#802: Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

A sequel to #488:  Almost Cut My Hair

GETTING MORE TALE #802: Get a Haircut and Get a Real Job

“No razor has ever been used on my head, because I have been a Nazirite dedicated to God from my mother’s womb. If my head were shaved, my strength would leave me, and I would become as weak as any other man.” – Samson, Judges 16:17

The Biblical Samson drew his great strength from his hair.  He foolishly shared his secret with Delilah, who had his locks cut in his sleep.  True to his confession, Samson’s supernatural strength was gone.

As a young rock fan, I once identified a lot with Samson.

As soon as I discovered rock and roll, I wanted long hair.  Guys seemed to have so few options to stand out in a crowd.  Looking at the gymnasium during class, it looked like groups of clones.*  Different body types, different heights, but all the same.  No individuality.  I didn’t want to look like that.  Like them.  Like people I shared nothing else with.  I wanted to look like me.

I admired the long hairs that adorned my rock wall of fame.  I thought Adrian Smith from Iron Maiden, the blonde straight mullet style, looked best.  I didn’t like Bruce Dickinson’s fringe, and Steve Harris’ curls would never come naturally to me.  That was the thing.  I wanted something that looked natural, not hair that seemed supported by an invisible superstructure like Bon Jovi’s.  Nothing flammable due to excessive use of chemical fixatives.  It had to look effortless – like you woke up that way.

I didn’t want my allegiances to be misidentified.  I wanted it to be obvious:  rock and roll, and only rock and roll.  I didn’t want to walk down the hallway, mistaken for somebody who listened to Duran Duran.  And so, starting in grade nine, I really tried to grow out my hair.

The major issue was, of course, parental guidance.  Dad didn’t like my “long” hair.  It never got that long; a couple inches tops.  Then he would order it to be chopped.  Bob and I sometimes went to the barber together, and we would always request to “leave the back long”.   They’d explain they had to trim the dead ends, and so what we were left with rarely looked “long”.  It did look very, very 80s.

Dad just didn’t understand.  This wasn’t about looking neat and clean and tidy.  It was about looking different from all the clones.  There were very few long-hairs at our school, and once they had some length going, each guy looked different and unique to me.  That’s what I wanted.  Nothing that said “conformity”, but maybe something that said “Def Leppard”.  Who, by the way, had not become the biggest band in the world yet.

The cycle went on for the first three years of highschool.  Grow it, cut it, “leave the back long”.  Eventually I developed a nice mullet that I considered a good start.  This came to an end in late 1989.

It felt like the end of the world.

In October of ’89, my dad insisted it was time to get a job.  He knew the manager at the local grocery store and put in a word.  An interview was set up.  I dutifully went to the mall and checked in at the barber shop.  “Cut it all off,” I said despondently.  None of this “leave the back long” stuff.  Not this time.

I walked out looking like everyone else, self esteem made worse by my new glasses.  Over at the grocery store, I was expected.  “Your hair looks fine,” said the manager.  He had already spoken to my dad, who told him I was just getting a hair cut before the interview.

It was only about 10 minutes before I was welcomed aboard and introduced to new co-workers.  My first day would be the coming Friday.  But before that, I had to make it through a day at school with my new hair.

For the last couple years, I had been co-authoring a sci-fi highscool comic book called Brett-Lore.

I was quite happy with my character, the evil Darth Banger.  Most of my classmates were being lampooned far worse than I.  David Kidd, who was obsessed with drama class, was Emperor Kiddspeare.  Later when we decided to go after him harder, he became the Phantom of the Opera.  My stalker Bobby was Bobby the Hutt.  I got off easy.  Whatever misdeeds he was up to, Darth Banger was always rocking a guitar.  In fact, his starship was a giant Flying V.  He was just a stereotypical metal head, but also leader of the Evil Empire, so I went with it knowing I could have had it so much worse.

When I showed up at school with the new short hair that I was forced to adopt, Brett-Lore had to reflect it.  I couldn’t be Darth Banger anymore.  Because I am Italian, and because I now resembled Mussolini more than Metallica, my character was briefly reborn as Il Duce, the Guido.  Later on, I tried letting my facial hair grow in and suddenly my new character became Beardo-Weirdo.

This was all very depressing to me.  I didn’t care that I had a job.  All I could think about was that I had seemingly lost the only thing that made me different.  Now my ears stuck out.  I looked like everyone else.  And now even my comic book was becoming something I didn’t enjoy anymore.

The one interesting thing about work:  for me, in my life, every job introduced me to new music.  The guys at the grocery store liked heavier music than Motley Crue and Bon Jovi.  They liked Sabbath, and Zeppelin.  As soon as I was able, I added We Sold Out Soul for Rock ‘N’ Roll to my collection.  “Sweet Leaf” became my new favourite although I had no idea what it was about.  A girl named Leaf, possibly?

I worked at the grocery store for about nine months, leaving before the start of a busy summer.  The hair started growing back as soon as I could make it.  The Duce character never worked for Brett-Lore, and as soon as I was able, I forced Darth Banger back into the story.  The other authors agreed but under one condition.

Everybody in the comic got teased pretty mercilessly and so I had to pay more dues before Banger was allowed to return.  Il Duce had to be put through hell, and so I drew all sorts of embarrassing shit for him to go through, before he finally transformed back into Darth, this time with a nice single-seater Flying V spaceship to pilot himself.

As my hair grew back, I started to feel like myself again!  I was happier.

It reached record lengths by the early 90s.  But the landscape had changed.  Long hair was more common, and looking unique less easy.  One day my dad made a comment about how he’d pay me $10 per inch if I cut my hair off, so I went and did it.  He didn’t think I would, but I did.  Some of my biggest rocker heroes had shed their locks.  By this time I’d discovered something almost better than hair:  beards.

The fact was, try as I might, I never had “good” long hair.  It always wanted to curl up; get out of control.  Without investing in styling and products, it would never really look “good”.  And that defeated the whole “effortless” idea.  But it took grunge to get me to the point where it didn’t matter to me anymore.

It’s funny how something as superficial as hair took up so much of my time and energy, but the fact is, these things used to matter.  They used to matter a lot!  Maybe not in the grand scheme of things, but when you’re in highschool, the grand scheme of things was limited to the walls of the school.  I just wanted to walk my own path my own way.  I think I did OK.

* Later on I wrote a tune about this subject called “Clones”, a bitter examination of all the ball-capped lookalikes in school.

#632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

GETTING MORE TALE #632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

Because nothing we did in highschool lasts forever, I chose to keep as much stuff as possible.  I have an entire binder full of our highschool comic book “Brett-Lore”.  Everybody knew that it needed to be kept safe and sound, and so I was the one to do it.  27 years after graduation, I still have Brett-Lore safe and sound.  I would never get rid of it.  Too many great memories.

I also kept some early attempts at songwriting.  Specifically:  lyrics.  Some of these songs had music written or recorded for them, but it is now lost.  Not that it matters, since the lyrics are so hot.

On a page of lyrics “by Mike + Dan”, I found this potential smash hit song.

“Fuck, Hell is Hot”

Fuck it’s hot in this pit,

So damn hot I feel like shit,

I wake up in the morning,

From the torment of my bed,

I had spikes for my pillow,

That went straight through my head.

Guitar solo – end

This was a thrash metal song, which was all the rage in 1990.  Obviously a novelty song, it was based off other joke thrash songs I’d heard.  A local band called F.U.H.Q. had a song called “Jimi Hendrix Falling Off a Roof”.  It was basically just them screaming “AHHHHHH!” and then “I’m dead!”

The next song down is scribbled next to a half-assed Van Halen logo.  It’s another novelty song:

“Snake in my Pants”

I  got a snake in my pants,

And it loves to dance,

Sometimes it spits venom,

Sometimes it bites victims,

But all the time my snake’s alive.

I remember that one.  Definitely my work, not Dan’s.  You can tell by the subtle use of metaphor.

Dan and I were really into Led Zeppelin at this time, because they had just released their first box set.  We both found Robert Plant’s lyrics a little comical, so over-the-top they were with symbolism.  We attempted to write our own version of a Led Zeppelin song.  We called it “Abbis’ Stomp”.  Abbis was a nickname for a guy in class who was actually named Andrew.  I don’t know why they called him Abbis, but he too loved Zeppelin and we named it after him.

“Abbis’ Stomp” was recorded and I still have it on cassette.  I sang it and a guy named Dave played guitar.  There was a 20 minute instrumental section if I remember correctly.

“Abbis’ Stomp”

The forest is alive and vibrant green,

And here she comes: the reigning Queen,

The moon is bright and over the lake,

And the Queen is on the make.

Oh, oh, ah!

The beat, it pounds in my heart,

The Stallion takes off like a dart,

The streets are deadly in these times,

But killing dwarves is a crime.

Oh, oh, ah!

Great Christmas Tree,

Someday you’ll come back to me,

Beautiful Christmas Tree….

I open the Book of Life and see,

The pages staring back at me,

The dragon breathes its acrid breath,

And fries the Christmas Tree to death.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ahh!

Reading back, and singing the melody in my head, I understand now why Robert Plant never contacted us for songwriting help.  And I see bits of lines that were directly ripped off from Iron Maiden.  See if you can spot them.

There was better stuff on other pages.  “Unleashed in the Middle East” was a topical song about the Gulf War, written by Dan, myself and a third guy named Andy.  It was a more innocent time and this song reflects it.  It’s all about driving out evil Saddam.  “From this chaos rose a man, a tyrant for all to see…”  Then there is “Night of the Serpent”, a lyric Dan wrote solo.  It has religious overtones and it’s by far the best thing in the binder.  He was a talented writer.

I should contact the guys.  We should complete these songs and make an album!  I know the binder alone contains more than enough material for one record.  We always talked about sitting down and properly recording some originals and covers.  We never did because we weren’t good enough.  But in the glowing light of nostalgia, anything can have value.

#417: Tim-Toons!

#417: Tim-Toons! Brought to you by the makers of Brett-Lore!

Grade 10 was a great time – good music, good friends.  In Grade 10 I witnessed Rob Szabo blow the school away with a lunchtime performance of “YYZ” by Rush.  It was the talk of the school.  I remember sitting up there in science class after, talking about the band with the teacher Mr. Marrow.

Mr. Marrow (“Joe”, for unknown reasons – his name was Paul) was awesome.  Strict, but fascinating.  Made science interesting.  He did me a favour by appearing in my highschool music video for “Nothing But A Good Time”, as the pissed-off teacher.  Marrow was a moon landing skeptic, but refused to elaborate on his beliefs when pressed.  Like I said, a fascinating guy.

There was a kid in my science class named Tim, who quickly became known as “Pyro Tim” for turning on the gas for the Bunsen burners to see what would happen if you lit it directly from the tap.  “Pyro Tim” and I later went to University together majoring in History, and we had more hijinks there.

In second year, Tim and I were hanging out a lot outside of class.  We had a number of classes together including classic Greek and Roman history.  It was us and a pair of really, really attractive blonde girls named Lee and someone else.  (I can’t remember the other girl’s name — it was Lee I had a crush on.)  We had become an inseparable quartet in class.  We would study after class, or just hang out.  One afternoon post-class, we watched Monty Python (The Life of Brian) and Star Trek (“The Trouble With Tribbles”), just like stereotypical University students in the 1990’s.

One thing that tended to irritate the three of us about Tim was his knack for missing classes (particularly Monday or Friday mornings), and then ask to borrow our notes afterwards.   The ultimate moment of frustration was when he more or less copied an essay I wrote, and then got a better mark than me on it!  I couldn’t believe it!  He copied mine, made some changes and scored a better mark.  How was it possible?  Was he greasing the palms of the professors?  He definitely liked to talk their ears off after class, all dressed up in his shirt and tie.

The frustration boiled in us, but mostly me!  An old Klingon proverb says that “revenge is a dish best served cold.”  It is very cold in Canadian winters.

Another Friday came and went, with Tim a no-show in class.  So, we decided to sabotage him.  With the encouragement of my two friends, I took two sets of notes that day – one for me, and one for him.  I substituted the Greek names of historical figures with characters from the Beachcombers and Star Trek.  I made events up and did absolutely nothing that would have helped him.  He figured out my ruse and got someone else’s notes, and a better mark than me as usual!

All the rest of the guys from highschool that worked on Brett-Lore, our highschool rock-and-sci-fi comic book, had gone to different schools afterwards.  I was the only one left to carry on the legacy.  Enjoy these cartoons from my University days!*


Scan_20150717 (4)


Scan_20150717 (5)

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* On the back of one sketch, I found music, lyrics, and titles that I was working on for song ideas.  They include “The Seven Hills of Rome”, “Cypselus the Tyrant”, (gee, I wasn’t listening to Iron Maiden a lot, was I?), “National Anthem From Some Weird Planet Nearby” (instrumental), and “Hypnotize You”.  For those last two, think Steve Vai and Skid Row respectively.

#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)


#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

All artwork created by: Various denizens of Grand River Collegiate Institute, circa 1989-1991.







Part 176: Trevor the Security Guard

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 176:  Trevor the Security Guard

Without a doubt, the laziest man I ever met in my Record Store Travels was Trevor, the security guard.

Our very first store was in a mall.  Malls have numerous indigenous life forms:  Mall rats, Crazy dudes that talk to themselves, hot girls that work at the clothing stores, and security guards.  Security guards liked to patrol two places in particular:  The clothing stores where the hot girls worked, and record stores.

I went to highschool with Trevor.  He was one year behind me.  He was an ancillary member of our group, the nerd kids that ate lunch in the chess club room.  As such, Trevor found his way into our highschool comic book, “Brett-Lore”.  These are the only surviving pictures of Trevor’s comic book alter ego, the book itself left in my care after graduation.

Trevor was most certainly a lazy man.  He would be known to kill an hour at a time in our store.  Not buying anything, just talking, and being a security guard.  While I am sure he purchased more than one CD in his years as a security guard, I can only recall one.  Ironically, it was “One”, by Metallica, the live version digipack.  It was a rarity and a good purchase on his part.  I believe he paid $8.99 for it.

Metallica One live

Trevor spent so much time in our store wasting our time, that I caught shit for it.  Sort of.

My boss came to me and said, “Mike, I have to ask you a question.  Do you have a friend with dreads?”

I searched my memory, but I couldn’t think of anyone with dreads.  (I had a friend, Aaron L, who had four braids on his head, but that was a few years later.)

“No.  Why?” I answered.

“Well, a strange thing happened.  A customer of ours was in here on Friday, and said you were so busy talking to someone with dreads, that she got fed up and bought her CD at Zellers instead.  You don’t know anyone with dreads?”

Immediately, I realized there was a miscommunication.  I didn’t have any friends with dreads at that time.  I did, however, have a friend with red hair — red, not dreads — and it was Trevor the security guard!

“Nope, I don’t know anyone with dreads.  Sorry,” I covered for myself.

“OK.  It must have been a misunderstanding.  Well, just remember how important it is to pay attention to every customer.”

Whew! Got away with it!  Only now, 18 years later, can the truth be told!  Yes, it was Trevor the security guard who was chatting me up that day.  Trevor the security guard, the laziest man in my esteemed group of highschool friends.

Whew.  Off my chest.  That feels good!


A double Helix feature!