew clambered out of the back and blinked at the daylight. “Why are we stopping here?”


“Oysters and beer,” I rubbed my hands together.


“I thought we weren’t going to eat until Campbell River,” he shot a dark glance at Steve.


“I changed my mind.”


We went inside and sat at a table at the Shady Rest Inn. It had a wall to wall view of Vancouver Island’s Inside Passage. As if to greet us, the Alaska ferry passed up the passage looking like a mini cruise ship. Soon we were drinking glasses of ice cold beer and eating home-made oyster burgers – three huge deep fried oysters on a warm bun oozing tarter sauce. It was one of those rare food experiences so sublime that one tries to repeat it for the rest of one’s life


“Not eating, Michael?” I licked my moustache covered in tarter sauce. This earned me a disapproving look.




“It will be a while before we eat again.”


“I’m still full from breakfast,” he primly sipped a single beer, while the rest of us swallowed three or four and begged Steve to buy more. While we were arguing over this Al excused himself to go to the washroom. It was a ruse. By the time the rest of us emerged he was taking a nap in The Seat


Two hours later we entered Campbell River. Contrary to its name, Campell River today is a sprawling, hilly, oceanfront town of 25,000, that is located just twenty minutes south by motorboat from Seymour Narrows, a churning whirlpool of dangerous undercurrents where some of the biggest salmon in the world are caught. As such its streets and malls are filled with wealthy, silver-haired Americans, dressed in what look like golf clothes, shopping for hand carved totem poles. They have motored up on million dollar yachts and are looking to net 120 pound Spring Salmon at any price.




Brian Stevenson - our Campbell River "booking agent" and Sneek Snyder's partner.



By contrast, in 1970 Campell River still thrived on its fishing fleets, mines and pulp mills. White clapboard garages and boat works dotted the winding road into town. An agreeable night mist carried the smell of the sea. We met our booking agent, Brian Stevenson, outside the dance hall. He was the shaggy-haired entrepreneur who had dealt drugs with Mike, Steve’s older brother from the Alberni Street house and was now Sneak’s partner. He’d leveraged that and built his own log home in a remote cove on Quadra Island and from there ran various enterprises, not all of them legal. He was short, wiry, and deeply tanned. He looked like a version of Emilio Zapata, the famous Mexican outlaw, who had been put into a machine and reduced to two-thirds his normal size. He was fond of wearing leather vests with no shirt. One always got the feeling that for everything he told you, there were three things he wasn’t telling you. Nevertheless, for the night he was boss. We greeted each other like old friends. Michael Trew emerged from the back of the van


“This is Michael, our new keyboard player,” Al introduced him.


“Okay,” Stevenson nodded, as if it wasn’t. Michael Trew looked so well groomed and straight Stevenson eyed him suspiciously.


“What about food?” Michael Trew asked him.


“What about it?”


“I haven’t eaten since breakfast. I must eat before I perform. Steve said there would be food here.”


“I don’t do food,” said Stevenson. “It’s a money loser. Just beer. In fact, here’s the band beer,” he slung two cases under Michael Trew’s arms. “There’s a cooler behind the stage. Stick them in there.”


“I’m hungry. I thought you were going to feed us.”


“Don’t believe everything these guys tell you,” Stevenson advised and went off to tend the ticket office for which long lines were forming.


The people piled in quickly. They were an agreeable mix of teenagers, fishing guides, factory hands, and a lot of pretty young women who hung shyly along the walls. They stuck to their seats for the first three songs but soon we had them pumped and on the floor. Soon a problem became evident. Michael Trew was now playing classical solos almost exclusively throughout the songs. It was like listening to two different radio stations at the same time – The Burner Boys versus Beethoven. He clearly had no concept of playing with other musicians and no respect for our songs. I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to walk over, bat him on the back of the head and tell him to hit fewer goddam piano keys but he was so arrogant and pigheaded he would have ignored it. Besides, he was in his glory. He clearly felt he was giving the hayseeds on the dance floor a long overdue taste of real culture and talent


Amazingly, worse was to come. Toward the end of the second set we played Lighthouses Down the Coast, by now a finely honed commercial pop ballad. Where Al’s solos were spare, clean, with well chosen hooky riffs that made it clear he had spent much time and thought in working them out, Michael solos seemed designed only to show off how fast his fingers could go. The result was an abomination. His ever-lengthening solo was so clearly out of touch with the song that the audience, ironically the hayseeds he was trying to impress and educate, sensed it and voted with their feet. They walked off the dance floor in droves. I was wondering what to do about it when, at that moment, Michael Trew did it for me. He held up his hands and stopped the show.


“I think you people need to appreciate good music when you hear it,” he shouted into his mike.


This stopped them in their tracks.


“I mean it,” he continued. “When you get a chance to hear keyboard solos like this you should just stop and listen.”


“Boo!” shouted one right-thinking individual.


“I don’t care if you dance. But you ought to appreciate what you’re hearing. Just stand there and listen. Pay attention.”




This last remark didn’t come from me but I wish it had. Michael Trew had pulled the most asinine move I have ever seen on stage. I could see the whole gig falling into a state of grotesque collapse. I immediately stepped up to the mike. “Pardon my rude, Walter Winchell-type friend here but the rest of us want to have a good time. How about you?!”


Nothing except a few desultory jeers and whistles. The crowd had turned their backs on us and were lost for the rest of the night. Afterward we were frustrated and mad. No one said anything to Michael Trew yet for fear the little prima donna would quit on the spot and demand air fare back to Vancouver. Even Brian Stevenson seemed to sense our downcast spirits. He came backstage afterward as we milled around unplugging cords and drinking the last of our beer. Michael Trew was off in a corner, carefully packing up his Fender Rhodes.


“You guys did your best,” Brian commiserated. “Buck up. Have a little of this,” he diced out some white lines. The four of us peered over his shoulder with keen interest as he did this. “Peruvian Marching Powder,” he winked. “Sneek has more in Powell River tomorrow. When you’ve packed up I’ll take you to an after party.”


Michael Trew approached us. “What’s happening?”


“We’re going to an after party.”


“I’m starving. I haven’t eaten since breakfast.”


“Who needs food?” my eyes sparkled. The cocaine had zapped my appetite.


“Will there be food at the party?”


“No. Just booze and drugs,” I lied. I didn’t want anything to do with him. “It’s one of those hardcore parties.” I pressed a finger against one side of my nose and gave a sharp sniff. “Know what I mean?”


“Drugs will kill you. I don’t do drugs.”


“I thought not. Then you wouldn’t like this party. But don’t worry. We’ll bring some food back for you. You’re probably tired anyway. We’ll drop you at the motel.”


We did this. Had Michael Trew attended he would have been able to feast on barbecued salmon to his heart’s content. As we’d done marching powder we only picked at it ourselves, and returned to the motel to find him asleep in a neatly turned down bed, a few empty candy bar wrappers arranged in a line on his night table.


The rest of us only had a few hours sleep as we had to catch an 8 AM ferry to Powell River. A few minutes after we pulled out of the dock we were caught in a severe squall. It soon turned into the most violent ferry crossing I’ve ever been on. Passengers had to gauge the roll of the boat and launch themselves from place to place to travel up and down the deck. I found it exhilarating. After half an hour of this it calmed a little and they finally announced the restaurant was open. We all leapt up. One thing I’ve always found about lack of sleep is that the body tries to compensate for it by demanding extra supplies of food to fill in the missing energy. We all had cokey hangovers and were ravenous.


Michael Trew stayed in his seat, looking pastel green.


“Not coming, Michael?” Al asked.


“I am unwell.”


We went down to the restaurant and had fun trying to control our big plates of bacon and eggs as they slid around the table. When we were done we returned to the passenger deck and found Michael Trew, who, not having had the foresight to ask for the keys so he could go down and sit in the darkness and comfort of the van’s front seat, remained sea sick in his miserable spot. I sat near him. The rest of the band sat a few rows to the front. I was just drifting off into an after breakfast nap when I heard a strange sound next to me.


“Hulp,” went Michael Trew.


I opened my eyes. Steve had placed himself directly across from Michael Trew. He was now picking his nose, shoving his finger up to the first knuckle then sticking it in his mouth. I have never seen him do this before or since. He did it in a quiet, reserved way, like a young but troubled Englishman who had a nasal fixation and had gone to a park bench to bugger his own nose in a very public way. He did it again


“RAAAAK!” Michael Trew gagged. Steve had made him bark like a seal.


I now saw Steve was trying to make Michael Trew puke. I had seldom seen a more elegant response to bad stage behavior on any musical or artistic level. Steve was simply communicating our feelings in a visceral Burner way. It was wordless and brooked no arguments. It struck Michael Trew at the nexus of his weaknesses –a wimpy stomach and his prissy concept of privileged, snot-less society


Steve did it again.


“HURLAAAK!” Michael Trew gagged and fought his way up the deck toward the washroom.


I happily watched this, then drifted off into a satisfying after breakfast nap. I could finally relax. In a relationship defined by pure conflict - the Burner Boys vs. Michael Trew - a contest of who could piss off whom the most, we were finally a point ahead.


By the time we pulled into Powell River the squall had cleared and the sun was out. Sneak met us at the ferry. With him was Bugsy, a fan and friend who had come up from Vancouver. Bugsy’s nickname had an interesting provenance. His real name was Wally Cross, but in high school he had been nicknamed ‘Wally Burgers’ after a famous hamburger joint of the same name. Over a period of years it had been shortened to just plain ‘Burgers’, then into ‘Buggers’ and was finally shorted to Bugsy. The poor bastard had watched from the sidelines as his name was twisted and morphed into something he hated, but was helpless to stop it


Sneak seemed lively and energetic for being up before noon. “I’ve got things to do,” he said quickly. “I’m going to drop you off at a park and you can hang out there. I shouldn’t be too long.”


For us it was perfect. In an idyllic setting we flaked out like homeless people on the grass, having energy-sustaining naps, catching up on our sleep from the night before. About one in the afternoon I awoke. I spied Michael Trew brooding under a big shade tree, apparently bored out of his mind. I was distinctly hungry. Just then Sneak and Bugsy approached us across the grass


“Sorry I took so long,” he gave us a druggy smirk. “I hope you didn’t get bored.”


“Just him,” I hooked a thumb at Michael Trew, who was now approaching us.


“The thing is,” Sneak sucked his teeth pensively, “I have more business to take care of. I’ll give you boys a little something so you can keep yourselves entertained.” With that he broke out a gram of nose powder and cut lines on a newspaper spread out on a picnic table. As Michael Trew watched with a critical eye the six of us went through the gram like snow blowers. “There,” Sneak sniffed. His eyes danced. “That ought to hold you for awhile. I’ll be back in a couple of hours.” It was an inspired move. He left us in the park with a drug as our babysitter, far cheaper than paying retail and putting us in a motel.


We sat at the picnic table jabbering happily when Michael Trew finally spoke: “What about lunch?”


“We just had ours,” I winked slyly. Again thoughts of food were a million miles away.


“I’m hungry,” he simmered, but since Steve had nose picked him to death on the ferry his power had diminished. He was a little Napoleon with a shrinking empire still demanding authority and respect.


“Sit down and join us,” Al said brightly, eyes glittering


“Let’s play Frisbee,” Tim turned to Steve. “I’ll kick your skinny ass back to England.”




“Try me.”


“You try me.”


“DON’T YOU PEOPLE EVER EAT?” Michael Trew exploded.


“Okay, okay,” Steve threw up his hands. To mollify him we drove to a convenience store where we got cold Cokes, while Michael Trew was allowed to purchase an ageing sub sandwich. While we slaked our parched cocaine throats we watched Michael Trew yank on the day old sub with his teeth. As he did it stretched and took on the consistency of a rubber hose.


For the rest of the afternoon Sneek arrived at the park at two hour intervals to recharge us. Normally, by spending an entire day in a park, even the most beautiful spot can become tedious. By contrast this park got better and better. We played Frisbee with wild energy and practiced picking up women. Al and I worked on new songs. Michael Trew still held himself apart, not wanting, apparently, to put up with our drug addled behavior. Sneak eventually dropped Bugsy off, who sat and chatted with him. Of course, Bugsy would have talked to anyone who didn’t call him Bugsy.


By eight o’clock, when we were ready to go on stage at Dwight Hall we were so combustible we were like nitroglycerine, where only the slightest nudge would cause us to explode and release incredible pent-up energy. To ensure he got the most bang for his buck, just before we stepped on stage Sneek gave us each a final couple of toots. The fuse was lit. A few moments later we erupted with a powerful, driving, almost frenzied sound. I flashed across the stage like a possessed man, prancing and kicking. My feet moved so fast they were almost a blur. New stage moves revealed themselves second by second as I danced. As I stepped up to the mike to sing I felt the bitter, harsh cocaine trickle down the back of my throat


“Ack!” I choked.


The cocaine had killed my voice. I couldn’t believe it. I tried again.


“Hrrak! Ack! Hrrrak!”


I wheeled an arm to the band to keep playing, then fled back stage and drained a full beer to clear my throat. It worked marginally. I dashed back to sing, but the scratchy sound that came out was like Louis Armstrong on an old radio station. Regardless, the band kept playing with a force that drove people onto the dance floor. When my voice finally returned it was like an extra jolt of energy and we simply detonated. We played with such tight energy we blew past Michael Trew like a dragster and left him in the dust. If he needed a lesson in how well a band can play he had just got it, and it made him irrelevant.


Michael Trew would never be a threat again. It was bizarre that any band member could be perceived as a menace, but then he stood for everything we hated. He was a spoiled, arrogant wuss from the good side of town, where his mother ironed his socks and money grew on trees.


After that we played a few more gigs with Michael Trew and eagerly awaited the opportunity to fire him. By now he hated everything we did. It all came to a head at the Pender Auditorium, a high-profile Downtown Vancouver venue we had long wanted to play. A band named Heavy Food Philharmonic opened. They sounded exactly as their name promised – heavy, turbid and slow with long self-absorbed solos that went nowhere. We eagerly awaited the chance to make mincemeat out of them.


Just before we went on one of the hippie organizers called us over and offered some punch. It was heavily laced with liquid THC, or cannibinol, the active ingredient in marijuana. Soon I felt sluggish and drowsy. By the time we got on stage we staggered around like town drunks in an early Irish novel. Worse than playing drunk, it was like trying to perform after taking several large sniffs of ether. We should have won an award just for finishing.


Michael Trew was not impressed. Afterward he said so. “You guys are embarrassing. I’m tired of playing with people who are always stoned. You’ll take any drug going as long as it’s free.”


“Oh yeah?” Tim asked. “Then why don’t you go and play with the symphony?”


“Maybe I will.”


“That might take a while,” I slurred, still under the influence of THC. “You’re still not good enough to play with us.”


That did it. As Michael Trew angrily hauled his piano out of the Pender Auditorium we shook our heads. We quietly swore to ourselves that if we found someone new we would be better behaved and not starve him nor try to make him sick. Thus we had to begin a frantic search for a replacement - we had upcoming gigs only two weeks away.


“Good riddance,” Steve said.


“Yes,” I added in a slow, drugged voice. “But we find ourselves a good fifth Burner, we hang on to him, eh?”

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