#1384: This Time Long Ago by The Guess Who?
Allan Kowbel was born in Winnipeg in 1943. By the age of fifteen, in 1958, he was singer and guitarist who went by the stage name of Chad Allan. He formed a group that year named The Rave Ons, as a tribute to Buddy Holly. By 1960 the band was known as Allan and the Silvertones. Another name change took place in 1962 when they billed themselves as Chad Allan and the Reflections. At this time their lineup, in addition to Allan, consisted of consisted of keyboard player Bob Ashley, guitarist Randy Bachman, bass player Jim Kale and drummer Garry Peterson. Bachman, Kale and Peterson all provided backing vocals. The group chose the name, The Reflections, to resemble the popular backing band for Cliff Richard called The Shadows. Another name change took place in 1965. A pop group from America, called The Reflections, had a top ten hit called “Just Like Romeo & Juliet.” Their popularity became problematic for Chad Allan and The Reflections. Now they billed themselves as Chad Allan & the Expressions.”
Just as they did this they got their first hit in Canada and America called “Shakin’ All Over”. It was a cover of a 1960 hit by UK band Johnny Kidd & The Pirates. Quality Records issued the record as by Guess Who?. This was an attempt to imply that the record might be by a British Invasion act. Although the recording artist was revealed to be Chad Allan and the Expressions a couple of months later, radio DJs continued to announce the artist as Guess Who? The group subsequently permanently changed its name to The Guess Who? (They would drop the question mark in their name by 1968). Later in 1965 The Four Seasons attempted a similar masking by recording under the similar nom de disque The Wonder Who? When The Guess Who? charted “Hey Ho What You Do To Me” on CFUN in the fall of 1965, the CFUN charts credited the song to the Guess Who Group.
The band continued to have a series of Top 20 hits in Vancouver between 1965 and 1968 before their big breakthrough in 1969 with “These Eyes”, which became the first of seven Top Ten hits on the Billboard Hot 100. The Guess Who? tried to tour in the UK themselves in 1967 to support their single, “His Girl”, which climbed to #2 on CFUN in March of ’67. However, they didn’t have the proper documentation to perform, and “His Girl” only ended up spending one week on the British singles charts. In the fall of 1967 The Guess Who? were hired as the house band for The Swingers, a local CBC radio show in Winnipeg. They also were hired as the house band for the TV show Let’s Go, also on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. That show was hosted by their former band-mate, Chad Allan. The group got exposure on the 39 weeks the show aired in both seasons, 1967-68 and 1968-69. One of the songs they sang during the first season was their recent single, “This Time Long Ago”. This was the bands’ seventh Top 20 hit in Vancouver, climbing to #20 in July 1967.
“This Time Long Ago” is about a relationship that ended a year ago and the conviction of the character in the song that it was the only love they’ll ever know. There are memories of burning kisses and laughter and then a voice that whispers “I can’t stay.” In the present moment there is beauty all around. Yet, they are consumed with “heartbreaking memories” that they “should not remember.”
In her November 2008 article in Psychology Today, “The Art of Now: Six Steps to Living in the Moment,” Jan Dixit writes, “Suppose you’ve just broken up with your girlfriend or boyfriend; you’re heartbroken, overwhelmed by feelings of sadness and longing. You could try to fight these feelings, essentially saying, “I hate feeling this way; I need to make this feeling go away.” But by focusing on the pain—being sad about being sad—you only prolong the sadness. You do yourself a favor by accepting your feelings, saying instead, “I’ve just had a breakup. Feelings of loss are normal and natural. It’s OK for me to feel this way.” From this perspective, the Psychology Today article would advise the heartbroken person in “This Time Long Ago” not to judge themselves for feeling heartbroken. If we are still sad a year later about the loss of a relationship when someone broke it off saying “I can’t stay…I should not remember,” we are only beating ourselves up when we tell ourselves we shouldn’t remember our heartbreak.
Acceptance of an unpleasant state doesn’t mean you don’t have goals for the future. It just means you accept that certain things are beyond your control. The sadness, stress, pain, or anger is there whether you like it or not. Better to embrace the feeling as it is. Nor does acceptance mean you have to like what’s happening. Jon Kabat-Zin, founder of the Stress Reduction Clinic and the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, writes, “Acceptance of the present moment has nothing to do with resignation. Acceptance doesn’t tell you what to do. What happens next, what you choose to do, that has to come out of your understanding of this moment.”
Vancouver music writer Richard Skelly provides this backstory to “This Time Long Ago”. “… it was one of four 1967 sessions the boys cut in London with Tony Hiller producing. Tony was the future co-writer and producer of United We Stand for Brotherhood Of Man. He came to the Guess Who’s rescue after they had relocated to England, lured by promises of gigs, sessions and opportunities by King Records. That British label had managed to promote the band’s His Girl onto the lower rungs of U.K. charts. Bachman, Cummings, Kale and Peterson flew over. But the relocation became a fiasco. The guys rejected a terrible contract proferred by King. Promised concerts disappeared. The four musicians moved into a single hotel room to conserve dwindling funds. Hearing of their plight, aspiring songwriter Ralph Murphy got in touch. British born/Canadian raised, Murphy was working for Mills Music in London. He introduced the group to Tony Hiller. He, in turn, offered to record the band with rights to release whatever emerged outside of Canada (where the band was signed to Quality)…. “This Time Long Ago” was released on Fontana in the U.K. and the U.S. While it didn’t chart nationally in those markets, it was a sizeable hit in Canada. Similarly, Flying On The Ground Is Wrong did very well north of the border. But for those fortuitous sessions, prospects would have been bleak for The Guess Who when they returned home chastened. And about $28,000 in debt. The two hits led to national gigs. A timely link up with CBC Television as house band for the Winnipeg instalment of Let’s Go also allowed them to start paying off debts. Soon enough, they met future producer Jack Richardson who truly opened doors.”
“This Time Long Ago” climbed to #7 in Cranbrook, British Columbia, #16 in Winnipeg, #18 in Regina, #20 in Vancouver, made the Top 30 in Saskatoon (SK) and Calgary (AB), and the Top 40 in Hamilton (ON).
Believing in the band, producer Jack Richardson went into debt to help them record their first studio album. In September 1968 the band dropped the question mark from their billing and The Guess Who recorded Wheatfield Soul. It was released in March 1969 along with the debut single from the album, “These Eyes.“ The band followed up Wheatfield Soul with the release of Canned Wheat in September 1969, a riff off of the California rock ‘n blues band Canned Heat. The album featured the double sided hit single “Laughing” / “Undun” along with the initial recording of the song “No Time.”
By 1970, the Guess Who had moved toward an edgier hard-rock sound with the album American Woman. The album’s a single, “American Woman”, with B-side “No Sugar Tonight”, was the first record by a Canadian band to top the U.S. Hot 100, and was the group’s only chart topper on the Billboard Hot 100. Bachman left the band after releasing his own solo record and within a few years founded the Bachman–Turner Overdrive.
Several albums in 1973 failed to deliver hoped for record sales. In 1974 The Guess Who pulled out of their slump with a Top Ten hit across the continent, “Clap For The Wolfman,” a tribute to the famed rock ‘n roll DJ. However, after their album, Road Food, the band went back into a slump with fans taking a pass on further album releases into 1975-76. Meanwhile, The Guess Who officially split up in October 1975.
Over the decades since their breakup, The Guess Who have performed at reunion concerts and tours. As of October 2017, The Guess Who have thirteen upcoming concerts scheduled between April and November 2018. The current lineup includes original band member of The Guess Who, Gary Peterson.
May 27, 2017
Contributions from John Einarson and Burton Cummings, The Guess Who, Manitoba Music Museum, Winnipeg, MB, 2012 and 2016.
Ivor Levene, “Rearview Mirror: Burton Cummings Reflects on The Guess Who,” Relix.com, New York, NY, June 20, 2016.
“This Time Long Ago”, Richard Skelly email to Ray McGinnis, June 14, 2019.
“C-FUNTASTIC FIFTY,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, July 22, 1967.
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