Blaze of Glory

#840: 40 Years in Photos

GETTING MORE TALE #840: 40 Years in Photos

According to Ye Olde Photo Album, we began building the cottage in the summer of 1980.  Until then we stayed in a log cabin down the road with Grandma and Grandpa.  It was a tight squeeze.  Grampa had a bunk house out back where he spent the night.  Grandma had a bedroom where Little Baby Kathryn Ladano slept in a crib.  My mom and dad had a room.  That left me to sleep on a cot in the living room.

Many of my memories of that cabin are Star Wars memories.  The Empire Strikes Back had just come out.  I remember reading the comic book and the collector’s cards by the little front windows.  My mom bought a whole box of Empire Dixie cups for the lake.  Our action figures were always there with us.  I didn’t have a Boba Fett yet, so in the meantime I used a Micronaut with missile-firing backpack.  The cabin had structural support cables running from front to back, and they were great for hanging Star Wars figures in precarious adventurous positions.

There wasn’t much room in that little log cabin so eventually we needed to get a place of our own.  My parents bought a vacant lot nearby and began clearing the land.  We had no phone, no cable TV, nothing other than what we brought with us.  That was usually our Star Wars guys and sometimes a little Fisher-Price tape recorder to play cassettes.  But all my Star Wars soundtracks were on vinyl.  My grandfather had a record player at the cottage but we didn’t play Star Wars records.  Just country!

The land was cleared, a foundation was poured, and flooring laid.  Insulation was installed under the floors and that’s when it rained.  Insulation had to be re-done, a messy job.  The construction attracted attention from local cottagers and a curious little boy named Cyril became my first cottage friend.

Cyril was not only my first cottage friend, and not only my first black friend, but also the first black kid I’d ever met in my life.  Growing up in Catholic schools in Kitchener Ontario was a very white experience.  I’d never even see a black kid before that wasn’t on television.  The picture of Cyril checking out the brand new window delivery was typical.  That was as exciting as things got.  There were always trucks dropping off mountains of lumber.  Like all other little boys in 1980, Cyril was a Star Wars fan.  We got our figures together and played.  I remember freezing Han Solo in a glass of water.  It was the best way to make a “frozen Han” back then!

Funny thing about Cyril.  He had an older step-brother.  Eight years after meeting Cyril, his older brother was my science teacher:  the legendary Mr. Marrow, one of the greatest teachers I ever had, and a guest star in my “Nothing But A Good Time” music video.  He played – surprise surprise – the teacher!  And he nailed it!

I’m not sure what happened to Cyril or Mr. Marrow as their family sold the cottage long ago.  I did see Cyril once as an adult.  He towered over me, and apparently developed a love of Phil Collins!

By 1981 we had a space we could live in.  The interior was not finished, and we used an old folding table in the kitchen.  The back yard was nothing but dirt and stones.  My mom’s ashtray and cigarettes sat on the kitchen table.  It took years to finish the inside, room by room.  The wall slats went up and the ceiling was eventually finished too.  Soon, front and back decks went on.

The next photos come from Easter of 1986, an occasion I’ve written extensively about.  Easter fell in March that year, and we spent it at the lake.  The water was still partly frozen, but a few leads opened up in the ice and we took out the canoe for a trip.  You can see my little sister hunkered down in the middle while my uncle and dad paddled.  Later on in the back yard, I could be found playing air guitar on my favourite weapon – a badminton racquet.  If there was a tape deck on the back porch, it would have been playing “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest.  The video had just come out and I recorded it to tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted.  Naturally “Turbo Lover” was followed by “Locked In”.  I wouldn’t get the album itself until September.

One of the most interesting things to me about the older photos is the lack of puppies.  The first Schnauzers arrived in August of ’86.  We had two to choose from – Gentle Ben and Crystal Belle.  I connected with little Ben as the photos show.  I thought he might like to listen to some Triumph on my earphones.  But we chose Crystal (I was outvoted 3-1), and she was our puppy for the next many years.  I’ll be honest and admit that the stories you’ve heard were true.  At the time, I did not want a dog.  I didn’t want a dog because my sister did, and I didn’t want her to have her way.

In a photo from fall of 1987, she can be seen looking for cookie scraps as we lounged on a hammock.  I was wearing an Iron Maiden “Trooper” shirt that I don’t even remember owning at that age.  Later that fall we went on a big hike, following the lake north.  Shortly after, I painted that black vest with flames, and it became part of my Alice Cooper Halloween costume.

During the school years, I stayed home more often.  I didn’t want to miss any WWF wresting, or Much Music Power Hour music videos.  The absence of cable TV and a telephone made it feel like you were really out of contact with the outside world.  Of course, that was the point, but when you’re in your teens that’s not a point you really feel like making.

In the winter, my parents would go for day trips while I would stay home and get into mischief with Bob Schipper.  A photo was snapped of my dad shooting one of his guns on one such trip.  I stayed home to make cardboard guitars with Bob.

Time flew – and so did we!  My dad had a good friend named Jack, who was an airline pilot.  Because of Jack, any time we were going on a flight, he could made arrangements with the pilot to let us come up to the cockpit.  I felt like the kid in the movie Airplane!, meeting Captain Oveur.  Jack was a customer of my dad’s at the bank and that’s how they met.

Jack also had a small plane over his own.  When he came to the cottage for a visit, he didn’t drive.  He flew.  Summer after summer we always looked forward to his visits.  He’d take us all up two at a time if we wanted to.  It was pretty wild being able to see the cottage from the sky.  Too bad we didn’t think to take pictures from the air.

The 80s turned into the 90s.  I’ve written extensively about the summer of 1991, and the photos show change!  The old brown back deck was never meant to be a permanent fixture.  In ’91 we designed and built a bigger and better deck.  It was my job to cut out holes for the trees to grow through and you can see this in the photos.  Or at least you can see me goofing around for the cameras in my beloved Jon Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory T-shirt.  I bought that album there, on cassette the previous year.  The “bloody” scene was caused by a bottle of ketchup, cropped out of the photo (but left in on the original print).  Neon pink was in at the time, by the way.

1991 was a special summer because it was the last summer that Bob came to stay, and the first one that my buddy Peter came for.

Seasons passed and hair grew.  I had pretty good long hair when my Aunt came to visit in 1992.  You can tell it was 1992 by the Wayne’s World shirt.  I just had to have one.  Wayne’s World was everything in 1992.  I started talking like Wayne, using words like “spew” and “not”!  The tape deck that summer was loaded with Queen, Iron Maiden, and my favourite band Kiss who was out for Revenge.  We still have those old plastic deck chairs too!

What is really amazing to me is how quickly the time has gone by, especially those early years.  It felt like ages to finish the cottage.  It seemed like the unpanelled walls and temporary furniture was forever.  Even into the 1990s, our closets were not finished.  You could find the words KISS and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK inked into the wooden 2x4s framing our closets.  Archaeologists will be able to determine whose room was whose based on hidden graffiti.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and can imagine what it was like to be a kid at the lake, playing Star Wars, and later rocking the air guitar badminton racquet to “Turbo Lover”.  Maybe next time there I will break out the racquet for another go.

 

 

VHS Archives #90: Aldo Nova – “Modern World” unplugged live performance and interview! (1991)

By request of the mighty JOHN T. SNOW of 2loud2oldmusic.com 

Canadian rock sensation Aldo Nova made his very first visit to the MuchMusic studios in July of 1991, on the Pepsi Power Hour hosted by Michael Williams.  Getting down to business, Aldo plays an unplugged “Modern World” from his brand new album Blood on the Bricks!

This nearly 20 minute segment is Williams and MuchMusic at their finest.  Aldo is engaging and frequently demonstrates songs on acoustic.  Subjects covered:

  • Signing a deal / starting out with “Fantasy”
  • Producing early Celine Dion recordings
  • “Runaway”
  • “Blaze of Glory”
  • His band and working with a singer instead of singing himself

 

REVIEW: Jon Bon Jovi – Blaze of Glory (1990)

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JON BON JOVI – Blaze of Glory: Inspired by the film Young Guns II (1990 Mercury)

Billy the Kid was a fascinating character.  Perhaps he was the embodiment of the Old West itself: a charismatic outlaw, who reportedly had a hair trigger temper but also a heart of gold.  Unfortunately, the film Young Guns II seems more about a person called Brushy Bill, rather than William H. McCarty, also known as William H. Bonney, but best known as Billy the Kid.  Having killed his first man at 18, the Kid earned his nickname with his boyish looks.  He looked nothing at all like his screen counterpart Emilio Estevez, but it’s because of Emilio that Jon Bon Jovi recorded the soundtrack to Young Guns II.

A popular theory from the 1990’s was that Billy the Kid was not killed by Sheriff Patrick Frank Garrett in 1881.   In 1948, a character called Brushy Bill Roberts emerged claiming to be the Kid, alive and well.  There was enough facial resemblance, and also sworn statements from five people who knew the Kid. Roberts never proved that he was actually William McCarty, and today historians have dismissed his claims due to the number of facts that do not match (such as dates of birth).   Young Guns II, the film, operated on the popular theory that Billy survived, and that he faked his death with the help of Pat Garrett.

In fact Garrett did shoot the Kid and lived a life of shame afterwards, as the details of the shooting of the popular Kid didn’t paint him in a positive light.  Oddly enough, Garrett himself was shot and killed in 1908 by a rancher named Jesse Wayne Brazel, in New Mexico.  The interesting coincidence about this is Brazel was uncle to a Mac Brazel, also a rancher in New Mexico, near the town of Roswell.  It was on his ranch that something strange (almost certainly an actual UFO) crashed and was covered up.  It is an amusing intersection of two of the great folk tales in American history.

So along came this movie.  Emilio Estevez asked Jon Bon Jovi if they could use “Wanted: Dead or Alive” in the film.  Jon declined and said, “The lyrics don’t make sense.  That song is about touring, let me write you something more appropriate to the old west and Billy the Kid.”  This turned into an entire album.  Essentially Blaze of Glory is not a soundtrack album (since none of Jon’s songs are in the movie until the end credits) but a concept album based on the film.

The album begins with a snippet of dialogue:  “Yoo-hoo!” says Emilio/Billy.  “I’ll make ya famous.”  A gunshot and the song “Billy Get Your Guns” begins.  That’s Kenny Aranoff on drums in case you were wondering.  “Billy Get Your Guns” isn’t a hard rock song like Bon Jovi was doing at the time.  But it’s still rock and roll, featuring some great slide guitar riffing by Waddy Wachtel.  Jon’s voice is young, strong and loud.  It’s a sound I miss.  I think it’s impossible to dislike the excellent “Billy Get Your Guns”, especially when topped by a Jeff Beck guitar solo, who plays on pretty much the whole album.  (The album also features two Journey bassists:  Randy Jackson and Bob Glaub.)

Jeff even appeared in the music video for “Miracle”, the hit ballad from the album.  The lovely accordion and spare arrangement gives it quite a different feel from old Bon Jovi ballads. Once again I am reminded that Jon once possessed quite a powerful voice.  It’s also worth noting that Jon wrote every song himself.

“William H. Bonney, you are not a god.” – Keifer Sutherland as Doc Scurlock

“Why don’t you pull the trigger and find out.”  – Emilio Estevez as Billy the Kid

I still love “Blaze of Glory”.  It’s timeless, more so than a lot of Bon Jovi’s hits from the time — “Bad Medicine” and so forth.  I remember seeing Aldo Nova on TV playing the riff on an acoustic guitar, and it is perfect in its classic simplicity.  Aldo is one of Jon’s oldest friends and he plays on the whole album as well.  This dynamite hit song has become so loved that Bon Jovi play it live and included it on their greatest hits compilations, even though only Jon was part of it.  Jeff Beck’s smoking solo is as much part of the song as Jon is.  I cannot understate how great this song is. From quiet acoustic strumming to bombastic aplomb, the song is a great achievement.

“Blood Money” is a short ballad, with spare acoustics, tambourine and accordion.  Jon sings as Billy the Kid, directly to Pat Garrett.  Historically we don’t know if Garrett and McCarty were friends as they are portrayed in the film, but likely they were not.  Regardless, even though the lyrics are implausible historically, it is still a powerful little song.

This leads into “Santa Fe”, which is from the perspective of Doc Scurlock.   You want epic?  Look no further.  An album highlight, “Santa Fe” boasts strings, powerful Aranoff beats, and Jon’s most vivid lead vocal.  If it had been on a Bon Jovi album, I think it would be regarded as highly as a song like “Dry County” which it resembles slightly.

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Side two opened with Lou Diamond Phillips (Chavez y Chavez in the film) singing a native chant.  The song “Justice in the Barrel” refers of course to the barrel of a gun, and Jeff Beck’s playing in the opening reminds us why he is one of rock’s most legendary gunslingers.  The song however is more laid back, a slow rock groove.  “Never Say Die” is the most straightforward rocker on the album, and it features Robbin Crosby of Ratt on electric guitar.  This song most closely resembles Bon Jovi, the band, even lyrically.  It is followed by a song that sounds nothing at all like them, and also my favourite:  “You Really Got Me Now”.  From first listen, way back in 1990, to today, this is a song that always puts a smile on my face.  Imagine Jon Bon and Little Richard building a time machine, travelling back to 1881, and jamming in a saloon.  That’s “You Really Got Me Now”.  Richard plays piano and sings the second verse, and I love it.  It’s a shame this little tune is only 2 1/2 minutes long, but I guess it was a bit of a novelty.

“Bang a Drum” is a pleasant soft soul rock anthem, but the Hammond organ and Jeff Beck help maintain its integrity.  The soul comes from the backing vocals of Julia and Maxine Waters.  This is the climax; the denoument is “Dyin’ Ain’t Much of a Livin'”.  The delicate piano is provided by one Elton John (before he would become Sir).  Elton also joins Jon on backing vocals.  “All this fame don’t bring ya freedom,” sings Jon, a line that may apply to a rock star life as well as an outlaw.  The powerful song is a natural ending to a story such as this.

There’s a brief coda, an orchestral piece from the movie by composer Alan Silvestri called “Guano City”.  I always wondered why this piece (as good as it is, sounding like some of John Williams’ more exciting segments) was on the album.  Nevertheless, there it is, and the album is done.

Jon was very emphatic in stating that Blaze of Glory was not his true solo album.  It was 10 songs written specifically for a movie, to fit that movie.  His solo album would come seven years later with Destination Anywhere, but first it was time to get Bon Jovi, the band, back on track.  This began with a 1991 live performance of “Blaze of Glory” at the Academy Awards, by the full Bon Jovi band, augmented by additional guitarists Waddy Wachtel and Danny Kortchmar.

If you consider solo albums and soundtracks as part of the overall catalog, Blaze of Glory still clocks in as one of my absolute favourites.

5/5 stars