#1120: Baby Blue by Chilliwack

Peak Month: January 1978
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #19
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #110 (bubbling under the Hot 100)

Bill Henderson was born in Vancouver in 1944. He learned guitar and became the guitarist for the Panarama Trio that performed at the Panarama Roof dance club on the 15th Floor of the Hotel Vancouver. He formed the psychedelic pop-rock Vancouver band, The Collectors, in 1966. After several local hits like “Fisherwoman” and “Lydia Purple” the band disbanded by 1970. Henderson (vocals, guitar), Claire Lawrence (saxophone, keyboards), Ross Turney (drums) and Glenn Miller (bass) were all Collectors bandmates. After Howie Vickers left The Collectors, they changed their name to Chilliwack. The name was a Salish First Nations name that means “going  back up” and is the name of a city in the Fraser Valley in British Columbia.

Chilliwack had their first Top Ten hit in Vancouver with “Lonesome Mary” in 1973. In 1977 the band recorded their sixth studio album, Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. At the time the band members were all Scientologists and there was a dedication to the founder of the Church of Scientology, Ron L. Hubbard, on the back of the album. By 1977 the bands musicians consisted of Henderson, Turney, Miller and Howard Froese on guitar, vocals, solina and piano.

“Baby Blue” was the fourth single off the album after the earlier single releases of “California Girl”, “Fly at Night” and “Something Better”. The song is about someone nicknamed Baby Blue who is shy to give voice to what they are feeling and have experienced in a relationship. There may be issues of trust, safety, of a person in a generally withdrawn state.

The singer takes on the role of one who wants to listen to Baby Blue, be present as her tears fall and discuss what has happened. As listeners to the song we find out that someone has been unkind and cruel to Baby Blue. In 2016 we can wonder at the possible dynamics: a bullying partner, anger management issues, being in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about their partner. We may think of friends, relatives, neighbors, workmates who have been in relationships like that of Baby Blue.

On one level it is a simple plea for a shy, timid, person to open up, express themselves and let someone respond compassionately. The lyrics clarify the person talking with Baby Blue is unlikely someone who knows there circumstances or knows them very well. They clarify what Baby Blue has told them so far: someone has been cruel to yousomeone had been unkind to you. Then they say: how about you tell me, tell me who? If the listener to Baby Blue was a good friend, they’d very likely know who.

For anyone who has been on the receiving end of being in a relationship where they are often reduced to tears from acts of unkindness and cruelty there is more here to consider with “Baby Blue”. This is a song that could speak to people who are, or have been, in extremely difficult relationships in need of the clarifying perspective that comes from a talk with a friend, compassionate stranger or counsellor. In the song, the person listening to what Baby Blue feels able to share with them is disturbed by what they are hearing: Who would want to treat you that way, who could stand to see you that way?

Sometimes when people are in unloving and/or neglectful relationships it is hard to get outside of the drama of tears, unkind words, cruel words and actions. The harsh behavior can seem normal to a person in a relationship who has grown reticent, nervous, even helpless in the face of routine unkindness.

Have you got something to tell me,
please come up and tell it to me,
please come up and tell me Baby Blue.

Have you got a tear or two, well, 
come on up and tell me, do, now,
you can tell it all now, Baby Blue.

Really, baby, don’t be shy,
it’s all right for me to talk to you.
So let it all come out and let it all come through, Baby Blue.

Someone has been cruel to you
someone had been unkind to you
how about you tell me, tell me who

Who would want to treat you that way,
who could stand to see you that way,
who could make you cry now Baby Blue?

Let it all come out and let it all come through Baby Blue….

Richard Skelly, who was a regular columnist in the early 70s writing record reviews for the Richmond Review and the Kerrisdale Courier, and later had a radio show on CITR, has written this website to inform that “Howard Froese played the memorable acoustic guitar solo and actually nailed it in one take. Howard died way too young in the mid-1990s, only a couple of years after his Chilliwack successor–Brian MacLeod–passed from cancer.” Thanks Richard for providing this additional piece of background information.

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