As I listened to all my Vancouver rock albums up until CDs took over, it was inevitable that I heard all of of the Chilliwak albums up to Look In Look Out and the three Collectors albums before it. A live CD of a reconstituted Chilliwack came much later.
I hadn’t played the first Chilliwack album in years but hearing it again told me why I’ve always loved it. It has the energy and intensity of a band with something to prove, maybe to itself if no one else.
Without the recollection of Bill Henderson , who stalwartly is on all of these albums, leading the band through its permutations, configurations and several record labels, I can only guess at what became the first album.
After two albums (a third is a compilation released by Edsel in England), singer Howie Vickers left the band and two Howie-less singles did nothing. The singles featured the four-piece that became Chillwack: Henderson, Claire Lawrence, Ross Turney and Glenn Miller. They might have figured that without Howie, the Collectors isn’t really the Collectors . A new name would mean a fresh start, a new perspective, be a new band.
So, Chillwack it was. Let a grand experiment begin.
There is a trace of the Collectors, most obviously in their revisit of Seventeenth Summer , and how it has amalgamated folk and jazz, which is more pronounced in Lawrenc’s Chain Train. Opener, Sunrise, just burns and has blues elements that also can be heard on Miller’s I Got You Fixed . The album closes with Raino, which over the years has been a signature and also is statement, a reason for being. “If there’s no audience; there ain’t no show.”
What’s been nagging me for years is that this album might have influenced Led Zeppilin’s second album.
This might not be as farfetched as it seems.
Led Zep’s Robert Plant was a big fan of West Coast rock and so probably knew about the Collectors and might have heard Chilliwack. On tour, Led Zeppelin stopped into Can Base in Vancouver to do a harmonica overdub for Led Zeppelin Two., which is when Plant could have heard first about the Chilliwack album.The rock on Two bears no resemblance to that of the first Chilliwack album, but the textures and majesty of Everyday is very similar to the more reflective songs on Two. As we know now, Zeppelin wasn’t shy about taking ideas for itself, even crediting itself on certain songs. So what’s the big deal about putting the moods conjured by Everyday into a Zeppelin song.
The next album, also called Chilliwack, was minus Miller but full of the improvisation and experimentalism that the first Chilliwack album suggested. The first album didn’t sell, which might have been due to the label it was on, Parrot, a subsidiary of London. The second was on A&M and so began changes in line-ups and labels.
Chilliwack never got back the sense of purpose signified by the first album. There’d be hit records and a few highs as Chilliwack earned respect . It was/is a good band and Henderson is an underrated talent. Still, you have to wonder about the coulds and wouldas if the album had been more successful.