#487: Good Friends by the Poppy Family

Peak Month: April 1972
8 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #3
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #105
YouTube.com: “Good Friends
“Good Friends” lyrics

Susan Pesklevits was born in 1948 in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. When she was seven years old she was a featured singer on a local radio station. At the age of eight her family moved to the Fraser Valley town of Haney, British Columbia. When she was 13 years old she had her own radio show. In a December 1966 issue of the Caribou newspaper, the Quesnel Observer noted that Susan Pesklevits had auditioned for Music Hop in the summer of 1963 when she was only 15 years old. She had her first public performance at the Fall Fair in Haney when she was just 14 years old. It was noted she liked to ride horseback, ride motorcycles and attend the dramatic shows. Asked about what she could tell the folks in Quesnel about trends in Vancouver, Pesklevits had this to report, “the latest things in Vancouver are the hipster mini-skirts, bright colored suit slacks, and the tailored look. The newest sound is the “Acid Sound,” derived from L.S.D…. it is “pshodelic” which means it has a lot of fuzz tones and feed back. As an example, she gave “Frustration” recorded by the Painted Ship” a local band from Vancouver. Pesklevits added that on the West Coast “the latest dance is the Philly Dog. It mainly consists of two rows, one of girls and one of boys. The idea is to take steps, move in unison, while doing jerking motions and using a lot of hand movement.”

In the summer of 1966 Pesklevits formed a trio with Tom Northcott and Howie Vickers called The Eternal Triangle who released one single titled “It’s True“. Vickers went on to form The Collectors which later morphed into Chilliwack.

Terrence Ross Jacks was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1944. March 29, 1944, Winnipeg, Manitoba. During his career as a recording artist he became a household name and recognized as a singer, songwriter, record producer and environmentalist. His family moved to Vancouver in 1961 and he formed a band named The Chessmen along with local guitarist, Guy Sobell. The Chessmen had four singles that made the Top 20 in Vancouver, two which were double-sided hits. These included “Love Didn’t Die”, “The Way You Fell” and “What’s Causing This Sensation”, and Top Ten hits. Jacks met Susan Pesklevits who had him recommended to her by a friend who knew she was looking for a rhythm guitarist. Pesklevits needed a rhythm guitarist to help with her upcoming gig at the Elks Club in Hope, British Columbia, in early September 1966. They were married in 1967 and she became Susan Jacks. In 1967, along with Craig McCaw who had been a member of the Kelowna band The Shadracks, they formed a trio called Powerline. They changed their name to The Poppy Family and Craig subsequently sought out a young tabla player in Vancouver named Sawant Singh. Terry and Susan Jacks agreed to have Singh join The Poppy Family.

By 1968 The Poppy Family had a regional #2 hit in Vancouver with “Beyond The Clouds.” Their follow up in 1969 was a gentle anti-racist, pro-environmental, pro-marijuana legalization tune titled “What Can The Matter Be”.

Their next single, “Which Way Is Going Billy?” went #1 in Vancouver in became an international hit. Terry Jacks won a Juno Award for this recording. The Poppy Family racked up numbers of Top 30 singles in Vancouver through to 1973 including local #1 hits “I Was Wondering” and “That’s Where I Went Wrong”. Concurrently, Terry Jacks released several solo records. The first was “I’m Gonna Capture You” followed in 1972 with the pro-environtalmentalist tune “Concrete Sea”.

No Good To Cry” was the third of six singles released on the Poppy Family’s second album, Poppy Seeds. It was a cover of the Connecticut band, the Wildweeds, 1967 regional hit. The Wildweeds song charted far higher in Vancouver (BC) than most radio markets in the USA. So it was a good bet for the Poppy Family to cover, pinning their hopes on another breakout hit in the USA. The singles from Poppy Seeds were released in 1971 and 1972 in the following order: “I Was Wondering,” “Where Evil Grows”, “No Good to Cry”, “I’ll See You There”, “Good Friends” and “I Thought of You Again”.

Good Friends by the Poppy Family

“Good Friends” was written by Terry Jacks. “Good Friends” extended the musing about what people say to each other when a relationship ends. “And when the love died, I never asked why, you never know what makes it end/You said, “I’ll see you again soon, and we’ll always be good friends.” When night comes the person grieving the breakup of the relationship wonders what it means to say “we’ll always be good friends.” In the aftermath, at night they cry “it’s only you I need.” While characterizing the need to keep on sleeping together as performing a good friends’ deed, it’s clear the attachment remains.

After the rhetoric about staying good friends, the ex never makes any further contact. The comment was just a cliche, with no meaning behind the words. The pain and loneliness the one person feels finds no consolation or remedy from the ex-partner. In her article “How To Stay Friends After A Break Up If You Don’t Want Them Out Of Your Life,” Rachel Shatto writes that if the relationship wasn’t toxic, and you truly want the best for each other, it might be possible to maintain a friendships. However, she advises it is essential to make a clean break. This includes putting an end to any romantic feelings for your ex, and speaking well of them. If you can’t help but badmouth them, it’s a sure sign all you can become is toxic friends.

Another way to transition from being romantic partners to friends is to block each other from social media. You’ve been in each others lives daily. Now, you need to shift to occasional socializing. It won’t help to make this transition if you are constantly digesting what your ex had for breakfast, photos of them with their friends (or a new date) etc. Give yourself some space and integrate your life with them amidst the mix of your broader social circle. It is also advisable to plan time apart, so that when you do get together socially you can come at forming a friendship freshly. And remember, that just as you are changing and shifting, they are also growing and discovering more about themselves after the breakup. Be open to appreciating what emerges as you share a new platonic relationship. And, of course, avoid trying to hook up or flirting with each other. Things could get messed up pretty fast.

In “Good Friends” the one ex-partner who wants the other person to be with them at night when they’re lonely is still interested in a romantic connection. Too much is expected. Erica Gordon, author of Aren’t You Glad You Read This?, advises that prior to making contact with your ex, you have to be honest with yourself. Are you conscious of what is motivating you to stay in touch? Are you being real with yourself when you say you want to be good friends with your ex? Or, in secret, do you dream about romantic scenarios and sharing future intimacy? If you are harboring dreams of future romantic escapades, it is a sign you’re just not ready, and may never be. Erica Gordon remarks, “Your emotional self-inventory will help you check-in with yourself and ensure you aren’t holding onto hope you’ll get your ex back, feeding a toxic addiction by trying to stay friends, or holding onto an unhealthy attachment.”

“Good Friends” peaked at #3 in Vancouver (BC), #7 in Montreal and Regina, and #10 in Hamilton.

While Susan enjoyed performing live, Terry Jacks wasn’t interested in touring. As a consequence, The Poppy Family lost the momentum they had briefly achieved internationally and their career was hampered. The professional relationship began to unravel and so did the marriage. Susan Jacks may have taken her own advice after the marriage ended in divorce and told herself “it don’t do no good to cry.”

In fact, the lyrical trajectory of most of the subject matter released by the Poppy Family was brooding about relationships ending and regrets. “That’s Where I Went Wrong” finds a single woman asking if she can confide to the stranger beside her riding on a bus:
Cause the one that used to talk to me/well he don’t want me/See this ring? Tell me what’s it mean to you/Yeah, it’s pretty, but to me it just rang true/I’m so sorry for being such a bore/’Cause this ring and everything means nothing anymore.” And in “I Was Wondering” Susan Jacks asks: “I was wondering if you cried today/for the love that died here yesterday?/Tears are something people hide away…”

Susan Jacks went on to record over a dozen singles that charted on either the Canadian pop charts, the country or the Adult Contemporary charts in the nation. She was nominated for a Juno Award in 1974 for Best Female Vocalist, but lost out to Anne Murray. That same year Terry Jacks won the Best Male Vocalist, and was nominated again in 1975 (losing out to Gordon Lightfoot). In the midst of her string of hit singles she had a son and took a few years out of the music scene as a young mother. She married Canadian Football player Ted Dushinski in 1980. She won a Juno nomination for her single, “All The Tea in China”, in 1982, which charted best in Ottawa.

In 1983 Susan Jacks moved with her family to Nashville, Tennessee, and had a award winning country hit titled “Another Woman’s Man” in 1984. She became a staff songwriter in Nashville. After her husband died in 2004 after a cancer diagnosis, Susan Jacks moved back to Canada only to suffer kidney failure. Some years later her brother, Billy, donated a kidney for a successful transplant operation. More recently she has faced health challenges again with her kidneys.

After the mid-70s, Terry Jacks withdrew from the music industry. He got remarried and became a father. In 1985 he formed Environmental Watch. Jacks also produced a number of documentary short films over the following decades on the environment with titles The Faceless Ones, The Tragedy of Clearcutting, The Southern Chilcotin Mountains and The Warmth of Love (The Four Seasons of Sophie Thomas).

November 29, 2019
Ray McGinnis

References:
susanjacks.com (bio)
Terry Jacks Facebook.com page (bio)
Professional Talent Highlights Knot Hole, Quesnel Observer, December 1966
John Mackie, Susan and Terry Jacks Fight Serious Health Issues in Hospital, Vancouver Sun, September 21, 2016
Rachel Shatto, “How To Stay Friends After A Break Up If You Don’t Want Them Out Of Your Life,” EliteDaily.com, September 13, 2019.
Erica Gordon, Aren’t You Glad You Read This?: The Complete How-To Guide for Singles with a History of Failed Relationships Who Want their Next Relationship to Succeed(Amazon Digital Services, 2017).
Brian Greene, “
Susan Jacks interviewed by Brian Greene,” Scram, November 28, 2006.
MQ, “Interview with Terry Jacks of The Poppy Family,” Stage Door, Vancouver (BC), May 7, 1970.
Terry Jacks, Recording Artist, Producer and Filmmaker,” Sophie Thomas.org.

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2 responses to “Good Friends by the Poppy Family”

  1. Judy says:

    Thanks, Ray! I think some of their songs were great and some were…well, kind of annoying. But wither way, their story’s an interesting one.

  2. Richard Skelly says:

    How coincidental that then Susan Pesklevits would favourably mention Frustration by The Painted Ship in her long ago interview with the Quesnel newspaper.

    Fronted by Richmond, B.C.-raised William ‘Billy’ Hay, the Painted Ship recorded for London Records Canada, the same Decca subsidiary that The Poppy Family would someday record for. Whereas the Poppy Family also released on London in the U.S. the Painted Ship was picked up by Mercury Records stateside.

    As for Susan’s early days in Haney, she recalled babysitting for future NDP Premier Dave Barrett and his wife Shirley back in her early teen years. Susan affectionately remembering the former charismatic politician upon his death a year or so ago.

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