Record Rewind: 50 Years of Neil Young’s Harvest

“There’s baseball on the radio, and I’m playing Harvest by Neil Young;
Mom says singing songs like that you could save everyone.”

– Joe Crookston, “The Nazarene”

These lyrics, cited from one of my favourite Joe Crookston compositions, speak to the undying love artists have—not just for Neil Young, but for Harvest. Long before the Internet, generations of aspiring musicians sat in their bedrooms with acoustic guitars listening to Harvest and learning the songs, chord by chord, verse by verse, dropping the needle, picking it up, and then repeating until the grooves in the vinyl were worn.

Julian Taylor is one example. As a kid, he learned piano to appease his parents, but it was not his instrument of choice.

“When my older cousin lent me her classical acoustic guitar I was thrilled,” recalls the JUNO-nominated musician. “She showed me a few chords and I was left to my own devices. Harvest was one of the albums that helped me learn how to play. It’s sound and simplicity drew me in and I listened to it daily. I’m grateful to the album because it’s helped me define part of my sound. Even though my styles vary, I’m a vampire folkie at heart.” 

Harvest was Young’s fourth record, following the self-titled Neil Young (1969), Everybody Knows This is Nowhere (1969), and After the Gold Rush (1970). Young wrote many of the songs that appeared on Harvest and workshopped them during a solo North American tour in 1971. A back-injury had forced him to mellow his mind with painkillers and reach for the acoustic more frequently. The resulting record released February 1, 1972 was the highest-selling album in the United States that year and featured a pair of singles that made the Billboard Top 100 charts: “Old Man,” which peaked at No. 31, and “Heart of Gold,” Young’s only single to reach No. 1.

Critics were lukewarm. Writing in Rolling Stone, John Mendelsohn called the album “a disappointing retread of earlier, superior efforts by Young.” In a recent interview with David Fricke on SiriusXM, Young stated, in typical Neil Young fashion, “Harvest is just another record.”

But who cares what the critics think, let alone Young. Harvest is a 10-song masterpiece; a touchstone for singer-songwriters. The album opener “Out on the Weekend” moves from the opening two-note bass line and whispered drumbeat to the minor chords that follow. Soon after, a loner’s imperfect voice singing words from the deepest recesses of his mind hypnotizes you. Existential. Abstract. Simple.

Since its release a half century ago, the record has influenced and inspired a myriad of artists. No matter where they were when they first heard Harvest—in Toronto where Young was born, in Winnipeg where he spent his formative years, in Vancouver on the West Coast, or in a remote northern community like Attawapiskat—the album attracted them in equal measure. GRAMMY-winner Colin Linden, who bought the LP upon its release, captures the spirit of the record in a single word: “kindness.”

In researching this piece, I listened deep to these expressions in song. I heard the kindness and the sadness. My father’s well-weathered vinyl copy guided my journey. Harvest’s pull first grabbed me during my teenage years. Re-listening to the record today, it still hits with the same feelings. The record is a portrait of an artist as a young man struggling with fame and asking existential questions. As Young was deeply in love with actress Carrie Snodgrass—the mother to his son Zeke—bliss permeates many of the songs.


The making of Harvest begins with happenstance. Young was in Nashville to tape an episode of The Johnny Cash Show. Out on the town, Young ran into Elliot Mazer. The audio engineer invited him to record some songs at his two-storey Victorian home studio, Quadrafonic Sound. On short notice, Mazer recruited a trio of session musicians to back up the singer-songwriter: pedal steel guitarist Ben Keith, bassist Tim Drummond, and drummer Kenny Buttrey. James Taylor and Linda Ronstadt, who were also in town for The Johnny Cash Show, joined the band for a couple of songs. Young and these killer players clicked. He later dubbed them The Stray Gators.

The result of these spontaneous sessions at Quadrafonic were four cuts for the record: “Harvest,” “Out on the Weekend,” “Heart of Gold,” and “Old Man.” Later, The Stray Gators, convened at Young’s Broken Arrow Ranch. Producer Jack Nitzsche used a remote recording system, set up PAs in Young’s barn, and converted this space into a makeshift home studio. Three more songs are captured: “Alabama,” “Are You Ready for the Country?” and “Words (Between the Lines of Age).” Young’s pals David Crosby and Stephen Stills add backing vocals to these heavier—both sonically and lyrically—tracks. The final pieces, “There’s a World” and “A Man Needs a Maid,” were recorded in London at Barking Town Hall with the London Symphony Orchestra using the Rolling Stones Mobile Studio, which now resides at Studio Bell in Calgary. Nitzsche arranged the pieces and Glyn Johns (Led Zeppelin, The Who, The Eagles) produced. The final piece of this seemingly disparate puzzle, “The Needle and the Damage Done,” was taken from a live performance at UCLA in 1971.


The early 1970s in popular music is often described as the singer-songwriter era. Following the psychedelic 1960s, where loud guitars ruled, artists like Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, J. J. Cale, James Taylor, and Joni Mitchell made it OK to reveal your innermost feelings in song. Young led this charge, but he also deviated from it—telling his contemporaries and future followers that it’s OK to not restrict yourself to one genre. From the country-tinged Americana of songs like “Out on the Weekend” and “Harvest,” to the grittier electric sounds of Young’s Gretsch White Falcon speaking to you in otherworldly tones on “Words” and “Alabama,” to the beautifully-arranged and lush “A Man Needs a Maid” and “There’s a World,” Harvest offers a bounty of styles.

For Luke Doucet (Whitehorse), who grew up in Winnipeg hearing Harvest regularly in his household, this is what makes the record so vital.

“I’m not a music historian, but to me Harvest feels like the archetypal post-genre record,” he explains. “It’s such an incredibly diverse record that defies genre. So many bands have benefitted from the precedent Harvest set. Think of Wilco. Without a record like Harvest, they might never have been able to land on such diversity in their output. Young paved the way to jettison the conservative restrictive notions of genre.”


In the liner notes to Decade, the early career retrospective album Young released in 1977, the songwriter wrote: ”’Heart of Gold’ put me in the middle of the road. Travelling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.” While Young might have tired of the success his only No. 1 single brought, artists cannot choose which of their creations the people will embrace. Despite his ennui for the song, “Heart of Gold” connected with generations of artists.

Just ask Adrian Sutherland, a songwriter from Attawapiskat First Nation, a fly-in Cree community on the coast of James Bay. Flashback to 1992: 16-year-old Sutherland borrows a harmonica from an Elder, and after fashioning a homemade harness using a coat hanger, two sticks, and elastic bands, he teaches himself to play “Heart of Gold.

“Neil Young was one of my biggest musical inspirations and ‘Heart of Gold’ is one of my favourite songs,” says Sutherland.

Flash-forward to 2018: Sutherland and his band Midnight Shine release a unique cover of the Young classic and receive rave reviews. In his version, the artist pays homage to his Indigenous culture with powwow singing and a verse in Mushkegowuk Cree.

“We wanted to cover it, but in a way that’s different from everyone else,” the songwriter adds. “So we gave it a little ‘shine’ of our own.”


Suzie Ungerleider, who formerly wrote and performed under the name Oh Susanna, admits the first time she heard Young’s most successful single during her formative years in Vancouver she was nonplussed.

“When I was a kid I heard ‘Heart of Gold’ on FM radio almost every morning and it drove me crazy,” Ungerleider recalls. “I hated it but was also kind of obsessed with it. I couldn’t really stand his voice. But then years later my friend was living in the Czech Republic and on a visit there we listened to ‘Powderfinger.’ My friend said, ‘It’s so intense! Listen to the lyrics: ‘Raised my rifle to my eye!’ And, he mimed raising a rifle to his eye. My friend then looked at me and said, ‘It’s so powerful!’ After that, I started to understand the fascination and the attraction/repulsion I was feeling.”

“I started listening to Harvest Moon on cassette and fell in love,” Ungerleider continues. “And then I went back to Harvest, the source. And, I fell in love again: the imagery, the symphonic arrangements, the country influences, the stories, the mystery, etc. I remember listening to Harvest on cassette in the car taking two ferries to Powell River to play a festival. I was a young and hungry songwriter and the music finally clicked.”

Jim Cuddy was 16 years old when Harvest was released and a self-described “closet guitarist.” The record resonated, leaving a lasting impact.

Harvest opened a door and I went through it,” he says. “All of a sudden that whole record became songs you could learn and moved me in the musical direction that I followed religiously for the rest of my life.”

For Cuddy, it was not just Young’s acoustic playing that inspired and influenced him, it was the subtleties of the record and its production. “I just loved the overall sound of that record from the flatness of the drums to the ‘thumpiness’ of the bass,” he explains. “Many times in my recording career, I’ve tried to get that organic rhythm sound…just let the acoustic guitars ring and the rhythm section stay contained.”

Colin Linden grew up in Toronto, Ontario, but now resides in Nashville where the album’s most iconic songs were recorded. He agrees with Cuddy. Harvest also opened a door to a new sonic world for him. The record’s depth, created by the sound of The Stray Gators, combined with Nitzsche’s beautiful arrangements, are just a couple elements that struck Linden from his first listen.

“Kenney Buttery is like the heartbeat of it and Ben Keith is like the blood—what flows in and out of it,” he says.

What also makes the record unique is that it was recorded in different spaces and places, yet it still feels cohesive.

Harvest features four disparate ideas that are brought together in an incredibly focused and unlikely way,” Linden adds. “It reminds me a little bit of the Duke Ellington record Black, Brown, and Beige, which had three different longer pieces to it… different palettes of sound and writing, but somehow it worked together conceptually. In retrospect, listening to Harvest, I feel it has a similar cohesion.”


Recorded: Between January and September 1971
Released: February 1, 1972
Label: Reprise Records
Producers: Neil Young, Elliot Mazer,
Studios: Barking Town Hall, London England; Royce Hall-UCLA.

Track Listing:

1. Out on the Weekend
2. Harvest
3. A Man Needs a Maid
4. Heart of Gold
5. Are You Ready for the Country?
6. Old Man
7. There’s a World
8. Alabama
9. The Needle and the Damage Done
10. Words (Between the Lines of Age)


The Stray Gators (Tim Drummond, bass; Ben Keith, pedal steel; Kenny Buttrey, drums) and Jack Nitzsche (Piano). Guests: Stephen Stills, David Crosby, James Taylor, Linda Ronstadt.

We Can Dance if We Want To

Record Rewind: Men Without Hats’ ‘Rhythm of Youth’ Turns 40

By: David McPherson

“I got the message and the message is proof / There really is a thing they call the rhythm of youth / It will pick you up and it will make you wiggle this way / Et c’est facile a dire and it’s easy to say.”

– Rhythm of Youth, “I Got the Message”

Clocking in at less than 35 minutes, Men Without Hats’ studio debut Rhythm of Youth features 10 catchy compositions.

Created in the fertile milieu of Montreal, Quebec in the early 1980s, the band took its name from the fact that founder Ivan Doroschuk and his two brothers (Colin and Stefan) never wore hats during cold Montreal winters. Their musical inspiration derived from the disco craze and punk movement of the late 1970s. Call it a new wave, or simply a new dance craze. No matter the moniker, these songs make you want to move.

Yet beyond the simple melodies, the synth sounds, the lead baritone, and the bouncy infectious beats, lay deeper messages. Just listen to the words in songs such as the hit single “The Safety Dance,” “Ban the Game,” and “Living in China” that speak to socio-political issues from censorship and global warming to communism and wars on foreign shores. Forty years on, these songs stand as strong as the moment Doroschuk penned them during an intense two-week watershed songwriting session.

For the latest Record Rewind, Amplify caught up with the founder and lead singer of Men Without Hats to look back on the making of this seminal record and look ahead to what Doroschuk and the band are up to now.  


Men Without Hats was formed in Montreal in the late 1970s. The original lineup featured Doroschuk along with his siblings Colin and Stefan. They later added percussionist Allan McCarthy. Montreal, circa 1978, was a breeding ground for all sorts of music. There were no boundaries. The influx of musicians from across Canada created a melting pot of styles and genres.

Though the English music scene was small, it was eclectic. If you strolled along the sidewalks of Sainte-Catherine Street or St. Laurent Boulevard on a Saturday night, you would hear a mishmash of sounds bursting from the clubs and speakeasies. Unlike Toronto, where the so-called ‘music-industry’ lived, Montreal was bereft of corporate decision-makers and their influence. This created true artistic freedom.

Photo courtesy of Men Without Hats

“Montreal bands knew that there wasn’t going to be a record executive with a big cigar and a wad of cash at the back of the room ready to sign them to a big deal, so they were free to do what they wanted,” explains Doroschuk from his Vancouver home. “They didn’t have to conform to be the next Parachute Club or The Spoons—big 1980s Toronto bands—this left us a lot more freedom to experiment.

“Montreal was a unique place to come from musically,” he adds. “It was championing bands like Pink Floyd and Genesis way before the rest of the continent. When those bands came to Montreal in the early 1970s, they played the Montreal Forum, then, they would go to New York and play the Bottom Line for 300 people.”


When it came to progressive music, Montreal was ahead of its time.

“I’ve always referred to Montreal as the Little Apple,” Doroschuk says. “The city had a huge disco scene in the 1970s that was connected to the New York scene. We would go down to Dutchy’s Record Cave on Crescent Street every Friday afternoon and get the latest singles shipped up from New York City. Then, punk broke, and we just combined the two.”

Doroschuk and his band of brothers defined new wave as a mixture of disco and 1970s prog-rock by bands like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, and King Crimson.

“I had grown up taking piano lessons my whole life,” he recalls. “I was ready … I had all the tools and all the chops.”


“The Safety Dance,” with its freedom of expression message: “We can dance if we want to,” was the second single off Rhythm of Youth that skyrocketed Men Without Hats to international stardom. The song earned a Juno nomination in 1984 for single of the year; that same year they also earned a Grammy nomination for best new artist. Doroschuk wrote this protest song after getting kicked out one too many times from clubs for a dance deemed too dangerous.

“The legend behind the song’s origin is true,” he says. “I was getting kicked out of these clubs in the dying days of disco. DJs, during the course of the night, would slip in some Devo, a B52s song like ‘Rock Lobster,’ or Blondie’s ‘Heart of Glass.’ As soon as those songs began, my friends and I would hit the floor and start to pogo dance. Nobody had seen that before; the bouncers thought we were fighting. Pogoing was the pre-cursor to the mosh pit.”


The early 1980s was the heyday of music videos. Men Without Hats’ record label pushed the band to make a video to accompany this catchy single.

“It was a new thing at the time and everybody was making them,” Doroschuk recalls. “The magic was that Tim Pope, who directed the video and did videos for other new wave bands like Soft Cell, Talk Talk, and the Cure, and I had the same vision. We exchanged ideas and wrote letters across the pond and both of us had this Pied Piper idea… it was almost like Tim was a member of my family. I flew over to England and appeared in the video; it was a magical experience and helped propel the single up the charts.”

The song peaked at No. 3 on the U.S. Billboard charts and stayed on the Hot 100 for 24 weeks. A remixed version hit No. 1 on the Billboard Dance Chart. In the U.K., “The Safety Dance” peaked at No. 2. In 2020, the song—along with the band’s “Pop Goes the World”—was inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.

Reflecting on this song’s success, did Doroschuk imagine such incredible response for this protest composition that became an anthem for generations?

“When you are a budding songwriter, at least I speak for myself, I thought everything I wrote was a hit,” he comments. “If I wrote 10 songs, I felt there could possibly be 10 No. 1 singles there, we just needed to work it properly. ‘The Safety Dance’ wasn’t even our first single released in Canada; it was ‘I Got the Message.’ We had a song on the radio and were super stoked and planned to go into the studio and make a second record. Then ‘The Safety Dance’ dance mix hit No. 1 on the Billboard dance charts and that changed everything. We were yanked out of the studio, put on a bus and sent on tour for the next two years to promote Rhythm of Youth.

“We have now been assimilated into pop culture to such a degree that that song is way bigger than me… way bigger than the band,” Doroschuk adds. “I feel like a museum curator travelling around the globe and presenting this musical artifact to people that procures immense joy. That is one of the reasons our fans are still listening to our music and enabling us to play live.”

Forty years since the release of Rhythm of Youth, with many stops, starts, and lineup changes over the ensuing decades, Men Without Hats is back in 2022 with its first record of original material in 10 years, Men Without Hats Part 2, recorded on Vancouver Island during the pandemic and released earlier this month. The band is climbing back on the bus and excited to perform live with an extended tour, starting in May in the U.K. and featuring two distinct sets: Rhythm of Youth in its entirety, followed by fan favourites and new songs in the show’s second half. Colin is back in the band, along with his daughter Sahara.

“It’s a family affair once again,” Doroschuk concludes.


Album Title: Rhythm of Youth
Recorded: January to March 1982
Released: April 1982
Label: Statik Records (Europe)
Producer: Marc Durand
Studios: Listen Audio in Montreal, Quebec
Players: Ivan Doroschuk (vocals); Stefan Doroschuk (guitar/bass); Colin Doroschuk (keyboards); Allan McCarthy (percussion).

Track Listing:

1. Ban the Game
2. Living in China
3. The Great Ones Remember
4. I Got the Message
5. Cocoricci (Le tango des voleurs)
6. The Safety Dance
7. Ideas for Walls
8. Things in My Life
9. I Like
10. The Great Ones Remember (Reprise)Share:



Amanda Rheaume Finds Her Place


As a teenager, Amanda Rheaume scribbled feelings in her diary. Years later, these angst-driven dribbles ended up as lyrics to original songs she sang with her rock ‘n’ roll band – in between cover versions of other people’s music – to beer-swilling audiences at Ottawa’s Zaphod Beeblebrox. Playing gigs at bars five nights a week, the artist followed this muse, thinking that was it, but a pair of epiphanies told her otherwise: As an artist, she had a bigger role to play.

The first one occurred in the early 2000s. Rheaume, crammed into a van with a group of aspiring musicians, played house concerts across the Southern U. S. One night, while performing in front of a group of strangers in this intimate setting, her heart spoke. The singer-songwriter realized that she was wasting her gift singing songs with little substance.

The second epiphany came not long after. Rheaume travelled to Afghanistan to perform a series of concerts for Canadian soldiers; again, her heart sent a message. Though she rocked out, and the men and women in uniform enjoyed her shows, what meaningful words had she given to these heroes?

Ever since, Rheaume has turned inward – and outward – in her art. She now writes from a personal space and comments on universal themes. As a citizen of the Métis Nation and a proud member of the LGBTQ2S+ community, she knew she could no longer ignore her truths.

“I want to say something that matters,” says Rheaume. “I believe I have a responsibility, when I’m onstage, to make a positive impact on people. After those two epiphanies, I made the decision to stop singing about my broken heart and write more about deeper things: my identity, my family history, and how that translates into my lived experience. As an artist, it’s critical for me to sing my truth, and the truth of the Métis Nation.”

Rheaume has released five albums over the past 15 years. Keep a Fire (2013) was nominated for a JUNO and won a Canadian Folk Music Award for Indigenous Songwriter of the Year. This search for truth and deeper meaning continues with Rheaume’s latest, The Spaces In Between. Produced by Hill Kourkoutis, It’s set for release May 27, 2022, on Ishkōdé Records, the label she co-founded, and co-runs, with Shoshona Kish, to foster and amplify Indigenous voices. “I’m so proud of this record,” she says. “It really feels like my favorite. Stylistically, it’s my most personal, and really reflects who I am.”

The first single, “100 Years,” is a rallying cry inspired by the words of Louis Riel, one of Canada’s most famed Métis leaders, who said, “My people will sleep for a hundred years, but when they awake, it will be the artists that give them back their spirit.”

The Spaces In Between also includes four spoken-word interludes from Tony Belcourt — a Métis leader, activist and founding president of the Native Council of Canada. Throughout the record, Rheaume retrieves more of her spirit, which guides her muse to find the right words. On the title track, she sings,

I’m just trying to find my place
Trying to find some empty space
Where I’m comfortable enough to say the things I need to say

The song was co-written, via Zoom, with Kourkoutis and Serena Ryder. “A lot of the songs are about identity, and how I fit into the landscape around me and tying that thread back to the history of the Métis Nation,” she says.

During her formative years, Jagged Little Pill was a touchstone. These days, the songwriter is inspired by Lucinda Williams, Ani Di Franco (her lyrics more than her music) – and more recently, Joy Harjo, the first Native American poet laureate in the U.S., with whom Rheaume took a masterclass.

“As artists, we’re already living on the fringes … carving our own paths and going against the grain,” she says, addressing the overarching theme of The Spaces In Between. “We’re making and finding our own spaces to create, succeed, grow an audience. and connect with people. None of that is laid out for you… You need to just do it and find your own way. To sing about, and to express, the spaces in between, you need to first love yourself, and come to terms with the fact that you don’t have to live in this one place. You can continue to grow and re-define who you are.”

Searching  for Songs: Rheaume’s top three tips

1) “Write a minimum of five (timed) minutes stream-of-consciousness every single day. Keep your pen on the paper, or fingers typing. Doesn’t matter if it’s nonsense. As with a pipe in the winter, you’ve gotta keep the water running! Ten minutes is even better, first thing in the morning is best… It’s the discipline that encourages greatness and mastery of a craft.”

2) “Keep a list of titles and ideas, either in your phone, or in a notebook you carry with you. Ideas flow into our consciousness all the time. As much as we try to remember, it’s much easier to keep track of everything.”

3) “Finish the song. Not every song is going to be your best. Sometimes we need to write one to get to the next one. Creativity and ideas are abundant.”

This story originally published here:

Record Rewind: The Road to Road Apples




A dozen songs that clock in just shy of 50 minutes with hooks aplenty, I bought Road Apples in Grade 12. In the ensuing decades, it’s been played more than most of my 1,500 CDs. I also own the vinyl. Thirty years on, I still know the words to every song. And, when I sing along I’m taken back to those carefree—and awkward—high school years cranking these tunes, alone in my bedroom, at a friends’ cottage in Muskoka, or in my parent’s car—rolling down the highway with my best buds en route to a Hip show. 

My love affair with The Tragically Hip began with Up to Here, but Road Apples is where my adulation for these Kingston boys really bloomed. My friends and I saw them live every chance we could whether at a weekend festival such as Courtcliffe Park in Carlisle, Ontario on July 6, 1991, or at the old Ontario Place Forum later that summer. One look at that ticket price, $10.55 for a seat on the lawn, confirms this event happened 30 years ago.

This was a band my friends and I understood. There was no twisting our arms to make us like these Canadian alternative rockers. From the start, we were all in. Never in my wildest dreams did I fathom while I was rocking out with a bottle of Molson Export in my hand at a high school house party to “Little Bones,” and “Three Pistols,” that three decades on I would jump on a Zoom call to chat with Hip guitarists Paul Langlois and Rob Baker to reminisce and take a deep dive into the making of Road Apples—The Tragically Hip’s first record to reach No. 1 in Canada.

The Tragically Hip, circa 1991. Credit: Jim Herrington for MCA.

Take a trip now. Close your eyes. Join the band down south in New Orleans. It’s early September 1990. The air is hot and heavy. Here’s where the road to Road Apples begins. Stroll into the French Quarter, down Canal Street, and into one of the older residential neighbourhoods. At the corner of Chartres and Esplanade, stop at 544 Esplanade and enter this 19th century mansion.  

Known as Kingsway, Daniel Lanois—the Canadian Grammy-winner and creator of countless sonic journeys—owns and operates this studio. Haunted? Perhaps. No matter, the ambience and the weight of history within this 12,000 square-foot home were palpable from the moment the five members of The Tragically Hip, along with their A-list production team (Bruce Barris and Don Smith) crossed its threshold. Kingsway was the perfect milieu for the birth of Road Apples. Other artists who were drawn to this studio during the 1990s included Peter Gabriel, Bob Dylan, Emmylou Harris, Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and Iggy Pop. “We discovered Lanois had this great beautiful hidden mansion studio down in the French Quarter and we were all in!” Langlois recalls.

“You felt the history all around you,” Baker adds. “I don’t believe in ghosts, but if there were ghosts that is the type of place where you are going to see them. The home was three storeys, but five storeys in the back where the slave quarters were once located … that is the history you are in. It was a strange place in a strange city where a lot of different cultures meet. In New Orleans, there is a lot of good history and a lot of bad history meeting in one spot and we just soaked it all up.”

Before setting foot in this historic manor featuring 12-foot high ceilings, the band spent several days rehearsing in a wooden warehouse in the Ninth Ward. Again, the musical history of this locale was not lost. This district was where rock ‘n’ roll pioneer Fats Domino called home. “It must have been 105 degrees,” Langlois says, of this rehearsal space, “but it was a great way for us to acclimatize to the city … we also got two songs out of those sessions: ‘Little Bones’ and ‘The Last of the Unplucked Gems.’”

The band arrived in New Orleans with the bones to the rest of the songs that eventually appeared on Road Apples. They just needed to assemble the skeleton and flesh them out until they sounded just right. “We felt we already had the makings of a great record and then ‘Little Bones’ comes along,” Langlois comments. “We are all big music fans and there are certainly music historians in the band—I can’t say I’m one of them—but the New Orleans’ culture was something that really fit us. We all felt the vibe and we soaked it in.”

The decision to record in a different location, one that oozed history, culture, and music was something MCA Records’ Bruce Dickinson believed was not just important, but essential, for the band’s studio success. “He felt we needed to get away from friends, family and record company executives who might drop in if we were recording in Toronto,” Langlois explains. “Bruce wanted us removed from all the distractions.”

This vibe definitely kicked the record up a notch and added to the atmosphere and grittier sound found on Road Apples. One wonders if setting up shop in New Orleans—a city known for its temptations (especially at night)—might have blocked productivity? For The Tragically Hip, these diversions did not steer them away from their purpose in the slightest. The band was there with a clear objective: to make and play music. And, since the studio was in a residential district, by 10 p.m. they had to be mindful of neighbours. “You had to tone it down,” says Baker, “so mostly we went into listening mode or acoustic mode. Some nights we went out, but we were pretty restrained.”

Billiards anyone?

Lanois had set up a classic pool table in the house and it was perfect for when the band needed a break. The room was so large that that’s also where they did the bulk of the recording; all five guys played in the same room with monitors and without headphones. The Hip arrived in New Orleans having played hundreds of shows over the past year and a half. Smith understood how tight the band was and the necessity for them to record as if they were performing live. Langlois says Smith was their kind of guy: funny, low-key, and cool. “We were just happy, and frankly, a little surprised that he saw what we were trying to go for. We felt understood by him and that came through in his methods.

“Don was a master at getting the sound of a room through which mics he used and where he put them,” Langlois continues. “He wasn’t overwhelmed by any of it and we all had massive respect for him.”

Baker agrees. “When Bruce [Dickinson] suggested Don to us to produce Up to Here we weren’t immediately familiar with his name. Bruce told us, ‘Well, he just finished the Keith Richards solo album’ and the recent Roy Orbison album.’ ‘Ok’, we said, ‘he sounds like our guy.’ When we got to Memphis to do Up to Here we waited for like three days for him to arrive. I was prepared for Don to adjust my mic, and say stuff like, ‘I don’t want you to use that amp,’ ‘switch your guitars,’ and ‘change your sound,’ but there was none of that. He just wanted to capture the sound of us as we were and what we were about. He didn’t want to push us around in the studio and produce us in some grand sense. While that caught me off guard initially, it really gave us all added confidence.”

Smith: A Master and a Stickler for the Take

Smith was also what Baker refers to as a stickler for the take. “He wouldn’t press record until it sounded just right, which might take five days of pushing mics around and moving one a couple of millimetres,” he says. “Don was a master at the old school method of recording that he learned by working Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley records in the Capitol building. Once it sounded right he pressed record and we would play and play and play and then he would say, ‘It was really good, now do it again … “Fight take 86!’”

Thirty years on, sadly many of the players who convened in Kingsway Studios in that sultry September in New Orleans are gone (including The Tragically Hip frontman Gord Downie, along with producers Don Smith and Bruce Barris). Yet, the songs live on. They’ve also aged well. For the remaining four members of the band, listening to, and working on, the new anniversary box set, brought mixed emotions.

“Any little thing can bring Gord back because all of us were such good buddies,” says Langlois. “It’s just too bad they are gone. But, on the other hand, listening to all the music, it sounded way better than I was expecting—particularly Saskadelphia. I didn’t think I would be that blown away by it. It was a great feeling of accomplishment. Adds Baker, “When I heard the tapes, it felt like the band was playing in the room with me. At the time, we were playing 250 shows a year and had been doing this for three years, so we had a lot of playing under our belts. We were feeding off each other in a really intuitive way. The ideas were flowing and we were playing really well together. All you had to do was pop the tapes on before they were even mixed … it just sounded like the band was right there.”

Road Apples 30th Anniversary Deluxe was released on November 12. All tracks were completely remastered in 2021 by Ted Jensen at Sterling Sound in Nashville, TN. The deluxe edition features rarities, new discoveries, live recordings, and ‘unplucked gems’ from the Road Apples sessions and era. 

Fast Facts:

Album:                                   Road Apples
Meaning of road apples:      Frozen horse poop used as a road hockey puck
Group:                                   The Tragically Hip
Label:                                     MCA Records
Recorded:                              September 1990
Release date:                         February 1991
Producers:                             Bruce Barris and Don Smith
Studio:                                   Kingsway Studios in New Orleans, LA

Track List:

1. Little Bones 
2. Twist My Arm 
3. Cordelia 
4. The Luxury 
5. Born in the Water 
6. Long Time Running 
7. Bring it all Back 
8. Three Pistols 
9. Fight. 
10. On the Verge 
11. Fiddler’s Green 
12. The Last of the Unplucked Gems

As Mike Weir, 50, Wins His First PGA Champions Tour Event, the Canadian Golf Legend Talks Changing His Approach to Life On and Off the Course

March 2020. North America is in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses close. Families are separated. Isolation and loneliness set in as imposed quarantines keep loved ones apart.

The Masters, a spring tradition, had been cancelled for the first time since the Second World War. Which meant professional golfer Mike Weir, who became a household name in 2003 when he was the first Canadian ever to win the iconic tournament, was enjoying some downtime at home in Sandy, Utah, a suburb of Salt Lake City where he lives with his girlfriend – former Bachelor contestant Michelle Money – and her daughter, Brielle. 

After a decade of battling physical and personal issues and watching his game collapse, Weir not only turned 50 last May but he also  began plotting his comeback and rediscovering the groove that made him the most successful Canadian golfer of all time. 

For most of us, golf is a leisurely pursuit that can be enjoyed regardless of our fitness level. But professionals, especially those like Weir who are battling both age and chronic physical ailments, must devote long hours in the gym and on the course to remain competitive. 

But putting in the hard work doesn’t guarantee success – even the most promising comebacks can fall apart in the blink of an eye, as we witnessed recently with Tiger Woods. Woods, who engineered a near-miraculous comeback by overcoming a host of personal setbacks (including debilitating back problems as well as a messy divorce) to return to the top of his game – shocking the golf world by winning the 2019 Masters – now faces the likely end of his brilliant career after sustaining multiple leg injuries in a horrible late February car crash. 

Mike Weir and Tiger Woods
Tiger Woods presents Weir, 33, the Green Jacket after the Canadian won the 2003 Masters Tournament. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

While Weir’s story may never be the subject of an HBO documentary, he can understand some of what Tiger has gone through. After that epic 2003 season, when he won the Masters, tied for third at the U.S. Open and tied for seventh at the PGA Championship, Weir finished the decade winning several tournaments and carding multiple top-10 finishes. However, in 2010, with neck, elbow and lower back injuries hampering his swing, his career went into a dramatic tailspin. After missing the cut in 14 of 18 events in the 2015-2016 season and withdrawing from three others, he took a leave to focus on his family. Off the course, he struggled with personal issues, including the breakdown of his marriage and eventual divorce from Bricia, his wife of 21 years.

Mike Weir
Weir tees off on the 18th hole en route to his historic Masters victory at Augusta in 2003. Photo: David Cannon/Getty Images

Turning 50 was not only a milestone birthday for Weir, but it provided him with a new goal to focus on – he was now old enough to join golf’s senior circuit, the PGA Tour Champions. 

During the pandemic pause, with all professional golf events on hold, Weir began to prepare in earnest. Before the break, he had played in a few events on the Korn Ferry Tour (a circuit just below the PGA Tour) and happily discovered that his game was returning to form – he tied for 17th at the LECOM Suncoast Classic in February, his highest result at a PGA Tour-sanctioned tournament since 2014. 

Advances in equipment and innovations in technology in the last 15 years, combined with a disciplined focus on personal fitness not practised by a previous generation of pros, allows golfers like Weir to compete well into middle age. 

“All aspects of fitness are important, and you need to have a balance,” Weir explains in a February interview from his home in Utah. “To still be powerful, you have to be limber, supple and explosive. And good cardiovascular health is also important. I run, sometimes bike, hike and ski.” 

He focuses on strength training by regularly lifting weights and stretches with a foam roll daily. “I concentrate on areas that are commonly tight on me and most golfers,” he adds. “My hips, back, neck and forearms. I also try to get a massage at least once a week, sometimes twice. Recovery is very important as we get a bit older.”

Mike Weir
Mike Weir, seen here in 2020, says since changing his approach he’s seen improvements in his range of motion and finds he can practice longer.

During the months he was grounded in Utah, Weir lifted weights at least three times a week, hit balls into his indoor net and played practice rounds at nearby courses. He also made sure to keep his mind sharp and reduce anxiety by taking long hikes in the nearby Wasatch Mountains, which his golf schedule did not normally allow.

It’s no wonder Weirsy, as fans know him, is feeling rejuvenated and ready to embark on this exciting new chapter in his career. “I’ve done many things over the past few years to prepare for this moment,” Weir says. “First, I assembled a great team [including coach Mark Blackburn, a past member of Golf Digest’s 50 Best teachers list, and Jason Glass, a B.C.-based strength and conditioning coach] that helps prepare my game technically, physically and mentally. Physically, I addressed some limitations that come with getting older, in particular mobility … that’s been a primary focus.”

He feels his game has become more fluid and finds he has more energy than he has had in many years. And the early results on the Champions Tour show that his dedication, resilience and preparations are paying off. In just his second start, he tied for 10th at the Bridgestone Senior Players Championship, and through 12 events in the 2020-21 combined season, he has notched four other Top 10 finishes (including finishing second at the Cologuard Classic) and earned more than US$700,000, good for 15th place on the tour. Even better, he’s averaging 286.8 yards off the tee – remarkably only two less than the 289.2 yards he averaged during his prime on the PGA Tour.

Mike Weir
Weir, 50, at the Utah Championship in June 2020. Photo: Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

“My range of motion is better, and I have less tightness in my back,” says Weir of his rejuvenated game. “This allows me to play consecutive weeks and increase my ability to practise longer as well. Guys work very hard on the Champions Tour, so if you’re not capable of that you will get passed by easily!”

Hard work has been a defining feature of Weir’s golf career since the Bright’s Grove, Ont., native began making headlines at the Huron Oaks Golf Club in Sarnia, Ont., where he played as a teenager. While his peers worked summer jobs, went to camp or just hung out, Weir practised endless hours. 

As a leftie, he felt at a disadvantage competing against right-handed players who dominated the sport. Since then, Phil Mickelson (a three-time Masters champion) and Bubba Watson (two-time Masters champion) have proved left-handed players can win at golf’s highest levels. But when Weir was a teenager, the only professional southpaw that had won a major was Bob Charles.

When he was 13, Weir wrote to his hero, golfing legend Jack Nicklaus, asking the Golden Bear whether he should switch to playing right-handed. Nicklaus not only took time to write Weir back but advised him to “stick to your natural swing – stay left-handed. The fundamentals apply to both sides of the ball, left- and right-handed, and good luck in your dreams.”

Mike Weir
Weir hoisting his trophy after winning the Ontario Amateur Championship at the age of 20. Photo: Golf Canada

That encouragement from Nicklaus was all the motivation Weir needed to pursue his career. He won the Canadian Juvenile Championship in 1986 and the Ontario Junior Championship two years later. After starring for the Brigham Young University golf team, he joined the Canadian Tour where he spent five grinding years, driving from coast to coast, playing in small towns and frequently living out of the back seat of his car or staying in cheap motels. In 1998, he finally achieved his dream when he tied for 26th in the qualifying tournament and earned his PGA Tour card.

Tom Lehman – a five-time PGA Tour winner over a successful 26-year career – recalls playing a round with Weir not long after the young Canadian had joined the tour. “He reminded me of a young Nick Price [the South African-born golfer who dominated the sport before Tiger arrived],” recalls the 61-year-old Lehman. “He was straight off the tee, accurate with his irons, a fantastic putter and chipper … he was like a mirror image of Price but from the other side of the ball. I knew this guy was going to make a big splash.” 

Lehman’s prophecy came true on April 13, 2003, a date etched in the memories of Canadian golf fans, when Weir defeated American Len Mattiace in a one-hole playoff to become the first Canadian – and the first left-handed golfer – to win The Masters. 

With that stunning victory at the Augusta National Golf Club, Weir became a national celebrity. Kids from St. John’s to Victoria traded in their hockey sticks for golf clubs. The win also inspired future generations of Canadian PGA Tour players, starting with David Hearn and Graham DeLaet and continuing today with Mackenzie Hughes and Corey Conners.

Hearn, 41, who was born in Brampton, Ont., and turned pro in 2001, remembers exactly where he was when Weir won at Augusta. “I had just finished a full season on the Canadian Tour,” recalls the PGA Tour professional from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “We played an early practice round somewhere in Arkansas and got back to our hotel in time to watch every one of Mike’s shots on the back nine. We were glued to the TV. It was one of those days every Canadian can relate to. We were so proud, and it was also so inspiring. He became the model for how to practise, prepare and play.” Fellow Canadian golfer Graham DeLaet says Weir is the reason he became a professional golfer. “His Masters win was the biggest factor in me wanting to turn pro after college.”

While Weir has lived in the U.S. for more than three decades, he has never forgotten his roots. He still relishes his role as a mentor to the latest crop of Canadian PGA Tour stars and he’s humbled that they see him as a hero – and look to him for advice – just like he once viewed Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and others. 

“A lot of the younger guys look up to Mike,” Hearn says. “He is a tremendous role model. It’s amazing to watch as he continues to work hard and is seeing success again. It’s no surprise because through all his struggles in recent years, I’ve seen how hard he continued to work.”

Mike Weir
Weir receiving the Order of Canada from then-Governor General Michaelle Jean in 2009. Photo: Canadian Press/Adrian Wyld

Last November, when the postponed Masters was finally held, Weir returned to the scene of his past glory – winners get a lifetime invitation to join the tourney – to play a practice round at Augusta with three Canadians: Corey Conners (who was 11 when Weir won the Green Jacket), Adam Hadwin and Nick Taylor – giving them tips on how to navigate the course’s treacherous putting surfaces and difficult holes. His advice paid off; Conners finished tied for 10th and Taylor tied for 29th. While Weir finished tied for 51st, it was his best showing at Augusta since 2014. 

In April, Weir will tee it up at his 22nd Masters. He’s enjoying life at 50 and if he maintains good health and keeps up his high level of play, he could enjoy another 10 years on the Champions Tour. After all, Hale Irwin, who is 75, is still playing on the senior circuit.

Despite all the success and accolades he has earned in his career – winning eight PGA Tour events, career earnings of US$28 million, playing on five President’s Cup teams, winning the Lionel Conacher Award for Canada’s Best Male Athlete three times and receiving the Order of Canada – Weir remains resolutely focused on the future.

“I’m more of a look-forward-and-live-today type person,” he says. “But many things come to mind: special victories, my relationship with my children [daughters Elle and Lili, both in university], my family and many dear friends. What has sustained me through 30 years of playing professional golf is my love of the game, the gratitude for doing something you love for a living and the many relationships along the way.”

An Outsider No More: Allison Russell Confronts the Past and Celebrates the Present

Scars, we all have them. Some are visible; others are hidden deep. Human nature is to bury these secrets — keeping the most harrowing stories for our ears only. The problem is these memories of past traumas circle our brains like caged animals, gnawing away and fraying the wires, hoping for release, a little bit more each day. As the years roll by, you can suppress them and silence them. Even think you’ve forgotten them. But, they are always there. They lurk in your subconscious and wait to remind you of who you once were. 

Songwriters, by nature, are storytellers. Some tell other people’s stories and create relatable characters. Others use the craft as a cathartic tool to share their experiences of this messy thing we call life in hopes of helping those that still struggle with a pestering past.

Allison Russell is one of these brave souls. The Canadian songwriter was born in Montreal, but now calls the suburbs of Nashville home. She rents a place on an acre of land with her husband JT and their daughter. Since Covid-19 arrived in North America in March 2020 forcing her to abandon her tour with Birds of Chicago, this is where she has stayed — growing vegetables, letting love rule, and writing beautiful songs that confront her past. 

On Outside Child, her debut solo record produced by Dan Knobler, released May 21 via Fantasy Records/Concord Music, the songwriter bares her soul. The record documents Russell’s story in all honesty: from childhood abuse at the hands of her father and her survival, living on the streets of Montreal as a teen to finding her tribe of fellow musicians in Vancouver to finally finding true love with her life partner and musical collaborator.  

“I wanted the album to feel like a journey and ultimately feel hopeful,” Russell explains, when we connect via Zoom on a mid-March morning. “While this is a story that begins in abuse and trauma because those were the circumstances of my childhood, the point is that I’m looking back on that now from a place of love, connection, empowerment and happiness. I felt it was so important to share my experiences … it’s a road map for anyone else going through similar things.”

Russell’s map to the world started in Montreal, Quebec where she was born and lived until she was 17. The city of her birth holds mixed emotions. Home is where the heart is, so goes the adage, though these days, that is Music City. But, Montreal is where she found her voice, her strength, and her determination in the face of abuse and neglect. While there was trauma, there was also joy. The journey from a homeless teenager to finding her fellow misfits on the other side of Canada to releasing her debut solo record after more than 20 years in the music business parallels Outside Child’s narrative. This is her story.

In revealing her abuse, and sharing her scars with the world via her songs, Russell does not mince words, nor does she waste time. On “4th Day Prayer,” she speaks to this childhood trauma no one should ever experience. The songwriter sings in a confessional style: “Father used me like a wife/Mother turned the blindest eye/Stole my bodies spirit pride/He did he did each night.”

The “A-side” of the record chronicles Russell’s childhood in Montreal and all of her experiences in the City of Saints and ends with “The Runner,” when she made the decision to leave Montreal behind and head to Vancouver to follow her muse and her music. “That [Vancouver] is where I really came into my own as a musician, an artist, and as a writer,” says Russell. “That is also where I met a whole new musical community and fell in love with my life partner. Hopefully, when people hear this record, they hear a lot of the hope and the joy.” 

At 15, Russell escaped her nightmare at home. From then on, she spent her nights discovering another side of Montreal: the misfits, night owls, lost souls, and McGill students that drifted in the all-night cafes after dark. “A lot of the record is a love song to Montreal,” the songwriter explains. “It’s like you can’t see your home until you leave it; until then, you take everything for granted. I really think I wouldn’t have survived my childhood in any other city and without the escape art offered me through books and music.

“Montreal is a very 24-hour city,” she adds. “I would spend hours in Café Royale playing chess. Next to me were McGill University Poli-Sci students studying and cramming for exams, and old guys drinking coffee. I would leave there and wander around Mount Royal at all hours. In the summertime, I would sleep in the graveyard and watch the sunrise over the city. Montreal held me. And, in many ways, protected me.”

Montreal is also where Russell first started to make music, busking on the streets. Vancouver, her next stop on this musical journey, is where her true awakening occurred and where she found her tribe. Not long after her arrival in British Columbia, the 17-year-old was asked to join The Hot Club of Mars, a gypsy jazz group led by a local luthier named Michael Dunn. The band paid homage to Django Reinhardt’s famed The Hot Club de France. Russell was hired to write French lyrics to Reinhardt songs and join the band for a gig at The Festival du Bois in Coquitlam, BC. Russell had met Dunn through her aunt (Gillian Russell) who was also a singer-songwriter that had started her career in the coffeehouse scene in Montreal back in the 1960s.

“My aunt and uncle were entrenched in the Vancouver folk scene and introduced me to their friends,” Russell recalls. “I started to play with people 30 and 40 years older than me and learned a lot from them. I also did quite a bit of busking and taught myself to play guitar and banjo.”

Allison Russell. Credit: Marc Baptiste.

Vancouver at that time had an amazing and thriving roots and Americana scene and it was natural for Russell to find a home within this artistic community. “I moved into a big house with eight other people between the ages of 19 and 27. It was a real artist house. We had wonderful jam circles where we would share our songs. That is when I really started to write my own material. It is also when I first met Trish Klein; she took me under her wing and encouraged my songwriting, for which I’ll forever be grateful. She also introduced me to the banjo, which has now become my primary writing instrument.”

When Klein’s band (the Be Good Tanyas) took a hiatus, she and Russell started a new group together (Po’ Girl) and released a self-titled debut in 2003, which was picked up by HighTone Records in the U.S. Nettwerk in Canada, signed the band for its next couple of records. “That was a sweet time,” Russell recalls. “We toured 300 days a year all over the U.K., Ireland, Western Europe, the U.S. and Canada. We were just kids and still learning. I’ll never forget a day off we had once in Amsterdam when a gig fell through. We decided to busk and made like $2,000 in tips, more money than we had ever made at a gig, in just over 90 minutes.”


While Po’ Girl has never officially broken up, in 2011 Russell decided to collaborate with the love of her life and fellow musician JT Nero, who she had first met at the annual Folk Alliance International Conference, held in Vancouver back in 2001. Russell says the pair started to fall in love five years later when they toured together during a Po’ Girl European tour. “We knew we were lifers,” she says. “We started to write songs together and figured maybe we needed to take this a step further. It took a while because I was scared about what would happen if it didn’t work out.”

Taking the leap, and not looking back, Birds of Chicago was born in late 2012. For the next four years they honed their chops and solidified their sound playing 200 shows a year. A handful of albums met by critical-acclaim followed: the self-titled debut (2012), Real Midnight in 2016 (produced by Joe Henry); Love in Wartime (2018); and the EP American Flowers (2017).

The need to revisit past traumas and share her story came to Russell while she was working on the collaborative project: Songs of Our Native Daughters, released in early 2019 by Smithsonian Folkways. She made the record with Rhiannon Giddens, Amythyst Kiah, and Leyla McCalla. The album tackled America’s history of slavery, racism, and misogyny from a Black female perspective. 

“On Songs of our Native Daughters we were delving into a lot of this painful history that is still happening today, but from our perspectives and really trying to find the lost voices of Black women throughout history,” Russell explains. “That was a really powerful experience to do that with my sisters in song. It brought up a lot of stuff and reframed my own experience within this continuum. I was a child who was severely abused. I left home when I was 15. It made me understand my experience was not in a vacuum. It was part of this continuum of ancestral, intergenerational, cyclical, violence of trauma, bigotry, and abuse that is continuing to do harm.

“I feel we are called upon in this time to really try to address, face, and heal this intergenerational trauma we are all carrying forward,” she continues. “It affects us all. I’m a mom now and it got me thinking what does it mean to be a good ancestor? What do our kids inherit? They don’t inherit just everything we want them to. They inherit everything we didn’t deal with, all of our trauma and neuroses if we don’t deal with them. I felt I needed to face some of my past and felt compelled to write about it.”

Outside Child is a personal statement. It confronts the harm and the history of traumas from Russell’s past and reframes them with hope. In the process, the songwriter discovers second chances and spiritual rebirth. A broken traveller Russell is for sure, but who amongst us isn’t? The album closes with the celebratory “Joyful Motherfuckers.” On this duet with JT, Russell sings of hopeful sinners, true forgivers, the courageous, and the lovers — shouting out loud for all to hear the power of love to conquer hate; a wise lesson her grandmother taught her. And, she also speaks directly to her father, telling that “thief of her childhood,” “ragged jackal,” and “loveless coward” that he was actually the thief of nothing for she has found peace and everlasting love. The journey is complete. The past is forgotten. Namaste. 

Julian Taylor: Perseverance and Patience –– A Life in Music

Julian Taylor: Perseverance and Patience –– A Life in Music Julian Taylor is not the first artist — nor will he be the last — to grow disenchanted with the music industry and shelve his dreams of making hit records for a living. The lifestyle of a Canadian touring musician is hard. You watch friends […]


Throughout history, tragedy, heartbreak, and unfathomable loss are experiences that have inspired artists to write songs. While they start from a personal place, when combined with the zeitgeist when they were written, these songs can resonate with generations long after the songwriter is gone – because of the shared feelings evoked by the words and the music.

“I’ll Never Smile Again” is one such song, inducted into both the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame (CSHF) and American Recording Hall of Fame, and a part of our country’s deep well of treasured compositions.

Flash back to the 1930s. The Great Depression lingers. Unemployment is high. Europe edges closer to World War Two. In Toronto, 23-year-old Ruth Lowe writes a “I’ll Never Smile Again.” The sentimental ballad comes to her following not just one, but two huge losses: the death of her father in 1932, followed by the passing of her husband in 1939.

Lowe had a gift for music. After her father died, she supported the family by selling her songs and performing them. This was the start of the golden age of the Big Band era. Lowe climbed aboard. After hearing her sing in Toronto one night, bandleader Ina Ray Hutton invited her to join her all-female orchestra, full-time. Lowe agreed and hit the road.

After a gig one evening in Chicago, the songwriter had a blind date with song man Harold Cohen. The pair fell in love and soon married. After only one year of matrimony, tragedy struck Lowe for the second time when Cohen unexpectedly passed away.

“Losing the two men she loved in her life, in such a short time, inspired the song,” says Lowe’s son Tom Sandler. “My mom was so heartbroken. She said to my aunt, ‘I’ll never smile again without him,’ and the next day she sits down and quickly writes this haunting song.”

Lowe shared the song with Toronto bandleader Percy Faith. He loved it. With the songwriter’s permission, Faith arranged and recorded a 78 RPM single with his orchestra. Faith first broadcast the song in 1939 to CBC listeners on his regular program Music By Faith.

But Lowe knew she had a hit on her hands beyond Canada. The ambitious songwriter shared the recording and sheet music with bandleader Tommy Dorsey, through his guitar player – who happened to be dating one of Lowe’s girlfriends at the time. The bandleader listened to “I’ll Never Smile Again,” and like Faith, was moved.

Ruth Lowe, First Billboard Chart, I'll Never Smile Again

Dorsey arranged a new version of the song with his band, and then brought it to Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers to record. The sentimental song ended up launching Sinatra’s career; it was not only the crooner’s first No.1 Billboard hit, but the first No. 1 record on Billboard’s modern chart, staying atop it for 12 weeks, in 1941.

“With the war raging in Europe, there was a lot of heartbreak going on, and more to come,” says Sandler. “All these women were losing their loves and their husbands to war and then here comes a story of a woman losing her man. The song resonated. I call it a flashpoint in music history: Dorsey, my mom, Sinatra, the war… everything came together. It went through the roof on the charts!”

Like all great songs, more than a half-century later, “I’ll Never Smile Again” still stands the test of time. The composition inspired Frank Davies to create the CSHF. And through the decades, “I’ll Never Smile Again” has been covered by Fats Waller, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Big Joe Williams, Count Basie, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, Eddie Arnold, The Platters, Carl Perkins, Cleo Laine, Barry Manilow, and Michael Bublé, among others.

On film, the song has been heard in Good Morning, Vietnam and The Color of Money, and on TV’s The FugitiveMcHale’s NavyLeave it to Beaver, and the Ed Sullivan, Perry Como, and Lawrence Welk shows.

An impressive legacy for a song written out of heartbreak, by a 23-year-old widow from Toronto.

To learn more about Ruth Lowe’s legacy in song, read the book Until I Smile at You, written by Sandler and Peter Jennings, published in 2020, or visit

R.I.P The Tavern of The Damned – Logan’s Pub Another Casualty of Pandemic

A vital cog of the alternative and indie scene on Vancouver Island, this past October Logan’s Pub closed its doors for good. Another live music venue casualty due to the pandemic. For more than three decades, Victoria’s arts community found a home here. Live music rained from its rickety rafters six nights a week. From country to punk, death metal to alternative rock, all genres were represented. Many bands played this intimate venue before they were better known like Death Cab for Cutie, The Weakerthans, and Japandroids. Those that called it their local affectionately referred to this haven as The Tavern of the Damned. Long-time booker Mihkel Kaup has no idea who dubbed it this, but the moniker fit.

“It was damned alright!” he says. “The paint job was all red and the spirit of the place felt like it had ghosts; it also felt like the people there were damned: with our problems, our issues, our addictions, and our passions. We were all damned to make this a memorable time and damned to make music and art.”

Logan’s Pub was the proving ground for countless musicians. It’s where misfits and outcasts felt most at home in a conservative city, where their “otherness” was often feared. No surprise that the announcement this fall of its closure via Facebook sparked hundreds of comments and lamentations for this loss.

Courtesy of Logan’s Pub official Facebook page.

The venue opened at 1821 Cook Street in 1984 as Thursdays Sports Bar — a pub attached to a Nautilus Fitness Club. In 1997, brothers Chris, John, and Stuart Logan, along with another family member, purchased the venue. A couple of years later, they renamed it Logan’s Pub. This was the heyday for the music venue. Chris Logan recalls the beginnings of this seminal time in his life when Nirvana brought alternative music to the mainstream.

“I was 28, living in Halifax, and working at a bar called the Double Deuce, which was the centre of the local music scene,” he recalls. “The scene, like all scenes, eventually petered out and I decided to move to the other coast. I had no master plan, but I wanted to create a similar scene to what I felt at the Deuce.”

Enter Carolyn Mark. The alternative country singer-songwriter had already been booking shows at Thursdays. “She was really the catalyst for us starting to book shows,” Logan says. “We just built from that. There were not many other live music venues in town and word quickly got around.”

Mark shares one of her favourite stories. “When John [Logan] was alive, he would often draw the blinds after last call, indicating the bar was closed, but people wouldn’t have to leave. If they wanted more beer though, there was a price to pay. There was a bicycle with no seat in the bar and John made them ride the bike around the bar naked. One night, my drummer Garth returned home wearing a sheepish grin. ‘What’s up?’ I asked. ‘I rode the bike!’” he replied.

Chris Logan admits it took a while for them to figure things out and get the booking right. New Year’s Eve, 1999, was the first big show after a small stage was built near the front of the bar. Within two years, live music happened almost every night. The bar filled a niche. There was a real hunger for a local place to play. “We would book anything ‘weird,’” Logan comments. “There was a really good punk-rock and art-rock scene in Victoria at this time. That is when we changed from a neighbourhood sports bar to an alternative scene hangout and music venue.”

With a legal capacity of 150 (which the bar surpassed a few times before getting hit with too many violations), Logan’s represented a continuation of the DIY culture made popular by bands like Hüsker Dü and the circuit of clubs that supported these scenes, starting in the early 1980s. The former part-owner says it’s this legacy of which he is most proud. “We gave bands our PA, but they had to do all their own promotion,” he recalls. “It was a real DIY scene. Looking back, that is the real significance of Logan’s.”


As Logan’s’ booking agent from its heyday until its recent closure, Mihkel Kaup knows the ins and outs of the bar more than most. He grew up in Toronto but moved to Victoria in 2000. Today, he lives on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. Fate brought him to The Tavern of the Damned. At first, it was his local – the pub around the corner from where he lived where he liked to hang out with like-minded souls and drink a few pints. He felt comfortable there, became friends with the staff, and even built the bar’s first stage with a friend. When Logan’s needed a new booking agent, despite little experience, he jumped at the opportunity.

“When I was younger and starting out I was really naïve,” Kaup says. “I remember my first big contract show was with The Sadies. I booked them for two nights and both sold out. I remember being very nervous. I locked all their money from the ticket sales in my office along with the keys! Luckily, it all worked out.”

Over the years Kaup booked everyone from Dick Dale to the Dayglo Abortions. He compares Logan’s to a ship taken over by pirates. “The ship is sinking, on fire, and everybody around it is terrified, but once you get on board, you realize these are our people – like-minded folks who believe in the counter culture and the music. There was always this sense of how long can we sustain this thing before it sinks. Sadly, COVID took it down. It’s a big loss for the city and for the community.”

Leeroy Stagger was a part of Logan’s’ DIY scene and one of Kaup’s mates. He wished those nights would last forever. In a previous life (that includes The Tavern of the Damned), he was a “straight-up wild child.” Logan’s is where he played his first shows with the Staggers and later his first solo performances. Over the years, he played there at least 30 times. “I don’t remember much about my first gig other than having my own pitcher of draft to myself on stage,” he recalls. “I’m pretty sure I was underage. After the show, I tried to walk through the Wendy’s drive-through unsuccessfully but a car full of cute UVIC girls took pity on me and let me hop in and even drove me home!”

In those early days, Chris Logan intimidated Stagger. “I remember I was always scared to go into his office, probably for fear of getting found out I was underage,” he says. “Chris was always back there smoking and cracking us all up although his humour was over my teenage punk-ass head. Ironically, Chris and I have become great friends later and much more sober in life.”


Courtesy of  Logan’s Pub archives.

Carolyn Mark’s Hootenanny at Logan’s was as legendary as the bar. The alt-country singer-songwriter started this open mic at another pub before shifting it to Logan’s permanently when Chris Logan and his family took over operations.

“I ran this every Sunday afternoon for years,” Mark recalls, speaking from the farm where she now lives in rural Courtenay, on the east coast of Vancouver Island. “It was an open mic/open stage concept. There were moments of sublime beauty and moments of incredible shit! I liked it when touring bands stopped in … people behaved better. I always made sure they knew my Hootnanny was going on so I could lure them in.”

Stagger admits getting lured into this regular jam. Here is where his career as a solo artist really started thanks to Marks’ encouragement. At this Sunday open jam, over the years, anyone–and everyone–showed up from Wilco to Neko Case, Oh Susanna to Alejandro Escovedo. “I was the kid on the periphery, getting my education from the masters,” Stagger says.

Winnipeg-based singer-songwriter Greg MacPherson recalls a memorable show with Mark nearly 20 years ago. “She worked that whole room,” he says. “From the chairs to the windows to the servers, Carolyn was the atmosphere in that bar for over an hour.”

The loss of Logan’s is yet one more example of the cost of this pandemic on the live music ecosystem—leaving us with only memories to sustain us in the interim.

“I lament the loss of rooms like Logan’s because new venues may open eventually but they won’t have built up 20 years of memories or sit waiting for your arrival with the awkward years behind them, the sound system already figured out, regulars already dancing, years of sacrifice, hard decisions, and hundreds of performances still hanging in the air,” MacPherson concludes.

Record Rewind: 50 Years of Bad Manors

A little boogie-woogie, buckets of blues, and heaps of rock ‘n’ roll. That’s Crowbar. Frank Davies, owner of Daffodil Records, the label that released three LPs by these musical miscreants from Hamilton in the early 1970s, knows this cast of characters better than most. He introduces us to the band behind Bad Manors, Crowbar’s debut, which turns 50 in 2021.

Kelly Jay, aka ‘Captain Canada,’ the leader, singer, keyboardist, songwriter, immovable force behind and in front of the group, and promotion man extraordinaire – was rock ’n’ roll’s ‘Andre the Giant’! A walking mountain of a man and memorabilia, he would carry the Ghetto (John Gibbard) – lead guitar wailing, and Roly Greenway – yanking his oversized bass, on each of his shoulders while singing and playing boogie-woogie piano, all at the same time, to the delight of their many fans! The band was rounded out by the rock steady and always beaming drummer Sonnie “Come Va” Bernardi, and the ‘Frenchman’ Rhéal Lanthier from the Gatineau Hills – the other lead guitar – he of the silky soulful, smooth sounds and even sweeter disposition.

Released in February of 1971, Bad Manors garnered rave reviews from the Canadian music press. Major U.S. music publications, like the Village Voice and Rolling Stone, also took notice.

“Bad Manors is an important record in Canadian popular music history for many reasons,” Davies explains. “I am always hopeful that new, younger generations will continue to get to hear it because of its unpretentious infectious joy and wonderful musicianship, not to mention the anthem that helped make it famous.

“It was an unforgettable time that we didn’t want to end but knew it must,” he adds. “It had a carnival atmosphere surrounding it from the day we started until 8 a.m. on December 7, 1970, when I headed straight from the studio at the end of one of many all-night sessions to deliver the final mixed tapes to Capitol, our record distributor.”

Crowbar at Bad Manors front door, 1970. Photo by Annette Yorke. Courtesy of Frank Davies archives.

The album’s title is a nod to the six-bedroom century-old Georgian farmhouse along Mohawk Road on Hamilton Mountain where Crowbar and their friends partied, created, and even some members lived. Reflecting on the Bad Manors’ sessions, Davies recalls a joyful time. “It captured a group of musicians at their absolute peak.”

While “Oh What a Feeling” is the most well-known cut from Bad Manors, other notable songs include: “Murder in the First Degree,” “Too True Mama,” and a cover of The Yardbirds’ “Train Kept a Rollin.’”


The primary memory the pair of surviving band members from these sessions (Gibbard and Bernardi) remember is how little time was spent on pre-preproduction. “Some of us were spending time ‘woodshedding’ on our individual instruments, and there were occasional jams at the house, sometimes involving visiting musicians and friends, but a fair amount of drinking and smoking of illegal substances also took place!” Gibbard says.

Toboggan parties on the attached hillside property were a regular occurrence during these carefree days; a lot of mulled wine was consumed out of wineskins.

One afternoon, one of Gibbard’s bandmates casually mentioned they were due to start recording in a week. Within the hour, short-term pre-production started.

“Necessity being the mother of invention, one of the first ideas suggested was based on a James Brown medley that Roly, Rhéal, and Kelly had worked up pre-Crowbar for a club ‘house band’ they had in Winnipeg, named The Ascot Review,” Gibbard recalls. “The idea was to strip the lyrics and come up with our own. Someone came up with the hook melody, and everyone jumped in on harmonies. What we had was not anything sounding like James Brown. There was way too much of a rock ‘n’ roll feel involved, and the vocal harmonies also detracted from JB’s take. I discovered, years later, that the ‘Oh What A Feeling’ melody was likely drawn, unconsciously from memory, from the rain dance scene in Woodstock. I hadn’t seen the movie at that point, so that was a great surprise.”


Gibbard says creating Bad Manors was a true collaboration with everyone contributing ideas: “Roly submitted ‘Mountain Fire’ and ‘Train Keep Rollin.’’ Kelly brought in ‘Too True Mama’ and ‘In The Dancin Hold.’ We also covered a few old hits: ‘Let The Four Winds Blow’ and ‘Baby Let’s Play House.’ Joey Chirowski and Kelly doubled on piano for ‘The House of Blue Lights,’ and Rhéal covered an old country tune by Johnny Horton called ‘Cherokee Chief’.’ Crowbar had an additional member at this time named John Rutter. He went by the name of ‘Johnny Rhythm’ back before Crowbar (in the early to mid ’60s). He supplied the ‘Prince of Peace’ song and production idea.”

Under a time crunch, Gibbard admits there was no time to create an album full of originals. “Rhéal and I had been working on some little two-part guitar ditties for fun, and it was decided those could flesh out the rest of the album,” he adds. “Kelly recorded the short monologue part for ‘Oh What A Feeling’ on a hand-held cassette recorder in the bathroom, and that was added in a musical break-up part of the song.”

Guests on Bad Manors included Steve Kennedy, a well-known sax player from Dr. Music, who laid down a baritone sax solo on “Too True Mama.” “The first note of the solo was just below the range of the sax, so he accomplished it by sitting down and wrapping his foot into the bell of the horn, which resulted in the correct note,” Gibbard recalls.


Davies shares some little-known trivia. “If you listen carefully during the Ghetto’s blazing guitar solo on the Bad Manors track ‘Let The 4 Winds Blow,’ you will hear lead singer Kelly Jay say, ‘Not that fucking guitar solo again,’ which has now been heard subliminally on radio thousands of times. Kelly was punching in his lead vocal over and over in the studio during the sessions for this particular song, and of course, we used the guitar solo as a cue for his entry/exit – to the point where on the 100th ‘take’ he could take no more and emitted those immortal words. It sounded so natural. I just couldn’t bear to take it out, so we buried it just under the track. The few of us who knew would smile every time we heard it!”


Bop bada baa, Bop bada baa. This nonsensical phrase opens “Oh What a Feeling,” which was the first-ever CanCon hit single and the most popular track from Bad Manors. For those in the know, this phrase had meaning and was a bit of an inside joke: the password to gain entrance to Crowbar’s hangout Bad Manors in Ancaster, Ont. The song was co-written by lead singer Kelly Jay Fordham and Roly Greenway in the farmhouse on Mohawk Road that still stands. The single reached gold in Canada, but due to the perceived drug annotations in the song, it didn’t receive airplay south of the border. “It’s a song with just one chord,” Fordham told the Hamilton Spectator in 2011 when “Oh What a Feeling” was inducted into the Canadian Songwriter’s Hall of Fame. “OK, there’s actually two. There’s a key change in the chorus, but basically, the whole thing is in the key of Bo Diddley.”

Tom Wilson (Junkhouse, Blackie & The Rodeo Kings, Lee Harvey Osmond) still recalls the watershed moment when he first heard this key ingredient of Canadian rock songs. He was 10-years-old. Lying in the back seat of his parents’ Austin Mini, on the way to visit his aunt, the song blasted from the radio’s speakers, broadcast by local pioneering station CKOC-AM. “It rolled over me and ignited every pore in my body,” Wilson says. “The DJ came on after the song ended and said, ‘That was, “Oh What a Feeling” from Hamilton’s own Crowbar.’ I sat up in the back seat. I didn’t realize that any art of significance happened in my hometown. Hearing that song was the opening of the doors of opportunity and possibilities for me. I thought if somebody from Hamilton can make something this good, then anything was possible.”

The Hamiltonian never imagined more than 25 years later, a band he fronted (Junkhouse) would cover this song for the soundtrack of a Canadian television series (Due South). Then again, he jokes, it was appropriate that a “bunch of knuckleheads” from Hamilton paid homage to the Crowbar classic. Wilson admits until he was asked to cover the song, he didn’t know how to play it and felt daunted by this request from Frank Davies. “We brought everything we had to that recording,” the songwriter recalls. “Like all Junkhouse sessions, we just wanted to get the song down before we beat the shit out of each other!” Kelly Jay loved the Junkhouse version. That, for Wilson, was the ultimate compliment. Davies adds: “That cover proved yet again that when you put a great artist together with a classic song, it takes on a new life all over again.”

“Oh What A Feeling” accolades:

  • Used as the logo/theme for the 25th anniversary of the JUNO awards in 1996 and the title track of the biggest selling box set in Canadian music history: Oh What a Feeling.
  • The theme song of the Ontario government’s long-running Participaction public fitness program.
  • Inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011
  • Became a SOCAN Classic the same year (awarded by SOCAN to songs that have registered more than 100,000 logged broadcast performances).


ARTIST: CROWBAR (featuring: John “The Ghetto” Gibbard; lead and slide guitars, vocals; Rheal Lanthier – lead guitar, vocals; Jozef Chirowski – organ, vocals, piano; Kelly Jay, piano/vocals; Roly Greenway, bass, vocals, percussion; and Sonnie Bernardi, drums, vocals, percussion)

ALBUM: BAD MANORS [Crowbar’s Golden Hits Vol.1]

RELEASED: January 18, 1971

STUDIO: *Toronto Sound Studios

LABEL: Daffodil Records

PRODUCER: Frank Davies

ENGINEER: Terry Brown

*Toronto Sound was Canada’s first sixteen-track recording facility and was designed, owned, and operated by studio manager/chief engineer Terry Brown.