A Night At The Opera

I don’t have my all my ticket stubs for concerts I’ve seen over the years, but I managed to save some.

Below – At the Beach Boys concert in Toronto, they let out everyone from the first show just as the second bunch, including us, were coming in, and it was close to a trampling scene. My wife was really freaked. I think she thought she was going to die. I suppose I did too.

Elton John wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. He wore an admiral’s hat and coat and looked a tad bored.

I saw Kris Kristofferson with Johnny Cash, and I’m trying to remember if it was from this ticket stub. You would think Johnny Cash’s name would be on the ticket, even as headliner. I don’t know. Maybe my mind is……….

I can’t remember much about Split Enz, but I remember the murmur in the crowd that Southside Johnny would be joining Gary U.S.Bonds at the show. This was ridiculous and I knew it. The two had worked together on an album in the past, which certainly didn’t mean they were going to reunite at Camp Fortune, near Ottawa.

Below –  The Who were great. Pete Townshend was great.

The Band at this point were without Robbie Robertson, but I loved them anyway. I saw them once before, in the early Seventies at the Montreal Forum when they and Bob Dylan were on the Before The Flood tour .

That little blue and grey stub means a lot to me. It was at Gerde’s Folk City in New York’s Greenwich Village, a little room that holds about 50 people, and not only did Rick Danko and Richard Manuel from The Band play only about 15 feet away, but Paul Butterfield got up and joined them. We sat at a fairly big table and Danko and Manuel and their women sat at the same table during breaks.

About a year after that, Richard Manuel hung himself, and in 1999, Rick Danko died of a drug-related heart attack. Fellow Band member Levon Helm left us just last April so now only Robbie Robertson and Garth Hudson remain. It’s very sad.

Below – Willie Nelson was fun, Robert Palmer was slick, and the Pretenders were excellent. But about Pete Best: You might know that Best was the Beatles’ original drummer before being given the boot for Ringo. I have my own story about the guy.

When I lived in Calgary, an event organizer contacted me to see if I would set up a display of Beatles memorabilia, which I had a lot of, at a collectables show at McMahon Stadium, with Pete Best as invited speaker.

I said yes, and I was introduced to Pete Best and his wife Kathy, and both loved my Beatles collection. I was invited to a dinner with Pete and Kathy and the organizers, and after that we all went to this little theatre with seating for about 30 people, and we watched a screening of Backbeat, which dealt with the Beatles in Germany when Pete Best was still the drummer.

Kathy Best sat in front of me and would often remark during the screening how the movie was getting the facts wrong. “Bullshit” she said several times. At one point, I asked Pete, who was sitting beside me, if something on the screen had really happened, and he said no.

They still live in Liverpool. Or at least they did. Maybe they’re in Cannes now. After being fired from the Beatles, he first worked in a meat shop, then got a post office job which lasted until he retired. I read a few years ago that Pete finally cashed in from his time as a Beatle, when royalties arrived from the Beatles Anthology, which was a box set, a film, and a book, and his share was worth many millions.

The ticket below is for a show he did about a year later. His band went through a lot of Beatles material, and he doesn’t sing. It’s basically just a cover band.

And oh yes, I asked him why he was fired. There are lots of theories – that Ringo was simply a better drummer, that gay manager Brian Epstein tried and failed to seduce Pete, and that he basically just didn’t fit in with the others. Pete told me two theories of his own – he thinks the other Beatles became resentful because he was more successful with the ladies than they were, and also – and this one’s very interesting – he had tight curls and wasn’t able to comb his hair down in a Beatle cut, so he didn’t fit what Epstein envisioned.

He also told me that he and Paul McCartney almost burned down Hamburg’s City Hall by accident.

Next, the Eagles were fine, except we were so far away that something was definitely missing. I hate monster venues. Dire Straits, with Stevie Ray Vaughan opening was, of course, fabulous, and I also saw Stevie Ray Vaughan at the National Arts Centre, which was way more intimate than the Civic Centre.

Below –  KD Lang was neat, but I liked the opening act, a female Seattle band, Ranch Romance, even better.

Beside Elvis Costello is Steve Goodman, who you may or may not have heard of. He was a genius, longtime buddy of John Prine, and wrote City of New Orleans and lots of other great stuff. He’s been dead for quite a few years now.

Of all the shows I’ve seen, none can equal Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. They were the best, the most exciting, they blew the doors off for three hours, and everyone left these shows exhausted.  There are four tickets here, and I can think of two other shows I was at also. I saw them in 1976 at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, and also sometime around 1979 at the Civic Centre.

I was such a Bob Dylan fan when I was a teenager, but when I see him on TV now, it makes me sad. He was never a great singer, which didn’t bother me in the least, but now he sounds like a cat being strangled. I loved his music from the Sixties and I still do, but somewhere along the line, something happened. Maybe he’s playing a gigantic joke on us. Regardless, I firmly believe his place in culture ranks up there with Elvis and the Beatles, and his early stuff still moves me.

I was never a Kenny Loggins fan, but we were in New York and wanted to go to Radio City Music Hall.

A year before that in New York, we went to see Oh Calcutta at the theatre next door to our hotel. I had no idea until it was playing that the male and female actors got naked.

Below –  My brother-in-law and I were given free tickets from a friend playing in the opening act, Honeymoon Suite, and the seats were great. I grew up listening to the Kinks, and I fully expected a nostalgia-type show like the Beach Boys, but it wasn’t that at all. They combined new stuff with old, and Ray Davies is a terrific showman. The Kinks were fabulous.

Melissa Etheridge was powerful and professional, ZZ Top played in front of a giant ’56 Chevy, and Robert Palmer was good, but the reason we really went was because it was Radio City Music Hall.

Finally, the Beatles. This is the big one for me, although I sat in the last row on the floor. I could see them just fine, but the screaming and fainting was amazing. The girls were just nuts, and although I could hear the music, it was difficult and often drowned out. Screaming and such was the big reason the boys stopped touring soon after this Toronto show, and would prefer the studio. I was 15, and all my life I’ve been proud to say I saw the Beatles.

There were other shows too, although the ticket stubs are long gone. The Hollies twice, John Prine, the McCoys, Led Zeppelin in Vancouver, the same city I saw the Grateful Dead and Ten Years After in. There was John Mayall in London, Van Morrison at Massey Hall, Blind Faith with Eric Clapton at Varsity Stadium, the Youngbloods at Whisky A Go Go in Hollywood, plus, in various towns and cities – Gordon Lightfoot, Phil Ochs, the Young Rascals, the Association, Roger McGuinn, Murray McLaughlin, Sha Na Na, Billy Joel, John Cougar Mellencamp, Wynona Judd, and others I can’t remember at this point.

I also had tickets for Joe Cocker, who never showed up, and Roy Orbison, when I had to work.

23 thoughts on “A Night At The Opera”

  1. you saw some awesome musicians over the years, Dennis. I assume you are COMPLETELY DEAF now?

    I did go to Woodstock………………………………………..the movie 🙁

  2. @Habsdoc
    Just checked out your blog also. That makes 2 blogs I have bookmarked. I look forward to spending time there. Talking motorcycles are a great way to use the time freed up by the upcoming lockout.

  3. You should get one Dennis. Your wife sure looked good sitting on mine. Do you still have your M licence?

  4. Hobo, she did look good. She’s still waiting for her first Harley ride. Yes, I still have my bike license.

  5. proud to say i saw Elvis at the old Joe in detroit about 6 mos. before he died.
    best show ever was The Police in miami.

  6. Marc, that’s really cool. I would’ve like to have seen Elvis. I never saw the Police either and I don’t doubt that they were terrific. I’ve always liked them. Thanks for this. I’m hoping others share their bands experiences as well.

  7. Hey Dennis

    Presently I am listening to a little heavy guitar based music as I peck.The early 1970s bands Stray(UK) and Sir Lord Baltimore(NYC).I may start doing some air guitar!

    There was a day I kinda lived at The Commodore and The Town Pump.The best shows always tended to be in smaller venues.I did see some shows at BC Place and The Kingdome.The best in terms of sound was the 1976 show by Wings.It was also the first show I saw with a big screen.At The Rolling Stones concert somebody fell to their death on a ramp railing.That resulted in those triangular things placed on the railings at a big expense.

    Some early Pacific Coliseum concerts included the likes of Donovan,The Faces,The Moody Blues,Jimi Hendrix,The Doors,Led Zepplin etc.After the Led Zepplin concert I started wearing ear plugs.The ear plugs saved my hearing at concerts by The Kinks,The Who,The Pretenders and especially Bruce Springsteen.Way too loud!

    All the ska bands were great(The Beat,The Specials,The Selector,Madness).The Commodore floor was bouncing.

    And lots of great jazz concerts(Bobby Watson,LA 4,Sonny Rollins,Dexter Gordon etc.).

    The Town Pump … Omar & The Howlers,Evan Johns & The H Bombs,Richard Thompson,Joe Ely etc.

    Repeat concerts … The Blasters/Dave Alvin(~10 times) and Iggy Pop(~ 10 times).

    The revolution of 1976 … The Clash,The Jam,TRB,Talking Heads … The Commodore.

    Worst shows … The Animals at UBC and the very boring Stevie Ray Vaughan at The Commodore.

    The Expo 86 Shows … Everly Brothers,Roy Orbison,Jerry Lee Lewis etc.

    Surprisingly good shows … Men Without Hats,Modern English … reminds me of 10cc,Simple Minds,The Waterboys at The QE.

    Shows at The Warfield and Fillmore in SF,Roxy and Whisky in LA,The Marquee(both Wardour St and Charing Cross Rd) in London.John Foxx,The Room and Eddie and Sunshine at the Dominion Theatre.And jazz in NYC … the Blue Note,Sweet Basil,Village Vanguard.

    No wonder I am broke!



    PS Top 5 Rock Shows

    1.Iggy Pop UBC Sub Ballroom
    2.Rank and File UBC Sub Ballroom
    3.Gary(US)Bonds The Commodore Ballroom
    4.Harry Chapin QE Theatre
    5.Sector 27 The Commodore Ballroom

  8. DK, Diana & I were with you & at Camp Fortune in Quebec. It’s sad that Richard & Ricky left us way to soon! I agree with you about The Boss, Diana & I saw him & the E Street Band at what was then known as The Sky Dome, talk about getting your monies worth he played for two hours took a twenty minute break & played for another hour & a half, awesume!!! Saw the Zep at O’keefe Centre & after their show Plant & Bonham showed up at the Upper Crust in Yorkville & jammed with the house band, man those were great times.
    Cheers from the East!!!!

  9. I’m jealous of you guys. The Beatles and the Stones are the only real big bands I have seen. I saw Dylan at Casino Rama if u can believe it. He started out playing guitar, slightly out of tune and raw. I thought , this is going to be good. Then he played a keyboard with a rinky dink sound for the rest of the show. I didn’t get. A few weeks ago I saw Jimmie Vaughan, one of my fav guitar players, and his most excellent band in an 80 seat venue. It was like he was in your living room. But the most memorable show for me was Sugar Kane live at Diana Streeter’s party. As Mike says, those were the days.

  10. Hobo, I never got a chance to see the Stones, but I was at the Railway Club in London where they played before they were famous. Dylan should retire. He’s got all the money in the world, and I’m sure many, many folks leave disappointed afterwards. And I know Sugar Kane wowed them at the party. I remember he had bloody fingers after his amazing guitar solos.
    I didn’t realize until recently that Jimmy Vaughan has another guy as lead singer. I always thought it was him on vocals. Thanks again for mentioning the Sugar Kane concert.

  11. Mike, I hadn’t realized you saw Led Zeppelin at the O’Keefe Centre. Wow!!! And I didn’t know about Plant and Bonham in Yorkville. You hear these stories from time to time about how huge bands show up in small venues. Like the Stones at El Mocambo.
    You are so right. Just great times.

  12. Thanks again, Marc. A nice piece from Dryden. Thanks for sending it and you’re right – a good read.

  13. Saw the Stones at the Ex on the Voodoo Lounge tour & again at the Bridges over Babalon tour at the ACC. Agree with hobo, saw Dylan at the Richoe Ctr. what a waist of money, gone were the day’s of John Wesley Harding,Blood on the tracks etc. just a whole lot of feeble mumbling—time to call it a day Bob!

  14. Nice, Doug. There’s even a bunch of bands you list whom I’ve never heard of, including Sector 27, the H-Bomb, and Madness.
    You and I may have been at the same Zeppelin show at the Pacific Col. although they may have played there more than once. I think the show I saw was about 1971 but I’m not sure.
    Springsteen and the Kinks may have been loud, but they’re my fav live acts. I never noticed the loud sound at the shows I was at but maybe it was all about the sound engineers at different places.
    Stevie Ray was boring except that his guitar playing was out of this world. But you’re right. It wasn’t the most exciting show in the world. I also would liked to have seen Hendrix

  15. Jimmie Vaughan was the guitar player in the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kim Wilson was the singer and harp player. Since Jimmie started his solo career he sings all the stuff, unless there is a guest singer.

  16. The Tea Party. I’ve seen them in nightclubs, in a theatre convert, and outside twice. One at EdgeFest, and they play with the sunset in the background. The other was free at the Old Port, with the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, and a slight drizzle as the played “Heaven Coming Down”. They were only supposed to do 5 songs, but everyone convinced them to do a full set, and anyway the guy who was supposed to go on after them wasn’t there.

    I got a book where I put my ticket stubs from my concert going days, some of them are signed too. Mostly Edge of Electric, Tea Party, Glueleg, Econoline Crush…the greatness of 90’s Canadian music. I saw the Tragically Hip when they were good at then called Molson Centre. The awesome Rheostatics opened.

    I also snagged a few set lists, and got some guitar picks 🙂

    Craziest show for me was this triple bill I went to at the now torn-down Spectrum. I didn’t give a damn about the 3rd group though so I forgot their name but it was Coal Chamber and Slipknot that I went for. Slipknot has THREE DRUMMERS. It’s like a huge mass of masked freaks making loud music on stage. I remember the band I didn’t care about was so loud, my beer cup flew off the table at an opening chord and paint was falling off the ceiling. (I wasn’t even sitting close to the stage either).

  17. Good stuff, Number 31. I have to admit that many of these bands I don’t know. I used to be so into music, I subscribed to Rolling Stone mag for years, but everything changed as I got older and I sort of fell behind the times. I saw the Tragically Hip with Midnight Oil while living in Calgary, and I haven’t seen the Reostatics but from the little I’ve heard, I think they’re great. I know Dave Bidini’s in the band.
    Three drummers in Slipknot. Now there’s a concept I like. Anytime over the years when I saw bands with two drummers, I thought it was fantastic.
    Thanks for this. Hope you’re doing well and enjoying your summer.

  18. Hey Dennis

    Rolling Stone is great for pop culture and politics but not music.There are a million music web sites and blogs and I probably follow 50 or so.As far as magazines(some only online):

    -The Big Takeover
    -Vive Le Rock
    -Blues Revue
    -Living Blues
    -Record Collector
    -Jazz Times
    -Under The Radar
    -No Depression

    And a bunch of programmes on BBC Radio 2 and 6 Music are excellent.And Rock Talk on Vancouver Co-Op Radio hosted by Michael Willmore is great for old obscure stuff.

    With a possible NHL lock out you could catch up on music!


  19. Forgot to mention Doug, that I think Rolling Stone was a great music source in the beginning, when they were still in San Francisco, before moving to NY where they sold out and began writing about movie stars and TV personalities and such. But in the beginning, when they were on Brannon St, which I visited a few months ago while in SF , just to see the neighbourhood. Rolling Stone and Crawdaddy, and maybe Melody Maker in the UK, were the go-to rags for what was happening. I dislike RS very much now. Too glittery, too much advertising, so little about music. Selling out was due to Jann Wenner wanting to be a big player, which he achieved, but he hurt the integrity in the process.

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