Danny Norton: a 50-year reunion with rock ‘n roll

A conversation with Grand Forks resident Danny Norton, who once courted the big time in rock ’n roll.

Danny Norton

by J. Kathleen Thompson

A conversation with Grand Forks resident Danny Norton, who once courted the big time in rock ’n roll, summons a magical time in Canadian musical history. He grew up in Winnipeg in the 1960s, and animatedly sketches the scene that inspired his first venture into music:

“In 1968, Winnipeg was the rock ’n roll capital of Canada, with 200 garage rock bands riding the wave of the success of The Guess Who and Neil Young and The Squires. With the British invasion, and the Liverpool-like feeding frenzy to catch the next big thing coming out of this unknown town, many of these bands were suddenly being offered recording contracts.”

One of these bands was Expedition to Earth who made their recording debut with two tunes: Expedition to Earth and Time, Time, Time, written by its lead guitarist, Danny Norton. The sound was patently ’60’s psychedelic rock (think The Byrds, The Doors, early Guess Who) with tightly knit song forms, sweet vocal harmonies, crystal-clear lyrics, novel fuzz guitar effects and cryptic messages. And compellingly good.

The band, however, didn’t ever get to record the rest of the album—more pressing gigs and tours and an eventual fall-out with their agent squashed further expeditions to the recording studio.

And now, almost 50 years later, Norton, 69, from his home now in Grand Forks, wants to complete what was left undone, and bring to fruition a project ignited in his youth. The time travel involved in compiling an oeuvre began in the ’60s not only reconnects him to especially creative times in his life, but, in its own way, documents a cultural phenomenon that began in Winnipeg during the 1960s.

“That period in music in Winnipeg was so alive you could taste it. Everyone got caught up in the creative vibe,” he said. “I’m really excited about the chance to finally lay down all those tracks of music I’ve been hearing in my head since that incredible time. And while the times they have changed, the sound from that era is still in my bones and I find myself unconsciously working within that familiar palette of sounds and ideas.

“The lyrics of my songs, for instance, still have an anti-war, peace/love sentiment, probably a throwback to the ’60s when we were all protesting the Vietnam war. Today, considering the turmoil around the world, messages of hope and peace are as important as they ever were.”

There were other triggers for Norton’s new resolve to get back to the recording studio. In 2008, while living in Grand Forks with his wife, Darcie Lee, he was encouraged by new and old fans and historians back in Manitoba to get back in the saddle and ‘give us more new old stuff’! Then, when the Nortons discovered that a copy of the single seven-inch 45 recording Expedition to Earth released in 1968 was, in 2016, fetching $1,137 on eBay, they knew there was indeed a huge interest in music of that time.

“Our single had become a coveted collector’s item, referred to as “one of the very best Canadian all-time killer psychedelic fuzz garage releases,” Norton said. “People were not only wanting a piece of history, but also realizing the lyrical value of our songs. In comparison to much of the vapid popular music you hear today, we had something to say!”

Actualizing decades of songwriting began at Zib City, a recording studio here in Grand Forks, with John Zibin. A trip to Winnipeg last November, and a collaboration between Danny, Darcie and two Winnipeg musicians (Greg Gardner and Kerry Hannah) nailed down 16 bed tracks which have now been handed over to John Tucker, an independent record producer in Nelson, for their final mix.

Securing Tucker’s services was fortuitous as he is highly regarded in his field, enthusiastic about the project and is a versatile keyboard player to boot!  Norton is clearly delighted with the partnership.

“Working with John initially meant two or three trips to Nelson every week but now, as the final mix involves minor tweaking—changing the register of the keyboard, opting for a B3 rather than a piano sound, adding more depth to the vocals—we can do that through on-line communication.  It’s great to see how it’s all taking shape through everyone’s contribution. The fact that John Tucker does not believe in auto tune means the recordings are real.”

The recording is close to release, both as a CD (entitled Cosmic Collision) and as a vinyl LP.  (entitled Beyond the Expedition to Earth), as well as three singles on vinyl. The vinyl records will have a limited run of 500 copies each.

A release party is tentatively planned for the city of the music’s genesis, Winnipeg. For interested musicophiles, limited copies of the CD and vinyl will be available this fall at The Source, 334 Market Avenue, Grand Forks, just before you have to bid on e-Bay to get your collector’s copy!

A wait list of purchasers has been established for the serious collector.

 

Just Posted

MP Cannings’ long-awaited wood-use bill passes in House vote

The private member’s bill is his first to pass the House, a rare feat for rookie MPs in opposition

Flood 2018: What comes next

Most evacuation orders have been rescinded, and residents are starting to return home

PHOTOS: Floodwaters rise and fall in Grand Forks

The flood-ravaged Kootenay-Boundary region begins to heal

VIDEO: Grand Forks shores up defences as floodwaters rise to peak levels

Canadian Forces, volunteers working to protect low-lying areas

UPDATED: Majority of flood evacuees in Kootenay-Boundary allowed to return home

Officials hope to have all 3,000 people back in their homes by Monday night

Police release video on how to ‘run, hide, fight’ if there’s an active shooter

Vancouver police offer video with input from E-Comm, BC EHS, Vancouver Fire and Rescue

Study recommends jurors receive more financial and psychological support

Federal justice committee calls for 11 policy changes to mitigate juror stress

Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

B.C. dad pens letter urging overhaul of youth health laws after son’s fatal overdose

The Infants Act currently states children under 19 years old may consent to medical treatment on own

Singh sides with B.C. in hornet’s nest of pipeline politics for the NDP

Singh had called for a more thorough environmental review process on the proposal

VIDEO: Campers leave big mess at rural Vancouver Island campsite

Vehicle parts, garbage, a mattress, lawn chairs, beer cans, and even fecal matter left in the area

VIDEO: B.C. woman gets up-close view of Royal wedding

Kelly Samra won a trip back to her home country to see Prince Harry and Meghan Markle say ‘I do’

30 C in B.C., 30 cm of snow expected for eastern Canada

It might be hot in B.C., but the rest of Canada still dealing with cold

Horgan defends fight to both retain and restrict Alberta oil imports

Alberta says pipeline bottlenecks are kneecapping the industry, costing millions of dollars a day

Most Read