Morris says the four months-plus stretch since he attended a Feb. 22 performance by Richard Duguay and his All-Star Band at the Pyramid Cabaret is far and away the longest he’s gone between shows since the late 1970s when, as an underage 17 year old, he began sneaking into local watering holes to catch hometown faves such as the Fuse and Les Pucks.
Morris, a married father of one, isn’t just a music nut. He’s also an ephemerist whose collection of ticket stubs, handbills and reviews from shows and concerts he’s attended during the last 45 years — the majority of which are stored in chronological order in a series of oversized Hilroy scrapbooks — serves as his very own rock ‘n’ roll time capsule.
Want to know how much he paid to see Alice Cooper at Winnipeg Arena in April 1978? A paltry $8.86 plus tax, as per a carefully preserved ducat.
Curious what songs English new wavers XTC performed during a March 1980 stop at the late, great Native Club? Mostly tunes from the previous year’s Drums + Wires, according to a write-up clipped out of the following morning’s Winnipeg Tribune.
Can’t recall when legendary New York City band the Ramones made their one and only stop in Winnipeg? Or where Gary Numan appeared locally in 2014, 45 years after his synth-heavy single Cars topped charts all over the world? June 5, 1983 (Ramones) and the Garrick (Numan), Morris says, not needing to consult his journals to ensure he’s correct.
"I have a few archivist friends who are jealous of me because even when there wasn’t a ticket stub or whatever available, I at least wrote a note to myself indicating the date I saw a certain band or artist play," he continues, adding he’s also amassed thousands of hours of audio and video recordings to go along with his sweeping paper trail.
"It’s not like you’re going to find most of this stuff on the internet, so it’s a good way to settle arguments about who played where and when, my friends tell me."
“It’s not like you’re going to find most of this stuff on the internet, so it’s a good way to settle arguments about who played where and when." –Glen Morris
"I was always a bit of a history buff in school, plus I do work in the local history room of a public library, so that might be part of the answer," Morris says.
Is that what would possess a person to hang onto an advertisement for a 1980 university social headlined by Martha and the Muffins? Or a beer-stained sheet of foolscap reading, "NO STAGE DIVING ALLOWED" that he removed from a pillar inside the Royal Albert Arms Hotel following a set by American punk rockers the Dead Milkmen in the mid-’80s.
"As soon as I started going to shows on a regular basis it just made sense to me, I guess, to keep a souvenir or two from each one to have tangible proof I was actually there."
Morris grew up in River Heights. His dad owned some records, not a lot, but he recalls a present from his father, a "high-end" Sony tape recorder, he credits for kick-starting his collecting ways.
In the early ‘70s he always looked forward to New Year’s Eve when local AM stations CKRC, CFRW and KY-58 published a year-end, Top 100 in that day’s Free Press. Before going to bed, he carefully studied all three lists, highlighting songs he liked. The next day he parked himself next to a radio, using his Sony deck to make a recording of those same tunes, DJ voice-over and all.
"It was a bit of a hack job, for sure, but it served the purpose until I was old enough to go out and start buying records for myself," he says, recalling the Guess Who’s Clap for the Wolfman as the first 45 he bought with his own money.
Not counting those year-end charts, the first piece of memorabilia he specifically remembers hanging onto was tied to a Hollies show at the Centennial Concert Hall in 1976, days before his 14th birthday. The British act, which had a slew of hits in the 1960s and early ‘70s, was on the back end of its career, which was probably the reason he was the youngest person in the audience that night, he says with a laugh.
Flipping to Page 1 of Scrapbook No. 1, he shows off a review of that concert that begins with the headline, "Rock pioneers still a thrill."
Morris readily admits he wasn’t nearly as organized back then as he is now. While attending Kelvin High School and later the University of Manitoba, he stored his keepsakes in wallets or dresser drawers, thinking he’d eventually get around to organizing the lot. By the time that day arrived in the early ‘80s, he already had scores of stuff, not all of it precisely annotated.
"My first (scrapbook) was a bit cobbled together and I can’t say for sure it’s 100 per cent accurate in terms of dates but from then on I made a conscious effort to glue or tape stubs or reviews in my scrapbook within a day or two of getting them, to make sure everything was in perfect chronological order going forward."
For any readers shaking their head, it turns out one person’s garbage is another person’s gold. Though Morris has no intention to sell parts of his cache any time soon, there is definitely a demand for the types of music memorabilia he specializes in, according to the website Collectors Weekly.
Not only do posters from historic events such as Woodstock command hundreds of dollars when they come up for auction, stubs from the 1964 Ed Sullivan Show that marked the first appearance of the Beatles — only 700 tickets were printed — routinely fetch as much as $15,000 on eBay, the editors of Collectors Weekly report.
Morris figures the most valuable item in his collection is an underground comic book drawn by former Black Flag bass player Raymond Pettibone. Now worth in the neighbourhood of $500, he picked his still-mint condition copy up for "a buck or two" more than three decades ago, ahead of that band’s show at Le Rendez-Vous.
Morris, who for years went to as many as four shows a week, a number that has dropped considerably since the birth of his son Andrew 10 years ago, offers an opinion on a pair of live music-related topics.
First of all, as a person who still saves his ticket stubs, he’s obviously not a big fan of so-called "ticketless entry," where buyers pay to see an act ahead of time using a credit card, then have a person at the door scan the receipt on their phone when they arrive.
Second, he doesn’t understand people who "watch" shows through their phones, especially when the action on stage is taking place mere metres away.
I’m glad there were no phones back in the day as there was more focus on the part of the entire crowd. We were able to immerse ourselves in the moment and reflect on what happened later, thanks to our thoughts and memories." –Glen Morris
"I get what they’re doing, recording the show to rewatch later, but to document something that’s going on right in front of you? No thanks. I’m glad there were no phones back in the day as there was more focus on the part of the entire crowd. We were able to immerse ourselves in the moment and reflect on what happened later, thanks to our thoughts and memories," he says.
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Also, though anxious to hear live music again, he is curious how things are going to work exactly, with physical-distancing measures being the new normal for the foreseeable future.
"My experience, especially in the ‘80s, was that the night wasn’t complete unless I was all banged up from dancing and moshing, sweating like a pig," he says. "Plus, I always made sure to say hello to everybody in the room I recognized despite the fact most of those shows were way over capacity.
"I feel there’s going to be a lot more coldness going forward — there definitely won’t be all the hugs and kisses we got used to — but that won’t stop me from going, that’s for sure.
"Plus, it’s been a while since I’ve been able to add anything to my collection."
Since his parents took him to see Liberace at the Centennial Concert Hall in the early 1970s — he guesses because a third ticket was cheaper than hiring a babysitter — Glen Morris has been to thousands of shows, across North America and Europe.
Asked if it’s even possible to come up with a Top 10, he says sure, give him a minute, adding later, “As much as I was thrilled to see superstars perform in large venues, I have decided for my favourites list to select underground stars who performed in smaller, more intimate venues.”
In chronological order, here are Morris’s picks, with dates and locales culled from his collection of music memorabilia.
● Elvis Costello & the Attractions, Nov. 15, 1978 (Playhouse Theatre)
● The Cure, Aug. 28, 1981 (Wellington’s)
● The Ramones, June 5, 1983 (Playhouse Theatre)
● Nick Cave and the Cavemen, May 24, 1984 (Markthalle, Hamburg, Germany)
● The Cramps, Oct. 25, 1997 (Graceland, Vancouver)