My First Great Guitar

Gibson 175D (1959)

This is my 1959 Gibson ES 175D in the loving and capable hands of Sharon Cheema (I bet you didn’t notice the guitar either!) The guitar was recently returned from the luthier where I had extensive repair and restoration work done by Joey Rosito. New frets; re-set inlays, dressed fingerboard; a kink taken out at the 14th fret. Yay F# is back. Proper (authentic) tail piece and bridge installed and replaced Machine Heads.

I found this guitar in 1976 at Izzy Cohen music on what was then called Craig St. Next to Steve’s music in Montreal. I had recently discovered jazz guitarist Joe Pass who played a similar model and was starting the huge learning curve needed to play this sort of music authentically and passionately. I had $20 to my name when I first put my hands on what was to become my lover, my confidante, my companion and sometimes my nemesis. I gave Izzy the $20 and asked him to put the guitar away for three days while I gathered up the $500.00 needed to purchase this used guitar. I entered into a summer of slavery, but I got that baby! My mother thought I was nuts (which is entirely beside the point) but she saw my passion and lent me the bread. This is the first quality instrument I ever owned. My confidence, ability, and endurance all took a huge leap forward as I plunged into a life dedicated to musical pursuits.

This guitar has toured with me, been across Canada many times, down to Australia, she played herself through the travails of my first CD. she has been seriously dropped twice, splitting open like a ripe watermelon and causing me great grief and pain. If it is possible to love an object more than I love this guitar I would be surprised, and yet it is just that, an object. my true values of worth are of health and happiness, family and friends and I would gladly trade my guitar if it was needed to restore any of these elements of my life. My guitar is just an object, but the way she sings, you can tell she is loved and I feel like stroking and caressing her for hours. She makes me play beyond my capabilities and make me seem like a better musician than I am.

En duo with Dave Turner. Photo credit Sharon Cheema
Funky case. Photo credit Sharon Cheema

While undergoing a financial strain around six years ago due to a marital breakup I was forced to look at options to keep a roof over our heads. One of those options was to sell off some guitars. By far the most valuable one was this one. I had a page open looking at comparable instruments and their value. Suddenly I was confronted by my two daughters with tears in their eyes imploring me to never get rid of this guitar. One of the tenderest, hurtingest and most beautiful moments in my life.

At rest.

My Impressions after a 50 Year High School Reunion

Everybody here is old!!!!! How can that be?!?!? I am still 16. I look around and see younger faces emerging dreamlike from older faces. Some of the emerging faces have names that I could recall instantly, others remained murky. We are wearing name tags on lanyards at chest level and none of us are wearing our reading glasses so there is a lot of staring closely at breasts and groping to turn the name tags around because they are only printed on one side. 

Some of the faces are vaguely familiar, all of them kind and eager, but belong to people that may have chosen different electives (mine were all artsy). Some belonged to people who entered the high school in grade ten which was when I was entering grade ten at Laurentian Regional in Lachute. One lady rushed up to me and exuberantly exclaimed “ I remember you from Grad!!!!” Which was funny, seeing as I did not graduate with this group. I helped her sort out her error. 

I was most interested in the faces I have known since we were all five years old and (due to flukes in geography, zoning, religion and socioeconomic status) were thrust into the same kindergarten class.

There were two Kindergarten classes at our school and pretty well two classes for every other grade up through grade seven. Some kids might be in your class one year and the other class the next year. Even shuffled, we all went to the same birthday parties, some met in cub scouts, Sunday School, municipal sports etc.

Shuffling classes at the end of each school year is a humorous ritual I sat in on every year throughout my own teaching career. Kid A and Kid B shouldn’t be in the same class. The mother of kid K doesn’t want K to be near student R. He’s ”Special K”. Student P and student Q shouldn’t sit together. “Mind your P’s and Q’s”.

Suffice it to say we all knew each other pretty well by grade seven. In high school we stuck together at first because in eighth grade we went from 60 kids in our grade to a huge school with probably a few thousand kids some of whom actually smoked, drank, did drugs, had sex, etc. Overwhelming for a young knob to go from top of the hill to bottom of the pile. Seeing familiar faces was a relief then, even if the kid you saw may not have been a friend before. Without all the angst, last night was similar. Friendly familiar faces were like oases.

At this 50 year reunion our elementary school (Dunrae Gardens) was well represented with just under twenty of us there. I managed to talk to most, but not all. Some I have been in touch with over the years, and some I hadn’t seen since 1971 (two years before grad). Many came from quite far away. Cincinnati, Houston, California, Western Canada and mostly next door in Ontario. Striking how few live in Montreal. 

Some conversations I wished could go on for hours. Others were not as stimulating. Not everyone has the gift of gab, nor others, the gift of listening. I hope I didn’t bore anyone with anything! Subjects were wide and varied. Common denominators were: dealing with the deaths of our parents, various medical procedures (lol) and grandchildren, DIVERSE subjects such as politics; how lousy the MRHS football team was; band; favourite music; exporting alfalfa sprouts to Saudi Arabia (I’m not kidding…very interesting actually) etc. 

What struck me most when surveying the crowd, taking the pulse, was how homogeneous the crowd was. We were 95% white skinned, English speaking, mostly privileged well fed middle class people. I thought ‘we are interlopers in a place that used to be home’. TMR is now predominantly French speaking and to live in TMR these days, requires more moolah than even an Aeronautical Engineer like my dad could muster. My kindergarten teacher Mrs. Sevigny lived across the street from us. I know I couldn’t live there now on a teacher’s income.

Having taught for many years in this city I can assure you that this experience of homogeneity is an anomaly, a throwback to a different era. An era that only exists in fading memories and history books.

One classmate remarked that we were so lucky to benefit from post war stability, relative affluence and an insular environment. Our music was great, our freedoms were many, our problems few. OK Boomer…. We know that on the surface it was like that, but dig a bit and the skeletons come out. 

One dear friend took me to task when I said we came from privilege. His parents were blue collar and he grew up in a basement apartment on Graham Boulevard, etc. I said: “Fair enough, did you ever go hungry? Were you sheltered? Did you lack anything?” Right. Privilege.

My own parents were not rich, they were educated, socially active, volunteered, were active in the church. I was fortunate. My family was less dysfunctional than some. Many families held dark secrets: alcoholism; abuse; absentee parents; etc. Easy to hide all that in the surface environment of school.. 

I loved seeing the classmates that I did, but many of the classmates I also wanted to see were not there. Reunions aren’t for everyone. My old gang is off the grid. I, like them, didn’t really fit school, not because I didn’t love learning, I didn’t like the institution and I am not really a joiner. Ironic that I became a teacher.

Part of me says if I really cared so much about lost friends, we wouldn’t have lost touch. The rational part of me says that our friendship is locked in history and maybe if we met today there would be no bond like before. The kids I played tennis racquet guitar with, kids I pulled pranks with, swiped candy from Deguire’s with, smoked pot with, have all moved on as well. 

An interesting thing I noticed on the way out was a picture display of classmates who have died. There were perhaps eight or nine. Maybe as many as twelve. Point is: a relatively small number.

I was also invited to attend a reunion of the second High School I attended. I am in touch with most the friends I made there via social media and the occasional visit. I am otherly occupied on that day, so I declined. The obituary list for my class at that rural regional school was easily double that of my class at MRHS. Pause for thought about the reality of hardships faced on the farm and speeding on country roads and in one case my dear friend who died of loneliness, poor nutrition and alcoholism.

I recognize my privilege and my good fortune to live a life worth living, an examined life, an artistic life. My wife’s cousin and I were discussing Charles Darwin who never needed a job, he was heir to a vast fortune but worked tirelessly on his specimens and ideas and advanced humankind via his writings. I said I was rethinking my ideas on class divide. She said “There’s nothing wrong with privilege, It’s what you DO with it.”

Remembering my friend Charlie Biddle

I met a man when I was 21 who was to become a good friend; a roommate; and a mentor. It was the year 1977. I had hitchhiked to a little town called Val David which is in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal and around 18 km from my home in St. Sauveur-des-Monts. I had gone there to buy some hashish from a shady acquaintance that my friend Stu had introduced me to. After our transaction, I chanced upon some music wafting through an open door in a rustic ramshackle building called “Le Bistro d’la Butte” in Val David, Quebec. La Butte à Mathieu was a famous “Boite à Chansons” where many of the largest acts in Quebecois music performed. Le Bistro was an adjunct building much smaller. I guesstimate it could probably hold 50-60 patrons.

I peeked in the door and there was Nelson Symonds (guitar) and Charlie Biddle (upright bass) playing their hearts out even though there was no one in the audience. I knew almost immediately that the passion and authenticity of expression in this kind of music was for me, and that I had to find out more about it. Charlie gestured to me to come in and I entered, but embarassedly explained that I didn’t have any money (I left out the part that I had just spent it on dope). He said come in anyways and his wife Connie offered me some fried chicken…. Thus started my friendship with Charlie.

I was a bedroom guitar player at the time. I learned songs by Bob Dylan; Peter, Paul and Mary; Paul Simon; Cat Stevens; etc. but this jazz music was something new. I recognized the tune they were playing from my dad’s record collection. Pretty sure it was “Night And Day” by Cole Porter. I was fascinated. It had (seemingly) a zillion chords and was way beyond my skill set. My casual conversation with Nelson and Charlie during the “break” was the start of my upward climb into music that I have embraced with religious fervor.

I was working my summer job with a landscaper company and several of the guys were jazz buffs. I started to tag along with them on excursions to “The Rising Sun” in Montreal to see the cream of international Jazz stars pretty well every week-end. I saw and heard Dizzy Gillespie (the guitarist was Al Gafa), Dexter Gordon, Kenny Burrell, etc. I started to read Downbeat from cover to cover and buy albums based on the information there. Weather Report, Chick Corea, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass. Joe Pass’ music in particular made an impact on me and I bought a music book of transcriptions that I couldn’t yet read, but I learned some of the chord shapes and started to introduce them into my playing. I also purchased a book from “International Music Store” on Ste. Catherine Street by Mickey Baker called Mickey Baker’s Complete Course in Jazz Guitar Book one). The hours I struggled with that one…

I went to see Charlie and Nelson as often as I could that summer and continued to absorb their music and jovial friendship. On July 26th,1977 Charlie turned 51 and I was 21. At his birthday gig I jokingly told him he was “one short of a full deck”. He howled with laughter and the habit of our male put downs for each other was established.

Over the course of the summer I decided to return to school. I had been studying Philosophy in the Maritimes but wanted to be in Montreal. I started night courses at Concordia University and found part-time employment as a Parking lot attendant. My favourite time at that job was after the main attendant left and I changed the music in the booth to Radio-Canada which is the french radio station of the CBC where there was a very good Jazz show. The host was very relaxed and soothing and my music education and my French improved immensely. Paycheques were spent mostly on records.

After a few months of almost daily commuting via Voyageur bus from St. Sauveur to Montreal for classes and my job, I was getting pretty tired. If the walkman had been invented, it would have been an easier commute. During that winter Charlie started to commute as well. He was playing a bar on Crescent Street around the corner from the Hall building of Concordia and we started to sometimes commute together. After my night class I’d wait until his last set was over and I’d drive him in his huge boat of a station wagon as far as St. Sauveur and he would continue on to his home and family. After a bit of this grind, he asked me if I’d like to share an apartment on Bishop Street that he had found. It was near the Annex, Cheap Thrills and Concordia and was very cheap, so I agreed. I had bought a VW hatchback from my brother to help me manage my time better between work and school and my home up north..

Living with Charlie was an education. We hung out a lot! We were only on Bishop Street for a short time before Charlie told me we were going to move. He had found a “loft” in Old Montreal that was a block West of a famous Jazz club on St. Paul St. There was no rent!!!!!! The idea was to stay there until the bottom two floors were to be converted into a flagship Jazz club. We had the whole place to ourselves, but lived on the top floor. I learned how to mop! A few drawbacks to the place…. hot water tank needed fixing, so showers were not hot…. the shower stall was one floor down. The heating system was shared by several office buildings and was minimal on weekends and holidays….. other than that it was great! My record collection was expanding and I had a good sound system, so when I was home and not practicing, I would listen to great Jazz. Charlie and I hung out a lot. He was a great story teller. One day I will try and recall some of his better ones and the outrageous exaggerations that never seemed to change. I can still conjure up his voice and facial expressions in my mind’s eye and ear.

Quite often during this time we would both be between paycheques or I’d be out of work and we had not much between us. On more than one occasion I’d be broke and Charlie might have 5 bucks and would say “Let’s go get breakfast”. There was a Deli on Ste. Catherine that had a breakfast special. We’d come out of there and be stuffed. He said there was no point to not eat like a king even when things were tight. He also introduced me to a place that he called “Sausageville” which was a Delicatessen on the Main where you could get a sausage sandwich and a drink (Cott Black Cherry) and sometimes splurge the extra dime for a pickle. I am pretty sure that it was either just under or just over a dollar for the drink and sandwich.

I continued to go there for decades and introduced my friends and my younger brother to “Sausageville”. As an adult, my brother actually bought sausage sandwiches and drinks for himself and his girlfriend and drove up to the top of Mount Royal and proposed to her over their picnic. When Hoffner’s closed, I went down the street to the competition “Slovenia Deli”, but it wasn’t quite the same. I went without for years, but by chance found another Slovenia sausage place on the North Main…. near Beaubien Street. I would often detour there just to have a hot sausage.

Now I live in a suburb about twenty Kilometres away and one day I was craving a sausage. I noticed that in my neighbourhood was a Deli called La Bernoise that I had always meant to try. I went in and they had the sausages that I was used to, but didn’t make sandwiches. I said to the lady behind the case that I usually go to Slovenia for my hot sausage sandwiches. She told me that Slovenia had just gone out of business, but that La Bernoise was their supplier. I bought a dozen. They have a butcher’s dozen: 13 for 12. I keep a supply on hand in the freezer at all times. I am mostly vegetarian, but in denial about sausages.

Enough about food, though. Charlie taught me how to live royally without very much money. Cheap restos, shopping at the Sally Ann, where to find the free parking spots. He taught me through his example that sometimes bills have to wait. He always paid them, but not always “on time”. Sometimes needed a prompt. The Hussier (bailiff) called…..I’d better get on it. He also showed me through his generosity, to be kind. If you have, share, if you don’t have, ask. As he grew more successful in the city, he moved his four kids and Connie down to the city part-time. Sometimes I’d get home to the loft and it would be teeming with the youthful exuberance that children bring. I loved those kids and Connie, but usually their arrival dovetailed into my going up north to my parents house. Biddle’s golden rule was NO NOISE DURING DADDY’S NAP. Charlie took a nap every day in the late afternoon. He played music til the wee hours and got up with the kids, but all was OK if the nap was undisturbed. I acquired the same habit which I try to do every day.

One night, I was all alone at the loft. Practicing and/or reading and/or listening to music. I fell asleep in my bedroom which was a cordoned off area of a huge space. Charlie had the other room away from the Big Space and near the bathroom and kitchenette. He was on a gig. I fell asleep with my guitar in my hands. I was awoken by the sound of boots on the floor on the other side of my bed. I sat up to see two guys with hand guns drawn who said “Who the fuck are you?” I said I lived there. They were looking for the owner who had lent us this space and they looked like they were “collecting”. I said he wasn’t there and I hardly ever saw him at all. The men stomped out and when Charlie got home I told him what had transpired. He replied… “OK we’re moving!”.

The next day he found a multi level rental on Rue Notre Dame above a specialized hardware store. The area was the eastern fringes of the traditionally predominately black neighbourhood housing railway porters called Little Burgundy. At that time we moved in, rue Notre Dame looked on to what had been the Turcot Yards which used to be the railway yards for both Windsor station and Central station. It was a vast expanse of weeds and old asphalt and detritus from having served the city for a century. It is now built up into condos and is a very different neighbourhood.

On Notre Dame St. I had my own apartment on the left side of the stairs and Charlie had two floors on the right side. we had an adjoining back “deck” palettes strung together on the roof of a neighbouring workshop/garage. Seeing as I had to now pay rent again, I walked down the street and I asked at the various businesses if they needed any part-time help? One actually did. It was a start-up courrier company that needed an evening person to sort and record the manifest. The secretary liked my spirit and the fact that I was literate and I got hired. It fit in well with my schooling, so after the owner interviewed me, I was hired.

With the change of address, my new job and Charlie’s family there all the time now, the dynamic shifted, but I used to love hanging out and watching tv with them and was often over there for dinner. We would get into huge loud and funny disagreements about all sorts of stuff…. I miss that. One of us would say something outrageous just to get the other one going. Thinking back fondly of those times.

It was around this time that Charlie partnered up with a successful businessman (George D.) and opened up a jazz club on Aylmer Street. Named Biddles Jazz and Ribs. This venture became very successful and attracted a wealthier crowd than I was used to hanging out with. Most Jazz clubs in the city could service students and marginalized people. Nelson Symonds’ cousin Ivan Symonds had Le Mixeur before he opened up Le Jazz Bar. Very different. Sort of like the difference between uptown clubs in New York and Greenwich Village clubs back in the day. Nowadays it all costs a fortune.

Ivan Symonds club. Note the “translation” of Jam Sessions…lol

I saw Charlie less, mostly it was if I went out to catch him play at the club where he was “on”. I went over to his place less as we both got busier, but every time we did see each other it was a lovely homecoming. Charlie and Oliver Jones also played a cocktail gig at The Queen Elizabeth Hotel. I sometimes went there to see him and my dad went there after his work and kill time before catching a suburban train.

We saw each other less as my studies and work and girlfriends took over and Charlie got more opportunity to be in films and better gigs etc.

My four years in Winnipeg really put time and distance between us. I came back to Montreal to get married and Charlie was a guest. He pulled me aside as was walking down the aisle and whispered “so long, sucker!” in my ear. We would see each other only sparingly as my kids became focal points and I had many weekend gigs out of town and I didn’t get out much to listen to Jazz during the week. I took my girls to see Charlie a few times, but the dynamic had shifted.

My next encounter with him was a shock. My brother-in-law had been working at Biddles as a waiter and he was visiting his sister and me and just casually asked if I had heard that Charlie was in the hospital? All the blood rushed out of my face as I tried to absorb this news that my friend, tower of strength and hero was suffering. I sped over to St. Mary’s hospital and found the ward where outside the door a nurse informed me that “only family is allowed to visit”. Constance heard my voice through the door and emerged and said “It’s OK, Ian is family!” A wave of pride and shame came over me. Proud to be considered family, but ashamed at how absent a son I had been.

I entered the room and Connie said “Look Charlie, you have a visitor!” “Hey Eee” said Charlie from his hospital bed. Charlie is one of only four people I have known who shortened my name to “Eee”. They are all dear to me (My “Aunt” Hemmy, my sister, my present wife Sharon and Charlie).

Connie took some time for herself and Charlie and I had a lovely visit albeit a sad one. We tried to keep each other laughing like usual, but Charlie grew tired and I knew I should go. Judging from his diminished frame and weakness I sensed it might be the last time I’d see Charlie. I said “I’m going to give you a hug, so don’t play with my tits!” I hugged him and he pinched my “tits”.

He died a few months later at home. The same address on Notre Dame street where we had shared so much time together.

Loving him will never come to an end.

Charlie and me at my first wedding.
Gift from my friend Lyle Robinson
portrait of Charlie by Linda Rutenberg on the wall beside my piano

My Gibson 175

My first great guitar, as it turns out, has a checkered past. You can read my initial blog story from a few years back, before I knew her pre-me history here:

I first learned about my guitar’s history from before she was mine when I saw a  photo on a Facebook post by a mutual friend that showed a legendary Montreal band opening for the Beach Boys in the mid sixties. The guitar player (Bill Hill) had an ES175 with a Bigsby (by Gretsch) whammy bar. Such a visible unique mod. I was sure it was my guitar. I contacted the man who posted it, Don Graham, another legendary player. He told me what he knew about the guitar and I then contacted Bill who told me some of this story:

JB and The Playboys

A young Bill Hill was at loggerheads with his dad over…… hair! It was the sixties. Exasperated, his dad said “ If you get a hair cut (my choice of style) I will buy you a brand new Gibson guitar”. Bill was emulating Elvis’ hair at the time, long and greasy so dad chose a “bean shave” for the budding guitarist. True to his word, Hill Sr. took Bill to a store that was owned by his friend, looking for a deal.   Do Re Mi music on rue de Bleury, south of Sherbrooke St. had an impressive line of Gibson guitars on display and after trying them all, Bill had his dad buy the Gibson 175D that I now own.

Bill wasn’t quite satisfied, as the guitar did not have a whammy bar. He took the guitar over to Anton Wilfer, a luthier on de Maisonneuve at Mackey and ordered a Bigsby vibrato and had it installed. Bill jokingly referred to the guitar as a “Gretschson”. Ironically Wilfer’s store is the same place that uninstalled that Bigsby for me a decade later. 

Bill loved the guitar and took it everywhere with him except the night it was stolen. There was a teen hangout/ disco on what was then called Dorchester boulevard (now boulevard. René Levesque )called “Snoopy’s” which was part of music mogul Donald K Donald’s empire. Donald let the boys practice there. They left their instruments overnight one night and in the morning discovered the place had been cleaned out. Guitar, bass, microphones and more. Even the cigarettes from the cigarette machine, all gone. Like the Grinch had arrived to steal Christmas. 

I know the feeling of senseless loss and hopelessness he must have felt. I remember the first time I dropped this guitar and she split open like a ripe watermelon. The gig bag strap broke and the strap holder peg that holds the tailpiece in place was driven into the guitar like a blunt chisel….. I thought it was the end…. pretty sure that is the same feeling.

When I heard that the guitar that I own had been stolen before, I immediately felt conflicted. This guitar that I loved so much was “stolen goods”. I felt ashamed, and that the guitar was now somehow less mine, the joy of having owned this guitar diminished by this new knowledge. It was a guilt for something that was not mine to be guilty about. My anguish was eased a little when Bill told me he had had a chance to get it back, but didn’t. He had seen the guitar a few years after it was stolen hanging in a pawn shop, but he had neither the proof that it was his, nor the money to buy it back as he had just purchased a Gibson Byrdland. Hearing this cleared my conscience, as there had been no indication at the guitar store I bought it from that it was a fenced item. Ours was a legal transaction.

After we had talked, I wanted at least to show Bill the guitar, and I brought it with me to one of the Keepers’ gigs. He played it for a minute and asked me if I was interested in selling it back to him. Again, the conflicted feeling. How could I sell something so precious to me? How could I ask for money for something so priceless from someone who had been so wronged? 

I had already met Bill Hill before making this connection. He plays in a band called The Keepers. The night I first saw them in Pointe Claire at the Mayfair tavern, singer Allen Nichols was sitting in with them. It was a sort of reunion of “The Haunted” and the “Playboys”. Great stuff. Bill was playing a Telecaster and is a “finesse” kind of player. He knows all these cool fills and stylistically à propos voicings that might be lost on most ears, but not mine. We became casual friends. 

Recently, another friend posted a picture of a beautiful Gretsch 6120 “Nashville” for sale. My wife Sharon drew my attention to this post  and said “You should buy it!”. I had just spent an unexpected load of money on a huge car repair, and I told her all my reasons not to buy yet another guitar. I am not a collector, I’m a player. My negativity lost, so I sent a message to my friend Victor who said he had posted it for  Bill Hill. My heart leaped. I now knew it would be a quality instrument, well maintained and well played…. for a minute I considered offering him the 175 as a trade, but rejected that thought and just forged ahead. I texted Bill and said I’d like to buy the guitar. He ascertained that I was serious and immediately took his advertisements down. We made an arrangement for me to see it the day after my vaccination. I sent him an e-transfer even before I tried it. 

The guitar is lovely of course, we chatted and laughed about tons of things, He told me some of the goofy trade offers he had received….hilarious!  some of the details in my story that needed filling in as well. 

It was a lovely visit. As I was leaving, guitar in hand, he said:  “I’m glad it was you that got this”.

Me too!

Me and the Gibson Charlie Guerin on keys. Original photo by Ross White 1994
The “girls”
I call her “lollipop” as I got her after my vaccination

This is the star of the story.


I have a friend who happens to be a “world class” luthier. Every time we talk, we exhibit our passion for music and guitars and tone and, quite frankly, a plethora of diverse subjects that one would expect between friends. Time spent together is always a joy.

One day I visited him in the “wood nest” as he affectionately calls his workshop and we were hanging out talking and drinking espresso coffee with the sun streaming through the panoramic windows of this loft space and I spotted a guitar that was fully built and stringed up and ready to go. Michael (almost) never has one of his guitars “hanging around” because all of his guitars are all pre-ordered two years in advance. Michael had to make a phone call and had to excuse himself for a bit. I asked if I could play the guitar that I was admiring while he was on the phone. He nodded and I entered a new world.

Like stepping through the wardrobe into Narnia, this guitar opened up into areas of creativity that were new to me. I played some single note melodies that I had been struggling with, and the lines were seamless. A particular chord sequence that usually required concentration and a shift in my arm and torso to play, just fell out of this guitar effortlessly. I played some Jazz Standards on it, my own compositions on it, and  then put it through the paces of songs I’d always wanted to play, but there was some technical aspect that I was not consistent. All of my limitations and barriers seemed to slip away as I sat playing. It was sublime.

Apparently Michael re-entered the room after his phone call, apologizing for how long it took, but if I heard him, it was not apparent. Some time later, I re-emerged from the trance and looked at Michael and said “I wish I hadn’t done that!” to which he responded “Why not? It sounded great and you were obviously enjoying it.” To which I explained: “I’m a teacher and a musician!” Neither income streams are huge. Michael’s guitars are handcrafted, performance level instruments and priced accordingly. “There is no way I could afford it.” He said “You’d be surprised! We’re friends, right?” I nodded. “It takes two years. Plenty of time for you to plan and save.”

I went home conflicted. I told Sharon of the experience and that Michael offered to build me a guitar. I was convinced that it is “too much guitar” for me and anyways I’d be 63 by the time it was made and blah, blah, blah. All of this negative stuff coming out of  my mouth. “I don’t deserve it!”

Of course, Sharon negated all of these arguments and got me to thinking about what another old friend told me about his Martin guitar. He said that it took him a few years to pay off the debt, but he said if you look at it as 50 cents a day to own an instrument that brings you joy and advances your art, why not?

A few months passed and I forgot about the whole thing until I opened an envelope on Christmas day 2016. The envelope had pictures Sharon had taken in the workshop printed on a paper with the news that she had made a downpayment on a new guitar from Michael. My heart nearly stopped,and my eyes welled up.

All photos by
Sharon Cheema

I went back to visit Michael and we agreed on the materials used and other details of the guitar that are standard options like Cutaway or no cutaway?

I started to save. I took on some extra work and co-incidentally with the ending of my car payments, it was not as hard as I had feared. A year passed. I was on track for my goal when I got another envelope from Sharon. Another instalment. Rare to have a partner that is so supportive of my art. I love her anyway, but this is an endearing quality for sure.

I started to get little notes from Michael in my e-mail with details of it’s progress. “Wood is selected for your guitar” and “body is glued” and “waiting for another coat” etc.

The build up mounting like a tantric encounter. Wait…not…yet…

how cool is that?

One of the last ones was: “she is built! She is a (strong word that rhymes with “trucking”) monster!” I phoned and asked what exactly that meant? “Even better than the one you played!” was his response. Nuances that only musicians or luthiers might notice.

It used to be that two years actually took two years. Not anymore! Like my trip to Narnia, time seems to have become fluid. Some years drag on and others flash by. Like Joni Mitchell’s “Circle Game” I want to drag my feet to slow the circles down.

Yesterday I received my guitar. She is beautiful. She feels just right, but hadn’t been played. I activated the molecules by playing her and she is continuing to be “broken in’ with every hour I play her. She will settle in in about two weeks as I get to know her and she, me.

First minutes with my new Greenfield.

I am so thankful to Michael and to my wife, Sharon for this beautiful instrument.

Bye for now, I have strings to play.

A great film about Michael Greenfield

My First Guitar

My first guitar was (and still is) an Ariana nylon string classical guitar made in Japan in the late 1960’s. Ariana was the “budget brand” of Aria guitars. This was a cheap guitar. I had borrowed it from my older brother and learned the basic chord patterns needed to play bits of contemporary folk songs. I had discovered Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Paul Simon and Joni Mitchell. My brother had “Songbooks” by these artists, but they never really sounded right. There was no mention in the books that the chords were not in the same key as some of the songs….to make matters worse, I could tune a guitar to itself, or to a recording (many recordings from the sixties were not A440), but sometimes things could have been easier if they had said “use a capo up a fret in order to play these chords in the same key as the artist. The internet has made things a whole lot easier. But i digress.

Even with the difficulties mentioned above, I made quite a bit of progress and when I was in tenth grade I was hospitalized for several weeks and the guitar was a great distraction, comfort and pass-time for me. My brother decided to upgrade his guitar to an Aria classical and he gave me the Ariana. I remember knowing chunks of songs and cool riffs I had heard and amassing quite a repertoire without actually being able to play one song from beginning to end. The “Reach For The TopTheme”, “Sunshine Of Your Love” etc. As it turns out, this was annoying to some. My dad asked whether I knew any entire songs, to which I replied in the negative. I then embarked on learning a song in it’s entirety. It was either “Hobo’s Lullaby”, “Death Don’t Have No Mercy” or “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright”. In any case, those were the first three.

Even with all the other guitars I have owned and played, this humble friend can still wreak new melodies and patterns out of me. She is not loud, but she is loved

guitar neck

I used to leave the guitar at the foot of the stairs in my parent’s home and pick it up on the way by after sleeping or hanging out in my room. People were always warning me that it was not a good place to leave it. One day as I woke from my nap in the mid-afternoon, I descended the stairs and saw a guitar neck and  the top part of a smashed guitar at the foot of the stairs. I freaked out

….everyone was saying “I told you so” and then I realized that the rest of the guitar was not there, and on closer inspection the neck was not my beloved Ariana after all. My brother had found the neck while he was on a walk earlier in the day and decided to play a practical joke……NOT FUNNY!

The Ariana is not exactly “Trigger”, but has spent years in my hands as I learned my craft. She is beloved.

Not quite as bad as “Trigger”
Lot of varnish stripped off…practice!

Saxophone Colossus

Of course I knew who Sonny Rollins is. He is a master of an art form that has resonated with me for over 2/3 of my time on this planet. I had all the right albums and knew the lineage as well as any other student of Jazz. Trouble was it didn’t hit me viscerally in the same way some of his contemporaries did. I have had reverential posters on my wall of John Coltrane; Miles Davis; Duke Ellington but never Sonny Rollins.

I just finished a 700 page biography of Sonny’s life and music written by Aidan Levy. It took me a long time to traverse this Tome as I would stop and listen to the records mentioned and fill in the gaps of music I had not yet heard. By guided listening, I was able to rebuild a more accurate view of Sonny Rollins. Hearing the amazing Bud Powell but listening for Sonny… Realizing that although I have several Clifford Brown-Max Roach albums, I didn’t have the one they made with Sonny nor the Max Roach plus albums… rectified.

Focussed listening always brings great results. As various albums came up in the book, I’d stop and listen. Brilliant Corners (Thelonious Monk) The Fabulous Fats Navarro, Art Farmer, Kenny Dorham. All great albums in my collection where I never really remarked on the sax player being Sonny. Each new listen bringing me closer to the general consensus that Sonny was one of the greatest improvisers in modern jazz.

Of course I have been aware of and have played several of Sonny’s songs. Oleo, Doxy, Pent-Up House, St. Thomas, Tenor Madness, Airegin, etc. A very long list of what are now part of the standard Jazz repertoire. great tunes, great vehicles for improvising.

I listened to Saxophone Colossus, Tenor Madness and then Live at the Village Vanguard which I initially had dismissed because it was a trio (no guitar or piano). My ears were not ready back then. I held so many opinions then that I disagree with now.

There is a famous story where Sonny stopped performing and took a sabbatical to reimagine his approach and strengthen his mind and body. he practiced daily on the Williamsburg bridge in NYC. When he decided to end his exile he emerged with a quartet that included guitarist Jim Hall. The album “The Bridge” was and is one of my favourite discs. I realized this time around that my ears were mostly attuned to the guitar and the rhythm section and I was taking the leader soloist for granted. i listened intently several times focusing on elements I had heretofore ignored and the disc became alive and complete. It was as if I was experiencing something for the first time. A richer experience because I had been awakened.

As a music student in the late seventies and early eighties I was learning so much about jazz all at once. i would scour used record stores for names I recognized and would snap up their discs for cheap. Some were gems, others, duds. I picked up three or four titles from Sonny’s catalogue and was disappointed by each of them. According to the book, the period where these albums were from was the weakest era of his career. he was marrying improvisation on a more ‘pop’ or ‘commercial’ backing. I am not against this kind of music per se, but at the time I was a hardcore bop fanatic and I felt that Sonny was slumming it. It is no wonder that I dismissed the entirety of Sonny off this random sampling. I feel differently now. I know more. I hear better.

The gift in all of this is that by him being under the radar for most of my life, I am discovering remarkable music daily from this same source. The motherlode of riches is like when a miner hits a huge vein of precious ore. Eldorado!

Reading about Sonny’s personal and spiritual journey has also deepened my experience of his music. i have read several biographies of other heroes from the same or similar eras. Most of my musical heroes did not live to experience old age. Easier, tidier to wrap a life already lived than one that is ongoing. Sonny is no longer able to play, but I am thankful for the richness of his oeuvre and what he has taught.

If I have ever said anything disparaging or disapproving about Sonny Rollins in the past, please forgive me. I was an asshole!

Musings Out Of Time

I am reading a biography of Sonny Rollins called “Saxophone Colossus” which has rekindled my love and appreciation for Bebop and Hard Bop music.

The format I listen to music now is very different from LP and/or CD. I download my CDs and transfer the files to one of several iPod Classics. I listen with my eyes closed and bathe in the sound. My form of meditation and migraine relief.

To relax yesterday, I listened intently to another Sonny. Sonny Clark’s album “Cool Struttin'” from 1958 which I have listened to probably several dozen times since I first purchased it in the 1970’s.

I like to guess the players on music I listen to if I don’t already know in advance. I knew it was Sonny Clark on piano, because he was the leader whose album I had selected. I have many other albums by him, and this one was chosen at random. I immediately recognized Paul Chambers on bass and Philly-Joe Jones on drums. They were 2/3 of perhaps the greatest rhythm section of that era. I know all their recordings with Miles Davis and many others. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out the trumpet and saxophone player. I wracked my brain and it upset my serenity that I didn’t recognize the players, so I googled it. Jackie Mclean on alto and Art Farmer on trumpet. These are both masterful artists that I am familiar with in other settings. Art Farmer is better known as a flugelhorn player and I was surprised at his tuning on this. I felt he was just under the pitch which was especially noticeable on the ensemble playing with Jackie who (to my ears) is always just the other side of the pitch. One was flat, and the other sharp. Seeing as I haven’t noticed it before on previous listens, I returned to my enjoyment and willingly suspended my analytical listening.

The early chapters of the book on Sonny Rollins fresh in my mind and the sounds of the music of Sonny Clark’s combo got me to thinking about how unstuck in time I am.

When I first encountered and became engaged to this style of music, I was twenty years of age. Hard bop music was already around twenty years old by then. I thought of these musicians as older than me and revered them as masters of the form that I sought to master. Rollins’ biography made me realize that the musicians I was worshipping were essentially around my age when they were making this fresh and compelling music. Why was this fact, which on some level I must have known, just becoming a reality to me now?

If I see a Hockey game or any other professional team sport, I don’t think of the men on the ice as younger than me… is it because I first encountered team sports from the perspective of a child? Something that a grown up does. If I encounter women’s team sports I do not have the same experience. I see them as dynamic women younger than me. Is this because Women’s professional organized sports has only fairly recently become a”thing”?

I’m starting to think that the way I store things in my brain is faulty. If I perceive musicians who are younger than me on recordings as older than me and conversely, Hockey players in real life who are younger than me as older than me do I have faulty perception? Do others experience this? When we picture notable people do we picture “Sun Records Elvis” or “Las Vegas Elvis”? We see Einstein with White hair. We tend to see people in their image “after achievement”. A Monolithic vision.

Another thing of which I am recently becoming acutely aware is the time line and perspective of history. Concurrent to the Sonny Rollins book I am also reading “Indiginous Continent” and “A People’s History of The United States” (and Trees by Hermann Hesse…doesn’t fit this essay). So many different perspectives of things I thought I knew. Things and people evolve.

Some things I could lecture on at length and am able to distinguish a time line. The career of each year of The Beatles, Bob Dylan, history of the guitar, the time lines of what we call “classical music and art” but includes Baroque, Renaissance, Romantic, etc. I would regularly blow the minds of students when discussing things in the past that never occured to them. On Mozart. Do you know what was here (the island of Montreal) when Mozart lived? The population of Canada was under 100,000 people and Montreal’s population could fit inside a hockey Arena except Hockey Arena’s didn’t exist at that time.

I think perhaps we all go through life placing things vaguely in “the past” as “chunks” without giving a thought about things we take for granted and were always there, so always will be. As we experience the deaths of loved ones and/or historic events it dawns on us that we are impermanent and situations change… pre-Covid….college days… when dad died….

Only age, experience and education is making me evolve my world view. Everything is in flux. I love this short video that illustrates transformation.

A post-script. Wayne Shorter transitioned from a living human being into the spirit world (as was his belief)yesterday. I have followed Wayne’s career from when he first came to prominence in the Jazz world (roughly a decade and a bit after Sonny Rollins). His music is a part of me. My fabric. I know he was young when he was with Art Blakey and then Miles, on his own and then with Weather Report. I never experienced him as “young”, middle-aged” or “old” just as “Wayne Shorter”. Now that he is no longer Wayne Shorter, but his recordings still exist, I can still think of him fondly and honour what he brought into my life.

All lessons still exist “out of time” and although our bodies will run “out of time” the spirit of art lives on.

Four Different Kinds of Teachers 

Over the last week including yesterday, I have been trying to resolve technical/and or electrical issues. 

Here is Ian’s electronic odyssey:

Our printer became a paperweight when it was most needed….. we both kept getting an ‘out of paper’ message which was b.s. Sharon wanted to replace the whole printer but I thought maybe we should call HP and try to see if they could resolve the issues.

Once I  ran the gauntlet of ‘what kind of device?….what model?…. Was it purchased in the last year…. Home or office? ….PC or Mac? ….’ And was rerouted several times and had to run said gauntlet for each reroute I had to find the serial number which was like one of those bibles written on a grain of rice and some other code from somewhere else needing a microscope, we finally got down to the problem. The person on the other end of the phone was very calm and methodical and patient on our one and a half hours together. During a lull I asked her where on our planet she was located. She told me she was in the Philippines and was so polite and her spiels so scripted that I imagined her chained to her desk and talking at gunpoint. We finally got my iPad to print when we overrode colour printing and after unplugging and/or restarting the printer, removing and replacing cartridges and/or the iPad several times, she got me to remove the colour cartridge and reboot the printer. It worked!

I said I could live with it in black and white until i got a new colour cartridgeand we ended the session and I headed off to the local Bureau en Gros to get the supplies. 

I put in the new cartridge and switched to colour printing and ….nada….back to the Philippines and only one gauntlet this time because I had a case number and a legible printout of the necessary answers… yay. The very similar sounding technician was very polite and we ran through the same calisthenics with a new twist. The blue didn’t print…it was about 20% . I got a step by step tutorial (including allowing her to access my phone’s camera) on cleaning the heads which needed to be done four times with me actually going in there the third time with a dampened lint free cloth. Finally got it to work and I was about to conclude the call when Sharon called upstairs and said her iPad was still saying ‘no paper’ and wouldn’t print. We had to then reinstall hp smart and reinstall the printer and finally got it working for her iPad, mine, both our phones, our desktops etc. I then thought about my stepson’s PC…… we kept the file open with the technician because Sean was at school and we had no access. Fortunately we did not need more tech support because he was able to print and hp actually sent an extra free colour cartridge by courier. That was a few half days gone, but a good result. 

The actual instruction was very methodical, evenly paced and well thought out. It was a good example of great teaching. Both technicians said “we will get it working” as if their personal pride might be offended if we didn’t (or their overseers might shoot them). 

That was only the first leg of the odyssey.

Yesterday was “special”. 

I had to replace my first MacBook about a year ago because I was having “storage issues”. About 6 weeks ago I started to have storage issues” again despite having bought a shitload of internal memory, extra iCloud storage and two external hard drives with tons of memory. 

I put out a distress signal last week on fb asking for help and within an hour my neighbour volunteered. I quickly deleted the call for help before the “clever” and silly messages and puns started to come in. 

My neighbour is very Zen. Looks like he could be Elvis Costello’s son. He is very confident and is no stranger to solving exactly the kind of problem I had. We both play music and enjoy each other’s company. He quickly analyzed and explained exactly what my problems were. When he actually started to open and close pages and delve deep into the bowels of my Mac he was like Steven Seagal whupping a dozen criminal asses, a real fast Aikido  fighter. He calmly explained what my problems were as he was breaking the dozen asses. He then got out of warp speed and explained what he did in real time and now we wait….

I really did not understand “paths” on computers. My computer was making multiple copies of stuff and then the “time machine “ saved my stuff. All of it….each time it saved….. he said it was like stacking books. A very dumb thing to do. But for a click in preferences, I was clogging my arteries. You would think a computer would save only what was new and add it to what was saved. Like throwing away first drafts and keeping the most recent version, but no. My computer is still deleting files right now. It has been at it for hours and is still not done. Periodic checks of my hard drives show me that the burden is diminishing and every once in a while it stops and tells me an operation can’t be completed because such and such is still in use even though all programs are shut. It may be because this device is linked and I am writing on it. I don’t know. I actually don’t want to know. I just can’t want it to work properly like a car; like a toaster;, like a musical instrument; like my body.

Ian (yes, same name as me) showed me how to continue several times patiently and slowly and asked me if I wanted him to write down the steps? I said “no, I think I have it.” He had to go and said he’d call back later to see how it was going. An hour later one of the functions finished and I panicked. I couldn’t remember the  order of his instructions. I texted and he kindly wrote them down. I am on the penultimate  stage of this journey. The next thing to do is shut er down when the trash is empty. We’re close to 1,300,000 items deleted, and that is not counting some other crap we bulk deleted before. It feels like emptying a hoarder’s house except the hoard crept up on me. 

All told, Ian’s teaching was cool, calm and collected. At no time did he treat me like the dummy I am when it comes to this. He even told me in a conciliatory manner that it just wasn’t my skill set. I agree. I do some things really well. This is not one of them. 

As I write, the computer is still deleting, but the last chapter in my odyssey is our wall mounted oven. A few years ago the broil element burned out and I took the element to a local shop that dealt only in oven and stove repair. The Septuagenarian running the shop (which hadn’t been dusted or swept in a decade) ambled over to a wall full of different shaped elements and laid his hand directly on the exact one. I remarked at his skill and he told me he was closing the business after 40 plus years because none of his children were interested in carrying on. Kind of sad, really. I fixed the oven easily. 

About four months ago, maybe longer we have had a rough year of: illnesses, a death in the family, and the aftermath and oth Sharon and I have had some grounding health issues. I went to bake something and I turned on the bake and set it to 350. Nada. Broil did not work either. The clock worked, the displays all lit up. I thought it must be a fuse. I looked everywhere I could access and could see no fuse on the oven. I started unscrewing the plates hiding the rough edges of the wall it was set into. Nada. I went online and searched for this pre internet model and found nothing. I went downstairs and checked all the breakers in the breaker box and the  fuses in the other (older) fuse box. Nothing I could see. I went on Facebook and put out a call for anyone with experience with this kind of thing or a reputable electrician who specialized in appliances. Some response, but none of it useful. Some phone numbers, but often led to a dead end or electricians not interested in a small job. 

We lived without an oven for a while. Not the end of the world, I have a slow cooker, a pressure cooker a stove and a microwave, a toaster, I got a small convection oven, but have hardly ever used it. 

Baking season is upon us (almost over actually) and Sharon said we should either fix the oven or replace it. The dream of remodelling the kitchen in a big way has evaporated. I thought one last try was in order. I called some guy and he said he’d call “next week”. He didn’t. I called after a week and left a message. He called back and said he could come “tomorrow “ which is today. I didn’t want to get my hopes up, but through texting he said he’d be here between five and seven. He came at around five. I don’t think his eyesight is very good because he called me from in front of the house and the number is lit. I told him we are the house with blue lights in the two square front windows. He struggled up the drive with a tool box and I led him to the kitchen. His accent was south Asian and very strong and told me he wasn’t from Canada originally, but he came with a 4.9 star rating. 

He looked at the oven and I explained again what was wrong an what I had done. He looked about and asked if I had taken the oven out of the wall. I told him I had only been able to get it half out of the wall as there was a metal encased wire holding it back. He said it was impossible. Unless they built the enclosure around the oven. His brusqueness and arrogance were starting to get on my nerves. I pulled the oven out of the wall using a chair and upside down frying pan  to make a platform the same height to rest it on. The manufacturer’s pamphlet was there as were the screws I had removed. He told me I should not store things there. I explained that they were only there because the oven didn’t work and I didn’t want to misplace them. He seemed miffed. He said to pull it more to which I replied “this is only how far it can go because of the power wire” he looked inside the display panel and shone the flashlight around and instructed me to push it back in. No words to indicate “you’re right.” Next we went downstairs to re check the fuse box. The fuses had handwriting beside some strips, but not all. I went upstairs as he unscrewed fuses and switch breakers to yell down if the oven display was on or off. All of these steps I had done before. The next step was for him to come upstairs and he turned on the oven. Lo and behold it worked. Then the broiler and eureka, success. I asked him what he did?and he said he’d tell me after I answered a question. He asked me back “do you agree I fixed it?” I replied in the affirmative. He showed me a plastic panel with two fuses on it. He pried them out and determined that one of them was blown and needed replacement. He said he took the other panel out and exchanged them. Very simple solution. He asked me if I had a spare fuse. I didn’t know. I knew there was a container downstairs with fuses in it, so we went downstairs. No 30 amp fuses. He was dressing me down patronizingly for not having extras. I tried to explain that the house was functioning a long time before I moved in. He looked disgusted at my lack of knowledge and preparedness as the ‘man of the house’.

We went upstairs and he started to put away his tools before the oven was back in place. He said “you do it” I asked him to at least do the screws he had taken out as he had a cordless power drill with a light. He begrudged me that and I did the rest after he left. I asked him how much we owed and Sharon paid him. As he was putting on his boots he said “with all that gym equipment in the basement how come you have a big belly?” 

I am thankful that he was able to figure out the problem that eluded me because I was unaware of the “hidden” fuses, but could have done without the critical and patronizing attitude. After he left and I closed the door Sharon said “that’s how my father was as a teacher using blame and shaming you for not knowing something already. Your lack of knowledge.” 

This made me meditate on the three problems and the three methods used to solve things that are low on my skill set. I asked Sharon if I ever did that while teaching her vocal or guitar parts? She quickly replied in the negative. I know I have not always been patient as a teacher in my career, but I think I got things done in a kind and loving way. I remember laughter and dedication and tears and headaches and love. I think I always came from a loving attitude.

I used to tell the kids who asked me why I became a music teacher that: “I love music, I love children and I love sharing what I know to make the world a better place, this must be the right place for me.”

Turn Me Loose

I heard a song at the boulangerie today as I was waiting to purchase a croissant. I told the server (in French) that I loved that song, but it was playing way too soft. It is not a “la la la” it’s an “oomph”!

This triggered a memory of mine.

One of the most memorable rides I ever got while hitchhiking, happened in New Brunswick in 1983 as I was returning home to Montreal. I was returning from visiting friends in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. 

I had been waiting with my guitar on the side of the Trans Canada highway at the northernmost traffic light in Fredericton. I had to go north through the province following the St. John river, and I was hoping to get a lift that ate up some kilometres. My last few lifts had been little skips between exits and the ratio of standing with my thumb out and distance achieved was probably the equivalent of walking. I didn’t relish the idea of walking all the way to Montreal which is about the same distance as Munich, Germany to Paris, France both physically and culturally (but with less interesting landmarks on my trip).

A throbbing sedan stopped for me and when I caught up to it, the passenger swung his door open and asked where I was going. He was facing backwards because all the seats but the driver’s had been taken out. The passenger seat was a mere cushion and the man in it was facing backwards to better hear the stereo which was ample for a theatre let alone a car. The stereo speakers were enormous. I wedged in between them in the back and the driver turned the music down for a few minutes to tell me they were going 180 km to just past Perth-Andover as far as the reservation at Tobique. I asked them (they were native) if they were Mi’k maq , they said “no” they were proudly Maliseet and they were returning home from studying at UNB. They lit a joint and shared it with me. Very good homegrown for the times (early 80’s).

With the sun glinting off the river to my left and my head starting to melt as I lay back into the plush cushion between the speakers they put the music back on.

There is “loud” and then there is “ten past loud” which is where we were.The song blew my mind. It was perfect. I was reminded of a quote a friend of mine said he had read on a needlepoint: “Cleanliness Is Next To High Fidelity”. 

It starts off with a synthesizer playing two long notes a ninth apart accompanied by accented 16th notes on a closed hi hat cymbal for seven measures as the synth rapidly sweeps up several octaves a bass guitar belches in with one of the most unforgettable riffs in Rock music. Gmi to F.  After stating his theme twice a glorious electric guitar enters with grinding power chords sound that could sustain forever and have some highlighted harmonics in the F chord where the 9th degree is cutting through. I love the chugga chugga sound of an overdriven electric guitar. It is a bit reminiscent of Martin Barre’s guitar on Locomotive’s Breath by Jethro Tull. The guitarist then adds fills to complement his power chords. All this action that gripped me in the one minute intro. The singer has one of those taut, strutting and loud, “tight trousers” voices that is similar to all the other ubiquitous industrial hair rock bands of the late 70’s and early 80’s like Journey and Kansas, Boston, etc. He hits a great falsetto on the climactic lyric “high”. Very serviceable and perfect for this song.

Interesting that the guitar is not present at all on the first verse. A honky Tony piano enters with a syncopated repeated riff and then the harmonies on “turn me loose” with understated hand muted chugs on the guitar. The hi hat patterns change ever so subtly in each section adding more subliminal interest

There is an instrumental interlude in E….neither major nor minor as far as I can tell (no third in the chord) except the last chord of the interlude which is not only E major, but has an augmented fifth (like the first chord of O Darling by the Beatles).

The song return to the original key and the “woo hoo” background singers start….omg.…perfect. The song builds to finally having all of these parts together in a taut choreographed full bodied sound. The guitar solo is full of vitality and continues throughout  the next chorus. Such mastery near the end when all but the drums playing through with the hi hat going “syup” with”sy” starting on the and of 2 and the “up” on beat 3  and bass hitting on beat 4. A sparse and contrasting accompaniment before the guitar re enters just before the final “turn me loose” which is a capella. Perfect arrangement. Very clever.

All that analytical stuff came after the fact of course. At the time I was totally immersed in learning and performing jazz. In fact, I was returning to Montreal for a gig. I was a bit snobbo when it came to music other than jazz. I knew nothing about “hair bands” and the music I listened to outside of jazz was not mainstream….Classical, Dylan, Lightfoot,Joni, Neil, Harmonium, Focus…..

When the song was over I asked my hosts who that was and they told me it was Loverboy. I jokingly said they should call it “Turn Me Loose!” The one facing backward gave me a gap toothed grin, knowing I was totally wasted and asked: “like it?” As he pressed replay.

P.S. The phrase “turn me loose” occurs 28 times in this song.