GETTING MORE TALE #758: Len Mix Vol. I and II
In the early 2000s, the best way to “share” music (note the quotations) was to burn a CD for your friends.
I had a customer, now friend, named Len. I knew him originally via some mutual highschool pals. I recognised him because he was in a Kiss air band when I was in grade 10. I befriended him later on as a customer at the Record Store, and I learned more about his taste in music and his collection. We were on the same page in virtually every way musically.
Len had a neat way of tracking his music, in the days before computers made this easy. He made a black and white photocopy of every CD cover, and filed them all in order, in a huge binder with title, year and tracklist. A work intensive process I’m sure, but it benefited me tremendously as you’ll soon see.
Len loaned me the book and said “pick anything you want me to burn for you.”
I still have all the CDs Len burned for me! One was a Kiss rarities disc (we’ll look at that another time), and another was all Bon Jovi B-sides. He made me a CD copy of the first Hurricane EP with a non-vinyl bonus track. And he put a whole ton of miscellaneous songs on two CDs that I titled, obviously, Len Mix!
The title confused a few people. I remember I had a girl over and she saw the CDs. “Are those all songs by the band Len?” At that point I may have realised I should have picked another title.
I made a list of songs that Len had that I wanted. They were generally big singles from bands I liked, that I didn’t own the album. A lot of songs I was exposed to on the Pepsi Power Hour in the 80s.
Let’s have a listen then, shall we?
Autograph’s “Loud and Clear” is a killer rocker, far less commercial than “Turn Up the Radio”. I do have the album today (on CD), but I don’t own the Krokus that follows. “Midnite Maniac” is still enjoyable, especially since I haven’t played it in over 10 years. Kingdom Come’s “Get It On” is one I own a couple times over now, and I think I like it more today than I did in the beginning. Y&T’s “Summertime Girls” is horribly cheesy, and yet so much guilty fun. It’s bright, it’s catchy and I don’t give a fuck! I still don’t own it properly on album. Nor do I own “Run Runaway” by Slade, a song I have liked since I was a little kid. I should pick up a Slade compilation, shouldn’t I?
According to MSG, “Love Is Not a Game”. I have this one on vinyl today, but Len Mix is still my only CD copy. Next, a very important song for your Ozzy collection. “Close My Eyes Forever” is by Lita Ford, featuring Ozzy in a stunning duet. Yet it may as well be an Ozzy song featuring Lita if that’s what you prefer. You can’t get it on any of the Ozzman’s albums. Today I have it on a Lita CD. Then King Kobra advise us to “Never Say Die”…”Iron Eagle”, baby! I still don’t have this album, and the song is a guilty pleasure. Not one of King Kobra’s proudest moments. You gotta admire that they all cut their hair for the music video, though.
I was always jealous that Len owned a four track copy of Def Leppard’s “When Love and Hate Collide” CD single. Mine only had two tracks! So I requested that Len burn me the demo version of the song that I did not yet own.
“Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?” asked Love/Hate. I ask myself why I still do not own Blackout in the Red Room! It was rare back then, but there is no excuse today in the age of Discogs. The Blink 182 song that follows it sticks out like a sore thumb, but I still like a lot of Blink. Travis Barker is a tremendous drummer, and these guys wrote some great pop punk. Then Kingdom Come are back with their tremendous ballad “What Love Can Be”, followed by the incredible British band Thunder. They had a number of great tracks on hard to find albums. “Low Life in High Places ” classes up the CD by several increments, but then Y&T are back to crash the party. “Contagious”, like “Summertime Girls”, sounds a bit dated today. Yet it’s just so damn catchy.
The next two songs are ones I have happily acquired on CD. Actually, Keel’s “The Right to Rock” is here on LP and CD. It’s an old classic I grew up with, and so very 1980s. So is Aldo Nova’s “Fantasy” but in a completely different way.
Len had some extra space on the end of this CD and so threw on Axel Rudi Pell’s “Tear Down the Walls”. I have not played this song in over a decade, but it sounds great! Far more modern than anything else on this disc, but Len was right to add it! Discogs tells me that the stunning lead vocal is by Johnny Gioeli of Neal Schon’s band Hardline. Of course!
That’s it for Len Mix Vol. I. The rest of the songs went onto Vol. II, which like Vol. I, begins explosively. Kingdom Come had a few bangers, and “Do You Like It” is the best of them. This one comes from their underappreciated second album In Your Face. (Legend has it that some stores thought the band was called “Kingdom” and the album Come In Your Face, and refused to stock it.)
The next three songs in a row are ones I still need to own on CD or LP: More Y&T, Autograph and Krokus. So far, all the Y&T songs have been pretty weak (though catchy and fun). “Mean Streak” is anything but weak! Y&T’s heavy metal roots are on full display with a riffy blast. Then it’s Autograph’s return, with the previously mentioned “Turn Up the Radio”! This song is probably better known today then it was in the early 2000s, thanks to video games and radio nostalgia. Krokus’ “Ballroom Blitz” cover was one that, like “School’s Out”, I grew up thinking was a Krokus original! Fortunately in time I learned the truth.
House of Lords albums were hard to come by at the time, and back then I didn’t own any but their first. On this CD is the ballad “Remember My Name”. This is from the second album Sahara which I now happily have. I don’t particularly care for this one, as it has that overly saccharine faux-romantic sound that was too common in the late 80s into 1990. But then like a kick in the face, it’s an Udo-less Accept with “Generation Clash”! Though David Reese’s tenure in the band was brief, this song is a triumph. I am happy to own the oddly titled album Eat the Heat today, because this darkly sparse prowl is still ace. What a voice on Reese, who could reach for those Udo screams when necessary.
Have you always followed the golden rule?
Cause this just happens to be my first love.
And that being a must – a must.
That being playin’ my guitar!
It’s hard to come down from such a peak, and unfortunately the fall is broken by an out-of-place Blink 182 song. “All the Small Things” is such a diametrically opposed song, it’s like cold water dumped on your head! Two older goodies are not far behind: “Blackout in the Red Room” by Love/Hate, and the amazing acoustic ballad “Loving You” by Kingdom Come. It’s oh-so-very Zep, but what the hell. Zep weren’t making that sound in 1989 and there was obviously a demand for it.
The aforementioned “School’s Out” by Krokus marks their last song on this set, meaning that via Len Mix I got all the Krokus songs that I knew as a kid. Then it’s Y&T’s final song, the ballad “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark”. It’s not one of their finest moments, but I would have requested this one because I had it on VHS but nothing else. With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, Y&T were obviously aiming to score that “hit ballad”, but Meniketi’s always perfect voice is still a pleasure to listen to.
Thunder’s “Dirty Love” from their first album reminds me that I really need to buy some Thunder. Then comes a band from whom I only know one song. It’s a good’un called “You’re So Strange”, though the band had a silly name: Kik Tracee. Their ace in the hole was singer Stephen Shareaux. What a set of lungs on this guy! He was one of many who auditioned for the vacant vocalist role in Motley Crue in 1992. Gotta wonder what kind of music they could have made with a pair of lungs like Stephen Shareaux’s.
Moving on to the end, it’s the final Autograph song “Blondes in Black Cars”. I don’t think it’s their best moment, but I sure have a lot of childhood memories associated with the music video. I pretty much discovered what puberty was all about thanks to that video. I must have worn out that pause button.
MSG’s “Gimme Your Love” was their other single from Perfect Timing, an album I now have on LP but would like on CD for the bonus tracks. I’m getting the feeling an Amazon order order is forthcoming. Following MSG is a remix of “Armageddon It” by Def Leppard, from the same since-acquired single as “When Love and Hate Collide”. At 7:44 it’s a bit much, but I’m a Def Leppard completionist. Once again Len had a little bit of space at the end of a CD and so wisely included the brief Dokken instrumental “Without Warning”.
It’s important to note that these CDs would have taken Len a bit of time to put together for me. Few of us kept our music on computer. Len would have been painstakingly switching discs in and out of his computer to make these for me. The addition of bonus tracks shows how much care he put into it.
For Len Mix Vol. I and II, I’d say the verdict is clear. These were a blast to listen to again.