1991

#820: No More Tears (Coda – 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: No More Tears
(Coda – 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning)

Part One:  The Last Note of Freedom
Part Two:  1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning
Part Three:  1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (continued)

Here’s a bold statement:  I feel that personal rock history is a part of the greater body of work that is the history of the genre.  In other words, I think that stories of people like me, buying and listening to rock music, are important components of the greater gestalt.  When we publish our stories permanently, they are assimilated into the collective history.  Writers like Martin Popoff and Chuck Klosterman are often at their most entertaining when talking about their own tales of childhood musical discovery.

When a memory comes back it can be as vivid as the day it happened, and I try to capture that.  The 1991 trilogy (quadrilogy?) has taken a couple months to come together and who knows, there might be another instalment if more memories surface.  I won’t lie — it’s been an emotional process!  No more tears?  Maybe for now!

It’s important for me to recognise somebody who was there on the periphery of all these happenings in 1991.  Peter M. Cavan didn’t do things the way the rest of us did.  He began working immediately with the goal of becoming an electrical apprentice and eventually an electrician, which he did.  He didn’t disappear after highschool.  The first time he came to the cottage was in the summer of 1991 and that kicked off a serious friendship and many, many years of cottage trips.  Peter worked hard but Peter also played hard, not letting time go by without doing something.  Whether it be throwing a ball around, cooking a meal, driving into town to buy fireworks or frisbee at the beach, Peter kept moving.

And Peter’s favourite artist happened to be one of mine:  Ozzy Osbourne.

It’s safe to say that No More Tears was one of the biggest albums of 1991 for Pete.  When we hung out he always drove.  We played the shit out of No More Tears in that car.  We always skipped “Mama I’m Coming Home” — always.  I didn’t buy my own copy for months because we were listening to it so often.  When I did buy No More Tears, it was strange to listen to it without Peter!

Just as I happened to be really ramping up my interest in Black Sabbath, here comes Peter into my life who was also beginning to buy old Black Sabbath.  At school, Rob V was teaching me the ins and outs of Black Sabbath and Deep Purple’s discographies.  Meanwhile, Peter began travelling to the States a lot for work.  Rob V told me of a rare (here anyway) Sabbath track called “Evil Woman”.  Peter returned from the US with Black Sabbath’s The Early Years including that very track.  I told him he found something special.  Today, of course, you can painlessly get all that Sabbath stuff on readily available deluxe editions.  You couldn’t back then, if you even knew they existed.

While it is true that life after highschool was lonelier than before, I did have Peter.  He was the one guy who never went away.  Peter and I went on many adventures in the early 1990s, some of which featured Ozzy or Black Sabbath in the tape deck.  Peter is a part of my personal rock history and therefore part of the greater whole.  Somewhere out there is a family who wonders to this day why Ozzy Osbourne was yelling “YOU BASTARDS!” at them while Peter and I passed them in our car.  It’s because we synched it up that way thinking it would be funny.  And it kinda was.  We were adults, sort of.  He was learning to be an electrician and I was becoming acquainted with the history of 18th century Russia.  But we still laughed at fart jokes and blasted the Ozzy because why not?  Why do you have to leave that behind?

You don’t.  Celebrate your personal rock history and the rich tapestry of memories that comes with it.

#820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Three)

As monumental as 1991 already was terms of massive change, a big one was still to come:  finally learning how to drive!  The time had finally come when I had to, and so I did.  I cut my teeth driving to and from University during the winter.  You can get pretty good pretty quickly that way.  Most importantly, I discovered the pleasures of listening to music alone in the car.

Choosing an album.  Turning it up as loud as I could handle.  Listening to the whole thing from start to finish without complaints.  It was…a revelation.  My parents used to be able to hear me coming home from around the corner, so loud was I blasting it.

It was an ’89 Plymouth Sundance, but all that really mattered to me was that it had a tape deck and I was allowed to drive it.  Upon arriving at school, I can remember putting the tape case on the dash board so the parking control guy could see how cool my music was.

Jesus, I was weird.

Still am?  I guess this website is just me putting my tape cases up on the dashboard of life.  Right?

With new music on the shelves by Europe and Tesla, and a monolithic new slab by Guns N’ Roses to enjoy, I was keeping myself busy.  Then and now I believed in giving new releases multiple listens, and I always played the Guns tapes as a set.  There was no point, I reasoned, in listening to one more than another.  They’re really one album so that’s how I played them, every time.  Late ’91 was a Guns-heavy time.

Although first year of university life was a lonely time, I did make some new friends.  I had two night classes.  One thing I enjoyed about night classes was that there was only one per week — a big three hour chunk.  You could cover a lot of material in one class, and have a week to absorb everything for next class.  My first night class was Sociology, and next to me sat big Rob V, who quickly became one of my Jedi Masters of Rock.  He educated me on Whitesnake, Deep Purple and the Black Sabbath discography.  Then he taped for me a number of rarities, and they were treasured by me for many years.  Those tapes were only replaced when I finally scored original CD or vinyl copies for myself.  We weren’t the cool guys in Sociology class, but we had a lasting friendship.  Rob lived not too far from me, so I was happy to drive him home after school.  He would often have commentary for me regarding my musical selection for the car.

My favourite night class was Thursdays — Anthropology 101.  I hated the professor initially.  He was a ponytail guy.   Our school had a couple ponytail guys.  Also a few socks-and-sandals guys, which blew my mind.  “What the fuck is the point of that?” I asked myself rhetorically.  All psychology professors, those guys.  But ponytail-Anthropology guy (gosh I wish I could remember his name) won me over very quickly with his entertaining, though factually dense, teaching style.  There was a lot to cover each night.

Another quality that night classes had was a higher number of adult students.  I enjoyed speaking to them, but one poor older lady really struggled in Anthro-101.  I’ll never forget her because although she slowed the class down, I just felt badly for her.  She dropped the course by the second semester.

The teacher liked to use examples to illustrate a point.  I can’t remember the exact details, but he was using a current TV ad as his example.

“I don’t know these modern TV commercials!” she said in frustration.

“OK, no problem…here’s an example from your generation.  On the original Star Trek in 1969 there was an episode where they beamed down to this particular planet…”

Then he lost her even further!  He tried though; lord did that professor try.

While I was making interesting new friends in 1991, an old friend became more special.  I took my studying very seriously and because of that I had to stay home for Thanksgiving instead of going to the lake with my parents.  I couldn’t study there.  Too small a space.  So Peter invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with his family.  That was something that meant a lot to me.  I wasn’t going to be alone and I had a hot meal to look forward to.  I even put on a nice shirt and shaved my peachfuzz.  Peter had an incredible family.  His mom and dad were always welcoming, making me feel at home.  Same with his sister Joanne.  Over the coming months and years, Peter and I would grow closer and hung out every weekend.  Where I had friends that were Jedi Masters of Rock, Peter was more like my Jedi Master of Movies.  He had a huge collection.  I think as a collective, comedy was our thing.  Peter was also my Jedi Master of Comedy.  I might never have seen Slap Shot if it wasn’t for Peter.

At the end of 1991, my Christmas list took care of some of the last new releases in music that I needed.  Poison’s double Swallow This Live was, not surprisingly, a letdown.  I was also underwhelmed by the Operation: LIVEcrime box set by Queensryche.  Too many backing vocal tapes.  But for a long time I had looked forward to Motley Crue’s Decade of Decadence.  Back in the summer of 1990, Vince Neil was talking about this album.  Finally I had the tape in my hands!  (It’s a shame I spent so much time in my collection lingering on the cassette format, but the car tape deck made it a natural choice.)  I loved the new heavier sound of “Primal Scream”.  The new remixes were just added value to me.  I eagerly awaited whatever heaviness Motley Crue were working on, without realising that the band were working on firing Vince Neil!

Although worlds seemed to be ending when highschool did, somehow life was still going on.  Many things did come to their natural conclusions, like friendships, rock bands and the Pepsi Power Hour, but other things had started to bloom.  Peter and I were to trek onto many 1990s adventures, for the human adventure always continues.

 

#820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Two)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Two)

Part One:  The Last Note of Freedom

In the annals of rock, the year 1991 is one of the most significant in the entire history of the genre.  No year since 1969 had been so singularly important.  1991 featured the newfound domination of (for argument’s sake) a brand new sub-genre.  Countless influential bands released their breakthrough records that year.  The overturning of an old order had begun.

And highschool had come to an end.  The very last locker posters had come down.  I said goodbye to my friends as we all went our separate ways.  We moved onto different universities and our little group was broken up forever.

1991 was a shock to the system, both personally and musically.

A year before, my Jon Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory T-shirt was cool as hell.  In 1991 it was stuffed in a drawer.  What the hell was going on?  I couldn’t relate to these new bands.  Kurt Cobain was baffling to me.  What was appealing about not washing your hair?  Say what you will about the merits of Bon Jovi, at least when you saw a photo of him, he had bathed and was wearing clean clothes.  I also couldn’t appreciate the musicianship of these grunge bands; not when the groups that were breaking up boasted such virtuosos as Steve Vai and Vito Bratta.  After studying serious players through the 80s, there was nothing about Cobain that I could get behind.

Even my access to mainstream hard rock was becoming limited.  The final episode of the Pepsi Power Hour aired in 1991.  The very last host was veteran Michael Williams.  It was filmed at a welding shop in Calgary, Alberta.  Williams played Metallica’s “One”, and “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog.  The shape of things to come.  The very last band ever played on the Pepsi Power Hour was Van Halen, and the the very last song was “Runaround”.  The Power Hour was then replaced by the inferior Power 30.  It was a significant change for me.  I rarely missed a Power Hour.  The Power 30 was often not worth catching at all.

The sea change in music paralleled a similarly massive shift in my life.  Out with the old, in with the new.  I didn’t know anyone in my classes.  There I sat in the World War II history classroom (really a huge auditorium) by myself.  I overheard a conversation behind me.

“Have you heard of Pearl Jam?  They sound like Black Sabbath.”

What?  What the — no they don’t!  But Seattle was being compared to early 70s Sabbath quite readily, probably due to Soundgarden and the multitude of new riffs that were emerging from the city.  The bands didn’t sound like Sabbath, per se, but the riffs and heavy doomy gloom vibes were reminiscent of the band from Birmingham.  Who were in the midst of a reunion with Ronnie James Dio, but would ultimately fail to overthrow the new grunge kingpins.

I really wanted to turn around and tell the two guys behind me what Black Sabbath were actually about, but that probably wasn’t a good way to make new friends.  University was a lonely time.  Not until second year did I meet new people to hang around.  My love of hard rock was not something I shared with my classmates.  I remember sitting in one of my history classes writing down lyrics for a song I was working on called “Clones”.  One of the lines was “Ball cap, turned back, you’re all clones.”  I couldn’t find a pathway to bonding with any of these people.  Not until I met some fellow Trekkies.*

1991 was significant for me in another way.  It was the year I became obsessed with Star Trek.  I had always watched and even had a lil’ “red shirt” when I was a toddler, but The Next Generation was hitting peak popularity.  It was always good, but five seasons in, it was becoming quite great.  This sadly coincided with the death of Gene Roddenberry in October of that year, but that only served to make Trek even more popular.  In November, The Next Generation pulled in its biggest viewership numbers since the 1986 series premier:  the two-parter “Unification” featuring Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock himself.  Pardon me — Ambassador Spock.  And if that wasn’t enough, in December Trek returned to theatres with The Undiscovered Country, the sixth and final movie with the original crew.  All of this coincided with the 25th anniversary of the original show.  It was a bittersweet but absolutely massive time to be a Trekkie.

And it just so happened that Wilfrid Laurier University was a hotbed of Trekkies.


The years that followed were all Trek-heavy in my life.  I was began buying individual episodes on VHS.  (My first tape was “Balance of Terror” featuring Mark Lenard in the debut appearance of the Romulans.)  I built model kits, I collected the books, and I pieced together a full set of Star Trek stickers from Hostess potato chips.  There was a Trekkie girl in history class named Lee that I really liked.  Lee Ditchfield.  A group of us would get together after class on Fridays to watch Monty Python and Star Trek.  (Or even study sometimes!)  The nucleus of the group was Tim Solie, a guy I knew from highschool and reconnected with in second year.  That guy could (and would) talk to anyone!  Ice broken, we formed a small little group of friends, including Lee.  But she had a boyfriend back home in Woodstock and I just didn’t even try.  I blew it.

My precious metal was not cool at Laurier, not anymore, but Trek was.  I had at least two professors that used Star Trek references in class (Anthropology 101 and European History).  I had a psychology professor whose personal philosophies mirrored the optimistic future that Gene Roddenberry instilled in his work.

After the successful Leonard Nimoy episodes of The Next Generation (“Unification” parts I and II), they were bound to try something like that again.  The following season, in an episode called “Relics”, James Doohan reprised his role as Scotty.  I overheard two professors discussing it in a stairwell.  “They did it without time travel,” said one to the other.  “And they did it reasonably well”.  He was right!

I collected a full set of these.

As time (and Trek) went on, I felt more and more comfortable at University.  By ’93, my sister Kathryn was getting ready to choose post-secondary schools.  I invited her to come to class one Friday morning to sit in and see what it was like.  I chose my Ancient Roman history class as I knew she’d find it interesting.  She was already getting nervous about starting university.  “I bet it’s nothing but Star Trek geeks and losers there!” she said.

“No, no.” I assured her.  “Nothing like that.”

So we walked in, headed down a corridor, turned a corner and walked right past a skinny Trek geek, standing there in the middle of a hallway, digging a Trek sticker out of a bag of Hostess chips.

“I knew it!” she said.

The unfortunate thing about University is that friendships are even more temporary than highschool, and it soon it’s all over.  I didn’t have any classes with Lee or Tim Solie ever again.  In fact I only saw Lee once in passing after that year.  In my third and final years, it was all new faces in every class.  And just as quickly as it started, school was all over…and so was Grunge.  Kurt died during my third year and the best work of most of those new bands was now behind them (Pearl Jam being an exemption).  In hindsight it seems unfair that this massive musical change had to coincide with these critical school years.  Like a cruel joke, metal peaked and crashed when I needed it most!  If it wasn’t for Star Trek, it would have been a far more lonely time.

*I am a Trekkie; I’ve been a Trekkie since my date of birth.  I think “Trekker” is a silly term and people look at you funny when you use it.  But if you identify as a Trekker and want me to address you as such, I’m happy to oblige.

 

#820: The Last Note of Freedom (1991 – Part One)

This is Part One of a series based around the year 1991. In music, culture and my personal life, 1991 was a landmark year. There was life pre-1991, and there was life post-1991. I’ve spent a couple months piecing together details of that critical period. Stick around and enjoy the memories.

GETTING MORE TALE #820:  The Last Note of Freedom
(1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning – Part One)

After all the hard work, studying and good times, there was only one thing left to do:  attend the big highschool graduation ceremony.  I’d be seeing some of my friends for the very last time.  Shirt and tie on, I was clean shaven and ready to go.  Family arrived at the house and gifts were given.  I remember a new watch.  I even received the novelization of the hot new Schwarzenegger flick, Terminator 2: Judgement Day from my sister Kathryn.

Only this time I wouldn’t be back.  This was it.  The last hoorah.

Blue graduation cap upon my head, I looked like a girl with my long hair.  I barely recognise myself in the old photos, receiving my diploma on that big stage.

Like many graduation ceremonies, there was a slideshow to remind us of all the good times.  The song they chose for the slideshow was an interesting selection:  “The Last Note of Freedom” by David Coverdale, his first solo track in a decade and a half.  Who selected it and why, I will never know.  It was the kind of song I would have chosen myself, but I had nothing to do with it.  I just found the title very apropos:  “The Last Note of Freedom”, and when that last note rings out, we would be cast into the larger ocean of “real life”.  It was a poignant choice even if the lyrics really didn’t apply.  The words had nothing to do with a milestone like graduation, but it sure sounded cool when Coverdale started screaming in the middle of the ceremony.

We need love,
We gotta want it so bad.
We need it now,
So run for it fast.
I know it,
And the world will be cheated.
I can’t go on, in a world where love’s defeated.
I know it.
I can’t go on.

“The Last Note of Freedom” was from the Days of Thunder soundtrack, and I made sure to order a copy from Columbia House forthwith.  It was probably the most commercial track that Coverdale had recorded to date, with a vaguely 80s tropi-synth feel.

I would never see many of my friends again, and I knew it as I walked out of the building with my grad cap in my hands.  I shook hands with Anand “Boboe” Etwaru who I never crossed paths with ever again.  I was pleased to find out, many years later from a mutual friend, that he still had the nickname “Boboe” which I gave him.  (It’s just the ASCII characters for “Anand” with each letter bumped up by one, an accidental discovery I made.)

My parents owned a rental cottage and I wanted to rent it for one weekend, just a final chance to hang out with my friends.  The parents said “no way” and the last weekend never happened.  Instead, a bunch of us just made a run downtown to Sam the Record Man one afternoon.  We walked – none of us had a car.  It was fun and bittersweet.  The new Van Halen sat there on the shelves but the packaging was rather bland.  It would have to wait for my birthday.  Instead I bought some singles:  “You Could Be Mine” (CD), by Guns N’ Roses, and “More Than Words” (cassette) by Extreme.

I can still recall one thing that happened that day.  As our small group walked down Frederick Street towards King, we passed by a little old lady.  As we passed her, she smiled and chuckled an evil laugh!

“Heh heh heh heh!”

Creepy stuff, man!

“We’re hexed now!” someone commented.

I’m glad that a small group of my friends got back together for one record shopping trip in the summer of ’91.  We knew things would be different from here on in.  Many of them were going into serious engineering programs.  Intense, time consuming stuff.  On some of my lonely days that fall, I thought of picking up the phone and calling some of them.  But I didn’t.  “They all have their own lives now,” I reasoned.

An era had ended, and the last note of freedom had rung.  Onto bigger things!

 

REVIEW: Poison – Swallow This Live (1991 2 CD set)

STL_0001POISON – Swallow This Live (1991 Capitol Records)

In 1991, hard rock was breathing its last gasp (for the moment, anyway) and Swallow This Live is a perfect example of how this happened. Many rock fans were fed up with substandard releases, and this is one of the biggest turds of that era.

Swallow This Live was a double — yes, you heard that right — a double-live CD from a band who only had three studio albums! And Poison are not Kiss. On the cassette version, two tracks were missing: “Life Goes On”, and “No More Looking Back”.  I think Poison instead should have excluded Rikki Rockett’s painful, overly long drum solo.  They definitely should have cut C.C. (billed here as “Cecil”) DeVille’s horrendous guitar flatulance.

Poison imploded before this was even released.  The fact that C.C. DeVille was only seen in the video for “So Tell Me Why” for a matter of seconds spoke volumes.  (Opening lyric of the song:  “I’d like to put to bed the rumours”.)  This was after the train wreck that was the 1991 MTV Video Music Awards.  There’s C.C. with bright pink hair, not able to play an entire song…it was no surprise when he was fired, although the band waited until after the release of Swallow This Live to tell anybody.

C.C. also hated the bluesy, more serious direction that Poison’s music was taking, which was fully realized on their next studio album, Native Tongue. With guitar maestro Richie Kotzen as the catalyst, Poison finally delivered a mature piece of work which of course did not sell. But that’s another story.

Here, we have a very rough sounding live disc, overly long, and embarassingly bad. Every song is superior in its studio version, making this album completely redundant. Ironically, coming from the band who once said, “Fans comes to see us play, not PRESS play,” you can hear lots of backing vocal tapes, especially on “I Want Action”. You do get basically every hit that Poison ever had, which was an impressive amount. However, even that couldn’t pad out a full 2 CD release, so they also played some really terrible songs live.  “Look What the Cat Dragged In” is awful, but even worse is the blues massacre, “Poor Boy Blues”.  Bret’s ad-lib is a cheesy mess.

The only reason to buy this CD is the new studio material   Two of the new songs are among the best that Poison had recorded up to this time. “So Tell Me Why” is a firecracker of a song, a brilliant rocker held aloft by fantastic guitar melodies. “Only Time Will Tell” is one of their best ballads, along the lines of “Life Goes On” or “I Won’t Forget You” crossed with some Native Tongue maturity.

If you can get Swallow This Live at a decent price (I used to sell it around $8.99), pick it up for the new studio stuff, but don’t blame me if C.C.’s live guitar solo makes your ears bleed!  (Note:  I know this has been reissued as a single disc with various track omissions, so buy according to your needs.)

2/5 stars

Don’t forget that Poison’s second album was originally to be called Swallow This!