A Brief History of Rough Trade With Carole Pope and Kevan StaplesBy Joseph LevyCrude, lewd, rude and socially unacceptable, as well as uncannily literate and years ahead of their time, are apt descriptions for Carole Pope and Kevan Staples, the principals behind Toronto, Canada's Rough Trade.Carole Pope was born outside of Manchester, England, on August 6, 1950. Her father, Jack, was a salesman and circus stiltwalker, among other professions, and her mother, Celia, was a music hall performer. At age five, she immigrated with her parents to Montréal. A couple of years later the family moved to the Toronto area. She studied sculpture and worked as a commercial artist, but secretly harbored dreams of being a singer.Kevan Staples was born January 23, 1950, in Toronto, Ontario. He came from a musical family in which everybody played an instrument or sang and, as a musician, was largely self-taught. His father was variously an actor, dancer, choreographer, and dress designer and his mother an interior designer.Carole first met Kevan in 1968 at an audition for a band called Deva Loca Sideshow. Although that band never materialized, the two hit it off and formed a group called O, which was active in 1969-1970. In 1970, as O, the were featured in the film Osaka '70, which was produced in conjunction with the World's Fair in Osaka, Japan. About this experience, Kevan recalled, The film chronicled the travels of a bus trip across Canada and we were in the part about Toronto. We played on top of the bus in front of city hall. It was Carole, myself and our dear friend Clive Smith playing piano. This was the group 'O' Clive was from England where he had played with the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band and went to school with Pete Townshead and many other fab gear rave limey types. He is a terrific guy and now a very successful partner in an animation company called Nelvana.In 1971, after O dissolved, they formed a duo called the Bullwhip Brothers. Kevan described these early years as an acoustic act with an occasional electric piano. We both played guitar and would supplement with friends on piano percussion and later drums and bass. We very early on got a lot of work out of the gay and arts communities. We worked a lot of parties and art festivals. We didn't get into the bar scene until 1974.The Bullwhip Brothers became Rough Trade in 1974, the name deriving from Carole's fascination with gay male iconography. Kevan said, Rough Trade was a natural progression [stemming] from Carole's interest in all things sexual. Our first Rough Trade poster had the slogan 'repulsive yet fascinating' and I have always thought this was an apt description. We were actually more interested in theatre than pop culture and considered ourselves to be quite civilized despite the press thinking we were raunchy. It was more like Cole Porter than Iggy [Pop] or Lou Reed.Carole put it this way: Just when everyone was experiencing the dry heaves from '70s music, an underground phenomena breathed life into the stagnant music scene. Bands such as Rough Trade were breaking new musical ground. It was much more than music; it was an upheaval in art, fashion, and lifestyle. Rough Trade, love it or hate it, was responsible for blowing the scene wide open. We were involved in not just music, but themes for each performance. We became slaves of fashion. We were so repulsed by the slovenly look of most bands that we resolved to bring some semblance of theatre into our act. Some of the transformations we went through were 'I can't remember the chords and I can't remember the lyrics' (the frightened animal look), the ceré (polyester to you) jumpsuit (just an excuse to expose a lot of skin), and my favourite, the evil black bondage suit. We wore clothes by designers such as Vivian Westwood, Toronto's Marilyn Kiewiet and Sandy Stagg, and the orgasmic leathers of Claude Montana.In 1976, Rough Trade signed with the Umbrella label and had the distinction of being the first rock band to make a direct-to-disc album, appropriately titled Rough Trade Live! Drummer Rick Gratton, who played with the group for five years, said, It was a tough one to record. We recorded about 30 sides each and picked the two best sides [to release].At this time, Kevan and Carole were also involved in other projects, including writing music for One Night Stand, a 1978 film made for Canadian television for which they were awarded a Genie (the annual awards presented by the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television) for Best Film Score. In addition, they wrote and performed the song "Shakedown" for the soundtrack of William Friedkin's controversial 1980 movie Cruising, a detective thriller which takes place in New York City's gay underground.Although they produced five additional albums (plus a greatest hits compilation) for the True North label, sales outside of Canada (where their albums consistently went gold or platinum and garnered four Juno awards) were never strong enough to allow them to break-out to the wider audience they sought. Beyond Canada, touring was limited to spot appearances in Australia, Europe, and New York. Rough Trade's last recordings were in 1986, at which time they embarked on the Deep Six in '86 farewell tour. The final show in Montréal was interrupted after a curtain burst into flames.Though occasionally reunited after the dissolution of Rough Trade, Carole and Kevan's careers basically took separate paths. In the mid-1980's, the British group Pink Floyd disbanded, the result of artistic differences between principals Roger Waters and David Gilmour. Gilmour later tried to revive the group with the help of Bob Ezrin, co-producer of Floyd's The Wall, but without Waters. Although the project never came to fruition, Carole was approached to work with Gilmour on developing material for a proposed album. She explained, The idea to contact me came from Bob Ezrin. It was January of 1987 and they were looking for somebody to rewrite a batch of Dave Gilmour's material, so I went over to England for a few weeks to lend assistance. Bob and David also asked me if I had any suggestions for concept albums in the Pink Floyd style. By the time I left England in February, they still couldn't decide what to do. They did have one song, though, which I thought was quite nice, though it never surfaced on [A Momentary] Lapse Of Reason [a Gilmour solo album]. It was a mid-tempo thing about Roger Waters, called 'Peace Be With You.' Seems strange that they didn't use it.In 1989, Carole moved to Los Angeles and became active writing film and television soundtracks (including the 1992 low-budget thriller The Silencer), as well as recording an occasional solo album. Kevan remained in Toronto and spent five years working as a composer for Tambre Productions (1986-1991) and then with Rosnick/MacKinnon Productions (1991-1996), writing original music for television programs, theater, films, and commercials. In 1996, he formed his own company, Rhythm Division, with Jim Longo and continues to be active in these endeavors.Rough Trade played a 25th Anniversary concert in Toronto in December, 1994, and a repeat performance at Music West in Vancouver. In December, 1995, Carole was back in the Toronto area to produce a cabaret at the Buddies In Bad Times Theatre called Quiet Please, There's A Bitter, Petulant Diva On Stage! In addition to herself, it featured MuchMusic VJ Sook-Yin Lee, plus Mary Margaret O'Hara and comediennes Maggie Cassella, Elvira Kurt and Diane Flacks. This resulted in Toronto's eye WEEKLY arts newspaper giving her the Best Gloria Swanson-Type Comeback In Music Award, in a tie with Patti Smith. She also performed in a stage version of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, directed by Sarah Stanley for Theatre Passe Muraille.Currently, Carole resides in Los Angeles and is recording new material (Very slowly, as she puts it). In June, 2000, she bicycled the 575 miles> (925 kilometers) from San Francisco to Los Angeles in seven days as a member of the California AIDS ride. Her autobiography, Anti Diva, published by Random House of Canada in 2000 and is available on-line from Chapters.ca and Indigo.In 2001, Pope made a guest appearance in the Toronto production of Eve Ensler's play The Vagina Monologues at the The New Yorker Theatre. She then reunited with Staples in March, 2001, for a mini Rough Trade tour of eastern Canada. In the summer of 2001, she left Los Angeles and moved to New York City.