April Wine has enjoyed quite a 40th-anniversary year — inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame and out on the road touring. Back in 1981, the Montreal-based band was riding a string of hits here at home when the power ballad “Just Between You and Me,” from the album Nature of the Beast, broke in America. It not only charted Top 25 on Billboard, it became the first song by a Canadian act to air on MTV. Frontman Myles Goodwyn spoke to Words + Music about one of the band’s many Canadian classics.
What do you remember about the recording of that song?
We’d been in England recording at the Manor Studio, owned by Richard Branson, and the other guys had already gone home. I was still there because I was having some difficulties, one of which was the guitar solo for this song. It wasn’t working, I wasn’t satisfied. So I decided at the last minute to redo the solo. But there was no gear left in the studio. I grabbed a guitar and there was this RAT distortion pedal so I used that. It was a bit unnerving to record on a borrowed guitar plugged directly into the console, but the solo really worked, it sounded cool. Funny that the last song we did was the biggest hit off the record. I think this happens fairly often.
How did it compare to your previous hits in terms of impact?
We had broken into the States already but this was our biggest single in America. It kicked things up a notch. All of a sudden we were on the radio.
What was the inspiration for the lyrics?
I always write the music first. That comes easily, but the lyrics I agonize over. I think that a nice piece of music with a bad lyric is a real shame. So I find a phrase that starts the ball rolling. I thought “just between you and me” was a nice phrase and was surprised nobody had used it. It was definitely a love song, which I dedicated to my wife at the time.
What’s the secret to writing a good ballad?
Like most people who grew up fans of the Beatles, I’m not happy just doing one kind of music. I like to write different things. And if you have a nice ballad to open the door you can get away with a lot. It’s kind of like a pretty girl. So it helps to have a pretty melody. That’s like a canvas, waiting for you. And it’s important to be sincere, and write things people can identify with. Be as honest as possible. It’s tremendous how that can work in your favour.
Of all your hits, what do you feel is this song’s legacy?
I hope that, in my lifetime, it will get a songwriter’s award. What used to be very exciting for me was the BMI Awards. You’d go to the ceremony and look around and there would be Paul Simon or Stevie Wonder. And I was there because my songs were being honoured by the same people. I know it’s a little bit selfish as a band member to get so excited about the songwriter awards, but I never really wanted to be a singer, I wanted to be a songwriter. I hope it’s not like the Junos though, or I’ll be 140 before I actually get the award!