#524: At The Feet Of The Moon by The Parachute Club
Lorraine Christine Segato was born in 1956 in Hamilton (ON). She was the lead vocalist in the Toronto band Mama Quilla II, which formed in 1977. The seven-piece all-female band performed at Toronto’s first Bi-National Lesbian Conference in 1979, sponsored by the Lesbian Organization of Toronto (LOOT). The songwriter for Mama Quilla II was Susan Sturman. Billy Bryans also occasionally performed for the band on percussion. Interested in forming their own band to showcase songs that they were writing, Lorraine Segato and Billy Bryans formed a band named V. This soon morphed into the Parachute Club in 1982 when they invited Mama Quilla II member Laurie Conger to join them.
The Parachute Club consisted of Lorraine Segato (vocals, guitar), Lauri Conger (keyboards, vocals), Margo Davidson (vocals, keyboard), Billy Bryans (drums), Julie Massi (percussion, vocals), Dave Gray (guitar) and Steve Webster (bass). The debut album by the Parachute Club was produced by Daniel Lanois, from Hull, Quebec. Lanois would go on to produce other notable albums including So by Peter Gabriel, Joshua Tree by U2, Oh Mercy by Bob Dylan and Wrecking Ball by Emmylou Harris.
Lauri Conger was raised in Thunder Bay, Ontario, and learned both piano and dance from a young age. Julie Opocensky was born in 1954 and raised on a farm near Dominion City, Manitoba. In 1968, when she was 14, she was part of a four member band called ManMaid, who performed across southern Manitoba. Moving to Winnipeg, she sang jingles for advertisements, and was a session musician for Burton Cummings, among others. She got married in the early 80s to Agostino Masi, and adored Julie Masi as her professional name by the time she joined the Parachute Club.
Steve Webster was born in Toronto in 1958. He began to get gigs as a session musician playing bass for local Toronto recording acts starting in 1980, including Drastic Measures, the Time Twins, Colin Linden and Christopher Ward.
William Taylor “Billy” Bryans was born in 1947 in Montreal. In the mid-60s, Bryans became a member of M.G. and The Escorts. The band released three singles, and played in concerts in Montreal, Ottawa and eastern Ontario. They gave several concerts at Expo 67 in Montreal. They also performed as the opening act at a Montreal concert headlined by The Beach Boys. Bryans was also a high school friend of future Toronto city counsellor and federal NDP leader, Jack Layton. In 1970 Bryans’ band, Theodore’s Smokeshop, moved to Toronto. He developed his talents in the recording studio and became a producer. One of his notable productions was “Flip, Flop and Fly” for the Downchild Blues Band.
Margo Davidson was born in Simcoe, Ontario, in 1957. She learned to play piano and saxophone. In the mid-70s Davidson moved to Toronto. In 1978 she co-founded The Wells-Davidson Band, playing rhythm and blues and rock music. She also was in a band called Kid Rainbow, and was in the stage production in Toronto for the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The Parachute Club was a indie-alternative band from Toronto that formed in 1982. They had three hits on the Canadian RPM charts that made the national Top 30: “Rise Up”, “Love is Fire” and “At the Feet of the Moon”. “Rise Up”, their biggest national hit, got airplay at least on FM stations in Vancouver, though it didn’t appear on the CKLG or CFUN pop charts in 1983. The song won the Parachute Club a Canadian Juno Award in 1984 for Single of the Year.
In 1983 the Parachute Club performed “Rise Up” at the end of Toronto’s Pride Parade. Lorraine Segato remembers being on a small stage at the centre of King’s College Circle on the University of Toronto campus performing the song as the 1983 Pride parade came to an end. All at once, 500 to 1,000 people were rushing toward the band and their infectious anthem. Segato recalls “It was a beautiful moment. They were joyous. They had made it through the Pride march without anything bad happening, because in those days you could still get beat up or have things thrown at you.”
The Parachute Club infused their music with reggae and soca sounds from the Caribbean. Toronto has a huge annual parade called Caribana, a festival celebrating Caribbean culture. The sound of the Parachute Club garnered lots of favorable attention in local reviews in NOW Magazine, the Toronto Star and the CBC. Their second single from their debut self titled album, The Parachute Club, was titled “Alienation”. The single climbed to #7 in Montreal.
Their second album, At the Feet of the Moon, contained the title track that peaked nationally at #11 on the Canadian singles RPM charts.
“At The Feet Of The Moon” peaked at #5 in Ottawa, #8 Toronto, Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Montreal, and #9 in Vancouver (BC).
The lyrics of the song are about one person seeing another while they’re dancing at the feet of the moon. One person is hiding from the other who is calling out to them, as they see them dancing at the feet of the moon. The pair carry a secret which is the passion they share for each other. Laughter of the one amor is heard between waves and Chilam, which the song’s lyrics describe as “a Mayan secret, one thousand voices carved in song.”
The Books of Chilam Balam are handwritten, chiefly 17th and 18th-centuries Mayamiscellanies, named after the small Yucatec towns in the Yucatan Peninsula, where they were originally kept. These books preserved important traditional knowledge in which indigenous Maya and early Spanish traditions have coalesced. Written in the Yucatec Maya language and using the Latin alphabet, the manuscripts are attributed to a legendary author called Chilam Balam. He was a chilam, a priest who gives prophecies, and carried the title of balam, a common surname meaning ʼjaguarʼ. Some of the texts contain prophecies about the coming of the Spaniards to Yucatán while mentioning a chilam Balam as their first author. There are at least nine Books of Chilam Balam in existence, and others are referenced.
Kʼinich Ahau was the day sun god of the Mayan peoples. Itzamna, the creator god, also had a night sun, a night jaguar. The deity’s hypothetical aspect of a nocturnal sun (that is, a subterranean fire, or moon) was related to his association with terrestrial fire. He is often represented on incense burners and connected to fire rituals. In the song “At The Feet Of The Moon” the lyrics identify a group: “we of the sun.” Those who are “of the sun” are part of the continuity of those who worship the Mayan god Kʼinich Ahau. And those dancing at the feet of the moon are reclaiming the tradition of worship of the Mayan jaguar god. (Or, the lyrics could plausibly be casting a vision of those ancient Mayan peoples following their gods of the sun and moon).
At The Feet Of The Moon contributed to the group being given a Juno Award in 1985 for Group of the Year. Although the band was getting favorable reviews and awards, they were also getting a backlash for singing songs about sexuality, equality and social justice. Lorraine Segato recalls “some people thought we were overtly sexual when all we were doing was preaching equality. There was a lot of negativity. Some people were saying; ‘Why are you so political, why do you have to have an opinion?. Why can’t you just sing regular songs like everyone else.”
The second single from At The Feet Of The Moon was “Act Of An Innocent”. The song climbed to #12 in Regina (SK). But the third single, “Sexual Intelligence” got less attention from radio stations in Canada. A third album, Small Victories, was recorded with the help of John Oates (of Hall & Oates) on production. John Oates also co-wrote “Love Is Fire”, the debut single from the album. It climbed to #15 in Montreal. But the hoped for breakthrough into the US market never materialized for the Parachute Club.
The Parachute Club began to shrink as several members left in 1987, including Lauri Conger, after the band performed in Toronto for the Duke and Duchess of York (Prince Andrew and Sarah Ferguson). Conger went to Santa Fe to become a registered massage therapist.
While still with the Parachute Club, Steve Webster played bass on Billy Idol’s Rebel Yell album in 1984. He also played on recordings for the Pukka Orchestra, Dalbello, Strange Advance, Alannah Myles, and on Lorraine Segato’s 2015 solo album Invincible Decency.
After the breakup of the band in 1989, Margo Davidson became an advocate for the homeless and youth in transition. She also struggled with depression and alcoholism until her untimely death at age 50 in 2008.
After the Parachute Club disbanded, Billy Bryans produced an album in 1990 for Raffi, and several albums for the indie recording artist Lillian Allen. In 1997 he produced the soundtrack album for the Disney film Jungle 2 Jungle. He was diagnosed with lung cancer in 2006 and died in 2012.
An out lesbian, Lorraine Segato married Ilana Landsberg-Lewis, daughter of journalist Michelle Landsberg and politician and diplomat Stephen Lewis. Segato and Landsberg-Lewis later divorced.
In 2011 the Parachute Club performed “Rise Up” at the state funeral for NDP leader Jack Layton. And in 2014, the band released a new remix of the song to coincide with WorldPride adopting the phrase, ‘Rise Up’ for the year 2014. That year Lorraine Segato was also working on a one-woman theatrical project titled Get Off My Dress.
November 27, 2019
Jacques Gallant, “The Parachute Club releases remix version of ‘Rise Up’,” Toronto Star, June 23, 2014.
Keith Sharp, “Lorraine Segato: Emerging From The Shadows,” Music Express, February 7, 2014.
Constance Droganes, “Parachute Club Singer Mourns Drummer’s Death,” CTV, April 24, 2012.
“Steve Webster,” Wikipedia.org.
“Julie Masi,” Wikipedia.org.
“Lauri Conger,” Wikipedia.org.
“Billy Bryans,” Wikipedia.org.
“Margo Davidson,” Wikipedia.org.
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