We were both 14 years old going to Fisherville Junior High in Willowdale in 1966, right at the start of the psychedelic era. We were good friends and, like everyone, we bought all the newest albums, tried to look like hippies, and even took the bus and subway down to Yorkville to see what we had to look like to be cool.
We went to our first really big show at North York Centennial Area featuring the two hottest bands in Toronto: The Mandala and The Paupers. The Mandala started the show with their great Blue-Eyed Soul Review. They were dressed in trademark cherry-striped suits. Joey Cherowski was on organ, Whitey Glann on drums, Dominic Trianio on guitar and Don Elliot was on bass. George Oliver sang and danced and jumped around on stage in a frenzy, which earned him his trade mark as the hardest working singer in soul music. The only time he slowed down was when he did the splits and ripped the ass out of his pants, which he changed while the band played an instrumental, the song “Toronto ’67”. Both me and Ged couldn’t believe what we were seeing. This was great, this was unbelievable. We watched in awe as they finished their set.
The next band were The Paupers. They started their set with their new hit song Magic People. There was a sound: the fuzz bass played by Denny Gerrard. Me and Geddy looked at each other and decided right then that we were going to play bass, too.
Denny stood in his sluggo cap and pounded out an amazing riff that nobody had ever heard before. Little did we know that, during the show, the group, led by Skip Prokop and Adam Mitchell, would let Denny loose to do a 10 min bass solo. When he finished, completely exhausted, he left everyone in the audience stunned by what they’d just heard.
That week, we begged, borrowed and maybe stole money to buy our own bass guitars and two small amps. I took my bass home and started practicing. I read my “Introduction to Bass Playing” book. I did scales and learned how to tune the bass. After a couple of weeks, I thought I was getting the hang of playing and sounding pretty good, so I went over to Geddy’s house to show him. When I got there, he had his bass out and one of those old portable record players where, when you opened it up, the speaker would be in the lid. I got out my bass out and said “Okay, let’s do some scales.” Geddy looked at me and said, “Um, I can’t do scales.” My confidence started to rise. “I’ll show you,” I told him. “Just follow me.” Maybe I did have some talent.
Geddy said, “Wait, before we do that, let’s listen to this record.” I told him that would be fine. The record started on the cheap portable player and he said, “Listen, can you hear the bass?” Then he said, “Look at this,” and started playing. His bass came alive. It pounded the speakers of the 12″ amp and sounded great. I didn’t know if he was copying the record or not because I couldn’t even hear the bass on the record. He did the same thing on the next song and the next one after that. I went home and put my bass away and I don’t think that I ever picked it up again. I guess, looking back, it would have been tough for anyone to compare with the best bass guitar player in the world. I think that both of us made the right decision.