Sunday, October 14, 2012

Listen to the Music

I've loved music for years. I think it all started with the Beatles or maybe sooner but I can't believe I'd like the musak from the 1950's and early-60's that passed for pop music.  Knowing for example that the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest in 1959 was Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson with their "Sing Little Birdie" only came about as a result of watching Monty Python's Communist Quiz when that toughie was correctly answered by Mao Tse Tung.  It certainly didn't come from me.

The Beatles really did redefine a generation, certainly in England.  I wasn't old enough for the teddy boy rock n' roll but definitely made it in time for the Fab Four.  Moving on a few years I began going to concerts, my first being Uriah Heep at the old Classic Theatre in Southend, and through my brother Jan discovered US bands too starting with the Grateful Dead of all things and generally broadening out from there.  Any band with at least one guitarist, preferably two was fine by me.

Not being able to afford much in the way of records my only real outlet was the pirate radio ships, Radio Caroline being my all time favorite.  It played every out there band you can think of with John Peel's late night shows a particular treat as he played anything and everything you'd never heard before.  And he was funny too in his dry understated 'this is John Peel' kind of way.  BBC Radio 1 was just about bearable because John Peel made the transition for his 'Sunday repeated on Wednesday' In Concert series.  I dutifully recorded everything I could on a really bad quality cassette recorder that made truly dreadful recordings -- sorry, no gems there I'm afraid.  30+ years on they sound like static with the occasional John Peel intro saying that was 'Thunder Perfect Mind from their last LP.  The next song is a new one called Mount Vernon's Moustache'.

And then there was Whispering Bob Harris on the "Old Grey Whistle Test".  In addition to the music he also showed the occasional concert outtake or US TV show where a band was playing some tune live -- that was where I first saw the Doobie Brothers doing "Jesus is Just Alright'.  In truth the Doobie's weren't a first rank band nor were in they my first rank of favorite bands.  To me they were OK and did  some decent tunes.  They were on my "If they played in a town where I was, I'd try to see them" list.  On Friday we were both in Toronto.

The Doobie Brothers in the 1970's.

Now I know 40 years pretty much have come in between during which we both have had some success and some not so great times but here we both were and courtesy of the internet I was able to buy two tickets for myself and Viv at Massey Hall in Toronto.

This is a nice venue.  I'd seen a couple of bands there over the years I'd been traveling to TO and its a classy old venue built in 1896 so of the dark red velvet, gilt everywhere genre.

Now Viv had been on a 'no music with Melv' embargo since that last Pink Floyd tribute band show I'd taken her to a couple of years back -- I'd been able to slip in a Deep Purple in Taormina, Sicily show largely because it was being held in a 2,000 year old Greek amphitheater so the event doubled as a historical adventure as well -- so I was pleased she agreed to come along with me and therefore played the only Doobies album I have (Toulouse Street) several times to get us both in the mood before hand.  Imagine my pleasure therefore when they ambled on and first up played the first song I'd ever heard of theirs -- 'Jesus is Just Alright'.

One of the original Doobie's -- Patrick Simmons -- still churning it out after 40 years.

Anyway it was a great show and you can read all about it from the Toronto Star.

A neat highlight was Randy Bachman from BTO fame, an aged Canadian guitarist, coming on to jam with them in the middle of the show through another 'Toulouse Street' have called "Don't Stop Me Talking" where each of the guitarists in turn had a crack and then they lined up and traded off one another.  It was common years ago but I'd not this at a concert in years.  People these days don't want to see endless guitar solos.  With our ADD-fueled ways these days, anything 4 minutes is considered "BORING", one expression I'd heard being 'dinosaur rock'.  Well, I thought it was great!

This wasn't the only reason for being in TO this weekend but it turned out to be not a bad one!

This wasn't the reason for being in Toronto either although a compelling alternative.

I'd been in New York for a meeting where Viv joined after visiting her friend Dee in Boston.  We stayed in a gilded palace -- actually the New York Palace.  I'd stayed there 25 years ago when visiting the New York office (just around the corner actually) of my previous company and it doesn't feel like its changed one bit.  Its still gilt and ormolu.

Rather nice view from our room's window.

We'd flown in from La Guardia in New York, one of the only times we'd ever flown through that airport and I'd had an issue checking in during which one of the baggage handlers checking us in curbside (it's back again after many years absence -- Yay!) during which we'd been debating the issue of the finest hamburger.  Viv had a few days before enjoyed a Wendy's 'Baconator' which this worthy dismissed with usual New York disdain suggesting that the Five Guys equivalent burger actually in the departure hall was better.  "Have one with de woks", quoth this worthy.  We did and most delicious they are too.

"De Woiks". There was nobody in any line for any other concession at the airport so they must be good. 
I'd never seen this name before so thought it was a family joint but amazingly found one on Yonge Street in Toronto -- where the Chipotle Grill used to be.  I'll be back!

A new outlet on Yonge Street, Toronto.

Update on the big condo next door: we were shocked and rather dismayed when right next door an even taller condo was mooted a few years back -- at 71 storeys the tallest residential building in North America!  It blocks our view -- actually not as badly as I thought but we've been following it with interest over the years and now its higher than we are on the 44th floor!  Aaagh!!

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