Getting Back To Business
by Todd K Smith
Here is a band that has seen and done it all. Hailing from the cold tundra of Halifax, Nova Scotia, April Wine first started as a seed planted by vocalist/guitarist Myles Goodwyn, when he joined up with brothers David (guitar), Jimmy (bass) and Ritchie Henman (drums) in the fall of 1969. Expanding their regional popularity, the four relocated to Montreal and by ’72 had released their self-titled debut with its minor hit “Fast Train.” On their stop through town we sat down with Brian Greenway, guitarist in the band since 1977 and he walked us through many of April Wines highlights.
Says Greenway, “We consider our selves from Montreal ‘cause that where most of us live now. Of the Canadian band we were kind of different from other bands coming out of that city. It was us and Offenbach that went for the harder rock sound.” The first sign of the Henmen brothers splitting up happened when bassist Jimmy left and was replaced by another Jimmy Jimmy Clench. By the second record “Electric Jewels” (1973) Clench and Goodwyn had formed a writing bond penning 98% of the new April Wine material. With Clench the live shows were taking on a harder edge, less pomp and more romp. A cover song “You Could Have Been A Lady” ignited their set so they included it on their “Live” disc in 1974. The song got the record company all excited so they added it to the group’s next studio offering “On Record” and immediately had a runaway hit. April Wine were now at the top of the Canadian singles charts.
Yet, all was not harmonious in the AW camp. By 1975 the remaining Henman brothers, Ritchie and David, left the group and were replaced by Jerry Mercer and Gary Moffet. Clench, replaced by Steve Lang, also ducked out to join Bachman Turner Overdrive (and latter Loverboy). Therefore “Stand Back” was released with a completely fresh line up and moved the group closer to an arena rock sound. The album found the group hitting a workable balance between pop songcraft and hard rock guitar power. The record kicked off with “Oowatanite,” an effectively arranged rocker featuring a fire-alarm sound effect. It became a hit in the band's live set and is a permanent fixture in their live show even today.
“I think it was right around ‘Stand Back’ that Myles really came into his own as a song writer,” says Greenway. “At least he knew what sound he was comfortable with and wanted to move in that direction. With Myles, he’s always had a vision and in truth April Wine is his vehicle for that vision. That’s why, early on there were a lot of changes in the band he wanted to find just the right guys that understood where he wanted this thing to go.” Attempting to duplicate the success of “Stand Back” the band rushed out another set of ballad/rockers in the form of “The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy.” Though the record sold well enough, their first to go platinum, it lacked the progressive leap that “Stand Back” had generated. It did however showcase Goodwyn maturity as a ballad writer with the warmth of “Like a Lover Like a Song” and paved the way for future of songs like “Just Between You and Me” and “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen.” “Forever For Now” was their third record in 18 months and has the band unable to muster any of the success their past to records promised. A slick and pompous affaire, the record lacked any real feeling or passion. "You Won't Dance With Me" did crack the Canadian Top Ten but the record was filled with too much silly fodder to be seen as a real contender.
In bad need of a rest and to regroup April Wine released “Live At The El Mocambo” in ’77. It would be another year before they would resurface with power-house guitarist Brian Greenway. His injection into the road-worn band was critical. Suddenly the band leaped forward with top-notch, perfectly crafted rockers. “Man, I’ve always loved the rock,” admits Greenway. “You plug me in and I just want it loud. Myles was looking to get the rock back in as a primary focus and I guess I was the guy. For me the harder edge sound was what brought the guys to the shows and the ballads brought the girls so, between the two, we had a good mixture.” Now they were ready for the elusive arena crowds. “First Glance” through chided by critics was embraced by fans world wide. “Hot On The Wheels Of Love,” “Roller” and “Get Ready for Love” put the band in equal standing with Boston, Styx and Kansas. Hitting their stride, the group crafted their two most personally rewarding and successful records to date.
1979’s “Harder Faster” and 1981’s “Nature Of The Best” saw April Wine fully conquer both Canada and the US with chart topping hits “Just Between You and Me,” “I Like To Rock,” “Before The Dawn,” “Sign Of The Gypsy Queen” and “Wanna Rock” By 1982’s “Power Play” the band had lined their walls with a series of gold and platinum records. However cracks in the bands framework began to show in ‘84s “Animal Grace” and by the next year Goodwyn called it a day and broke the band up. In the next four years both he and Greenway released commercially ignored solo record. “Strangely enough Myles and I were offered solo deals at the same time on the same label Atlantic (April Wine was on Capitol),” say Greenway. “Both our record came out at the same time. It looked planed but never was. Neither of us knew what the other was doing ‘cause we weren’t talking too much back then. Even though I wasn’t that restricted in April Wine, it was liberating to do my own thing and the advance they gave me on that record was amazing. I got Aldo Nova and Alex Lifeson (Rush) to play on it as well as Marty Simon (later would work with Celine Dion) who ended up producing it as well. Andy Newmark from Bad Finger (and everybody else) played drums one of the best session guys in the world. It was rewarding and fun and I’m still very proud of it.”
In 1988, Capitol forced their hand due to contractual agreements for the release of “Walk Through Fire.” The record was basically a Goodwyn/Greenway project and did have some promise. It would be another four years before April Wine proper regrouped to record “Attitude” and garner yet another hit in “If You Believe in Me.” According the Greenway, the band have been on the road ever since. “I haven’t been home for four months,” he says. “Last year we were out most of the year promoting ’Back To The Mansion.’ ‘Talk To Me’ took off as the single so we were back and forth across Canada all year. We’re dipping down into the States more and more. This year, I think were in the US more than Canada.”
April Wine are currently touring behind a greatest hits package EMI put together simply called “Greatest Hits Live 2003.” It is a double CD and is full to the brim of AW classics.
Our thanks to Brian Greenway for his interview and time.
Live shot of the band are from their Official website: April Wine