Tag Archives: Music

Neil Peart, 1952–2020


Neil Peart had little interest in the Rock formulas, setting the band apart from their peers

✎  WAYNE K. SPEAR | JANUARY 11, 2020 • Obituaries

IN THE EARLY 70s John Rutsey started a band with school mate Alex Zivojinovich. Their lead singer and bass player, Jeff Jones, left the band and soon after John left too. Jeff was replaced by Gary Weinrib, who took the name Geddy Lee, and Rush acquired a drummer by the name of Neil Peart. You know the rest.

My introduction to Rush was 1980’s Permanent Waves. This exciting new band had seven albums and a couple minor hits to their credit, but it was the songs The Spirit of Radio and Freewill that delivered fortune and fame. The songs sounded like nothing else we were hearing in 1980, a remarkable fact, because there was a lot going on then. Ska, Post-punk, New Wave, Reggae, and Disco were flourishing, but even among their progressive and hard rock peers, Rush were distinct. Hugh Syme’s grainy, post-apocalyptic, and artsy cover was an instance of form following content, perfectly capturing the spirit of a band that took its music seriously without taking themselves seriously.

Neil Peart wasn’t merely a drummer, he was a reader and a writer with a melodic approach to percussion. Neither Geddy Lee or Alex Lifeson had a knack for words, although Lee had been forced into the role of lyricist when John Rutsey tore up his sheets for the first Rush album. Peart’s imaginative lyrics recalled bands like Genesis and Led Zeppelin, grounded as they were in obscure myth and philosophy. At bottom they conveyed the struggle of the individual against conformity and compromise. Peart had little interest in the Rock formulas, which set the band apart in a manner satirized by the Trailer Park Boys character, Ricky:

Helix was a wicked concert. They had good lyrics. “Give me an R O C K,” and the crowd yells Rock really loud. Rush’s don’t do stuff like that. They got these lyrics about how trees are talking to each other, how different sides of your brain works, outer space bullshit.

Peart’s lyrics in other words weren’t for everyone, but in the 1980s and 1990s Rush produced a stream of albums capturing the restlessness of life in the 905 suburbs and celebrating the interior world of those who neither fit in nor wanted to. Along the way he penned nostalgic songs like Lakeside Park, a tribute to the St. Catharines waterfront where he had spent his youth. As a Brock University student I spent a good amount of time there myself. Rush was Canadian in a way and to a degree that others, such as Neil Young, are not, and to appreciate their music it probably helps to be from a certain time and place. This is not to deny their worldwide appeal, only to point out the fact that they remained rooted in their origins.

Neil Peart yielded an army of air drummers, and at one time or another many of us were the Jason Segel character from Freaks and Geeks, playing along to Tom Sawyer in our parents’ basement. John Bonham’s performance on Kashmir is the only worthy rival.

Rush’s Moving Pictures tour, which arrived at Buffalo Memorial Auditorium on May 9, 1981, was my second, or maybe third, stadium show. (Don’t ask me to recall the details: there were a lot of substances at a rock show back then.) The show was memorable not only for the skill of the performance, but because Peart lost the beat during The Spirit of Radio and threw off the band. The audience, and for that matter the band, had a good laugh. That was something audiences weren’t likely ever to see.

Rush would release fifteen studio albums and perform into the middle of the 2010s, when the physical stresses of performance would force Peart into retirement. In interviews Neil Peart was shy and retiring, as well as unassuming, and in life he was private. No one knew how seriously ill he had become. As Matt Gurney notes in an obituary, “Peart liked to slip out of his concerts without drawing any attention so he could ride off on his own, finding his centre again. It’s no surprise he chose to exit this life the same way.” ⌾

Gord Downie, 1964–2017

His place in the firmament of Canadian music is well established

✎  Wayne K. Spear | October 19, 2017 ◈ Obituary

I’VE NEVER BEEN A Tragically Hip fanatic, and that’s a shame, because the two shows that I saw were the kind of show a fanatic would give an arm to have attended.

o-GORD-DOWNIE-facebook.jpgGord Downie established himself as a symbol of Canada

The first performance was in a St Catharines bar called The Hideaway, before The Hip were well-known, in the mid-1980s. We were so close to the stage that the sweat from Rob Baker’s hair was raining down on me and my friends, so we retreated into the crowd. The next and last time I saw The Hip was in 1994, in a small Kingston pub, where the band suddenly turned up for an unannounced free show. At the time I was hanging around with the curator of a local art gallery whose painter boyfriend was a close friend of the fellow who painted the cover of Day for Night. I got a call telling me to get to the pub, now, which I did, only minutes before it filled to beyond capacity.

The Tragically Hip made the most sense to me in bars, the seedier the better. I remember stepping into a Sudbury dive as the chorus to Little Bones played on the radio. I sat in the corner with my watery beer, and the song felt like the soundtrack of the place. In Sault Ste Marie, New Orleans Is Sinking. In Prince Albert, Courage. In Moncton, Ahead by a Century. Then there was Bobcaygeon, a song in a category of its own because some of my earliest memories are of the cottage my family had there, in the 1960s and 70s. We love musicians because they make music, and we love music because it captures and preserves our fondest memories like an amber that you can dance and sing along to.

Every obituary is about its author as well as its subject. We write of others to affirm our values and to praise what we hope to have within ourselves. A life lived is an object lesson, a set of actions and commitments to be appraised, celebrated, or (in some cases) denounced. And one day my friend you will arrive at the place, if you haven’t already, where the obituaries make you think, “my goodness, I’ll be that old very soon” or “she was younger than I” or (as I thought of Gord Downie) “he was the same age as me.” A selfish thought, but also human.

I am tempted to reach for the cliché that Gord Downie died before his time, but of course the time when one leaves this world is by definition his time. He died young, doubtless before he had said everything he wanted to say and before he had made everything he wanted to make. But he was also old enough to have left an indelible and enviable mark upon Canadian music and culture. The depth of his influence was revealed last May when news of a tumour went out to a stunned public. The tour that followed ranks among the most widely viewed and widely discussed in Canadian music history, as the outpouring of sentiment, then and now, attests. Gord Downie managed to do what only a handful of Canadian musicians have done—establish himself as a symbol of Canada. In this, he has joined the company of Gordon Lightfoot and Stomping Tom and Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen, all of whom, please note, are a full generation older.

Gord Downie committed himself late in life to causes including environmentalism and raising awareness of the Indian Residential School System. At the end, knowing his time was short, there came a final blast of creative fury. He took up the story of Chanie Wenjack, creating a book and album and film about the real-life boy who died trying to escape the Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School. He set up the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. He became a prominent vocal proponent of Indigenous people, in a time when there were already numerous books, by Indigenous people, on numerous topics including residential schools.

An October 21, 2016 Walrus article asks, “Why is Gord Downie getting more attention for retelling Indigenous history than Indigenous artists?” The short answer is that Downie, because he was a rock star, could reach an audience few if any Indigenous authors could. That’s an unpleasant truth for those of us who are the Indigenous authors of books about the Indian residential schools, but it’s a truth nonetheless. I remember the day Secret Path arrived to fill the windows of a local bookstore where my book, Residential Schools, wasn’t even stocked. Again, the selfish but also human thoughts. I was glad the Wenjack story would get out, but I wished it didn’t take a pop-culture celebrity to do it. Are we going to have to assign a rock icon to each of the thousands of Chanie Wenjacks?

It’s too soon to say what Downie’s influence and legacy will be as these pertain to his twilight interest in Chanie Wenjack and Indigenous people generally. But his place in the firmament of Canadian music is well established. Gord Downie’s music will live on, and so will the Gord Downie & Chanie Wenjack Fund. May good come of it.

Tom Petty, 1950–2017

Despite the vagaries of fortune and fashion, Tom Petty entertained and inspired, year after year and decade upon decade

✎  Wayne K. Spear | October 3, 2017 | waynekspear.com

When Tom Petty arrived forty years ago I was ready. I first got into music during that delicious interval when British rock was still king but when its chief rivals—punk, post-punk, and new wave—were charging the palace gate. It was the 1970s and Rock-n-Roll having crossed the Atlantic over a decade before was now crossing back. Early Tom Petty was punk around the edges but you could discern the influence of rock, blues, and country. He had Joe Strummer’s breadth of musical vocabulary and the on-stage confidence of an overnight sensation ten years in the making.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in 1977. His “Flying V” guitar is featured in the band’s logo.

American Girl wasn’t a song, it was a drug, and no normal teenager could resist it. When you heard that opening D-major open chord you had to know Who is this? Simple and infectious, it showed Petty’s genius for pop hooks and story-telling. Breakdown and American Girl were followed by the 1978 hit I Need to Know, but it wasn’t until Damn the Torpedoes that Petty’s song-writing talents were fully materialized. The album is even more impressive when you consider its circumstances. Recorded while Petty was at war with his record label over publishing rights, the reel-to-reel tapes of Damn the Torpedoes were secretly shuttled by engineers into the recording sessions and then shuttled out at end-of-day to avoid seizure. The Tom Petty who recorded Refugee knew from personal experience that “everybody has to fight to be free.” He had bankrupted himself and risked everything to do so.

Tom Petty’s victory over MCA would be repeated with the next album, Hard Promises. MCA wanted it to retail for $9.98 but Petty was adamant that it should sell at the standard price, which at the time was $8.98. He refused to give the label Hard Promises just as he had refused to give it Damn the Torpedoes. When I rode my bicycle the 30 kilometres to Niagara Falls to buy the new record, I paid the Tom Petty price. Throughout the 1980s Petty released hit after hit, closing out the decade with another simple and infectious tune based on a jangly D-major open chord, Free Fallin. He played an early version of this song at Bob Dylan’s studio, where he had been spending time with Dylan, Roy Orbison, George Harrison, and Jeff Lynne. Eventually this association would lead to the short-lived project, Traveling Wilburys.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers traversed genres and generations. The Beatles convinced Petty that “I could do this, too” and Petty likewise inspired younger generations. My friends aged, their lives and circumstances evolved, and in many instances we drifted apart. Despite the vagaries of fortune and fashion, Tom Petty entertained and inspired, year after year and decade upon decade. For me the early years will always be the best, but Tom Petty was a reliable stage and studio artist from the late 1970s until the end. With so much else having drifted to the curb, my friends and I loved his music Back in the Day and we love it now. There isn’t a covers band that doesn’t play at least one Tom Petty song. (The band I saw this past weekend at Bloor and Jane played American Girl.) I don’t know a human being who professes dislike of Tom Petty’s music. If such a person exists, that person is taste challenged. As for the rest of us, we will always love the music of Tom Petty, and we will miss him.

Bloomistry Live at Zaphod’s (Solo Show)

Bloomistry Live at Zaphod's Solo Show

If you’ve spent any time in Ottawa, you know about Zaphod’s. For 25 years it hosted live performances by countless bands. In May, Zaphod’s closed. Recently while I was going through the Bloomistry archive, I found a recording of a solo show I did there in 2009. I’d forgotten all about it. So I dusted off the CD, did a bit of editing, and put together this post.

These recordings, made by Ottawa music veteran Tom Stewart, are from the soundboard.

Set list:

1. I Guess I’ll Need a Miracle
2. Wrecking Ball
3. Late Bloom
4. Bitter Sense of Melody
5. Four Leaf Clover
6. Higher Cloud
7. Come Down Easy
8. Unlucky at Luck

Don’t go it alone

It takes a village to rock. ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

This is a story about Mick and Keith.

Steve Jobs wasn’t interested in computer circuitry, and Steve Wozniak didn’t believe there was a market for the machines he was making in his computer club.

Elton John can write a decent melody. Bernie Taupin has written some of pop music’s best-known lyrics. The two met in 1967 through an audition that both failed. When they joined forces, they succeeded.

In the 1980s, Mick Jagger tried (unsuccessfully) to become a solo superstar. Keith Richards once said that, together, he and Ron Wood were the best guitarists. He added that he and Ron were average individually.

A rock band is a division of labor, a team, a small corporation, and an alchemy.

Many of the most successful rock bands have had four members. Many personality assessments are four-factor. You can plot many rock bands on a DiSC graph.

DiSC Graph

I’ve created several rock bands, and I’ve worked with many corporations. Whatever you’re doing, think of it as a team effort, because it is. The alchemy of personality and talent is not arbitrary or mysterious. It can be assessed and measured. I know this.

Even if you are a novelist, you need a good team behind you.

Who is supporting your success? Do you have mentors, collaborators, colleagues, partners, and role models?

The lesson of Mick, Steve, Elton, and Paul is that you can’t do it on your own.

Don’t go it alone.

Bloomistry Live at Raw Sugar Cafe | 10.10.2009

Raw Sugar Cafe

Bloomistry live at the Raw Sugar Cafe, Ottawa, Canada. October 10, 2009

Audience recording. Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

Bloomistry Raw Sugar 04

CBC radio’s Amanda Putz had just done a feature on our new album, To Be, so there was a bit of buzz in the air when we took to the stage in October of 2009. We were doing shows every week somewhere in town, which in retrospect was pushing things a bit into over-exposure.

This was a fun show. The audience was pretty low-key and sedate, but it was a good crowd and we were playing in a cafe, after all. This recording was made from the audience, and the quality is not great. Four of the songs we played were only partially recorded, and are not included. Yulia Teryaeva captured the evening in photos with her keen eye, as she did on many other occasions. I also asked a photographer named Jennifer Lapierre to come out to the show, which she did. It’s a funky and intimate venue, and we were really stoked to play this show. A lot of bands love Raw Sugar Cafe.


1. The Wars
2. Trigger of Your Soul
3. A Crack in My Cup
4. Bitter Sense of Melody
5. Ragged Doll
6. River Wide Road
7. Late Bloom
8. Hook and Eye
9. I Guess I’ll Need A Miracle
10. North of Wasomee
11. Four Leaf Clover

Bloomistry, “To Be” (2015 Remaster)

To Be

For the 6th Bloomistry album I turned, as so often before and after, to the poets to get my ideas. To be or not to be, that was the question. And the answer was “Let’s be, and let’s make another album.”

But I didn’t want to make just another Bloomistry record. So I indulged every crazy idea, the crazier the better. I recorded twenty-minute songs, atonal compositions, and tunes with invented time signatures. I filled the studio with things that I banged together, in an attempt to make music without conventional instruments. Some of it was pretty interesting, at least to me, but other than Arrow of Time (which was my attempt to sound like the band Califone) the weirder stuff didn’t make it to the record.

Some of the songs, like Feet On the Mountain and Medley, were in fact ground-breaking for me. I don’t think there’s anything like it on the earlier records. And Never Gonna Nadia was the first Bloomistry song I could imagine hearing on the radio—and then one day, in Montreal, I did hear it on the radio. That and High Beam, a clearly Lennon-esque song—though I didn’t consciously intend that—were in college radio rotation for a time.

The 2008 recession was digging in, and To Be was a record about the rot of politics and rogue capitalism. The song Roses was dedicated to Anne Rogovin and its lyrics alluded to Rose Schneiderman as well as to the poem “Bread and Roses.” I was not very happy at this time, for a lot of reasons, most of them having to do with living in a staid bureaucratic city (as I saw it) where it seemed to be winter ten months a year. Maybe that’s why this record bogged down.

I’ve never been able to decide whether or not these songs are any good, or whether they work as a whole. The middle section—Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom—were taken from another project, Laketown. I call this section of the record the Tape Hiss Trio (listen and you’ll know what I mean) and it bothers me to this day that it’s there. Still, this is the most polished of my records, and I did a lot of interesting trickery in the studio to pull it off.

Simon Meilleur overdubbed the drums on Never Gonna Nadia and The Wars. I was never a strong drummer (I learned to play drums as I made these records!) so there was always timing issues. His contribution took things to a new level. And Edith Boucher’s artwork for this record was the first time I actually thought about such things in a serious way. So this is also my best-looking album.

On February 16, 2009, I started recording The Gutter and the Gut, as it was called. Phil Bova mixed the album on August 12–13 and we mastered on September 22, two weeks after I had mixed Laketown with Dave Draves. I took three songs off that record and substituted them on To Be. The rest is history.


1. High Beam
2. A Crack in my Cup
3. Four Leaf Clover
4. Wine and Women
5. On Top of the World
6. To the Bottom
7. Never Gonna Nadia
8. Feet on the Mountain
9. Broken (Medley)
10. Arrow of Time
11. Roses
12. The Wars

Bloomistry Live at Kaffé | 23.10.2009


Bloomistry live at Kaffé 1870, Wakefield, Quebec. October 23, 2009

Audience recording. Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

We did a bunch of shows at Kaffé 1870, a bar in the postcard-perfect, riverside village of Wakefield, Quebec, run by members of The Fiftymen. It was a great venue, and I remembered this being one of those beautiful, clear fall nights when the autumn leaves are at their peak and the air is crisp in a good way that makes you feel alive. But then I listened to the recording this week for the very first time, and in one of the songs I mention it’s raining outside! So either I was remembering the show I did a week earlier with Chris Page, or my brain is just making this all up.

The crowd that night was rowdy and ready. We were never a dance band, and I wasn’t prepared for a crowded dance floor—but when it happened, I loved it. My friend Flecton Big Sky shared the bill, joined by his band The Dreamcatchers, featuring Scott Terry on guitar and Tom Werbowetski on drums. Scott was my first drummer, and you’ll hear him heckling in good fun. As for The Dreamcatchers, I think this may have been the last time they performed together, but like my recollection of the weather I could be wrong.

We did a photo shoot with Yulia Teryaeva before this show in Mackenzie King Park and spent the day in and around the village. I don’t remember when we took the stage, but it was a long night. I went home exhausted but happy.

This recording is rough, but it gives you an idea of the night. The set list doesn’t exactly match the recording, but it wasn’t unusual for us to change things up on the fly. Or maybe I just didn’t read the set list properly. We played three songs that we didn’t often perform—What Might Have Been, The Wars, and Fountain of Light. I’ve always thought Fountain of Light was among my better songs, maybe because of how it happened. I was struggling with something in the studio, so I just took a break and went off to the side with my guitar to decompress. And in one uninterrupted go, out came this song, exactly like it is on the record. I recorded it right then and there. Creepy. That had never happened to me before, and it’s never happened to me since.

Set List


Flecton Big Sky
Flecton Big Sky and The Dreamcatchers | Kaffé 1870 23.10.2009


Bloomistry Live at Westfest | 12.06.2010

Screen Shot 2015-03-26 at 4.44.34 PM

Bloomistry live at Westfest, Ottawa, Canada. June 12, 2010

Soundboard recording, MP3 (320 kbps). Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.

Westfest is a yearly Ottawa music festival started by Elaina Martin. In 2010, I had the privilege of being invited by Elaina to play on the Saturday night slot, with Sloan headlining. The weather was perfect and the sound was great, although with this recording (taken from the soundboard) the instruments are a bit unbalanced and you can’t hear the audience. We didn’t get a sound check, so on the first song the engineer is figuring out the levels. Hang in, it gets better. For what it’s worth, on stage the sound was a great, big stadium sound.

By this point To Be had been out for around 8 months and we had a well-established set list drawn from 6 albums and a bunch of other, unreleased material. We rotated songs in and out to keep it fresh. I think we had about 30 songs in total that were stage-ready, plus a few rarities that we threw in on special nights like this. For Westfest we played Hook & Eye, a song we hardly ever played. I think we may have even rehearsed it specifically for this show.

It was a great day, and one of the Bloomistry highlights of 2010. Enjoy.


Introduction: Amanda Putz, CBC Bandwidth

1. Trigger of Your Soul
2. As Far As Wheels Go
3. Wrecking Ball
4. Late Bloom
5. The All About A Girl
6. Four Leaf Clover
7. Feet On The Mountain
8. Hook & Eye
9. Come Down Easy
10. Unlucky at Luck


Bloomistry, “Late Bloom” (2015 Remaster)


The third Bloomistry album, Late Bloom, was recorded from January 4 to March 31, 2007 and released on August 28—14 months after its predecessor, Ca Marche. In the coming 14 months, there would be three more albums worth of new Bloomistry material. This was the “bloom” to which the title referred.

As the preceeding suggests, this would be the most autobiographical of the early Bloomistry records. The opening track, Late Bloom, rehearses the project’s background: “It started years ago, in a basement in our town.” It was the 1980s, the town was St. Catharines, and I was in a band called The Shade, hauling a Fender Dual Showman amp head that my cousin Al had integrated into a customized maple cabinet. (The song mentions a Fender Twin, but my Showman was just as back-breaking all the same). The next track, When Time Was on Fire, recalls the same period. Come Down Easy takes an ironic and self-deprecating look at the musical aspirations of those days: “Your face/Never on a magazine/You never made the hipster scene.” This is rock and roll seen from my 42-year-old perspective.

I asked my friend Ken McClelland to do the piano overdubs. We were in The Shade together, and it meant a lot to me that this nostalgia album of mine would have him on it. I felt like I was doing with Bloomistry what I’d been unable to do with The Shade: find my voice and my own writing style. “Oh well—better late than never” was the basic philosophy of this record.

(Ken’s parts were recorded on Sunday, March 4, 2007. That’s him playing the organ and piano on the songs Late Bloom, When Time Was on Fire, and Walk On. I especially love the piano at the end of When Time Was on Fire: so, so simple, and yet I can’t imagine the song without it.)

All of the Bloomistry albums were recorded in my basement home studio, often between midnight and 3 am, at very low cost, with me playing all the instruments, unless otherwise noted. Bloomistry albums are all lo-fi (I actually consider them demos and hope to re-record the better songs one day with a professional studio band) but with Late Bloom the production took a step forward.

It was also at this time that I performed the songs live for the first time, in a pub called The Manx. It would be over a year before I formed a band, with Ottawa musicians Dmitri Koev, Terry Calder and Scott Terry (on drums, later replaced by Simon Meilleur). But the band never recorded, even though that was my eventual plan: all the albums were solo projects, made in the same Hull, Quebec basement studio.

Late Bloom was mixed on April 14–15, 2007 by engineer Dave Draves (who also overdubbed, while mixing, the Vox organ on Hook and Eye and the Mellotron vibraphone on Interstate) and released on August 28.


1. Late Bloom
2. When Time Was On Fire
3. Come Down Easy
4. Walk On
5. Left Behind
6. Sault Ste Marie
7. Hook and Eye
8. Bone Club
9. Interstate

Bloomistry, “Laketown” (2015 Remaster)


In theory, Laketown was the 7th Bloomistry album. It quickly followed To Be, with recording taking place on August 21–23, 2009. But with To Be absorbing most of my attention, and getting all the promotional focus, Laketown remained in the background. It was lost in the flurry. In fact, I raided it for three songs to put on To Be: Wine and Women, On Top of the World, and To The Bottom.

The sessions for To Be—from February 16 to August 9—were long, drawn-out, and frustrating. Enough material was recorded for three or four albums, but much of it was unreleasable. Many of the songs simply didn’t work, for one reason or another. The irony is that I was being really ambitious on To Be, writing songs with key changes and odd time signatures  and movements. It was my prog-rock album! But the songs that were making me crazy were the three-minute, conventional pop tunes. Some I abandoned, others I re-recorded from the ground up, two or three or more times. One of those songs was Fallen Leaves, picked up once again for the Laketown session. The version on this album is one of many, and while this song never quite came together, the idea never lost its interest. I am still wondering how to get that one right. It’ll be amazing when I do.

This album was a return to the approach of All I Know Is The Skin Of The Earth—making a record in a marathon weekend session. After the exhausting mess of To Be, the appeal of the recording studio had somewhat diminished. I didn’t want ten months of pain—a weekend was enough. The record was also in a sense a return to the first Bloomistry album, Galetta Street Wharf, which has always had a soft spot in my heart. Both were based on a fictional town, and both were made without any concern for conforming to an overall album style or genre. As a result, Laketown ranges in style from rock to country. At 18 seconds in length, the final song “In Summary….” is a musical jest as well as a Reader’s Digest take on pop music: “I love her, but she don’t love me.”

Laketown is uneven and rough, and some of it makes me cringe, but it features three gems in Port Aurora, Fear, and Another Day. It was mixed by Dave Draves on September 8, 2009, two weeks before the mastering of To Be on September 22, at Bova Sound studio.


1. Beautiful Posers
2. Over and Under
3. Fallen Leaves
4. Fear
5. Another Day
6. Port Aurora
7. Deep As a River
8. Wake Up
9. In Summary….

Bloomistry, “At The End Of A Difficult Day” (2015 Remaster)


Recording of the 5th Bloomistry album began on Wednesday, November 21, 2007, at The Underground in Hull, Quebec—three months after the previous album, All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth, was completed.

The working title of this record, The All American Five, provides a clue to the approach of these sessions. “The All American Five” refers to the tubes commonly found in US-made tube radios, and that’s what this album was intended to be: an American record, grounded in American sensibilities and sounds. Also, I was a gear junkie at this point, buying vintage amps on eBay. So I knew a lot about vacuum tubes.

Everything Bloomistry was tongue-in-cheek. So of course I opened my Americana album with a quintessentially British snippet from the Beatles 1965 Rubber Soul sessions. At the time The All American Five was being recorded, I was reading Mark Lewisohn’s The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions and listening to the four-track sessions of the Beatles early recordings. I really got into studio work in a big way. The intro to “Has Been Blues,” which I recorded on May 26, 2008, features a Scouse exchange between John Lennon and a recording engineer I lifted from the 4-track beds for the song “Run For your Life” (“Okay boys?” “Okay Johnny!”). The reference pays tribute to the album that came out the week I was born—also, coincidentally the album that made me want to record music.

The previous album, All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth, was recorded over a weekend. At The End Of A Difficult Day, as it finally came to be known, was finished in 10 months, on September 21, 2008. On that day, tuba and piano overdubs were added to the track “Diane,” and the album was mixed by Dave Draves two months later, at Little Bullhorn, on November 21 and December 2, 2008.

Beginning with the album At The End Of A Difficult Day, Bloomistry recording sessions tended to be chaotic, multi-tasking affairs. Several parallel records were conceived and in the works during this period, including two recorded but unreleased EPs—one called Yes! and a second with Ottawa musician and friend Flecton Big Sky, recorded on December 14, 2007. This would be even more the case with the next album, To Be.

Despite the chaos, At The End Of A Difficult Day is, I think, one of the most cohesive and focused Bloomistry albums. It would also feature, as its closing track, the song I consider my best. I remember listening to the mix of River Wide Road for the first time and being blown away by what Dave did with it. I also really like the lyrics. They’re playful, ironic, and clever—but also a fundamentally sad reflection on the reality of disappointment:

You know, the poets had it right:
They left it to their verses,
And either filled their beds at night
Or filled their lead with curses.
I guess there’s many ways to cope with bitter sorrow,
And when you’ve had enough of hope
There’s always hoping for tomorrow.


1. Has-Been Blues
2. I Guess I’ll Need A Miracle
3. You’re So Lyrical
4. Over The Moon
5. Near You
6. Symphony For The Street
7. Ragged Doll
8. My Meija
9. Diane
10. The Majesty
11. Sunday Afternoon
12. River Wide Road

Bloomistry, “All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth” (2015 Remaster)

Bloomistry Cover

2007–2008 was an incredibly productive musical year for me. Recorded over three days (August 17–19, 2007), All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth was the 4th full-length Bloomistry album, following Late Bloom by only a few months. By the fall of 2008, a fifth album—At the End of a Difficult Day—would be finished.

Late Bloom was an album about returning to recording and live performance at age 40, after a long hiatus. All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth is a line from a Pablo Neruda poem. The working title, A City Like Me, reflected a growing desire to find a new place to call home. I was getting sick of Ottawa. Also, most of the songs for this album were written in hotel rooms, as was the case with Ca Marche and Late Bloom, adding to the album’s overall feel of restlessness.

All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth was made in a weekend marathon session and recorded to eight-track tape. That’s the best way to do it, in my opinion. The most focused and ambitious of my first four Bloomistry albums, it was self-consciously retro, featuring 60s instruments including most notably the combo organ. I imagined myself playing the soundtrack to a hip movie in 1962, kind of like Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Phil Bova mixed and mastered the record at Bova Sound, in Ottawa, on March 24–25, 2008. This remaster builds on this earlier version.

The album began as a series of stories told by characters (the pirate of “Sand and Sea,” the Casanova of “Bitter Sense of Melody” and the eponymous Undertaker) and in some cases real people that I knew. “On the Western Trail” tells the true story of an acquaintance of mine who was taken to Spain—kidnapped I would say—by the country’s poet laureate. “Higher Cloud” rehearses the sad story of Harold Funk, an attorney who suffered from mental illness and became a local legend by putting conspiratorial leaflets on the car windshields of Ottawa. There is an actual recording of Funk shouting at the US Embassy that I made on my walk to work one day and mixed into the song’s bridge.

All I Know Is the Skin of the Earth came closest to perfecting the post-punk, 60s-pop blend that was my aspiration. The next album would explore Americana, turning to lap steel guitars, banjo, Les Pauls and 50s amps and instruments. I regard this album as my best work. It was massive fun to make, and when it was done I had the best sushi dinner ever, at Wasabi in Ottawa.


1. The Found Cause
2. Via Maria
3. Another Other Life
4. The All About A Girl
5. Winter’s Summer Song
6. On The Western Trail
7. Sand And Sea
8. Mosquito
9. Bitter Sense of Melody
10. A City Like Me
11. Higher Cloud
12. Beatrice
13. With The Violins
14. The Undertaker

Bloomistry Live at Zaphod | 03.15.2010


Bloomistry live at Zaphod, Ottawa, Canada. March 15, 2010

Soundboard recording, MP3 (320 kbps). Dmitri Koev, bass; Simon Meilleur, drums; Terry Calder, guitar, b. vocal; Wayne K. Spear, guitar, vocal.


1. Trigger of Your Soul
2. As Far As Wheels Go
3. Wrecking Ball
4. Wine and Women
5. The All About A Girl
6. Feet On The Mountain
7. Interstate
8. Late Bloom
9. Come Down Easy
10. Unlucky at Luck


Show notes. Bloomistry played Zaphod numerous times over the years, often on the “Showcase Monday” evenings. There was a band legend that Zaphod carried a curse: it was several Zaphod shows before the whole band was able to be on-stage together for a show. On previous occasions, illness and accidents struck a band member. For one of the Zaphod shows, Dmitri was ill. Simon cut the end off a finger and was unable to play the drums for another (Terry played the drums for that show). So by the time the four band members took the stage for the first time, on March 15, 2010, there had already been several Zaphod Bloomistry shows, including a solo show I played to open for a promising young band called James and Blackburn (I think). Wonder where they are now? The show was captured by Tom Stewart, a great guy and a great sound engineer. This show features two tracks from the new (at that time) record To Be, “Feet On The Mountain” and “Wine and Women” (a song whose lyrics are taken from John Donne’s 17th-century poem “Song: Go and catch a falling star).” This evening was the first and possibly only public performance of the latter. I was in a great mood that night and remember having a blast. Live music is the best drug.




Twelve things Millennials have amazingly never experienced


Seeing a movie once, and only once, forever

Before the mass adoption of video home systems (VHS) in the early 1980s, the only place you’d see a movie was in the theatre, and the only time you’d see it was at the time of its release. Sure, you could go back to the theatre during the two weeks it was playing, and see it again and again. If the movie was unusually popular, it might be held over for as long as a month. Eventually the screening would end, and the movie would disappear into a black hole with no plan or expectation of a re-release. There was no option of renting or streaming. And since sequels (and prequels) have become commonplace only in the last couple of decades, chances are there would be no revisiting of the story, ever. You’d move on to the next movie, and your recollections would be the only thing you’d have.

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