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The Rabble

The Rabble - Give Us Back Elaine!

Give Us Back Elaine!
Trans-World - 1968

Michael Panontin
The Rabble, a criminally obscure assortment of hippies from Montreal's western suburbs, were riding a wave of popularity in 1968 after having scored locally with their fetching 'Golden Girl' single, as well as having secured a juicy U.S. contract for their excellent debut LP the previous year. But on the follow-up, Give Us Back Elaine!, the band tossed off their weightier - and it must be said less interesting - blues-rock, in favour of a lithe, rhythmic brand of pop. As guitarist Mike Harris remembers it, "We made a point of not following trends, and with so many bands getting into the heavy acid sound that we'd already been doing on stage for a year, we wanted to try something different, something new that no one else was doing at the time." As well, there was that business of selling records, "We channelled our creativity into a subtler, less abrasive approach, in hopes of getting airplay."

And much of Give Us Back Elaine! sounds like little else happening in the world of rock at the time. The pared-down sound seems an attempt to recapture the nimble and carefree beauty of the earlier 'Golden Girl'. 'Candy' and 'Here's Your Mourning' are gorgeous pop, the latter especially with its clash of sugary arrangements and discordant guitar. 'Butter Cup Blue' finishes with a near-perfect guitar hook that in hindsight could have been exploited up into the charts. Though nothing quite scales the heights of 'Golden Girl', the Rabble had clearly made their point.

The band had even built up a solid fan base in the Montreal/Ottawa region ("individualists, nonconformists and trend-setters"), but that rock-hard juggernaut south of the border proved just too tough to crack. Harris laments, "We met obstacles in trying to break into the US market, and there was no future for us playing the same local venues over and over." As well, Montreal's always-hot night club scene was in transition. "The coffee houses disappeared, clubs that once featured live bands were now playing records - going 'disco' - and radio stations that once promoted local talent began restricting their playlists to international acts. These major international acts used to have local bands open for them, but after 1968 they brought their own opening acts. A lot of creative Canadian bands were wiped out by these kinds of things." The Rabble regrouped for one last single for the Aquarius label in 1970 (Time Is On My Side b/w People Jack), but by then the slippery slide into oblivion was already well underway.

(Though tough to find, CD versions of both Rabble LPs were finally reissued in Quebec by the Disques Merite label.)

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