blue rodeo

#980.5: The Adventures of an Anxious Walmart Shopper on Easter Saturday

“Hey Jen, if you’re up early enough, let’s go to Walmart tomorrow morning.  I want to look for that new Coke,” I said stupidly, not thinking about what weekend it was.

“Sure,” she agreed, and that’s how it ended up that we left for Walmart at 9:45 on Easter Saturday morning.

The “new Coke” I was referring to is “Coca Cola with Coffee”, available in three different brews:  Caramel, Dark, and Vanilla.  I want to try all three.  I was a big fan of Coca Cola Blaq about 15 years ago, their first attempt to mass market a coffee/Coke hybrid.  Coke Blaq was delicious, like regular Coke but with the extra note of coffee bean.  I’m eager to try these new ones.  Coke Blaq came in a small black bottle in these come in cans, which makes me wonder if they are similar to those creamy coffee beverages, with a Coke taste?  Or something more like Coca Cola Blaq?  Inquiring minds wanted to do, and I had heard that these were showing up in Walmart stores.

Walmart was already pretty busy and then I smacked myself and realized, “Of it is.”  Ah well.

I wore an N95 mask this time; my first time.  Easy breathing but hard on the ears.  If I’m wearing one long term I’ll have to do something about the ears.  About 75% of Walmart shoppers were masked, and 100% of the staff.  This is good since virtually everybody I know has Covid, or has had a recent close brush.  I can’t believe this is my third Covid Easter.

First I made my way to the entertainment section where I picked up the newest Blue Rodeo album, Many A Mile.  On slide guitar, The Sheepdogs’ own Jimmy Bowskill, once a child prodigy discovered by Jeff Healey at age 11.  Blue Rodeo are one of those bands where I just want to own all the albums, and stay current, even if the last five or six albums have been good but not memorable.  There’s never anything wrong with ’em.  Many A Mile is as good as any.  In some regards, it’s a throwback to the classic first three Blue Rodeo albums.  Lots of awesome guitar work and hooks.  Just gets hard to remember the songs, record after record after record.

Also found in the music department were the new albums by Slash and Greta Van Fleet, but I found myself staring indifferently at them.  I didn’t even know Greta had a new album out.  Have they already dropped off the radar that badly?

Come on, where are you Spiderman: No Way Home?  Not in stock – sold out!  They had a three-fer with all three MCU Spidey films in one, but I wanted something with the bonus features that I crave.  Ah well, next time, I’ll get you Spiderman!

Finally a trip to the toy section.  No Marvel Legends figures at all, and only a couple Star Wars Black Series.  They were well stocked in Transformers and I noticed they had some reissue Beast Wars toys.  Hard to believe Beast Wars was 25 years ago.  I never bought an original Beast Wars toy, and wanted to give one of these reissues a shot.  They only had Optimus Primal and Megatron, so obviously I chose the dinosaur.  Beast Wars has always been an enigma to me.  When it was new, the toys seemed to barely transform.  The cartoon was very primitive in terms of computer animation.  But Beast Wars appealed to kids worldwide and it saved the Transformers franchise.  Curiosity got the better of me and now I am the happy owner of a reissue purple dino Megatron.

Finally, the Coke. I scoured the racks but they did not have the coffee beverages that I require.  I shall have to try convenience stores and gas stations next.  I love Coke.  I try every variety that I can get my hands on.  I have no problem with Pepsi, but it’s Coke that I want to catch ’em all.

Walmart did have two sweet looking consolation Cokes:  Quebec Maple, and British Columbia Raspberry.  Only having enough hands for one case, I chose Quebec Maple.  Upon paying, I realized that someone swapped out one bottle of Maple and replaced it with a Raspberry.  Win!  I get to try both.

I only had one panic attack while waiting to pay, and I managed to breathe my way out of it.

Walmart had run out of plastic bags and only had the more expensive cloth ones.  I could feel the tension as word spread among the customers.  I hate standing in line at grocery stores and Walmarts.  Everybody does, but I get tense.  It passed; my glasses fell off because of the way the N95 pulls on my ears, but I paid for my stuff and got out.  Didn’t need a bag.  Didn’t have the energy to look at Sunrise Records or Toys R Us.  Just came home.

Put the Coke in the fridge, pulled up a chair and started listening to the Blue Rodeo.  They’re usually pretty good for reducing the anxiety. I feel a lot better already!  Happy Easter everyone, and stay away from places like Walmart if you can!

VHS Archives #120: Blue Rodeo – “Hasn’t Hit Me Yet” live at the 1994 Juno Awards

Please enjoy one of Canada’s greatest bands, live or in the studio:  Blue Rodeo!  Pay special attention to master bassist Bazil Donovan, the elegantly complex slide work of Kim Deschamps, and ex-Andy Curran dynamo Glenn “Stumpy Joe” Milchem on drums!

Hosting the Juno Awards on this night was Roch Voisine.  Though they were nominated for three awards including Group of the Year (which they lost to the Rankins), Blue Rodeo went home empty-handed.

This was, in my humble opinion, the best lineup the band has ever had. I was fortunate enough to see them in this incarnation on the Tremelo tour in ’98.

Jim Cuddy – vocals/guitars/mandolin
Greg Keelor – vocals/guitars
Bazil Donovan – bass
Glenn Milchem – drums
Kim Deschamps – pedal steel
James Gray (RIP) – keyboards

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (1987 Remix single)

BLUE RODEO – “Day After Day (Rose-Coloured Glasses)” (Remix) (1987 Warner 7″ single)

Blue Rodeo were off to a hell of a start.  With a debut LP produced by Terry Brown (Rush), the uncategorizable band eventually went four times platinum in Our Home and Native Land.  Their first single, “Outskirts” didn’t do much, but the followup singles sure did.  Because of its unforgettable chorus, “Rose-Coloured Glasses” was renamed “Day After Day”, with the original title in parentheses.  It was also remixed for the 7″ format.  The 7″ remix remains exclusive to the single, despite a massive Blue Rodeo box set released not that long ago.

Purchased for 99 cents by Dr. Kathryn Ladano somewhere out in the boonies (possibly Radio Shack in Port Elgin), this copy looks like it was marked for clearance.  There is a telltale burn mark on the inner ring of the record.  Anything with non-album tracks or versions was on our radar for collecting and we didn’t care about little burn marks if the record was 99 cents!

The remix isn’t drastically different; some minor changes.  The song didn’t need any help.  As one of Blue Rodeo’s best from the early days, it’s still pure delight.  Greg Keelor’s lyrics are that of a lovestruck poet, something he does very well.  He often finds himself entranced by new love.  “But there’s something in those eyes that keeps me hanging on, I’m hypnotised.”  Still he’s always grounded in his own reality.  “See a world that’s tired and scared from living on the edge too long.  Where does she get off telling me that love could save us all?”  I love everything about it.  The music is full of joy and hope just like the object of Greg’s affection.

The B-side, “Floating”, is an unlisted edit version.  Cut down from 7:53, this version runs at 7:28.  There’s about 7 seconds of noise missing from the opening, and the rest seems to be taken off of the end.  That’s means you’re not getting all of Bob Wiseman’s nutty organ soloing, but who are we kidding, you already have the album anyway.  In contrast to the A-side, this is one of Greg’s more nocturnal explorations.  Are those waves crashing that I hear?  Blue Rodeo jam on this long bomber, the title of which is descriptive of the music.  “And I feel like William Holden floating in a pool,” goes the line that gives the song its name.

This is a band that has it all:  writing, playing, and singing.  They don’t use outside writers and their live shows feature jams that go on for days.  I’m going to get a little preachy here.  If you’re going to jump on the Blue Rodeo train, may as well start at the beginning with songs like “Rebel”, “Try” and of course “Day After Day”…or “Rose-Coloured Glasses”.  It doesn’t matter as long as you get it in your ears.  Hell, Bob Wiseman on his own is a brilliant and entertaining artist.  Throw in the rest of the original lineup and you have a formidable contender for Canada’s greatest band.  Greg Keelor’s guitar playing has always been underappreciated, though Jim Cuddy’s golden voice gets all the praise it earns.  Basil Donovan’s bass is in-demand due to his innate sense of rhythm and melody.  And Cleave Anderson, the former punk drummer who went country, just has a “sound”.  It’s simple and it’s his, just like Johnny Fay.  Though the band today is larger and more versatile, original Blue Rodeo was a special thing.

5/5 stars

 

#841: Happy Canada Day! 11 Tunes

Happy Canada Day from LeBrain HQ to you.  I know this is rough one, a weird one, and a difficult one.  I’m going to ignore the current goings-on and everything else that has to do with Canada Day, and present to you Eleven Canadian Songs You Need to Hear Right Now.  Enjoy!

1. Helix – “Billy Oxygen”

2. Arkells – “Leather Jacket”

3. July Talk – “Picturing Love”

4. The Guess Who – “Albert Flasher”

5. Blue Rodeo – “Side of the Road”

6. Harem Scarem – “Slowly Slipping Away”

7. Rush – “Vital Signs”

8. Gordon Lightfoot – “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” (re-recorded version)

9. Monster Truck – “Don’t Tell Me How to Live”

10. Kim Mitchell – “Rumour Has It”

11. Thor – “Keep the Dogs Away”

REVIEW: Greg Keelor – “Pine Ridge” (1996)

GREG KEELOR – “Pine Ridge” (1996, from Pine Ridge: Songs for Leonard Peltier)

Blue Rodeo are taking some heat these days for their stance on indigenous rights.  A small group of fans are abandoning the band for (quote-unquote) “going political”, but politics is nothing new for this Canadian institution.  In 2015, they recorded “Stealin’ All My Dreams” just in time for the 2015 Canadian election.  (The mp3 file had a tag reminding fans to vote!)  It was pretty clear from the song where they stood on the issues.  Further back, in 1996, they participated in Pine Ridge, a benefit CD for Leonard Peltier.  It’s a long story that has resulted in at least three movies, a U2 song, and support from Rage Against the Machine.  Greg Keeler’s contribution to the Pine Ridge CD is one of the strongest songs of his entire career.

The track may be credited solely to Greg Keelor, but if you look at the players, it’s actually Blue Rodeo.  Jim Cuddy, Bazil Donovan, Glenn Milchem, James Gray, Kim Deschamps…the gang’s all there, the classic Five Days in July lineup.  So it’s a Blue Rodeo song in every way but in name.  At 10 minutes in length, it is unprecedented in complexity for this great band.  And they wore their politics directly on their sleeves.

The government man hate the colour of your skin and your dogshined reservation,
No reasons why those two FBI were on Oglala land chasing that red van,
And the FBI admit Leonard Peltier did not commit the killings that have
Kept him 20 years in prison.

The track runs the gamut from quiet, contemplative picking to soulful and dramatic choruses, to a funky mid-section, and a huge ending.  It’s as epic as Blue Rodeo get.  It tugs at the soul, and stimulates the mind.  It’s a protest song in the grandest tradition, right out of 1969.  And nobody can flat-out play like Blue Rodeo.  Pedal steel, dobro, organ…it’s all here.  And it’s massive.

Stay political, Greg.  Regardless of where you fall on the current situation in Canada (it ain’t pretty), we can all agree that the world is richer for all the great protest songs of the past.  Here is another one, now an oldie itself.

5/5 stars

The Pine Ridge CD also features performances by The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo’s Jim Cuddy, ex-Blue Rodeo keyboardist Bob Wiseman, Jane Sibbery, Michael Ondaatje, Ashley MacIsaac, Sarah McLachlan, the Skydiggers and many more.  Worth the investment.

 

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – “Diamonds in the Rough” / Demos and Other Stuff….. (1989)

BLUE RODEO – “Diamonds in the Rough” / Demos and Other Stuff….. (1989 Atlantic promo EP)

Here’s the funny thing about “Holy Grail” records.  Most of the time, you don’t even know they exist until you find one!

Blue Rodeo is one of those bands for whom I collect “everything”.  Their box set filled a lot of gaps, but I am still missing a few things.  To the Discogs!

I was searching for one of the Blue Rodeo Live in Stratford albums.  There are two; I only have one, and it’s excellent.  While searching for that live album, I found this promo EP instead, at a good price and in great condition.  Upon reading the tracklist, it contained four Blue Rodeo tracks I didn’t have and didn’t know existed!

1989’s Diamond Mine is still considered one of the band’s greatest albums today, if not #1.  The “God and Country” demo that leads off Diamonds in the Rough is an acoustic rendering of one of its best songs.   “How Long” is a fully arranged demo, sounding live off the floor.  Since this record was cut for radio stations to play, it’s quite possible that you heard these versions at some point in early 1989.  I hadn’t, and neither is included in the box set.  Of course they don’t have the production value of the full album, but that’s part of the appeal of collecting rarities like this.

Side one closes with a live version of “Outskirts”, also not on any Blue Rodeo album.  However this version of “Outskirts” is from another “Holy Grail” promo, The Live CFNY Concert.  That record is a double and still out my reach, so this energetic live cut will have to do for now.  (I mean, I could buy it right now…but the copy in the condition I want is almost $100.)

Side two has the single edit of their big hit “Diamond Mine”.  The album cut is 8:18, full of psychedelic organ solos and Doors-like jamming.  A shorter single edit of this song is always handy, and you can’t get it on their Greatest Hits CD. It’s similar if not identical to the music video version.

As if all of the above wasn’t enough to make this promo a worthy “Holy Grail” item, there are two unreleased demos for songs that never made it onto the Diamond Mine album!  “Galveston” is a cover of the Jimmy Webb song made famous by Glen Campbell.  Blue Rodeo’s version is manically fast, with Jim Cuddy’s sweet voice maintaining what made the song special.  Finally it’s “Jig”, an acoustic instrumental with Bobby Wiseman on concertina. This is little more than an idea of a song rather than something fully written.  Regardless, these two unreleased goodies go to prove what a band of musicians Blue Rodeo is, particularly Wiseman and bassist Bazil Donovan, possibly the country’s greatest bass player on this side of Geddy Lee.

If this record only had “Galveston” as its sole rarity, it would be still be a Holy Grail item.  As it turns out, none of these tracks can be found on a Blue Rodeo CD today, so it really justifies its own purchase!

5/5 stars

 

 

#747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 148:  Navigate the Seas of the Sun

GETTING MORE TALE #747: Top 11 Rock Songs About Aliens

UFOs, life on other planets, first contact…these are subjects rarely explored in lyrics, right? If you start digging, there are actually more songs about it than you know. Make a list of songs about aliens, not human astronauts like “Space Oddity” or “Rocket Man”. (Both great tracks indeed, but not about alien intelligence.)

I also left off “Hanger 18” by Megadeth, even though the video is a landmark for aliens in rock music.  The lyrics deal mostly with Area 51, a military base, with only a few lines about aliens.  “Foreign life forms inventory, suspended state of cryogenics.”

Do you have a favourite alien song? Check out the list below. You’ll find one alien-related subject among them that dominates the rest. Can you guess what it is?


11. Judas Priest – “Abductors”
Key lyric:  “They come at night and they infiltrate you, they paralyse and they mentally rape you.”

When Rob Halford left Priest, Glenn Tipton took over writing the lyrics. Tipton is…well, he’s not a poet. “Abductors” is at the bottom of this list because the words are just a list of metaphors for maiming someone. That the maiming is done in an alien abduction seems secondary.

10. Van Halen – “Love Walks In”
Key lyric: “Some kind of alien, waits for the opening.”

This one has a tenuous connection with aliens at best, but I wanted to include it because it’s such a well known song. Sammy Hagar believes he has been abducted by aliens.  That alone makes this song a significant entry.  The lyric “Contact, asleep or awake,” can easily be interpreted as being about alien contact.

9. Dio – Magica (album)
Key lyric:  “Now we understand. All traces of Magica must be eliminated. Infection. Infection. Delete, delete…”

Ronnie James Dio only lived long enough to make one concept album of a planned trilogy. It was a sci-fi fantasy epic called Magica. The saga takes place on another planet called Blessing, which is visited by alien explorers centuries later. The fantasy elements are dominant, while the alien setting serves more as a bookend.

8. Fu Manchu – “King of the Road”
Key lyric: “Under forty over is UFO, hell bent stacked in rows, the galaxy is lined with hundreds more, small town you bet we’re sure.”

“King of the Road says you move too slow!” goes the panicked chorus.  Fu Manchu’s lyrics are usually vague, and more about setting a scene.  This one involves a chase and a repeat abduction.  “All through my head it’s happenin’ over again.”

7. Bruce Dickinson – “Abduction”
Key lyric:  “Are you the truth to sit in judgement on my sins?  Evil laser gadgets come to penetrate my skin.”

Bruce Dickinson makes the impression of a well-read science fiction fan.  “Abduction” is one of his most blatant lyrics on the subject.  He does a considerably better job of it than Judas Priest.

6. Helix – “Billy Oxygen”
Key lyric: “The ship’s landing gear was down, people started to gather round. The door slowly started to open, people were ready to listen. He said my name is Billy Oxygen, and I am the mission commander.”

Written by guitarist Brent Doerner, this Helix song was a little different than the usual rock fare.  Yes, Helix are known for writing about “Women, Whiskey & Sin”, but sometimes aliens too!  Billy Oxygen is the commander of the ES-335 (actually the model number of a Gibson guitar), and all he really wants to do is get high with some aliens.  Why not?  But he’s only got 14 days to fly!

5. Blue Oyster Cult – “Take Me Away”
Key lyric:  “Strange shapes light up the night, I’ve never seen ’em though I hope I might. Don’t ask if they are real, the men in black, their lips are sealed.”

Blue Oyster Cult get major points for singing about the men in black, long before Will Smith was doing it.  Clearly the B.O.C. guys (or at least Eric Bloom) know their conspiracy theories.  An earlier version with lyrics by Aldo Nova was called “Psycho Ward”.

4. Ace Frehley – “Remember Me”
Key lyric:  “Well I’m staring down from Venus in the dead of night, my mind is thinking back to when the world was right.”

Of course, Ace has quite a few songs about space, but they’re mostly double entendres like “Rocket Ride” (by Kiss).  “Remember Me” is a little more thoughtful.  An alien is watching from nearby Venus, a common theme from the golden age of science fiction.  He laments that Earthlings continue to wage war instead of feeding the starving.  The alien goes to Earth with a message:  make peace, or you’re not gonna last!  Very similar to Klaatu’s message in The Day the Earth Stood Still.

3. Steve Vai – “Little Green Men”
Key Lyric: “You look-a real keen, even though you are green, With those big, large heads, something off of the movie screen.”

Steve has a few titles about aliens, but some are instrumental. “Little Green Men” is a comical song that quotes the musical theme from Close Encounters of the Third Kind!  Thank you, John Williams.

2. Barstool Prophets – “Thrusters”
Key lyric: “Just as I rise to leave, I hear the old familiar sound, of thrusters pounding atmosphere.”

There’s a loner out there in a field looking up at the sky, waiting to see something — anything.  “I have spent many nights, Staring at the sky, All the distant stars that shine, How I’ve longed to make them mine.”  Then he finally hears the sound of the ships returning.  “I knew that they’d come back for me.”

1. Blue Rodeo – “Cynthia”
Key lyric:  “And you stood in their beam of light, and they showed you the bones on the moon, Well I hope I get to go there, With you real soon.”

Here’s a real curve ball for #1.  Did you expect Blue Rodeo to be on the list?

Greg Keelor is in love with Cynthia, who tells him stories of being abducted by aliens.  “So you saw that Fire in the Sky, well I think that’s so cool,” says Greg, referencing the film.  He doesn’t think she’s crazy.  “You are nobody’s fool,” he sings.  “Cynthia” is unusually upbeat and happy song about aliens, though really it’s just about that crush of new love.  Greg’s so head over heels, he’d follow her anywhere.  “Cynthia won’t you take me to Pyramid Lake with you.  We could watch the space ships, Maybe they’d take us on a trip, to that never ending sky.”  Incidentally, Pyramid Lake is near Jasper, Alberta, and lakes are common areas for UFO sightings.  One wonders if “Cynthia” is based on a real person that Greg may have met.


At least six of these songs are about being abducted by aliens, using the word “abducted” in a broad sense, even if the person goes willingly.  “King of the Road” is open to interpretation.  Ace Frehley’s is surprisingly one of the more thoughtful songs, with its classic message of “make love not war” brought by an alien intelligence.

It’s Blue Rodeo who have the best tune about aliens.  By framing it in a love story and using vibrant lyrics, “Cynthia” is the winner.

REVIEW: Blue Rodeo – 1000 Arms (2016)

BLUE RODEO – 1000 Arms (2016 Warner)

It’s hard keeping up with Blue Rodeo! They’re always working, either as a band or on their own projects. They’ve released new albums consistently without gaps. That’s 15 studio albums (one of them a double) spanning 30 years. Countless amazing songs…but mathematically their growth have kept me from growing with their new music as much as the old. There are only so many hours in a day, and days in a week, and it’s hard to imagine the day that 1000 Arms will surpass Five Days in July for number of spins.  It’s inevitable that when listening to newer Blue Rodeo music, it doesn’t feel as close to you as the early stuff.

Blue Rodeo maintain their knack for incredible songs and playing on 1000 Arms.  Greg Keelor conjures up the same old, not-quite-broken spirits as before.  “Nothing I ever do is good for you, will I ever realize?  You’re never satisfied.”  Biting lyrics, chiming mandolin and perfect Cuddy/Keelor harmonies combine to make the opener “Hard to Remember” a future classic.  Jim Cuddy takes the wheel next on an upbeat number called “I Can’t Hide My Feelings Anymore”.  When has Jim ever hid his feelings?  Not the point — another great tune.

The disc is loaded with great tunes.  “Jimmy Fall Down” (vocals: Keelor) maintains the bright, upbeat direction.  Things don’t slow down until track 4, “Long Hard Life”.  It’s quieter but no less enjoyable.  It’s only a temporary reprieve, as “Rabbit’s Foot” brings a classic guitar vibe.  The title track is old style Cuddy storytelling.  Greg’s penchant for slow and dramatic music is carried on by “Dust to Gold”.  There is even sly humour on “Superstar”, something you don’t always get with a Blue Rodeo album.  “Start a business, organics door to door, ’cause nobody buys records here anymore.”

We could go on and continue to describe this batch of new tunes, but rest assured there are no duds.  (Do stay tuned for a heavy exotic turn on closing track “The Flame”.)  I hope that, over time, these songs become as much a part of me as the old tunes.  There’s little difference in terms of quality, and the musicianship is always tops.  Colin Cripps would be responsible for many of the tasteful guitar solos, but 1000 Arms is the last Blue Rodeo album to feature mandolin player (and Kitchener, Ontario resident) Bob Egan.  (That’s why he’s front and center of the band photo.)  Bob departed after making this one, and he went out in great style.

4/5 stars

#601: Rob, Jedi Master of Rock

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.

 

Hey Craig,
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.”

Sunday Chuckle: 8:30 am Walmart Run

When you know the guy ran out of toilet paper at 8:30 am on a Saturday, but didn’t want to put just the toilet paper on his debit card.

walmart-haul

 

And then I got home and it turns out I bought the “wrong” toilet paper.