RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#723: A Tribute to James

GETTING MORE TALE #723: A Tribute to James

Anyone who reads these pages regularly knows what I’m talking about.  Good friends who also love music are crucial to an ever-growing CD collection.  When you have friends in different parts of the world, it’s even better.  Today we’re paying tribute to one such friend who has done so much for my music collection.  That man is Regina’s own James Kalyn.

Funny thing:  I’ve never met James.  I know James through mutual friend Aaron.  (Together, James and Aaron are The KMA.)  Aaron talked about this guy who loves Sloan and music in general, and figured we would get along.  Shit got serious when Sloan started releasing limited edition fanclub live albums and boxed sets.  James would pick up three copies each time:  One for him, one for Aaron and one for myself.  Thanks to James I’m a proud owner of things like the Twice Removed box set.

In addition to Sloan vinyl, James has also acquired for me a number of Record Store Day limited editions.  Sometimes I can’t, or just can’t be bothered, to go.  James has an “in” with his local record store guy, and often knows what they’ll be carrying and how many copies.  Last year he scored me Jimmy Page & The Black Crowes’ Live at Jones Beach.  I couldn’t find one locally, but his guy had it.  A few days later, I did too, packaged with care by James.

There are few things that James failed to find for me.  As a collector, I put a limited scope on what I’m hunting for.  If there is a release with exclusive music on a physical format by an artist I collect, then I want it.  In 2016, Alice Cooper released a very limited Record Store Day single called Live From the Astroturf.  This was a single from a special concert featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper group:  Michael Bruce, Dennis Dunaway, and Neal Smith.  Sitting in for the late Glen Buxton was Ryan Roxie from Cooper’s current band.  It was heartbreaking for me, but even James couldn’t get me a copy.  Prices on Discogs were insane.  I guess I would just have to do without it.

Unexpectedly, 2018 offered a surprise:  a full album release of Live From the Astroturf!  Not just two songs, but the full set!  I collect the music more than the releases, so I would be perfectly satisfied with this.  Guess what happened?

James came through!

It wasn’t cheap.  It was $80, but James tells me “there’s stuff inside” (a poster and a 16 page booklet).  Plus the record inside will be one of 12 random colours!  “Collect all 12,” says the ad on the front.  Let’s do the math on that.

12 x $80 = …holy shit.  $960 bones!  And that’s if the random inserted vinyl colours don’t happen to be the same.  You’d blow through a thousand bucks and more trying to collect all 12!  But somebody out there has done it, I’m sure.

I haven’t opened mine yet.  I’m just going to stare at it a while.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll open it.

Thanks James.  You are truly a man among men!

Recorded October 6 2015 at Good Records, Dallas

Tracklist:

  1. Caught in a Dream
  2. Be My Lover
  3. I’m Eighteen
  4. Is It My Body
  5. No More Mr. Nice Guy
  6. Under My Wheels
  7. School’s Out
  8. Elected

2018 Good Records

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#722: Christmas Mix 2006

GETTING MORE TALE #722: Christmas Mix 2006

It took some searching, but I finally found a copy!  This is the first Christmas mix CD I ever made, back in 2006.  I didn’t start making these until I had left the Record Store.  Nobody who works retail wants to listen to Christmas music outside of work.  Once I had been gone a year, my brain and soul were freed!

As discussed in the previous Christmas Mix article, after a few years I was running short on good songs to use, so I had to repeat a few from prior years.  Several tracks from the 2006 disc made a return appearance in 2010.

Repeaters included:

1. Hawksley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Truly an incredible, family-oriented song that is a highlight of Hawkley’s excellent Christmas album, Almost a Full Moon. The 2006 CD has lots of Hawksley songs.

2. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My sister always liked this one, which sounds like early Extreme – perhaps first album era.

3. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  I leaned heavily on this one, though not a great song, just because it’s the Beatles and it’s a rarity you may not have heard.

4. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas“.  Bon Jovi have done several Christmas songs, but Jon’s solo version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” is by far the best.  Let’s face it, this is a great tune!

5. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Another one I lean on because a song about New Year’s Eve is a nice change of pace.  Plus, it’s Jim Cuddy!

6. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  I think every Christmas mix needs a kick in the nuts to keep things interesting.  Here’s the kick!

7. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  It can get a little tedious, as many joke songs are, but people know it and like it.

That’s not bad for repeat.  I’m sure Kiss have repeated more than just seven songs on their greatest hits CDs….


For creative types, the first thing you try something is often the best.  Maybe that’s the case with my line of Christmas mixes.  This first instalment is a great listen, even if you hate Christmas music and everything to do with it.  Check out the amazing songs you would have heard in 2006!

“Linus & Lucy” isn’t a Christmas song at all, but it works because Charlie Brown is associated with Christmas.  Wynton and Ellis Marsalis did an entire album dedicated to the music of Charlie Brown (Joe Cool’s Blues), but “Linus & Lucy” is the most instantly memorable.  And now, all of a sudden, you’re a kid again watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Hawsley Workman’s first appearance here is “First Snow of the Year”, a song that is much too happy for a song about snow!  It’s homey, upbeat and jovial.  Keeping things upbeat, I went for the Brian Setzer Orchestra next.  “Jingle Bells” mixes the big band style with jaw-dropping guitar as only Setzer can do.  I then chose to cool things out with “The First Nowell” by the sublime Eric Johnson.  His acoustic/electric instrumental contains just as much original music as it does traditional.  It’s wonderful.

There was a time when Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” was a rarity.  Now you hear it on the radio.  When I first had it, it was on a bonus CD within a Queen Classics/Greatest Hits box set.   (The “Green Cover”.)   Since just about everybody likes Queen (then and now) including it is a slam dunk.  It’s 80s Queen but that’s OK, isn’t it?

I used a lot of instrumental music on these Christmas mixes, which tended to come from Merry Axemas 1 and 2.  “Joy to the World” by Steve Morse is a beautiful rendition, much like the Eric Johnson track, though Steve’s is entirely electric.  Then it’s Joe Perry’s Hawaiian guitar version of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”.  You may recall that I put Elvis’ version on my 2010 CD.  Joe’s version is cool because it’s different, though not as popular around our dinner table.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, honestly, a band I don’t get.  Look, I’m a huge Savatage fan.  Massive Savatage fan.  I’ve been a fan since I was 15.  Trans-Siberian began as a spinoff of Savatage, and I was absolutely shocked when little old men and ladies would come in to the Record Store asking for them!  Trans-Siberian isn’t as “metal” as Savatage, but the bombast is all there.  They’re popular though, so I put as much Trans-Siberian on here as I could handle.  “A Star to Follow” is a pretty gothic version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.  Much better is “A Mad Russian’s Revenge”, an interpretation of Tchaikovsky.  I also threw on “The Silent Nutcracker” because it is a simple acoustic guitar instrumental, not at all like the other TSO tracks.

One of Marillion’s very best Christmas tunes is “I Saw Three Ships”, so for my debut Christmas mix, I used nothing but the best Marillion.  This is from 2001’s A Very Barry Christmas.  There is something special and unique about this band.  “I Saw Three Ships” is both true to the song, yet intrinsically Marillion.

Hawksley’s third appearance is a hat trick of perfect celebratory pop.  “Claire Fontaine” isn’t particularly seasonal, though it’s from his Christmas CD.  It’s about a girl who makes lovely decorative paper.  There’s a line about “going home for Christmas” but otherwise there is little connection.  Claire could use her paper to wrap gifts, though Hawksley uses it for writing.  “Your sheets are very smooth, I like to rub my pen across them.”  This was a selfish inclusion.  I just love this song.

“Ring Out Solstice Bells” is also a selfish inclusion, because although it is a brilliant track, nobody I knew actually liked Jethro Tull.  In fact some, like Mrs. LeBrain, are quite anti-Tull.  So who was this song for?  Me!  And I stand beneath the Christmas tree, doing my best Ian Anderson single-leg stand.

Lo, what is this I hear?  More Hawksley?  Yes, Hawksley Workman had four tracks on my Christmas CD.  That is a full one-half of his original album!  I chose “Common Cold” for the last Hawksley.  Nobody gets through the holidays without getting sick, not in my family anyway!  (Last year I had the flu.)  “Nearly OD, on Vitamin C, you’re standing in a lineup with a gift just for me.”

The disc ended with a slew of tracks I’d use again.  Cuddy, Nugent, and Bob & Doug closed the CD.  A joke song makes a good closer sometimes, so that’s why I re-used Bob & Doug in the exact same position on 2010’s CD!

I like this CD, but I today I would axe the first two Trans-Siberian tracks.  I don’t think I’d change anything else.  In fact I’m quite thrilled to hear “Linus & Lucy” again for the first time in ages.  (I’ll have to give the whole Wynton & Ellis CD a spin again.)  Hawksley is always a delight, and I used his very best Christmas songs here.  And that Jethro Tull song is brilliant; I don’t care what cynics say.

I’ll give myself a solid:

4/5 stars

 

#720: Domo Arigato

Join me for some   for the rest of this week!

GETTING MORE TALE #720: Domo Arigato

It was grade 5, and Allan Runstedtler was to blame for my first rock and roll album.

At school, I played a tape I made with three songs on it.  It was a clear blue 120 minute Scotch cassette.  “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC was first, followed by “The Mighty Quinn” by Manfred Mann.  The third might have been “Ooby Dooby” by Roy Orbison.  AC/DC was my favourite because of the chorus.  “He sounds like he has a frog in his throat!” I squealed.  We just referred to Bon Scott (we didn’t know his name) as “the guy with the frog in his throat”.  I thought the song was hilarious, and that went double for “Big Balls” since it had “Balls” in the title.

“You have to hear ‘Mr. Roboto’,” said Allan.  “It’s by a group called Styx.  But it’s not spelled like ‘sticks’.  It’s spelled S-T-Y-X.”

Cool!

I went to his house one afternoon with my trusty Fisher-Price mono tape deck.  That thing was built like a tank.  Wherever it is, it probably still works beautifully.  Allan had the Styx LP, Kilroy Was Here, featuring “Mr. Roboto” as the lead track.  He explained the concept of the story to me:  a futuristic world where rock music was outlawed.  We familiarized ourselves with the characters.  Kilroy, the protagonist, was played by someone named Dennis DeYoung.  Jonathan Chance, the secondary hero character, was Tommy Shaw.  Meanwhile the evil Dr. Righteous was portrayed by the sinister looking James Young.  We scanned the album credits and figured out who sang each song.  (The Panozzo brothers were Lt. Vanish and Col. Hyde, but we couldn’t figure out their roles in the story.)  The LP came in a deluxe gatefold, with full lyrics and pictures from the video (which we had never seen).  On the cover were the masks of two “Robotos” that reminded me of the centurions from the movie The Black Hole.

Since that time, I learned that Kilroy was a Dennis project and the other guys weren’t too happy with it.  As kids in the moment, the whole thing seemed custom built for us!  The music was (mostly) good (I’ll get to that) and there were robots and heroes and good vs. evil.  There was a story to follow along.  There was production value in the packaging.  This wasn’t just stupid rock music to us.  It seemed part of something much bigger.  At Allan’s house, I recorded the album on my tape deck, open air style.  We quietly crept upstairs while the LP side played so we wouldn’t ruin the recording with noise.  When we heard the music stop, we went back down and flipped the record.  Tiptoeing back upstairs to the sound of “Heavy Metal Poisoning” is a one-of-a-kind memory.

We poured over the liner notes.  I observed, “It’s weird that Dr. Righteous is against heavy metal music, but he’s fighting back using a heavy metal song.” The hypocrisy was not lost on Allan and I.  “Heavy Metal Poisoning” was Dr. Righteous’ message to the kids of future America.

What the devil’s goin’ on,
Why don’t you turn that music down,
You’re going deaf and that’s for sure,
But all you do is scream for more.

It was the heaviest song on the album, and at that point probably the heaviest music I ever heard in my life!   And I had a good point.  Dr. Righteous was clearly against heavy metal music, but here he was presenting his message in a heavy rock song!

I brought the tape home.  I was so excited to have some music of my own.  “I can’t wait to play my new tape for Grandma,” I said to my mom for reasons completely unknown to me.

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled,” mom deadpanned.

Even at that age, a taped copy wasn’t good enough.  I had to get the album.  The pictures, the lyrics, the liner notes…it was all necessary.  Mom took me to Zellers at the mall where I purchased my own copy, and my very first rock album.  It sat in my collection next to my beloved John Williams soundtracks.  After all, Kilroy Was Here is a soundtrack of sorts!  Only this time, the movie was in our imaginations.  Allan and I used to discuss what that movie would be like.

I memorized every word to “Mr. Roboto”, not to mention every “ooh” and “ahh”.  I sat in the basement and wrote them out on paper.  I also figured out that I didn’t like every song equally.  Allan and I were pretty much on the same page as to the good/bad songs.

My list of the “good” songs, in order from best on down:

  1. “Mr. Roboto”
  2. “Don’t Let It End (Reprise)”
  3. “Double Life”
  4. “High Time”
  5. “Cold War”
  6. “Heavy Metal Poisoning”

I never listened to any of the ballads.  We were simply not interested.  “Don’t Let It End” was nothing like the reprise version, which was essentially “Mr. Roboto” over again!  In my kid-sphere, I was oblivious to the fact that in the larger world, “Don’t Let It End” was a hit.  I just didn’t care.  Couldn’t have told you how “Haven’t We Been Here Before” or “Just Get Through This Night” went if you paid me.  For Allan and I, Kilroy Was Here just had six songs.  Well, five songs and a reprise.

Sad to say, but I temporarily “outgrew” Styx.  The “moment of clarity” was when I first heard Iron Maiden.  I tuned into heavy metal exclusively at that point, and discarded my old music.  (Which wasn’t much — just some soundtracks and a Springsteen tape.)  I remember playing the Styx album during the start of the heavy metal years, and it was suddenly too soft and pop for me.  I lost the record at some point, either in a move or at a garage sale.  I didn’t hear Kilroy again until a friend picked up a copy for me in Toronto, on CD.  I was 32.

Guess what!  I don’t mind the ballads anymore.  “Just Get Through This Night”, in particular, is outstanding.

To Allan I would like to say:  domo arigato, for getting me into Styx!

#718: Phases

GETTING MORE TALE #718:  Phases

Do you go through phases?  Perhaps you had a Hawaiian shirt phase (I did).  Maybe you had a period when you were really into crème brûlée.  It’s alright.  Don’t be ashamed.  Lets talk about different phases.

There’s always a spark.  Look back at your own phases.  Can you pinpoint something that started it?

The first time I heard Marillion was by pure chance.  A customer who liked me came in and sold three minty Marillion remasters.  (The bosses hated this customer, but he liked me because I gave him good money for his music.  The bosses thought I paid him too much and “spoiled” him so to speak.)  The three Marillion remasters he sold were  Script For A Jester’s Tear, Fugazi, and Misplaced Childhood.  Iron Tom Sharpe recommended I buy Misplaced as my first.  I spent a weekend with it and wanted more.  “Kayleigh” was absolutely immediate.  I knew it was the hit after a few verses.

A painful breakup later that year intensified my Marillion lust.  I went to their website and was astounded by what I saw:  a dozen or so exclusive albums only available online.  Some were sold out, such as Live at the Borderline.  Those that were not sold out went into my shopping cart, and showed up at my house a couple weeks later!  I even signed up for the fan club to get the free Christmas CD, and I pre-ordered their next studio album (unheard of back then).

I wasn’t done.  I wanted to track down the unavailable things.  Ebay had some and that’s how I ended up paying $300 for marillionrochester.  Only 2000 copies of it were ever made, which were sent directly to fans who donated to their 1997 American tour fund.  It’s signed and it is a holy grail item if there ever was one.  And I have it and it’s a much-loved part of my collection.

This Marillion phase also inspired a small Scottish phase.  I’m half Scottish and Marillion’s early lyrics got me interested in exploring that side of my history.  That culminated in my Rampant Lion tattoo.  I’m sure the actual Scottish guy at work, who was born and raised there, must have thought I was a wannabe.  (I probably was.)  I’m also half Italian but all I could think of for that tattoo was a bowl of spaghetti.

The shirt phase was a real thing too.  I bought a lot of shirts and not just Hawaiian.  This phase merited its own chapter:  Record Store Tales Part 249:  The Shirts.

Ugggh.

There was a Lego phase.  This was sparked inadvertently by T-Rev.  He had a giant sack of Lego from his childhood.  A lot of it was space Lego.  We spent an afternoon organising it to sell on Ebay.  He eventually got a few hundred bucks for the sack, but that afternoon of going through it all was naturally nostalgic.  So, I bought a Star Wars Lego set.  It was the Ultimate Collector Series X-Wing fighter.  Go big or go home.

It starts with one, and it just escalated from there.

The problems with collecting Lego are multiple.  Not only is it a real rabbit’s hole, but it’s just not easy to display.  When Lego gets dusty it’s a pain in the ass to clean.  Bits and pieces pop off when you dust.  And spouses tend to knock them over and try to put them back together without you noticing.  Some of those sets are just too huge to display.

My Lego collecting ended with the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 2005.  The new releases became boring after that, and the shelf space issue had peaked.  I sold almost all of it in favour of my next phase:  robots.

Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, probably more so than Lego originally was, because Transformers had an ongoing Marvel comic series keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next issue.  Transformers came back into my life in 2006, just by fiddling with a Beast Wars toy that was sitting around the office.    This phase has not really abated.  These transforming figures are more than just toys.  The high-end ones are functional pieces of art.

There were a few years of a Black Sabbath phase, where I obsessed to collect “everything” just like I did with Marillion.  I had a couple really good years of collecting Deep Purple in bursts.  The internet opened up a lot of avenues.  It was easy to get rare things like Stormbringer on CD.  You just had to be prepared to pay for it.

What about tattoos and piercings?  Were they a phase?  No — I still have one earring (left tragus) and it’s more a professional thing today.  And priorities.  My “thing” for tattooed and pierced girls must have been a phase, though.  Mrs. LeBrain has neither!  Not even her ears.

All my interests over the years have ebbed and flowed, except one:  my love of Rock and Roll.  35-odd years and we are still together.  And more in love than ever.  It’s been there for me every time.  Virtually every story on this site is associated with music.  That’s a beautiful thing.

 

#717: Only Your Nose Knows

GETTING MORE TALE #717: Only Your Nose Knows

 

Who are the most recognizable noses in music? Seriously? Who comes up with this shit?

I do! And why not? We’ve already covered the best glasses, best shoes, and best hats in rock. Let’s go for the nose.

 

5. Barbra Streisand

The mighty Barbra is one of the biggest names in entertainment. From music to movies, Barbra has conquered all stages. Her profile is one of the most famous. Her world famous nose has not held her back!

4. Geddy Lee

What do Geddy Lee and Barbra Streisand have in common? They both come from Jewish families, and both have a prominent schnoz! In fact the “Jewish nose” is an old racial stereotype, one which has actually been studied in science and literature. Geddy’s recognizable nose is loved by millions.

3. Rachel Bolan

Rachel is probably responsible for launching the nose ring trend that picked up in the late 80s. You didn’t see nose rings on rock stars back then, and certainly none with a chain connecting to their ears. Rachel Bolan was the rock and roll nose ring pioneer in 1989!

2. Michael Jackson

Few remember what his original nose looked like. We can’t get the image of that plastic surgery nightmare out of our heads.  Yet that weird, artificial construct is now iconic.  Who knew?

1. Nicko McBrain

“Old flatnose himself” has an old schoolmate named Peter Beecham to blame or thank for his profile. Beecham broke his nose in a school brawl. Nicko was “clobbered”, but it’s all good. As Nicko has said, “Look where I am now. Fuck you!”

#716: Hummer

GETTING MORE TALE #716: Hummer

Towards the end of my time at the Record Store, I saw a lot of what I call “bigwigs” floating in and out.  These well-dressed business men would be visiting with the boss to discuss wheeling and dealing.  They all had one thing in common:  they ignored the working stiff behind the counter as if he didn’t exist.

One of these guys was in one afternoon, and as he was leaving, he said “Let me go get one of my business cards from my Hummer.”

Really?

You couldn’t have just said “Let me go get one of my business cards?”  You had to add the part about your $100,000 pollution machine too?  Usually, I just say “I’ll go get it from my car.  I don’t say “It’s in my Pontiac G5, let me go get it.”  Because I don’t care and you shouldn’t either.  But some guys think they are what they drive, I guess:  big suck machines?

These kinds of people really chapped my ass, but I guess it’s very hip-hop to boast about wealth.  Not very rock and roll, but just another day at the Record Store.

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

#715: The Lost Chapters – “The First Year”

These paragraphs were chopped from Record Store Tales Part 6:  The Record Store, Year 1.  I dunno why.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #715: The Lost Chapters – “The First Year”

Ever seen High Fidelity with John Cusack?  When Cusack says, “I hired these guys to come in three days a week, and they started coming in every day.  There’s nothing I can do to stop it.”  That was us.  That me and T-Rev.  The boss man hired on Trev in the fall, two months after I started.  We worked opposite nights and opposite weekends.  We were like ships passing in the night.  We never would have gotten to be such tight friends if we didn’t keep coming into the store every freaking day!

See, as used CD store, we got in new inventory every day.  We were getting in cool shit.  I was just beginning to transfer my music collection over from cassette to CD, so I just started to upgrade and buy up old back catalogue.  I snagged You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll by Twisted Sister that year, which was a big deal to me because it was deleted at the time.  I got some Dio CDs that I never had before.  I began collecting Rush in earnest.  We had rarities too.  I got a split King’s X / Faith No More live bootleg called Kings of the Absurb which is pretty damn good.  I really got quite a few CD singles at that time too.  A few previously unknown Faith No More singles dropped into my lap.  It was crucial to come in frequently.  If you didn’t, you might miss something you were looking for.  Or something you didn’t know you were looking for.

After two months of shadowing the owner, I was working solo and loving it.  I got to pick my own music every night, within reason.  There were obscure rules.  Judas Priest was out, but Soundgarden was OK.  Anything that was a new charting release was considered OK for store play.  We were allowed to open anything to play it, as long as we didn’t abuse that.  For the first while we were even allowed to bring music from home.

That ended when I brought in a bunch of recent purchases to listen to one morning.  They included an indi band from Toronto, called Feel, formerly known as Russian Blue.  The sound was vital, and the early 90s buzz was that Toronto was going to be the next Seattle.  I was all over these bands, like Slash Puppet, Russian Blue, Attitude (later Jesus Chris), Gypsy Jayne, and the rest.

[An aside:  I caught a little flak when I took in a used copy of Slash Puppet.  “This is an indi band,” the boss complained.  “It’ll sell,” I defended myself.  “Trust me I know this band.”  I knew half a dozen customers by name that I could recommend it to.  I sold it to the first of those guys to come in, this insurance guy named Tony who loved 80s rock.  He bought it after one listen.]

The day I had my personal Feel This CD in the store player, a customer noticed it.  He thought it was cool, wanted it, and asked how much.  I had to tell him it was my own personal copy, and no I couldn’t order it in because it was an indi band.  He would have to write to the band to get a copy, and I wrote down the information inside the CD for him.

The boss thought this was kind of a silly situation, and rightfully so.  Why play music we weren’t selling and were not able to sell?  This was a store.  So that ended.  No more bringing music from home.  I guess I’m the guy who ruined it for generations of Record Store employees to come.

 

#714: Born Again

GETTING MORE TALE #714: Born Again

They probably thought I was going to hell the day I showed up on the first day of school in that Judas Priest T-shirt.  Mrs. Powers was a devout Catholic, with a judgey side to go with it.  She enjoyed publicly humiliating her “misbehaved” students.  I can only imagine what she really thought.  Here was her “A” student, and over summer holidays, he’s got himself a T-shirt that says “Judas Priest” on it.  He’s drawing pictures of guitars in art and doing his class speech on a band called Kiss.  What the devil is with that Ladano kid?

If Catholic school was ever too sedate or solemn, this was magnified 100-fold in the lenses of the 8th grade.

It was the year you made the choice of which highschool to go to.  You’d undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation.  It was their last chance to make sure you didn’t go off the rails and do something stupid, like do drugs or leave the church!

There was a weeklong Catholic retreat to an old convent in Ancaster called Mount Mary.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” said Mrs. Powers.  Holy shit!  I didn’t want to be there and it was obvious.  It was the middle of winter and every day had extensive outdoor activities, but worse, you were not allowed to bring any of your music.  No Walkmans, no tapes.  There was a radio tuned to an approved radio station in one of the activity rooms.  I didn’t know what to do, so before we left, I listened to and memorised as many Kiss songs as I could.  Double Platinum worked for my last minute Kiss cramming session.  The song I was most successful with was “Love Gun”.  I had just received a taped copy of The Elder but did not have time to investigate it much.  I had to go to Mount Mary instead.  This intrusion into the wants and desires of my musical passions kind of pissed me off.  I had to wait a week to get into The Elder.  Stupid retreat.  I was so scared of being caught with any contraband that I flushed my candy before getting on the bus.  Humming “Love Gun” in my head, we were off.

Mount Mary conjures up some real discomfort.  They were trying to teach you to be open minded about it but all I can really recall are negative feelings, and some disgusting hot chocolate.  I was isolated from everything I loved and stuck with a bunch of people who I didn’t particularly like, and felt the same towards me.  I knew this because we had to form circles and tell everybody something we liked about them.  Nobody seemed to know much about me at all.  “You like Star Wars, uhhh…and I don’t, but that’s cool.” was the most memorable.

There was a day spent outside in the snow as “hunters” and “hunted”.  I don’t remember the moral of this activity.  The hunters had wooden sticks as rifles, and my bully Steve Hartman was one of them.  The role playing had a bizarre shade of reality.  There were no explanations to us as to why people were selected for their roles.  The hunted were supposed to find some specially marked trees, but I spent most of the time just hiding in the woods from hunters and teachers alike.  There was another day including a long hike up something called “Agony Hill”.

The day we were released from Mount Mary and sent home was cold and wet.  The snow was melting, but it was just dirty slush.  My parents were supposed to pick me up when the busses arrived at the school, but I didn’t see them and vice versa, so lugged a giant heavy suitcase home through the snow.  At least when I got there, a brand new Marvel Transformers comic was waiting for me with my mail in the kitchen.  #17, “The Smelting Pool”, considered one of the best of the series.

“Well that’s over,” I said to myself.  “Now I just have to get through the rest of this school year and it’s freedom.”

That teacher just had a bad impression of me.  There was the rock and roll devilry which seemed to bring humiliating public interrogation.

“How many of you went to church this past Sunday?” she questioned the class.  “Put up your hands.”  She was determined to find out just how devout our behaviour was.  No excuses.

About half the class raised their hands.

“How many of you were there last week?”  A few more hands went up.

“And the week before?”  A couple more.  “How many have been to church in the last month?”  She noticed me, and I noticed her.  My hands were in my laps.

“MICHAEL.”  Radar locked.

“WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WENT TO CHURCH?” she boomed.

My sister dubbed it “The Hell Hole”.  The school and church are right across from each other

It had been a couple years.  Powers had her “no excuses permitted” policy regarding going to church, so I didn’t even try to explain.  (Essentially her policy was:  You are old enough to go to church on your own now, so don’t tell me your mom was sick.)  I just endured the firepower of Mrs. Powers.  What else could she do; send a note home to my parents?  If I wasn’t going to church, chances are they weren’t either.  And there was a reason for that.

It was an Easter service a couple years prior.  Good Friday mass, very busy, and the church was packed.  My dad always liked to get an aisle seat so that’s what he did on Good Friday.  That was his mistake.

My sister and I had better instincts.  We preferred to hide somewhere in the middle of the pews.  Do you know what our least favourite part of service was?  The part where you have to shake hands and greet your neighbours.  We were shy and would rather not, so we just turned to face each other.  We’d shake hands and say, “Hello sir how are you today?”  “Oh, I’m good sir and how are you?”  We’d do this for as long as we could credibly ignore the adults around us trying to shake our child hands.

On Good Friday we tucked in down the pew while dad sat on the aisle, when the Priest announced that for this special service, volunteers would come and wash your feet if you were sitting on the aisle.  John 13:34:  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”  My dad has a hard time saying no.  He kicked off his shoes and socks and politely pretended not to be hating every second.  And the family simply stopped going to church after this.  Coincidence?

Mrs. Powers, you can judge all you like.  Maybe my dad was sick of church and I was sick of your shitty school.

One of the heavy metal albums from my childhood that reminds me most of that period is Born Again, by Black Sabbath.  Boy, Powers sure would have hated those lyrics. “Good life is contradiction, because of crucifixion.” You can only imagine, if she knew what was I was hearing!

The devil and the priest can’t exist if one goes away,
It’s just like the battle of the sun and the moon and the night and day,
Force of the devil, that’s we’re all told to fear,
Watch out for religion when he gets too near, too near….

Of course Ian Gillan isn’t a satanist; he’s just a singer!  But those lyrics would have set her head on fire, if the album cover didn’t do that first.  Do we mind “Disturbing the Priest”?  The truth is, the words were inspired by the rehearsal sessions for the album.  They were receiving noise complaints from the local church.  Do we mind “Distrurbing the Priest”?  “Not at all, not at all, not in the least.”  Once you know the genesis of the song, the lyrics fall into place.  Not exactly Catholic-friendly, but certainly not evil.

Evil-sounding though?  Absolutely.  Born Again might be the most traditionally evil sounding metal album in the history of the genre.  That’s why the original mix is so important even though it sounds like the refuse of the Golgothan excremental demon.  The lack of clarity, the muddy haze, and the echoing bottomlessness of it just add to the mystique.  You should not be able to clearly hear what the singer is saying.  It should remind of you a bad hazy dream.  Hell, it’s not the lyrics that make it evil; it’s Geezer’s fuzzy bass!

This article was produced after discussions with friends and acquaintances from different faiths and backgrounds.  Some had similar experiences.  Some are still dealing with residual Catholic guilt.  We were talking old church stories, and all this stuff came flooding back.  The sitting, the kneeling, the hand-shaking…my sister and I singing “Stars” by Hear N’ Aid instead of the hymns…the good and the bad.

One of the school bully kids was killed four years after Mount Mary, riding his motorcycle to work.  I morbidly wondered what Powers thought of that; he went to Mount Mary yet he was on her dead roster.  Would she add that detail for next year’s class?

It’s obvious I still hold a lot of resentment to those school years.  I wonder if that’s why I have such a strong attachment to the heavy metal music of the era.  Let the psychoanalysis begin!

#713: End of the Road? Paul Stanley’s Voice

GETTING MORE TALE #713: End of the Road? Paul Stanley’s Voice

In 2012, before the release of the last Kiss album Monster, I wrote an editorial about Paul Stanley’s voice problems.  Thanks to the advent of Youtube, anyone can hear how rough Paul’s voice has become in the last decade.  The guy who was once one of the top singers in rock, ever, is now the worst singer in Kiss!

Curiosity in Kiss and Paul’s voice has peaked again due to the End of the Road tour.  I received some hits from a Q&A site called Quora, so I followed the address and checked out the site.  I found something very interesting, from a man named Kevin Richards, who says he was a vocal coach for Paul Stanley and others such as Rod Stewart.  His story checks out.  Mr. Richards answered a question about Paul’s current vocal state, and it was very revealing indeed.

Richards said that Paul’s vocals today are a result of health and age.  He is also trying to live up to his own image too hard.  “He is trying to maintain a stage presence from 25 years ago and doesn’t realize he isn’t in the vocal shape to do so.  He is being VERY STUBBORN in doing anything that changes what he thinks the audiences expectation of the ‘Starchild’ should be. The way he moves, the way he sings, etc.”

Paul is still great as a frontman, but to me, it’s the music that matters more, and the voice is the biggest part of that.  Richards continued, saying he “told Paul that he needs to rethink how he sings his songs because it’s not 1990 or 1984 or 1976 anymore. He had to make adjustments to his vocal delivery and rearrange the set lists to give him more space between his songs. He reluctantly agreed but again stressed the ‘needs’ of the audience. I said ‘yes, but they also have an expectation that you sound good at THEIR concert.  Bad vocal performances aren’t rumour anymore, its on Youtube the next day.'”

You have to admire Paul for wanting to give fans a level of showmanship above and beyond the call of duty, but his priorities seem mixed up.  Richards’ bottom line is that Paul is a “stubborn, aging rocker refusing to accept that he can’t perform like he’s 30 anymore.”  There is even more, so be sure to read what he had to say.

What does Paul think of the current state of his voice? “I’ve been doing a lot recently to make sure that my voice is in great form. If you want to hear me sound like I did on Kiss Alive!, then put on Kiss Alive!

“Great” form?  I’ll let you know how Paul sounds when Kiss hit Toronto in March 2019.  Can Stanley’s voice survive a whole tour?  Will there be more Gene, Eric and Tommy vocals to compensate?  We will find out at the End of the Road.