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Friday, May 22, 2015

THE BLUES - THEN AND NOW UPPER LIP AND PHOENIX CLUBS plus PAUL JAMES










         Thinking of the long nights of blues at Grossman's tavern and  the Upper Lip - kitty corners to the Gasworks on Yonge Street.
At the Upper Lip during the week, a number of  singers from other bands would show up to have the 'Happy Hour All Night' drinks with the JOHN ROCK AND THE ANGELS band. Various singers from other bands would get up on stage and sing a song or two, including B.B. Gabor, Paul James, who opened the show, and the Hock from Downchild Blues Band.
       We also got together at the Hotel Isabella.
Downchild was playing upstairs.  John Rock  was playing downstairs. And drinks were had between sets in the bar on the main floor,
near the entrance. We fueled up for the next sets.


      At the Upper Lip, we had a private dressing room in which all kind of monkey business was going on most of the time, and a whole lot of sex against the wall or halfway on the benches that circled the room, being that the floors were a tad sticky. We're not talking luxury here.
       Paul James used to open for John Rock. He did a solo number... and he was pretty accomplished even then. 


INSERT    SEE Paul James song  above...
from his birthday bash at the Phoenix.


       I'm just beginning to digitize  John Rock
songs from hundreds of cassette stage recordings, and the John Rock album
called, "IT'S SO SERIOUS!"
       I hope to insert many of these songs into this blog and future book, if my luck holds.
       If the truth be told, the only way I can remember many of the stories in this book to be
is if I center the stories around each song. That way I'll have some idea what I'm talking about.









       But then the night wore on. And Mike  came down from his hut on the roof.
Mike was an OK drummer when he was half way in his right mind. But I remember  he came down and we asked him up on stage.
Turns out he was not 1/2 way in his mind; he was  12 times out of his tree!
           I was breaking in a new bass player that night. I was teaching John Saunders how to play bass, so it wasn't fair to throw anything too different at him - he'd never been on stage before. And his legs were shaking.
            We had a big crowd that night. It was a Wednesday evening, so I wasn't sure why...
In those days I hadn't understood the meaning of the word, "Advertise." So the
crowd was all word of mouth from up and down Yonge Street.
          Anyway, we packed the place.
I was standing in the hallway to the stage
and I heard the breathing of the crowd, the chattering talk... the ebbs and flow of the crowd noise, with the occasional cheer and shout, and then the shouts in unison and the feet pounding on the floor.


           I heard a guy in the crowd near the front say, "John Rock. I hear he's heavy." Expectations were high.
            So I wanted to put on a real blast. Start with a viciously hard rocker called, "NO EXPLANATION".  I had written that song with a lot of feeling, as I was sneaking out of a really rough relationship, one that was going to end in death or jail... My death.  Or me in jail. It certainly wouldn't be
 the princess!
     
        (I didn't feel the need to go one more time into the Don Jail in those days. It had happened before. Invariably they'd throw me in an all black, mostly Jamaican range. The guards were trying to screw with my head.
             I guess they thought I was a real asshole, but stories get pretty twisted , when they're told about you and you aren't there.
People can make up all kinds of weird
stuff.  Especially the woman I was trying to leave. She was real good friends with a  cop
in 52 division. So...
              So I got tossed in this all black Jamaican range - and that was the good part. I grew up in Jamaica. A lot of stories were told,
and we made some hooch, got high, and laughed until we had  tears in our eyes.)
        But not always.
        I got bail in three months.




            The song I wanted to open with was
about the very woman who had me tossed into the Don Jail  recently.


                   THE SONG GOES LIKE THIS:



       "Oh, babe, I'm not ever gonna phone!   
         Yeah, babe, I'm not ever gonna phone!
        Just gonna lie down in my basement...
        And chew my lonesome bone!"


         The ice is coming, the snow is coming, too!
        The ice is coming, the snow is coming, too!
         But in our last season together,
          Nothing ever grew!"
       


        
 Hook:  "And they'll be no explanation!
             No explanation!
           No explanation!
            No explanation!
           There'll be no explanation baby, 
           Nothing you need to know!"


(C)1984 John Rock  etc. etc. Naturally there
are several more verses.




             At any rate, Mike came flying down the stairs, jumped up on the stage before we were
ready to play.
             I think Mike was Lebanese. He had very good connections for certain items I was trying to avoid.
             Anyway, Mike launches into an elaborate drum solo with distinctly different
rhythms than the band was used to playing.
The only 2 people on stage at that moment, other than Mike, was Saunders and I.  John had a look of utter horror on his face. He didn't know how to play anything to that rhythm and
I bloody well knew it. I tried to project to him from twenty feet away at least the root notes of  each chord. After a while, he understood and he could play at least those notes to the
changes.
              Mike wasn't stopping. Somewhere
he'd found a black beret and green fifties shades. And he was wearing them. 
            So I did the only logical thing.
           
           I launched into some minor chords vaguely reminiscent of Morocco.  And we played...we played that same weird, foreign,  exotic tune... for quite some time...
               The eyes of the crowd appeared to be
glazing over with shock and growing boredom...That first 15 minute song  needed
congas and maybe a belly dancer. The rest of the band joined us after our 15 minute excursion across the desert. 
        We launched into, "YOU'RE GONNA BURN!" Which is a truly nasty
bit of edgework and drama about war
and you're to blame, etc. etc. The lead solo
is the sound of a helicopter landing right in the middle of your head - a monstrous effect I found I could create with my Morley WAH peddle.
           Well, that shut all of us up, including the
crowd. Mike, the owner bought drinks for all 200 of us. "A round for all the room!"
             We all stopped, had a drink or three,
talked to the audience, shouted back and forth,
then I launched into "Rosemary" which is a sweet love tune that people tend to remember.
And the applause started and continued off and
on for the rest of the night.
               We snapped into our trademark blend
of music called:  "Rock-Reggae."
                 "Northern reggae!" One of the Garys, Gary Cormier shouted this to me over the phone with a laugh and some hilarity. 
                We locked the doors, sold booze at Happy Hour prices - the happy hour that lasted
half a day. And a pretty damn good day it was. A great time was had by all!
                 But not always.






(C) 2015 by W.G. Milne
Part of a book that is coming, with songs
and artwork inserted. It be called,
"Mainliners on Mainstreet."
        No, no, no.  Not that!



















Thursday, May 21, 2015

IS LOVE COMMUNION, OR IS LOVE WAR?





IS LOVE WAR OR IS LOVE COMMUNION?
                      
Talking about spiritual and sexual love between
2 people...


               I always thought that when you're having sex with a person you care about, and you stare
into her eyes and your sight goes deep into that person's being ( spirit, soul, heart-mind)
and she stares back into you... until the two of you are one, and you don't know where her body ends and your body begins... and you're feeling pleasure all through that One glowing
being that is the two of you.
             This is COMMUNION. Of course it is! 
And don't let any narrow-minded prelate tell you differently.


                                     *


             Hell, there's a John Rock song that goes like this:


        There is love that is communion,             
         And there's love that is war;
         There's love down at the union
         And driving in your car.
          And love it will lift you
          As you are flying across the sky
           But don't you ever trust the wind
           To be with you...
            If your life's a lie.


  from, "If Your Life's a Lie" (C)1984 John Rock.       
                                *                                 


            Living in the same house as your partner, well things can get evil pretty quick,
especially if you both come from backgrounds where your parents lied a lot. Then it's hard to trust.
            Then trust has to be built between you, as you wander alone and/or together across a hellish countryside.  And you see the bodies bleeding and the smoke from burning cities.
Then love is war!  And no one knows who is going to be the last man/woman standing. 
        And, yes, oh yes - demons do appear in the midst of this WAR And these beasts who seem to have a preternatural consciousness ,  smile and laugh and smirk at you, winking at you as if to say: "You know me, and I know you," and the beast smirks as if to say, "I'll be back. You'll see me many times again. "




                                                       *






                                                              (C)2015 by W.G. Milne