#721: General Hand Grenade by Trooper
In 1967 Ra McGuire and Brian Smith played in a Vancouver band named Winter’s Green. The band recorded two songs, “Are You a Monkey” and “Jump in the River Blues” on the Rumble Records Label. “Are You A Monkey” later appeared on a rock collection: 1983’s “The History of Vancouver Rock and Roll, Vol. 3.” In the early seventies Winter’s Green changed their name to Applejack and added drummer Tommy Stewart and bassist Harry Kalensky to their lineup. Applejack became a very popular band in the Vancouver area, and began touring extensively in British Columbia. The band played a few original tunes such as “Raise A Little Hell,” and “Oh, Pretty Lady,” as well as Top 40 songs by artists such as Neil Young, and Chicago.
After hearing Applejack perform, Randy Bachman of Bachman–Turner Overdrive and The Guess Who signed the band to his Legend label. The band changed their name from Applejack to Trooper. Bachman produced the band’s self-titled debut album, Trooper, which contained the Canadian hits “Baby Won’t You Please Come Home” and “General Hand Grenade.”
“General Hand Grenade” is a song about two different people: General Hand Grenade and Isabella Band Aid. General Hand Grenade likes to ride in motorcades and parades and have a war to fight. Isabella Band Aid is recognizing that the wars that General Hand Grenade goes off to fight leave a “mess.” And she questions what all the fighting is for and what it accomplishes. The two characters represent the impulse to go to war and the other to nurture. Isabella Band Aid may be a nurse or paramedic having to attend to the wounded with her band aids, and more. General Hand Grenade seems to have a lot of fans he can wave at. This lets us know that not all the common people are in the same camp as Isabella Band Aid. Many people are supporting General Hand Grenade, the wars he fights and the honors he’s bestowed. The refrain, “people getting high, people getting low, people getting nowhere, ’cause they don’t know where to go,” is key. The parades, cavalcades and wars are all part of a society getting on a roller coaster of emotional ups and downs. It all ends up with confusion and little accomplishment.
Members of the Canadian military have expressed their own lack of clarity regarding what is being achieved in recent military campaigns. In 2008, in answer to the question of progress being made in the Afghan War, Cpl. Vartan Koumayan told the CBC, “Every war has a price and I really am in no position to know whether or not we are getting anywhere or what rate we’re achieving our goal or not.” At the time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government had just passed a bill recommitting Canada to extend its mission in Afghanistan until 2011.
“General Hand Grenade” was a hit in Vancouver in 1976, the peace movement was still ascendant in society. NATO allies and the Warsaw Pact nations were in the midst of the Cold War. Still, there was much discussion about the necessity of diplomacy and war being a last resort when all other options had failed. Would a similar song find its way up the pop charts into the Top Ten in Vancouver in 2018? Much has changed in the way the media and politicians report decisions to go to war and dissent. There have been occasions in the Canadian Parliament where politicians have objected to discussing the merits of a military campaign. This was since, it was argued, that to debate whether to go to war or not would have a negative impact on the morale of members of the military. In April 2006, the Globe And Mail reported “The new Conservative government had tried to fend off calls for a debate, saying it wasn’t needed and would only serve to hurt morale among the troops.”
Managed by Sam Feldman, Trooper began touring extensively in both Canada and the United States. After moving from Legend Records to MCA Records, Trooper added Frank Ludwig on keyboards. A second album, Two For The Show, featured their 1976 hit singles “Two For The Show” and “Santa Maria.” In Vancouver, the band had a third hit single from the album titled “Ready.”
In 1977 Trooper released their third album, Knock ‘Em Dead Kid. The first single from the album, “We’re Here For A Good Time (Not A Long Time),” was the bands highest charting single at the time, peaking on the RPM charts at #12.
The 70s ended well for Trooper with “Raise A Little Hell,” “Round Round We Go” and “3 Dressed Up As A Nine” among their Canadian hits. Their album, Thick As Thieves, was nominated for Best Selling Album Juno Award. And in 1979 the band won the Juno Award for Group of the Year. Trooper won a SOCAN Classic Award in 2005 for “Oh, Pretty Lady.” SOCAN is an acronym for the Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada. Trooper has 401 photographs housed in the Library and Archives Canada’s Gatineau Preservation Centre.
Between 1975 and 1991 Trooper charted a dozen singles into the Canadian RPM Top 40, and released nine studio albums. As of May 2018, Trooper continues to go on concert tours with concerts from May to December, 2018, in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and the Northwest Territories.
June 12, 2018
Trooper bio, Canadian Bands.com.
Trooper concert schedule, Trooper.com
House Votes in Favor of Extending Afghan Mission, CBC.ca, Toronto, Ontario, March 13, 2008.
John Ward, MP’s Debate Canada’s Role in Afghanistan, The Globe and Mail, Toronto, Ontario, April 23, 2006.
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