It’s My Life, Sort Of – Oh what a night

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By Joe Barkovich, Scribbler-at-large

“Do you believe in magic?

In a young girl’s heart

How the music can free her whenever it starts…”

Darn 60s dances.

You hear a once-fave tune and it gets into your head and you can’t get it out again no matter how hard you try.

Like water in your ear. Know the feeling?

The Lovin’ Spoonful’s Do You Believe in Magic, from the mid-60s, did it to me Saturday night.

And it’s been goin’ round and round like a 45 rpm with one of those yellow adapters fit into the middle so the record could play on the turn table.

Welland-based British Invasion Band is to thank for their fine rendition of John Sebastian’s Do You Believe in Magic? classic. The band was the headliner for a fundraiser at the International Flatwater Centre. The opener was a band called Groovy Food – my, talk about getting the adrenaline going, these guys sure can do it.

Oh what a night! No, not the song. “Oh, what a night, late December back in ’63/What a very special time for me/As I remember what a night!” as performed by Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Remember that one? Just, oh what a night! Good music, good friends, good food too.

Let me admit it now: the bands’ respective opening sets turned back the hands of time, that was inevitable. They roused from slumber a lot of memories.

Live band dances were a big thing way back in the 60s where much of Saturday’s music had its roots. High schools had live band dances on occasion. Frats and sororities around town had them more often. The best venues were places like the K of C (Knights of Columbus) hall on Lincoln West, Holy Ghost Church hall on the east side, Morgan’s Point, and some will say, Davis Hall in Fonthill.

*** 

“I’ll tell ya about the magic

It’ll free your soul but it’s like trying to tell a stranger ’bout rock n roll”

It seemed as if local bands were coming out of the woodwork. Arguably, two favourites of most in Welland were the Spartans and Sting Rays. Anytime these guys played you could expect a full house and a lot of action on the dance floor. Even some of the guys who typically leaned against the walls with their hands in their pockets for most of the night got the urge to get out on the dance floor. Remember what they were called: “wallflowers”.

On Saturday night, a musician of renown was seated at our table. Stanley “Stash” Szymkow, a  Welland South-neighbourhood boy as the saying goes, was there to join in a set by the British Invasion Band later in the evening.

Renown?

Well, one of the guys in Groovy Food referred to him as “a legend” during a conversation they had had between sets. Now that’s renown – when one of your peers refers to you as a “legend”. Low-key Stash is one of the best and one of the best known horn players in these parts.

I suppose this, too, was inevitable. We lamented the decline  of weekend live band dances as we had known them. He suggested two factors which contributed : changes in smoking laws and changes in drinking laws. Little by little (or maybe it was faster than we recall) they took their toll on attendance at events such as live band dances. Now that I think about it, makes sense to me.

 ***

“Do you belive in magic?

Yeah. Believe in the magic in a young girl’s soul believe in the magic of rock n roll

Believe in the magic that can set you free Ohhhh, talkin’ bout magic.”


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CAPTION: Saturday Night Band, pictured, had a huge fan base in Welland and area. (Photo by Joe Barkovich)

Saturday Night Band was another of the bands Stash would join in with at dances every now and then.

These Welland musicians had a huge local following for years and made an enduring name for themselves by playing benefit dances on behalf of local charities and causes. Their commitment led to Paul Harris Fellow recognition by Welland Rotary, no small achievement. They could, and did, fill cavernous Ukrainian Cultural Centre hall time after time because of their fan base in and around Welland. Of course, their name came up in our conversation with Stash paying them tribute – for their music and for their humanitarianism. I have a six-disc set of their music and it is played as the mood overtakes me.

Anyway, the Saturday night just gone by stirred my nostalgia from its deep sleep thanks in large measure to music by the British Invasion Band and Groovy Food. I’m not going to name the musicians – I don’t know all by name. Suffice to say they carry on traditions of so many still remembered groups who played for us over a long span of years at K of C, Morgan’s, Ukrainian and other venues now gone or forgotten or maybe even both. And at one I’d had a personal epiphany – I was a wallflower no more!

The invite to Saturday night’s gig, held to raise funds for the entrance enhancement project at Welland Farmers’ Market described it as “ like a Welland South, WHVS, ND, Eastdale, sports reunion”.

Sure sounded good to me. And the music sounded even better. And that 60s song by John Sebastian, well, it’s still playin’ in my head, thanks to the British Invasion Band.

“Do you believe like I believe?

Do you believe in magic?”

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(A former reporter and editor, Joe Barkovich lives in his hometown of Welland, Ontario, Canada’s Rose City.)

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