Record Store Tales

#1028: Sounds of Liberation

RECORD STORE TALES #1028: Sounds of Liberation

I had a pretty good weekend.  I made some videos, and I wrote some fiction.  I went to go see Black Panther: Wakanda Forever in 3D.  I even almost missed writing reviews.  Almost!

I feel liberated.  Liberated from what?  Myself – my own obsessions and hangups when it comes to music and writing.  For example, in the past when I’ve seen a new movie (such as Eternals last year), I raced home and wrote it all up while the film was still fresh in my head.  This time, I came home and had a nap!  Who cares what I have to say about Black Panther anyway?  You’re either going to see it or not see it the same as you would have with or without me.

I will say this.  The 3D was unnecessary and blurry.  A movie that was designed in 3D like Avatar is a completely different beast.  Something like Black Panther is usually converted to 3D afterwards.  It could have been used more effectively.  I did not need to see it in 3D.  Little was added to the experience.  I did need to see it in the V.I.P. theater because damn, those parmesan truffle fries were the star of the show.  I reclined in my chair and nearly fell asleep, I was so full and so comfortable!  The film itself was very emotional.  The whole thing was a love letter to Chadwick Boseman, and that added layer of meaning really hits you.

So there you go, that’s all you get for a review.

Instead of coming home from work and listening to something that I am playing just to review, sometimes twice in a row, now I’m coming home and listening to things that I want to listen to.  Tonight it’s the Black Sabbath Technical Ecstasy remix CD.  And I’m not listening with studious intent, picking apart the details.  I don’t have five browser windows open, looking for credits and release information for research purposes.  I’m just…writing what I’m thinking right here right now!  And it’s awesome!  Or to quote Bill Ward on the song playing right now, “It’s Alright”.

There’s so much more.  I don’t feel competitive, like I’m trying to get as much exposure as possible on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.  I’m free from promoting myself.  I’m free from giving a crap.  I realize that giving a crap in the first place was my own fault, but habits are hard to break.  Freedom is a hell of a drug.

I do love doing the Friday night show.  Writing fiction is a blast.  Since Harrison can only do art for one Tee Bone Man episode per month, and we wouldn’t want to do an episode without his art, I’ve branched out.  I’ve now written two spinoff chapters called the Writer’s Room that is tremendous fun and easy to do.  Harrison calls it the “Extended LeBrainiverse” and it keeps growing.  The latest addition is The Adventures of Edie Van Heelin’.  Any time I feel like writing fiction, I have an outlet without having to put more pressure on Harrison.  Fiction, or at least short stories, are so much easier than writing reviews.  And just as rewarding, if not more so.

Less than a year ago, as a way to thank Tee Bone (the real guy) for all his help with my show (he refused all offers of gifts), I created Tee Bone Man and Superdekes.  And I wanted to share that creation with the community.  Today five different authors write Tee Bone Man which is exactly what I wanted to happen!  It has turned out better than I hoped!  Then shortly after that, I met California Girl, and with her I’ve created Edie Van Heelin’.  It took a few attempts to get Edie ready for her public debut but her stories bring me the same happiness as Tee Bone Man.  Having all these creative outlets is a wonderful thing!

That’s it, that’s the story for today.  As I finish up this incredible Black Sabbath album, I get ready to go and watch last night’s American Dad and chill on the couch.  Not a bad life.

#1027: I Feel Alright

RECORD STORE TALES #1027: I Feel Alright

We all have ups and downs.  If you say you don’t then I don’t believe you.  I’ve never been diagnosed bipolar but I’ve always wondered, the way my spirits can sway to and fro.  I can’t remember how long it has been this way for me, but I think since University – around age 19.  That’s when I really started to feel lonely.  Up until then my best friend Bob and I had been tighter than tight, but now we were at different schools and in different circles of friends.  It felt weird but I knew it was a natural thing that happens.  I certainly had read enough teen fiction on the concept of friends drifting apart.  Alice Cooper even had a song about it called “Alma Mater” on the School’s Out album.  Up until that point my life was fairly uncomplicated by things like girls.

I’ve worked hard to get where I am today, the point at which I can self-reflect with a little more knowledge and wisdom.  In some ways, I’ve pulled it together better than ever in 2022 with a solid support group and strategies.  On the other hand, there have been unforeseen difficulties in 2022.  I used to be driven by the idea of writing every day.  This year writing really became stale for me so I have had to look to other creative avenues instead.  Even though this feeling had been building a long time, it is still a difficult adjustment to my routine.  But I’m adjusting.  I still listen to music every day at work, in the car and at home.  I just don’t want to force myself to write about it anymore.  Maybe I just want to chill on the couch watching YouTube.

Speaking of YouTube, one of the surprises this fall is that live streaming just happened to feel right for me again.  Keeping things loose, simple and unprepared is way more fun than spending hours and hours on taking notes every week.  And I need to thank Harrison, the Mad Metal Man, my trusty co-host.  I prefer having a co-host to being a solo artist and Harrison has been with me every single week so far.  He’s helped me put the social fun back into my Friday nights.  Harrison the Mad Metal Man deserves a hell of a lot of praise, even if you’re not watching our show (Grab a Stack of Rock with Mike and the Mad Metal Man).  Pat him on the back just for being a part of a thing that’s helping me get through this cold, dark winter.

Dark indeed!  I leave for work before the sun is up.  The sun is setting, and just laying on the horizon during my drive home.  I get no daylight at all; I’m stuck in my office.  But hope is not lost.  The solstice is only 17 days away.  That means soon the days will be getting longer again.  In one month, the sun will still set at approximately the same time as tonight, but each night thereafter it will be setting later and later.  That is a warming thought.

I also need to thank my new friend from California who’s chosen the name California Girl (and occasionally “Lady Vader”) for our little show.  A few people have wondered who she is and how we met, and it’s the most unusual story but also inspiring.  I’m happy to say I have a few friends that I consider to be very close to me, that I have never met in my life.  Tee Bone, Deke, Harrison, Snowman, these are people with whom I’ve shared a lot of joys and pain.  They have likewise shared in return and become mutual support.  I’ve never met any of them.  We need to redefine what friendship means in 2022.  You don’t need to be physically close to someone, to be close!  No, you can be separated by 12 time zones.  In the case of California Girl, I think sometimes music fans just find each other.  One day earlier this year, she was searching online for Led Zeppelin lists and stumbled upon our little show, the Zep deep cuts episode with Geoff, Mars and Sarah.  For whatever reason, she claims she thought we were cool, which I have strenuously denied!  She messaged me out of the blue and we started chatting.  We became friends and mutual fans of each other.  She digs my writing, cottage videos, and live shows, and I dig her modelling on Instagram.  And that’s OK!  We all have our creative outlets so don’t judge.  Jen and I are both fans, but it goes far beyond the surface.  I’m grateful that I have added another person to my long distance support network.  She was there for me through my difficult dental surgery and she’s made winter fun for me, by allowing me to share it with her via videos and pictures.  She wants to dip her toes into collaborating with me and so she’s already appeared on the live show once via an “Ask Harrison” question, and a fictional story we came up with.  Yeah, I’m definitely her friend and her fan.  Her positivity and encouragement have had a tangible impact on the things you have seen and read on this very website in the last four months.

You’ll notice the thread running through these paragraphs is, as always, music.  The one constant in my life.  The one thing that never ghosted me, stabbed me in the back or left me out to dry.  Music, possibly the most powerful form of communication on earth.  It combines words with feelings, in a way that naturally resonates with the human soul.

Have you ever seen American Dad?  The episode where Roger is on a blind date with a girl:

Girl:  “So…do you like music?”

Roger:  “Do I like music?  No, no I’m the one person on Earth who doesn’t like music.”

 

From that first moment when Styx made me feel cool, to this very moment rocking out to hard rock as I hammer out words, music has been there my whole life.  My parents nurtured this from a young age by buying me John Williams records.  Then came Styx, and Quiet Riot really sold me on the kind of music that I craved.  Maiden changed my life, and Kiss wormed their way into my heart.  The tunes are part of me.  Playing them is like drawing strength from an infinite well.  When I’m miserable, music is there to take the edge off just a little bit.

Even at the Catholic school retreat where music was forbidden, they could not take “Love Gun” out of my head.  I hummed it to myself as a shield.

Even as the bullies made my days hell, Kiss made my nights happy.

Even as I sat alone in my room in my 20s, I was comforted by Van Halen, Motley Crue, Extreme, Guns N’ Roses, Tesla, Skid Row, Rush, Steve Vai, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Deep Purple.

I feel alright.  I’m making it.  Seasonal affective disorder is a bitch, and every year is unique in small ways.  This year was no exception.  It actually feels like a monumental shift in my life, losing the passion for writing while making a new friend.  But there’s the balance.  Lose one thing, gain another.  It’s mostly a matter of navigating the bumps.

I feel alright!  We’re almost through this year.  New adventures lay ahead.  Let’s look forward to them, whatever they may be.

 

#1026: Fakin’ It

All yesterday, I faked that I was in a good mood.

I’m pretty good at it. I have 12 years of retail experience under my belt.

Not everything is going according to plan. We have water and mold in our storage locker. All my books…all my action figures…all my treasures.

Good thing I’m good at faking it.

Other things have not been working out as I envisioned either. But hey, a new Metallica is coming. I guess I can file that with the last two that I can’t remember the songs from!

#1025: Givin’ up, givin up, givin’ a f*ck

Some clarification.  Any time I post some old reviews that I wrote back in August, I inevitably get the same comments.

“I thought you weren’t reviewing anymore!”

“I thought you gave up on writing!”

or,

“When are you reviewing the new Kiss box set?”

I’ll give you the same answer that my psychology professor gave us when we asked when he would have all our term papers marked:  “On the 12th of Never.”

To be clear:  I am no longer writing reviews.

Anything I am writing now is personal; nothing to do with trying to review anything.  If whatever I write has something to do with music, great.  If not, I don’t care.  I am done with it.

Why bother?  I get the same amount of views (or more) for copying and pasting a press release about a Loudness video.  Or a Coney Hatch concert.  Why should I work for two hours, three hours, four hours, on a review that gets as many views as something I copied and pasted from a PR company?  I am burned out.  That’s the blunt truth.  Burned right out.

For the very best in original music reviews, I suggest you head on over to John Snow at 2loud2oldmusic.  He works diligently every day to bring you music reviews and lists.

On the other hand, if you want to know what I am up to, what I’m watching on YouTube, or how I’m dealing with mental health, then you can stick around.  I had a pretty good run.  My reviews have been complimented by stars such as Dennis DeYoung (my childhood hero), F. Lee Harvey Blotto, and Dave Bidini.  They’ve been criticized by others such as Kenny Hotz, Regina Banali, and David “D-Funk” Faulk.  I’ve achieved a lot of what I set out to do 10 years ago.

It’s been fun but I am giving up giving a fuck.

 

#1024: Where were you when Freddie died? When Eric died?

Lunch With Ladano yesterday was regarding the events of November 23, 1991.  The announcement that Freddie Mercury had AIDS, the worst kept secret in rock. Do you remember?

 

#1023: “Just the pieces of the man I used to be”

RECORD STORE TALES #1023: “Just the pieces of the man I used to be”

You never know how it’s gonna go.

You roll out of bed feeling like a winner, and then suddenly for absolutely no reason, that completely changes and you’re struggling to break even.

Maybe it’s the pressures of modern life.  The hustle and the bustle.  The need to get things done, even though you’re behind and energy is in short supply.

The feeling of loneliness even though you are not alone.  There’s a dark place in your heart, only inhabited by you, that no one can break into.  It’s not that you can’t let them in.  It’s that you don’t even know how to open that door.  Of if you actually want to.  If you’d prefer to be alone.

The daily monotony, the commute, the cold, the damp.

The fact that all the hours of daylight happen when you’re in an office doing your daily grind.

The pressure and drive to do something important, to be someone who matters.  To make a difference.  To be somebody…anybody…but who you are.

Somehow, a sad song helps.  There’s something about a sad song that can pry its way into your soul.  Provide sympathy.  Warmth.  Help you dry the tears.  That tells you someone out there is feeling the exact same way you do.  It’s as if someone in the world knows you, just as well as you know yourself.

You could be in a room full of happy celebrations, and feel so alone, so completely down, yet have to fake it to make it.

One of the worst winters of my younger life was the winter of ’95-96.  I had just been dumped by my first real serious girlfriend.  I put on a brave face and for a few days, I thought I had weathered the storm.  I listened to “classic British hard blues” that week and felt super strong.  The crash came later.  One of the albums that helped me through that winter was Queen’s Made In Heaven.  The final album with Freddie.  Though there is some undeniable dark material on the album, such as “Mother Love”, and “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, I was amazed at how positive some of the other songs such as “Heaven For Everyone” were.  The album was like a journey through my own convoluted feelings.

“I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be,
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me.”

Yet on the same album:

“In these days of cold affections,
You sit by me and everything’s fine.”

What will the album for the winter of 2022 be?  For the last several years, I’ve been digging deep down into the albums that made me happy as a youth.

“Listen! They said I didn’t stand a chance,
I wouldn’t win no way,
But I’ve got news for you,
There’s nothing I can’t do!”

It was a different time.  There was misery, but nothing can duplicate that feeling of hearing a song for the first time.  A song that you know means something to you.  That is destined to stick with you for your whole life.  And when you put those records on again, a million things start happening in your head.  You can be 12 or 13 again.  A time when the real problems of life were completely unknown to you and the biggest issue you had was figuring out how to talk to the girl you liked.

Like a phantom of a dream, old songs make the memories real again.  As you wipe a tear from your eye, you remember.  It can help sooth the sadness.

Sometimes you just have to cry it out, whatever it is.  Hell, I don’t know what it is exactly.  I just know it sucks.

They say that life never hands you anything you can’t handle.  I don’t know about that.  History is rife with people who could not handle what life has given them.  I think I can – but it’s never simple, straightforward, or obvious how to do it.

So I write.

It’s the only thing I’m really good at.  The only thing people really notice about me.

I write in the hopes that someone will understand.

That someone will relate.

That someone can take what I have experienced and draw something good from it.

And that maybe I’ll get some of that goodness back.

This winter has been pretty good.  My strategies are working.  My support personnel are solid.  But there will always be days where I can’t help it.  Can’t help FEELING IT.  The old familiar sting of that cold, unrelenting loneliness.  The kind of loneliness that can strike even when you are in a room full of loved ones.

One of the best albums for this time of year is Catherine Wheel’s Adam & Eve record.  It captures it all.

“Start the day, in a cold December way, feel what’s new, it’s December through and through.”

And on the same record:

“And we crown ourselves again,
There’s been no change since you and I were young,
When we burned ourselves again,
The spaceship days when you and I were young.”

I crave those spaceship days so hard sometimes.  But you can never really go back.

Except with a song.

Come back with me.  Join me in my memories, on this sad, cold winter day.

#1022: Langer the F@ckin’ Wanger

RECORD STORE TALES #1022: Langer the F@ckin’ Wanger

In grades seven and eight of grade school, I was just trying to survive.  It was a waiting game now, a trial of perseverance.  At the end of grade eight, I would be out of there.  My sister Kathryn called it the “Hell Hole”, which is pretty messed up when you think about it, at the ages we were.  Just kids.  But I only had to survive two more grades and I was done.  I’d start fresh at Grand River Collegiate Institute and leave the Hell Hole behind me, forever.  Those kids would mostly all be going to a different school, and I’d be with Bob Schipper, whose massive frame intimidated every bully around.

I tended to cautiously keep to myself and a handful of people that I thought I could trust a little bit.  Recess was usually pretty bad.  Killing 15 minutes in the cold, while trying to stay out of the attention of other kids.  It was a lonely existence but survivable.

One afternoon I was out minding my own business by the baseball diamond when the school’s wildest bully, Langer, grabbed me by the throat and threw me down onto the benches.

“I heard what you called me!” he yelled in my face.  He had a sidekick, a face I can’t remember, the Grover Gill to his Scut Farkus, except very real and not at all funny.  I remember his Grover standing behind him smiling as he choked me.

“I called you Langer,” I recalled as I tried to speak.

“No you didn’t,” he menaced.  “You called me Langer the fuckin’ wanger!”

“I did?” I said puzzled.  His friend laughed behind him.

“Yeah you did!  Say you’re sorry,” he threatened.

“Sorry,” I mumbled.

He let me fall to the ground.  Nobody came to help, no teachers saw and no students cared.

“I can’t wait to get the fuck out of here,” I thought to myself as I counted the months in my head.


In eighth grade I saw him attack a much smaller kid, a sixth or seventh grader with a lisp.  Rock Hudson had just died of AIDS, and AIDS jokes were all the rage with the bullies that year.  The funny thing is, we had sex ed that year and the teacher asked the class if we knew what AIDS was.  Nobody knew exactly.  “It makes you old,” was the closest guess any of them had.  But sure, go ahead bullies, make AIDS jokes.  They just equated AIDS with gay, as bullies often do.

Langer grabbed this smaller kid and demanded, “Say you’re Rock Hudson!”  The kid didn’t know what that meant and said so.

“SAY YOU’RE ROCK HUDSON!” repeated Langer.

“Hudsthon” said the kid, enough to satisfy Langer to release him.


Langer was actually one of the few bullies who did follow me to highschool.  However, his selection of classes were physically separated from most of mine, plus Bob was there, and Langer kept his distance when Bob was around.  One day he did have a try, but I found him easy to dodge.

“Hey Ladano!” he said I entered the computers lab.  “Did you masturbate this weekend?”

“No,” I answered quickly, “But you did.”  I had never come up with a one-liner so fast before.  I was proud of myself.

I felt his hand grab the back of my shirt as he pulled me out of the classroom and back into hall.

“You’re dead!  Today after school!” he threatened.

“Fine!” I said in defiance.

“We meet where you parked your bike, after class!”

“Sure!” I answered.

I walked to school that day; I didn’t ride my bike and didn’t need to go to the bike racks to get home.  I just exited through a different door and walked home as normal.  Langer never followed up and that was my last encounter with Langer the fuckin’ wanger.  The last of the schoolyard bullies, faded away forever.

 

#1021: Closing Time! Last Cottage Video of 2022

RECORD STORE TALES #1021: Closing Time! Last Cottage Video of 2022

Jen and I were Highway Stars! Rocking to Deep Purple, live in Copenhagen 1972, we reveled in the joys of jamming, intense improvisation, and hard rock and roll. The perfect accompaniment to our last cottage road trip of 2022. Before we knew it we had arrived at our destination. It may look a little different in the fall, but there is still no place I’d rather spend my weekend.

There was a different kind of beauty this time.  Fewer leaves, fewer animals.  You could see through the trees, a feeling I was not used to, especially when partaking in the O.D.P. (Out Door Piss).  When we were kids, we never made it to the lake in November nor did we want to.  It was always far too cold and the snow would have started.  Not anymore.

It was unseasonably warm, and within minutes I was in short sleeves and short pants again, just as I was all summer. This is November? I set up on the front porch with more Deep Purple, Ozzy, Dio, and Black Sabbath. It was an utterly brilliant day of rocking the shores of Lake Huron.  Then on the Friday night, we went live with the Mad Metal Man and the second episode of Grab A Stack of Rock.  A brilliant way to end the season.

Our weekend was quiet and fun, including lots of outdoor rock and roll with board games, a dinner at Boston Pizza (since the barbecue is packed up for the winter) and even a step into Lake Huron.  A first for the month of November!  We drove home to the music of Black Sabbath (Dehumanizer and Cross Purposes) to put the final nail in the coffin of 2022’s cottage season.  For me personally, since this season stretched from late April to early November, it was one of the longest seasons, if not the longest ever.  And it couldn’t have gone any better!  2022 was a triumphant season in virtually every way, and we sure did enjoy it.

 

My dad found the end of this video a tad too emotional!  We all miss the place and hate leaving!

#1020: Wieners & Balls

I was talking to a friend of mine on Friday about wieners and balls.  She receives a lot of unsolicited pictures of wieners on social media and I thought to myself, “Who does that?”  A lot of people, it seems.  I vowed to never be one of those people.

Saturday morning at the cottage was beautiful.  Still dark at 5 am, but unseasonably warm.  The trees make really creepy creeking sounds in the morning silence.  It was awesome!  I decided to make a video for my friend.  Walking around outside in my Crocs and undies at 5 in the morning in November seemed like a good subject for a video.  I made a video, walked down to the beach in my Crocs, stepped into the water (never done that before in November!) and headed back up to the cottage.

Just as I was about to hit “send” I thought to myself, “You know, I better make sure nothing popped out of my undies in this video…”

Needless to say, I never hit send!  Yes, something popped out of my shorts and there was no need for anyone to see that!  Saved myself from sending unsolicited dick pics though!

 

#1019: Lil’ Buddy

RECORD STORE TALES #1019: Lil’ Buddy

Early 2006. Jen and I had been dating a few months, and I was placed at a brand new job at United Rentals in Cambridge.  Things were looking up!  I escaped the hell hole that was the Record Store, the office Bully had lost all her power over me, and I had met the girl that I knew I was going to stick with.  Life was coming together!  It was during this glowing golden time that I briefly met and fell in love with Lil’ Buddy.

We were out walking one cold Sunday in the neighbourhood when a little stray puppy with no tags strolled up to us wagging his little tail.  We greeted him and looked around for his human.  There was no-one around.  The little guy kept following us.  We didn’t know what else to do.  We brought him home and gave him some water and warmth.  I just fell for the little guy immediately.  He was so friendly, affectionate and quiet.  I named him Lil’ Buddy.  We spent a few hours with him before doing what had to be done.

It was the hardest thing to do, but the only right thing to do.  We bundled him up into the car and took him to the humane society.  It was very emotional for me, and I asked them, please please call me if he is not claimed.  He would have a loving home with us.  I didn’t know how I was going to handle a dog in my little apartment but I didn’t care.  I’d figure it out.  The little guy had won my heart.

I waited a couple days, and then called the humane society on my lunch break.  It was bittersweet to find out that Lil’ Buddy had been claimed.  I was glad that he found his human, but I was really hoping he could have stayed.  Apparently Lil’ Buddy belonged to an elderly woman, so she certainly needed his company more than I did.  I’m sure she loved him very much.  How could she not?

We only spent a few hours with him, but I’ll never forget Lil’ Buddy.  We had a very special Sunday afternoon together.  We could have been friends.  He was very special.