My buddy David McPherson’s latest book 101 Fascinating Canadian Music Facts recently hit shelves. To mark the occasion, this week he’s letting me share a few of the stories from this deep dive into Canadian music history. Here’s the second one:
You’ll Have to Excuse Me …
Canadian Gen-Xers know the lyrics well. They screamed them at the top of their lungs with best buddies in their college days. They danced wildly at friends’ weddings to this Spirit Of The West song after a few too many libations, yelling lines like: “You’ll have to excuse me I’m not at my best!” while sweat flew from their smiling faces.
This party anthem — Home For A Rest —was inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2018. The song began as scribblings in band co-founder Geoffrey Kelly’s journal. It’s hard to imagine, but this rip-roaring tune that CBC Radio once named the 22nd Greatest Canadian Song of all time almost did not make the band’s 1990 platinum release, Save This House. Here’s the back story:
Save This House was recorded at Barney Bentall’s Vancouver studio with award-winning producer Danny Greenspoon. With pre-production done, and most of the tracks picked, Greenspoon had his bags packed and was heading to the airport. Before leaving, he paused and asked the band if they had any more songs. Kelly offered what he called a “half-baked idea for a tune” and played the producer a bare-bones Home For A Rest on his acoustic guitar.
Home For A Rest started as a long poem written years before when Spirit Of The West were schlepping across the U.K. playing pubs along Charing Cross Road like The Spice Of Life and travelling with all their gear from town to town via buses, taxis and trains. During this exhausting six weeks, the band spent most of the time crashing on friends’ floors or cramming into a single hostel room.
Never a commercial radio hit, but somehow — organically via college radio and through Spirit Of The West’s spirited live shows — the song took on a life of its own and became the crowd pleaser that ended shows with everyone pogo dancing.
Kelly admits the song was “a passport” for the band. “That one song was nearly enough to get us places,” he says. “We had to back it up with other material, but it certainly helped to open the doors and gave us a little credibility. Every once in a while, I’ll think about that song and relive that time when I wrote those lyrics. There is a charm in them that I love, like that verse about trains and travelling Yorkshire’s green fields … I can still smell the hops in the air. It’s a real snapshot of our early days as a band and a great little memento from that time.”