In the annals of Canadian music, there have been very few bands that have had the long-lasting career or made as strong an impression as April Wine. Through the 1970’s and 1980’s, they were consistently on the Singles and Album charts in Canada, and among the country’s most valued musical exports. It was virtually impossible to travel to any city in Canada during those decades and not hear an April Wine song on the radio. While other bands had greater international success, if it was three-four minute melodic songs that were your cup of tea, April Wine did it as well as anyone.
The band got its start in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 1969 with brothers David and Ritchie Henman, their cousin Jim, and lead singer-songwriter Myles Goodwyn. Their self-titled debut was released in 1971, catching attention due to the single “Fast Train.”
The album also established Goodwyn as the band’s primary songwriter and lead singer. It was with their second album, On Record and its single, “You Could Have Been a Lady“ in 1972, that radio started to take notice and a true listening audience was created. The single was a major success in Canada, and cracked the Top 40 in the US.
By this time, the band had made Montreal, Quebec its new home, where they would work on their third album, Electric Jewels. Jewels yielded another top single in Canada, “Lady Run, Lady Hide.” It also led to the first in a series of personnel changes. The Henmans exited, and the reformation brought in guitarist Gary Moffet, bassist Jim Clench and drummer Jerry Mercer. These additions would jump-start the band’s career, leading to a major breakthrough in 1975.
Ruling the Charts; 1970’s
The new album, Stand Back, released in 1975, would eventually become the first album by a Canadian band to achieve platinum sales in Canada. The singles, “Oowatanite,” “I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love” and “Tonite Is a Wonderful Time (To Fall in Love),” were major chart successes, and would become standards on Canadian radio. This was the start of an amazing run of success for the band, and also an amazing feat of five albums in five years.
Following Stand Back, the band released The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy in 1976, Forever for Now in 1977, First Glance in 1978 and Harder…Faster in 1979. The never-ending schedule that saw them either in the studio or on the road, would take its toll. Crazy saw Clench leave and new bassist Steve Lang come into the fold, and First brought in additional guitarist Brian Greenway, forming a three-guitar assault with Goodwyn and Moffet. First also gave the band its biggest international hit, “Roller.”
…and the 1980’s
Into the new decade, AW continued its roll with its next two albums, The Nature of the Beast (1981) and Power Play (1982), and their corresponding hit singles, “I Like to Rock,” “Say Hello” and “Just Between You and Me,” respectively. Music listening tastes and radio were beginning to change, yet April Wine had put together an enviable streak of hit albums and hit singles.
Now almost 50 years since their inception, April Wine are still touring with Goodwyn directing the traffic, and Greenway also on board. Fifteen studio albums, three live releases, numerous compilations, a boxed set, and thousands of concerts later, the band has persevered, proving that there is always a place for a good song.
They have firmly cemented their reputation, and their music is ensconced in the heads and hearts of music listeners forever. Their legacy was further affirmed when they were inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame in 2010.
In 2016, Goodwyn released his own memoir, Just Between You and Me, a fascinating look into the early days, struggles and heights of the band, as well as his personal ups and downs in the music business and in life. On behalf of Rock Cellar Magazine, I had the opportunity to ‘speak’ with him via email to discuss the past, the present and what was coming down the road.
(Editor’s note: This interview was conducted in April 2017).
Rock Cellar: The April Wine catalogue is packed with songs that Canadians have grown up with, that have never really left the airwaves. These songs will likely play on Canadian radio forever. Is there one song that you’re the most proud of?
Myles Goodwyn: I think “Roller” would be pretty high up on my personal list. It was very successful in Canada, and in the US, it was our biggest hit. Here it is, 40 years later, and I love the reception that it still gets.
Is there any song that you never expected to be a hit, that turned out to be a hit?
Myles Goodwyn: There was always a song or two on each album that I suspected would be chosen as the single or should have been the singles, but as far as a surprise hit goes, “Comin’ Right Down on Top of Me” (from First Glance) became a big FM hit. That was kinda unsuspected.
After all these years, are you surprised that there is still a demand for live April Wine shows?
Myles Goodwyn: I’m not surprised at all, given the fact that radio still plays our music pretty regularly. And for that I need to thank the fans and radio for keeping our music alive and relevant all over the country. Canadian radio has been very good to us.
I think every artist has songs in their catalogue that they can’t listen to anymore. Looking back at your catalogue, is there a song like that for you – one that you now can’t listen to and would like to maybe re-do?
Myles Goodwyn: Oh boy! That’s opening up a can of worms! You’re never ever totally happy with everything, because you always feel that there’s something you’d like to change. So yeah, there are lots that I’d love to tackle again!
Favourite AW song to perform live?
Myles Goodwyn: Again, without a doubt, “Roller.” It’s great seeing the fans’ reaction; that opening guitar lick gets the crowd going, and that really pumps up the band.
Favorite cover song to perform?
Myles Goodwyn: People thought it was odd when we covered “Tell Me Why” on the Power Play’album, but it’s always been a favorite of mine. And, we gave it such a different reading from the Beatles original. It’s easily my favorite song that we’ve covered.
Your book was a fascinating trip through the early days of radio and gigging in Montreal. It was a fun time for all of us who were also there, and a vibrant time to be living in Montreal. Can you speak a bit about what the musical atmosphere was like in those days?
Myles Goodwyn: There was a lot of music everywhere, but I didn’t really get involved with the Montreal music scene, or any other scene, for that matter. Most of the time I was so focused on the band and our own music. I didn’t diverge from that.
Your book mentions many of your musical influences. Is there a musical influence that people would be surprised to know about?
Myles Goodwyn: I doubt many people would see this coming, but Taj Mahal is a major influence.
That really is fascinating, and not something I would have guessed.
Myles Goodwyn: I like to keep fans guessing. But yes, I’ve got pretty diverse tastes that don’t necessarily fall in line with the music the fans have heard from me.
Canada is blessed to have many wonderful artists, especially some that are not well-known. Is there a Canadian artist that you could bring to peoples’ attention, someone you’d like to write with?
Myles Goodwyn: Warren Robert is a musician from the Maritimes. I’ve done some shows with him, and he’s an artist that I’d like to do more work with.
Going back to your musical tastes, what are you listening to these days?
Myles Goodwyn: I’m an old rock and roller who now spends most of his music-listening time with classical music and light jazz. Yes, folks, it’s true.
You’ve got some acoustic shows upcoming shows with original April Wine member, Jim Henman. This sounds extremely intriguing for long-time fans. Any hints about what songs you’ve been kicking around or what we can expect?
Myles Goodwyn: Well I don’t want to give any secrets away, but this project is something we’ve talked about for a while. I think fans, old and new, will be really happy. Come on out and see us!
What was the impetus to get together now?
Myles Goodwyn: Jim and I have been close friends for over four decades, and we still keep in touch on a regular basis. He’s a great player, singer-songwriter, and he was a natural choice as a partner on the solo acoustic live project.
In addition to the solo shows, you’re set to release a blues record. The million-dollar question is whether there are any plans for another ‘Pop-Rock’ record?
Myles Goodwyn: It may be surprising to some, given the music that I’ve released over the years, but I’ve been a blues fan for many, many years. So, doing this blues record was not something that was ‘off the beaten path’ for me. As far as another ‘Pop’ record goes, no plans at the moment, but you never know.
For more information on Myles Goodwyn, please check:
Myles Goodwyn’s memoir, ‘Just Between You and Me’ is available through all booksellers.