#863: Can’t Make No Sense by Blue Northern

Peak Month: October 1980
9 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #10
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ did not chart
YouTube.com: “Can’t Make No Sense

Blue Northern was a Vancouver band that got their start in 1977. The founding members were Garry Comeau on guitar and fiddle, Lee Roy Stephens on bass, steel and rhythm guitar player Jimmy Wilson and Brady Gustafson on drums. As they developed their sound the band wanted to broaden their audience appeal. It happened that one of the audience members who enjoyed Blue Northern in concert was Billy Cowsill. William “Bill” Joseph Cowsill, Jr., was born in the USA in 1948 and had moved to Vancouver in 1977. He had been the lead singer of The Cowsills, a family pop singing group from Newport, Rhode Island. The Cowsills had several hits between 1967 and 1969, including “The Rain, The Park & Other Things” and “Hair.” The Cowsills appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, The Dick Cavett Show and The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. They also were the spokespersons for the American Dairy Association. Billy Cowsill got used to appearing in two hundred concerts a year for several years. His addition to Blue Northern gave them a talking point for MCs who introduced them when performing in the late 70s and early 80s. Cowsill also brought his considerable experience in the music industry.

In addition to Billy Cowsill joining Blue Northern, the band recruited Ray O’Toole, a former member of the Vancouver band the Northwest Company. The band released a four-track EP in 1980 titled Blue. The vinyl EP was also blue in color. Two of these tracks were released as singles, “Can’t Make No Sense” and “Too Late To Turn Back”. Ray O’Toole wrote both songs.

Can't Make No Sense by Blue Northern

“Can’t Make No Sense” climbed into the Top 30 in Regina, #18 in Winnipeg and #10 in Vancouver. The song is about a guy who had thought he was going to get married to the woman he was dating. However, he wasn’t paying any attention to what others were noticing, that the woman of his dreams wasn’t feeling the same way. And it turns out she has someone else in mind, another guy who means so much to her that she’s decided she can’t see the guy she’s been dating up until now. It seems like he’s been blindsided and didn’t see it coming, or didn’t want to see it coming.

In an article titled “Is Your Relationship Over? 17 Signs The Love Is Gone,” Crystal Crowder describes some of the things to reflect on when a relationship seems to be fading. These include 1) Talk of the future fades away and it seems that at least one persons heart isn’t interested in following that dream, 2) You avoid being with other couples because being with other couples who seem very happy together makes it painful to consider how awkward your own relationship has become, 3) You see yourself with someone else. It isn’t just that there are other people out there who are attractive, your attention goes to another/others instead of the one you are still dating. In the case of “Can’t Make No Sense”, the woman in the song has come to recognize she loves someone else. Her heart and mind have already moved on and she is kindling a new relationship that excites her. She has decided to respect the boyfriend she’s been dating and be candid, break things off and let him go. It is better, too, that she let’s the ex-boyfriend know they can’t see each other again. It only makes things confusing, or worse – painful.

The follow up single, “Too Late To Turn Back”, made it into the Top 20 in Regina. In 1981, Blue Northern also toured as an opening act for American country singer Tanya Tucker. However, the band experienced friction between members and by 1982 they disbanded. Comeau became a hot session player given his expert fiddle playing. Jimmy Wilson headed to America to play with Queen Ida and the Bon Temps Zydeco Band in Louisiana. Wilson also worked with Robbie Robertson on the 1994 album, Music For The Native Americans, which won a Grammy Award. Wilson co-wrote a track on the album called “Coyote Dance”.

Cowsill went on to form two other bands. He fronted country pop band Blue Shadows in the mid- 90s. But Cowsills substance abuse and unpredictable stage antics, like gratuitously smashing guitars, were catalysts for the bands demise by 1996. Cowsill moved to Calgary and formed the Co-Dependents in 1998. They were a band that played country, bluegrass, blues, rock, and rockabilly. Billy Cowsill died in 2006 in Calgary at the age of 58. He had suffered from emphysema, Cushing’s syndrome and osteoporosis.

March 9. 2018
Ray McGinnis

Daniel J. Wakin, “William Cowsill, 58, Leader of Family Pop-Rock Band, Dies,” New York Times, February 21, 2006.
Blue Northern bio, Canadian Bands.com
Blue Shadows bio, Canadian Bands.com
The Co-Dependents bio, Canadian Bands.com
Crystal Crowder, “Is Your Relationship Over? 17 Signs The Love Is Gone,” Bode.com.
C-FUN Top 30,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, October 18, 1980.

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