In 1971 I began my life at university. I say that because I completed my last degree in 2000. I attended York University in the north end of the city of Toronto, Canada. Though I ended up with 3 degrees, I was never academic. I hated writing papers and taking exams. I could research ’til the cows came home. Just couldn’t get on with the finished product.
What I loved the most about my university days was the social life. Most of us did. And the early 70s were a great time to be on campus….in Canada anyway. The Kent State shootings in America were just 1 year earlier. My first day at York I spent more time checking out each college’s coffee shop than my classes. As I sipped my spiced orange tea in the Absinthe Coffee Shop in Winter’s College (my college), a newly released album played over the sound system….’Tapestry’ by Carole King. I had never heard of her before this. When it finished, Cat Steven’s ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ came on.
When that ended, ‘Tapestry’ played again. Then ‘Tea For The Tillerman’ and the two repeated all day long. So, I went to the Mac Coffee House in McLaughlin College and then the Orange Snail Coffee Shop in Stong College, sipped another spiced orange tea while munching on a chocolate topped glazed donut….in the days when I could with impunity. Guess what music was on….got it? ‘Tapestry’ and then ‘Tea For The Tillerman’….over and over. Became a thing and no one complained.
I was hooked. I went down to Sam The Record Man on Yonge Street in Toronto that very weekend and bought both albums. And I’ve had them ever since in one form or another. My best friend and I even do several cuts from Tapestry in the set we do. When she finally leaves her corporate world job, we’ll busk our music all over the cut. It’s a plan.
I realise that nostalgia has its limits. We cannot get stuck in the past. I have moved with the musical times….mostly. Still can’t get my head around most Rap music, Thrash Metal or Bjork. It’s a matter of taste after all. And my taste has to do with tunes I can sing or hum. I love harmony and songs with a good story, strong lyric too. I can bop to that beat-filled club music….much of it being a rehash of older music put to a new beat. But I can’t hum it or play it on my guitar. I don’t even try. I stick to the Classics of folk and rock.
So, it was with a thankful heart that I received one of my endless birthday presents from my best friend. She took me to Liverpool for the whole Beatles pilgrimage. That ought to have been enough. But she called me from work one day just before my birthday and said, “I wanted this to be a surprise, like Liverpool, but I need to know if you’d like to see Carole King in Hyde Park in July. She’s doing the whole Tapestry album live.” What am I supposed to say to that? Liverpool would have sufficed. But could I turn down a chance to see a music icon? Answer, no. “Um, yes ” I said, feeling slightly guilty. “Are you sure?” She of tremendous grace assured me it was. And so tickets were purchased.
To make the pot even sweeter, Don Henley of Eagles fame was on the bill. My best friend is a Don Henley fan. We both like the Eagles, but I thought having him there would ease my guilt a little….even though I didn’t do the booking. I am a lucky man. Music being one of my main passions, this year has been a bonus so far. I worried a little as the day approached. The weather in the south of England has been anything but cooperative for an outdoor concert. The long range forecast for Sunday, the 3rd of July was not looking good. rain and a cool temperature were what we could expect.
But the weather gods smiled. No rain and it was quite a lovely 21C. Hyde Park was packed….50 thousand music lovers. We arrived just after 6pm. It started at 2pm but I’m a little more discerning at my advanced age and 8 hours out in the sun, standing, was too much to take. Besides, they don’t let you take in folding chairs. We timed it to be there for Don Henley and then Carole King, worth the ticket price on their own. Henley was singing as we entered the closed in area where the concert took place.
Arriving later than most, we were well back in the crowd but the large screens revealed all. When Don finished, we found a small square of grass and put down our picnic blanket. I went off for a couple of rum and cokes at the Bacardi pavilion. One needs a stiff drink when in a large crowd. I got back with the drinks and my best friend went off in search of the ultimate burger and fries, found them and returned triumphantly just as the great lady came to the stage.
I know this is a Blog, but there really are no words for the emotion I felt as the 74-year-old Carole King began the first strains of ‘I Feel The Earth Move’. 45 years after my long distance encounter with the great lady at my old alma mater, here she was in person. Probably the last time she’ll do the whole album live. For the rest of the album’s songs I sang, I wept, I cheered and I filmed as much as I could until my camera batteries expired. Carole King wept at our overwhelming welcome. Soppy but genuine.
What an amazing journey. Nostalgia rules. Her voice was just a little weaker, but she belted out ‘Smackwater Jack’, playing guitar for this one, as if she were a younger woman once again. She was nearly 30 when Tapestry was released. Well, let’s face it, 74 is the new 30 anyway. We were so honoured to be a part of this evening.
We headed for the Underground station as the cast of the West End musical ‘Beautiful’ came on to join her in tribute to one of the greatest singer/songwriters ever to have reigned. Had to beat the 49, 998 to the tube. On the way out, my best friend splashed out for one more parting birthday present, his and hers Carole King T-shirts. Don’t get no better than that.