Think you’ve seen a lot of concerts? Meet Surrey’s Colin Hartridge, a walking, talking encyclopedia of rock n’ roll.
By his count, he’s witnessed close to 1,000 concerts in his 68 years, and has many of the ticket stubs as proof of his love for live music.
The kicker is, Hartridge is still an avid concert-goer, with two or three on his calendar every week. He also still frequently drums at jam nights around Metro Vancouver, as a blast from his past with the band Sparkling Apple.
In another music-related passion of his, he’s hosted his own “Captain Maniac” internet radio show from his Guildford-area townhouse for the past four years, giving listeners new themed shows every Monday on mixcloud.com.
This week’s episode, his 256th, is dubbed “Destination Moon” and features 34 songs with the word “moon” in the title, including tunes by Nat King Cole, Ozzy Osbourne, Captain Beefheart, John Mellencamp and others.
“It’s just something I like to do, for fun,” Hartridge said. “On Mixcloud, there’s a listener count for each show, but I have no idea where they’re listening from unless they ‘favourite’ or repost the show,” he added. “If they do that, I can see that Captain Maniac Show friends have tuned in from Greece or South Africa, or France or England or wherever.”
Hartridge, a retired graphic designer who still creates posters for buddies in bands, moved to Surrey with his family when he was six years old, and has lived in the city ever since.
He started playing drums at age 16, a couple years after he saw The Beatles play Empire Stadium in Vancouver. The landmark show, in 1964, was his first as a concert-goer.
“I’d seen The Beatles on TV, Ed Sullivan’s show, and of course I saw Ringo and said, ‘Well, I can do that!’” Hartridge recalled with a laugh. “I’d always be tapping on window sills with my mom’s knitting needles and my dad finally said, ‘You should take drum lessons.’… I took lessons for about six months (at a place in Vancouver), but they were more interested in Latin rhythms, sambas and all that, but I just wanted to play rock ‘n’ roll. So I sort of ended up teaching myself just by listening to records and playing along to those.”
As a teen in the late 1960s, Hartridge saw concerts by several iconic rock bands that travelled through Vancouver, including Jimi Hendrix, Cream, Led Zeppelin and more.
Hartridge has a sharp memory for details of those performances.
“The best concert I ever went to was the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and that was ‘68 at the Pacific Coliseum, and they had about three other bands on before him – Eire Apparent, Soft Machine and Vanilla Fudge, so by the time Hendrix came on, it was about midnight,” he recalled.
“So he came on and said to the crowd, ‘I’ve got a cold,’ but he still played like nobody’s business. I remember that his grandmother was in the audience, because she lived not too far away from there, in Strathcona, around there. So when he did ‘Foxy Lady,’ he dedicated it to her.”
Earlier that year, the Coliseum also played host to Cream, with Eric Clapton on guitar, Jack Bruce on bass and Ginger Baker on drums.
“I remember them playing only six songs, but of course each song was at least 10 minutes long,” Hartridge said. “They’d do a framework of the song and then they’d jam – ‘Sunshine of Your Love’ with extended solos that went on for years.”
Back then, he’d attend a lot of concerts “because they were events you just had to go to,” he explained.
“By today’s standards it was cheap – I saw Led Zeppelin for $5, so I guess that’d be like $50 today, or something. And back then we didn’t have any digital distractions, and we didn’t spend a lot of time watching TV, so we went to concerts. You know, ‘Thin Lizzy’s in town, let’s go see ‘em.’ One time it was T. Rex and the opening band was Blue Oyster Cult, who we really liked back then, so we went and couldn’t stand T. Rex, so we left after a couple songs.”
The band Hartridge has seen most often in concert is Blue Oyster Cult – probably 10 times, he said.
“I know they’re coming here in the summer, to that Ambleside concert (in West Vancouver), but I’m pretty sure it’s not all the original guys. So I’ll probably go see that. And a band like Zeppelin, every time they came to town we’d go see ‘em, just because it was Zeppelin. They were here in ‘68 for the first time, and a bunch of times after that. I saw them all, I think.”
Not surprisingly, the music of many of the bands Hartridge has seen in concert is played on his Captain Maniac show.
Out of the gate, his very first episode was called “The Greatest AC/DC Songs Never Written by AC/DC,” a two-hour collection of songs recorded by Jet, Rose Tattoo, The Cult, The Sex Pistols, Big Sugar and others.
The weekly series is “devoted to the music *I* want to play — not what I’m TOLD to play, but what *I* want to play, with the emphasis on loud and proud rock and roll!” Hartridge wrote in an introduction.
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the power trio Sparkling Apple, launched in 1969, just after Hartridge had graduated from high school.
“It started off as the Plastic Rat Blues Band, and we had one guy leave so we wanted to change the name to something else,” he recalled. “We had a bottle of cider in front of us, and that was it, OK. It stuck.”
For Sparkling Apple, a final gig is in the works for later this year.
“We haven’t played for a while because Art has sciatica, and I have problems with my eyes (I had a torn retina),” Hartridge explained.
“It’s going to happen, possibly at Donegal’s (in Surrey) but not until after summer, probably in the fall. I don’t see us playing beyond that show.”
Last Saturday night (April 13), in another of his concert-going experiences, Hartridge helped celebrate the 70th birthday of Doni Underhill, the former Trooper bass player, at Jolly Mac’s pub in Guildford. The night included a four-song reunion performance by singer Ra McGuire, guitar player Brian Smith, drummer Tommy Stewart and Underhill on bass – the band’s “classic” edition, minus keyboardist Frank Ludwig. They played the classic cuts “We’re Here for a Good Time,” “3 Dressed as a 9,” “The Boys in the Bright White Sports Car” and “Raise a Little Hell.”
Early Sunday, Hartridge posted on Facebook: “Wasn’t that a party?”