RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#748: Lulu’s Balloons

GETTING MORE TALE #748: Lulu’s Balloons

Lulu’s Roadhouse closed in early 2000, and a sad day it was! Today, an office complex sits where Lulu’s once ruled the roost. Of course there’s the obligatory Tim Horton’s among the urban commercial wasteland that replaced it. 3000 people used to rock and roll all nite at Lulu’s, gathered around the world’s largest bar.

I saw a few great shows at Lulu’s. Without a doubt, the best was Black Sabbath with Motorhead opening. It was summer 1995, the very last tour with Tony Martin on lead vocals. We saw Neil Murray and the late Cozy Powell that night. A few years later, it was Alice Cooper. Sloan kicked ass there in 1999. Famously, Lulu’s hosted a reunited Max Webster, a legendary concert that sold out swiftly.

Motorhead played there twice. Kim Mitchell and David Wilcox were regulars. Styx, Meat Loaf and the Black Crowes played to packed houses. As the 1990s drew to a close it was clear that not all was well at Lulu’s. They courted controversy when they cancelled a Stompin’ Tom Connors concert due to poor ticket sales. Stompin’ Tom had never been cancelled in his entire career.  He was uphappy about it and the story made national news. The new anti-smoking bi-law also had an impact on Lulu’s, as concert goers didn’t want to step outside for a cigarette between bands.

Anyone living in Kitchener would hear amazing stories of the bands that played that stage at Lulu’s, the Max Webster reunion being the one I heard about the most. What I didn’t know, until recently, is what was up with those coloured balloons?

I remember sitting there with T-Rev, waiting for Sloan. Opening band The Flashing Lights finished their set and the headliners were next. There were girls walking around with balloons tied to their wrists or belts. There were different colours, but what did the balloons mean? We vaguely understood they were to help meet people, but we didn’t know the colour code.

It seems that few mysteries remain unsolved in the age of the internet. A local resident dug up an old “balloon meanings” flyer from Lulu’s and the mystery is finally answered:

  • Red balloon: available woman to dance and party
  • Blue balloon: available man for fun time
  • White balloon(s): virgin (why would you advertise that in a bar?)
  • Yellow balloon: shy person
  • Silver balloon: looking for hookup
  • Purple balloon: horny

I probably would have been a yellow looking for a red.  What would your colour have been in the year 2000?

#747.5: Girls With Guns and Friends With Records

GETTING MORE TALE #747.5: Girls With Guns and Friends With Records

If you’re keeping up on things, you know I’ve been downsizing.  When it’s stuff that I care about, I like to make sure it goes to a good home.  I gave Iron Tom his signed Iron Maiden poster back.  Some of my Lego made its way to a friend at work who has four kids.  The rest of my junk just went to Goodwill.

What to do with my rock magazines?  Ages ago, when I first got married, I gave my rock mags to an old buddy named Len.  I decided to do the same again.  Len is a massive Kiss fan, and most of my remaining magazines were Kiss.  I had some Kiss comics from the 90s in there too.  I knew he’d appreciate them.  I also had a stack of CDs to give to him; CDs that I replaced with updated versions, like Shaw-Blades.

Len popped over to pick up the magazines, bearing gifts in return!  Records, in fact.  Not just any run of the mill records either.  Rare ones.  Two of these records were on my “Holy Grail” list, once upon a time.  Wanna see what he brought?

“I know you’ve been really into Styx,” said Len.  He presented me with Tommy Shaw’s first solo album Girls With Guns!  Seven months ago, I got my first CD copy.  Now I have the LP, too.  When it rains it pours!  I’m looking forward to spinning it on vinyl, as it was originally intended.

Next:  something I’ve never even seen before.  An LP copy of 1977’s Quiet Riot I!  This is a somewhat puzzling record.  It’s definitely not an original Japanese LP, or the cover would be in colour and there wouldn’t be the notation “featuring Randy Rhoads”.  On the inner label, you’ll find the 1983 Quiet Riot logo used from Metal Health on.  Most likely, this is a bootleg LP.  The back cover has the song lyrics laid out the same as my bootleg CD.  There’s no CBS/Sony logo anywhere on the package.  Therefore, this has to be a bootleg.  Does that bother me?  No way!  This is just as interesting to me.  It will be fun to spin this one on vinyl for a change.  The first two Quiet Riot albums were the very definition of “Holy Grail” items for me, for many years!

Lastly, something I’ve never seen before:  a Judas Priest 12″ maxi-single from 1981!  This record is an official release on CBS, from Holland.  The song choices are perplexing:  older tracks from 1978 and 1979, nothing from British Steel.  “Rock Forever” and “Hell Bent for Leather” occupy side one, while the epic “Beyond the Realms of Death” takes up all of side two.

According to Discogs, this record was originally included as a bonus single with early copies of Unleashed in the East, but my copy is not one of those.  On the back it says 1981 CBS, so there is no way it was packed with Unleashed when it came out in 1979.  This copy is a later version re-released in the Netherlands, but it’s unclear why.  Anybody know?

Some cool stuff and head-scratchers here for sure!  These will be well loved in my collection.  Thanks Len!

 

#747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 148:  Navigate the Seas of the Sun

GETTING MORE TALE #747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

UFOs, life on other planets, first contact…these are subjects rarely explored in lyrics, right? If you start digging, there are actually more songs about it than you know. Make a list of songs about aliens, not human astronauts like “Space Oddity” or “Rocket Man”. (Both great tracks indeed, but not about alien intelligence.)

I also left off “Hanger 18” by Megadeth, even though the video is a landmark for aliens in rock music.  The lyrics deal mostly with Area 51, a military base, with only a few lines about aliens.  “Foreign life forms inventory, Suspended state of cryogenics.”

Do you have a favourite alien song? Check out the list below. You’ll find one alien-related subject among them that dominates the rest. Can you guess what it is?


11. Judas Priest – “Abductors”
Key lyric:  “They come at night and they infiltrate you, They paralyse and they mentally rape you.”

When Rob Halford left Priest, Glenn Tipton took over writing the lyrics. Tipton is…well, he’s not a poet. “Abductors” is at the bottom of this list because the words are just a list of metaphors for maiming someone. That the maiming is done in an alien abduction seems secondary.

10. Van Halen – “Love Walks In”
Key lyric: “Some kind of alien, Waits for the opening.”

This one has a tenuous connection with aliens at best, but I wanted to include it because it’s such a well known song. Sammy Hagar believes he has been abducted by aliens.  That alone makes this song a significant entry.  The lyric “Contact, asleep or awake,” can easily be interpreted as being about alien contact.

9. Dio – Magica (album)
Key lyric:  “Now we understand. All traces of Magica must be eliminated. Infection. Infection. Delete, delete…”

Ronnie James Dio only lived long enough to make one concept album of a planned trilogy. It was a sci-fi fantasy epic called Magica. The saga takes place on another planet called Blessing, which is visited by alien explorers centuries later. The fantasy elements are dominant, while the alien setting serves more as a bookend.

8. Fu Manchu – “King of the Road”
Key lyric: “Under forty over is UFO, Hell bent stacked in rows, The galaxy is lined with hundreds more, Small town you bet we’re sure.”

“King of the Road says you move too slow!” goes the panicked chorus.  Fu Manchu’s lyrics are usually vague, and more about setting a scene.  This one involves a chase and a repeat abduction.  “All through my head it’s happenin’ over again.”

7. Bruce Dickinson – “Abduction”
Key lyric:  “Are you the truth to sit in judgement on my sins?  Evil laser gadgets come to penetrate my skin.”

Bruce Dickinson makes them impression of a well-read science fiction fan.  “Abduction” is one of his most blatant lyrics on the subject.  He does a considerably better job of it than Judas Priest.

6. Helix – “Billy Oxygen”
Key lyric: “The ship’s landing gear was down, People started to gather round. The door slowly started to open, People were ready to listen. He said my name is Billy Oxygen, And I am the mission commander.”

Written by guitarist Brent Doerner, this Helix song was a little different than the usual rock fare.  Yes, Helix are known for writing about “Women, Whiskey & Sin”, but sometimes aliens too!  Billy Oxygen is the commander of the DS-335, and all he really wants to do is get high with some aliens.  Why not?  But he’s only got 14 days to fly!

5. Blue Oyster Cult – “Take Me Away”
Key lyric:  “Strange shapes light up the night, I’ve never seen ’em though I hope I might. Don’t ask if they are real, The men in black, their lips are sealed.”

Blue Oyster Cult get major points for singing about the men in black, long before Will Smith was doing it.  Clearly the B.O.C. guys (or at least Eric Bloom) know their conspiracy theories.  An earlier version with lyrics by Aldo Nova was called “Psycho Ward”.

4. Ace Frehley – “Remember Me”
Key lyric:  “Well I’m staring down from Venus in the dead of night, My mind is thinking back to when the world was right.”

Of course, Ace has quite a few songs about space, but they’re mostly double entendres like “Rocket Ride” (by Kiss).  “Remember Me” is a little more thoughtful.  An alien is watching from nearby Venus, a common theme from the golden age of science fiction.  He laments that Earthlings continue to wage war instead of feeding the starving.  The alien goes to Earth with a message:  make peace, or you’re not gonna last!  Very similar to Klaatu’s message in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

3. Steve Vai – “Little Green Men”
Key Lyric: “You look-a real keen, Even though you are green, With those big, large heads, Something off of the movie screen.”

Steve has a few titles about aliens, but some are instrumental. “Little Green Men” is a comical song that quotes the musical theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!  Thank you, John Williams.

2. Barstool Prophets – “Thrusters”
Key lyric: “Just as I rise to leave, I hear the old familiar sound, Of thrusters pounding atmosphere.”

There’s a loner out there in a field looking up at the sky, waiting to see something — anything.  “I have spent many nights, Staring at the sky, All the distant stars that shine, How I’ve longed to make them mine.”  Then he finally hears the sound of the ships returning.  “I knew that they’d come back for me.”

1. Blue Rodeo – “Cynthia”
Key lyric:  “And you stood in their beam of light, And they showed you the bones on the moon, Well I hope I get to go there, With you real soon.”

Here’s a real curve ball for #1.  Did you expect Blue Rodeo to be on the list?

Greg Keelor is in love with Cynthia, who tells him stories of being abducted by aliens.  “So you saw that Fire in the Sky, well I think that’s so cool,” says Greg, referencing the film.  He doesn’t think she’s crazy.  “You are nobody’s fool,” he sings.  “Cynthia” is unusually upbeat and happy song about aliens, though really it’s just about that crush of new love.  Greg’s so head over heels, he’d follow her anywhere.  “Cynthia won’t you take me to Pyramid Lake with you.  We could watch the space ships, Maybe they’d take us on a trip, To that never ending sky.”  Incidentally, Pyramid Lake is near Jasper, Alberta, and lakes are common areas for UFO sightings.  One wonders if “Cynthia” is based on a real person that Greg may have met.


At least six of these songs are about being abducted by aliens, using the word “abducted” in a broad sense, even if the person goes willingly.  “King of the Road” is open to interpretation.  Ace Frehley’s is surprisingly one of the more thoughtful songs, with its classic message of “make love not war” brought by an alien intelligence.

It’s Blue Rodeo who have the best tune about aliens.  By framing it in a love story and using vibrant lyrics, “Cynthia” is the winner.

 

#746: Deepest Purple

A prequel to #462:  The Deep Purple Project

GETTING MORE TALE #746: Deepest Purple

Black Sabbath appeared on my radar before Deep Purple did.  Perhaps the first true “heavy metal” album I ever heard was Born Again.  Best friend Bob owned it; he raved about a song called “Zero the Hero”.  He was on to something.  Even though his cassette copy was murky and muddy, the chorus rose above.

What you gonna be what you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Don’t you wanna be don’t you wanna be brother – Zero the Hero,
When you gonna be when you gonna be brother – Zero the Hero,
Impossibility, impissibolity mother – really a hero.

It was the first Black Sabbath I ever heard.  I didn’t know they had any other singers until one day I was sitting in the basement, recording videos off next door neighbour George.  One that I had selected to record was called “Neon Nights” by Black Sabbath.  By then, I knew enough to know that Black Sabbath had a “moustache guy” on guitar.  I was surprised to see a doppelganger on bass, but the singer kinda looked familiar.

I casually asked George, “Did Black Sabbath ever have anything to do with Ronnie James Dio?”

“Yeah, he was their singer!” he told me.  My world expanded that day.  It would be longer still before I had the chance to hear any original Sabbath with Ozzy.

I was picking up so much musical information from the neighbour kids.  I was intrigued by bands like Kiss, who had many lineups and sounds to go with it.  Clearly, Black Sabbath was one of those bands too.  “Neon Nights” didn’t sound much like “Zero the Hero”.

I sought to learn all I could about rock and roll.  When I had accumulated enough knowledge (barely), I made a little heavy metal trivia game.  I will never forget one question in particular:

Q: What do Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie James Dio, and the lead singer from Deep Purple have in common?

A: They were all in Black Sabbath.

There are two things amusing about that.  1) I didn’t even know his name, and 2) “the” lead singer of Deep Purple!  Hah!  Finding out about David Coverdale?  That was a whole other story!

I made sure I learned his name quickly.  Ian Gillan was recognisable because of his long black hair often obscuring his face.  But I wasn’t ready to delve into Deep Purple yet.  The easiest (and cheapest) way for me to discover new music was by watching the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic: two hours a week of all kinds of hard rock.  But Purple didn’t get much play.  Much didn’t have any clips of them in the 1970s, and in fact only had two Purple videos to run:  “Perfect Strangers” and “Knocking at Your Back Door“.  They weren’t exactly frequent flyers, so my exposure to Deep Purple took a lot of time to unfold.

Black Sabbath may have been my gateway to Deep Purple, but Purple eventually became an obsession that surpassed them.  In fact I used to go by the online name “Purpendicular”, named for one of their best albums.  I was known as “Purp” for so long that it became a bit of a phenomenon online in Canada and the UK when “Purp Ate My Balls” T-shirts were actually made for sale.  Most were in the UK.  This is an actual, true story!  A handful of people still call me “Purp”.

 

When people know you as “Purpendicular”, you better be a serious fan.  And I am.  I love Deep Purple.  I don’t think anyone can touch them for sheer integrity.

I floated through highschool without hearing a lot of Purple.  Much acquired a few more videos:  “Bad Attitude” and “Hush”.  They did not get played often.  I only caught “Bad Attitude” once or twice.  There was little interest in the band, it seemed.  Magazines announced that Ian Gillan had quit at the time of the Nobody’s Perfect album.  About a year later came the news that they hired on former Rainbow singer Joe Lynn Turner.

It took some time, but eventually Purple returned with new music.  I happened to have the radio on one afternoon in late 1990 when Q-107 debuted a brand new song called “The Cut Runs Deep”.

“At first it doesn’t sound like Purple,” said the DJ, “but then Jon Lord comes in with that Hammond organ!”

I hit “record” on the tape deck.

The Earth moved.  What a song.  What power!  And speed!  Rewind, hit “play” and listen again.  It was 5:42 of full-steam rock, with the kind of playing that makes the genre awesome.  Purple were heavier than I expected.  My ears were beginning to open.

I asked a friend at school named Andy about the new album.  Turns out, his brother had it.

“Is it heavy?” I queried.

He chuckled in bemusement.  “Heavier than Ian Gillan?  No.  No.”

I tried not to be crushed.

“It’s still good,” he added.

If it wasn’t for my sudden new interest in Led Zeppelin, that might have been the start of my Purple obsession.  Instead, I spent a year or so discovering Robert Plant, Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones and John Bonham.  To make matters even more congested, I soon found Queen, and began buying up old Black Sabbath albums too.

Finally, in the mid 90s, it was time to focus.  Once I had Deep Purple properly in the crosshairs, I commenced collecting.

My first doesn’t really count.  It was Purple’s latest, Slaves and Masters, their only album with Joe Lynn Turner.  It doesn’t count because it was just a taped copy.  Back when you could still rent CDs, I borrowed a copy from a video store up in Kincardine Ontario.  I put it in my boombox and began recording.  I remember my dad listening in on the last track, the epic “Wicked Ways”.  He asked who the band was.

“They are more of a musician’s band, aren’t they,” he remarked.  Yes!  Exactly.  My dad wasn’t into rock music, but he could hear that quality musicianship.  They were far and above the average rock band.

Slaves and Masters is a brilliant album, and although a full third of it is ballads, it’s hard not to like.  There are a lot of good songs on there.  So what if they are ballads?  “The Cut Runs Deep” and “Wicked Ways” more than made up for the lighter material.

Then:  two hits compilations.  Knocking At Your Back Door (a new release of 80s material) and Deepest Purple (all 70s).  This gave me plenty to absorb in a short period of time.  The most important song from this pair was “Child in Time”.  It appeared in live form on Knocking At Your Back Door and Ian Gillan was still in good enough vocal shape to do it.  I loved both versions.  When I played it in my bedroom, my sister could hear it through the door.  I played it so often that she gave it a name.  She called it the “Ahh Ahh Ahh” song.

Next:  Perfect Strangers.  A rewarding album in the long term.  Took a few spins to get there.

By 1993, Deep Purple got Ian Gillan back for another kick at the can.  The classic Mk II lineup was intact:  Richie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Ian Paice, Jon Lord, and Roger Glover.  They did a so-so album called The Battle Rages On…, and it really did rage on.  As I learned more about the band, I discovered that even though they were all intelligent, schooled musicians, they fought like children!  This reunion was not built to last, though it was my next Deep Purple album.

I certainly didn’t expect Blackmore to quit.  And I didn’t even know about it.

The mid 90s were a bit of a black hole for metal information.  Few magazines were covering classic rock bands anymore.  I didn’t know that Blackmore quit until their live album, Come Hell or High Water, was out.  I found out from the liner notes!

The internet was in its infancy, but I did some digging and found out that Purple were playing live with a new guitar player.  Could you believe it?  Joe Satriani temped with them!, but he was already gone! They were on to a new guy.  The review that I read said specifically that the new guy “looked a lot like Steve Morse”.

Well shit!

Steve Morse was a legend in his own time!  I knew him by reputation only.  And I was really intrigued by this news.

I had to special order the new Deep Purple with Morse from the US.  It was 1995 and I was working at the Record Store.  You couldn’t even get it in Canada yet.  That’s how bad it was for rock bands in the 90s.  But I did get it, paying $24.99 for the import.  Purpendicular arrived one Tuesday afternoon.  T-Rev was working when it came in.  “I hope you don’t mind, but I played a little bit of your Deep Purple.  It wasn’t sealed when it came.  It sounds pretty good.”

He apologised for playing it but there was no need.  I thought it was cool that he was interested.  Turns out, he liked that album a lot and ended up buying a copy himself!

Indeed, Purpendicular is a special album.  There is magic in those grooves.  Maybe it was the freedom of working without the yoke of Blackmore.  Perhaps it was the rejuvenation of Steve Morse.  It was probably both and much more, but what happened with Purpendicular has never been repeated.  No matter how many good albums they have done since (and there have been several, including four with Don Airey replacing the late Jon Lord), none have had the…I hate to use this cliche over again, but…none have had the magic that Purpendicular has.  It’s impossible to put into words, but easy to hear for yourself.

I mean, I friggin’ named myself after that album!  There are T-shirts with my face on them that say “Purp Ate My Balls”.  That’s dedication, pal!

 

#745: Lost Things, Found Again

GETTING MORE TALE #745: Lost Things, Found Again

When you accumulate as much stuff as I have over the years, it’s no wonder things get tucked away in a box and eventually forgotten.  I’ve been doing a massive purge/reorganisation.  A huge undertaking.  Many hours logged, and many many things ejected from the house.

I accidentally donated our cable remote to the Goodwill store.  Whoops.  New remote should be here by Wednesday.  Sorry, Jen.

Some things were put into storage, but a lot was flat-out given away because I ain’t got time to sell all this stuff.

My personal goal through this is to completely re-file all my music.  Right now, the many thousands of CDs I own are in a weird sort of limbo.  Some are filed alphabetically (by band; and then chronologically by album), but many have spilled into my computer room.  They sit in huge unsorted piles; stacks of newer purchases and recently reviewed albums.  When I’m done I want them all organised and accessible again.  Something to show off, and something to use as a properly filed library.

But I’ll tell ya, it ain’t easy.  I have doner’s regret over a lot of the movies I ditched a couple weeks ago.  Some of the items I boxed up for storage are notable by their absences too.  I miss having my Star Wars guys hanging around me.

Emptying out some boxes, however, revealed numerous treasures that I had forgotten I owned.  A sealed tin of Star Trek Uno cards.  Three sealed sets of “The Making of Star Trek: The Next Generation” cards — two “gold”, one “platinum” edition.  My rubber Spock ears that came right from Vulcan, Alberta!  I’m going to open some of the cards.  May as well enjoy them, after all these years.

I also found the last of my missing video tapes…and the key to unlocking them all.

Stuffed into my box of treasured comic books, I found my meticulously kept, nearly completely intact VHS directory.

The original was hand-written, in pencil.  The last was typed out in IBM Writing Assistant 1.0.  It looks like I noted every single thing I recorded, with some additional details like the year.  All my video tapes were numbered, and these pages use the same numbering system.  At least one page is torn out, but this is a huge discovery.  I should be able to locate with ease anything I remember having on tape!

I obviously want to keep many of these things as surprises for you.  I don’t want to spoil everything that’s coming.  Here are a few pages to whet the appetite.  Everything that’s allowed will eventually be uploaded and posted right here.

Among the missing video tapes was the very first one, with that sticker of #1 still on the spine.

This tape has a funny history, much of which was deleted when I wrote up my video directory.  Tape #1 wasn’t my tape — it was the “family tape”, until I hijacked it about a year later for myself.  As such, it has a lot of weird stuff taped on it.   The tape began in 1984, with my sister’s Madonna and Glenn Frey videos.  “Material Girl” is the very first thing on Tape #1.  My mom’s 20 Minute Workout.  Boy, I used to get teased by my friends for that being on tape.  “Sure, it’s your mom’s!  Then why is Iron Maiden on the same tape!”  There’s a Transformers episode (“A Plague of Insecticons”) and all my earliest music videos.  My mom and dad also taped a movie on here called Nate and Hayes, however after many years of them not watching it, I decided to erase it.  Over that, I taped two longer MuchMusic specials:  “Rock and Roll all Nite” (Kiss) and “Capitol Punishment” (Iron Maiden) some time in 1988.

There’s not much on Tape #1 that I will be able to show you.  “Thor popping hot water bottle” is good, but the Maiden and Kiss specials will probably be blocked by Youtube copyrights unless I heavily edit them.

The special thing about Tape #1, to me, is that it shows all the earliest heavy metal songs and bands that I heard, almost in the order I heard them.  With very few exceptions like Quiet Riot, recording these videos happened before I owned any of the albums.

Among my first true loves:  Triumph, Kiss, Helix, W.A.S.P., Twisted Sister, Iron Maiden, Van Halen, Judas Priest, Motley Crue, and Queensryche.  Originally the last song on this tape was “Queen of the Reich”, but a couple years later I wanted to make sure I used up all the tape, and squeezed on three more videos.

So sad to let old things go, but so glad to have hung up to the important stuff.

 

#744: A Poison-ous List

GETTING MORE TALE #744: A Poison-ous List

Over 30 years of being a band, and yet Poison only have a handful of albums!  We won’t get into the whys and wherefores, for they are many.  In terms of studio music, Poison have:

  • 6 full studio albums
  • 2 live albums with about an EP’s worth of new songs
  • 1 covers album

That’s it.  There are more live records and greatest hits, but Poison don’t have much music to show for such a long time in the business.

Naturally, anybody with an opinion has their own list of worst-to-first Poison albums.  The only thing special about mine is my conviction that I’m right and everybody else is wrong!

 

 

#9:  Hollyweird 2002

Poison’s last album of original songs was not a letdown at all.  To be disappointed, you have to have expectations.  I don’t think anybody expected much out of Poison in 2002.  This dull, bland album had no hits for a good reason.  Was Bret saving his best material for his solo career?

#8:  Power to the People 2000

Part live, part studio, this album should be included as it was the first new Poison material with C.C. Deville in a decade.  Shame that the studio songs are largely forgettable.  All but “I Hate Every Bone in Your Body but Mine”, sung by an autotuned C.C., which you’ll wish you could forget.  Nobody asked for this, nor the live guitar and drum solos.  In concert, Poison need to play long solos so Bret Michaels can take his insulin.  On album, there is no excuse for including such boring solos.

#7:  Swallow This Live  1991

This album is plagued by the same problem as Power to the People:  horribly long live solos that should have been omitted.  At least the studio side was decent.  There were two pretty good songs, and one excellent single called “So Tell Me Why”.  Possibly their best single, actually.  Unfortunately you had to wade through 2 CDs of crap to get to it.

#6:  Poison’d!  2007

Kinda sad that Poison’s last album was a covers album over 10 years ago.  Still, it was a surprisingly good covers album.  Just delete the Walmart bonus track “SexyBack” and you’re all set for nothing’ but a good time.  Incidentally this is the easiest place to find Poison’s first recorded cover, “Rock and Roll all Nite”!

#5:  Crack A Smile…And More!  2000

In 1994, Poison began working on their first album with new guitarist Blues Saraceno.  It sat unreleased for another six years.  When it finally came out, it was beefed up with two new B-sides, the cool and unfinished “Crack A Smile” demo, an old B-side with C.C., and four songs from MTV Unplugged (also with C.C.).  Hence the “And More!” tag in the title.  Saraceno is a wiz on the guitar, and with Poison he wrote some cool songs.  Just not enough for such a long album.  There’s a bit of filler on Crack A Smile, but for guitar playing it’s one of their best.

#4:  Look What the Cat Dragged In  1986

I know, I know, it’s their “classic” debut, right?  But it ain’t produced so good, and there’s some filler in those grooves.  The singles, however, are all great, with “Cry Tough” joining “So Tell Me Why” as one of their all-time best.  Poison had an adorable rawness and party attitude, but like many bands they got better as they went.

#3:  Open Up and Say…Ahh!  1988

This is when Poison really started getting good.  By my measure, this album only has one filler song, “Bad to Be Good”.  There’s actually some stunning material here, including non-singles like “Love On the Rocks”.  It has the big ballad (and only one ballad!) as well as the unforgettable “Nothing But a Good Time“.  Open Up and Say…Ahh! is definitely the best of Poison’s “party rock” albums.

#2:  Flesh & Blood 1990

A lot of people consider this to be Poison’s best, and while that argument can be made, I just can’t get past “Poor Boy Blues”.  That song is so awful it leaves a limburger-like aftertaste.  (It’s even worse when it’s extended on Swallow This Live.)  “Unskinny Bop” is painfully dumb, a fact we recognized back in 1990.  It didn’t fit the more mature sound Poison were going for with new producer Bruce Fairbairn.  “Why is this song the single?” we asked each other, as we discovered way better material buried inside.  “Valley of Lost Souls”, “Sacrifice”, and “Life Loves a Tragedy” were never singles but certainly catalogue highlights.  Flesh & Blood also boasts two of their best ballads, “Something to Believe In” and “Life Goes On”.  It’s a tough album to beat.

#1:  Native Tongue 1993

But Native Tongue does surpass Flesh & Blood,  thanks to the supernatural talents of Mr. Richie Kotzen.  On paper, it was a slam dunk.  Poison were never taken seriously as musicians, but with Kotzen, suddenly that bar was raised.  That tone!  Earthy and hot.  He was a shredder, and a soulful singer/songwriter.  He dominated Native Tongue.  Unfortunately the personalities didn’t mesh (or so we will word it).  It was a weird fit, but it resulted in a very special album.  Most of the songs are clearly Richie’s, with Bret Michaels singing.  (It’s possible that Richie played other instruments as well, but we’ll leave that to speculation.)  Kotzen brought to Poison a real soulful bent that they simply didn’t have without him, although they sure did try on Flesh & Blood.  His raspy voice didn’t hurt.  The good time rock isn’t gone either, though there’s less of it.  “Ride Child Ride”, “Strike Up the Band” and “Seven Days Over You” are as fun as the old days, but with a richer more musical palette.  Poison also went heavier than ever before.  “Scream” and “Bring it Home” groove harder than anything before or after.  Perhaps this album should be disqualified from the list as it’s more a Kotzen record with Poison as his backing band?  Nope, it’s my list and this is #1.

#743: A Shout-Out to Sean Kelly

GETTING MORE TALE #743: A Shout-Out to Sean Kelly

When it’s warranted, I like to use the Getting More Tale banner to include tributes to helpful individuals.  This goes as far back as Record Store Tales.  These chapters are mini-stories wrapped in a thank-you…or vice-versa.

So let’s go back to the beginning for a moment.  Ever since I first launched this site in 2012, I’ve been talking about my insanely cool VHS library and how badly I wanted to show it to you.  Now I’m doing that (as you’re all painfully aware by the lack of review content), and it has been enjoyable, rewarding work!  Long hours, but well spent.  Reliving old memories, hearing forgotten songs, and seeing those MuchMusic VJ faces from ages past…watching these old tapes is something I try to do a little bit every day.

But I’m not doing this just for me.  If I was just looking for “hits” or “views” I would just make endless lists of things.  That seems to be the kind of content people click these days.  I’m doing this for history, both personal and general.  I think these old rock star interviews and clips are historically interesting.  For you, and for posterity, I think it’s important to get the details as right as possible.  I can usually nail down a rough date of recording, and the names of all the people involved.

Usually.  This is where Sean Kelly comes in.

Sean Kelly is the Canadian axeman behind Metal On Ice (the book and album).  He’s currently playing with Lee Aaron, Trapper, and I can’t keep track of them all!  I have his #1 Classical Guitar Album.  He has been a regular on Helix CDs over the past decade.  He’s played with Nelly Furtado, and of course his own band Crash Kelly!  Superdekes interviewed him last year, and there’s no question:  the guy knows his rock!  (According to the Superdekes interview, Sean and I have something in common:  the first rock album we bought was Metal Health by Quiet Riot.)

As I’ve been going through my tapes, I’ve been taking screen shots (like these below) to tease social media.  Sometimes I’ll post a challenge:  “Name all the people in the picture”.  Sean Kelly has a 100% score!

Yeah that’s right.  Sean Kelly has yet to get any wrong, and I’ve posted some challenging ones.  Only Uncle Meat has come close to Mr. Kelly.  (Meat is at about a 99% or so.)

But where Mr. Kelly has helped me out was identifying some of the MuchMusic personalities.  As I said, I want to get the details of these videos right for historical purposes.  Any time I needed help figuring out who the interviewer was, Sean knew it, and usually got it within five minutes!  And it’s funny too.  The names “Ziggy Lorenc” and “Lance Chilton” were on the tip of my tongue, but he just knew them right away.

I guess that’s why he’s the professional!

The guy is a virtual encyclopedia of rock.  He identified some of the artists just by the instruments they were wielding.  He’s also a super talented player and writer, and a helpful friendly chap too!

I really appreciate Sean’s assistance getting the details for the VHS Archives right.  Check out the track I currently cannot get enough of: Trapper’s cover of “Illégal” by Corbeau. Trapper is a supergroup consisting of Emm Gryner, Frank Gryner and Tim Timleck. This song rocks! Enjoy.

 

#742: Returning the Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #742: Returning the Rock

There’s a recurring theme in fiction that I like a lot. It’s the idea that you have to return an object back to its origin point.  The One Ring had to be returned to the fires of Mordor where it was made.  Or the recovery of Luke’s lightsaber and its journey back to Skywalker.  Roger’s golden turd returning to his anus in order to destroy it.

Countless years ago, Iron Tom Sharpe gave me a tremendous gift.  You’ve seen it here before; the giant Iron Maiden “Holy Smoke” poster signed by all five members.  It was mounted and hung here in LeBrain HQ for over a decade.  Tom just didn’t have room for it anymore.  He gave me a bunch of his posters, but that was the crown jewel.

Now the times have changed and I’m the one who doesn’t have room.  This week, I removed at least 20 full bags of possessions from my place and we’re still going strong with lots to go.  Tom sent me a message.  “What’s with losing your possessions, are you going Buddhist?”  Hah!  No man, it’s just physics.  You can only store so much stuff in a condo.  “Do you still have that old Maiden poster?” he asked.  I thought about it, and then it hit me.  I knew what I had to do.

I had to return the Maiden poster to its originator.  Tom picked it up, and it is back where it should be.  I like to think of it as I was storing it for him the last 15 years.  I like the poetry of that.

Well, I’d better get back at it.  This place isn’t going to clean itself!

#741: Homework

GETTING MORE TALE #741: Homework

Teachers and counsellors used to tell us it was OK to listen to music when you’re studying, but don’t play things you like so much that you find it distracting.  Nothing you love too much, nor anything you hate.

That was always a problem for me as a kid.  I loved music!  Then and now.

There were always a few albums that hadn’t clicked with me.  In 1992 I was studying for exams, and I chose Mr. Bungle’s debut to do it.  I was also working with the belief that listening to more complex music got your brain juices flowing even better.  I had my method for studying, and I really don’t think music had much impact.  I just remember choosing Mr. Bundgle for the reason that it was complex, and I didn’t get it.

When I was younger, in highschool, I remember listening to a lot of different things while studying.  I had a vinyl phase in early 1988.  I was 30 years ahead of the hipsters.  My sister and I had discovered B-sides in the singles rack at the local Zellers store.  Def Leppard’s “Ride Into the Sun” was playing in store, and my ears perked up.  I knew it was Leppard, but I never heard that song before!  Another single I purchased at that time was Triumph’s “Let The Light (Shine On Me)”.  Rik Emmett played it a few weeks earlier live and acoustic on the Power Hour.  The single got quite a few spins while I was doing my homework that winter.

For some reason, Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind was also on the turntable a lot while studying that year.  I may have purchased the record off Bob, because I am sure I got it from him.  There were a couple songs I played repeatedly.  One was “Still Life” and the other was “Sun and Steel”.  At that age, Bob and I thought we could really sing like Bruce Dickinson if we worked hard enough at it.  Those were two songs I was practising at the time!

Listening to music while studying seemed to work for me, but I will admit to one distraction.

Do you remember when Wayne’s World came out on home video?  The first releases came with a free pair of Wayne’s World drum sticks.  My sister bought the video and got the sticks.  However, I would frequently steal them and claim that I needed them to study.  It wasn’t untrue.  A lot of the time, I would pound out a beat on the bed while I was memorising names, dates and events.  However, other times I was just playing a solo.  Probably most of the time!

One could argue that drumming on the bed eventually led to my degree.

Hey, the teachers and counsellors also told us to take breaks from studying.  Sometimes mine were the length of a song…or several!

 

#740: Things I Wish I Recorded, But Didn’t

GETTING MORE TALE #740: Things I Wish I Recorded, But Didn’t

Regrets? I’ve had a few. I think I have a pretty cool collection of videos, but at the same time, there are tons of things I wish I’d taped.  I remember them all clear as a bell, but have no way of showing you.  Instead, you can only read about these bizarre MuchMusic events.  Fortunately, I have a really good memory.

Here are the things I wished I recorded but didn’t.

1. Randy Bachman on MuchMusic – Canadian Federal Election 1993

Much had a unique idea to get young people engaged with voting. They brought in music stars to interview the politicians that were running for Prime Minister in 1993. Additionally, they didn’t talk to just the “big three” parties, but invited plenty of second and third tier candidates as well. 14 candidates in total.

Neil Peart from Rush interviewed the eventual winner, Jean Chrétien of the Liberal party. I have that on tape. What I don’t have on tape is the schmuck they stuck poor Randy Bachman with!

Bachman did the best he could, but the candidate was really flakey and wouldn’t stop mentioning how his platform was all on a floppy disc.  Get the floppy disc and read the full platform!  He gave one to Randy, which was utterly pointless.  Poor Bachman and the Floppy Disc Guy!

2. Vanilla Ice interviewed by Natalie Richard 1991

Totally out of my wheelhouse.  Turned out to be pretty funny.  Vanilla Ice was on his way out. This interview did not help. Natalie asked him “Where do you fit in the stratosphere of music today?” His answer was to laugh and say, “Wow, that question went right over my head, I don’t even know what that means!”

3. Daniel Richler hosting the Power Hour 1987

Daniel Richler is the adopted son of the famous author Mordecai Richler. I grew up with his dad’s books, so I was thrilled when he got to host the Pepsi Power Hour one time in ’87. I said at the time it was the best episode they ever did. I loved all the songs (not always the case with an hour long show) and recorded five of the videos.

Unfortunately, I didn’t record Daniel’s segments between the songs, which was a shame. The guy was hilarious and I remember he did one entire segment with the camera upside down. I tended to record only music and interviews to save tape.

4. Living Colour with Michael Williams 1988

They had a Living Colour contest. All you had to do was guess the number of braids in Corey Glover’s hair! He shook his hair around for the cameras. It didn’t help with counting, but it was funny and cool!

5. Thelonious Monster 1989

I’m not particularly a fan of the punk rock pioneers, but I was intrigued when they played a song live at the Much studios called “Sammy Hagar Weekend”. “He actually liked the song!” said the Monster. “That’s how dumb he is. He didn’t know we were making fun of him.” One of those moments I wish I had recorded.

6. Lemmy and Philthy Phil

Motorhead were too scary for young me! But they were funny. I wish I had this one on tape. “What do you think this is, a holiday?!”

7. The Def Leppard Pepsi jacket

Finally, not just a video I wish I had, but also an article of clothing.

It was the Hysteria era, and MuchMusic were giving away a hell of a prize. I wanted it so badly. All I got on tape was the address to enter the contest, and a very brief grainy view of the Def Leppard jacket.  It was a white jacket, unlike any I’d ever seen before. It came fully equipped with a speaker system built into the jacket! You could walk around, play your music and have it coming right from your body. The jacket also came fully stocked with a Walkman and all the Def Leppard albums on cassette.

I really, really wanted that jacket, but even some video footage of it would be cool today. I pictured myself walking around in my Leppard jacket, with “Pour Some Sugar On Me” coming from somewhere in my chest. How could the ladies possibly resist?