If Calgary dirtbag bangerdom has a royal family, Dean Murdoch is definitely part of its lineage. Having one foot firmly rooted in dirtbag bangerdom myself, I do not mean this as a disparaging comment. I was quite flattered when “The Deaner” (actor Paul Spence), co-creator of the classic indie movie Fubar released a cover of one of my songs complete with video.
And, as a guitar player, knowing that Canadian rock icon Ian Blurton sat down at some point and learned to play my bullshit blows my mind. He will likely never know how many times we played his band Bionic in the Agriculture Club van—believe me, it was a lot.
Check the Deaner’s cover of my tune here
Gawd help me, this might turn out to be my highwater mark as a songwriter
The Ballad of Pilsner Beer seems to have a lot of legs for a 20-year old song from a CD (Farmageddon) that only pressed a few thousand copies. Part of that will be due to my excellent bandmates in Agriculture Club, who fully lived the Pilsner life. You can hear them pour their heart and soul into the recording and I guess that comes through. It doesn’t hurt that, for nine years, we were somewhere in Canada playing it almost every single weekend.
I met a guy last week who was hired to play it at a wedding (hint: people, you can hire us). Our good friend Rodney Guitarsplat has been playing it at gigs for years. There’s guitar tablature for it on the web (it’s wrong). So my joke right now with the boys is that I have become the Gaye Delorme of country-punk. Gaye was the largely unknown architect of The Rodeo Song, a profane Alberta classic by Gary Lee & Showdown who, unlike me, had the good sense to bleep the profanity out of their song and be rewarded with a radio hit. Agriculture Club would love to be remembered with the same fondness. But we’re not holding our breath.
Some Ballad of Pilsner Beer true facts
- I wrote the first verse sitting on my porch on 14th Street in Calgary’s Bankview district. Last time I drove by it, the place was all boarded up. It was a crappy house and the basement flooded so badly one time it destroyed half my vinyl collection, including my rare Alice Cooper albums—the Billion Dollar Babies wallet, The Schools Out desk that opened up, etc., etc.
- A guy really was walking by with two cases of expensive imported beer, inspiring the first line. But it’s a steep hill, he was sweating profusely, and the real conversation was me saying “hey, if that’s too heavy, you can just set it there on the lawn.” He smiled and kept walking. The rest of the song was written while camping, most of it at Lake Minnewanka near Banff.
- I continually screw the opening lick up if I don’t practice it regularly. But nobody gets our songs right because, for one thing, we tune down a whole step to D, which puts most guitarists in the awkward position of trying to play a G-C-D song in the key of F if they’re figuring it out by ear.
- Just because we “can’t afford no Heineken” doesn’t mean we don’t like expensive fancy beer! You don’t have to put Pil on our rider every single time!
- A buncha guys made a homemade YouTube video of the song years ago. But a couple lyrics ain’t right (e.g., it’s actually “crack one open, Waylon”). I’ll also note the Saskatchewan Roughriders stuff in it. Make no mistake, this song comes from a porch ten minutes away from McMahon Stadium—Calgary Stampeders territory. Y’all can fight that one out, we’re staying on the sidelines.
- Shortly after we released Farmageddon, we were contacted by Elizabeth Sick, granddaughter of Fritz Sick, the inventor of Pil. She said some of her family were musicians and they loved the song. I’m going by memory here, because we lost all our band correspondence due to a glitch with our original Hotmail account.
- In the Seventies, we kids really were taught to count the rabbits on a Pil label. I have no idea what the correct number is. I suspect it changes through the years.
- I lied when I said “I’m never getting drunk on wine again.” I do it all the time.
- When it came time for Mike, aka drummer Luther Chickengravy, to record the “psssht” of a beer can opening at the end of the song, we were out of beer. He had to use a can of Pepsi, the last unopened can around. Dastardly deception yes, but that’s the entertainment biz for ya, folks. Fred Astaire is actually getting milk dumped on him in the scene for “Singin’ in the Rain” in order to make the precipitation visible on black and white film. Walt Disney filmed stories about a plucky little squirrel escaping predators in the wild—in an enclosed compound where many of the squirrel “actors” (all “playing” the same squirrel protagonist) would unsuccessfully square off with fanged animals until one survived. In other words, Agriculture Club is in good company here. We are the entertainment industry—duplicitous and opportunistic. Please go out and buy our stuff!
R. Overwater, July 2022