Winnipeg Again: Gimme Some Guess Who, Some BTO ... Gimme Some Blue, Some Cigars

by Bill Tuomala



INTRO PSA: Hotel, Motel, Holiday Inn Music


Be warned, there's jazzy stylings to deal with on both of these collections. The Guess Who weren't too bad at it, as a listen to "These Eyes" will confirm. They also hit with "Undun", which for a couple of years as a teen I thought was a Doors song due to that Lizard King/Holiday Inn feel to it. Though distinguishing Burton Cummings from Jim Morrison shouldn't be too tough as Cummings can actually sing.


Bachman-Turner Overdrive did "Looking Out For #1" which I was pumped to hear once I saw the title, figuring it was another gem of a burly BTO song like "Let It Ride" or "Roll On Down The Highway." But instead it's a jazz-lite number, dainty and precious with crappy vocals. Such vocals add to the atmosphere when BTO is going at it hard, but just annoying when they're in the lounge. Likewise, "Blue Collar" is a similar wimpy workout about the joys of a boho lifestyle that also let me down. Because if you think about the way the BTO guys looked - I have even seen a photo where one dude is wearing a hard hat - then a song titled "Blue Collar" should be blue collar sounding.


Randy Bachman has since gone on to release two jazz albums. Dave Brubeck could not be reached for comment.



A Record Review Written In The Style Of

Bill Tuomala (Part One)


The Best of the Guess Who: Side one (bought on vinyl of course, and according to the pricing sticker this beauty sat inexplicably in the Roadrunner Records bins for over a year-and-a-half) captures essential sixties-into-seventies pop such as "These Eyes," "Laughing," and "No Time." "American Woman" was not only horribly misread by bonehead Lenny Kravitz, he also managed to make Heather Graham seem creepy. "No Sugar Tonight" has a hey we can be counterculture too reference to "a bag of goodies." Side two has songs not normally heard on American radio, aside from the socialist "Share the Land," which could only be written by folks who have enjoyed the single-payer health insurance system. Single-payer sounds good to me - as a Canadian in my college dorm once said: "It's like Allstate - you're covered." This anthology sounds good also. Four stars.



These Eyes (Are Blue. So Are Hers. And Hers.

And Hers.)


It was a Winnipeg band, Harlequin, that played at the first concert I attended. It was April 1982 in Grand Forks, I was sixteen. The music was okay, but the show was mostly memorable for my buddy wondering why I suddenly liked Neil Young (credit USA Network's Night Flight) and us spotting a female classmate entranced by the Manitoban rockers and dancing enthusiastically in the front row. We were a little dumbfounded: We have a rock chick in our class? A few years later I would spot this same chick at a bar near Detroit Lakes and she was dressing just like Boy George. Wonder what kind of a guy she was hoping to meet that night.


Winnipeg is the only Canadian city I've ever been to, twice in high school on field trips (it was high school in North Dakota, why not Winnipeg?) and once in the early nineties on business. The best part about the latter trip was: 1) Every hot girl in the city had long brown hair and blue eyes - yowsa! 2) Thinking I was cool by ordering a "Blue" (LaBatt) while in various establishments. I learned the Blue trick the hard way. The first night in town, my co-worker and I went to the lounge in the Holiday Inn we were shacked up in. (Little did I know that the type of music which Holiday Inn lounges are notorious for would factor into my future Winnipeg bands ramblings.) I, for one, needed a drink. I had turned on the TV once I entered my room - an automatic reflex while in any hotel room anywhere - and what did I see? TV stations from my hometown of Grand Forks! It was mind-blowing as in Grand Forks we had two Winnipeg stations on cable. Who knew there was a cross-border reciprocity television agreement? While in the lounge, I confidently ordered "a Labatt." The waitress, on to me immediately as an American, fired back with: "Labatt Blue? Labatt Light? Labatt Dry? We have all kinds of them." Uh, a Labatt Blue, I responded. She clued me in: "We call that a 'Blue' up here, honey." I could have pointed out that where I came from a "Blue" was a Pabst, but knew it would come out smarmy and whiny, not witty.


We were there three nights. On the last night in town, the other bean counters turned in early rather than boring me like they had on previous nights with shop talk and detailing the genius of works of art they enjoyed such as The Bridges of Madison County. I went to my room and stared longingly at the building across the street, the establishment whose neon sign haunted me every night as I looked out the window before retiring. It was a place called "The Keg." Bright lights, big foreign Canadian city, me bored senseless by construction accountants and their wild, wild ways. Fuck it, I said, The Keg is calling me. I walked across the street armed with a pocketful of pretty Canadian money. The place turned out to be a steakhouse. It was a slow weeknight and I plopped myself at the end of the bar. I ordered a Blue, but the bartender said that it was Import Night and that I could get an Old Milwaukee on special. I told him I was an import myself and stuck with the Blue. Drinking on the company's expense account made my decision all the easier. Later, the bartender asked if I was interested in looking at some ladies as he could call me a cab to take me to a highly- recommended gentlemen's club. I chickened out, saying no thanks. Damn me! I have since heard that Canadian strip clubs are wild. Needless to say, all the hot strippers would have had long brown hair and blue eyes.


Holiday Inn lounge gaffes and refusing strip club concierge services aside, the true idiot move of mine was realized at the very end of the trip when the customs agent at the Minneapolis airport asked me if was transporting any tobacco products. Double damn me! I forgot to buy some Cubans.



A Record Review Written In The Style Of

Bill Tuomala (Part Two)


Best of BTO (So Far): Normally, I would overthink and overwrite this one. (In fact, I must confess - I already tried to overthink and overwrite this.) But hey: it's Bachman-Turner Overdrive. If you can't stand them, you know your reasons. But there are reasons to love them, or at least a handful of their songs. Excellent riffage plus an acoustic guitar generally accompanies electric guitar for a sweet sound. Catchiness runs rampant in "You Ain't Seen Nothing Yet" and "Hey You." "Roll On Down The Highway" is about speeding in a vehicle, but "Let It Ride" is about dumping a chick ... and here you thought they were both variations on a theme. Little Richard shows up on "Take It Like A Man." (The song's title takes on added meaning considering that Richard's first hit was titled "Tutti Frutti.") And finally, "Takin' Care of Business" is a talisman for those of us who are self-employed - it ranks up there with The Rockford Files. Three stars.






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