Bonus Features: “Stop the Slaughter of Innocents”

This post offers bonus material for a piece I wrote for TVO – you may want to check that out first

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Toronto World, November 12, 1919.

Toronto medical officer of health Dr. Charles Hastings understood his actions in implementing a mandatory vaccination program might not be popular, especially among those who objected on grounds of personal liberty. “Why all this interference with personal liberty and individual rights?” he asked in his November 1919 monthly report. “Because British justice, properly interpreted, means that when the liberty and rights of the individual are not in the interests of the welfare of the masses, the rights of the individual must yield.”

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The Globe, November 13, 1919.

More from The Globe on the City Hall clinic: “It was positively sustaining, that odour of disinfectants, and as one of the City Hall staff remarked, one whiff of it was almost enough to safeguard a whole family against the threatened scourge.”

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Cartoon by George Shields, the Telegram, November 14, 1919.

Toronto should realize that Dr. Hastings is not a vaccinationist for the sake of vaccination. The question of compulsory vaccination will not arise if the citizens who are not anti-vaccinationists on principle give themselves, their families and their neighbours the benefit of the doubt and GET VACCINATED. – editorial, the Telegram, November 15, 1919

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The Globe, November 19, 1919. Dr. Hastings did not show up.

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The Telegram, November 20, 1919.

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Cartoon by George Shields, the Telegram, December 16, 1919.

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Toronto Star, January 22, 1920.

Ah, the irony. I admit it – I couldn’t stop laughing when I read this story. The Globe‘s headline was even more blunt: “Anti-vaccination Champion Ald. Ryding, Has Smallpox.” Ryding, who had represented the Junction on city council since 1912, survived and continued to serve as an alderman into the early 1930s.

Vintage Toronto Ads: Oscar Peterson

Originally published on Torontoist on June 17, 2015.

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Toronto Star, November 5, 1945.

In July 1945, Globe and Mail record reviewer Dillon O’Leary (in his tongue-twistingly-titled column “Hot Platter Patter”) declared that 20-year-old jazz pianist Oscar Peterson’s second single “My Blue Heaven/Louise” was disappointing “but his ideas still show lots of promise.” That promise was fulfilled: over the next 60 years, Peterson earned fame and honours worldwide.

Reviews of his early visits to Toronto, such as this one by the Globe and Mail’s Kay Sanford during a brief appearance at the Royal York Hotel in November 1945, glowed:

This personable young coloured man with the gifted fingers chased the ivories through a varied program and the blues to the lilting Polonaise in a style that left his audience with their mouths agape and pleading “Don’t stop now.” Yes, sir, that man is solid dynamite. But Oscar is a versatile lad who doesn’t just stick to the hot stuff. His long, graceful fingers caressed the piano in a flow of classics as well as chopping a faster tempo to more popular boogie numbers, offering tuneful evidence of the amazing gift which is his.

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Globe and Mail, March 7, 1946.

Peterson made his Massey Hall debut on March 7, 1946. “Peterson has technique, imagination and terrific drive, combined with that relaxed self-possession which allows a musician to give his best at all times,” O’Leary observed in his review. The crowd responded enthusiastically, applauding loudly following Peterson’s rendition of Duke Ellington’s “C Jam Blues” and demanding encores at the end of the night.

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Globe and Mail, August 13, 1960.

Though born in Montreal, Peterson was later based in the Toronto area. One of his most ambitious local projects was the establishment of the Advanced School of Contemporary Music (ASCM) in 1960. Founded by Peterson, the rest of his performance trio (bassist Ray Brown and drummer Ed Thigpen) and clarinetist/composer Phil Nimmons, the school was established to allow professional jazz musicians to mentor emerging talent from across North America. Originally launched in the basement of Peterson’s suburban home, it soon moved downtown to 21 Park Road. The school initially offered courses lasting up to 17 weeks (later shortened to four), which the teachers soon found cut into their touring time. “When we set up the school,” Peterson told the Star in January 1964 after it suspended operations, “it was supposed to be a bit of a holiday activity on our days off. It never worked that way.” Despite the school’s demise, Peterson continued to teach, leading to a term as chancellor of York University. ASCM’s legacy will be honoured this week with the installation of a Toronto Legacy Program plaque on its site on June 18, the same day the Toronto Jazz Festival marks the 90th anniversary of Peterson’s birth.

While Peterson appeared in print ads and television commercials for products ranging from whisky to Coffee-mate, he also lent his presence to public service announcements regarding human rights issues. One such ad, “Together We Are Ontario,” featured Peterson and fellow jazz performers like Guido Basso and Moe Koffman promoting racial harmony in the province. The importance of such work to Peterson is reflected in his autobiography A Jazz Odyssey: on the dedication page, besides mentions of his parents and musical impresario Norman Granz, he gives a shout-out to former Ontario attorney general Roy McMurtry, “who decisively assisted my efforts to persuade TV companies to feature more ethnics in their sponsorship programs.”

Additional material from Oscar Peterson: A Musical Biography by Alex Barris (Toronto: HarperCollins, 2002); A Jazz Odyssey: The Life of Oscar Peterson by Oscar Peterson (New York: Continuum, 2002); the July 21, 1945, November 27, 1945, March 8, 1946, and September 10, 1960 editions of the Globe and Mail; and the January 6, 1964 edition of the Toronto Star.

Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side, in Toronto

Originally published on Torontoist on October 28, 2013.

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Toronto Star, June 10, 1967.

“You’ll never see the LP on the pop charts. It’s doubtful whether you’ll ever hear much of it on the radio,” warned Toronto Star rock columnist Ralph Thomas when The Velvet Underground & Nico was released in 1967. While the airwaves might not have been ready for the album’s most uncompromising tracks about drugs and deviancy, Thomas praised it for creativity, singling out singer/guitarist Lou Reed for his “Dylanesque style.”

Reed, who died Sunday morning at age 71, went on to become one of rock’s most influential figures. His more memorable songs inspired many musical careers, but some of his more difficult works amounted to prickly f-yous to fans, journalists, and record labels (we dare you to sit through all four sides of 1975’s Metal Machine Music). His first solo gigs in Toronto, in 1973, fit this pattern.

Following two local appearances with the Velvet Underground—a performance of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable roadshow at Hamilton’s McMaster University in November 1966 and a spot at the Toronto Pop Festival at Varsity Stadium in June 1969—Reed made his Toronto solo debut at Massey Hall on April 9, 1973. It was not one of the auditorium’s finest moments. Ticketholders were locked out while problems with Reed’s equipment were remedied. The show started about 90 minutes late, to the detriment of opening act Genesis. The differences between each act’s following heightened tensions which, as Genesis guitarist Steve Hackett recalled years later, “deteriorated into a punch-up between the Lou Reed fans who were on downers, and the Genesis fans who were more into Earl Grey tea.” Booing ensued.

The headliner’s subdued set failed to excite the 2,250 concertgoers. “Dressed in black leather, and looking wan and tired, he seemed to be only going through the motions,” observed the Star’s Peter Goddard. “And even the motions weren’t particularly interesting.” The Globe and Mail’s Robert Martin felt the bluesy style Reed applied to songs like “Heroin” reflected the relaxed tone he sensed in the singer’s most recent album, Transformer. “Reed does to song lyrics what Warhol did to art; he records the seemingly artless debris of New York’s demi-monde and presents it without comment,” Martin reflected. “His lyrics are as ambivalent as is his own sexuality.” Soon after the show, Reed fired his backing band.

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Toronto Star, November 9, 1973.

Reed returned to Massey Hall on November 29, 1973, to promote his album Berlin. His new touring group included two veterans of the Toronto music scene, drummer Whitey Glan and bassist Prakash John. Tales of Reed’s previous appearance may have affected attendance, as only 1,000 people showed up. Those who did enjoyed a solid, hard-driving set that mixed Velvet Underground staples, new material, and Reed’s recent hit, “Walk on the Wild Side.” Reed, according to Martin, appeared “both hard and sensuous, a street punk in leather, and chains, but softened by his frequently coy and effeminate gestures.” Goddard compared Reed’s appearance to Joel Grey’s sexless MC in Cabaret and, while not entirely satisfied with the performance, felt it gave a better sense of what Reed was capable of.

Goddard’s fear that the low turnout would discourage Reed from returning to Toronto proved groundless. Reed—joined by surprise guests Alice Cooper and King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp—played Massey Hall the following October and would perform here many times over the remainder of his career.

Additional material from the April 21, 1973, and November 30, 1973 editions of the Globe and Mail; the August 4, 2011 edition of the Guardian; and the June 10, 1967, April 10, 1973, and November 30, 1973 editions of the Toronto Star.

ADDITIONAL MATERIAL

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Globe and Mail, November 14, 1966.

While the Globe and Mail ran a picture but no article regarding the November 12, 1966 appearance of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable show in Hamilton, the Star did the opposite. For some reason, Nico’s name was spelled ENTIRELY IN CAPS throughout Gail Dexter’s review. A sampling:

The films are simple enough–The Underground and Edie [Sedgwick] and NICO and lots of black leather projected on a huge screen to intense rhythmic noise. The action builds to a sado-masochistic climax and then The Underground comes on stage.

The group plays with a persistent heavy beat so loud that the floor of the new gym vibrates, and they play for two hours with lights, films, and optical patterns flashing behind them. Songs like “Heroin” (it’s my life and it’s my wife) to which Gerard simulates a fix, and “Death Song for Hell’s Angels” (shiny, shiny, shiny leather, whiplash girl-child in the dark) through which the dancer flagellates himself.

But NICO is the star. She’s tall and blond and beautiful in a remote northern way. She played herself in Fellini’s Dolce Vita and now she sings with the Underground; and, in her singing, she projects a tragic awareness that becomes almost painful. Her final number, “If I’m late, will you wait for me?” holds the audience enthralled for a half-hour.

And that was one of the problems: The audience, about 800 students, just sat there stunned for three hours. They were supposed to dance but the gym is so big that only a few couples were sufficiently exhibitionist to try–but they went wild. A one-time McMaster student, Charlotte Kennedy, just ran up on the stage and started dancing with Gerard. He flashed lights on her and cavorted for the cameramen.

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Globe and Mail, November 30, 1973.

The Globe and Mail‘s review for Reed’s second, less-disastrous Massey Hall show of 1973. Berlin was also placed on Martin’s list of potential Christmas gifts, published on December 8:

Lou Reed, who characterized the life of New York City’s demimonde as a member of the Velvet Underground, has moved to Berlin, where angst is part of the real vocabulary. It’s a concept album about a relationship in the city of the bear that ends in the suicide of the lady, Caroline. It’s a chilling tale told in school of Andy Warhol simplicity that borders on the banal. But Reed’s flat, disinterested vocals lift the story out of melodrama into a horror story of world weariness.

Other albums in that guide? The Rolling Stones’s Goat’s Head Soup (“The disc was recorded in Jamaica. I think the sun got to them.”), John Lennon’s Mind Games (“His best album since Imagine”), Ringo Starr’s Ringo (“As a singer, Ringo makes a great drummer”), Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (“One of the most beautiful records produced this year”), Linda Ronstadt’s Don’t Cry Now (“If you give [this album] to a male, he may never get past the front cover photograph”), The Band’s Moondog Matinee (“The results are so funky as to be virtually skunky”), and Neil Young’s Time Fades Away (“Neil Young writes like a 27-year-old going on 60”).

Vintage Toronto Ads: The Little Criminal Mind of Randy Newman

Originally published on Torontoist on June 19, 2012.

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Rolling Stone, November 3, 1977.

As he stood on a Los Angeles freeway overpass having his picture taken for the cover of Little Criminals, did Randy Newman suspect that he would unleash what proved to be his most popular album with the public? Or does his look suggest he wanted the photo session to wrap up?

Shortly before the album was released in October 1977, Newman performed at Massey Hall. He told the Star that he hadn’t done much in the three-year interval since his last album, Good Old Boys, other than play with his kids at home in L.A. He claimed he was lazy, declaring he had rejected numerous offers to write Broadway musicals because he lacked the discipline to do so. Ironically, in light of his later career, he also turned down work on film soundtracks—“Movie music isn’t up to much lately; it doesn’t do anything for film.” Perhaps jaded Academy Award voters remembered that quote when they denied Newman an Oscar 15 times in a row.

The Globe and Mail’s Paul McGrath thought Newman looked “vibrant and healthy” when he took the stage on October 9, 1977. McGrath enjoyed the intelligence of Newman’s lyrics, but thought his vocals suited personal songs better than political ones, as the singer/songwriter penned “heartbreakingly beautiful love songs” that “can deal honestly with deep human emotion without the slightest bit of trivializing.” The Star’s Alan Guettel felt that Newman presented the same style of concert he had offered up the previous half-decade: “he sits at the piano, throws out a few asides about how sick he must be, and runs through about 30 songs. Thank you and good night.” Guettel also noted that “his repertoire of simple put-down ditties, the songs his cult fans instantly recognized…that evoke a genius who artfully portrays slices of North American life that we all sense are too irrational to take on standing up.”

Based on the success soon after of “Short People,” more than Newman’s devoted fans appreciated that genius.

Additional material from the October 10, 1977 edition of the Globe and Mail, and the October 8, 1977 and October 10, 1977 editions of the Toronto Star.