The Falcons’ Mike Beddoes never thought it would be radical to play instro-rock



The little room on the top floor of Falcons guitarist Mike Beddoes’s Kitsilano townhouse contains some of the musical goodies you would expect from a picker who’s been actively plying his trade for more than 30 years. Crammed away in one closet is a cache of 10 guitars hung closely together, including such prized items as a late-’20s Gibson acoustic, a mid-’60s 12-string Vox, and an early-’70s Les Paul. And then there’s Beddoes’s favourite axe, a heavily worn ’64 Gibson Firebird, which he claims he started playing even before Johnny Winter made his name with that style of guitar. The Firebird wasn’t used on the Falcons’ new CD, Rebel Jukebox—Beddoes’s reissue of a mid-’50s Gretsch White Falcon did the work there—but it still holds a special place in his heart. It was his first really nice guitar, and one that he was happy to have as a replacement for his Stella acoustic. “I gave that to my brother,” says the 52-year-old rocker, “and he probably trashed it.”

A set of drums belonging to Beddoes’s wife, archaeologist turned mystery writer Sandra Zacharias, lies crammed in another cubbyhole, along with various old LPs and videotapes of the Falcons in concert. On the floor sits a sheet-draped Aoyama troubadour harp, which Beddoes studied seriously back in the ’80s, and plucks at now and again. On a nearby wall are framed photos from the past, including one from ’68 of Beddoes’s first band, in which he’s playing the aforementioned Firebird (when it had a nice sunburst finish) on a tractor-trailer at an outdoor gig in Aldergrove. (Beddoes claims it was one of the earliest gigs promoted by soon-to-be-big-shot Bruce Allen, as well as one of the first shows where long-time Vancouver company Kelly Deyong did the sound.)

There’s a shot of his 1973 group, Horizon, which he proudly claims was “the top Legion band in Vancouver!”. And then there’s one of a grinning Beddoes posing with some older rock musicians I don’t recognize. Turns out they’re U.K. group the Fentones, whose ’62 tune “The Mexican” is featured on Rebel Jukebox. “Back in ’95 I ended up playing with the Fentones in London, England,” Beddoes explains. “It was their first gig in three years, and they asked me to play rhythm, so I did. I became an honorary member of the Fentones, and I realized that ‘The Mexican’ was a great tune which didn’t make it over to North America. So I thought it would be real nice to do our own version.”

Beddoes’s music-room wall also sports an award from Britain’s Pipeline magazine, which chose the band’s previous Queen of Diamonds CD as 1998 album of the year. If there’s any justice, Rebel Jukebox will be scoring Beddoes—along with second guitarist Gary Schnepper, bassist Gord Kearney, and drummer André DesLauriers—a similar trophy in 2001. Recorded in DesLauriers’s garage in Squamish last year, it’s a wonderful example of the kind of uplifting, good-time guitar music made famous by groups like the Ventures, the Seattle-based legends (“Walk, Don’t Run”) who contributed liner notes to Rebel Jukebox.

According to main songwriter Beddoes, there is some significance to the ’50s-sounding title of the Falcons’ new CD, which is also the name of its lead track. “Each and every one of us has our own personal jukebox,” he relates, “records or discs—whatever we play at home. The rebel part comes in because to have your own personal jukebox is kind of treasonous—you’re not necessarily accepting what’s being promoted. And the other thing is…I never thought that it would be radical to play instrumental rock, but [nowadays] it is. It’s real musicians playing real instruments—no synthesizers, no click tracks, no nothing. So what happens is it gets a lot of people working to make one album, which is exactly the opposite of the globalization trends, when you just sort of centralize stuff, cut out the people, get a few robots, and there you are.

“The thing is that it’s labour-intensive,” he stresses, “which is the best thing possible. It gets people working, and everybody’s gotta do something. If everyone’s out of work, who’s gonna buy the record?”

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