Good morning, Harrison and Mr. 1537! One of you will remember these from the 80s and one of you will not! Still you must agree, pricetag aside, this is a pretty beautiful Lego set. The Atari 2600 is coming August 1 for $240 USD (ouch)! The dimensions closely match that of the original console. It comes with three iconic cartridges made of Lego, three mini dioramas representing art for these video games, and a little shelf to store the cartridges. The front of the console opens up to reveal another mini diorama, of a kid playing Asteroids in their bedroom. It even comes with an incredible joystick made of Lego.
You can insert a cartridge into the console, flip the switches, and plug in the joystick. If it wasn’t for the price, I’d want this in a heartbeat. Check this video by Balazs from Racing Brick for a detailed preview.
The always difficult-to-please Chris Sarre called this a “Top Five” show last night, and I’m flattered but have to agree with him! Thanks to Rob from Visions In Sound, and Harrison the Man Metal Man for showing off your music and entertainment collectables last night. From rare CDs, autographs and Australian exclusives, to board games, books and odds n’ ends, we saw a lot of cool items with great stories behind them.
Good morning and Merry Christmas! It sure looks like Santa Claus was here.
As usual I’m the first one up. Jen is happily snoring away, while I play with my new Kenner action figures – Johnny Storm the Human Torch, and the Silver Surfer complete with board. Probably my favourites thus far.
There’s still lots of Christmas to come, but even if there wasn’t I’d be pretty happy right now.
For Christmas Eve, I had a traditional Christmas activity of playing some classic Atari games while passing the time. Then we went over to mom & dad’s for a visit while Aunt visited Grandma in the hospital. It all worked out OK. I got to watch some TV with my dad which is all I really wanted. We were going to watch the Mr. Bean Christmas episode, but the one with him in the hotel started playing, and so we had to stick with that one.
I normally don’t post on Christmas Day but this isn’t really a normal year, is it? Besides, even though we’re kind of on Christmas vacation, we’re not on vacation from connecting with friends. So I say to you my friends: Merry Christmas. I hope you’re safe, sound, and happy this year.
Released to arcades in 1981, Vanguard didn’t catch my attention until it hit the Atari 2600 the following year. While I have never played the arcade game, the Atari version was in my hands as soon as I could afford it. Notably, the Atari game borrowed some of its music from Queen. Vanguard was a scrolling space game, but where it differed from other games was that it changed orientation from side-to-side to up-and-down at points during the adventure. There were a variety of adversaries, and power-ups to take advantage of. There was even a “boss” to take out at the end, and then it all repeated over again at a higher difficulty. We kids were in love with it, even the simplified Atari version.
Incidentally, Atari artwork and instruction manuals were excellent. They often began with a short story — this one of the “Vanguard Expedition” into the “tunnels of Aterria” looking for a semi-mythical “City of Mystery”. Enough to capture a kid’s imagination, especially when combined with the cool box art.
My best friend Bob and I, being the creative types, thought we could design a sequel. We painstakingly drew every screen in pencil, one after the other. There were 19 screens in total. We taped them together in order with Scotch tape, so that you could lay the whole thing out on the floor if you so desired. Each screen led into the next with attention to detail.
Bob and I had “designed” a dozen games already, drawing them on paper, but they were one or two screens at best. Our Vanguard 2 was 19 levels! Many heavily ripped off from Star Wars. It was only 1983 or 1984 at the latest. Although ours is completely unrelated to the actual Vanguard II that came out in 1984, out friends kept on telling us “You should send your ideas in to Atari”. We were big dreamers but we had a lot of fun pouring hours of creativity into these projects. I’m glad I still have some of them, including Vanguard 2.
I thought it would be fun to scan each screen and post the whole thing with commentary. I tinted the old pages to give them some variety visually. Check out the complete Vanguard 2 game!
Title page. Our “hero ship” basically ripped off from the Colonial Viper from Battlestar Galactica. Enemy ships show heavy Star Wars influence.
Screen 1. Scrolling to the right. Imagine continuous scrolling, as if all the pages were laid out on the ground. Entering mountain! Just like the first Vanguard, you must navigate a tunnel in your space ship. Enemy craft, mines and drones ahead!
Screen 2. A barrier to break through, and a choice of upper or lower tunnels to take.
Screen 3. Upper tunnel was a trap! Although you could possibly shoot your way through a weak spot in the cave wall.
Screen 4: Switching out your ship for a submarine.
Screen 5: More enemy resistance ahead, and a difficult choice of three tunnels to take.
Screen 6: Bottom tunnel would have been the best choice. Giant jelly fish and a 5 second force field power up ahead!
Screen 7: Now it’s giant Octopii! Your sub is running low on fuel, and there is a tempting fuel depot in the lower cave.
Screen 8: The only way through these narrow caverns is to miniaturize your sub. Then you must choose upper or lower tunnels, with the upper appearing easier.
Screen 9: The upper tunnel has heavier resistance at a poor attack angle, plus a classic Atari-style bouncing barrier block, that you must time just right. Success means deminiaturization and a new spaceship.
Screen 10: Whether you take the upper or lower tunnels, you have plenty of opposition and the opportunity for a 5 second shield. Either way — the Sarlacc pit awaits at the end of the screen. (We would have called it something else.)
Screen 11: Made it through the first mountain. Passing through the energy barrier automatically “beams” you to the next screen. (We called the mountains “Screen 1” and “Screen 2” since we envisioned it as a continuous side scroller, with only this one break in between. Here I am calling the individual drawings “screens” as it makes more sense when you look at them individually.)
Screen 12: Still scrolling to the right — entering volcano! A choice of two tunnels ahead.
Screen 13: Either way, both tunnels will lead you to a new ship, plenty of opposition, and a 7 second force field.
Screen 14: Your new ship has dual lasers and can stand the heat of the lava lake you are about to enter!
Screen 15: You’re heating up so don’t be long. Upper tunnel offers some squidly opposition while the lower has plenty of enemy subs.
Screen 16: You’re low on fuel, and a giant lizard is sitting right there by the fuel depot!
Screen 17: Boss Level! As in the first game, the Great Gond awaits you at the end. He is protected by enemy ships and cruise missiles. Once you beat Gond, we change orientation: now the game scrolls up! Make your escape through the cone of the volcano.
Screen 18: Scrolling up as you try to outrace the flames of the erupting volcano beneath you, while being harassed by enemy ships and missiles!
Screen 19: If you beat the flames, you win the game!
We could have had a hit video game on our hands! We loved to draw and a lot of this was drawn outdoors. I’m pleased the thing held together long enough for me to scan it. Imagine that Queen theme playing as you win!
We’re locked down, but not knocked down as this week’s live show proved! From 1977 to 1991, stories of Christmases past were unfurled for fun discussion. From the Star Wars years, through GI Joe, Transformers, and Atari, to cassettes, CDs and VHS, the greatest years of our lives were presented. Then, special guest LeBrain’s Mom joined the latter half of this episode for her first on-screen appearance…bearing wine!
I had a great night and I hope you did too. Lots of visual aids this time. Thanks for watching!
My obsession with Kiss was started in September of 1985. You all know the story. I knew that the neighbour, George Balasz, only needed two Kiss albums to complete his LP collection. He needed The Elder, and Hotter Than Hell. One day Ian Johnson called, wanting to trade some records for an Atari game: Superman, one of the poorest games in the Atari catalogue. He could have that stinker! He was trading me copies of Alive! and the much coveted Hotter Than Hell. I already knew that I was going to spin Hotter Than Hell over for more trades.
I played Hotter Than Hell once. Then I called George to negotiate a trade.
By the conclusion of the evening, I had acquired a Walkman, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette, an Abbott and Costello record and an Iron Maiden 12″ single. Not bad for a shitty Atari game.
Now, technically the Atari game belonged to my sister and I, and she was pissed that I traded it without at least consulting her, but today she understands the monumental significance of her sacrifice. My Kiss collection had begun.
I owned a record player, but it was a terrible one, so my Kiss focus was going to be cassette. I asked George to record that scratchy copy of Hotter Than Hell for me. Between that day in September of 1985 and summer of 1987, I taped just about every Kiss album from George. The ones I didn’t tape, I bought at the local Zellers store. Their selection was limited. For that matter, every store’s selection was limited. There wasn’t much Kiss available on cassette in 1985 Kitchener. I had to have them. I had to get them all.
I can’t remember the specific order anymore. I probably recorded Animalize off George next. I say this because it was on the flipside of the 120 minute cassette that also contained Hotter Than Hell. Those, plus my LP of Kiss Alive, kept me occupied for a few months.
There were only a few vintage Kiss albums you could find on tape in town. Dynasty and Destroyer were common. They had been reissued in something called The Priceless Collection, a low budget series of repressings. The vinyl edition of Destroyer in this series lacked the gatefold. I got Dynasty in one of the local stores, and a few weeks later, accidentally dropped it into a bucket of wallpaper water. My dad bought me a new copy right away. I have an amazing dad. He always took care of me.
It was a neat experience, getting those Kiss albums on tape as a kid. It was a whole new world to me. Imagine getting a Kiss album, and hearing for the first time who sang which songs. You’d try to guess from the titles. You couldn’t guess from the writing credits, necessarily. I’d listen to the words and try to figure out what Kiss were singing about. Wonder if, when I was a grown-up, I would have some of these experiences with the ladies that Kiss were talking about.
I taped a few more off George in the interim. Sometimes I’d just drop a tape off at his house while he was at work. I asked him to record Kiss, Dressed to Kill, Unmasked, Creatures of the Night, Love Gun, and Double Platinum. He wrote down the song titles as neatly as he could, and then I made my own covers. I had a system. I always had a big Kiss logo on the top half of the cover. I tried to draw them identically every time. If it was a single album, I would add a crude drawing of something to do with the album. On Dressed to Kill, I had Gene in a trenchcoat. On Love Gun, a pistol. On the back cover I’d write out the tracks. But for a double album, I used the bottom half of the front cover to list all the songs. There wasn’t enough room on the back for a double album tracklist once I cut (or punched) out the two holes for the tape shell. The back cover also had the year of release, and I drew a symbol on the tape label to indicate whether I recorded it from LP or cassette. The spine featured a “Dolby stereo” logo. I was meticulous about keeping all my Kiss tapes looking the same.
The only one of these Kiss tapes that I still have the hand made cover for is Crazy Nights, and I half-assed it because I knew I’d be buying a copy as soon as I could. I can remember recording Crazy Nights the day it came out from George, and this temporary cover was on the tape that tided me over until I could get a real copy.*
Of course, some were store bought. Lick It Up was a Christmas gift and I bough Asylum myself. Destroyer was another early purchase. I had it before I heard Double Platinum. I had never heard “Detroit Rock City” before. I was familiar with some tunes from Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, my first exposure to many Kiss hits. I found Destroyer to be weird and I was surprised how much George liked it.
A memory that I have of Creatures of the Night is how good that album made me feel. Listening to that tape in the garage after a day of bullying at school was a powerful experience. The music was defiant. The lyrics sounded good. “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please, you can go to hell.” Yeah you can!
Once George got The Elder, I taped it pronto. I remember we couldn’t read all the song titles. “Escape from the Ish? What is that?” He couldn’t legibly squeeze “Island” into the line. Then I started seeing Kiss cassette reissues in stores. Creatures came out with Kulick on the cover. Most importantly, all the Kiss solo albums, which were otherwise impossible to locate on tape, were reissued in early ’87. I asked — nay, demanded — all four for my birthday. And because I was so spoiled, I received all four. I listened to them in alphabetical order three times each. A lot of the tunes weirded me out. Too much funky bass.
Last to land in my collection was Rock And Roll Over. And I recognized, that until Kiss out with a new album, this was the last time I was going to have this experience: hearing a Kiss song for the first time, guessing who sang what and trying to understand the lyrics. It was bittersweet.
It turns out, even when Kiss do put out a new album, it’s just not the same. I don’t feel like I am learning something of Kisstory, like I did with the older albums. I don’t get the sensation of “Wow, this is a classic song that I didn’t know before.” It is just not the same. But I’m glad I had the experience.
* When I got Crazy Nights, I recorded over this tape and re-used the paper for the cover. Mixed Songs replaced Crazy Nights, a compilation of singles by Dokken, Ratt, Anvil, Helix and many more.
Perhaps the greatest awakening I ever had in my life was the moment I first heard Iron Maiden. It was so important to me, it was the first chapter of Record Store Tales — Part 1, “Run to the Hills”. At that early age, music and video games collided I was never the same again. Since that time, music has always been intertwined with gaming and my best buddy Bob. All three combined were responsible for my rock n’ roll epiphany.
Bob and I played a lot of Atari on the weekends. Both families had the Atari 2600, but we both had different selections of games. Depending on whose house we were at, we’d play different games. “Gorf” was one game he had that I didn’t. It was a shooter like “Space Invaders” but with different kinds of levels. More than going for a high score, it was important for us to try and make it through all the levels. Atari games were so limited. “Gorf” had five distinct levels so it was more rewarding to see all five than to rack up high scores.
Same with “Frogger”. That was one of my games, and Bob was very competitive on it. As you progressed up the levels, more obstacles were thrown in your way, like snakes for example. It was exciting to make it to a new level for the first time, but “Frogger” was a hair-triggered game where timing was everything. And Bob used to get very, very excitable when a game of “Frogger” went wrong. That is how he earned the nickname The Reset King.
Here was his thinking. If you lose a level early in “Frogger”, the chances of making it to a new high level were greatly reduced. Bob would rather reset the game than try in futility. So, he’d dive for that reset button on the Atari console, usually while yelling something at the game. “The game is cheating!” was a favourite.
The game is cheating indeed, I suppose. It was easier to let him reset than argue that an Atari 2600 wasn’t sophisticated enough to “cheat” at a video game. “Frogger” was very touchy, but it wasn’t particularly glitchy. If you so much as touched a car, you were dead even if it didn’t technically “hit” you. So it could get frustrating, sure. We would have to eventually cut Bob off from resets or nobody else would get a turn.
And so, he was crowned the Reset King by my dad, who worried he was going to break the damn switch. It was a title Bob rejected because the game was cheating, and because David Dolph across the street was way worse with the reset button.
David Dolph was this bratty kid across the street. His weird family wouldn’t let them play with any toys with guns, like G.I. Joe. But David was no dummy. He had a Transformers collection, because he didn’t tell his mom they came with guns. He was also destructive, and if you let David Dolph near your toys, he’d probably wreck them. We didn’t like David Dolph, but one afternoon we found ourselves at his house playing video games in the basement. It was there that David Dolph faced the Reset King.
They didn’t have an Atari, but they did have a Commodore Vic 20 that you could play games on. We were playing there in the basement, when the Reset King decided to start a game over because it “cheated” early on.
“No fair!” yelled David Dolph. “No fair! It’s my turn now!” He tried to wrestle the controller from Bob’s hand, who didn’t budge. In fact he just continued to stare intently at the TV and play, with the corners of his mouth attempting to conceal a smile. Giving up the fight over the controller, David Dolph burst into tears and ran upstairs. Bob kept playing, a huge grin now upon his face. We stayed until Bob finished playing games!
David Dolph was a weird kid. His parents were really strict and wouldn’t let them listen to music, except for Bruce Springsteen. They approved of the Boss, but heavy metal was satanic to them. The kid was over at our house one afternoon when I was watching music videos on TV with Bob. He was visibly upset by “Rock You” by Helix, and left the house. About a decade later, he sure changed. I often heard him blasting Savatage’s “Hall of the Mountain King” from his bedroom window when his parents weren’t around.
Maybe it’s the narcissist in me, but who was he blasting Savatage for? By that time, Bob and I weren’t even talking to him, so I always wondered if he was blasting it at us.
As much fun as we had over the years, you had to be patient when gaming with Bob. If you wanted play with him, you had to let the Reset King have his way.
The reset button never broke. In fact we still have the same Atari 2600. It works, and we still have all the cartridges…except one. My sister never forgave me for trading away “Superman”. However, I traded “Superman” for my first Kiss (Record Store Tales Part 3: My First Kiss) so clearly I had the greater good in mind.
What did break…frequently…were the controllers. And that wasn’t Bob’s fault. Bob owned an Atari and took good care of his stuff. He was brought up in a Dutch household that understood the value of working for something and taking care of it. None of Bob’s things were broken like David Dolph’s. No, Bob didn’t break our controllers. They were broken by Cousin Geoffrey. Cousin Geoffrey broke…everything.
My cousin is now a father himself, and he understands things a little differently now. I think he doesn’t hold it against me when I say he was fucking annoying to play Atari or Nintendo with. More annoying than the Reset King or David Dolph!
Geoffrey destroyed about three Atari joysticks. I was pretty good at taking them apart and repairing them, but there was only so much I could do. An Atari joystick was a plastic handle that activated four switches on a circuitboard underneath. Geoffrey would push those joysticks so hard that the plastic inside would shatter. I could take it apart and use hot glue to give the inner plastic frame some strength but it was a temporary fix at best. You had to buy new controllers. My dad eventually decreed that Geoffrey was only allowed to play with old, refurbished controllers, not the new ones.
Geoffrey destroyed our original Transformers G1 Frenzy figure, on Christmas day, the same day we got it! He was just a destructive child, and what he didn’t destroy he simply lost. I’ll give you some examples of the chaos he caused.
First trip to Alberta, August 1979. l-r Mike, Geoffrey “Captain Destructo”, and Kathryn
In August 1979, the family took our first trip to Alberta. It was a two week tour starting in Edmonton and going through the mountains. My sister, my cousin and I were often given the same toys to play with, so we wouldn’t fight over them. My sister and my cousin were both given dinky cars of the Batmobile. Were they ever cool. They came with a little metal trailer and a plastic Bat Boat you could tow. We had a lot of fun playing dinky cars on those floors of Alberta motels. They were also small enough to carry around in your pockets.
Geoffrey threw his first Batmobile off a mountain in Jasper. He just wanted to see what would happen if he threw the Batmobile off a moutain. A second Batmobile was bought for him on the same trip. That Batmobile was flushed down the toilet of a rest stop in Canmore. He was eventually given a third Batmobile, which, as far as I know, survived a little longer than the other two.
Geoffrey “Captain Destructo” (in cap) sulking after sacrificing the Batmobile to the Mountain Gods.
Another incident of soul-crushing toy waste happened in the summer of 1983. This time, Geoffrey was visiting us in Ontario. It was the summer of Return of the Jedi. The new figures were out. My mom took us to Zellers and bought each of us a new toy. I chose Luke Skywalker, partly because he came with so many accessories. He came with a new lightsaber, a gun and a cloth cape. Geoffrey got the same figure. We then waited on a bench while my mom did her banking.
“Come on let’s open these,” said Geoffrey. My sister and I always waited until we got home.
Geoffrey ripped open his Luke.
“Why are you opening that now? You’re going to lose the gun. Just wait until we get home. This is our last stop.” I attempted to reason with my cousin but he had Luke out of the package.
Within the first five minutes, he lost the gun. Before we made it home, he lost the lightsaber too.
“I told you so,” was something I relished saying to him. My Luke, by the way, still has all his accessories 35 years later.
What these tales tell us is that cousin Geoffrey was a monsoon of chaos and utter destruction. He also had all the latest stuff, and that included video games. Fortunately for his parents, the original Nintendo Entertainment System had very robust, button-based controllers. He couldn’t break them. He was really good at “Super Mario Bros.” and “Mike Tyson’s Punch Out”. Unfortunately this meant my sister and I didn’t get much gaming time. We died early and often, and he played long lives while earning extra ones. His turns were much longer than ours.
We saw him make it to Mike Tyson once. That was pretty cool. Once he almost made it, but my dad walked in front of the TV during a fight and caused Geoffrey to lose. Boy he sure threw a fit that time!
Here’s the funny thing. When we were kids, my cousin took a lot of energy and patience to keep entertained. When he hit his 20s, he really mellowed out and we bonded like we never have before. And what did we bond over? Music and video games.
I took a trip out to Alberta for a week in 1997. He took me shopping to a couple music stores in Calgary, used and new. I found a rare CD featuring the early one of somebody named Dave Grohl. It was the band Scream, and the CD was No More Censorship. I was kicking off a love affair with Foo Fighters and it was a seriously cool find. Geoffrey was (and always has been) into to Tragically Hip, so I got him a CD by a similar sounding band called the Barstool Prophets. Meanwhile, he turned me onto the Gandharvas with their last album Sold For a Smile. Killer album that I still love (and own two different copies of).
At night, he introduced me to one of the best racing games I’ve ever played. For the N64 system, we spent hours on “Top Gear Rally”. It was such an immersive game for its time. We designed our cars, we discovered shortcuts, and had a blast seeing how far we could make it.
Once again, it wasn’t best scores or best times that mattered. It was seeing how far you could get. Getting to the third or fourth level was rare and required serious skill. It was the most fun I’d had playing video games in many years!
All these memories flow like a stream of consciousness, triggered by certain songs. Early Kiss, AC/DC and Quiet Riot will forever be associated with the old Atari 2600 in the basement. Bob was a constant gaming companion, and he sets off even more memories. Discovering music together, like Whitesnake and Kiss albums. All hail the Reset King. Long may he reign!
I was at a funeral recently, for an old family friend. Sandor was a neighbor since I was little. I grew up playing with his three kids: Rob, Michelle and Steven. It was sad but nice to see them again. We chatted about games we used to play as kids. Atari 2600, Lego, the Game of Life. The best games we played were the ones we made up ourselves.
One game that I invented with my best buddy Bob was called “Double Bounce Volleyball”. It was just a good way to play with a volleyball on the street with no net. I wrote up some rules on WordPerfect. What I wouldn’t give to see those again! What was not in the rules, but happened frequently anyway, was me throwing down some street moves. I tried to do the spinny-spinny-jump dance that Paul Stanley used to do in the “Thrills in the Night” music video. I could do it, but it didn’t look right anyway without the tassels on the pants! Personal acrobatics aside, it was a great game because all you needed was two people, a street, and a volleyball.
Another game we invented was a live action version of the 1979 Atari classic game, Adventure. Due to its poor graphics, it was once considered one of the worst video games on the market. Since then it has somehow become a cult classic, despite the fact that your little “man” was just a square floating around. You had explore mazes and three castles, and eventually bring a chalice back to the yellow castle. The random setting for the game placed objects everywhere on the field so no two games were the same.
Atari Adventure man with sword and yellow key
The main objects in the game were three keys (one for each of three castles), a sword, a magnet (useful for grasping objects out of reach) and a bridge (pretty useless). There were also some creatures to avoid: three dragons, and a bat who would steal whatever you are carrying, and sometimes replace it with something less useful. For example, the bat can and will steal your sword and replace it with a dragon!
A group of kids would gather together in somebody’s back yard. Depending on how many kids there were that day, we might have used multiple back yards. Someone would hide the chalice (a drinking glass) and other objects. I had a neat classic U-shaped magnet that was perfect to fill that role. We’d usually use clothespins for the keys. A plastic lightsaber was our sword. Then we’d all become adventurers, dragons or the bat! We’d run around the yard finding objects and generally having a blast for the whole afternoon.
I think our live action game was better than the real Adventure!
One afternoon, another kid from another neighborhood joined us. I don’t know why Allan Runstedtler was wearing a cape, but it suited! Another time, we couldn’t remember where my magnet was hidden, and I really wanted it back! We eventually found it and decided not to hide actual valuable objects again.
Do kids even go outside and play anymore? Almost everything we did was improvised. A badminton racquet wasn’t just a badminton racquet. It was also a guitar for “air bands”. Bob turned a neck brace into a Texas Chainsaw Massacre mask. We also did a live action version of the video game Berzerk. We were all very lucky to grow up in a tightly knit and safe little neighborhood. Everybody’s parents knew everybody else’s. We played video games (everybody on the street had either an Atari 2600, or a Commodore Vic 20), but then we went outside when that got boring. It wasn’t just a neighborhood with families. It was an extended family of families that we were fortunate to experience. And a hell of a lot of fun.
One more reblog for this season. Here’s an instalment of Getting More Tale (the sequel series toRecord Store Tales) about Christmas Eve in the glorious, wonderful period we knew as the 1980s. Feliz Navidad!
RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale #349: Christmas Eve
So here we are once again, Christmas Eve. When I was a kid, you were my favourite day of the entire year. It’s hard not to get excited about you, today in 2014. Christmas Eve, you were the center of everything, 30 years ago! Such a short but exciting day. Inevitably, relatives would start handing us colourfully wrapped boxes, the best ones saved for last. Then the ritual of steps: Shake the box. Give the card a cursory read and give it a toss. Rip the paper. Peer inside. 30 years ago, there would have been Star Wars figures inside. Perhaps my Jabba the Hutt gift set. An Atari game, possibly. I wasn’t into music that much until about 1985, when Kiss really opened my eyes.
Around that time, Christmas Eve changed a little bit, but only in a subtle way. Instead of racing downstairs to play our new Atari games, we would race upstairs to play our new cassette tapes! Some Helix, Kiss, or Twisted Sister would have been among the music received back then. We also would have received our fair share of GI Joe and Transformers toys. I remember the year I got the GI Joe Hovercraft from “Santa”! Oh boy. My dad won’t let me forget that one. I woke up at 1 in the morning to play with it. Yeah, the parents weren’t overly thrilled to be woken up by the noise at that hour. I just couldn’t stay asleep! Having a younger sister meant the whole Santa thing went on longer than its normal sell-by date, but I wasn’t complaining. It was a lot of fun.
I’m sure tonight won’t be that different. If I’m lucky, I will receive a CD or two from somebody who loves me. I won’t race anywhere to go and listen to it right away, but it will be just as appreciated. After I got older, got a job, and started buying people gifts with my own money, I’ve realized that it’s the giving that is so much more fun. I cannot wait to see the look on people’s faces, especially when forced to open my elaborately disguised surprises. That’s what I get a kick out of the most now.
This year, I wish each one of you all the best, and indeed a Merry, Merry Christmas. Whether you celebrate it or not, have a good day, eh? Be safe. Please drink responsibly, and please call a cab if you have been drinking. But that’s enough serious talk. I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Christmas videos (still unreleased on CD to this day), and some links to past Christmas posts. Enjoy! Ho ho ho!
Winger’s cool traditional / funky version of “Silent Night”!
RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #395: Dutch Boy
As kids in the 1980s growing up in Kitchener, we would buy our music anywhere we could find it. A lot of mine came from the mall: stores like Zellers and A&A Records. Other places to find music included Hi-Way Market on Weber Street. That store was incredible! They had the largest toy section I’d ever seen, and every Christmas a professional Lego builder would put together a giant display. None of these places exist anymore.
Another place that carried a small section of music was actually Dutch Boy Food Markets, just down the street from Hi-Way Market. It too is long gone, but I have many memories. It had a modest dedicated music area, but they also sold food, toys and clothing. It was considered a supermarket but it had a little bit of everything. My dad remembers buying many of my beloved G.I. Joe figures at that store. He also says that we bought our Atari 2600 there. That Atari still works today. I think we got it in 1982. My aunt actually used to work at a Dutch Boy location (not the same one) in Waterloo.
My friend Bob used to go there frequently. I used to think it was because he was Dutch, but it probably had more to do with the fact that one of the Kitchener stores was within biking distance.
One afternoon in early ’88, we hopped on our bikes and hit Dutch Boy to check out the music section. This “new” band called Whitesnake had been in our ears lately, but we only knew two albums: Slide It In and Whitesnake/1987. I didn’t even know they had any albums out before Slide It In at that point. You can imagine our surprise when we found numerous other Whitesnake titles at Dutch Boy: Snakebite, Trouble, Lovehunter, Come An’ Get It, Saints & Sinners, and Live…in the Heart of the City. All reissued by Geffen, all on cassette.
“Woah!” Bob exclaimed. “Whitesnake! Is this the same band?”
“No it can’t be.” I said. “They’re only supposed to have two albums!”
Each of us grabbed a mitt full of Whitesnake cassettes and began examining them for more details.
This Whitesnake and our Whitesnake were both on Geffen. This Whitesnake shared the same logo that was found on Slide It In. It had to be the same band after all. I explained this to Bob.
“This is the same Whitesnake,” I said. “Look…they are using the same logo.”
“Yeah,” he replied, “but have you ever seen that guy before?” He pointed to Mickey Moody on the cover of the live album. He sure didn’t look like anybody I knew from Whitesnake, but it was impossible to ignore the evidence.
“I think,” concluded Bob, “that Whitesnake are another band that had albums out before we heard of them.” That happened from time to time. We would discover a “new” band like White Lion or Europe, only to find that they had some little-known earlier albums. It made it both frustrating and exciting to try and collect albums.
We both started collecting the earlier Whitesnake music. Bob was first, picking up Saints & Sinners at Dutch Boy. He brought the tape over one afternoon for me to copy. We loved the original version of “Here I Go Again”, as well as “Crying in the Rain”. Later on, I added Snakebite and Come An’ Get It to my collection. I enjoyed the earlier, more rock & roll sounds of these previously unknown Whitesnake tapes.
I’m not sure exactly when Dutch Boy closed, but I do remember the last album I bought there. It was now spring 1990, and I had a CD player by then. Once again Dutch Boy did not disappoint. I found a Van Halen disc there that I had never seen before on any format other than vinyl. The album was Fair Warning. Since it was the most “rare” Van Halen I had found so far, I chose to buy it. It came to about $24 with tax, a lot of money for an album that was barely half an hour long. It should go without saying that Fair Warning was one of the best purchases that my young self ever made.
Too bad Dutch Boy had to shut its doors. It was a good store and I hear a lot of fond memories of it from others. Do you remember?