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Future Perfect
Originally issued as cassette Blewointment 001
Maja Bannerman with the Bill Smith Ensemble

Maja BannermanVoice
Bill SmithEb Alto Clarinet, Sopranino Saxophone
David PrenticeViolin, Viola, Percussion
David LeeCello
Recorded May 25th, 1984

Libretto Maja Bannerman. With the exception of “Rituals” – composed by Bill Smith – the music is improvised.


Here’s some pertinent propaganda I’ve stumbled across. On the eve of his retirement in 1984 – more or less the same time zone as this story – Lord Moran, the British High Commissioner to Canada, wrote a six-page letter detailing his impressions of Canadian cultural icons, claiming they had limited talents. “Anyone who is even moderately good at what they do – in literature, the theatre, skiing or whatever – tends to become a national figure. And anyone who stands out at all from the crowd tends to be praised to the skies and given the Order of Canada at once.”

Typically, Toronto only has room for one star at a time regardless of the discipline: one jazzer – most often an imitative singer; one film-maker – where would you ever see their work?; one dancer or choreographer, one novelist – oh hell not Margaret Atwood again; one poet; one photographer; one composer, one “new star” pop singer.

Our gang is flirting with the new wave, performing on a regular basis with poets, dancers, film-makers and the like, especially with the talented poet/singer Maja Bannerman. As Marlon in “On the Waterfront” almost said: She could have been a contender; certainly looking the part, her flaming copper-red hair tumbling over the shoulders of a jade full length velvet dress, red shoes peeking from beneath the hem, an open shining honest Irish face, and if her feminist politics had been less radical, if she had only toed the line… Future Perfect is her intention.

1. The New Wilderness (2:58)

Such times we had together the four of us, our venues changing to more politically aware spaces: community centres booked by do-gooders; artsy-fartsy art gallery openings; the artiste du jour in underground cafés; touring about Ontario at folksy fairs where young white girls had their hair woven into Rastafarian locks and home grown organic food was on display; intense junior converts at university student clubs; interval statements at ceremonial feasts, our possibilities expanded into a multi-disciplinary art form. Suddenly more than a joyous diversion.

2. Close-up on Cancer and Camera (12:13)

Feminism had revealed a powerful voice working together with three male converts. The theatrics helped, dressing up, long known traditional stances parodied, integrated within yet another new idealism. I loved the illusionist aspect, the loose-knit formalism that existed between us, anchored by words and sketchy compositions. My costume varied, the only given a shaven head, which on occasion, when we performed Gregory Corso’s “Clown” from the “Happy Birthday of Death”, was painted white all over in the style of Commedia dell’arte, that form of 16th Century Italian improvisational theatre. My eyes concealed by circular wired-rimmed black-lensed grannie glasses.

For commoners, I put things on my nose
and tip-toe with the grace of gold.
For those I love I sit sad by stained glass
– all my face the mystery of some joke.
And for God I am ready with a mouthful of penguins.


It’s been many-a-year since
I’ve visited a barber’s shop, my almost non-existent grey locks easily dispensed with an Oster Adjustable Blade, Deluxe 15-piece hair trimmer set. Apparently manufactured in McMinnville, the county seat of Warren County, Tennessee. A buzz cut as the Yanks would call it.

3. Black Ice (7:21)

Do they still exist, those Saturday morning bastions of maleness? Are there still Senhor Flávios, often with the worst haircut imaginable, so formal, a blue knee-length cotton coat with the breast pocket for housing his selection of scissors – the trimmer with a finger rest; several combs for those concerned with neatness, and a short handled hair brush for spreading about the hairs clinging to the neck. Never able, without a good shower, to expunge the itch. None of this needed on my weekly visit to have my head shaven clean with a stropped gleaming sharp cut-throat razor, ironically referred to in the trade as a straight-edged “safety” razor! Sat there covered with a crisp white nylon cape, leaning back to be lathered up, my throat exposed, trying not to remember Sweeney Todd and that once-upon-a-time barbers performed amputations and blood-letting.

There are the rows of shops lining the west side of the street, this one readily recognised by the traditional red and white striped pole. Outside, looking in, the row of three heavy-weight steel framed chairs covered in patched red vinyl, in themselves a work of industrial art, swivel about a base plate, can be tilted back, hydraulically pumped up and down, and has adjustable foot and head rests. All designed with the customer’s comfort in mind. What a unique concept! Mirrors everywhere, continuous along both walls, offering a 360° panoramic reflection of the shelves filled with hair products – tonics, lotions, smelly aftershave that lingered for days; a radio tuned to a Portuguese station broadcasting the football results.

Portugal has beat Finland and Poland, plus a dramatic win over the USSR by 1-0 has put them at the head of their group by one point. On they go into Group B tying with West Germany and Spain and a 1-0 win over Romania moving them into second place. Enough to go through to the knockout round. Tamagnini Nené scored the winning goal. The host is France, who if you remember became the eventual champions. I’ve read that it was one of the most exciting matches in European Championship history. France scored first, but Portugal equalised almost an hour later. The game was tied after 90 minutes and went into extra time. Portugal made it 2-1 in the first fifteen minutes of the extra time period. In the second half of extra time France scored in the 114th and 119th minutes to eliminate Portugal (3-2) and go through to the final.

The old fellas perched on the edge of the row of chairs lining the wall listening attentively are regulars who now recognise me from the newspaper reviews clipped from the Globe & Mail and pinned up on the shop’s notice board. I’ve become a minor star among this unlikely collection of fans, waiting for me to be lathered up, part of their weekly entertainment. I’m greeted on arrival with a handshake and a knowing smile, our conversations scattered generalities as we are all unable – with the exception of Senhor Flávio – to speak each other’s native languages. More’s the pity.

4. Future Perfect/Rituals (21.34)


For Maja
there was to be a commercial recording for Warner Brothers. Me and dp have been engaged to play a simple-minded riff on one of the tracks. North over the Rosedale Bridge, in a basement studio. Terry Somebody-or-the-other was the producer: geared up in black, a shaven bonce and a plain gold earring. In the right ear was it? On it went for more than an hour, the same stupid riff repeated, until we’re both bored silly. Let’s get out of here.

The Selby Hotel situated just south of Bloor on Sherbourne, a rambling Victorian building, had in my earlier history been a hangout for Saturday afternoon jazzers and popular with the local wrestling crowd.

The wrestlers had such great names; Sweet Daddy Siki, Yukon Eric, Killer Kowalski, The Sheik, Bobo Brasil and Toronto’s favourite, Whipper Billy Watson. I can’t remember which one of these gentlemen it might be, only the occasion. The afternoon jazz session has ended and out he comes, big as a house, a bit worse for wear, his lady friend refusing to give him the keys. Running ahead toward the Cadilac Eldorado. “Gimme the damn keys” he holler’s. Quick as a flash she whips open the trunk, chucks in the keys and slams the lid closed. Down the steps he thunders, rips open the trunk – destroying the lock, retreives the keys and drives off down Sherbourne Street.

That afternoon of the aborted recording session we’re looking for a jug of draft beer to wash away the bad taste. Things are not quite as remembered at the Selby, the draft room now has a red baize pool table and the players are two not-so-young gentlemen fitted out in tight velvet pants and open neck silk shirts flashing gold-plated bling. The tangy smell of slopped beer replaced by heavily perfumed air. The waiter seemed traditional enough, the usual black waistcoat/white shirt attire, so dp asked him if this had become a gay bar. “Are you from out of town?” he queried. Giving dp a fabulous title for a future composition that he would dedicate to me.

You likely won’t have heard of Maja Bannerman, she disappeared from a scene where the successful singers were mostly called Martha or named after Tarzan’s trusty panther, the place you’d likely find her these days would be the Ladies Niagara Peninsula Shrine Club Holiday Bazaar presenting skits on historical characters. So it goes…

End Notes:
A version of “Are You From Out Of Town” can be heard at:

Maja Bannerman:

David Lee: http://www.davidneillee.com

David Prentice: http://www.davidprenticeviolins.com

Photographers Unknown

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