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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.

R.I.P. John Prine (1946-2020)

I’m not qualified to write this; Tom Morwood is the guy who should be eulogizing John Prine.  Many of us are crushed.  As much as Neil Peart hurt early in the year, so John Prine pains us now.

John Prine, age 73, has succumbed to Covid-19, the latest in a list of artists who did not survive the pandemic.  When this is all over the view will be very different.

When you have earned the praise of Bob Dylan, Kris Kristofferson and Tom Morwood, you are the real deal.  Prine was that and more.

 

Rest in peace.

R.I.P. Kenny Rogers

When I was really young, my mom bought my grandpa a copy of Kenny Rogers’ Greatest Hits for Christmas.  He ended up getting two copies.  I liked the song “The Gambler”, so I asked my mom if I could have the extra copy.  Surprised, she gave it to me, and so in my earliest record collection, I had the Flintstones, Star Wars, and Kenny Rogers.

Several years later, after joining Columbia House music club, my mom purchased a new Kenny Rogers hits cassette for the car.  That’s when I discovered “Just Dropped In to See What Condition My Condition Was In”, a song that we first found hilarious and then realized was funky and cool. Lebowski just made it cooler.

Kenny Rogers passed away at age 81 peacefully at home. Known for his many hits like “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town”, “Lucille”, and his duets with Dolly Parton, country music will always remember Kenny Rogers.

Rest in Peace.

R.I.P. Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity)

An incredible drummer from an incredible band, Reed Mullin had his demons.  Alcohol took him down, like so many before him.  Mullin, a founding member of Corrosion of Conformity, will be remembered by his rich hardcore and heavy metal discography.

In recent years as alcohol took its toll, Reed was absent from some COC performances and suffered a seizure in 2016. It was not looking good for the rock warrior, and now we know his particular battle has been lost.

Mullin drummed on one of my personal favourite albums, Deliverance, one of the best rock records of the 1990s.  From that album, here is “Albatross”.  Rest in peace Reed.

Album release event: MASKED by Dr. Kathryn Ladano – tonight at the Walper

January 11 2020

8 PM

Join us for the release of MASKED!  Get the new album on vinyl, or CD with two bonus tracks.  Admission is free!

 

 

Please note that the venue has changed slightly. Instead of being in the Oak Room lobby in the 2nd floor of the Walper, it will now be in the TWH Social After Dark Space.

Bonus:  Come meet me and Max the Axe!

The Ghost Rider is Gone – Rest in Peace Neil Peart (1952-2020)

“Endlessly rocking…”

 

This afternoon I was in the mood for some Rush music.  It had been a while.  Maybe a month since I last played Rush.  Signals, I chose.  A personal favourite.  Still craving more, I picked the followup album Grace Under Pressure.  That complete, I finally, and strangely, went for Vapor Trails.  I say “strangely” because Vapor Trails was a special album for Neil Peart.  After suffering the terrible twin tragedies of losing his daughter and his wife, Neil Peart took a step back from music to take care of himself.  There was a time in the late 90s and early 2000s when the reality was that there wasn’t a Rush.  And we weren’t sure if there ever would be one again.  But then Neil made a pretty epic comeback on Vapor Trails and I like to think of it as “his” album in my mind.

The fortitude of the man, to come back after such loss, was inspiring.  What strength.

Halfway through Vapor Trails, during the track “Secret Touch”, this happened.

The greatest rock drummer of all time…

Is gone.

Like a vapor trail.

I say “greatest of all time” because I can, confidently.  There will be those who disagree, and there will be others to put them back in their places.  He might also be the greatest lyricist in rock history, though that’s a far more wide open field.  Some of his lyrics hit home in emotional ways.

We are young,
Wandering the face of the earth,
Wondering what our dreams might be worth,
Learning that we’re only immortal,
For a limited time.

Neil Peart was a star I always identified with:  an introvert with his nose in a book.  Yet on stage he was a dynamo.  He did things with two sticks that most drummers cannot.  He paved the way for the Portnoys and all the greats that followed.  His lyrics of alienation resonated within the subdivisions.  And he was reportedly also one of the nicest, most down to earth human beings to those whom would he would let in.

Personally speaking, it was “Subdivisions” that hooked me.  The singer kind of weirded me out, with the glasses, nose and high-pitch.  It took me a while to accept Rush into my life.  I was 21 years old when it finally happened.  It had so much to do with the drums, and the percussive mini-compositions within every song.  Seeing Neil Peart interview Jean Chrétien on MuchMusic solidified my belief that this was an intelligent rocker, far different from all the others.  By this time, he was also writing articles in Macleans magazine.  His travel book The Masked Rider became an immediate favourite, as Neil painted verbal pictures of African savannas from the seat of a bicycle.

Brain cancer is an evil bitch.  It’s the same monster that took down our beloved Gordon Downey, and now it has taken from us someone deeply dear.  Neil accompanied me on many of my most impactful life moments.  My first relationship & accompanying breakup, my job at the Record Store, finishing school, all of it.  Neil was there with beats and words to raise the spirits higher.  I tended to take the words my own way.  Which is how Neil would have wanted it.

Rush are one of the few bands, unlike Kiss or Motley Crue, that went out with class.  They simply played their final shows and retired without making a big fuss.  We all knew it was a big deal, and they did too — but they didn’t act like it.   Neil Peart went back home to spend time with his new family, something everybody was happy for him to do.  After all that tragedy, it was a delight to see that Neil has picked up the pieces and made a new clan.  And now that family is shattered, in incomprehensible pain.

The song that got me into Rush was “Subdivisions”, but instead of posting that track here, I have chosen “Dreamline” from Roll the Bones. Rest in peace Neil, and thank you for albums that will always be close to my heart.

Fuck cancer.

 


Uncle Meat has a few words to add.

One likes to believe in the freedom of music,
but glittering prizes and endless compromises
shatter the illusion of integrity.

His lyrics were as good as his drumming. And that is saying alot. Neil Peart was the opposite of a rock star. He wanted nothing to do with any of that bullshit. When Neil Peart joined Rush after their first album he turned Rush from just another rock band, into the greatest rock band of all time. Many life long friendships have been founded and cemented within the musical and lyrical gifts he gave us. A big long hug to all of you (and you know who you are)…

What a fucking beast he was.

RIP Mr. Neil Peart