Reid Diamond passed away February 17th/01 at his home in Toronto. Before there was a FFWD, before there was an "alternative" music scene, before there was much in the way of live music, save the enormous hotel taverns with their upstairs pubs and downstairs discoteques … there was Reid Diamond and his band, "Buick McKane".
It was 1976 … I had recently discovered some new music that was becoming this underground scene called punk rock. Barry had his second hand record store, Sound Swap, just off 17th avenue where I had come upon albums by Patti Smith and the Ramones. I can't tell you the excitement I felt when I first gave them a spin. I started lugging these records to every friends place I had, and every party I went to, all the while lamenting the fact that there was nothing like this I could hear live.
1977 was fast approaching, and I was scouring some record store in the southwest looking for more of this great music. So was Reid Diamond. There we were, the only two people in the place looking for records by bands playing a type of music they couldn't even catagorize yet. Needless to say, we struck up a conversation and he told me he had a band and that they were playing places like the Airliner and the Beacon, and I should come down and check them out. Wow, this was cool!
So, off I go to the Airliner … a tavern that was mainly frequented by the working stiffs of the northeast, most of them offended by this edgy kind of rock and roll. They wanted Uriah Heep, they got Buick McKane. Buick McKane … four young guys with spikey hair and narrow jeans, playing three chord early british prepunk covers by the Who, Slade, The Kinks, David Bowie … and later … The Sex Pistols, The Ramones and The Jam.
Reid would even appreciate bands like the Bay City Rollers and the Raspberries, although he would kill me if I told you that. I called him up one saturday afternoon and I could hear this loud music in the background. When I asked him what he was listening to, he said, "oh god, you've just caught me listening to the Raspberries!" Reid could always appreciate a good pop song.
Buick McKane was my live introduction to what would soon become punk. They were just kids themselves. They loved this music and nobody else around town was paying homage to it, at least not any working band.
Needless to say, we all became friends and had a small little group of our own … shunned by anyone who didn't look like us or listen to what we were listening to. Buick McKane were doing gigs at numerous clubs, such as the Beacon, along with high school and community hall dances (which even extended outside of Calgary into rural Alberta). I was there whenever they played and they were beginning to attract a small but loyal following. Reid was a small guy, and his bass was about as big as he was! Scott Reed, the singer, had this great voice and stage presence that, if he was living in a place like New York, would have made him famous. Brian Connelly, lead guitar player, copped the windmill guitar gesture made famous by Pete Townshend and he used it whenever they would do a Who song. Alex Koch, the drummer was tight and fast. They were a great band and had so much fun when they played. They were loved (and loathed) as far back as 1975. Long-time friends (and fans), Patti and Blythe, recall Buick McKanes first line-up with drummer Rob Wynne. Fans at that time included classmates at Dr. E.P. Scarlett High School who faithfully cheered them on while carrying their "Maximum R&R" business cards and sporting Buick McKane T-Shirts silkscreened in a graphics class!
At a time when so many people were humming songs like "Best Of My Love" or "Island Girl," Buick McKane dared to belt out songs like "You Really Got Me" or "My Generation," with genuine teenaged angst. They even had this cheesy cover called "the Cops are Comin" by some very little known band called the Kids. When they played it, they'd plunk the red police light on top of the amp, where it would turn and create a scene like they were all getting busted for fighting. A crowd pleaser to be sure. Buick McKane were young, energetic and talented but were yet to find their own voice. Hell, at that time nobody wanted original stuff in Calgary anyway. Reid had this vision though and he knew that Calgary wasn't going to support it. The existence of Buick McKane was a brief party and he knew it. You could only play a scant number of bars here where most of the people didn't want to hear you anyway. The party was going to have to end.
In early 1979 Reid Diamond and Brian Connelly headed to Toronto. Buick McKane was no longer, but once they got down east they recruited Don Pyle and Nagdee, and called themselves "Crash Kills Five". Alex Koch, their Buick McKane drummer, would join them and round out the band. A few years later … some personnel changes, some more life experience in the big city … Reid Diamond, Brian Connelly and Don Pyle become "Shadowy Men from a Shadowy Planet". They're approached by a troop of comedians known as "Kids in the Hall" … one of them, Bruce McCulloch, being a very old and good friend of Reid's from Calgary. You all know the theme music from Kids in the Hall. Shadowy Men were an instrumental band, which is very unique in itself, and were now becoming nationally known. It was the 90's now, and Calgary had opened up. There were a couple of clubs that would book this Toronto band and the places would be packed whenever they'd play here … clubs like the Republik and the Night Gallery. All things must pass, however. The Kids in the Hall disbanded and so did Shadowy Men, although one not having to do with the other. For a brief period of time, Reid had a band (along with Don Pyle, Dallas Good and Beverly Breckenridge) called Phono-Comb. That was the last band of his I saw and they were the best yet.
Reid had been in bands for most of his life … from Buick McKane to Phono-Comb and he was getting tired. It was a lot of work and it was becoming a lifestyle that just wasn't paying off with a lot of fun and energy anymore. He needed to express himself in other ways and not feel restricted by the direction anyone he was working with happened to be taking. The last few years of his life he was coming into his own as an artist … creating some amazing art pieces and gallery shows. All things must pass, and the cancer that took Reid Diamond took him too early and too young. He was (and i'm sure still is) a remarkable energy … always working at what he loved to do, always the funniest person in the room (his sardonic wit was legendary!) and always the perpetual youth. I feel so lucky and so honoured to have memories of him that I and Patti and Blythe and many others in Calgary can share. Buick McKane was the start of everything "alternative" in the music scene in this city, but they were already a memory when Calgary's punk movement started to come into being … with bands like the Verdix, the Breeders, the Sandwiches, the Sturgeons, the Unusuals and even my band, Animal Kingdom, to name but just a few. I just wanted to tell you about Buick McKane, some of you may even remember them. MANY of you remember Reid Diamond. This small man left a huge mark. Who could forget him? So Reid, wherever you are … thank you.
Thanks for the memories, thanks for the good times and even some of the bad, and thank you for making a difference. You were really something special lad, really something special. Cheers!!!!