Record Store Tales

#1049: Covid Chronicles 2

RECORD STORE TALES #1048: Covid Chronicles 2

Day Two

I slept for hours!  Lost track of how many hours.  In the morning I was still testing positive.  Jen is still negative.  In the afternoon, my sore throat went away, leaving me only tired and achey.

Monday will be a sick day from work.  I am hoping to go back on Tuesday.  Only the test will tell.



#1048: Covid Chronicles 1

How it happened, I can’t fathom.  I haven’t done much except go to work, and I have limited contact there with anyone.  Jen has been to the hospital a couple times, so my current theory is that she brought Covid home from there without getting sick herself.  I’m positive, she’s negative.

My health has been all out of whack lately, with a nasty stomach bug the week before.  Stress levels are close to all-time highs.  I’m triple-vaxxed, but I had a panic attack the day I was supposed to get a booster and never did the fourth.

So here’s the Covid Chronicles, check ’em out and see how I’m doing.

RECORD STORE TALES #1048: Covid Chronicles 1

Day One

I woke up Saturday morning bright and early with creative juices flowing.  In a long and effortless spurt, I completed 7000 words of Tee Bone Man vs. Edie Van Heelin’, some of my best fictional writing to date.  It took a few hours, and several spins of Night Ranger’s Greatest Hits, to finish.  I had a tickle in my throat, but felt fine otherwise.  Tired, yes, but I only had four hours of sleep, so that was to be expected.

I tested myself shortly after lunch.  I was shocked when the line filled in immediately and strongly.  Covid?  No way!  It didn’t seem possible.  It still doesn’t.

I went to go lie down and caught a couple more hours of sleep.  I talked to a few people and got some advice.  Everyone said to hydrate.  I placed an order with a convenience store for a few gallons of Gatorade, and some ice cream.  Why not?  Why not enjoy something, while I still can.  We ordered drumsticks.  What a delight.  I hadn’t had drumsticks in years!  This one had to be the best I’d ever tasted.  The saltiness of the nuts, the sweet of the chocolate and caramel, and the perfect creaminess of the ice cream.  Suck on that, Covid.

Jen made steaks and carrots for dinner.  They too were also great.  I had the leftovers for breakfast this morning and they still tasted great.

At present, everything smells and tastes normal.  I have some mild body aches, a dry throat, and some fatigue.  I also haven’t slept much; I caught about five hours and two more hours in a couple spurts last night.  I’ve been up since roughly four in the morning. It’s not that Covid is keeping me up, it’s that I feel relatively normal and my creative juices are waking me up.  I had a really productive day yesterday and my brain wants to continue that today, though I want to try and stay horizontal for most of today.

I’ll test again later and keep you posted as best I can.

#1047: A Pretty Good Day

RECORD STORE TALES #1047: A Pretty Good Day

The worst and most tiring kind of days at the Record Store were the ones with customers bringing in endless boxes of discs for us to buy.  These took up a lot of time and counter space to keep organized.  I hated it when multiple customers with multiple boxes arrived at once.  All you could say is say “leave your name and number and we’ll get through these as quickly as possible.  It could be a couple hours.”

Some customers understood, some did not.  That’s retail.

By contrast the best kind of days were often the ones without the pileup of CD boxes.  If everything came in at staggered times, that was ideal.  Even better if all the discs were in good shape.  Icing on the top of the cake if the customer wasn’t a jerk about pricing.  Everybody assumed their discs were worth solid gold.  To be truly the best kind of day, customers would be bringing in good stock that you wanted for yourself!  Whether it be a new release or something rarer from a back catalogue, those were the good days.  You’d slap your name on a post-it note, stick it to the CD and claim it for self-musical enrichment.

I may have mentioned this a couple times before:  the Big Boss Man hated when we bought stock for ourselves.  But that was 50% of the reason people wanted to work in a music store.  The best of days were those when the Big Boss Man and his underlings were not around!

One factor that didn’t affect whether the day was good or bad:  who I was working with.  I liked virtually every single person that worked in my store.  There were one or two who made me pull my hair out, but they never lasted very long.  I was very fortunate to have good working relationships with just about everyone in my staff.  I tried to show my appreciation by buying them CDs or dinner.

Speaking of dinner, one of the best days I had was in the late 90s.  A Jack Astor’s restaurant opened in the plaza across the street.  I was working one afternoon minding my own business when a guy showed up at my door with a “Jack Attack”.  I was shaking my head “no” as if to tell him I didn’t order any food, when he explained it was all complimentary!  A bucket of wings and six bottles (bottles! Not cans!) of root beer.  He dropped off a menu with ordering instructions for delivery.  That was a very good day.  I was working alone, but I left a couple bottles of pop for the night shift.  (A couple.  I was thirsty.)

I liked working alone, but eating a meal on a lone shift was tricky.  Even the best of days were food-free days.  The boss absolutely hated when we ate meals at the counter, but where else was there to go?  We were working alone, we couldn’t leave the store.  We couldn’t go into the back room to eat for 15 minutes.  So most days, at least the ones working alone, were junk food only.  Chips, pop, candy bars, pepperoni.  That was it.

But combined with good tunes and no bosses, a pretty good day!




#1046: Puke! 2

WARNING!  This is not a pretty story.  A sequel to #686:  Puke!


Jen was super sick on Thursday.  She had eaten some Indian food from a place that was new to her, and it wasn’t good.  We both assumed it was food poisoning.  Until Friday night.

I was scheduled to go live at 7:00 PM.  I messaged the guys at 6:40 – “I just barfed”.  Usually I’m just “one and done” when it comes to barfing.  Not this time.  I was prepared to go on with the show, but 10 minutes later I barfed again and got hit with the chills.  I cancelled.

By 8:00 PM I had barfed five times.  This never happens to me.  Clearly, Jen didn’t have food poisoning the previous night.  Whatever stomach bug she had, I now had it too.  Five pukes in 80 minutes – that’s a new record for me.  The last few were closer to painful, dry heaves.

I asked Jen to place a Skip the Dishes order with a gas station or a Little Short Stop – get me Gatorade, ginger ale, and water.  (We scored here – we ordered and paid for small bottles but they sent big two-liter ginger ales.)  I began sipping the sweet, cold, soothing beverages as soon as they arrived, and they were the most incredible sips I’ve ever taken.

The farts that came with this sudden illness were unreal.  Easily and by far the most wretched and lingering smells I have ever produced, and that is saying something.  Putrid, foul, rotten.  My wife is a saint.

Despite sipping the drinks, I was so thirsty.  Constantly thirsty.  I was sipping every five minutes.  Obviously dehydration set in.  I barfed again at 10:30, but I then changed my strategy a bit.  When I was a kid, my dad wouldn’t let me drink anything when I was sick, so I wouldn’t barf it back up.  This time it was different.  I drank Gatorade and ginger ale in earnest until I could feel my stomach was full.

The next three barfs were nothing but water, ginger ale and Gatorade.  They came out easily, in mad gushes, and amazingly still tasted good.  The red Gatorade puke still tasted exactly like red Gatorade.  Because it was pure liquid and nothing else, it was effortless to bring up and I was in no pain (unlike the dry heaves).  When I was done throwing up, I re-hydrated immediately and repeated the cycle a few more times.  My final puke was around 4:00 AM on Saturday, my ninth.  Another record.  But I didn’t have any dehydration or associated pain/discomfort.  A win.

I’m feeling a lot better now, just sore.  Very sore.  My joints are sore and mostly my chest.

I tested Covid negative, so it’s just a bug.  Unfortunately I cannot go see my grandma in the hospital today because of this, and she is lonely.

Rest today, back to work tomorrow.

Wish me luck.

#1045: The Lost Chapters: Doctor Kathryn

The original title for this chapter was “My Sister, Age, and How Things Change”.  It was originally Chapter 8.

RECORD STORE TALES #1045: The Lost Chapters: Doctor Kathryn

My sister had some distinct musical phases.  Early on, she decided that she was going to like most of the music that I liked.  At first that meant Quiet Riot, Kiss, and Motley Crue.  Motley Crue was her favourite, but not for the right reasons.  They were her favourite because a) Nikki and Tommy were really tall, and b) they both had spikey hair.

There was further evidence that my sister was bordering on wimp territory.  One was that she didn’t like W.A.S.P.  In fact she hated W.A.S.P.  I’m not sure if it was Blackie Lawless’ voice, or if it was the fact that he drank “blood” from a “human skull”.  Either way, I liked W.A.S.P. a lot, and if she didn’t like them too, this demonstrated an unhealthy streak of independence.

Then, the proverbial shit hit the fan.  (We didn’t have air conditioning back then, just fans.)  One day in 1985, she decided that she liked The Pointer Sisters.  And Cyndi Lauper.  And Corey Hart.  She always liked Bryan Adams, but I forgave her this.  Bryan wore jeans and T-shirts, so he was still firmly in rock territory, even if he wasn’t heavy metal.  (I didn’t find out for a while yet that Bryan did in fact have some metallic roots.  He wrote several songs with Kiss, including the heaviest material on the Creatures Of The Night album.)  The music that Kathryn liked was incorrectly labelled by us as “New Wave”.  We didn’t know that New Wave was a term usually used for bands like Blondie, Devo, or the Talking Heads.  We just assumed all crappy pop music with synthesizers was New Wave.  And New Wave was bad.  Very very bad.

Back then, life was simple.  Life was black and white.  Whatever MuchMusic’s “Power Hour” played was good.  Everything else was bad.  The only exceptions to that that rule were Kim Mitchell and Bryan Adams.  I’m not sure why Kim was an exception, except that he and long hair, and that I liked him, and so did the next door neighbour.  If you wanted to boil it down further, stuff with guitars was good.  Stuff with keyboards was bad.  And the stuff Kathryn listened to didn’t have any guitars, just lots of keyboards, fake synth drums and people with really silly clothes and hair.

There were a few exceptions.  I had never known a Van Halen without keyboards, so I accepted them.  They were clearly a heavy metal band.  The Power Hour played them all the time, David Lee Roth had wicked hair, and everybody was talking about that guitar player.  Even if I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, and thought that Michael Anthony was in fact Eddie Van Halen, I decided that Van Halen were cool.  You were allowed to like them.  Eventually I sneaked ZZ Top into the list of music that was allowed as well, because one of the neighbours said they were like Van Halen.

So if the music Kathryn liked was bad, and the music I liked was good, you can imagine the arguments.  They were glorious and often ended in physical injury and/or destruction of property, and not just by me.

Her awful taste in music even held back my own progress.  She liked Bon Jovi first, therefore I had to dislike Bon Jovi—until they released that damned “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” song.  The song was so good, so undeniable, I had to let Bon Jovi into my life.  I still think it’s a fantastic song, well written, well played, with some beautiful 12 string guitar.  (Another reason Bon Jovi didn’t make the grade at first was due to their keyboards.  This does not explain why Europe did make the grade.  There were many inconsistencies.)

Kathryn’s rebellion worsened.  Her taste in music declined.  I won’t even begin to list some of the awful music she listened to, but I will say that she bottomed out in 1990 with New Kids On The Block, MC Hammer, and Vanilla Ice.  Obviously, this was a person who had no clear idea about integrity within music.  However, like a junkie who hits rock bottom, she eventually started to rise up again, with a little encouragement from Her Loving Brother.

The turning point was when Vanilla Ice cancelled his Kitchener tour date in early 1991.  His reason stated was that he was too big a star to play a town like Kitchener.  There was an instant hatred for the man all over town.  Kathryn sold her Vanilla Ice tape immediately.

There were some other clear signs of improvement.  A newfound obsession with Cheap Trick was good.  Sure, they weren’t metal, but they were definitely rock!  Hell, they even worshipped Kiss within their song lyrics.  I happily encouraged this love of Cheap Trick, and even bought her Cheap Trick tapes.  I think most of her Cheap Trick collection was courtesy of moi.

Rod Stewart came next.  I feel that perhaps Rod snuck in the door due to his enormous hair, but I didn’t care.  Rod still had a rock pedigree.  I encouraged her love of Rod.  I asked her questions about him and his music.  It was like carefully manipulating a mentally ill person back to health, and I was succeeding in a marginal way.  I felt that she’d never come all the way back to metal, even though she owned tapes by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Poison.  Yet I was satisfied with the progress we were making.

Now, 15 years later, I own Rod Stewart, Cheap Trick, Bryan Adams, The Payola$…all music that she introduced me to.  She got the last laugh.  I’ll never admit that she was always the smarter one (I can’t, since she never understood any movies we watched) but I’ll admit that she got the better of me on this one.  We even attended concerts together.  It started with Blue Rodeo, then we saw Jann Arden and Amanda Marshall.  While I still won’t own any albums by Arden or Marshall, they both put on excellent shows.  Blue Rodeo blew us both away and now they’re one of my favourites.  I’ve never seen any band more often than Blue Rodeo, and I’ll argue that they’re Canada’s best band, with Rush as a close second.

Even my parents get points.  They sure hated “Big Balls” by AC/DC, but now I own more Johnny Cash and Gordon Lightfoot than they do.

Now, I certainly can’t allow Kathryn to come off as the winner in this chapter.  So here’s a punch in the arm for you.  There, now we’re even.

#1044: Top Eddie Van Halen quotes

I don’t know what I was collecting these quotes for, but I found them on a hard drive recently and so here are my favourite quotes by Eddie Van Halen!

“I can’t read music. Instead, I’d do stuff inside the piano, do harmonics and all kinds of crazy things. They used to put me in these annual piano contests down at Long Beach City College, and two years in a row, I won first prize – out of like 5,000 kids! The judges were like, ‘Very interesting interpretation!’ I thought I was playing it right.”

“The one thing I do have is good ears. I don’t mean perfect pitch, but ears for picking things up. I developed my ear through piano theory, but I never had a guitar lesson in my life, except from Eric Clapton off of records.”

“It’s music theory, not music fact”

“If it sounds good, it is good.  Who cares if you didn’t do it modernly.”

“To hell with the rules. If it sounds right, then it is.”

“I destroyed a lot of guitars trying to get them to do what I wanted, but I learned something from every guitar I tore apart, and discovered even more things.”

“Music is for people. The word ‘pop’ is simply short for popular. It means that people like it. I’m just a normal jerk who happens to make music. As long as my brain and fingers work, I’m cool.”

“David Lee Roth had the idea that if you covered a successful song, you were half way home. C’mon – Van Halen doing ‘Dancing in the Streets’? It was stupid. I started feeling like I would rather bomb playing my own songs than be successful playing someone else’s music.”

“It’s all about sound. It’s that simple. Wireless is wireless, and it’s digital. Hopefully somewhere along the line somebody will add more ones to the zeros. When digital first started, I swear I could hear the gap between the ones and the zeros.”

“If you have a great-sounding guitar that’s a quality instrument and a good amp, and you know how to make the guitar talk, that’s the key. It starts with the guitar and knowing what it should sound and feel like.”

“Actually, if I could deliberately sit down and write a pop hit, all my songs would be pop hits! Let’s put it this way. I play what I like to hear. And sometimes I like to hear something poppy, and sometimes I don’t.”

“Actually, if I could deliberately sit down and write a pop hit, all my songs would be pop hits! Let’s put it this way. I play what I like to hear. And sometimes I like to hear something poppy, and sometimes I don’t.”

#1043: How It’s Going

Things are going OK.  The days are getting longer.  It’s now daylight again when I get home from work.  This winter has been cold and rough, I won’t lie to you.  There were only three or four really hairy days for driving.  I haven’t had to brush too much snow in the mornings.  So I’ll take that as a win.  Of course, it’s not over yet.  There’s always one really big storm in March that you can count on.  It usually snows again in April but we’re almost back in cottage season.

I’ve spoken about this before, but it’s funny how perspective changes.  In my teens, I hated being at the cottage — away from my friends, toys, and TV shows.  Now it’s the best place in the world for me, and my friends are never more than a Streamyard away, no matter where I am.  And I can’t wait to get back, and smell those smells and hear those trees creak at night.  At present, all I’m hearing at night are hail pellets and snow blowers.  The sky is often a dull gray haze.  It’s hard not to feel as if there is a heavy weight upon us.

There are other stresses.  Family health is always a concern, especially as we get older.  We have to keep up with the chores and bills.  Maintaining healthy relationships takes effort.  Sometimes it also takes effort to take the steps to remove unhealthy relationships.  But like a balance, new friends soon enter the picture.

Music continues to be a comfort.  Lately the tones of Journey, Styx and Triumph have soothed the soul.  A week ago, it was the combined talents of Don Dokken, George Lynch, Jeff Pilson and Wild Mick:  Dokken.  Under Lock and Key to be specific.  What an album!

I’ve just come off a long hiatus from Grab A Stack of Rock.  It’s important to avoid burnout, and not just do a show because it’s a new week.  I don’t want to burn out again.  This last episode with Jex, Tim and John joining the Mad Metal Man and myself was tremendous fun.  Adding a guy like Jex made it effortless fun; he brings his own energy.  Then I get to go live with my dear friend MarriedAndHeels next.  She always makes me smile.  I’ve been looking forward to this show all month.  It’s probably confusing as hell for any potential audience I may be hoping to build.  I go from Japanese Alice Cooper imports one week, to platform shoes the next.  Ah well.  I’ve always been mercurial and hard to pigeon-hole.  That’s the way I like to keep it.

Steve Perry sings it:  Winter’s here again, oh Lord!  As I listen to Journey, I am reminded of two things.  One:  The wheel in the sky keeps on turning.  Two:  Don’t know where I’ll be tomorrow.  But that’s OK.  You need to have some mystery too.  Some hope in the unknown.  I hope things get better, soon.

Everything I create is free.  I have never asked for money for any video or story.  I pay for WordPress and I pay for Streamyard out of pocket, and advertising dollars do not bring in enough to cover even half of the cost.  Therefore, if you’d like to buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, I would muchly appreciate!

kofi Ko-fi MikeLeBrain – buy me a coffee?

#1042: Gaby Baby


Sunday, February 5th, I received a “friend request” on Facebook.  I always check the people out before I say “yes”, and this guy had four mutual friends with me, all music people.  While that’s not a guarantee the person is not a flake, it is usually a good minimum standard.  I accepted his request and went out to coffee with our friends Scott and Ellen.

Shortly after, while drinking my large regular Tim’s, I got this request via instant messenger:

He requested the mp3 files for the self-titled 1992 Deadline EP.  In return he offered to send me mp3 files from a different band with the same name from Europe.

I thought about it a moment, but I really hate it when strangers just request music files.  I have a disclaimer on my “About” page here:  I do not “share” (IE: give away what does not belong to me) music files.  Check Discogs for other copies.  Long time readers know that in the past I shared one Iron Maiden file and then was bombarded with requests, to the point that I had to delete the Iron Maiden review that it was related to, and re-post it.  That’s what happens when word gets out that you have something and will share it.

I sent him the following message.  Short, but cordial enough.

His reponse to me was anything but cordial.

“Friend”.  And one of the best music collectors in the world!  Who collects…files.  Files.

On Monday my Youtube channel was bombarded by downvotes and comments by a channel called “the best of Hard & Heavy”.  Same guy.  You could tell by the Deadline content uploaded the previous day.

I sent him the following message and was promptly blocked.

“You are not good to live”.  He was reported on both Facebook and YouTube for harassment.

People, don’t be a Gaby Baby.  Just don’t.  This is no way to make friends, or find music.  I will continue my policy of not sharing music files.  Because hey…it’s somebody else’s music, not mine.



#1041: The Badge

Not everyone watches Grab A Stack of Rock with Mike and the Mad Metal Man (though you certainly should!) and some of the tales told deserve a re-telling.

In 1991-1992, I got seriously into Star Trek: The Next Generation.  There were a lot of reasons.  I was now in university, and there as always a stereotype that university intellectual types all watched Star Trek.  I liked that and went for it.  Gene Roddenberry’s passing certain revived my interest, as did the final Star Trek film with the original cast, The Undiscovered Country.  With the original having taken their final bow, it was a pleasant surprised to see Leonard Nimoy return as Spock on the two-part TNG episode “Unification 1 & II”.  Like anything else I find myself suddenly interested in, I bought all the manuals, model kits, and collectables I could get my hands on.  I shaved my sideburns with the Starfleet delta shape, per regulations.  I was always a fan, but now I was a Trekkie.  Not Trekker.  I find that word cumbersome.  Trekkie.

Walter Koenig (Chekov) did a few appearances on the Canadian Home Shopping Network selling overpriced Trek goodies.  We were glued to the screen the whole night.  Koenig was always one of the most fan-friendly of the original cast and you couldn’t help but like him.  The network were hawking stuffed Tribbles, phasers, communicator badges, and all sorts of Trek goodies.

The badges were the TNG style, and you could get them in two ways:  with a soundcard that made the familiar trilling sound when you tapped the badge, or a cheaper version without.  Our parents relented and bought my sister and I each a communicator.  We didn’t even want the soundcard.  We just wanted the pin.

Four to six weeks later, the overpriced pins arrived and we were thrilled with them.  They held secure to your shirt or jacket, and looked legit.

Dr. Kathryn struggled with math at school, and needed a boost of confidence for her exam.  We both wore our badges to school that day.  I told her, “Pretend you can talk to me any time you need math help.”  A small thing but helped her combat the nerves.

Star Trek, always a source of positivity in this world.









#1040: The Tag Jar


As your typical mall music store in the 1990s, we had the usual magnetic tag security system.  The idea was fairly simple.  At the store entrance there was a magnetic detector that you had to pass through.  Our merchandise was tagged with these little magnetic strips, about an inch long.  If you passed one of these strips through the detector by the door, a loud siren would be triggered.  It was one of several loss prevention methods we used.

There were two ways to utilise the security tags.  One was to double up with a re-usable security case.  These cases locked the CD into a longer “long box” length package.  This package was tagged on the inside with the magnetic security system.  At the front counter, a special key would unlock the security case.  You’d then put another CD in there and re-use it.  The other method involved tagging the CD or tape itself, in an inconspicuous place on the spine of the cellophane.  In this case, a special magnetic device behind the counter would “de-tag” the disc.  It was not totally reliable so you wanted to use the device three or four times, running it over the tag.  You wanted to make sure you properly de-tagged the item before the customer left the store.

Since no customer liked setting off the security alarm, it was heavily emphasized:  make sure you de-tag!  And we had a jar where you had to pay a dollar if you were caught checking out a customer without de-tagging.  The boss warned us:  everybody screws this up, it’s just a matter of time until you do.  I was like, nahhh man, not me.  I was hired in July and my first dollar went into the tag jar before Christmas.

The money in the tag jar went towards paying for our annual Christmas dinner.  The boss invited one of his personal friends to join us, which in hindsight seems weird.  It was a nice dinner though, and we worked hard earning it.  My first Christmas there was a busy one and we were both buying and selling discs the whole time, all at one little tiny counter.

The security alarms were loud.  You could hear them down the hallway of the mall, all the way down to the Zellers store.  That’s how I got caught one time.  I was hoping the boss didn’t hear me while he was out doing his bank run, but he did, and I had to pony up my dollar.  I couldn’t remember if I de-tagged the guy or not, which meant I probably didn’t.  But sometimes I swear it was just that the device wasn’t de-tagging properly.  Some box sets also had two or three tags on the shrinkwrap.  There were multiple ways to screw it up.

Thieves always find ways around your best security measures, and ultimately the tags were not worth the cost and were phased out in future stores, in a new and innovative way:  ditching new product almost altogether in favour of a 90% used strategy.  But that’s a whole other story.