Recently, at a Canada Day show in Westville, Matt Minglewood joked that he’s so old he’s on 8-Track. The truth within the joke is that he’s fortunate enough to have a career that has seen the 8-Track, cassette and CD rise and fall, and vinyl die only to be resurrected.
Minglewood may have never expected the career longevity he’s had, but it’s exactly what he
was hoping for.
“I didn’t really strive for stardom or anything like that,” Minglewood explained, “but in order
to survive you have to have a certain amount of success, you know? I’ve done what I’ve set out to do, which is to be a lifelong musician.”
By his own account, Minglewood has become a generational institution; his current fans are the children and grandchildren of the first batch and, fittingly, on occasion his second guitarist is his drummer’s teenage son.
This doesn’t mean Minglewood is resting on his laurels.
“You have to keep your chin up,” the guitarist said. “You have to keep going at it, you can’t just mail it in, you have to go deliver every time you play. Otherwise they’ll say you’re old hat and boring.”
Still, the legend of Minglewood precedes him. Banter from “the day” has become myth, if not ‘fact’. The notion that he could lead a crowd to literally destroy a venue, for example, brings a pretty hearty laugh out of him.
“That was actually a very famous club in Vancouver called The Cave,” Minglewood
explained. “The first time I was there I saw Ike and Tina Turner, the next time BB King, the last time I was there I played myself. Basically, the guy hired us because it was his last night and he figured the crowd would help him tear it down… but it was just a joke.”
What is likely less of a myth is the rise in hi-fi sales in the late ’70s brought on by his now classic cover of ‘Can’t You See’ from the Minglewood Band’s second album, although many at the time were probably unaware of the slow birth the track experienced.
“We were doing it before our first album, the Red Album … I recorded it for the first album
but it didn’t make the cut. We didn’t pull it off properly.”
The producer of his second album, however, saw the band perform the track at the El Mocambo club in Toronto. That particular show featured one of the earliest versions of his
weighty, emotional monologue at the start of the song.
“We never ever considered it an album cut but he basically insisted on it,” Minglewood said. “Once we decided to do it I understood the value of doing it just exactly how we do it. Sometimes it’s good to have a set of ears from outside. It’s become an anthem for Maritimers going out West and leaving home. And it’s one song I can’t not do, I can’t get away with not doing it. Even if I start feeling ‘I don’t want to do that monologue on the front,’ I think of all the kids and young people and old people that have to go out West and do that. Even my own son is out there; I think of him and think, ‘It means something to them, it better mean something to you.’ It does; when I do it I mean it.”
The Matt Minglewood Band will be on stage Friday evening.