On Tuesday, September 12, I was lucky enough to participate in a Beatles walking tour of Toronto, led by Piers Hemmingsen, author of The Beatles in Canada.
We started at Maple Leaf Gardens, an ice hockey arena which holds the record for most Beatles performances in North America, with six (two each year from 1964-66).
In the mid-Sixties, the Gardens was the home for the NHL hockey team the Toronto Maple Leafs (who, I found out, won the Stanley Cup in 1967 - the same year Sgt. Pepper was released). Now the area is owned by Ryerson University, and the Maple Leafs play at the Air Canada Centre.
When The Beatles played here, the stage was set up at the north end of the stadium (the side pictured below).
You might notice a difference between those shots: The 1965 photo has seats behind the band; the 2017 shot does not. That's because MLG was renovated some years back and the ice lifted about 30 feet. That necessitated the removal of several hundred seats, including those at the north end of the arena.
The reason the band performed at this end of the stadium was because they entered through the back door. Piers explained how, in an effort to decoy fans, a limousine with fake Beatles was sent to the front (south) entrance while the real Beatles were escorted via a paddy wagon to the back (north) gate. It worked, but only partially. Many fans recognized and/or anticipated the deception and so congregated at the rear door.
While MLG has to be the most important Toronto location in Beatles history, Piers also led me to the hotel where The Beatles stayed during their visits. The band stayed on the top floor. In the photo below, they had the windows on the far left side.
We also walked past Massey Hall. Though The Beatles never played there (but Ringo did in 2016), Piers described it as "the Carnegie Hall of Toronto."
The tour concluded at Nathan Phillips Square, where 35,000 fans gathered on 10 December 1980 to commemorate John Lennon's murder the day before, despite bitter temperatures.
The tour was a lot of fun, and I highly recommend this enlightening excursion to any Beatles fan. Piers will be doing another tour on September 28 - two weeks from today. Check out the Heritage Toronto website for registration details. He also does a John Lennon walking tour on December 8.
Later that evening, I met up with Piers again at the Milton, ON public library for a joint presentation of The Beatles: Band of the Sixties. He spoke on the band's touring years (1960-66), while I presented on the band's studio years (1967-70).
Meanwhile, I'm speaking tonight in Port Colburne and tomorrow in Strathroy:
Thursday, 14 September 2017, 6:00-7:30 p.m.
Port Colborne Public Library, 310 King St, Port Colborne, ON, Canada
Before They Were Fab: The Beatles Prior to Beatlemania
Before the number one records and the deafening screams, before Ed Sullivan and “She loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah”, before the shaggy “mop top” haircuts and collarless suits, there were six future Beatles. This 90-minute multimedia presentation will trace the early history of The Beatles from John Lennon's founding of The Quarrymen in 1957, through their five seminal Hamburg residencies, and right up to the precipice of worldwide fame and fortune.
Friday, 15 September 2017, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Strathroy & Area Seniors Centre, 137 Frank St, Strathroy, ON, Canada
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Explore the music of The Beatles in this 60-minute multimedia presentation (part history and part musical analysis) spanning the full 1960's: beginning with the band's seminal visits to Hamburg, continuing through Beatlemania, and concluding with Abbey Road. The program will be supplemented with audio clips of music and excerpts from interviews with the band members.
I had a rare off-day on Monday, so I did what I usually do when not studying Beatles music: I watched baseball.
Being in southern Ontario, I made a point of attending a Toronto Blue Jays game, making The Rogers Centre my 10th MLB stadium. And since the Blue Jays aren't exactly competitive this year, tickets were very reasonably priced: I found seats just behind home plate for less than $20 US!
Despite a lost season, Toronto defeated the Baltimore Orioles 4-3.
The game featured a couple of unusual plays in the bottom of the 2nd inning.
First, Teoscar Hernandez, the Jays' right fielder, led off by hitting a ball down the right field line. Mark Trumbo, the Orioles' right fielder, lost the ball in the lights and it went over his head. Trumbo chased after the ball as it bounced towards the stands, but when he reached the ball, he inadvertently dropped it into the stands resulting in a ground rule double. Watch the play here.
Two batters latter, Darwin Barney launched a ball to center. He appeared to stop at second base, only to take third when Adam Jones, Baltimore's center fielder, bobbled the ball. But Barney slide too soon into third base - and stopped short of the bag. So he did his best Michael Phelps impression as he "swam" the rest of the way to the bag. Watch the play here.
No matter how much baseball you've seen, there's ALWAYS something you haven't seen before - and this game had two such instances in the same inning!
I also had a chance to walk around the stadium and visit the team gift shop. I found this t-shirt celebrating relief pitcher Roberto Osuna particularly amusing:
They had dozens of game-used baseballs, bats, scorecards, bases, and uniforms on display, with most of it available for purchase. Perhaps my favorite bit of memorabilia was Roberto Alamar's 1994 Gold Glove award. I had never seen one up close before.
My time in Toronto wasn't over yet. The next morning I took a Beatles walking tour of the city led by Piers Hemmingsen, author of The Beatles in Canada. But I'll blog about that tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I head towards Niagara Falls today for not one but two more renditions of Band of the Sixties:
Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 1:00-2:00 p.m.
Fort Erie Public Library: Centennial Branch, 136 Gilmore Rd, Fort Erie, ON, Canada
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
Wednesday, 13 September 2017, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
Pelham Public Library: Fonthill Branch, 43 Pelham Town Sq, Fonthill, ON, Canada
The Beatles: Band of the Sixties
I'm pleased and proud to announce the launch of Flip Side Beatles
I have considered writing transcripts of my live presentations for years, and Flip Side is exactly that. The "A Side" is The Beatles: Band of the Sixties; then, just like a vinyl record, you flip the book over and the "B Side" is Starr Time: A Celebration of Ringo.
To supplement the book release, I've done a few new BEATLES MINUTES. The first considers Pete Best's drumming on 'Love Me Do'; the second compares Ringo Starr's singing of 'Honey Don't' with John Lennon's.
Flip Side Beatles, Volume 1 can be purchased on www.Amazon.com or in person after my presentations.
Meanwhile, I launch another lecture tour today that will take me through Michigan, Ontario, and Indiana:
This blog is a workshop for developing my analyses of The Beatles' music.