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July 2011 – Michel `Pag` Pagliaro – My Own Tribute

I’m not into nostalgia as I find it troubling in that it looks back rather than forward and often the past it looks back to is reorganized as ordered, sanitized, and bland with all the vibrancy and messiness of place and events sucked out of it. But on 16 July 2011, I heard for the first time live Michel `Pag` Pagliaro do his retro set of songs, and what a wonderful experience I had. I actually surprised myself how much I enjoyed it since I hardly listen to `classic rock` as I`m much more interested in listening to contemporary music rather than what radio marketers tell me is `classic`. `Pag, ` to his Quebecois fans, is a generation older than me but when I was growing up in Montreal in the late 1970s, he struck a chord with me. In a rock `n` roll culture of white faces, white fans, white names – whiteness – Pagliaro stood out for me as both within and outside rock. Within it as his songs played on the local rock station (one of the few Québec acts it played) and certainly gained local fame if not fortune. And for an adolescent boy like me at the time, lyrics like the following were at times painfully true:
Ooh you, how would I know just to hold you
How could I show that I want to
Cause I do, want to hold you
Yes I do

Ooh you, how would I know if I told you
You wouldn’t laugh if I told you
Cause I do, want to hold you
Yes I do, want to hold you
Hold you

But Pagliaro was also outside rock with his not-quite-yet white name (Pagliaro), which to his credit he kept when the logic at the time was to anglicize to get air time and have any hope of succeeding. He also struck me as not quite portraying the rock image of the time. For a kid who wanted to emulate the rock (white) look but couldn’t because I was never thin enough nor could grow my hair straight (think Roger Hodgson of Supertramp) as it turned frizzy and curly when long enough – a dead give away of my non-white background – Pagliaro`s hair too couldn’t be disciplined to stay long and straight enough. In fact it was quite frizzy and curly as he sang away on this summer evening:

Hitch any ride you want to
Do anything you wanna do
Just keep ridin’ your way

Take anyone you want to
Long as I can hear from you

Just be mine in your way
Just be mine in your way
Just be mine in your way

Lovin’ you ain t so easy
Would never try to please me
But I’ve got time any old way
I’ve got time anyway

Hundreds of people like me listened, sang and danced to his classic songs. And every once in awhile I could sense a hint of rebelness and gentleness in his mood, style and lyrics:

Unis, unis, nous voilà enfin réunis
Nous sommes, nous sommes tous en frères
La main, la main, oui tous la main dans la main
Allons, allons tous partager

I can’t remember a more enjoyable performance in my entire life. Certainly it was because of the music but so it was also due to throwback identification with Pagliaro (whom I have never met) that I have kept secretly and cherished since I was a kid.