The Manitoba Song

When I listened to this song on the radio many years ago, it never occurred to me how “Manitoba” it was.   In fact, it wasn’t until attending a Burton Cummings concert last year how “Manitoba” the Guess Who were.  They seemed distant then (1970’s), but only with Burton’s effusive acknowledgement of his humble upbringings in North Winnipeg and appreciation for such, did I recently become connected with the work of Cummings and The Guess Who.

This song never occurred to me that it was so “Manitoba”.  I’m Manitoba even though I left there at age 21 and never returned.  You can take the boy out of Manitoba but you can’t take Manitoba out of the boy!  Manitoba is metaphoric for “down to earth”, “basic”, “unassuming”, “friendly”, “positive”.  There are reasons for it, but I won’t go into it much on this post as I want to present a song by The Guess Who that is strangely “so Manitoba”.

Here are the lyrics:

“Glamour Boy”

“Glamour boy
Get your costume on
You got ’em lined up waiting for you
Glamour boy
You got ’em standing in the aisles
So don’t hang ’em up
For $25,000 you can look like a woman tonight
For $25,000 I think it’ll work out right

I think it’ll work out, uh-huh
I think it’ll work out
Oh, you never know how to ride it
Think it’ll work out

Glamour boy
You’ve been tops for a while
With a million dollar smile
Glamour boy
You got rave reviews
And you’re front page news
For $37,000 you can look like your sister tonight
For $37,000 I think it’ll work out right

I think it’ll work out, uh-huh
I think it’ll work out
Ah, you never know how you’ll ride it
Think it’ll work out

So spin with the archer, now, and
Laugh in his face as he cocks his bow
Steal from his mistress
As she’s makin’ love to your family
And be aware
That there’s not many there
Who want to take time to sing and play an honest song for the people no more
Come on, take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight
Don’t you wanna take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight

Ladies and gentlemen, a warm, space age welcome if you will for the most phenomenal group of the century, Ricky and the Balloons

Glamour boy
You’ve really had your fill
And it’s all downhill
Glamour boy
You’ve got tales to tell
When you see your old friends
For $49,000 you can look like a woman tonight
For $49,000 I think it’ll work out right

I think it’ll work out, uh-huh
I think it’ll work out
Oh, you never know how you’ll ride it
Think it’ll work out

So spin with the archer, now, and
Laugh in his face as he cocks his bow
Steal from his mistress
As she’s makin’ love to your family
And be aware
That there’s not many there
Who want to take time to sing and play an honest song for the people no more
Don’t you wanna take time to sing and play an honest song for the people no more
Don’t you wanna try and take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight
You can’t fool ’em
Take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight
They’re getting smarter
Take time to sing an honest song for the people tonight
Don’t you wanna try and take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight
Come on and take time to sing and play an honest song for the people tonight   ”

You can catch the tune on YouTube here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nap4pPfmBoU

This isn’t about the music, it’s about the lyrics and Manitoba.

Here is the cool thing about the lyrics.  The Guess Who were a Manitoba band who somewhat naively played their music without any pretense or show whatsoever.  Just good ol’ Manitoba boys playing their stuff.  As they rose to prominence around the world, they observed David Bowie and his showmanship, making himself look somewhat like a female.  This dumbfounded the down to earth Manitoba boys who played their concerts in basic prairie blue jeans and saw no reason to do anything different.  Yet Bowie was putting on quite a show with his make-up and showmanship…..and of course did very well from it.

This song indicates these ordinary (but extraordinary) musicians struggling to come to terms with the developments in showmanship, and largely rejecting it…..probably a big mistake in economic terms. Bowie irked them a bit because they figured it should be all about the music.

When we observed Burton’s concert recently, I was relieved to discover that he stayed true to his Manitoba roots……just an ordinary, unassuming guy, grateful for any attention his fans gave him ( I think he thanked his audience 50 times for allowing him to continue to do what he loved doing).  He said in his concert which had forebade any recordings:  “take all the pictures and recordings you want.  The way I see it, when people stop wanting to do that, it means they no longer care what you are doing.”   Now that’s Manitoba!

Advertisements

2 thoughts on “The Manitoba Song

  1. I didn’t know you were a Manitoba kid, but likely saw you are Portage every year…
    I was born in Manitoba, but was raised in beautiful Kenora, and so from time to time could pick up the flavor of Winnipeg at least when visiting there during the summers most years. There was a very distinct character to that city, and to the whole province that to a NW Ontario kid was very different. Although missing most of the beauty that I was surrounded by, the prairies had a flavor not disagreeable…

    I remember the Salisbury House restaurants with their incredibly good hamburgers and chocolate shakes.
    The Chocolate Shop with it’s deep brown stained squeaky floors, big wooden booths and an ambience very definitely Winnipegish, and yet more.
    How about Portage and Main where winter swept in ferociously, and didn’t let up until the final thaw ended in April.
    And the Bay and Eatons who in those days had a real scrap on for decades while others tried to round out the retail trade.
    How about the YMCA where skinny little kids with undeveloped butts and weenies swam in the pool, and possible discharged their yellow stream regularly when no one was looking.
    And the different districts of the city that radiated out of the core.
    How about the lazy Assinboine River that joined the Red, and usually with hardly a current meandered north into the two big lakes.
    And then the road from Ontario to Winnipeg that laced itself through Black Hawk and many other lakes. So scenic, and yet there was this strange anticipation of reaching Beausejour and other such fringe prairie towns that indicated that the car journey would soon be over.
    You might recall Adolf and Marie Liest on Sherbrooke Street where they acted as a sort of ‘Grand Central Station’ for workers and hospital patients out of town.
    And so it was in those days that Wpg offered many treats, many things so different from the railway, resort and logging town of Kenora.

    Was there a downside to all this?
    Yes.
    Proud Manitobans would flock to the lakes to show off their big city boats and relative disagreeable personalities, as if visiting their poor peasant cousins in the country where all things backward and stupid resided.
    We far preferred the Americans who flew in for fishing trips because they didn’t bring this ‘big city’ thing with them.
    In fact, we found ourselves comparing the two, the former with derision because they lacked the bucks that the Americans had, and yet pretended to own the world when they rented rooms at the low-end resorts on Lake of the Woods.

    As for the Guess Who .. yes they sure had their own sound. Many years later when they were just hitting the NA market as BTO, loaded as usual I heard them play in Point Roberts south of Vancouver at one of the popular venues there where the weak beer and cheap prices easily competed with the costs of stronger beer in Vancouver. They were good, solid and hard rocking by then, and much different sound from the Guess Who.

    Ah our youth now long past, Bruce.

    Alas, not all so bad, diba?

    • I came from near the Sask border but have lots of similar Winnipeg memories including “The Sals”. I used to think of Winnipeg as the ideal city, big enough but not too big, no slums and a pretty friendly place for a city of a half million. I lived there for 4 years for post secondary education and enjoyed the whole time there.

      Those were the days!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s