Bill Wood Eyes on the Prize
Submitted by Michael E. Williams
Photo Credit: Camelia Linta
Needless to say, surviving the business in Canada is not easy. MuchMusic gave new hope to all in 1984. Record companies scrambled to fill the airwaves with Canadian artists.
Occasionally the music business executives attempted to manufacture groups to fill a certain need or void in the pop landscape. In Montreal, it was the disco business that created music with no artist attached to the music, just a producer, while in Toronto successful bands created to fill The New Romantics. The trend was big and MuchMusic put a face to that just in time for the video age.
I remember sitting in Bruce Barrow’s office, discussing Platinum Blonde’s explosion upon the scene, fuelled by young girls, cool tunes and Celtic accents...musically they got better. They survived; most did not and for good reason. Manufactured music and bands is where the music business sucks the soul out of music and at its best, it becomes music by committee not a band.
Eye Eye was one such group. It all started great but before they knew it, success! The band, formed out of the ashes of two groups all fronted by Bill Wood, and benefited from being in CBC’s Rock Wars and winning Q107’s Home Grown contest that had a record deal attached. They released three solid radio singles between 1986-1988 (X-Ray Eyes, Out on a Limb and Endless Night), two albums on Duke Street; the third and final CD never saw the light of day. Now years after the break-up of the Eye Eye, former front man/songwriter, Bill Wood, is now resurrecting his career as a singer/songwriter performing as Bill Wood and The Woodies, and sometimes solo as simply Bill Wood. His new sound is very reflective of where he is now. Not living his romantic past has served him well as a performer, singer and really great songwriter like Tom Wilson. Stretching out musically but always centered on the soul of a great lyric. I was truly surprised as how far he had come since the days of Eye Eye.
Well worth the trip online to hear Bill’s outstanding new tracks like “Frankie” (dedicated to the Great late Frankie Venom of Teenage Head fame), “Steal Your Love” and “Push”. The CD still in the making:
Past the true confessions of our former lives (former Canadian pop star and former VJ), We caught up with Wood for a quick chat.
MW: What was it like to be a pop star in Canada back then? When you were with Eye Eye it was so solid and in the moment, great pop music of the time.
BW: Thank you, well, yes, you know that was also what it was all about. You have a short window to make it. If you do you can still keep going. Eye Eye was looking at the marketplace and the marketplace was shifting and what a crazy game that is. To try to stay current, it took forever to get that second record out and by then, our 14 year old girls who loved us were 17. We did a lot of growing up in those three years and basically it was just over. By that time, it was all by committee, satisfying the voices around us. That was pretty much the end of the band but Andy Ryan and I still remained great friends. None of the Eye Eye would have happened without him. At the end of the day it was a short blip on my pop career...
MW: what did you after that?
BW: Family, fatherhood. I focused on raising my kids and had a gospel band with my sister till I was able to start playing regular gigs. Just keeping the love part of music alive. When the kids were older, I had a handful of tunes that I recorded and started playing them weekly at Graffiti’s in Kensington Market, where I’ve been for the last five years. Now it’s fun. I like my songs and I love the process. What happens after that, I will just see if there is a place for me out there. We are still recording. Most of the tracks posted on the Bill Wood and the Woodies site are from the disc. I have done all those other things. I love the journey and am the happiest I’ve ever been writing songs. This whole thing started again when Jeff Liberty, now my manager, came looking for me to do a 80’s reunion show with Eye Eye and he was really a great fan and encouraged me. Now I am recording again, occasionally playing solo dates. Did my first solo date out east at the Mike’s Bar (the Carleton in Halifax), felt a little strange without the band the Woodies but enjoying it more than before.
Bill Wood and the Woodies play live at Graffiti are on Baldwin Street in Kensington Market in Toronto the last Friday of every month.