#961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

RECORD STORE TALES #961: Christmas in the Hamster Wheel

I always wanted a hamster when I was a kid.  I used to love looking at the neat setups that other kids had in their homes.  Hamster wheels, tunnels, all kinds of neat stuff for the little guys to run around in.  I never saw them use the hamster wheels.  They seemed to sit idle near the back of the cage.  A forgotten amusement.

These days, the hamster wheel in my head is running overtime.  Is this really the second Christmas of Crap?

One thing that’s concerning to me.  The last two years have blurred together in my mind.  I used to pride myself on knowing exactly when any life event occurred.  If I could remember the life event in terms of the music I was listening to, or a movie I was into, I would always be able to pinpoint the year.  But with the last couple years being such a blur, I find I can’t tell 2021 memories from 2020 memories a lot of the time.  That’s worrying to me.  Remembering these things is important.

I feel like Jen and I haven’t been able to catch many breaks at Christmas in the last five years.  2017…she had cancer.  2018…first Christmas without her mom (also cancer).  2019 was the one where I felt like we were getting back on our feet a little.  Then the carpet got pulled from under us in 2020 for the weirdest Christmas ever.  2021 looks a little better in some ways, a little worse in others.

I haven’t been as creative this Christmas as I was in past years, including 2020.  We do what we can.  I have my annual end-of-year list that I’ll be posting on the 31st.  I have the LeBrain Train drop-in New Year’s Eve party (message me if you’d like to join the fun).  I’m still working on the Def Leppard review series (15 parts written).  I’ll also be starting a Judas Priest box set review series in the new year.  Spoiler!

Y’see, I asked my parents if they’d be willing to part with a lot of money and buy me a Priest box set.  And, my dad let the cat out of the bag.  Even if 2021 is a bit of a downer compared to past years, it’s going to be pretty awesome opening that bad boy.  A know a certain Kontrarian (Kopp) who is eager to see inside its contents.  I’ll be showing off that box set and other goods on the New Years Eve live stream.

Things I’m grateful for:

  1. Health.  Nobody in our family has had Covid (knock wood).
  2. A roof over my head.
  3. Jen
  4. Family
  5. Friends

If I were to add a 6th thing to that list it would be “thank God I’m not working retail during Covid.”  I think I would have snapped long ago.

It’s funny — we have a friend named Michael who has been on the LeBrain Train a couple of times.  (We call him Max the Axe’s stunt double.)  He is absolutely thrilled to be working at the same Record Store chain that I used to work for.  His uncle Tom used to own a branch.  So things have come full circle in the world of the Record Store.  25 years ago this Christmas was my first one managing my own store.  I had a tradition of wearing a tie every Christmas Eve.  It was something the Boss originated that I liked.  So I kept it going.

Michael tells me that retail during Covid is much better working at the Record Store than it was at Giant Tiger.  Gratefully, they will be closed Boxing Day this year.  I had to work 80% of Boxing Days over the years, and truthfully they were one of the hardest.  Stock on everything was pretty picked over by then, and of course you had people doing returns and selling boxes of CDs for store credit.  Big sales, big crowds.  Including putting up signs and taking them down at the end of the day — a very long one.

So I’m grateful for that.

Merry Christmas everybody.  See you on the other side.  And please, join me New Years Eve for a rock and roll party!  Again!*

* I’m even re-using the exact same art as last year.




  1. Thank u once more for doing your part in keeping the spirits up during these crazy times. U probably have no idea how much it helps to visit your site and read and relate to stuff (music/movies) which were always fun and important before all this craziness started.

    Looking forward to reading your thoughts on that mega box set. For me this is the first Christmas maybe ever that I haven’t gotten myself a music related Christmas gift.

    Merry Christmas!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Merry Christmas!!! I didn’t get myself a music gift either, but thankfully others did.

      This mega box set will be another massive review series in the new year! I already covered every Priest album, so I’m not sure how to approach this. Maybe one post for all the studio albums, and one post each for all the live discs and rarities. Not sure yet. I know there are flaws in it, which I am not excited about. Hope you can catch the NYE fun!


  2. Hang in there Mike! We will see things getting better in at least two – three years tops!! LOL!! Ok, that’s not helping…but we will adjust and persevere. Can’t wait for the New Year’s Show to see that Priest Box Set…oh how cool it looks.

    Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, absolutely. All the errors I’d heard about were printing things which doesn’t bother me too much. (Still kinda unforgivable for a set like this though).

          The audio errors are worse and it’s a shame that its not more complete. I’d have liked some of the bonus songs that I’m missing like “What’s My Name” for example.

          I wished they’d done it more like the recent Lizzy ‘Rock Legends’ set… just do a set of all the rare/live stuff and make it cheaper, instead of forcing people to buy a gazillion albums that they already have. Surely anyone willing to cough up £350 for a Priest box set already has most of that stuff?

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Amazingly my Rock Legends box is STILL SEALED…kept it for over a year…rainy day.

          So I’ll need to keep all my old Priest for the bonus tracks. This will be a tricky set to review but let’s do it in 2022.


        3. A have a lot of box sets to consume. Given Kiss only one proper thorough listen. Got a sealed Permanent Waves. Lots of sealed Marillion. Plus Aaron got me Fugazi.


        4. That’s another issue with these sets. I don’t watch a lot of videos. Blu-ray even less because I need to steal the TV from Jen rather than watch on a laptop.


        5. I wish I could take a little bit of that lazy habit and sprinkle it on mine! After I’ve reviewed a video I tend to tuck it away and it never gets watched again. Spoiler: I just did an Aerosmith.


      1. I agree that the pandemic has taught us to be more grateful for what we have. I hope Canada recovers from the omicron variant soon (Hawaii ain’t doing so good either)! Thanks so much for your kind words, I will! Take care!


  3. I’m way late getting to this, playing catch-up. You guys have been through so much, you deserve all the goodness. And that Priest set (errors included) is awesome. BIG gifts like that are mind-blowing. Like last year, when my folks gave everyone iPads and I got an Epiphone ES-335 Pro because wtf would I do with an iPad lol. An absolutely HUGE Christmas my mother admits will never happen again.


  4. Also, I went back to retail this past November 1. It’s all the fun you can imagine. Luckily, I get to be in the back room far more often than I’m on the floor. I feel for the cashiers, I really do.


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