RECORD STORE TALES
- RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
GETTING MORE TALE
Music, Movies, and more
GETTING MORE TALE #441: Help Wanted!
Back in the Record Store Days, hiring seemed to go in waves, with the students. Periodically we’d lose some of our best people as they moved on to further their educations. We’d go on hiring binges, looking for 3-4 good solid new people. This was done by putting out ads.
Paraphrasing our old print ads, we would advertise that we were looking for the following:
- Hours: 15 hours a week, evenings & weekends. Looking for long-term commitment, not a seasonal position. Duties include buying and selling of used CDs. Retail experience is helpful but not required. Superior musical knowledge a plus. Apply in person only.
Then we would have set hours for them to apply (usually between 2 and 7), during which I (and other managers) would be working. People didn’t always like that “apply in person only” part, but it was there for a reason. It was so the store manager (me) could gauge whether you were flaky or not. Even though store managers were not involved in hiring, we could at least offer our impressions of the applicants when they came in to apply. Were they polite? Were they dicks? Were they high?
Like anywhere, we occasionally ended up with a few bad apples. If I were to make an “honest” hiring ad based on the number of times we’d been burned before, here is what it would probably look like.
Don’t get me wrong – we hired lots and lots and lots of great people with the standard ads. But I think mine is better!
The Plaza de Toro in Madrid is an incredible looking venue. “Nice place you got here!” understates Brian Johnson. To film a concert video here seems an easy decision. A crane and giant wrecking ball dominate the scene. The ball swings and bowls over the backdrop! Enter: Angus Young!
“Back in Black”* is a natural opener: Everybody knows it, and the groove is impossible to ignore. Johnson’s voice is ragged and weak compared to the old days, although I think Brian sounds better in general today. A pre-crystal meth Phil Rudd dons spectacles, and hammers out the beat that, truthfully, he invented and does best. Having Phil back for that period of the band was a coup. It’s back to the Bon Scott years then, with “Shot Down in Flames”. Now Brian sounds more in his element, somehow seeming more in control on a Bon song. As if it took them one song to warm up, everything feels in gear now. Then, “Thunderstruck” is an interesting take, because Phil didn’t play this song before. Chris Slade was in the band at that time, and Phil doesn’t even try to imitate his style. He plays “Thunderstruck” his own way, which is fine. There’s a live version, with Slade, on AC/DC Live. With Phil on the kit, “Thunderstruck” is no longer filled with nervous energy, but is more in the pocket. It’s an interesting evolution. Contrast this with any live video of the current lineup playing the song with Slade today.
“Girls Got Rhythm” is an easy classic, which warms the crowd up with a newbie: “Hard as a Rock”*, the single from Ballbreaker. All but instantly, it sounds like a familiar classic. This is high quality rock, with Johnson’s voice in full shred. Colourful lights illuminate the stage, but only Brian and Angus are really mobile. Cliff Williams and Malcolm Young rock steadily, sticking to their respective sides, and stepping up to the mic for the big chorus. The crowd goes nuts when Angus himself speaks. The stage is huge, but Brian Johnson runs across every inch, interacting with the massive crowd as a veteran frontman can. Then AC/DC knock ’em down (down down) easily on “Shoot to Thrill”. There is a rock and roll purity to this show: A bunch of guys in jeans (Angus excepted), playing hard rock and roll, but contrasted with that is the massive stage. AC/DC can do it because people love the personalities of the band. Angus doesn’t miss a note, no matter where he’s running off to next.
Phil smokes a cigarette during the blues number “Boogie Man”. Starting sluggishly, “Boogie Man” nails it as soon as Brian gets screaming. I’m sure AC/DC can play this kind of thing in their sleep! Angus has an extended solo during which he gets the crowd riled up and ready with his strip-tease moment. When he finally drops his drawers, his undies have the Spanish flag on them. Madrid eats every bit of it up. AC/DC clustered a bunch of new songs close to each other at this point, and “Hail Caesar”** is next. It’s time for a heavy prowler, and Caesar brings it on.
When the bell tolls, you know what’s happening. “Hell’s Bells”! Songs like this, “Dog Eat Dog”** and “The Jack” require no commentary. The sight of Johnson descending from a giant iron bell is pretty cool.
Last newbie of the night is “Ballbreaker”* itself, a blast of “shut the fuck up and listen t0 this” right in the face. This time, Brian is swinging from the wrecking ball, singing the whole time, kicking his feet in the air. AC/DC have crushed it…but there’s still lots more to go. “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution”, “Dirty Deeds”, “You Shook Me All Night Long”**, “Rosie”*, “T.N.T.”…it’s all a good time, and you know them all. The only real critique is there is a gap in the setlist, with no songs from 1983-1988 appearing anywhere.
“Let There Be Rock” is, as usual, extended to epic length with Angus’ brilliant solo. First of all, it’s incredible that Angus still has this much energy after playing and stomping through a show this long. What’s really amazing is that everybody in the band is fully fueled for this full-speed song. Malcolm sips from a water bottle — that’s the key, folks. Hydration.
The cool part here is when Angus departs the stage (band playing on), to re-emerge atop the massive shoulders of a bodyguard and taken to a flying platform in the middle of the crowd! Many thrills later, Brian says goodnight, but you know he’s teasing. “Highway to Hell” commences with explosions, flames and Angus’ devil horns. And then, finally,the cannons” “For Those About to Rock” is the salute to Madrid , who witnessed an absolutely incredible AC/DC concert.
The DVD bonus features are cool, as you should expect. The “Angus Cam” versions of four songs is plenty fun, by focusing solely on Angus in the edit. It’s quite incredible to just watch the man play, because it seems as if he is entranced, on auto-pilot, but totally in command. If there wasn’t a guitar around his neck you might think he’s having a seizure! Then come the moments when he looks the crowd in the eye, and the playing only gets more intense! Like I said: this is plenty fun.
Then we have two bonus tracks not included in the Madrid set: “Cover You in Oil” (Sweden) and “Down Payment Blues” (Florida). “Cover You in Oil” is raw and sweaty. I don’t think the song is particularly strong, sounding a bit like a Blow Up Your Video outtake. Still, it’s always nice to get another new song on the DVD, since it’s doubtful a track like this will ever re-enter the setlists. The stupid music video footage that is editing into the tracks is annoying, however. Instead of watching Angus take a solo live, I’m watching him doing it in a music video. Bad editing decision. I like how Brian introduces “Down Payment Blues”: “This is from one of the albums…back in the 70’s…” Shit, he doesn’t know, he wasn’t there! But he gets the job done anyhow. And guess what? Brian Johnson is wearing the same damn blue shirt and hat at every show! His snarl adds to this version of the song.
What’s with the “Director’s Cut”? It seems the original 1996 VHS release (which I never saw) was rushed out for the Christmas season to the dissatisfaction of award winning director David Mallet. He did a new edit, and new stereo and 5.1 mixes for the DVD release.
*Indicates this version is available in audio form on the 2 CD edition of Stiff Upper Lip.
**Indicates this version is available in audio form on the deluxe Backtracks box set.
GETTING MORE TALE #440: What’s the Best Concert You’ve Ever Seen?
What’s the best concert you have ever been to? Maybe it was that band that was always on your bucket list. Perhaps it was a group who puts on an incredible spectacle, or perhaps even your first show. Maybe you’ve seen so many shows that you don’t even know where to begin!
I’ve had a lot of memorable concerts in my years.
In 1983, my dad took me to see Johnny Cash at the Center in the Square in Kitchener. My dad worked for Canada Trust, and Johnny was doing a promotional deal with them and their new “Johnny Cash” money machines. In light of that, Johnny introduced himself at the start of the show as “I’m Johnny Cash, 24 hour money machine.” Canada Trust even printed their own “Johnny Cash” money. I wish I still had some. Cash played all his classics such as “Orange Blossom Special” and “I Got Stripes”. June Carter kicked off her shoes. Not a bad first concert experience at all.
In ’87 I finally saw my first rock show. At the same venue, Helix rolled into town headlining for their new Wild in the Streets album. Opening for them were a so-so pop rock band from Prince Edward Island called Haywire. Their big hit was called “Dance Desire” and the girls were going nuts for them. They were all going ga-ga for the singer Paul MacAusland. (Years and years later I actually dated a cousin of his.) I thought they sucked. The guitar player Marvin Birt was good, but MacAusland’s idea of stage moves involved him lying down flat on his face!
Helix stormed the stage with “No Rest for the Wicked” and put on an incredible show, involving Brian Vollmer climbing the scaffolding into the loges. He then ran from there onto the mezzanine, right past us, as I was too shy to hold out my hand for him to slap! Then drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz mooned the crowd…all backed by high octane Canadian rock and roll. Every time I have seen Helix, Vollmer has been an energetic mobile threat. Helix showed us that a rock show was about the on-stage energy rather than lights and explosions.
Best show I’ve ever seen? No, but it’s in the top ten.
Sometimes it’s the smaller shows that matter most. In the late 90’s I went to see local Cambridge band The Candidates. I believe it was a CD release party. They were playing hard, and drummer Robbie Hancock busted his drum pedal mid-song. After the show, I told him I thought it was actually their best performance yet. He didn’t agree, but I told him, “The drum pedal stuff, that doesn’t matter. The reason it broke is that you were playing so fucking hard, and that’s why the show was so good!”
Next on the list: Deep Purple, 1996, Purpendicular tour. T-Rev, Iron Tom Sharpe and I trekked to Toronto to catch the new lineup featuring Ian Gillan, Steve Morse, Ian Paice, Roger Glover, and of course Jon Lord. Playing a set of personal favourites including “Fireball” (the opener) and “No One Came”, we all left exhausted and satisfied. Opening act: Wild T & the Spirit. Incredible and indelibly scorched into my memory, Purple proved that age does not matter one lick.
In 1997 I scratched Rush off my list. This experience was commemorated in Record Store Tales Part 70: Canada Day Weekend Rush. Seeing Rush on the most patriotic weekend of the year was a perfect experience. The played all of 2112 live, an experience not to be missed. It was also my first time meeting such friends as Tyler (from Tyler and LeBrain fame), and rock god Dr. Dave Haslam.
The final concert on this list would have to be Helix, once again, opening for Alice Cooper in 2006. The venue was the trusty old Center in the Square, and this time we were in the second row. Alice Cooper was on his Dirty Diamonds tour, a killer record and a great live set. Helix were in the midst of working on a new EP to be called Get Up, and they played the instantly catchy title track live. This time, when Brian came down to the seats, I succeeded in shaking his hand. He must have noticed the guy in the front who knew every word….
Honorable mentions: Blue Rodeo and “Weird Al” Yankovic. I’ve seen Blue Rodeo so many times that I could almost make a list of the best Blue Rodeo concerts I’ve ever seen. As for Weird Al, what’s not to like? He has a crack band that can play anything.
Conspicuous by their absence on this list: Kiss. This experience was recorded in Record Store Tales Part 8. Not only did Iron Tom make us miss the first few songs, but it was a boring by-the-numbers setlist. That would have been fine except for the after-concert shenanigans that didn’t see me getting home until 4 am the next day…with a 10 am opening shift at the Record Store. Good times? Not!
Of these shows, I really don’t know which was the best. Maybe they were all the best! What’s yours?
I first reviewed this album earlier in the year, when fellow reviewer Deke over at Arena Rock gave it to me digitally. However I’m a physical product kinda fella. Now that I have a CD in my hands, I had the urge to re-review. Follow along, won’t you? The original review can be found here, but this one is about 50% brand-new. The CD is sonically superior anyway.
Some rock fans have a love/hate thing with Ted Nugent. He’s a proud hunter (“kill ’em and grill ’em”), but a conservationist. He loves the right wing of the political spectrum and has nothing but loathing for the left, all the while taking great glee in offering his opinions. The second amendment is sacred to him…but so is rock and roll. It’s hard to outright hate a guy who has rocked so damn hard over the years, and non-stop at that. You gotta give him credit for the tunes.
Upon first listen, it is clear that the years have done nothing to Ted. The opening title track is faster, meaner and more fun than 99% of the flock. The great Gonzo still shreds a chaotically perfect solo as if the studio is Cobo Hall. “There just comes a time when you just gotta rock,” he sings. Sounds good to me Ted, I’m on board for that! Ted keeps it rolling with a vicious riff on the excellent “Fear Itself”. What a killer song. The message is pretty straightforward: he got nothing to fear but fear itself. “I get up every day, with a smile on my face, happy to be alive and I’m back in the race.” Ted offers no apologies, but tries to keep it positive. “Positive energy makes me smile,” he sings, but “victory makes it all worthwhile.”
Old pal Derek St. Holmes lends lead vocals to “Everything Matters”. A whole album of Ted’s shrieking has never been easy to swallow, so I’m always glad to hear Derek’s smooth pipes. By the slippery bluesy rock, you might think it’s ZZ Top. Early ZZ Top, at that! Somehow, Derek and Terrible Ted found a time machine back to 1972 and captured the sound on “Everything Matters”!
Speaking of old friends, Sammy Hagar (who is friends with everyone, except the current members of Van Halen) shows up to sing lead on “She’s Gone”. It’s a ball-crusher of a song (basically just a variation on “Going Down”), but I road tested the guitar solo, wailing with the car windows down this summer. It passed the rock test. Sammy haters are gonna hate, but I don’t how you can hate him when he’s rocking like this with the Nuge. Even better though is the pure fucking joy in the riff for “Never Stop Believing”. Ted has been quite a riff merchant over the years, but “Never Stop Believing” is another triumph, as big as ever. Strap on your air guitars, folks: you’re gonna need ’em. The song ends on some really nice laid back picking from Ted, reminding me that he is one of the most underrated players from the classic rock era.
“I Still Believe” indicates to me that Ted really wanted to get his point across when he said he’d “Never Stop Believing”. The opening riff apes “Helter Skelter” shamelessly, but the rest of the track is pure Ted…with twang. I like that Nuge is singing fairly tame things like “I still believe in America” and “I believe in liberty” rather than “fuck the Democrats”. The sentiments are more inclusive.
My favourite track has turned out to be the silly titled “I Love My BBQ”. I do love to barbecue, and I absolutely dig the shout-out to us Canucks: “I love my Barbeque, it’s what Canadians do, pull up a chair I’ll get a beer for you,” sings Ted in the first verse! A small minority may be offended but my mouth is drooling. But I really don’t think it’s Ted’s primary intention to upset you. He’s just being funny on this one. I mean, come on: “Tofu might just kill you babe, a tossed salad’ll make you weak.” Nudge nudge, wink wink. Poking the bear a bit. “Well the animals, they got rights…right next to my mashed potatoes, baby.” It is obviously intended as comedy, and that’s fine.
I love my BBQ, too.
Kicking ass is Ted’s business and “Throttledown” is a full-throttle, pedal-to-the-metal rock instrumental. As always though, there is a twang to Ted’s dexterous picking. That’s what makes this different, and better, than middle of the road rock. Having said all that, I have no idea what “Do-Rags and a .45” is about. It sounds like Anvil, except for that title. Keeping the pace fast, “Screaming Eagles” doesn’t give up an inch, guitars fueled and ablaze. None of these songs overstay their welcome. Shutup & Jam features five songs in the 2 minute range in a row! “Semper Fi” is the last of these five, a stomper rather than a screamer. I come from a military family so I have no issues with Ted paying tribute to those in uniform. Some might find it all a bit too much; that’s up to you. Fear not, the song has just as much guitar shred as it does singing. Ted then tells us he’s going to “Trample the Weak Hurdle the Dead”. “War is not the answer,” sings Ted. “I only know evil has got to go.” It’s a great tune and it’s not hard to swallow. And that’s the key. All of these tunes are immensely catchy with lyrics you can sing without having to worry about being considered a right-wing radical by your neighbours.
A bluesy reprise of “Never Stop Believing” closes the album; a rough recording appropriate for the gritty blues approach. It’s a bit of a throw-away compared to the regular version, decent but not nearly as special. Ted’s playing is always the main reason to listen.
I have maintained that if only I hear Shut Up & Jam in the year 2014, it would have been a contender for the Top Five list that year. It’s not hard to understand why — it’s a killer record showing Ted is still in fine form today and hasn’t let the politics get in the way of a good rock song.
The occasion: It was Helix’s 25th anniversary. How about an album, and some classic returning band members, for a good time?
The title B-Sides here is misleading; a B-side is a track that appears on the flipside of a single, and is often not on the album. No tracks on this album appeared on the flipside of any singles, at least not these versions. However, the misleading title does not mar the excellent music contained within.
B-Sides contains songs written and/or demo’d for various Helix albums from 1990 onwards. Some of these have been re-recorded, such as “Love Is A Crazy Game”, which appeared as an acoustic version on the Business Doing Pleasure CD. This version is electric and is much heavier. I could imagine this version fitting right in on an Aerosmith album. “S.E.X. Rated” has also been re-recorded. It’s the only song that actually appeared as a B-side, but it’s not the same version as on that single.
Various versions of the Helix band appear on this album, but most interesting is the lineup on the bonus tracks. “Like Taking Candy From A Baby” and “Thinking It Over” are both from the sessions from Helix’s excellent first album (Breaking Loose), left unreleased until now. “Thinking It Over”, a terrific pop rock song, is a Del Shannon cover. Helix worked as Shannon’s backing band during an early 70’s Canadian tour. There are also three songs by a reunited “80’s Helix”, and it’s great to hear that version of the band again.
In a way, it’s a shame that this album was given the title and terrible album cover that it has. Brian Vollmer and Co. could have simply put this out as the next Helix album, which may have given it the respect it deserves. From the ballads to the heavy stuff, this Helix CD has a bit of everything you already liked about the band, with a modern edge. Every song kicks, there’s not a weak track in the bunch. By the time you get to the bonus tracks, Helix have already pummelled your eardrums.
Helix fans absolutely need to hear this music; not B-sides but in fact some of Helix’s best stuff. Along the way, there are appearances from pretty much every major Helix member from the indi days to the mid-90’s. You will even hear songs written and performed by Paul Hackman, the late Helix guitarist who was tragically killed in a 1992 auto accident. The major selling point of the disc was that three songs featured a reunion of the surviving members of the classic 80’s Helix. With Hackman gone, that consisted of leader singer Brian Vollmer, guitarist Brent “the Doctor” Doerner, bassist Daryl Gray, and drummer Greg “Fritz” Hinz.
- “Thinking It Over” which my wife thinks sounds like Sloan.
- “Devil’s Gate”, hard and hammering.
- “You Got Me Chained”, with killer horn section.
- “Take It Or Leave It”, moody and dark but catchy as hell.
Final bonus: a booklet absolutely chock full of never before seen photos. A real treat!
GUEST SHOT by Mike Lukas
GETTING MORE TALE #439: 10 E 23rd Street
I just finished 93 shows in North America with Steve Earle & The Dukes. I’m their Tour Manager. We have four days off before heading to the west coast for a festival, then on to Europe for another month of touring. Being away from home for so long is tough. So when this little break came up, I told the wife, we were going to take a short trip to NYC. We have tickets to a concert and a Broadway show, a few great dinners, shopping, the works. It was something nice to do together before I leave again.
We are staying at a small boutique hotel in Gramercy. Today [September 29 2015] we were heading across 23rd street on our way to lunch when I saw the number 10 and for some reason that address just kept ringing in my head. 10 East 23rd Street. Over and over, I said to myself 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street. Why do I know that address? Then it clicked! 10 East 23rd Street was the loft where KISS was born! It’s the spot where they auditioned Ace and Peter. It’s the place where they took those early pre-make-up photos. I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her we had to stop here.
I filled her in as to the significance this place played in the mind of a KISS fan. I took a quick photo of the façade of the building and noticed the door to #10 was wide open. I beckoned my wife to follow me in. Just a quick peek, the door is open after all.
We went inside and were greeted by a man with a little Boston terrier holding a ball in his mouth. The dog, not the man. He was holding the small service elevator door for us. “Coming up?” he asked. “Nope just popping in for a quick look.” I replied. His expression changed. “You’re KISS fans.” He said with a smile. “Get in the elevator, but we have to be quiet.” In we went and up we went, petting the little pup as we rose. The nice man who went on to explain that every so often people show up at 10 East 23rd Street to see where KISS was born, showed us the door to their former rehearsal spot. “Come over here” he pointed to the stairway. “See those pipes? That’s where that picture was taken.” I of course walked down and snapped a couple pics.
We looked around some more before descending back down to the street. We said thank you again to the man with the dog and made our way down to The Gramercy Tavern for a nice lunch. At lunch I texted a pic over to LeBrain. Knowing full well he would appreciate the experience as only another fellow KISS fan would. His response is what led to this little story!