Tuesday, November 1, 2016

"Just Between You and Me" by Myles Goodwyn

Back in the 1970s and early 1980s, there were few homegrown bands that were bigger in Canada than April Wine.

(Strangely enough, although I saw many of the top Canadian bands & singers of the day -- Burton Cummings (several times), Trooper (ditto), Harlequin (used to play at our high school & university residence dances), Loverboy, Bryan Adams (dh saw him at a bar near the university we both attended, just before he hit the big time), Dan Hill, Max Webster (with Kim Mitchell), Streetheart, Prism, the Headpins, Downchild Blues Band, Powder Blues Band -- I never did see April Wine in concert.) 

You may not have heard of them in the States or elsewhere in the world (although they did enjoy some modest success, in certain markets south of the border as well as in Europe -- I had no idea that five April Wine songs/videos were played by MTV on its first day of existence) -- but the distinctive, instantly recognizable voice of lead singer Myles Goodwyn is part of the soundtrack of my growing up years. "Bad Side of the Moon" (written by Elton John & Bernie Taupin) was played endlessly at the (ice) skating rink when I was about 13; hearing "You Won't Dance With Me" takes me back to junior high dances, where I watched the boy(s) I had crushes on slow-dancing with someone else. (Oh, the angst!!)

Anyway -- for all my familiarity with April Wine's music, I didn't know much about the band itself.   So when I was at the bookstore a few weeks ago & saw Myles Goodwyn's new memoir, "Just Between You & Me" (which takes its title from the 1981 April Wine song of the same name -- which I slow-danced to at university parties -- take that, junior high boys!! lol), I couldn't resist snapping it up.

Born Miles Francis Goodwin in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Goodwyn grew up poor, mostly in Nova Scotia (that fact I did know about him). His mother died of brain cancer at a tragically young age when Myles was 11, and he remembers very little of his childhood prior to that point. Music and nature became his solace, and when he was a teenager, he started playing in bands. He, his neighbourhood friends, brothers David & Ritchie Henman, and their cousin Jim Henman, formed April Wine in 1969.

I especially enjoyed the early parts of the book describing Goodwyn's growing up years and his early days performing. I probably could have done without all the detailed descriptions of the comings and goings of the various April Wine band members through the years (14 over 40+ years) and the making of one album after another -- although those parts did serve to remind me of songs I had completely forgotten about (such as "Right Down on Top of Me," "Cum Hear the Band," and "If You See Kay" -- let that one sink in for a moment, lol). 

Unfortunately, April Wine's enormous success devolved into the all-too-common sad litany of bad management decisions, record company rip-offs, infighting among the group members, drugs, alcohol, ego and burnout, that has plagued so many talented bands over the years. (To quote another April Wine song, "Rock and Roll is a Vicious Game.") Along the way, Goodwyn has dealt with alcoholism (which nearly killed him in 2008) and diabetes, as well as two divorces and their effects on his three children. He speaks out for the first time about some of these things, including why the band first broke up in 1982, and his relationships (or lack thereof) with the other members. He has a reputation for being difficult, and accepts his own share of the blame for the problems he and the band encountered over the years -- but he also comes across here as a straight shooter determined to tell the truth as he sees it, combined with a sense of humour.

Now 68 and a grandfather (!), Goodwyn is still writing and performing music, both with April Wine (on a slightly reduced schedule) and his own band. "Life is good," he says, and I am glad. This has been a hard year for us baby boomers, music-wise, with the passing of so many of our youthful musical heroes (David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kantor, Prince...). I am grateful that so many of the ones who are still here are still performing and are now sharing their stories with us. Thank you, Myles Goodwyn, for being one of them. :)

If you're a Canadian of a certain vintage, this book will bring back some memories! 

This was book #21 that I've read so far in 2016.

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Naturally, ever since I picked this book up, I've had April Wine songs playing on a continuous loop in my head. ;)  It's hard for me to pick a favourite (there are so many great ones!), but these two (from their 1975 album "Stand Back," which I owned as a teenager) would be right up there. One is harder edged, the other more pop, and I love them both:  "Tonight is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love" and "Oowatanite." 

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