ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, MARCH 11, 1999
Vancouver instro-rockers the Falcons recently had their independent CD, Queen of Diamonds, chosen as best album of 1998 by the U.K.’s influential surf-music magazine Pipeline. As lead guitarist and main songwriter Mike Beddoes explains, that’s a far better reaction than he got the first time he performed that album’s title track, in a Grade 9 talent contest at Lord Byng High School.
“That was a fiasco,” recalls Beddoes, his longish fingernails tapping a coffee cup in a Kits café. “The drummer and I were too lazy to rehearse, and when we got on-stage they closed the curtains in front of the drummer, so he couldn’t see or hear me. When I started playing the song, somebody had to go back and tell him to start, so then he chimed in. He only stopped playing when I went back and said, ‘It’s over.’ ”
Needless to say, Beddoes and his hapless pal did not claim first prize that day. But that didn’t stop him from reviving “Queen of Diamonds” a few years ago (“I remembered about three-quarters of it, so I made up the rest”) and naming his 14-song CD after it. In the Pipeline poll, that album beat out the latest discs from such legendary bands as the Ventures and the Shadows, which more than makes up for Beddoes’s disastrous showing back in ’63. But how does an instro-rock band that’s only been around for six years manage to beat out the two biggies responsible for popularizing the genre?
“They’re like the pioneers of instro-rock,” says Beddoes, “but they haven’t stayed true to their roots, in my opinion. The Ventures don’t sound like they did back then, and same with the Shadows—actually, the Shadows are much, much worse. They’re nothing like they used to sound, and yet there’s a lot of interest now in those original sounds. We’re not a clone band, but our sound is pretty much a cross between the Shadows and the Ventures of the olden days.”
A British-born conservator who restores wooden objects for museums and galleries, Beddoes paid tribute to more than just the sound of early instro-rock with Queen of Diamonds. On the CD’s cover he and the other band members—rhythm guitarist Kim Clarke, bassist Gord Kearney, and drummer André Des Laurier—are pictured falling all over themselves as a shapely blond struts by in spike heels. It’s a knockoff of the classic Walk Don’t Run LP cover that the Ventures released in 1960.
“It’s a tribute to them, of course,” relates the 49-year-old rocker, “but it’s also meant to be a tribute to the whole Pacific Northwest sound. I mean, we coulda done the Kingsmen’s Louie Louie cover, but unfortunately there’s nothing on the cover except ‘Louie Louie’. So we thought this would be better. Plus we got Nokie playing.”
Beddoes first met founding Ventures guitarist Nokie Edwards when he interviewed him for his Canadian instro-rock newsletter, Live Wire. A couple of years later, when he was making his own record, he invited Edwards to play on it, and the accommodating guitar great contributed his melodic leads to the Beddoes-penned tracks “Seattle” and “Rikki”.
As well as wangling licks from the likes of Edwards, Hank Marvin, and Duane Eddy, Beddoes’s musical education has included guitar lessons from “Miss Stetzel” (his Grade 5 teacher at Southlands Elementary), local fingerstylist Reg Clay (“He was really good at western swing and Chet Atkins–style guitar”), and Calgary classical guitarist John Jarvis. In 1964, Beddoes’s first band, the Rogues, also included Blair Thornton, who went on to play guitar for Bachman Turner Overdrive. But back in ’64, Beddoes wasn’t learning much from Thornton, who only played lead by default. “I could play barre chords, so I played rhythm,” explains Beddoes. “He got the glory because he couldn’t play the barre chords.”
Local fans of instro-rock are urged to check out the Falcons whenever they gig around town. Beddoes will be easy to pick out, ’cause he’s the one sporting the funky Fender Jaguar, which he picked up while playing in a band in New York. “Of all the guitars that Fender made, the epitome, the most Fender of all the Fender guitars, is the Jaguar. It’s the tinniest, the shrillest, the gaudiest, got the most chrome on it. It’s great! So I thought I’d get a Fender Jaguar, a souvenir of America.”