The official title is quite a mouthful. Most folks just call it “Live at the Mecca”. If you had never been, The (Mountain) Mecca Cafe was an old diner built out of a double-wide trailer near Canada Olympic Park. Don’t look for it, someone burned it down! It used to be a great place to go for a big breakfast before hitting the mountains. One day, Billy Cowsill and his friend Janice had stopped for lunch at the Mecca and the owner recognized him and asked for a song. Billy played a song and then the idea was hatched to do a few private shows for some of Janice’s friends. Billy was far enough in his recovery from drug addiction that he was ready to play. He hired Tim Leacock, whom he had stayed with and for whom he had produced an album, to play bass. Billy hated playing solo. One day, I came in to see them and was asked to play along. We gelled instantly and the Co-Dependents were born. We started doing dances at larger venues and needed a drummer. The natural choice was our old buddy Ross Watson. Soon we were playing alternating shows at the Mecca and Karma Local Arts House. They were Bothe small enough venues that we could sell out and have a waiting list while playing at least one weekend a month.
Working with Billy Cowsill was different than any other musical experience I had had. In most of the bands I was in, we would rehearse the entire evening’s set in one rehearsal(up to 25-30 songs!). With Billy, we would rehearse two, maybe three songs in a rehearsal. First we would go over the basic song structure, then we would discuss the sound(guitar on bass or treble pickup, bass on lower frets or up the neck, hi hat open shut or in between). Once we had the song up and running, we would work on the vocal parts and really hammer them out. The last touch would be to make sure we were all taking breaths and ending our consonants in synch. While we didn’t always do our cover tunes to the letter, they were always perfectly true to the intent of the song.
We recorded at The Mecca on June 27th, 29th and 30th, 2001. Miles Wilkinson, a brilliant engineer from Edmonton but now based out of Nashville, parked his mobile recording gear in a 5th wheel parked behind the Mecca and miked up the room. As usual, we used my trusty Yorkville Mp 8 shoebox style mixer with 2 ten inch speakers and a sub woofer. The trademark echo was D-3 on the effects settings! We then let loose in front of our loving crowds for three crazy nights. One night, there was a massive storm blowing over and a well timed burst of thunder during a rendition of The Beatle’s “Slow Down” Jeth Weinrich filmed us and Dylan Sadlier Brown changed Billy’s strings. We recorded nearly 40 songs.
Leading off with Bob Dylan’s “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”, Live Recording Event is a grand tour of the musical influences which shaped one of the best musicians the world has ever known. From Hank to Marty Robbins, Elvis to the Beatles, Billy knew what songs were his to sing. I was privileged to sing a couple of my original numbers. “Mississippi Saxophone” is a tune I wrote about a musician from a bygone era and the gifts we’ll miss when he’s gone. “Too Bad for Me” is a song I wrote after getting dumped. It’s about the melodrama that follows a breakup and then eventually blows over. I wrote it while walking up and down Tunnel Mountain, when I was playing at Banff’s Rose and Crown. We also recorded a few tunes from The Blue Shadows. We covered most of them. I’m playing bass on “Bye Bye Johnny”, Tim would switch to guitar. (I also played bass on “It’s all Over Now”, when Billy would pull out the Telecaster and do his best Keith Richards) Live Recording Event is like a Western road trip, with beauty and loneliness and the V8 engine of rock and roll.
Recorded at The Mecca Cafe by Miles Wilkinson
Produced by The Co-Dependents, Neil MacGonigill and Miles Wilkinson
Mixed by Miles Wilkinson, Jerry Woolsey and Billy Cowsill at Beta Sound, Edmonton
Mastered by Miles Wilkinson
Cover art by Casey Gill for Hatch Show Print, Nashville
Graphic Design by Elaine Prodor for Empire Graphics
Photos by Andy Learmont, Jeth Weinrich, Alexander Thomas
Crew- Roddie Paley, Dylan Sadlier Brown, Roy Gomes and Jim Cormack
Billy Cowsill- lead vocals, rhythm guitar
Tim Leacock-bass, vocals, guitar on “Bye Bye Johnny”
Steve Pineo-lead guitar, vocals, bass on “Bye Bye Johnny”
Ross Watson-drums, vocals