Thursday, December 19, 2013

TDATS #96: Heat Exchange (with Craig Carmody)

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TDATS 96: The Heat Exchange Story [heavy 70s progressive psych pop] by Rich Aftersabbath
Four years to the day since this blog started, I have endeavoured to make this post a special treat for those that appreciate the same amazing buried prog rock finds of yesteryear as myself. This volume is dedicated to a band that I came across via a few singles they made in the early '70s. The second I heard them I was blown away by their original, and often progressive sound, and have spent the last couple of years wondering about how such a fully-formed, talented group could have sunk without trace, without album release, and with barely a footnote in rock history.

Occasionally I get a lead from someone who has come across one of the bands I have posted on Youtube, and offers me the info that I've been looking this case the band is Heat Exchange, from Toronto, Canada. A son, and a grandchild, of a Heat Exchange member dropped me lines via a couple of tunes I posted. Eventually I was able to get in touch with Craig Carmody, the sax player, and by dint of age, unofficial band-leader of Heat Exchange.

Craig has stayed in music his whole life, starting a musical repair/retail business and is now happily retired, playing in a jazz/rock ensemble with some occasional session work. He has been more than helpful since I contacted him, and he set about writing this exclusive, detailed account of the rise and fall of Heat Exchange, giving me an insight into the trials and tribulations of a young struggling band. The story highlights bad management and the pitfalls and obstacles of the music business. The band was torn between the commercial expectations of a record label that did not seem to appreciate or know how to deal with Heat Exchange, and its own urge to innovate and rock out. This all-too often repeated scenario spelt the end of a band that deserved more. Some of the members went on to acclaim after Heat Exchange, notably drummer Marty Morrin, who was later in Canadian bands Truck, Goddo and Wireless, and many projects with which he is still involved. Guitarist Neil Chapman was also in Truck, and has continued with many more projects.

The download included here is six tracks in chronological order, as they appeared on three singles, released on the Yorkville label between 1972 and 1973. There is an obvious dichotomy in these songs, between the heavy prog elements shown in b-sides like Inferno, Reminiscence and Philosophy, and the accessible, funky pop fun of the a-sides. I really think the band's versatility could have propelled them to a level of fame which they unfortunately never reached. They did however record an album's worth of material, let's hope we get to hear all of it one day. If you would like me to pass any questions on to Craig, drop me a line at the usual email address or post them in comments. Following is what Craig wrote especially for TDATS.

Track list
01. Can You Tell Me (a-side)
02. Inferno  (b-side)
7" 45rpm single, Yorkville / YVM 45052 (1972)

03. Scorpio Lady (a-side)
04. Reminiscence  (b-side)
7" 45rpm single, Yorkville / YVM 45063 (1973)

05. She Made Me All Alone (a-side)
06. Philosophy  (b-side)
7" 45rpm single, Yorkville / YVM 45069 (1973)

Craig Carmody’s Origins
Craig Carmody
Craig Carmody
"I grew up in Scarborough, a suburb of eastern Toronto. My youth was filled with sports, particularly ice hockey. Like many young boys in Canada, I hoped to become a professional hockey player. Through elementary school I developed a strong friendship with Don Horsburgh, who had taken piano lessons for several years and had become a well-known performer playing at school assemblies and the like.

One Christmas I received a harmonica in my stocking and was soon playing songs on it. This was perhaps the first indicator of any musical ability. I’m not sure what motivated me, but I ordered a guitar from a catalogue and began to plunk away on it, figuring things out by ear. Leaving elementary school and preparing for high school, my friend Don suggested that I sign up for band and that saxophone would be a good instrument play, so that’s exactly what I did.

I guess I made some notable progress my first year studying the sax because (and I can't recall exactly how) I was invited to join a fledgling rock band called The Sessions. Even though my playing skills were limited, I figured out parts in the songs we performed and I had so much fun in that band that my interest in performing quickly superseded my interest in hockey, I was hooked!

My high school years were totally immersed in my new passion for music. I played in the school concert band, the school jazz band and various jazz ensembles including a group called the Studio 9 Jazz Quartet with my friend Don. I took every other opportunity to play that presented itself.

The Beginnings of the Band
I continued to study guitar and sax, and worked in a music store part time. When I left high school my guitar playing had progressed enough that I was hired to teach guitar lessons at a local music store. This was a great gig for me as I was making decent money, still living at home, and had lots of time to practice sax. Meanwhile, at my high school, a group of musicians two or three years younger than me had put together a band called 'Cloud'.

Cloud was a much better than average high school band and was quickly developing notoriety. They played mostly blues covers, but did so very well. At that point the band consisted of Neil Chapman on guitar, Gord McKinnon on keyboards and harmonica, Ralph Smith on bass and Marty Morin on drums. Ralph was dating my younger sister and therefore heard me practising at home, one day he came over to the house and told me that Cloud was considering adding horns to the band. He asked if I’d be interested in trying out. Though the members of Cloud were younger than me, I was impressed with their skills and I agreed to attend the audition. I remember the audition vividly. There was also a trumpet player there and when all was said and done I was invited to join the band; one sax, rather than a horn section. This group was the genesis of Heat Exchange.

Cloud continued to practice and scuffle about for the occasional gig while the boys finished up high school and I continued to teach guitar lessons. Our drummer Marty had been doing most of the vocals for the band and we decided that adding a dedicated singer would free him up a to concentrate on drumming. We auditioned several vocalists and chose the talents of an amazing young singer named Mike Langford.

    Craig                    Ralph                      Mike                    Neil                     Marty                  Gord   

Mike became our sixth member. Finding places to practice and opportunities to play was always a challenge, but we stuck to it. Being the eldest member, I was appointed leader of the band. In due course we signed with an agency and joined the musician’s union. We played the usual high school dances and whatever other gigs were offered to us.

Rock Hill poster 1969
Discovered While Rocking on a Hill
Our music continued to evolve and we started to introduce original songs. One of the gigs we played was a three-day outdoor music festival called Rock Hill, where we were ‘discovered’. [A lot of Rock Hill history can be read here] A few days after our performance on the big stage at Rock Hill, I received a phone call from Blaine Pritchett, who had been allowing us to rehearse in the basement of his small music store and acting as our road manager and supplier of our p.a. system.

Blaine told me that a gentleman named Roland Paquin, who managed several of the top bands in the Toronto area, had heard us play and was interested in managing Cloud. He said that if we took Roland on, the first thing he would do was find us a recording contract. A couple of days later we met Roland, he officially became the band's manager and the record deal search commenced. Cloud moved its rehearsal space to the basement of my parents’ home. Within a short time, true to his word, Roland began bringing over executives from record labels.

Rock Hill poster 1971
Rock Hill poster 1971
He would say something like "O.K. guys, tonight I am bringing over so-and-so from R.C.A. I want you to play through a few songs", he would recommend 3 or 4 tunes that he felt might impress the visitors. After we performed, Roland and the record company execs would go off for a meeting.

These were very exciting times for the band! After several of these sessions with different labels, Roland told us that he had a “pretty good offer from R.C.A." but that he wanted to bring down one more record label exec, from the Yorkville label (a small local label). We figured that having had an offer from a major label like R.C.A., Yorkville would be a let-down, but Roland insisted that we play for them. That evening Bill Gilliland and Richard Gael came to listen to the band. After our performance, Roland disappeared with the executives. Several hours later, he came back and wanted to talk to me outside.

We Had Made It!!!
With a very straight face he told me that we would not be doing any more gigs. I was, of course, dismayed. Then he laid out the details of the Yorkville offer. The offer included the following highlights, Cloud was to stop playing live gigs and to focus entirely on working on the tunes for our album. They wanted to give us the use of their recording studio to practice, to have a full-time producer work with us every day, pay us a salary to provide money to live, and give us a large sum of money upon release of our album. It was a phenomenal offer.

I was led to believe that the deal represented the largest and most lucrative recording contract that any Canadian rock band had ever signed up to that point in time. We were over the moon. The next evening we were picked up by fancy cars from the record company, taken out to dinner, then back to the offices where we all sat around a huge table in the board room and signed our recording contract!! *We had made it!!!!*

After Being Signed
Bill Gilliland was the executive producer of Arc Sound, the parent company that owned the Yorkville label. Richard Gael became producer for the band. It was his job to work with us to perfect the tunes that were going to be on our album. Arc Sound operated out of a sprawling building in a light industrial area of Toronto. Their complex included business offices at the front, a large factory area where vinyl albums and singles were pressed and a generous sized recording studio which became the band's home. [This is the same complex where Neil Merryweather recorded in early bands of his, The Just Us and The Tripp - see Vol68]

The factory part of the operation was fascinating. Many people were employed at huge machines manned 24 hours a day, pressing vinyl. It seems that they pressed records (probably under contract) for many major labels (probably supplying product for the Canadian market). They also manufactured records which were recorded in their own studio. Most of the records under their own labels were unusual things - instrumental covers of pop tunes, local country artists, small time dance bands etc.

The Ugly Ducklings - Yorkville promo shot
The Ugly Ducklings - Yorkville promo shot
The Yorkville label was reserved for their ‘rock artists’ and had their share of successful ‘hits’. The Ugly Ducklings had a monster hit with the tune ‘Gaslight’ several years before and just before we came along the band Ocean had a similar success with ‘Put Your Hand in the Hand’. The company was proud of their successes and perhaps a bit "cocky", they were convinced that Cloud would provide their next huge windfall.

For the next several months we worked on material for the album.  Every day we met at the studio in the back of the Arc Sound facility at 10:00 a.m. to practice continuously until 6:00 p.m. It was like a day job - except that we were doing what we loved to do - making music. Every Friday afternoon I'd go down to the office and pick up cheques for each of us. Our producer Richard Gael was there every day keeping us focused and making suggestions to refine the music. We were paid a meagre salary but most of us were still living at home, we were having the time of our lives. We were given a key to the studio and most evenings we were back at the studio partying and working on new music. Could life have been any better?

Cloud had an interesting way of writing new material. One of us would play a riff - an idea that person had been working on - the rest of the band would pick up on that idea and expand on it. We continued to add to the idea, each contributing an idea for the verse or the chorus, often taking the song in entirely different directions. Our music became more complex. My background in jazz surfaced through my contributions, Gord (a classically trained pianist) would often introduce classical or baroque figures. Our singer Mike would find melody lines that suited the tune and eventually come up with lyrics. It was truly a collective exercise with all of us having input. I honestly cannot remember a single time when an entire song was brought forward by one band member to be learned by the rest of the band, each song was created by the band as a whole and bore the influence of each player.

An Exchange of Names
We spent so much time playing and creating together that our individual musicianship moved ahead in leaps and bounds.  As we got closer to recording our songs, we received word that the band's name 'Cloud' might have to be changed. Apparently another band had released an album under the name 'The Clouds' and it was thought that our name was too close and could draw legal action. The search for a new name began. We were allowed to make suggestions but the record company insisted on having the final say. Heat Exchange was one of the leading contenders, we still didn't know our new name as we went in to record the album.

Recording the Album
When we were ready to start laying down the album tracks, we moved into Manta Sound which was considered the most up to date facility in Toronto at the time. The engineer/owner was David Green, he had a great reputation as an audio engineer. We later found out that much of his notoriety came from jazz and classical recordings and not so much from rock music. All of the recording/mixing time was paid for by Yorkville. They were extremely generous, allowing us to eat up hours of expensive recording time, in order to get each track just the way we wanted it. They also picked up the tab for things like renting a set of tympani because we thought it would sound neat in one of our tunes.

All the tracks were recorded and a 'rough mix' was done. As I understand it, at that time it was necessary for Canadian rock records to obtain an American label to handle U.S. sales, distribution and promotion. We were told that the rough mix had been played for the execs of several big American labels and that they were very interested in the album. However, they had some reservations and wanted to know a few things such as: How did the band go over live (we hadn't played live for probably a year) and did we have a hit AM single to generate interest in the album? So it was decided that we should release the most commercial song on the album as a single, 'Can You Tell Me' was the obvious choice.

The Heat Exchange Sound and the Singles
I'll explain a bit about the rock music scene in Canada in the early '70s. A lot of the music getting airplay on the major radio stations was very commercial (bopperish). FM stations were starting to play some 'artsy' and experimental rock music, but there was a real divide between FM and AM rock. Cloud's music was decidedly FM in style. We were influenced by bands like Emerson Lake and Palmer, King Crimson, Jethro Tull and we were doing our version of 'theatre rock', we hadn't been focusing at all on 'commercial' potential. There also existed (and still does) the C.R.T.C. which was a government initiated program designed to assist Canadian recording acts to get airplay in Canada. Essentially the C.R.T.C. mandated that Canadian radio stations HAD to include a certain percentage of Canadian produced records in their programming. To further help the fledgling Canadian rock music scene a single new release Canadian record was picked each month and guaranteed airplay on every major radio station across the country.

Heat Exchange first single - 'Can You Tell Me' (1972)
Heat Exchange first single - 'Can You Tell Me' (1972)
The day that 'Can You Tell Me' was released, the band was called into the record company offices. We saw the first real tangible results of our efforts and learned the band's new name...'Heat Exchange'. A short time later, we learned that 'Can You Tell Me' had been picked as the single guaranteed to get national airplay. We were elated and all ran home to listen to our pop radio station (CHUM) to hear our song. We listened all evening and finally around 10:00 p.m. we heard it. There we were on the radio. It was one of the most exciting moments in my life.  Over the next few days however we began to see a pattern developing. CHUM was playing our record the required 6 times a day but always in the dead of night - never during prime time. It quickly became apparent that the radio stations hated being told that they HAD to play that (or any other) song. So the initiative designed to help us and other Canadian rock bands get airplay was actually working against us.

We had decided to put the song 'Inferno' on the B side of the single. We hoped that its harder edge would better represent the band's real style and perhaps find some favour among the more alternative record buyers. Can You Tell Me/Inferno made it into the record stores and even got more attention in select cities. We heard that it made the top 10 in at least one centre. It appeared on juke boxes and probably sold some copies, but the record company was not at all impressed. They had invested many thousands of dollars in Heat Exchange and had very little to show for it. We didn't have an American label distribution agreement, nor did we have the elusive hit single.

Scorpio Lady single
Scorpio Lady single (1972)
showing typical Arc Sound logo/sleeve
Getting a hit commercial AM single became the record company’s focus. Our record contract was revised and we gave up the large amount of money that was supposed to come to us upon release of the album in favour of the right to record and release singles until we found the formula for one that was a hit. Our course had been altered considerably, now we were trying to come up with this commercial hit which really wasn't where our hearts were. We reworked one of the tunes we had written (not from the album) and our producer Richard Gael wrote a set of lyrics with a 'popier' slant and we went into a different studio with a different  engineer (hoping to get a more 'pop' sound) and recorded 'Scorpio Lady'. We needed something to put on the B side and so stuck 'Reminiscence', a track from the album, into that position. I really don't know if Scorpio Lady received any airplay but it was available in the major record shops. It's too bad, because I always really liked the song and the way it was recorded.

Cooling Off
By this time we were no longer collecting any money from the record company and were forced to go back out and play as many gigs as we could to try to keep bread on the table. We were travelling all over Ontario and parts of Quebec doing little gigs that hardly paid enough to cover our expenses. It was frustrating and when we weren't on the road we were being hassled by the record company to come up with a hit single. Several of us in the band were getting frustrated. One of the final straws came when the record company tried to talk us into rerecording The Ugly Duckling's song 'Gaslight'. It was a great song but it wasn't our song. We were not impressed!

We eventually settled on a tune to record and apparently went into a different studio again with a different engineer again, and the result was 'She Made Me All Alone'. I actually do not remember the recording session. I don't know if I blanked it out of my mind or what but it was probably 30 years before I heard that recording and I honestly had forgotten entirely ever having made the record. It's definitely me playing sax but I have no recollection of the song or the session.  One of life's little mysteries.  It must have been pressed into a single because one of the other guys in the band found a copy 30 years  later when we were trying to gather all of our recordings and have them put on to a CD.

I guess that at the time I was seriously considering leaving the band and probably did so right after we recorded the song. I needed to make some money. I was about to get married...

The End of Heat Exchange
I was getting near a decision to leave the band. I had met Laurie, my future wife, during the period of time in which we were rehearsing and recording the material for our album. She was getting tired of me being on the road and not having a reliable income and I was disenchanted with what was going on with the band so the decision to leave, while difficult, seemed logical. Laurie and I made plans to move west to Edmonton where we were married and would, in a few years, begin raising a family. I believe that Ralph Smith (bass) left the band at around the same time. He too had a girl friend who was not at all impressed with the rock and roll lifestyle.

In a rather odd twist, the rest of the band was hired to replace some of the guys in a band called Truck and did quite a bit of touring with that group. I'm not actually certain whether Gord McKinnon (Keyboards) did those tours with them or not.

Where are they now?
I guess that within the next while the rest of the guys drifted apart:

Gord McKinnon
Gord McKinnon
Gord McKinnon returned to the classical music world from which he had come. He eventually became an examiner for The Royal Conservatory of Music then went on to obtain the title Dr. McKinnon and now teaches piano at the university level. "Mr. McKinnon is a former faculty member of The Royal Conservatory of Music and is currently Professor of Music at Canada Christian College in Toronto where he teaches harmony, counterpoint and analysis for the Bachelor of Sacred Music Program. He has composed many piano pieces for various RCM publications as well as contemporary gospel songs".

Ralph Smith
Ralph Smith
Ralph Smith (bass) hung up his axe and as far as I know, never went back to it. He entered the business world and didn't seem to look back. He and his family relocated to Edmonton where I was living so we saw each other from time to time and stayed friends. Ralph now lives in Nanaimo on Vancouver Island.

Mike Langford
Mike Langford (vocals) seemed to disappear for quite a while. I do know that he continued to perform with some other bands and eventually settled in the small community of Peterborough, Ontario. I managed to track him down seven or eight years ago and he was working in a cabinet shop and doing the occasional gig. [A google search found that Mike has sung along-side a Peterborough blues band called The Channel Cats:]

Neil Chapman
Neil Chapman
Neil Chapman (guitar) never gave up on being a rock star. Neil was a prodigal guitar player even before the Heat Exchange days and, of course, continued to make music his career. He went on to play with many bands (again, I certainly can't account for all of his endeavours) but one band I know he had great success with was called The Pukka Orchestra. I managed to touch bases with Neil four or five years ago when he came through Vernon, B.C. (where I now live) with Buffy St. Marie [see Vol76]. Neil also became a sought-after studio musician and continues to perform and record to this day.

Marty Morin performing Supertramp's 'Breakfast In America' with Classic Albums Live
Marty Morin performing Supertramp's
'Breakfast In America' with Classic Albums Live
Marty Morin (drums) similarly went on to bigger and better things. While I was living in Edmonton Marty came through performing with the band Toronto (with Holly Woods) A coliseum type tour. I caught Marty again just a few years ago when he came through Vernon with a show [Classic Albums Live] that duplicates note for note various famous albums (this particular show was The Beatles Abbey Road album) an amazing show. As far as I know, Marty is still doing those tours from time to time and also has a band that is dedicated to performing the music of Tom Waits.
Marty Morin in Wireless (1978)
Marty Morin in Wireless (1978)

Craig on stage in recent times
Craig on stage in recent times
Craig's Final Words
As for myself, after separating from Heat Exchange I moved to Edmonton, married and began raising a family. I established what turned out to be a successful music repair and retail business and learned to repair all manner of band instruments. I probably took a 5 year hiatus from playing but then drifted back into it. I played with a several bands in Edmonton including a large jazz band and an R&B showband called Cold Sweat which recorded one single (Betty Lou). In 1994 Laurie and I and our three sons moved further west to Vernon B.C. where I once again took a lengthy break from playing while concentrating on business and family interests. Eventually I was drawn back into performing and have continued to do so ever since. I currently play with a small rock/jazz group called Kath and the Tomkats as well as a large 11 piece showband called The Legendary Lake Monsters. I am happily retired from any day jobs now and only play music. My wife Laurie passed away in 2010 from cancer, but I have been blessed with a new lady (Arleen) and she has become the love of my life. I also do "casual" gigs and the occasional recording session as a studio player.

A few Final thoughts on the music of Heat Exchange. Because our album was never released, approximately half of our music has never been heard by anyone outside of our own families and friends.

From the tunes recorded for our album, the ones that made it into general distribution were:
Can You Tell Me
Inferno (B side for Can You Tell Me)
Reminiscence (the B side for Scorpio Lady)
Philosophy (the B side of She Made Me All Alone)

Remember that both Scorpio Lady and She Made Me All Alone were recorded later and thus were not a part of our album. Unfortunately, this means that some of our most interesting work has had next to no exposure. The songs that were chosen as singles or the B sides of later singles were the only songs on the album that were both short enough to put on a 45 single and (maybe) approachable enough to have some potential mass appeal. The rest of the songs on the album were much more "theatrical" and intense. The titles from the album that people have not heard are: 'Scat' , 'For Those Who Listen', 'Stopwatch' and 'Four to Open the Door'. “Four to Open the Door” is actually a suite with 4 distinct movements. So there you have a condensed story of the birth, rise and fall of Heat Exchange.

It has always been my hope to write a book about the Heat Exchange experience. I am now 64 years old and have health issues that mean I may never get around to writing that book in this lifetime. So getting at least a condensed version of the story out at this time seems appropriate."

Craig playing sax

Thanks Craig, and thanks for listening/reading. Drop me a line if you have any questions to forward to Craig.

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  1. Wow! Thanks a lot for all the work you put into introducing this band and thanks Craig for the interview too:) the music is fantastic:)!

    1. I'm glad you like it!

  2. What an amazing post. Enjoyed every minute of it. Great music, great story, great sax at the end. Awesome.

    Mes, London UK

    1. Thanks for the feedback. I was over the moon to be able to get this story from Craig, I had been listening to the music for a long time and making this connection was amazing, as is the music!

  3. Thanks..! Great music..great story..! :)

  4. Awesome history and great work on this post. But why didn't Craig released the two more complex songs for everybody? I wonder the treasures we're all missing. Thanks.

    1. Rich AfterSabbathMarch 25, 2015 at 8:35 AM

      Thanks! Well, there may be a possibility. If it happens I will certainly be reporting it it here!

  5. Some of the rarest Yorkville singles. Superb article. Thanks for sharing.