Gene Simmons, the blood-spewing, fire-breathing bassist and singer for the band KISS, says that the music boys listened to in their teens, or younger, is most often the music they will gravitate to for the rest of their lives. Following is a blog cataloguing the music on my iPhone.
To read previous blogs click on D.S. Mathieson below my picture.
Released by Gen Campbell in 1975
Most kids growing up in Calgary have close ties to the Calgary Stampede.
It’s a magical time of year when kids hit the midway and bask in the carnival-like atmosphere, and then throw up.
You could almost say that my experience at the Stampede is bookended with two bouts of vomiting.
One of my earliest memories of the Stampede was in Grade three when I went to the Stampede with my friend Bob, who was three years older than me.
We went on a ride that looked sort of like a massive octopus.
We got inside this pod attached to the end of one of the arms and the whole contraptions started going up and down and spinning around like crazy.
Bob and me vomited over the side of the spinning pod at the exact same time. I remember everything happening in slow motion and vomit flying everywhere.
You’d think that would turn me off the Stampede for good but I couldn’t get enough of the place.
I always think of that incident when I hear the song Rhinestone Cowboy, released by Glen Campbell in 1975. Some rides would play songs super loud and Rhinestone Cowboy never fails to remind me of bright sunny days on the midway at the Stampede.
I had several jobs at the Stampede over the next few years.
My first job was tying balloons inside a tiny, little backroom at one of those games where you try to win a prize by throwing a dart at a balloon. I think I was in Grade four at the time.
I got the job when two friends and me were walking down the midway and this young fellow, for some reason I always picture him wearing one of those Halloween top hats and looking very much like a 15-year-old Russell Brand, asking us if we wanted a job.
We jumped at the chance to make some money, but a day or two into the job both my friends quit and I was left there all alone.
If I remember correctly, we were making $15 a day in cash, but the reason they quit was because sitting in a hotbox, blowing up balloons, and then tying them wasn’t very much fun. It also made the fingers blister up.
All we did for the first little while was moan and whine and complain.
After my friends quit I went to a pay phone to call my mom and, with tears in my eyes, I told her I was thinking of quitting. My mom, who was quite warm and loving towards me at that point in my life, told me I could do whatever I wanted to do.”
I decided to keep the job, walked back to my little workstation and went berserk. I started tying balloons like a maniac. It wasn’t long before that little room was flooded waist-high in balloons.
My next job at the Stampede was sweeping the grounds and picking up the garbage. I did that for two years, in Grades five and six. The sweepers were like a fraternity. We all saw each other throughout the day and nodded to one another and talked.
I remember there was one girl my age named Justine.
I’d never heard the name Justine before and for some reason I thought it was a beautiful name, so when she told me her name I told her it was a beautiful name. I wasn’t trying to be kind to her and I wasn’t trying to give her a compliment. In my mind I was making a simple statement of fact.
Anyway, she took a shine to me and we were pretty good friends over the two years we worked together at the Stampede.
The next job I had was selling tickets at the Stampede. This must have been in Grades seven and eight.
The first year I sold tickets at the front gate. I remember applying for the job and the boss saying that if I got a haircut that I would get the job. I got a haircut and got the job. Working at the Stampede turned out to be a good way to meet girls because I met a girl that year as well. She was a 4-H girl named Betty-Lou. She was from a ranching community southwest of Edmonton. We went on rides together and had all kinds of fun.
Anyway, the next year I sold tickets for rides. I didn’t meet any girls that year but I did manage to get robbed.
Well not really robbed, but $200 went missing.
I worked in a booth with another ticket seller and every time I went somewhere I made sure my cash and tickets were locked up, so I don’t think it was my co-worker who stole the money.
What probably happened was that I may have turned my back and a person reached into the kiosk and grabbed a big, fat roll of ride tickets.
When I got back to the office after my shift my boss told me there was money missing.
A friend of mine met me after my shift and was waiting for me, so I told my boss, ‘look, you have my address and phone number, so if there’s no need for me to hang around, I’ll be leaving.’
Needless to say, he fired me on the spot. Funny thing is, being the stupid kid I was, I went back the next year and applied for the same job. They took me aside and told me to take a hike.
Anyway, after I got fired, my friend and me went out on the midway where I bought a corn-dog and ate it. Afterwards we went on a ride that was sort of like the octopus ride. The second we got off I said to my friend, “wait here, I have to go throw up,” and I went behind a trailer and threw up.
At the time I was of that age when the midway still held its magical, intoxicating, colourful spell over me, but as I entered my awkward teenage years, and became more self-conscious, the magic began to fade a bit.
So, like I said, some of my best memories of the Calgary Stampede started with me vomiting and ended with me vomiting.
Here is Glen Campbell singing Rhinestone Cowboy:
The video is sort of corny – well, ok, really super corny.
It’s not my favourite Glen Campbell song – that would be Wichita Lineman.