The Mayor's Ball

All of our shows are dramatically different these days. This is a rough account of a random show - random only in the sense that it was the one for which I found myself with the requisite coincidence of time and inclination to write about. • It was grey and raining. For the first time in what seemed like months. It had been and endless summer in White Rock.

I was waiting a few more minutes before heading out for the Surrey Sheraton where I’d park my bags and then meet my Trooper brothers in the lobby for a 2:10 lobby call - to be then driven from there to the venue to sound check.

We were playing the Mayor's Charity Ball. I googled the show and there was no mention of it online at all. Which lead me to think that ours might be a surprise appearance. Maybe it's because I don't like surprises, but I prefer people to know we're coming and to be ready for us when we walk out onto the stage. It's a whole different animal when you're trying to put the party together from scratch.

My plan was to sleep over at the Sheraton despite the fact that it's only an hour, if that, from home. It's a luxury, I suppose, but the room was mine for 24 hours and I was considering stopping by a nearby bike shop in the morning to check out e-bikes - a notion that overtook me after reading my friend Peter Cheney's story in the Globe and Mail about riding one in downtown Toronto.

We are like a band of brothers in most senses. We hug when we meet and catch up quickly in bursts of abbreviated prose and sentence-finishing. Nods and winks and eye-rolls. We pile into the bus or van still talking and laughing. Our driver was Rick. He drove us to Whistler when we played there a few years ago with Loverboy. Smitty remembered him and he seemed pleased. We bonded. Rick told us an unflattering story about a band he wouldn't name.

Backstage Paul showed us our nice dressing room and our not nice dressing room. The nice dressing room was lit dramatically and contained white retro sofas and sparkly highlights. The other room had unfinished walls and broom closet decor. It was also much smaller. There is a plan in place to use the nice one before the show and the drywalled one after - at which point the good one will be used for our meet-and-greet.

Paul took me aside. The organizer had asked if we could sing a song called Diane, to "surprise" Mayor Diane Watts - who will be celebrating her last Charity Ball as Mayor of Surrey. He told the organizer that we wouldn't know the song she requested but would probably know the similarly named Ryan Adams song. I told Paul I didn't know it. He said I must have heard it, and in any case it was easy; Steve had figured it out on guitar in just a few minutes. So I had to say no. I was not going to learn and sing a song I'd never heard to surprise someone. Even if it was a Mayor. Sometimes I hate being that guy.

Out on the stage we faced a purple-tinged, overwrought Marie-Antoinette themed ballroom with flowers and cut glass and flowing fabric hanging from delicately decorated trusses - all balanced precariously at the iffy edge of good taste. Black and white clad staff hustled from table to table tweaking or adding to the already crowded displays. Sound check was just a loud interference for most of them. There were some printed lyrics - probably to a song called Diane - on Smitty’s Marshall.

I eat delivered Beef and Broccoli ( and Beef and Guy Lon if they have it) for dinner just about every night I’m on the road. Sonny’s Noodle House had Guy Lon. I watched the first half of the movie Poetry on my laptop while I ate.

The Mayor’s Ball was a charity event. Our pre-show dressing room - the purple one - was separated from the wealthy Surrey-ites in attendance by only black drapery, so the repetitive drone of the auctioneer couldn’t be ignored. The auction went on and on - well past our starting time. We were dressed for stage, wired up with our in-ear monitors and waiting. It’s a credit to our team that the vibe remained chill and good humoured in the purple room.

The show was a private event, so I’ll limit details of that part of my day to avoid intruding on the partier’s privacy. I will say that her worship the Mayor - and a large coterie of her friends and family - joined us onstage for rousing and crowded versions of Raise a Little Hell and We’re Here For a Good Time. The entire stage, ball gown-clad women and Trooper men, posed for photos, onstage, at the end - rather than our usual bow. After changing clothes and unwiring our in-ears in the dressing room we joined the wealthy and famous VIP guests in the purple room for photos and small talk. All of the people there were very nice and we enjoyed the meet and greet more than we usually might.

On the ride back to the Sheraton we discussed the show. It turns out that, during Raise a Little Hell some of the onstage ladies were attempting conversations with the guys in the band - while they played.

“I’m British you know” “I can tell by your accent” “No, really, I’m British”

And my favourite one, from Gogo;

“Will you teach me how to play piano?”

He said it’s the strangest thing anyone has ever said to him on stage.

20140704 - Tisdale SK


I'm back at the hotel with my heartburn medicine and my bug juice. I didn't know I needed the bug juice until I was on my walk to get the Gaviscon. The heartburn is a longer story.

We arrived in Tisdale Saskatchewan Last night around nine. I called the only Chinese food place in town to order my traditional beef and brocolli - but they'd already been closed for an hour. The nice lady there told me all the restaurants in town closed at the same time. I called the front desk to confirm that and Crystal told me there was one place still open. A hotel that made pizzas. So I called.

"Hi, I'd like to order for delivery" "Sorry, the taxi driver's not answering his phone" " ... "

I was hungry so I thought I could walk into town to pick up - so I asked:

"I'm at the Canalta Hotel can you tell me where you are from here?" "We're just down past the Subway" " ..."

The girl I was talking to seemed to be losing patience with our call. I could hear how busy the bar was. I thanked her and called back down to the front desk in a now desperate bid for some eleventh hour local restaurant knowledge.

"Oh, I can get Debbie to run over and get that Pizza for ya"

As it turned out, Debbie picked up three pizzas and a 24 of beer for us. You gotta love a small town.

The pizza was delicious, but I should have stopped eating when the heartburn started. My restless night in Tisdale was my own fault. This morning though, I headed out on foot to the Pharmasave on the main drag there. Just down past the Subway.

My Summer - 2011 Edition

I've just returned home from the last Trooper show of the summer. There are a few more shows coming up in the fall and winter but the "Trooper 2011 Summer Tour of Canada" has officially concluded. It was, without question, the best, most successful and most fun tour I can remember. As he did last year, my brother-in-arms Gogo snapped photos from his vantage point at the keyboards. I'd like to thank him again for this. Just like last year, I'm blown away by seeing pictures of all the shows in one place. It was a helluva tour. There are 29 shows here - shown in chronological order. The Curacao show is missing (despite the fact it was the Carribean, and hot, it was technically pre-summer), as is the private birthday party in Ontario. Otherwise, though, I think they're all here.


The Politics of Songwriting - Part Three

I fell in love with popular music around the time Elvis showed up. I was only 6 years old when “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Be Cruel” topped the charts but I could probably still sing you all the songs on that year’s hit parade.

~ Me - Writing lyrics on the first US Trooper tour in 1975

With notable exceptions, most of those songs were written by professional songwriters. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, for instance, wrote many of the seminal rock and roll classics that I believed Elvis, The Drifters, Dion and Ben E. King wrote. (In fact, Elvis never wrote a song.) Later on, many of my faves were crafted by the prolific Motown and Brill Building songwriting teams, and not by the talented singers and groups whose 45’s I was buying.

More and more though, the line between songwriter and performer was blurring. Singers like Sam Cooke, Johnny Cash, Little Richard, Marvin Gaye, Hank Williams, Smokey Robinson and Roy Orbison, to name a few, also wrote the songs they sang. Some, like Orbison, sang both originals and covers.

Regardless of where the songs came from, the music (or “backing tracks”) for the majority of these records was performed by musicians who remained mostly anonymous. As an example, the music you hear behind Motown artists like The Temptations, Marvin Gaye, The Supremes and the Four Tops was performed by a group of unheralded and uncredited players nicknamed “The Funk Brothers”. The excellent 2002 documentary, 'Standing in the Shadows of Motown’, points out that, despite their anonymity, this group “played on more number-one hits than The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Rolling Stones, and The Beach Boys combined.”

In the sixties, though, the players began to emerge from the shadows. With the arrival of The Beatles – and record production that mixed guitar-and-drum-heavy tracks almost equally with the vocals – the pop music audience began to acknowledge and appreciate the importance of the band members’ musical contributions. The traditional format of singer (or vocal group) and back-up band was breaking down. ‘Group’ or ‘Band’ more often referred to both the singers and the musicians who made the records. John, Paul, George and Ringo – Mick, Keith, Charlie and Bill were all members of seemingly democratic, one-for-all-and-all-for-one musical posses, and were, in the eyes of their fans at least, equal contributors to the records they made.*

The conventions of songwriting and arranging changed as well. Songs increasingly came from within the band and their arrangements were often constructed by the band members as a group effort.†

In those bands where no clear division of roles was agreed upon, the difference between “songwriting” and “arranging,” and who should get credit for what, often became a contentious matter of opinion - as did the answer to the question “whose songs should end up on the album?” To this day, the fundamental issues of authorship and creative voice can be a divisive undercurrent that can weaken or destroy an otherwise healthy band or artist.

Although the Beatles popularized the idea of an autonomous band of equals - John Lennon and Paul McCartney wrote the lion’s share of the songs that fuelled the band’s astonishing career. They divided all their songwriting credits 50/50, which in their case meant that if one of them showed up with 90% of a song, the other would still receive 50% for helping to finish it. In fact, based on an agreement made in their teens, they also split credit equally on songs they’d written independently.

George Harrison also wrote songs for the group but had difficulties in getting The Beatles to record his music. Only one of his songs appeared on the Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album (considered one of the most important albums in the history of popular music) and, tellingly, no other Beatle played on that track. Soon after the release of their next album (The White Album), Harrison quit the band. Although he later returned, the White Album sessions – during which the band’s songwriting became increasingly insular and individualized – marked the first serious tensions within the group, from which they never fully recovered.


~ Brian Smith & Ra McGuire in 1976

My partner and I also split our Trooper songwriting 50/50, although the songs I write independently are credited to me alone. Like George Harrison, I would have preferred to have had more of my songs on the albums, but I, also, had difficulties in getting them recorded. Frank Ludwig, who sang and played keyboards on four of Trooper’s nine studio albums was likewise keen to have more of his songwriting included, and his eventual departure from the band was directly related to his lack of success in that regard.

Like The Beatles’ White album sessions, Trooper’s month-and-a-half sojourn at Sundown Studios, recording the Flying Colors album, was also, arguably, the beginning of the end for the group that recorded the band’s biggest hits. The overarching tensions of those sessions, and the paths we all took as a result, were the result of songwriting politics the likes of which I had never previously encountered.

Part Four coming soon. ††

*Note that in the jazz world, musicians had already been acknowledged and appreciated for years – my references to anonymous backing tracks are specific to popular music.

† Please note the word “often” here. Professional songwriters continued to flourish during this period, as they do today.

†† This is all seeming a bit too scholarly and preachy to me overall, for which I apologize. If I didn’t think the historical detail might be illuminating for some of you, I wouldn’t be boring you with it … and I hope to soon get on with something more entertaining.

My Summer

I haven't written here much this summer. I did manage to contribute a bit to the Twittersphere, but anything more that 140 characters seemed to be beyond me. I was pretty busy. Luckily, for the first time ever, Gogo took photographs at every show this summer from his place at the keyboards - so you can get an idea of what my life's been like for the past few months. Many of these shots necessarily involve the back of my head, but all of them show the party in front of us. Short of standing up there yourself and feeling the palpable love that overwhelms us every night - it's a stage-side look at what we did this summer. Three of the shows (Parksville, Olds and Cochrane) have two pictures each (Cochrane, so that the collection wouldn't end on an odd number) but the rest are individual shows and roughly in the order we played them. Every show we've done since Canada Day is represented here except for the private one we played for our multimillionaire buddy in Muskoka.

Gogo's full set of pictures from the tour, including autographed body parts and tour bus exposés are here and I encourage you to check them all out. I thank my rock and roll brother for documenting our experience every night. It's the first time anyone's ever done it, and seeing all of them together like this is quite moving for me. Hopefully you enjoy it too.

20100704 - Vancouver to Dauphin, Dauphin to Vancouver

A seven o’clock flight means a six o’clock airport arrival - means a five o’clock leave - means a four o’clock wake-up in White Rock. I always check and double check the numbers for fear of messing up - despite the fact I never have - and I always write the times down on a postit note, from the bottom up, and leave it stuck to my monitor before I go to bed. Then I double check it in the morning after I’ve dutifully arisen, robot-like, to my alarm. Debbie can lay-in a bit while I do my last minute packing. This morning I retrieved my Canada Day clothes from the dryer, folded them and added them to a suitcase that already contains enough clothes for a week. Re-packing for just one show would take a lot longer than just leaving them all in there, so I just zip up the bulging bag and bang it down the stairs behind me.

We allow an hour for the airport run, but it never takes more than 40 minutes. Except for those very few times when my blood began to run cold and I frantically texted ahead about the highway standstills we found ourselves in the midst of. Even those runs probably took no more than an hour, but I just don’t like rushing to catch a flight.

I slept on the plane from Vancouver to Calgary. I read comics on my iPad during the two hour Calgary lay-over. I slept again on the flight from Calgary to Regina. It’s 3:09 PST now and we’re in our rented Buick SUV passing through Yorkton, Saskatchewan. There are conflicting opinions about how long this drive to Dauphin, Manitoba will take. Opinions range from three hours to five. Most likely it will be some increment in between. Like I said to Debbie in the text I sent from the Yorkton Tim Horton’s … there’s only one way to find out.

We play the Dauphin CountryFest tonight at midnight. Tomorrow we repeat this travel itinerary in reverse. In the meantime, the weather report calls for “Thunderstorms” for this evening. So the summer tour has begun in earnest!

Dauphin in the Distance:

We are all in great spirits after our massively successful and love-filled Canada Day show in Parksville BC two days ago and primed and ready for the adventures that no doubt await us.

Trooper's 35th Anniversary

Trooper's first album was released 35 years ago, on July 1st, Canada Day, 1975. 1975 is the year the Vietnam war finally ended, and Sony first introduced Betamax video tapes - the first home videocassette tape recording format.

Bill Gates & Paul Allen wrote the first computer language program for personal computers in ’75 (and then went on to form Microsoft) and the two Steves were hunkered down in a garage in Los Altos, California, working on their first computer - incorporating Apple Computers the following year.

Jaws, The Towering Inferno and Young Frankenstein were box-office hits in 1975. Bruce Springsteen released his amazing third album, Born To Run, the film version of The Who's “Tommy” premiered in London and Saturday Night Live debuted on NBC.

As large stretches of time always do - it seems like an eternity ago - and it seems like just the other day.


For a long time now, I’ve kept my camera, my flash drives and my noise-cancelling headphones in my backpack, which resides under my desk here at home, so it’s at hand for road trips. I use it as an auxilliary desk drawer. I also keep doubles of my computer power cables, adapters, USB, ethernet and audio cables in the backpack so I can ready my laptop for the drive to the airport in the time it takes to unplug it and pack it away. Since the camera, drives and headphones are stored in there already, I’m less likely to leave them behind.

Jumping up and leaving town is such an expected part of my everyday reality, this routine seems eminently logical …

Until this morning, in the early days of Trooper’s traditional winter break, when I paused for a confused moment wondering where to put my camera.

Trooper and the Cracker Company

In the last few weeks, friends, fans and a couple of people on the street have brought up the ‘Raise a Little Hell’ Cracker commercial. Some have congratulated me. Others have joked about lifetime supplies of saltines. Others, knowing that I don’t watch TV, simply wanted to be sure that I’d heard about it. As it turns out, I found out about it the way they did. I heard the familiar ‘A’ chord ring out from the living room as I worked at my computer here in the den. I jumped up, and Debbie and I watched, fascinated, as the slow motion crackers dropped into the waiting bowls of exploding tomato soup.

I’ve explained Trooper’s relationship with the Premium Plus cracker company to many people, and now would like to explain it to you. We don’t have a relationship with the Premium Plus cracker company. They don’t send crackers for our dressing room rider and we played no part in the choice of soup used in their commercial. The entire deal was done not only without our involvement, but also, without our knowledge.

Here’s how it works.

Universal Music owns the recording of ‘Raise a Little Hell’. Sony Music Publishing administers the use of the song. In both cases we are supposed to see royalties from the deal that’s struck, but we have no involvement in or control over it. No one even asked.

My share of the royalties won't be a lot of money considering the song I co-wrote will be repeatedly played on TV - in a cracker commercial - until next March, but not bad considering it just fell out of the sky onto me.

Thing is though, I’d prefer the song be covered by a kick-ass rock band and become a huge international hit. Hopefully said rock band will not see the cracker commercial.

The Juno Awards


“How do you feel about winning the best group Juno?” I was asked.

“It’s fucking wonderful” I responded.

” ‘It’s wonderful’ said Trooper singer Ra McGuire at last night’s Juno Award ceremonies …” reported the Toronto newspaper headline the next day.

It has always annoyed me that I wasn’t quoted correctly. There is, of course, a HUGE difference between “fucking wonderful” and just “wonderful”.

The 2009 Junos took place in Vancouver tonight. I didn’t attend this year. Trooper has received seven Juno nominations - and won the “Best Group” award - but we’ve only attended twice. Once, in 1978, when we were nominated for “Most Promising Group of the Year” and in 1980 when we were up for both “Best Group” and “Album of the Year”.

We flew to Toronto for our first Junos when we were nominated for “Most Promising Group of the Year”. We arrived proudly in the Royal York ballroom which was decorated with large blown-up album covers of all the nominated artists, and saw that ours was the only cover that was, humiliatingly, conspicuous in its absence. The evening deteriorated further when the “Most Promising” award was presented to “The THP Orchestra”.

In 1978, we were one of five bands nominated for “Group of the Year”, but chose not to attend. Rush won that year. In 1979 we were nominated again for “Group of the Year” and we chose, again, to not attend. Rush won it again. In 1980, now simply following a comfortable tradition, we once again turned down the Juno organizer’s invitation to fly to the Toronto ceremonies. At first they tried to shame us into coming, which didn’t work. Finally, they broke down and told us that we were going to win at least one award. So we embarked on what was to become a great Trooper adventure that ended with, among other things, members of the band rolling, drunk and in white suits, in a Toronto hotel driveway with Burton Cummings. My personal most embarrassing Juno moment came that year when a young Vancouver friend shouted across a room filled with Canadian music-biz royalty.

“Ra McGuire!!” he shouted when he spotted me. “You’re BIG!!”

It’s funny that I still remember that. We’ve never returned to the Junos and, because the whole idea of them still makes me uncomfortably squirmy, I’ve only managed to watch them on TV two or three times in the intervening years. There have been a couple of occasions, however, when I would have enjoyed shouting back at Bryan Adams, who’s gone on to do quite well for himself.

I’ve had more to say about this (and other things) on Twitter. You can follow me, if you want, here.

Touring with Trooper, These Days

I miss meeting at the van every morning in some gravel parking lot and waiting my turn to hoist my big Tumi suitcase into the back. I miss making the passenger seat my home for hour after mindless hour. I miss the quiet van talk and the willfully obscure in-jokes that get funnier and funnier from repetition, week after week. I miss the casual camaraderie that comes from spending so much time together. I’m not crazy about taking planes to every gig. Airports are boring. The drivers who meet us in each new city are nice, but it’s not ‘our’ van, it’s not one of us driving. And we only go a few miles to the hotel.

I miss rowdy bars and small town shows where the haying schedule could easily blow out the Trooper gig. I like walking around in new places. I don’t seem to have time for that anymore. I miss it.

White Rock BC - This morning

I’m watching a concert video of Prince from the 2004 musicology tour. I saw him on the New Power Generation tour, in the 90’s. Every vid I see of him he’s changed everything. The guy honestly must never sleep. His talent and energy are beyond belief. I’m simultaneously scoping t-shirt styles. Hmmmm. Hanes versus American Apparel. Spaghetti strap versus wider strap that hides the bra. You can see why I’m also watching the Prince vid.

New t-shirt design negotiated. New MacBook Pro ordered (after weeks of waiting impatiently for the announcement of the Penryn/multitouch upgrade), Time Capsule ordered (ships today, they say). Walking the boardwalk soon. Gentlemen of Leisure meet for lunch @ 1:00. Going into Vancouver with Connor tonight to see Jordan Carrier (Cozy Bones singer) at the Railway Club.

The First and Last

On March 28th 2007, after a bizarre month-long exchange of email, LP jacket information and two CDs - one from Japan and one a bootleg - Suzan from Universal Music assured me that, once the “metadata entry process” was completed and the “Digital Scheduling process” had “moved ahead”, she would give me a “targeted release date” for the first and last Trooper albums released on MCA/Universal. Counting the two months that have passed since then, it’s been three since I asked Trooper’s first record company to complete the seven-album MCA portion of Trooper’s iTunes catalogue. I emailed Suzan about this, again, today. I received an “out of the office” automated reply.

Back in February, Universal Canada quickly determined that the two albums in question were “not in the system”. They wrote and asked me if I had “finished CDs” of the albums that I could send to them. And the front and back cover artwork. And, uh … could you copy some information off your vinyl versions of the records and send us that too.

Fortunately, The last MCA album (the one that had no name - or any other information - on the cover) was re-released, in Japan only, on CD, and I had ordered one in the nineties. I sent it to Universal. The first “LP” - the orange one featuring the hideous seventies plexiglas construction - was never ‘officially’ released on CD. So I sent them a bootleg made by a fan.

Universal wasn’t hoarding these albums in a vault somewhere, refusing (or simply neglecting) to make them available. No one at the company knew they existed. It is brutally ironic, and fundamentally sad, that it is against the law to copy and share this collection of songs that cannot currently be purchased anywhere, from anyone.

Record Companies

Trooper recorded their first seven albums while under contract to MCA Records. In December of 2006, Universal Music (formerly MCA) released five of those albums to the iTunes Music Store where they can now be purchased and downloaded.

Two albums remain conspicuously absent from the digital music store. Trooper’s first album was not part of the iTunes offering, nor was the seventh, and last, album released by MCA/Universal.

In the non-digital world, products with marginal sales are discontinued. Manufacturing, shipping and storage expenses eclipse potential income. For this reason, the first and last MCA Trooper albums (ironically, both titled “Trooper”) have not been available in stores for years. But digital replicas of those albums are not encumbered by the brick-and-mortar paradigm. They require no warehouse space, no shipping - and can be cloned, like magic, from the master recordings. The tracks from the missing albums could have been prepared and uploaded with minimal additional effort. I am cursed with a mind that cannot help but ask why they weren’t.

I’ve emailed the record company asking them to upload the additional albums, but I am obliged to accept whatever action, or inaction they choose to take. Notwithstanding the fact that I wrote and sang the songs, spent months in the studio recording the albums and months on the road promoting them - Universal owns all seven records and can do whatever they want with them. This can include, sadly, making them disappear off the face of the earth forever.

Very few people understand the relationship between a band (or singer, or musician - the contract refers to us all as “The Artist”) and their record company. Many still believe that the artist owns and controls the recordings they make. In most cases, nothing could be further from the truth.

Most record company contracts ‘loan’ the artist money to record an album. In exchange for this recoupable loan (and promises of promotion and distribution), the record company takes ownership of the resulting recordings. The artist is promised a royalty - a small percentage of the retail price of the finished ‘product’. BUT … before the artist receives any “artist royalties”, they must first PAY BACK the record company the total cost of the recording (and, usually, the video) - not from the total profit on the sales but from their artist royalty. If you have not paid off your first album debt by the time your second album is released, the difference is simply brought forward and you continue to pay back the accumulated amount.

Although it feels like dropping single grains of sand into an ever-enlarging beach bucket, Trooper eventually, with the help of a greatest hits album that required minimal recording costs, paid back all of their recoupable loans. Nonetheless, we still do not own those recordings.

Many people would ask why someone would sign on to a contract like that.

Because, for years and years, it was the only game in town.

In 1994, “The Artist (get it now?) Formerly Known as Prince” inked the word “SLAVE” onto his face. He told the press that he had become “merely a pawn used to produce more money for Warner Brothers” (his record company).

In 2000, Courtney Love delivered a scathing, landmark rant to the Digital Hollywood Online Entertainment Conference in New York. She began by saying:

“Piracy is the act of stealing an artist’s work without any intention of paying for it. I’m not talking about Napster-type software. I’m talking about major label recording contracts.”

She went on to say that:

“The system’s set up so that almost nobody gets paid.”

Most major recording artists rely on their major record labels for their major money, but, because Ms. Love had developed an income from films, she could afford to bite down hard on the hand that ostensibly fed her. Everyone with even a remote interest in the future of recorded music should take the time to read the transcript of her speech.

Prince and Courtney Love kicked open doors that have since been pinned wide open by a growing storm of discontent. The digital world now looms large and threatening over once arrogant and implacable RIAA executives. Not unlike Courtney Love, I have very little to lose by talking candidly about my former record companies. The royalties I receive have gone from pitiful to laughable and I haven’t had a new record hanging in the balance for many years. I have a list of grievances - real and possibly imagined - that could, no doubt, parallel hers. Like many of my peers, I believe that the reign of record company control over recorded music, and the artists who make that music, should and will end soon. I can say this with confidence and a reasonable certainty. But talk is cheap.

One way or another, Connor will be recording his first album this year. He’s been thinking a lot about how he’ll get it out to the world. Questions about the feasibility, morality, and, for that matter, longevity of record companies have become, suddenly, non-hypothetical.

As the old paradigm dies … what will rise to replace it?

Tentative and Tenacious

The longer I leave it, the more I have to write about, and the harder it is to begin again. I’ll start by trying to pick up where I left off.

‘Lee’ from Universal Music Canada came through with digital downloads. Half of our recorded output is now legally available online. There are still two unreleased albums that Universal owns but seems to be unable or unwilling to offer to the public. Once I muster the appropriate energy, I may bring this up.

‘Lee’ worked hard for us. He was friendly, positive and professional. He was a pleasure to work with and I told him so in an email at Christmas time. I wrote to him again this week, asking about download-related royalties and how they compare to our non-digital penny-rate. I also asked if he could look into our royalties for 2003 - which we have not received. Occasionally, I morph into a jaw-locked, mouth-foaming dog, tenaciously dragging behind a leg I’ve bitten into. It’s embarrassing sometimes.

Both my mothers have been to the hospital and have returned to us healthy. My Mother has moved from her house in Langley to a much smaller place here in White Rock. Her house sold last night. Our families have all weathered a series of emotional, worrisome, physically and mentally taxing, stressful, but ultimately positive sea changes lately. Those seas appear to be calming as the days begin to lengthen and grow warmer.

Today, Connor and I bought an Apex 460 tube condenser microphone and a ‘Groovetube’ vacuum tube so we could perform the mod that, according to a panel of audio engineers at a prominent Vancouver studio, will make the 460 the rough equivalent of a Neumann U87 - a revered, and much more expensive, mic. Connor’s downstairs now, using it. I can hear him singing.

Death by a Thousand Emails

I am trying to remain free of cynicism as I watch an annoyingly familiar scenario unfold. Is this new hold-up a final and easily overcome hurdle, or is it the most recent laceration in a death by a thousand cuts?

After reporting that they were “fully up to speed now” and “alert to get this done”, “Lee” from Universal Music Canada emailed me, on November 3rd, regarding a problem with the Trooper digital downloads. He says that they will be good to go on November 21st with “all the albums except Hot Shots”. Our greatest hits collection - all the songs most people would want to download - cannot, for the moment, be included because of “a US system issue with incorrect info”.

A US system issue with incorrect info.

He says they’re trying to “get it fixed” for December 5th and that he’ll keep me posted.

Release Date

“Lee” from Universal responded within a day of my last correspondence with the company, describing a four week Trooper-on-iTunes timeline. This “should put us at Nov 21 for a release date”, he wrote. He went on to say that “everyone is on the alert to get this done”. This seems like a clear assertion that Trooper downloads will be available in about a month.

Back in the eighties, Chuck from Universal sent me “finished” recording contracts with release dates on the front page. Much of what those contracts contained was different from the terms we had agreed upon, so I reluctantly returned them, requesting the necessary changes. The compilation project passed through at least three promised release dates before disappearing forever from Universal’s agenda.

I manage to maintain a reasonably hopeful and positive approach to the world. I’m not fond, or proud, of the cynical doubt that Lee’s promise has engendered in me. Regardless, a month must pass before I can know for sure what will happen next.


An ironic and unintentionally funny email followed a few days later. It was from a Universal employee responsible for the iTunes upload. Although he was writing from the Universal building, from which seven Trooper albums have emanated, he was asking if I had hi-res copies of the CD cover art work - presumably because he didn’t know where else to find them.