#353: Hotter Than Hell

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#353: Hotter Than Hell

Grade 8 was a shitty year. I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of that shitty school.  I had it up to here [holds hand right below chin] with the bullies and teachers.  I had a fight with a bully at the beginning of the year, which at least kept that one off my case for the rest of it.  That was also the year I got mono!  The only thing that really helped get me through was rock and roll, and especially Kiss.  Way back in Part 3 of Record Store Tales, I acquired Hotter Than Hell on LP, in very bad condition.  I almost immediately traded it away for a bunch of other records and swag, but not before dubbing a copy on a terrible Scotch blank tape.  As explained in great detail  in Part 3, I grew to love Hotter Than Hell despite its flaws.  Sonically, it was arguably Kiss’ worst album.  I was listening to a scratched LP via a 120 minute Scotch tape that was prone to stretch and warble.  I had Kiss’ worst sounding album on the worst sounding format!  Yet something about it kept drawing me back.

Sound issues aside, there’s no denying Hotter Than Hell is a powerful record.  Perennial Kiss klassics such as “Got to Choose”, “Hotter Than Hell”, “Parasite”, and “Let Me Go, Rock and Roll” can be found right here.  It also has one of Peter Criss’ best tunes (albeit written by Paul Stanley) called “Mainline”.  I found myself immediately hooked on Peter’s raspy voice.  I surmised that “Mainline” wasn’t a hit, since it neither appeared on Alive! nor Double Platinum.  I couldn’t figure out why.  “If Kiss have songs this good that never became hits,” I reasoned, “the rest of their albums must also be pretty good.”

Right after “Mainline” was another amazing song that I fell for: “Coming Home”.  This Stanley ode to the road was chosen many years later as the opening track for Kiss’ MTV Unplugged.  Back then, to me it was another classic that should have been a hit.  The nucleus of the album became four key songs that I could not get enough of:  “Coming Home”, “Mainline”, “Hotter Than Hell” and “Got to Choose”.  Later on, “All the Way” expanded that list to five.

Those tunes kept me going.  If I was having a rotten day at school, I could hum “Coming Home” to myself and feel better.  For a French assignment, we had to record an introductory paragraph about ourselves, approximately 30-60 seconds long.  We were allowed to do this with music in the background.  I chose the opening riff to “Got to Choose” for mine. First chord — then, “Je m’appelle Michèle…” I talked for the instrumental part, and was finished before the opening line of the song. But I kept the tape running for a moment longer before I did a fade-out: “Baby, you know I heard the neighbors say…” Just so I could work a little bit of Kiss into my French class. I was probably the only one who noticed.

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The bullies picked on me pretty hard in grade 8.  I was assigned “flag duty”, which meant I was the guy who had to put the flag up every morning.  Drawing attention to myself was never a fun thing in grade 8, and I had to do it every morning.  Walking down the hall to the coughs of “Fag Boy” — a clever name derived from “Flag Boy” — was a daily torment.  They also liked to make fun of my boots, which today would have been cooler than hell, since they were vintage, but then just added to misery.  Thursdays were wood shop class, which meant a bus ride to another school downtown.  That bus ride was without a doubt the worst part of each week.  I was prone to getting sick on Thursdays, for some reason….

When I got mono (for real) I missed most of the end of grade 8, but not before being shamed in front of the entire class by my teacher.  “Shame on you!” she said, because I picked the wrong school.  We all had to choose which highschool we wanted to go to.  We were usually expected to choose the Catholic school, but there was no way in hell I was doing that.  You couldn’t have dragged me along with those kids, believe me.  There was just no way.   I chose Grand River Collegiate, which was closer.  Plus my best friend Bob, who was two years older than me, went to that school.  It would be cool to see him every day at lunch time.  We never had any classes together for obvious reasons, but we conspired to get lockers side by side once.  We had a great time in highschool.  Those were the golden years!

Certainly better than grade 8.  I’ve never told all of these stories publicly before.  It is what it is, and all is certainly forgiven now.  The interesting thing is how these experiences collided to really galvanize my love of that Hotter Than Hell album.  Listening to it today still brings back memories of gym class, waiting for it to finally end, humming “Coming Home” to myself.  And that, friends, is why such a terrible sounding record is so important to me!

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25 comments

  1. Yeah the grade 6-8 years were a low point for me as well.

    I was delighted to click on the old mono post and see it start with Wayne’s World clip, pleased to see we’d already determined you weren’t just really bored!

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        1. You know what, with 20/20 hindsight, not bad at all compared to what kids deal with today. Some of the kids that used to pick on me, I’m friends with now. We were kids and shit happens. As you said these are the things that shape us. Which I guess is the theme of this whole thing. If I were a popular kid, what would I be listening to right now? Katy Perry? I hope not but who knows?

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  2. Ahhh…the 8th grade—echoes of meeting at the flag pole for “dispute settlement” or as they call it now: Aggravated assault —is getting beat-up in middle school a prerequisite for becoming a blogger? Put me down for a “Yes”.

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        1. You know what dude? I’ve been accused of victimizing myself in stories in the past, but the fact is this — it’s better for someone like to myself to get it out. Obviously you could relate to it…Sarca could…Geoff could…it’s important that we blog!

          #blogproud #dontletthemtellyoutostop

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        2. Go Mike – blog on my friend blog on! And on another note: This Kiss record helping you – may have been the only socially redeeming thing that this recording ever did. :)

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  3. Sorry that shit happened to you, man. That’s an awkward age to begin with, being surrounded by assholes sure doesn’t help.

    Sorry, but I have to go on record and say I never really had any of that stuff you guys are talking about happen to me. Oh, maybe a couple of times if I strayed into the path of a known jerk, but generally I was lucky, I guess. And I wasn’t one of the guys doing it to other people, either. I suppose it’s that I just somehow get along with most people, I guess, or at least can fake it long enough to get away from the worst of them. I also stayed really busy, playing hockey and in the band and all sorts of other extra-curricular stuff, so I may have missed the lazy doofuses who didn’t join things. So, blogging for me isn’t catharsis or working out past problems in a public forum, it’s just about the music. But I’m glad you guys find it helps.

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    1. Well dude if there are different “types” in the world, some of them are bullied all their lives. I’m really glad that ended, for good, when I quit the record store. I’ve been through a lot and learned a lot so no regrets at all. As I said to 1537 I’m even friends with some of those guys now. Funny how that works.

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      1. Good for you. And you know something? You’re lucky. To know another side of those people, be friends. Me, I moved around a lot, out of province, even. Years have passed. And when I saw some of those people who were assholes in school? They’re still assholes.

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        1. I think I can honestly say that anybody I’ve run into from school days, today, has been cool. It was mostly in the record store days that we would run into each other. I’m glad it turned out that way. Some became regulars!

          And because I believe every cloud has a silver lining, I think that’s another great thing about the record store. Not only did I meet great people (like you) but I also reconnected with a few. A guy like my friend Scott who is a regular reader here, was someone I saw weekly at the record store. He never picked on me, we were friends in school, but everybody goes their own ways after highschool. The store enabled me to stay in contact with him on a weekly basis and we’re friends today.

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  4. Awesome post man. Just out of curiosity… Is the Canadian flag supposed to be folded into a triangle like the US flag? We have all sorts of crazy rules about our flag (that most people ignore) I’m always wondering if other countries have the same sorts of rules.

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    1. Truthfully I don’t know the answer to that question but I think we probably do. We value the flag as much as the US, although you don’t see flags flying here like you do in the US. Here we more do bumper stickers, window stickers, T-shirts, and tattoos of the maple leaf. Though some do have flags most of us display it in other ways.

      When I was “flag boy” the flag was fixed to a pole, so all I had to do was bring out the flag and place it in its slot, and bring it in each night.

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  5. Bullying happens. But to have the teacher tell you that you should ashamed of yourself for not going to the Catholic high school is unforgivable! That kind of thing really makes me angry.
    You are right about one thing. Bullying is far worse today and I’m not sure that scholls know what to do about it. I would not want to be a kid in school today.

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    1. I know two people on Facebook who dislike the very same teacher for similar reasons. One was shamed in class for being lazy (Allan Runstedtler of all people) and one was constantly being sent into the hallway…he really still resents that!

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  6. That same teacher called me out in class when she saw I made a mistake on my math work and said “YOUR FATHER IS A BANK MANAGER, HOW COULD YOU GET THAT QUESTION WRONG?”. Yep….that’s a great way to build my self confidence in class.

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