The Underworld and It’s All Meat

It’s All Meat were from Toronto and in 1969 – 70 recorded a couple 45s and an lp for Columbia, released only in Canada. Their first 45, “Feel It”, is great hard rock garage. The second, “You Don’t Notice the Time You Waste”, is from just a year later, but the band had definitely matured.

To me, at this point they sound like the New York Dolls, even though this is three years before the Dolls even got together. This song is also on their very rare lp, which has many other good tracks like “Make Some Use of Your Friends” and “Crying Into the Deep Lake”. Despite good song writing and a promising sound, the band broke up before anything could really get going.

Band members were Jed MacKay – organ, piano and lead vocals, Rick Aston – bass and vocals, Rick McKim – drums, Wayne Roworth – guitar, and Norm White – guitar. All their songwriting was done by McKim and MacKay, who also produced one of the great Canadian garage 45s, the Underworld’s “Bound” / “Get Away”.

The Underworld – Go Away
The Underworld – Bound

Since writing about It’s All Meat here a few months back, I started corresponding with Jed MacKay, keyboardist, singer and songwriter for the band. Here are his answers to the many questions I had. Jed has also kindly given me permission to post three songs of unreleased tracks by the Underworld, taken from a rare acetate.

“The Strange Experiment of Dr. Jarrod” is a psychedelic gem, driving, frantic, with cool lyrics and all hell breaking loose after the guitar solo! There can’t be many unreleased songs that come up to the level of this classic!

The Underworld – The Strange Experiment of Dr. Jarrod

“Love 22” is a fine pop garage song taken at a very fast tempo.

The Underworld – Love 22

Finally there’s a longer version of “(Tied and) Bound” which had been edited by about a minute for the 45.

The Underworld – Bound (Unedited version)

Jed MacKay: Rick and I weren’t in the Underworld – we just produced them. We were in the process of forming It’s All Meat at the time. The singer was Ken Ketter (known as Mondo), and the lead guitarist was Jim “Spanish” Carmichael. A footnote is that their drummer – Gil Moore – went on to form the successful band Triumph.

Q. How did you come to produce the Underworld?

Jed MacKay: Rick’s mother knew Gil Moore’s mother. We went out and had a listen, liked them, and decided to try and get them recorded. Regency was a pretty successful label, but our stuff was too wild for them. It was early ’68 – Regency (and mainstream radio) were still trying to deal with the sonic universe Jimi had opened up. I believe “Bound” was released as the A side. I don’t remember ever hearing it on the air. “Go Away” was deemed too wild for radio as was another unreleased track, “The Strange Experiment of Dr. Jarrod.” They didn’t suggest we produce anything else for them either!

Q. Was there a 4th song recorded at those sessions?

Jed MacKay: Yes, we recorded Go Away, Dr. Jarrod, (Tied and) Bound, and Love 22. We’d hoped “Jarrod” would be the A-side of the 2nd single, and were trying to make sure of it. It never crossed our minds that Go Away/Bound would be too much for radio, effectively scuttling all future plans. Love 22 was definitely a b-side, very much a 60s song.

Q. I read that Rick McKim’s dad was president of Phonodisc and that’s what helped sign the Underworld. Is this true? Did that connection help It’s All Meat get onto Columbia?

Jed MacKay: It certainly helped get The Underworld recorded. It’s All Meat was managed by a guy who called himself Jack London – (he’d had a hit as Jack London and the Sparrows – some of whom went on to form Steppenwolf I think) – and Jack was responsible for our Columbia deal.

Q. Were you in bands before It’s All Meat?

Jed MacKay: From 1965-67, Rick and I were in a band called the Easy Riders. Our repertoire mostly consisted of blues, & Stones, Kinks, with some amped up folk stuff as well.

Q. Was It’s All Meat named after the Animals song?

Jed MacKay: The name of the band was inspired by a dog food commercial that boasted “100% meat – no filler.”

Q. Did It’s All Meat play many live shows or tour?

Jed MacKay: We played around Toronto, and out of town now and then. Our home base was a club called The Cosmic Home.

Q. How was the Toronto scene in the 60’s and early 70’s? Did you know any other bands there like the Ugly Ducklings, David Clayton Thomas, Dee & the Yeomen, etc? What did you think of them?

Jed MacKay: To be honest, we were so busy rehearsing and playing, we really didn’t get to be a part of their scene. They were all just a little ahead of us, I think. We were certainly aware of them, just never really crossed paths with them.

Q. The lp lists the band members, but who sang? What kind of organ and keyboards did you play at the time?

Jed MacKay: I was the lead singer on every released track except Wayne sang lead on the LP cut “Self-Confessed Lover”. “If Only” – that was Rick Aston’s lead. Otherwise he sang the harmonies. I played a Gibson 101, which had a pretty good piano sound, organ sound, and a few others. Kind of a primitive synth.

Q. It’s All Meat is a fantastic album, professional production and songwriting, of the time yet ahead of it in some ways. It’s surprising that the band didn’t release any more records, as you obviously had a lot of promise.

Jed MacKay: It’s a shame the band broke up. We had lots of material to go, but couldn’t hold it together. Some of the unrecorded songs will surface in a musical I’m currently working on.

Q. Were you happy with the Canadian music scene in the 70’s?

Jed MacKay: I always found stuff to like, but it wasn’t as interesting to me as the eclectism and experimentation of the 60’s.


Article on the Cosmic Home from the Toronto Daily Star, June 7, ’69
Click for larger version
Guitarist Wayne Roworth recently contacted me and gave his story about the band in answer to my questions:

My first guitar was a dual pickup Sears (Simpsons back in the Canada day) when I was twelve. Learned by ear to songs like Tequila & Walk Don’t Run by the Ventures. Played in basements and local Community centers in Maple, Ontario. Moved up to a Harmony then a Vox then my Dad became interested in playing and he bought a used Rickenbacker 12 string.

I think I was playing a 1969 Gibson Custom Gold Top and was 18 years old when I answered an ad in the paper for a guitarist. Jed and Rick McKim were forming a band. I showed up with both guitars at I think a church somewhere in Toronto, Jed could tell you.

I think we jammed a bit then Jed wanted me to improvise on a song he and Rick had wrote called “Crying Into The Deep Lake..Baby”. For some reason I picked up my Dad’s Ric and picked off a melody in G. Jed said later that “moody” picking landed me the spot. I was the last member to join.

I talked my parents into me leaving school and becoming a full time musician. Since we rehearsed and played almost daily everything seems to blend together. I’ll try and highlight some moments.

– played the Cosmic Home club constantly as our home base. I remember Norm stabbing the headstock of his Strat into the white ceiling tiles and bits of tile would fall on people. He also used the mic stand as a slide, moving the guitar neck on the chrome pole. I remember Rick McKim used to hit his knuckles on the snare rim causing them to bleed. I have blood in one of my old guitar cases! After one gig there me and Norm got into my 1961 Comet and to our surprise there was a blonde in the back seat. She said she just wanted to hang with us, darn our socks, etc. Well she hung with us but I don’t remember my socks getting mended!

– recorded “Feel It” at Eastern Sound Studios. I think I wrote the guitar run on the Gold Top at the studio. It was my last time I used it before trading it in for a 1969 Gibson SG Custom.

– opened for “Muddy Waters” at the Rock Pile an old Masonic Temple on Yonge & Davenport. I saw Stevie Ray Vaughn play the same stage there in ’83 and it brought back memories. I remember that was our first large crowd, around 5,000, where we played “Feel It”.

– recorded the album at RCA Victor studios somewhere downtown Toronto. We did each track “Live” and only overdubbed the vocals and piano. Norm and I shared a lot of the leads. I still don’t know how to replicate the frenzied lead in “Roll My Own”.

– We used to haul our gear in Rick Aston’s VW bus which broke down a lot I remember it breaking down on the 400 heading to Barrie somewhere. We did make the gig. Don’t know how with no cell phones etc.

– speaking of gear here was our stuff as I remember it. We all had Marshall 4 x 12 dual stacks with 100 watt heads. Some sites mention Norm having a Traynor set up. That was after It’s All Meat. Rick McKim played a full Rogers kit. Norm played only his 1967 Strat. I played the 1967 Ric 12 string and the 1969 Gibson SG Custom. Rick Aston played a Ric bass with nylon strings. I think Jed’s keyboards were a Gibson something but check with him for accuracy. That gear, save the guitars, was stolen from a downtown practice warehouse sometime after the Columbia deal. We all thought it was our manager, Jack London, did it since we all were not doing well at the time.

As for me….I have always been playing in dozens of bands. I did go to Nashville to lay down some tracks on stuff I have been writing a few years back. I have several original cd’s recorded in various studios. Right now I am just having fun in a small trio playing the North Florida circuit and living in a log cabin on the Suawannee River. Over the years someone gave me the stage name of “Stayne” and it just stuck for some reason.

Jed MacKay commented to me on Wayne’s audition: “He had a Rickenbacker 12 string and a Les Paul. Norm had a Strat. We liked the variety. He’s right about the audition – I think it was in the basement of a church called St Lawrence United, on Bayview south of Lawrence. Rick and I had played Toronto’s first rock’n’roll church service there a couple of years earlier with our previous band, The Easy Riders. It was such big news it got a front page photo in the Toronto Star!”

It’s All Meat is legally reissued on CD on the Hallucinations label with bonus demo tracks and the Feel It single included. It was also issued on vinyl by Void Records in the late 1990’s in a fine gatefold cover with a 7″ of the Feel It single and a glossy photo of the band. Jed tells me that 2009 should see another limited release of the material on Hallucinations.

I want to thank Jed MacKay for his time in answering my inquiries and permission for posting the unreleased tracks, and to Wayne Roworth for his recollections. Thanks also to Mark Taylor and Masterbeat64 for their high-quality label scans and rips of the original Underworld 45 and also to Wesley for sending me the article on the Cosmic Home. Thank you to Ivan Amirault for the scans of the RPM articles.


Ad for first 45, RPM, November 23, 1969

Don McKim in RPM, January 10, 1970


Short article on It’s All Meat, RPM, November 23, 1969
mentions positive review from Ryerson’s Eyeopener

RPM, August 22, 1970

0 thoughts on “The Underworld and It’s All Meat”

  1. I heard from a friend of the band, Wesley T. who writes:

    “I first saw them in 1969, on April 19th or 20th (Friday or Saturday).  I turned 14 on the previous Monday and it was one of the first times I was allowed out for the whole night.  They were playing at the “Cosmic Home”.  I walked in during “Crying Into the Deep Lake”.

    “It’s All Meat became sort of the house band, playing there several times a month. They would often play five nights a week.  I hung around with the lead guitar player, Norman White. I loved his setup.  Back then, distortion or overdrive pedals were kind of crap and he had come up with something I have rarely seen since. He used the output of one amp to drive another, larger one. He had so much gain that he could simply use the volume on control on his guitar as an overdrive adjustment.  The sound was incredible.  (And incredibly loud.) 

    “I loved the setup so much, I bought the same guitar (’64 Fender Strat) and amp (Traynor Voice Master driving a Traynor Custom Special into a 412 cabinet).  Unfortunately, the sound of the studio album isn’t anything like IAM live.  Although Norm’s guitar sound is still great.  Strats are one of the most recognizable guitar sounds and the studio setup does them proud. 

    “I’d really like to get some live tapes from back then.  I hung out with them for about a year and a half or so.  I even convinced my school to hire them for a dance.  I think they were paid a hundred dollars. As well, Norm and his brother Jeff and their roadie had a cover band called The White.  They played lots of Who stuff at local high school gigs.  Both Norm and I were huge Townshend fans.  And we both had a reputation for mimicking Townshend’s violent stage act.  There was a sort of rival band called “Nucleus” that you might want to research.”

  2. does anyone have any contact with any members of it’s all meat?
    looking to do a piece on them for a magazine.
    let me know
    cheers
    chris

  3. Yo,

    Caught your site surfin’. I have been in contact with Jed and Rick McKim over the past few years.

    Email me anytime. I’m clubin’ in North Florida presently.

    Wayne

  4. Can you email me at happydog@sympatico.ca?

    The amp setup you describe isn’t what you were using in ’69 and ’70. I remember those Traynor’s like yesterday. Still have a bunch. You, Rick and Norm used Custom Specials. Norm also used a Voicemaster for overdrive. You and Norm played through “Norelco” 412s and Raston had a “Big B” 810. Rick’s amp was positioned in the middle between your’s and Norm’s. Remember the cabinet used to be on that stupid tilting stand? Jed’s ketboard played through Traynor vocal column speakers. Can’t remember what amp he used. The vocals went through a 4 input mixer (Traynor but can’t remember the model), a Custom Special and two 412 cubes. You almost always played a Gold Top. I though it was a ’67. I think your wah was a Thomas Organ Cry Baby. (Great riff you always used it on during the first verse of Bo Diddley. You sure Norm’s Strat was a ’67? I recall it having the smaller pre-CBS headstock. Wish I had a pic.

    Anyway, shout me if you see this.

    Wesley

  5. That was some band back in the 70’s and I wish they had managed to better marketing. I was at many of their rehearsals and a few of their gigs. I was at the final mixing session at RCA studios for the Album and that was fantastic. Rick Aston passed away quite a few years ago. He was my nephew. I am sure glad I still have that original vinyl and have preserved it to digital.

    Mike

  6. I am wondering, is the Jed MacKay from It’s All Meat the same guy who created the TVO children’s program Join In? I am seeking information on one of the songs from this show. Please let me know if this is the guy I’m looking for.

  7. Wayne, thank you for steering me in this direction. I’ve been an intrepid IAM aficionado for many years, and since I was born almost a decade after the band split up I consider this a very unique connection indeed.

    I DJ @ psych/garage clubs every so often and always spin IAM; in fact a night without ‘Roll My Own’ or ‘Feel It’ would not be complete! It’s been terrific learning more about a band who were comparatively anonymous and mythological to me.

    Much respect and admiration from London,

    Jude

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