Prince Edward Island

#989: Moving In Stereo

RECORD STORE TALES #989: Moving In Stereo

It was May 2002 and I was a first-time homeowner.  My dad taught me, “Never rent!  Only buy.  Put your money towards something.”  So I trusted his advice and lived at home as long as could I possibly milk it!

Moving in to my new place took a day.  I had a lot of help from family and friends.  We probably had 10 or 12 people total.  I packed up all my CDs and insisted that only I handle them.  It caused me more than a little anxiety.  I figured a few jewel cases would crack, but there were some special ones I took extra precautions with.  Coloured jewel cases are hard to replace.  The most precious CD case to me is the 1996 Deep Purple In Rock anniversary edition.  The case comes etched with signatures and other text.  Breaking one of those means either living with it, or trying to find another copy with case intact.  I desired to do neither.  In Rock survived the move intact.  I would not be lying to you if I told you that this one little item was of more concern to me than anything else I moved that day.  My stereo equipment came in second.

Some people say they have a hard time sleeping, their first night in a new home.  I did not have that problem.  After a full day of moving, I was wiped.  But also eager to get going the next day and set up my new place.  Against the better judgement of everyone who helped me move, the very first thing I did was set up my CD towers.  Having those discs sitting in boxes really bothered me.  I wanted them out, so I could inspect them and ensure they all survived intact, and I wanted them accessible.  A long day of painting was ahead!

I cannot remember the first album I played in my new home.  Strange, because normally I’d commit that sort of thing to memory.  It was probably Kiss.  I like to use Kiss for firsts.  I do remember the first movie I watched.  It was The Phantom Menace.  I wanted my first movie to be a DVD, and I wanted it to be a Star Wars.  The older Star Wars films would not exist on that format until 2004.

I set up the CD towers, put the discs back in their alphabetical homes, and was relieved that only a couple cases broke.  I then painted around them.  Priorities.

The funny thing about these memories is how much space I thought I had back then.  I had so many empty closets.  I didn’t have enough stuff to put on my shelves.  To say things have changed would be an understatement.  Due to lack of storage, there are CDs everywhere in random order.  We need to hire a carpenter and get some proper CD shelving made for this place!

After a solid weekend of working, painting and assembling, I was settled into my new place.  I had my first guests over that Monday.  I loved my new place, but I did not have long to enjoy it.  The following week, I was on my way to Prince Edward Island, determined to find the home of Stompin’ Tom Connors, and eat lobster at least once a day.  Success on both counts.  But I couldn’t wait to get home again.  I had a new Deep Purple box set of official bootlegs waiting for me to finish listening.  12 CDs.  I only had time to hear the first three discs before departure.  And you can bet your last dollar that I picked up where I left off, with disc four.

Jen moved here in 2008.  It’s cramped but we make due.  Her illness set us back in the sense that we haven’t been able to move somewhere bigger.  But it’s home.  It’s our home.  It has 20 years of memories.  I’m proud to say that many of them are musical in nature.

REVIEW: Stompin’ Tom Connors – “Live” at the Horseshoe (1971)

STOMPIN’ TOM CONNORS – “Live” at the Horseshoe (1971 EMI)

Since this is the first Stompin’ Tom review ever here at mikeladano.com, we need to step back and take a quick look at the bio of a Canadian hero that may be completely unknown to most overseas readers.

Charles Tom Connors was born in Saint John, New Brunswick in 1936.  A restless young Connors frequently hitch hiked and got into trouble down the east coast, and at one point wound up in Skinner’s Pond, Prince Edward Island.  This is a place that has come to be associated with Stompin’ Tom over the years.  I visited there myself in 2002, and saw his childhood home.  I took a photo of the street sign of what is now officially called Dr. Stompin’ Tom Road.

PEI_0006

Tom’s break happened while drifting through Timmins Ontario.  Short on change for a beer at the local watering hole, the bartender told him he’d let him have the beer for whatever coins he had in his pocket, as long as he’d get up and sing a song or two.  Tom got out his guitar and that turned into a 14 month stand.  Before too long he had recorded eight singles.

Stompin’ Tom sang idiosyncratic Canadian songs.  He was not interested in commercialism in music whatsoever.  He stubbornly wrote and played often comical songs about the things he’d seen and done hitch hiking around the country.  He became known as “Stompin’ Tom” by providing his own backbeat.  Like a folk country Angus Young, he would pound his booted left foot on the floor, keeping time.  He eventually had to provide his own “stomping board” because bar owners were complaining about damage to their stage.  He would stomp right through the board periodically and have to replace it.

In 1971, a concert film called Across This Land With Stompin’ Tom Connors spawned the album release “Live” at the Horseshoe and became a part of Canadian history. The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto was a legendary establishment. Now with four studio albums and one Christmas record under his belt, the legendary Horseshoe set was recorded for posterity and became a television staple for years. This live album is culled from that show, though heavily edited for single-length LP time. The original set was 90 minutes and 30 songs.  My dad showed me the special as a kid.  I loved it.

When EMI issued the album on CD, they retained the original LP 12 song running time.  Even the nicely packaged 1998 Man of the Land series edition is only 12 tracks.  The album is a mix of originals and better-known covers.

Newcomers may find Stompin’ Tom’s nasal twang unpalatable, but when that left foot starts stompin’, it’s hard to resist.  “Happy Rovin’ Cowboy” introduces Tom’s band to the crowd.  He bills himself as from “the potato fields of Prince Edward Island”.   Then it’s his hit about the “best man in Ottawa”, Mufferaw Joe.  “Big Joe Mufferaw” is a Canadian folk classic and this version from the Horseshoe is definitive.  According to the lyrics, Big Joe put out a raging forest fire near Smiths Falls with just five spitballs!  Just stomp along!

“Come Where I’m At” is a “Newphie” phrase, and the song beckons you to come home to Newfoundland, “So don’t stay where you’re to, come where we’re at!”  It’s not Yoda-speak, it’s just Canadian!  Tom then covers “The Green, Green Grass of Home”.  “Now it’s almost time I sung an American song,” begins Tom.  “This here is a song that made so many singers famous, that I just thought if I turned my golden Prince Edward Island voice to it, I’d prob’ly become famous too!”  Probably not — Tom does it with exaggerated twang and irreverent comedic flare.  Then, he covers his friend “Gordie” Lightfoot, with “Spin, Spin”, another Horseshoe regular.  This time his plays the song “straight” with due respect but still with the stomp.  It’s a wonderful upbeat song so feel free to stomp along.  “Muleskinner Blues” has one of Tom’s most legendary vocal hooks, and it goes something like “aw wha wha wha wha wha whoo”, though it varies!  This is the kind of song that people loved Tom for.

The second LP side began with an ode to all the big drinkers at the Horseshoe, with “Horseshoe Hotel Song”.  You can hear them hootin’ and hollerin’ and drinking along.  He pokes fun at himself in the tune, claiming he can’t really sing, he’s just another getting slushed at the Horseshoe Hotel.  They eat it up, loving every witty line.  Another cover, “I’ve Been Everywhere”, is one that Tom could almost claim as his own, considering its hitch hiking subject matter!

The rest of the album is all original.  “Sudbury Saturday Night” is a favourite that was later covered by Kim Mitchell.  Sudbury is famous for its nickel mines, and Inco was the big one.  So the lyrics go:

“Well the girls are out to Bingo,
And the boys are gettin stinko,
We’ll think no more of Inco,
On a Sudbury Saturday Night.”

Once again, this version is definitive.  The song is best heard with an audience hollering along.  “Big Bus to Nashville” is a pleasant song that name-drops the Horseshoe, and features that boot stomping again.  “Luke’s Guitar” is a story about a man who had to choose between his wife and his guitar.  Again it has one of those classic Tom vocal hooks, and it goes something along the lines of “Clang-clang a-deedle dang a-deedle”.  It’s hard to resist so don’t try and just go with it.  Ending the album is “Bud the Spud” from the bright red mud, of Prince Edward Island.  According to Tom this came by request about “150,000 times” that night.  Because of the filming and recording of the live album, Tom was to stick to a strict set list and couldn’t do requests.  However he went ahead and played “Bud the Spud” anyway, and it made the final album!  Like several of the other tracks, this recording is definitive.

In the movie Wayne’s World, the character of Wayne Campbell, played by Canadian Mike Myers, claimed that people in the subburbs got copies of Frampton Comes Alive in the mailbox with boxes of Tide.  Sadly that is not so, but in Canada, everybody should be issued a copy of this live album with their birth certificate.  This album in my ears defines the country that I live in.  Others may disagree and they are welcome to do that, but I believe that “Live” at the Horseshoe is a history lesson about the country that we live in as much as it is an amazing live album.

5/5 stars

Part 233: Dr Stompin’ Tom Road

RECORD STORE TALES Part 233:  Dr Stompin’ Tom Road

One of the biggest thrills during the record store days was the last vacation I ever took from that place!  I’ve always wanted to go to Eastern Canada, and see the ocean.  I have always been drawn to the sea.  I think this is because of my Italian side, it must be in my blood and DNA.  We came to Canada in 1904 from Porto Empedocle, Sicily.  It is a fishing village on the coast, and my great-grandfather Luigi owned a shop there around the turn of the century.  My great-great grandfather Salvatore was from Amalfi, near Naples.  If you ever see pictures of Amalfi, you might understand why I have always loved the sight of water.

In May 2002, I finally visited the beautiful province of Prince Edward Island.  I got to see the ocean, the harbors and the lobster boats.  We checked out a lot of cool sideroad shops, walked a lot of trails, and played with the vibrant red sand.  We met some of the friendliest people we’d ever encountered.  But there was no way I was leaving Prince Edward Island without doing three important things:

1. Eating lobster in some form every single day.

2. Visiting the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not Odditorium, one of only two in Canada.

3. Setting foot in Skinners Pond, home of Dr Stompin’ Tom Road.

Obviously, I had to pay my respects to the boyhood home of one of the greatest Canadians (# 13) and folk musicians of all time, Stompin’ Tom Connors.  In the end, I accomplished all three of my goals.  Of the five days I spent on the island, I had lobster on every one of them, even having the bizarre McLobster on one of those days.  As an added bonus, I found an interesting piece of guitar-shaped folk art, made by a fellow named Keirras Jeffery, that I had to buy.  It looks awesome on the wall.

Photos of Stompin’ Tom’s eponymous road are difficult to find online, so I proudly present to you a selection of my holiday snaps, May 2002.

Here’s another great site with info on Stompin’ Tom’s home in PEI:  PEI Heritage Buildings – Skinners Pond and Stompin’ Tom Connors

R.I.P. Stompin’ Tom Connors

Stompin' Tom

1936-2013