The one VHS tape I’m working on currently spans a period of recordings from about July 1986 to September 1987. This Hear N’ Aid special features a MuchMusic interview conducted by J.D. (John) Roberts. There’s lots of exclusive information in this valuable video, including a tidbit on bands who refused to be in the same project as Spinal Tap!
I’d never seen anything like Heavy Metal before. It was a sci-fi cartoon with a bunch of guys from SCTV doing voices…but it wasn’t for kids! I probably saw my first animated genitalia in Heavy Metal. It was also the first time I heard Sammy Hagar.
Sammy’s title track opens the now-legendary soundtrack, which like many others was deleted in the 1990s and commanded heavy prices on the second hand market. When I worked at the Record Store during that period, there were always plenty of names on the wish list for this album. There were tracks on here that were hard to find anywhere else. This version of Hagar’s “Heavy Metal” is different from the one on Sammy’s Standing Hampton LP, and it was not the only such exclusive. “Heavy Metal” is one of Hagar’s best tunes, simply legendary. It’s a pummelling good time!
The rest of the album is equally awesome. Riggs (Jerry Riggs, later of the Pat Travers Band) has a Hagar-esque rocker called “Heartbeat” that is definitely good enough for rock n’ roll. You might not expect DEVO to be on an album called Heavy Metal, but what’s not to like about “Working in the Coal Mine”? I’m sure more than a few metal fans would have skipped this one back in 1981, but when compared to the next song by Blue Öyster Cult…what’s the big deal? B.Ö.C.’s “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” leans just as heavily on synthesizer, so purists be damned. “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” is a classic, through and through, a dark apocalyptic ballad that can’t be touched. Some would say it was the last gasp of B.Ö.C. before a long period of mediocrity. Cheap Trick utilised synth too, but their “Reach Out” is a rocker. Cheap Trick were another band in a period of decline, following the departure of original bassist Tom Petersson. “Reach Out” was a damn fine tune, and not on one of their albums at the time. (It’s hard not to notice that Tod Howarth ripped off the verses of “Reach Out” for his own song “Calling to You” with Frehley’s Comet. Howarth later played with Cheap Trick as a sideman.)
Don Felder from the Eagles isn’t the kind of guy you’d expect to hear do a song called “Heavy Metal (Takin’ a Ride)”. It’s an Eagles-metal hybrid and it’s pretty cool, more metal than Eagles, but you can hear them in there. He’s followed by Steely Dan’s Donald Fagen who presents the interesting “True Companion”. It’s progressive jazz light rock nirvana. The punks will hate it, but the same guys who dig Captain Beyond will appreciate it. Quite daring to include tracks like this on a CD primarily made up of rock and metal, but this helped open the minds and tastes of many metal heads over the years. Nazareth re-centers it back to rock and roll, with “Crazy (A Suitable Case for Treatment)”. It’s not among Nazareth’s best but it’s always such a pleasure to hear Dan McCafferty gargling glass.
Riggs returns with “Radar Rider”. Heavy riff in hand, it’s a slammin’ good track. But it is overshadowed by the bombast of “Open Arms” by Journey, one of the biggest ballads in the history of balladry. You know what’s funny? Even though I have heard this song 106,941 times as of this morning, I still smile upon hearing it. There must be something timeless to it that I can’t explain.
Grand Funk were in a decline (like a few of these bands), and “Queen Bee” from Grand Funk Lives was their contribution. Good track, though it does not sound much like the Grand Funk I know from the 1970s. And then it’s Cheap Trick again, with a noisy throwaway track called “I Must Be Dreaming”. It’s a bizarre track from the high priests of rhythmic noise, but they do bizarre just as well as they do catchy.
There’s one band that I think blew the doors off the album. One band that, to me, is always associated with this album. One band that defines the phrase “heavy metal”, and that one band is Black Sabbath. If you listen to fools, the mob rules! This was brand new Black Sabbath at the time; Mob Rules wouldn’t be out yet for a couple months. I have always preferred the soundtrack version of “Mob Rules” to the different recording that made it onto the album. This could be because it was the first version I owned. Regardless, to my ears it sounds faster and livelier…and more “Geezer-er”. Not that it matters, because no matter how you slice it, “The Mob Rules” is a shot of adrenaline right to the heart.
Don Felder takes it back to a slow groove with “All of You”, a good rock ballad with some seriously cool funky bass. All told, the Heavy Metal soundtrack has some damn fine playing on it from all of these bands — just incredible musicianship in these grooves. Things wind down with Trust, and a very heavy track called “Prefabricated”. Nicko McBrain was in Trust in 1981, but this does not sound like Nicko on drums. The song would have been better without the vocals. Especially when it’s followed by Stevie Nicks, one of the most iconic voices in rock. “Blue Lamp” was recorded for her solo debut Bella Donna, but not used. It’s certainly not outtake quality. In fact it’s pretty damned classic.
That’s what the Heavy Metal soundtrack is: a classic. If you like heavy metal, but don’t like soundtracks, then you should still own this one. Make it so.
Like many movies with a rock soundtrack, there was also a score for Heavy Metal released. I asked our friend Rob Daniels from Visions in Sound for a few words on this score in the interests of being complete:
“It’s a great score by the late Elmer Bernstein who is best known for a lot of 80’s comedic scores including Ghostbusters, Animal House and Airplane. His score fits perfectly within the metal music atmosphere, weaving its way through the various stories and songs to the Taarna story. The “Taarna” theme was actually first written for the Farrah Faucett character in the 1980’s film Saturn 3 but was not used. It includes an unusual instrument called a Ondes Martenot, similar to a Theremin but with a physical keyboard. Bernstein used the instrument quite a lot in his scores. While a lot of people know Heavy Metal for the songs in the film the score is of equal note and probably one of Bernstein’s best.”
Thanks to Simon McGhee for this autographed Sheepdogs disc! I was supposed to go see them but I got sick and couldn’t go. Simon had the band sign their new album for me anyway! Thanks man!
And thanks to Mrs. LeBrain for winning this CD and these tickets from 107.5 Dave FM! Blue Coupe (members of Blue Oyster Cult and Alice Cooper, get it?) are playing here next week. They are Dennis Dunaway (Alice Cooper) and Joe & Albert Bouchard from BOC. I hear good things about them. The CD is a cool compilation double set of great Canadian classics! Included on this disc, that I didn’t previously own and I’m happy to have:
- David Wilcox – “Do the Bearcat”
- The Watchmen – “Stereo”
- Red Rider – “Lunatic Fringe”
- The Band – “The Weight”
The picture of the food is completely unrelated. We just had a great dinner at Borealis in Kitchener last night. These are the barn door wings and the appetizer platter. As usual Luigi was our server, so thank you Luigi for an excellent time!
Missed part 1? Click here.
Here’s part 2 of 3 – 30 albums essential to Meat’s being, that should be essential to yours, too! So, without anymore preamble, I’ll leave you with Uncle Meat, as he discusses 10 more albums, in alphabetical order by title, that you need to visit (or re-visit).
HIGH TENSION WIRES – STEVE MORSE (1989)
Simply put, Steve Morse is my favorite musician of all time. I have had the pleasure of seeing Mr. Morse a total of 6 times when you combine The Dixie Dregs, Deep Purple and The Steve Morse Band. Unlike the releases of some of his contemporaries, High Tension Wires is not your typical shredder album. Oh it shreds alright, but Steve Morse is much more than a trickster. There are beautiful compositions, unforgettable solos and some just plain ol’ rocking too. Included is the link to a live version of a track perfectly named “Tumeni Notes”. For more examples of the greatness of Steve Morse, introduce some Dixie Dregs into your collection. You can thank me later.
HOT HOUSE – BRUCE HORNSBY (1995)
When Bruce Hornsby said goodbye to The Range, he immediately said hello with Harbor Lights, a heavily jazz-infused turn that completely changed the music world’s perception of him. Hot House sees Hornsby taking that one step further. The album’s cover speaks a thousand words. It is a painting of an imagined band session between Bluegrass legend Bill Munroe and Jazz legend Charlie Parker. Nuff’ said there. This recording contains many musical giants including Pat Metheny, Jerry Garcia, Bela Fleck and Chaka Khan. Hot House is very addictive. I know most of the words off by heart on this record. Hopefully someday you will too.
JEFF BECK GROUP – JEFF BECK GROUP (1972)
This album definitely falls under the underappreciated category. Sometimes known as The Orange Album, Beck’s playing has never been better on this collection of original compositions and covers. I would call this more of a Soul album than anything. The incredible vocals of Bobby Tench seem to highlight this record at times, as you will see on the live performance of “Tonight, I’ll Be Staying Here With You” I have included for this entry. Also worth noting, this album is one of the first recordings of the late Cozy Powell’s career. The guitar work alone on “Definitely, Maybe” is enough reason itself to seek this record out. Perhaps a rock n’ roll legend’s best work.
JOHN PRINE – JOHN PRINE (1971)
I actually discovered the music of John Prine while working at the same record store chain that Mr. Ladano speaks of in this blog. There is no one quite like John Prine. Some artists write great songs. Some artists write great lyrics. Only a select few truly do both this well. There is no doubt that John Prine’s self-titled album contains some of the best lyrics ever written. “There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes. Jesus Christ died for nothin’ I suppose?” That is just brilliant shit. “You may see me tonight with an Illegal Smile. It don’t cost very much, but it lasts a long while”. I have said this many times and I am still saying it now. John Prine is THE best lyric writer …. Ever. Fuck Bob Dylan. Yeah, I said it.
KRIS KRISTOFFERSON – KRIS KRISTOFFERSON (1970)
For the sake of alphabetical order by album, this Kristofferson follows the John Prine album on this list. Really it should be the other way around. While I stand by my earlier praise of Prine lyrics, I would certainly listen to the argument that there wouldn’t be a John Prine without Kris Kristofferson. The songs on this album show a huge diversity and a sense of patience that just makes him so cool. “Best Of All Possible Worlds” is just insanely-good storytelling and “Me and Bobby McGee” became a mega-smash for Janis Joplin. Of all the great concerts I have seen, watching Kris Kristofferson and a guitar for two hours in 2006 will always be one of the best concerts I will ever see. The true greats just need to show up.
LEGALIZE IT – PETER TOSH (1976)
After being a key member of Bob Marley & The Wailers for years, Peter Tosh embarked on a solo career. On his first solo release, Legalize It, I personally believe Tosh recorded the greatest Reggae album of all time. Fuck Bob Marley. Yeah, I said it. (Wait why am I so hostile? Ha.) Remember that one of Marley’s biggest hits “Get Up Stand Up” was co-written with Peter Tosh. I love this album from beginning to end, and the album’s cover remains a visual anthem for Marijuana activists everywhere. Sadly, Peter Tosh was taken from us when he was shot in the head during a home robbery. Rastafarian music at its finest.
LITTLE EARTHQUAKES – TORI AMOS (1992)
There is only one way to put it. During the spring of 1994 I became a literal disciple of Tori Amos. By the end of 1996 I had seen her live 7 times. Several of them in 2nd or 3rd row center seats, since this was back when you could actually wait all night for tickets and be rewarded for it. This album spoke to me in a way no other album has, or really could. Frustration with women, with Christianity and with life, I didn’t want to hear about hope in the horizon. I obviously needed to experience the frustration of someone who understood. I still have a red-head obsession because of Tori. This is in my ten favorite albums of all time and always will be. Little Earthquakes is full of intense and pretty compositions. The humor of “Happy Phantom” contrasts the pain of “Me and a Gun”. And the included track here is “Precious Things”, which sees Tori Amos exposing herself as the angry and sexual piano player she truly is. Myra Ellen Amos is quite simply a beast.
MELISSA – MERCYFUL FATE (1983)
Mercyful Fate’s first two albums are among the best Metal albums of all time. When you realize that this album came out a full year before Kill ‘Em All did you can start to see just how important this band truly were. Mercyful Fate are the High Priestesses of underappreciation. Yes King Diamond looks kinda ridiculous. And yes their lyrics are nothing short of evil incarnate. Lines such as “Drinking the blood of a new born child” and “I’ll be the first to watch your funeral, and I’ll be the last to leave” sometimes are so over the top that I guess it is understandable how an album this good could be ignored. If Thin Lizzy and Iron Maiden had a baby, and that baby grew up listening to nothing but Black Sabbath, the end result would have to look and sound something like Mercyful Fate. It’s no coincidence that the best thing Metallica has recorded since …And Justice For All is their medley-cover simply-titled “Mercyful Fate”. One of the greatest Metal albums of all time hands down. Click on the YouTube link and hear the start of “Curse of the Pharaohs”. If you don’t immediately recognize “2 Minutes to Midnight” you are lying to yourself.
NEVER, NEVERLAND – ANNIHILATOR (1990)
After Annihilator’s first album, Alice in Hell, it was time for a new lead singer. Out was the awful singing of the ridiculously-named Randy Rampage, and in was ex-Omen singer Coburn Pharr. The second album of this Ottawa, Ontario band was a vast improvement over the first album in every way. Without question the guitar playing of Jeff Waters alone makes this an absolute must-have recording for fans of thrash guitar or just guitar in general. If you can think of a better Metal album to come out of Canada then I would love to hear it. If you have never heard this album, and you consider yourself a “Metal guy” then you are missing out huge. I am having a hard time trying to pick a song to post here for listening purposes. That is how truly great this record is from beginning to end.
OPUS EPONYMOUS – GHOST (2011)
I know, I cannot believe it either. Only the second of twenty (so far) albums to be released after 1999 that appear on this list. This album by Swedish band Ghost is nothing but special. Before I heard this album I was told that it sounded like a cross between thrash metal and Blue Oyster Cult. As it turned out that description really was right on the money. Melodic background vocals nestled in between heavy riffing. I have to say that this album is my favorite Metal album in probably the last twenty years. The PERFECT blend of melody and heaviness. This is the only album that since I have got my iPod, every time I switch the music on it I leave this whole album on there. Every minute of this album is pure genius and I am super-stoked for their upcoming 2nd album titled Infestissumam that will be released this spring. Hail Satan!!!!
That’s it for now, stay tuned for part 3, coming soon…
RECORD STORE TALES Part 148:
Navigate the Seas of the Sun
We had a staff Halloween party in the late 1990’s. T-Rev had this cool “alien head” — he got it back in ’97 or ’98 from a convenience store. It had alien head suckers inside. He asked the guy at the store, “how much for the alien head?” The guy answered, “If you buy all the suckers in it, you can have it.” So he did.
The candy was awful by the way. I did my share, trying to help him consume it all.
But he got this alien head out of it, and with it, made a cool alien costume. And for the Halloween party that year, I wore the costume.
We had one girl at the store who had a phobia of aliens. I’d never heard of that before. We found it amusing, so after she got to the party, I came up the stairs wearing the alien costume. Well, she was just terrified. We thought it would be funny, but it wasn’t funny. If I could go back and change that, I would. It was a dick move on our part.
I don’t know the story behind the alien phobia, but back then I didn’t believe in aliens. I subscribed to Carl Sagan’s theories. I was a big fan of his book The Demon Haunted World. I simply didn’t think there was any evidence for alien visitation, nor did I think it was possible. Speed of light and all that.
Since that time I’ve read a lot of books. Stanton T. Friedman was the most convincing. A nuclear physicist has credentials that are difficult to dismiss, and he makes convincing cases. I’ve also read Whitley Strieber, Jenny Randles, and many others. I’ve come to the undeniable conclusion that some UFO sightings are real. Most are hoaxes. I’m not interested in those.
But what the hell does this have to do with music?
Aliens and UFO’s have provided subject matter for numerous classic rock and metal songs. Sammy Hagar’s a believer, and he’s incorporated that into some of his lyrics. Mick Mars is a hardcore believer. Blue Oyster Cult’s “Take Me Away” is a great example. Fu Manchu’s “King of the Road”. There’s many more.
In my years of collecting though, I have never found a better set of lyrics on the subject than side 1 of Bruce Dickinson’s excellent Tyranny of Souls album. Kevin, an employee, picked me up a copy at HMV Toronto back when they still sold Japanese imports. That was the cool thing about working in a record store. We helped each other out.
Bruce Dickinson is clearly a believer. I suspect he’s read his share of Von Daniken. Witness the lyrics to “Mars Within”:
Mankind returns to the stars
But sometimes, the stars return to mankind…
Didn’t you come this way before, a million years ago?
Although there’s also a reference to Professor Bernard Quatermass in the same piece, it’s easy to associate these lines with Von Daniken’s theories on ancient aliens.
But there’s so much more on the same album. “Abduction”:
Are you the truth to sit in judgement on my sins
Evil laser gadgets come to penetrate my skin
The next song, “Soul Intruders”, is more abstract but contains clear space references about the “solar wind” and “cosmic streams of time”. But one really cool lyric is “Kill Devil Hill” which combines these themes with the Wright Brothers and first flight. Everyone knows Bruce is a pilot and is interested in the history of aviation. The Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, is where the Wrights were the first to achieve heavier than air powered flight. But the lyrics hint at more:
Blood brothers of angels, now hear us
We earthbound your offspring, don’t fear us
God willing, we’ll raise up, be near you
So open your arms now and take us
To me, Bruce is referring to the aliens as the “blood brothers of angels”, and mankind as its offspring. This too is a common theme in UFO lore. Some believe that, at minimum, aliens have manipulated our DNA and directly interfered with our evolution. There’s no proof of course, but that’s not my point. I’m just looking at the lyrics and their inspirations.
The final song of these sci-fi themes on the album is “Navigate the Seas of the Sun”. Bruce even paraphrases Albert Einstein:
If God is throwing dice,
And Einstein doesn’t mind the chance
We’ll navigate the seas of the sun
Einstein once said, “As I have said so many times, God doesn’t play dice with the world.” Einstein was talking about quantum mechanics and its seemingly random predictions. But what Bruce seems to be saying is, if Einstein’s wrong about the universe, then there’s a chance we can break the speed of light and journey to the stars.
Later on in the same song, Bruce changes up the wordplay:
If Einstein’s throwing dice,
and God, he doesn’t mind the chance
We’ll navigate the seas of the sun
I love this.
The song is loaded with all sorts of beautiful sci-fi wordplay. The song is clearly about leaving Earth behind:
So we go and will not return
To navigate the seas of the sun
Our children will go on and on
To navigate the seas of the sun
This conjures up the image of multi-generational ships that may be necessary to colonize other worlds. The song in general brings to mind the Arthur C. Clark novel The Songs of Distant Earth. Eventually, our sun will use up all its fuel. This is inevitable. It’s physics. If humanity is to survive (if we even last that long) we will have no choice but to find another world to live on. Earth will be fried to a cinder when it goes nova and turns into a red giant.
We can’t go on tomorrow
Living death by gravity
Couldn’t stand it anymore
We’ll sail our ships to distant shores
Death by gravity is another theme that Clarke explored in his books. He felt that we could extend our lives by leaving this cradle and living in zero gravity. Now we know that living in zero gravity deteriorates our bones, possibly to the point of no return. So should we go on to explore the stars, this is an obstacle that must be overcome.
I’m grateful to Kevin for supplying the Japanese version of Tyranny of Souls, but I’m really, really sorry to the girl that we scared with the alien costume! With the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t have done it if I knew then what I believe today.
HEAR N’ AID – Stars (1986 LP, Japanese CD)
It is hard to believe that this monumental album, a piece of rock history, was only issued on CD in Japan! Finding a domestic LP or cassette isn’t hard (I’ve owned it on all three formats including CD) so hunt your record shops. I know Wendy Dio has a CD/DVD reissue lined up, hopefully including the full album, single edit, and the video and interviews. If you’re reading this Wendy…
At the time, all funds went to starving people in Africa, hence the name Hear N’ Aid. The inspiration was something fairly obvious: No heavy metal people outside of Geddy Lee was involved in the numerous famine relief projects of the time! (Geddy sang a lead on the excellent “Tears Are Not Enough” (1985) by Northern Lights, but nobody metal could be seen in “Do They Know It’s Christmas” or “We Are the World”.)
“Oh, you knoooow that we’ll be there!”
Showing the world that heavy metal bands and fans aren’t a bunch of assholes, Jimmy Bain and Vivian Campbell of Dio came up with the concept for Hear N’ Aid.
The main track, “Stars”, by Hear N’ Aid is a tour-de-force. Written by Bain, Campbell and Dio, this is essentially an epic extended track with a soft intro and heavy verses, and tons of guests. They assembled virtually every major metal singer who was willing and available to take part. That means you will hear Quiet Riot singers Kevin DuBrow and Paul Shortino (still with Ruff Cutt at the time) singing together for the first and only time in history! Rob Halford, Don Dokken, Eric Bloom, Geoff Tate, Dave Meniketti, and Dio himself all take lead vocal slots too.
When the guitar solo kicks in, prepared to be blown away. With Iron Maiden guitarists Dave Murray and Adrian Smith playing backing harmonies, you will hear the monstrous talents of George Lynch, Yngwie Malmsteen, Vivian Campbell, Craig Goldy, Neal Schon, Buck Dharma, Carloz Cavazo, Brad Gillis and Eddie Ojeda all taking a few bars. No charity track had ever attempted to assemble not just singers, but guitar players, on one track before.
All this is backed by drummers, bassists and keyboard players from Dio and Quiet Riot. There are more backing singers than I can name, but most notably, Derek Smalls and David St. Hubbins from Spinal Tap. Of course.
The rest of the album is filled out by songs donated by bands who couldn’t take part in the song, but still wanted to help the starvation situation in Africa. Therefore you will get a live “Heaven’s On Fire” from Kiss, from their Animalize Live Uncensored home video. This is the only place that the audio track was released on. There is an unreleased live “Distant Early Warning” by Rush, and rare ones by Scorpions and Accept as well.
1.Hear ‘n Aid – “Stars”
2.Accept – “Up to the Limit” (live)
3.Motörhead – “On the Road” (live)
4.Rush – “Distant Early Warning” (live)
5.Kiss – “Heaven’s on Fire” (live)
6.Jimi Hendrix – “Can You See Me”
7.Dio – “Hungry for Heaven” (live)
8.Y&T – “Go for the Throat”
9.Scorpions – “The Zoo” (live)