Named after their hometown, the city of Chilliwack, British Columbia, and yes, that is the name of an actual city in Canada; Chilliwack the band formed in 1970 by lead guitarist Bill Henderson. The band would be active eighteen years, and in that time they would produce eleven studio albums and at least six big hit songs in Canada, including my favorite “Fly at Night.”
In 1997 Bill Henderson reformed the band and has been touring Canada ever since. They frequently show up for the Calgary Stampede, and play the local casinos, I keep meaning to go and see them, but I have never gotten around to it. Similar to another Vancouver based band Prism, the lineup has constantly been changing and no new albums have come out in a long time, but both Canadian bands appear content to tour Canada playing their hits. It is a humble existence, but I think it is very wonderful in many ways, they are successful, they are paying their bills doing what they love, and they have many great songs and many loyal fans. That makes for a pretty good life.
As previously stated Chilliwack had approximately six significant hit songs in Canada, and the one I grew up hearing the most often on the radio was “Fly at Night.” It was among my favorite songs that got played frequently. Before I discovered the complete work of Chilliwack or knew their band name, I made the mistake of thinking “Fly at Night” was a Neil Young song, and they do sound a little alike to an untrained ear, but I made the same mistake with America’s “Horse With No Name” when I was kid, so maybe the problem is just me.
I believe “Fly at Night” is a perfect example of a perfect classic rock song. It opens calmly with just the acoustic guitar and the singer and after the intro the electric guitar replaces the acoustic and the drums and bass join in, the basic fundamental four-piece sound take over and the whole thing is mellow and real easy going. The acoustic takes the bridges and the outro. this brings a sense of balance and continuity to the song. All the fundamentals of a good old rock and roll song is present and everything is proficiently well done. “Fly at Night” belongs in every classic rock fan’s playlist.
The lyrical content is nothing too deep, Chilliwack recants the experience of about traveling by plane while on tour. While the subject matter is simple, the poetry is not, every line is a very clever way of describing the experience.
Like how they describe the expanse of their travel and now exhausting it is by saying:
“And when you close your eyes,
Sleep comes fast.
When you fly the universe,
Well, you need some rest.”
Or, how they describe the rock concerts themselves with:
“Ooh, we like the big wide spaces,
Yeah, we like a sea of faces.
Time is just a rubber band.
Time is at our command.”
It is really nice stuff and makes for two very good verses.
Of all the music genres in the world, classic rock is the deepest I listen to, and I can say without exaggeration that Chilliwack’s “Fly at Night” should be included along songs like America’s “Horse With No Name,” or Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth,” and while most people are familiar with the later two I hope one day soon people are equally familiar with “Fly at Night.”
While Chilliwack has faded into obscurity for the most part they are kept alive by a cult following and, I hate to say it, perhaps, Canadian content laws. I heard Chilliwack on the radio a lot growing up, and there is no doubt they deserve to be on all the classic rock radio stations in Canada, with or without government sanctioned Canadian content standards, but it is sad, to me, because I suspect they would not receive this well-deserved playtime if not for those laws. In reality, Chilliwack should be receiving similar treatment in US radio stations, and frankly globally as well. Satellite classic rock radio stations should be including Chilliwack, at least “Fly at Night” as a regular on their playlist. I grew up with this being normal, and it is strange to me knowing that it is not for most of the planet.
One of these days, hopefully soon, I will catch Chilliwack when they are playing at a local casino.
- King of Braves