Tag Archives: Massey Hall

No. 3 Saville Row, London

50 years ago on January 30, 1969, the Beatles performed live for the last time.  It wasn’t a big show, but it was a big deal.  The Fab Four performed on the rooftop of No. 3 Saville Row, home of Apple Corps.  According to Tripadvisor, No. 3 Saville Row is 679th on a list of 1914 attractions in London. The Beatles performed 9 songs including 3 takes of ‘Get Back’.  On the 50th anniversary of the fab four finale it’s announced that award winning director Peter Jackson will be piecing together unseen footage of the Let it Be sessions giving generations of Beatles fans a new look at the sessions that would result in the final Lp that the Beatles would release.  There have been many articles written about the rooftop concert, the movie shows four musicians  who still had something to prove.  For there to be a new film about that time, that music, that LP and that concert its like a new Star Wars movie moment for me.

Forty one years ago, was the release of another generational last concert .  On the American Thanksgiving in 1976,  The Band hosted “The Last Waltz” a dinner and a concert for and with many of their friends at the Winterland Ballroom in San Fransisco. Conceived by Robbie Robertson the Last Waltz was not planned to be the end of the The Band, but rather like the Beatles, the end of touring.  It ended up being the end of the Band led by Robbie Robertson though.   The Band invited many of their friends to join them on stage for the farewell.  The film directed by Martin Scorsese, stands as one of the finest concert documentaries.  Five different versions of the concert, five different song line-ups.  If you’re counting, there’s the  concert song line up which differs from the film which differs from the original 1978 soundtrack version which differs from the 2002 four disc CD to finally,  the 40th anniversary edition released in 2018. which is different from all the others.  Amazingly and for whatever reason each has a different song sequence.  Perhaps Robbie Robertson can answer the question with the follow up to his book Testimony which ended after the final song of the concert.

In 1976, Neil Young performed two songs in The Last Waltz, though only those who were in the Winterland Ballroom would see Young perform ‘Four Strong Winds’, it hasn’t appeared (that I know of) on any released version of the Last Waltz.  In ’76 Young was an established artist but it was only 10 years earlier that he started making a name for himself  since arriving in California from Toronto.

Young compared his music, especially the sessions for the ‘Everybody Knows this is nowhere’ album to that of the Beatles, short and traditionally structured.  Its not the only comparison he makes to the Beatles. In the biography “Shakey” his says his time with CSN&Y is like the Beatles while performing with Crazy Horse is like the Rolling Stones.

In 2006 Young started releasing his archive series, live recordings going back to 1968.  The second archives release is his concert in Massey Hall in 1971, it went to #1 in Canada and #6 in the US.   It was a time when he was extremely creative he would release music with Buffalo Springfield, CSN&Y, Crazy Horse and also released solo recordings.  The Live at Massey Hall recording is momental for a few reasons, first its recorded in Massey Hall and it captures Young just before he would have his first #1 hit, Heart of Gold. It’s this tour in 1971 that had Neil at his best.  When I first listened to the recording in 2007 I got chills.  Here was Young playing music that was new in ’71.  No one knew what would happen to it.  But as I listened I was envious that I was not there (I was only 11 at the time) to hear these incredible songs that would end up on “Harvest”.  The people that filled Massey Hall that evening had no idea that they were a part of a generational shift in music.

I can only imagine what those  people that jammed Massey Hall in 1971 thought of the music they were listening to – and then to have the chance to hear it all again 36 years later.  It gives me chills just thinking now how they would react to hear that show all over again kowing that his music that night would be as great today as it was when he played those songs befiore they were released on that in 1971.  There is a part in that show where I stand (or sit) still and just listen.  It happens as Neil has walked off the stage and the crowd starts clapping, banging seats and making noise with just about anything to bring him out for an encore.  It goes on for at least 4 minutes before Young reappears and starts into ‘I am a child’. I listen in amazement to the reaction of those at the concert when he comes back.  It gives me shivers every time.

Imagine being one of the 2,765 people that would have had the opportunity to be making that noise in Massey Hall that night to bring him back, but to hear it all again a generation later.  That’s what makes this recording worthy of being connected to The Beatles on the roof on No. 3 Saville Row and The Band in The Last Waltz in a trifecta of concerts we should not be without watching or listening to.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress.  I can be found on Twitter @robertdekker&  @rdmediaottawaand on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97.  If you prefer email, please contact me at rdmedia@bell.net

Book Review: Lightfoot by Nicholas Jennings

 

LightfootI think I have spoiled myself. I have set a high bar for biographies after reading books on the lives of Keith Richards, Paul McCartney and the Beatles, Robbie Robertson among others. I have written on this blog before the effect reading a great biography has on me. I end up spending days and weeks listening to the music of the book’s subject buying the music I am reading about. This has happened after reading about Led Zeppelin (When Giants Walked the Earth) and Joni Mitchell (The Creative Odyssey of Joni Mitchell even though the book was just okay) where I added CD’s from each of these artists and more. I would say that reading about the music maker is my greatest motive for adding to my music library.

Written on the Inside front flap of the cover of the book is “…Jennings (the author) had unlimited access to the reticent musician. Lightfoot takes us deep inside the artist’s world…” Note that Lightfoot is italicized; my perception was that Gordon Lightfoot himself was going to bring readers and his fans into his world, something that Lightfoot has protected tightly.

Make no mistake, Lightfoot is the most comprehensive book written about Canada’s original folk singer-songwriter troubadour. Jennings provides a view into the life of Lightfoot. There is just enough of Lightfoot in the book to know that Jennings had spent significant time with him. The early years in Orillia are very well documented and give us a look into the musical talent that Lightfoot’s mother stimulated and encouraged from kitchen table concerts to Church services to public performances and winning talent shows.

There are multiple voices heard throughout the book, wives, girlfriends, business partners and artists that Lightfoot has played and written with, including Bob Dylan. The most interesting chapters of the book involved the early years finding his voice in a sea of other performers, touring and recording. Sadly a lot of what is written in this period comes from those around him. There is just enough from Gordon himself to add credibility of the “unlimited access” talked about on the inside flap.

What is lacking is more of Gordon Lightfoot. The early years could have used more of his take on the music and performing and collaborations and his take on his success, or why it was taking so long. Lightfoot’s music is his legacy; we are familiar with it and long to know more about it. Lightfoot could have used some focus; perhaps leading to ending the book in the lead up to 1976 and the success of that years surprise hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”. Without that focus, Lightfoot seems needlessly stretched to include GL’s sporadic recording since after the 2002 hospitalization and the near death experience following a collapse before a hometown concert in Orillia.

If Jennings had been able to extract more from Lightfoot, there might a reason to write about Lightfoot’s music past 1980, without it the book struggles to keep its audience.

The true test of course to the success of Lightfoot is whether or not I spent a significant amount of time listening to Gordon Lightfoot’s music. I didn’t. There was nothing to spur me on to listen back and hear in the music what Lightfoot was thinking or feeling at any particular time during his best creative years.

Lightfoot’s fans will enjoy the book, but it is best to limit expectations. Lightfoot himself doesn’t have the voice that was promised; if he had, there would’ve been a depth I’ve found other books of the same genre.

Thank you for reading this post; to catch all my posts and be notified as new ones come up please follow me on WordPress. I can be found Twitter @robertdekker, @rdmediaottawa and on Facebook at http://tiny.cc/n5l97. I can be reached at rdmedia@bell.net