13 January 2014

Milton Acorn, Music Promoter (Does Not Exist)

A signed copy of Milton Acorn's More Poems for People, purchased at Attic Books' annual Boxing Week sale. It wasn't until after returning home that I noticed these scrawls by Acorn and others on the inside back cover:

It's been over five years since we settled in Perth County, mere kilometres from Stratford, and yet the Perth County Conspiracy and the Black Swan Coffee House meant nothing to me. Time and geography are my only excuses. I was a seven-year-old living in suburban Montreal when Columbia Records was pushing the Conspiracy; I began drinking coffee at twenty-five.

Billboard, December 1970
Still, I can't explain how it is that I'd missed Milton Acorn's involvement all these years. The son of Charlottetown co-wrote several Perth County Conspiracy songs, many with singer turned actor Cedric Smith. That's a contemplative Smith on lower left-hand corner of The Island Means Minago, for which Acorn received the 1976 Governor General's Award for Poetry or Drama.

Like the great Mekons, the Perth County Conspiracy seems fairly designed to give Peter Frame nightmares. A band that was not really a band – or was it? – you'd almost think the line-up was dictated by weather, whim and gas money. The name, either the Perth Country Conspiracy or the Perth County Conspiracy (Does Not Exist), is a bit of a mindfuck, is it not?

Just as well that I knew nothing of the PCC/PCC (DNE) back in high school – my teenage, post-punk self would've sneered. My adult self enjoyed Kevin Courrier's excellent CBC Radio documentary, Dream Times: The Perth County Conspiracy… Does Not Exist.

Old man Busby recommends it most highly, along with "The Early Days of the Perth County Conspiracy", a detailed history by Swedish scholar of psychedelia Patrick Lundborg. Musician David Woodhead shares some pretty great photos here.

Was he ever a member of the band?

Who knows?

Was Acorn?


  1. This all reminds me of another of your Canadian wonders that didn't really exist though they made some very interesting records. Klaatu. A bunch of session musicians who wanted to remain anonymous if my old college radio DJ self remembers correctly. "Calling occupants of interplanetary craft..." Now I'm going to have to go to YouTube or someplace and get a nostalgic dose of them. And look for any recordings by Perth Conspiracy Council (Does Not Exist) while I'm at it.

    1. Ah, Klaatu. An old guilty pleasure because, you know, no fan of Joy Division would be caught dead listening to "Sub-Rosa Subway". Anyway, everyone knows Klaatu were really the Beatles… and even we post-punk types liked the Beatles.

  2. The PCC did exist, at least to the extent of making a record, 'cause I know someone who has it! Do you know Endre Farkas? He could tell you more about them..

    1. Thanks, Patrick. I'll ask Endre when next we meet.

      A friend informs that there's a mural in Stratford in which the PCC (DNE) feature.

  3. The 'inside back cover' was written by Harry Finlay.