1984

#338: Answer to 4-Play Quiz No. 2

VH 194_0006

We have a winner! Check out the big brain on Brian Zinger (AGAIN!) who nailed this one!

Here are the four tracks:

  1. Van Halen – “Oh Pretty Woman”
  2. Van Halen – “Little Guitars”
  3. Van Halen – “Secrets”
  4. Van Halen –  “Jump”

And here’s my original email to Craig explaining the answer:

“Only the real fans will get this one. I thought it was real cool yesterday when you did the “five play” with “Little Guitars (intro)”. So, here’s 4 VH songs…and when you play them, fans will realize that on the albums, all songs have INSTRUMENTAL INTROS!”  1. “Intruder” 2. “Little Guitars (intro)” 3. “Cathedral” and 4. “1984”

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REVIEW: Van Halen – 1984 (1984)

VAN HALEN (Not Van Hagar!) Part 7: House of Pain

VH_0003My latest series of reviews at mikeladano.com is an in-depth look at all the classic VAN HALEN albums, with David Lee Roth.  Jump in!

Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977)
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)

INTERMISSION – “Beat It”

Edward Van Halen picked up the phone.  On the other end was a man claiming to be “Quincy Jones”, asking Eddie if he was available to play on an album.  Not knowing the name “Quincy Jones” and assuming it was a crank call, Eddie slammed down the phone yelling, “Fuck off, asshole!”  Only a followup phone call from Michael Jackson clarified the situation.  Quincy Jones, the legendary record producer, was working on the new Michael Jackson album.  Could Eddie come by and play a guitar solo on an upbeat, driving song?

What Eddie laid down (in reportedly two takes) was selected by Guitar magazine as the greatest guitar solo of the 1980’s.

In one tension-filled solo, Eddie threw every trick from his bag: whammy dives, complex neo-classical trills, hammer-ons, pull-offs, tapping, harmonics, squeals, and finally a big fat pick slide.

If one wants to hear what Eddie Van Halen sounds like, all they need to do is play “Beat It”.

VH 194_0001VAN HALEN – 1984 (MCMLXXXIV) (1984 Warner)

Having compromised his artistic instincts on 1982’s Diver Down, Edward Van Halen refused to do the same again.  He and longtime engineer Donn Landee proceeded to build 5150, Eddie’s home recording studio.  There he was free to experiment with the synthesizers that had begun to creep into Van Halen albums.  When the studio was complete, Eddie felt that he had more control.

But there were other issues beginning to surface.  The Michael Jackson cameo, for example.  Roth had reportedly vetoed previous offers for Van Halen to do guest appearances on records.  (Van Halen had also appeared on the semi-obscure Brian May and Friends EP Star Fleet Project.)  When Quincy Jones and Michael Jackson extended the offer to appear on “Beat It”, Edward did it without telling the others in the band.  Roth claims he never would have objected to Edward working with an artist of Quincy Jones’ stature, but the feelings of betrayal had set in.

Edward and Roth both recall that Van Halen had the main keyboard hook from “Jump” for years, and had submitted it for consideration twice.  Roth and producer Ted Templeman rejected it both times, wishing Eddie to keep the focus on his guitar playing.  The third time was the charm, and Roth finally agreed to write lyrics for the song, now titled “Jump”.  Another synth piece of Eddie’s, now called “1984” was used on the album to precede “Jump”.

It’s impossible to underestimate the impact of “Jump”.  Those big fat Oberheim keys were unlike any that Van Halen had used before.  The song’s success made other bands pay attention, who were quick to begin adding keyboards themselves.  The trends this song ushered included the successes of Bon Jovi, Europe and the like.  Veteran bands like Kiss started adding keyboards to their live shows.  “Jump” was a perfect storm.  It captured Van Halen’s already likable and cool party-hearty spirit, with the cool new wave bands that had replaced punk.  Eddie’s tasteful guitar solo ensured that his fans would still listen to every note in order to figure out just how the hell he did that.  Meanwhile, who couldn’t love his sheepish grin in the music video?

If you listen carefully during the fade, you’ll hear a familiar guitar riff.  Can you name it?  That very riff was recycled in 1991 on Van Hagar’s song “Top of the World”!

“Panama” was also a single, no keyboards this time!  David made the ladies faint every time during the middle break.  The high-flying video showed their sense of humour and electric stage show.  If any fan was left doubting after “Jump”, then “Panama” assured them that all was alright.  Guitar pyrotechnics and cool lyrics are where’s it at.

What’s not to like about “Top Jimmy”?  Perfectly fusing his experimental and hard rocking sides, Eddie created a hook using guitar harmonics for “Top Jimmy”.  There’s the patented Van Halen backing vocals, a smokin’ song, and David Lee Roth running the show.  This is one of those album cuts that’s every bit as good as the better known tracks.  Same with “Drop Dead Legs”.  Alex’s steady beat, Eddie’s smoldering riff, and Roth’s leathery moan are a trifecta of perfection.  If you listen to the riff, you’ll notice Eddie’s innovative way of using a whammy bar in a musical fashion, as an actual part of the music.  Towards the end, Eddie goes into a different riff, and solos his way to the side’s fade-out.

“Sit down, Waldo!”

Dave’s knack for video scored a home run with “Hot For Teacher”.  You wouldn’t necessarily think a song like this, a hard shuffle with a lot of talking in it, would make for hit.  Hell it opens with 30 seconds of nothing but drums!  “Hot For Teacher” remains a pinnacle of hard rock music videos.  There’s the humour, the girls, the cool car, and of course “Waldo” who got the last laugh, didn’t he?

“I’ll Wait” is the third and last synth track on the album (including “1984”).  It too was chosen as a single, and like all the others, it has stood the test of time.  “I’ll Wait” is a very transitional song.  Roth keeps it cool, but musically, Van Hagar was already in sight.  The echo of later songs like “Feels So Good” can be heard in that throbbing keyboard.  “I’ll Wait” (credited to the band and Michael McDonald) went through a period in the 1990’s of sounding dated, but today it sounds timeless.  Rather than commercial, today the keyboards sound classy.  The guitar solo is simple and full of feel.

Ominous guitar tapping and shredding opens “Girl Gone Bad”, a devastating assault of Eddie’s most aggressive guitar.  A song like this absolutely needed to be on 1984 in order to maintain the band’s metal credentials.  Many teenagers injured their wrists trying to pick as fast as Edward.  Meanwhile, Roth does his very best Robert Plant impression during the middle section.  “Yeah, ahh, ahh, owww!  Oooooooowhoah!  Ma…ma…ma…oh!”

Finally, exhumed from the band’s distant past is “House of Pain”.   This song was always one of Van Halen’s heaviest, featuring a chugging metallic riff.  Eddie’s increasingly interesting solos have evolved, and they make the last couple minutes of “House of Pain” absolutely indispensable for anyone wanting to know anything about the electric guitar.

As “House of Pain” fades out and 1984 comes to close, a sadness overtakes me.  The end sounds abrupt; unfinished.  The album was so good, so great, that I want to hear more.  But there is no more.

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Another successful tour followed the 1984 album, and the band were burned out.  David Lee Roth got the covers EP Crazy From the Heat out of his system.  There was also some kind of companion movie to the EP in the works, something that bothered the Van Halen brothers greatly.  After a while, the band settled in to begin writing the next album, their seventh.  It was not to be.  According to Alex Van Halen in a fall 1991 M.E.A.T Magazine interview, David Lee Roth fired the entire band.

Van Halen had to replace a frontman, a difficult thing to do in any circumstances, much less when that frontman was David Lee Roth.  In the meantime, David Lee Roth had to replace an entire band.  A difficult thing, especially when the lead guitar player of that band is oft-recognized as the best in the world.

Both bounced back.  Van Halen pondered a number of singers including Patty Smyth of Scandal, before meeting Sammy Hagar.  Hagar’s energy and musical chops helped fill Roth’s sizable shoes.  Meanwhile, Roth chose to replace Van Halen with not one but two acclaimed virtuosos.  On bass was ex-Talas maestro Billy Sheehan.  On guitar, from Frank Zappa’s band, little Stevie Vai.  Throw in the talented Gregg Bissonette on drums, and you had one hell of a band.

Both artists would find 1984 hard to top in the eyes of the most stubborn old fans.  It’s hard to blame them.  1984 is a very special record, and quite arguably Van Halen’s very best.

VH 194_00045/5 stars

And that is all.

Or not…

They did try again, in 1996.  We’ll be taking a look at that next time.

 

MOVIE REVIEW: The Last Starfighter (25th anniversary edition blu-ray)

Dedicated to Zachary Britton
LAST STARFIGHTER BLU_0001THE LAST STARFIGHTER directed by Nick Castle (1984 Universal, 25th anniversary edition)

Hot on the heels of the then-defunct Star Wars franchise came The Last Starfighter. There had been other copycat films before, but few were as well done as The Last Starfighter. The theme that they both have in common was the young boy, stuck in the middle of nowhere, aching to get away and make something of himself. The Last Starfighter wore its themes on its sleeve. Like Otis says in the opening scenes, “When life gives you a chance, you gotta grab on with both hands and hang on tight!”

I recently re-watched my old DVD and was shocked to see how bad that 1998 release looked. Certain frames had sections that were washed out, I could see a hair on the film, and there were plenty of scratches that begged for digital restoration. I immediately went out and bought the blu-ray. Suddenly, everything was crisp and clear in glorious 1080p hi-def. All the defects I noticed before had been cleaned up. The film looks great!

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is your average American teen living somewhere in the southern states (Arizona? New Mexico?) in a trailer park. His application for a loan has been rejected and it looks like he’s going to be stuck going to city college with the locals. His dream of finally getting out has been quashed. However, Alex has a talent — more accurately, “the gift” — to be a Starfighter. Only he doesn’t know it yet. All he knows is that he just scored 1,000,000 points on a video game console called “Starfighter”.  Small triumph, sure, but more important than he knows.

Light years away, the peaceful planet of Rylos is about to be decimated by the traitor Xur, who has declared himself Emperor (Hmmm…Star Wars?).  Xur brings with him his allies, the deadly Kodan armada. Rylos’ best hope are the Starfighters: an elite group of fighters who have mastered the difficult gunnery station aboard the immensely powerful “Gunstar”  fighter ships. A heavily armed beast of a spacecraft, a Gunstar is manned by a crew of two: a pilot and a gunner.  And that video game, back in the trailer park, on Earth?  That was more than just a video a game. It was simulator, planted there by the alien recruiter Centauri (Robert Preston in his final role).  It was designed and built specifically to find someone with “the gift” to be a Starfighter.

In short order, Centauri appears, as a 70-ish year old human in a (then!) futuristic car. He whisks Alex away, across the lightyears to Rylos where the whole situation is explained to him.  One slight problem though:  Alex doesn’t want to be a Starfighter. It’s not his war, and he doesn’t want to die for a planet he didn’t know existed, so far from home.

Will Alex remember old Otis’ advice? Will he grab hold of this chance with both hands, and hold on tight?

What made The Last Starfighter fun was that it had a dual plot. While Alex has been swept away to the stars, he has been replaced back home with a “Beta unit” that looks exactly like him. It’s a robot, also played by Lance Guest, but his “fish out of water” scenes return the movie to comedic moments.  These scenes help ground the movie and keep it relate-able.  A lot of the humour comes from Beta trying to understand Alex’s girlfriend Maggie (Mary Catherine Stewart). But it’s not all fun and games for Beta. Emperor Xur thinks he has destroyed all the Starfighters, but he learns that there might be a last Starfighter, a human, alive on Earth….

Comedy, lasers and action! Cool looking aliens! All that fascinating early CG animation!  These all make The Last Starfighter a blast for me to revisit. Although today it looks horribly dated, it is easy to overlook the primitive CG and just get into the story and characters. The only way this movie could work, then and now, is suspending your disbelief and getting into the characters. Thankfully, some great performances from the lead cast make that easy to do.  In particular, Robert Preston and Dan O’Herlihy as the reptilian alien pilot Grig are standouts.

Blu-ray bonus features are excellent. The original documentary from the old DVD version is included, as well as a brand new one in 1080i hi-def. Both Lance Guest and Mary Catherine Stewart appear and provide fascinating insight. As a kid, I always suspected that the “Beta” version of Guest was wearing a wig, as the hair never looked right. Guest confirms this: Many of the Beta scenes were added as an afterthought, and he had already cut his hair short. Stewart is good humoured about her awful Michael Bay moment in the film (“I love you Alex Rogan”).

The Last Starfighter, while appearing dated, is still the same old timeless story it always has been.  Recommended for anyone born before Jurassic Park came out.

5/5 stars

  • Lance Guest as Alex Rogan / Beta Alex
  • Dan O’Herlihy as Grig
  • Catherine Mary Stewart as Maggie Gordon
  • Norman Snow as Xur
  • Robert Preston as Centauri

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: W.A.S.P. w/ Metallica and Armored Saint – January 19, 1985

A treat for you boys & girls today!  A guest shot, a vintage concert review, and a significant one at that.  Remember when Metallica was just an opening act for mediocre bands?  Meat does.  And he’s back to tell you the story.  Enjoy the first guest shot of 2013, by Meat!

TALLICA

W.A.S.P. w/ METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT – January 19, 1985

By Meat

I was lucky at a young age to have the opportunity to see some great concerts.  The first concert of my life was at The Center in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario.  It was The Monks (remember “Drugs in my Pocket”?)  and I went with my childhood friend, Scott Hunter, and his mother.  I also saw the almighty Black Sabbath play the Kitchener Memorial  Auditorium, three days before my 12th birthday, on the Mob Rules tour on November 19, 1981. I saw Triumph on the Allied Forces tour play the Center in the Square, with my father not long after that.  But really my early concert experiences were mostly, and most memorably, with the aforementioned Scott Hunter.   I believe it was his uncle who had connections with a concert promotion at the time called CPI.  He would leave free tickets at Will Call for us at Maple Leaf Gardens or wherever the show was.  We saw the last Kiss tour with makeup at the time (Creatures of the Night tour) on January 14, 1983 with The Headpins opening.  Also saw the first ever Kiss tour without makeup (Lick it Up tour) on March 15, 1984 with Accept as the opening act.  As well as Motley Crue on the Shout at the Devil tour on June 10, 1984, at what is now the Ricoh Coliseum, also with Accept as support.   Many of these shows are quite memorable and monumental, but none so much as the first time I saw Metallica live.

I remember the first time Scott and I heard Metallica.  We would have a sleepover at his place every Friday night specifically because Toronto radio station Q107 had their “Midnight Metal Hour” on that night.  We would have first heard Metallica (“Seek and Destroy”) either late 1982 or early 1983, before Kill ‘Em All was even released.  Obviously it was an instant shot of Metal Up Our Ass!   Kill ‘Em All was released on vinyl and cassette on July 25, 1983.   I specifically remember  (but not exactly when) walking into a record store downtown Kitchener called Records on Wheels and buying that album, Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal and Van Halen’s 1984 on vinyl,  all during the same visit.   I also remember buying Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, the day it was released.  Thanks to the World Wide Web, I know now that date was July 27, 1984. Starting grade ten that September, I was pushing Metallica on anyone that would be open to it at my high school.   There were a very select few of us who were die-hards and would have Sony Walkmans stuck to our heads at every opportunity possible.  Now I cannot recall if we got free tickets for this particular show, but I do remember how pumped I was when I knew I was gonna see Metallica live.

The bill was as follows: Armored Saint (with Anthrax’s John Bush on vocals), Metallica and W.A.S.P.  Yes you read that right.  Metallica was opening up for W.A.S.P.  I do know that further along on the tour, Metallica and W.A.S.P. would trade headlining sets due to the obvious buzz around Metallica at the time.  Here is a picture of an actual ticket stub of this show.  Note the price ($15.00) and Armored Saint being spelled wrong on the ticket.

ticket 1

One thing I will add before I go on.  Of all the concerts and bands I have seen multiple times live, it is kinda strange I only saw Metallica live twice ever.  One of the reasons for this is quite obviously that after their album Load (otherwise known as Mighty Load of Shit), I never really had a great interest in seeing the band live again.  But it is worthwhile noting that I have seen Metallica live twice and BOTH TIMES they were opening for someone else.  (The second time being the strange bill of The Black Crowes / Warrant / Metallica / Aerosmith on June 29, 1990 at CNE Exhibition Stadium in Toronto) Again, note the ticket price for this.  This was before The Eagles ruined ticket prices for all acts with the ridiculous prices for their shows.   To quote “The Dude”  I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.

ticket 2

So there we were, January 19th 1985 standing in line in front of the late great Toronto concert venue named The Concert Hall. It was freezing cold out, and windy too.   So since this was a General Admission event, standing in line braving at least -15 Celsius weather, you can imagine how cold and bitchy people were.  I recall the rush of metalheads being ushered  quickly into the venue.  The second I got in there I went straight for the merch booth and bought a Ride the Lightning tour shirt for me and a high school friend named Joe DeLeo.  After that, like seemingly everybody, I had to take a wicked piss.  After doing that, I was horrified when I tried to zip my probably really tight jeans back up, and couldn’t because my hands were numb from the cold.  My embarrassed horror turned to laughter as I turned my head to see dozens of much older and much larger long-haired headbangers all having the same problem.  Only in Canada I guess eh?

Sometime later, Armored Saint took the stage.  I remember them being great and how loud it was in there.  They were received well and that venue was filling up. While enjoying their set my buddy Scott gets my attention and points to the much-shorter person beside me.  Immediately I recognized him as Russell Dwarf from the Toronto band Killer Dwarfs. Their name was very apropos considering this band consisted of nothing but short dudes with long hair.  I can only imagine how this band got together.  Wonder if an ad went out that said.  “Metal musicians needed.  Must not be over 5 foot 6 inches tall and have long hair”.  I loved that first album.  If you don’t know of them, here is their first single and video.

It was time for the Mighty Metallica.  They started out with the first track off Ride The Lightning, the classic riff-monster “Fight Fire With Fire”.   At this point I was probably about mid-way to the stage in a sea of metalheads.  This was before the days of the “moshpit”.  This was more of a Hair Swarm packed with long-haired sardines covered in denim and leather.   It would have been about half-way through the show that I wormed my way to the front of the stage.  This was no easy task as I am sure you can imagine, however being only 15 and much smaller than the masses (with the exception of the Killer Dwarfs of course), there I was literally feet from what would become the best-selling metal band of all-time.  This brings me to a memory I will cherish forever.  The seemingly monstrous Cliff Burton was right in front of me.  I reached out and had in my hand, the bottom leg of his ragged bell-bottom jeans.  He tried to kick me in the face, and thankfully missed.  Can’t blame him either for trying to kick my head off, and honestly it was the first thing I thought of  when said legend died in a bus accident a year and a half later in Sweden on September 27, 1986. R.I.P. Clifford Lee Burton.  Check out this YouTube audio clip I found of Metallica playing “Seek and Destroy” from this exact show.  Gotta love YouTube.

Check out this set list of the show the next night in Buffalo at some place called the Salty Dog Saloon. (I couldn’t find the Toronto set list online but I am sure it is identical)

  • “Fight Fire With Fire”
  • “Ride the Lightning”
  • “Phantom Lord”
  • “(Anethesia) Pulling Teeth”
  • “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  • “No Remorse”
  • “The Call of Ktulu”
  • “Seek & Destroy”
  • “Whiplash”

Encores:

  • “Creeping Death”
  • Guitar solo
  • “Am I Evil?”
  • “Motorbreath”

Which brings me to winding down this novel of a concert review.  How could W.A.S.P. possibly follow Metallica?  Well, I do remember chants of “you suck”.  I remember that the front was nowhere near as packed as it was for Metallica.  Maybe Blackie thought he could follow them by drinking fake blood out of a skull (which he did).  Here is a quote from Mr. Blackie Lawless comparing separate tours with both Slayer and Metallica and musing about this particular tour.

Blackie: I’ll tell you what was worse – us and Metallica.  It was our first or second U.S. tour.  It was us, Metallica, and Armored Saint.  When they (Slayer) went out with us, they were still an up n’ coming band, didn’t have a lot of fans, so there was a pocket of division every night.  With Metallica, I kid you not, it was like an invisible line was drawn right down the middle of the room, and half was theirs and half was ours.  It didn’t matter what we were doing on stage.  It looked like two opposing armies.  Sometimes we just stopped what we were doing and watched. It was a war.

I realize that the merit of music is subjective and it is all in the Ear Of The Beholder.  But lets face it.  W.A.S.P. really does kinda suck.  Some good moments but really not much to speak of.  During their set myself and others that with us were just kind of mulling about as most others were really.  It was during this time that a guy we were with named Kevin B. (nicknamed Little Dude) said that he saw Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson leaving out a side door during their set.  Now to give some perspective on this, this person was a known bull-shitter.  None of us believed him.  True story:  Kevin years later had trans-gender surgery and now is a she-male known as Treva. But anyways, we shrugged this off as yet another lie from Little Dude.  It was months later reading a Blackie Lawless interview in Circus magazine that I read this quote.  “Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were actually at one of our shows in Toronto last year…. But they were not there to see us.”    A classic example of the she-boy who cried wolf.

Meat