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Williamson, Graeme

The late Canadian/Scottish singer, songwriter, published poet and author Graeme Williamson, was the voice and writer of the eclectic, whimsical and socio-political Pukka Orchestra, one of Canada’s alternative indie darlings of the 1980’s/90’s ‘Queen Street Scene’.

In 1984 the Pukkas released their self-titled, critically acclaimed debut which included their national radio hit “Listen To The Radio” and fan favourites “Cherry Beach Express” and “Might As Well Be On Mars” – later covered by British group The Strawbs, both cowritten by Graeme. The Pukkas won the 1985 U-Know/CASBY Award as “Most Promising Group”.

Shortly after, while on holiday in Scotland, Graeme was diagnosed with kidney disease, underwent a transplant there but returned to Toronto so the Pukkas could record 1987’s indie release Palace of Memory. In 1992 they released their final album Dear Harry. Graeme, facing more health issues, subsequently left for Scotland permanently in the early 1990s.

Up until his death in 2020, Graeme continued writing/recording new songs, many featured on this his posthumous 2022 solo album “Because You Were There”. Neil Chapman (Buffy Ste. Marie/Leonard Cohen), the co-founder of the Pukka Orchestra with Graeme, took over the producer reins and spent 2020 and 2021 finishing the album.

True North/Linus briefly released “Because You Were There” in the summer of 2022 for streaming-only until they shuttered their IDLA service for indie labels this year. Pacemaker/Fontana North has recently acquired both streaming/digital and physical (CD and Vinyl) distribution rights to this album and to the upcoming new Pukka Orchestra album “Chaos Is Come Again” – also featuring Graeme’s songs primarily and completed by Neil Chapman earlier this year – all from original masters initially started by the Pukka Orchestra in the late 1980s. Alan Cross has written the liner notes for the Chaos album release currently planned by Pacemaker for late summer 2023.

A brilliant lyricist and poet, Graeme’s words to the album’s opening song sums up views on life many of us can relate to:

I got a lot of little things in my house I don’t know what they’re all worth Things made of fire Things made of water Things made of air and earth ++ I got a lot of words in my mouth I don’t know what they all mean Some words are frightening Some are enlightening Some words are simply obscene Lots of little things going on around me Part of my body and soul When they get out of hand Please understand I’m really not in control ++ I got a lot of things in my house But they don’t mean all that much I got things I can hear Things I can see Even some things I can touch Lots of little things make life fascinating Aggravating and tense Some things are frightening Some are enlightening Some things don’t make any sense.