Art onstage at The Cave, Vancouver BC, in a show also featuring NV  and David Raven & the Escorts. December 1980

Vancouver Sun ad for concert at left.

Georgia Straight back page ad for one of our appearances at the Windmill in downtown Vancouver.

Roadies backstage at The Cave, 1980.

by Captain Maniac

In downtown Vancouver, we did several shows at Gary Taylor’s Rock Room on Hornby Street, and were even selected to appear on a Monday Nights On C-FOX live broadcast. Cal Woosnam’s Challenger Sound recording truck would be positioned in the back alley on that occasion, and we were encouraged to create a Living Hell on Earth for the benefit of radio listeners. C-FOX did an admirable job of promoting the event (and other shows in the series), and as a result the venue was packed for the night we were scheduled. An easy task, considering the Rock Room itself was of Lilliputian dimensions — we were close enough to our soundman that we could reach from the stage and touch him, should the need arise. Downstairs was a rather skanky strip club, complete with onstage pole for the dancers!  

The night of the FM broadcast (reviewed in the Georgia Straight on the left), a loud buzzing screech emanating from the speakers threatened to cancel our performance due to begin at 8 PM, but at 7:59, the problem was remedied enough for us to hit the stage running and perform all of our favourite songs. We launched the set after an enthusiastic and unintelligible introduction with our own “Get Off the Stove You’re Too Old To Ride the Range”, and rocked on unabated until “Papa Oom Mow Mow” led into a commercial break.

A few months later, C-FOX announced the release of “Vancouver Seeds”, a compilation album featuring the best performances from its Monday Nights On C-FOX shows. To our delight, two Sparkling Apple songs were included (Midnight Flight and It’s Criminal), along with tunes from The Karroll Brothers, Six Cylinder, Power Blues Band and Foreman/Byrnes Band. Years later, in 1993, this album was one of the desired items in a C-FOX-sponsored scavenger hunt, and through email I joined a “team” at the Commodore, volunteering my copy of Vancouver Seeds as one of the “items to find”. (I got it back, and still have it today.) And yes, dear readers, this was an actual VINYL album that you could play on a turntable!

As mentioned, we played many times at Gary Taylor’s, so when the time came for us to film a live music video, it was only appropriate that we record at the Rock Room. We filmed an entire set with Cal’s Challenger Sound mobile, and intended that evening’s version of “It’s Criminal” be our first music video. Unfortunately, MTV and the music video phenomenon wouldn’t be mainstream for another year or so, so our video remained in storage for over 30 years! The same night we recorded the video, we also did an off-the-wall interview with a very gooned Gary Taylor himself, which can be seen here.

When I look back, there are a multitude of stories associated with this club (including the time that the audience got so excited that one of our light “trees” was almost pulled to the floor, which quick-thinking roadies rescued in the nick of time), but one episode that bears repeating is our experience with The Battered Wives:

After we’d completed a recording session at Ocean Sound Studios (at that time located in North Vancouver), we thought we’d wind down by popping into nearby Gary Taylor’s Rock Room for a couple of beers, and to watch the last set of The Battered Wives band from Toronto. Well, the Wives were there alright, but had got so drunk that by the end of the evening were unable to walk, let alone consider performing a last set! Panic set in for the club management, but Gary Taylor was relieved when Sparkling Apple set foot in the club — he quickly approached us pleading, “can you guys do the last set PLEASE??” Now we weren’t particularly sober either (which the studio photos at the bottom of this page will substantiate), but we were happy to comply, and successfully played the last set of the night on the Battered Wives’ gear. The Wives, of course, were grateful that good fortune provided them with a band who could pull them out of a tight spot.

Buzz onstage at The Cave, Vancouver BC, on the second occasion that we were asked to be the opening act for Randy Hansen.

I remember that a large part of the charm of Gary Taylor’s Rock Room was that each tabletop displayed Dee Lippingwell photos that had been taken in the club (the tables were covered with plexiglass to protect the photos). Today, these same tables would fetch considerable cash on eBay — I wonder whatever happened to those tables? Dee, if you’re reading this, we’d sure like to procure some old Sparkling Apple shots photographed at the legendary Gary Taylor’s Rock Room! (Editor’s note: spoke to Dee and photos are on the way! See them here first.)

Across the street from Gary Taylor’s was an old dance hall/nightclub called The Cave, which had been on Hornby Street since the 1930s, and continued to present practically every live act in the History of Western Civilization, from Tony Bennett to James Brown, until it closed permanently in 1981. Sparkling Apple performed there on two occasions: a Christmas show with David Raven & the Escorts in 1980, and a show opening for Hendrix-imitator Randy Hansen in 1981 (we had already done a successful show with him at the Gardens in 1979). Seen at the top of this page is Art doing an imitation of then-popular Chuck Barris (the Gong Show) introducing David Raven’s band! And to the right is a shot of Buzz Constantly (and famous silver-painted shoes) at the same venue the following year when we opened for Randy Hansen.

Before we leave you, mention must be made of an infamous downtown club known as The Windmill in the heart of Granville Street’s so-called entertainment district (and various forms of non-musical entertainment have been available in this area since the Dawn of Time). The Windmill looked to be an old cafe (the kitchen was still in place) that had been converted to what was at that time referred to as a cabaret, meaning that the establishment featured live

entertainment six nights a week but was not primarily a drinking establishment as was the case of nearby beer parlours. (Google British Columbia liquor laws for more confusing and convoluted terminology.) The diminutive club itself was a haven for downtown hookers and drug dealers who mainly would use the Windmill as a place to get out of Vancouver’s incessant rain. I recall the club manager as an amiable chap who spoke broken English, as well as the stage being a good five feet above the dance floor for very good reason.

Our engagements at the Windmill would only be for a five-night stand, owing to the fact that Monday nights were “Punk Night”, featuring bands like DOA, the Subhumans and other luminaries of Vancouver’s burgeoning punk scene.

From “Bloodied But Unbowed” website: The scene found its next home late in 1978 at The Windmill, a Granville Street rock club that was convinced to book punk and new wave bands by Paul Wilson-Brown (who had also booked the Quadra). For several months the tiny club felt like the punk scene’s private clubhouse.

When we were in the process of changing bass players following Stringbean’s departure, we actually auditioned bassists there: after placing an ad in the Georgia Straight we would tell prospective applicants that we would do a live song with each of them onstage at the Windmill, and whoever could cut the mustard was awarded the coveted position of New Sparkling Apple Bass Player. The last man standing turned out to be Victoria native Buzz Constantly (real name Ric Whitman), and the rest is hysterical.

Another Georgia Straight ad for the Windmill.

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Made on a Mac

Ocean Sound Studios, 1979. Dick Drake, Ding and Buzz in the control room, with Art behind the glass. Our ammunition can be seen on the windowsill behind Ding.

Buzz prepares himself for his vocal take, as Ding eagerly awaits a toke.

Captain Maniac, Art and Buzz doing “gang vocals”, most likely on “Killer By Night”.

Art and Buzz laying down a vocal track.