Above: A brief history of M.E.A.T Magazine…
RECORD STORE TALES Part 146: Cassettes Part II – The Indi Years
Back in the days of the record store and M.E.A.T Magazine, I was into every indi band I could get my hands on. M.E.A.T released a series of discs, four volumes total, called Raw M.E.A.T, showcasing the best in up and coming unsigned Canadian bands. In addition, their magazine featured numerous ads from dozens of bands hawking their demo tapes. Harem Scarem, who later went on to get signed by WEA and had great success in Japan, was one. Unfortunately I never got their demo tape. Just missed it.
One band that I was heavily into was called Russian Blue, from Toronto. They were edgy hard rock. 1/4 Guns N’ Roses, 1/4 Zeppelin, 1/4 Coverdale, and 1/4 their own style. Digging their two demo tapes up (both dated 1991) I was surprised how good this band was. Not only were they good musicians with a truly great singer in Jo E. Donner, but some of the songs were exceptional. They later changed their name to Deadmoon and finally Feel, before finally releasing their own alterna-rock CD called This. (Feel This, get it?) I was seriously into this CD during my first year at the store, as it combined the hard rock vocals that I loved from the past with a current grungier sound. I gave it significant store play, since it was a current hip sound.
Two of their songs that made it onto the Raw M.E.A.T discs were standouts: “Once A Madman” and “Mama’s Love”. But ripping these tapes to disc, I re-discovered two more. The unfortunately titled “Likkin’ Dog” was a great hard rock groover. By the second tape, they were incorporating more experimental alternative sounds (ahead of their game back in 1991) and a track like “Bleed” showcases an angry riffy side.
Donner later formed a band called Ledgend with ex-Slik Toxik drummer Neal Busby, but I don’t know what happened to them after that.
Attitude were a glam rock band from Toronto who scored some video play with their song “Break The Walls Down”. Their cassette looked pro all the way, printed on heavy card stock and even featuring a separate lyric sheet. Their weakness was in the lead vocals department. By 1994 they had abandoned the hard rock stylings and gone for a thrash alternative hybrid and changed their named to Jesus Christ. Probably not a smart move. The CD (released on the major label A&M) looked terribly low budget with awful indi cover art. I recall trying to sell this in our store for 99 cents. (I unfortunately paid $20 for it brand new when it was first released in 1994! Little did I know that we would later see dozens of copies thanks liquidators. They were impossible to sell, even though it boasted a throat-wrenching cover of “Ace of Spades”.)
Lastly, Gypsy Jayne were a very talented group from Oakville Ontario. They released a song under the generic name Wildside on a Raw M.E.A.T CD first. Then they changed their name and put out a cassette. This cassette got a lot of car play back in the record store days, and when we had a tape deck in the store I even gave it some store play. Gypsy Jayne were very much in the mold of Illusions-era Guns N’ Roses. Not terribly original, but their ace in the hole was their classically trained guitarist Johannes Linstead. His talent speaks for itself today, as a nominee for a Juno award and winner of several other prestigious awards. He has several flamenco albums out today, but to me I’ll always remember him as the shredder in Gypsy Jayne, playing alongside the Axl Rose clone Andy Law. (The Gypsy Jayne cassette, Alive and Wandering, has an early flamenco piece called “Romanza”!)
The songwriting on this cassette is really excellent for what it is. Every song is different, but memorable, catchy, and with a distinct direction. If they had come out a year or two earlier, they could have been as big as L.A. Guns, Cinderella, or any of those bands.
Unfortunately, this cassette was well loved and well worn, and is barely listenable today. Hey Johannes…any chance of a reissue?