Late in 1969, the Henman brothers, David and Ritchie, got together with their cousin Jimmy Henman and Myles Goodwyn to form a band called APRIL WINE. The name was David's idea. According to him, it didn't mean anything specific; "It was just two words with an upbeat connotation that sounded good together." A dozen studio albums, three live releases and 2000 gigs later, the name APRIL WINE had gained meaning in Canada and throughout the world.
THE FIRST ALBUM
By the spring of 1971, APRIL WINE had relocated from Halifax to Montreal where they were making an album for Aquarius Records. The debut L.P. was produced by Bill Hill using the eight-track facilities at RCA Studios. Prior to the making of the L.P., Jimmy Henman did most of the band's lead vocals, but during the sessions Myles emerged as the featured singer. The first album also established Myles as the key composer. Of the two songs he contributed, one became APRIL WINE's first single. "FAST TRAIN" received a lot of airplay and was probably the main reason that APRIL WINE was able to make a second L.P.
In the autumn of 1971 Jimmy Henman quit the band to resume his education. He was replaced on bass by Montrealer Jimmy Clench, Ralph Murphy produced the next album at Toronto Sound. Ralph was best known for producing "Harper Valley PTA". His mission was to give APRIL WINE a major international hit and he came very close to doing just that. "YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A LADY" was originally recorded in Britain by a group called Hot Chocolate. APRIL WINE enjoyed a #1 hit in Canada and cracked Billboard's Top 30 with their version of the song. APRIL WINE's second L.P. , ON RECORD, included another notable cover-version of Elton John and Bernie Taupin's "BAD SIDE OF THE MOON". The third single from "ON RECORD" became David Henman's best-known composition, "Drop Your Guns". "ON RECORD" was the L.P. that established APRIL WINE. Throughout 1972, the band played extensively in Eastern Canada.
Following the gold success of the second album, it was clear APRIL WINE had a chance of becoming one of Canada's most important rock bands. Ralph Murphy would be back to produce the follow-up, but there would be changes. Whereas "ON RECORD" was best known for covers, the next record "ELECTRIC JEWELS" would be more conceptual and the band members would do all of the writing. This led to even more dramatic changes as a riff developed which put Myles and Jimmy on one side and the Henman brothers on the other. At issue was the selection of material. Before completion of "ELECTRIC JEWELS", the Henman's announce they were leaving the band.
Early in 1973 the two remaining members, Myles Goodwyn and Jimmy Clench, faced some important decisions. There was no question the band would continue, but would the name APRIL WINE? Who would the new musicians be? What direction should the band take to get to the next level?
"ELECTRIC JEWELS" was completed during this period of transition. Its release settled the matter of the name change. The single was a somber "message" song about the environment called "LADY RUN, LADY HIDE". However, the "meat" of the album consisted of high energy songs that were created with a concert in mind: songs like "WEEPING WIDOW", "JUST LIKE THAT" and "THE BAND HAS JUST BEGUN". If the "ELECTRIC JEWELS" album dictated anything about the band's future, it indicated a greater concentration on live performance.
When drummer Jerry Mercer and guitarist Gary Moffet joined, APRIL WINE became the basic unit that most fans would recognize. APRIL WINE also became a tighter, flashier band. The new lineup debuted as opening act for T-Rex at the CNE Grandstand on Labor Day weekend 1973.
The following spring they hit the road with a national tour called THE ELECTRIC ADVENTURE. In support of the tour they put out a single, "I'M ON FIRE FOR YOU BABY" which was not apart of any album project. During the tour the band made its first live recording at the Queen Elizabeth High School Auditorium in Halifax. It was produced by former "Young Rascals", Gene Cornish and Dino Danelli, and although it's a cliché to say that a live recording captured the energy of the band, this one did. THE ELECTRIC ADVENTURE also began an APRIL WINE tradition of staging dramatic lighting and pyrotechnic displays as an integral part of the show. During APRIL WINE'S long history, the group had the same road manager, Lloyd Brault. Apart from one short break, Lloyd was there for every concert, attending to all the band's business. He had an important role in the development of APRIL WINE'S reputation for impressive stage productions.
In the fall of 1974 the group was working on an album which would elevate them from gold to multi-platinum status in Canada. "STAND BACK" was recorded at Tempo Studios which was located in downtown Montreal. The record was produced by Myles Goodwyn with help from the rest of the band, engineer Ian Terry and assistant, Bill Szawlowski.
If "STAND BACK" is considered a great album by many people, most of the credit must go to Myles Goodwyn. With total artistic control over the production came a weight of responsibility which fell on Myles. In the process of making "STAND BACK" the songwriting team of Goodwyn and Clench, which was evident throughout "ELECTRIC JEWELS", fell apart. Jimmy Clench wrote two songs for "STAND BACK", including "OOWATANITE". Myles wrote and sang on everything else.
The album generated the hit singles "TONITE IS A WONDERFUL TIME TO FALL IN LOVE" and "I WOULDN'T WANT TO LOSE YOUR LOVE", but the non-hits were more remarkable. Songs as diverse as "CUM HEAR THE BAND", "SLOWPOKE" and "DON"T PUSH ME AROUND" made "STAND BACK" consistently rewarding, listen after listen.
The tour that followed the release of "STAND BACK" was, on the surface, a celebration. Business was booming and the show was great. However, during the tour it was clear to insiders that Myles and Jimmy had reached the end of their working relationship. Myles would stay. Jimmy would leave.
THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY
By the end of 1975, APRIL WINE had newly arrived near the top of the list of successful Canadian rock bands. Whatever the group decided to release next would receive enormous advance orders, and immediate scrutiny from thousands of musical opinion makers.
The recording of "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY" confirmed Steve Lang as the new member of the band. When the album came out in March 1976, APRIL WINE became the first Canadian band to achieve "platinum" advance orders.
Plans for the summer tour were the most extensive yet. One entire truck was dedicated to chauffeuring a 16 foot papier-mâché statue of the "Mad Hatter" character on the album cover. The huge figure, which was nicknamed "Henley", symbolized some of the impracticalities involved with "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY" project.
For instance, there was the song "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY". The title track got airplay and chart activity, but that was the result of L.P. sales and tour promotion. It certainly was not a "hit" with the members of the band. In fact, it could be argued that "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY" was the only APRIL WINE album that didn't generate at least one hit single. The most enduring track turned out to be "LIKE A LOVER, LIKE A SONG" which was neither a rocker nor a pop hit.
That summer "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY TOUR" set many attendance records, but the L.P. sold only half as well as "STAND BACK". More importantly, the album did nothing to advance the name APRIL WINE outside of Canada. By 1976, it was accepted wisdom that a Canadian recording artist could not sustain continuous growth without some measure of international approval. The phenomenal success of "STAND BACK" in Canada was the reason that APRIL WINE got a U.S. deal with London Records, starting with the release of "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY". The non-response in America to the "CRAZY" album was more than a setback abroad. It was a threat to the group's prominence in Canada.
FOREVER FOR NOW
Now more than ever, it was time for APRIL WINE to prepare very strong material for the next album. Myles Goodwyn was writing a lot of great new songs, however they weren't "APRIL WINE songs". Myles had determined he would write for the band's next album, but he would also work on music for a solo project. The latter type of music was flowing; the former wasn't.
The "solo" material evoked many of Myles' early musical influences. For the first time in at least a decade, Myles focused on the music of his youth. In the fifties, in the Maritimes, radio did not play much rock music. Artists like Hank Williams, Guy Mitchell, Marty Robbins and Hank Snow were a big part of Myles' musical upbringing. Long before Led Zeppelin or even the Beatles, Myles was impressed by Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers. It was this background that came forward in the second half of 1976 as Myles recorded his own music.
The title of the solo album would have been "Goody Two Shoes". Album graphics were designed and finished mixes were ready to be mastered. As the manufacturing was about to proceed, there was a dramatic change of plans. If "THE WHOLE WORLD'S GOIN' CRAZY" had been a big success, then "Goody Two Shoes" would have been a refreshing interlude. Instead, a Myles' solo album would necessitate a longer break than APRIL WINE could afford to take at that particular time. As a result, "Goody Two Shoes" was converted into an APRIL WINE album called "FOREVER FOR NOW". This entailed dropping several tunes, including a jazzy instrumental called "Goody Two Shoes" and replacing a couple of the "Myles songs" with "band songs". The new tracks included "FOREVER FOR NOW" and "HOLLY WOULD".
"FOREVER FOR NOW", the L.P., was primarily the playing of band members anyway, but the material came as a bit of a shock to APRIL WINE fans. The album featured all kinds of influences: country and western, Latin, Caribbean, blues, easy listening and rock, to name a few. It didn't help that the single release of the title track fell flat. For a time it seemed that "FOREVER FOR NOW" was a complete mistake for APRIL WINE. But then the unexpected occurred.
Myles wrote "YOU WON'T DANCE WITH ME" with the image of the "last dance at the Teen Canteen". With a line like "Jill told Fred you wish I drop dead", Myles was taking a gentle poke at adolescent angst. In fact, the song had all the elements of a parody. To everyone’s surprise, in April 1977, it became the best selling Canadian single April Wine ever released. The song went Platinum and so did the album.
The U.S. company, London Records, "couldn't hear it", but then London's American operation would soon close down anyway, leaving APRIL WINE free to seek a new international label.
As the summer of 1977 approached, APRIL WINE had no definite tour plans. The release of the album "FOREVER FOR NOW", was supported by a rare winter tour which left the market soft for any summer outing. One concept that might justify putting the show back on the road was the idea of doing another live album, As this thought was taking shape, a very unusual opportunity arose.
Peter Rudge, who managed The Rolling Stones, was friends with APRIL WINE's manager Terry Flood, and Aquarius' promotion director Skippy Snair. The Stones also wanted to make a live recording and they had decided on a "Back to the Bars" approach. Their one problem was trying to set up any kind of "typical" night in a club without turning the whole business into a media circus. This is where APRIL WINE came into the picture.
APRIL WINE would pose as the headliner for a pair of charity shows to be staged at Toronto's El Mocambo. That would take care of a quick, sure sellout for both concerts. In reality APRIL WINE would appear as the opening act, while a group called "The Cockroaches", which was supposed to open the show, would be the real headliners. Of course "The Cockroaches" were actually The Rolling Stones.
The two nights at the El Mocambo turned out to be a media circus anyway. Keith Richards was arrested for heroin possession and, in Canada at least, that event was overshadowed when Margaret Trudeau, the wife of the Prime Minister, decided to do some very late night partying with the Stones.
In the meantime, Eddie Kramer produced two live albums in two nights, "LOVE YOU LIVE" by The Rolling Stones and "LIVE AT EL MOCAMBO" by APRIL WINE.
The EL MOCAMBO release was very different from the 1974 "LIVE" album. The earlier record was hard rock from start to finish. "EL MOCAMBO" featured the poppy side of APRIL WINE with songs like "YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A LADY" and "TONITE IS A WONDERFUL TIME TO FALL IN LOVE". The sessions also included the first outside composer on an APRIL WINE album since "LIVE", with Bob Segarini contributing two tunes.
Sound wise, the 1974 recording was dense and noisy, while "EL MOCAMBO" was clean and tight. It wasn't just Steve Lang's more intricate style of bass playing or the production approach. APRIL WINE had changed, trading off raw energy for finesse. A comparison of the two live L.P.'s illustrates this point dramatically.
A fifth musician, named Brian Greenway, was added to the lineup on a trial basis for the subsequent EL MOCAMBO TOUR. Brian could sing, write and play guitar, but by far, his greatest contribution to APRIL WINE was on guitar. Since Myles was a surprisingly good keyboard player (considering his lack of training) it was valuable to have an extra guitar player. More than that, APRIL WINE could create arrangements for three guitars. This ability would develop into the group's "trademark" during the following years. Brian's permanent addition to APRIL WINE was made official in August 1977.
Following "STAND BACK" APRIL WINE had been able to deliver the kind of follow-up that was needed to consolidate success. For three L.P.'s (counting EL MOCAMBO) the band saw a steady sales decline. One cliché of the entertainment business is that "You're either moving up or down, but you can't stand still." By 1977, APRIL WINE could not afford to slip much further.
Since 1970, Terry Flood had managed APRIL WINE. He was also the president of their record label, Aquarius Records. During that time he had displayed the judgment and leadership that enabled APRIL WINE to succeed where other bands had failed. As 1978 began, Terry was making moves that would open the group's way to new heights in the next decade. With help from Dave Evans and Deane Cameron at Capitol Records in Toronto, Terry was able to get APRIL WINE a worldwide deal on Capitol-EMI. With this deal in place the band was at a critical juncture. The right album, with at least "one big song", would wipe out three years of disappointment. Anything less might "wipeout" the band.
Once again, Myles Goodwyn was the producer. There would be no soft rock or easy listening music on this new album. The new member Brian Greenway contributed a rock song called "RIGHT DOWN TO IT" which was accepted. Gary offered a beautiful ballad called "IT'S A PLEASURE TO SEE YOU AGAIN", but it was "too soft" and didn't make the cut. Steve Lang co- wrote a real "burner" with Myles called "HOT ON THE WHEELS OF LOVE". Myles wrote everything else for the album entitled "FIRST GLANCE".
It's doubtful if any APRIL WINE album was recorded with greater care than "FIRST GLANCE". Elaborate demos were cut. The album was recorded at Tempo Studios and several songs were entirely redone at Le Studio Morin Heights where the album was mixed. By the time the record was completed, Myles and the rest of APRIL WINE knew they had done a good job. Their confidence would be tested during the next year.
The first single from "FIRST GLANCE" was a dramatic mid-tempo song that used acoustic guitar and harmonica, called "ROCK N' ROLL IS A VICIOUS GAME". The song did well in Canada, but not in the U.S. The follow-up release, "LET YOURSELF GO" didn't do well anywhere.
It was the third single that made "FIRST GLANCE" a hit and APRIL WINE an international success. "ROLLER" was deemed "too heavy" to get a lot of airplay in Canada. In America, it wasn't even scheduled to be released as a single. Sure enough, the record did not get off to a particularly strong start and the L.P. had already slipped off the charts when something very unusual happened.
A hard rock station in Flint, Michigan, WTTK, started playing the song. No one asked them to. There was no "promotional push" involved. Radio listeners in Flint made "ROLLER" a top request number. Fortunately, someone at Capitol was paying attention. His name was Mike Diamond and he did promo work out of the Detroit office. He not only knew what was happening in Flint, he thought the song would be a smash and took the story to the Detroit radio stations.
"ROLLER" eventually was a Top 30 hit in the U.S. "FIRST GLANCE" became the bands first gold record outside of Canada, a full year after it was released. Major arena attractions like Rush and Journey wanted APRIL WINE to open their shows in the U.S. American audiences got to see this "brand new band" called APRIL WINE, which just happen to have the experience from 1000 headline appearances in Canada. The group’s professionalism overwhelmed people. "Canada's best kept secret" was finally in the open. In 1979, two years before MTV went on the air, APRIL WINE was in San Francisco shooting video clips for "ROLLER", "ROCK N' ROLL IS A VICIOUS GAME" and "HOT ON THE WHEELS OF LOVE". That June, Aquarius released "APRIL WINE'S GREATEST HITS" which, in Canada, quickly sold a 1/4 million copies. In reality the greatest hits were yet to come. The "home front" was secure and the door to world markets was wide open; all thanks to the music director of a radio station in Flint.
It was a very confident and relaxed group that went to Le Studio that summer to make a new album. Myles decided to work with a co-producer for the new recording, Nick Blagona. Nick was more than the "house engineer" at Le Studio. He had literally "built the place" with owner Andre Perry,
The title of the L.P., "HARDER...FASTER" was taken from a line in an x-rated movie which someone found in Le Studio's video library. It suited the project perfectly. The album featured the hardest rock that APRIL WINE had ever recorded. The only ballad was written by Brian Greenway and "BEFORE THE DAWN" was a rock ballad, with emphasis on "rock".
"HARDER...FASTER" included one cover, a version of King Crimson's "21ST CENTURY SCHIZOID MAN". Gary Moffet arranged the song for 3 guitars and the result was a concert show-stopper.
"HARDER...FASTER" also included two other songs that were very important for different reasons. "I LIKE TO ROCK" was the song that American rock radio embraced. Along with "ROLLER", "I LIKE TO ROCK" defined APRIL WINE's image in the early 80's. Woven into the song's rideout were the guitar riffs from "DAY TRIPPER" and "SATISFACTION". This was something that Gary and Brian came up with spontaneously when they were laying down basic tracks.
The other key song on "HARDER...FASTER" was "SAY HELLO". This was the "poppiest" song on the L.P., but this is to not to suggest the song was "lightweight" in any way. The song was an international "mid-chart", but in Canada it went to the top of the charts and stayed there. At CHUM, which is Toronto's premiere Top 40 station, "SAY HELLO" stayed in the current playlist for 26 weeks(double what might be considered normal).
During the first months of 1980, APRIL WINE was touring as Nazareth's opening act in the North Central states. In city after city the promoters remarked on the pairing. Most felt that the shows would draw better if APRIL WINE headlined. The time had finally come for APRIL WINE to take top billing outside of Canada. A decade of hard work had paid off.
NATURE OF THE BEAST
APRIL WINE was also making inroads in Europe. The group was well received in Germany and the Benelux countries. The U.K. was more of a problem. The group's British label aggressively sought a foothold in the hard-rock market with heavy- metal bookings and advance promotion heralding "North American Metal". APRIL WINE's early gigs in the U.K. were a triumph of musical ability over musical stereotypes. However, the aim of making APRIL WINE into "Canada's Motorhead" was a wasted effort.
Mostly, the success of "HARDER...FASTER" enabled APRIL WINE to see the United States. It was an experience that would have a tremendous effect on the next album. "THE NATURE OF THE BEAST" was crafted for the American concert goer of the early 80's, the same way that other APRIL WINE albums had been dedicated to Canadian tours in the 70's.
Ironically, the album was recorded in England. Le Manior Studios, near Cambridge, was the choice of Myles Goodwyn's new co- producer, Mike Stone. Mike had recently enjoyed a #1 hit album working with ASIA. He felt Le Manoir would provide a setting where the band could really "focus"
"THE NATURE OF THE BEAST" would become APRIL WINE's greatest success. Released in January 1981, the first single "JUST BETWEEN YOU AND ME" was the only APRIL WINE song to make the Top 20 in Billboard. Later that year, the millionth copy of the L.P. was sold in the U.S. and APRIL WINE finally attained international "Platinum" status.
The second single "SIGN OF THE GYPSY QUEEN" was written by Lorence Hud. All other compositions on "THE NATURE OF THE BEAST" were written by Myles Goodwyn. Eight of eleven songs were up-tempo and hard rock. APRIL WINE had the strongest concert repertoire ever, and demand for appearances had never been higher. There was temptation to tour forever.
It certainly must have seemed like forever to Myles Goodwyn. Drumming may look like the most physical aspect of a rock show, especially with a drummer like Jerry Mercer. But night after night the real strain of performing ultimately falls on the singer. Incredibly, Myles never cancelled a show in the entire history of APRIL WINE. Of course he did have his share of colds, headaches and all the other miseries that are a normal part of life on the road. But such was his sense of priority, and his determination, that the band always took stage. What makes this even more remarkable is the fact that when APRIL WINE wasn't touring, Myles was just as busy. Whether writing songs, producing them, or promoting them, Myles Goodwyn had been up against some "deadline" for more than 3 years with no significant break.
By the end of 1981, the other band members were happy to be on the road. Myles, on the other hand, had neither the incentive nor the strength to keep the machine running for another 9 or 10 months. They wanted to keep touring. He needed a break, and took one.
An actual fortune was riding on the success of the next APRIL WINE album. Once again Mike Stone would work with Myles on the production, and once again Myles would write most of the music while "outside composers would write everything else. The other members of APRIL WINE were shutout as songwriters.
"POWER PLAY" was recorded closer to home at Le Studio Morin Heights, which is just an hour drive from Montreal. Album credits included "Very special thanks to wives, children and girlfriends". The wives of Myles, Steve and Jerry, all gave birth during the making of the album. For the first time in years a mellowness was creeping back into APRIL WINE's repertoire. A couple of songs, "WHAT IF WE FALL IN LOVE" and Lennon/McCartney's "TELL ME WHY", weren't rock arrangements at all. An old country and western song called "IF YOU SEE KAYE" was more "cute" than "outrageous". The album included some effective rockers like "ANYTHING YOU WANT, YOU GOT IT", "ENOUGH IS ENOUGH" and "AIN'T GOT YOUR LOVE", but overall "POWER PLAY" didn't have the consistency or the big hit single that made "THE NATURE OF THE BEAST" such a smash.
After a touring hiatus of 18 months APRIL WINE was again ready to roll, but it quickly became clear that the bigger show was playing to smaller audiences. Part of this may have been caused by a serious recession which affected the entire concert scene. Still, it was clear that "POWER PLAY" was not creating the excitement of the three previous albums.
Video clips were made for each and every track, and "POWER PLAY sold hundreds of thousands of copies. The record certainly wasn't a "flop" but APRIL WINE lost momentum. Because of inflated production costs, smaller crowds, and a curtailed schedule, there was a big drop in touring revenue. This, in turn, widened a rift that had developed between Myles and the rest of the band.
Early in 1983 the other members of APRIL WINE presented Myles with a demand for a greater say in the preparation of the next album. It would prove to be the last album they would make together.
For the first few months everyone was working on demos. In fact, in 1983 APRIL WINE spent more on demoing than many bands would spend on a finished album. One last time, Myles would be co-producing with Mike Stone. This gave him the final say in the choice of material.
His decision about the songs determined the fate of APRIL WINE. Out of more than 30 songs submitted by the other band members, Myles could find nothing useful for the new album. Instead, he would go with eight of his own songs, plus a tune by Vancouver composer Tom Lang called "HARD ROCK KID" The recording of the basic tracks at Le Studio wasn't pleasant for anyone. Myles and Mike Stone were on their own much of the time, as the overdubbing and mixing proceeded.
The album was entitled "ANIMAL GRACE". It was released in early 1984. It took a very long time to finish and it ran far over budget. The first single "THIS COULD BE THE RIGHT ONE" was supported by a video clip that had the elements of witchcraft and space fantasy in a convoluted story line. It too ran over budget. "THIS COULD BE THE RIGHT ONE" entered the charts very quickly and stalled out just as abruptly.
In an act that seemed to symbolize the distance between Myles and the rest, he moved (with his family) to Nassau in the Bahamas. A video clip for "SONS OF THE PIONEERS" was made in L.A. using stock NASA footage. The band was not even involved.
The group would get together a final time for a farewell tour of Canada.
APRIL WINE's last tour was well attended. They played brilliantly night after night. But if anyone was hoping for some miracle reconciliation, it never happened. APRIL WINE played its last show on Tuesday night, July 31, 1984 at the Kokanee Bowl in Kelowna, B.C.
On September 6, 1986 and APRIL WINE album called "WALKING THROUGH FIRE" was released. Following the breakup of the band, Myles retained the right to use the name APRIL WINE. When Capitol Records called for another album, Myles was able to oblige them. He invited Brian Greenway down to Compass Point Studios in Nassau to play some guitar tracks. The other musicians were Daniel Barbe on keyboards, Jean Pellerin on bass and Marty Simon on drums.
The record was co-produced by Myles and Lance Quinn. The lead-off track and first single was "ROCK MYSELF TO SLEEP", written by Kevin Rew and Vince de la Cruz who were members of Katrina and the Waves. There were several other songs by outside writers, including Canadians Jim Vallance and Eddie Schwartz. However, the only other song that received significant airplay was a Myles Goodwyn ballad called "LOVE HAS REMEMBERED ME". When "ROCK MYSELF TO SLEEP" peaked well short of hit status, any idea of putting the new lineup on the road as APRIL WINE was dropped.
Late in 1988 Myles Goodwyn released a solo album on Aquarius Records in Canada, and Atlantic Records in the United States. Unlike "WALKING THROUGH FIRE, it bore little resemblance to the old APRIL WINE, with a dance emphasis and heavy reliance on keyboards and programming.
Throughout 1990 and 1991 there was a persistent rumour that the five members who played together until 1984 would be reuniting for an album and a tour. To date this has not happened, however it appears that such an occurrence is not only possible but likely. Assuming their personal differences are now behind them, and considering the talent of the individuals involved, it is exciting to contemplate a return of APRIL WINE. Twenty years after "YOU COULD HAVE BEEN A LADY", APRIL WINE could still "set a stage on fire".