ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON MARCH 10, 1989
By Steve Newton
Rock critics and rock musicians don’t always see eye-to-eye. It’s the critic’s job to point out the flaws he sees in the musician’s work, and the musician’s job to say he doesn’t give a damn.
But once in a while the relationship is beneficial for one party or the other, and the rewards can go further than a glowing review or a backstage beer.
Jeffrey Hatcher is one fellow who’s taken advantage of his connection with a music scribe, in this case Rolling Stone critic and Springsteen biographer Dave Marsh. Hatcher’s break came when a friend introduced him to Marsh, who in turn was instrumental in obtaining a U.S. record deal for Hatcher and his band, the Big Beat.
The result is an exceptional album of plaintive, unadorned pop-rock called Cross Our Hearts, which sounds so real you’d think it would have been made even without the help of some big-shot critic.
The extra push was kinda nice, though.
“We have been pretty lucky with critics,” admits Hatcher, on the line from Calgary. “And we’ve had good reviews for quite a few years. That’ll all change if we start to get bigger.”
A modest, down-to-earth guy from that rockin’ prairie burgh of Winnipeg, Jeffrey Hatcher still talks in terms of “ifs”–not “whens”. His come-what-may attitude is a refreshing trait in this age of mass-produced, money-grubbing, “let’s-make-a-video-and-retire” types of bands.
And that unadulterated freshness comes through in tunes like “Man Who Would Be King” (the latest single) and “Deliver Me” (the upcoming one).
Local rock fans can check the man out for themselves when he plays the Town Pump this Monday and Tuesday (March 13 and 14).
As well as writing or cowriting all but one of the tunes on Cross Our Hearts, Hatcher sang all the leads and handles six-and -12-string, slide, and bass guitars. He’s joined in the Big Beat by brothers Don (vocals, guitar) and Paul (vocals, drums), as well as keyboardist Gordon Girvan and co-writer Dave Briggs.
J. Hatcher says that being in a band with three brothers has proven to be quite an experience.
“It’s very different from playing with people that aren’t family, that’s for sure. I’ve always played with Paul, and then about a year ago Don started playing with us. So the three of us together are an important part of the sound–that’s the way I look at it now. I mean it wasn’t just chance that brought us all together.”
The Cross Our Hearts album was released in America in 1987, on Upside Records, an independent label out of New York. That was the deal originally set in motion by Marsh, a friend of the record company president. Although one song, “99 Years”, received some airplay in Canada at the time, the album itself was virtually unobtainable–until Columbia Records took over distribution.
Before the record was rereleased three months ago, guitarist Elliot Easton of the Cars was brought in to rerecord “99 Years” and “Deliver Me”, and give them a more radio-friendly sound. He also played guitar on one of the tunes, although you wouldn’t know that from the LP’s liner notes.
“We forgot to credit him on the album,” says Hatcher, “but he actually plays acoustic guitar on ‘Deliver Me’. We wanted an acoustic on that song, and the only one that was around was his–but he’s left-handed. So he played it instead of us.”
Hatcher says that growing up in Winnipeg offered a pretty fair choice of musical influences, and that there were a lot of local bands playing their own material when he was a young teen in the early ’70s. His brother Paul still enjoys living in Winnipeg, although Jeffrey and Don are now Torontonians.
But they’ll be moving from there soon, possibly to the west coast. Hatcher’s not too concerned.
“We’ll definitely be spending a lot of time on the road over the next couple of years,” he says, “and we plan on playjng everywhere. So where we actually live doesn’t even matter.”