Sunday, 16 March 2014

Andy Taylor: Take it easy in Duchess

Every time I hear a song called “Take it Easy” by Andy Taylor, I am transported back to a time and a place when I first learned what live music was really all about. It wasn’t a concert or a documentary. It was a basement in Duchess, Alberta, with a couple cousins of mine, and their upstart band.

Back in the summer of ‘86
Music has always been something I listened to, but never played. I have always been impressed by those who can, but never more so than when I was 16. It was a long time ago in a village far, far away (well at least a couple hours).

Every summer I spent a couple weeks in Brooks visiting my family and hanging out with my cousins. In particular, my cousin Fred. He was a couple years older than me and always seemed to be doing cool things. He had his own car, so we used to cruise the streets of Brooks and go out to Kinbrook Island and sit near the lake. He was a fantastic artist, and we had visions of doing our own animated cartoon – I’d write and he’d draw. And, by the summer of 1986, he was in a band. That was probably the coolest thing he did. Not only did he play bass and sing, but he drew his own album covers, concert tour posters, and concert shirt art.

His band went through a variety of incarnations. At that point, he played with our cousin Vince, who was a guitar player, and a fellow named Trevor, who lived out in Duchess.

Drag race to Duchess
Fred always seemed to be the centre of the action. One day, he had some guys over, including a guy named Carl who was sporting a new, souped-up truck. They were going out to Duchess to see Trevor, because there was a new song they wanted to try out. Fred and Vince took Fred’s car, and I hopped in with Carl.

They had talked about how much speed Carl’s truck had. We followed behind Fred until we got out on the open highway. It was raining, and a little bit of lightning flashed. Fred sped up. Suddenly, Carl hit the gas and I could feel the engine take off. Carl passed him in what seemed like a second, then stopped just as quickly. We were at Duchess.

Take it easy
Trevor had taped a music video off TV that he really liked. While he cued that up, Vince began warming up on his guitar, and Fred grabbed his bass. They had been working on a song called “Snow White”, by Streetheart. Fred sang a verse of that. I distinctly remember the phrase, “…People think you're peaches and cream…”.

They were all ready to go, so Trevor played the video. It was “Take it Easy” by Andy Taylor, who was a member of Duran Duran. Back in that period various members of Duran Duran were doing their own projects, whether it was John Taylor and company in Power Station or Simon LeBon and others in Arcadia.

“Take it Easy” was a catchy tune that was actually from the movie “American Anthem”. It would be pretty forgettable, confined to the dust bin of the ‘80s except for one thing: it starred Janet Jones, who not too long after that would end up stealing hockey legend Wayne Gretzky’s heart, and marry in a ceremony broadcast on national television across Canada.

Fred, Vince, and Trevor played the video a few times. Then Vince got wound up and started playing the song, pretty much the way he heard it on TV. Pretty soon, Fred began to sing along. At one point they had to stop because there were some words they could not understand. So they replayed that portion of the video over and over.

That went on for more than an hour, and I was just enthralled. I was watching these guys teach themselves a song. They were literally playing by ear, and it was fascinating to watch. If memory serves, none of them could read music, so this was what they had to do with any new song they wanted to learn. I was so impressed.

Gary Busey as "Uncle Red" in the 1985 werewolf movie "Silver Bullet". I had the pants scared off me when I saw it.
Watch a movie – take your chances
Eventually, they got tired. One of them had brought a movie, “Silver Bullet”. It was a horror movie starring Gary Busey, about werewolves.

Fred warned me that Carl was a prankster. He had a twin sister named Carla (who was also dating Trevor), who loved horror movies, but got so into them that she scared easily. One time, she was watching “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and he snuck behind her with a chainsaw and started it up. Another time, she was watching this werewolf movie. Carl had a werewolf mask. He snuck out and crouched down beneath a window right behind the TV. He waited a couple minutes then jumped up behind it. Both times, his sister let out a blood-curdling scream.

So I waited for something scary to happen. It did, but it really wasn’t that elaborate this time round. Things went dark in a particular part of the movie, and suddenly there was a bang on the window. It still scared the crap out of me, because I was so wrapped up in the TV.

(In this small world we live in, Carl and Carla had a cousin who ended up, just over a year later, becoming one of my best friends in university.)

Parting thoughts
That was the last summer I went out to Brooks. My cousins were moving on and so was I. The following summer was my last at home before I went off to university. We visited Brooks, and I even brought up the idea of staying a week. But everyone had moved on. By then we are all “too busy”.

Whenever, I hear “Take it Easy”, I think back to a simpler time, when life was all about music, movies, and hanging out with your friends. I was really lucky because my friends were also my family.

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