RECORD STORE TALES
- RECORD STORE TALES MkII:
GETTING MORE TALE
Music, Movies, and more
SONS OF FREEDOM – Sons of Freedom (1988 Slash records)
“Never retract, never retreat, never apologise…get the thing done and let them howl.” – Nellie McClung 1873-1951
Once considered the saviours of Canadian rock, Vancouver’s Sons of Freedom powered their way onto the national scene in 1988 with “The Criminal”, one of the straight-up rockingest tracks to ever emerge from the tundra. They maintained momentum long enough to beat Nirvana in the college radio charts in 1991 (#1 debut vs a #2 for Nirvana), but Sons of Freedom didn’t fit into a nice “grunge” pigeonhole. They were too different, too weird, too Canadian. By 1995 and a mere three albums, they called it a day, but were not forgotten.
What a track “The Criminal” was, certainly sounding very little like 1988. The bleak music video didn’t look much like the competition. Crammed into a tiny rehearsal space, the three clean-shaven, short-haired musicians (all named Don for real!) and one long-hair with a British accent (named Jim Newton at first, but he changed his name on every single album!) didn’t look like other bands on the rock scene. They hooked up with Slash Records, and Faith No More’s producer Matt Wallace, and made a starkly heavy record. They may have appealed to the same audience as The Cult, a superficial comparison, but Ian Astbury was considered an “honorary Canadian” by many rock fans (he lived in the Great White North for six years in the 1970’s and Cult bassist Jamie Stewart later made his home on the Toronto scene). But in 1988, the Cult had never recorded anything as relentless as “The Criminal”.
We got love, we got love, we got justice from above.
If any band in Canadian rock history defined the phrase “ahead of their time”, it had to be Sons of Freedom. “The Criminal”, with its emphasis on that singular groove and strangely hypnotic vocals, could have lead the charge in the 1990’s. There are solos, but they are clang-and-bang, not shred. They even had a quote by a Canadian female rights activist on the cover! Why didn’t they catch? Maybe it was the fact that they didn’t stand still and repeat themselves. Maybe it was the singer changing his name to James Jerome Kingston. Whatever it was, Sons of Freedom didn’t make the impact they rightfully could have. They even had a song called “Fuck the System”!
The three Dons (Binns, Short and Harrison) lay down massive and strange bass-heavy grooves all over this debut album. They sound more like industrial machinery than musicians on some tracks. “Super Cool Wagon” has the concrete foundation needed to flatten all comers, but also boasted a weird “Ah-ooh-ah-ooh-ah-ay” vocal with no words! That’s the album opener — nearly four solid minutes of heavy rock with nothing but ah’s and ooh’s for lyrics! Amazing tracks like “Mona Lisa”, “This is Tao” and “Shoot Shoot” are based on the same template. Smashing monolithic grooves, expertly recorded by Wallace, are topped by the unusual and melodic vocals of James Newton. The vocals allow you to grasp onto the song, while the undercurrent of the groove carries you away. I blame Don Binns for the sheer inertia of the grooves, since his bass work sounds to be the driving force of them.
Other tracks explore different directions. “Dead Dog on the Highway” slows it down but adds a strangely funky Don Harrison guitar lick on top. “The Holy Rollers” drones on slower than slow, the Smiths on Quaaludes, but again you are dragged along with it. Pay attention to what is going on beneath the groove, as dischord rules with a balanced fist. “Judy Come Home” is almost radio-friendly, but “Is It Love” has a stuttery groove that could have been hit material in the right climate. “Fuck the System” is hard-hitting good-time punk and one of the only songs to have a rocky riff. The final track “Alice Henderson” is the Sons’ version of an epic as it chugs without rest, leaving nothing but wreckage and waste behind.
Ultimately, I suppose nothing bonds bandmates like a good first name. The three Dons emerged a few years after Sons of Freedom split, backing Lee Aaron (then simply “Karen”) in a new band called 2preciious and a later industrial project called Jakalope!
“Another lovely day begins, for ghosts and ghouls with greenish skin. So close your eyes and you will find that you’ve arrived in Frightenstein. Perhaps the Count will find a way to make his monster work today. For if he solves this monster-mania, he can return to Transylvania! So welcome where the sun won’t shine, to the castle of Count Frightenstein!” – Vincent Price
GETTING MORE TALE #466: Clap for the Wolfman
I surely cannot be the only person in the world who heard of rock and roll because of the legendary radio DJ Wolfman Jack…although mine was in a roundabout way!
The irresistibly gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack was born in 1938 as Robert Smith. A love of classic horror led to the creation of the Wolfman character. He played rock and roll records from a high-powered transmitter on the Mexico border. So powerful was the signal that Jack claimed “Birds dropped dead when they flew too close to the tower.” On a clear night, listeners in the Soviet Union could hear the Wolfman half a world away.
Killing birds and eating records, the Wolfman really came to fame when tapes of his broadcasts were used for radio syndication. By selling his tapes world-wide, Jack could be heard on over 2000 stations at his peak. The Wolfman character became synonymous with rock and roll no matter where you lived.
American Graffiti: Richard Dreyfuss and Wolfman Jack
I was too young to know of Wolfman Jack directly. I was even too young for American Graffiti, the 1973 George Lucas classic about the cruising scene in Modesto California circa the summer of ’62. Wolfman Jack made a memorable appearance as himself, and did radio DJ intros for most of the tunes through the movie. This however was preceded by a 1971 Canadian kid’s comedy show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Similarly to of the syndication that made the Wolfman a smash success, Frightenstein was on TV well into the 70’s and 80’s, even though all the episodes were made in 1971. Via Frightenstein, I learned who the Wolfman was.
Because of the endless re-runs, there was no way for young Canadian kids to miss it. Before we had cable, it was one of the few shows we could reliably get, both at home and at the cottage, as it was broadcast from Hamilton Ontario. Billy Van played almost every character himself: Grizelda the Witch, the Librarian, Dr. Pet Vet, Bwana Clyde Batty (a British explorer who ran the “Zany Zoo”), and many more. Van’s most memorable character however had to be The Wolfman – an actual wolfman radio DJ inspired by Jack, down to the gravelly voice and wolf howls! The Wolfman would spin classic rock and roll records each show, accompanied by psychedelic images of him dancing and playing air guitar with the character of Igor, played by Fishka Rais. (The huge Rais was one of very few additional actors on the show. Vincent Price and Professor Julius Sumner Miller recorded all their parts over the course of the summer of 1971. And let’s not forget Guy Big, as the Midget Count!)
When the Wolfman’s segments would begin, you would know it immediately. His theme song was “I Wanna Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone. “I am the Wolfman! Ah-oooooooo!” he would howl at the start of his show. He would play “golden oldies” by the Stones and other classic rock and roll artists, on his radio station “EECH”. He would tell callers that he was “fangtastic”. (The “golden oldies” concept was brilliant. Even if he was playing a fairly recent Stones single, he’d call it a “golden oldie”, thus ensuring that the show seemed current even when being broadcast in, say, 1986. Planning and syndication!)
One of the few Youtube clips featuring original audio and music.
So there I was, a young kid sitting on the basement floor during Canadian winter, playing with Lego and watching this pretty low-budget kid’s show, when suddenly this wolfman appeared! “I am the Wolfman! Ahooooooo!” I didn’t know the music. I’d never heard Sly and the Family Stone. They were great! I was hooked. I even made my own tapes of the Wolfman. I played the Wolfman…and all the other characters. I had him battling Star Wars composer John Williams for chart superiority! Fortunately, these tapes no longer exist!
I had no idea yet that Billy Van’s Wolfman was based on a real person. That came later, probably through my parents, as I learned more about rock and roll. All I knew was that he was a fun character who played good songs. “I Wanna Take You Higher” was an early favourite. The Stones made a strong impression. He also played Mungo Jerry. I didn’t like the slow songs. Unfortunately due to the legal rights involved, “I Wanna Take You Higher” had to be replaced on the DVD versions. Rights could only be obtained to release a few episodes on disc. (Most of the Youtube clips you will find are overdubbed versions with different music, and a new voice, since Billy Van had passed away before the DVDs were released.)
Wolfman Jack himself appeared on many television shows and records over the years. After American Graffiti, he appeared in the ill-advised sequel, which flopped. TV loved him; he even guested on Battlestar Galactica’s spinoff series Galactica 1980. Notably, in 1974 he appeared as himself on The Guess Who’s classic single “Clap for the Wolfman”, a memorable tribute featuring plenty of the Wolfman’s trademark growl. His influence trickled down, creating waves far exceeding the radio broadcasts that once reached Russia. Via these tributes to his accomplishments, the Wolfman served to introduce rock and roll music to new generations, either via TV and movies or Billy Van’s character inspired by him. Clap for the Wolfman indeed!
WTF SEARCH TERMS XXX: Fenway Park Dicks edition with Derek Kortepeter
Holy cow! It’s the 30th edition of WTF Search Terms! Please welcome back the talented multi-instrumentalist, the scourge of gamers, the nemesis of Donald Trump’s Youtube supporters…Derek Kortepeter! Derek always enjoys the WTF Search Terms — those whacky things that people type into search engines and somehow wind up here. No Joey Tempest search terms made the list this time. Sorry folks, but that’s not Derek’s fault! Without further adieu, here are Derek’s 10 favourite recent search terms from the mikeladano.com hit parade, with his commentary!
1. ladano love girl
Clearly the name of Mike’s unreleased debut album that was leaked in 2003.
2. buddies compare dicks urinal
Tell me wherever these urinals are and I will make sure to avoid them. No it has nothing to do with insecurities about my penis size…
3. cocksuckers chicken jacked me
Sounds like the crime spree of stealing chickens is now an epidemic. I can see it now turning into a video game: “CTA: Chicken Theft Auto.” Will it offend politicians, Jack Thompson, and Anita Sarkeesian as much as Grand Theft Auto? Time will tell.
4. fenway park trough urinal where all the dicks hang out
OK now I have one more reason to not be a fucking Red Sox fan. Jesus Christ.
5. deer foot gun rack
A gun rack made entirely of deer feet seems a little useless. I mean, will it actually hold your rifle?
[LeBrain interjects: Yes Derek, it does hold a rifle. See? Here’s mine.]
My summer sausage is always free. No need to shop online.
7. video porno de ladano
Something you want to tell us Mike?
8. girl gets interestet with wanker on train porno
Just a PSA, huffing paint thinner and using Google is not recommended.
9. sarah e. dunsworth tits
“Tits” sure is an awkward last name, but this is what appears on her birth certificate.
10. gene simmons is a wanker
Gene can’t possibly be a wanker. I doubt his dick has worked in years. That’s the tradeoff for having that tongue. You have to make a trade with the dick fairy to get a tongue that big. What? I thought this was common knowledge?
ALICE COOPER – DaDa (1983 Warner)
DaDa is one of the most fascinating albums in the Alice Cooper catalogue. So interesting in fact that this is the second time I’ve tackled a review of it. The first, posted on Amazon years ago shortly after buying the album, was not flattering. The entire thing is below:
This is what happens when you drink too much and can’t remember years of your life anymore.
This is what happens when your producer is nursing his own drug problems.
This is what happened to Alice Cooper in the early 80’s. Guitars, drums and bass have been jettisoned in favour of samples, keyboards, and programs. Songs? Non-existant. This album is worthless, filled with dreck that Cooper wouldn’t have even considered a decade earlier, or later. I defy anyone to explain the concept of the story to me. No songs ever played live, no tour.
One novelty track: “I Love America”, which is actually hilarious. It is also available on the Cooper boxed set. Pick that up, not this.
0/5 stars. The absolute nadir of the man’s storied career.
That’s what I said then, and I have to own it now. I could delete it and pretend I never said it, but that would be dishonest.
Rich at Kamertunesblog did a fantastic Alice Cooper series a few years back. When he got to DaDa, I said that “I still have not really penetrated [it]. I don’t know if I so much as appreciate it, rather than like it.” When Rich said he found that surprising, I realized I must be missing something with DaDa. So how does DaDa sit now, after a few years to let it absorb?
It’s different. It’s creepy. It’s funny. It’s worth the time spent with it.
The story of DaDa itself is almost as interesting as the story of how one man can go from hating it to loving it.
Alice re-teamed with Bob Ezrin on this album, for the first time in years. Dick Wagner came back for guitar, bass and songwriting duties. Wagner claimed in his autobiography that Alice wasn’t that enthused about making this album, and confessed that contracts stipulated he had to. Backing up Wagner’s claim is the fact that this was Alice’s last album for Warner, followed by a three year hiatus to finally get clean and sober for good. There was no tour, in fact no band.
In lieu of a drummer, all beats are programmed. This lends a stark early 80’s synthpop sound to DaDa. It works exceptionally well on the title track, an Ezrin instrumental creation. The echoey electronics sound as if from a frightening science fiction horror movie from the period. Punctuating this is the mechanical repeating sample of a child saying “da da”…and heavenly new age keyboard melodies. Talk about chills! If that doesn’t get you, perhaps the spoken word conversation between a therapist and a patient will give you the shivers. “I have a daughter too,” says the elderly patient. “You don’t have a daughter,” responds the doctor. “Yeah, I have a daughter,” insists the sick man. “Sir, you have a son,” insists the doctor as the conversation gets creepier. Alice Cooper is not even on this piece. Perhaps that is one reason it failed to make an impression on me all those years ago.
Alice emerges on “Enough’s Enough”, changing to the perspective of the son. “I just want to tell you, you’re a lousy dad, to hell with you!” Dark but strangely upbeat, “Enough’s Enough” has some of those Bob Ezrin touches that you love, such as the perfectly arranged backing vocals. The Dick Wagner guitars are the only real touch of rock and roll; the song otherwise lives in a punky new wave land. The best song is much creepier: “Former Lee Warmer”. Alice alludes to the character of “Former Lee” on the previous song: “Why’d you hide your brother?” “Former Lee Warmer” reveals that the body of the brother was locked in a chest in the attic. “All the mops and brooms keep him company, misconceived of the family.” Musically and thematically, this is just as good as Welcome to My Nightmare! This is all done in Alice’s brilliant speak-sing style.
The concept becomes harder to follow on “No Man’s Land”, a good rock and roll song only weakened by the clanky electronic percussion. Wagner is outstanding. Similarly disconnected is “Dyslexia”, which sounds like Devo snuck into the studio. Harmless fun; I wonder how many songs have been written about dyslexia in popular music? It’s not clear who is on bass (probably Prakash John rather than Wagner), but the bass pulse is brilliantly subtle and perfect. “Scarlet and Sheba” is an album highlight, electronically exotic and heavy too. It’s perfectly dressed a with killer chorus and kinky lyrics, topped with a brilliant Ezrin arrangement.
“I Love America” is admittedly a novelty track, but I still like it today. Taking on the persona of a redneck, Alice lampoons every cliche about his homeland. “I love Velveeta slapped on Wonder Bread! I love a Commie…if’un he’s good ‘n dead!” The reason it works is because it’s Alice Cooper. I don’t think anyone else could have pulled it off. Ezrin provides suitably pompous backing music, turning it into a rock national anthem. (My favourite lyric is the last one: “I love my bar, and I love my truck. I’d do most anything to make a buck! I love a waitress who loves to ffff…flirt. They’re the best kind!”)
Going into “Fresh Blood” you’ll notice the synth horns, not really a substitute for the real thing. It’s actually a pretty good funky rock tune. Alice sings melodically with layered vocals, and once again the bass sounds awesome if you pay attention to it. The final track is another drama-laden burner called “Pass the Gun Around”. The character (referred to as “Sonny”; perhaps the son from earlier in the album) wakes up in a hotel room after another blackout night. It’s not a pretty scene but it ends the album on a suitably serious and musically complex note. It’s actually one of the better Cooper tracks from any era, thanks in no small part to Bob Ezrin and Dick Wagner.
Interesting trivia: Probably because Ezrin recorded the album in his native land (Canada), Lisa DalBello is credited on backing vocals. Queensryche would later cover one of her singles, “Gonna Get Close to You”. She was also a part of Alex Lifeson’s Victor project.
Today’s rating: 4/5 stars, but only after a long journey. And the concept still seems to derail halfway through the album.