GETTING MORE TALE #601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock
I like to describe some of my older friends who passed on their rock knowledge to me as “Jedi masters”. The first “Jedi masters” of rock in my life were neighbors Bob and George, who got me started. I taped a lot of albums off those two guys until I no longer needed their guidance. I built a killer collection, but at Laurier University I met my next Jedi master.
His name was Rob, and he has appeared in these pages before. Rob was the star of Record Store Tales Part 32: Pranks. He’s always been a little bit of a prankster. At school, he was an assistant in the Philosophy department. He told me about a prank involving a $100 bill being taped to a classroom ceiling, and observing the confused expressions. He liked to prank me in the Record Store too. In addition to the Deep Purple joke from Part 32, he also liked to sneakily move discs all over the store. He enjoyed watching me try and figure out what was changed. He kept everything in plain sight, just the wrong spots. Rob was good for a laugh. He actually went to highschool with the store owner; they are the same age. And don’t worry, Rob didn’t leave without making sure I got all the discs back where they belonged.
I went to the same highschool as those guys, though I was a bit younger. Rob and I had some mutual friends (like Bob), but we didn’t actually meet until University. I recognized him from a Whitesnake highschool air band. Rob played David Coverdale in 1987, but he refused to do a popular Whitesnake tune. Instead he did “Slow An’ Easy” from 1984’s Slide It In, which nobody else at school knew…except me. Rob was disqualified, for doing some very authentic mic stand moves a-la David Coverdale…perhaps a bit too authentic. The school wasn’t impressed when Rob seemed to use the mic stand as a giant phallus, but that’s Coverdale for you. That’s as authentic as a Whitesnake air band could get. He may have been disqualified but he did make it into the yearbook.
Rob’s Jedi teachings involved Whitesnake and Coverdale’s previous band, Deep Purple. We covered the whole family tree from Rainbow to Glenn Hughes and Trapeze. He educated me on the labyrinthine Purple back catalogue. Well before all their rarities were reissued on CD, he recorded songs for me. Whitesnake’s rarities “Need Your Love So Bad”, “You’re Gonna Break My Heart Again”, and “Looking For Love” were among them. He also recorded a couple rare Deep Purple albums – Power House, and The Anthology (not to be confused with the unrelated CD Anthology), with loads of songs you couldn’t find on CD. It was years before these tracks were reissued officially, but I was already familiar with great Deep Purple tunes like “Painted Horse” when they were.
He and I were in touch on and off over the years. I remember a memorable dinner at East Side Marios, when he confused the server by orderings two entrées. He finished one, enjoyed it, and was still hungry so he ordered another. That really seemed to confuse her. Rob also had no use for social pleasantries. He hated when people would ask, “How are you?” when he knew it was just something to say and they didn’t actually want to know. The socially acceptable answer would be “I’m good, and you?” Rob’s answer would be “my psoriasis is flaring up”. I always liked that about him. No bullshit.
I lost track of Rob about five years ago, shortly after I launched Record Store Tales. But he’s still around. My buddy Craig over at 105.7 DaveRocks received a mysterious email from a listener, and it could only have come from Rob.
I heard LeBrain’s name mentioned today and I wondered whether he could answer that one impossible Van Halen question: when is Van Halen Best Of Volume II going to be released? He couldn’t answer that question back in the [Record Store] days.
Ah yes, the mysterious Van Halen Best Of Volume II that never materialized. Rob remembered! In 1996 when Volume I was released, one of my most hated customer questions was “When is Volume II coming out?”
The frequency of that question drove me nuts. Hey, I get it. Volume I didn’t have your favourite song(s). But Van Halen had a lot of publicity in 1996 due to the aborted reunion with David Lee Roth. It was common knowledge that they were working on a new album with Gary Cherone. Why did so many people assume their next release would be Volume II? Probably because they’d rather buy that than something new. After getting that question over and over and over and over, I began answering “In 18 years.” Customers would be baffled. Why 18 years? Because that’s how long it took them to put out Volume I. I was wrong though. More than 18 years have passed and Volume II is never coming.
I understand why Van Halen wanted to call their best of “Volume I”. It was to make clear that the band was not done; that this was only the first, and they had no plans on quitting. Unfortunately the message that fans heard from that title was “Volume I is half of a whole”. Naming it Volume I was a bad move. People were far more interested in the mythical Volume II than anything new by Van Halen.
It’s funny how something like that can jog a million memories. Rob’s email to Craig concluded:
If you have time for a request can you play Blue Rodeo’s “Lost Together” and dedicate it to LeBrain? Let’s see whether it will jar any memories.
You got me there. I played Blue Rodeo in store a lot, including that song, but no other memories are jarred. Sorry Rob! I’ll have to email him and find out what the story was!*
Nice to hear from the old Jedi masters again. I hope you’re doing well Rob, and I don’t say that just out of social obligation!
* Update: I contacted Rob and found out. His memory is incredible. “I recall you mentioned some of the difficulties you had with [an ex-girlfriend] in relation to communicating with one another. You listened to Blue Rodeo’s song ‘Lost Together’ as a way of making sense of that relationship during that particular time.”