Easter Sunday

For years, the first sound I heard on Easter Sunday was my mum’s greeting: “He is risen! He is risen indeed!” I expected it, I went along with it, I miss it now. Every Sunday of my youth until my mid-teens was filled with ritual, but Easter always stood out as special. My mum would spend a good part of the morning preparing whatever was roasting and timing it for after church around mid-day or one o’clock. I think Easter was usually lamb, but beef, turkey and ham might easily be substituted. There were always yummy round the roast potatoes, and not so yummy vegetables. My mum tended to boil vegetables until there were no vitamins left, unfortunately the taste of some of the grosser fare we had to endure was still there. If I didn’t eat: parsnip, brussels sprouts or asparagus at dinner there was no dessert and/or a trip to the “bad boys seat” (bottom stair) and the threat of “have it cold for breakfast!”. Don’t get me wrong, I love vegetables. No probs with asparagus or Brussels sprouts now (parsnip…not so much) but properly cooked.

Getting ready for church meant “Sunday clothes” a button down shirt and a real tie and a dress jacket and hair slicked down with water etc. Our family was “high Anglican” which meant almost Catholic (without the swinging incense). I went to Sunday School for about 40 minutes and then we’d enter the church after the presumably boring sermon and learn the rituals of the service. When I was around 9, I joined the Cathedral choir and my family switched churches from the local (St. Peter’s) one to the downtown (Christ Church Cathedral)one. Same service, better music. I loved singing in the choir. We wore a red robe and a white surplice and a pleated ruff… it was very regimented. On hot days we removed our pants…. we felt like such naughty rebels.

A younger me.

When my voice changed (it never really “broke” like some boys) my family re-located to a rural setting and the church thing became less ritualistic. The skiers church {St. Francis of the Birds) is made of logs and about a twentieth the size of the Cathedral. It is carpeted and there is no reverberation. Very cute place, and everybody knew everybody. The music was minimal and ordinary. The difference between a four manual pipe organ in a huge stone cavern and a cheesy electric living room organ in what was, essentially, a living room is vast. Likewise the difference between a 40 voice semi professional choir contrasted with untrained septuagenarian warblers… Without the magical rituals and the glorious music I lost interest and only attended for Easter and Christmas when the entire family was together.

I rarely go to church at all anymore. I can’t get past all of the shitty things done throughout history in the name of Jesus and my own personal humanistic belief. I am not looking to be converted or “saved”. I am not looking to join even though I was baptized and confirmed, and counted as “one of” I am not Anglican.

Today I woke up, and after not hearing “He is risen, He is risen indeed” I found myself feeling nostalgic and humming a hymn that is sung on Easter. “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today” (Wesley) which led me to another “Rejoice The Lord Is King”(deGroot) and a desire to hear them sung by a choir of men and boys.

I found a service at King’s College, Cambridge on YouTube and listened intently to a ritual that 50 years has not erased. My visceral reaction and the familiarity of the liturgy and the scripture are a part of my DNA.

I have known many Christians who walk the talk and are truly humble and repentant for their imperfections and steadfastly believe. They are fortunate to be so sure, and I love and admire and remember them fondly. I have no answers, I am not looking for God. I am a searcher on this planet. I see truth and beauty in nature and holiness in selflessness. I try to always choose love.

For me, This music holds beauty beyond the notes, beyond the message, beyond the mystic and the understandable. It is a conduit, a passageway into an almost forgotten time and an innocence irretrievable except in the cloud vapours in the swamp of my mind.

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.

Lotto Quebec

Entering into the Clicsanté website to get a vaccination appointment opens up a task akin to Sisyphus rolling a stone up a hill only to have it roll down for eternity. The system is ass backwards. It may have been designed by “Ding et Dong”. 

At first you have to select a service, which these days is getting a Covid vaccine. Then you have to choose a region by entering a postal code. Fair enough. So far so good. A page of warnings comes up to inform you of the restrictions for your region, another page which reminds us of the curfew…well, DUH! Then you press “continue’. I timed out at least 20 times before I finally read the time out warning which suggested I press “refresh”.

Don’t! 

I did. Back to square one. If you get past this point, you choose a venue…. If you get past this point, which I didn’t…… I finally gave up, but nevertheless Sharon persisted!

When I did this exact same exercise for my flu vaccine, I would choose a venue only to be told there was no availability at that venue…..why not blank out the ones that are complete? Why not just list places and times available? Ding et Dong really did their work!

Back to today.

Sharon got past the wall (several times) and was able to pick a date and time, but while she was writing out the info…. phone number; my mother’s maiden name and my father’s first name; and what brand of monkey wrenches we have used by date and time, weight and colour….the time would be taken and like Sisyphus she’d be sent back not one step, but all the way to the beginning. The system could be set up better nest ce pas?

Booking a hotel or an airline ticket (remember when we could do that?)on-line was a snap compared to this craps shoot. You would reserve a time and have a deadline for completing the transaction. Not here… it still shows as open even if you clicked it and the unannounced race is on. Let’s say you type slowly…. Sharon and I are still relatively dexterous and not strangers to computers, but she timed out 7 times from the last stage. I timed out 20 times from several levels below.. She had “error” and “refresh” messages that sent her back to square one. Sharon was using both her iPad and her phone. I was just using my laptop. Multi-platformed and still the difficulty…Imagine people less agile, less aware of the digital world….further along on their biological clock….

I could feel Sharon’s and my anxiety level and blood pressure level mounting with each try and on my part there were multi-syllabic multi-linguistic and perhaps transcendent and inter-galactic swear words coming out of my mouth. 

Sharon finally got through and I now have an appointment, so, yay!

It should have been easier than that. I am left with the same feeling I had when I took a day off to buy Bob Dylan tickets which were to go on sale at noon. I was in line at eight A.M. and there were about 50 people ahead of me. Should get great seats, right?! Wrong!!!!! I could not believe how shitty the selection was for the highest priced tickets. It seems the scalpers and on-line preferred customers got first choice. It was like being the last table to be called to the buffet table at a wedding. Injustice is everywhere!

There are up sides to this, is I have an appointment and will have a better chance of riding out this pandemic safely.. Sharon now knows my phone number off by heart and my medicare card as well, and the birds don’t repeat my swear words…. 

Take that, Covid 19!

An Old Friend

Yesterday I had a relentless melody stuck in my head from my music student days. I remember it had trilling flutes on it and was not quite a “big band”, but a combo with “Greek chorus”(lol). I remember I had made a cassette copy of the album and played it on a tape recorder in my knapsack as I tooled around on my bicycle on NDG’s streets hunting for an apartment. 

I thought the tune might be from Dexter Gordon at first, and I listened  to “Homecoming” and “Sophisticated Giant” which were both in heavy rotation around the same time and had similar elements to the melody that was both nagging and eluding me. I enjoyed revisiting these records and my memories of having seen and heard Dexter over several nights at “The Rising Sun” but this was not the melody in my head. 

Next I thought maybe it was McCoy Tyner whose “Fly Like The Wind” also was mid-seventies and was on my turntable a lot and featured a larger band. Not him. Great to hear McCoy, though. I went back to Dexter and checked the personnel on “All Music Guide”. Woody Shaw was the trumpet/flugelhorn player and I remembered having seen him in 1977 and had two of his albums that I listened to frequently around that time, “Blackstone Legacy” and “Rosewood” . I was pretty sure it was “Rosewood”, so I cued it up and sure enough that was the melody. It was like unexpectedly meeting an old friend after a long absence and catching up as if it were yesterday. The whole album brought back memories on the one hand, but also brought new surprises as if hearing it for the first time. Headphones can sometimes help you hone in on one element or the other. Last night it was Woody’s angular and daring lines and the crispness of the snare drum that I brought to the fore. I remember the large ensemble was an acquired taste at the time and I sort of shut it out. It was not what I had heard live at “The Rising Sun”. I was very into small jazz groups at the time. Miles, Coltrane, Horace Silver, Jazz Messengers, etc. The larger context has ceased to bother me. I accepted it easier now than I did then.

I felt compelled to write this and share what I feel is compelling and overlooked music that should not be forgotten. I have only included a link to the first song “Rosewood”, but I encourage you to seek out the rest of the album if you like this.

Comfort Zone

I just stepped out of my comfort zone. I was picking up Sharon at the hairdresser’s and there was a group of about eight middle aged and older men standing around drinking coffee in front of the deli next door. I watched them for about a minute. They looked very happy and comfortable with each other. Perhaps old friends, perhaps an after meeting chat for a 12 steps program, I don’t know. They were standing in a loose circle with maybe three or four feet distance between them.

The temperature is minus twenty degrees this morning, so their breath was actually visible and I could see that they were each breathing in part of each other’s breath. My internal voices were vacillating between “live and let live”, “Mind your own business” on the one hand, and “do your duty” and “it’s everybody’s business” on the other. The second voice won over, and I exited my car and I approached the circle and said “excuse me”, informed them that I could see their breath and that they were each breathing in each other’s breath. They thanked me and backed away from each other, but if there was any spread of germs, it was already done. I did not want to be “that guy” or a “Karen”, The party started to disintegrate after my little say. I felt like an uncool dad asking kids to break up a party….then I reflected on my 11 months of social distancing and my sacrifices and the sacrifices of so many to try and slow the spread of this virus and the shameful examples of negligence and ignorance shown by some citizens of this province, the rest of Canada and elsewhere in the world.

The men totally agreed that they needed to be more mindful and no-one told me to fuck off, so if they all stay healthy it is a “win/win”. If one of them spread the virus, the group would not be so cheerful in a month.

I guess the teacher in me found and used the “teachable moment”.

O.D.D

Twenty years ago I met a student who was particularly difficult to reach, and was determined to have her own way at all times. She had transferred into the school after the term had started, so needed remediation to get to the same level as her new classmates. She had chosen to play the clarinet, and was struggling frustratedly with it.

At our first remediation (recess or lunch) session she informed me that she wanted to learn “Hatikva” which is the national anthem of Israel. To me, this was like wanting to run a marathon after just learning how to toddle. I told her something like that, and suggested we learn “Ode To Joy” first as it had a limited number of notes and was attainable in a few days.

She said: “Don’t worry, I have O.D.D.” I had just arrived at this school myself having immersed myself doing music therapy with children with Autism and other puzzles for the previous ten years at a special school. I said to her “I’ve heard of P.D.D, ADHD, and other learning differences before, but I have never heard of O.D.D. What is it?”

Her response was quite well informed. It included these traits: “Often loses temper; Is often touchy or easily annoyed; Is often angry and resentful; Often argues with authority figures or for children and adolescents, with adults; Often actively defies or refuses to comply with requests from authority figures or with rules; Often deliberately annoys others; Often blames others for his or her mistakes or misbehaviour; Has been spiteful or vindictive at least twice within the past 6 months.” Quite a mouthful for a child in eighth grade. I asked her what the difference was between this diagnosis and being a spoiled brat? She didn’t skip a beat and answered: “the name”……”and money”…. An absolutely brilliant answer to my question.

She did get Hatikva down, and performed it in public after about a month. She was brilliant in so many ways and I am not sure if her determination was a result of this peculiar label or the label was as a result of her focus and grit.

Fast forward fifteen years, I saw a business card on the wall of the staff room where we go to find substitute teachers. Her name was on one of those cards. I was hoping beyond hope that a colleague would one day hire her and we could meet up under these very different circumstances and I could see for myself if she had outgrown the ODD, and if not, how she survived in the profession. Alas, never happened.

“The name…… and money!

Swiss Steak

Every time I see the street sign for “rue De Salaberry” it makes me think of the words “Salisbury steak” which in turn reminds me of my least favourite dish that my mum would make regularly for us as we were growing up. It was not “Salisbury Steak” which is basically pub burger with peas and gravy. I used to order Salisbury Steak at Toe Blake’s Tavern when I was out for a “cultural soirée” with my deplorable friends and the Rib Steak was sold out.

Mum’s dish was something called “Swiss Steak”. Sounds exotic, right? Well it isn’t. No Swiss clichés anywhere. No Chocolate, no cheese, no yodelling, no Alpenhorn, no watch…..not even neutrality. Maybe somewhere in the world there is someone who knew how to cook this dish and make it palatable, but my mum couldn’t, and neither could Sharon’s. To be fair, my mum’s cooking could not be described flatteringly or truthfully. Best approached with humour and sarcasm (and a plan B).

When I described it to Sharon just now I said it was like a Sandal boiled in tomato juice. She howled at the description, but this still requires some clarity, however. The Leather sole was boiled in a black iron pot that was only ever used for this. A Civil war relic. Not sure WHICH Civil War either. My guess would be the British one in the mid 1600s. The Sandal was boiled until it was Petrified into curled up pieces of ironwood surrounded by the ghost of a red mushy “sauce” It resembled a head on collision between a produce truck and a truck carrying roof shingles. Even that might have proven tastier.

To try and cut a slab of sandal, the cutlery needed to be Military issue. It would bend a fork and blunt a knife. By the time cutlery was discarded and furtive fingers used, it was also cold. If one had teeth, one could perhaps tear off a chip and try to chew some nutrition out of it. This would result in a pulp that needed to be washed down with water or strands would lodge between the teeth unable to be flossed…. eventually dissolving after several days as the acids in the mouth fought to erode the strands.

There is only one other childhood dish that is even in the same league. The lunchbag letdown of Fried Bologna sandwiches ………with Ketchup…..

My 2020

I listened to a radio show (Radio Noon CBC Montreal) last week that asked the question: “Did the pandemic affect your creativity?” It is hard to measure something like that, for me, especially this year as I retired in June, so there is some overlap between the two. Some of the things are quantifiable, however.

I haven’t sat still (aside from going nowhere except walking the dogs and grocery shopping and a weekly foray to the city to get a meal from Mariposa or visit the Avian vet). Every day I read literature, and I work at my music which is something I love to do more than almost anything it seems. It doesn’t feel like work at all.

In 2020 I wrote 33 songs (29 of them after the first lockdown). These are complete songs. “Keepers”. I have recorded all of them as well. Some to be released soon. I also remastered two of my previous albums and will be re-releasing them on Bandcamp this month. Including the 33 new songs and the 23 remasters I have a total of 111 pieces that I have either recorded, re-recorded or re-mastered in 2020.

I took the liberty of this found time to organize all my music. I have written music and songs for all of my adult life and they exist in one form or another outside of my head as sheet music, manuscript or words and chords, as a demo or a video or whatever. I decided to digitize them in one format for iPad and put them into two ring binders in alphabetical order. I put my 2020 songs in another binder so I can have a Chronological order as well…. I wish I had dated things before, We were taught to put the date on everything in Grade School. I never saw the point at the time….. The total number of pieces I have is over 200. so, if 2020’s 33 songs represents one year, it is roughly one sixth of my overall output over one 64th of my lifetime. Is this attributable to found time or my biological clock ticking down? I don’t know, but I suspect both.

My songs A-Z

releases prior to 2021

Some of my music that I rediscovered I had to re-learn from sketchy chord charts or no chords at all, but some I had included a detail of a particular voicing or a riff that sets the song apart. As I re-discovered and re-learned my music spanning 40 years, I made an audio recording of the work. Some songs were written but missing a line, or there was a harmony that wasn’t quite right. I had two songs where one line or one word bugged me. I always thought I could do better, so I had abandoned the song. I finished them this year. The three R’s of my retirement: Revive, revise, record. Fortunately the fourth R is reject which I usually do at the time. If I like the song, I keep it. If not, if it is too derivative or too schmaltzy or too offensive or trite I get rid of it and don’t count it among my works.

During this time I also learned or re-learned songs I love. Recorded several by Elvis Costello, Sixties faves and more Lightfoot. I also finally revisited and memorized ‘Round Midnight by Thelonious Monk and have been practicing Jazz standards I once knew that I have not had the time to keep “on the desktop” of my conscious self. It is remarkable how a little nudge of memory can bring new life to old material.

My original “plan” for 2020 and my retirement was to:

-release a new album called “I’m A Caboose”

-start a folk choir for people who love to sing but lack the opportunity.

-organize tours of House Concerts.

-gigs with Tarantula Dreams and Tumbleweed

I had also intended to do some part-time teaching. Well, the best laid plans……

It seems that when life gives you lemons…… chuck them and write a song.

In The Bleak Mid Winter

I am not a big fan of secular Christmas music, but having been a chorister for years in an Anglican Cathedral choir I was exposed to very traditional music and was immersed in the most beautiful sound bath of the voices of men and boys in a huge reverberant space. Singing this music throughout Advent and on Christmas day was one of the greatest privileges of my life. I am grateful for the opportunity and the experience.

In The Bleak Mid Winter is by far my favourite Christmas Carol. It is not Jolly. In fact it is quite austere and lonely. These are feelings I often associate with Christmastime even though for the most part, my Christmases have also been joyous and loving events. I related thoroughly to the stories and ideals that I learned in Sunday School and Choir and Confirmation classes, and was appalled that the whole idea of Christmas had become so twisted and profane by the commercial and the profiteers. Obviously I was Linus.

There are two different treatments of the original poem by Christina Rossetti. I prefer the Darke version, others may prefer the Holst version. James Taylor sings his beautiful arrangement of the Holst, while I just recorded my arrangement of the Darke for voice and guitar. I hope that you enjoy it.

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan;
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain,
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty —
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom Cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom Angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and Archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air;
But only His Mother
In her maiden bliss
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a Shepherd
I would bring a lamb;
If I were a Wise Man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

An explanation and a brief history of the Carol is written here:

https://www.classicfm.com/discover-music/occasions/christmas/in-the-bleak-midwinter-lyrics-song-carol-peaky/

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.