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Douglas Rankine with the Secrets

Douglas  Rankine with the Secrets - Clear the Track Here Comes Shack / Warming the Bench - 7

Clear the Track Here Comes Shack / Warming the Bench - 7"
RCA Canada International - 1966

Michael Panontin
The Secrets were just a bunch of teenagers playing at the Toronto Pressmen's Club sometime in late 1965 or early '66 when the CBC's Brian MacFarlane approached them with an idea he had. Singer and guitarist Doug Rankine recalled over on the Garage Hangover site, "MacFarlane introduced himself to the band and wanted us to record a song he'd written for his friend Eddie Shack." The five - Rankine, guitarist Bob Mark, Henry S. Thaler on keyboards, Mike Woodruff on bass and Rick Felstead on the drum kit - agreed thinking that the song was a gift to the Toronto Maple Leafs legend and nothing more. But when the goofy novelty number 'Clear the Track Here Comes Shack' started racing up the charts in February, the band seemed more embarrassed than anything. Rankine laments, "We didn't know it was going to be released as a single and played across the entire country. Once it was released, we thought (or hoped) it would just disappear into the night and nobody would care about it. As fate would have it, it didn't disappear. For some reason people loved it."

Indeed, with its simplistic guitar riffs straight out of 1959 and a cheesy vocal that belonged more in a supper club than in some suburban garage, the song was a huge hit, peaking at #1 on Toronto's CHUM-AM for two weeks in late February/early March. Shack himself would later speak rather fondly of the track, though at the time the notorious Leaf agitator was miffed at not receiving any of the royalties. MacFarlane explained in Ross Brewitt's biography Clear the Track - The Eddie Shack Story, "Shackie took his beef to (Leafs owner) Harold Ballard and made a lot of noise...For years Eddie embarrassed me at banquets over this thing, saying, 'There's that cheap son of a bitch MacFarlane'. One night I handed him a dollar bill at a sports dinner and said, 'Here's about what you earned off the record'."

Still, for five Toronto lads looking to carve a niche into an increasingly crowded Canadian rock scene, the silly song was more than a mere embarrassment. With the band's hipster credentials at stake, they knew that they had to distance themselves from that song as quickly as possible if they were going to have any chance at breaking into the clubs up in the teeming Yorkville coffee house strip. "We were very young and like hundreds of bands playing the local scene at the time, we had our sights set on 'stardom'. The most logical solution in the eyes of the execs at Yorkville records was to change the name and get a couple of singles into the marketplace under our new name the Quiet Jungle as soon as possible."

Under that name, the guys did of course issue a couple of excellent singles that more than absolved them of their earlier indiscretions. The first, the groovy psych double-sider 'Ship of Dreams'/'Everything', released early the following year, was clearly one of the finest garage tracks to come out of Canada at the time. That was followed towards the end of 1967 by the much tougher-to-find and admittedly weaker 'Too Much in Love'/'Make Up Your Mind'. With their reputation all but refurbished, the Quiet Jungle set out on a cross-Canada tour. And if the baggage from that damn novelty song still seemed a little heavy, at least some of that weight was from the wads of cash they were about to earn. "We were playing right across Canada. Everyone booking us, however, wanted the Secrets to play 'Clear the Track Here Comes Shack' and not the group that just released 'Ship of Dreams'. I was seventeen at the time and the money being offered was pretty good, so we decided to take the bookings and pocket the money!"

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