Vladivostok
Recording Artist: Prism
Writers: Jim Vallance (aka Rodney Higgs)
Date Written: 1974-1975
Albums: Prism (1977)
Audio:
 
Ron Tabak: vocal
Lindsay Mitchell: guitar
David Sinclair: guitar
Richard Christie: bass?
Dave Calder: drums?
Keyboards: Peter Bjerring?, Dave Pickell?
Trumpet: Bruce Fairbairn
Saxophone: Tom Keenlyside
Trombone: Ralph Eppel
 
Recorded 1976-77 by Rolf Henneman at Can-Base Studios, Vancouver.  Produced by Bruce Fairbairn.
Comments:
Vladivostok is a seaport city on the east coast of the former Soviet Union. 

The lyric for the song was partly inspired by "The Gulag Archipelago", a book about the Soviet Union's system of prison camps, published in 1973 and written by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, who was himself incarcerated in a Soviet prison.

I don't recall if Vladivostok is specifically mentioned in the book, but President Gerald Ford (USA) and General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev (USSR) held nuclear disarmament talks there in November 1974, so Vladivostok would have been in the news at that time. The name must have sounded interesting to me, and I decided to use it in the song.

I worked on "Vladivostok", on and off, during 1974 and 1975, and recorded several different demo's (see additional audio below).

I remember being at Can-Base Studios recording Ron's vocal for this song.  Ron was a sweet, sweet guy, but there were some things he just couldn't grasp.  No matter how much Bruce Fairbairn and I coached him, Ron could not pronounce Vladivostok ... it just kept coming out "Vladio-vostok".  We finally had to let it go, hence the mispronunciation on the final recording.

In retrospect, this is a lame recording of a lame song. It's one of those tracks that makes me cringe, in the way that your high school poetry makes you cringe.  The difference being, most people's high school poetry isn't printed hundreds-of-thousands of times and distributed to the public!
Additional Audio #1:
Vladivostok, demo version #1 / 1974?



Jim Vallance: acoustic and electric guitar, bass, drums, vocal

This "first draft" demo was recorded in my apartment, located in an alley behind a dentist's office on West Broadway in Vancouver.  I'm doing all the instruments and vocals, trotting out my best "Mick and Keith" imitation à la "Gimme Shelter".
Additional Audio #2: Vladivostok, demo version #2 / 1974?
 
 
David Sinclair: acoustic and electric guitars
Peter Bjerring: piano
Richard Christie: bass?
Trumpet: Bruce Fairbairn
Saxophone: Tom Keenlyside
Jim Vallance: drums, vocals
 
This "second draft" was also recorded in the alley apartment. There are elements to this track that I much prefer to the final "master" version.

The horn arrangement, with the "falling stabs", was inspired by Jimmy Pankow ("Chicago").  I met Jimmy years later (1994) ... in fact one of the most memorable evenings I've ever spent was dinner with Jimmy Pankow and Ozzy Osbourne.  They're both natural-born comedians, each trying to out-do the other, and they had my wife and I in stitches for hours.
Additional Audio #3: Vladivostok, "Virgin Islands" (1970)
 
 
If "Vladivostok" has a chorus at all, it's the "Hey, Hey, Vladivostok..." section of the song, added as a last minute after-thought, probably at the suggestion of producer Bruce Fairbairn.

I occasionally do "guest lectures" at music colleges, and I always tell song-writing students about the importance of keeping - and organizing - their musical ideas, no matter how small and insignificant the idea might seem.  In the case of "Vladivostok", I went back to a song-snippet I'd written when I was 18, something about running away to the Caribbean ("Hey, Hey, Virgin Islands...").  A goofy idea, but it helped complete the "Vladivostok" arrangement.
Lyrics: Pulled into Vladivostok
Must have been a hundred degrees below
And I can't remember ever being that cold

Then they shackled us like criminals
And put us on a train
And we waited in the darkness and the snow

We awakened in the morning
As the train began to roll
And the freezing Russian winter
Had already claimed a soul

From mountains ever northward
Seemed like six or seven days
Till we finally saw the place we were to go

Hey Hey Vladivostok
What's it gonna be?
I'm so lonely, you're the only place that's left for me

Hey Hey Vladivostok
You got me on my knees
It's been so long since I went wrong
Someone help me, won't you please

(guitar solo)

I wish that I could see you
Hold you near just one more time
And hear you say the things you used to do

Well, lo and behold, I see before my eyes
A vision, apparition of you

You know I'd go a thousand miles
And I'd walk most all the way
Just to see you smile the way you do
The way you do