VHS Archives #106: On the Tour Bus with Varga (1994 Power 30)

Varga were on the cutting edge of combining heavy metal music with the burgeoning industrial scene. Teresa Roncon of the Power 30 caught up with the band in Buffalo, on their bus. Looks like there was a bit of a party going on, but in the back of the bus was a makeshift recording studio where the guys were assembling ideas for album #2.  “Heavy and exploratory” was the promise!

Meet Varga & Ugly Kid Joe’s manager Dennis, and find out just how to get on a tour bus. A little bit of live footage is within, and the always likeable guys request a few tunes.

Sunday Screening: Mew mew, ma na na na (FUBAR II)

Found this on my laptop.  My favourite scene from FUBAR II.  I recorded this years ago and it still makes me laugh.

 

Tim, Marco and Meat list the Top 5 Closing Tracks of All Time

Tim Durling from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions, and his fellow Contrarian, Marco D’Auria, were the special guests on this week’s LeBrain Train and they absolutely nailed their lists!  The topic:  Top 5 Album Closers of All Time.  This was probably a more challenging set of lists than Album Openers was.  There was very little crossover, but many excellent selections from the mainstream to the obscure.

Insightful and entertaining banter abound.  Watch the show to the end to get the “bonus tracks”:  the runners-up that were just as exciting as the songs that made our lists.  Another bonus:  Our picks for worst album closer of all time!

Thanks Tim and Marco for spending your time with Eric and I tonight.  We had a blast.  Let’s do it again!


 

Top 5 Album Closers with Tim and Marco

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and the Meat Man

Episode 84 – Cinco De List-O: Top 5 Album Closers with Tim and Marco

A couple weeks ago, the LeBrain Train charted the Top 5 opening tracks of all time.  (Thanks to Harrison Kopp for your participation in that episode!)  That set of lists inspired Tim from Tim’s Vinyl Confessions to suggest a logical followup — Top 5 closing tracks!

The Meat Man and I decided to invite Tim and his fellow Contrarian, Marco D’Auria, to go up against the two of us for this list show.  (Sorry Harrison, but you will be back soon!)  We have not talked to Marco since March so we have a lot to catch up on.  We’ll ask him for an update on his film project about the band Mystique, and congratulate Tim for fully funding his book Unspooled:  An Adventure in 8-Tracks!

 

Friday October 15, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.

#947: Last Of Our Kind

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 80:  The Darkness

 

RECORD STORE TALES #947: Last Of Our Kind

By the time that I decided “enough with the bullshit” and quit the Record Store at the end of 2005, The Darkness were truly one of my favourite bands.

The band’s newest album One Way Ticket To Hell…and Back was really resonating with me.  It was the kind of triumphant rock that felt appropriate as I started my new life, post-store.  Uplifting.  Carefree.  Nostalgic.  I had a Darkness shirt with their logo in silver scroll.  I was downloading rare live tracks from Limewire and buying imported singles.  All the stuff that properly qualifies a person as a “fan”, but with the additional emotional kick that this was “my” band.  I didn’t know anyone else who liked them.  Well, there was one.  I had just met Jen, my future wife.  In her CD collection was a copy of Permission to Land.

Two weeks after quitting the store I was back in the workforce.  I had what I wanted:  a boring job!  There were several days straight of just make photocopies.  Nobody to talk to, and with the clanky-clank of the copying drowning me out, I passed the time by singing.  Specifically, I sang my favourite Darkness tunes.

The most attractive tunes have the biggest and most bombastic choruses it seems.  Huge drum fills, big multi-layered vocals, and all the trimmings.  Songs like “Dinner Lady Arms”.

I used to be able to come close to hitting the notes. Just approximating the correct intonation, because who the fuck cared? Nobody could hear me.

Also on the playlist:  “Hazel Eyes”, “One Way Ticket”, “Growing On Me”, “Givin’ Up”, and “Friday Night”.

I made a Darkness “Greatest Hits” CD with all those tracks, a bunch of great B-sides, and couple bootleg live tracks.  The best of which was a ragged live take of “Givin’ Up”, sadly now lost.  That’s the problem with downloads.  In the golden glow of memory, it was the best version of the song ever!

Sadly, the Darkness were hitting a rough patch.  Justin Hawkins went to rehab to clean up, and then quit the band afterwards.  In shock, the band looked inward to new bassist Richie Edwards (who replaced original Frankie Poullain).  His surprisingly powerful rasp was perfect for a new start.  They reconfigured themselves as the heavier Stone Gods, while Justin launched his new band Hot Leg.  In this battle, Hot Leg sounded more like the Darkness, while the Stone Gods had a stronger album in hand.

Lineup changes continued to ensue.  Original Darkness drummer Ed Graham left the Stone Gods due to ill health, and was replaced by Robin Goodridge, formerly of Bush.  This left guitarist Dan Hawkins as the only Stone Gods member that had been in the Darkness.  Regardless, they managed to record a second, more stripped down album.  This second album was never released, because suddenly in 2011, the original lineup of the Darkness was back!

The comeback album Hot Cakes returned the band to their classic sound.  Most importantly, it was only the first in a series of great albums, the best of which might be 2015’s Last of Our Kind. The title track of which is the most quintessentially “Darkness” of any song they have released since their debut.  The music video features Justin Hawkins at his most Freddie, and a new drummer:  Rufus Tiger Taylor, son of Queen’s Roger.  Talk about rock royalty!

Not to ignore the important contributions of Emily Dolan Davies, who played drums on the album and in the music video for “Open Fire”.  As an in-demand session drummer, Davies was praised by Justin as having “revitalized” the band with her hard-hitting style.  Since her departure, Rufus has held down the drum stool on Pinewood Smile, Easter is Cancelled and the forthcoming Motorheart.

That’s right.  The Darkness have a new album coming.  They may or may not have doomed us to a long pandemic with the prophetic Easter is Cancelled, but they sure are going to rock us anyway.

Long live The Darkness!

VHS Archives #105: The Sandbox Wake (1999)

MuchMusic ran this Sandbox special shortly after the band announced their sad demise at the end of the 1990s.  Since every cloud has its silver lining, we can be glad that guitarist Mike Smith found greater success as Bubbles from the Trailer Park Boys.  This collection of interviews and live clips was run on the MuchEast program as “The Sandbox Wake”.

This memorial covers the band’s early days, writing terrible songs, improving, eventually getting signed and then onwards to the second LP.  The clips cover 1995-1997.  Graceland, The Junos, the East Coast Music Awards, concert footage…it’s here in this motherlode of Sandbox on MuchEast.

 

Sandbox:  Jason Archibald, Mike Smith, Paul Murray, Scott MacFarlane, Troy Shanks.

VHS Archives #104: MuchMusic ads for the Pepsi Power Hour, Springsteen, Michael Jackson, U2 and GN’R

Here’s a grab bag of ads from MuchMusic from 1988 and 1992. They are:

  • A bumper for the Pepsi Power Hour (Molten Mondays!) featuring Metal Tim (the blonde guy).
  • Bruce Springsteen’s “only televised concert ever”!
  • Guns N’ Roses Live at the Ritz on the Miller Big Ticket, a legendary concert.
  • Michael Jackson’s Dangerous tour
  • U2’s Zoo TV tour.

A fun little collection of ads that bring back the memories.

#946: Novel 30 Year-Old CD Packaging

RECORD STORE TALES #946: 30 Year-Old Novel CD Packaging

It’s not every day that I run into a CD packaging design that is new to me.  From all sorts of digipacks, to variations on the classic jewel case, to the SACD and DVD Audio, I thought I had seen it all.  Today I found one that is new to me.  It belongs to a CD single by the Scottish band Gun, from their first album Taking on the World.  That dates the single to over 30 years ago, so it’s surprising I haven’t seen anything like it before.

This is how it happened.  I was looking for a specific Metallica single (“The Unnamed Feeling”) to begin completing my St. Anger collection.  (I still need the Australian version with unique Australian live tracks, and an annoying version with a remix on it.)  Because I don’t like to buy just one thing, I checked other discs that the seller was offering.  I chose a 1994 Jackyl single for “Push Comes to Shove”, and the Gun single.  It was the title track from Taking on the World, a brilliant song itself, backed by a 12″ mix of their other big single “Better Days” and a non-album cover of Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe a Word”.  The singles arrived in the mail last week and now I’m getting around to listening.

The Gun single comes in a regular thin cardboard sleeve, like many typical CD singles.  Here’s where it gets interesting.  I popped out the disc, and what should I find inside?  Not the usual 5″ single, no.  This is a 3″ single, much less common.

I have seen 3″ singles come in four different kinds of cases before.

1. Simple 3″ cardboard sleeve, like this copy of Queen’s First E.P.

2. 3″ Jewel case, like Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” 2021 release.  (Click here to see a version of the same jewel case, but sold with a blank 3″ CDr.)

3. This unusual white plastic stickered case, from Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”.

4. Finally and least interestingly…just a regular 5″ CD single jewel case.

The Gun CD, released on A&M Records in 1990, is now the fifth storage system I’m found for the 3″ disc.  From inside the regular 5″ cardboard sleeve came a 3″ CD attached to a white plastic tray.  I have never seen one like it before.  It is specifically designed to hold 3″ discs, and has a three-pronged center to grasp the CD securely.

Isn’t it fascinating that after almost four decades of collecting music over different formats, that I just found a packaging design that I’ve never encountered in my travels?  I spent 12 years in a used CD store and this is the first 3″ white plastic tray I’ve ever seen.  Thank you Discogs!

VIDEO: Max the Axe – Oktoberfest Cheer (2021)

Today is the last day for Oktoberfest…but “Oktoberfest Cheer” goes on and on!

From the new EP Oktoberbest Cheer, written by Mike Koutis, here is the video for “Oktoberfest Cheer”.  Have a schnitzel on a bun and a frosty cold one, and get your copy at Encore Records in Kitchener, or by dropping us a line here.

  • Mike Koutis – guitar
  • Eric Litwiller – lead vocals
  • Mike Mitchell – bass
  • Dr. Dave Haslam – drums

 

  • Accordion by Catherine Thompson

 


Notes:  Since Eric deleted the only rehearsal footage of “Oktoberfest Cheer”, I was forced to use the video for “Randy” live at the Boathouse somewhat ham-fistedly.  However this works perfect with the punky off-the-rails nature of the song.  Speeding things up and slowing things down hides a multitude of sins in the edit, and the Keystone Cops flavour of the high-speed footage lends a comedic profile to the video.  Which is necessary for any song that contains lyrics like “don’t crush my smokes, don’t spill my beer.”

Sunday Screening: Techmoan’s Mitsubishi TX-L50

This average looking boom box has a notable feature that you’ve never seen before on a machine of this class.  It can play up to five cassettes (both A and B sides) continuously in a clever drawer design.  If you were using 120 minute tapes, you could hit “play” and have 10 hours of continuous music.  I’ll let Techmoan show you the clever feature; enjoy.