#635: Cancer Chronicles 5: It’s Done

It was a long anxious day but it’s done now.  Jen’s surgery went well  We’re all exhausted so this will be a short one.

We didn’t get to see her while she was in the recovery room. We’ll see her Tuesday and we’ll bring her anything that she wants.  I miss her.  I can’t wait to see her and tell her how amazing she is.  Everybody told us how special she is.  Of course, we already know that.

This one battle is won.

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#634: Cancer Chronicles 4: It’s Time

The past week was stressful for Jen and I.  We met the surgeon on January 9.  He didn’t tell us anything we didn’t expect, but still:  it was happening.  It was real.  Time was ticking we couldn’t shut it out of our minds anymore.  We had to get ready to Jen’s surgery and aftercare.

Three hours of surgery will be following by approximately a week in the hospital for recovery.  Then, six to eight weeks recovery at home.  Dr. Sugimoto assured me that if Jen’s home care was too difficult, they would arrange for help.  She’s applied for Mobility Plus, the special busses for the disabled.  We both really like “Dr. Sugi” as the staff call him.  When Jen had her biopsy, she had abnormal bleeding.  Dr. Sugimoto came back from home to re-do the gauze.  He’s amazing, honestly.

Even though we have incredible support, we are only human.  Both of us.  After the last meeting with Dr. Sugimoto, I was unable to go back to work.  The weight of this is affecting me emotionally and physically.  I hoped I could be stronger.  I set a goal for myself to keep going to work.  That was my mistake and I knew it.  It wasn’t a realistic goal.  I knew there was a real chance I wouldn’t be able to go to work every day.  So, I felt like a failure and it was my fault.  I guilt myself like nobody else can.

We’ve never gone through something like this.  I don’t know how we’re “supposed” to feel and act.

I think we’re prepared as much as one can be.  When she comes home there will be a new set of challenges, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  When I have news to post, I’ll post it.

In the meantime, every comment and prayer is appreciated.  We love you and we’ll be back soon.

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: Bingo!

I hate Bingo.  I went with Jen a couple times.  Didn’t win anything, didn’t enjoy the game.  This is how I spent my time last time I played (photo courtesy of Scott):

 

#633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

GETTING MORE TALE #633: Don’t Take Offence At My Innuendo

I didn’t understand Queen until it was almost too late.  When I was a highschool hair metal brat, Queen were “too pop” for my tastes.  Much of their music seemed to be novelty songs to me.  Highschool pep rally music:  “We Will Rock You”, “We are the Champions”.   In the late 80s, North America had all but given up on Queen.  My exposure to them was minimal until 1991.

MuchMusic began playing a new Queen video called “Innuendo”.  The animated short was intense with firey guitar histronics (courtesy of Steve Howe from Yes) and an exotic Zeppelin edge.  Having just got into Zeppelin big time, this was very appealing.  At school, old pal Scott Peddle concurred.  “That new Queen is quite the Zeppelin tune,” and I agreed.  As far as I was concerned, any band that could homage Zep’s “Kashmir” with their own unique slant, well, I had to check them out!

M.E.A.T Magazine had a new interview with Brian May that year, and so my learning began.  It was the first I heard of Freddie’s rumoured health problems.  Queen hadn’t toured since 1986 and this raised questions.  Little did I know, but the British tabloids were all over Freddie with candid photos and near-death pronouncements.  Brian denied the health concerns, but admitted that it was Freddie who didn’t want to tour.  This was because as singer, he couldn’t smoke, drink and party with the rest of the band.  He had to take care of his voice.  So went the interview.  Brian assured readers that Queen would continue, as they were already half-way through the next Queen album, eventually released in 1995 as Made  in Heaven.

The next chapter in my learning came during the summer.  In guitar magazine interview, Brian May ran through all the Queen albums one by one.  I drank in every word, as I got a rough outline of what this band was all about.  Diversity, mostly, and I liked that.  Zeppelin too was diverse, but I sensed that Queen took it to another level.  I made plans to begin collecting Queen.

After highschool, I managed to stay in touch with a guy named Andy.  Andy had an older brother with an extensive record collection.  Andy told me all about this song called “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  He was over one night when my mom came downstairs to tell us some bad news.  It was the 23rd of November, 1991.  Freddie Mercury had made a statement.

“Following the enormous conjecture in the press over the last two weeks, I wish to confirm that I have been tested HIV positive and have AIDS. I felt it correct to keep this information private to date to protect the privacy of those around me. However, the time has come now for my friends and fans around the world to know the truth and I hope that everyone will join with me, my doctors and all those worldwide in the fight against this terrible disease. My privacy has always been very special to me and I am famous for my lack of interviews. Please understand this policy will continue.”

There was such a stigma surrounding AIDS then, more so than today.  It is easy to be critical of Freddie’s decision to keep his illness secret.  Unless you were there in 1991, then you really can’t know how difficult it was for AIDS sufferers at the time.

Andy and I were shellshocked.  The rumours were true.  The denials were false.  Brian later admitted that he knew early on that Freddie was sick.  Still, Andy and I had no idea how serious it was.  We talked, we listened to Queen.  Freddie died the very next day (the same day as Eric Carr of Kiss).  I had hardly got to know him.

My mom was headed to the mall and she asked if I wanted anything.  “Yes,” I answered.  “The first Queen album please.”  She returned that afternoon with Queen, 1973.  It was my first Queen.  I intended to collect them in order.

Getting all the albums in original order went sideways shortly after.  Less than three months after Freddie’s passing, came a worldwide phenomenon:  Wayne’s World.

Overnight, Queen were everywhere again.  Everyone knew every word to “Bohemian Rhapsody”.  The few months’ head start that I had were meaningless.  Two weeks later, Hollywood Records released Classic Queen in North America.  This was essentially a revised Greatest Hits II from 1991, (which they didn’t even bother to release here) with older hits thrown in.  Later that year came a new version of Greatest Hits, with the track listing revamped to avoid overlap with Classic Queen.  Confusing?  Indeed, it must have been to old fans who already had the old Greatest Hits with the original cover art.  That immediately became a collectable.  To new guys like me, I was just trying to keep up.

Hollywood Records reissued all the old Queen albums as part of their 20 Years of Queen series.  There were bonus tracks.  I had begun my Queen collection on cassette, but I was irked to discovery that some of the CD editions had bonus tracks that were not on the cassettes.  And so, I already had to re-buy.  Interestingly, some of those old 1991 bonus tracks are remixes that are now out of print and not available on the newer Queen reissues.

It was a blessing that I stopped buying them in chronological order.  After all, I didn’t want to wait that long to get Innuendo, an album with more than the average amount of heavy Queen rock.  Next, I got News of the World.  Its bonus tracks was a pretty awful remix of “We Will Rock You” by Rick Rubin and featuring Flea.  Fortunately the album itself was much better.  Queen’s best?  Quite possibly, due to “It’s Late”, a Queen epic as regal as any.  The 6:27 Brian May workout is a clear highlight on an album of nothing but.  “It’s Late” sunk its hooks in me deep.

As it was difficult for Hollywood Records to to extract new releases from a defunct band, the reissues continued.  Queen At the Beeb was out of print, so it was re-released with new cover art as Queen at the BBC in 1995.  This collection of live oldies from Queen and Queen II were not what the hit-buying general public were interested in.  My copy was a cassette promo from the Record Store, intended for store play.  The boss never played it so I claimed it.

Working at the Record Store, I was able to fill in most of the blanks in my collection.  A nice find was a version of The Miracle with 14 tracks instead of the more common 13.  I still have that.  (The additional track was the 12″ remix of “Scandal”.)  It was ol’ buddy T-Rev who made sure I knew these things.

As the years passed, Queen releases became less important.  The long-awaited final album Made in Heaven became a shelf warmer at Christmas 1995.  Regardless of its deep emotional contents, people didn’t want to know.  The unfortunate effect of Queen’s sudden comeback in North America is that people lost interest a few years after they gained it.

Not me.  Made in Heaven became a dark favourite.  Two years later, Queen indicated they weren’t done yet.  The trio of Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon regrouped for one last song:  the ballad “No-One But You (Only the Good Die Young)”.  It was a tribute to Freddie and Princess Diana, and released on a new compilation called Queen Rocks.

John Deacon retired, but then something strange happened.  The duo of Brian May and Roger Taylor reconvened as “Queen +”.  This moniker was used for a number of remixes on Greatest Hits III: Queen + Wyclef Jean, for example.  There was Five + Queen doing a new boy band version of “We Will Rock You”.  Queen + Paul Rodgers did an album (The Cosmos Rocks) and a number of tours.  But it wasn’t until a former American Idol TV contestant named Adam Lambert came on board that Queen regained mass public awareness.  Now, Queen + Adam Lambert are a hot touring commodity.

That might have to be enough.  Because nobody bought The Cosmos Rocks, Queen + Adam Lambert are unlikely at this time to record new music.  Instead they will be tearing up stages Down Under in 2018.  They promise all the favourites, and a few unexpected oldies.  Lambert is a versatile singer who can do it all, so Australia and New Zealand are now on alert:  Queen + Adam Lambert are coming and are promising a hell of a show.

  • Auckland – 17 & 18 February
  • Sydney – 21 & 22 February
  • Brisbane – 24 February
  • Adelaide (first Queen shows since 1984) – 27 & 28 February
  • Melbourne – 2 & 3 March
  • Perth – 6 March

 

#632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

GETTING MORE TALE #632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

Because nothing we did in highschool lasts forever, I chose to keep as much stuff as possible.  I have an entire binder full of our highschool comic book “Brett-Lore”.  Everybody knew that it needed to be kept safe and sound, and so I was the one to do it.  27 years after graduation, I still have Brett-Lore safe and sound.  I would never get rid of it.  Too many great memories.

I also kept some early attempts at songwriting.  Specifically:  lyrics.  Some of these songs had music written or recorded for them, but it is now lost.  Not that it matters, since the lyrics are so hot.

On a page of lyrics “by Mike + Dan”, I found this potential smash hit song.

“Fuck, Hell is Hot”

Fuck it’s hot in this pit,

So damn hot I feel like shit,

I wake up in the morning,

From the torment of my bed,

I had spikes for my pillow,

That went straight through my head.

Guitar solo – end

This was a thrash metal song, which was all the rage in 1990.  Obviously a novelty song, it was based off other joke thrash songs I’d heard.  A local band called F.U.H.Q. had a song called “Jimi Hendrix Falling Off a Roof”.  It was basically just them screaming “AHHHHHH!” and then “I’m dead!”

The next song down is scribbled next to a half-assed Van Halen logo.  It’s another novelty song:

“Snake in my Pants”

I  got a snake in my pants,

And it loves to dance,

Sometimes it spits venom,

Sometimes it bites victims,

But all the time my snake’s alive.

I remember that one.  Definitely my work, not Dan’s.  You can tell by the subtle use of metaphor.

Dan and I were really into Led Zeppelin at this time, because they had just released their first box set.  We both found Robert Plant’s lyrics a little comical, so over-the-top they were with symbolism.  We attempted to write our own version of a Led Zeppelin song.  We called it “Abbis’ Stomp”.  Abbis was a nickname for a guy in class who was actually named Andrew.  I don’t know why they called him Abbis, but he too loved Zeppelin and we named it after him.

“Abbis’ Stomp” was recorded and I still have it on cassette.  I sang it and a guy named Dave played guitar.  There was a 20 minute instrumental section if I remember correctly.

“Abbis’ Stomp”

The forest is alive and vibrant green,

And here she comes: the reigning Queen,

The moon is bright and over the lake,

And the Queen is on the make.

Oh, oh, ah!

The beat, it pounds in my heart,

The Stallion takes off like a dart,

The streets are deadly in these times,

But killing dwarves is a crime.

Oh, oh, ah!

Great Christmas Tree,

Someday you’ll come back to me,

Beautiful Christmas Tree….

I open the Book of Life and see,

The pages staring back at me,

The dragon breathes its acrid breath,

And fries the Christmas Tree to death.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ahh!

Reading back, and singing the melody in my head, I understand now why Robert Plant never contacted us for songwriting help.  And I see bits of lines that were directly ripped off from Iron Maiden.  See if you can spot them.

There was better stuff on other pages.  “Unleashed in the Middle East” was a topical song about the Gulf War, written by Dan, myself and a third guy named Andy.  It was a more innocent time and this song reflects it.  It’s all about driving out evil Saddam.  “From this chaos rose a man, a tyrant for all to see…”  Then there is “Night of the Serpent”, a lyric Dan wrote solo.  It has religious overtones and it’s by far the best thing in the binder.  He was a talented writer.

I should contact the guys.  We should complete these songs and make an album!  I know the binder alone contains more than enough material for one record.  We always talked about sitting down and properly recording some originals and covers.  We never did because we weren’t good enough.  But in the glowing light of nostalgia, anything can have value.

R.I.P. “Fast” Eddie Clarke (1950-2018)

And then there were none.  “Fast” Eddie Clarke, the last original member of Motorhead, has passed to the great beyond at age 67, of pneumonia.

Our correspondent Uncle Meat is quoted as follows:  “Whatever people are calling heaven these days just got louder than everyone else.  RIP Fast Eddie…and hello to the reunion of the band that used to be here to kick your ass.”

The original Motorhead was decimated in recent years, with “Philthy Animal” Taylor and Lemmy both passing in late 2015.  Now the three are reunited, jamming again whilst Michael Jackson and George Michael plug their ears in agony.  Motorhead is dead — long live Motorhead!

“Fast” Eddie should be recognised almost as much for his notable band Fastway (with Pete Way of UFO).  Post-Motorhead, Fastway are often remembered as the band who did the soundtrack to Trick Or Treat in 1986.  1983’s Fastway and 1984’s All Fired Up were also notable entries in the genre.

It should be stated for the record, that “Fast” Eddie was far from “Heavy Metal Bullshit”. You will be reading more about “Heavy Metal Bullshit” in the months to come. “Fast” Eddie was old fashioned and greasy, able to groove with the baddest bass player on Earth. Listen to his playing on “Bomber”. It’s all meat and gravy, no fat.

Rest in peace “Fast” Eddie!

#631: The Locker Door

GETTING MORE TALE #631: The Locker Door

Before the first day of highschool even began, I had selected the posters I was going to hang up inside.  For my first locker ever, at the beginning of grade nine, I chose Gene Simmons.  It was a weird picture of him from the Asylum era, no makeup, and his tongue pinned to the neck of his bass by the strings.  I was truly disappointed that girls found the picture repulsive and didn’t want to talk to me.  I’m still proud that I was flying the Kiss flag right from day one.  For some reason, I also had a picture of Mr. Mini Wheats, from a box of the same-named cereal.

Meanwhile, my best buddy Bob had something cooler.  It was a poster of Bruce Dickinson, circa 1986, standing next to the giant stage Eddie from Somewhere in Time.  Everybody seemed to agree that the new Blade Runner Eddie was the coolest one yet, and that poster was the envy of the hallway.  When he was done with it, Bob passed the locker poster down to me.  I was thrilled — so much that I used it again the next year.

Bob moved on to Samantha Fox.  She took over from where Eddie and Bruce once were.  “Hey, that one’s topless,” remarked the English teacher Mr. Payette as he strolled past.  She was covering her modesty with her arms, but she was indeed missing her top.

In grade 10, Bob and I did something sneaky.  On the first day of school, he advised me to bring an extra lock, and see if I could snag an extra, unoccupied locker.  I did — right next to my own, in fact.  So that year, Bob and I had this spare locker that we shared right next to mine.  He had this little Nerf basketball set.  You could hang a net from the locker door.  We also had gotten into remote control cars.  We stashed them in the spare locker and played with them during the lunch hour.  We got caught by the stern science teacher, Mr. Branday.  “Take this to the gym!” he shouted at us.

Branday was a weird guy.  Every year, he began his science class with the same line.  “Science is a tool of the mind.  With it, one can open more doors than with the bare hands alone!”

Bob and I had such a good time, that year of the two lockers.  A fresh succession of posters went up, although I hung onto Bruce and Eddie until it was literally falling apart.  One I liked a lot was a cardboard cut out of ZZ Top’s Eliminator car, from a Monogram model kit I built.  I always wanted to rig up a Walkman with a speaker in the door of that locker, but we figured if the racing cars got us in shit, music would even more.

Locker posters usually came from magazines such as Hit Parader, but it had to be a vertical poster.  A horizontal one would only be good for home.  A kid down the hall, Michael Wright, had a picture of a computer in his locker one year.  I tended to stick to rock stars.  Def Leppard went in there, and so did a rare picture of Vinnie Vincent in his Kiss makeup.

Some of the posters that survived

I tried to take care of my posters so I could use them again.  They seemed like a big part of my identity.  I brought my posters to school on the first day every year, so my locker would never be bare.  Nobody but Bob seemed to get that.  I always enjoyed carefully packing them up on the last day of school before summer holidays.  Except for the last year of highschool, when I knew it was the very last time.  There would be no more lockers.  The very last locker posters were coming down, for good.  I hated the feeling, the finality of it.  Knowing life was about to change and almost all my old friends would be gone doing their own things.  It was a…lonely feeling.  The lockers were always a communal place.  You’d chat with friends before or between classes.  Life really felt different afterwards.

Somewhere in this house in an old video tape, of my grade 13 year circa 1990.  Bob and I rented a camera one weekend, went into the unlocked school and did a tour.  On that video is a detailed look at my locker posters of 1990-1991.  One day I’m going to have to get a USB VCR and take a look.

#630: Mind Games – Cancer Chronicles 3

We’re less than a week away from surgery.  Jen’s scared.  While this is a routine surgery, it’s life changing for her.  Neither of us have ever experienced anything like this before.  Afterwards, she’s looking at a significant recovery time.  She’s going to have very limited mobility for a while.  This is very stressful.  It’s also stressful to imagine the challenges that we don’t know about yet, so we try and shut those thoughts down.

My brain is sometimes my worst enemy.

I know that we have a great surgeon.  We are confident that he is going to do a great job.  He also has great bedside manner.  He is reassuring.  Fear is natural and there’s nothing he can do about that.  When Jen is up scared at night, and I’m there to comfort her, it takes its toll on me, too.  I’m not oblivious to her fears.  And when the lights go out I can’t control where my brain goes.

So I’ll wake up, usually between 2:00 and 3:00 am, with the vague memory of negative unconscious thoughts in my head.  I’ll try to meditate, think on something else, but at 2:00 am you can only do so much.  Before long I’m in the bathroom vomiting up whatever I had in my stomach.

The day after a puke night, I never feel right.  Sleep is interrupted.  I’m sluggish, I have headaches and back aches.  It’s sometimes hard to put food back in me.  I can’t always eat a breakfast or a lunch after a night like that.  I’m losing weight but not in a good way.

I’m not sure how to turn this around, with less than a week to go.  The stress is only going to increase as we prepare for surgery.  We are being as proactive as we think we can be.  I am trying to take care of my body and my mind.  I’m only human and I have my own strengths and weaknesses.  I often consider my brain to be my greatest strength but right now, it’s getting the better of me.

REVIEW: Queen – Flash Gordon (with 1991 and 2011 bonus tracks)

Flash Gordon – Original Soundtrack Music by QUEEN (Originally 1980, 1991 and 2011 Hollywood CDs)

When mom and dad rented the movie Flash Gordon, we sat and watched it as a family.  “It’s terrible,” a family friend told us.  There were only so many movies available to rent at the local store (Steve’s TV), just one small wall of VHS and Betamax.  Flash Gordon came home with us one weekend, and because we tried to make the most of our movie rentals (including the VCR, also a rental) we watched it twice.

I have not seen Flash Gordon since that childhood weekend.  It really was awful.  Maybe we hoped for more because Max Von Sydow was in it.  Neither Sydow, nor Brian Blessed, nor a young Timothy Dalton could save Flash Gordon.

Flash Gordon, New York Jets

Queen also could not save the movie, though their soundtrack is certainly one of the best things to come of it.  (Another is the movie Ted, basically a love letter to the original Flash Gordon).   All four Queen members wrote music for the film, and recorded it as a band.  Brian May wrote the lion’s share of material, though Freddie Mercury was responsible for “Vultan’s Theme”, later ripped off for an Atari video game called Vanguard.  I wonder if Freddie ever saw a dime from that?  I knew Freddie’s song from the video game by heart, long before I ever heard the album by Queen!

The soundtrack gave us one Queen hit single, “Flash’s Theme” written by May.  The 2011 double CD has a single version, and a live cut from Montreal in ’81 (also on Queen Rock Montreal), as bonuses to the album track.  “Flash’s Theme” is sparse but catchy, featuring movie dialogue that makes it seem like the film should be much better.  Queen’s bombast was ideal for this.  When Roger Taylor sings the highest notes in the chorus, it’s sheer musical delight.

The album plays like a soundtrack, with lots of atmospheric keyboard instrumentals and movie dialogue.  Because of its ambient nature, you might not at first recognise some tracks as Queen.  Some is similar to the ambient work that closed their last album, Made in Heaven.  The music is far more grand than its onscreen imagery.

One of the most memorable instrumentals is “Football Fight”, a Mercury synth workout.  Perhaps sometimes we forget what a great keyboardist Mercury was, simply because he was such an amazing vocalist.  “Football Fight” is super fun, and you can also get it in a piano-based demo version on the 2011 CD.  Check out a Queen-tastic version of Wagner’s famous “Wedding March” performed by May on guitar.  Finally there is the rock track “The Hero”, a riffy song with full vocals by Freddie.  It reprises some prior themes from the soundtrack, such as “Vultan’s”.  Queen is augmented by an orchestra on “The Hero”, which is as grand as you would expect.  Like “Flash”, you can also get “The Hero” on disc two in live form, in Montreal 1981.

A long forgotten bonus track for this album was released on the 1991 Hollywood Records CD.  A remix by somebody called “Mista Lawnge” starts off well enough, with a grinding beat synched to May’s guitar.  It goes downhill when somebody starts rapping, “Flash, one time!  Flash, two times!”  Note to all remixers:  Never, ever add random rappers to rock songs.  Don’t.

Rest assured, no matter which version of Flash Gordon you pick up, there are some definite musts on the album.  Much of it will only appeal to fans of soundtracks.  If that sounds like you, take a ride with Flash to planet Mongo and get down with some Queen.  Skip the movie!

4/5 stars

Sunday Chuckle: Downtown Train

It’s the first Sunday Chuckle of 2018!

Jen and I were picking up her mom at the downtown train station. I spotted this guy with a box strapped to his backpack. Pretty smart, I thought! An original and unique solution to travel.