Author: mikeladano

Metal, hard rock, rock and roll! LeBrain's Record Store Tales & Reviews! Poking the bear since 2010.

REVIEW: The Cars – Candy-O (1979, 2017 expanded edition)

THE CARS – Candy-O (1979 Elektra, 2017 expanded edition)

How many perfect albums are there in the world? Albums with no filler, only songs vital to the whole and valuable to the listening experience? Hopefully you have included The Cars’ Candy-O in your count.  The often “difficult” second album was apparently no problem for The Cars.  Ric Ocasek came in with a huge batch of new minimalist songs, plus a couple outtakes.

“I like the night life, baby!”  Ben Orr takes the first lead vocal on “Let’s Go”, the Max Webster-like lead single.  Already off to a great start, this tight little number is subtle and loaded to the gills with hooks.

“Somethin’ in the night just don’t sit right.”  Ric Ocasek enters the fray with a quirky “Since I Held You”.  The Cars’ unique way with a melody is apparent on this track, one of those deeper cuts you don’t want to miss.  David Robinson’s drums — loud and effective at punctuation.  Give credit to producer Roy Thomas Baker for wringing every last hook out of these songs.

“And once in a night, I dreamed you were there.”  A restrained ballad, it unleashes the melodic power of the Cars at the chorus, given a bump by Greg Hawkes’ mini moog.  One of their more accomplished compositions, every part serving its purpose.

“It takes a fast car, lady, to lead a double life.”  The possible centrepiece of the album, Ocasek’s “Double Life” smoulders and builds into a dark masterpiece.  At one point this track was to be dropped from the album; let’s be glad the Cars came to their sense.  Though the song is built on a punchy, sharp beat, Elliot Easton’s guitar melody floats detached above.

“You ride around in your cadium car, keep wishin’ upon a star.”  A robotic pulse and frantic vocal make up “Shoo Be Doo”, a transitional piece that serves to bridge the two songs it falls between.  Candy-O is beginning to sound like a concept album to the ears.

“Edge of night, distract yourself.”  The fierce title track “Candy-O”, fronted by Ben Orr, is another possible centerpoint of the album.  The song is layered thick with Elliot Easton’s guitar hooks and Greg Hawkes’ keyboard blips.  Though not a single, “Candy-O” has become a favourite and a great example of the Cars’ musical abilities as players.

“Ooh, how you shake me up and down, when we hit the night spots on the town.”  Jittery and caffeinated, the noturnal “Night Spots” again verges on Max Webster territory.  Ocasek stutters his way through the lyrics while the hyper band get bouncing in behind.  It feels like you’ve been staying awake for three days and three nights with nothing but coffee in your blood.

“I can’t put out your fire, I know it’s too late.”  The album then takes a sudden left turn back to smoother ground, playing looser on the ballad “You Can’t Hold On Too Long”.  The lyrics take a darker turn, with the shadow of addictions.

“He’s got his plastic sneakers, she’s got her Robuck purse.”  Ocasek sings an anthem to the mismatched on “Lust for Kicks”, another punchy Cars song though with a laid back tempo.  Hawkes’ simple keyboard hook is the main structure, with Easton providing guitar noise far in the background.  Ocasek’s expressive vocal is the focus.

“Send me a letter on a midnight scroll.”  There’s a frantic energy to “Got a Lot on My Head”, a sense of panic and urgency.  This time it’s the guitar in front and some of the Cars proto-punk roots break through.  A lot is packed into a short song.

“Can I bring you out in the light?  My curiosity’s got me tonight.”  A third contender for centerpiece of the album is the closer “Dangerous Type”, and its closing position might be its only disqualifier.  Though it has a “Bang-a-Gong” knockoff riff for the verses, the chorus dips into much darker territory.  Then another Max Webster moment creeps in when Hawkes adds his moog.  This brilliant track is an apt closer for such a quirky yet dark album.

Indeed, Candy-O seems semi-obsessed with the night, with shadows, and with secrets.  So it’s quite unexpected how uplifted you feel after listening to it — lighter and brighter.  As if the shadows have been exorcised, at least for a little while.

Candy-O itself is only 36 minutes, so if you need a deeper immersion, the expanded edition is perfect.  It contains seven bonus tracks:  five alternate versions, one B-side and one unreleased song.  (There is an additional piece of rare music available separately, a very different early version of “Night Spots” on Just What I Needed: The Cars Anthology).  Remarkably, though rougher, most of these are probably good enough for an album already.  If you already love Candy-O, you will dig the slightly different and more raw versions offered as bonus tracks.  “Dangerous Type” is far less dark, and “Let’s Go” is busier.

“They Won’t See You”, like early 80s Alice Cooper, has a dark campy quality but also a biting guitar hook.  It’s actually better than a lot of Cooper from that period, even though it was never released.  Apparently it was a popular Cars encore.  Finally (and appropriately) its “That’s It”, ending the CD at an hour in length (easy enough to digest in a single sitting).  If not for the technical limits of vinyl at the time, it might have made an excellent coda for the original album.  It’s a song about endings, so it works naturally at the end of this edition.

Candy-O, with or without the extras, is a perfectly brilliant listen and an album that deserves a place of honour in a collection.  But why get 36 minutes when you can have an hour, plus an expanded booklet with lyrics, photos and Easton essay?  “Let’s Go”!

5/5 stars

Video: Test live stream, next live stream, etc.

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up” (2020 iTunes)

ALICE COOPER – “Don’t Give Up” (2020 iTunes)

Thank God for Alice Cooper! 50 years ago, he was considered by the mainstream to be nothing more than an untalented shock rocker. In 2020, he is inspiring people to keep on keepin’ on. He’s got a powerful message for anyone who needs to hear it.

“Don’t Give Up” is the most direct, the most topical and the least “Alice” song that the Coop has ever done. Why the “least” Alice? Because this time he is not playing a character. He’s not telling some horrifying bedtime story. Or is he? “Don’t Give Up” is about Coronavirus and blatantly so.

“Yeah, I know you’re struggling right now. We all are, in different ways. It’s like a new world that we don’t even know. It’s hard to sleep, even harder to dream. But look, you got seven billion brothers and sisters all in the same boat! So don’t panic. Life has a way of surviving and going on and on. We’re not fragile and we sure don’t break easy.”

This single was recorded in home studios.  It’s accompanied by a cool video expertly produced by Canuck Frank Gryner, using footage sent in by fans.  It is so rare for Alice to really make a statement that pertains to current events.  And it is a very specific song; there are no underlying stories or metaphors to untangle.  But when you think about Coop, it’s not really surprising that he came out of the gates so fast with a song like this.  Alice Cooper is a human being that cares about other human beings.  The message is simple:  keep fighting and don’t give up.  Sometimes people need to actually hear the words.

Musically you could call “Don’t Give Up” a power ballad.  It has a very 80’s guitar figure, with Alice speaking his message over it.  The chorus is more modern, with Alice singing as plaintively as he can.  “Don’t Give Up” is unremarkable as a rock ballad, but as a lyrical accomplishment, Alice has forged new ground 50 years on.  He has written some remarkably powerful words.

“Our enemy is a cold, indiscriminate monster.  It doesn’t care if you’re old or a newborn.  It exists to kill.  You and I are nothing to it.  It has no heart or soul or conscience.  Do we fear it? Yeah! Do we cower before it? Hell no! We’re the blood-n-guts human race. And we win.”

The important thing that Alice says here is that it is alright to be afraid.  Look, Alice has fought demons, and if this scares him then there is no shame in feeling fear.  People are being labelled as cowards for wearing a mask in public.   Alice is right — we will win, and we will do whatever it takes to win.  If you’re scared right now, you tell ’em that Alice Cooper said that’s OK.

3.5/5 stars

 

#834: Top Five Masked Artists

GETTING MORE TALE #834: Top Five Masked Artists

The Masked Singer, you say?  Never seen the show; not interested.  What about real artists who wear, or have worn, masks?  Not makeup, but an actual physical face covering?  Since masks are everywhere today, and sometimes required depending on where you go, let’s have a look at some artists who were already ahead of the (flattening) curve.

#5:  Crimson Glory

Before Slipknot, Mushroomhead, and before Ghost, Crimson Glory were the most famous masked metal band.  Often compared to Queensryche (but more ambitious), Crimson Glory were fronted by singer Midnight.  He wore a half-mask so he could sing, while the rest of the band kept their faces fully covered.  At first, anyway.  The masks were toned down on the second album and eventually dropped.  But when their debut appeared in ’86, they looked like nobody else.  That they are forgotten is unfair — they don’t even appear on Wikipedia’s “masked musicians” list!

#4:  Buckethead

At best, Brian Carroll is a recluse.  He’s rarely been photographed without his plain white mask and a chicken bucket on his head (though you can find pictures of a young unmasked Carroll online).  According to Bucket, the mask was inspired by Michael Myers in Halloween 4.  It is highly likely that the anonymity of a mask allows Buckethead to loosen up and perform live.  In all probability, the mask helps him get into his creative headspace.   It’s not too much of a stretch to say that without the mask there could be no Buckethead.

#3:  Nash the Slash

Nash was very early in the mask game, having started wearing bandages in 1979, the same year the Residents started wearing giant eyeball helmets.   The Slash, or Jeff Plewman, passed away in 2014.  He was best known as a founding member of FM, playing electric violin and mandolin.  His 1980 solo cover of “Dead Man’s Curve” had a music video featuring that bandage mask, and trademark top hat.  It was one of the weirdest videos of its time.

#2: Slipknot

I considered Gwar for this position, but then I remembered:  Gwar don’t wear masks. They are aliens that crash landed in Antarctica. No, seriously, this position should belong to Gwar except that I don’t really consider them a masked band. What they have done takes the idea of “masks” and puts them in an entirely unique category. Gwar might be the top “costumed” band, but speaking strictly of masks, this spot goes to Slipknot. Mushroomhead may have come first, but there is no question that Slipknot commercialised their image much more successfully. They expanded upon the masks with matching numbered jumpsuits. They became iconic. Just as one can easily recognize Gene Simmons as a member of Kiss, Shawn “Clown” Crahan simply cannot be mistaken for some guy in Pearl Jam. When you see Slipknot, you know Slipknot. And only they can take the credit for that.

#1: Kathryn Ladano

Biased? Yeah, so what!  This is where I defend my choice.

All of the above artists are brilliant and that cannot be disputed.  But how many of them incorporate the mask with the music?  Perhaps only Buckethead uses the mask to get into a specific headspace to create.  Kathryn Ladano’s newest album, also called Masked, explores this.  Masks and blindfolds were worn in the studio while music was improvised and captured for the album.  The mask becomes part of the audible art, which you cannot say about Slipknot or Crimson Glory.  Maybe I’m biased, or maybe I’m one of a few people who knows how critical masks were to the creation of this music.  Without the masks, some of this music wouldn’t even exist.  For that reason, Kathryn Ladano is our topped masked artist.  Nobody else incorporated the mask with the music like she did.


Worthy Mentions

 

Hey!  Where’s Daft Punk? Where’s Deadmau5? Not on this list, that’s where!  Neither are Ghost, Thunderstick, the Residents or a number of other groups who wear physical facial coverings.  Narrowing down is the hardest part of any list, but I hope you enjoyed this one anyway.  Check out some Crimson Glory or Nash the Slash and tell us who you think the greatest masked artists are.

 

REVIEW: Marillion – “Made Again (2020)”

MARILLION – “Made Again (2020)” (2020 iTunes)

It wasn’t that long ago, in this sad year, that Marillion gifted us a new version of “Easter” from their lockdown spaces.  Now, from the landmark Brave album, they’ve re-recorded the hopeful “Made Again”.

“I have been here many times before, in the life I used to live…”

Poignant.  We’re all grieving for the lives we used to live, some more than others.  I’m tiring very quickly of virus-themed songs, like that damn “I know there’ll be better days” ad I keep hearing on the TV.  It’s having the opposite effect on me and making me very bitter.

Since “Made Again” was written in 1994, it doesn’t have the stench of 2020 all over it.  We know the lyrics are being repurposed but it’s not so bad knowing their old origins.

“Like I woke up from a bad dream, to a brand new world.”

Unlike “Easter” this is a bit more of a complete arrangement, not abbreviated and without shortcuts.  You can buy the track for 99 cents on iTunes or watch the video on YouTube.  The video was painstakingly assembled from the at-home performance videos and fan footage sent in from all over the world.

We all need some optimism.

“I woke up from a deep sleep,
I woke up from a bad dream,
To a brand new morning,
To a brand new day,
Like the whole world has been made again.”

I hope so, guys.  I hope so.

5/5 stars

TV REVIEW: American Dad – “Brave N00b World”

AMERICAN DAD – “Brave N00b World” (Episode 4, season 17)

Chinese ice cream can save the world.  That’s the message of this episode of American Dad.

CIA agent Stan Smith has a new assignment.  A North Korean general is expected to be in China for an Overwatch video game competition.  Stan and his team must enter the contest and progress through the rounds to assassinate the general, but first he will need his son Steve’s help playing the game and looking like a millennial.  Jackson better learn to vape if he wants to fool anyone into thinking he’s young and into Overwatch!  If the team can get some Chinese ice cream while there, so much the better.

Unfortunately for Stan and his team (and the world), his attention is split between his son and his assignment.  He wasn’t totally honest with Steve, who thinks this is more a father-son trip than a kill-a-North-Korean-general trip.  As Stan is learning, focus is key.  So how can he split his focus between assignment and son?

Since it’s Stan Smith we’re talking about, you can safely assume he screws it up and the mission goes wrong as usual.  But this time, he didn’t just screw it up Stan style.  He didn’t even stop at full Sledge Hammer.  This time, Stan goes all the to way maximum Rick and Morty, and destroys the entire world.

 

Smith misses his shot, botching the assassination.  China launches their nukes.  America retaliates.  Mutually assured destruction.

Fortunately, China saved mementos of their heritage in a culture pod, including a cone of delicious Chinese ice cream.  So America launches an eagle-headed missile adorned with truck-nuts and blaring “Kickstart My Heart”, and the culture pod is destroyed.  Before you can say “Kee-stah-ma-hah”, there is nothing left of the Earth.  Nothing but rubble, dust, and ash…and a single scoop of Chinese ice cream, floating in space, past Mars, past the asteroid belt, and into the void.

For one million years, the ice cream floats through the cosmos undisturbed until finally an alien ship happens upon it.  What an incredible taste!  They must have more.  Scans show that Earth suffered an “extinction event”.  The only way to get more ice cream is to re-create the Earth and let time do the rest.

The world has a second chance.  Will Stan do it differently this time?  Will anyone discover the truth of this new reconstructed existence?  Will Bill Nye show up at the end to throw cold water all over “Ice Cream-ulation Theory”?  You’ll have to watch to find out.

In the B-story, the entire rest of the family gets their heads stuck in the banister, which basically puts Roger, Francine, Hayley and Jeff out of action.  The best instalments are usually Roger-centric, but not this time.  Perhaps American Dad needed to catch up with Rick and Morty, or perhaps it should try harder to live up to the promise of old episodes like “Lost in Space” or the saga of the Golden Turd.  At first it appeared this episode was going to a gamer-based comedy.  Then it evolved into something more existential.  It can be stated firmly that “Brave N00b World” returns the show to a high point like the good old Mike Barker days.

5/5 stars

Sunday Chuckle: How to Protect Yourself & Others With Mask & Gloves

These pamphlets showed up at our work mysteriously one morning.  Somebody else tossed them in the trash as soon as they realized who provided them!

We already know from Tom Cruise that only a Scientologist can help when there’s a car accident.  Perhaps only a Scientologist can prevent Covid-19?

Epic Live Stream – KISS Lists, Guests, and more! 2hr 48m of stream!

Since I already had the 1986 Saga scheduled all week, I didn’t want to schedule a formal live stream for this weekend like I usually do.  Instead I decided to just wing it and go live whenever I felt like it.  Streaming periodically through the day like this, we had almost 3 hours of jibber jabber!

This week’s major feature:  The “Nigel Tufnel Top Ten” KISS albums list!  Special guest star:  Uncle Meat.

Lists submitted by:

Len Labelle also sent a list, but I forgot to write it down so we will do his next week!

If you just want to see the KISS lists, you can skip ahead to 2:06:30 of the stream.

If you want to hear me rip an epic fart point blank into the microphone in stereo, skip ahead to 1:52:30 of the stream.

If you’d like to hear my mom’s reaction to Uncle Meat’s attraction to my sister, skip to 0:57:10 of the stream.

If you want to see Deke move and speak in real life, skip to 2:46:15 of the stream.

If you’re just interested in the Star Wars action figures, you’ll want to watch from 0:12:45 of the stream.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

 

#833: This Is Me in Grade 9 (Part Five of the 1986 Saga)

GETTING MORE TALE #833: This Is Me in Grade 9

(Part Five of the 1986 Saga)

“If you’re going to keep sitting next to me, never sing again,” said Steve Vanderveen.  It was the first day of grade 9, the first day of highschool, the first day of my new life.  And I fucked it up!  In Catholic school, we had to sing “O Canada” and we had to sing it like we meant it.  Little did I know, in public school, they didn’t sing.  They just stood at attention.  But on that first day of school, it was me and only me singing, without even realizing it.

What a winner.

I managed to recover from this embarrassment, and make a go of highschool.  Without all the loser baggage I carried from the grade school days, it was a fresh start.  The bullies were gone.  I was making new friends!  There was Rob Daniels and his buddy “Gumby”, there was Danesh and Anand, and I had never seen such diversity in a classroom before.  As strange is this sounds, in all the years from kindergarten up, I never had a black kid in my class before.  And now here was Carlton, a popular kid who loved to talk about how beautiful Jamaica was.  I don’t think I knew anyone who’d even been to Jamaica before.  I wanted to be his friend!  And of course there was Peter Cavan, who absolutely was not my friend in grade 9!  I ratted him out for eating liquorice in Geography class, so you can understand why it took him a few years to warm up to me.  By the end of highschool, we were best friends.

And the girls?  I had never seen so many in one place before.  I developed many secret crushes.  They never knew, because I never quite figured out how to talk to them!  But they were there, lots of them, and I thought maybe I’d have a shot.

The first week of school, I bought some new music:  Turbo, by Judas Priest.  I did my homework on the back porch, with that cassette on the boom box.  I only had three Priest albums:  Screaming, Defenders, and TurboTurbo was easily my favourite.  While not as heavy as the other two (and let’s face it, Screaming for Vengeance can rip heads clean off), Turbo was more the kind of music that I was into.  It was melodic, with hook after hook, and possibly even female appeal.

But soon after, something monumental happened.  Monolithic.  Youth-defining.

Iron Maiden came out with a new video.

“So, understand!” sang Bruce Dickinson in what was, quite honestly, the best video we’d ever seen.  “Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years!”  A bit of a word salad.  If a certain president said something like this today, we’d consider it another sign of his declining mental faculties.  But even to us as kids, it was obviously a road song.  A song about the loneliness of touring.  Many of the new Maiden songs were darker and introspective.  This was not lost on us.  Nor was the lack of Dickinson writing credits on Somewhere In Time.  It was clear to us that some of the rumours were true, and Maiden were starting to burn out a bit.  That they put out an album as awesome as Somewhere In Time is remarkable, but I recall an air of disappointment in the press.  Certainly, after the triumvirate of Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave, it had a lot to follow.

My best friend Bob and I sat in the basement, watching my recording of “Wasted Years” over and over again, pausing to catch every single Eddie painting.  The video was a combination of black & white performance, with still photos and album artwork edited in quick flashes.  The kind of thing two kids should be obsessively pausing and analysing!  Eventually we both got the album and naturally gravitated to the same songs.  I used the lyrics for “Alexander the Great” as a calligraphy project in art class.

My friendship with Bob was the cornerstone of my youth, and as much as I looked up to and emulated him, there were times he did me no good whatsover.

One night we were throwing a ball around the park, and one of us (probably me) threw it over someone’s hedge.  Steve Pushcar’s hedge, as it turned out.  Bob jumped the fence to retrieve it, and got yelled at by Steve’s mom.  Bob said he was only getting his ball back, but this quickly degenerated into an argument.  Bob always was a bit cocky.  Whatever he said that night, Steve Pushcar went at me for the next two months.

Me?  Why me?  I was just the sidekick!  I just stood there?  I didn’t say one word!  Why me?  Because Pushcar couldn’t get at Bob, and he’d have been flattened if he tried.

Pushcar was in my art class.  First he stole my pencil case and returned it to me completely empty.  Then he stole my art.  He was a fucking asshole.  The shitty thing was, he did all this anonymously.  I didn’t even know he had a grudge against me.  Not until a mutual friend told me.  That’s the kind of coward he was.  But his campaign only lasted a couple months, and highschool was actually pretty uneventful after that.

As the year went on, I discovered two “new” bands:  Bon Jovi, and Europe. Neither were really new; they were both on their third albums.  But the teen magazines pitted them as rivals:  heartthrob vs heartthrob, Jon vs. Joey.  Who would win?  (Jon.)  Really, all they had in common musically was the use of a full time keyboardist.

Partway through the year, who should show up but Steve Hartman, my old nemesis from Catholic school.  He had transferred from wherever the hell he was.  But he couldn’t get to me.  I was in the “advanced” program and he was in the “general” level.  We had no classes together, and I think he only lasted half a year.  I do remember him showing up in our gym class, wearing his shirt over his face so the teacher wouldn’t realize he had an extra student.  We were doing ball hockey, and the teacher Mr. Paull was too spun to figure it out.  I had a malingering wrist injury that I really milked so I could stay on the benches.  As if Mr. Paull would even notice.

At the end of the year, it was obvious where my talents did not lie.  My two worst classes were French, and typing,  66% in each.  Typing?  I know, right?  I type all day.  It’s all I do.  And I still fucking suck at it.  I was never good at proper form, and today type using only four fingers.  Funny thing.  The French and typing teachers were married.  Monsieur and Madame Euler.  They were fantastic teachers, just because I was a disappointment doesn’t reflect on them.  It reflects on me absolutely sucking at languages other than English, and my lack of physical coordination.  I mean, the following year I tried to play guitar.  The same problem followed me from keyboard to strings:  I can’t make my extremities go exactly where I want them to.  I’m sloppy and clumsy and have no timing.  Madame Euler wasn’t going to be able to fix that in a grade 9 typing class.

I didn’t get any girls to talk to me, but I had a good year.  For what might have been the first time, I really had a good year.  They’d only get better.  I was heading into a summer full of great music.  Stuff like Priest Live, Frehley’s Comet, and Love Is For Suckers.  Even then, I could not believe how much my life had changed for the better.  I succeeded — I escaped.

The future was bright.  Bob and I went on to have many adventures and a few “Crazy, Crazy Nights”.  But that’s another story.

 

 

THE 1986 SAGA

#833: Postcards From the Solo Summer of ’86 (Part Four of the 1986 Saga)

GETTING MORE TALE #833: Postcards From the Solo Summer of ’86

(Part Four of the 1986 Saga)

While we definitely had our fun in the summer of 1986, there was one person missing from all of it:  Bob Schipper.  I really missed my best friend.  Bob was spending the summer in Calgary, Alberta with his older brother Martin.  I was so used to doing…well…everything with Bob!  It was really quiet around the neighbourhood without him.  I had to come up with my own games and schemes without my partner in crime.

I spent a lot of afternoons watching TV in the basement, recording music videos and watching WWF wrestling.  I wanted to update my buddy on all the latest songs I’ve been hearing, and the newest wrestling plots and turns.  I was bored!  But one day, I received a postcard from him.  The first contact in weeks!  I was so excited to hear from my friend again.  Even in this brief postcard, he talked about music.  We were both so into rock bands, it was already dominating our interests.

“Hey Mike, it’s me Bob, writing a post card to you to tell you that I’m still living.  I hope everything is okay over there, because it’s great here.  I got this awesome poster of Gene Simmons you’ve got to see.  Well, see you soon.”

My mom got his address in Calgary from his mother, and I wrote him back a letter.  I had to update him on all the gossip and goings-on in the world.

A short while later I got a letter back and jumped in glee.  I read it twice through.  One of the biggest pieces of news that I had to update him on, was that my parents had finally agreed to get a dog.  “Boy, Katy finally got what she wanted,” Bob said.  It was definitely my sister that wanted the dog most.  I was not sure how I felt about it yet.  Big changes, big adjustments!

Bob had news of his own.  I had heard he was going to be seeing a concert, but didn’t know who.

“You know what, the concert I was going to see, well it was cancelled.  The group I was going to see was OZZY OSBOURNE, and I was looking so forward to it, but now he’s coming back in October instead.”  That would obviously not do, since Bob would be coming back home in August.  The opening act was a group neither of us knew:  Metallica.

“P.S. – Have you seen the commercial for Friday the 13th Part 6?  I’m going to see it.”  Bob loved his horror movies a lot more than I did.

The next letter from him arrived a couple weeks later.

“I can hardly wait to show you the two albums I bought.  They’s both rare KISS albums!  The first one I bought is a mint condition Killers album with the new KIZZ logo.”  This is the very copy of Killers that I own today, acquired from Bob all those years ago.  No longer mint condition, far from it in fact.  I remember doing things like playing it backwards, and tracing the West German logo with the backwards Z’s.  You can see the indentation from my pen.  A shame, really.

“If you think that’s great,” he continued, “wait till you see my other one!  It’s a picture-disc album, with a Kiss interview on it!  On one side it has a picture of the unmasked Kiss, and the other side Gene with his axe guitar!  The amazing thing was it was only twenty dollars!  Also, I got two cassette tapes, Alive II and Love Gun.  I also might be getting Dressed to Kill.”  I recall the Kiss interview disc was from the Lick It Up era because they were talking about Vinnie Vincent and taking off the makeup.  In fact I still have this interview on a cassette, because I taped everything from Bob.

We were getting closer to getting our new dog in August.  Bob remarked, “I can hardly wait to see Katy’s new dog.”  Funny how we always referred to it as her new dog.  That does bring back memories though, of the way things seemed before we knew what it was like to actually have a family dog.  It really did seem to me like it was Kathryn’s dog.  And she is definitely the dog person of the family today.  She always has multiple pets in the house.

In our letters back and forth, we took shots at the neighbour George, who was a bit of a punching bag for us.  It was well deserved though, George earned every bit mockery we poured into our letters.  He crossed the line when he tried to steal Bob’s brother’s bike.  He stole Lego from us.  He was, honestly kind of a dick back then.  So Bob ended his letters with some drawings of himself, me, his new nephew Mike, and George.

Reading these letters today, it’s clear how important our friendship was to both of us back then.  For me personally, I looked up to him and needed him by my side as I embarked onto my next journey:  highschool!  It was too bad that I didn’t have my best friend around for that last summer before highschool, but at least I still have the letters.