Monday, June 30, 2003

works in progress department—test pattern, part two

Continuing on...

(If the project was set in the 60s, the concept album/rock opera had to rear its head. What was the most mundane Cancon topic one could choose?)

In 1969, the group was commission by the CBC and several FM stations to compose a Canadian rock opera, to compete with the likes of Hair and Tommy. Why the group chose to create a song cycle based on the life of Canada's 5th Prime Minister, Mackenzie Bowell, remains a mystery to this day. "Bowell Movement" was unleashed on an unsuspecting public in May 1969.

Test Pattern Presents...

The pride of Belleville, he had no plan
Beyond being a loyal Orangeman


The album ended with an 11-minute epic, So Long Mr. Bowell

So long Mr. Bowell
It was good while you had it
So long Mr. Bowell
Tupper's back and right at it
So long Mr. Bowell
If only you’d had more time
So long Mr. Bowell
You'd have made another rhyme.


So long Mr. Bowell
Those damn Manitoba schools
So long Mr. Bowell
Made you look like damn fools
So long Mr. Bowell
If only you'd had more time
So long Mr. Bowell
You'd have made another rhyme.


Sales were initially brisk, as buyers thought they might be getting something dirty inside. Discovering that the title was not a double entendre, sales leveled quickly. Still, it made everyone a tidy little profit.

The initial reaction prompted organizers of the Woodstock music festival to extend an invitation to the group. Unfortunately, the group misunderstood the invitation and set out for Woodstock, ON, for local farmer Mack Yasser's farm. They stayed for several days, playing only for Mr. Yasser's cows.

MACK YASSER: I was on vacation at the time, when I got a call from my neighbour, who said there was some hippies, or whatever they called them crazy kids back then, running around the farm. I rushed home and saw they'd dismantled one of my barns and used the wood for a stage. It was just the cows staring at them, no people. I tell ya, never seen my stock ever look so confused when those boys were banging away.

Yasser figured they'd drift away, but word about Test Pattern soon spread to town. An estimated crowd of 300 showed up on Day 5, only to find a band ragged in voice and appearance from playing 4 days straight to the livestock.

A plaque now marks the site.

(If this tale was going to go into the 70s, and especially if it wound up involving friends in photos, the glam rock era had to be touched upon. Looking at photos of acts from that time, it's amazing there weren't any serious/fatal accidents due to their outfits).

This phase was worst on Bottell, who barely fit into the tight costumes the group was provided with. It proved too much on Aug 12, 1973, when he collapsed halfway through a television performance of "Glamour Puss". Thus ended the group's flirtation with glam

Canuck Records fell into receivership at this time, its tie-ins with the World Football League, World Hockey Association and the Bricklin all turned to rust.

And then disco hit.

(and there the fragments end, other than a list of potential names for group members).

Group Membership
Gord Labatt
Gord Molson
Carl O'Keefe
Mary Seagram (later known as Marigold Sunray)
Horace "Hi" Walker
Juliette Gooderham
Jack Worts
Ben Sleeman
Pierre Brique
Raja Sri Pultabi
Jack "Stubby" Bottell

Other proposed tales in this series:

Episode 2: Forbidden Libido
Episode 3: The Maple Leaf Singers
Episode 4: Spazims

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