Pat Blythe – Reflections…..music memories…..and tunes

I’ve had all sorts of ideas and nonsense going through my mind for the past several days. Some quiet reflection in a totally silent house (that means no music), some on walks in this spectacular weather, memories that keep replaying in my mind translating into some very weird and disjointed dreams, very late nights and very late mornings. It’s a strange sensation feeling like everything rapidly circles around me while I stand still, unsure of the direction I should move in. Like you’re a part of something…..but then you’re not, standing on the outside looking in. I have no idea what’s going on, maybe the planets have misaligned or someone’s in retrograde, or maybe this whole fucking COVID thing has finally hit me. This too shall pass…..it always does.

I’ve been off FB since Friday and it’s been rather refreshing and a bit cathartic. Not sure how much longer that will last but we’ll see…… Way too much going in with our southern neighbours and honestly, I’m a little tired of it. Trump is an ass, Biden and Kamala won….suck it up buttercup! Take your toys and go home. Nobody with half a brain wants to play in your sandbox anymore.

Going back in time…..

Although I tend to write about whatever comes to mind, this column is first and foremost a music column, or a column about music….predominantly live music. Not too, too much of that going on these days, so let’s go back almost 50 years (I can’t believe I’m old enough to even say that). For some oddball reason I started thinking about the first concert I attended. One of those persistent little brain waves that my grey cells keep going on about. Why I don’t know, but there it is, so I’m thinking (at least one synapses fired), if I share ( yes you’re going to read all about it if you keep going) maybe I can tuck it back away in the memory banks.

Built in 1963, Treasure Island Gardens, later shortened to The Gardens was the place to go for hockey and concerts. It was also where Johnny Cash proposed onstage to June Carter in 1968 during a concert.

In the beginning…..I was at a friend’s house and it was one of those “I saw him across the room and my knees damn near buckled” moments. He eventually came over to introduce himself and yes, I can be at a loss for words. My neurons stopped firing….I think they passed out…..so I almost forgot my own name (his name was John). We must have chatted so when he asked “would you like to go with me and see……” I didn’t hear the rest and I didn’t care. The fact was, he asked me out on a bonafide date and I was on cloud nine. Not only that, he would pick me up in his CAR!!! He was 17 and I was 15. This was my first serious date with someone who not only had a driver’s license but, shit, he had his OWN CAR!  Added bonus…..we’d stop for a burger first…..so dinner too, Red Barn style!

For all you car enthusiasts, John was driving a 1965 candy apple red Mustang. A snappy little number and he kept in top shape. It was a 16th birthday gift from his parents. He eventually traded it in for a 1973 Mustang Mach I in British racing green….to this day my favourite car. Many years later I think he was sorry he ever parted ways with that red Mustang.

…..and there she is!

This was my first date with a guy who actually gave me butterflies. All those movie scenes where the girl goes through everything in her closet and tosses it on the bed because nothing, absolutely zilch is right…..that was me. What the hell do you wear to a concert? …..and what do I do with my hair? I was frantic! I honestly can’t remember what I finally chose, but I do remember pacing back and forth in front of the living room window, positive he wouldn’t show up. My mom, thankfully, left me alone to painfully wallow in my uncertainty and fear. If anyone had tried to approach with a “there, there, he’ll show up” I probably would have exploded into tears of frustration. When he did pull into the driveway, my heart stopped. After brief introductions, we were off with a wave. I do recall wearing flats…..no heels. I was terrified I would trip and fall.

I have nothing to wear!!!!

I wasn’t overly familiar with any of the bands, but that didn’t matter, I was going on a date, to a major concert no less! Short of making a mad dash to either the record store or library, I would have to wait and see who the other guys were and listen to music I might possibly dislike…..or not. Performing at Treasure Island Gardens in London, Ontario on this auspicious day were Long John Baldry, Savoy Brown and Malo. In 1971 large concerts were held at the one place that could hold a crowd of a few thousand, and Treasure Island Gardens was London’s own version of Maple Leaf Gardens. Originally built for hockey, the arena could seat 5,000 people. So Red Barn first then I get to sit beside this guy and hopefully hold hands for three hours. Bliss!

Malo back in the day

My memories of the concert are slim. I don’t remember who was on first, second or third. I do recall Long John strolling down out and wondering if he was really that tall (he was actually 6’7”) or were his musicians simply short?  …..but his voice….oh what a voice! One of the guys in Savoy Brown had hair that was so shiny, straight and perfectly coiffed. Don’t ask. It just caught my eye when the spotlight hit it. I think it was the bassist, but then again….. As for Malo, the recollection I have is a lot of people on stage. Two blues bands and a Latin rock group. My attentions were elsewhere.

John and I dated on and off for several years. He was godfather to my eldest son. We lost touch after I moved to Toronto and unfortunately he passed away several years ago. He never knew the impact that date and the concert had on me….a date I will never forget.

Music education…..the beginning

It wasn’t actually long after this I started paying closer attention to music, listening to the local radio rock stations (CJOE in London and CHLO in St. Thomas) more frequently. An eclectic mix of music in my preteen years created wide and varied tastes. Influenced by the music listened to by my parents (Barbra Streisand and Harry Belafonte), girlfriend’s older siblings (The Beatles, Donovan, Ray Peterson, J Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers, Yes) the summer of 1969 (Sugar Sugar, Cecelia and Bridge Over Troubled Waters) followed by Bobby Sherman and Easy Come, Easy Go….you get the idea.

CHLO began broadcasting 1948 and stopped i 1994. It’s home was a converted laundry on Centre St. in St. Thomas

My musical education to bring me into the 1970s didn’t really start until well into first year high school. Even then I was a little slow on the uptake until I heard Spirit’s Twelve Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus. 1970 was also the year I first stepped foot in England, traveling with my family to meet my English cousins for the first time. It was also the height of Piccadilly Circus, Carnaby Street and Kensington Market. That was an eye opener and another few stories.

Circle ‘round…..

It’s funny how things come full circle. Fast forward to 1979 and the year I met Chris. He was living atop Cottingham Sound, an eight-track recording studio in the west end of Toronto. One of the artists recording there was Long John Baldry who had been laying down the bed tracks to Baldry’s Out. Having recently moved from a house in Dundas, Ontario, Baldry was living in Village on The Grange in downtown Toronto, along with his life partner Oz. Chris and Baldry had become good friends, and when Chris and I became a couple, we often visited Baldry at his home in the Village. I still had no real idea who Baldry was, his history or his impact on several famous artists until years later. I did know I loved to listen to his voice, that he was a fun guy with an extremely wicked and rather sardonic sense of humour and a quick wit. Also one of the kindest people I knew.

Long John Baldry, Cottingham Sound, 1978

One of the songs on Baldry’s Out is what I consider the best recording of You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling. Performed as a duet with Kathi McDonald, I remember Chris saying when he first heard Kathi’s voice in the studio it sent chills up his spine. It still does it for me all these years later. Kathi and I shared the same birth date so whenever she was in town on our birthday, we’d spend the day together, hanging out and shopping. Baldry and Kathi performed and toured together for over 20 years, including a number of stints at Toronto’s El Mocambo.

Baldry (standing), Cottingham engineer Tom Eakin (foreground)

Another member of the band was Roy Young (who almost became a Beatle). Young, who played piano and performed with The Beatles in Hamburg in 1961, was offered a contract by Brian Epstein. Young turned it down as he was already signed elsewhere. I met Young at QED Media studios when he was recording White Cliffs of Dover. All three are gone now, Baldry in 2005, Kathi in 2012 and Young in 2018.

Baldry & Kathi McDonald at the El Mocambo, 1978

…..and again…..

Fast forward again to 2018 and I’m side stage at the London Bluesfest photographing Savoy Brown! Originally called the Savoy Brown Blues Band, Simmonds formed the band with harmonica player John O’Leary in 1965. Simmonds was only nineteen at the time. Although the band has been a revolving door since its formation, they tour every year and had dates planned for 2020. I had a great conversation with Kim Simmonds over coffee and snacks in the food tent. We shared a number of stories (he more than I) and yes, I told him about that first date. He loved hearing about it and noted how timely our meeting was all these years later.

Kim Simmonds, Savoy Brown, London Bluesfest, 2018

I also chatted at length with drummer Roger Earl who joined Savoy Brown in 1968, leaving to form Foghat in 1971. Earl performed with both Savoy Brown and Foghat at the blues festival in London.  When our conversation ended, Earl excused himself for moment, only to return with a set of signed drumsticks for me. I have no idea what these guys were like in their heyday but they were nothing but kind and thoughtful when I met them almost 50 years later.

Roger Earl, Savoy Brown & Foghat, London Bluesfest2018

Funny what memories pop into your mind…..little things that stick and for some reason become more important as the years progress. It seems such a packed life I have trouble keeping track of what happened when and with whom sometimes. So much jammed into short spaces, like so many others, I wonder how we all survived. I think both our optimism and naivety saved us. Life was good and we enjoyed it to the fullest. I might write more about this…..or I might not.

Reflections of My Life – The Marmalade

The first date, the first concert, Pee Wee dolls, building forts and walking to school down “the path”, soakers, picking pussy willows, walking up and down the street with my new reel-to-reel tape recorder blasting Sugar Sugar (I’m sure the neighbours wanted to throttle me), weeping the first time I heard Bridge Over Trouble Waters, seeing Freddie Mercury and Queen five times, holding hands, sharing a milkshake, getting to know Stevie Wonder’s music through a local band called Busker, camping at The Pinery, streaking down the dunes at Port Franks……countless memories. Small, but meaningful….it’s the little ones that count.

It’s a super mixed bag of tunes this week…..going waaaaaaaay back……

Loving Feeling – Long John Baldry & Kathi McDonald

Suavecito – Malo

I’d Rather Go Blind – Kathi McDonald

Released in 1960, there are two versions of this next song. Written by Jeff Barry and Ben Raleigh, “Tell Laura I Love Her” was initially recorded by Ray Peterson for RCA Record. It was a U.S. top hit and reach #7 on the Billboard Hot 100.  Later that year, Welshman Ricky Valance recorded the song and it flew to #1 in the U.K. The song has sold over seven million copies and was a hit in 14 countries around the world. “Tell Laura I Love Her” would have been eight years old by the time I first heard it, and I have no idea which version I listened to first. “Last Kiss” was another one my girlfriend’s sister use to sing in her band. The band rehearsed in the living room while Joy and I danced around.

Tell Laura I Love Her – Ray Peterson

Tell Laura I Love Her – Ricky Valance

Teen Angel – Mark Dinning

….and a little early rockabilly…..and a version by Pearl Jam. I prefer the original.

Last Kiss – J Frank Wilson and The Cavaliers

Last Kiss – Pearl Jam

Easy Come, Easy Go – Bobby Sherman

Golden Lady– Stevie Wonder

Sugar Sugar – The Archies

Cecelia – Simon & Garfunkel

The Ancestor – Darlingside

Fast Car – Tracy Chapman

Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel

The God of Loss – Darlingside

A Thrill’s a Thrill – Long John Baldry

…..and another 28 days of lockdown for Toronto. Maybe the Pilot can save us from this fire?

Pilot – Ian Thomas Band

Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Cheers!

Photographs of Long John Baldry and Kathi McDonald ©1978-2020 Christopher Blythe, The Picture Taker

Photographs of Kim Simmonds & Roger Earl ©2018-2020 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera

Pat Blythe – Reflections…..music memories…..and tunes

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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