The Roots of Canadian Rock - 1970 to 1982
PART I: THE LABEL
Daffodil Records was conceived in the Penthouse Suite of the Playboy Club in London, England on July 16th 1969.
It was a strange ‘union’ indeed - an Aussie music journalist, an Arkansas rockabilly star, and an English record company ‘management-trainee’- planning the formation of a Canadian independent record label, with international ambitions, out of the UK.
It was born of a friendship between Ritchie Yorke, the Aussie, and myself that had existed for a few years before this eventful meeting at Hugh Hefner’s pad in swinging London. Ritchie and I first met in 1966 while I was at EMI Records, the largest record company in the world at that time. He was the UK representative for Australia’s Sunshine Records and its biggest star, Australian Hall of Fame inductee Normie Rowe, as well as a freelance journalist for various international music publications. As was his wont, Ritchie was constantly on the hustle for the latest stories and pictures of England’s hottest acts, and I was fortunate to be working in the international division of the hottest label on earth and therefore able to provide them.
My job was marketing EMI’s vast array of English-based recording artists to the company’s affiliates around the world and to the international media. This included providing international journalists, DJs and TV producers with press packages, producing a weekly radio show called “Stars on Wings”, and setting up interviews with EMI’s star acts like the Beatles, the Hollies, Pink Floyd, the Yardbirds, Dave Clark 5 and many others. I also co-ordinated promotional television appearances and tours for the roster as well as the visiting international (read ‘American’) acts represented by EMI in Europe - back then global pop music was driven almost exclusively by these two countries alone. I was enamoured by music and the industry making it. I took out my first subscription to Billboard in 1959 at age 13 while attending English boarding school and later began my music career in France by writing for this international trade music ‘bible’ from 1964 to 1966.
But it was now the Summer of 69. What a time that was! Just one month before Woodstock (August 15-17) – and also the peak of an unparalleled period of creative and cultural growth in the UK. As Withnail later mused on the moment “They’re selling hippy wigs in Woolworth’s, man. The greatest decade in the history of mankind is over…….and…. we have failed to paint it black”. England not only ‘swung’ in most every sense imaginable, it ‘ruled’ - musically and creatively. It was indeed “a wonderful time to be young and in love”.
And if you were young and motivated, suddenly anything and everything was possible (plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose). If you were an Englishman to boot, and in music, your accent alone magically opened doors for you in North America within the business. It provided instant street ‘cred’ - earned or not.
I had three main ambitions in the music business: one to work in America (I generally loved ‘American’ music more than the English music scene I was part of – Dylan, the Band, CSNY, Motown, Ray Charles etc, American folkmusic - and yes, I was shortly to learn that what I thought of as ‘American’ wasn’t in fact always so - frequently being Canadian); the second - to actually ‘produce’ the artists that I discovered and signed because I was convinced I had an uncanny ability for predicting hit songs – borne from years of religiously watching and digesting the charts, Top of the Pops and Juke Box Jury; and finally, to create a label that had the taste, music, image, and credibility of Island Records. It all sounded simple really. But never so simple in practice!
I had experimented with some production in England in 1968 with a group called the Bunch of Fives and a guitarist and protégé of the great Spanish maestro Segovia - Miles Dempster. Other than that my production experience (apart from sitting in on numerous Abbey Road sessions by the likes of the Hollies, Swinging Blue Jeans, and Cilla Black) was zero. I was not an engineer or a musician, but fortunately this was the era of Mickie Most, Larry Page, Andrew Oldham, Phil Spector – producers who relied on their gut instincts, personal taste, and just ‘knowing’ what hit songs were, more than a knowledge of music theory itself.
On the Island Records aspect of my ambitions, I did know Chris Blackwell slightly, courtesy of Ritchie, and already loved their music, their label, their jacket designs, and overall ‘cool’ factor. I had actually been presented with the opportunity of road-managing the wonderful Spencer Davis Group (fronted by Stevie Winwood) by Chris, as a result of that first meeting at his tiny offices on Oxford Street in 1968. As I recall, Island had perhaps 5 employees at that point in its existence, including David Betteridge who became a good friend in the business and who continued managing the Island operation for Chris for many years.
Of all the great English groups I went to see at the Marquee in the sixties, the SDG certainly left the most indelible mark. Stevie’s brother Muff (SDG’s bass player), who later became a leading A&R guy in the UK record business, also remained a good pair of ears for various future projects of mine. I was to reconnect with Chris and the label a few years later by playing a part in his launch of Island Records as an independent in North America, following many successful years as a licensed label – but more on that later.
So, back to the 1969 meeting at the Playboy - where Ronnie and Ritchie had taken up temporary residence. Ritchie by this time was living in Canada and this trip back to London was to accompany the infamous Rompin’ Ronnie Hawkins (he of Arkansas birth) on a promotional trip - combining the release of The Hawk’s Atlantic Record’s debut produced by Jerry Wexler, alongside spreading John Lennon’s message “War Is Over: If You Want It - Give Peace A Chance” ideology. John and Yoko had spent time at the Hawk’s place outside Toronto and had made believers of Hawkins, and Ritchie particularly, in their campaign for peace. Ritchie later organised the meetings with Pierre Trudeau and other political figures during the infamous Montreal hotel bed-in that grabbed worldwide headlines for John and Yoko. Even as I write this, Ritchie is completing a book, with Yoko’s blessing and support, on the incredible efforts the couple made to make a difference and make a change in the universal attitude to war.
The plan we discussed was for me to run this label we would create, and to produce and publish the artists we signed, while Ronnie would be a scout and artist-magnet and provide start-up funds and offices for the venture. Ronnie’s lawyer John Finlay would take care of all the legals, and we would bend the ears of our mutual friend and catalyst, Ritchie, to hopefully say nice things in the press about all the acts we signed.
Later that year, on December 27th 1969, after he and Ronnie had spent time back in Canada discussing our UK meeting and the plans emanating from it, Ritchie called from Toronto to tell me that the stage was set - Ronnie was ‘in’ - and that I should come over to Canada to sit down and work out the specifics and see how I liked the country.
I arrived in Canada in February 1970 when “All Right Now” by Free (on Island Records) was the #1 record in the UK and “Thank You” by Sly & The Family Stone was #1 Stateside (and incidentally “No Time” by the Guess Who was #6!). I stayed with Ritchie and his first wife Annette – a photographer and an Aussie too. This was to be a trial trip for me, though the ‘trial’ ended shortly after touching down in Toronto (courtesy of the now long-defunct Caledonian Airways) by turning quickly to love at first sight. My first time ever in North America and in the middle of a Canadian winter – what a thrill!
It just so happened it was glorious weather, warm and sunny and I wondered what all the ‘freezing-fuss’ was about as I spent several weeks with the Yorkes getting to meet the surprisingly few people in the Canadian industry back then, and getting to know this ‘provincial’ town which was a far cry from the cosmopolitan/multicultural city it is today.
We checked out a lot of the local talent; which was, to paraphrase Billy Joe Shaver, a real, raw, passionate ‘sackful’ of coal that was destined to be diamonds someday. Great players, steeped in a unique hybrid of tight, white r’n’b grooves and rock’n’roll soul and confined to hundreds of small, funky, dirty Ontario clubs and bars where they honed their considerable talents. I went to the first ever Juno Awards held at St. Lawrence Hall on February 23rd and attended by a small group of local industry execs and recording artists.
Ritchie and I spent the next few years wondering why Canadians were such wimps about their weather. We flaunted the cold – wearing T-shirts in midwinter and spending as much time outside and in the country as we could. Indeed just a year after arriving in Canada the Yorkes and I decided to head for Hudson Bay (Moosonee) to experience the real Canada, on a train ride to beat them all. It was novel to us back then, but now that I am a ‘real’ Canadian ‘habitant’, so to speak - having experienced 38 such winters - I do understand better what the whining was all about! And so does Ritchie, who conveniently headed back to subtropical Brisbane in the mid-1980s with his second wife Christine!
Ronnie’s back-up band And Many Others, who had replaced the recently departed Hawks (they’d gone to Woodstock with Dylan - but were now known as The Band), had already started fooling around (literally) in Terry Brown and Doug Riley’s Toronto Sound Studios (previously Revolution Studios) by the time I arrived. I immediately found myself thrown into the deep end as their producer during this ‘exploratory visit’, embarking on a full scale production to complete an album (“Official Music”) forthwith.
Ronnie renamed the group ‘Crowbar’ shortly after they split from him, as a dual reference to the nature of its members (“They could fuck up a crowbar in 10 seconds flat!’’) and its ‘dangerously disruptive’ live show. When the King Biscuit Boy, who had been Ronnie’s harmonica player and sometimes lead vocalist, also then left him, the collective group became King Biscuit Boy with Crowbar. ‘Biscuit’s’ real name was Richard Newell. Ronnie had given him the ‘Biscuit’ moniker after a flour mill-sponsored radio program out of Helena, Arkansas.
My first business meeting during the February 1970 trip was with then President of Capitol Records – Ron Plumb. Capitol was my first choice because of course it was owned by my ‘Alma Mater’, EMI Records UK. I had also had a number of dealings with its U.S sister company while still in England, as well as with Capitol Canada’s A&R head – Paul White - who would send me acts like the Staccatos (later the Five Man Electrical Band) to check out for possible European release.
I explained our plan for the label to Plumb and he seemed interested despite the fact that no Canadian independent label had ever been distributed by a ‘major’ before. By the time I returned to the UK to get my immigration papers, and headed back to Canada in the late spring of 1970 Ron was on the brink of retirement and was being replaced by Arnold Gosewich, the owner of a record store chain in Ottawa who had just sold his stores to Capitol and was to become President of the label.
Arnold embraced the idea of a Canadian indie label which would find, sign, produce and develop its own acts, while Capitol would provide the marketing and distribution for it. Arnold felt that having a young entrepreneur from the UK with some EMI credibility and experience to head it up, along with Ronnie’s notoriety and local fame to act as its ‘flagbearer’, and with the initial exposure in Billboard and elsewhere that Ritchie had already accorded us, was a good combination and he agreed to the deal.
And so Daffodil, named as a symbol of spring and new beginnings (not to forget its personal connection as the national flower of Wales, my motherland), two publishing companies - Freewheeled Music and Love-Lies-Bleeding Music (both named in homage to my musical inspiration Dylan), Love Management (a management division), and LOVE Productions Limited, the parent company of them all, were now officially in business. LOVE was actually formally ‘born’ (incorporated) on May 7th 1970.
We left ourselves free to licence or sell our product in the rest of the world, as we saw fit. We produced our first album “Official Music” for about $6000 and all on credit - thank you Terry and Doug for giving us that valuable breathing room to pay the bills!
We signed the label deal with Capitol, and moved into the Hawks Nest at 331 Yonge Street in Toronto, where the HMV flagship store now stands today. It was Ronnie’s office, gym, and boxing ring, as well as the general hangout for most local and visiting artists - including Ted Nugent who would sleep in my office on his trips up from Detroit, and ‘Spirit’ (she of Strawberry Fields notoriety), among many others.
Not long after finishing Official Music, I assigned the rights to the album (and future options for the artist) to the recently formed and then ‘hot’ U.S label Paramount Records for the world, excluding Canada and Australasia. We had already set up a label deal for our product downunder through Festival Records in what I believe was the first ever Canadian label distribution deal outside Canada.
By the end of 1970, not much more than six months after startup, the first major change to the label’s structure occurred when I acquired Ronnie and his lawyer John Finlay’s interest in the company. Our plans for Ronnie’s involvement had been over-optimistic. He had his own career as an artist that was all-consuming at that moment, and the funds he had planned to invest in the label never materialised. So for $10,000 he and Finlay agreed to sell me their shares, and shortly thereafter Daffodil officially moved out of the Hawk’s Nest and into the Capitol Records building on American Drive near Toronto’s international airport – into what became EMI’s A&R office suite right to the end of 2008.
Through an introduction from Ritchie, I had engaged a lawyer - Peter Steinmetz - to represent the label’s future legal interests, since Finlay was really Ronnie’s man, and in so doing somewhat unconsciously introduced Peter, a young, ambitious and already ascending corporate lawyer, into a lifetime career in the music and entertainment business – from which platform, fortunately for the emerging Canadian industry, he has carved out an illustrious career, and place, in this country’s entertainment business history.
Things then started to move so fast that it is hard for me to comprehend how we did it all, looking back these many years later. But no less than 39 separate business trips that I took both within Canada and internationally during those first two years after moving to Canada perhaps attest to just what we were intending to accomplish, and the energy and drive we mustered to do so.
These trips included 18 separate visits to New York, 4 to Europe, 11 to Canadian destinations, and 6 to other U.S cities all within that 24 month period. And this for someone coming from a business culture where I had to actually pay for my own business trips to France, Belgium, and Scandinavia initially as a EMI UK trainee – because only Assistant and full Managers’ trips were then paid for by the company. Indeed, as a sign of those times, it is interesting to note that George Martin and the other senior A&R guys at Manchester Square (like Ron Richards, John Burgess, Norman Newell, Norrie Paramor, Bob Barratt) were not even credited on the records they produced back then, and EMI’s standard artist contracts were just two pages long!
My new travelling regime was being done while simultaneously producing albums, managing and publishing most of the acts, and running the fledgling record label out of my one bedroom Warren Road apartment, all with a total paid staff of one – Marlene Duhacek - and her not until March 1971. This was accomplished through the dedicated and committed involvement of Peter, as lawyer and confidante, and the generous and liberal time spent by Ritchie in helping with many of the PR, Press, and Promotional concepts for the acts signed in that first couple of years. He was not dubbed ‘Supergrease’ for nothing!
I started signing other artists to the label – almost all of whom (like KBB & Crowbar) we managed and published too, and most of whom I also produced. These artists were all Canadian, including the next artist signing in 1971 - the Oshawa progressive hardrock group Christmas, formed from the San Francisco-inspired, psychedelic group Reign Ghost - featuring a certain Lynda Squires as its lead singer on their two previously released albums. Lynda shortly after became my wife. We honeymooned in Montreal while attending one of the innovative Maple Music Junket concerts put on for Europe’s press elite who had been specially flown in for the occasion.
This signing was later followed by the heavy melodic A Foot In Coldwater (1972), pop/glamrock band Fludd in 1973 (managed by William ‘Skinny’ Tenn and self-published), folksinger Joe Probst (1973), singer- songwriter Tom Cochrane (1973), the multi-dimensional concept band Klaatu (1974), the George Martin-produced renaissance music ensemble the Huggett Family (1974), and progressive jazz-rock group Dillinger (1975), who later morphed into the hardrock Hunt.
We also released a number of singles by various other artists during these years – simply as one-offs or with the hope of singles leading to albums. And in certain cases we licensed our productions to other Canadian labels rather than release them on Daffodil.
We did make a significant foreign signing in this period – the Spanish arranger/conductor Waldo De Los Rios (whose albums featured well known classical music pieces recorded with a rock band and the Madrid Symphony Orchestra). Waldo gave Daffodil our first Platinum album in 1971.
In the summer of 1972 I got a visit from one of Capitol’s young warehouse staff who came to tell me how much he admired what the label was doing and that he’d love to work for us. When I explained that we had absolutely no funds to employ anybody right then but would hopefully be in a position to do so in a year or two, he offered to work for nothing for a few months until we could then afford to pay him ‘something’, anything. And he did! And he of Scottish origin? Amazing! That sort of commitment was an early sign of what was to become an unparalleled career in the Canadian record industry.
So just two weeks before Christmas, a still teenage Deane Cameron got officially added to our payroll as Production Manager. His energy, enthusiasm, and his love of music and the business of making it bode well for his future all those years ago. In fact recently Deane not only celebrated 30 years of continuous work for Capitol/EMI - he returned to Capitol in 1977 after Daffodil’s A&M and GRT distribution years - but he also celebrated 20 years as the company’s youngest ever President. While at Daffodil, it was Deane that introduced me to his former high school bandmate - Tom Cochrane.
By the end of 1972, with an artist roster then boasting A Foot In Coldwater, Christmas, Waldo and others joining the King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar, we felt Daffodil was on course to become the ‘new’ Island, or the next Chrysalis (another more recently successful English label that also became a major inspiration to me for its tasteful and musical take on everything it did – from jacket covers to marketing its acts).
Our confidence was high.
We had Clive Davis and Ron Alexenburg at CBS Records in New York proposing a U.S label deal for us, after overtly trying to woo three of our artists away from us via their Canadian operation. They did later end up getting two of them to sign directly to their U.S labels (Epic and Columbia) after our label deal negotiations fizzled out! At the same time the late Bob Guccione wanted several of our acts for his newly formed Penthouse Records venture.
Our very first two album releases had both made the U.S bestseller charts (not to mention the Canadian recognition they had already garnered); we had no less than three of Capitol’s top 6 best-selling albums; and with the generally incredible press our releases were being accorded by the leading music publications of the day - from Rolling Stone, to Creem, Fusion, Crawdaddy, the L.A Times, NME, the Village Voice and everything in between - we felt we had it all. And we did…………. except the money to keep it going!
By early 1973 it was clear Daffodil was over-extended financially. We were trying to conquer the world on credit, and the goodwill of creditors who believed in us; and being in an era when rock’n’roll was not taken seriously as a business in Canada – more as a target of envy and derision by the ‘establishment’ – we could not access bank loans or secure credit facilities or even venture capital money, try as hard as we did to do so. Peter Steinmetz and I scoured the Bay Street universe and beyond for financial assistance throughout 1973; but ultimately with no success. In late June I advised my small staff that if Daffodil had not secured any financing by the end of July I’d have to close the company down until we did.
Peter then made the vital connection through one of the articling students at his law firm of Cassels Brock & Blackwell. The student was William O.S (a/k/a Wild Billy) Ballard, top of his class at the prominent Osgoode Hall law school and son of the Toronto Maple Leafs owner Harold Ballard. Bill had heard about this ‘happening’ new record label Peter represented, and its search for money, and met with me on September 24th 1973. Bill then had me meet with his father Harold Ballard and Maple Leaf Gardens CFO Donald Crump on November 21st to discuss the possibility further. When he mentioned that meeting to his best friend Myron Wolfe (of the Oshawa Group supermarket family), and that both the King Biscuit Boy and Crowbar were acts on the label, the fates interceded.
Myron, being the blues afficionado that he was (and is), already had albums by both acts in his collection, and among his favourites, so he and Bill met with me in early December to see how they could help. And so they did!
Together with Bill’s partner in concert promotion, Michael Cohl (through the fledgling company CPI that they jointly owned), the three of them took a position in Daffodil by providing debt financing to us; and generously allowed me to retain a majority interest in the future of it. It is interesting to note (and speaks much of the times that existed then in Canada), that outside of these young entrepreneurs our most interested potential investor had been the First National Bank of Chicago!
One of the casualties of these cashflow problems, was having to permanently shelve two important projects:
“Save The Seals” was an album we had put together painstakingly over the course of more than a year and with some wonderfully big-hearted, generous and unique contributions. We were readying its release on Daffodil just as we ran into difficulty. This was a not-for-profit effort to generate funds for the World Wildlife Fund, and to create public awareness for the plight of the seal pups and their mothers on Canada’s east coast. Long before Paul McCartney and Heather Mills got into the fray some 30+ years later, people like Farley Mowatt, Brigitte Bardot and Brian Davies (particularly), were incensed about the mindless, merciless, and inhumane slaughter of baby seals on the ice floes around the coastline of our modern, ‘civilised’ country for their beautiful, untainted fur. These courageous individuals were pushing for a worldwide condemnation and ban of this practice. We agreed with their stance and wanted to do something about it in a way we knew best - through music and internationally recognised artists.
Artists like Steve Winwood, comedian Spike Milligan (the Goons), Rolf Harris, Procol Harum’s lyricist Keith Reid, songwriter Sammy Cahn, film-maker Harry Saltzman, Traffic, Stephen Stills, David Clayton-Thomas, and others contributed music, spoken poems, short plays, and words to the project. I was able to secure written contributions from Lord (Roy) Thomson of Fleet and Sir Peter Scott, Chairman of the World Wildlife Fund -who also agreed to write the liner notes - after personal meetings with them both in London. The Black Star photo agency provided a stunning front cover image. I still have all of their contributions and of course, ironically, the problem that spawned the idea in the first place is still with us.
The second project that fell victim to our insolvency was Miles Dempster, a superb young classical guitarist from England, but then living in Mexico, who had been a protégé of Segovia in Spain and with whom I intended to create a concept album using multilayered, overdub techniques previously unemployed in the world of the classical guitar. This approach was extremely difficult for anyone but the most disciplined technician and disciple of the instrument to execute. Miles and I experimented with the idea at Toronto Sound and to the limited extent we did, the results were striking.
So with the new funding now secured from our intrepid investors Daffodil got back into completing the production of the second album by Christmas – by then renamed the Spirit of Christmas and with a new lead singer - which had been in hiatus during my search for money.
Billy Ballard and Myron Wolfe remained as shareholders (along with Peter Steinmetz and CPI) right up to the final sale I made of the company’s masters in 1996, but more importantly than that, they have all remained ‘lifelong’ friends.
In between the two Capitol licensed label deals - from 1970 to 1974 and again from 1978 to 1982 - Daffodil secured a P&D deal with Gerry Lacoursiere and Joe Summers at A&M for one year in 1974/5, and then a three year licensed-label deal with Ross Reynolds at GRT Canada from 1975-78.
The reason for the A&M deal was multifold – but was led principally by the leftfield success we had, through Capitol’s distribution, with the artist Waldo De Los Rios - licensed to us by Hispavox Records in the artist’s native Spain. Ritchie had been working with Hispavox helping publicize their very successful pop artist Miguel Rios (not related) in America. Miguel’s producer Rafael Trabucchelli used Waldo (who he also produced) to score and conduct the orchestra for Miguel’s records. Hispavox had played Ritchie the first orchestral album (Sinfonias) by Waldo which was a beautifully produced and arranged pop rendition of various great classical pieces, using orchestra and rock band; and after Ritchie turned me on to it, Daffodil acquired the Canadian rights to the album along with Waldo’s future output.
Much against Capitol’s wishes we released the then unknown - outside of Spain - artist and album (“Sinfonias”) in Canada and met with incredible radio response out of the box (led by Art Collins at CFRB) and consumer reaction followed quickly. Capitol’s marketing team had been convinced that there was no sales potential for such a hybrid of rock and classical music and refused to release it initially, let alone devote any funds to the marketing of it. After a Mexican-standoff that held up the release, Daffodil offered to cover all of Capitol’s marketing and manufacturing costs. Capitol relented and somewhat begrudgingly put the album out. I think they were so taken with the degree of our belief in it they capitulated just to save the relationship. We were both glad they did. The album went ‘platinum’ in Canada and by the time we were preparing its follow-up, Mozartmania, the first album had also hit the charts in the U.S. Mozartmania which came out on 15/10/71 was also a platinum record for us and two further Waldo albums we released (Operas, and Christmas with Waldo) went ‘gold’ as well - and a fifth (Great Movie Themes) almost got there. Needless to say, Capitol never did charge us back for those marketing costs!
So with that success, combined with the buzz and international releases we had created for our own Canadian acts, along with the distribution rights to the Immediate Records catalogue which had also done well for us, we decided we had the sales base to actually start making money by going the P&D (Pressing and Distribution only) route.
P&D deals meant a bigger share of the profits for labels, since their distributors were only required to press and distribute the product – not record it, market it, or promote it. Waldo’s five albums had fulfilled the initial license deal with Hispavox and we were now in negotiation with them to re-sign another term for Waldo’s future product, in conjunction to moving our label to A&M.
Unfortunately, and here was the first of several pivotal ‘moments’ for us as a label and company, Hispavox chose to sign instead with Warner Music worldwide giving Warner’s Canadian branch the rights here. Certainly Warner’s advances and royalty levels would have probably been higher than what we were capable of offering, but we were stung badly by the decision; particularly after being responsible for breaking the artist in North America in the first place. Ironically those future Warner releases never came anywhere close to matching the sales we had done, and particularly sadly and tragically, Waldo, for reasons unknown to us, took his own life a short while after.
Another such ‘turning point’ for Daffodil - or “Major Interference”, as I called it - and another reason for our move to A&M’s distribution, was an earlier decision by Capitol Canada not to export into the U.S the two Peter Frampton/Steve Marriott-led Humble Pie albums (Town & Country and As Safe As Yesterday Is) that we had acquired from the Immediate Records label in the UK, and that we’d been selling in Canada for some time.
I had made the deal for Immediate with the late Frank Chalmers at EMI in London, who I’d worked with in the 60s. EMI was one of the main creditors of the recently-bankrupted Immediate record label and had worldwide distribution rights to its masters. The label had been created by Andrew Oldham and Tony Calder. They’d built a very ‘cool’ and eclectic artist roster during and after Oldham’s notorious period managing and producing the early Rolling Stones.
Although Humble Pie had gained a solid reputation in the UK and in Canada too, they had remained unsigned in the U.S - despite significant demand from their American fans for their product due to their live touring success there. Sometime after we had released the second of their albums in Canada, A&M in the U.S decided to sign the group. A&M then announced that the band’s first release in America, scheduled for a few months later, would be a double album titled “Lost & Found” - which was in fact our two albums combined. We had U.S importers scrambling to buy our product; requesting almost a quarter million copies of the two albums. These would, of course, have been available to them immediately - months before A&M’s local release. While Daffodil could not contractually manufacture and sell this product directly in the U.S, we were not prohibited from exporting finished product, and this appeared to be a huge potential windfall for the label.
Capitol’s U.S lawyers however felt that exporting this amount of product was contentious and might inflame the already simmering debate about cross-shipping/trans-shipping product into the U.S, as a result of Canada’s lower wholesale prices (and much lower dollar). So they refused to do so. The late John Macleod (Capitol Canada’s VP of Business Affairs at the time) went to bat for us, but to no avail.
It was a costly moment that we had fought hard but unsuccessfully; and the effect of it motivated us to seek greater control of our own destiny, as well as a desire to increase our mark-up on future product sold. Hence the decision to seek a P&D deal (ironically from A&M in Canada), over the license deal with Capitol. And to complicate matters further, we completed this P&D deal with A&M before we found out that Waldo was to be signed to Warner Canada instead of Daffodil.
Around this time in 1974, in conjunction with our new financing and the new agreement with A&M, I made a deal to oversee the launch of Island Records as an independent label in Canada with Chris Blackwell (its owner) and Charlie Nuccio (its U.S President). Island would operate alongside Daffodil in Canada under my direction and would use and share the costs of our now ramped-up staff that I’d taken on to oversee both labels. Island’s product was distributed by Quality initially; and then A&M thereafter, alongside our own.
After just a year, and without Waldo’s platinum sales base to increase our ‘bottomline’ after all, and with still very limited operating funds to pay for the production and marketing of our acts, we had to end the P&D deal with A&M and let go the excellent cross-Canada staff I’d taken on. We moved Daffodil’s distribution on to GRT Canada under a licensing agreement made with Ross Reynolds, GRT’s then President.
The deal with Ross and GRT was a lifesaver at the time. Even though we had managed to rescue Daffodil from imminent bankruptcy, we did not have sufficient ongoing funds to pay me or anyone else a salary, or cover much, if any, of the future recording costs. In exchange for paying me to oversee GRT’s music publishing interests, and handling their artist roster internationally – which included Dan Hill, Ian Thomas, Prism, and Moe Koffman - GRT agreed to fund the ongoing recording costs of Daffodil’s artists on a first-option basis. This required me to convince GRT’s A&R head (Jeff Burns) on an artist-by-artist/project-by-project basis to provide the funding for our future productions, or find it elsewhere.
During the GRT years from 1975-78, we did manage to get the 2nd Dillinger album (“Don’t Lie To The Band”) paid for by a private investor and fan from Detroit, after GRT passed on the act, and then later made a deal with Marty Scott at Jem/Passport in the U.S for an additional three albums by the same group when they changed their line-up and went ‘hard-rock’ as the Hunt. GRT distributed all of these albums for Daffodil in Canada, save for the last Hunt album (which Capitol distributed).
GRT was not prepared to finance an album with Tom Cochrane but did agree to provide funding for two singles – the first was “Softly Walk Away” produced for us by Fred Mollin & Matt Macauley who had just had a huge international hit with Dan Hill’s “Sometimes When We Touch”. This single became Tom’s biggest Top 40 hit on Daffodil, and provided the incentive to GRT to fund another single - “Sail On” - which I asked Terry Brown to produce. TRIVIA: Unbeknownst to almost anybody to this day, Brown used the then unknown Klaatu to back-up Tom on this single.
We also got GRT to record one more single with A Foot In Coldwater – “Midnight Lady” but, as in all these cases, I really needed albums to back up the singles and to get live dates for the artists - in order to keep their careers moving forward. GRT was, somewhat understandably, focused on putting money into its own artist signings where it would be assured of an undivided, larger return. When their American parent went bankrupt just a couple of years after our distribution deal with them ended, and GRT’s Canadian operation had to shut its doors too, it became clearer why.
Most importantly of all though, the work that I did for GRT, and the salary they paid me for it, enabled me to keep working all the Daffodil projects – and most particularly Klaatu. Terry Brown was financing their production through his studio, right up until I secured their U.S deal with Capitol, so that enabled us to be completely autonomous with this very special project. Klaatu’s first two albums (“3:47 EST” and “Hope”) were distributed for us by GRT, and went Platinum and Gold in Canada, respectively.
We moved the label back to Capitol Canada in 1978 in conjunction with an exclusive production deal with Capitol U.S through a new production company I had formed - Partisan Music Productions (the first ever exclusive production deal between a Canadian and a U.S Major). These deals were instigated by Rupert Perry and Deane Cameron at Capitol. The only new albums we released on Daffodil from that point forward were by Klaatu (“Sir Army Suit” and “Endangered Species”) and The Hunt (“Thrill Of The Kill”).
From 1978 onwards no new acts were signed to the Daffodil label while I focused on developing acts for Partisan and Capitol worldwide. Capitol Canada continued to distribute the label until the late eighties at which time I licensed the rights to several Daffodil albums, on an artist-by-artist basis, to various distributors in Canada and the U.S (Stony Plain, Attic, Pacemaker, BEI, Laser’s Edge and Permanent Press). In the mid 1990s I sold all the Daffodil masters to Unidisc in Montreal with the exception of Tom Cochrane’s debut album (Hang On To Your Resistance) which was acquired by Capitol/EMI - Tom’s label from 1975-2005!
Daffodil’s swansong and its very last release was A Foot In Coldwater’s “Keep The Candle Burning”, a track recorded some years before, that I had always felt should have been a single.
This boxset will hopefully achieve the goal of keeping a candle burning for this wonderfully diverse, sometimes eclectic, but always interesting group of talented artists and their work.
Footnote: The Daffodil label and Klaatu – As an independent Canadian label signing and developing some outstanding Canadian artists in the early seventies, Daffodil was constantly fighting insufficient funding and insolvency. It was the very first Canadian label to be distributed by a Major record company in Canada and even though it signed such unique talents as Crowbar, Tom Cochrane, A Foot In Coldwater, the King Biscuit Boy, Christmas and Fludd it was not until Klaatu that the label broke into the upper reaches of the U.S and international record charts.
The royalties that Daffodil derived from its share of Klaatu’s worldwide record sales staved off the labels most precarious financial moments in the mid to late 1970s allowing it to continue on until we ceased signing new artists in the early 80s. Daffodil remained solvent for the rest of its days, courtesy of Klaatu.
In recognition of their role in the label’s survival, and as a very grateful record company president, I had the Daffodil label completely and permanently re-designed in the late nineteen seventies to include the Klaatu sun rising behind the Daffodil emblem – an emblem originally chosen because it represented spring and new beginnings and therefore above all, hope.
“All is lost if one abandons hope”.
The Catalogue - The Stats:
Daffodil put out 61 albums over the twelve years since its launch in 1970 (with an additional two - previously ‘canned’ - being released from the vaults by new owner Unidisc in the 1990s). 31 of those albums were by Canadian artists.
In Canada, 3 of these albums reached Platinum status, and 4 went Gold. The label also released 87 singles, 68 of which were by Canadians. Our production company (‘LOVE’) licensed an additional 9 singles for release by other Canadian labels (Capitol, MTCC, London, Strawberry) - all of which were by Canadian artists.
Paul Naumann, Richard (King Biscuit Boy) Newell, Brian Pilling, Heavy Andrews, Franklyn Boyd, Linda Brown, Fred Burchill, Ralph Cruickshank, Dave Evans, Rick Bell, Doug ‘Doc’ Riley (Dr.Music), Leslie Huggett and Domenic Troiano.