When a venue was selected to stage the launch party for Keith Sharp’s new book, Music Express, The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Canada’s Music Magazine (Dundurn Publishing Co), there was only one logical choice – the Madison Pub.
Located at 14 Madison Avenue in the Annex area of mid-town Toronto, ‘the Mad’ as it was affectionately known was located conveniently down the street from 37 Madison Avenue, headquarters for Music Express during its glory years of 1983-1989.
So last Thursday night, former M.E staff members reunited on the second floor of the famous U of T frat venue to celebrate the launch of a book that reflects on the golden era of Canadian music. Hosted by former editor and book author, Keith Sharp, the soiree attracted original Toronto staff members Kerry Doole, Roman Mitz, Urban Music writer Norman (Otis) Richmond, heavy metal writer Drew Masters, the inimitable Lenny Stoute, receptionist/publicist Julia Owen, in from Niagara On The Lake, advertising sales manager Nancy Mayer, sporting a vintage M.E jacket and a rare Toronto visit from former publisher and co-owner (The Dragon Lady) Conny Kunz, sporting a trendy blonde hair style.
Also on hand were writers Karen Bliss and Wolfgang Dios, Dundurn editors Michael Melgaard and Shannon Wibbs, Chad Maker, president of Agency 71 which publishes the current online version themusicexpress.ca (also the designers of the Music Express book cover). Ted Van Boort and his partner Karen Uildersma, photo editor of the online magazine was in attendance along with Sharp’s brother Gordon and his niece Cheryl and even a blast from the past with the presence of former A&M recording artist, and member of the Music Express soccer team, Malcolm Tomlinson.
As drinks were downed and reunions established, cementing the first time in over 25 years that many of the staff had re-acquainted themselves, anecdotes were exchanged about events that occurred during that magical time when Music Express operated out of the three storey historical site that was 37 Madison Avenue.
The Madison Pub at 14 Madison Avenue had only just opened when we arrived in early 1983. Operated by Dave and Isabel Manoire, it initially consisted of just a basement bar which led out to a patio. Yet over the years, the Mad has grown impressively and now operates six pubs within a three-building complex that also houses a boutique hotel.
During that time, it was relatively easy to get a juicy interview with many of the industry’s top names. Conversation getting stale during the boardroom chat, no problem. Just haul your subject down to the Madison Pub, have them knock down a few pints, and voila!, the quotes started to flow.
It seemed everyone had at least one great anecdote of their adventures at the Madison. The writing staff talked of interviewing the likes of Corey Hart, Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason, Paul Young, Sinead O’Connor, A-ha, Lisa DalBello, Platinum Blonde and Helix to name but a few luminaries.
Julia Owen reminisced about meeting former British Invasion icon Gerry Marsden from Gerry And the Pacemakers and discovering he was currently living in her home town of Chester. Conny Kunz talked about the night her and Keith got the members of Slade inebriated at the pub. Likewise with The Payolas who developed such a fondness for the bar that they passed on sound check at that night’s gig at The El Mocambo in preference for a few more pints, only for lead singer Paul Hyde to start the set by forgetting the lyrics to the opening song. He then apologized to the audience, pointed at Sharp seated in the front row and blamed him for getting the band pissed!
Keith shared stories of being flown to New York for a 20 minute interview with Pete Townsend that turned into a 2-hr bonding session and a classic interview with one of the world’s greatest rockers. Then, there was the story of “Diamond” David Lee Roth calling Conny at home to complain that an article in Music Express made him appear as a womanizer, to which Conny replied “David, it’s dinner time, and besides I have the whole interview on tape.” David apologized and all was good! (Conny didn’t know at the time, that Lenny had taped over it with another interview already!) Meanwhile Kerry Doole spoke of the enormous jet-lag from the times when a record company would fly him to Australia for a two day trip to interview Peter Garret from Midnight Oil.
It was a night to catch up on what everyone else was doing and to also reflect on the amazing impact Music Express managed to achieve, starting out as a one-issue effort in Calgary Alberta and growing into Canada’s dominant magazine from its Toronto base in 1980, to U.S and global expansion in 1986 to its inevitable downfall in the early 90’s, events that are recorded in Sharp’s new book.
Yet Music Express has been reborn as a digital magazine and there is every indication that future reunions will be staged (probably at the Madison) as the magazine ventures forward in a new digital age. But for one magical night, the past lived again at the Madison Pub and I am sure the ghost that haunted the third floor of the 37 Madison Avenue office would have approved of the gathering.
Music Express: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of Canada’s Music Magazine is available on our site Here, Amazon.ca and at select Chapters and Indigo Locations.