News

Rest in Peace Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

Norm Macdonald had been fighting cancer for nine years, and none of us knew about it.  That takes guts, to just keep on keeping on.  What a man Norm Macdonald must have been.

Side-splittingly funny.  Like most of us, I first saw Norm on Saturday Night Live.  Then came my favourite, Dirty Work, and of course all the understated brilliance that’s waiting on YouTube for you to discover.

His style was like his fingerprint.  Laid back.  Meandering.  Riveting.

There are others who can say it better than I can, so go on Twitter and read what they wrote.  Seth Rogen cites Norm as a prime influence.  Tom Green counts him as a friend.  Hearts are broken today.  So have a laugh courtesy of Norm Macdonald.  Rest in peace

 

Rest in Peace Charlie Watts (1941-2021)

Charlie Watts, the legendary Rolling Stones drummer, has passed at age 80.

While not the original drummer, Watts joined the fledgling Stones in 1963 and played on every album they ever recorded.  He was as steady as the morning star, and the Stones often said if Charlie wasn’t there, then the Stones weren’t either.  However in recent weeks doctors advised Watts that he should not tour with the band and they enlisted Steve Jordan as a fill-in.  Watts never recovered and passed away in hospital.

The Stones have sold 200,000,000 albums over the last 57 years.  Watts’ steady beat was behind them all.

His style was simple yet essential.  Charlie was one of the steadiest drummers in rock history.  Perhaps his greatest performance was on “Gimme Shelter”, his unmistakable rhythm propelling the song.

Of all the rock star deaths in 2021, this could be the most devastating.  Rest in peace, Charlie Watts.  You helped make rock and roll what it became.

 

Rest in Peace Dusty Hill (1949-2021)

The band that has had the same three members for 50 years has lost a brother. ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill is gone, in the middle of an absolutely brutal week for music. Joey Jordinson, Mike Howe, Don Simmons, and now Dusty Hill.

The bassist with the groove. The mover and the shaker. The guy who sang “I think it’s time to spank my monkey” on a mainstream rock album. He’s gone.

Dusty missed a show earlier and it was most likely the first time ZZ Top ever played without the bearded bassist. After 50 years in the same band together, you can bet that Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard are going to miss their brother.

Rest in Peace, Dusty Hill, May 19 1949 – July 28 2021.

Rest in Peace original Helix keyboardist Don Simmons

Late yesterday we were informed that Don Simmons, the original founding keyboard player from Helix, had passed away. He was 64.

Simmons played in the original Helix band, with singer Brian Vollmer, drummer Bruce Arnold, guitarist Ron Watson, and bassist Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg. Simmons gigged with Helix from 1974-1976, and was still in the group for a short time when Brent “The Doctor” Doerner joined, beginning the transformation into the modern band.

In 2004, Helix staged a massive reunion that included many of their former surviving members. The original band, including Simmons on keyboards, got up on stage for the first time in 30 years and played “Buff’s Bar Blues”, a mainstay of their early sets. The show was released as the 30th Anniversary Concert.

Don never stopped loving music and continued to play keyboard and guitar. Rest in peace, Don Simmons.

Rest in Peace Gerri Miller – Metal Edge

You only had a few choices of rock magazines at the convenience stores near us.  Most prominent were Hit Parader, Rip, and Metal Edge.  Over the years, I bought plenty of Metal Edge.  Black and white pages thick with interviews and lists, punctuated by locker-ready full colour photos.  Metal Edge were cool because they gave the time of day to all varieties of bands.  They focused primarily on whatever-you-wanna-call-it:  “hard rock”, or “glam” or “hair metal”.  If you needed a fix of Sebastian Bach, Metal Edge delivered.  But they covered just about everybody, into the grunge and alterna-metal years.  At the center of it all was editor Gerri Miller.

Everybody who bought heavy metal magazines knew a few key names.  Gerri Miller was the only female among them.  We knew her face and jet black hair from the photos.

What little I knew about Gerri Miller came from her magazine.  The product that she made, that we consumed every page of.  She put out a good magazine.  I enjoyed the Metal Edge “specials”.  They’d collect all their best Bon Jovi, Kiss or Poison content and put out a dedicated magazine, usually to celebrate a new album.  It was not much better than going to the cottage for a week-long vacation with a fresh Metal Edge magazine under my arm.

According to the (unrelated) Metal Sludge website, Miller had been battling Lupus for several years, and was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Rest in peace Gerri…and fuck cancer.

 

Rest in Peace David Prowse (1935-2020)

I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.

That’s not entirely true.  My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith.  Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”.  In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.

Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs.  (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.)  It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids.  It was usually low budget.  This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke.  If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process.  Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.

Prowse is the forgotten Vader.  As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit.  All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice.  He was also the body language and the sword fighting.  The sudden, deliberate movements.  The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!

Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force.  The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time.  I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD.  I really hope my parents kept that autograph.

May the Force be with David Prowse.

Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time: Edward Van Halen (1955-2020)

In 1962, Jan Van Halen and his family moved from the Netherlands to the United States.  Young Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was only seven years old when he switched continents.  By his side, as always, was his older brother Alex.  The Van Halens were a musical family.  Jan played clarinet.  Soon Eddie started playing the drums, while Alex picked up the guitar.  It was not meant to be.  The Rock Gods intervened and the two switched instruments.  History had to be made.

In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed their first band.  People were starting to pay attention to this young guitar prodigy who was doing things most players hadn’t thought of yet.  Though he wasn’t the first, he popularized tapping, whammy bar dives, and all sorts of harmonics.  Unlike the average shredder, Eddie made it musical.  Insanely musical.  While his techniques were space age, his riffs and melodies were grounded in rock and roll.

There is no need to go over all the players he influenced (thousands? millions?) or the riffs he wrote.  There is no other guitar player with the influence of Eddie Van Halen.  Was he the greatest of all time?

Yes.

And his most well known guitar solo wasn’t even on his own song!

Even his keyboard playing was genius!

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

His infectious grin made all the kids love Eddie Van Halen

Cancer doesn’t care about influence or music, or even the love of millions of adoring fans.  Eddie fought for years.  His battle was a quiet one and we did not know the extent of his illness, though the rumour mills always swirled.  Certainly though his output dwindled (only one studio album in over 20 years), interest in him never waned.  An Eddie sighting at a recent Tool concert was big news.

Van Halen captained his eponymous band through two successful eras and one less so.  Through cancer, hip replacements, and divorce, Eddie plowed on.  A massive reunion with lead singer David Lee Roth made people forget the missteps and focused the spotlight on his incendiary playing once more.

Though there are only 12 studio albums in 42 years, Van Halen’s discography stands like a monolith.  A massive red, black and white striped monolith with EVH in bold letters at the top.  Gone at age 65, Eddie Van Halen will never be forgotten.  His name will stand with Paganini, Beethoven and Bach.  With Hendrix, Rhodes, and Robert Johnson.  Legendary.  Immortal.  Beyond their own time.

As the celebrity memorials inevitably (and sadly) roll in, we will be reminded of one thing:  There will only ever be one Eddie Van Halen.

Rest in peace.

 

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995) Review by Derek Kortepeter
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

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VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – Selections from LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner promo EP)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin
GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

R.I.P. Gerry McGhee

When I was 15, I saw a band on TV called Brighton Rock.  The song was called “We Came to Rock” and it was cool.  Pop rock, not quite metal, but slick.  Then I heard the outro!  The singer was screaming like nobody I ever heard in my life!  Who were these guys?  I made sure I taped the video next time I saw it.

Brighton Rock were perhaps one of the best Canadian shoulda-been bands, with a singer who had serious ability, backed by musicians to match.  Today, that incredible voice has been silenced.

Rest in Peace, Gerry McGhee, the voice that could have shattered mountains.

I’ll tell you, Motley Crue should have snagged this guy when they had the chance.  What a sound that could have been.  Brighton Rock made three studio albums, an EP, a live CD and a number of singles and other miscellaneous tracks.  They covered “Creatures of the Night” on Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes Kiss tribute, and did it justice by going completely different from the original.  In 2019, Brighton Rock released what turned out to be their final song “End of Time”, a heavy rocker that now serves as an excellent capstone.

Gerry later went on to found Precision Records, the plant that pressed up my sister’s album Masked.  Its reputation in the industry is excellent.  Before that, his distributor Isotope Records supplied me at the Record Store with new product to sell.  I never had the chance to meet him personally, but I’ve heard only good things.  We occasionally spoke on social media, and he was happy to answer one of my vinyl-related questions for an article I was working on.

Rest in peace, Gerry.  This one is hitting me very hard.  Playing Young, Wild and Free now, I will remember you as “The Rock and Roll Kid”.  Scream on Gerry.

R.I.P. Bob Kulick (1950-2020)

Life is too short.  Don’t let your family stay estranged.  That is the lesson today as we mourn the passing of Bob Kulick from the KISS family.

Bob auditioned for KISS in 1973 and would have got the spot if a guy with one red and one orange shoe didn’t walk in next.  That man was named Paul “Ace” Frehley, but when Ace couldn’t do the job, Bob stepped in to help.  That’s Bob playing on a lot of Alive II‘s side four.  Then he played on Paul’s first solo album.

Bob helped his brother Bruce get into KISS in 1984.  Without Bob, KISStory would have been very different.  He also played with Meat Loaf, Graham Bonnett and many more.

Rest in peace Bob Kulick.

Friday Live Streamin’ – 5:00 PM E.S.T – Here comes the Metal Meltdown!

Join me for Friday April 10 at 5:00 PM E.S.T. for the third Friday Live Stream! This week we will be tackling the complete discography of a beloved metal band, looking at some special musical rarities (CD and vinyl)…and something craaazy.

See you then. Michael Ladano on Facebook.