RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#599: Tagged

GETTING MORE TALE #599: Tagged

 

Let’s say you’re in a store and you need help.  Who do you ask?

There are usually three good answers to this question:

  • Look for the checkout counter and ask the person there.
  • Find a person wearing obvious store uniform/gear.
  • See if someone is wearing a “STAFF” tag.

We had “STAFF” tags in the Record Store days, as well as store shirts and hats.  Fortunately they didn’t have our names on them.  Wearing one of these was compulsory, but lots of people hated wearing the tags.  They were printed on card stock paper, laminated and punched with a hole for a lanyard.  Ugly and cheap.  They were quite large – about 5” x 7”.  They bent, frayed and ripped quite easily.

“See, they look like a backstage pass,” the boss used to say to assuage us.  They did not look like a backstage pass, except maybe for some crappy highschool band.

People hated wearing them because they made us feel like walking billboards.  The boss used to say he’d walk in the store and see the staff immediately put their tags on, because they hadn’t been wearing them.  It was true!  And some stuff refused to wear the T-shirts or hats too.  Presumably for fashion-conscious reasons.  One higher-up in particular always got a free pass on wearing tags and shirts.  I wore mine all the time, because there was nothing wrong with our staff shirts.

In fact I still have one.  My blue store sweatshirt was amazing, and it has come with me on many adventures since.  I slightly modified it after I quit the store.  I sewed on a patch for the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology (which I visited in Drumheller, Alberta), over where the store logo was embroidered in.  That didn’t fool guys like Tom, who immediately recognized the shirt from the store.  It did fool lots of other people!  “Where did you get the cool Tyrrell sweatshirt?”  I donated the rest of my old staff shirts and hats to Goodwill, but I will always keep my old “Tyrell” sweater from the Record Store.  It has a hole in it and I do not care.  I have always loved that shirt.

Regardless of comfort or style, I think there was one overwhelming reason why staff hated wearing those tags.  It’s because you’d be out working on the floor, when some goof asks, “Do you work here?”

Once I answered, “Nah, I just wear this for fun.”  Fortunately the guy got the joke.

I will say this.  Wearing a staff tag is still a hell of a lot better than an apron for flipping burgers.

 

 

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#598: “Seven”

Here’s a very special story for a very special day. September 18th is the day I met my wife! Happy “meetaversary” sweetie.

GETTING MORE TALE #598: “Seven”

When dating, there are many rites of passage on the road to a long term relationship.  For either sex, one of the usual hurdles is meeting the “best friend”.  If the best friend doesn’t like you, your whole relationship could be doomed.  It happened to me and it could happen to you!

I met Mrs. LeBrain on Sept 18 2005.  We made contact like most people these days, first online and then in person.  Meeting people online in 2005 wasn’t as mundane as it is today.  Jen had never met someone from online before.  We’ve told the tale of meeting before – from both perspectives.  Mine was Record Store Tales #111:  The Girl in the Sam Roberts Shirt.  Her version was Getting More Tale #434:  The Man in the Bob Marley Shirt.  Needless to say, music is important to both of us.

There was one thing Jen failed to do, and that was inform her best friend Lara that she was meeting someone over the internet.  She knew Lara wouldn’t approve.  Once we started dating regularly, she had to come clean.  As predicted Lara wasn’t impressed that she would go and meet some random internet dude without telling her.  She was in trouble!  And so was I, just for existing secretly!

Jen arranged a coffee meet up.  We picked up Lara and her friend Dave, and headed over to the nearest Tim Horton’s.  I was pleasantly surprised by Lara.  Jen had made her out to sound evil and dangerous.  She seemed anything but!  Funny, smart, and clearly someone who cared deeply for her best friend.  We got along immediately.

At one point in the evening, Lara asked me, “On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?”

I didn’t understand.  “Pardon?”

“On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?” she answered.

“Well, I’m a pretty easy going guy, so I’d say about a three.”  Hypothetically, of course.

Secretly, inside, Jen was worried what this meant.  She said nothing, nor did Dave.

We continued to drink our coffee and chat.  Lara liked science fiction, so we had that in common.  In Canada, sitting around a Tim Horton’s all night drinking coffee (or tea in Lara’s case) is a pretty common pastime.  My wife can really drink coffee like a champion.  If there was a Stanley Cup of Coffee, she would win it every season.

We made tentative plans for a future meet up, when suddenly –

RRRRRRRIIIIIP!

Lara reached over, grabbed my soul patch hair, the part right below my bottom lip, and YANKED HARD.  I looked wide-eyed to see my own facial hair in her fingers.

She asked again, “On a scale from one to 10, how pissed off would you be?”

My answer was immediate.  “SEVEN!  DEFINITELY SEVEN!”

And that is why to this day, all of Lara’s kids and their friends call me “Uncle Seven”.  My nickname became Seven, irreversibly and permanently.  It’s been over ten years and I’m still Uncle Seven.  In fact, here is an actual conversation that I had with her son Tyler, and his girlfriend.  It was Tyler’s 19th birthday:

Mike:  “Tyler, you’re an adult now, you don’t have to call me Uncle Seven anymore.  Just call me Mike.”

Tyler:  “OK Seven.”

Girlfriend:  “Wait…your name is Mike? I thought it was Seven.”

Mike:  “…You thought my real name was Seven?!  Who the hell would name their kids a number?!”

Girlfriend:  “There’s a girl named Eleven.”

Mike:  “Yeah!  On a TV show!  And it wasn’t her real name!!”

 

The fact that I took Lara’s little “test” as a joke meant that our friendship was solidly guaranteed.  I passed!  We’ve been tight ever since.

 

#597: This is the Painkiller

GETTING MORE TALE #597: This is the Painkiller

Two things happened in the summer of 1990 that changed my musical trajectory forever.

1. There were too many ballads out! It seemed the only thing rock bands were doing to have hits was write ballads. Some were good, such as the heartfelt “Something to Believe In” by Poison, or “More Than Words” by Extreme . Most faded into a generic, boring ballady backdrop. Remember Alias?  With all these rock bands putting out ballads, something had to give. If it wasn’t the ballads, it was limp albums with weak, over-commercial production.  I didn’t get into rock music for ballads.  I got into it for that rock and roll rush!

2. Judas Priest were currently in court, fighting two families who blamed the band for the deaths of their sons.

It was a high profile case.  Raymond Belknap and James Vance were two troubled young men who decided to take a shotgun to a park one night in 1985 and kill themselves. Both were into heavy metal music, but there was far more to the story. Abuse, drugs and alcohol certainly took their tolls on both.  James Vance survived, horrifically disfigured.

Vance stated, “I believe that alcohol and heavy-metal music such as Judas Priest led us to be mesmerized.” And so, Priest were taken to court.  (Vance did not testify, as he died in hospital in 1988 after a methadone overdose.)

The victims’ families blamed backwards messages on the band’s Stained Class album, which the two boys were listening to some time prior to the suicide attempt. Lawyers claimed there was a backwards “do it” embedded within the Judas Priest song “Better By You, Better Than Me”.

Given the fact that “do it” can mean anything from “do your homework,” to “get a gun out of the basement and shoot yourself,” that argument held little water.  In 2015, Miley Cyrus released a single called “Dooo It!”  Nobody died.

The band demonstrated in court that if you played another song backwards from the same album, you’d get a completely different message.  The chorus of “Exciter” is “Stand back for Exciter, salvation is his task.” Played backwards, Rob could heard singing what sounded like “I asked for her to get a peppermint, I asked for her to get one.”

You could tell from the look on the judge’s face that he knew the backwards messages were hooey.

Another flaw to the plaintiffs legal argument is that there is no scientific evidence that backwards messages in music can be detected by the brain and understood, let alone command you to take actions against your will.  Not to mention, as Ozzy Osbourne once observed, killing all your fans with hidden suicide messages isn’t a practical way to make a living as a musician.

That summer, the case made the newspapers daily, not to mention the evening broadcasts. It didn’t seem that Priest were likely to lose, but as a fan, I supported them vigorously. Trying to prove a point, I played the Stained Class album over and over again, without ever having the urge to get one of my father’s guns and put it in my mouth.  It was bizarre seeing television broadcasts of Rob Halford wearing a suit jacket, on the stand defending himself.  He even had to sing for the judge.  The point of this was to demonstrate how exhaling at the end of each sentence creates an audible sound.  “Better by you, better than meee-ah.”  Of course the band conducted themselves with the professionalism that the situation warranted. None of that changed the headlines. In the year 1990, the words “metal band” and “suicide” did not make for good headlines if you happened to be in one of those metal bands.  Being a fan was hard enough already, without seeing this stuff on TV after Cheers.

Arguments were wrapped and the verdict was revealed:  case dismissed.  Judas Priest resumed business as usual.

A week before school returned, Metal Edge magazine did a Priest article with loads of information on the forthcoming Judas Priest album. I bought the issue and devoured the article on my walk home.  I remember running into Trevor the future Security Guard on the way, and we flipped through the pages together.

The Metal Edge article returned the focus back to the music.  I knew that drummer Dave Holland was out, replaced by a guy named Scott Travis from Racer X. Travis was known for his speedy double bass work. The new album promised to be Priest’s heaviest yet. The trial had them seething. Songs like “Between the Hammer and the Anvil” were directly inspired by their court experience. In the interests of change and taking things heavier, long time producer Tom Allom was dropped. He was replaced by Chris Tsangarides who was an engineer on 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny.

It was clear that Judas Priest were intent on turning the ship around. 1986’s Turbo divided the fans with its synth-metal. 1988’s Ram It Down underperformed, with fans slagging the weak songs and sound in general. Ram It Down was not the “return to heavy” that the band promised and the fans craved, though it certainly did have three or four good and heavy songs. They would have to do better to reignite the weary fanbase.

Painkiller was the right album for the right time. While bands like Poison were eager to say, “Our new album is our heaviest yet,” when Priest said it, it actually meant something. Painkiller really did live up to the hype. A magazine ad claimed it was “Awesome! Backwards or forwards.”

MuchMusic debuted the new Judas Priest video “Painkiller” on a fall episode of the Pepsi Power Hour, co-hosted by Michael Wilton and Chris DeGarmo of Queensryche. They were on hand promoting their new album Empire. The Priest video was a rapid-fire assembly of black and chrome images, unholy screams, and the fastest drumming heard yet on a Priest single. When the video concluded, DeGarmo said he had to catch his breath!

I hit rewind, and watched that video over and over again.

Nobody else seemed to get it. My sister, who was a New Kids fan, hated it. She already hated Judas Priest but “Painkiller” took it to a new level. To deserve that kind of hate, Priest must have been on the right track. A lot of my school friends and rocker buddies also disliked the track, preferring the likes of Cinderella and Winger. That too was a good sign. I thought that to stay relevant, Priest needed to stay as far as away from those bands as possible. Priest chose Megadeth and Testament to open for them, both bands supporting new albums (Rust In Peace and Souls of Black). The tour began in Canada, but when they came to the UK they brought with them a band with a big future called Pantera.

The Painkiller cycle ended where it began, in Canada. The final date was on a package called Operation Rock & Roll (the name was a spoof of Operation Desert Storm).  The final date was Toronto, August 19 1991. Priest were second on the bill, following Motorhead and opening for Alice Cooper. Something strange happened that night. Rob Halford rode his Harley Davidson motorcycle on stage to start the show, but this time hit his head on a lighting rig. He was knocked out cold, while the band played the newly instrumental “Hell Bent for Leather”! Halford recovered in time for the second song, but it was Rob’s last appearance with the Priest for 13 years.  Earlier that day, Rob told MuchMusic’s Michael Williams that Priest were planning a 1992 “greatest hits” album.  This hits album would afford a nice well deserved break.

Rob didn’t plan on wasting his time, so he set to work on a new solo project, inspired by the heavy direction that metal was going on. If Painkiller was heavy, his new band Fight was even heavier. That Toronto show was the last time Rob saw his bandmates until the reunion.  The solo project led to a management dispute, and ultimately Rob’s resignation.

As Priest fractured, my own musical life blossomed, thanks to the fallout from Painkiller. Priest cracked open a heavy, iron door. Thrash bands like Testament had the metal goods that was the exact opposite of the wimpy music that I was getting sick of. Grunge came soon after, with a new kind of heavy. I ignored new releases by Enuff Z’Nuff, Trixter, Danger Danger, and even The Cult.  They weren’t going heavy like Priest did, and in some cases they went backwards. Other bands, like Skid Row, knew which way the wind was blowing and turned up the volume.

The 1990-1991 period of Priest history is one of the most interesting of their entire career. It featured a trial that could have had real freedom of speech consequences, if the verdict had gone the other way. The same time period introduced their longest serving drummer in Scott Travis, and Priest have since never recorded nor toured without him. Their music took a turn away from hard rock and back towards heavy metal, permanently. They toured with Megadeth (who were also on a roll musically), gave Pantera some exposure in Europe, and shared the stage with the legendary Alice Cooper. And it ended with a split that nobody saw coming; just one of many splits in 1992 that changed the face of metal for an entire decade.  Iron Maiden, Motley Crue, Judas Priest….

My own personal history was intertwined with Priest’s. It might be safe to say that in highschool, Judas Priest were my favourite band.  Their turn back towards heavy in 1990 changed everything for me. It was exactly what I wanted, by the exact band that I wanted to deliver it. Perfect simpatico!

#596: Arrest Warrant

GETTING MORE TALE #596: Arrest Warrant

In a spring/summer 1989 edition of the Columbia House catalogue, a brand new band appeared.  It was the first I had heard of them.  Inside, my Selection of the Month was the debut album by a glam band called Warrant.  The hype machine was soon in full force.  Warrant were the latest group out of California with the look and the hooks.

I got the debut on cassette, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The deciding factor in buying the album was a little throw-away bit of information, which was that lead singer Jani Lane played guitar (albeit acoustic).  With a three guitar lineup, I thought Warrant might be new and different so I gave them a try.

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich arrived at the house, but there were only a few good tunes on it.  Maybe about half:  “32 Pennies”, “Down Boys”, “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” and “Big Talk”.  Most of these were crammed onto the first side, leaving the second a fairly barren wasteland.

I liked the singles, but more importantly, the girl I liked also liked Warrant!  This inspired me to prematurely proclaim Warrant as my “favourite new band” of 1989.

I will always own up to my mistakes, especially musical ones.  A few months later I acquired the debut albums by Mr. Big and Badlands.  Both were better than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  Suddenly Warrant had competition in the “favourite new band” stakes.  I continued to spin Warrant, and as I did, a few more songs began to appeal.  “In the Sticks” was decent enough, but my God the title track was awful no matter how many times I played it.

Warrant had a hit album and began work on a followup.  Vertical Smile was the tentative title, a name ripped off from Blackfoot.  Soon they renamed it the equally unimaginative Cherry Pie, and even covered a Blackfoot song called “Train, Train”.

Although 1990’s Cherry Pie was undoubtedly a better album than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, after a few months I began to turn sour on the band.  The new album was very commercial, more so than the debut, with lots of ballads.  There was an uncredited vocal by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in the very intro of the record.  That rubbed me the wrong way, because it was so obvious to me, and the lack of credits would make people think it was Jani Lane.  The only song that really had legs was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was unlike Warrant’s other singles.

By the summer, Warrant were feuding with their tourmates Poison.  What really killed it for me was Warrant’s admission in a guitar magazine interview that they had two tutors who taught them how to play their own solos.  That was the last straw.  I was getting into heavier music anyway, but I had enough of Warrant.  Uncredited vocalists, feuds, guys writing solos for them…this wasn’t a band for me.  I let them go.

I never bought any studio album after Cherry Pie, which means I missed 1992’s heavy comeback, Dog Eat Dog.  When singer Jani Lane quit the band and proclaimed he wasn’t into that heavy sound at all, I felt justified.  Lane said his heart was in rootsy acoustic rock music, like John Mellencamp.  Dog Eat Dog was what the rest of the band wanted to do, and Lane went with it until he quit.  He did rejoin the following year for another heavy album called Ultraphobic, but I had long gotten off the “Train Train”.

Warrant were one band who, for this listener, failed to live up to the hype.  Have I missed out?  Is it too late to catch this train, or should I leave the station completely?

#595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

GETTING MORE TALE #595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

Sorry for the lack of musical content in this instalment of Getting More Tale, usually a series of stories about music.  In lieu of a music story, I’ll include my Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause at the end!

 


Our friend Kenner Fee has not given up the fight, so neither will we.

Kenner has Autism. And Ivy is a Black Lab. Ivy calms Kenner’s anxieties and helps him cope with school and socializing. Outside of school, the two are inseparable. At school however, Ivy isn’t allowed to be with Kenner. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says that Kenner doesn’t need a service dog. Kenner’s doctors, psychologists, therapists, parents and the Lions Foundation say otherwise.

Kenner’s parents, Craig and Amy. have been fighting with the WCDSB for over three years to get them to allow Ivy to attend school with Kenner at St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. The fight has now escalated to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, where the Fee’s have had to invest thousands of dollars into lawyers and their charges, out of pocket. While the WCDSB has, what seems to be, unlimited taxpayer resources to pay for their lawyers.

Kenner was denied his basic human right to have his service dog in class with him.  Allow me to share a little bit about what I know of Kenner, because I see quite a few people are misinformed about this situation.

Ivy is not a therapy dog, as some sources have stated.  She is a service dog, trained and matched by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.  Some bystanders have asked, “What about kids who are afraid of dogs?”  An excellent question, and I think Kenner’s supporters have offered a lot of great suggestions about that.  The truth is, if you have ever met a service dog, you know that they basically just…lay there!  That’s part of the training.  Second, having a service dog in a school would be a rare and valuable teaching experience.  I was terrified of dogs as a kid.  I’d run and they’d give chase!  Ivy would not do that, because she is a service dog.  If I had the chance to meet a dog like Ivy as a kid, it really would have helped me get over my fear of dogs earlier.

Another legitimate question has been about kids with allergies.  Supporters have suggested solutions to these problems too.  None of them are unsolvable.  I’m terribly allergic myself.  If there happens to be only one class for Kenner’s grade, make sure the classroom doesn’t have carpet flooring, and keep Kenner on the opposite side of the room as any kids with allergies.  Ensure that teachers have a supply of each child’s allergy medication — Reactine, Visine, whatever.  Why is every other child’s needs more important than Kenner’s?  Allergies are real, but so is autism.  And the results Kenner has seen because of Ivy are extraordinary.  I know a little bit more about the situation than I can talk about, but I can say this.

I’ve seen Kenner, with Ivy at his side, give an amazing speech in front of hundreds of adults.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seeing that knocked me out; he made me see what potential can be unlocked.  He’s a gifted young man.  He deserves to be able to go to school and be at his best.  The Catholic school board keeps talking about how they assess each kid on a case by case basis.  It is interesting to note that they don’t have any service dogs in any of their schools in Ontario.  A child in Burlington is currently fighting the same battle as Kenner Fee, for the same reason.  He too has autism.  I wonder if the Catholic School Board is fighting this so hard simply because it’s easier than doing the work to accommodate. Currently, the Board is denying Kenner his basic right to fulfill his potential in school.  They say he gets good grades without Ivy.  That may be true, but he is truly exceptional when he is with her.  I have seen this and  I admire the little guy.

This is an expensive fight.  A GoFundMe page has been set up.

We’re asking the public to join us in raising  funds to help the Fee’s offset a fraction of the legal expenses they’ve personally incurred throughout the Human Rights Tribunal.  Anything raised over our target amount will be donated to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, where Ivy was obtained.

Even if you can’t donate, every comment helps!  I know for a fact that Kenner is blown away by the amount of support he’s seen.  “I didn’t know so many people cared about me!” he said after a recent service dog protest.  He loves to know he has support so feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll make sure his parents get them!

#KennerAndIvy #WeStandWithKennerAndIvy #IStandWithKennerAndIvy

 


Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause

5. Triumph – “Fight the Good Fight”

4. Warrior – “Fighting for the Earth”

3. Motley Crue – “Fight for Your Rights”

2. Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”

1. Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”

 

In the top photo there is a service dog and a Party Dog.  Can you tell which is which?

 

 

#594: St. Anger

GETTING MORE TALE #594: St. Anger

As a half-Italian, part-German, part Scottish guy, I was born with a fuse.  Sometimes that fuse can go off.  Nothing makes me angrier than when my wife, who has epilepsy, is told to “fuck off” because of her need to be away from flashing lights.  We’ve written extensively about epilepsy and our experiences, good and bad.  We are very open about it, happy to answer questions and eager to educate.   So when I hear that my wife had a seizure at the mall because of flashing lights and a guy who told her to “fuck off” and “stay indoors”, I feel like I could explode!

Here’s what happened.  Our wedding anniversary is August 31.  We had a nice dinner booked at Borealis, our favourite local eatery.  Jennifer went out to the mall that afternoon to get some things we needed for the weekend.  At the Walmart checkout, there was a child with those shoes that have flashing lights in the heels.  I don’t understand the need for those shoes.  At night, sure, I get it.  In a brightly lit Walmart, they’re a hazard to people prone to seizures.  An actual hazard as real as a slippery floor.

My wife asked the closest lady if that was her child.  She said “No.”  But it actually was her child.  Jen covered her eyes as the kid danced around the checkout aisle with the flashing heels.  She asked the lady to tell her when the flashing stopped so she could uncover her eyes.  The lady said it stopped.  She opened her eyes and the kid was still dancing and the shoes were still flashing.  She covered her eyes again.  She was getting upset.  Suddenly the lady’s husband showed up out of nowhere and began berating my wife.  He told her to “mind your own business”, that she should “fuck off”, and “stay indoors” if she had a problem with the shoes.

And so, she had a seizure in the checkout.  She doesn’t remember anything after paying for her things.  She remembers telling the cashier that she was probably going to have a seizure.  The next thing she knew is that the paramedics were there and she was in an ambulance.  I will give Walmart and the mall credit for being proactive about this.  They know my wife (unfortunately from past seizures) and they have my phone number on file.  They called me immediately.

I took Jen home and she had a good rest.   We didn’t have our dinner out that night.  But we had a great dinner in, and a lovely anniversary at home.  We went out the following night instead.

Here’s the kick in the nuts.  At the exact time I got that phone call from the mall about my wife, I read the story about how our friend Kenner Fee, who has autism, will not be allowed to bring his service dog to school. It was a painful one-two punch.

The anger simmered in me.  I came home and keyboard-warriored my way around Facebook, to the ignorant trolls on the Kenner Fee threads.  I wrote a few zingers, and before I knew it, two hours had gone by.  But by the end, I wasn’t angry anymore.  It might not have been the healthiest method of anger management.

I think there are two really healthy ways to let the anger out.  They are music, and being physically active.

I like to kill two birds with one stone.  My favourite thing is to put on something fast and heavy.  Metallica works as a go-to.  Testament, even Sabbath, they all work.  Hit play, turn up the volume.  Then I just fucking thrash.  Air drums, air guitar, headbanging, whatever.  Just physically moving with the tunes.  Air drums work fantastic for this.  Lipsynching helps.  Or, sing along if you’re not too self-conscious.

“And I want my anger to be healthy” — Metallica

I remember when I was younger, there was this one girl named Tracy that I really liked.  But she just kept me hanging along for months.  One night she had a friend of hers crank call me, pretending to be somebody from my history class that liked me.  I fell for it and got crushed.  And I was pissed off.

The music that came in handy that time was Motley Crue.  “Primal Scream” might have been their heaviest tune at the time.  The lyrics were in sync too.  “You just got to scream!  And shout!  Let that mother out!”  And I believed that.  Sometimes you do have to let that mother out.

Whatever you do, do it healthy!  I recommend a solid soundtrack of heavy metal to go with it.

#593: Talk Dirty to Me

GETTING MORE TALE #593: Talk Dirty to Me

The closest “record store” when I was a young kid wasn’t a “record store” at all.  It was a now-defunct department store called Zellers.  Located at Stanley Park Mall, they were a mere 10 minute walk from home.  If we were looking for new tapes to listen to, Zellers would be the natural first stop.  It was a bit of a needle in a haystack situation because I didn’t know the names of a lot of bands or albums.  For example, there was a cool band from Japan on MuchMusic.  They had a killer heavy metal track called “Crazy Nights”, but I couldn’t remember the name of the band.  I scoured the racks at Zellers until I found what I assumed was the right group:  “Wang Chung”.  Never mind that “Wang Chung” doesn’t actually sound like a Japanese name, but what did I know at that age?  I definitely didn’t know that the name of the band was Loudness, and the album I was looking for was called Thunder In the East!  It’s a good thing I figured that out before putting Wang Chung on my Christmas list.

Bob and I spent a lot of time browsing records at Zellers just out of convenience of location.  It was there that I first saw the band known as Poison.  “They look like girls don’t they?” said Bob.  “Yeah,” I responded, secretly deciding that Rikki Rockett was the hottest.  But they were men!  That first Poison album cover turned me off the band for a time.  I considered them a sub-Motley Crue.

What finally turned me on to Poison was actually a highschool Battle of the Bands.  It seemed every highschool band learned “Talk Dirty to Me” in 1987.  The track had a vaguely old-timey rock and roll feel and that appealed to me.  It was like old Kiss.

I gradually got into Poison, by taping their videos off MuchMusic.  It is quite possible that their videos were the most action packed of the era.  They were highly choreographed, but so much fun.  There is no shame in admitting that when Bob and I got our first guitars, we were more interested in doing stage moves than playing.  Poison (and also Cinderella) were the prototypes for many of our moves.  A few guitars hit a few ceilings because of Poison.  I had to have a faux-snakeskin guitar strap, with strap locks, of course, for those over-the-shoulder-throws.

The Poison video I liked the best was a ballad called “I Won’t Forget You”.  It was tour footage from the stage and off, and it was less choreographed.  It had a guest shot by none other than Paul Stanley!  If Paul appeared on stage with Poison, then they had to be good.  Right?

It was obvious from their videos that Poison were a flashy band, bent on entertainment or death.  My musical perception wasn’t strong enough to detect that the band weren’t the greatest musicians, but they did have good songs to my ears.  Every video they made was fun and catchy as hell.  Poison were pretty easy to get into, and they were everywhere.

I didn’t buy the first album Look What the Cat Dragged In for a while, but I got the second one, Open Up and Say Ahh! for a school project.  As recalled in Getting More Tale #455: How to Make a Music Video, Bob and I decided to make our own video for “Nothin’ But A Good Time” for the school video awards.  My dad paid for the tape and it was used for the backing music.

The music video turned out great, and one day I hope to transfer it to a format you can upload to Youtube.

I’m not sure how many kids back then could have claimed they used Poison for a school project, but we did and we kicked that project’s ass!  Add Poison to the list of bands I used for school presentations and essays, including Iron Maiden, Queensryche and Judas Priest.  Poison’s music might have been vacuous, but they served their purpose.  Even today, I still get those feelings that say “I Want Action”!  Poison are intertwined with my childhood, permanently, and that’s not a terrible thing.

#592: Gene Simmons on Addiction? (GUEST SHOT by Aaron Lebold)

Please join me in welcoming back guest writer Aaron Lebold. Today he’s discussing Gene Simmons’ recent controversial comments on addiction.  This post was intended for Saturday, but as it happens, August 25 is Gene’s birthday.  So, here is Saturday’s post a little early.  Happy birthday, Gene!

GETTING MORE TALE #592: Gene Simmons on Addiction?
Guest shot by Aaron Lebold

In a recent interview with The Chicago Tribune, Gene Simmons from the band Kiss is quoted as making the following statement;

“I’ve never done drugs or alcohol, so my soul is intact.”

I have never personally been a fan of Kiss, and have always found the way they present themselves, and the way they sound to be a bit of a dichotomy. Regardless of my personal opinion, I have always done my best to remain objective. With this in mind, I find this statement to be rather ignorant.

Clearly the notion of avoiding substances is a positive thing, and the fact that he is successful in many ways and has never used any drugs, or alcohol sends a positive message. This statement however seems to fuel the stigma that people who do drugs are not as good as the rest of society. Apparently Gene thinks that people who struggle with addiction no longer have souls that are intact.

Drugs and alcohol are simply a byproduct of a bigger picture, and just because Gene has not found a place for them in his own life does not mean that he hasn’t taken other things to excess in the same manner. Everyone who has heard of Gene Simmons has also heard about the countless sexual partners he has had, and is likely aware that he will make money off just about anything.

Sexual addiction is a very real thing, and can ruin lives and relationships in the same way as drug or alcohol dependency. Of all the partners Gene has had over the years, I imagine that not all of them were single, and a lot of relationships were likely destroyed. This shows disregard for others, and selfishness in the same way that can be presented by people in addiction seeking their next fix.

I am also fairly certain that with numbers like Gene has, he didn’t always use protection. The risk of Sexually Transmitted Infections or diseases strongly mirrors that of a heroin addict who is willing to share needles. It is reckless and potentially fatal, and also runs the risk of passing them on to others unknowingly. Again, this is typical addict behavior.

When we think of addiction it is often drugs or alcohol that first come to mind, but that is only one way that this can be presented. Most addicts use substances to cope, but after a certain amount of time it becomes obvious to others, and they generally seek help. This is not always the case, but they say the first step is admitting you have a problem, and judging by Gene’s constant bragging I assume he has yet to reach that conclusion.

Just because someone is successful it doesn’t mean they are happy, money and fame will only take you so far, then like everything else in life the novelty will wear off. The amount of marketing that Gene Simmons is involved with is often comical. I generally compare him to Krusty the Clown from the TV show The Simpsons because he wears make-up and will put his name on anything if he thinks it may sell.

Money and business are also things that can be addicting. Anything that takes the focus off your life, or your own problems can overtake your reality. Does Gene Simmons really need to make a Kiss Coffin? A kiss toilet seat? These are real items for sale, and to me this indicates that Gene clearly is more focused on making money then preserving integrity.

Things are not always as they seem, just because Gene Simmons looks like he has it all, my guess is that he is just as lost as the rest of us. He even went to the extent of recently trying to patent the “devil horns” hand gesture, which was being done before he even got into music. How do you get to the point where you already have more money then you could ever spend, but still want to try and stake claim to the way others can shape their own hands?

To me that speaks of someone who is obsessed, which again is no different then someone who struggles with any other addiction. It is not my place to criticize someone I don’t know, but at the same time it isn’t his place either. The idea that he is better than anyone else because he has abstained from drugs is laughable. He clearly has no problems taking things to excess, and my guess is that if he found enjoyment in drugs he would likely have a different story.

Some people simply don’t like to alter the way they think or feel. Sometimes it is hard for them to be in a position where they have less control over what is going on their life. The fact that Gene Simmons has never used to the point of intoxication does not make him a hero, his actions have still destroyed lives and turned into an obsession. Substances just weren’t his thing, and avoiding things you don’t like isn’t exactly a heroing feat.

If you are interested in blogs about addiction and recovery, please check out my wordpress site;
aaronleboldblogs.wordpress.com

#591: My Rock and Roll Lullaby

GETTING MORE TALE #591: My Rock and Roll Lullaby

When I was a young child, I used to hum myself to sleep.  My favourite music was movie themes.  Whether it be Superman, Indiana Jones or Star Wars, soundtracks were 99% of what I liked to listen to.  And 99% of those soundtracks were John Williams.  Come bedtime, mom or dad would tuck me in, and I’d hum a favourite theme until I was asleep.

As I entered the pre-teen years, my parents bought me my first ghetto blaster.  It was a Sanyo, built solid like a Brinks truck.  The Sanyo brought music back to bed time, only now I didn’t have to hum!

By the time I had the Sanyo, I was getting in to rock and roll really seriously.  Kiss tapes were great for falling asleep to.  They were just the right length, and I loved each and every album.  Sure, you’d have to get up halfway through to flip sides (no auto-reverse on my first Sanyo), but suddenly I had a new bedtime routine.  I’d literally rock myself to sleep.

This nightly habit soon became nightly necessity.  It was hard to fall asleep without music!  If we were away from home, I’d bring a Walkman, but falling asleep with earphones on was uncomfortable to say the least.  Cheap 1980s earphones were not designed with comfort (or sound quality) in mind.

The bedtime music habit continued through highschool and into university.  Sometimes I worried, “What happens when I get married?  Is my wife going to want to fall asleep to Kiss Alive with me?”

No, no she wouldn’t.  But I did manage to start falling asleep without music.  When I got my own place, I’d stay up a little later and go to bed when I was exhausted.  If I tossed and turned, then I would throw on a CD to help me fall asleep like the old days.

Have you ever needed musical accompaniment to fall asleep?  What tunes did you like?


No, no no!

#589: Metal 101 – Learning the Basics in the Original School of Rock (Circa 1984-86)

GETTING MORE TALE #589:
Metal 101 – Learning the Basics in the Original School of Rock (Circa 1984-86)

I started getting really serious about rock and roll in the mid-80s. I was 12. Much Music had arrived. I had instant access to so many great bands. Thanks to the Power Hour, I had an hour dedicated to heavy metal every week.  I also had friends like Bob and George who were willing to let me tape things from their collections.  I started buying rock magazines.  But there was a learning curve.

Take Van Halen, for example.  All I knew of them were a couple singles from 1984.  I had seen the video for “Jump”.  I had also learned from my friends that Eddie Van Halen was the greatest guitar player alive.  Since I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, I assumed Michael Anthony was Eddie Van Halen.  I don’t know why I assumed that, except I probably liked Michael’s beard.  Bob and George corrected me, but I wondered, “How can you tell a guitar from a bass guitar?”

“A bass only has four strings”, they told me.  And you could tell the number of strings by the tuning pegs.  I got it!  Soon I was able to start piecing the rest together.  George bought a bass a few months later.  There is a local musical legend that lived on our street named Rob Szabo.  He is a very talented player, singer and songwriter.  He was starting to put together his own band, and all he needed was a bassist.  George was adamant that he was that bassist.  He decided this before he even bought a bass.  Rob was too nice a guy to tell George that they wanted someone else with more experience.  He didn’t expect George to buy a bass because of the vacancy in the band.  To his horror, that is exactly what George did.  I think he jammed with them once or twice before they let him go.  Maybe not even once.

Undeterred, George learned the instrument by playing along to records.  He put together a couple bands of his own, like Asylum and Zephyr.  His singing was shit, but his bass playing wasn’t bad at all.  He got pretty good at it.  But sadly, in our neighborhood, George might be best remembered for his attempts at singing.

George’s bedroom window was right next to our front step where I hung out a lot as a kid.  Bob and I would be up there listening to music, or even playing GI Joes on the lawn.  Sometimes we’d sit there in just listen to George.  You’d hear him put on a record, start playing along on bass, and when he got singing you’d think a cat was being tortured up there.  It was horrendous, but he seemed to have no idea how awful his singing really was.

George worked at Long John Silver’s which was about a 20 or 30 minute walk.  In the early hours of the morning, I saw George walking down the street alone with his headphones on, heading for work.  Suddenly he burst out:  “ALRIGHT! LOVE GUN!”  Then came the barely recognizable chorus of one of my favourite Kiss songs.  It was the kind of scene that you’d make sure you got on video today.  Another time, he was singing Judas Priest.  We ran into him that time and asked him what’s up?  “It’s Priest Week,” he answered.  He was only listening to Judas Priest that week, it seems.

One time George was over playing his bass, and he asked me if I knew how to pick out a bass line in a song.  I actually did, and I learned it by hearing him play bass along with his records.

Besides Kiss, Priest, and Van Halen, I was learning about bands such as Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath.  Bob had a Black Sabbath tape with a baby devil on the cover.  He brought it over one time, raving about a song called “Zero the Hero”.  We listened to it and it was cool.  I especially liked the spooky music between songs.  That was my first taste of Black Sabbath.  I knew who Ozzy Osbourne was, but I didn’t know he was in Black Sabbath before.  All I knew was the singer of Black Sabbath had long black hair and looked really evil.  Ian Gillan was my first Black Sabbath singer.

George was really cool about letting me tape his stuff, to the point that he’d bring his VCR over so I could even record his videos.  We did this on about two or three occasions, as he had quite a collection of taped videos.  I was interested in getting some more Dio.  I had heard “Holy Diver” and wanted some more, so I got the video for “The Last in Line”.  The clip was a trip to a hellish underworld of monsters and musical vigilantes.  A bit later, we got to a Black Sabbath video for “Neon Nights”.  I recognized the two moustache guys.  But who was that singer?

I timidly asked George, “Hey…did Dio ever have anything to do with Black Sabbath?”

“Yeah, that’s him.”

No way!  My brain expanded about six levels that afternoon.

Sabbath had a singer before the long black haired guy.  Unreal.  George told me that guy (Ian Gillan) was the singer from Deep Purple.  Holy shit!

A few months after that, we were in the park listening to Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette.  “That’s Ozzy singing!” shouted Bob above the music.  I simply could not believe it.  And not long after that, I was watching Much Music again when they debuted a brand new Sabbath video with yet another singer!  A bearded guy!  Some guy named Glenn Hughes?  Never heard of him before.  He had a beard and a suit.  Not really very rock and roll.  Could you imagine my reaction if I knew at that time that Glenn Hughes was also a singer in Deep Purple?

The circle was becoming complete.  This kind of trivia was like candy to me.  I ate it up, every last morsel that I could absorb.  Band “A” led me to Band “B” and Band “C” via these kinds of connections.  Ozzy even connected back to Quiet Riot, the first “metal” tape I ever bought, via original guitarist Randy Rhoads.  He was about the only guy who could rival Eddie Van Halen in the guitar stakes, according to my friends.  But there was a new up-and-comer that Much Music kept talking about, named Yngwie Malmsteen.

Much was an advantage my neighbors didn’t have.  Neither Bob, nor George, nor Rob Szabo had the channel.  I began growing and developing tastes of my own, though still heavily influenced by my friends.  On my own, I found White Wolf, Sammy Hagar, Savatage, Queensryche, Aerosmith…and Spinal Tap.

Yes, Spinal Tap.  “Hell Hole” became one of my favourite songs during the summer of ’86.  My sister liked it.  She hated her Catholic school, and as we’d drive by, she’d sing “Don’t wanna stay in this Hell Hole!”  That school was a indeed a “hell hole”.  Shitty teachers and shittier bullies who did not like heavy metal.

It’s true that the teachers gave me hell for wearing a Judas Priest T-shirt.  It is also true that we went to a retreat for a week, where music T-shirts and players were forbidden.  I have always been drawn to music since my earliest memories.  What did these teachers have against music?  I knew.  It was the old myth that these groups were “Satanic” and would drive us to all do drugs and die.  What those teachers didn’t know was that the music made me feel good without drugs.  I was even expanding my vocabulary.  Bands like Judas Priest and Black Sabbath were not simplistic with their lyrics.  I learned words such as “pyre” and “pneumatic”.  Through Iron Maiden, I was learning about literature and history.  I knew stuff that they weren’t even teaching in school, about Alexander the Great, the Gordian Knot, and the Rime of the Ancient Mariner.  How could that be bad?

Fuck ’em.  I trusted myself.  I was smart enough to know better than they did.

I look back at these early days, and I’m not surprised that it’s these bands that the core of my tastes are built around today.  Long live rock and roll.