#1106: Just Don’t by Tom Northcott Trio

Peak Month: January 1966
7 weeks on Vancouver’s CKLG chart
Peak Position #15
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart

Tom Northcott was born in Vancouver in 1943. Still in his teens, Tom Northcott was gaining a reputation while making his rounds through the Vancouver coffeehouse circuit in the early ’60s. In particular, he frequented the Kitsilano area, the focal point of the hippie counterculture north of San Francisco. “Just Don’t” was his first local hit record.

In 1965, Northcott took over from Ronnie Jordan as the frontman for the Vancouver Playboys, already an established BC band that wore identical suits. They were considered one of BC’s top emerging bands, mixing a Beatles look with music stylings of The Ventures. Northcott established one of Vancouver’s first labels, Syndrome Records, which LA execs at Warner were impressed enough with to offer him distribution. While the Playboys toured the country that summer and fall, the label released several singles, “Cry Tomorrow” being the first.

By the end of the 1965 Northcott left the Vancouver Playboys and, on 12-string guitar, he formed The Tom Northcott Trio with drummer Chris Dixon and Rick Enns on bass. They were soon regulars on CBC TV’s Let’s Go program for the next couple of years. Meanwhile they were selling out the top clubs in the area, such as The Afterthought in Kitsilano. They headed to California and played throughout San Fransisco and Los Angeles. This exposure got them further gigs and they opened for The Who, The Doors and Jefferson Airplane. In December 1965 they released “Just Don’t” to overall good reviews and it charted on both CKLG and CFUN. Their next single, “Goin’ Down,” followed in the summer of 1966.

Just Don’t”  was an anthem against an older generation of people (parents, teachers, authorities), telling them to mind their own business and let the new generation alone to live their own lives.

I don’t tell you what you should do
I don’t tell you what you should say
I don’t tell you who you should know
I don’t tell you where you should go
I don’t tell you what you should wear
I don’t criticize the length of your hair…
…I don’t think that anybody…
should try to tell anybody else what to do
So just don’t tell me anything….

Tom Northcott Trio - Just Don't 45 (New Syndrome Canada) (2).jpg

On the same weekly surveys in January and February of 1966, the English band, The Who, had their own anthem targeted to those under thirty, titled “My Generation,” which peaked in Vancouver at #18. The lyrics invited the older generation to all “f-fade away” and offered this candid remark: “I hope I die before I get old.”

The Tom Northcott Trio’s “Just Don’t” consisted of a list of complaints about the older generation. At first, the song could plausibly be about a difficult relationship where a lover is being controlling and telling their other half what to do and say. But, the tip off is that the person(s) who are giving advice are telling the singer how they should dress and how long to wear their hair. In 1966, the fashion sense of the younger generation, as well as the choice of many young men to wear their hair longer, was looked down upon by the older generation. In the song, the advice from older people about “love and life” isn’t welcome. Northcott almost sounds like Grace Slick in several of the later lines in each of the verses. That is, until, he lowers his voice and declares: “Just don’t tell me anything.”

Tom Northcott went on to record less rebellious songs in the following years. His next song was the sunny psychedelic tune, “Sunny Goodge Street.” His other hits included “1941” about family patterns passed on from a father to a son, and “Girl From The North Country” about someone who asks a friend to check up on a long lost love who lives far away.

Northcott was nominated as Best Male Vocalist for a Juno Award in 1971. That same year he had a hit with a song written by Carole King called “Spaceship Races.” Later he co-founded Mushroom Studios on 6th Avenue in Vancouver and produced records for groups like Heart and their debut album, Dreamboat Annie. Northcott gave up his performing and singing career in the early 1970s and became a commercial fisherman in British Columbia. He later entered law school and practiced maritime and admiralty law in British Columbia.

November 30, 2016
Ray McGinnis

References:
Mark Allan, Ron Grahame, Susan Jacks, Dennis McFadden, Fred Robinson, Tom Northcott, Canadianbands.com.
C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY, CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, January 22, 1966.

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