One of the most popular and enduring rock acts to emerge from Canada, April Wine won a string of Juno Awards (Canada’s equivalent of the Grammys) and released a classic power-rock anthem, “Just Between You and Me,” to secure its place in rock ‘n’ roll history. Along the way the band survived numerous personnel and record-label switches, changing tastes in popular music, and sometimes indifferent critical reception, to release over 20 albums and maintain a hectic international touring schedule. The band also endured an eight-year hiatus—after differing opinions over the group’s musical direction saw its members engage in solo projects—to reemerge in 1993 with the album Attitude. Now regrouped with four of its early members, April Wine released Back to the Mansion in 2001.
April Wine first came together in 1969 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, when Myles Goodwyn, a singer who played guitar and keyboards, and his neighbor, bassist Jim Henman, decided to form a band with Henman’s cousins, drummer Ritchie Henman and guitarist David Henman. All of the musicians had been members of other local rock bands and took their new name from a rock opera that David Henman had written about a young woman named April. The second part of the band’s name was added to make it romantic, yet ambiguous enough that the group would not be pigeonholed as just another rock group. April Wine’s first rehearsals took place in Halifax in December of 1969 but the band moved to Montreal, Quebec, in early 1970. Among its first tasks was writing and recording music for the play The Lion in Winter. Shortly afterwards the group recorded its first single, “Fast Train,” which received radio airplay across Canada.
The group’s self-titled debut album was released in late 1971 on Aquarius Records. Jim Henman, who sang most of the lead vocals, decided to go back to college during the recording session; he was replaced by Jim Clench on bass. Myles Goodwyn stepped in to take lead vocals on the group’s second album, On Record, in 1972. The album featured the number-one Canadian hit “You Could Have Been a Lady,” a cover tune of a song initially performed by Hot Chocolate. The track also entered the American charts, where it hit the lower reaches of the top 40.
Despite the band’s initial success, tensions between its members were growing. After a split pitted Goodwyn and Clench on one side and the Henman brothers on the other, the Henmans left the group in 1973. Jerry Mercer, a veteran of numerous other rock bands, joined April Wine as its drummer. Other musicians would briefly join the group over the next decade, but with the addition of Brian Greenway on guitars and vocals in 1977, the steady lineup of Clench, Goodwyn, Greenway, and Mercer formed the heart of April Wine.
After the Henmans left, April Wine released the harderedged Electric Jewels in 1973. The group promoted the album on its first national tour in 1974, making a successful transition from a bar band into a bona fide arena attraction. The band’s 1975 album Stand Back was another success; April Wine received the first of its eight Juno Awards, given by the Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences, in that same year. The group added the Juno Award for Best-Selling Album in 1976 when Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy sold over a million copies in Canada, an unprecedented feat at that time. The band’s 1976 national tour also set a new record when it took in over one million dollars in ticket sales.
In 1977 April Wine opened two unannounced shows by the Rolling Stones at Toronto’s El Mocambo Club, where the legendary British group planned to record a live album. The appearances made headlines across North America after Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards was arrested for heroin possession and rumors were printed of an affair between singer Mick Jagger and Margaret Trudeau, the wife of Canada’s Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. The publicity helped launch April Wine in the United States when the band opened for the Rolling Stones on its 1977 American tour. After releasing two live albums, Live at the El Mocambo and Unreleased Live, April Wine recorded First Glance in 1979. A single from the album, “Roller,” won a Juno Award as Best-Selling Single in Canada and became the group’s second top-40 hit in the United States. Having won the Juno Award as Canada’s Group of the Year from 1975-78, April Wine repeated the feat every year from 1980-83.
Members include Jim Clench (born on May 1, 1949; joined group, 1972), bass, vocals; Myles Goodwyn (born on June 23, 1948, in Woodstock, New Brunswick, Canada), guitar, vocals; Brian Green-way (born on October 1, 1951, in Hawkesbury, Ontario, Canada; joined group, 1977), vocals; Jerry Mercer (born on April 27,1939, in Newfoundland, Canada; joined group, 1973), drums.
Group formed in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, 1969; released debut self-titled album, 1971; had biggest American hit with “Just Between You and Me,” 1981; went on hiatus, 1984-92; re-formed, 1992; released Back to the Mansion,2001.
Awards: Canadian Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Juno Awards, Group of the Year, 1975-78, 1980-83; Best-Selling Album for Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy, 1976; Best-Selling Single for “Roller,” 1978; Album of the Year for The Nature of the Beast, 1982.
Addresses: Record compony—Civilian Records, 3539 Saint Charles Blvd., Kirkland, Quebec, H9H3C4 Canada, website: http://www.civilianrecords.com. Website—April Wine Official Website: http://www.aprilwine.ca
The band built on its success with 1980’s Harder… Faster, which sold well throughout North America. Their next album, 1981’s The Nature of the Beast, however, elevated them to million-selling status in both Canada and the United States. Led by the power ballad “Just Between You and Me,” which barely missed entering the American top 20, The Nature of the Beast went platinum and hit the Billboard top 30. It also earned the group another Juno Award for Best Album, despite receiving mixed reviews from most critics. A People reviewer called The Nature of the Beast “Canadian sonic sludge … an unpalatable mixture of vocal screeches, thudding guitars, and unimaginative drum rumbles,” while a Variety reviewer was only slightly kinder, dismissing it as “workmanlike hard metal in the American tradition.” The reviews did little to dampen album sales but demonstrated April Wine’s stature as a band that critics hated but audiences loved.
After a brief break from its exhaustive touring and promotional schedule, the band returned to the charts in 1982 with Power Play. Although the album did not match the commercial success of The Nature of the Beast, it entered the Billboard top 40 and generated the hits “Enough Is Enough” and “If You See Kay.” The latter track generated a bit of good-natured controversy as its title, repeated throughout the song, seemed to sound out an infamous four-letter word.
The lengthy recording sessions for Animal Grace, the band’s eleventh original studio album, released in 1984, once again exposed tensions among the band’s members. Although the group conducted a Canadian tour to support the album, they announced that it would be their last. A farewell concert on July 31, 1984, in Kelowna, British Columbia, was the band’s final performance. With one more album due under its contract with Columbia Records, Greenway and Goodwyn recorded Walking through Fire, which was released under April Wine’s name in 1985.
In 1992 Goodwyn, Greenway, Mercer, and Clench reunited for an April Wine tour of Canada. It was successful enough that the band recorded a single, “If You Believe in Me,” and followed it with an album, Attitude, in 1993. Frigate was released in 1994, and in 2001 the band released Back to the Mansion. The band continued to put on powerful live shows, as a Toronto Globe and Mail reviewer noted of the band’s performance in comparison to headliner Blue Oyster Cult at a December of 2001 concert. “April Wine matched Blue Oyster Cult power chord for power chord, burst eardrum for burst eardrum. The born-in-Halifax quartet turned crowd favorites such as ‘Sign of the Gypsy Queen,’ ‘Roller,’ and ‘I Like to Rock’ into heavy-metal anthems, ultimately drawing a more frenzied appreciation than did Blue Oyster Cult. Were this a Battle of the Bands (and placing all nationalistic jingoism aside), April Wine would have won on a split decision.”
April Wine, Aquarius, 1971.
On Record, Aquarius, 1972.
Electric Jewells, Aquarius, 1973.
Live Aquarius, 1974
Stand Back, Big Tree, 1975.
Forever for Now, Aquarius, 1976.
Whole World’s Goin’Crazy, London, 1976.
First Glance, Capitol, 1979.
Unreleased Live, Capitol, 1979.
Harder… Faster, Capitol, 1980.
The Nature of the Beast, Capitol, 1981
Summer Tour 1981, Capitol, 1981.
Power Play, Capitol, 1982.
Animal Grace, Capitol, 1984.
Walking through fire, capital, 1985
Attitude, Fre, 1993.
Figate, Fre, 1994
Wine Collection, Aquarius, 1994.
Hits, Capitol, 1998.
Oowatanite, Aquarius, 1998.
Back to the Mansion, Civilian, 2001.
Classic Masters, Capitol, 2002.
Whitburn, Joel, The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits, sixth edition, Billboard Publications, 1996.
Contemporary Canadian Musicians, September 1998.
Globe and Mail(Toronto, Canada), December 3, 2001.
People, March 9, 1981, p. 20.
Variety, March 4,1981, p. 93; June 9,1982, p. 58; January 5, 1983, p. 62.
“April Wine,” Canadian Bands, http://www.canadianbands.com/aprilwinepage.html (March 26, 2003).
April Wine Official Website, http://www.aprilwine.ca/history.html (March 25, 2003).
“Juno Awards: Artist Summary—April Wine,” Juno Awards,http://www.juno-awards.ca/site/junohistory/junoartr.php (March 24, 2003).
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