A Musical Memoir, Alan L. Chrisman

Copyright © Alan L. Chrisman 2013
All rights reserved

“It’s A Long Way Home” (And How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life)
A Musical Memoir

Published by Alan L. Chrisman c.2013
All Alan Chrisman lyrics c.2012, 2013
For information contact:


Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Information available upon request

Chrisman, Alan L. 1946
“It’s A Long Way Home” (And How Beatles’ Music Saved My Life)
A Musical Memoir – Original edition p. cm

ISBN 978-0-9936032-3-5(MS Word CD) ISBN 978-0-9936032-1-1 (Audio DVD)
ISBN 978-0-9936032-2-8 (e-book version c. 2014) Also ‘Original Songs CD to Accompany Book’

1. Ottawa, Canada music 2. Beatles’ influence 3. Popular culture 4. History 5. Personal Memoir
I. Title

SAVED MY LIFE), A Musical Memoir
Chapter1: Crossing the Borderline (“Paul is Dead “rumor)
Chapter 2: Midwestern Childhood (“Thank God ForThe Beatles” lyrics)
Chapter 3: University Days (“Woman the Muse” lyrics)
Chapter 4: Canada (Jackie)
Chapter 5: “IMAGINE” (Beatles in Canada; John & Yoko in Ottawa)
Chapter 6: Vancouver (J. Lennon shot, Dec, 8, 1980)
Chapter 7: Back in Ottawa
Chapter 8: Walls and Bridges (Sarah)
Chapter 9: Rock This Town! Productions (’85-’93)
Chapter 10: Happy Birthday and Dakota Visit (Auto. McCartney poster)
Chapter 11: Connecticut Beatles Convention (Cyn. Lennon, May Pang)
Chapter 12: #9 Dreams (P. Sutcliffe)
Chapter 13: Ottawa Beatles Convention’95(Pete Best, Casbah, Cavern)
Chapter 14: Ottawa Beatles Convention’96(L. Harrison, Lennon car)
Chapter 15: Long Lost Weekend (“Lady in Black” lyrics)
Chapter 16 Lady in Red (P. Best Gets His Due)
Chapter 17: Get Back (“Gotta Be Strong”, “Bleeding Heart” lyrics)
Chapter 18: Clean-up Time
Chapter 19: Lady in Red 2 (‘Annie Hall’, “Thought of You”)
Chapter 20: Lister in L.A. (“So You Want to be a Rock ’n’ Roll Star”)
Chapter 21: Time for a Change (G. Harrison passes)
Chapter 22: “Back in the U.S.S.R.”(Beatles Bring Down Communism!)
Chapter 23: Music Never Dies (“AL & THE G-MEN”, Still Rockin’)
Chapter 24: Long and Winding Road (McCartney Plays Ottawa, 2013)
Chapter 25: ‘THE STORY OF OTTAWA MUSIC’ (”Harvey Glatt” lyrics)

(This book published by Alan L. Chrisman © 2013; All Alan Chrisman lyrics © 2012, 2013; Cover
graphic by ‘G-Man’. To Order COMPLETE BOOK/CD (MSWord), Audio (narrated) DVD, e book
version c. 2014. Hear Songs to Accompany the Book, or contact Alan L. Chrisman:

A Musical Memoir

Alan Chrisman, grew up in the innocence of a small U.S. Midwestern town. But
that was soon to change with two world-shaking events, an unpopular war,
Vietnam and The Beatles. The 60’s were a tumultuous time and their music was a
large part of its soundtrack.

Propelled by both events, he moved to a cold but welcoming land and its capitol,
Ottawa, Canada, a place with similarities and differences from where he was
raised. There, inspired especially by The Beatles’ founder and co-writer, John
Lennon, he became involved in various aspects of music, setting up one of its first
used vinyl stores, ”IMAGINE”, organizing The Ottawa Beatles Conventions and
meeting many in their inner circle. Several of the chapters are named after
Beatles’ and Lennon’s songs and parallel his own experiences. Later, he would
also learn of an intriguing story how this revolutionary music even helped change
a repressive system half way around the world.

It was to be a Long and Winding Road with many curves and he describes some of
the characters he met along the way and their sometimes trying, but humorous
stories. He also writes about the joys and pains of relationships and how pop
music and culture affects our views of them and with some of his own song lyrics.
Ottawa, which one of its well-respected musicians called the “Liverpool of the
North” , had more direct connections to England and felt the British Invasion
earlier than the U.S. and he includes its 60’s and 70’s scene as well as his own
involvement with musicians for the next several years.
So come along for the journey and see how Beatles’ music influenced him and
millions of others and why it still resonates decades later.

This book is dedicated to my parents and my muses, musical and otherwise

It is early November, 1969. I’m at the Detroit bus station about to head to the Great North. I
am a wanted man by the U.S. government. And I’m about to leave the country, U.S.A., of my
How I, a still-naïve young man from a small Midwestern town, came to this point in my life is a
long, convoluted tale. I’m about to board a bus for Toronto, Canada. I’m a bit paranoid, afraid
that I could be arrested at any moment. So I board the bus anxiously. I happen to sit next to a
young man with short hair. We gradually talk and it becomes apparent that he is doing the
same thing I’m doing-trying to avoid the Vietnam War. We begin to talk and he reveals that, as
a U.S. Marine, he had been sent to Vietnam twice and they are threatening to send him again
(illegally). How these two very different people(he, a grade 8, relatively uneducated black man
from Georgia and me, a white, lower-middle class and recent college student from Illinois), are
basically doing the same thing and are now together on this bus is, as I said, a story. Of course,
the Vietnam War and the 1960’s were to change a lot of our lives.

But I had never thought it would come to this: having to leave my country and family, which I
felt I might never be able to visit again. I wasn’t political at all, really. I had attended Purdue
University in Indiana from 1964-65, having enrolled in pharmacy. It was a conservative, mainly
engineering school (the early astronauts were from there) and most everyone there, and most
of the country, had supported the war. Change had been happening for a while now in
California, but it hadn’t much reached where I was yet. But soon after that time, the war was
starting to go badly for the U.S- supported side, and it became more and more apparent that
the American people weren’t getting the whole story from their government. More and more
U.S. body bags were coming back, and even the media couldn’t ignore it.

By the next two years, my parents had moved back to Illinois, where I was born, from my
childhood home in Indiana and I had decided to switch to Political Science and History. I was
now attending the University of Illinois, which was quite a different place than Purdue. It was
much more liberal and the late-60’s effects were filtering down. It was 1968 now, President
Lyndon Johnson had resigned because of the war and there was a cultural divide. And into the
middle of all this I was thrown. 1968, was a watershed year: Martin Luther King and Bobby
Kennedy were assassinated; the Paris student movement; the L. A. Watts riots; and The Beatles
had released their pivotal Sgt. Pepper’s (’67) and now the White Album. So frankly, my school
studies seemed not very relevant anymore and also because of some personal relationship
reasons, I dropped out of school. We were supposed to have a student deferment for 4 years
and because I had been in science for two before and now I was in my third year in Political
Science and History (International Relations), I was thus available for the draft. And sure
enough in 1968, I got my notice. I had passed the physical, despite a heart murmur, and even
my Conscientious Objector status (you had to prove you were ‘religiously’ against killing people)
had been rejected by my small town draft board, still back in Indiana. There seemed to be few
options for me. I had decided I would not go (I was basically a pacifist). I had told my parents
such, but I don’t think they believed I would go through with it, and even I wondered
sometimes. But my only choice seemed to be 5 years in jail and a $10,000 fine.
I wasn’t as I say, overtly political. But I had some friends on the ‘left’ who recommended I go
see the only radical on campus. I went to see him and he suggested I could commit sabotage
(but I was a pacifist!). But when I asked for any other possibilities he mentioned going to
Canada, but didn’t recommend it. In passing though, he had given me the address to the
Toronto Anti-Draft Program. I wrote to them and received a copy, still never thinking I would
use it. But as I was soon to learn, this whole experience only got more scarily absurd as it went
on. I asked him how long it would take for the FBI to come after me and he said probably 6
months or so. But only a few weeks after I saw him, he was arrested on campus just for
publically burning his draft card.

I moved from my apartment and took odd jobs to try to save up for my big ‘trip’, as it seemed
the only other possibility now. I didn’t tell my parents where I was still living in that same
university town (as I thought they might be pressured to tell the authorities where I was). I
essentially lived underground, like an outlaw, trying to get up enough guts to leave. Just a few
weeks before I finally planned on actually doing it, I went to check the mail at my old address.
There was a note from my parents that an FBI agent had visited them and wanted to talk to me.
I felt totally defeated. I had waited too long and they would very soon find me. So I reluctantly
called the agent. He was surprisingly nice and said if I agreed to put myself up for the army,
they wouldn’t pursue charges. I saw no way out now. But that happened to be the one month
in history when President Nixon, under pressure, agreed for a moratorium on the draft. I
actually was supposed to appear at an introductory session at an army base in Indianapolis, but
I didn’t show up. And the whole process was started again. There was now to be a warrant for
my arrest. I was never officially in the army, so I was considered a “draft dodger” which was a
civil offence and not as serious as a military one, like the deserting charge my new friend I’d
met on the bus, now faced.

I had read in the Toronto Anti-Draft Program that they couldn’t stop me legally coming into
Canada as a visitor. Fortunately, this was before computers, as I was technically ‘wanted’.
The idea was to come into Canada legally for 30 days and find a job offer and re-apply at the
border to be a resident. But that meant I might also have to be smuggled back across the U.S.
border (which was dangerous to say the least). But I had no choice at this point. They also
advised not to bring much money so they wouldn’t think I was staying and to have a round trip
ticket. My new friend knew nothing of these things. I had planned it so I would cross the
border late at night, in hopes, they might not be as thorough. A few hours later, we arrived at
the Canadian border and Customs came on the bus. I’m sure they knew what my friend and I
were doing (we were draft age), but we passed. As the bus pulled away, we almost danced in
the aisles! We didn’t know what our future held, but for now we were free. And as my hero,
John Lennon, had sung on his recent song,”Come Together”: “One thing I can tell you is you
got to be free” (1). And that is the mantra that had sustained me these past several harrowing
months. Also right before I left, another Beatles’ event helped me to keep my sanity, during
this time, the “Paul Is Dead” rumor.
(1) “Come Together”, John Lennon, c. 1969 Northern Songs Ltd
Paul is Dead Rumor –by Alan Chrisman – November, 1969

In late 1969, a rumor went around the world that Paul McCartney was dead. There were supposed to be several
clues on various Beatles albums that gave evidence of this. And there have been two books in last couple of years
that published on this topic.
I have some inside knowledge of the whole affair because in September '69, I was living at the University of Illinois
which happened to be one of the earliest campuses where this rumor began to spread. And this is the way I
remember it happening: My younger brother, who also went to school there, had a friend who was related to a
fellow at the university in Michigan who supposedly had first discovered it. One night I was visiting my brother
when the friend told us of this theory. We didn't take it too seriously, but decided to test it by calling England late
one night (there was a phone number hidden on the cover of Magical Mystery Tour and the time to call was
located on the back of Sgt. Peppers’ album cover: "Wednesday morning at 5 a.m."). To our surprise, it actually
was a phone number in England, although it was busy. So we tried again for the next two weeks and kept getting
busy signals. This just wetted our appetite and soon we were looking for more clues. As we learned more about
this rumor, we began to find more and more evidence. We found many hints on Sgt. Pepper, Magical Mystery
Tour, The White Album, etc.
Actually, at first we thought the clues might have been about John (in keeping with his sometimes dark humor)
because, after all, he had sung I Am the Walrus. I had seen the North American premiere of the film Magical
Mystery Tour in 1968 and had failed to notice that the little girl on John's lap had said "No you're not," which is
stressed in the liner notes too. It was actually left-handed Paul dressed as the Walrus (something Lennon was to
confirm in the White Album's Glass Onion: "here's another clue for you all, the Walrus was Paul.") We played
backwards and slowed down such songs as Strawberry Fields Forever, which said "I buried Paul". We were just
Alan Chrisman is an American who, for political
reasons, decided to come to Canada in the fall of
1969. But before he came to this country, he was a
student living on the campus of the University of
Illinois. Alan wrote an article concerning the "Paul is
Dead Hoax" shortly after the first Ottawa Beatles
Convention and is presented here for the first time
on the internet at the Ottawa Beatles Site. Alan
Chrisman was the event organizer and producer for
the first and second Ottawa Beatles Conventions
held respectively in 1995 and 1996. He is also past
proprietor for several years of a vinyl shop entitled
"Get Back Records" that was located in the cozy
Westboro area of Ottawa.
- John Whelan, Ottawa Beatles Site, December 26,

getting into it deeply when The Beatles released their new album, Abbey Road, in early October. And who's on the
cover, but Paul barefooted as he was a year earlier on Magical Mystery Tour crossing the street with George in
denim (a grave digger), Ringo in black (undertaker), and John in white (minister or angel). The new single from
the album was, for the first time, to not include a McCartney song but John's Come Together (over me) and
George's Something. In fact, the whole second side could be interpreted as, perhaps, about the life of one
person: Here Comes the Sun King; The End is equal to the love you make. When we heard this we believed we
were really on to something. Supposedly it was Paul and he had been killed in a car crash ("he blew his mind out
in car" lyric from A Day In the Life) and had been replaced by an imposter. An article in our campus newspaper
was soon reaching to other campuses and before long we were holding regular meetings in a large lecture hall.
Now we had no idea then, just how far this would go around the world.
And for me, this happened at an especially significant time in my life. It came just as I was about to be drafted into
the American army for the Vietnam War. I had already decided that I wouldn't go and was trying to get enough
nerve to possibly come to Canada (as the only logical choice rather than going to jail). So in a strange way, (as
Beatles’ music and occurrences have somehow seemed to fatefully guided me throughout my life), this ‘Paul is
Dead’ thing allowed me to get my mind off the momentous decision I was about to make. At these meetings I was
involved in, more and more people attended and several people told things that had happened to them or their
friends. Some had supposedly gotten through the phone number and had to answer three questions and been
whisked away to a secret island, etc. (Yes, it was the 60's after all!). Now what did this mean? Was McCartney
really dead (one of the questions supposedly asked to the callers)? I won't go into all the clues and theories here,
but all I can say is that at that final meeting I attended (I had to leave to Canada soon after), the guy who had
supposedly started the whole thing showed up and said there were indeed clues and The Beatles were trying to
tell us something.
When I arrived in Ottawa in November '69, on the magazine stand were to my amazement -- several international
magazines( Look Magazine, with McCartney on the cover) and stories on the rumor that only a few of us had first
heard and with several clues listed (even a voiceprint in Time Magazine, which showed McCartney's voice was
different). So make of it what you will. Was Paul really dead? The Beatles were soon to break up with the other
three siding against Paul and some would argue that he was to later only make Silly Love Songs. Was it perhaps
just a joke by John saying, as he later wrote about Paul when he said: "Those freaks were right when they say
said you was dead, the sound you make is muzak to my ears". Or was he fed up with the Beatles as was
evidenced on The White Album and Let It Be and saying they were just falling apart. Why would The Beatles do
such a thing, just to sell albums, as some have accused? They certainly didn't have to. Was it just a product of the
times? At the very least, it shows the power that the Beatles had over us and still do. Or as the “founder" of the
theory hinted at that last meeting I attended, were The Beatles trying to get across something more important? We
may never really know. Intriguing anyway, over 25 years later. I have my own theories about what it all meant. As I
said in my last article about The White Album, very few people according to Lennon, have understood what that
was about (and I believe it's all tied together). You can search and listen for the "clues" yourself. Think about it.
They are still there for those smart enough to discern them.

TURN ME ON, DEAD MAN by Andru J. Reeve (a review).
After I had written my above article, I ordered and read over Christmas this excellent book that focuses mainly on
how the rumor got started and how it had spread in the media. I wanted to see if it had actually happened the way
I had remembered it all those years ago. I discovered first of all that I probably had been in on the early beginnings
of such. As the first radio station in Detroit was not to publicize it until October 12, 1969, and I had remembered
hearing of it in September almost a full month earlier just as it first surfaced. The author, in fact, interviewed
several of the key participants and did exhaustive research on its evolvement.
The book unfolds almost as a mystery as he tries to find its origins. And the development of the rumor becomes
almost as interesting as the rumor itself. I won't give away the contents of the book but before it was over, it led to
thousands of calls a day to Apple, the Beatles' record company, over 300 newspaper reports and coverage by all
the major networks. And such unlikely occurrences as special meetings between the starters and Beatles’ insiders
and the Beatles' new manager, Allan Klein; a TV courtroom trial with F. Lee Bailey (yes, of O.J. Simpson fame)
and even a call by Paul (or his double?) to the Detroit radio station. And most intriguing of all, a mysterious single
by a Detroit singer that first hinted of Paul's death (and owned by the Beatles' own publishing company, Maclen
Music !). Quite amazing for something that only a handful of college kids had first "discovered". So it's a
fascinating story and the phenomenon is still studied as an example of a spontaneous rumor and how the "clues"
remained remarkably consistent and spread so fast (this was before the internet!). So as I said above, believe
what you want. But almost 30 years later people are still fascinated with it and lecturers such as Joel Glazier, who
provides an afterward in the book, are still given on it at Beatles’ conventions and colleges. The author does list
many of the major clues and evaluates them systematically and some like the spoken ones in Revolution #9 and
I'm So Tired are hard to refute. And after reading the book and thinking about it all these years later, I don't think it
can all be dismissed as some might think. Do I think, as everyone asks, that Paul is Dead? After all we've seen in
the past few decades (and with the Kennedys’ deaths and John Lennon's assassination) anything is possible. But
yes, as I've always thought, there were some "clues" there. Who put them there, we may never know, but I
suspect they were put there for a purpose that few have still yet understood. It all fits in with my theory on what
The Beatles have been trying to tell us all along. Anyway, you can read the books and see for yourself. I would
recommend Reeve's book (published by Popular Culture, Ink) or for more on the clues try The Walrus was Paul by
Gary Patterson (published by Simon & Shuster).
From the Official Beatles fanzine, the Beatles Book Monthly, Feb., 1967:
Stories about the Beatles are always flying around Fleet Street. The seventh of January was very icy, with
dangerous conditions on the MI motorway, linking London with the Midlands, and towards the end of the day, a
rumor swept London that Paul McCartney had been killed in a car crash on the MI. But, of course, there was
absolutely no truth in it at all, as the Beatles' Press Officer found out when he telephoned Paul's St. John's Wood
home and was answered by Paul himself who had been home all day with his black Mini Cooper safely locked up
in the garage. No comment! See Ottawa Beatles Site : http://beatles.ncf.ca/alan_chrisman.html
My parents, L (Chris) and June, came from similar backgrounds. He was from a small farming
town in Illinois and she was from a small farming town in Indiana. But they met in Washington,
D.C. during W.W. 2, he was in the army and she was working there. At the end of the war, they
settled in a place on the edge of Chicago called Harvey. My older brother, Gerry, had been
born and I arrived about a year and a half later in 1946. I was named Alan Lamonte. My
parents seemed to have had this habit of naming their kids after movie stars.
I was named after Alan Ladd, a 40’s film noir star, and my middle name was after Lamonte
Cranston, who was “The Shadow” on the radio. Gerry had been named after actor Gary
Cooper. But for some reason my mother had spelled his name in a way that most people would
pronounce “Jerry”, something that would confuse people long afterward. My sister, Kaye
Laraine, named after actress Laraine Day, was born a couple years after me. And the youngest,
Richard, broke the mode and I don’t think he was named after a star.

But as I was entering the first grade, my parents decided to move back to the small town of
Arlington, Indiana where my mother had grown up. My grandfather, Carson (my Grandma
called him “Fuzzy), who like my father’s dad had been a farmer in the 30’s, was now a
carpenter(I remember his skin looking ‘bronzed’ from working outside) and he had offered to
help them build a house there. Arlington was a very small village of only a few hundred in the
center of the state. The whole high school only had about 90 kids plus the grade school, all in
one brick building; the same one my mother had attended. My class was only 21 students (15
boys, 6 girls). My lasting memory of that first grade is the time, I wet my pants and having to
wait embarrassed in the cloakroom, while my underpants dried on the radiator (something my
classmates never seemed to forget, years later either). Almost all were the children of farmers.
But we lived again just at the edge of town, up the ‘hill’. The school was about a 20 minute
walk over open fields. Some of the townspeople were relatives and even some of my teachers.
This was the mid-fifties and pretty innocent, almost like something out of “Happy Days “TV.
There were no blacks or minorities. The whole school seemed to center around basketball. In
this ‘idyllic’ environment I grew up. But my family didn’t really fit in. My dad was now driving
to Indianapolis about an hour away to work at a car factory and my mother got a job in an
office there. My mother was determined that her kids would have a chance to go to college,
something as the girl in her family, she hadn’t been allowed to do. It was instilled in us at an
early age that was what we were to do. I don’t remember it being directly spoken of; it was just
assumed that we would and, unusual for that place, academics became our goal. But
basketball was King. There were only four in my class, all male, who were thought to be college
material. The girls, if lucky, hoped to get married to a well-off farmer’s son (or got pregnant
and quit school). Most of the youth would become farmers like their parents.
There was a 50’s diner, like out of Fonzie’s time, called “Jointers”, where everybody would
congregate after the basketball games and dance to the jukebox, doing the latest craze like The
Twist. One of the running jokes there was the coach would treat the new team members to a
‘pine’ float; a regular float being root beer and ice cream. The unsuspecting freshmen on the
team would order it and it turned out to be a toothpick floating in a glass of water and then
everyone would laugh. In the summers there wasn’t much to do, besides mowing yards for
cash, so we had to create our own entertainment. We played basketball on the school outside
lighted night court, where some even well-known college stars would play just for fun.
Sometimes their girlfriends would come along too and I got to play tennis with them.
But there was some outside darkness too, for it was the Cold War with the Russians and the
Cuban Missile Crisis when Kennedy and Khrushchev almost went to war in ’62. We were told to
hide under our desks, in case of a nuclear attack. But this idyllic, isolated bubble was about to
burst even more. It was Nov. 22, 1963 and over the schoolroom’s loud speaker came the
announcement that President John F. Kennedy had been assassinated. The TV was on the
whole weekend with the funeral and it was like a black shroud had been put on us all. Camelot
was over. And the only thing that pulled us out of it was the next big world event- THE
BEATLES! They appeared on the Ed Sullivan show the next Feb.’64. Actually, I didn’t get that
much into them right at that time (being suspicious of fads, as I still am). My cousin, David,
down the street had tickets for them in Indianapolis, but I turned down the offer as I didn’t like
all the mindless screaming. But that was soon to change as I went away to university the
following year. And they were to have a lasting influence on me and millions of others.

“TRIP BACK “ lyrics by Alan Chrisman (country song)

Took trip back in time
to where I was born
A patchwork land
green fields of corn

Hot summer days
dusty country roads
small town ways
childhood memories getting old

Hometown roots
warm family stories
generations before, some to come
past failures and

romantic dreams
expanding minds
escape plans and

Time, we can't go back
but never gets totally away
fades white to black
but follows us every day

Now long way away
but the man still the same
Past leads the way
the boy inside the name

c. 2012

"Thank God For The Beatles" Lyrics by Alan Chrisman (Beatlely Rocker) c. 2012
Growing up in the 60's
It was all Top 40
Straight middle-aged pop
And watered-down folk

Then They were on the Sullivan show
Shaking their long hair
There was nothing like it
Since Elvis had been there

Dylan went electric Thank God for The Beatles
Despite the purists' boo And that back back back beat
But he knew full well We all wanted to rock rock rock
what he must do And to dance dance dance in the street

It was never the same
We could not sit still
We had to get up
and join in the thrill

It still stands up
even till this day
and makes us want
to still get up and play
repeat last verse
Dance dance dance-2 times
She loves you, Yeah Yeah Yeah-3 times
Dance dance dance-2 times
I started at Purdue University in Indiana and it was quite a shock. Suddenly there were 20,000
people from all over (a far cry from my small town and school). As I said, it had come fairly
easily academically before. I had graduated 2
in my class and received a small scholarship, so
I could afford to go to the state-supported school. But now I was competing with lots of smart
students and they were much more sophisticated than me. I enrolled in pharmacy; I’m not sure
why, because I had no real idea what I wanted to be. I was no good at chemistry. One time
they had to evacuate the whole lab because I had mistakenly made poison bromine gas. Also I
hated organic chemistry. We had a final test that counted 50% of our grade and almost all the
class failed it, but they couldn’t, not pass, that many people because the state needed more
pharmacists. Somehow I got accepted into the School of Pharmacy the second year, but I
wasn’t happy.
But my cultural education was now starting to happen, through pop music especially. I had
always liked records and had collected them since I was a kid. Probably my first music was
country which my parents liked, like Johnny Cash, Patsy Cline, then Elvis and Buddy Holly in the
50’s. In the early 60’s it just seemed to be watered-down folk music, and later Bob Dylan and
Joan Baez. But unlike my later political friends, I never really cared that much for them. I had
briefly taken drum lessons for the school band. They had given me a test which said I had
natural rhythm; I didn’t keep it up, but I always loved music. But I had changed and so had pop
music. Dylan had influenced The Beatles and they him, and in 1965 they released Rubber Soul,
different than their early teen-aged “Yeah Yeah” songs. These were more mature and a
combination of folk, rock and other influences. Now I realized just how good they were. And it
was John Lennon, especially, whom I identified with from the very beginning, both for his
brashness and softness too, such as on these new songs as “Girl” (“Did she understand it when
they said that a man must break his back to earn his day of leisure?”) “Ah Girl! Girl! Girl!” as
the other Beatles sang, “Tit Tit Tit” in the background) (1). And on top 40 radio-WOW!!! I
became a life-long fan from then on. 1. “Girl”, John Lennon, c. Northern Songs Ltd, 1965
My dad had gotten an offer to help set up a new plant back in Illinois for Chrysler Corp. he
worked for, so my parents moved to a town of 13,000 called Belvidere, northwest of Chicago,
near the city of Rockford (where the band, Cheap Trick, was discovered in a bowling alley).
And one day in 1967, when I was away at the University of Illinois in the central part of the
state where I had transferred, somebody told me at school that my new town had been hit by a
tornado. I called home and the phone rang, so I didn’t worry. My sister was watching the
house while my parents were on vacation in Florida. But later that night, my dad’s supervisor’s
daughter called and said my house had been hit, but that my family was alright. My sister had
heard it coming and had just made it down the stairs at our neighbors when their roof blew off.
And our house was destroyed. But we were lucky because several people in the town had been
killed, including some kids whom were just boarding the buses when it arrived. Also
fortunately, my younger brother, Richard, was a bit late leaving school or he might have been
walking home. My parents were just returning that afternoon, and as they drove into our
neighborhood, they saw all the destruction. But you never think it will actually be your house.
They arrived just in time to save some of their personal possessions as it was then beginning to
rain and hail. We had often had scares in Illinois and even Indiana, as we were in the tornado
zone from Kansas to the Great Lakes. But as I say, we were very lucky and the insurance
covered most of the damage. My parents stayed a couple months in a motel, while the house
was rebuilt.
The next few summers I returned to Belvidere to work and save money for the next year’s
college. One summer I worked at the Green Giant Canning factory in town, the 12- hour
nightshift (at, believe it or not, $1.26/hr.!). They hired college kids for cheap labor and when
the kids went back to school in September, they hired Mexican workers and sometimes even
wino’s from Chicago. They processed and canned peas and corn. My job consisted of pushing
the corn cobs, if they got stuck, through sharp blades that cut the corn. College girls were
hired to handle the corn machines and actually got paid an extra penny for every insect (and
there were lots) they found in the corn. And to push it through with my finger, I had to wear on
it, what looked like a rubber condom. The girls got a kick out of that.
Another job I had there was to un-jam the corn at the end of the conveyer belt with a stick. But
one night I saw the whole place was shut down, so I knew something was up. Well, the guy
who did my job on the day shift had used only his hand instead to move the jam and had lost
his hand. I’d seen a jar with a finger in formaldehyde when I’d started (so I guess that was their
idea of a safety warning!). Remember that, when you buy Green Giant.
Now back at the University of Illinois, I was required to take a foreign language so I took French
as I had had it 2 years in high school (taught by my great aunt and had gotten A’s). But this was
college French and language and typing had never been my best. I was now in my third year of
college (two at Purdue and one at Illinois). The only thing that kept me going to French class
was I noticed a pretty young girl there. I finally got up enough nerve to ask her out and she
accepted, but for some reason it didn’t work out. I arrogantly found her to be too young and
immature; she was a first year student and I was, as I said, a third. Her name was Diane, but
our paths were to cross in the future again.
When I had transferred to Illinois, it had been late, and almost all the students were forced the
first few years to live in student dorms. But there were no spaces left so they let me live in a
private house. The only place my parents and I found was a house called “The Executive Arms”,
owned by a missionary. It looked fine and he offered me a discount rent in exchange for being
the janitor. But I learned later it was anything but what the name implied. For while the
missionary was away in Africa saving lives, his rooming house turned into (now the mid-late
60’s) a place of sometimes drugs and prostitutes even. But I kept to myself. There was a black
guy living there who always seemed to be studying (most of us didn’t do any more than we had
to). One day I asked him why. He replied, “I have 200 years of lies to relearn”.
The following year I had to take a French final at an auditorium with lots of other French
classes. I was dreading it. I could read it somewhat but still wasn’t very good at saying it or
hearing it. And sure enough, with the blaring, unclear speakers for the test, I knew I must have
failed the final. I came out of the building very depressed. But whom do I see but that girl,
Diane, whom I hadn’t seen since that early French class together a year earlier and our bad
date. Surprisingly, she was actually quite friendly. And for some reason (I figured what had I to
lose after the day I’d had?), I blurted out and asked her if she’d like to go see this film people
were talking about, The Graduate. The Beatles had also released their classic “Sgt. Peppers’
and it was 1967, the “Summer of Love”. To my astonishment she said, “Yes”. It was a great
film, and all about a young man’s love for a girl, against their parents’ wishes and the
Establishment. We both loved it and she came back to my room after and we got along great.
We had both matured and she had gotten even more beautiful, my ideal-petite, dark haired.
But she had since moved to a sorority. If you were a woman who lived in a regular dorm
residence, you had to be in at night in by 11 p.m. And that particular sorority, Phi Mu, where
she lived, was the most prestigious one on campus and only the most beautiful girls were asked
to join and she certainly was now. But she was now dating a fraternity member, as sororities
looked down on having their girls trying to date anyone not in a fraternity (like me). So once
again, class raised its ugly head. And worse than all that, the guy she was dating had been to
Vietnam and supported the war! I was becoming increasingly against the war, and with that
French final and my probable failure from school, my life was soon about to change and I would
soon face the draft. But Diane and I pledged to remain close. It turned out she was living just a
few blocks from me and I had to pass her house every day right on my way to classes; my heart
ached. But I continued to see her as I carried on my battle with the draft. And when I knew I
would be leaving for ’somewhere’ before long, I asked her if there was anything special I could
give her. She had especially liked a certain antique chair my roommate had left me and so I
carried it over to her house in the snow and said goodbye for the last time. Finally, when the
FBI was likely to catch up with me again in late ’69, I decided I had to make a decision and go. I
sold off my few possessions, packed a bag with a couple of my Beatles’ albums (like the recently
released Abbey Road and my favorite record, by anybody of all time, the White Album) and
boarded a bus for Canada. I didn’t tell anyone including my parents where I was going (except
my brother, Richard, who was also attending the U. of Illinois). I carried my dreams of Diane
with me. And I was off to an unknown fate.

“WOMAN THE MUSE” Lyrics by Alan Chrisman c. 2012

If you’d lived in ancient times
Men would have come from a distant land
You’d have occupied their minds
Just to fight for your hand

Like a Goddess from above
I’d have brought you all the gifts of gold
Worshiped you as the Queen of Love
Just to see your face, ‘fore I got old

And if you’d come from a star
All the way from outer space
I’d have traveled from afar
Just to visit your alien place

You’re Woman, the Muse, throughout time
Artists have made their art
And poets written their rhyme
Just to try and capture your heart

Even in jeans and cowboy boots
With only an innocent but sensual smile
And still your small-town roots
You can still drive, all men wild

My new friend and I arrived in Toronto. I only had an address for the Toronto Anti-Draft
Program on Yonge St. But it was now a year or two since they had sent it to me, and when we
got there, it was empty. We didn’t know anyone and we didn’t have much money or a place to
stay. But I called the phone operator and she managed to find the new address. We arrived
there and they asked several questions and advised us to go on to Ottawa, the capitol of
Canada. They said Canadian Immigration would be based on points for having a job offer,
education, and skills. I almost had a college degree, but my friend would have more
difficulties, with his low education. Also they said there was more discrimination against blacks
in Toronto than Ottawa, because the few blacks at that time in Ottawa were connected with
embassies. We knew nothing about Ottawa or even Toronto for that matter, but they seemed
to know what they were doing. They arranged for us to get a lift with a deserter’s wife going to
Ottawa the next morning. It was almost like the Underground Railroad during the Civil War
slavery days. Over 100,000 draft-age Americans would come to Canada.

They said it could take several months to be accepted. But fortunately, there was a
sympathetic immigration officer in Hull, Quebec across the river from Ottawa. We had to find a
Quebec address to apply from and I and another guy found a big rooming house on Eddy St. run
by a French couple. It could hold several men and soon it became a sort of half-way house for
deserters and dodgers. But there were a lot of tensions with all these guys just waiting around
to hopefully be accepted. We had no money and I lived on, besides food tickets, basically
Habitant pea soup. But I had it lucky, compared to my bus friend, because as I said, I was being
fast tracked. Unfortunately, in all this moving around, I lost touch with him, and I heard later
that he had given up and had returned to the States. I had noticed that, even in those few first
weeks in Ottawa, he was so paranoid that if he saw an Ottawa police car, he would run.

But finally, in mid- January, 1970, my Canadian residency was accepted (luckily they had
changed the rules and we could apply from within Canada, and not have to be smuggled across
the border, as I had first feared). Now I had to find a steady job and find a better place to live.
On one of my temporary jobs I had met a French-Canadian guy named Pierre, working as a
janitor like me, and we became friends. We were opposites really. He was working class and I
wasn’t, but after work we would go to his mother’s house and play chess. He seemed more
British than French, and as I would learn later; he always had another identity (he called
himself, Peter), than what he appeared. But we got along and we found a small apartment, in
exchange for being the janitors there.

We moved in on April 1 in Sandy Hill, a student area near the University of Ottawa. The night
we moved in, Ottawa had one of its late, big snow storms and we had to get up and shovel the
parking lot for the tenants early the next morning. The place was tiny; one small bedroom and
an ever smaller front room. We soon learned that the Polish landlord was so cheap that he
barely heated the place. In fact, the only warm air vent for the whole apartment was right
above my face where I slept, so you would get this blast for only a few seconds, once in the
morning and once at night. He certainly got his money’s worth out of us.
One Saturday morning, I’m finally able to sleep in and I hear his voice calling me, ”Mr.
Khisman” “Mr.Khisman”. I couldn’t see where it was coming from when I realized he was above
me in the air duct above my bed, wanting something! Peter worked very early at a sock factory
and every morning he’d turned on the radio to listen to a fundamentalist host say “the end is
near”. While I would go to a temporary hiring place to hopefully get a manual labor job that
day. Often there were none and I’d collect bottles for cash and then visit the library to check
the want ads. At one point we even put up some more Americans, as many as four living in that
tiny basement apartment. Each would move off sleeping on the floor to the only two single
beds as someone would leave for work. One was a character from Las Vegas, Bruce. He
reminded me of Jack Nicholson in, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, always with a cigarette
and pacing back and forth. He never had a job but the girls seemed to like him and he’d get
invited to embassy parties even. One day, Bruce comes back to our place with a steak, eating
at our table, while we’ve only got baloney sandwiches. The final straw for Peter was when
Bruce actually used Peter’s toothbrush (and Peter couldn’t stand smokers as it was). As I said,
Peter always had a front. He’d try to pick up Ottawa University girls and bring them back to our
place. He wore a fake Carleton University jacket with ”Engineering“on the back, whereas he’d
dropped out of high school. One girl, who he brought back, asked me if he really was a student.
Peter still combed his hair back like he was in the 1950’s. He had a bookshelf with all the
classics in pseudo-fancy bindings (Readers Digest versions), but he had never actually read any
of them. Peter was always about atmosphere. We could be in the middle of a slum and Peter
would set up a tablecloth and tea.

Peter somehow convinced a 2
hand bookstore owner to let him manage a store on Elgin St.
But Peter had to call me in to help run it. We had this idea of changing it into an astrology
store. We even had plans to set up an occult coffeehouse in the back (we were going to have
people come up from the bathroom in the basement, through an open coffin). But one night a
cute girl walked in and she and I seemed to click. The next time she came by, I walked her home
to the ”Y”, where she was staying, just a couple blocks from the store. She would often drop
by, and one night I had a dream she was in trouble, so I called her and told her. But I think it
made her realize just how much I cared for her. She said she had to go visit her mother in
Montreal, as it was a holiday. She had told me she had worn a uniform in high school so I
assumed she was French Catholic. But it turned out she was Jewish and she wondered if I
might be anti-Semitic. But as I said before, where I had grown-up, there weren’t any minorities
at all, so I didn’t even know enough about Jews to know what it was to be anti-Semitic.
Gradually she began to trust me and soon we went to visit her mother in Montreal. Her mother
and I got along very well (as I always seemed to do with my relationships’ mothers). We began
to spend more and more time together. I had finally met my first real girlfriend, Jackie, since I
had been forced to leave my university heartthrob behind. And she reminded me of her too.

There are actually several connections with The Beatles and Canada: John and
Yoko held their “Bed Piece” event at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel in Montreal May 26-June 2,
1969 where they recorded live their anthem “Give Peace a Chance”. But a lot of people don’t
know John and Yoko, and her daughter, Kyoko also came to Ottawa briefly for a Peace
Conference at Ottawa U. at that same time. I discovered there were photos of that visit in the
Quebec archives which I displayed at my 2
Ottawa Beatles Convention in ’96. In fact, they
stayed at the Chaplaincy on Laurier Ave. (where my friend, Peter, and I used to play chess at the
Wasteland Coffeehouse). And of course, they famously met with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
on Dec.23, 1969. Years later, Trudeau’s personal assistant, Tim Porteous, the only other person
attending that meeting, came into my store and described it and them to me. Lennon also
played at the” Live Peace in Toronto” Concert Sept 13, ’69 (the first time he’d played live in
North America since Beatles’ tours in ‘64 & ’65). Also not many people know that George
Harrison visited Ottawa secretly in Feburary,’69. He was here to check out Eric Anderson, a
N.Y. folksinger, for the Beatles’ own new record label, Apple, and heard him at Ottawa’s Le
Hibou Coffeehouse. And could it even have been that the world famous term, “BEATLEMANIA”
may have been coined by an Ottawa writer? For Sandy Gardiner, of the Ottawa Journal, had
seen them in Scotland early on in ’63 and wrote “a new disease is sweeping through Britain-
it’s BEATLEMANIA!” And this quote is credited to him on the 1
Beatles album released in
North America and with that same title. Sandy Gardiner also managed several successful
Ottawa 60’s bands like The Staccato’s The Esquires and the Townsmen. I saw George Harrison
perform in Montreal in ’74 (and he played “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” better than Eric
Clapton on the White Album) and Paul McCartney in Montreal in ’89.

I had just arrived in Ottawa the month before John and Yoko met with Trudeau. But I was
pretty preoccupied, just trying to survive. I actually wasn’t a big fan of Canada’s “hippie” P.M.
For in 1970, during the “October Crises”, Trudeau had declared martial law because a small
group of radicals called the FLQ had kidnapped a British envoy and a Quebec cabinet minister.
Canadians supported it (they told me it would keep the ‘frogs’ (French-Quebecers) in place. But
I was horrified; I had just fled my country where if Nixon had tried that, there would have been
massive demonstrations. But Trudeau and the Chicago Daly-like, Montreal mayor Drapeau
used it to their advantage to stifle their own political opponents. It backfired and within 6 years,
the Separatist PQ would be elected the Quebec government under the charismatic Rene
Levesque. That rooming house where I had lived before in Hull had actually been right above
the then outlawed P.Q. office there. But in Canada, it’s still “Two Solitudes” to this day. Pierre
Berton, Canadian writer and historian, said that the difference was that Americans would round
up a posse and apply rough ‘justice’, whereas Canadians just had the RCMP do the dirty work,
and liked big government to run their lives.
The Beatles had broken up in 1970, and the 60’s had ended. A lot of fans lamented it. But if you
watch the making of the film, Let it Be, you can see the tensions (and it wasn’t Yoko who did it)
as well as some great songs still. John released his masterpiece, POB with “Working Class Hero”
and “God” (“the dream is over”). George surprised everyone with his spiritual All Things Must
Pass record. McCartney had his first solo LP with one of his best songs, “Maybe I’m Amazed”,
and Ringo, an album of standards for his mom and also the excellent country album, Beaucoups
of Blues. For as Ringo said, ”Now there are four Beatles’ albums”. The 60’, as I said, had come
to a close but it was to influence us all for decades to come. But after Woodstock the excesses
(drugs, money, ego’s, etc.) had finally caught up; the superficial parts, like fashion, carrying
on. The hippies, who had been mainly white middle-class, found it wasn’t so easy to go back to
the land. Lennon had taken criticism from the left during calls for violent revolution, for
advocating pacifist ways. He said we should “free our minds instead” in his song,
But there was still hope. Lennon released his signature song” Imagine” and album in 1971.
And that was the beautiful summer I met Jackie. I think I understood what he might have felt;
he had been hanging around with the ‘guys’ since he was a teenager and it was time to move
on and with a woman. My own friend, Peter, wasn’t too happy about it, but it’s what I had
been waiting for. It had been both fun and crazy.
So Jackie and I moved into together. My parents came up to see me for the first time and met
her. I still wasn’t allowed back in the States and might never be. I had found a job cleaning but
was laid off at Christmas. Jackie was working as an assistant manager at Classics Books at the
Arts Centre. We had just moved to a new apartment. On the bus one day in our neighborhood,
I noticed a small used bookstore and decided to ask them for a job, but they said they were
closing soon. But for some reason, I turned and asked them if they’d be willing to sell it.
I was unemployed and had no money, but they said maybe. I told Jackie and she said go for it
(she believed in me!). They decided to move and not sell. But I approached the landlord and
he agreed to rent it to me for only $215/month. I noticed there were two small rooms in the
back that we might be able to live in too. But I had to convince a recent friend, Gary Moffat, to
move in too, to help cover the cost. I managed to find a guy who was closing one of his three
stores on Bank St. and he sold me 1000 books at 10c ea. We had to move them in a snowstorm
and we had no money left for the shelving.
The area was later to become Chinatown, but at that time there was only one Chinese
restaurant there and they gave me some wooden shipping boxes and we stacked them up to
put the books in (everything smelled like Chinese food). I had had to sell my record player to
raise money, so I came up with this idea to put some of my old records in the window to see if
anybody would buy and sell them secondhand too. That was Feb. 1972 and it was one of the
first used record stores in Ottawa. We called the store “IMAGINE” after Lennon and our
dreams and hopes. It was then an Italian immigrant neighborhood on Somerset W. near Booth
St. And very poor; the laundromat actually had a sign “NO running on top of machines!” We
became involved in the community. We would borrow a projector and films from the library
and show them to the neighborhood kids. Some people thought we showed porn films because
there was only a blanket separating the store and where we lived. And how else could have
survived in that neighborhood, they thought?
I eventually bought a record player from the guy upstairs who was up on charges of
manslaughter. I also took a part-time job cleaning popcorn off the floor at movie theatres. But
people seemed to like the idea of used records. I started out with only 25, but traded 2 for 1,
and soon had more. In the mist of all this, we started a little community newspaper called
“SHOESTRING PRESS”. One day in 1972, a hockey player came in and wanted Beatles 45’s; he
was going to play in the later famous CANADA-RUSSIA hockey game in Moscow and he said you
could get anything in Russia with Beatles’ records and panty hose. Another time, a cousin of
John Lennon’s from Montreal, who must have recognized the store name, and was on her way
to Liverpool to see the original Cavern before they tore it down, came in. So we got all kinds.
In 1979, Gary and I heard of a great location right downtown near Sparks St, a block from
Parliament Hill with all the politicians and tourists; a deal of a lifetime really. But there was a
real fly in the ointment. Jackie had decided to leave me. I knew that we had been having
problems. It had always been hard financially and there had been pressures from her family.
Her mother had always liked me but her older brother had returned from Germany and I wasn’t
Jewish. Jackie had recently joined a religious group and was on a macrobiotic diet. I was still
running the store, newspaper, and doing cleaning jobs. We were trying to still save the world.
It all just caught up with us. But I thought, finally with this great new location, we could finally
make it and I had already signed the lease. I just hoped, if I made it a success and this was the
best location I’d ever had, she might come back.
This religious group, I began to realize, was really more like a cult. Years later, my old friend,
Peter, also revealed to me, that around that time, his wife had run into Jackie at a doctor’s
office and she said she was pregnant. Maybe she had an abortion with my child, I don’t know.
She just disappeared. Looking back now, I think maybe she had had a breakdown, but I didn’t
know enough about relationships then to prevent it. But I always knew I’d sometime run into
her again. I was devastated and it’s one of the saddest things that ever happened to me. And
like having to leave my heartthrob before I came to Canada, it took its toll. I blamed myself.

Gary and I moved into our new location. Gary set up his science fiction and comics store and I
had my records. As I said, Gary was a character too; he’d been in the ‘ban the bomb’ marches
in the early 60’s, but he was really a big kid at heart. He loved opera but hated rock n’ roll,
which I mainly sold, but we got along well. One day, these bikers showed up at the store. They
looked like they could rob the place. It was a Saturday, so Gary was watching cartoons. And
before I knew it, the bikers were on the floor with him watching too! Gary and I had also
expanded our little neighborhood ”Shoestring Press” into a bigger across-the-city alternative
arts and community newspaper, “SPECTRUM”, with grants from the City and ads.

Despite the store and newspaper doing okay, I missed Jackie and I wasn’t happy and I needed a
change. So I decided all at once to just get away-anywhere. I brought in some of my old records
from home to try and sell off. Among them was an unknown band from Boston called,
Stainless Soul. Later that afternoon, a guy comes in and I asked him if he wanted to hear
anything, and to my amazement, he requests this unknown band. I asked him why (that same
unknown band which I had just brought in that very day) and he says he’s playing the keyboards
on it, which was the part I liked. I asked him what he’s doing in town and he says he‘s playing
that night with THE BEACH BOYS. He was from California and had played in all kinds of famous
bands like Joe Cocker, etc. He bought the record and then offers to leave two tickets for me at
the box office. So I called this French girl, Marie I knew, whom I hadn’t talked to in while (but I
knew loved The Beach Boys) and she said yes. And sure enough, there were two third-row
tickets for us. It was actually the first time Brian Wilson had toured with the Beach Boys in
years. We had an extra room in the back of the store, and had rented it to a theatre group.
And one day that same week I had planned to leave, I heard this female singer rehearsing there
for the John Gray country musical, 18 Wheels . I thought it was a record, her voice was so good.
Her name was Diane Gentes and her voice haunted me. I would meet her again too.

I sold off all my personal possessions, except for my Beatles’ Collection, which I stored at the
store. I told a guy who sometimes would watch the store, that I needed to get away and I
didn’t know how long I’d be gone, but I’d be back. I was in such an emotional state, I didn’t
even sign a contract with him. The next morning I decided to take whatever train was available;
the Montreal one had gone and I’d already moved out of my apartment. They said there was
one soon for Calgary, where I didn’t want to go to, but they said I could catch a train to
Vancouver from there. I knew Jackie’s younger brother was in Vancouver so maybe he’d know
where she was. I boarded the train with just a backpack, 10 years since I’d first arrived in
Ottawa, and my life, I felt, was a mess.

I walked down the train aisle, and whom do I see, but a woman who had worked on my
newspaper. She had no idea I was leaving, nor did I her. She told me later, her father had
recently died and she was doing the same thing I was- trying to run away from her pain. I’d
always liked her; an aspiring writer and poet, in fact, we had the same birth date. She was
going to Vancouver too. Now at least I had a travelling companion, and we got along great on
the trip. When we arrived in Vancouver we stayed the first night at a hostel, and I remember
thinking, maybe I could start over here. She was supposed to stay at a house out there, but we
decided to look for a place to share. We saw an empty place the first day but It was more like a
store. We even talked about setting up a store together; she’d run the bookstore and I the
records. I figured I could ship some records from my store back in Ottawa, but keep both
places. Soon we found a small apartment; I gave her the bedroom and I slept on the pull-out
couch. Then we found a job so we could save up to open a store.

We got this job together putting flyers around door to door. We’d show up early every morning
in the dark and hope we’d get picked that day by the van drivers. My lady friend was pretty, so
that helped. We got $25 per day cash each. Most of the crews were Sikh’s and Native people.
I found out later that we were one of the few who didn’t get welfare on the side. We lived on
egg salad sandwiches and carrot sticks. One guy never spent money on lunches; he wore a rag
around his waist but he’d save his money and go on safari’s in Africa. So all kinds of strange
people, but by the two of us sticking together, we could be safe. It would rain all day in the
winter and it was dark again by the time we got home. But we had someone to share it with.
One day, I heard one of the guys in the truck point as we went by a gray building; he said that
was his old home (I thought he meant his old school), but it was the prison! We watched our
back that day, because we’d be out in the middle of nowhere, by ourselves.. And you had to be
careful the dogs didn’t bite you. I really didn’t like Vancouver though; almost everyone I met
was from back East and trying to flee something too. It was like California, with the lemmings
heading towards the sea. Like something out of Grapes of Wrath One day, I was just thinking
nobody knows me here and I can reinvent myself, when a guy yells out my old store’s name.
And there was the same guy who would try to bum money off me back in Ottawa.

But there were also building tensions between the girl and I. We were living in the same
apartment, but platonically. I liked her, but didn’t want to endanger our friendship. Everybody
assumed we were a couple. But I was getting frustrated. I’d always been attracted to her, but I
wasn’t sure how she felt. And it led to little fights. I think she’d had a crush on a musician in
my coffeehouse; another reason she’d fled. On Thanksgiving weekend, by coincidence, that
store we had first seen on arrival was available; all we had saved for. But I broke down and
cried. John and Yoko had just released their first album Double Fantasy in 5 years, since he’d
dropped out of the music business. Their single “Starting Over” was moving up the charts. And
I was hopeful of starting over. Maybe even with Jackie still. Lennon and Yoko had plans to
tour again, maybe come to Canada and Montreal, where I figured she might be. I hadn’t found
her in Vancouver. So when I announced to my lady friend, my plans to return, she was rightly
hurt. And it led to our biggest fight yet on that fateful night: Dec. 8, 1980.



On that very night of December 8, 1980, we had a fight and she moved out of our apartment.
The next morning I still had to go to work with her. I noticed they were playing lots of Beatles’
music on the radio in our truck that morning. I didn’t know why. Someone said, ”Didn’t you
hear John Lennon was killed last night?” I hadn’t heard because my lady friend and I had split
exactly around that time (11p.m). I was just in shock; it felt so personal. Lennon had guided me
since I was young. He’d been largely the reason I’d refused to go in the army; had come to
Canada; set up my “IMAGINE” store etc. I, as I said, took it very personally; I didn’t really realize
fully just how many around the world would too, even with all the outpourings of emotion

I just wanted to be alone in the truck, but they left the radio on. My lovely lady friend came
back to the truck to console me. She knew how much Lennon meant to me. She asked if they
knew who did it. I said it didn’t matter. But just then, the radio said the killer’s name. And it
was her name too! She turned white as a sheet. A month before I had read an interview in
Playboy magazine with John Lennon and upon putting it down, had strangely told her, ” Lennon
has told me everything he can”. He had said then, ”There’s nothing to be scared of, It’s all an
illusion”. Everybody of my generation remembers for their whole lives, two tragic dates and
events: John Kennedy’s assassination and John Lennon’s, for they defined our hopes and our
own mortality too.

For at the end of that Playboy interview, ironically, John Lennon had said it all:

”Well, you make your own dream. That’s the Beatles’ story, isn’t it. Don’t expect John
Lennon or Yoko Ono or Bob Dylan or Jesus Christ to come and do it for you. They can leave
signposts and little instructions in various books that are now called holy and worshipped for
the cover of the book and not for what it says. People can’t provide it for you. You can wake
you up. I can’t cure you. You can cure you. It’s our fear of the unknown. The unknown is
what it is. And to be frightened of it is what sends everybody scurrying around chasing
dreams, illusions, wars, peace, love, hate, and all that-it’s all an illusion. Accept that it’s
unknown and it’s plain sailing. Everything is unknown-then you’re ahead of the game. That’s
what it is, right?”

(1) John Lennon and Yoko Ono interview, c. Playboy Magazine, Jan. 1981.

John Lennon ‘Strawberry Fields’ Memorial: The Dakota, Alan NYC visit, ‘94

But it was time for me to go back and face my own dream.

Friends had been writing me that the guy I had trusted with my store in Ottawa was ruining it. I
had some money saved and still hoped to find Jackie. So I headed back to Ottawa to try and
pick up the pieces. When I left I asked my lady friend if there was anything I could give her. She
asked for Lennon’s POB album, my favorite. I took the train back to Montreal hoping Jackie was
perhaps there. I spent the weekend there walking the streets in the rain, not knowing how to
approach her family. Her brother, who didn’t like me, lived upstairs in the same house.

Finally, I realized I had only one choice, to return to Ottawa and try and salvage my store. For I
had learned you can’t run away from yourself. I discovered they had moved my store across
the street when the Rideau Centre was built while I was away. As I walked, unannounced, in
my store, the guy who was supposed to keep an eye on it ran out, never to be seen again. I
soon found out why. He had destroyed most of my business. Even my own private Beatles’
Collection; he had sold it off at high prices after Lennon’s death. But in a few months I had re-
set it all up again; the store, newspaper, coffeehouse, etc. One day, I was thinking about my
lady friend back in Vancouver. George Harrison had just released “All Those Years Ago”, and
had said it better than anybody could “You said it all when you say ‘All You Need Is Love’, but
not many had ears” (2). So that day I had mailed the song to her. Later that same afternoon,
who walks into my store, but her! She would later teach overseas and meet her husband there
and have children and become an artist. I was grateful for her kindness. I was “Starting Over”
and as I was about to find out- the Magical Mystery Tour would continue…

(2) “All Those Years Ago”, George Harrison, c. Ganga Publishing B.V., 1981.

We named the new location,” IMAGINE-ALTERNATIVES”. It was on the 2
floor again, above a
new record store, Treble Clef, which Harvey Glatt owned, and where, later CHEZ-FM host, Brian
Murphy was manager. I had my used record part and Gary, his science fiction and comic store.
Again in the back of the store we had this extra area so I thought of putting the bookshelves flat
along the wall and that would give us some open space to have live music perhaps. So we built
there a little coffeehouse and called it ”OPEN SPACE”. And we published our SPECTRUM”
newspaper once a month. It was a co-operative, alternative community, non-profit 8 page
paper. We distributed it free each month, to over 100 places, all over town. Anybody could
join or submit articles. Gary and I were the founders and Co-editors. We covered everything
from political and local events to arts. There were usually about 15-20 volunteers at any one
time. We did everything on it; wrote articles which Gary typed usually (this was before
computers), graphics, cartoons, poetry, etc. One of the highlights was a calendar of free events
each month. We even pasted all the typed pages down ourselves and then we would send the
layout by bus to Smith Falls to be printed and then we would all fold it together and distribute
it. We did this for 8 and ½ years. We set up the coffeehouse as a place, where every Saturday
night local musicians of all styles could get up and play. It only held about 20-25 in the audience
and we only charged $1 at the door and sold coffee for 50c. A lot of talented artists who might
not get a chance at some of the other places in town got to perform. Some later well-known
Ottawa musicians played there.
But a lot of the time, besides trying to keep it on track, and maintain our City grant, and sell ads
to small shops to support it too, I had to do damage control sometimes. You see, Gary liked to
create reactions in people. For example, he wrote a regular column on films. He bragged that
he could review them without seeing them. When people asked how, he would say, “Anybody
can review one they’ve seen, but it takes a real genius to review one they haven’t”. We shared
the store hours, and I also had a cleaning job at night. One morning, Gary calls me and wakes
me up and says to get right down to the store because we’re in a scandal. And sure enough, we
had caused a little one; even Ottawa Mayor Dewar had to defend us and CJOH-TV was coming
to interview me about it. Someone had evidently submitted a political article against U.S.
Cruise missiles in Canada. As I said, we printed pretty well anything that anyone in the
community provided, as long as it wasn’t cause for libel. And I told the reporter that. After, I
just wanted to hide, thinking nobody would probably see the interview anyway. But that night
it made both the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. National news even and they edited it to make it even
more controversial. Of course, Gary loved it.
An incredible guitar player was Shawn O’Connor (stage name “SHAWN ECANO”). He would
hook up a synthesizer to his acoustic guitar, and out would come these electronic sounds. And
when he picked up an electric guitar, his fingers would fly like Jimi Hendrix. His masterpiece
was “Heartbreaker”, originally by Grand Funk Railroad, but in Shawn’s hands he turned it into a
10 minute extravaganza. He would dress up in a fedora and suspenders and wraparound
sunglasses. He was unlike anything Ottawa had seen before or since. I was later to put on
several concerts for him and others.
About a year after I was back, I noticed that this singer, I had only heard rehearsing in the back
of my store that week I left for Vancouver, was playing San Antonio’s Downstairs Club on
Rideau. I asked another female musician if she would go with me to see her. My friend asked
what her name was and I said, “Diane Gentes”. And she said she was her best friend. We
walked in the door that night, and Diane was on stage singing and when she saw me and her
friend together, she stopped in the middle of the song. As I say, I’d been haunted by her voice
just by hearing it only once before. She blew me away again. She was a country singer from
Winnipeg originally, but with a blues accent and soul. Pretty soon I was going to all her shows.
She had in her band this great young guitarist too, Danny Artuso. I met with her and told her I
wanted to help her and I did, putting on shows and promoting her for the next 8 years.
I’d met an interesting woman in a park near Elgin St. and told her about our coffeehouse. One
Saturday, she showed up with a male friend. We got along fantastic and after, I walked her
down Elgin St. where we both lived. The guy followed along a few blocks behind us talking to
somebody else. She and I went to a 24-hour restaurant and talked all night. And she held my
hand the whole time. Finally, I asked who that guy was. And she said, “I kinda live with him”.
She revealed to me that he had told her she didn’t know how to love. I couldn’t believe it; she
was kind and warm and beautiful. After, we hung around together for the next weeks. The guy
went to Toronto over Christmas.
I was now living off Elgin in a rooming house, and the superintendent wouldn’t let you have
female visitors overnight (you would be kicked out), so I couldn’t have any lady visitors there. It
was a strange place; everyone had a story. There was a guy from India who still wore paisley
shirts from the 60’s (even though it was the 80’s) and said “Daddio” from the 50’s a lot. My
musician friend, Bryan, also lived there. I remember one time we and another tenant pooled
our money together to make a big stir fry and we were starving. But just as it was finished
cooking, Bryan tripped and it all fell on the floor. We all just looked at each other and then we
scraped it off his dirty floor and ate it. It was that type of place. The superintendent had an
artificial leg but rode a bike. Whenever he talked, you were distracted by his constant cigarette
butt, where the ashes just seemed to hang on there forever.
Late one night I’m thinking about that girl I’d met and I get stuck in the bathroom because the
doorknob fell off, and I’m yelling for someone to let me out. Finally somebody opens the door.
I fall asleep in my clothes to be awakened early the next morning and I feel something walking
on my face; it’s a cockroach! I’m so depressed I run to a phone booth to call that girl, as I didn’t
have a phone. She tried to reassure me that it will get better. It has to, I thought.
A new woman joined my paper and I didn’t realize at first that she lived just around the corner
on Elgin St. from my rooming house. My superintendent had told her that some ‘artsy’ guy lived
there. I didn’t type then, so she offered to type my hand-written (my handwriting was terrible)
articles. So I told her about my lady friend. It was unclear what that girl and mine status was.
She had gone back to the guy- maybe? They were as opposites as could be. As I say, she was
kind and very positive and he was sarcastic and negative. They say opposites attract, I don’t
know. They both had the same birthday, two days before mine. She was very smart and would
go on to work for Prime Ministers. My new friend next door said that she would never leave
me uncertain, like that. She even helped me type up a letter to the girl.
But I was spending more time with this new lady. I had broken my toe working at a part-time
job in a warehouse when a heavy pallet fell on my foot. It was my birthday and there was a
knock on the door; I hobbled to answer it with my foot in a bucket of water. It was the woman
next door. She had a birthday card for me and she kissed me on the cheek. It was the first time
I realized that she cared for me, or that anybody did in long time. Her name was SARAH.
I’d long wanted a personal life, most of all, and I might just be able to have one with this
woman next door, SARAH. Sarah had joined the newspaper and the coffeehouse and we
started spending more time together. One night I was over at her apartment and we were
working late, so I just stayed over. She had had her dad buy her bunk beds so she wouldn’t be
tempted into another relationship. She had moved to Ottawa recently, partly to escape an
unrequited one in Toronto. So I’m up on the top bunk bed. I had gotten a piece of celery from
her fridge and bit down hard on it. It made a’ crunch’ sound so she asks what that was. I had
told her I had a bad back, so said it was my back. And then I took an even bigger, louder bite.
She said,” My God that must be painful” and felt sorry for me. I told her the truth and we both
roared in laughter. I think it was the first time we both realized just how much we liked each
other. And Sarah and I soon moved into together in her apartment.
Her family had come from Winnipeg; I seemed to like everybody from Winnipeg like Diane and
the The Guess Who’s (Canada’s best band) Randy Bachman, whom I later met, and Neil Young,
I guess it’s kind of like Chicago and the Midwest where I grew up. The first time I met her
parents was at their condo on The Driveway. We ate hot dogs and beans on fancy plates. I
think it pretty well sums up her family- a combination of well-off but still very down-to-earth.
Her father had been a Minister in the Federal Government in the 50’s and had lived part time at
the Chateau Laurier. They‘d had a house in Rockcliffe Park, where all the embassies were. He
had just retired and moved to Ottawa from Toronto where he had been the CEO of a major oil
company. So it wasn’t my usual crowd. But I think, as was the pattern, with my relationships,
her mother had liked me immediately. Sarah was the youngest of four children. She had grown
up in a big house in Toronto. So I was right when I had first said when I met her at my store,
“You aren’t one of those rich girls trying to look like a hippie, are you?” She was very artistic
and had worked with children in Toronto as a teacher’s assistant and was a puppeteer and
made her own puppets. But Sarah hadn’t had it easy; she was bipolar, like her mother, as it
often ran in families. Sarah was fortunate in that she tended to get more manic than
depressive or suicidal usually. And when she was manic her mind would just speed up and she
might run around and spend money. But she could usually control it with medications like
lithium but, as I was to later learn, it could sometimes be triggered by stress and emotional
events. But I didn’t know that then. We were still young and innocent.

The store, newspaper and coffeehouse were doing well now. More and more musicians were
coming to play. Diane Gentes, whom I was promoting now, came to perform, and wowed
everybody. But we still underground, compared to the regular Ottawa music scene. We had
started the newspaper and coffeehouse as an alternative to the mainstream cliques, of whom,
we weren’t a part.
Everything was going pretty well for once. But that was all about to change. For my old
friend/nemesis, Peter, from that very first bookstore on Elgin St. where I had met Jackie,
reappeared. I naively let him back in my life. As I say, the coffeehouse was becoming more
popular (and this is before Starbucks and their $4 coffee). One of the newspaper and
coffeehouse members was willing to invest a little money to build tables and fix it up and Peter
had construction skills, so he started helping. But Peter could be both very charming and
manipulative too. So soon he had convinced the investor of his ‘big plans’. He had even
persuaded Gary somewhat, to his side (something Gary would soon regret). Also I was
becoming less interested in it all, except for my store.
And I also had discovered music for the first time outside of my place: I started going to all of
Diane’s shows. She was special; she had this warm effect on people, and she had accepted me
into her musical family. I would go every weekend and see her play. Some of Ottawa’s best
musicians, like Terry Gillespie (another American, originally) from Heaven’s Radio, and her
acting friends, would get up and sing with her. She had this way of bringing people together.
She had, as I say, an amazing voice and would draw both country and blues crowds. I wrote an
article on her in Spectrum called “Even Cowgirls Sing the Blues”.
One night I was sitting at her table in a bar, and this drunk guy was trying to pick her up (she
was attractive). I didn’t like him and was getting bored so I started talking about astrology to
the girl next to me. He piped up and said, “I don’t believe in that shit; guess my sign.”
Sometimes I could, if I didn’t think about it too much, so I did guess and got it right! That shut
him up. Pretty soon everybody at the table wanted theirs and I got all six signs around the table
right! (I couldn’t do that again, believe me), but suddenly I was the life of the party.
But at the store and coffeehouse, it was all coming to a head. I had, of course, named my
store” IMAGINE” years ago, because of John Lennon’s influence on me. Now my old friend,
Peter, had to have his own space there called” Penny Lane” because he preferred McCartney.
As I said, we had always been both friends and, in his mind, rivals. One Saturday night right
before the coffeehouse was to open (Peter was nothing, if not dramatic). He decides to build a’
Berlin Wall’ across it and close it off. Gary, finally realizing Peter’s plot, refuses to leave from
the coffeehouse. And it ends with Peter dragging Gary by the feet out of the coffeehouse with
Gary, an old anti-war protester, singing “We Shall Overcome”. I thought of calling the police,
but knew that would be the end of our illegal coffeehouse. Later, I did consult a lawyer friend
but he said there were no contracts to prove it and it could take months (although the lease
was in Gary’s and my names).
So the rot had begun to set in. Much as The Beatles had found with their own company, Apple,
which they had set up to help other artists, a few freeloaders were out to destroy what we had
set up. The Beatles themselves had broken up and had sued each other. And it wasn’t just my
once friend, Peter, either. Some new people had come to the newspaper and they decided to
stage a coup. We had always run it co-operatively, but it was Gary’s and my idea and we did
most of the work on it. I had decided I was going to pull back from Spectrum anyway, and just
write an occasional article.
But frankly, I didn’t care much anymore. I was having more fun going to see Diane and her
band. Diane said to me that it was clear that it was me (and Gary, and Jackie before) who had
created all these things and perhaps I didn’t need all these people any more. Diane understood
people (I think she’d been a social worker back in Winnipeg), and having to run a male band as
a single female leader, couldn’t have been easy. She was a tough working-class, but very
compassionate, woman artist.
And all this turmoil was now going on at the coffeehouse, etc. and I just wanted out. So it was
with relief for me when I heard Mc Donald’s was going to buy the building. Some on the paper
wanted to try and fight it, but we didn’t own the place and wouldn’t get any money anyway.
And as I said, as far as I was concerned, it had become a mess. The new members had tried to
run the newspaper and had failed after a few months. So Gary’s and my dreams, like Apple,
had fallen apart and I was ready for a new beginning. Gary would later open a bookstore in
Toronto and even let punk bands rehearse there, even though he couldn’t stand rock music. He
remained an anarchist to the end. We held no grudges against each other; for he had been
duped by Peter, as had the others. And I cut off from my old friend/nemesis, Peter. After
running “SPECTRUM” and “SHOESTRING PRESS” for 8 years, and the coffeehouse, we ended it.
And I lay “IMAGINE” to rest, for now anyway, and moved out.
But I would later actually reopened my secondhand record store but under the name” Rock This
Town!” on Elgin; it was right above the very same address where I had first worked at Peter’s
bookstore and met Jackie back in 1971, (and where I had lived next door at an apartment with
Bryan and Joe in ’80, before I went to Vancouver). It was again on the 2
floor, so I had to
carry my crates of records downstairs and sell them every Saturday on the street, because few
Ottawan’s would go upstairs or to basements, unlike Montreal where it was cool. Also my
guitarist friend, Shawn Ecano, from the coffeehouse, set up a small recording studio there and
he hired a 16 year-old musician and later classical and film soundtrack composer, Alyssa Ryvers.
Already there was there a trendy used clothing store upstairs. I wondered why so many
customers came up to the clothing store when I had so few and later learned it was a drug
front. One day though, this Canadian serviceman comes in and wants 45’s for his jukebox. I
gave him several real cheap, so in exchange, he gives me free these photos he had taken of The
Beatles in Germany. He had interviewed them there in 1966, the last time they played there,
for Armed Forces radio. He just gave me free his photos of-- very rare indeed. A couple years
later, he came into my store at another location and asked for them back, because Rolling
Stone Magazine was interested in them. He had as I say, just given them to me free, so I
thought I should return them. But luckily, I had made negatives for myself before I gave them
back. He later would sell them at auction for lots of money. Now, no doubt, they are worth
even more.
Sarah and I had been living together now for over a year and things on the surface seemed
pretty stable. But Sarah, I could tell, was having problems. She would spend one night at our
place and one night at her parent’s condo. She must have been torn, between her well-off
upbringing perhaps, and my uncertain financial prospects. And I don’t think her father, whom
she adored, had in mind for his daughter to be with this poor rock ‘n’ roller. She was working at
a restaurant as a waitress when I met her (she said as the business got worse there, the
hamburgers got smaller and smaller).
She was seeing this psychiatrist here and she’d been on lithium since a teenager. Somehow she
convinced him to take her off it (I think she thought she could have children, even though she’d
been advised not to, with her hereditary illness). I didn’t know this yet. So she ended up in the
Queensway-Carleton Hospital psychiatric section. Now this was my first real personal
experience with mental illness. When I went to visit her at the hospital she was so drugged she
almost didn’t recognize me. And on top of that, her family probably blamed me. I felt helpless.
I wasn’t married to her, so I had no power. Sarah told me later that when she was finally
allowed out for a walk on the grounds, and was with another patient, he asked her what she
was in for. She said, ”She had broken up with her boyfriend”. And then he said he was in
because he had tried to murder his mother! So it was crazy to say the least.
I was now living alone in a rooming house trying to keep my store going, still unsure of what
was going on with Sarah. I had a premonition of her being in danger so I went to her
psychiatrist. I wondered why he had taken her off medications after all these years, with no
adjustment period even. He said that lithium was just like a salt, and there’d be no side
effects. I thought if someone had taken an aspirin even, for years, and then just stopped
there’d be an effect. But what did I know? He said that she was with her parents and
apparently didn’t want contact with me.
But that very next week, I got a call from Sarah. She was in the hospital in Kingston and she
had attempted suicide (which, as I said, was unusual for Sarah) at her parents’ cottage outside
Ottawa, but had miraculously survived. Amazingly, a doctor happened to be there in Kingston,
working on his boat and rushed there and had saved her life. And she wanted to see me, as
soon as I could. I had prayed before that she would be all right and had pledged that if she just
would be, I would ask her to marry me. The psychiatrists at the hospital had advised her
parents, despite her dad’s somewhat reservation at the time with me, that marriage to me
might add stability for her. I took the bus down to Kingston and asked her to marry me, and
she said, ”YES!”
Sarah and I were married on Aug. 30, 1986 at a small wedding on Elgin St. When my parents
heard about our plans, they were travelling out west. After us kids had all left home, they had
taken up square dancing and later they had sold their home and were travelling all over the U.S.
As I said, my dad was quite handy and had converted three vans with a bed and bathroom.
Later they would sell their home for 8 years and just travel, eventually in a motor home. My
grandmother, Pearl, on my dad’s side, back in Illinois, wanted to come to our wedding too, so
they had to rush back to get her. She came the 1000 miles with them in their vehicle at the age
of 91. She had never been out of the state, I don’t think, and she loved the trip. My older
brother Gerry and his wife, Carol, came up also. And when Sarah’s dad met my grandmother
they just clicked; I think she reminded him of his own mother from Winnipeg. Grandma had
her first Chinese take-out food at their apartment.
My other grandparents had moved to Florida and the grandfather whom I had worked
construction for and who had inspired me, unfortunately had died there, while I was still not
allowed back in the States. I was eventually pardoned in 1977; seven years after I had left and
could now visit my family again. But my parents did come up to visit once a year in their vans. I
don’t remember much about the wedding because I was so nervous. My singer friend, Diane,
performed, I think, one of her first original songs. She had up until that time, sang covers in a
wide variety of styles and exposed me to lots of great artists, like Emmylou Harris. We went to
Montreal, which we loved. We could have stayed at the room at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel
where John and Yoko had recorded “Give Peace a Chance”, but I declined (now it costs a
fortune). I was a bit paranoid after that incident in Vancouver the day Lennon had been shot
and my lady friend’s name was the same as his assassin. In fact, once when I was back in my
“IMAGINE” store a mentally ill person had come in and threatened me, but I was able to talk
him out of it (another time that I had to use my pacifist skills). I still believed in “IMAGINE” but
I decided to change my store name and start over again under a different image. I had an
actual dream of a guitar playing a loud note that caused a huge crack in the earth and nobody
even noticed on their way to work (Ottawa being the sleepy, government town it was) and that
became the inspiration for my next phase- “ROCK THIS TOWN! PRODUCTIONS”.
I moved to a new location just off Elgin, near Cooper and O’Connor, in the bottom of an
apartment building. From there I would run my record store and manage musicians and put on
concerts. It turned out to be a very creative and reasonably successful period in our lives.
Sarah was now working as a teacher’s assistant with special needs students. They loved her
puppets she would make with them and she put on puppet shows. For the next several years
we organized our “Magic in the Music” Concerts every summer with grants from the City of
Ottawa and the Musician’s Union. We did these at Confederation Park, NAC Outdoor Stage,
Major’s Hill Park, Astrolabe Theatre, etc. They were a combination of children’s entertainment
and a wide variety of musical styles.
My friend, Diane, had moved to Montreal, but she asked me to help organize an Anti-Apartheid
Concert for her at GCTC in 1987. She had met this black band playing in Montreal and they
came and performed as well as her old friends, Heaven’s Radio and Sarah organized children
singing along too. Diane, although she was basically a country singer, was also very influenced
by R&B. She was also friends with this other band, TCHUKON. They won the $100,000 top
prize on Star Search in the U.S., which led to a record contract with Aquarius Records, out of
Montreal. Back in ’79 my roommate Joe had turned me on to reggae. One late night, I was
woken up and all these reggae players were in our apartment; Joe had invited them to crash
there. It was Leroy Sibbles, of The Heptones, famous in Jamaica. And Joe had heard this other
great new group in Toronto. I went to see them the first time they played in Ottawa and to do a
review for our paper. They were amazing. They were called “ERNIE SMITH and THE ROOTS
REVIVAL”. Ernie was once more popular in Jamaica than Bob Marley. And also in the band was
Jo Jo Bennet, one of the founders of ska, before there was reggae. They played a small club on
Rideau St. I got in free the first night to interview them and by the time I went back the next
night, word of mouth had gotten around, and there was a long line all down the street. In the
line, I noticed several well- known Ottawa musicians like Bruce Cockburn and Heaven’s Radio.
I’ll never forget those first two nights; it was the like seeing the Beatles at the Cavern or going
back to Africa. The next time they played Ottawa, CHEZ-FM taped them, of which I still have a
tape. Later, Joe and I accompanied them to play Old Montreal, and Quebecers would stop us
on the street and rave about them. They released first, an EP with a great extended single,
“Don’t Down Me Now” which was a hit and then an album, in Toronto, where they now lived.
They became managed by the lady who later put on “Reggae Sunsplash” every year in Jamaica.
But alas, the band split up because the manager wanted to promote Ernie over the rest of the
band. So I had my first lesson of what also can happen in the music business. I got to see the
Man himself, Bob Marley, twice, once at the Montreal Forum and later here in Ottawa too.
The Montreal show was one of the best I ever saw, and I’ve seen a few.

I was also always looking for new talent. I discovered a great new band called “THE OPTION”;
they had 3-part harmonies and were Beatles-influenced but were original. Two of them were
Deavey brothers from a family of 10 musicians. I was even getting interested responses from
Canadian record companies. They ended up in the semi-finals in Billboard’s Musician
Magazine’s ”Best Unsigned Band” Contest in the States. We had still been pretty well
ignored by Ottawa, Including by Eugene Haslem , later the owner of Zaphod’s (where the
Rolling Stones were later to record a video in Ottawa). But I ran into him on the bus the day
he happened to be reading the article in the magazine where they were in the semi-finals (the
finalist judges were to be: Lou Reed, Robbie Robertson, Lyle Lovett, Branford Marsalis, etc.!)
and finally he offered them a spot at his then club, The Underground. We also won a, rare at
the time, Factor Grant, sponsored by the Canadian music industry (I was interviewed on CHEZ-
FM as nobody from Ottawa had won one before). So things were happening.
Also I was still promoting Diane Gentes. She was now playing with Ian Tamblyn’s band
members in her band too(including bass player Brian Radding, who had been with Ottawa’s
most successful band in the 60’s, ”THE FIVE MAN ELECTRICAL BAND”). Ian was the most
respected musician in town. And I started to work for him too. Ottawa had him stereotyped as
a folksinger but when I met him, he was trying to break out of the mold-trying reggae, jazz,
country, etc. Ian was the mentor to many up-and-coming talented musicians like Lynn Miles.
Lynn had just released her first cassette in ‘87 and I had written her a note about it. There was
a song on it I especially identified with called “This Town” ( ‘My friends say I’ll never get
anywhere in this town’)(1) and she even had a song on it with the chorus’ I’m going to Rock This
Town’( by coincidence the same as the name of my new company). She came in my store and
said she was considering quitting music. She was playing little clubs like the Bank St. Café and
Rasputin’s but needed a push (she didn’t even have a biography written). I told her she was
the most talented singer-songwriter (besides Ian) in Ottawa. At the time she was singing back-
up for her friend, Rebecca Campbell, “The Voice” in Ottawa’s most popular band, Fat Man
Waving. But I knew Lynn was unique, there was a pain in her voice, especially about
relationships, that was unlike any other performer in Ottawa, who usually had a more folky
feel. Her favorite songwriters were Emmylou Harris & Gram Parsons and Nancy Griffith. I ran
into her on Elgin St. one day and she told me she had just been in a workshop with her heroine,
Emmylou, at the Mariposa Festival and I had just seen her open for Nancy Griffith in Arnprior. I
went to Rasputin’s shortly after that time at my store, and was thinking of maybe asking her to
let me manage her. But at that same show too was a good guy I knew, Frank Taylor, and he did
manage her for several years. She went on to get a record deal with the well-respected U.S.
label, Rounder Records, and keep a loyal following in Europe and the U.S. as well as Canada.
And Ian won a Juno for his “Over My Head” album. He loved to make trips up North and
record the nature sounds of whales and seals. Lynn would win a Juno Award for her 2002
masterpiece, “Unravel” and make many more great albums. She writes about the heartbreak
of relationships with clearest voice of just about anybody I’ve heard. My instincts had been
right about her uniqueness. 1.“This Town”, Lynn Miles, c. PROCAN, 1987
I got “THE OPTION” to record their first tape at Lynn’s boyfriend at the time, Ross Murray’s
studio. And when we got the “FACTOR” grant, I got Ian to produce their 3 song demo at the
best studio in Ottawa, Ambience, run by Ian’s friend and musician, Phil Bova. But just as we
were starting to get good responses, the band fell apart. And as I had learned with the Ernie
Smith band back in 1979, ironically, just when sometimes artists are on the verge of success,
they fall apart. (Some people, it seems, are more afraid of success than failure). In “The
Option’s” case it was their bass player who had first told me about them. He had refused to go
to a showcase I hoped to set up for record executives in Toronto (at which you don’t get paid).
Later the leader, Wayne, wrote a song disguised about him, ”What Might Have Been”. I
understood that fear because around that time, I got a call from THE GOVERNOR GENERAL’S
office to see if I’d like to organize a big concert for them with BRYAN ADAMS, at the time one
of the biggest stars in the world. The budget was for thousands of dollars. My computer-
company owning friend, Paul, said I should charge $500 a day consulting fee. But I had never
done anything this “GIANT “before and frankly got scared and declined. I had blown my chance
at becoming a big Rock Star Concert promoter and maybe even rich too!
But I continued to do my thing. “SHAWN “ECANO” was, as I said, unlike anything in Ottawa. He
now had the only ($3000) synthesizer guitar in Ottawa and his one-man show was very
theatrical. So I put on a concert at the Bytowne Cinema with a movie. The Bytowne choose
“The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which I didn’t know much about and as I found out later, the
audience goes crazy. Poor Shawn had people walking all over his then, quite complicated early
computer and instrument cables and it was chaos. But we didn’t give up on our multi-media
shows. In 1992, I released a compilation CD of 5 of my artists called “Other Voices”, with a
wide mix of styles, including Shawn( and his new band, “The MOVERS”), Bryan, Monique and
Rick, and Diane, who had now moved to B.C. Sadly, Diane’s parents back in Winnipeg were
killed by a drunk driver. Diane’s dad had been a part-time musician and it, as you can imagine,
devastated her, so she didn’t do music for a while. But I wanted her on the CD, so she sent a
song she had recorded when she lived in Montreal after Ottawa. She would later marry a
black bass player who had played with Harry Belafonte, and move to Nashville, where she still
Unfortunately, as I said, “The OPTION” had broken up and didn’t get on my CD. But their sister,
Tammy Deavy, did. She had a good R&B voice so I told her to record something with just a
piano so I could hear her and she came back with some jazz ballad standards. She said nobody
would be interested in those old songs but she captured them beautifully (this was right before
Natalie Cole and Linda Ronstadt were to revive the standards). Also this great gospel singer,
Kathy Grant-Mahon, who had played the famous Apollo Theatre in N.Y., came into my store
and she agreed to play my upcoming concert too. So we put on the “OTHER VOICES” Concert
in ’92 at the Mayfair Theatre with all of the above (including “THE OPTION”, who got back
together for the show) except, Diane who was in B.C., and with members of Ian Tamblyn’s
band backing up some of the musician’s. The only problem is it was in the late fall and we had a
freakishly early, cold snowy day and not many people, but we got a video and broadcast of by
local cable TV. But we kept on trying different things anyway; we were soon to have even more

Shawn Ecano, Sanolle Puppets (“Magic in the Music” Festivals, ’85-’90)

The musician promotion and concerts were going well, but I still had to run my record store
every day. I’d always been 2
hand and that allowed me to keep the prices down ($5 average)
and it was recycling so someone else could use it too. I would also do record searches for
people and that led to some interesting stories. I got a call from a lady who wanted the song
“Splish-Splash” by Bobby Darin. I had it and the lady asked if I could deliver it; I didn’t normally,
but she seemed nice and said she would pay me well. After work, I found the address in Vanier
and it turned out to be a strip club; she needed it for her bathtub routine! Often people would
want a certain song for their birthday or event. One woman didn’t know the name of the song
or the band, but she said it had the word ”love” in the chorus ( I explained to her that just
about every pop song did). Many people would just hum the song they wanted over the phone,
but she didn’t even know that. I was about to give up, when I remembered that there was a
record right next to my desk somebody had requested, but they had never picked up. It had a
song on it with “Love” in the title (I’d never played it). So for some reason, I offered to play it
for her. And that was IT! Actually the week before I had run across it on one of my home tapes
I had made from a radio station in Vancouver in 1980, but I never knew who the artist was
before. Also while I was in Vancouver, a band called REO SPEEDWAGON had several North
American hits on one album High Infidelity; and I hadn’t heard anything from them since they
were the house band at the Red Lion Bar back in my University of Illinois days. Two other
well-known people had come from the U. of Illinois, Playboy’s Hugh Hefner and film reviewer,
Roger Ebert.
Around this time, my wife, Sarah knew I was under a lot of stress so decided to throw a surprise
birthday party for me. One Friday night, she invited several of my musician friends to hide at
our apartment and had arranged for my family and other people to call me. But Fridays and
Saturdays were very busy and I’d be exhausted and I was in no mood for surprises. We arrived
home late after work and everybody jumped out at me. I just wanted to hide and did. I turned
around and just went back to my closed store for quiet. Needless to say, my wife who had
spent weeks organizing it was livid. They evidently had a great time without me.
Finally after everybody had left, she called and said I could come home now. I came home (and
hadn’t eaten) and saw there was just a little of my birthday cake left. But she was still
understandably mad. She had always liked clowns so I offered to let her throw the rest of the
birthday cake in my face and she did. And we both laughed. Once again our humor saved us.
My friends had left gifts. And one was special. My long-time friend and fellow Beatles fan,
May, and I had entered the MuchMusic contest for Paul McCartney’s Canadian tour in’89. The
winner got to meet him. We didn’t win the first prize, but I won the 3
prize (a Cd of his new
album) and she won the 2nd. Prize (An AUTOGRAPHED! McCARTNEY poster). We had sent in
several entries and agreed, whoever won, we would share the prizes equally. She knew I had
always admired it on her wall; she just gave it to me for my birthday!!!
Later, Sarah and I were on a bus in Toronto visiting one of her friends, when a woman got on. It
looked like Jackie, whom I hadn’t seen since several years before when she left in ’79. There
were only a couple seats left near the back of the bus, near us. Sure enough- it was Jackie! I’d
always knew I’d run into her someday. I’d even thought, many times, what I might say, (“Hope
you’re alright; I’m sorry”), but I just froze. She likely recognized me too. But all of a sudden she
got just got off at the next stop. Also she had a somewhat dazed look about her, so I didn’t
want to disturb her. It all happened so fast, like a dream. After, just few blocks later we told
Sarah’s friend, and she said there was a headquarters of that religious group right near there. I
tried to write her later at their address, but got no reply. As I said it was one the hardest
experiences of my life, and I only hope she has found some happiness.
In 1994, Sarah and I had decided to visit New York City. She was attending a Puppet Festival in
Connecticut and I’d always wanted to see where John Lennon had lived there. So I asked my
brother, Gerry, to find us a place close to Central Park, which I knew The DAKOTA building was
near. He would go to see Broadway shows often so he found us this remarkably reasonably
priced place (they didn’t take credit cards but accepted a Canadian check). We only had one
day to visit. We also were going to see one of our favorite singers, Nancy Griffith, with
legendary black folk singer, Odetta, live outdoors at Lincoln Park. We arrived, tired after the
Puppet Festival, and while Sarah unpacked, I went for a stroll to see how far the Dakota would
be for the next morning. The block was quite short and before I knew it, I was at Central Park,
so I walked back. But I noticed a doorman in front of one the buildings just a few doors from
my hotel and I asked where was the Dakota? And he said,” Right here!” I had brought a tape of
my musician friend, Bryan, whom sounded like John Lennon and one of my hopes had been to
maybe get it to Yoko. Bryan had also married a classically-trained oriental (Korean) woman too.
I asked him if I might leave it. And to my surprise, he said to go around to the side of the
building and I could leave it there. I did and there was a long staircase up. I went up and
knocked on the door at the top and nobody answered, but the door was unlocked and I went
in. It was a room, all in white (which I knew their office was), and so I just left the tape on the
desk, and my mailing address. I came down the stairs, amazed that I had gotten such easy
access to possibly John and Yoko’s office? I rushed back to tell my wife.
I didn’t hear anything until 2 years later, during my 2
Ottawa Beatles Convention when I
received a letter back from Yoko’s office (return address STUDIO ONE, W.72
St), thanking me
for my tape. But because of legal reasons they couldn’t accept it (celebrities were starting to
get accused of stealing their fans’ claimed works) and but they would be keeping me on her
mailing list. My friend, Chris in Ohio, got a note back from Yoko when she commented on a
revived “WAR IS OVER “campaign in the 2010, so she did reply sometimes. And later in’96, I
did see YOKO and SEAN LENNON perform in Toronto, with my friend, Al Whyte, at a small club
called LEE’S PALACE. We couldn’t take pictures because they said it might remind Yoko of
gunshots (there were bodyguards on the side of the stage). We were at a front table, so only a
few feet away. It was interesting to observe how Yoko could turn even her skeptics in the
crowd, into fans by the end of the show. My friend, Al, later saw and met Sean when he played
at the same bar the next week. Later, Al also got to play and pose with one of John’s pianos
on auction for charity at the CN tower, and with a piano player from their Hamburg days, Roy
Back in New York, Sarah and I went to Central Park the next day and took pictures at the
“STRAWBERRY FIELDS” MEMORIAL. It’s actually just a simple “IMAGINE” plaque in the ground
with flowers all around the site. We had an artist recreate it in chalk at our 2nd Convention. The
gothic looking DAKOTA is also where the 60’s film ‘Rosemary’s Baby’ was shot. The hotel we
stayed at, called The Alcott, was also very interesting; it was vintage wood paneling and there
were several old eccentric actors who lived there. Shortly after we had gotten back to Ottawa,
we went to see the latest Woody Allen film (another of my heroes we could have seen in N.Y.
doing Dixieland music at Michael’s Pub there), and I look up on the screen and there’s those
same dark paneled walls from the hotel we had just visited, in the movie.
Another reason to visit N.Y. was Sarah had an actress aunt there. Sarah called her ‘Aunt Magic’
and she was good friends with KATHERINE HEPBURN. We visited her at her apartment and ate
on gold-gilded plates served by her housekeeper. She’d actually had quite an illustrious career:
a member of the Old Vic. back in England; been in the famous 40’s film “MRS. MINIVER” with
Greer Garson; been on Broadway with Rex Harrison in “MY FAIR LADY’; and had made three
films with Katherine Hepburn. In fact, Sarah’s youngest brother’s family had been extras in one
which was filmed in Vancouver. And when her aunt’s husband was dying, Katherine Hepburn
adored him and saw him every day, because they lived right next door to her. So as I say, this
was quite the family I had married into!
Her Aunt, BRENDA FORBES, mainly played maids or housekeepers roles in the movies and she
can be seen in several movies where they have a British servant. Sarah was thrilled when her
Aunt Brenda, who had a big influence on her, got to witness one of Sarah’s puppet shows at a
family reunion we attended in 1989 at the Montebello resort on the way to Montreal.
Unfortunately, Sarah’s lovely mom, had to go to hospital shortly after, and passed away.
But I was getting stressed out in the store again. And when somebody complained about our
location in the bottom of the apartment building, because of some zoning problem, I was once
again ready to take a break from the store. I didn’t know what I was going to do now. But
Sarah suggested I take a course in Festival and Events Management at Algonquin College in ‘94.
I happened to sit next to another Alan-Alan Whyte. We became immediate friends and later
event partners. He was 15 years younger than me, but we were much alike, and both big
Beatles and music fans. He felt like a younger brother to me, much as John Lennon often
described George Harrison. Al had taken a Museum Technology course and wanted to work at
a museum or arts organization. We got along great, as I say, and I always liked to work with a
partner (like, Gary, Jackie, Sarah). When I later met one of Lennon’s teenage band “THE
QUARRY MEN” members, LEN GARRY, he said John always had to have a partner in crime
(Paul, Yoko). I already knew a lot about putting on concerts but the best thing about the course
was meeting Al and we had to come up with a ’fantasy’ event. So Al and I created a fictional
OTTAWA BEATLES CONVENTION with Yoko Ono as our guest ($100,000 budget). At the end
of the course we had to present it to the class. Now we, never in a million years, thought we
would ever actually do one (only one had ever been done before in Canada, in Toronto, we
found out later). By coincidence, one of my old customers and a friend had left a flyer about a
convention in Connecticut (I’d always avoided them as I thought they’d just be with cover
bands dressed up as the Beatles and selling memorabilia, etc., like a Star Trek convention). But
I got Al to go with me to The Connecticut Beatles Convention because they had several guests
very close to the Beatles, which I’d always wanted to meet. Even to our surprise, we were off
to our first Beatles Convention and it was to change our lives!

Al and I took the bus down to Stamford, Connecticut. The whole Convention weekend, we just
kept running into people who knew the Beatles: Alf their chauffeur; the son of the man who
had designed their collarless suits; Yoko’s former husband; and even Paul McCartney’s step-
mom. And there was a copy of manager, Brian Epstein’s, original contract with the Beatles,
etc. Every guest had stories to tell, and it just got better and better. But I had really had
gone to meet John’s first wife, Cynthia Lennon. I had read her book A Twist of Lennon. She
was married to him for 8 years and was there when they played the Cavern. John had a chip on
his shoulder because his father had deserted him at age 6, and as a teenager, his mother had
been killed by a drunk driver( an off-duty policeman), right after visiting him at his Aunt Mimi’s,
the stern but loving woman who actually raised him (see the 2010 film NOWHERE BOY).
Cynthia had met John at art school in Liverpool, this angry, sarcastic young man-complete
opposites really; Cynthia, the shy, more middle-class nice girl and the tough (but inside soft)
rebel. What they had in common was their not being able to see without their glasses and their
artistic sensibilities. And John had written many of those early songs about her. So I wanted to
meet her and ask what he was really like, past the pop star and media image. I was later to
embark on a journey to get to meet several people who knew him throughout his life. I wanted
to know about the man and the artist.
We lined up to talk with her a few minutes and get a picture taken and have her sign several
items, etc. She was exactly what I hoped she’d be: kind, lovely-blonde still, quiet-spoken, and
almost spiritual in a way. I went back and met her twice that weekend, and also ran into her in
the elevator again, wearing her wire glasses, like John. It made my weekend and inspired me.
Al, too, said it was the best weekend of his life. And then there were many more surprises.
There were, of course, dealers selling rare Beatles things of all kinds. I saw a vendor had a rare
BBC documentary tape, and I alerted a lady-guest who had worked for the BBC and known
them on those early British radio and TV shows, and she made the dealer return this historic
piece. And in thanking me, she gave me the contact for the Beatles’ now manager, and long-
time Liverpool friend, Neil Aspinall (and this would come in handy in the future).
But later, I would have another fortunate thing happen. There was a dealer (Geoffrey Giuliano;
he’d also been the original Ronald McDonald) there who’d written several books on the Beatles
and had amazing items he was selling from his personal collection. One was a rare original copy
of Lennon’s “ROOTS” album of 50’s rockers of which only 5000 copies had been sold on TV, but
whom Lennon later sued to stop. But he wanted more money than I could afford so I went
back the next day to bargain with him. Most people were in the guest-talk room so there were
few there when I noticed an Oriental looking woman talking to him. I heard him say to her that
he had a special copy for her of his latest book on Lennon. I thought she looked a bit like John’s
girlfriend in ’74 in California, when he was separated from Yoko during the infamous “Lost
Weekend”. When he called her” May”, I knew she was May Pang. As I say, I was about the
only one there, so I asked Al to run up stairs fast and get our camera. Meanwhile, she signed
my copy of the Walls and Bridges album; she told me one of my favorite songs on it, “#9
Dream”, was about her and that she was singing on it (I’d always thought it was about Yoko). It
was such a surprise seeing her there (she hadn’t been listed as a guest). And because she had
been Yoko’s assistant (Yoko had even arranged for her to co-habit with John to take care of
him, supposedly). I didn’t think she would perhaps get along with Cynthia because Cynthia and
Yoko certainly didn’t. But it turned out that she was there to see Cynthia, because they were
good friends. May also gave me her business card and she was now married to Tony Visconti,
David Bowie’s producer. Also with her was Fred Seaman, Lennon’s personal assistant during
his last years at the Dakota, whom Yoko would accuse of stealing John’s diaries. So it was a
very tight knit group -this Beatle family.
But the strangest encounter of all, that weekend, was this tough-looking Italian guest we had
seen all weekend, but had frankly stayed away from. But finally on the last day, we talked to
him and he was the Beatles’ promotion man, Pete Bennett. He was the guy who went to all
the radio stations to get them to play their records. With him was a shady looking character, a
bit like a drug dealer, caring a metal briefcase. Pete Bennett asked if we would like to see
something special, so we duck into a small room where the telephones are and he starts pulling
out acetates of various Beatle’s solo songs. Now acetates are the extremely rare and
valuable 1
recordings (they only make a handful for the artist, manager, etc.) to hear advance
recordings before they are pressed into records. Each one was probably worth thousands of
dollars and they’re carrying them around nonchalantly. Another reason why I wanted to attend
is that they had a concert later, by BADFINGER, a Beatles-produced band, who wrote several
top songs such as “Without You”, with which Harry Nilsson and later ,Mariah Carey, had big
hits. I had actually seen and met them back in Ottawa at Barrymore’s (only two members were
still alive, because the two others had committed suicide). This fated band was besides the
Beatles, one of my all-time favorite bands. So what a Weekend!!! And I said to Al, as we
made lots of contacts; several Beatle guests had given us their business cards, and we had seen
how it could be done. And in fact, we had brought our own typed-up Beatles Convention
‘fantasy’ school project and I had given a copy to Cynthia Lennon and she seemed interested (I
had changed the guests from Yoko to her and her musician son, Julian Lennon, who had had a
big hit with his own album,“ Valotte”).
We boarded the bus back to Ottawa with # 9 Dreams in our head!
Shortly after I returned from New York and Connecticut, I received a call on my answering
machine from England. It was Pauline Sutcliffe, the sister of Stuart Sutcliffe! STUART
SUTCLIFFE was the “Fifth Beatle” (next to Pete Best). He had been a talented painter and in
the original Beatles when they had first played in Hamburg, Germany before they performed at
the famous Cavern in Liverpool. It was quite a surprise how she had gotten my phone number.
Cynthia Lennon, whom I had just met at that Connecticut Beatles Convention, must have given
Pauline my number. I had given Cynthia my proposal for maybe putting on one in Ottawa and I
think our idea of doing a more “artistic” one, may have caught her interest. The Beatles’ story
of their visits to Hamburg had always been to me, one of the most fascinating (and at that time,
not as well known) parts of their whole legend. George Harrison had said that Hamburg was
where they really learned to perform. Pauline Sutcliffe herself was to write the book
BACKBEAT, which tells the inside story and was later made into a film, I’d recommend. I called
back Pauline and she was very nice. Stu had been John Lennon’s best friend and a big artistic
influence in Liverpool. He had gotten Stu to accompany them to Hamburg and play bass (or
attempt to) in the early Beatles. But Stu was not really a musician, but was a very promising
painter, so quit music and stayed in Germany to paint. Stu had fallen in love with Astrid
Kirchherr, a talented photographer, who had an important effect on their ‘look’ and actually
created their famous hairstyle. But Stu was to die of a brain hemorrhage shortly before The
Beatles’ rise. After Stu had left the band, Paul McCartney had moved over to playing his later
distinctive bass. Pete Best was the drummer in Hamburg, before being replaced later by
As I said, I wanted to try a different kind of Beatles Convention than any I’d heard about. I
asked Pauline if there was any way we could display some of Stu’s painting, which had never
been exhibited in North America . I even approached a curator at The National Gallery, a
former customer of mine about it, but he said it wasn’t ‘Canadian’ enough, and we couldn’t
cover the insurance required ourselves. Also unfortunately, Cynthia Lennon couldn’t make it
either because it was her birthday at the time we planned it, Sept, 8
weekend. It was the
anniversary of The Beatles playing in Canada in ’64 & ‘65. But we were still determined to go
We met with the manager of the Congress Centre and he actually thought it had potential, but
we still had no main guest. He suggested that there was a guy in Ottawa who knew Pete Best,
the original drummer. Pete had actually played in Kanata before, but not many people had
known it. Just like Tony Sheridan, a singer whom The Beatles had backed up in Germany
before and with whom they made their first recordings: he had been here before but with little
fanfare. Michael McCartney, Paul’s brother and a musician and photographer of his own, had
once spoken at Carleton University too. We contacted Barrie Naylor, a friend of and agent for
Pete’s from Kanata, and a musician himself who had played The Cavern with The Beatles. Now
Pete had had a bit of a rough time of it. He had been unceremoniously dumped by The Beatles
and replaced by Ringo Starr and just right before they were to get their record contract. The
rumor was that George Martin, their producer, had said he wasn’t a good enough drummer.
But it was not unusual for producers at the time to use more “professional” session players in
the studio. In fact, Ringo didn’t play on the single 45 version of “Love Me Do”. Cynthia Lennon
had told me that actually Pete just didn’t have the ego to compete with John and Paul (as
George was later to find out too). Pete was a more laidback kind of guy. And he was a good
drummer. The ‘Big Beat’ that Pete had had to learn to play over the loud and rowdy crowds in
the seedy bars in Hamburg, Ringo would learn too. Ringo was in another Liverpool band,
“RORY STORM and The HURRICANES” in Germany as well. Also Paul was a bit jealous of Pete
(as he had of been of Stu, John’s friend) because many of the girls liked the handsome Pete.
They called him, ‘Mean Moody Pete Best’, disguising the fact that he was just shy. The first
time The Beatles played the Cavern without Pete, the fans gave George Harrison a black eye.
And when Pete found out he’d been dropped, he’d attempted suicide. He had worked,
ironically, at the Liverpool Unemployment department ever since. The guy had a quite a story
to tell and we wanted to bring him to Ottawa to tell it. I felt he had never gotten his proper
due. But that was about to finally change.
Pete agreed to be our main guest at our convention and, at that time, at a price we might be
able to afford even. We already had an outline of what we wanted to do from our ‘fictional’
school project. Now we had to get sponsors and it was nothing like what we had learned in our
course. We had studied techniques like ‘cross- sponsorships’, such as, for example,
Volkswagon ”Beetles”, we had seen at the Connecticut convention. But this was Ottawa and
nobody seemed willing to chance it with these two untried college students and there had
never been a Beatles Convention in Ottawa before. We came up with all kinds of ideas like”
Here Comes the Sun” for the Ottawa Sun newspaper. We went to all the major radio stations
and got rejected as well. Finally, we got a deal with the smallest station, Oldies 1310, to
sponsor Pete Best’s fees. Then we found a nice guy who worked in promotion at The Ottawa
Citizen, who was also a big Beatles fan. We learned that’s what it always came down to:
finding one enthusiastic person in a position of power in any bureaucracy. And if we tied it to
their Literacy Foundation Charity, they would be our media sponsor (no money though). But
we were off and running now.
Pete actually came to Ottawa around then and played in an unknown bar one night, basically
unannounced and I and my small committee went to check him out. There were only a few
people there. And I met him for the first time. Just like Cynthia Lennon had described him, he
was shy and unassuming. He was playing that night with a young band from Liverpool. I had
planned to only bring him to our convention for just an appearance to sign autographs (I didn’t
think we could afford to have him play too; additional costs for sure). But once I saw him play
with the whole band, I knew I had to have him perform, no matter what. Still it was a very risky
venture, considering his less enthusiastic appearances in Ottawa before. But we believed we
had an ace in the hole. The Beatles were about to release THE BEATLES’ ANTHOLOGIES, a giant
worldwide event: the first official history by The Beatles themselves, both on recordings and
on video and to be broadcast on TV. By coincidence, the Beatles had released their “Live at the
BBC” album in 1994, the same week as the Connecticut convention. It sold more than 10
million copies and surprised everybody, including the Beatles themselves. It had been their first
big record in years. And I think that lead directly to their Anthologies. They had broken up in
1970, but had gotten to be more friends again (people had yearned for years for them to get
back together). In fact, the remaining three Beatles had secretly recorded a new John Lennon
song “Free as a Bird”, John had written during his Dakota Days. And it was a big hit. We had
learned that TIMING was everything! And we were betting that even Ottawa would want to
be a part of it.

STU SUTCLIFFE PAINTINGS EXHIBIT, met Stu’s sister Pauline, Toronto, ‘94;
Hamburg photographer, ASTRID KIRCHHEER, postcard

We stated holding Beatle meetings at an Algonquin College classroom. The first time only a
handful of people showed up. Our teachers and most of our fellow former students were glad
that a graduate of the class was actually doing their own event. Most had hoped, at best, to get
a job with one of the more corporate-sponsored tourist festivals which Ottawa, as a capitol,
was known for. But soon word got around, and we ended up with over 50 volunteers. We had
a game plan and map and everything from our proposed student layout. We could only afford
to rent one big room at the Congress Centre. So the plan was to divide it into separate sections
during the day and then open it up for the Pete Best Concert at night. We were going to have
dealers selling Beatles items, (and we got them from Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal, even the
States): a Beatles Gallery with rare posters, art work, etc., we set up separate committees for
each area with one person at the head. I asked my Beatle’s friend, May, to organize the Gallery
for example (she said she didn’t know how, but I knew she could). The idea was to let each
person express their own creativity for their specific area. And our job was to coordinate all the
parts and handle the overall event.
Right at this time though, my co-partner and original planner, Al Whyte, got a much needed job
back near Toronto, so suddenly I was running it alone. But there was no turning back at this
point. We also planned to have several bands performing throughout the day and also that
night, opening for Pete Best. So I recruited several bands I was promoting: The Option, Bryan
and his wife, “Heaven And Earth”, and a great new young band I’d discovered called “The
Mustards “ I also just had to have the band” THE SHOOZ”, an excellent Beatles cover band,
which had had quite a following in Ottawa in the 80’s. And another cover band, with W1310
DJ, Al Michaels, in it called “Serious Fun”. They were all big Beatles fans and thrilled to play on
the same stage as an original Beatle! And we had Beatles films all the next day, Sunday, at the
Mayfair Theatre. My wife, Sarah, was organizing the children’s ‘IMAGINE ‘part and doing art
with them on that theme. Also we had found the perfect place to launch the event on Friday; a
Cavern-like space in the basement of a club on Sparks St. called ‘THE CAVE’. And the media
had finally come on board and we got great coverage by both CJOH-TV and CBC TV, etc. We
had decided that the theme of the whole convention would be “CAVERN DAYS”. My old friend,
Scott Stokes from the coffeehouse days, made a great poster with early pictures of PETE BEST
and Stu Sutcliffe and even Astrid Kirchherr as well as the rest of the Beatles in Hamburg. I had
another ace in the hole besides The BEATLES ANTHOLOGIES. I knew the top Beatles collector
in Ottawa, Robbie Hartling. And he had amazing, very rare Beatles’ Collectables.
Several of which he agreed to put on display, including PAUL McCARTNEY’S own GOLD
RECORD for the ‘ABBEY ROAD’ album. Somehow he had gotten it through a dealer years ago
and it was already worth thousands. When Robbie showed it on CJOH-TV that weekend, the
host had said, ”Quick, get the security guards”. One of the smartest decisions we made was to
let children under 12 in free, thus making it a family event. We had thought it would mainly
appeal to the baby boomers. But there was also a whole new generation of kids out there who
were re-discovering The Beatles with The Anthologies, as well as their parents. I ‘d had a
lawyer friend set up a registered company #9 DREAM EVENTS” after Yoko’s quote, ” A dream
we dream alone is only a dream, but a dream we dream together is reality”. But it was still
very risky (I hadn’t actually told anyone that I only had about $44 dollars in the bank!!!) I knew
the main act, Pete Best, was covered by the radio station, etc. But I can’t explain really my
confidence in our dream, but these people believed we could pull it off and it just felt the right

But there were more personal problems going on too in the middle of all this. My marriage was
slowly starting to have difficulties. As I said, I had stopped my store once again and with my
wife’s encouragement, I had gone back to school. But I was suffering an identity crisis. Looking
back now, I realize I would have been just about 50 years old during the Beatles Conventions
and I’ve learned that men often may go through a mid-life crisis and women, perhaps around
40. My wife had been having problems at her pressured teaching assistant jobs (in those days
mental illnesses were not so open). And I was feeling older and feeling a bit trapped. Sarah
had believed in my dream and had encouraged me all through it and she was a part of our
upcoming convention. But around that time, I met a young woman who worked on the Beatle
Committee. She was in charge of the PR campaign. But we clashed because her PR friends had
convinced her of a slick approach and I knew we didn’t have much money in reality. Her
mother, an artist, had designed the backdrop for the main stage; a replica of the one at the
Cavern Club. So it was causing tension. And it all came to a head earlier in the day of the press
conference set for the Cave. She and I had a fight over how much was being spent over the PR
kit, right in front of the committee there.
We went ahead with the press conference later as scheduled. Pete Best called in live from
Calgary, where he was on tour, before he was to arrive in Ottawa the next day, Saturday. The
“Mustards” played and Robbie held up his McCARTNEY GOLD Record. Lots of media came and
even Ottawa’s mayor. And I was to be interviewed live there for CJOH-TV. I was nervous and
at the same time moved that our dream might be coming true. And then a funny thing
happened, this lady, whom I had been fighting with earlier that day, asked if I’d like to have a
massage before I went on camera. And then she kindly massaged my shoulders. I didn’t know
whether she had felt bad about the argument or why exactly? Or what my wife thought of all
this. But we still had a Beatles Convention to do. The next day we opened the Convention
doors that afternoon and people were already lined- up. And it was good so far. Pete Best was
scheduled to arrive around 2 p.m. but his flight was late. We kept saying he was on his way and
people seemed anxious. We entertained them with bands, displays, and Beatles’ collectables
for sale. Parent’s brought their kids to share the experience. Pete was scheduled to sign fans’
items that afternoon and pose for photos and he would play the concert with his band that
night. Finally, Pete is announced that he’s “Here!” The crowd grows and surges. There must
have been 400 people there anyway. I figured we had to have at least a 1000 the whole day
there to at least break even. But it seemed to be working. We also had fish and chips to go
along with the British theme. Everyone was having a great time, the volunteers, the crowd, etc.
Local TV was interviewing me and congratulating us. We had to change around the whole
place during supper break, to make room for the concert. That evening 800 people show up.
The manager of the Congress Centre said he was amazed; he thought we’d only get a couple
hundred people. So that meant a total of 1200 people and not bad for Ottawa’s FIRST BEATLES

THE PETE BEST BAND, autographs, Original BEATLES’ Drummer, guest


in front of our re-created CAVERN BACKDROP



PETE BEST and brother, Roag, drumming and signing, Ottawa Beatles Conv.’ 95

Also THE CASBAH, owned by P. Best’s mother, Liverpool

The 1
Convention had been a pretty good success. I called Al that day and said, ”Get up here,
it’s working!” I wanted him to be a part of what we had both had originally conceived. And he
arrived later that day by bus (his car broke down on the way) from where he had gotten that
job out of town and helped us tear down the stage, etc. We worked unloading equipment until
the wee hours of the morning. But there were some lingering problems. Some money had
gone missing. We had enough to pay Pete and most everything else, but some people on the
committee had invested a few shares at $25 each and some of my bands didn’t get paid. But
nobody seemed to care; they all said they had had the time of their lives and let’s do another
one next year! I wasn’t so sure. It had been exhilarating, but I was totally exhausted. When
you’re organizing these things, you actually don’t have much time to enjoy them; you’re too
busy. And I still had to straighten out that problem of over-spending on that slick PR kit (it did
look beautiful) and the lady was still angry at me.
And we had since our marriage in’86, been having a relative period of stability. We had
become more accepted by her family. We would go on holidays and summers to their cottage
(really more a big wood-paneled house with a cozy fireplace) on Big Rideau Lake near Elgin,
On., where her parents had retired, on the way to Kingston. We would set out at night in their
screened in porch and listen to the loons calling. It was quite idyllic. Sarah was the youngest of
four children. Her brother was a professor in Kingston. Her sister had married a professor from
Carleton University and was a writer. And her youngest brother was a lawyer in Vancouver.
Sarah was actually several years younger than the rest of her siblings-the baby. And her dad
was a very accomplished man; he was 6’4” tall and had a real presence, and clearly headed the
family. Sarah adored him, whereas, Sarah’s mother was more quiet, almost child-like, but in a
good way. Sarah was very much like her mother- she had innocence about her. One of her
dad’s good friends from Winnipeg lost his leg while they were both in W.W.2 and his friend
later became the Chief Justice of Canada. Her mother had loved me from the beginning, but I
think it took her dad longer. After all, I was this struggling rock ‘n’ roller living with his
daughter. Once I joked with Sarah on the way to the cottage, “Why don’t I just tell your dad
that I’m opening a used car lot called,” Chrisman Chrysler?” I think he might have been
We had our little three-room apt. Sarah was working for the Catholic School Board now, but
not making much, as a teacher’s assistant, barely getting a break all day. And I had gone back
to school to perhaps finish my degree at Ottawa U. (but found that, of course, everybody was
younger and good at computers and emails and I was a Luddite). But we had an adorable little
cat named “Taja” who would walk on a lease like a dog and loved to be carried on my shoulder.
We’d had her since she was 6 months old, and she was like our child.
But in the middle of this, in 1996, someone from my old Beatles committee informs me that
they have John Lennon’s Psychedelic Rolls Royce on display at The National Museum of
Science and Technology. I go check it out and there’s only a very tiny exhibit right around it.
And I thought what a waste! Maybe we could put a whole Beatles’ Convention around it.
People had wanted to do another one. I approached the museum, and again it came down to
one Beatles fan, a woman in the PR department. They thought it might increase their
attendance for Labor Day weekend, traditionally a slow time for them, as everybody was
closing up their cottages and getting ready for school to start. And it was the anniversary of the
dates of our first convention. They offered it to us free rent in exchange and we’d have the use
of the whole museum, not just one big room as before. So I said to my friend, Al, who had a
Museum Technology degree, but who’d had problems getting a job in his field because he
didn’t speak French, “This is right down you’re alley!” We called some of the old committee
members and they were raring to go. I decided we didn’t need 50 volunteers and just picked a
handful we could trust.
Now we had to find a big name Beatles’ guest. I had some ideas in mind. A dealer from
Burlington, Ontario had said ours was the best convention he’d ever been to( as I said, we’d
had a more artistic one; I even had my bands play their own original music as well as Beatles,
and people would say ”That’s a great song, which Beatles’ album is that on? And I’d say the
Beatles changed music because they wrote their own songs”). He’d put on a one day event at
a comedy club earlier in ‘96 and I went. One of the guests there was ALLAN WILLIAMS, the
Beatles’ first manager before Brian Epstein. Allan Williams was also the man who had sent
the Beatles to Hamburg, Germany. But they had refused to pay him his booking fee, once
they found they could do it themselves and he advised Brian Epstein to, “not touch them with
an ‘F’ ing’ 10 foot barge pole”. He was a real colourful character who basically ran a strip joint
in Liverpool, where they had played early on in Liverpool. And the stories he had to tell. He
showed there PAUL MCCARTNEY’S original LEATHER PANTS, which Brian Epstein, had gotten
them to change out of, when he cleaned up their image. He also wrote what is one of the best
books on what it was really like in their early days ”THE MAN THAT GAVE AWAY THE BEATLES”.
Also there was Beryl Wooler, an assistant to Epstein and also once married to Bob Wooler, Dj
at the Cavern, and one of their biggest early supporters. And one of The Quarry Men, Len
Gary, in John Lennon’s early skiffle band before the Beatles. He told the story of HOW JOHN
MET PAUL, because he was there that fateful day on July 6, 1957! John was drunk, playing
with the Quarry Men at a church social in LIverpool, when this chubby, baby-faced kid (Paul)
after, offered to show them some songs on his guitar. John only knew the few banjo chords his
mother had taught him. Now John wasn’t anxious to share the spotlight with anyone else, but
he was impressed. But he didn’t want to come right out and admit it, so he had his friend, Pete
Shotten (who also wrote one of my favorite books, JOHN LENNON, THE BEATLES, AND ME), ask
Paul a couple days later. And the way Len Gary told it was,” Paul rode up on his bike and saw
Pete and Pete asked him and Paul just cooly replied, “OK”. Neither John nor Paul wanted to
reveal they needed each other. A lot of people may not know that both John and Paul had
actually lost their mothers around the same time and their common pain put into the escape of
their music also bound them. So I had lots of contacts for my 2
Convention. And I wanted to
bring in my favorite Beatles-produced band, Badfinger too. But Allan Williams was a drinker
and I knew it could be a problem for our family event. And since the BEATLES ANTHOLOGIES,
every Beatle person could demand more money, but I was determined to keep the costs down.
I settled finally on an actual close relative of George Harrison, his sister LOUISE HARRISON. She
was then living in Florida but had lived in Canada for a while. And she was willing to do it for
less than it had cost me for Pete Best the year before. So Al and I started drawing up plans. We
were going to use various rooms with themes, for example the satellite room ( the first
worldwide video broadcasts, ”All You Need Is Love” and” Hey Jude”). And again we would have
displays. We even had an artist recreate in chalk the Lennon “Imagine” plaque I’d seen in
Central Park. And again we had several of my bands perform in the Museum’s theatre. This
was to be even bigger than our first convention.
But in the middle of all this, Sarah and I had still been having marriage problems and she was
under stress at her work. She had also become more religious and had converted to being
Catholic. And I wasn’t very religious at all. And she decided she didn’t want to be a part of the
Beatles Convention this time. So we were just going in separate directions and we were close
to separating. At one point, she would move out of our apartment and I was living in a
committee person’s basement trying to run the convention out of a phone booth! We still had
to carry on the Beatles Convention. It had also been timed with the next Beatles Anthologies
being released and now this time all the people that ignored us before finally saw the potential;
the Ottawa Sun newspaper, MAJIC 100 radio, etc. And people flocked to it. They came to hear
Louise Harrison tell what it was like to grow up with George, be the only relative to ride with
them on their trip to Washington, D.C. on their first North American tour, etc. She told an
amazing story how George visited her in an Illinois small town, where she was living,
completely unknown in America yet and got up and played with a local band. Just a few
months later, everybody was to know him on the Ed Sullivan Show.
We almost had our problems too. The day we were to open the doors. The museum got scared
because it was rumored that the R.C.M.P. was going to raid us for “illegal” collectables. So we
had to go around to each dealer and check he didn’t try to sell any. They were quite common
items called ‘bootlegs’. The R.C.M.P. didn’t but the museum panicked! Meanwhile I
discovered later that one of the local dealers (a part-time cop! who was mad at me for not
letting him sell illegal stuff) was selling things out of his van in the parking lot. But it was an
even bigger success than the year before. More than 3000 people came the whole weekend.
We tripled their attendance for that weekend and highlighted their John Lennon’s Psychedelic
Rolls Royce exhibit. AND, AND -we made enough money to pay for both that year’s
convention and the rest of the previous year’s convention debt! In fact, the lady who had
overspent on the other convention PR kit and who hadn’t spoken to me all year: I went and
presented her with a check for any outstanding amounts. She was surprised and thrilled (my
wife later ran into her and she gave my wife her new phone number to give to me, but my wife
tore up she said). So I guess she may have had a soft spot for me after all. The last day of the
convention, my wife showed up manic at the museum as Al and I the others dismantled
everything. And I accompanied my wife home back to our apartment, still not knowing what
was going to happen to our marriage.

LENNON’S PSYCHADELIC ROLLS ROYCE, Al Whyte, Al Chrisman, Yury Pelyushonok


When John Lennon and Yoko separated in late’73, he went to L.A. to record his “ROCK N’ROLL”
album with legendary producer Phil Spector. But most of the time he was just drunk carousing
with the boys; including the infamous ‘Troubadour’ incident where he got thrown out of the
club. And Spector, the boy genius, had a reputation for firing guns. Lennon’s famous quote
when Spector fired into the ceiling while recording was, “Phil, if you want to shoot me, just
shoot me. But don’t F’up my ears, I need them!” Spector was later to go to prison for
accidently killing a woman. Later John described that period as his’ Lost Weekend’. I didn’t use
drink or drugs, but I was about to enter my own Long Lost Weekend.
When Sarah came home from the 2
Beatles Convention, she was manic. I don’t know why but
they wouldn’t put her in the hospital and they just gave her medication. We were now trying to
also, perhaps, hold our marriage together as well. We were supposed to go for marriage
counselling. It was being paid for by her job plan. So we went to this councilor; he’d previously
been a race car driver! I did really go there with hope that we could face our issues. But
evidently, Sarah had already made up her mind to leave. She had just recently inherited some
money from her actress aunt. She moved out of our apartment. I moved to a place in Ottawa
South. I didn’t know what I was going to do for work, etc. Maybe open a store again (the only
thing I knew how to do). But I had no stock so I started getting a spot at the Stittsville Flea
Market, starting completely over, as when I had opened my first store in ’72, with basically
nothing. I would go out Sundays very early in the morning and stay there all day in the hot sun,
selling used records. People wouldn’t pay much there and dealers would try to get my best
stuff even before we opened, so they could resell it. But like before, when I started with only
25 records in my store window, I eventually traded enough to build up some stock.
I had noticed a small used record store in Westboro and I’d known the owner. He wanted to
move to a trendier neighborhood, The Glebe, (Westboro was later to become the trendiest
area in Ottawa). But this was 1997 and there were lots of empty stores then. And there was a
tiny room at the back of the store that maybe I could live in because I couldn’t afford a separate
apartment. So I moved in the week of July 6, 1997 (the 40
anniversary of the day John met
Paul); hoping that might be a good omen. I called the store ‘GET BACK’ RECORDS, getting
back to vinyl, which had had a bit of a resurgence with a new generation going back to
turntables as DJ’s, and to try somehow to ‘get back’ my life.
But the store I had replaced, hoping that customers would already know there had been a
record store there, had as I was soon to find out; it been more popular for selling marijuana
paraphernalia. For the next several months, I spent most of my time directing customers to the
former store’s new location. A not untypical conversation went like this: “Hey man, is this the
same store? “No, they’ve moved to the Glebe” “Hey man, where’s the Glebe?” “Have you lived
in Ottawa long?, I’d ask. “20 years, man!” The first day I opened, I had a kid who wanted to
purchase 50-100 records (I thought this isn’t going to be a bad location), most of the time I even
accepted checks. The kid gives me one, so I went to the bank, next door to cash it with him and
he runs away; it would have bounced. So that’s kind of neighborhood Westboro was, when I
moved in, before it became trendy.
The tiny room at the back had no windows, and there was no shower or bath, only a toilet. I
had to wear a coat all day, and use a space heater in the store to try and keep warm. I cooked
on a hotplate and had 3 channels on my black and white TV with rabbit ears. You couldn’t
really hear it on weekends because there was an Irish pub across the street, blaring live band
music until the wee hours of the morning. One night I heard what I thought was a break-in in
the store. Only a thin wood door separated the room in the back from the store. I was afraid
to open the door and the phone was in the front, so I couldn’t call the police. But eventually it
quieted down. The next morning I didn’t see anything amiss in the store, but found that
evidently some of the drunk patrons from the pub had stolen the small speaker I had put on the
outside of the door. So it wasn’t great, but I could somehow survive there- maybe. But at least
I could still run my store, which is the only thing I thought I might be able to do. I was to live
almost five years in that small, claustrophobic space. Looking back now, it’s a blur, almost like a
bad dream.

“Real Good Woman” (Neil Young-like Rocker) Lyrics: Alan Chrisman c. 2012

I need a real good woman
Like the one in my dreams
A real good woman
Doesn’t play games or schemes

I need a real good woman
One who won’t break my heart
A real cool woman
Who’ll do he part

Yes, she’ll be my woman
Always be my friend
She’ll be my woman
Through thick and thin

I need a real good woman
Who’ll let me be aman
A real cool woman
Not afraid to take a stand

I need a real good woman
Who doesn’t tell me lies
I need a real good woman
With no alibis

I need a real good woman x 2
Who’ll keep on my toes
I need a real good woman
Who’ll help me grow

“Lady in Black” – Lyrics by Alan Chrisman (REGGAE SONG)

c. 2012

It was a cold day
then sun broke thru the skies
Made me want to get away
to a hot island paradise

Dropped by my local cash place
Cause, Man, I needed some bread
There was your pretty face
and it made me dream instead

So let’s go under a tropical moon
and get up and dance
to a cool reggae tune
and give it a chance

In your thin black skirt
Lets just grab some cash
Woman, you made me want to flirt
and make a quick dash

Let’s get out of the cold
to an island in the sun
winter only makes us feel old
and lets have some fun


One Sunday, shortly after moving into the neighborhood a friend, Neil, and I were out for a
leisurely stroll, when we noticed a woman walking right behind us. So I joked to her that if she
wanted to pass us- to just ‘beep’. But there was no response. She did go around us and moved
determinedly down the street in front of us. Neil and I continued talking, but for some reason, I
couldn’t get her out of my mind. I saw her walk ahead and then disappear. We walked a while
further and I decided to go into a shop I’d never been into before. And there she was. I don’t
think she saw me. But on the walk back with Neil, I told him “I’m going to get to know her”. I
wrote a poem about her called, ”LADY IN RED”. I would meet her again too.
In 1997, PETE BEST came back to Ottawa to play the Rainbow Blues Club, while on a Canadian
tour. I had first booked Pete into the RAINBOW the year before, during my ‘96 Convention. A
lot had happened to Pete since I had first had him at my 1
Convention in ‘95. The BEATLES
ANTHOLOGIES, 3 Volumes, had sold over 30 million copies surprising everybody and were the
top selling albums in the world those years. We had correctly timed our Conventions with
them. And Pete had finally received his proper due- he had gotten a check for 1 and 1/2
million British pounds! He had been on several early Beatles’ songs on the Anthologies. 30
years after they had unceremoniously dropped him, he’d been finally rewarded. He was
instrumental in their history. His mother, Mona, ran the first place, THE CASBAH, they played
in Liverpool, before even the Cavern. He was an essential part of them in both Liverpool and in
their crucial development in Hamburg. Pete had a younger half-brother, Roag Best, who had
played drums too at our convention. But a lot of Beatles’ fans didn’t know that Roag was
actually the son of Neil Aspinall, the Beatles’ road manager in the 60’s and later the manager
of their company, Apple, and the most trusted friend of all the Beatles. It had been Neil
Aspinall’s idea to put together THE BEATLES ANTHOLOGIES, which led to their remarkable
comeback. He had had an affair with Pete’s much older mother and perhaps Neil made sure
Pete was included in the project. But anyway, it was a deserving award for Pete. So when I met
Pete again (now a Millionaire!) for our 2
Convention, he remembered how we had supported
him and charged the same old fee. And Pete, as Cynthia Lennon had told me, was just as
humble as ever.my friend, Al, who was in town, working at one of Ottawa’s festivals, was to
meet me that night in August, 1997, at the Rainbow and say hello to Pete. Also along with Pete
was to be BOB WOOLER, (the Cavern DJ). But Al never made it, because as I found out later, he
had fallen off his bike riding the bike path below Parliament Hill. He was in the hospital, and
had broken a tooth and lost a piece of his ear, but it could have been even worse with the rocks
there. It was a fateful date too, because Lady Diana was killed that night and Mother Teresa
also died that same day

“LADY IN RED” c. 2012 Lyrics by Alan Chrisman (based on original 1997 poem)
One early fall day
My friend and I
Were out for a stroll
Slowly making our way

In the corner of my eye
Walking behind us
I did spy
A pretty Lady in Red

To her, I did joke
If you want to go around
Us on this street
You just have to “beep”

She didn’t reply
She seemed in a hurry
Perhaps preoccupied
Perhaps full of worry

This Lady in Red
Looked lost, and lonely
Yet somehow innocent
I couldn’t get her out of my head

Later, we came to a store
I’d never been in before
And to my surprise
Were those same dark eyes

I turned to my friend
And I said
“One day I’ll get to know her”
This beautiful Lady in Red

c. 2012

My store in Westboro was slowly starting to get better. Some of my old customers began to
rediscover me and I was gradually building up new ones. I still carried mainly vinyl, but also had
used tapes and had some used Cd’s. But it was really only a few very loyal regular customers
who kept me going. One, Lenny, who was in the Navy, came in every Friday during his lunch,
and he always bought something, usually Elvis or the Beatles, in which I specialized. I’d go to
his house sometimes and he had more records than my whole store. But you just never knew
who might drop in. I got a lot of musicians, local and out of town. There was a musical
instrument store a few blocks away. And there was starting to be a small, but growing
reaction against digital by a new generation of musicians. It was mainly two extremes, the old
vinyl collectors and the young experimental kids. My friend, Lenny, had even set up an ebay
account and we would sell records online and ship them all over the world. There was a
famous restaurant in Westboro, The Newport, all decorated like Elvis Presley, so I came up with
this idea to ship our records in their unused pizza boxes. But I much preferred dealing with
people in person. I also still was doing the flea market on Sundays and an occasional record
I hadn’t heard from my now ex-wife, Sarah, in a while. Therefore it was a big surprise when
Sarah called me and was visiting Ottawa and wanted to meet with me. We agreed to meet at a
24-hour diner on Elgin St. We got along fine (we’d always been good friends). But on the way
back to my car, she slipped and I had to take her to the hospital. As we waited there, I joked
that we sure had spent a lot of time together in emergency waiting rooms, with her illness, etc.
and she laughed. She caught her train back to Montreal. But soon she was calling me regularly.
Finally I agreed to visit her in Montreal. She had inherited some money and she had had this
idea of setting up a puppet theatre there. But she was also clearly manic and needed some
help. Her irresponsible Ottawa psychiatrist had not put her in the hospital and now she was
running all over Montreal. Here we were again waiting in emergency rooms in Montreal. They
eventually got her on proper medications and I started visiting her on weekends in Montreal. I
found an apartment for us in Westboro and we moved back in together. Luckily, she was able
to get her job back and I was still doing my store.
Her father had remarried shortly after Sarah’s mother’s death in 1990. We would visit him and
his new wife at a nursing home they were both at now. I’d visit the used record stores in
Kingston to buy albums to resell in my store. We also saw several up and coming musicians
there too like Sarah Harmer. One of THE LOVIN’ SPOONFUL band from the 60’s, Zal Yanovsky,
owned THE CHEZ PIGGY restaurant.
But Sarah’s dad had had to move to a nursing home and his new wife accompanied him. She
seemed in much better health than he, so we were all quite shocked when she suddenly passed
away. And he was never quite the same. But I remember the visit when we had brought take-
out food to have with him in the home and looking in his eyes and knowing he had just given
up. He had nothing left to live for- he had lost one wife and now another one. That night when
we got home, we got a call: he had died. But perhaps it was better for him, as he clearly wasn’t
happy anymore. I think it had taken her dad a long time to accept me. But he and Sarah’s
mother were for those years, like my second parents, as my family was all in the States.
But soon after Sarah’s dad died, we started having problems in our marriage again. She started
having bad headaches in the middle of the night and her job was very stressful again. Sarah
had been having dreams and flashbacks that she had been abused as a child. She had
memories of a dark stranger in her big house, growing up in Toronto, molesting her. I had
talked to a psychiatrist in Montreal and he said she would have been too young to remember. I
didn’t know for sure. She was also becoming more and more religious; we were heading in
different directions again. It was falling apart as fast as it had come back together again. But I
had no idea how serious it was. She found an apartment and I had to move once again back
into my store. Part of the problem was also financial pressures too, so I found a part-time job
cleaning at the old company I had worked for in the 80’s. But it was too late to save my
marriage. And, as I was to realize later, I was in my own depression.


"GOTTA BE STRONG" ( R&B tune) Lyrics by Alan Chrisman

The world's a tough place
It isn't always clear
Hard to keep pace
There's way too much fear

It can sometimes seem dark
Hard to tell right from wrong
We all need a spark
To carry us along

There's lots of false gods
leading us down a garden path
We're running against the odds
But mustn't forget to laugh

You gotta be strong
You gotta be smart
Sing your own song
And listen to your heart

It's easy to get bogged down
But you gotta keep moving
Feels like we're gonna drown
But don't go under

You can smell like a flower
Float like a log
Swim like a fish
Jump like a frog

C 2012
"BLEEDING HEART" Lyrics by Alan Chrisman

One day I looked in the mirror
There were tiny cuts on my face
I couldn't see myself anymore
Not even a trace

I had turned ashen-gray
Turned into a ghost
And there was a stranger
Instead in my place
Somewhere along the line I don't want to be a Bleeding Heart
I'd misplaced the thread But all the tiny cuts
Had gotten lost Can take their toll
And fell out of time And before you know it, we're getting old

Seems everybody wants something from me
My treasure , my time
My soul and my mind
Sometimes I just wish want to be free

But then I think of you
Your goodness and kindness
And your beauty too
and somehow it pulls me through

c. 2013

“Don’t Pass On The Blame" (Spanish-Mex. Guitar) Lyrics by Alan Chrisman

Some of us are stuck in the past
Only look backward, not ahead
There's only the future
The past is dead

Some want nostalgia
For what came before
Some settle for less
When they deserve more
Some carry a grudge Everyone has their own pain
Or chip on their shoulder There's no easy answers
Others make excuses We have to face ourselves
For past abuses And not pass on the blame

Whether it's a blood relation
Or a whole lost nation
We can't just live
In our own imaginations

Some look for a guru
To tell them the truth
Some carry a cross
To make up for their loss

Some feel guilt
For something not their fault
But repeat the same patterns
And get stuck in the same old rut

c. 2013

The cleaning company had hired me right away because they needed someone to work
evenings part-time at a medical company, World Heart. I would do the heavier work like floors
and garbage and a lady would do the lighter work like the offices. By working only four hours, I
could still keep my store open. It was a family-owned cleaning company, but the big advantage
was, unusually, they owned several of the buildings. Most janitorial companies would lose their
contracts every couple years and you’d have to constantly move.
World Heart was actually run by ROD BRYDEN, an entrepreneur who also owned the OTTAWA
SENATORS Hockey Team and part of the COREL CENTRE Stadium. WORLD HEART was
attempting to make artificial hearts. All around me, as I cleaned, were mechanical beating
hearts. It was a small company, affiliated with the University of Ottawa Heart Institute, with
only 125 employees, mainly scientists It meant that I was the only cleaner there and usually
had the whole place to myself in the evenings, which I preferred. That is except for sometimes,
Mr. Bryden, who often worked late and Sundays even.
I’ve always seemed to connect with sometimes independent thinkers and innovators
throughout my life, even though I’d come from a different background. Mr. Bryden had started
one of the first high-tech companies, SystemHouse in Ottawa. One of the vice-presidents at
World Heart told me he’d lost millions in one day.
Shortly after starting there, I asked my “Big Boss” if could come in on a Sunday afternoon
instead of the evening, because there was a special concert I wanted to see at the Arts Centre.
Nobody else, as I said, cleaned there so I figured it wouldn’t matter what time of day I did it.
But of course, he disagreed. He didn’t trust the workers. But I decided I was going to go
anyway because several of my favorite artists were on the same bill. I did the job that
afternoon with no problems; the boss showed up to check on me. That night I took Sarah; she
loved them too, even though we were separated again. It was a ANTI-LAND MINES BENEFIT
COCKBURN, and NANCI GRIFFITH, all on one bill! I just couldn’t miss it. After the great
concert, we waited outside the reception room and they all came by. I got to meet them and
have them sign albums for me. Emmylou Harris, whom Diane had first turned me onto, was
stunning in her silver hair; I was later to meet her again when Lynn Miles opened for her at the
Ottawa Folk Festival. But it was Nancy Griffith I most wanted to meet. We had seen her
perform in Lincoln Park in’94 and with Lynn in Arnprior, where this petite, but tough, former
school teacher had stopped her song in the middle and scolded a drunk. I had my compilation
Cd of some of my artists, “Other Voices”, to give her. When I talked to her, I said , ”I’ve got my
‘Other Voices’ Cd for you”. She said, “You mean mine, don’t you?’’ She had just released a
new highly acclaimed Cd called “OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS , with covers of Dylan, John
Prine,,etc . But I also had an album I thought she might like by legendary fellow Texas singer-
songwriter, Townes Van Zant, whose song, “If I Needed You”, Emmy had also recorded. I had
actually just gotten into my store that very week, the Townes Van Zant Lp (I’d never seen one
before; they were that rare). I had suggested to Lynn once that she do “From a Distance” a
song from one of Nanci’s albums. Lynn had been greatly influenced by Emmylou and Gram
Parsons (who was to die early, but led both The Byrds and the Rolling Stones towards country).
I asked Nanci if she still had a turntable and she replied in her distinctive Austin accent “Sure
Do!” And well worth almost losing my job for.
A few years later, a musician came into my Westboro store and he was looking for records by a
Chicago blues harp player called Charlie Musselwhite (Butterfield Blues Band). He certainly
knew a lot about music, so I asked what he was doing in Ottawa and he said he was with
EMMYLOU HARRIS at the Lilith Fair Concert that night. I had debated going because I couldn’t
afford it, but would have loved to see her again. He knew a lot about Daniel Lanois, a Canadian
musician who had helped re-invent Emmylou’s sound. I asked him, what he did for Emmy,
thinking he might be a soundman, but he said he played guitar. He told me he had just
produced a new couple, Buddy and Julie Miller. By coincidence, I had just gotten in a tape by
Julie Miller and had kept it because she looked like Lynn on the cover and had a great voice.
Later, Buddy Miller would play for both Stacy Earle and Emmy, when I saw them. Anyway, he
had to go, but hadn’t given me his name. I asked him and he said ’Maple’ Burns. After he left, I
looked at my copy of ‘Wrecking Ball’, the great aforementioned Emmylou album, Lanois had
produced in New Orleans. And there he was, my store visitor, listed as co-producer, MALCOLM
‘MAPLE’ BURNS, producer of U-2, ENO! Lanois was later to do the same thing for Dylan, Neil
Young, etc. The next night I saw Emmylou on David Letterman and ‘Maple ‘Burns was playing
on the screen. You just never knew who might drop by my little shop!
After four years at Worldheart, I got transferred to another place my company owned, a
government building. But the “Big Boss” thought the manager, who treated the workers fairly,
was too soft, and I almost got fired several times trying to defend the workers who couldn’t
always do it themselves They were mainly immigrants from all over, Haiti, Africa, Burma, etc. (it
seemed wherever there was a war or repressive government they would show up there) doing
the jobs which white Canadians wouldn’t even consider. We only got minimum wage. But I
liked the workers and they liked me. One of workers from Cambodia had an artificial leg, and
they had at first put him running a big machine. He was very shy and intimidated, but came to
me for help. I suggested to my supervisor that they give him a less-dangerous job and they
moved him upstairs to do a, usually ladies, job and he became one of their best workers. He
had quite a story: he’d grown up in a little village in Cambodia and Americans had bombed it
and also the Communists had killed most of his family. He’d lost his leg because of a land
mine fleeing the war to a refugee camp in Thailand, where he had spent 10 years. Here was
this guy, that if I’d fought in the Vietnam War, I might have attacked his village, and here we
were now working as fellow cleaners. He told me he arrived in Canada in the winter with no
coat and they put him up in an immigrant high rise. He’d never used an elevator, so he had
walked up all the stair flights. He had met his wife in a refugee camp, where they had spent 10
years. There were lots of tales of people’s lives and my life had seemed pretty easy compared
to theirs. These people were willing to work at jobs, ‘white ‘Canadians would never even
consider. There were also some freeloaders too, but they usually didn’t last long. Later,
several of the workers wanted me to apply for a supervisor’s position, but I had decided long
ago that I never wanted to be either a slave or a master. My mom had never forgiven my dad
for turning down a supervisor position and perhaps making more money, but I think I knew how
he must have felt. I didn’t want any more pressures; I had enough already in my life. I knew if
I became a boss, I’d have to defend the company. I identified with being an immigrant and an
‘outsider’ still. I kept my nose to the grindstone, hoping to get my life back on track somehow.


CHAPTER 19: LADY IN RED 2 (‘Annie Hall’)
Looking back, as I said, I had probably been in a deep depression for a long time; somebody said
if you’re really in a depression, you might not even know it. After all: I was again living in a cold,
tiny room with no windows (and I was claustrophobic); was having stress at my cleaning job;
had no family around; was trying to keep my store afloat; my wife had left me-twice, and I still
hadn’t found my elusive ‘angel’. So at one point, I seriously considered suicide. I felt I had
failed at everything. I couldn’t even listen to Beatles’ music for two years (it reminded me of
too many things). One time a customer came into the store to sell some items, and I just broke
down and cried, and he ran out in horror and left his items. My parents would call, and I tried
to disguise my state; but you can’t really hide from your mother. I lay in bed, one day, figuring
how I would end it (so I can understand how people can get stuck there). I’d had a somewhat
interesting life already I thought, so it wouldn’t be so bad. I’d never been a materialistic
person; the only thing I had of any value was my Beatles Collection. I’d pretty well built it back
up since that guy had sold everything while I was in Vancouver. I started to add up in my head
to which person I could leave each item. As I as I went down the checklist, I realized that I still
had several friends, not to mention, my parents and family. And I pulled back from the brink.
I had over the past two years, since I’d first noticed that “LADY IN RED” walking down the
street, seen her around my neighborhood. A couple of times, I saw her with a cute little girl. I
figured she must be a single mom. I was still very curious about her, but had been trying to
make my marriage work. Finally, one day, when I was divorced and separated again, I saw her
walk by my store. I just ran up to her on the street. I didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled,
believing somewhat in astrology, the worst pick-up line, ”When’s your birthday?’ And she
replied, ”Why it’s tomorrow!” I had guessed someone’s sign again. It was, in fact, the same
date as my great friend and Beatles Conventions co-organizer, Al’s, birthday. I mentioned that I
had a little record shop in the neighborhood and maybe she would like to drop by sometime
(thinking I had probably blown it).
But the very next week, to my immense surprise, she did come in. And she was wonderful-very
intelligent, warm, had a great laugh, and was beautiful (my ideal). We hit it off from the first
time. She said her name was Anne and that she was a photographer. We talked about art,
books, and music, and joked. She came in the next week and the next too. I would make her
tea, as it was all I had. She’d sit patiently in my cold store and not complain. As I said, she was
very smart and seemed very intellectual; she knew a lot about literature and philosophy and
art. At first, I found her perhaps a bit too intellectual, but later I discovered, there was deep
emotion underneath. In fact, she was highly emotional, just like me. She’d come in often and
reveal more each time. She admitted that she’d been having a relationship with an older man
for the past few years. She said she was happy with it, but frankly she didn’t look it. Such as
that first time I had seen her on the street two years before, and it had struck me how stressed
she had looked. I was falling in love with her and she sometimes held my hand in the store.
And at that point, I needed some human warmth. She began to become the highlight of my
week. I finally had something to live for again. I made her tapes of music she liked. I had this
habit of trying to analyze people from what music they liked. And her choices were interesting
because they seemed to be of two extremes (soft- pop like Bee Gees, Abba, and on the other
hand, hard-rock like The Doors and Janis Joplin).
I would often play this game with my customers: I’d ask them, the first time they were in my
store, what kind of music they liked. Some would say “All kinds”. But that didn’t help me find
something for them. Then I’d say, ”Who’s your favorite artist?” And they’d sometimes say,“ I
don’t have any”. But finally, they’d say something like “Well, I kind of like Eric Clapton”. So
then I could recognize where to head them. And often I’d recommend someone somewhat
similar to their favorite artist but maybe not as known and I’d play it for them. Mine was a
small, used store so I could do it this way. And the next time they came back, I’d know what
they were most likely to want and some became regular customers. I got pretty good at
guessing most people after several years of doing it. Often, I even knew before they did, just by
the way they looked, etc. But occasionally I’d meet someone who threw me and those were
usually the ones I most enjoyed, for they challenged me. This girl was like that; I couldn’t quite
figure her out. And she was always full of surprises, as I was to find out. So this fascinating
woman had me hooked!
One day, I walked her home and she lived in the neighborhood. I recognized her house; I’d
actually been there once several years ago. She continued coming in on a regular basis. We
didn’t always agree, but she was always stimulating. I had, up until this point, mainly read
fiction, especially 40’s detective novels like Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, etc. and I’d
always loved film noir. Perhaps it was in keeping with my namesake, Alan Ladd, who had been
in some classic ones. Also maybe because I identified with bring an ‘outsider’. And I was
fascinated with ‘femme fatales’, a combination of innocence and sexiness. But when I met her
and we’d discuss books, I started reading non-fiction more. She’d mention a certain book and
I’d read it just to keep up with her. I rediscovered the library. And this was the effect she had
on me: I started reading, up to five books a week, on a wide variety of subjects and found there
was a whole universe available from the library and it was free! We’d often read the same
book and would later discuss it. So I had some intellectual stimulation again; something I
didn’t get much in my cleaning job, although I would read several newspapers during my lunch
break. Like I said, she was full of surprises. It was nearing Christmas and I asked her what I
could get her and she suggested Anais Nin. I had read Henry Miller whom Nin lived with in Paris
in the 30’s, but I’d found his work, mainly just a lot of four-letter words. But Anais, I found, was
a much better writer actually. She could describe well, both the later many famous artists and
lowlifes of the time, in her stories. And she wrote about her relationship with Miller, while she
was still married, later made into the film, HENRY and JUNE. Nin had had a fascinating life, at
one point, even taking over well-known psychiatrist, Otto Rank’s, patients even though she’d
had no training. The book which Annie (that’s what I called her now, the same as one of my
favorite Woody Allen characters, played by Diane Keaton in ANNIE HALL), had requested, was
one of Anais Nin’s erotic novels, far sexier than the touted Miller’s work.
I started buying Annie lunches from a take-out pita place next door when she would drop in, as
well as our usual tea. It was good to have someone to treat once in a while. I also started
taking her around on weekends to food shopping, etc., as she didn’t have a car. I saw her
practically every weekend. The man she was seeing was actually only in town on the holidays,
as he worked out of town. And I could see she was very lonely and stressed in-between. He
wouldn’t even let her contact him while he was away. So it sure didn’t look like a very good
situation for her. But I was also filling some gap for her too and she certainly was for me. And
my friends, I think, were probably noticing a change in my attitude. They were pumping me for
information about her, but I just called her my ‘lady friend’. I was seeing her a lot, but I wasn’t
sure where we stood.
It was near Valentine’s Day and I had seen a beautiful girl in a magazine wearing a bright red
bra and she reminded me of Annie. So around that time, she came in and I was once again bold
and I showed it to her and she said” It’s nice”. So I approached her about getting her one like it
for Valentine’s. To my great surprise and unbelievable delight, she said, “YES”. I planned to get
it on sale the next day when I got paid. I went to work that evening on a cloud, but when I
returned, there was a message on my answering machine from her saying; maybe it wasn’t a
good idea. But early the next morning, I called her and she luckily agreed again. I rushed to the
women’s section and bought the first bra I had ever bought for a woman. I had even guessed
her bra size right. In the future, whenever we’d have a disagreement (and we had some), I’d
always know that we were okay if she’d let me get her another one, and she did. I would also
give her books, movies, food treats, etc. I didn’t make much money, but I had always lived
simply, and it was a way that I could support and care for her.
Her relationship with that man continued for a while and I was hoping she would realize it really
wasn’t good for her; but I was very patient. I was helping her, as I said, but I didn’t mind at all.
One day I was driving her around and I asked her if that guy had ever given her gifts too. And
she said,” He gave me an apple once”. I almost crashed the car. ”An apple, that’s all?” I said.
She said, ”Yes, he says he doesn’t want to spoil me”. Finally, she decided to go away on a
vacation, partly to decide whether to end it with him. But she called me, as she promised once
a week, while away. She came back and decided to finally stop it and bravely confronted him.
But he just acted like she didn’t really matter anyway; like she had been just a flea on his back.
She was livid, justifiably. For a whole year afterward she would call me up sometimes and ask if
he would suffer as much as she had. I always replied’ “Yes, because he won’t have you”. And I
meant it.
She’d still have nightmares about it or be afraid she might run into him for more years.
Gradually, she got back to herself; her wonderful, beautiful self. And we had our problems too.
She had been raised in religion and had been inbred with guilt. One early morning, (I was
always a night person and with my cleaning jobs I didn’t get home until midnight), she called
and asked if God would get her, because she’d stepped on a spider in the middle of the night.
And she was serious. She worried about things that couldn’t possibly be her fault. But later,
she’d call back and I could always tell she was alright because she’d get what I called her
‘peasant’ laugh, when she had regained her perspective.
But sometimes the pressures would build up and we’d argue over books, movies, music,
anything, and she’d withdraw for a while. Once, early on, she hadn’t talked to me for several
weeks. I saw her go by my store and next door to the pita place. I had been rehearsing a joke
in case I did run into her, from a Woody Allen movie: “A man goes into a bar, and he notices a
guy with carrots in his ears. The man asks the bartender, “Why?” The bartender says, “Why
don’t you ask him when he comes in tomorrow at 5 p.m.?” Next evening, sure enough the
guy comes in, but this time the guy has bananas in his ears. So the man asks the guy “Why
the bananas in your ears?” The guy replies, ”Because I ran out of carrots”.
Woody Allen said that relationships are like that; they often don’t make any sense, but we
need them. So I tell her the joke while she waits for her pita. And she laughs. It works! And
she drops by my store right after and we talk.
Another time, she cuts off me for 6 months! It’s the worse winter in years; record snowfalls.
She won’t even talk to me, but each pay check, I leave a little gift in her mailbox-a book, DVD
movie, music, etc. Finally, one time I leave a note. She angrily calls me back and says never to
leave a note again. But I asked her if I could still leave gifts, and she said, ”OK”. I knew she was
keeping the door open a little. Soon after, I ran into her in a parking lot. I had changed cars, I
didn’t think she recognized me, so I rolled down the window and said, ”You know you could
call me sometime”. The next morning, she calls me and we discuss it very briefly. And she
always did it this way; she puts the phone down and then calls right back. I ask her if she’d like
to go for lunch. We meet and it’s soon forgotten and we’re back on track again. So it was
never dull. People outside, even friends, can try to judge, but nobody can really understand
anybody else’s relationships. Sometimes even the people inside them don’t even know how
they work or don’t. The old carrot and banana joke again.

"Thought of You" lyrics by Alan Chrisman c. 2013

I'm sitting out on my back porch
And saw the sun going down
And I thought of you
Wondering what we're going to do

Your love is on my mind
And it's slipping out of time
You say you need some space
You want to find your place

I thought of you
Don't know what I'm going to do
Is it the beginning or are we through
I don't know what I'm going to do

But it's tearing me apart
I can't even find the parts
From when we fell apart
It's tearing up my heart

Then I saw such beauty
And I thought of you
Don't know how or why
But I saw your face in the sky

Repeat last two verses

"Fragmented Heart" Lyrics by Alan Chrisman c. 2013


You're always on my mind A7
Carry you with me all the time A7
You may be away A7
but beside me every day, every day A7, D7, A7

As I lay alone A7
in my bed A7
you're always dancing in my head, A7
in my head, in my head D7, A7


I have a fragmented heart E7
But I have not D7
the whole of you E7, D7, rest
but only a part A7

Then you wore that winter coat
as you walked across the snow
You were Anna Karinna
and I was Dr. Zhivago

You were all excited
as you told your story
and laughed and had that smile
and I knew it was worthwhile



Are we at the beginning
or in the middle
Sometimes it seems
like we're in a Chinese riddle

<Repeat Verse 2>


I hadn’t been back into music for a while, but there was one band I still went to see and
support,”THE MUSTARDS”. Like the “THE OPTION”, they were Beatles-influenced, but original,
and had three-part harmonies. Les Emmerson of Five Man Electrical Band had said Ottawa
always had the harmonies, like The COOPER BROS, etc. And they were in that tradition. I had
first met their, drummer, Marco Rayes, when he was still in high school, going to Lisgar. He
came into my “Rock This Town“store, just off Elgin St., in the mid-80. You could tell he was
going to go places. He was just different than most of the kids at the time, who were into punk.
Marco preferred The Beatles, Styx, etc.; more melody and harmony. So did his friends, John
Jastremski on guitar, and Stu Lister, on guitar and vocals. I think I might have helped them get
one of their first gigs in Kanata doing covers as “Hot Mustard”. They wrote good, catchy songs
by John and Stu. And John played great guitar.
Later, they were releasing their first cassette at Irene’s as an acoustic group and this woman
walks in and sits at my table. She asks me if I knew anything about them. I didn’t recognize her
at first. It was Lynn Miles. But I hadn’t seen her for a while. She’d been on the road touring
and living in Nashville, Austin and L.A. I had asked Ian Tamblyn what advice I could give her,
when I first knew her years before, and he had said”Travel, get some perspective; out of
Ottawa” That’s exactly what she had done. Lynn had always seemed a bit shy, awkward to
me, but in a nice way. But now she looked completely different; beautiful in a dress. I
said,”Yeah, I’m kind of helping promote them” and gave her a tape. She said she liked them
and even took one of their promotion caps and wore it the rest of the evening. This meant a lot
to me, for as I said, the musicians I respected the most in this town were her and Ian.
Later “The Mustards” would do shows with my band, “The Option”. Both bands would play
both my Beatles Conventions. Also they would open for April Wine, one of Canada’s best 70’s
bands, at Barrymore’s and Myles Goodwin, the leader, would record several songs with them
at his studio in Montreal, under the name “ZOE”. They just kept getting better and better; I
thought they might actually have a chance, like “The Option” to make it. And in fact, they were
getting record company response both in Canada and the U.S. I was watching the door for
them at a club on Bank St. where they were releasing their new Cd ”Half Built Set”. They were
now called “Lister” and John had had to leave because as an engineer, he had to go to Europe
often. Mike, Stu’s brother, had replaced him on lead guitar and vocals too. They were
developing a good following and the show was sold out. Two men arrived at the door and I was
about to turn them away, when Stu noticed them and let them in free. Good thing he did,
because they were record company representatives from a top U.S. label, INTERSCOPE
RECORDS, from L.A. They had come to catch the band. Also that same night in town were
playing “SLOAN”, one of the most successful and respected Canadian bands, who had once
been on INTERSCOPE and who knew the representatives. “LISTER” was later flown to L.A. by
the record companies for a showcase for executives at the famous VIPER ROOM, owned partly
“LISTER” started playing every Sunday at Zaphods, owned by Eugene Haslem. Eugene
recognized their potential too as well as Harvey Glatt, a music promoter and legend in this
town, who I’d often see at their shows. Soon they left for L.A., much as The FIVE MAN
ELECTRICAL BAND had done in the late 60’s before, with Les Emmerson writing their classic
hit ”SIGNS” on the way to their move to L.A. Lister found a house there and starting playing
around L.A. They got a lawyer and an agent and some of their songs ended up on one of the
popular American TV series’ of the time, “DAWSON’S CREEK”. One time I talked to them on
the phone in L.A. and Eugene was there visiting them. Two of them worked at the Canadian
Consulate, where they met Canadian Prime Minister Chretien. Several Canadians would come
to their shows as there were lots of Canadians in Hollywood. But they said it was a struggle
getting noticed, because they had to share the night with several bands each night and couldn’t
make much money. They did get a new bass player through Tom Green, the Ottawa/L.A.
comedian. But everybody it seemed in L.A. was a wannabe rock star or movie star. They meet
some interesting people including JIMMY IOVINE, President of INTERSCOPE RECORDS,
legendary producer for John Lennon, Tom Petty, and later LADY GAGA. He liked them, but
the music scene had changed and grunge was now in, with bands like Nirvana, and Pearl Jam.
And “LISTER” wasn’t that. They also met the guy who had worked with Alanis Morissette in
Ottawa when she was only 16 as a mall singer. He now had a studio and big house in L.A. Lynn
Miles had told of the time Alanis and her had sang on the streets of L.A. (Lynn had taught her
singing lessons in Ottawa), right before Alanis would sell her “JAGGED LITTLE PILL” in the
millions. Lynn also told the story later how she had run into Madonna in a washroom in L.A.
and had advised her how to get candle wax out of Madonna’s hair. Lynn had recorded an
album for U.S. Rounder Records in L.A. with Larry Klein, ex-husband of Joni Mitchell, one of her
heroines. But Lister only had temporary visiting cards and they were missing their girlfriends,
etc. This was also around 2001 and 9/11. They returned to Ottawa and decided to break-up
and get on with their lives and other jobs. But they were brave to at least try for it; and they
came remarkably close. Stu wrote a song about it” L.A. Heroes (there aren’t any)”. Marco and
former guitar player, John, would continue to play in cover bands around town. Marco was to
remain my good friend and later landlord.

‘LISTER’ Move to L.A., 2000
On Nov.29, 2001 George Harrison died and I received a call from his hometown newspaper,
the LIVERPOOL ECHO. I don’t know how they got my number. I also was interviewed by the
Ottawa papers. They wanted to know my reaction. He had died of cancer, but actually, he also
probably died from the effects of being stabbed several times before by a deranged Beatles fan.
So I quoted what George had said about John’s killer “How could someone with so little self
have killed someone with so much self?” George who never liked all the crowds, also said
once: “We gave them our nervous systems, everything, what do they want now-our blood?”
Well, they did too. Next to John probably, George was the most loved Beatle, for his
spirituality, the ‘quiet’ Beatle (those who knew him said he was anything but quiet about what
he was passionate about), his music, his spirituality, etc. And he would be remembered
especially for his “All things Must Pass” album with “My Sweet Lord”; “Something” and many
more great songs and albums. Some of my favorites were the “Living in the Material World”
album and his last, “Brainwashed”. I had seen him live in Montreal in 1974 and he had turned
around especially to the cheaper seats, where I was behind the stage so we could get a view
too. “BANGLADESH” was the first big benefit concert; which all future ones would copy. I had
sat in the Museum Of Science and Technology auditorium at our 2
Ottawa Beatles Convention
with his sister, Louise, as she watched the film “Backbeat” for the first time. She commented
to me about him being portrayed up on the screen in Hamburg: “George would never have
cussed”. Of course, they had done much more by the time they were only in their 20’s.
Ironically, the two Beatles who been the most outspoken and unflinching in their beliefs would
become the most adored and respected.
As for me, I had run my stores now for 30 years, sometimes having to start over from nothing
several times. And it had come full circle. I gave Westboro five years when I moved there in
’97. The neighborhood had changed. It was once a nice, small little village. But some
businessmen wanted to ‘fix’ it up and make a lot of money in the process. I had been one of
the few merchants who had dared to complain when Mountain Coop moved just a couple
doors down, when I was interviewed in the Ottawa Citizen. It was the first big box store in the
neighborhood, but Ottawan’s are nothing if not back-to-the-landers. The people who
welcomed Mountain Coop didn’t see that by letting it in, they had opened the door for other
big stores like the Loblaws Superstore. Everybody said I’d get rich and even my landlord
wanted me to stay. It might have been a poor neighborhood when I had moved in, but I could
leave my door unlocked, while I got the paper across the street, and customers would just leave
their money on my desk. Now with Mountain Co-op next door, the more well off-people would
come in and hassle over every 50c. And there was nowhere to go anymore; I’d had 9 locations
in 30 years: Somerset W., Rideau St., Elgin St., etc. I had started perhaps one of the first
secondhand vinyl stores in Ottawa and now there were several, and as I predicted, there was
even a return to vinyl. A whole new generation was not only, not buying CD’s but they were
starting to just download them. The music industry had overpriced itself in the eighties and ‘
the kids weren’t gonna take it anymore’. But except for the bigger name artists, musicians
weren’t going to get much for their work. The people who wanted to ‘develop’ Westboro got
what they wanted; it’s now one on the most expensive places to live; antique shops and three
over-priced coffee shops in one block; traffic, pollution, trendiness and condo’s everywhere.
But where’s the little village atmosphere that everybody supposedly wants? So it was time to
My friend, Marco, from “the Mustards” and “Lister” offered me a small bachelor basement (and
warm) apartment and at a remarkably reasonable rent in a house he had in Hintonburg was like
what Westboro had been before, poor but interesting. And I didn’t have to live in the back of
the store anymore. So I informed my customers that I was calling it quits. Some of my loyal
ones, even from past stores heard about it and came by, with stories of how I had introduced
them to various musicians and bands; the first Billy Joel, Bob Seeger, Alice Cooper, etc. And I
planned to go out as I had started it all those years ago. I gave away whatever I could, cheap; I
told them to take whatever they wanted and the rest I gave away to Neighborhood Services,
which maybe someone else could use. I only kept most of my own Beatles collection. I still had
my full–time cleaning job. I had started ”IMAGINE” in Feb. ’72, because it felt right and I
ended it, exactly 30 years later in 2002, because it felt right.
GEORGE HARRISON PASSES, Nov. 29, 2001; Alan gets call from LIVERPOOL ECHO for comment.

I first met Russian, YURY PELYUSHONOK, during our 1
Beatles Convention in ’95. He told me
stories about how the Beatles had been banned in Russia and had had a profound effect on
helping to bring down Communism. I suggested then that he write them down. At our 2

Beatles Convention the next year, he was interviewed by the Ottawa Citizen about how in the
8o’s, Soviet sailors(he was a medical doctor in the Russian Navy) had smuggled a Paul
McCartney LP out of Russia and traded them for even cars in the West. He had written this
first story down in a tiny booklet called the “Golden Disc”. And a couple years later, he had
gotten a Canada Council grant to publish a fuller book about his theories and experiences
growing up as a Beatles fan and musician (he had made his own guitar) in Russia. He presented
me with one of the original, only 147 copies, of ”STRINGS FOR A BEATLES BASS”, which had
been translated into English by his wife. Upon reading it, I thought it would make a great
movie. He was going to London, in April, 2000, and I suggested he leave a copy with the
Beatles’ manager, Neil Aspinall (the BBC lady had given me his contact at the Connecticut
convention in’94). Yury did leave a book there and upon returning, he called me one morning
and said he’d had a dream, that Neil Aspinall had called me. I’d always wanted to meet Aspinall
because he had been there since the beginning and was their closest confident. And the very
next day Yury calls me back and says, “Guess who just called?” I said “Who?” He says, “Paul
McCartney’s personal assistant, Geoff Baker!”
The Beatles’ record company, Apple, would also call back for more copies for George and
Ringo. Yury approached me about finding some musicians for some songs he had written to go
along with the book for a CD he wanted to make. I suggested John Jastremski (from “The
Mustards”) and Al Findlay, (from ““The Ground”) who had also played my ‘96 convention; they
were both Beatles fans and songwriters. Yury had already written the first song,”Yeah Yeah
Virus” and three others in 2000 and together they wrote and recorded four more songs in
2003. Yury went back to the Beatles’ Apple headquarters in London a couple more times to
discuss the possibility they would publish his book. Neil Aspinall told him in advance that Paul
McCartney was to play in Red Square in May, 2003; it was to be a world event. Yury had taken
a lot of flak for suggesting that the Beatles could have helped bring down Communism. But
Yury was interviewed in N.Y. on ABC- TV “BEATLES REVOLUTION” in 2000 with several
celebrities who agreed, including Czech director Milos Forman and Keith Richards (“What
brought it down, in the end, was blues jeans and Rock N’ Roll”). And there was soon to be
growing evidence that what Yury had first said, was indeed true.
Yury was contacted by Leslie Woodhead, a BBC director who had read Yury’s book and was
planning a film on the Beatles’ influence there. Mr. Woodhead had actually shot the only
footage of the Beatles at the Cavern, which was known to exist, in 1962. On a hot August day
in 2007, a handful of us gathered in Yury’s backyard in Ottawa to have him interviewed and
then to film his song,”Yeah Yeah Virus”. Later, Mr. Woodhead would take Yury back to Russia
with him to recreate his experiences and reunite with his teenage band. Mc Cartney was once
again to perform in Russia at that same time. Yury had grown up in Minsk, and his friends there
had been shown how to make amplifiers by the guy whom had worked with and knew Lee
Harvey Oswald, when he had defected there in the early 60’s.
Finally in 2009, the film was completed and shown on PBS in the States and CBC in Canada, in
conjunction with the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall in ‘89. Yury was sent an advance
copy. They had interviewed Yury throughout it. They had also used his song and
expression”Yeah Yeah Virus”, as a theme in the film. But as we watched it on his computer, I
could tell Yury was not too happy. They hadn’t even mentioned him in the credits. So his
Russian temper was boiling. I suggested that we ask my friend, Bryan, whom despite his partial
blindness, knew how to establish a web presence and make videos. I showed Yury some the
video’s Bryan had done for his own music and he calmed down a bit. For the next several
months, we worked hard to create and make videos and interview Yury to present his point of
view. We could piggyback this, we thought, with the coverage we believed, this not very well
known and revolutionary theory would engender. Sure enough, the film and idea got write-ups
in the L.A. Times, Toronto Globe and Mail, etc. Yury was interviewed again by the Ottawa
Citizen. And the film has since been repeated several times on both PBS and the CBC. A new
book by Mr.Woodhead about this with a chapter on Yury (including about the day we shot the
video and both Tony and I are described in it) was released in 2013 and Yury finally got proper
credit for what he had said and done. Yury returned to Minsk in 2010 because his doctor’s
accreditation wasn’t recognized in Canada (and left me in charge of his book and Cd masters).
But Yury returned to Ottawa for a visit in May, 2013 though and we reconnected. I knew how
the Beatles had affected the West and had changed my life, but I had no idea just what Eastern
Block kids had had to do just to listen to and participate in Beatles’ music or the profound role it
had on its culture and Communism itself. And Yury had written it down first.


“While in the West the Beatles stepped on all the rules
The 60’s beat was echoing through all the Soviet schools.
Every Russian schoolboy wants to be a star
Playing Beatles’ music , making a guitar.

Teachers looked upon this as if it were a sin,
We were building Communism but the Beatles butted in.
‘Nyet’ to Beatles music. ‘Da’ the students said.
Even Comrade Brezhnev sadly shook his head…” (1)

(1) “Yeah Yeah Virus”, Yury Pelyushonok-Olga Sansom, c. PLY Publishing 2000




- KEITH RICHARDS (agreeing with Yury!),

1998 and 2004 EDITIONS

Alan suggests to Yury in‘95, he write it all down-he does, then leaves his book at

Yury gets call back from Paul McCartney’s office for more copies


Yury’s CD

YURY’S “YEAH YEAH VIRUS” video shoot, Ottawa, 2007, for:
& book by director, LESLIE WOODHEAD, 2013
(Leslie Woodhead had also shot the only known footage of The
Beatles at the Cavern, 1962)

I had been out of music now for almost a decade. But I saw a guy one day at the building
where I worked, and he was carrying a guitar on his back. I asked him if he played, he modestly
said, “A bit”. But we kept running into each other there and started discussing music. One
Saturday afternoon, he dragged me down to see an ‘open stage’ at Irene’s on Bank St. I say
dragged because I hadn’t really seen much live local music the past few years. There were
some talented musicians playing and singing up on stage and they would get in jams together,
especially with a Ray Charles-like voiced lap slide guitar blues player named Parker Estabrooks.
And one particular singer on stage, especially, stood out to me. She had the best voice I’d
heard since that first time I’d heard Diane Gentes in the back of my store, right before I’d left
for Vancouver in 1980. Like Diane, there was something haunting about her voice, R&Bish but
there was also a Latin accent to it. So we had to come back for more. We started attending
almost every Saturday and Parker and that singer, NATALIA CABRERA, and her guitarist-
husband, TONY COOK , were usually there performing too. And they had quite a story; Tony
had been in the Ottawa 70’s band, OCTAVIAN, and had spent the past several years playing
with the blues legend, JOHN LEE HOOKER, in California. They had met in Argentina when
Tony had toured with John Lee Hooker’s daughter’s band and Tony and Natalia got married.
Tony and Natalia had done shows with the likes of IKE TURNER, JERRY LEE LEWIS, THE
WAILERS, etc. But they had recently moved to Ottawa.
He and I bought a basic video camera and we started filming the shows and putting, with the
musicians’ permission, their video’s up on my Youtube site (alanchrisman1). Luckily, my new
friend, I nicknamed him, “G-MAN”also knew computers, because I was still, as I say, pretty well
a Luddite. But he was very patient and gradually was teaching me more and more about it. I’d
had a Mac before, but I had to learn how to use a PC now. And just a week later there, we saw
another singer who was I thought special, a country singer, AMANDA BON. With her was this
really good guitar player. My friend said that was DANNY ARTUSO. I hadn’t seen Danny in
years. He had been the talented young guitar player with Diane Gentes I’d first seen in the 80’s.
I approached Amanda after, and said she reminded me of Emmylou Harris and Nanci Griffith in
her songwriting. She said they were two of her favorites too. So I had discovered within a
week in one place, two or three artists I could perhaps help. Now, as I say, I had thought music
was pretty well behind me. But these people, especially I thought, had real potential. Like I
said, seem to be getting back into local music again. I had run my store for 30 years and had
now also done cleaning full-time for over a decade, but I was feeling creative again. Both
Natalia and Tony, and Amanda soon had some of the most respected Ottawa players as part of
their bands. By late 2011, they had each recorded and released their first CD’s. Natalia and
Tony and their band, “NATALIA AND MONTUNO” released “MOVING NORTH” and Amanda
Bon released her “JUNIPER WEEKENDS”. AMANDA BON and THE OUTSKIRTS released her 2

CD, “DOWN THE ROAD” in 2013. They both started getting more shows around town, including
the Blues and Jazz Fests and I’d attend and video them. I had gotten to know Harvey Glatt
more. As I said, he was a legend in Ottawa, and as well had brought in many big name acts to
Ottawa like Harry Belafonte, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, etc. and had been part owner of the
legendary Le Hibou Coffeehouse in the 60’. And he may well have introduced Graham Nash to
Joni Mitchell when they were both in Ottawa at the same time. He also owned part of Bruce
Cockburn’s label, True North that Lynn Miles had been on, and had managed Ian Tamblyn too.
So he knew talent, when he heard it.
And Harvey could still often be seen in the clubs searching out potential talent, as he had when
he would go see my friend and now landlord’s band ‘LISTER’. He especially liked Amanda and
would go to most of her shows. I also told him about Natalia and arranged a meeting with her
and Tony. What I especially liked about Harvey was that he always said what he believed,
unlike some in the music business. He thought Natalia was talented too, but he thought she
might do better in a bigger place like Montreal or Toronto where there might be more of a Latin
audience. I disagreed with him somewhat, because I saw her more in the line of an ADELE or
AMY WINEHOUSE, whom were big influences, but with Natalia, a more Latin feel.
I’d never thought I would again get back into music but maybe at the most, work on my long
delayed book about my life and music. I ran into Ian Tamblyn for the first time in years, and he
gave me a free copy of his latest CD (his 30
!) and told him I might be getting back into music
again. He was very supportive and said “It’s your passion”. I also saw Lynn Miles again for the
first time in a while at Irene’s and she was also very kind. I told her I had an old photo of her
from Barrymore’s in the 90’s I wanted her to have; I had kept files on several musicians. She
replied in her characteristic humor,”Should I?” Once when I saw her at the Blacksheep Inn, a
guy next to me yelled out,”Don’t you know any happy songs?” She was known for her sad
relationship songs. She replied, “What?” I said, “That is a happy song” and she told the guy
“Bite Me!” I rushed home to get the photo and asked her when she was performing and she
said that next week in a church. My friend and I went and she blew us away; a combination of
her hurting songs and her amazing wit. I always thought Lynn could have been a standup
comedian too (she’s the funniest woman I’ve met). Later, I was to run into her on the street
and she gave me her latest acoustic CD (her 15
CD), free. And I told her I was attempting to
write songs. Ian and her hadn’t changed since I’d first known them; still supporting other
As I said, I was now even trying to write songs; something again I never thought I’d do. After
seeing Amanda dance (she was also a dancer having studied flamenco), I was inspired to
attempt my first song. I saw a whole different side of her and tried to capture it in the words in
my song, “Like a Dancing Star”. I would usually write the words and my friend ”G-Man”
would come up with the music and play the guitar parts and sing (although later I would start to
sing too and do percussion and even come up with some melodies). We called ourselves “AL
and THE G-MEN”. Again I didn’t know I could; I had always been around music and always
admired people who could. But once I started, they just poured out, often from dreams. My
co-writer and I would sometimes go to ‘open stage’ nights like when he did “BALLAD OF
HARVEY GLATT”, a tribute to Harvey at the Spirit of Rasputin’s. Other musician’s came up and
congratulated us; so maybe we were doing something right. I said, at that point, I’d only been
writing songs for a few months and another musician said “No, you’ve been doing them for 30
years!” We had just started it for fun and would record it, usually in my kitchen very basically,
and make our homemade CD’s on the computer. Soon we had written over 50 songs in one
But it was surprising when we got several played on Carleton University’s CKCU-FM. My Beatles
friend and co-founder with John Whelan of The Ottawa Beatles Site, Tony Copple, had a regular
show and he thought some were good enough to play on the air. In October, 2012, Natalia and
I co-wrote a song based on a Lynn Miles line for a CBC contest for a “25 Years “Tribute Show at
the Ottawa Literary Festival. And believe it or not, we ended up in the top five finals and got
CBC airplay too. So we got free tickets for the event, which was held at the church I hadn’t
been in since Sarah and I had gotten married there in back in ’86. The girl, ERIN SAOIRSE
ADAIR, who won and got to perform with Lynn, liked our song, and kindly contacted us. Later I
met her band and I liked them too. She was in an all- female, politically-oriented, folk group
”THE THREE LITTLE BIRDS” who were developing quite a following. And before I knew it, I was
putting on my first and biggest high profile show, the” 3 SONGBIRDS” CONCERT, I had
organized since my two Ottawa Beatles Conventions in ’95 and ‘96. Natalia and Amanda and
“THREE LITTLE BIRDS” all agreed to play on one bill for me at the prestigious NATIONAL ARTS
CENTRE. It happened on June 14, 2013 and it was a success .
PAUL McCARTNEY played Ottawa on July 7, 2013 (the first time a Beatle performed here) and
I and my friends, Al and Tony, managed to get tickets. Many said it was one of the best
concerts ever in Ottawa (I’d seen him in ‘89 in Montreal and he was even better at age 71!). I
was interviewed on CBC radio before the show and they asked me why he and the Beatles are
still so popular and they seemed intrigued that their music could even had inspired me not to
go to Vietnam (let alone help bring down Communism) but as Yury had so often said,”THE
BEATLES ARE THE CULTURAL EVENT OF THE CENTURY!” As I say, I never planned to do any of
these things and still wasn’t sure where this might all lead, but it was fun and creative to be
doing it again. And I couldn’t have done it without my new friend, “G-MAN”. The City of
Ottawa Archives contacted me about being interviewed for their up-coming exhibit on the
History of Ottawa Music for the fall of 2013. As Ottawa’s Cooper Bros. sang in their 70’s hit,
“The Dream Never Dies”.


“SONGBIRD” Lyrics by Alan Chrisman

As you weave your soothing sound
like sweet aromas
that float through the air
envelope and surround

We become lost in a dream
as we drift downstream
each tune seems to fit
like pearls on a string
Pretty little songbird
So help us fly
with your music and words
out the window, and across the sky

As you sing of your stories
of Spiderwebs and Half a Heart
Lady Luck, and Short Goodbyes
beginnings and everyday lives

As we reflect, our own days
in our own separate ways
our worries fly away
And it seems to stand still - time
<repeat 1

C. 2012
(Later the theme for “3 SONGBIRDS” Concert, NAC, 2013), organized by Rock This Town!

“THE TROUBADOUR” (FOR LYNN MILES) Lyrics by Alan Chrisman

<Intro - Em, D, C, Em> x 2 c. 2012

1.25 years from that early song “This Town”(Em)
We’ve been haunted by your heartfelt sound (D, C, Em)
Dues on the road, Austin, Nashville, & L.A. (Em)
And all the other places you have played (D, C, Em)

2.Nobody’s Angel, Slightly Haunted,
Rust must take its toll
And perhaps when it could Unravel
You finally get that Juno, a Juno

Some have called you Queen of Sorrow (C, G)
Expressing our Loneliness and our tears (D, G, G7)
Advising Brave Paraders to face their fears (C, G)
Yet to Look Up to tomorrow (D, B)

<interlude – like Intro>

3.Flames of Love, Dorothy’s tight shoes
Fall for Beauty, now Black Flowers
And with that humour, oh that humour
You’ve always been a stand-up lady, a lady

4.But you’d probably say, you’d probably say
You’re just a Troubadour
Singing your songs, singing your songs
Going for Three Chords and the Truth and the truth


<Repeat last (4)verse <outtro like intro>

(Tribute song to “25 years” of Lynn Miles
based on some of her song titles)
1.Trip Back 3:47
2.Woman the Muse 4:25
3.Lady in Red 3:41
4.Don’t Pass on the Blame 4:24
5.Gotta be Strong 6:17
6.Bleeding Heart 3:49
7.Thought of You 6:03
8.Songbird 3:23
9.Human Reality 4:05
10.The Gift 4:05
11.We Didn’t Know 4:28
12.Black & White Movie 3:44
13.Balance 4:55
14.Lady in Black 3:11
15.Marie from Paris 3:01
16.Don’t Fix, What Isn’t Broken 4:29
17.Sleeping Beauty 3:06
18.Deja Vous 3:51
19.Dreamer 3:43
Alan L. Chrisman: All song lyrics, vocals, percussion
“G-MAN”: Music, lead vocals, guitars, harmonica, bass, etc.
All songs: Alan Chrisman c. 2012, 2013 www.rockthistownproductions.com
HEAR: Alan Chrisman’s songs by “AL & THE G-MEN”:


Al “Sticks” Chrisman has been kickin’ around music for a while, having run a vinyl store,
promoting musicians, DJ ing, etc. He also specializes in the jungle rhythms of the lost
Amazonian tribe, the Gutu.
“G-Man” has his own pedigree: playing guitars since age 13 and having studied at the Burl Ives
School of Folk and Ethnic Roots, under the renowned Prof. Schwartz Swinborne.
And together, they formed “Al & THE G-MEN” to combine and explore their unique tastes.
Thus far, they have written and recorded independently over 50 songs and 5 Cd’s, including
their ‘Original Songs CD to Accompany the Book’: “It’s A Long Way Home”.
Alan Chrisman was born in Illinois near Chicago. He moved to Ottawa, Canada in late 1969 and
opened one of its first used record stores, “Imagine”on Somerset St.W. in 1972. He continued
running his vinyl stores (Imagine, Rock This Town!, Get Back) in various locations: Rideau St.,
Elgin St. and Westboro, for the next 30 years. He also co-founded the alternative newspapers,
“Shoestring Press” and “Spectrum”(1972-‘85), a coffee house, put on the “Magic In The Music”
Festivals(‘85-‘90),and promoted local musicians. He created the two Ottawa Beatles
Conventions at the Congress Centre and the National Museum of Science and Technology in ’95
& ‘96. He wrote a memoir/book and an original songs CD, “It’s A Long Way Home”, about his
life, his influences, with ‘The Story of Ottawa Music’, in late 2013.
Today, he is still involved in music: writing and recording songs (for AL & The G-Men), helping
local musicians, shooting videos (Youtube alanchrisman1), and organizing shows. He has been
interviewed by and several of his songs have been played on CKCU-FM including “Ballad of
Harvey Glatt” and his song was a finalist for CBC Radio’s and Ottawa Literary Festival’s: Lynn
Miles: 25 Years of Song” in 2012. He produced the “3 Songbirds” Concert at the NAC in 2013.
Contact Alan Chrisman and order Complete Book/CD (MS Word), Audio DVD (narrated) and
e-book and ‘SONGS CD TO ACCOMPANY BOOK’ and check out his songs and blog at:
When you start to get older and look back at your life, you wonder just what made you who
you are. Was it where you grew up, your family, your culture, etc.? People growing up in the
same basic environment can each react differently to it. We are each unique. I always felt
different. Perhaps we all do. That’s part of our insecurity and a blessing too maybe. I always
felt like an ‘outsider’, a black sheep. I told my older brother once, I thought our family was
anti-social and he said, “No, more like asocial”. And he was probably right. As I said, I realized
as kids we always seemed to live just on the edge of town. So I never felt at ease in social
situations. But I learned to be just social enough to get along. But I think also I inherited my
grandfather’s and my dad’s abilities of being able, under certain conditions (like in my own
store or around music) being able to talk with people. And being an outsider, made me
perhaps, into an observer, and to try and question things. For example, leaving my country
and coming to Canada, although it wasn’t easy; it seemed to also be a somewhat natural thing
to do. But I always still felt outside in Canada too. I never liked the winters (Canadian’s said
“embrace it”) or hockey. I always have had a love-hate relationship with Ottawa, even though,
I have lived there over twice as long as the States. So I preferred to do my own thing and be
my own boss.
I also think my feeling different made me identify with artists and musicians. I always admired
how they, even though they would often have to work other jobs and likely not become
famous or make much money, would still pursue their musical dreams just to even play on the
weekends to an appreciate audience. They did it because they had to express themselves. And
perhaps that’s what makes human’s unique; the need to express themselves. Early man drew
on cave walls because they wanted to express that they had been there and had lived. Music is
also one of man’s earliest expressions. It’s universal; it can say things and express emotions in
ways that perhaps other things can’t. It did for me and still does.
For pop music and THE BEATLES and JOHN LENNON, especially, I could relate to. They
changed my life and many others too and made me realize that there was a bigger world out
there and that I could, perhaps be a part of it, even growing up in a small insular town. And I
was glad it was in the 60’s too; a time of hope and innocence. We were part of the first mass
media generation where TV and music and pop culture influenced us more than we realized. So
I prefer to try and change the world through music and peace; less people get hurt. And we can
get hurt in love too. And I’ve had my share of the pain of love. But again, I’ve been pretty
lucky. My pursuit of my ideal ‘romantic angel’ came partly from popular culture, movies and
pop music (after all, most pop songs are about love in various forms).
Women and music and have been my muses. And it seems, there have been people and
events that have weaved in and out of my life over the years. In the fall of 2012, Sarah, my ex-
wife, made it through a very difficult depression, but she thankfully is back to herself and we’re
still great friends. As I say, I’ve been lucky and privileged to have know some very smart, kind,
creative, warm, and beautiful ones from my first university heartthrob, to my first girlfriend and
live-in partner in Canada, Jackie, to my former wife, Sarah, to ‘Annie Hall’, etc. And for me, as
early Lennon band mate Len Gary had observed about him, I always preferred a partner. There
have been my female romantic and artistic partners and my male ones like my Beatles
convention’s co-organizer, Al Whyte, or my musician/ computer friend and co-songwriter, “G-
Man”. I just seem to function better with someone to bounce ideas off and to share the load.
And all the local musicians I’ve worked with over the years and to the others who have inspired
The more an artist becomes personal; ironically, I think the more people can relate to them.
The artist and the audience meet each other half way. Art can make us stop time for a moment
and we can see ourselves through it. Even if we try to ‘escape’, through a book, movie or
music, it can still capture us. I believe people have textures like paintings. Nothing has really
changed despite ‘civilization’; humans still feel the same love, hate, joy and tears. I’ve read lots
of books on lots of subjects from the library, over the years, and I don’t believe any one thing is
the answer to anything. Women and relationships, especially, are often complex, but worth it.
Things don’t always come out the way we want, but they will come out. I believe we make our
own fates, by the choices we make, with the hands we’re dealt. People can believe in whatever
they want, but reality will eventually intrude. And we have to somehow turn our nightmares
into our dreams. So truly, it has been a long and winding road, and hopefully there are several
more miles yet left to go. ”IT’S A LONG WAY HOME”, still. But somehow, it feels a little
closer, as I write this.

“Living is easy with eyes closed, misunderstanding all you see. No one I think is
in my tree, I mean it must be high or low. It’s getting hard to be someone, but it
all works out.”
-Strawberry Fields Forever”, John Lennon, c. Northern Songs Ltd. 1967

“Some drink deeply from the river of knowledge. Others only gargle”.
-Woody Allen
“WE DIDN'T KNOW" Lyrics by Alan Chrisman (Buddy Holly-like tune)

We didn't know
We were so young
We were so innocent
That it wouldn't be all fun

We didn't know
It wouldn't be so easy
That we could get hurt
That it could take its toll


We didn't know
It could break our heart
We could fall apart
But we could make a new start

We didn't know
Some would justify
We would have to cry
We'd have to say goodbye

We didn't know
We could still fall in love
We could pray above
Through it all, we could grow

C. 2013

“EDGE OF TOWN” Lyrics by Alan L. Chrisman (perhaps my own life- theme)

He was just a kid
Who felt he didn’t fit in
Had only a few friends
He neither lost nor win

But fate came one day
And he had to go away
So he headed up North
To discover his worth

Maybe he could make a new start
For he had a dream in his heart
It was cold and dark
So he had to keep alive a spark


Yes, he always lived on the Edge of Town
In his head was a musical sound
Sometimes he woke up in a scream
But he could also dream

Now it’s been many years
There’s been laughter and tears
He’s still learning to dance
But still believing in romance

c. 2013

Ottawa had quite the music scene in the 60’s. Part of this was because Canada and Ottawa
had more direct connections to England than the U.S., so they knew about The Beatles before
the rest of North America. And their 60’s bands, were very adept at re-creating that British pop
sound. In fact, Richie Patterson, a mainstay and drummer in many of its bands, called Ottawa
the “Liverpool of The North”.
Ritchie went to Fisher Park School with Paul Anka, backing him up in the Bobbysoxers. Anka
was one of the first to make it out of Ottawa and become a teen sensation with “Diana” and
“Puppy Love” in the 50’s, before moving to Vegas and writing “My Way” for Frank Sinatra.
Richie’s “The Esquires” were first influenced by Cliff Richard and the Shadows right before The
Beatles took over. Scores of Ottawa bands formed and recorded songs and some albums.
There were several places to play like the Auditorium, Pineland and clubs like the Chaudiere
across the river in in Hull, Quebec and several church basements. And hundreds of kids would
attend. Ottawa even had its own version of American Bandstand, Saturday Date, hosted by
Peter Jennings who would go to ABC News in New York.
The best of these got recording contracts like The Staccato’s (who later became The Five Man
Electrical Band) when they moved to California with their international hits “ Signs” ( ‘Signs
Signs ,everywhere, telling me you can’t do that’) and The Cooper Bros. with their hits “Dream
Never Dies” and “Rock and Roll Cowboys”, both influenced by southern rock. As Five Man’s
writer, Les Emmerson said, Ottawa had the harmonies, Ottawa being but a homogeneous small
town then. Ottawa also expressed its Ontario Irish and Scottish immigrant and Ottawa Valley
country roots. Whereas,Toronto was more R&B, being closer to Detroit and the U.S.
Vancouver was laid-back folk, like California. And Winnipeg was a tough city with the rockers,
The Guess Who and Neil Young.
But by the 70’s, The Beatles had broken up and pop music became solo artists like James Taylor,
Cat Stevens and Carol King. And Ottawa’s reflected this with the acoustic folk and about
Canadian nature of Bruce Cockburn, and singer-songwriters like Ian Tamblyn and Lynn Miles,
whom are still respected in Europe and the U.S. Then In the mid- 90’s, Alanis Morissette from
Ottawa went to L.A. and made it big with her female angst and “Jagged Little Pill”.
Ottawa, a pretty capitol and tourist attraction, now puts on big corporate festivals in the
summers like the Tulip, Jazz, Folk, and Blues Fests (and Winterlude along the Canal skating
Rink), with big crowds and international names( but moves away from their genres and with
fewer local talent each year, it seems). The Blues Fest is one of the biggest now in North
America (I’ve never understood Ottawa’s obsession with the blues for example, because it’s
still basically a well-off conservative government town). There are only a few regular places left
to play these days like Zaphods and the local audience is loyal but small, except during the big-
name festivals. But there are several talented musicians still here performing and recording,
anyway. Ottawa’s music height, though, was probably the 60’s, when people didn’t have so
many entertainment distractions, as they do now. That’s where Ottawa’s music scene began
and with its rare visionary entrepreneurs and local music supporters like Harvey Glatt. Ottawa
never did have the music industry structures here so artists often had to go to Toronto or the
States. Today, local musicians have to be very resourceful-their own promoter, booker, and
record company even, and they have to compete with everyone on the internet too.

MUSIC” on his website: www.rockthistownproductions.com

HARVEY GLATT is an Ottawa music legend. He opened the first new record
store chain,Treble Clef, in the late 50's. And he brought in the first big names to
Ottawa with his Bass Clef Concert Promotions from first, Pete Seeger in 1957, to
scores of others of all styles: Dylan, Stones, Louie Armstrong, Belafonte, etc. He
also owned part of the legendary 60's coffeehouse, Le Hibou, where many later
famous performers played and was instrumental in fostering Canadian and Ottawa
talent, of which he managed several: Esquires, Bruce Cockburn, David Wiffen,
Ian Tamblyn. There are many stories about his connections to many famous
musicians, such as returning Jimi Hendrix's hat to him when he played the
Capitol Theatre in 1968 and possibly introducing Graham Nash, (later of
CSNY) to Joni Mitchell in 1966. Sometimes the artists would stay at his house,
so he and his wife, Louise, got to know them. He also owned the first FM rock
radio station, CHEZ. I got to know him better, when I started helping local
musicians later, and I found he always gave me his honest opinion, which meant a
lot to me. So in honor of his years of supporting music and hi continuing instincts
for recognizing talent I wrote the below, “Ballad of Harvey Glatt":

“BALLAD OF HARVEY GLATT” lyrics by Alan Chrisman (folk tune)

When this was but a small town
He's the one who took a chance
and helped start the sound
that allowed us to get up and dance

Starting with that 1st Treble Clef store
Then he brought in the stars
Joni, Jimi, Lightfoot and Cash, and more
inspiring locals in the bars


Harvey's the Music Man
who always took a chance
made us believe we can
and got us up to dance

Soon he was behind The Children, 3's a Crowd,
Cockburn, Wiffen, Esquires, and MRQ
and Ottawa woke from it’s cloud
It's time due, the legendary Le Hibou

Still to this day
in any local club or bar
you might see this discerning man
checking out a potential star
and encouraging them they can

c. 2012