January , 1980
By Gene Triplett
April Wine Expects Vintage Year
“Nature of the Beast World Tour”
The double-time, three-chord, dual guitar exuberance of "You Could've Been a Lady" still rolls through the speakers like a buzzsaw, sharp enough to cut through the thickest melancholy and trigger fool-stomping and hand clapping muscles.
Back in 1972, when good power pop was rare on AM radio, April Wine slashed the airwaves to glorious ribbons with that hit single.
It was one of those freak accidents that happen occasionally—a good, kick-ass rock and roll tune making the Top 10.
It was one of the biggest hits of the season, especially in the Midwest—and seemed to signal the birth of what would undoubtedly be a new young group from Canada who would achieve a success rivaling that of another Canadian export—the Guess Who.
But it never happened.
Despite the success of "Lady” (a remake of an old Hot Chocolate tune) and a moderate selling follow-up written by guitarist-vocalist Myles Goodwyn ("Flow River Flow”), things never clicked in the U.S. for April Wine.
"That was a different band anyway," Goodwyn said recently. “I'm the only one left of the original April Wine. We made a number of mistakes back then. Partly management and partly us not being ready for it.”
When "You Could've Been a Lady" was becoming a smash hit in the States, the group wasn't even aware of their sudden success until it was too late.
"While it was happening, we didn't even know it," he recalled. "We were having internal problems then anyway and playing 300 club dates a year in Canada. We just never got into the States to do concerts and support the record."
Goodwyn joined the Montreal-based group ten years ago, shortly after it was formed by David and Ritchie Henman and cousin Jim Clench. David played lead guitar; Jim, bass and Ritchie on drums.
Eventually, the Henman brothers left the group, disillusioned with constant touring and managerial hassles.
But Goodwyn, the group's chief composer, was determined to keep the name April Wine before the public, especially since the band had made an impressive mark in the Canadian music world.
He and Clench recruited old friend Gary Maffei, a veteran of a number of good local groups, to fill the lead guitarist slot and they traveled to England to find additional musicians to flesh out a new band.
"We didn't find anybody with our common goals," Moffet explained, "so we came back and we sat on our asses up here for a while and then gradually started to put things together."
With Jerry Mercer now on board to handle percussion, April Wine began cranking out one or two albums during breaks in marathon touring of the U.S. and Canada.
In all, they have recorded some thirteen LPs, but only half a dozen have been released in this country. Several of their albums went platinum in their native country, but a record only has to sell 100,000 copies in Canada to earn that mark, while it takes sales of one million units to achieve that same precious metal in the States.
The group hasn't attained real success in the U.S., yet they tour as headliners before sellout crowds in Canada.
"We haven't toured Canada in two years," said Moffat. "The last time we toured up there, Heart was the opening act or us."
That says something for their status at home.
"The new album is doing much better than we could've expected," Moffet stated, "It's not so much different from the albums we've done before. On each one we try to convey all the energy of our live show. The whole idea behind April Wine is to play good, basic rock and roll and be consistent in the quality on both the records and in concert."
Clench was replaced on bass and backing vocals by Steve Lang two years ago and another guitarist-singer, Brian Greenway, was brought in, adding an avalanche weight to the band's grinding guitar attack. Today's April Wine carries a stronger, more imposing sound than the young quartet who recorded "You Could've Been a Lady" eight years ago. But the exuberance is still there.
"We still do that song occasionally," Moffet said.
"One of our problems back then was that the (record) label was not behind the band," Goodwyn reflected, "They didn't work on our singles. Big Tree had us for four LPs. We were upset with that contract. Our second contract was with London, but then London started going down.”
The band now has a firm contract with Capitol and some active promotion backing them up. Most of the songs on Harder....Faster were written by Goodwyn and are typical of the group's slashing, three-guitar style of melodic power pop.
They do take one stylistic side-trip on the new LP with the inclusion of King Crimson's Orwellian sci-fi epic, "21st Century Schizoid Man."
"We wanted to have something a bit different, sort of a change from our usual," Moffet explained, "we played this on our last tour and were amazed at the reaction we got."
April Wine's version of the cacophonous, angry art-rocker is surprisingly faithful to the original Robert Fripp arrangement.
As for his own writing, Goodwyn remains prolific after ten years.
“Most writers have dry periods," he observed, "I've had mine."
'Writing is a very positive exercise for me. I don't think I'll ever run dry. I'm not a consistently good writer to my own way of thinking. I've written a lot of things I didn't like, but there always seems to be somebody out there that does like it. Like 'Flow River Flow,' I don't like that song at all, but it still gets a good reaction."
"So, what the hell, if it really clicks, we'll play it for them."