Van Morrison, Le Hibou, 1970

Le Hibou was a nationally-recognized coffeehouse in Ottawa, Canada, that operated in the 1960s and 1970s. You will see from its Wikipedia page that there is a running dispute as to ownership of its history, which results in a page mess that has not yet been subject to editorial intervention. Another example of the different takes on Le Hibou history is found here.

The fact remains that Le Hibou was a prime location for the performance of many famous music artists. Broadcaster Ken Rockburn is in the midst of researching for what will hopefully be a definitive history.

Le Hibou was not licensed. It made its money from cover charges and small food and beverage sales. This meant that a major artist would often be booked for two and sometimes three shows per night, as well as being booked for multiple nights.

The fact that it was not licensed meant that many younger people saw artists that they might not have otherwise been permitted to see, particularly since the legal drinking age in Ontario, for most of Le Hibou’s history, was twenty-one.

At 17, in the spring of 1970 I wanted to start going to Le Hibou, particularly when a certain artist had been booked–Van Morrison. This was just after the release of his Moondance album, which I found then and still find to be weaker than his predecessor Astral Weeks.

My mother didn’t want me to go, either alone or with anyone else. So I suggested that we go together. If she found the place to be objectionable, I wouldn’t ask to go again.

Morrison and band were shocked to find someone my mother’s age in the audience. We were seated steps away from the stage, in a club that might seat 200, at most. He kept looking at her. Not known for saying much onstage, Morrison suddenly said that the next song would be “some country music for the older people in the audience”, and then played “These Dreams of You”.

These days, going to a concert frequently involves an audience cohort with a three or four decade span. Not so in 1970. My mother was 48 and Morrison was 24; “country music for the older people” being on the songlist of the moment.

I was permitted to go back, anytime.


About brucelarochelle
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