RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale

#752: Chip Away the Stone

GETTING MORE TALE #752: Chip Away the Stone

I didn’t have any childhood friends who were into Aerosmith.  I had to get into them on my own.

Well, that might not be entirely true.  Next door neighbour George may have been into them, but the rest of us ignored Aerosmith because they were “the band with the singer with the weird lips”.  They weren’t “metal” enough to be in my wheelhouse at that young age.  There wasn’t much Aerosmith being played on MuchMusic in the early 80s.  Maybe “Lightning Strikes”, but that was about it.  The music video with the greasers didn’t appeal to us metal kids.  The Joe Perry Project didn’t do it for us either.  The video with the pink saxophone?  (“Black Velvet Pants”.)  Not metal enough!  We were strict metal heads as kids, and pink saxophones were not metal.

What was it that finally caught my Aero-attention?  Joe Perry’s plexiglas guitar.

This all seems silly from an adult perspective, but we were just kids.  We loved metal, not just for the music but also that all-important image.  Videos were so important to us.  A band not only had to sound cool, but they had to look it.  Aerosmith didn’t look cool to us, with the tights and the lips.  That changed in early ’86.

Ironically enough the video was called “Let the Music Do the Talking”.  It was and is a killer song.  I didn’t know, or care about its history as a song by the Joe Perry Project.  What caught my eye was that guitar.  A transparent guitar?  I’d never seen anything like that before.  My best friend Bob and I were obsessed with unusual guitars.

“I have to tape this and show it to Bob,” I said.

The video itself was pretty cool.  A group of bootleggers snuck a camera into a concert to make their own video.  It was a glimpse at an adult activity we’d yet to experience: the live concert.  “Let the Music Do the Talking” made concerts look just as cool as we imagined they would be.  There was even a twist ending.  And like that, Aerosmith began to chip away the walls around me.  Once they got me to pay attention, I was loving the song!  Sure it wasn’t “metal”, but it was fast and rocked hard.  The singer may have looked kind of weird, but the guitar player was cool as hell!  I’d never seen anyone use a slide before.  Watching Joe Perry hammering away at that clear guitar gave me a million new air guitar moves.

What came next was “Walk This Way” with Run DMC, Permanent Vacation and mainstream recognition.  Before long everybody was into Aerosmith (again).  “Angel” came out when I was really into ballads, and it was a fantastic ballad.  On a kid’s allowance, I wasn’t able to get the album for many years, but Aerosmith were still on my radar.

Only a year after Permanent Vacation came the song that I grew to love the most.  What came out a year after Permanent Vacation, you may be asking?

Many people didn’t catch the 1988 release of Gems.  It was on their former record label Columbia and didn’t get a lot of notice.  What Gems had wasn’t a new song, just an obscure one dusted off:  “Chip Away the Stone”.

Written by Richie Supa, “Chip Away the Stone” is one of a few hit songs the guitarist gave to Aerosmith.  Others like “Amazing” might be more well-know, but “Chip Away” is special.  When the music video hit in late ’88, Supa was featured in it via archival footage (look for the guy with the moustache).  If anyone knew “Chip Away” in ’88 prior to Gems, it would have been through their album Live! Bootleg.  The studio version was only available on a rare single!  If you were a kid living in Kitchener in the late 80s, good luck finding it, or even knowing it existed.  For us, and the majority of fans, “Chip Away the Stone” was a brand new song.

I was getting into piano in rock songs around this time too.  “Chip Away the Stone” had just a hint of boogie-woogie and it hit the right chords for me.  Even though I was expanding my musical horizons slowly but surely, the music video still had a huge impact.  Considering it was made up of old live footage, it was surprisingly well edited, fresh and cutting-edge.  The shots of the piano were spliced to look like somebody was playing on one super-long piano keyboard.  I assumed it was Richie Supa playing piano:  the credits are unclear.  Either way, that video got me deeper into Aerosmith.  Way deeper.

Today my two favourite songs are “Chip Away the Stone” and “Let the Music Do the Talking”.  I have plenty of others — “Seasons of Whither”, “F.I.N.E.”, “Draw the Line” — but those first two just stick with me.  Part of that is nostalgia, but the other is that they are just great fucking songs.

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#751: Can I Get a Witness?

GETTING MORE TALE #751: Can I Get a Witness?

I owe the Jehovah’s Witnesses a debt of gratitude.  I developed my cat-like stealthy ninja skills thanks to them.  I was able to take this talent into the Record Store a decade later.  How?  Read on.

If you’re not familiar, Jehovah’s Witnesses travel the streets of everyday neighborhoods, going door to door to preach the word.  They have a little magazine called the Watchtower that they distribute.  Every kid in my day was taught “don’t answer the door if a Jehovah’s Witness comes knocking.”  You could see them walking down the street, in formal wear, usually in pairs.  I would hide behind furniture and watch them through the window.  You could see them ring a doorbell, get no answer, and move onto the next house.  That’s how you’d know.  Sometimes we’d even phone neighbor friends.  “Jehovahs are coming down the street! Don’t answer the door!”

It’s not that Jehovah’s Witnesses are bad people.  Prince was a Jehovah’s Witness.  It’s just that nobody really likes an uninvited religious sermon in their homes.  As kids it wasn’t a good idea to open the door to strangers anyway.  And I had some good hiding places to watch for them.  Our big front bay window didn’t offer much cover, but I could spy from other strategic places.  I’d sneak downstairs silently, and get a closer look at their faces through the blinds.  Once, I think I was spotted.  If they rang the doorbell more than once, I assumed I’d been noticed and took deeper cover.

This worked like a charm, until one day I let my guard down.  It was my OAC “Grade 13” year.  I was working on a major project and I needed an audio recording.  I called up my buddy Bob to come over for an hour and help.  He said, “Sure no problem.  I’ll be there in an hour or two.”

An hour later the doorbell rang, and I ran down the stairs excitedly.  I was able to leap an entire staircase in one jump.  I loudly hit the main floor and ran to the door.  Opening it, I saw a kindly little old man in a blue suit and hat.  It was not Bob and I instantly regretted my haste.  It was my first Jehovah’s Witness.

I smiled and let the man speak, but after a few minutes I had to stop him.  “I’m sorry but I’m in the middle of a school project.  I really have to go.”

The man was fine with this.  “Education is very important,” he said, “I’ll come back another time.”

“Sure, sure,” I said, “Have a nice day.”

I got back to my project, but the next week, the old guy came back.  This time my dad answered the door.

“Is the young man available?” asked the Jehovah’s Witness.  I don’t know exactly what my dad said to him, but he never came back again.  I actually felt bad.  He was a nice man, and I’m sure my dad let him have it with a few F-bombs!

Clearly, my method of ninja-like avoidance and surveillance was superior.  I never rushed to answer the door in haste again.

Now, how does this all relate to the Record Store?  Well, I’ll tell ya.

Yours Truly

As discussed in Record Store Tales Part 190: The Early Bird Drops the Discs, I hated when people would bang on the door before we were open.  It wasn’t like our hours were a mystery.  There’s one store in town, Orange Monkey Music, that doesn’t really have posted hours.  It was a day to day mystery.  Whenever they showed up, they’d open.  Some days they wouldn’t open at all.  Not us!  It was the same schedule every week, posted on our front door for easy reference.  It was also on our website.

I’m not sure why some people felt entitled to get in the store before we were open.  I’ve never presumed that a store should let me in just because I was there 10 minutes early.  If I’m there 10 minutes early, that’s my 10 minutes to kill.  It’s not some store employee’s responsibility to let me in because I showed up before the posted hours.

Every Record Store employee had to show up 15 minutes before opening.  This allowed us to vacuum and set up for the day.  If I showed up earlier than 15 minutes, it was because I was the manager and had other things I wanted to get done before opening.  I didn’t get paid for being there early so there was no way I was opening early.

Sometimes I’d be in the back room looking at inventory, when I’d hear banging on the door.  Maybe it would be a boss who forgot their keys, or maybe it would be a customer.  Using my Jehovah-honed ninja skills, I’d skulk behind counters and displays so I could get a clear look.  If it was indeed a customer, they’d usually be carrying a bag of crappy CDs to sell.  Early morning booze money!  I’d stay hidden until they fucked off, then I’d get back to work.  Ninja skills:  maxed out!

The owner of course would let people in early, even though it was me who had to serve them and not him.  I remember one time, local weather man Dave MacDonald showed up early.  The boss let him in well before opening; they seemed to know each other.  But because he was in, that meant everybody else was welcome too.  And I wasn’t even supposed to be on duty yet.  Fuck me, right?  I hated when he let people in early.  Another effect of this was, if you do someone a favour once, they expect it next time.  “The owner lets me in early…”

I’d like to thank every Jehovah’s Witness who ever took a stroll down my street.  You taught me skills you didn’t even know!

 

#750: KISS II

GETTING MORE TALE #750:  KISS II

Kiss frontman Paul Stanley seems emboldened by the monumental success of their End of the Road tour.  Why “emboldened”?  Because they’re pulling it off with only half the original band.  Ace Frehley has not shown up to sing “Shock Me” and Peter Criss seems happily retired.  Tommy Thayer and Eric Singer remain in the greasepaint and the spotlight.  It’s proof that the majority of the masses don’t know or don’t care who is in a band anymore.  The “fans” who refer to Thayer and Singer as “scabs” have had no impact on ticket sales with their boycotts.

Many bands have toured successfully in recent years without key members.  AC/DC made headlines by replacing Brian Johnson with Axl Rose.  Deep Purple are going strong with only one original member.  Queen sell out with Adam Lambert taking Freddie Mercury’s place on stage, and bring home terrific reviews to prove it.  Kiss too are doing just fine.

Would they be able to do it with even fewer original members?  Like, say, none?  Paul Stanley thinks so.  He’s said so before and recently he raised the idea again:

“I think that Kiss has served a huge purpose and brings incredible joy to people on the End Of The Road tour. The shows are packed, and not only with the early followers of the band, but people who have heard the legend of what this band does live. And it’s something that’s more than music. It really is a preaching of self-empowerment and the idea that anything that you’re willing to work hard for, you can probably attain. And the idea of celebrating life. Things that may seem simplistic or overtly simplistic, but actually have a timeless depth to them. So when bands continue, ultimately the people in ’em need to change or have to, because of circumstances.

“So that’s a long explanation for me feeling that I would have an enormous amount of pride in knowing that we can continue the band once I’m not there anymore.  That would be the ultimate test of its credibility and the role, I think, that it serves.

“I didn’t invent the wheel. I am the product of all the people who I looked up to, all the musicians who I respected, and it was kind of like a stew, and then I added my own ingredients to it. But there are other people who are out there who wouldn’t necessarily imitate me any more than I imitated my heroes. But there are people out there, I’m sure, who are well equipped to pick up the flag and run with it.”

Paul is correct to say that bands must sometimes change out of necessity.  He is actually the best proof of this.  Paul cannot sing anymore and has been miming a huge percentage of his lead vocals on this tour.  We won’t go down that rabbit hole this time.  Suffice to say, if this wasn’t the End of the Road, Paul couldn’t really continue singing lead in Kiss.

But replacing him?  That’s a whole other bowl of Cheerios.

The idea of Kiss going on without Paul and Gene – let’s call the hypothetical band “Kiss II” – would certainly cross a line with me.  Bands with one or two original members is one thing.  Many bands have replacement members far more important than the originals.  Phil Collen is a key member of Def Leppard, vastly more so than his predecessor Pete Willis.  Same with Roger Glover and Ian Gillan in Deep Purple.  Adrian Smith in Iron Maiden.  The list goes on and on.

Could a Kiss II be a viable prospect with Eric Singer the longest serving member?  With Tommy Thayer as band leader?

No.  Paul and Gene control Kiss.  The other guys have just been hired guns ever since the originals left.  Kiss may have started as four guys, but for the last few decades it’s the vision of just two.  (In the 80s, just one, as Gene went Hollywood.)  You could imagine Paul and Gene controlling a Kiss II band from behind the scenes, but that is a hollow prospect.  Imagine Stanley and Simmons discussing new costumes and approving setlists for a Kiss II tour without them.  Would you pay to see that?

I wouldn’t.

Kiss have already gone down in history, many times, for their accomplishments.  Making the band immortal with all parts replaceable might also be historic, but not in a good way.  There are guys out there who can sing better than Paul, and play better than Gene.  Tribute bands have all the moves down pat.  But you can go see a tribute band for $10.  Kiss II would be, in essence, an “official” tribute band and with Paul and Gene behind the scenes they’d be charging a hell of a lot more than $10 per ticket.

I think Paul has lost perspective.  Kiss has been successful, against the odds, in replacing Peter Criss and Ace Frehley.  But there was precedent for that.  Kiss made fantastic albums without either.  That doesn’t mean you can remove Paul or Gene from the picture and still call it Kiss.  Paul and Gene have always been the ones with the drive and the vision.  They are not so easy to replace.  Can you picture some replacement guy imitating Paul’s stage raps?  There might have been a brief window in the late 80s when Kiss could have gone on without Gene, only Paul, since he had become the captain of the ship for a while.  However that ship sailed long ago and it’s all but impossible to imagine the band without them both.

No, Kiss II is a lousy idea.  It’s just a way to milk naïve fans in this era of hologram and nostalgia tours.  Would they sell tickets?  Sure, they’d sell some.  These hologram tours are proof that people will pay to see anything.  Would it be good?  Hell, no!

 

#749: Do You Wanna Get Rocked? (Def Leppard Box Set Volume Two announcement)

GETTING MORE TALE #749: Do You Wanna Get Rocked?
Def Leppard Box Set Volume Two announcement

In October of 2017 I was contacted by a gentleman who is involved with box set releases.  A long time reader, he said!  Flattery will get you everywhere with me.  He was working on an interesting box set project, and he asked for a favour.

Normally I say “no” to any request to share music from my personal collection.  This, however, was different.  For historical interest, he asked me if he could have the 11 official live songs that Def Leppard released in 2000 and 2001.  These were offered for free from the official Def Leppard website at that time.  Rare stuff like “Demolition Man” and “Paper Sun”.   They disappeared online shortly after.  None of these versions have been released anywhere else…until now.

Coming June 21 2019 is the Def Leppard box set called Volume Two.  Included in the set are seven of these tracks, from my own personal collection!  The band themselves didn’t have them anymore, but fortunately I did.  They selected the ones they wanted on the upcoming box set.

I’m told I’ll be thanked in the credits.  This is an absolute thrill for me — the biggest release I’ve ever been thanked in.  (See Brent Doerner for the other “thank you”.)

Since then I’ve chatted on and off with the gentleman about all sorts of upcoming releases, and wishful thinking.  I’m pleased to report that there are some people out there involved with these box sets who still have the passion for the music.  He too has the fire!  For that reason I had to send him the songs.  Now almost two years later they’ll be released officially again, this time permanently.  I’m proud to be a part of that.  Like he said, it’s historical.  Hystoria!

The songs of mine that are included are:

  • “Bringing On the Heartbreak”, “Switch 625” & “Miss You In a Heartbeat” from Montreal
  • “Demolition Man” from Denver
  • “When Love & Hate Collide”, “Paper Sun” and “Goodbye” from Tokyo

 

See below for the full track list from this incredible box set.  Pre-order yours today.

CD ONE – ADRENALIZE

Let’s Get Rocked
Heaven Is
Make Love Like A Man
Tonight
White Lightning
Stand Up (Kick Love into Motion)
Personal Property
Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad?
I Wanna Touch U
Tear It Down

CD TWO – RETRO ACTIVE

Desert Song
Fractured Love
Action
Two Steps Behind (Acoustic Version)
She’s Too Tough
Miss You in A Heartbeat
Only After Dark
Ride into The Sun
From the Inside
Ring of Fire
I Wanna Be Your Hero
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Electric Version)
Two Steps Behind (Electric Version)

CD THREE – SLANG

Truth?
Turn to Dust
Slang
All I Want Is Everything
Work It Out
Breathe A Sigh
Deliver Me
Gift of Flesh
Blood Runs Cold
Where Does Love Go When It Dies
Pearl of Euphoria

CD FOUR – EUPHORIA

Demolition Man
Promises
Back in Your Face
Goodbye
All Night
Paper Sun
It’s Only Love
21st Century Sha La La La Girl
To Be Alive
Disintegrate
Guilty
Day After Day
Kings of Oblivion

CD FIVE – RARITIES VOL 2

Tonight (Demo Version 2)
When Love and Hate Collide (Original Demo)
From the Inside – B-Side
Two Steps Behind (Acoustic) – B-Side
She’s Too Tough (Joe’s Demo) – B-Side
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Phil’s Demo) -B-Side
Tonight (Acoustic – Sun Studios Version) – B-Side
S.M.C. – B-Side
Hysteria (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Photograph (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Pour Some Sugar on Me (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)
Let’s Get Rocked (In the Club in Your Face – Bonn)

CD SIX – RARITIES VOL 3

Armageddon It (Live in Singapore)
Two Steps Behind (Live in Singapore)
From the Inside (Live in Singapore)
Animal (Live in Singapore)
When Love and Hate Collide (Live in Singapore)
Pour Some Sugar on Me (Live in Singapore)
When Love and Hate Collide – B-Side
Can’t Keep Away from The Flame – B-Side
Truth – Original Version
Move with Me Slowly – B-Side
Work It Out (Original Demo Version) – B-Side

CD SEVEN – RARITIES VOL 4

Bringin’ On the Heartbreak (Live in Montreal)
Switch 625 (Live in Montreal)
Miss You in A Heartbeat (Live in Montreal)
Work It Out (Live in Montreal)
Deliver Me (Live in Montreal)
When Saturday Comes – B-Side
Jimmy’s Theme – B-Side
Burnout – B-Side
Immortal – B-Side
World Collide – B-Side
I Am Your Child – bonus track
Demolition Man – Denver
When Love and Hate Collide – Tokyo
Paper Sun – Tokyo
Goodbye – Tokyo

 

#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.