Tag Archives: Beatles

How $150 Became More, Thanks To John Lennon

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34 years ago today, John Lennon was shot dead. It sucked then and it sucks now. Below is a re-posting of a story I wrote a few years ago that, although unrelated to that dreadful evening and the days that followed, has a definite Lennon connection.

Years ago, through an autograph dealer in New York, I bought a little Rolodex-style Barclays bank card for $150, a card that had once been issued to John Lennon. This little card stated that anything under $200 in Lennon’s account could be withdrawn by his two lawyers without permission, but over $200 must be authorized by Lennon.

The card was signed by Lennon and the two lawyers.

I held onto this card for quite some time, but decided at some point to see what someone might pay for it, so I put an ad in an Ottawa paper and wondered what kind of offers might come up. Soon after, the phone rang.

It was a fellow in Ottawa who said he knew what the card was, he was a big Beatles collector, and said he had once played in David Peel’s band in New York, a band Lennon had jammed with and had produced Peel’s “The Pope Smokes Dope” album. He asked me if I would be willing to come to his place and have a look at what he had, and maybe make a trade. So I went.

The guy’s apartment was jammed with Beatles memorabilia, worth a large fortune for sure, and I could tell he really wanted my card. But if I was going to make a trade,  what he was offering better be good. And it was.

He showed me about half a dozen sheets of Lennon’s hand-written lyrics of songs from the “Sometime in New York City” album, and suggested that if I wanted, I could choose one if would part with the card. Oh yes, I thought. I’ll definitely do this.

I chose the song “New York City,” written by Lennon in pencil, with his little caricatures of himself and Yoko drawn on the sheet along with the lyrics. I was more than happy to make this trade.

It wasn’t long after that when my wife and I, just making ends meet, thought our dingy old basement would look fabulous if it was gutted and renovated. Our house was small, we had two young kids, and living space in the basement would double the size of the house. It was a lovely thought to have such an addition, so I made the decision. I’d sell the Lennon lyrics.

I sent a copy of it to Sotheby’s in New York, and they asked if they could see the real thing to assess it properly, so down it went by courier. Soon after they wrote back and said yes, it’s authentic, and they put a possible selling price of $2500. I knew that in the near future Sotheby’s would be holding a Lennon auction, the timing was right, and the basement needed serious work, so I told them to go ahead and sell it.

It sold for $7000.

I know what you’re going to say. Imagine if I sold it today, it would go for much, much more. But $7000 was a big score for us back then, it had only been a $150 investment in the first place, and we were happy. And the basement ended up looking like a million bucks, with new furniture, a new televison, and lots of shelving to hold my hockey and Beatles collections.

Eventually we sold this house, got a fine price for it, definitely because of the new basement, and moved to Calgary. And the extra money we got from the sale allowed us to buy a beautiful place in Cowtown, which I was able to enjoy for a solid three years before my wife left me.

A Very Impressive Fellow

Last Friday I spent several terrific hours at the home of Jean-Patrice Martel, a renown hockey historian, author, former president of SIHR (Society for International Hockey Research),  contributor to Habs media guides, and a huge Beatles buff.

A truly nice fellow who lives just twenty minutes from me, and who kept me captivated all evening with his varied experiences and his amazing knowledge of hockey.

Jean-Patrice also gave me a copy of his fairly recent collaboration with Swedish hockey historians Carl Giden and Patrick Houda titled “On the Origin of Hockey”, and which I’ll dive into as soon as I finish my Knuckles Nilan book I borrowed from the local library.

I’d like to say thanks to this very impressive man for inviting me into his home.

A May 24, 2014 National Post review of “On the Origin of Hockey” can been seen right here. And if you’re wondering where hockey with skates and sticks originated, Jean-Patrice and the Swedes have traced it all the way back to 18th century England.

On the Origin of Hockey cover - medium.jpg

 

 

The Best Ashtray

ashtray

I’ll bet you’re saying to yourself that you’ve had better ashtrays than this one. Maybe one of those nice glass ones, or one on a fancy stand.

But this is the best ashtray in the world so forget about it.

It was sent to me from my old friend Bruce who ended up with two of them and knew that I’d need one. That’s what old friends do. Sometimes send ashtrays.

The porcelain beauty (although Lucy doesn’t see the beauty) came out of a closed factory in Orillia, Porcelain and Metal, or “P&M” as everybody called it because it was shorter and there’s nothing like shortcuts in life.

I worked there with Bruce, one of several jobs I had after dropping out of school after grade 10, and Bruce and I did the graveyard shift in the Fiat department, assembling metal toilet doors. We became toilet door superstars.

I’d also been saving enough money to sail on a ship to England with another friend when I’d turn 18 in that fall of 1968. And the toilet door gig was easy, mainly because the person at P&M who decided how many we needed to do in a shift was slightly off in the math and Bruce and I had the quota wrapped up in the first two or three hours.

After that we caught mice in a barrel and watched them run around for awhile, then let them go. Or we’d put our feet up and talk music, and hockey of course, because Bruce was and is a Habs fan.

Maybe we used this very ashtray on our dozen or so smoke breaks every night. (I quit years ago).

That fall I sailed to England on the Empress of England with my friend Robin and spent much of the winter there. At one point we knocked on the door of the Beatles’ Apple offices on Savile Row, and when a women answered, I asked if the boys were in. She said no.

Robin and I also saw John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers at the Klooks Kleek room in the Railway Hotel, a place where Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones, and most of the other well-known London musicians had played at some point, usually before they became rich and famous.

The night we saw Mayall, his guitar player was Mick Taylor, who not long after would join the Stones when Brian Jones drowned in his swimming pool.

It was a big experience, that trip to England, and it was all thanks to my job in the Fiat department at P&M, making toilet doors with Bruce and catching mice in a barrel.

Now I have an ashtray from that fine old Fiat toilet door department, on display in my display case.

The best ashtray in the world, regardless of what you and Lucy think.

Klooks Kleek

 

 

 

 

Habs, Leafs, And Beatles

On August 17th in 1966, the Beatles played an afternoon show in Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens.

I was there and I’m pretty darn proud of it.

I was 15 years old and had a summer job as a highway construction slave labourer, but the boss let me go early and I went down to Toronto from Orillia with a disc jockey my sister worked with at the local radio station. She had got word to me just that morning that the DJ was going and asked if I would like to go with him.

I didn’t have a ticket, but believe it or not, they were still available when I showed up at the Gardens, and I got a $5.50 ticket in the very last row on the floor.

It was madness, of course. There were about six bands in the lineup, including the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, and Bobby Hebb, and the Beatles in the finale played for about 40 minutes with girls screaming and fainting and carrying on.

That fall, hockey season began, and the next spring, the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Habs in six games to win their last Stanley Cup.

The Leafs were an old team with guys like Terry Sawchuk, Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, and Allan Stanley, but Montreal wasn’t that young either. Henri Richard was 30, John Ferguson 27, Claude Provost was 32, Dick Duff 30, Ted Harris 30, Jean-Guy Talbot was 34, Jean Beliveau was 35, and the goalies, Gump Worsley and Charlie Hodge, were 37 and 33 respectively.

Of course, Montreal also had the kiddies. Yvan Cournoyer was all of 22. Claude Larose was 23. Jacques Laperriere 24. And Serge Savard and Carol Vadnais were just 20.

John and Ringo were 26, Paul 24, and George 23.

The Habs and Beatles remain in the hearts of millions.

The Leafs continue to suck.

Holdin’ On In Washington

As mentioned previously, I wasn’t exactly in front of the TV last night when the Habs faced off against the Caps, but from time to time I’d check how things were, and I managed to see the final three heart-stopping minutes.

Apparently there were a lot of heart-stopping minutes. Two thirds of the game in fact.

The gang jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first, but Alex Ovechkin scored with seconds to go in that first frame and whatever that did to the Canadiens, like put the brakes to their momentum maybe, they didn’t score again, Ovechkin would, and Canadiens would hold on for dear life after that.

But they won the game 3-2. A huge one to win, and three guys on the hotseat found the back of the net – Travis Moen, David Desharnais, and Daniel Briere, which is a fine thing to have happen.

I saw Michael Bournival helped off the ice after taking a puck to the foot or ankle (I think), and I heard that P.K. was in a scrap, which I would’ve loved to have seen.

Two huge points, on the road, against a decent team. And Peter Budaj earns his keep.

Tonight – Sidney and the flightless birds wobble into the Bell.

On a personal note, Luci and I are at my brother’s house in Ottawa, another brother came from Orillia, and when you put the three of us together, it’s uncanny how we look like Brad Pitt, George Clooney, and Cary Grant side by side.

I look like Cary Grant, who’s been dead for some time now, so it’s not a good thing.

Also, it was grade seven when my teacher was called out of our classroom by the principal, and a few minutes later she came back in crying. “Class dismissed” I remember her saying. “President Kennedy has just been shot.”

November 22 (from a few years later) also marked the day my friend and I hopped on a ship bound for England after I had assembled toilet doors in a factory in Orillia for six months. I had just turned 18, and we were in England for a good part of the winter. The Beatles played on the rooftop of their Apple offices on Saville Row when we were in London, but we had no idea and only found out about it after coming home. I still curse about this.

 

 

Head Hardening

Luci mailed a box of blankets and and other unimportant things so she wouldn’t have to carry them on the plane at the end of next month, and she included the only two things I asked for and which are far more important than blankets – my Bob Dylan “One Direction Home” DVD, and my 1950s Habs helmet, which, as you can see, wouldn’t prevent too many cracked skulls.

Heads were harder back then, not like the soft pussy heads kids have now. Kids in the ’50s had hard heads toughened up from teacher’s rulers being cracked over them, errant road hockey sticks, backhands from frustrated teacher nuns, blows from falling out of trees, attacks from wild animals who thought your coonskin hat was alive, and ramming into schoolyard walls when picking up “closest to the wall” hockey cards.

But this is all old talk. I’m a modern guy, not someone who lives in the past. Oops, my Beatles record has finished. Time to put on some Roy Orbison.

Only 35 more days. Leafs and Habs.

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helmet 4

Beauty In An 11×14

Recently I wrote about Ray “Scotty” Morris, a photographer a few years back for the San Francisco Examiner, who took a photo of his then-girlfriend Vicki Ross at the old Cow Palace, with several San Francisco Seals from the professional Western Hockey League spraying snow on the poor lass. It was a photo judged by the Associate Press as one of the best hockey photos of 1965, something Scotty didn’t know about until he discovered my story on these pages.

The stories can be seen here – Who Is This Man, and the first one – Best From Then.

Scot and I have chatted often recently through the wonders of email, he’s a really interesting and friendly guy, and the other day a beautiful 11×14 print showed up from him, one which I’ll get framed soon. Just a really nice gesture on his part.

He also tells me he covered the Beatles during their visit to San Francisco in 1966, and with me being such a lifelong fan of the Fab Four (I saw them in Toronto that same summer, their final tour), I can only shake my head in awe.

 

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.

What A Loser I Am

I got lost on my way to MLB spring training in Florida and ended up in the Yukon. I was too hungover on the days I’d planned on attending CFL camp. Manchester United’s letter never seemed to have made it. I was going to be a gymnast in the London Olympics until I found out it’s next month and I haven’t even started to train yet.

I chose making toilet doors at a factory instead of becomg the fifth Beatle because I didn’t like Yoko.  The Montreal Canadiens offered me work as stick boy and I though they said “ship ahoy” and I declined because I can’t swim. Bill Gates begged me to be his partner but I believed in typewriters. I missed accepting the Order of Canada because “The Bachelor” was on.

They warned me she had the clap but I thought it meant she liked to applaud after sex. I was once clocked faster than Usain Bolt but probably because I had to go number two. I worked long and hard to get Hardy Astrom into the Hockey Hall of Fame until I realized I had him and Ralph Backstrom confused. I could never understand how rabbits always won at greyhound races.

I moved to the West Coast to get out of the rain. It took me years to figure out that women don’t like guys who scratch their asses at formal gatherings. I was a Scott Gomez fan until I noticed that he was a player and not a pre-game flag kid. I lost my life savings after investing in Pinto limousines. I quit school in grade ten to follow my dream of going to Harvard.

I was informed via an official email that a prince in Nigeria wants to give me 8 million dollars so I sent the necessary $100,000 for administrative purposes and have now been waiting three years for the big money to arrive. Angelina Jolie asked me if I wanted to have sex and I said yes, do you know anybody?

And I’ve never been successful, no matter how hard I’ve tried, in getting Al Capone paroled.

What a loser I am.

Cruisin’ On Down The Road

I’m alone in my car, driving to Nelson to see my grandkids. I’ve got some CD’s ready for action, some blues and Beatles, John Prine and Eminem and a few others, and if I get bored of these I’ll just sing, or practise my Richard Nixon and Merv Griffin impressions. It’s quite a drive. It takes 11 or 12 hours to get to Nelson, and I’ll be there for a few days before pointing the car the other way to come home again when once again I’ll be either playing CD’s, singing, or doing two lousy impressions.

Is that interesting?

What about this? According to the British newspaper The Guardian, (and I have no idea why The Guardian has mentioned Nelson),  “Nelson was able to make the transition from a typical rural lumber town into a thriving arts and mountain sports hotbed, due in part to the wealth generated by marijuana growers.”

Or this? Nelson doesn’t have a McDonald’s. I thought every town over 5000 people had a McDonald’s.

But enough about Nelson. I’ve got four little rugrats to visit, along with their mom Shannon who happens to be my daughter, and her husband Ryan who I couldn’t be more happy with for a son-in-law, even though he prefers football over the Habs.

I’m on my way. I’m somewhere, maybe on a ferry, or savouring the sweet aroma of chicken farms near Chilliwack, or zooming past Hope, or eyeballing the desert landscape around Osoyoos, or hugging my family and getting knocked around by this big, friendly rottweiler they have.

But please carry on. Just thought I’d mention the trip, that’s all..

Bruins suck.