Max Webster

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Max Webster
Also known as The Grass Company, The Quotations, Big Al's Band, ZOOOM
Origin Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
Genres Hard rock, progressive rock, heavy metal, pop rock
Years active 1973–1982
Labels Anthem, Mercury, Capitol, Taurus
Website maxwebster.ca
Past members Kim Mitchell
Terry Watkinson
Dave Myles
Gary McCracken
Paul Kersey
Mike Tilka
Jim Chevalier

Max Webster was a Canadian hard rock band formed in 1973 in Toronto.

Biography[edit]

In the 1960s in Sarnia, the band that would later form in Toronto as Max Webster started out with various names such as The Grass Company, The Quotations, Big Al's Band, ZOOOM.[1] The band chose Max Webster in 1973 in Toronto and originally consisted of guitarist and vocalist Kim Mitchell, keyboardist Terry Watkinson, bassist Mike Tilka and drummer Paul Kersey. Mitchell and Pye Dubois would write the majority of their material, with Mitchell writing the music and Dubois writing lyrics. During his tenure with the band, Watkinson also wrote a significant amount of material, typically one to three songs per album.

Kersey left the band after their 1976 self-titled debut album, to be replaced by Gary McCracken. After recording and touring for their second album, High Class in Borrowed Shoes (1977), Tilka would follow suit and leave the band, being replaced by Dave Myles. Myles had previously played with Mitchell in a series of pre-Max Webster bands, all based in Mitchell's and Myles' hometown of Sarnia, Ontario.

Max Webster's third album, Mutiny Up My Sleeve (1978), was produced by the band and Terry Brown in collaboration with their ex-bassist Mike Tilka (who was now concentrating on a production career), and featured the Mitchell/Watkinson/McCracken/Myles line-up. This line-up would last through their fourth album, A Million Vacations, and a subsequent live album, Live Magnetic Air, both of which were issued in 1979.

Though their albums had become FM radio staples in Canada, A Million Vacations was the first Max Webster album to generate hit singles that cracked the Canadian top 100. The group's first hit was "Let Go The Line", which was written and sung by Terry Watkinson and peaked at No. 41 on the Canadian charts. Follow-up single "A Million Vacations" was written by McCracken/Dubois, sung by McCracken, and peaked at No. 80 in Canada. The album's third and final single, "Paradise Skies" was a Mitchell/Dubois composition sung by Mitchell, and was a minor hit in both Canada (number 21) and the UK Singles Chart (number 43).[2]

With some international recognition having come their way, Max Webster then toured Europe to fairly large crowds in 1979. However, career momentum was stalled when the band's label refused to finance a follow-up tour. By the time the band returned to Europe more than a year later, their single was off the charts, and the tour had to be cancelled due to poor ticket sales.

Prior to the recording of the band's fifth and final studio album, Universal Juveniles (1980), Watkinson exited. This left Max Webster a trio of Mitchell, McCracken and Myles (and left Mitchell as the band's sole original member). Universal Juveniles was recorded with the assistance of various session musicians; the song "Battle Scar" was recorded live with all three members of Rush playing alongside Max Webster.

Myles left the band almost immediately after the album was recorded. Max Webster toured for a little while longer with a revised 'caretaker' line-up before Kim Mitchell decided to dissolve the band at the end of 1981 for a solo career.

Legacy and reunions[edit]

Max Webster were close friends of fellow Canadian musicians Rush. In a 1979 interview, Rush bassist and vocalist Geddy Lee commented that he enjoyed their music, and both bands frequently toured together during the 1970s.

The band was successful in Canada, with hits such as "A Million Vacations," "Let Go The Line" and "Paradise Skies," although they never made it big outside of Canada. "Paradise Skies" was a minor U.K. hit, reaching No. 43 on the singles chart there. They also appeared on 'Top of the Pops' in 1979, playing to a pre-recorded track that was recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Kim Mitchell's subsequent solo career, however, reached a much broader audience and he achieved popularity beyond Canada during the 1980s.

Among the highlights of the band's career were their New Year's Eve shows at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. Geddy Lee joined the band onstage to sing and play his Rickenbacker bass guitar for "Battle Scar" on December 31, 1980, when the band headlined the show.

The band reunited in 1990 for a gig at the Toronto Music Awards, with the Mitchell/Watkinson/Tilka/McCracken line-up. Max Webster then continued to play shows on occasional basis throughout the 1990s, with bassist Peter Fredette joining the band in place of Tilka.

Max Webster later reunited for the Q107 30th Anniversary Concert and Live Radio Special on Thursday, May 24, 2007, at The Docks in Toronto. During the one-off gig, the band played a set of their hits ("Oh War!," "The Party," "Waterline," "Let Go The Line," "Toronto Tontos," "Diamonds Diamonds," "High Class In Borrowed Shoes," "A Million Vacations," "In Context Of The Moon," "Paradise Skies," Charmonium" and "Battle Scar," with "Hangover" as an encore). The classic Max Webster lineup was featured, from the High Class in Borrowed Shoes era: Kim Mitchell, Terry Watkinson, Mike Tilka and Gary McCracken (who sang "A Million Vacations," with drummer Robert Sibony on drums for the tune). Longtime Kim Mitchell bandmate Peter Fredette joined the band onstage to sing Geddy Lee's part on "Battle Scar."

Kim Mitchell currently hosts the weekday afternoon drive slot (2 p.m.-6 p.m.) on Q107 (107.1) in Toronto.

Gary McCracken teaches music in his hometown of Sarnia, Ontario.[3]

RockCandy Music in England has re-released the first three Max Webster albums as of April 9, 2012.

As of spring 2014, a book on Max Webster is being worked on and will see a publish date in late August 2014. The book will contain in depth interviews with all band members and be accompanied by many rare unseen photographs. The book was officially released on August 23rd 2014 at a book launch party in Toronto at Grossman's Tavern. It was written by Martin Popoff and is titled "Live Magnetic Air The Unlikely Saga Of The Superlative Max Webster" It is a 260 page book and features images from over the years and interviews collected from various sources including band members. The book can be ordered at martinpopoff.com

Discography[edit]

Year Title Chart positions Certifications
CAN
[4]
CAN
[5]
1976 Max Webster 32 Gold
1977 High Class in Borrowed Shoes 44 Gold
1978 Mutiny Up My Sleeve 53 Gold
1979 A Million Vacations 13 Platinum
1979 Live Magnetic Air 17 Gold
1980 Universal Juveniles 41 Gold
1981 Diamonds Diamonds 47
1989 The Best of Max Webster -

References[edit]

  1. ^ http://jam.canoe.ca/Music/Pop_Encyclopedia/M/Max_Webster.html Max Webster
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 356. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 
  3. ^ Website for Gary McCracken
  4. ^ Peak positions for Max Webster's albums in Canada:
  5. ^ "Gold Platinum Database: Max Webster". Canadian Recording Industry Association. Retrieved 2011-09-02. 

External links[edit]