#385: You Could Have Been A Lady by April Wine

Peak Month: April 1972
11 weeks on Vancouver’s CKVN Chart
Peak Position ~ #1
Peak Position on Billboard Hot 100 ~ #32
YouTube: “You Could Have Been A Lady
Lyrics: “You Could Have Been A Lady

April Wine is a Canadian rock band that has released 34 singles, 16 studio albums and 9 live albums. They formed in Waverly, Nova Scotia, in 1969. The founding members were brothers David Henman (guitar) and Ritchie Henman (drums) and Myles Goodwyn (lead vocals, guitar). The Henman brothers cousin Jim Henman was also part of the band, but was replaced by bass player Jim Clench in 1971, a year after the band moved to Montreal and released their self-titled debut album. Miles Francis Goodwin was born in Woodstock, New Brunswick, in 1948. James Patrick Clench was born in Montreal in 1949. The Henman brothers were born and raised in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

With the release of their second album, On Record, the band had a Top Ten hit nationally in Canada in 1972 with “You Could Have Been A Lady”.

You Could Have Been A Lady by April Wine

“You Could Have Been A Lady” was cowritten by Errol Brown and Tony Wilson. Errol Brown was born in Jamaica in 1943. His family moved to England in 1955. Brown got noticed in the music scene when in 1969 he did a reggae cover of John Lennon’s “Give Peace A Chance”. Brown wrote numbers of songs for the band he fronted called Hot Chocolate. These include “Emma” – a song about the suicide of Errol Brown’s mother, “You Sexy Thing” and “Everyone’s A Winner”. He also wrote “Brother Louie” about an interracial relationship. It was a #7 hit in the UK for Hot Chocolate, and a #1 hit for the Stories in 1973 in America and Canada.

Anthony “Tony” Wilson was born in Trinidad in 1947. Wilson moved in his youth to England. Wilson first recorded for Decca with The Souvenirs in 1963, covering Lou Christie’s “How Many Teardrops”. Then Wilson collaborated with future Deep Purple producer Derek Lawrence while with the Soul Brothers. Wilson met Errol Brown in Brixton, UK, in 1968. They formed Hot Chocolate later that year.

In 1970 Hot Chocolate had a #6 hit in the UK titled “Love Is Life”. Their followup hit was “You Could Have Been A Lady”. It climbed to #22 on the UK singles chart in 1971.

“You Could Have Been A Lady” was based on Errol Brown’s experience of dating a girlfriend who failed to turn up for a date (possibly at a restaurant). Instead, it seems, she was otherwise engaged as a Lady of the Night. (“They all want you, to make love to. When you awake, you find them on the bed lyin’ beside you. They all love you, you’re a good girl. And I ain’t surprised when you realize just where you’re goin’ to”). In the song he wrote, Errol Brown senses this woman’s fall into empty glamour and a life of prostitution.

The word “lady” has its roots in Old English lafdi. It meant “mistress of a household, wife of a lord,” apparently literally “one who kneads bread,” from hlaf “bread” + dige “maid,” which is related to dæge “maker of dough.” (Old English dates back to the 5th century). By the 14th century the in lafdi had disappeared. And so the Middle English word ladi emerged, and with it the additional meaning of a “woman chosen as an object of chivalrous love.” In the 14th century the word ladily emerged which became ladylike – meaning “refined, well-bred, courteous.” A “lady” also became used to refer to a “woman of superior position in society.” But it was not until 1861 that the word lady described a “woman whose manners and sensibilities befit her for high rank in society.”

In addition, there was a custom dating back to 5th century Britain of referring to the Holy Virgin Mary – mother of Jesus of Nazareth – as a lady. This additional connotation came to infer that a “lady” was the opposite of a woman of lose morals; The opposite of a woman who was a “whore,” or otherwise unable to reign in her sexual appetites. And so, in Errol Brown’s song “You Could Have Been A Lady”, he lets this woman who stood him up for a date know that she is not a lady. The put-down doesn’t require him to tell her exactly what he thinks the best word is to describe her. But it is likely an antonym for lady: a woman  who is bawdy, boorish, vulgar and obscene.

With their cover of the Hot Chocolate single, April Wine’s “You Could Have Been A Lady” climbed to #1 in Vancouver (BC), #2 in Cleveland (OH), #5 in Dayton (OH) and Minneapolis/St. Paul, #6 in Toronto and Tucson (AZ), #7 in Syracuse (NY), Bowling Green (KY), Macon (GA), Chicago, and Akron (OH), and #9 in Sioux Falls (SD).

In 1973 their third album, Electric Jewels, was a commercial disappointment. However, on their fourth album in 1974, Live, the April Wine had another Top Ten hit in Vancouver called “I’m On Fire For You Baby.” The song latter appeared in the 2006 Canadian film, Trailer Park Boys: The Movie, directed by Mike Clattenburg.

Their fourth studio album, Stand Back, went double platinum with 2 million sales. The next single release was “I Wouldn’t Want to Lose Your Love”, from the Stand Back album. It climbed to #12 in Vancouver in early 1975. A second single from the album, “Tonite Is a Wonderful Time to Fall in Love”, climbed to #5 on the RPM Canadian singles chart in 1975. However, the single didn’t chart in Vancouver.

A number of changes in the band left Myles Goodwyn as the only founding member. Former Mashmakhan drummer, Jerry Mercer, replaced Ritchie Henman, and Garry Moffat took over from Dave Henman on guitar. Steve Lang took over on bass from Jim Clench. This line-up would record the band’s fifth studio album in 1976, The Whole World’s Goin’ Crazy. It included a Top 20 hit in Vancouver titled “Gimme Love“. This album went platinum before it was released. On May 15, 1976, April Wine gave a concert in Vancouver at the PNE Garden Auditorium.

In the winter of 1976-77, April Wine went back to the recording studio. The outcome was their sixth studio album Forever For Now. The band had Top Ten success in the spring of ’77  with “You Won’t Dance With Me”.

In March 1978, April Wine released their seventh studio album titled First Glance. Off the album the band released four singles, the second of which was “Comin’ Right Down On Top Of Me”.

A subsequent single, “Roller”, became their best charting single to date, breaking into the Top 40 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album became the bands best charting album on the Billboard 200 album chart and led to three separate tours respectively with the rock bands Rush, Journey and Styx.

On July 22, 1978, and December 30, 1979, and again on May 10, 1980, April Wine appeared in concert in Vancouver – each occasion at the Pacific Coliseum. In 1981 April Wine had their most successful single, “Just Between You And Me”, which climbed to #21 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Meanwhile, the album it was included on, The Nature of the Beast, represented the bands commercial peak. They continued to chart songs into the Top Ten nationally in Canada, notably with “Enough Is Enough” in 1983. Myles Goodwyn published a memoir titled Just Between You And Me. On August 1, 1981, October 16, 1982, and again on July 28, 1984, April Wine gave concerts in Vancouver at the Pacific Coliseum.

April Wine has received eleven Juno Award nominations. Yet, they’ve lost out on each occasion to other Canadian performing artists. On June 14, 1991, at the 86th Street Music Hall; And two years later on September 6, 1993, April Wine appeared in concert at the Vogue Theatre  in Vancouver.

On August 24, 2009, April Wine came to Vancouver and performed at the PNE Exhibition Park. On April 24, 2010, April 16, 2011, and again on October 12, 2013, the band performed in Vancouver – each time at the Commodore Ballroom. On April 13, 2013, April Wine appeared in the Vancouver suburb of Coquitlam at the Red Robinson Show Theatre. On May 31, 2014, April Wine performed at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver. And on May 9, 2015, April Wine performed in the Vancouver suburb of Richmond at the River Rock Casino. The band continues to perform and, between August 2019 and mid-May 2020, April Wine had 21 tour dates booked. But numbers of these scheduled concerts were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

February 1, 2021
Ray McGinnis

April Wine – History, April Wine.ca.
Lauren La Rose, “April Wine Frontman Myles Goodwyn Shares Highs and Heartaches in New Memoir,” Toronto Sun, December 15, 2016.
Dave Buerster, Brian Greenway, David Henman, Robert Henman, Richard Perrault and Brian White, “April Wine,” Canadianbands.com.
Daniel E. Slotnik, “Errol Brown, 71, Dies; Wrote and Sang Disco Hit ‘You Sexy Thing’,” New York Times, May 6, 2015.
Caroline Frost, “Errol Brown Dead: Hot Chocolate Frontman Dies Aged 71 After Suffering From Liver Cancer,” Huffington Post, May 5, 2015.
Pete Lewis, “Errol Brown: A Fondent Farewell,” bluesandsoul.com, May 6, 2015.
Bauer Xcel, “Happy Birthday, Hot Chocolate’s Tony Wilson,” Mojo, October 8, 2013.
April Wine: Concert Dates in Canada,” setlist.fm.

For more song reviews visit the Countdown.

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