I don’t know Hart Hanson, not really. But we are joined at the hip in many ways. Hart was the story editor way back when Richard J Lewis and Paul Quarrington were creating the film, “Whale Music,” for which Rheostatics did the soundtrack. I hooked up with Hart through twitter, discovering, via his account, that, after moving to Los Angeles, he created the crazy-successful and award-nominated show, “Bones,” which lo many of you are familiar. Here is a beautiful and hilarious piece that he’s written for this space: a trans-national memoir of music and growing up in Canada in the age of albums, FM radio, and, of course, 45s, called “Lucky Man.”
When I was in Grade 7, my pharmaceutical salesman Dad moved my large, Catholic family from Vancouver to Winnipeg where the bad-boy artist teenager who lived down the street loaned me a pair of headphones so I could listen to my Dad’s giant one-piece wooden stereo while the rest of the family watched TV. Which listening led to the discovery of FM radio. Which is where I formed the conviction that it was unnecessary to actually own music. Songs were free if you waited long enough and were all the sweeter for the anticipation. FM radio ended my classical guitar lessons by wrenching my tastes away from Simon & Garfunkel toward Led Zeppelin. Like Dylan, I wanted to go electric.
Less than a year later, in the middle of Grade Eight, we moved again, this time from Winnipeg to Oakville, which gave me the leverage to guilt my parents into buying me an electric guitar for Christmas: a Raven copy of a black Les Paul which was true almost to the fifth fret. I also got guitar lessons from a music store in Bronte. My bias against buying music was reinforced by the sight of the store owner miraculously playing guitar along with the radio! I considered him an undiscovered genius.
Sadly, he wasn’t my guitar teacher. My teacher was a fat old depressed guy who played in a jazz band at the hoity-toity Royal York Hotel in Toronto. I never knew his name. I realize now he was always either drunk or hung-over and not much between. He played mellow old man jazz chords on his big, red old man guitar which I later realized was a gorgeous Gibson ES 355. I told him that my Mom, who was paying for these lessons, wanted him to teach me “Classical Gas” but that I wanted to learn the guitar parts from one of my FM radio discoveries: Emerson, Lake, & Palmer’s “Lucky Man”. Obligingly, he taught me the tinkle-tink-tink intro in G and D with pinkie finger add-ons but I said, “No, that’s not the part I mean.” He told me there was no other part and for the first time in my life I needed to actually own a piece of music. I couldn’t very well ask him to put on Q107 or Chum-FM and wait for “Lucky Man” to come on so I rode my bicycle from 12 Mile Creek to 16 Mile Creek (Yes, a distance of four miles)to an establishment on Oakville’s main drag which was called, if I remember correctly, either Lofquist’s or Lundquist’s. Lundquist’s or Lofquist’s was an electrical appliance store with records in the basement. I asked the old lady who worked there for the Lucky Man 45 (B Side: Knife’s Edge) because the album cost about four bucks and the 45 was 89 cents and Emerson, Lake, and Palmer had a lot of thunderous orchestral stuff with pianos that I didn’t appreciate properly. I bought the 45, then borrowed (stole) my sister’s small portable record player that opened up like a pink suitcase to display synchronized disco lights in the lid and rode to my guitar lessons with the Raven under one arm and the disco record player bungie-corded to my rat-trap and played “Lucky Man” for my hungover guitar teacher and said “there!” when the song came to the Woo-OOOOH-oodie-oodie-oodie–oodie–ooo followed by the OHM-OHMMM-OHMMMM which was, to my ears at least, the part where the mighty guitar was storing up massive amounts of electrical power to play the next part that went WOOOO—OOOOO WOOO–OOO WOO-OOO! like the world’s biggest most mournful blue whale wailing.
My teacher looked at me pityingly and informed me that what I was hearing was not a guitar but a Moog synthesizer. He spent the rest of the lesson teaching me “Your Momma Don’t Dance” which depressed me, no offense to Loggins & Messina.
But that week, on my Dad’s FM radio, I heard another cool song so back I went to the basement of Lundquist’s or Lofquist’s and bought another 45 from the old lady, stole my sisters pink disco-record-player again and played the song for my teacher, raising my eyebrows when I got to the part I wanted him to teach me, the both of us bathed in synched disco lights. The song ended but the record player was set to begin again automatically. I still remember the sound as my teacher flicked the arm off the record. He said to me, “I can’t teach you that,” by which I understood that he didn’t want to teach me the song because it was shit. The song was “Fireball” by Deep Purple (B-Side: I’m Alone) and I knew it was not shit, it was epic. However, I spent that lesson learning Classical Gas for my mother. Which is when I understood that it was, in fact, vital to own music so that you weren’t constrained by the whims of radio-programmers and guitar teachers and others who might not share your aural palate.
I never bought another 45 on account of the recurring psychological humiliations attached to them.