Sorry mulletheads, the only decent April Wine song is “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”



By Steve Newton

Back in high school in the mid-’70s, I knew a lot of people who were big April Wine fans. Heck, even now I know a lot of people who are big April Wine fans. I try to avoid them, but they’re everywhere! You can even find them at the Georgia Straight office, although not so much in the editorial department, where hipper acts like Moby and At the Drive-in prevail. But saunter out to the reception area, let it drop that you’re expecting a call from April Wine founder Myles Goodwyn, and the young lady manning the phones will quickly assert her fondness for the guys behind “I Like to Rock”.

No keenly analytical rock critic, she!

Now that my dissing of our receptionist’s musical tastes will pretty well guarantee that I get no more phone calls at work—including any from irate April Wine fanatics—I might as well confess that I’ve never been a big April Wine fan. No, wait. I take that back. I’ve never been a big April Wine fan unless they happen to be playing “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”. That’s a great tune, but everything else by them makes me think of Spinal Tap without the chuckles.

Of course, that opinion hasn’t stopped the group from racking up four gold albums, four platinum albums, and three double-platinum albums in Canada. It hasn’t slowed the band down one bit. In fact, even today you can find April Wine playing every far-flung nightclub and civic centre from Nova Scotia to B.C. The band’s latest tour of out-of-the-way venues includes a big-city stop at the Commodore Ballroom on Saturday (May 26).

“The thing is, we’ve always played small towns,” notes Goodwyn, on the line from St. Paul, Alberta. “I mean, we were one of the first bands to really open up the whole country around that. We hit every little town, and we’re reaching fans we’ve never played for before, so obviously they’re excited, they can’t believe April Wine is there. The show’s sold-out, so it turns out to be a very nice time.”

You don’t have to live in Bumfuck, Alberta, to hear April Wine these days, though. All you’ve got to do is visit your local movie house and check out the new David Spade flick, Joe Dirt. A big April Wine fan, Spade made sure that the band—a favourite of mulletheads everywhere—got some airplay on the big screen.

“It’s a car scene where he’s driving somewhere and ‘Roller’ is playing in the background,” says Goodwyn, who’s actually seen the Academy Award–winning (not!) comedy. “Then he parks the car and turns off the radio. But we actually get through the whole intro, a whole verse, and into the chorus, which is, like, [a total of] 36 seconds or something.”

April Wine also has a new album coming out, its first in seven years, but since “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” isn’t on it, you won’t get a recommendation from me. The band is performing three songs from that CD, titled Back to the Mansion, on its current tour. “We wanted to do more,” claims Goodwyn, “but when you’re trying to balance out the whole set, you have to remember that a lot of people just want to hear ‘Gypsy Queen’ and ‘Just Between You and Me’, ‘Say Hello’, and ‘Roller’. You know—‘Oowatanite’, ‘You Could Have Been a Lady’, and yada yada yada.”

7 thoughts on “Sorry mulletheads, the only decent April Wine song is “Sign of the Gypsy Queen”

  1. I’m writing to to make you aware of an obvious typo.

    You wrote, “…from Nova Scotia to B.C.” Of course, you meant, “…from Newfoundland and Labrador to B.C.” It is funny how many people make that mistake. It’s almost as though people forget that we are part of this great country. Ridiculous, I know.

  2. Good taste, Steve, to dig Sign Of The Gypsy Queen. The back story to which is that its composer, Lorence Hud released his own version nine years earlier. The ‘72 release by Ontario-based Hud did middling well in some Canadian markets. But nada in the U.S.

    April Wine’s version burned up charts on both sides of the border. Some years later, performing rights society SOCAN was asking members if they knew the whereabouts of Lorence Hud. So he could receive a sizeable accrued-royalties cheque.

    I don’t know if Hud and SOCAN connected at that point. But in 2017, he made news. A 10-year dispute with authorities over drainage on Hud’s Verner, Ontario property led to an armed standoff with police, which ended without incident.

    In recent years, Hud has launched defamation suits against the federal government. And a supporter reportedly wrote to President Donald Trump to speak out on behalf of Hud.

    A very peculiar rock ‘n roll story.

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