Received the following message from my brother a half-hour ago:
On today of all days. I hate how life laughs at me.
I know what you’re thinking: “Yes, Jim Clench, original bassist for April Wine… sure growing up in Montreal he held some meaning to you, but no sense in going all to pieces over it.”
It’s a little more personal than that.
Some of you may recall about a year ago I started getting heavy into music again. I became the drummer in two local bands. I only did that because at the time I was preparing to join my brother and Jim Clench in an April Wine spin-off band.
Weird huh? It’s true. It goes like this…
In the Spring of 2009 Clench heard my brother playing in some local Montreal clubs and liked him. Jim was trying to get an act together, so he invited Andre to jam with him. They clicked. The plan was to play across Canada that summer, mainly in the Ontario / Quebec region. They needed a drummer. I had just finished the budget process at work and was looking forward to a long summer of using up my vacation and accrued leave time doing nothing. Andre asked me to come jam with Jim, if it worked out, maybe I could work part-time for the summer and commute back and forth between Canada and North Carolina. It sounds absurd, but I pitched the idea at work and they actually gave me permission; I was all set to pursue the rock n roll dream with my brother and one of my first music idols, Jim Clench.
I drove up to Montreal in June of 2009. I met Jim, who was over-weight and smoked too much, but seemed to be in the frame of mind to pull his act together. He had a real caustic wit, especially when it came to his former band mates. We jammed together over 2 days in the basement of a friend’s house in the West Island. I cannot tell you what a thrill it was to be playing with this guy and my brother on songs like Oowatanite, Weepy Widow, Could Have Been a Lady, etc…
I bought a fire bell on Ebay and a new 6″ cowbell.
Jim could still belt this songs out. He hit all those high notes in Weepy Widow perfectly. We were using a vintage PA and mixing board that April Wine used in the 70s. Orgasmic.
Including the above, the set list was like this:
Better Slow Down
Bad Side of the Moon
Drop Your Guns
Sign of the Gypsy Queen
21st Century Schizoid Man
I had worked on Schizoid the most and was glad we never rehearsed it; it gave me some problems. We also included a BTO song Jim wrote when he was with the group, Jamaica, and 125 and Mona by The Haunted, a band Jim liked from the 60s in Montreal that never got its due. Jim took pleasure in including Gypsy Queen; there was a part of him that really wanted to stick it to Myles Goodwyn, I guess that’s natural given the circumstances, but I have no doubt that he loved Myles too. We were trying to work on Jim to include Just Like That; we thought he’d think it was corny, but it was always one of our favorites from Electric Jewels.
The whole thing was surreal. He we were BACK on the West Island, the place Andre and I grew up. When we were there we were punks. Now we were jamming with our rock idol. It was also a chance for Andre and I to get a little payback from all the time we had spent on Theresa’s case: we had given almost 10 years reviving that mystery; it was time for some shared pleasure, a chance to return to one of the things that we truly loved… maybe have a little fun. And Theresa was entrenched in the rock scene in Montreal in the 70s; she would have approved.
After I returned to the States the whole thing seemed to fall apart rapidly. Jim wouldn’t commit to rehearsals. I was trying to make arrangements to come up on extended weekends, but Jim never seemed motivated beyond how far his next cigarette would take him (now I know why). Eventually I think my brother gave him an ultimatum and the thing just sort of died.
I’m sitting here, on the 32nd anniversary of my sister’s murder, but I’m not gonna dwell on that. And I’m not going to feel sorry for Jim Clench. I’m listening to Electric Jewels and remembering what a great influence he was. Great memories. Everything will be alright.
I know damn well we’re goin’ to hell, can’t pay the price in heaven