Record Store Tales

#724: Balls to Picasso

GETTING MORE TALE #724: Balls to Picasso

In 1993, Iron Maiden announced the departure of Bruce Dickinson, and my world was shattered.

“Oh no.  Not Iron Maiden too…”

I found out via M.E.A.T Magazine, and because of print magazine lead times, the actual announcement came weeks before I found out.

All the big bands seemed to be losing their key members.  Both Motley Crue and Judas Priest were dealing with it, and nobody knew if those bands would survive.  Maiden hurt the most; they had been with me the longest.  What could Maiden do without Bruce?  What could Bruce do without Maiden?

The band tried to keep up appearances, but the split was not amicable.  We wouldn’t know this for years.  In the meantime, my life changed when I was hired at the Record Store.  Though I loved the job, it was starkly obvious that in 1994, heavy metal was passé.  Nobody was buying it, while Soundgarden dominated our rock sales.  No matter how it panned out, both Bruce and Iron Maiden would be facing uphill climbs.

Bruce’s solo outing Balls to Picasso was released in June.  I was surprised that we were carrying it at all, but it wasn’t selling.  I hadn’t got it yet; the review in M.E.A.T stated that the Japanese version had a bonus track.  Drew Masters claimed the bonus acoustic version of “Tears of the Dragon” was better than the album cut, so I was trying to hold off until I could find the Japanese.  All I knew is the album in general was supposed to be very, very different from Iron Maiden.

I never found the Japanese version.  In 1994 it was virtually impossible to find Japanese imports, though I asked the boss to try to order one for me.  HMV in Toronto carried rare imports, but I didn’t know that.

When a used CD copy of Balls to Picasso was traded in, I waited for the boss to leave for the day and then I eagerly put it on the store player.

Where are you going?
What are you doing?
Why are you looking,
At the cameras eye?

By the first chorus of the first track “Cyclops”, I knew I was going to like the album.  Different indeed!  Growling guitar sounds backed by exotic percussion were new twists.

There were two songs that sold the album to me immediately.  I did not want to live my life any longer without the songs “Change of Heart” and “Tears of the Dragon”.  Both songs spoke to me.  I was dealing with the fallout from a nasty breakup and the lyrics seemed to apply to my life.  Not to mention, the music was brilliant!  If Bruce had to leave Iron Maiden to put out a song like “Change of Heart” then so be it.  I played the song over and over.  I even told the boss how good the album was.

“I was playing the new Bruce Dickinson in the store the other night,” I said, “and it’s really good.  Not what you’d expect.”

“Isn’t that too heavy for the store?” he semi-scolded.

“No,” I semi-lied.  “It’s pretty light.”  I obviously didn’t tell him about the white hot “Sacred Cowboys”!

For some reason I chose to buy the cassette, and I played that tape everywhere.  I jammed it in the car for my buddy Aaron.  He particularly liked “Shoot All the Clowns” because he’s terrified of clowns.  Shooting all the clowns was a sentiment he could get behind.

What I liked about the album was that it was modern sounding (“Shoot All the Clowns” had funk and rap!).  I could get away with store play, but yet it had the sterling musicianship and guitar solos that I craved.  I could play it for younger friends like Aaron, who would appreciate the modern production and maybe get past the operatic vocals.

Playing “Change of Heart” today is not the same.  I’m no longer the heartbroken sad sack of shit.  It’s still a brilliant track but I don’t hang on every word anymore.  In 1994 it seemed like every line was for me to sing.  The feelings it used to stir don’t exist anymore.  But man, what a song!  The unusual drumming, the guitar work, the singing…it is one of Bruce’s very best, including those he wrote in Iron Maiden.

I can’t say that I am as passionate about Balls to Picasso in 2018 as I was in 1994.  I still love it, but I daresay Bruce has made better solo albums in his amazing career since.  Still, Balls to Picasso is historically important.  It introduced many of us to Roy Z for the first time, and it may have put him on the map.  Roy’s work in metal since has been highly respected by connoisseurs worldwide.  And then there’s that personal history.  I played this album so much during that cold, depressing winter.  It still stands up today, with a timelessly clear production and some very strong material.

Obviously things eventually worked out between Bruce and Iron Maiden.  He’s been back fronting them for almost 20 years.  Things worked out OK for me too.  Balls to Picasso was a step in both Bruce’s journey, and mine.

 

Sunday Special: Remembrance Day

 

Sunday Chuckle will return next week.  This Sunday, we remember the sacrifices made by those who served their countries.  For me in particular, it’s my Grandfather and his brother who fought against the Nazis in World War II that I like to remember.  As dark forces encircle the world today, let us not forget those currently serving who are keeping us free.

Here are our past stories regarding Remembrance Day, please give them a click and a read.

Thanks Grandpa Winter and Uncle Gar.  You helped make the world a better place!

“Gar” and “Sam” Winter

[Re-Post] Part 241: Halloween, KISS style!

Not really a part of the The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES, just a re-post from Record Store Tales!  Happy Halloween kiddoes!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Our annual inventory count fell on October 31.  For five years straight, I never got to dress up, hand out candy, or do anything fun on Halloween because I was too busy counting discs and CD towers!  However in the early days, this wasn’t the case.  Halloween 1996 was actually a pretty good one.

Like most malls, our mall had a few Halloween contests.  T-Rev entered the store in the Pumpkin Carving category.  He and I came up with the plan to do a Kiss pumpkin.  T-Rev, the store owner’s brother, and myself gathered in my mom’s workshop in the basement. My mom had plenty of paint, and I was good at drawing the Kiss makeup designs.  T-Rev had the idea to make the pumpkin Gene Simmons, and figured out how to make a pumpkin tongue stick out.  I must say he did an amazing job.

The first step was to spray paint the pumpkin white.  One of the guys did the cutting.  Then, I drew the Demon design with a black magic marker.  We thought the nose needed to be more three-dimensional, so I cut it out a bit.  Together, we began colouring in Gene’s makeup.  We needed something to define the eyes of Gene, and T-Rev thought of using pumpkin seeds.  We added a wig, and voila!

T-Rev propped Gene up on the magazine stand outside the store.  Immediately we started getting compliments, and the response was pretty unanimous:  We had done the best job in the entire mall.

Unfortunately, the judges didn’t base their ratings on who had done the best job.  They were only marking the results, whether the store employees did the pumpkins themselves or not!  A store that hired a professional carver won first place.  We came in second.  There was no prize for second.  T-Rev and I considered that to be cheating.  Cheatie-cheatertons.

The contest was over, and not too soon:  the pumpkin had begun to rot, as pumpkins do.  That didn’t stop a customer from coming in on November 1st and offering him $10 for it.  T-Rev accepted his gracious offer, even though the thing would be turning horrific in a day or two.  A fool and his money, right T-Rev?

By 1997, the store had moved out of the mall.  This was our last pumpkin carving contest, but at least we had the satisfaction of winning the popular vote.  As far as I’m concerned, we went out on top.  My personal consolation prize was later on, Halloween 2006.  By this time I had moved on to United Rentals.  They took Halloween very, very seriously at United Rentals!  I dressed up as Paul Stanley, and this time, I finally won first prize!

Part 255: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas [Reblog]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I thought it would be fun to re-post old  chapters of Record Store Tales that you may have missed. Enjoy this Holly-Jolly re-post!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 255: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24th.  One of our busiest days of the year.  Not the busiest though – that would often fall on the last Saturday before Christmas, on the 23rd, or our annual Boxing Day sale on the 26th.  Nearly two months of buildup and hard work, and it’s all over in what feels like a blink!

The 24th could sometimes be a fun day to work.  Not all customers were your typical cranky shopper, although we certainly saw those too.  Many of our Christmas Eve customers were simply killing time.  Some were spending their Christmas money a little bit early.  Some didn’t care what day it was, particularly those who came in to sell CDs for cash.

Yes, many people did come in to sell even on Christmas Eve.  A few were looking for credit to buy gifts, some were just looking for money to buy a Christmas dime bag.  Either way it was always a busy day, and we were kept moving on our feet.  Many dollars exchanged hands on the 24th.

I recall Christmas music was in such demand that a few years I was left with 4 or 5 Christmas CDs left in stock.  Often these would be the ones that always sat, year after year, unwanted, unsold.  As a person who’s never liked Christmas music, I could never understand the NEED to have it, just to listen to it once a year.  To me, that’s what the radio was for.  But I wasn’t there to try to analyze the wants and desires of the people.  My job was to sell them whatever crap we had left.

The 24th was a messy day.  Usually you could count on snow getting tracked in on the carpets (which were only cleaned a few weeks prior – why??).  Also, most customers could not seem to put discs back where they found them.  This was a combination of poor shelf design, customers who didn’t give a shit, parents that don’t watch their children as they tear the store apart, and people who didn’t know the alphabet.  Discs would be everywhere by the end of it all, scattered hither and yon, with no rhyme or reason as to why they were left there.

I always wore a suit and tie on Christmas Eve.  This was a tradition begun by the boss and owner in the early 1990’s, but I was the only one who carried on this tradition.  The first time we did the suits T-Rev said, “I like it, it makes me feel important!”  People do treat you a little differently when you’re wearing a tie.

After all the rushes of customers died down, we’d start hanging the signs in preparation for the big Boxing Day sale on the 26th.  Buy 3 Get 1 Free!  Or something like that.  Not good with any other special offers though, so people would have something to bitch about.  “Why can’t you stamp my card too?”  Etc. etc.

One year (’96 or ’97) after close at 6 pm, the boss told me to stay late and help him hang these signs.  They were big banners for our Boxing Day sale.  He climbed a ladder to clip these huge hanging signs from the ceiling.  I was there on the floor in my tie trying to hold the sign aloft as he worked.  Then he dropped a clip to the ground and we couldn’t see where it landed.  And apparently we didn’t have any spares.

On hands and knees I searched and searched.  We even got out a flashlight to try to find the damned thing.  No luck!  Meanwhile the clock ticked and ticked.  6:30.  6:45.  7:00.  The parking lot outside was quickly resembling a frozen ghost town, as people raced home to begin their own festivities.

Just as I found the damn clip on the ground, the phone rang.  Normally I wouldn’t answer the phone this late after close on Christmas Eve, but my boss answered, and it was my mom.

“When are you sending my son home to enjoy his Christmas Eve dinner with his family?” she chided.

“Oh I’m sorry Mrs. Ladano!” my boss responded.  “We’re almost done.  You’ll have him soon.”

I think if my mom hadn’t called, we would have been there all night hanging those stupid signs!

At home there was plenty of hot food to enjoy, as I let my body relax after a long day of serious hard work.  Thankfully I did not have to work Boxing Day, probably the longest most tiring day of the whole year.  I therefore had two whole days to relax, watch movies, and spend time with the family.

On that note, I wish all of you a Merry  Christmas.  Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, be safe and warm this season.  And most important I hope you all make it home on time and don’t have to stay late hanging signs!

 

 

#534: Klassic Kwote – “b4-4”

GETTING MORE TALE #534: Klassic Kwote – “b4-4”

Unfortunate Canadians will recall boy band b4-4 (also known as Before Four). They were a trio, had two brothers in the group, made two albums and faded away quietly.

Courtesy of former store owner (now road manager for Steve Earle) Mike Lukacs, here’s a classic quote that shoulda been in Record Store Tales:

“Back in the record store days, some people came in the store looking for these guys’ CD. One of the dudes that worked for me asked them why they wanted such garbage. ‘They are our sons’ replied the people…”

Whoops!

b44

Part 150: Smells Like Presents [Reblog]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I thought it would be fun going forward to re-post old chapters of Record Store Tales that you may have missed. Enjoy this Christmas-themed re-post!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 150:  Smells Like Presents

Our original computerized inventory system forced us to manually type in every album title ourselves.  Out of sheer boredom, often we’d shake it up a bit.  For example, just for laughs, we’d often input Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill in the system as Jagged Little Pillow.  Or whatever.

When we saw this Celine Dion Christmas album come in, somebody came up with a clever custom title for our system.  Remember that Marilyn Manson album, Smells Like Children?  Take a look at the Celine Dion album cover.  You’ll understand why we used to call this one Smells Like Presents!

Photo0942

R.I.P. Sunrise Records, Fairview mall

#528.5: Klassik Kwote of the day – “Side Project”

The Foo Fighters took a break in 2001.  Their new album, to come later as One By One, was not going well.  The band were infighting, and the album was put on hold.  Around that time, Josh Homme hooked up with his old buddy Dave Grohl and invited him to play on the new Queens of the Stone Age album.  Dave was growing wearing of frontman duties in his own band and was happy to just be a drummer again for a little while.

The resultant QOTSA album, Songs for the Deaf, was a smash hit.  Dave Grohl’s presence brought them a higher profile than before, but it was also just a flat-out kick ass record.

One of our store managers, Joe “Big Nose” was a Queens of the Stone Age fan going back to Kyuss.  Though I was not there personally when this happened, Joe likely had an internal meltdown when a customer asked:

“Hey, do you have that new side project of Dave Grohl from Foo Fighters?”

I bet there was steam coming out of Joe’s ears!

#479: Cracking the Case

DISC CRACK

GETTING MORE TALE #479: Cracking the Case

Whoever invented the DVD case, damn you.

In case you’re wondering, the dimensions of the standard DVD case are not random.  Somebody didn’t just say, “Hey!  Let’s package a round disc in an oversized rectangle!”  Since DVD was the format destined to replace the old VHS video tape, the dimensions of the case are roughly the same:  Height and width.  Only the thickness is different.  This was done to ease the transition from one format to the next.  Stores would presumably have to display their new and exciting DVD inventory on the same old shelving they already had for VHS tapes.  Makes sense from that point of view, although the cases are mostly empty space and could have been made smaller to cut costs, and waste.

When Blu-ray came along, the cases were reduced in height, slightly, to differentiate them from their DVD cousins.  It’s still mostly a waste of space.

That’s not the big gripe, though.  The issue was that some of the cases designed to hold DVDs would eventually destroy them if you put them in and out too many times.  This happened to my now long-discarded copy of the Matrix: Reloaded.

The problem with the DVD cases were the spindles or “teeth” inside the held the disc tight, by the center hole.  Remember how you had to push down to release the disc?  Either by poor design or bad tolerance issues, the act of pushing down and trying to release your disc could introduce tiny cracks around the center hole.   Like death by a thousand tiny cuts, the discs would crack further and further every time you used them.  Just like your windshield, the cracks grow.  Eventually tiny pieces of plastic would begin to flake off the middle.

At the old Record Store, we saw many DVDs that were cracked and flaking in the middle.  Customers were always pissed off when we pointed this out, and who can blame them?  They didn’t do anything wrong, they were just trying to watch a movie.  It’s not their fault that the cases they came in were so poorly designed.   Take that disc out one too many times and it’ll crack right in half.  I know because I’ve done it myself.

The traditional DVD case is a double fail.  Not only was it too big for its britches, but some would damage your precious movie inside!  That is unforgiveable.

#473: Party For Two

FLAMING TURDS

“Flaming Turds” artwork courtesy of SARCA at CAUGHT ME GAMING.  Thanks Sarca!

Welcome to the WEEK OF FLAMING TURDS!  This week we will be looking at a collection of malodorous music.  Strike a match, you’ll need it for these stinkers!  Let us begin with a story from Getting More Tale.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #473: Party For Two

I found this old diary entry. Sometimes you don’t need any commentary. So here you go!

Date: 2006/10/05
Title: GOD DAMMIT

Fuck, me. I am listening to Shania Twain.

“Party For Two” with Mark McGrath.

FUCK, ME. I am listening to Shania Twain AND Mark McGrath.

What the fuck has happened to me?

Jesus Christ. I can’t fucking believe this. I used to make fun of my buddy T-Rev who started listening to Shania Twain because his girlfriend liked them. In my case it’s not my girlfriend. She hates Shania Twain. It’s the fucking am radio at work. God damn them to hell and then may Satan skullfuck them until they bleed red scales out of the ears.

I better go put on a Testament or Anthrax CD or something. FAST.

OK fine, I’ll add some commentary.  One of the bosses at work dated Shania Twain when she was a teenager named Eilleen.  It’s true.  As far as I’m concerned, her music still stinks!

 

 

#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014 (and 2004)

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#350 The Year in Review / Top Five of 2014

Another year come and gone!  Am I older and wiser?  I think so, musically speaking anyway!  It was a great year for music (and a baffling year too, hello Scott Stapp and Phil Rudd)!  Narrowing down my favourites to a Top Five wasn’t all that difficult once I thought about it.  There were some clear contenders so it was more about sorting out the order.  I’ll save the Top Five(s) for last.

I lost two friends this year, both of whom went way too soon.  Both had moved out of town long ago (one out of the country), but we recently reconnected via social media.  Warren was the guy who helped get me started on this crazy journey of writing, being the first to publish me.  George, an old friend from childhood, helped me discover Kiss.  Both left this earth in 2014, and the world is sadder for it.  Rest in peace boys.

That aside, my proudest writing achievement was finally finishing the Record Store Tales.  I had so much fun sharing those stories over the years.  I took my time ending it; I was having a good time.  But I knew there were people who wouldn’t like it; that’s happened before.   Again I’ll apologize to the two who complained, for any offence I caused them.  These two guys were friends from the store, but neither had really expressed any support for what I was doing, and I don’t think they particularly liked it.  I never had anything bad to say about either of them, but I get that they might not like things I had to say about their friends; I totally get that.  I also get that they had different experiences at the Record Store than I did.  That’s fine.  I want to be clear that my experience was mine alone.  I cannot speak for anyone but myself.  (Interesting footnote though:  Back in Part 170, I mentioned that our accountant Jonathan used to talk about who he trusted at the store, and who he didn’t.  One of the people he never trusted was one of those two guys, because of his personal friendship with the higher-ups.  Just a footnote.)

Anyway, I don’t want to focus on the negative.  I did some rough calculations and by reckoning, the number of Record Store Tales that were negative towards the store was only about 16%.

So!  Onto the lists!  My Top Ten Favourite Record Store Tales of 2014:

Part 258: Uncle Meat
Part 264: Garbage Removal Machine
Part 265: A Nightmare on Cocknuckles Street Redux: Special Edition
Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev
Part 270: Star Trek vs. Star Wars
Part 281: People of Walmart
Part 285: Chinese Democracy
Part 289: Tom’s Frozen Beater
Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain (by Mrs. LeBrain)
Part 320: End of the Line #2 (The Last Straw)

And my of course Top Five Abums of 2014:

5. FLYING COLORSSecond Nature
4. PINK FLOYDThe Endless River
3. HELIXBastard of the Blues
2. ACE FREHLEYSpace Invader
1. JUDAS PRIESTRedeemer of Souls

As an added bonus, I also found my Top Five Albums of 2004 among my journals!  For shits n’ giggles, here is a “bonus” installment of Record Store Tales for you!  And Happy New Year to ya!

BONUS RECORD STORE TALES Part 350:
Top Five of 2004

5. BRANT BJORKLocal Angel
4. PEARL JAMLive at Benaroya Hall: October 22, 2003
3. THE KILLERSHot Fuss
2. THE HIVES – Tyrannosaurus Hives
1. MARILLIONMarbles

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Stay tuned for more Top Lists of 2014 in the days ahead!