was a concert Rolling Stone magazine called
the second most important event in rock & roll history.
The Toronto Rock & Roll Revival
I was there. I was right up front at the edge of the stage through most of the shows. This website chronicles my personal experience as a fan at the concert. Since I haven't been able to find much information on the web about this historic musical and cultural event, I decided to create this site as a monument, and hopefully it will grow with contributions from others. I myself have photographs of the day. I invite you to share any information or photographs you may have.
The headline act was Jim Morrison & The Doors. That year their song 'Touch Me' was a huge hit. During the day the emcee Kim Fowley announced that John Lennon had heard of the event and was on a plane heading to Toronto to play for us... There was a collective 'Yeah Right'.. However at about 9:pm the spotlights turned from the stage to the stands and focused on the press booth. There behind the glass were John & Yoko.. Lennon was in his trademark white suit, long red hair and beard. There is a video & CD of Lennon's performance called "Live Peace In Toronto". Also I believe their is a bootleg CD of The Doors performance, mislabeled as "The Doors Live In Mexico City". (A diehard Doors fan, I went to see Robby Krieger, their guitarist, play at The El Mocambo in Toronto in November 1982 and he mentioned having played last in Toronto at The Rock & Roll Revival. He was great at both shows, but the El Mocambo show was eerie 'cause he played Doors and Jimi Hendrix songs instrumentally, without any vocals and it felt like Jim and Jimi were there.Definately haunting.) There was a curly haired guy sitting behind me in the evening who had a professional looking hand held movie camera.. he kept saying "Sit down, I'm trying to make a movie..."The ticket price of The Toronto Rock & Roll Revival was $5.
The list of performers who played at The Toronto Rock & Roll Revival was like a who's who of rock & roll:
The Doors.. I love The Doors. When I heard a DJ at CKOC radio announce that The Doors were coming, I was in disbelief. When I arrived at Varsity Stadium, I went to the left side of the stage. Standing there was Jim Morrison. He stayed by the back steps of the stage for hours, staring at his boots. He wore a pair of jeans, white T-shirt and a sea blue "raft" type winter jacket. I stayed with him for hours it seemed: Through Bo Diddley,Gene Vincent and Chuck Berry, though a fence divided us. I took some snapshots of Jim with an antique Kodak camera, one of the ones that has a tent like apparatutus that folds up. All day long, no one went to talk to him, though there were many celebrities there. I always wish that I had jumped the fence and gone over to him. He seemed lonely and dejected. I had great spiritual affinity with him. Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger and John Densmore were up on stage most all day long, intent, keenely observing every musical nuance. At night Jim joined the roster of greats on stage, watching John & Yoko, and Eric Clapton previewing The Plastic Ono Band. The Doors were the headline act and went on last. It was cold and past midnight when they began. No words I could write could ever describe it. Morrison was explosive, easily hitting performance pitch, he was electrifying. People were chanting 'Light My Fire'.. "Should we give it to 'em?" asked Jim..."Nahhh!" said Robbie Krieger and launched into another song. Then a few songs later we went crazy when the opening keyboard swirl announced Light My Fire. At one point during "The End", Jim leapt about four feet in the air landing in a heap on the stage.. it shocked me. His agility and unexpected timing combined with a blood curdling shriek made my neck hair stand on end.
Update, 12/18/00:Just read "Light My Fire: My Life With The Doors" by Ray Manzarek. Great book if you're a Doors fan..and even if you're not! No one else but Ray can tell the story. It doesn't mention the Toronto Rock and Roll Revival, <shaking Ray's astral tree> "hey dude.. This was the second most important event in rock and roll history next to Woodstock, and The Doors were the headline act.." You were wrong though Ray, The Doors did change other peoples lives as much as it did yours.
Update,June 2, 2002: I just got home from seeing The Robby Krieger Band play at a club called The Evening Star in Niagra Falls, New York. What a great show.. I was expecting to hear Robby play jazz fusion style music as he did in 1982.. instead, he treated us to an evening of The Doors. Complete with Robby singing and trading guitar licks with his son, who played second guitar.
Update, September 29, 2002: Went to Barrie, Ontario, Canada to see The Doors play at the Harley-Davidson 100th Anniversary concert. Stewart Copeland filled in for John Densmore, who was unable to perform due to tinnitus. The show was really great. I wish John was there though. I got some good photographs.
Soon I will give you the account of my witness to Saint John The Beatle.
Here's a recent Toronto Star article on the concert.
Of all the performers who played at the revival, Chuck Berry was the king of working the audience. He had the audience eating out of the palm of his hand as he duck-walked and mugged his way through his rock & roll classics. You felt like you had known him forever.. he was at once the king and the fool. Particularly on the song "My Ding-a-ling", which was a new song to fans. He quickly taught the audience to sing a long, and with school boy charm led us to the hysterically funny "You must be playin' with your own ding-a-ling!" conclusion. There is a record of Charles' set titled:CHUCK BERRY Toronto Rock N Roll Revival 1969 (Breakaway BWY69 Volume II EX 10)
Little Richard's set was nothing short of riotous. He had a well rehearsed Ellingtonesque big band and played and sang his heart out. He wore a dazzling white suit covered in one inch square mirrors, like a disco ball. The crowd was totally pumped by this time and LR took advantage all the way. He was non-stop rock & roll energy. at one point he jumped up on his grand piano and ripped off his jacket. He twirled the jacket in the air and threw it into the crowd. It was about to land on me and I was thrilled, except things went into slow motion. As it sailed towards me, I looked around and could see that everyone else had the idea of grabbing it. I jumped out of the way... dozens of people piled on it and tore it to shreds... pheww. There is a video available of Little Richard's performance at The Toronto Rock & Roll Revival titled Little Richard: Keep On Rockin' (WARN-V38301)
Jerry Lee Lewis has to be the greatest rock & roll piano player who ever whipped the pearls. He started out subdued, and if you'll forgive me,(it's been over 30 years...) I can't remember the exact order of the songs. At some point, he dramatically flew back out of his seat as if being yanked by the collar, then tossed the chair aside. Like a rock & roll Beethoven, the familiar curly-Q twist of hair falling across his serious face, he played high notes with his boot heels, used his elbows and pounded the devil out of his piano; a man fighting his dragon yet never losing the be-bop sock hop tickle of the ivories. This was rock & roll defined.
Check out Jerry Lee's International Fan Club
You have to imagine that the rock & roll icons who played at The Toronto Rock & Roll Revival were pretty much ten years after their peak in the 50's. Yet here was Gene Vincent in a white shirt and black leather pants howling Be Bop A Lula.. it was great. I took a few minutes during Gene's set to go look for my sister and her friend Wilma. I went to the top of the stands and watched his set from a distance for a few songs, trying to spot my sister Elaine Maxwell in the crowd. Be Bop A Lula rang out and echoed around the stands. I snapped a photo of the stage while Gene played, but you can't really see him from the top of the stands. It was magic. My sister's girlfriend Wilma Fisher often played and sang Be Bop A Lula on her guitar. She was at the show somewhere with us. I went back to the side of the stage to watch Gene up close.No one in the crowd but me seemed to notice Jim Morrison, standing backstage while Gene Vincent played; nor that they had swapped pants for the day.
I watched Bo Diddley from the side of the stage, 'cause I was keepin' vigil with Jim Morrison, who was standing about 20 yards away at the back stairs to the stage. Bo was great, and had a relatively big band with singers and rhythm guitarist. The other members of The Doors were onstage soakin' up the Bo Diddley beat. You can see a few minutes of the set on the "Live Peace In Toronto" video.
Junior Walker and the All-Stars had a huge hit in 1969 with "What Does It Take" I don't remember much about their performance because I was walking around checking out the crowd while they played. I love that song though.
Oh my god, where did these guys come from? I had never heard of them before.. They all had long beautiful hair.. like the set of a Pantene commercial. They really rocked, and had a guy sitting cross-legged playing a keyboard that just controlled the lights. The entire band was called Alice Cooper, before just the singer became known as Alice Cooper. They were a great, really tight band, doing great, really tight original rock & roll songs. Towards the end of the set, the singer slashed open two pillows with a big knife and scattered feathers all over the stage, blew them into a feather storm with compressed air, then released two chickens from separate bags. I was up front as close as you could get.. Later people who must have been sitting further back, thought they saw chickens getting killed. It was pandemonium, but No Chickens Were Harmed, just feather pillows - sorry for the expose, LOL. Apparently there is an Alice Cooper album called "Toronto Rock'n'roll Revival 1969, Volume IV", distributed by Stage 1 Records England.
Doug Kershaw, though an excellent musician, was not well received at this show, perhaps because his sound was not rock & roll. I have since come to like Cajun music. He was a funny looking skinny guy playing a fiddle, which was out of place in the context. Still he bravely ignored the few people up front who were cat-calling and gave us some genuinely fiery Cajun tunes.
Tony Joe White had a big hit in 1969 with the guttural "Polk Salad Annie". His up from the swamp blues was excellent. He played with just a bass player and drummer. This show came at the peak of his popularity and I loved every second of it. Tony Joe White also wrote "Rainy Night In Georgia", a big hit for Brook Benton a few years later. Where do great musicians like this learn to play..
This guy was wild, diving right off the stage and into the crowd. He had really long hair, wore a frilly lace shirt and Lord Fauntleroy jacket, and screamed like a maniac. Part of his set, he was in the crowd with a long microphone cable getting his shirt ripped by fans. I had never heard of him before, nor ever again, but I'll never forget that wild man's chaotic performance. Apparently he had a long colorful history in England.
When I arrived at Varsity Stadium, Chicago were already onstage playing. That Spring, David Clayton Thomas and Blood, Sweat & Tears had a big hit with the song 'Spinning Wheel', which opened the doors for horn based rock bands. I did'nt pay much attention to them, rather I walked around the crowd for a while soaking up the sunshine, face painting and girls. I became a great Chicago Transit Authority fan a year later.
Cat Mother & The Allnight Newsboys were from Greenwich Village in New York City and had a top forty hit in 1969 called "Good Old Rock & Roll". The Song was a medley of 50's hits. I really liked the song, and the band. They were fronted by singer/guitarist Charly Chin, an Asian-American, which was unusual. Their album " The Street Giveth, And The Street Taketh Away" was produced by Jimi Hendrix. This was a really great rockin' band.
This was one of Toronto's best bands in the early seventies. I don't remember their performance here, because I spent some time checking out the crowd, but I saw them many times after this at the Toronto CNE ampitheatre and at the Nob Hill Hotel . Read Whiskey Howl lead singer John Witmer's recollection
I'm not sure that Nucleus the band actually did a set, but I mention them here because the members acted as the back up band for Chuck Berry, and I believe Gene Vincent.. In the Yoko Ono release of the video "Live Peace In Toronto", you can see drummer Danny Taylor backing Charles. Danny's goofy smile was often seen in downtown Toronto in those days before he became famous when the band morphed into the awesome A Foot In Coldwater
This is a late addition: I don't remember seeing this band at the show, but recently heard from someone in the know. I got there about 1:pm and the show started at noon. If anyone else has any info, please email me.
Read these cool emails I've gotten from surfers..
Peace, Love & I created this website on September 13, 1999 - the thirtieth anniversary of the Toronto Rock & Roll Revival. At the time I was shocked to find, (after years of searching), there was not a single reference to this event anywhere online.. not a page, not a paragraph, not a sentence, nor even a single reference anywhere world-wide, to its title, 'The Toronto Rock and Roll Revival'. It was as if this historic concert had been systematically erased from history. As I searched and found nothing, year after year, I began to realize, the memory, yeah, the very web existence.. of the ultimate event in rock and roll, the day the music lived, was lost to mankind, and could easily remain so.. no one I talked to ever heard of it.. I felt isolated, alone with a cherished memory few even cared about. Out of all who ever lived, it fell to me.. to kiss life into a fading memory, a low flame who's extinction hung by the thread of my story. For the living and yet unborn who might someday care, the resurrection of this lost page of history so nearly vanished.. fell to me alone. So.. , working from my treasured thirty year old memory of this, the first rock concert I ever attended, I created a definitive historical rendering of a what I consider to be the greatest event in all of rock and roll history. I have noticed in the intervening years, other references to it have appeared on the web, many directly and indirectly quoting mine, some even reworded my writing.. The event belongs to the mankind, and the ages..and I'm proud to have kept the flame alive. I hope more sets from this very well filmed concert get released soon, (in HD please).. the footage bears important historical witness, and it's not fair to mankind not to share them, although, in all fairness to for D.A. Pennebakker, it may be the event promoter who is stifling release of the the filmed sets. Please email me, and pass along any recollections or photos you may have. Cheers! March 17, 2011 keep your eyes on the road, your hands upon the wheel..