Former White Rock-area musician Art Bergmann is among 61 new Order of Canada appointees announced Wednesday (Dec. 30) by Governor General Julie Payette.
Bergmann, who now lives in Rocky View County, Alberta, has been made a Member of the Order of Canada “for his indelible contributions to the Canadian punk music scene, and for his thought-provoking discourse on social, gender and racial inequalities.”
A Member designation recognizes “outstanding contributions at the local or regional level or in a special field of activity.”
Bergmann, 67, was a punk-rock trailblazer in the Vancouver music scene of the late-1970s and 1980s, with bands including The K-Tels and Young Canadians, and in 1996 won a Juno Award for Best Alternative Album (“What Fresh Hell Is This?”).
“Thanks for the well wishes, friends,” Bergmann tweeted on Wednesday (Dec. 30). “Canada is changing; to award someone like me with the keys to the empire is a courageous move, hah!”
Thanks for the well wishes,friends.Canada is changing; to award someone like me with the keys to the empire is a courageous move,hah!
— Art Bergmann (@ArtBergmann) December 30, 2020
Back in the 1970s, Bergmann played music while living in the White Rock/Cloverdale area, and also called Abbotsford home for a couple of years.
In his 2001 book Guilty of Everything, fellow musician John Armstrong wrote about discovering punk-rock music through his association with Bergmann. They became roommates at a three-bedroom apartment on White Rock’s Marine Drive, where Armstrong learned guitar chords in a call-and-response game with a couch-surfing Bergmann.
“Why he tolerated me I have no idea,” Armstrong wrote, “expect perhaps that he liked me or that I amused him or that I would shoplift cans of beans or soup from the Chinese grocer halfway between school and his house, as a sort of tuition fee.”
Armstrong (aka Buck Cherry) expands on the story in an “Early Days” post on Bergmann’s website, from liner notes for “No Escape,” a Young Canadians compilation CD.
“Art and I became friends, then roommates, living in various soon-to-be-condemned dwellings. We liked most of the same things – an affection for the Kinks, early Who and Yardbirds, David Bowie and the Velvet Underground – and, more importantly, hated all the same ones: mid-70’s FleetwoodMac, the Eagles, the Doobie Brothers, Supertramp, Elton John, Dark Side of the Moon. By the summer of ‘77, half a dozen of us like-minded types were living in a huge hundred-year old house on the outskirts of White Rock and a friend of Art’s showed up after a trip around the world with a cassette he’d picked up in England. On it were the Sex Pistols and things were never the same.”
Nearly four decades later, in May 2016, Bergmann returned to White Rock to perform at Blue Frog Studios.
Armstrong’s musical path continued with a band of his own, with guys (re)named Bill Shirt, Mud Bay Slim and Bad Bob. The bandleader’s handle was a play on Chuck Berry, apparently inspired by a TV commercial that featured a cartoon cowboy (“Libby the Kid”) shilling canned pasta and beans. Band rehearsals were held in the living room at Beach Apartments, Armstrong recalls in his book.
The band’s public debut was during the White Rock Sea Festival, and the gig wasn’t exactly a family-friendly performance.
Wrote Armstrong: “Instead they got a drummer who used an old toilet for a drum stool and looked unnervingly like Charlie Manson but without benefit of the prison’s dental plan, a bass player with a paper-bag disguise over his head, two guitarists who played the same three chords in slightly varying progressions but always at furious speed and maximum volume, flagrant onstage drinking, casual profanity, invitations to perform unnatural acts on the band either later or right there, and a singer who called the audience a worthless bunch of fat-assed breeders and stuck his outthrust thumbs under his T-shirt in an imitation of perky teenage nipples.”