A snapshot of the Vancouver music scene in 1978. Our friend Rick Scott sent us this book and he is one of the musicians whose work is featured there. The idea, at the time, was that some of the best local poets were also songwriters and the book was intended to showcase the lyrics of thirty-six West Coast artists. Occasionally the lyrics are presented with leadsheets but for the most part the words are left to stand on their own without music. In retrospect, as poetry they have not dated well and they work better as song lyrics. However, the book has a couple of other features that were not central to its original intent but which make it really interesting now. Taken as a whole it captures the ethos of a time.
The first feature is an introductory essay by Jim Brown that provides an historical overview of the Vancouver music scene from the folk music coffee houses of the early 1960s, through the psychedelic era and its various offshoots of the mid 1970s, which ran the gamut from the hard rock of Prism and Bachman-Turner Overdrive to the Western Swing of the Cement City Cowboys. The second really interesting feature is a twenty-four page section of historical photographs of bands and artists whose lyrics are represented in the book. Who remembers Denise McCann in those enormous heels? And there is a discography of LP and 45 vinyl releases from these same artists. The cover is graced by a painting of Shari Ulrich who was in the Hometown Band at the time (the painter was Julie Cowan). And the book is dedicated to the Maplewood Mudflats activist Helen Simpson who had recently passed away. Simpson made a memorable appearance in Sean Malone’s 1972 film Livin’ In the Mud. Confronting the crews sent to demolish and burn the homes on what was then known as the Dollarton Mud Flats she says, “It is not just us you are destroying, it’s nature.” Ironically, part of the flats have been preserved as a nature trust next to what is now very expensive real estate.
The book was originally intended to be the first in a series, but it doesn’t appear that any other books were produced. If anybody knows what happened to Blue Mountain Books write and let us know. Or if you lived on the mudflats and knew Helen, tell us more about her. The extraordinary artist and improvising musician Al Neil also lived there and we would like to know more about him.
reviewed by R. Doull
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