Sunday, January 29, 2012

Calgary concert review – Part 2

Media Moment: Journal 3009 student newspaper
Queen-related: Concert review from 1975

Tracking down two student writers from a 1975 article ended up being a lot easier than I thought it would be. In an era of Google, Facebook, and LinkedIn, the world becomes quite small, I suppose.

With only one full name to go on, looking up “Lynne Sears” was simple. Someone with this name has a LinkedIn profile that even included an education entry for the exact school, program, and years I was hoping would match. (She had added a third name onto what was originally found on the concert review article, but this is no surprise as most married women go through a name change of some kind.) At least two-thirds of her name matched my search criteria so her educational information clinched the deal . . . at least in my mind.

From Ms. Sears’ LinkedIn profile, I went to her personal website and sent her an email with the details of my search for the co-author of the concert review article. She responded within a few hours and indeed admitted going to Mount Royal College back in the early-to-mid 1970s as a Journalism student. But, she claims, she had no hand in the writing of that article.

Hmmm. That’s interesting.

Even after reading a scan of the concert review I sent her that has her name on it, she freely admits being a Queen fan (then and now) and even going to that specific concert — but not writing any portion of the article. Because of this, she couldn’t really answer my questions about the concert review as I was hoping for.

I have no reason to doubt her since her memory seems pretty clear about other aspects of her life back then, so perhaps there is more going on than I realize. I needed to either find G.E. McCaw to get another perspective on what happened that night, or there were two Lynne Sears at Mount Royal at the same time. This seemed unlikely.

Before I could search for G.E. McCaw, I would need a full name. With a little help from a colleague of mine, we discovered G.E. was Gordon E. so now I was able to do an Internet search for what appeared to be the main writer of the review.

Nothing on Facebook or LinkedIn for Gord, but I did come across a blog based in Vancouver that gives credit to Gordon McCaw for photos used on that site. Through the Contact link there, I sent a very brief email asking whether this was the same person who attending MRC back in the 1970s. Sure enough, it was the same G.E. McCaw.

Not only did Gord’s full name come up in the school’s database, I got a bigger surprise. There actually were two Lynne Sears registered at MRC in 1975. One was in Journalism and the other was in General Studies. I’m not sure what the odds of that would be but if Journalism Lynne is denying involvement in the article, perhaps General Studies Lynne might have been the mystery co-writer. This would require two different Lynne Sears to attend the same Queen concert and — against all odds — the non-Journalism Lynne getting the writing credit. With so many years having past, who knows exactly what happened between the parties involved. (Hell, I can’t even remember what I did last week let alone 37 years ago.)

Speaking of Gord, he distinctly remembers writing a concert review with someone named Lynne Sears but after so many years he couldn’t remember which band they saw since he had written several as a student journalist. I sent him the scan of the article and he said he’d be happy to help out with any questions I might have regarding the review.

With that in mind, here are my questions and Gord’s answers:

PB: As a student in the MRC Journalism program, why were you the one to cover this event?
GM: We were encouraged to go out and dig up stories, around the campus was suggested. Since I saw very little of interest to me going on around the campus I usually sought out stories off-campus. This concert review was my own initiative.
PB: How did you get paired up with Ms. Sears?
GM: Probably because she was going to see Queen, too.
PB: Did the two of you discuss beforehand how you were going to divvy up the review. What part did you end up writing and what did Ms. Sears write?
GM: After 37 years any such recollections I might have would be too dim to be reliable.
PB: Were you given any special media access at the concert (i.e., front row, backstage, etc.).
GM: I don't believe we were able to get press accreditation, I was able to get very close to the stage at floor level, easy to do back then.

PB: How much did you know about Queen prior to attending the show? What about Kansas?
GM: They certainly had pretty strong cult status at that time. I had their first, self-titled album, probably before this concert, though I couldn't say that with complete certainty. I was also an avid reader of Rolling Stone, so had some idea of what they were about. I don't think Kansas was big at the time they toured with Queen, though that certainly changed.
PB: The tone of the review suggests it was a mediocre show and a mediocre band. In hindsight, 37 years later, has your opinion of Queen changed at all given the immense success they achieved -- literally a few months after this concert — with the release of Bohemian Rhapsody?
GM: It can’t be overlooked that I was a callow youth of 22 at the time of writing this review. It could be that I was trying to emulate some of my Rock Critic heroes like Lester Bangs, Joe Esterhaz and Ben Fong-Torres.
PB: I’m currently reading Queen: The Definitive Biography by Laura Jackson and in it she describes their 1975 tour as being fraught with intermittent cancellations due to Freddie coming down with laryngitis. She has this to say about their first headlining tour of North America:  “The remainder of the tour, as they gigged from Madison to Miami, New Orleans to Calgary, operated on this staggered on/off pattern, always determined by the condition of Mercury’s voice.” Do you think that their mediocre performance that night might have been attributed to Freddie not being on top of his game?
GM: Entirely possible. It may also be that the band may have been less inclined to pull out all the stops in a "hick town" like Calgary.
PB: When did you realize Freddie’s name was spelled wrong in the article?
GM: I can't honestly say that I did realize it was spelled wrong.
PB: Do you still have the ticket stub and/or program from that concert?
GM: Unfortunately, no. Though I did save a lot of ticket stubs. I have one from that era for Boz Scaggs at the Jubilee Auditorium, ticket price: $4.50!
PB: Out of all the concerts you reviewed as a student at MRC in the mid-70s, which one stands out as your favourite?
GM: I didn't do that many. The first one I did, which I would also say was my favorite, was Stevie Wonder, who was at the height of his career in the early 70’s. I went up to Edmonton for that one. I shot photos of that even though I was greener than green as a photog. Those negs, mercifully, didn't surivive, though we did manage to find one frame that was passable enough for Journal 3009.

Gord was also generous enough to send along some of the photos he took that night at the Corral where he had front row access to the band. (All images are copyright Gordon E. McCaw.) All I can say is Wow!

Thanks Gord and Lynne for your help with this blog entry.

• Lynne’s book can be found here.

• Gord’s portfolio can be found here.



  1. Part two is great. This structure is perfect for Saddlebag; someone uncovers this amazing story. They research to try and find out more about the man and his family. All this is told in a flashback style of narrative with great re-enactments involving Kiefer. This would help keep his involvement to a minimum which could be appealing to the great actors schedule.
    And of course the soundtrack is provided by "seconds" from the Queen archive from needle drop licenses.
    Great examples of this style are of course "Water for Elephants" a great read by the way.

  2. Thanks for the comments, A. I'll be sure to check out "Water for Elephants." What part of the world are you in?