breaking loose

REVIEW: Helix – White Lace & Black Leather (1981 H&S)

Part two of a Helix three-fer!

HELIX – White Lace & Black Leather (1981 H&S)

Having already done it once themselves, why not do it again?  Once again Helix with manager Bill Seip raised the funds to record an independent album.  Drummer Brian Doerner was gone, replaced by Leo Niebudek.  On bass, Keith “Bert” Zurbrigg hung around long enough to record one new song (“It’s Too Late”).  He was replaced by the young, talented and troubled Mike Uzelac.  He was only 17 when he first joined Helix.  He told them he was 19.

Sticking to the same formula as Breaking Loose, there is really no deviation in sound.  Some members have changed but little else.  The band still managed to come up with enough good material to fill an album to follow the first.  I don’t know if the track “Breaking Loose” was a leftover from the first album or not, but quality-wise there is nothing “leftover” about it.  I would call it a typical Helix party rocker: a fast one, often used back in the day to open their sets.  The lyrics are the kind of thing that Helix were about:  the weekend!

“4 O’clock Friday afternoon,
Punch that time clock, now you’ll be home soon,
Your week’s all done, now it’s time to roll,
You’re like a time bomb about to explode.”

Vollmer reminds us “You only got two days, so make it last,” a philosophy I heartily agree with.  Brent Doerner and Paul Hackman lay down a pair of ripping guitar solos for the icing on the cake.  Then “It’s Too Late” is the kind of melodic mid-tempo rocker that their first album was loaded with.  Surely something like “It’s Too Late” could have worked on the radio, and I think that was the intent.  That takes away nothing from the song, which is classy with quality.

“Long Distance Heartbreak” at almost seven minutes is Helix’s longest song ever.  In the early days they tended to experiment with their songwriting, coming up with the odd mini-epic.  Like many Helix classics, this one reads as a road song.  Thin Lizzy they were not, but Vollmer captures the heartbreak in their lyrics while Doerner and Hackman take care of the guitar drama.

Helix get even more serious for a moment with “Time For a Change”, and “Hangman’s Tree” also brings a few issues to the table.  “Time For a Change” is sadly even more valid today.

“Everyday there’s a new headline,
Another war and another lie,
When will we learn to stop this killing while we can?”

It’s interesting that Helix didn’t seem to know their direction yet, but still infused every song with their bare honesty.  They were riding a line between a party band and a more serious, more experimental rock band.  In the end they chose the route that they were intended for, but that takes nothing away from these early songs.  “Time For a Change” and “Hangman’s Tree” are unexpectedly ambitious for a young bar band from Canada.  In each case, it is the guitar work that elevates the songs.

WHITE LACE

“It’s What I Wanted” lightens the mood, a mid-tempo rocker with a great melody. I don’t know why it is, but these melodic rock songs really sound like home to me. They conjure images of a more innocent time, when the world seemed smaller to me. They capture and bring back hazy, happy pictures of Kitchener in the late 70’s.

Brent Doener comes back with his only lead vocal on the track “Mainline”. Sounds like Brent was having no trouble getting satisfaction back then. “She keeps me happy, what can I say?” he sings, lamenting that his lady keeps him up all night and late for work in the morning! “Pick up my cheque at the end of the day, I find I’m down a couple hours’ pay.” So in essence, “Mainline” is about choices. You can either have tons and tons of sex at all hours of the day, or get to work on time. It’s your choice, people!

“Women, Whiskey & Sin” is pretty simple in its message. This smoking track is more like Helix would evolve on later albums like No Rest For the Wicked. “Ain’t no laws to hold us back on a Saturday night,” sings Brian Vollmer. (Hate to tell ya Brian, there actually are laws about some of the things you boys were doing back in the day!) Then “Thoughts That Bleed” is a proggy, slow closer with lots of dynamics, similar to how Helix ended the first album with “Wish I Could Be There”.

Ultimately there is no question that Helix made the right move to drop some of these softer, more progressive moments and focus on the heavy metal side of their sound. It got them signed to Capitol Records and secured their biggest hits. That leaves these first two albums as evidence of an earlier, more naive Helix willing to stretch out a bit more.

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Helix – Breaking Loose (1979 H&S)

Part one of a Helix three-fer!

IMG_20150605_184257HELIX – Breaking Loose (1979 H&S)

Long before they gave you an ‘R’, Helix earned a reputation as the hardest working band in Canada, year after year in the cold dirty clubs of the Great White North.  Formed in 1974, Helix had a number of lineup changes before they even recorded their debut.  If you want to get technical about it, even on their first album, Helix only had two remaining original members in singer Brian Vollmer and bassist Keith “Bert” Zurbrigg.  Helix really solidified when they eventually acquired guitarist Paul Hackman, and twin brothers Brent (guitar) and Brian Doerner (drums).

Manager Bill Seip, who eventually guided Helix to a major label deal with Capitol Records in the early 80’s, was an early believer.  Under his leadership, they managed to scrape together enough cash to record an independent album — something very few bands did back then.  They released it on their own “H&S Records”, for Helix & Seip.  What is remarkable about the album they created, Breaking Loose, is how great it still is today.  I know people, very respected in the local rock community, who will tell you this is Helix’s best album.

Breaking Loose isn’t metal, but what it lacks in firepower is made up for in class, ambition and natural talent.  Brian Doerner is one of the most respected drummers around, having acquired an extensive discography over the decades.  As for Brent Doener and Paul Hackman, together they forged a guitar partnership that would take them up to the big leagues.  They are not Downing & Tipton, nor are they Smith & Murray.  Doerner & Hackman (R.I.P.) were in a hard rocking bar band, and Helix were damn good for their demographic.  What they brought to the table was ability, but not flash.  Both were capable of writing songs on their own, as the writing credits on Breaking Loose attest to.

Having toured extensively, Helix worked up a number of originals.  The entire album is written by the trio of Doerner, Hackman and Vollmer, in various permutations.   Even then, Brian Vollmer had a remarkable voice: power with just a tiny bit of grit, but also the ability to sing clean.  The production on the album is flat by today’s standards, but perspective and context are everything.  For a self-financed album in 1979, it sounds incredible!  Though it lacks the oomph of Helix today, it’s perfectly listenable.

Starting with the mid-tempo “I Could Never Leave”, Helix right away hit you right off the bat with one of their catchiest tunes.  You’ll notice the nice backing vocals, Brent being particularly audible.  “Don’t Hide Your Love” has a similar vibe, that being hard rock with an emphasis on catchy melodies.  Maybe Helix were aiming for the radio, but the songs aren’t wimpy by any stretch.

“Down in the City” is a Vollmer ballad, and a pretty good one too.  The lyrics are cringe-worthy, but the music had ambition.  It starts as a pretty, folky acoustic song and eventually builds with more guitars into something different.  Plenty of guitars to go around.  Then like night and day it’s onto “Crazy Women”, written and vocalized by Brent, otherwise known as “The Doctor”.  Doerner has a quirkier writing style, which is a good thing, because it helped Helix stand out a little more from the pack.  “Crazy Women” has plenty of guitars of course, but also has a neat drunken stumble to it.

Brent closed side one, and opened side two with a legendary song that helped them get a following on the west coast: “Billy Oxygen”. It’s still a favourite to this day, a short fast rocker about a guy named Billy Oxygen, captain of a starship called an ES-335, looking to meet some aliens to party with. Out of this world? Wait until you hear the band playing the shit out of it! Brian’s drumming reminds me of a good jazz drummer — fast, accurate, and hard! Keith Zurbrigg throws down a little bass, playing off with Brent and Paul in a three-way solo for the ages.

If you don’t like “Billy Oxygen”, then I’m not sure if we can be friends. The impact this song had on me cannot really be measured, as I played it on repeat ad-nauseum. As I recounted in Record Store Tales Part 2 (!), this tune even inspired me to do some writing of my own:

When I was in University I tried my hand at bad, bad science fiction short stories. Suffice to say, none of it survives today with good reason. However, Helix had a little moment in my fiction: My spaceship was called an ES-335, named after Billy Oxygen’s ship in the song. And only a little while ago did I learn that ES-335 wasn’t the name of a spaceship at all. An ES-335 was a Gibson guitar.

“Here I Go Again” is not the Whitesnake song, but another one of those melodic rock songs that seemed a bit contrived to get some radio play.  That’s just speculation on my part, but I’m glad it was “Billy Oxygen” that did get the airplay.  That’s not to say anything negative about the fine “Here I Go Again”.  There isn’t a weak song on this album, but two other highlights are definitely “You’re A Woman Now”, featuring female backing vocals and a structure that builds into something dramatic, as if it’s Helix’s own “Stairway To Heaven”. “Wish I Could Be There” brings back the outer space theme, and has acoustic and heavy sections, sort of Helix’s foray into prog rock.

I should note that both “Wish I Could Be There” and “Billy Oxygen” made the Sausagefest countdown a few years ago, a lofty achievement indeed.  “Billy” even cracked the top five.  Musical scholar Scotty Geffros holds both songs in high esteem, and voted for them accordingly, as did I.  Our host, Iron Tom Sharpe also voted for “Billy”.

BREAKING LOOSE_0001

This lineup only lasted for one album, both Brian Doerner and Keith Zurbrigg departed shortly after this, leaving Vollmer the sole original member. Their legacy of the lineup is this debut album, something any band would be proud of.  Unfortunately, CDs are hard to find.  Capitol did a bare-bones but fine CD reissue in 1992, with both Breaking Loose and the second album White Lace & Black Leather, on one disc.  That release was called The Early Years, but it went out of print many years ago. Brian Vollmer did a CD reissue of each individually, but both are now sold out.

Now, fair warning:  I have to disclose that I am biased when it comes to this band.  I’ve met them a number of times, and I have the phone numbers of two guys who played on this album. For another perspective, I asked Scotty Geffros, who has a Masters degree in Rockology, about his relationship with Breaking Loose:

After being handed this album, as a youngster of maybe 9 or 10, I remember examining the cover first…and seeing the photos of the band on the back, and wondering why the singer had a Blackhawks jersey on? I was told by my father to listen to “Billy Oxygen” and quickly went to the turntable to give it a spin. Low and behold, instant love. From catchy tunes like “Here I Go Again”, to more epic works like “Wish I Could Be There”, this album grabbed me and holds up today as a really good, albeit under-appreciated record.

[Note: I was wondering the same thing. Brian, why are you wearing a Blackhawks jersey?]

I’d go a step further than Scott and call it really great. Being completely honest though, the only complaint I have about this album would be that some of the lyrics were a little weak.  Young band…first album…I’ll forgive them.  If you can too, then I suggest you hear Breaking Loose at your earliest convenience.

5/5 stars

#348: More Journals — SAUSAGEFEST 2007 Reportings

LEBRAIN

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#348: More Journals — SAUSAGEFEST 2007 Reportings

If you’ve been reading along, then you know I kept a journal back in the Record Store days, from which Record Store Tales was partially culled.  The journals didn’t end there, and I’m still sifting through them looking for gold.  This entry might not be gold per se, but there may be some nuggets.  There are also some good rock n’ roll memories!  This was my second ever Sausagefest.  And it sounds like it was interesting at least.

Date: 2007/07/09 17:25
Title: SAUSAGEFEST 2007 Reportings

“What happens in the valley, stays in the valley”, but here are some Sausagefest memories for the record books. It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times….

BEST OF TIMES:

  1. Helix made the list. Twice! At #100 was “Wish I Could Be There” and smokin it up at #13 was “Billy Oxygen”! Scott and I air-guitared like mental.
  2. “Zero The Hero”, my all time favourite Sabbath track from my all time favourite Sabbath album made it.
  3. More Maiden and Lizzy than I could shake a sausage at.
  4. Mmmm, lamb.
  5. Swimming.
  6. “Mandarin Dumpshoot”.

WORST OF TIMES:

  1. It is my own fault. Jen asked me to open up the tent she loaned me and to practice putting it together. I, however, did not. I said, “There will be like 20 guys there. We’ll figure it out.” However, you can’t assemble a tent without the tent posts, and those I was lacking. Sure, I could blame Jen, but it’s my own fault for not checking. So I slept in my car. Second year in a row. It wasn’t so bad until the morning when I was crippled by a wicked leg cramp.
  2. No portapotty. I took a shit in the river. I had little choice.
  3. On the Saturday, I ate too much sausage (maybe a little undercooked, that last one), and vomited all over a scarecrow.

It was an amazing rock n’ roll party and I can’t wait for 2008. Since I’m getting married in August of ’08, this will be my BACHELORSAUSAGEFEST!

But that, dear friends, is another story.

Part 177 / REVIEW: Helix – Live! In Buffalo

Another double feature for y’all boys and girls.  First the Record Store Tale, then the review…

Brent live October 3 2007

RECORD STORE TALES Part 177:  Hot On the Heels of Love

The record store had begun selling Brent Doerner’s Decibel, the first solo album by the ex-Helix guitarist on consignment.  My buddy Chuck hooked me up with a copy.  I opened it up, and lo and behold — another buddy of mine, and one of my best customers, was playing guitar in Brent’s band!  I have talked about Shane Schedler in the past, he was a great guy and I was glad he had hooked up with Brent.

I met Brent at a Helix gig at Molly Bloom’s, told him about how I knew Shane from my store, and this led to our first interview, which I published a while ago on this site.  I did numerous other writing jobs for Brent over the years as well.

Anyway, we shot the shit for a couple hours, just talking about music.  He was very passionate about songwriting, particularly lyrics.  Sometimes he would come up with a catchy song title or interesting phrase, and try to write lyrics around it.  He was heavily influenced by the lyrics of Burton Cummings, from The Guess Who.

“I like the fact that Burton Cummings kind of sang in riddles,” said Brent.  “You could listen to the song 100 times and try to pick the meaning out of the sentences.  And therefore, it doesn’t have a high burnout factor.  When I’m writing, that’s the big challenge.  I don’t want it to have a burnout factor.”

“I worked really hard at getting unique titles…I want unique titles so I can have unique songs,” he told me.

Chatting away, Brent told me of some future song ideas.  “I really want to write a song called ‘Hot on the Heels of Love’,” he said.  At first, I was quiet, and kind of confused.  Brent seemed to be waiting for my reaction.

“Brent,” I said, “You already have a song called that.”

“No I don’t,” he answered, and then paused.  “Really?”

“Yeah you do.  It’s on one of the Helix live albums,” I told him, trying to not embarrass him!

“Really?  Which one?” he asked me.

We were in his basement, sitting at this beautiful bar.  He had a small CD tower down there in the basement, with a complete selection of every Helix album he’d ever appeared on.  I studied the tower and spotted the album I was looking for:  Live! In Buffalo, which was recorded in 1983 but not released until 2001.

“Right there…Live! In Buffalo,” I said, “you have a song on there called ‘Hot On the Heels of Love’, that you sang, but as far as I know Helix never recorded a studio version of it.”

Brent grabbed the CD and looked it over.  Sure enough, there it was.  “Hot On the Heels of Love” is track #9.

I guess this shows that a good song title is a good song title no matter what.  But it was also the first time that LeBrain schooled a member of Helix!  (It was not the last time!)

Onto the review!

HELIX LIVE FRONT

HELIX – Live! In Buffalo (2001 Dirty Dog Records, recorded September 29, 1983)

Right from Vollmer’s first “Let’s rock!” at the beginning of this CD, Live! In Buffalo kicks you in the face and doesn’t stop until the end. Only one ballad (and barely a ballad at that, when performed at this volume), this concert sounds like it was a real sweaty affair. Helix were at the top of their game in ’83, hot on the heels of No Rest For The Wicked and “Heavy Metal Love”. This album is loud, there are no overdubs, this is a pure rock concert with no frills. The music is broken up with the occasional (breathless) intros by Vollmer, but then it’s right back into the high-octane rock.  Incredible to think this album was recorded in the middle of the day!

Sometimes I’ve felt that a good bootleg is much better than a well-recorded live album. There’s no fakery on a bootleg, and there is no fakery here. This was recorded for a radio broadcast, and miraculously the tapes were in good enough shape to release as a CD.

Helix opened with the title track from their current album.  “No Rest For the Wicked” is pounding, Fritz Hinz on the skins, pummeling them into submission, Brent on backing vocals while Vollmer seemingly shreds his own vocal cords.  This version is faster and heavier than the album version, as is every song on Live! In Buffalo.  Even a melodic rocker like “Let’s All Do It Tonite” has more bite.

Brian’s on stage raps are from the Paul Stanley school of thought.  For example, “White Lace & Black Leather”.

“This next song is about those ladies that you meet that got lots of class.  Lots of class…elegance.  When it comes to etiquette they’re at the top of their class…you’ll never find them with the fork on the wrong side of their plate.    You dare never tell a dirty joke to this lady because she’ll get up and leave the table.  But you get that same lady home, that very same night, get her back to your place, get her behind closed doors…she’ll turn out to be a moaner every time!  This is called ‘White Lace & Black Leather’!”

Elsewhere, a grizzled “Ain’t No High Like Rock and Roll” combines catchy licks with a driving melody.  A lot of these early Helix songs are among the best tunes they ever wrote.  Yet unfortunately, they are seldom if ever played anymore.  Thankfully, this album exists to remind us how great Helix can be.

Historically, this is also cool for a couple reasons. One, some of these songs had yet to be recorded on a studio album, such as “6 Strings 9 Lives” and “You Keep Me Rockin'”, which would turn up on the next album.  As mentioned in the above Record Store Tale Part 177, one tune was never released on a studio album at all. That is Brent Doerner’s “Hot On The Heels Of Love”, sung by Brent (don’t forget he also sang “Billy Oxygen”, one of Helix’ first hits from the debut album). It is a gritty fast rocker, with a memorably galvanic riff.

There are some other live offerings out there by Helix, such as Half-Alive and the promo-only Live At The Marquee, but this one blows them all away even though it was just for a radio broadcast. One of my favourite live albums, and one of my favourite Helix CDs.

5/5 R’s!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES:

Part 178:  Some really kooky movie makers…

Part 2: Gimme an R!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 2:  Gimme an R!

When I was growing up in Kitchener, you had only a few choices of who it was OK to listen to. In 1984, your status depended on your listening choices.

Quiet Riot and Twisted Sister were both “finished” by that point, if you liked them you were not cool anymore. Kiss were kind of cool, but only if you only liked their newest album. The stuff with makeup was “lame” and “old fashioned”.  Van Halen were passé by the time David Lee Roth did “California Girls”.  Judas Priest was OK, but the singer had short hair. And Ozzy?  He scared us.  Even then we couldn’t understand a word he said, plus he looked like a monster on his records.

Your only real choices were: Iron Maiden, W.A.S.P., or Helix.

And no matter who you were into primarily, everybody liked Helix. Why? Well, mainly because Brian Vollmer lived on Breckenridge Drive. I could probably see his place from my parents’ bedroom window.

Fritz (Helix) and LeBrain

Fritz (Helix) and LeBrain

All the kids who lived on Breckenridge, like Ian Johnson, would always tell stories about Brian, who lived three doors down. Brian’s got a cool car, he’d say. Brian got a Christmas card from W.A.S.P., and it was so fucked up…something about “Slashing through the toes, in a one horse open slay…” But then again, Ian Johnson also told us he knew George Lucas and he a squad of ninjas who had a secret base in his basement.

Ian Johnson did not have a basement.

So, Helix were the band you had to like. But the stories of Brian Vollmer and his bandmates were considered heresay at best. I had never actually seen Brian in the flesh. He was considered a legend, a myth, like Loch Ness or Sasquatch. Ian, after all, couldn’t be trusted.

Well, fast forward two decades, and now Helix is now a rock institution. They keep truckin on, with new members and new records, but Brian Vollmer is still at the helm, proudly still asking us to give him an R.

Of course, in this day and age, everybody has a website, and an email. The first time I ever wrote to Brian a few years ago, I asked him if he did indeed live on Breckenridge. He confirmed for me that he did, with his first wife, during the early 80’s. Ian told the truth! (I never did email George Lucas to find out about that part of the story.)

Hell, just last night I was surfing http://www.planethelix.com and saw the very Christmas card from W.A.S.P. “Slashing through the toes”. Brian had scanned it and added it to the memorabilia on his site.

Every time you went to the grocery store in 1984 or 85, you’d take a second look at all the long haired guys. I swore I saw Brent Doerner buying soda at Zerhs, but I lost him in the crowd.  Or was it Brian Doerner?

Again, fast forward a few years. When the movie “Fubar” came out, Sum 41 contributed a version of “Rock You” to the soundtrack. I was working at the record store, and a gentleman came in and asked if he could listen to it. He used to be in Helix, you see, and wanted to hear Sum 41’s version. It was Brian Doerner, Helix’s drummer in the late 70’s and early 80’s. Brent’s twin brother. The Doerners are very distinct looking, I should have recognized him immediately. I of course identified myself as a big fan, and we had a nice chat. Brian Doerner turned out to be the nicest guy.

I saw Helix in 1987 and again in 1996, and again from the second row in 2006 (opening for Alice!), and a bunch of times in 2007. They were great every time.  It’s funny because I can’t think of too many kids in the 8th grade who still proudly listen to the same music then as they do now.  They’re all probably embarrassed that they used to listen to Mr. Mister, or Boy George.  I don’t mind boasting that I was never into the trends.  I knew what I liked then, I know what I like now, and although my tastes have grown and expanded tremendously, I never felt embarrassed by my roots.  I still love Maiden, I still love Helix, more now than then.

I remember when Paul Hackman was killed in 1992. It was the total Cliff Burton accident; he was thrown from the tour bus in a crash. My friend Mike McNeill was in a band opening for Helix at the time, he was there.  When we first met in my record store, that’s one of the first topics that came up:  Helix!

Playing the albums today, you can hear that so many of them are solid all the way through. The first two, Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather have that 70’s sound, as only an indi band in 1978 could sound. I think those albums probably only sold about 2000 copies each at the time. But they are solid, the band was writing varied music. And they were always superb musicians. Brent Doerner’s a really talented guitar player, with an amazing stage presence.

“Billy Oxygen” from the very first record , aptly titled Breaking Loose, is a marvel.  Drums:  Brian Doener.  Fast, accurate, and hard, like a good jazz drummer.  Bass solo courtesy of Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg.  Brent Doener took the lead vocal on this, a song he wrote and garner the band some of their first airplay.  The lyrics seemed to be about a spaceman named Billy Oxygen, who went to other planets looking for people to party with.  Not exactly Arthur C. Clarke-ian, but to a me, any sci-fi reference in a song was cool.  (That’s why we older rock fans love Savatage, those silly Trekkies.)

When I was in University I tried my hand at bad, bad science fiction short stories.  Suffice to say, none of it survives today with good reason.  However, Helix had a little moment in my fiction:  My spaceship was called an ES-335, named after Billy Oxygen’s ship in the song.  And only a little while ago did I learn that ES-335 wasn’t the name of a spaceship at all.   An ES-335 was a Gibson guitar.

There were other science fiction moments in Helix songs as well. “Wish I Could Be There”, from the same album, is one such song.  It’s about a guy who dreams of going to space.  That song represents their epic, their “Stairway to Heaven”.   “Time for a Change” from the second album spoke of nuclear war, if we do not change our ways, a common theme in the sci-fi of the era.

I should clarify, however, that we didn’t even know about these first albums back in 1984.  The earliest song we knew was “Heavy Metal Love”, and even that was pretty new.  We were vaguely aware that they had existed before 1984, but we didn’t know for sure because there were no music videos before that, and those records were out of print.  You couldn’t walk into Sam The Record Man and ask Al King for them.

Occasionally we would hear rumours.  Usually these “little known facts” would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache.  Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, “Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band.  My buddy was in the band too.”

Some nights I sat up in a sweat about this.  A country band?  Helix?  Sure, I didn’t hate country music, my dad played that Johnny Cash stuff and it’s alright.  (I even saw Johnny Cash live in ’83, before I ever heard of Helix.) But Helix were rockers!  Rockers were about breaking loose!  They sang about their heavy metal loves!  They told us not to do what people tell you to do, and to always be yourself!  If a bunch of country guys were now posing as rockers to make a buck, well, that would be a black mark on Rock N’ Roll.  Why?  Because it would prove that our dads were right:  Rockers were just in it for the money.  If we couldn’t trust Helix, you couldn’t trust any of them.  Especially W.A.S.P.

We didn’t speak of these things often.  It was bad to speak of these things.  But each of us dreamed—nightmared—about finding a copy of an early Helix album in our uncles’ musty collections.  And in the dream, there they were always on the cover.  A black and white photo.  And they’re wearing cowboy hats.

It never came to that.  When their first two albums, Breaking Loose and White Lace & Black Leather, were finally issued on CD in 1992, they sounded pretty damn good.  It’s classic rock, but harder, much harder.  And best of all, it sounds like home.  Everything about those two albums sounds like right here.  If I played them for you, you’d hear nothing.  But to me, I can’t understand how nobody else can hear that these albums were born right here in Kitchener,Ontario.

Brian Vollmer and I, back in in 2007 at Planet Helix!

Brian Vollmer and I, back in in 2007 at Planet Helix!

The kids from Kitchener 1984 didn’t hear about Helix until MuchMusic started throwing “Rock You” into heavy rotation.  The song was everything we needed at the time.  It was catchy, yet you and your tone deaf friends could all chant it.  Hey, maybe that’s the same reason hip-hop is popular today?

The video for “Rock You” was equally cool.  There were whips, chains, nearly naked girls, leather, guitars, and fire.  The best part of the video was when Brent Doerner comes out of the water with his Les Paul screaming the guitar solo.  And then your friends would debate:  “Could that guy really play under water?”  “No way man, he’d get electrocuted!”  “Are you sure?  That looked awesome though.”  It was catchy, but you could still be a tough guy if you liked this band, because clearly they got lots of girls.

Come to think of it, Helix seemed to get lots of girls.  There were girls in every single video that we had seen!  Granted, the one in “(Make Me Do) Anything You Want” was doing ballet and stuff, but she was still alright.

Oh, and by the way, Ian Johnson also took credit for the “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” video.  He said, and I quote because I will never forget this, “Yeah, that was my idea.  I told Brian that he should make a video with a lot of girls in it.  So, he did.”

But then again, Ian Johnson also said that he wrote the Disney movie “Bambi”.

But that, dear friends, is another story.