BOYS INVADED LIVERPOOL, LIVED TO TELL TALE
Crescendos members catch
up with Badfinger rocker at city casino
By: John Einarson (photos
The following article originally
appeared in the WINNIPEG
FREE PRESS on January 26, 2009
each image to view full-sized photos.
Rock 'n' roll never forgets.
For two Winnipeg musicians,
the lyrics to Bob Seger's classic rock anthem rang true last month at the
Club Regent casino. After 42 years, Glenn MacRae and Vance Masters
reunited with an old mate from Liverpool who went on to live the rock 'n'
In August 1965, Winnipeg
quartet The Crescendos -- MacRae, Masters, Terry Loeb and Dennis Penner
-- dared to live the dream of countless young musicians across North America
by pulling up stakes for the rock 'n' roll mecca of Liverpool.
"We had seen the Beatles
movies and the Ferry Cross The Mersey movie and figured that's where it
was at," says MacRae. Arriving by boat in the middle of the night,
the four excited young men cooled their heels until the immigration office
"We couldn't sleep, we were
so excited," he recalls. After clearing customs, their first destination
was the most famous club in rock 'n' roll: The Cavern, once home to The
The Crescendos soon began
gigging on the club circuit and were quickly accepted by Liverpool musicians.
"It was a real community
of players," says MacRae. "It was quite remarkable how were welcomed
with open arms. Whatever help they could give us, they would."
Among the groups The Crescendos
befriended was a young outfit called The Masterminds.
"Back in those days, they
would have several bands playing at gigs," MacRae recalls. "A band
would do an hour, then pack up and move on and another band would play.
We did some of those gigs with The Masterminds, and that's how we met Joey
Molland. I remember Joey was enamoured with Terry's Fender guitar
and our Fender amps, so he invited us over to his house for a jam the next
Still in his teens, Molland
was making a name for himself on the Liverpool circuit with The Masterminds.
"I can still picture Joey
onstage back then," remembers MacRae. "There was a certain way British
guitar players played, more up picking than down picking, and Joey typified
that style. He was a very confident player and had that ultra-Mod
look. The Masterminds were definitely a cut above the rest of us."
Molland, in turn, was impressed
with the Winnipeggers.
"Oh sure I remember the Crescendos,"
he said in a recent phone interview. "They were a really good band
-- good vocals, as I recall. I remember the singer, Glenn, and Vance
was a fantastic drummer. We used to see them at the Blue Angel club
all the time. We were like the house band there and we played with
The Crescendos there several times."
Molland's brother, Gordon,
even became The Crescendos' road manager.
In early 1966, The Masterminds'
lone single, a cover of Bob Dylan's She Belongs To Me, failed to break
the group into the big time and they folded soon after.
"We'd done as many gigs as
we could to promote it, but in the end it flopped," says Molland.
In February of that year,
Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, managers of The Who, put the word out on the
Liverpool streets that they were recruiting for a new band to back The
Merseys in London. They plucked Molland and two others from The Masterminds
along with Masters from The Crescendos.
"There was all this gossip
going around Liverpool that they were looking for musicians with a certain
look," recalls Masters, "so Lambert approached me. I went to London with
Joey and some other guys." Masters' tenure with the band, dubbed
the Fruit Eating Bears, was brief.
"We all lived in a hotel,
all in the same room, and rehearsed," recalls Masters, "but I came back
to The Crescendos after a couple of weeks. And I'm glad I did."
Molland, meanwhile, stayed
on for a year before joining Gary Leeds & Rain. When that outfit
folded, he heard about a band called The Iveys, who had been taken under
The Beatles' wing. He auditioned and joined the group. On the
advice of Beatles road manager Neil Aspinall, The Iveys changed their name
Through the early '70s Badfinger
scaled the rock 'n' roll heights, recording hit singles that included Come
And Get It (written and produced by Paul McCartney), No Matter What, Baby
Blue and Day After Day, the latter featuring George Harrison on guitar.
They toured the world and even appeared at Harrison's star-studded 1971
Concert For Bangladesh.
Tragedy, however, struck
Badfinger after their business manager pocketed all their advance, some
$200,000. Frustrated and broke, two members -- Pete Ham and Tommy Evans
-- ultimately took their own lives. Molland found himself out of
work in Los Angeles before moving with his wife to Minneapolis to rebuild
his career. He has since toured under the Badfinger name as the lone
surviving member. A protracted legal battle over royalties with Apple
Records was eventually settled in the 1980s and Badfinger's album catalogue
has been reissued in recent years.
Back in Liverpool, The Crescendos
fulfilled their dream of playing The Cavern on several occasions, but following
the failure of their single Hungry, produced by The Searchers' Chris Curtis,
they returned to Winnipeg in early 1967. (Following the Cavern gig,
bass player Penner was replaced by Liverpudlian Stuart McKernan.)
MacRae managed Long & McQuade music store while Masters enjoyed a long
career drumming in bands like The Fifth, Brother and a later version of
the Guess Who.
With so many years and so
much water under the bridge, would Molland remember his Winnipeg friends?
No worries. He had been looking forward to seeing MacRae and Masters again
after all those years, he said in the phone interview.
to taking the stage, the two local musicians were ushered backstage to
an enthusiastic greeting from Molland. And they sat front and centre
for Molland's set.
"He hasn't changed a bit,"
pointed out MacRae as he watched Molland tear through several Badfinger
hits. "He doesn't seem like the star he really is. He's like
the guy we used to know."
"It's a wonderful surprise,"
Masters added. "He's such a good guitar player and singer, and was
back then, too."
Following his set, Molland
joined MacRae, Masters and their wives for a two-hour stroll down memory
lane as they perused MacRae's scrapbook of photos and clippings.
image to view full-sized photo.
"What was so surprising,"
marvelled MacRae afterwards, "was how much he remembered about those old
times -- the people and places -- considering his career after that."
The three vowed to remain
"It's great to see these
guys again," said Molland. "That's one of the things I really missed
when I left Liverpool ... that community feeling. Back then, the bands
and musicians used to socialize together, hang out together, talk about
records, guitars, gigs, whatever. And The Crescendos were part of that
whole scene with us."
is a Winnipeg music historian.