I look at my dad sometimes and see a great father, creative advertising executive and cottage putterer, but definitely not a rock star. This weekend I had the pleasure of attending a benefit concert for musician Alex Piccirillo in Niagara Falls and my eyes were opened to a side of my father I had never seen.
A couple of years ago as we were cleaning out the garage, I found a box of old pictures that I had never seen before and they looked like something you would find in a 60s version of Teen Beat. I grabbed the old pictures and went inside to ask some questions – the answer I got surprised me. The conversation with my mother went something like this:
“What are these pictures from? Is it a band you used to like?”
“That’s your dad”
“What are you telling me? Am I the love child of a torrid love affair with a rock star? How could you keep this from me?”
“No, that is the dad who lives in this house”
“What!? No wayâ€¦the same man that wears t-shirts you find in beer cases and watches cooking shows on Sundays”
“That would be him”
Needless to say, this intrigued me. I had to get to the bottom of this. I asked my dad who these guys were he told me they were a band he was a part of called The Looking Glass. My dad isn’t one for re-living the past, so The Looking Glass has been somewhat of a mystery to me and I was determined to find out more.
My questions were finally answered this year when I watched a DVD called The Big Story of Small Potatoes by Paul Miil. This was a look at the history of the music scene in St.Catharines, Ontario during the 60s and my key to the mystery that was The Looking Glass.
The opening clip sets the scene perfectly. When asked who inspired them to get into music, there is an astounding montage of musicians saying “The Beatles” and from there, The British Invasion of bands like The Rolling Stones, The Kinks and The Who. These kids loved the whole package – the look, the sound, the style, but they had no outlet.
Enter Ronn Metcalfe and a place called The Castle. This was the premiere venue for a band to play to an audience. It was a place that kids couldn’t wait to get to on a weekend in hopes of seeing the next big thing or a local favourite. It was a place that Alex Piccirillo, Joe Colonna, Dave Papernick, Dave VanDuzen, Stephen Hogg and Stew Farago would play in separate bands such as The ModBeats, The Druids and Scarlett Wizard before forming The Looking Glass. Ronn was instrumental in guiding The Looking Glass towards stardom, so it was a sad day when Ronn passed away at the early age of 38.
Even though Ronn was a great mentor to the band, they were not successful because of him. They were successful because they wrote and performed timeless music that fans loved – playing packed houses across Canada and into the United States.
I know I am the daughter of a member of The Looking Glass, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean I’m an expert. I learned a lot about this band from Paul Miil’s amazing documentary and doing as much research as I could. But something I do know, is that their album Through The Looking Glass is still relevant, even after 40 years. There is something to be said about an album that I’m sure would have been a hit in 1968, and still makes a weekly rotation on my iPod.
The band released a single called “Get It Down” which got local air play and was supposed to be a teaser for their recorded, but never released, album. Come on, how can you resist that opening cow bell? And the instant intensity of this song makes for a great party jam.
The Looking Glass – Get It Down
[audio:http://www.monstersvsme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/12-Get-It-Down.mp3|titles=The Looking Glass – Get It Down]
I’m not sure of the exact reasons as to why their record was never released, but my dad said it’s a complicated story, so that’s something for the history books. The music speaks for itself and I think what its trying to say is “watch out world, because we’re putting St. Catharines on the map.”
Here are three unfinished tracks from a 40-year old two-track stereo tape that Dave vanDuzen found of the band’s New York recording session. Too bad it never got finished.
A favourite song of mine from the album is “Elevator Man”. It’s catchy right off the bat and has that classic 60s sound. Simple, yet memorable.
The Looking Glass – Elevator Man
[audio:http://www.monstersvsme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/02-Elevator-Man.mp3|titles=The Looking Glass – Elevator Man]
Looking for something a little slower? Waterfall is the track for you. I’m no musician, but I think that’s a Wawa peddle, and mixed with the keyboard? I am loving it.
The Looking Glass – Waterfall
[audio:http://www.monstersvsme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/01-Waterfall.mp3|titles=The Looking Glass – Waterfall]
The Looking Glass parted ways after 2 years together but each member continued to play music, some professionally and others as a past time. It has been over 40 years since the band has played together and although it was the passing of member Alex Piccirillo that brought them back together, watching them felt like I had gone back in time. My grandma used to always say that her body may have been getting older but she was still a 21 year old on the inside. The older I get, the truer this statement becomes for me. I could see the same sentiment watching The Looking Glass perform, it was like they were all back in 1968. I guess our bodies age, but our passion never does.
Alex’s brother Charlie and his nephew Sal put together the benefit to honour Alex’s life and his passion for music. It was an amazing night that included a roster of bands, both old and new, from across the Niagara region. But what I think a lot of people were waiting for, was the reunion of The Looking Glass. The crowd filled the church auditorium and, although they were missing a key member, they began to play – sounding better than the old recordings on my iPod. My dad Stew and Steve took over vocal duties for this show, but it used to be Alex and Stew that shared the duties, and boy could Alex belt out a classic R&B vocal. A good example from the album is on the track “Hold on I’m Comin'”. It’s a great track.
The Looking Glass – Hold On I’m Comin’
[audio:http://www.monstersvsme.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/02/11-Hold-On-Im-Comin.mp3|titles=11 Hold On I’m Comin’]
The benefit was a great success and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to witness a band of that caliber. I was very proud to be a Farago this weekend and loved watching this band in action.
If you are a music fan, I suggest you check out The Big Story of Small Potatoes on YouTube, its a great look back at what started it all. (4 parts)
This post was only a small look into what The Looking Glass was all about. I would love to hear comments and stories from the members, fans (new and old) of what this band meant to you and the St. Catharines music scene in general.
* If you are a member or manager of the above band and you would like your track removed, please contact us and we will swiftly oblige. Fans â€“ new or old â€“ please support these bands by using your coffee money to buy their records.