#297: White Hot by Red Rider
Peak Month: April 1980
14 weeks on Vancouver’s CFUN chart
Peak Position #5
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #48
YouTube.com: “White Hot”
Lyrics: “White Hot”
Tom Cochrane was born in Lynn Lake, Manitoba, in 1953. When he was eleven he got his first guitar. In his late teens and early twenties, he performed in coffee houses across Canada in the early 70’s. His debut album, Hang On To Your Resistance, was released in 1974. Then Tom Cochrane made his way to Los Angeles. In 1975, Cochrane got work composing theme music for the movie My Pleasure Is My Business. This was a film about Xavier Hollander, the call girl and adult film star who authored her own memoir, The Happy Hooker, in 1971. Unable to get subsequent work in Hollywood, Cochrane returned to Canada for drive a taxi and work on a cruise line. At a concert at the El Mocambo for Red Rider in 1978, Tom Cochrane met the band. Soon after Cochrane was invited to join Red Rider.
Red Rider formed in Toronto in 1975. The band consisted of 1975 when lead vocalist and keyboard player Peter Boynton, guitar, keyboard and backing vocalist Ken Greer, guitarist Arvo Lepp, bass player Jon Checkowski and drummer Rob Baker. By the time Red Rider brought Tom Cochrane on board in 1978, the lineup consisted of Boynton, Greer, Cochrane, baker and former bass player with Rush, Jeff Jones. Red Rider released four albums between 1979 and 1984.
The band’s first single was “White Hot”.
Tom Cochrane wrote “White Hot”. He recalls “I guess it proves that naivete is one of the mothers of invention… I wrote most of the lyrics in a dusty corner of Guelph University’s Porter Hall library after reading Henry Miller’s White Heat/Time of The Assassins, an essay on Rimbaud. Kenny came up with the mystical piano intro after I played him the song at his place in north Toronto. I would travel to Somalia during the crisis there some 15 years later with World Vision. This was a country in which Rimbaud had sold guns, and unfortunately that legacy still remains.”
The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud is a novel Henry Miller published in 1946. It was his tenth novel. Henry Valentine Miller was born in 1891 on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. His novels were sexually frank for the time and there were trials in the 1960s concerning his books, which were all banned in the United States until 1961. Henry Miller, in his book The Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud, introduced his readers to the French poet Arthur Rimbaud. Jean Nicholas Arthur Rimbaud was born in Charleville on the Franco-Belgian border by the River Meuse. Arthur Rimbaud was a star pupil in school, but he abandoned school and ran away to Paris during the Franco-Prussian War (1870). He wrote the bulk of his poetry in his teens which prefigured surrealism. He quit writing poetry at the age of 20, after completing his extended poem A Season In Hell in 1873, and his work Illuminations.
In 1871 Rimbaud began a torrid romance with the poet Paul Verlaine, whose 17-year-old wife was pregnant at the time. Rimbaud and Verlaine led a wild, vagabond-like life spiced by absinthe, opium, and hashish. In a drunken rage, Verlaine fired two shots from a pistol at Rimbaud, one which wounded young Arthur in the left wrist. Verlaine ended up going to prison for two years. In his twenties he travelled to Java, Cyprus and Yemen. He worked as a merchant and worked in the coffee and firearms trade. He settled in Harar, Ethiopia, in 1884.
The lyrics in “White Hot” refer to episodes in Rimbaud’s life while trading firearms in Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti: “We’re cast out from the jungle, with no rations, one canteen. For selling faulty rifles to the thieves in Tanzania.”
“White Hot” was a Top 20 hit across Canada, and climbed to #5 in Vancouver, #7 in Regina (SK), #12 in Ottawa (ON), and #13 in Fredericton (NB). The single also climbed to #48 on the Billboard Hot 100. The single was from the debut album by Red Rider titled Don’t Fight It.
Then on May 10, 1980, Red Rider appeared in concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
A second album released in 1981 titled As Far As Siam expanded their fan base. And on September 5, 1981, Red Rider gave a concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
And in 1983 Red Rider’s third studio album, Neruda, featured the single “Human Race”. A fourth album, Breaking Curfew, didn’t sell very well. In 1986, they released the album, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider. One of the songs on the album was “Boy Inside The Man“. And later that year on October 23rd, the band performed in concert at Vancouver’s BC Place Stadium.
In 1988, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider, they released Victory Day. Their debut single off this album was “Big League”. By 1988 Tom Cochrane & Red Rider consisted of Cochrane, Greer, John Webster on keyboards and synthesizers, Ken “Spider” Sinneave on bass, Randall Coryell on drums and Peter Mueller on guitar. In the studio production of Victory Day, Denny Fongheiser and Mickey Curry also added drums to the tracks. Victory Day earned Tom Cochrane & Red Rider three Juno Award nominations. On March 2, 1989, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider performed in concert at the Orpheum in Vancouver.
After “Big League”, Tom Cochrane went on to release a solo album in 1991 titled Mad Mad World. The studio recording featured Red Rider bandmates Spider Sinneave and John Webster. On the album was a single release titled “Life Is A Highway.” In early 1992 the single climbed to #1 in Canada and #6 on the Billboard Hot 100. The albums’ follow up singles, “No Regrets”, Sinking Like Sunset” and “Washed Away” all made the top ten on the Canadian RPM singles chart. Cochrane followed up with an album in 1995 titled Ragged Ass Road, named after a street in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. It included the top ten hits on the Canadian RPM singles chart “I Wish You Well” (#1), “Wildest Dreams” (#5) and “Dreamer’s Dream” (#4).
On July 1 the band performed in concert in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey at Surrey Canada Day 2006. On February 18, 2008, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider gave a concert at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.
In all, Tom Cochrane has released seven studio albums as a solo artist. Separately, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider released three albums, and Red Rider released four albums. (So, Tom Cochrane has been featured in 14 studio albums).
On February 24, 2015, the band performed in Vancouver’s suburb of Coquitlam at the Hard Rock Casino. August 29, 2015, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider appeared in concert at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver. In 2016, a stretch of highway between Lynn Lake and Thompson, Manitoba, was named the Tom Cochrane Life Is A Highway. On March 2, 2017, at the Abbotsford Centre, in the city of Abbotsford – a one hour drive east of Vancouver. August 29, 2017, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider performed in concert at the PNE Amphitheatre in Vancouver. On August 17, 2019, Tom Cochrane & Red Rider appeared in concert in West Vancouver’s Ambleside Park.
June 11, 2021
“Song Stories – White Hot,” Tomcochranesite.com.
“Arthur Rimbaud,” Wikipedia.org.
Henry Miller, Time of the Assassins: A Study of Rimbaud, (New Directions, 1946).
About Tom Cochrane, Tom Cochrane.com
“Interview: Tom Cochrane,” The Wire, Peterborough, Ontario, July 1, 2017
“Tom Cochrane: ‘You Sometimes Write the Happiest Songs When You’re Down’,” CBC, December 7, 2016
Terry David Mulligan, Tom Cochrane Interview – 2014, Mulligan Stew, January 31, 2015
David Friend, “Tom Cochrane reflects on success of ‘Life is a Highway’,” Toronto Star, Toronto, ON, January 5, 2017.
Tom Cochrane & Red Rider – Credits, Victory Day, Discogs.com
“Tom Cochrane has Stretch of Manitoba Highway Named After Him,” CBC, October 31, 2016.
“Tom Cochrane & Red Rider,” setlist.fm.
“C-FUN Top Thirty,” CFUN 1410 AM, Vancouver, BC, April 26, 1980.
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Remarkable that the song had it’s roots in Rimbaud, and, who knew the poet had been an arm’s dealer. It gives ‘Season In Hell’ a whole new meaning. Ray, thanks for this fascinating history. I have great respect for Tom Cochrane’s songwriting and abilities since the first time I heard “Don’t Fight It”