#851: Flying by the Hometown Band

Peak Month: November 1976
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #11
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Claire Lawrence was a member of local Vancouver group, The Collectors. That band morphed into Chilliwack. By late 1971 Lawrence left Chilliwack and founded Haida Records, with BC folk singer Valdy it’s marquee recording artist. Valdy’s music was featured in a 1972 Steve McQueen new film noir crime movie called The Getaway. Valdy appeared on a CBC TV show called The Beachcomber’s as the character Halibut Stu. Though he initially appeared on stage for the first few years by himself, Lawrence put together a touring back-up band for Valdy.

The new band assembled in 1975 consisted of Claire Lawrence on saxophone with Shari Ulrich on lead vocals, flute and fiddle. Rounding out the band were Geoff Eyre on drums and vocals, Robbie King on organ, piano and keyboard bass and Doug Edwards on guitar, keyboards and bass. In addition to being Valdy’s back-up band while he was on tour, they recorded a studio album, Flying. The album spawned two local hit singles, the title track, “Flying,” and “I’m Ready.”

Each song was co-written by Joe Mock and Shari Ulrich. Joe Mock had been a member of psychedelic rock band from Vancouver, Mock Duck, who had a minor hit on the CKLG chart in 1968 called Do Re Mi. The group disbanded in 1971. Mock went on to found a folk group called The Pied Pumkin String Ensemble, together with Rick Scott and Shari Ulrich. Both “Flying” and “I’m Ready” had been performed by Pied Pumpkin prior to The Hometown Band recording them.

When first recorded by Pied Pumpkin the song had earlier been titled “A Fear of Flying” on Pied Pumpkins’ album Allah Mode from 1975. However, the Hometown Band decided to change the name simply to “Flying” in order to avoid a lawsuit with Erica Jong whose book, Fear of Flying, had just become a bestseller.

Flying by the Hometown Band

Help me out of this space, I’m crying,
and I don’t want to lose in the race.
Everything we do is just another trying,
and some never lose their fear of flying.

The music in those nightclubs seldom satisfies my need,
for a simple song, the world can sing along,
straight from the heart,
give me my part.

Help me out of this space, I’m crying,
and I don’t want to lose in the race.
Everything we do is just another trying
And some never lose their fear of flying.

I went to hear my friends play away the night,
and I listened so carefully.
You know, the tunes were hot,
and the people dancing.
But oh, won’t you play one for me
here we go, touch my soul.

Help me out of this space, I’m crying,
and I don’t want to lose in the race.
Everything we do is just another trying,
and some never lose their fear of flying.

“Flying” reflects an awareness of a struggle to make headway in a society filled with obstacles. The singer doesn’t want to “lose in the race.” Trying to make a living is sometimes referred to as a “rat race,” and it may be in this sense that the line is intended. Or, more generally, we are all part of the human race, and losing in the race to simply be human can be a gamble in the effort to find work, shelter and money to make ends meet. The singer is crying and we learn the head space they are in has got them into this sad emotional state. Going to a nightclub, which in the mid-70s would have likely meant a disco, was alienating to some folks. Especially those who wanted to connect with others the way people usually do in smaller towns with heartfelt conversations. The singer longs for simple songs with words everyone in the audience can sing along to. Even at live music concerts where “the tunes are hot and the people dancing” there remains a deep longing to have someone sing something that can touch their soul.

The Hometown Band also worked with Valdy also produced one album, Valdy & The Hometown Band, released in 1976. In 1977 The Hometown Band released their second studio album, The Hometown Band, an effort without Valdy. For the album a new member of the group was Edward Patterson. He played guitar, wrote two tracks, and co-wrote four of the seven remaining tracks on the album. Though equally as excellent as their first album with catchy tunes like “Feel Good,” there was no hit single. The Hometown Band won a Juno Award at the 1978 awards ceremony for Most Promising Group of the Year. Shortly after the group disbanded.

Singer Shari Ulrich went on to have a successful solo career with seven studio albums and one “best of” album released between 1980 and 2014. During her musical career she has written music for the TV show Sesame Street. A multi-instrumentalist and Juno-nominated singer, she continues to perform in concert. She lives on Bowen Island overlooking beautiful Howe Sound, northwest of Vancouver.

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