I Just Wanna Hold Onto You

I can't quite fix the year in my mind, maybe 1995, maybe 1996, maybe a little later, but Blue Rodeo was at The Sidetrack, the live music club that used to be on 104 Ave in Edmonton, and, among the shining songs they sent out that night was Side Of The Road. Shelagh and I were there, we were young parents, and it was a special evening apart from the little ones for a few hours.

Keelor now and then
Keelor sang wistfully.

I pulled over to the side of the road
I was feeling kind of sad, I was feeling kind of blue

And Cuddy brought a soaring ache to the harmony.

I just wanna hold on to you
Yeah, your eyes
They were in my mind
I just wanna hold

(It's a lovely song, and it gets you thinking about the way her eyes save his I's.)

Somehow, I still have a VHS tape of the night. I vaguely remember having sent a cameraman to the concert to record and microwave a few seconds back live into the 10 pm news on ITV, where I worked as assignment editor. The precise memory has dissolved, but the tape is still here, and this afternoon I found it in the back of a dark storage cupboard downstairs.

As steady as rain
I grabbed it and a couple of others, and hit play.

And watched the past stream in in the shape and voice of young Keelor and young Cuddy. I smiled,
voiced a soundless "wow," and sang along for a bit. Then I winced as the old tape lost its track and blinked madly for a few seconds and then flickered up and down faster and faster before, again, settling down into a brittle fidelity.

It is hard to pin down exactly what I felt as I watched.

There was a marvellous sense of being transported back to The Sidetrack, of being impossibly and magically taken back in time to a place that has vanished. But there was also a sense that the movement was actually in the opposite direction: not as much from here to there as from there to here. This was the thrilling sense that this lit stage from the past, this song from Blue Rodeo as they were that night in nineteen-ninety-something, had travelled across time and into the present, like starlight across the interstellar space. Fast rewind or fast forward, or both at the same time.

And then as sensation gave way to analysis, there was the obvious simile that failing memory is pretty much like a VHS image that won't stay in its track.

I just wanna hold...

I hit eject and plugged in another tape and went back to/watched come back: 1998.

Son Mikey, right, now 21, and his buddy Shane visit the newsroom

I just wanna hold onto you, indeed.


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