Riding the Rocking Horse
By Simon Leblovic
Things that you don't think are important at the time seem to take on personal significance as the years pass. I played in a rock and roll band in Hamilton, called Rocking Horse, during the summer of 1979. We got together with the idea of playing some cover songs and making some money. During that summer we played weekends at a seedy dive called Wilsons, which was located at King and Locke Street in Hamilton. The gig was interesting in the way that playing in bars can sometimes be. From the stage at Wilsons I could see people dancing in front of me, while fights broke out between drunks at the back of the club. There were no bouncers, and the place had a barfly kind of feel, where nobody seemed to give a damn.
I liked Rocking Horse because I got a chance to play with musicians who I had played with before in other bands. The members of Rocking Horse were Roy Furness on guitar and vocals, Paul O'Connell on bass, Richard Auto Citroen on drums, Joel MacLeod on piano, acoustic guitar and vocals, and yours truly on lead vocals and harmonica. Rocking Horse played songs by groups that I really liked, such as The Rolling Stones (Not Fade Away, Around and Around, As Tears Go By, Jumping Jack Flash, Happy) The Beatles (Slow Down, Bad Boy, Rock and Roll Music, I Saw Her Standing There), Patti Smith (Because the Night, Dancing Barefoot), Mitch Ryder (Devil with a Blue Dress), Alice Cooper (Be My Lover), The Doors (Love Her Madly) and Robert Gordon (Sea Cruise, Red Hot, Fire).
The owner of Wilsons told me that if our gig at his bar was going to last, we would have to bring in customers, so I decided to try and drum up some publicity by asking The Hamilton Spectator newspaper if they wanted to do a story on the band. One night a lady from the entertainment department of the paper showed up at the bar. She asked if there was anything special about the band that she could mention in her story. After giving it a moment's thought, off the top of my head, I told her that I wore black vinyl as part of the garbage bag look. I don't know why I said this, but maybe playing at Wilsons brought the idea of garbage to mind. After the Spectator story appeared, some people at our shows asked me about the garbage bag look. Although I did wear black vinyl on occasion, at this gig I usually wore blue jeans and a T shirt.
Besides Wilsons, we also played some other shows in the area. The Rose and Thistle was located in Dundas, and we were offered a four-night engagement at the club. So after making some excuse to Wilsons, we headed out to play there. On our first night at The Rose and Thistle we found out that they booked other kinds of entertainment, besides rock and roll bands. In the early evening a male stripper named Mr. Tease did his thing, performing in front of packed houses of adoring female fans. Mr. Tease was a big draw with the ladies, maybe because during his act he walked around the stage on his hands, naked except for some masking tape wrapped around his private parts. One evening while he was onstage, Mr. Tease tossed one of our microphones into the audience. The microphone disappeared without a trace. When we mentioned this to Mr. Tease, he looked at us as if we couldn't be serious about bothering him with such a trivial matter! But besides that nonsense, The Rose and Thistle gig went fairly well. It was a good-sized room and made a nice break from playing every weekend at Wilsons.
Rocking Horse played a really fun show away from Wilsons one day. That summer a neighbour of mine was getting married, and he asked us to play at a wedding party that was being held on a farm out in the country. We agreed to play, and arrived at the farm early on a sunny Saturday afternoon. It was going to be great playing outdoors for a change, getting out of the smoky bar where we usually played. There were a lot of guests, partying outdoors at the farm that afternoon, and I noticed that the place even had a swimming pool. After we arrived, our host kindly offered us a selection of beverages, which included a large bowl full of margaritas. For me that afternoon consisted of singing songs in the sunshine, drinking margaritas, and jumping fully clothed into the pool. After I got out of the water I would dry off by running around the stage. I was having such a blast that I got the band to do every song we knew at least twice, which amounted to us playing about 50 to 60 songs. I think as the afternoon wore on we started to sound ragged, but I doubt if anyone really cared. After playing all afternoon we had to go back to Wilsons and do it all over again that night. I ended up being so tired that I could barely play, but no one at the bar seemed to notice.
Things often end with the passing of summer, and so it was with Rocking Horse. I put the kibosh on the band, and gave it my own personal kiss of death by pulling off a very selfish and nasty act at the end. In the early fall I was recording a demo in the studio with a band from Toronto, and I stayed in the studio, rather than showing up for a Rocking Horse gig in Dundas that was being put on by a pro-marijuana group called Norml. That aborted gig was probably the final nail in the coffin for Rocking Horse, and we broke up shortly after that.
In retrospect, I think that I enjoyed playing in Rocking Horse during that summer of 1979 more than any other band I ever played in. Although it was just a no-pressure cover band, the sound and vibe of the band felt really good to me. Rocking Horse wasn't too heavy, too loud, or too cool, like some of my later bands in Toronto, and I felt very much at ease playing with Roy Furness and Paul O'Connell. Roy and I formed one of the first bands I ever sang with, called Shampain, in Burlington in 1975, and Paul and I formed my first Toronto band, called The Hits, in 1978. So if I could go back and be in a band with anyone I ever played with, then I would definitely choose to play with both Roy and Paul. This may all sound insanely self-centered, ridiculous and absurd, and you may certainly accuse me of living in the past, but I want to say that Rocking Horse stands out in my mind today as my all-time favourite band that I ever played in.
Special thanks to source: http://www.mortyscabin.net