Tag Archives: Ringo Starr

Last Row On The Floor

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It’s August 17th, which means that exactly 49 years ago today,  in 1966, the Beatles played a pair of shows at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.

I was at the afternoon show, Beatle haircut and all.

The boss let me go early from my slave labour construction job I was doing for the summer,  and I went down to Toronto from Orillia with a disc jockey that my sister worked with at the local radio station. She had gotten 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 incredibly, they were still available when we showed up at the Gardens, and I scored a $5.50 ticket in the very last row on the floor. That’s my ticket stub above, which I’ve managed to hold onto all these years. The DJ had a pass or something, and he disappeared into the crowd.

Several bands filled the lineup, including the Ronettes, the Cyrkle, Bobby Hebb, the Remains, and a Toronto band I can’t recall, and the Beatles in the finale played for about 40 minutes with girls everywhere screaming and fainting and carrying on. When I think about it now, a camera would’ve been a good thing.

What else do I remember? I think it was stifling hot inside the Gardens, for one thing. And when the Beatles sang I could make out what song it was, but other than that it was all kind of muffled.  You couldn’t hear them clearly because of those wild and crazy girls, and that was one of the main reasons they forever stopped touring just 12 days later, after their show in San Francisco.

Best of all, I remember George, who at times would point to sections in the greys at the top of the old barn, and the greens just below, and when he did, the fans there would rise together in magnificent fashion. Power at the tips of his fingers, like Moses parting the Red Sea. Only it was George, with his friends at Maple Leaf Gardens.

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My Brother Sends Some Pics

My brother just sent me these photos, at the bottom, from his vacation in London, England.

Important photos, because they’re of the Beatles’ iconic Apple offices at 3 Savile Row, where John, Paul, George and Ringo came and went, where they tried to help struggling artists and sometimes pretended to work, and where they sounded tight and together when they played on the rooftop in January of 1969.

I was 18 and with my buddy Robin in London that winter of 1969 when the Beatles played on the top of this building, but we had no idea and only found out about it later.

I’ve told this story before, but when Robin and I were in London, we knocked on the door of these Apple offices one day and when a woman answered, I asked if the boys were in. She said no, and on we went.

But we gave it a shot at saying hello to the Fab Four. And who knows, if one of them happened to be there he might have invited us in and I might have met Pattie Boyd. And she and I would’ve flirted and most likely ended up in the sack when George was busy in the studio arguing with Paul.

Below that, my brother’s camera shot from good ole Carnaby Street. Although this trendy street, in anybody’s ‘Swinging London’ conversation, was at its hippest peak in 1966 and 1967, Robin and I were there a year later, around the 17th minute of its 15 minutes of fame . We didn’t have money for bell bottomed trousers and polka dot shirts anyways, and Twiggy and the Shrimpton sisters had most likely already moved on.

At the bottom of the photos, Robin and I in London during that winter of 1968/69. I’m the one on the left, looking kinda goofy. It kind of makes me wonder if Pattie Boyd would’ve flirted with me.

Robin contacted me only a short while ago and it blew my mind as it’s been many years since I’d heard from him. He lives in Surrey, BC now, is a musician who goes by the name of Snazzy Rob, and has 4 CDs of standards from the ’30s, ’40s, and ’50s, which he sent me copies of. He plays all the instruments and sings, and the music is soothing, fun, and very cool.

Robin I had a great trip to England, even though we slept standing up in a phone booth one cold night in Coventry, and in a homeless shelter in London on another. But as memorable a trip as can be.

And below the others, the ship we sailed on from Montreal to Liverpool, the Empress of England.

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Dear George, Dear Ringo

As we wait for Marc Bergevin to work his magic, and of course the  Habs and Leafs on Saturday night……….

I was telling this story to my buddy Wayne the other day, and he said I should put it on my blog. So I said okay.

Years ago I put a picture of George Harrison, from the Beatles “White Album”, into an envelope, along with a return envelope, a pen, and two bucks, and I mailed it to George at Friar Park, Henley-On-Thames, England.

A month or two later it came back, signed with a different pen than I had sent, and with the two bucks gone.

Of course I can’t say for sure whether it was George who signed. Maybe an employee did it for him, but it looks very much like his signature and I’m inclined to believe it’s real.

I also did the same thing for Ringo, although I forget what address I used, and it came back signed too. He also kept the pen but sent the two bucks back. I ended up selling it, along with a bunch of Beatles memorabilia, a long time ago.

As for Lennon and McCartney, their mail person must’ve gotten lost.

But I’ve still got George’s, and it’s probably the best two bucks I’ve ever spent.

George would have been 72 on Feb. 25th.

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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.

Just Sign It And Help Me With The Groceries

It’s certainly not very clear but written on George’s chin and neck is “To Dennis, Best Wishes, George Harrison.”

As some of you already know, I’m a big Beatles fan. Always have been, right from the beginning. I was a fan before they even played the Ed Sullivan Show. I went through my teen years with them. I saw them live in Toronto during their last-ever tour. I got drunk and stoned listening to them, and, if I was very lucky, made out with chicks in back seats of cars or at parties to the sound of George, Paul, John, and Ringo.

I still love the Beatles, and just a few weeks ago I bought, for about the fourth time, The White Album.

The White Album contains four 8×10’s of Beatle head shots, although now on CD they’re not 8×10’s of course, and at one point in my life, I decided that having at least one signed would be a nice thing. I knew George lived in a castle outside of London called Friar Park, so I put George’s picture from the White Album into an envelope, enclosed a self-addressed envelope, and added a Sharpie pen and a dollar. Then I mailed it to Friar Park and waited.

It was months later, but out of the blue, stuck in my mail slot, was the envelope. It was mangled pretty bad, in fact it looked like it had been nadled by someone very angry, but it came back signed. The dollar was gone and he used a thin-tipped pen, not the Sharpie.

Of course I can’t be sure if George signed it, but it looks like he did when I compare it other examples. Maybe it was the laundry lady or the guy who waxed his Bentley. I like to think it’s his, although he didn’t want to. 

I have a theory about what happened and why the envelope looked like it had been through a war. George hated touring, fans screaming, and all that went with being a Beatle. He was one of the first of the four who entertained the idea of the Beatles breaking up.

He probably would have hated to see a letter requesting an autograph. So he opened up my package, cursed, rolled it up in a ball, and threw it in the garbage. Of course his wife Olivia, the level-headed one, would have been disgusted with his performance and told him he shouldn’t do that, that a nice Canadian fan wanted an autograph and how hard would it bet? Heck, a staff member would even take it the post office.

So George reluctantly retrieved it from the garbage, muttered something about her probably being right, and signed it. He kept the dollar because it was his way of protesting, but why did he change pens?

Hmmm.

I think when he scrunched it up in anger and threw it in the waste basket, the Sharpie broke. So he grabbed another, which had a fine tip. He also thought to himself, “I’m being forced to do this so the signature’s going to suck a little. Hah!”

Olivia just shook her head at his little tantrum. “Ringo doesn’t act like this,” she replied sternly. “The meditating just isn’t working. Now get up and help me with the groceries.”

 

Gaston Took The Time To Help Out

He’s a ladies man, a world-traveler, an ex-con, a horrible lecher, a big Habs fan, a nasty drunk, he can’t be trusted, and is a complete asshole.

Now I find out he was sort of a fifth Beatle.

“Gaston wasn’t a musician in the band,” says an Abbey Road spokesman, “but he ran everything. He looked after the groupies, the drugs, and the alcohol, and told the boys all they had to do was concentrate on their music. What a generous and gracious guy he was. Almost a saint.”

I also discovered that Gaston frequently told the four Beatles to leave Pattie, Maureen, Cynthia and Jane in his capable hands while the guys were traveling, which I thought was quite kind of him, as the ladies must have taken up a great deal of his time. And out of the goodness of his heart, even suggested that he stay with the ladies overnight so they wouldn’t be afraid when the boys were away.

He did, however, tell John to take Yoko with him as much as possible, for some reason.

Blame The Look Of Hockey Fans On The Beatles

Things were going so well. Rinks in Montreal, New York, Toronto, Boston, Chicago and Detroit were filled with people looking like they were going to church and went in the wrong building by mistake. Fedoras, shawls, hats with feathers in them, polished shoes, diamonds, all on display in the seats above as players grunted and spit and smashed noses in below.

It was the perfect blend.

Then those darn Beatles and others with guitars and drums showed their faces, wearing longer hair than people were accustomed to, and it was the beginning of the end. As the months turned into years, jeans and ragged shirts added to the long hair and it all became the style of the day that has lasted even to now.

Hockey fans, of course, were not immune, and were quickly swept away by the look brought by the Beatles, Rolling Stones and the rest, and soon, fedoras, shawls, diamonds, and hats with feathers in them were sadly put in trunks and only brought out when the kids were dressing up for Halloween.

Now, instead of looking like a million bucks, fans have taken to wearing hockey jerseys to games. It’s weird, yes it is, but they have. And NHL owners are sitting back looking at their jersey sales receipts and lighting cigars and drooling.

Blame it on the Beatles. If they would’ve shown up on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 with brushcuts and fedoras, arenas might still look like churches.

But the Forum, Maple Leaf Gardens, Boston Garden, Madison Square Gardens, Chicago Stadium, and the Detroit Olympia WERE cathedrals, weren’t they?

Postscript:

One of the things I’m most proud about is the fact that I saw the Beatles live, in Toronto, in 1966. The following is a small post I did a couple of years ago about this huge event in my life. Seeing The Beatles

Shocking Admission From Luke Schenn

luke_schenn_165x250I don’t know how to say this. Bear with me while I get myself together.

Luke Schenn has admitted recently that he doesn’t know the names of any of the Beatles. Schenn had taken in a performance of Cirque du Soleil’s “Love”, which is based on the music of the Beatles, playing at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas. Afterwards, Schenn was asked by an inquisitive reporter if he could name any of the Beatles. “No, not even close,” admitted the young Toronto Maple Leaf’s star.

How can this be? Or, the question is, do most 20 year’s old not know the names of the Beatles?

Say for the sake of argument that he’s never heard of George Harrison and Ringo Starr because he’s young.  But surely he’s heard the names Paul McCartney and John Lennon. Or maybe just Paul McCartney, because he’s still out there working. John was killed in 1980, nine years before Schenn was born, but you have to think that Schenn would’ve at least heard the name growing up.

I’m having a hard time with this.

I suppose there’s only one real explanation. He’s a Leaf.

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Regrouping With A Group

I think it’s time to switch gears a little. The playoffs are hell and there’s only so much we can endure. We need an escape and I’ve got a beauty for you. For those older, this might be a journey back. For younger people who don’t know much about the Beatles, I hope you enjoy this. This is the band many of us grew up with. The band many of us feel is the greatest ever. This is 2 minutes and 46 seconds that you don’t have to think about what’s going on in the playoffs.

It’s the Beatles in a nice, intimate setting in the studio doing Get Back in 1969, and it’s a tremendous piece of video. Billy Preston, who played keyboards for them from time to time, shows up, and you get a glimpse of Mick Jagger enjoying the moment.

This goes out to all Habs fans. Let’s hope the boys can “get back.”

So, as Ed Sullivan once announced, “And here they are, the Beatles!”

The Beatles And The Habs – A Winning Combination.

 

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

I was there.

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 he was going and asked if I would like to go with him. I didn’t have a ticket, but believe it or not, the show wasn’t sold out and I got a $5.50 ticket in the very last row of the floor.

It was madness, of course. There were about six bands in the lineup, 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. Yvon 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 have continued on over the years in mostly glorious fashion. The Beatles remain in the hearts of millions.

And the Leafs continue to suck.