Calgary

#922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

RECORD STORE TALES #922: Running Through Alberta (1990)

A long time ago, in a constitutional monarchy not far away, prices were lower.  The despised goods and services tax (GST) kicked in January 1, 1991.  This federal tax added a 7% levy to your average purchase.  In the before-fore times, in the Canadian province known as Alberta, there was no such thing as a “sales tax”.  What you saw on the sticker was what you paid.  It was an exhilarating time and place to be.  The GST wrecked that, but our last trek out west before the hated tax kicked in was nothing short of glorious.

School was out for summer, and I quit my part-time job packing groceries to hang out at the cottage and take a special trip to Calgary.  It was time for a visit with cousin Geoff, formerly known as “Captain Destructo”.  The most important things to do on any trip were two-fold:

  1. Pack appropriate music for the journey.
  2. Buy music on aforementioned journey.

I had just received two albums that were brand new to me from the Columbia House music clubSchool’s Out, by Alice Cooper, and Come An’ Get It by Whitesnake.  As my newest acquisitions, they had to come along.  I also brought Steve Vai’s Passion & Warfare which I was recently obsessed with.  Finally, I carried enough cash from my job that I had just quit, to buy as much music as I could find.  Stuff that none of the stores in Kitchener had in stock.

The clear memory of driving through the mountains with School’s Out blasting in my ears brings a smile to my face.  While some moments were undeniably weird (“Gutter Cat vs. The Jets”), I couldn’t believe how catchy the album was.  I still can’t.  Alice Cooper records were not necessarily designed to deliver catchy songs.  They were twisted, and School’s Out was like a Twizzler.  Regardless, “Gutter Cat” was entertaining while being unforgettable.  I couldn’t wait to share it with my best friend Bob.  He loved cats!  Another track that took me by surprise was “Alma Mater”, but I couldn’t get it out of my head.  The fact that I’d be graduating in a year was scary.  But the roaring “Public Animal #9” just made me sing along.  I also dug “Blue Turk” although I had no idea how to categorize it.  To me it sounded like something from an old musical from days gone by.  Here I was discovering this ancient music for the first time while the Rocky Mountains zipped past me in the back seat of a minivan.  I like to appreciate moments like that.  I just stared out the window while Dennis Dunaway buzzed my ears with bass.

Next up was Whitesnake.  I still love Come An’ Get It; it’s probably my overall favourite Whitesnake.  A few songs don’t click, such as “Girl”, but lemme tell you folks — “Child of Babylon” is another one of those songs that you just have to  experience while driving through the Rockies.  Bob and I were slowly discovering old Whitesnake.  He was the first to have Saints & Sinners, but I was the first to have Come An’ Get It.  It was something of a “blind buy” for me, since I didn’t know any of the songs.  By the end of the trip, I’d already love “Wine, Women An’ Song”, “Come An’ Get It”, and “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”.

Two favourites in the making, it was already turning into a memorable vacation.  I enjoyed shopping at corny gift shops.  I bought some goofy round sunglasses with flip-open lenses.  Alberta is dinosaur country, and so I bought a casting of a Tyrannosaurus tooth.  At another gift shop I bought a totem knick-knack.  I remember Geoffrey and I climbing the modest mountains around the hoodoos at Drumheller, and finding a cave near the top where we paused and caught some shade.

When we hit the Calgary Zoo, Geoff showed us how to put coins on the train tracks to be crushed into minature copper and nickle pancakes.  They had a little train that took tours of the park.  It ran on a regular schedule so we always knew about when we should put the coins on the track.  I had heard that copper guitar picks were the best, but they were hard to find, so I crushed a couple pennies.  I turned them into guitar picks once we got home.  We didn’t crush anything more valuable than a dime, but sometimes you’d lose the coin if it went flying off the track.  (Incidentally, you can’t derail a train with a penny, that is a myth.)  We could tell the conductor knew what we were doing and was getting annoyed, so we cut it out.

When we finally hit a music store in a Calgary mall, I was elated.  I was always on the lookout for singles, and here I found a few notable ones.  Aerosmith’s The Other Side EP was an easy “yes”.  It had a number of remixes that, while not great, were exclusives.  It also had something called the “Wayne’s World Theme” live.  What was this “Wayne’s World”?  I knew not, but it wasn’t on the album, so I was happy enough.

Poison were hot on the charts with their brand-new album Flesh & Blood.  Bob was already raving about the album, and one song he pointed out was “Valley of Lost Souls”.  I found the cassette single for “Unskinny Bop” which included this song and an instrumental pretentiously called “Swamp Juice (Soul-O)”.  I never particularly cared for “Unskinny Bop”, but it was the current Poison hit, and “Valley of Lost Souls” was as good as advertised.  I also located Jon Bon Jovi’s solo single “Blaze of Glory”.  I didn’t know it yet but this single had some slightly edited versions of the album cuts — another exclusive.

The purchase I might have been happiest with was a re-buy.  Although it seems ridiculous that at age 18 I was already re-buying albums, it had begun.  My cassette of Judas Priest’s Sad Wings of Destiny was shite.  For all intents and purposes, it only had one channel.  I owned Rocka Rolla on vinyl, but didn’t really have a good way of playing it and making it sound decent back then.  I knew there was a cassette on Attic records with both albums on one tape, and I found it in Calgary.  I was glad to finally have a copy of Sad Wings that I could properly listen to.  I even gained new appreciation for Rocka Rolla on those mountain drives.  “Caviar and Meths” sounds amazing drifting through the mountains.

Not only did we find some cool stuff we couldn’t easily locate in Ontario, but we paid no tax.  Since Alberta had no provincial sales tax, everything we were buying, we were buying cheaper!

I wanted a cowboy hat.  We went shopping for them, but I was having a hard time deciding and then Geoffrey told me about an Alberta saying.  Something about “everybody in Alberta has an asshole and a cowboy hat.”  Either that or “every asshole in Alberta has a cowboy hat.”  Same difference.  Either way, I was dissuaded.

Geoffrey could be exhausting and I really wanted nothing more than to lie down and listen to some new tunes, so I was granted a couple hours of privacy.  We traded tapes back and forth for listening.  My sister Kathryn had the new single for “Can’t Stop Falling Into Love” by Cheap Trick so I listened to that while she borrowed my Poison.

Here’s a funny detail.   For the car trip with Whitesnake and Alice Cooper, I can remember being on the left side of the vehicle.  For Rocka Rolla, I seem to remember sitting on the right.  The view was always great.  Nothing like Ontario.  The air was different, and even the weather was unusual to us.  People left their doors unlocked, we were told by Uncle Phil.

Auntie Lynda spoiled us and took us on all these day trips; it was fantastic.  It was the last great summer holiday.  I know I kept a journal of the trip, which seems to be unfortunately lost.  Great trip though it was, I looked forward to coming home and seeing my friends.  Showing off my new purchases and sharing my new music.  The flight home was uneventful and we arrived late at night and exhausted.  I didn’t sleep much that night — I had recordings of WWF wrestling matches to catch up on.  The last great summer holiday was over, but never forgotten.

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Bought in 1997 at an unknown HMV store in Calgary Alberta, on import, for like $25.  For Aaron’s take on this CD, click here!

TS_0001TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)

If the year was 1987, I would have given this CD 5/5 stars easily. When it came out in the summer of ’87 I was really into it. My best friend Bob and I used to play it all the time during that long hot summer, we had all the lyrics memorized. Unfortunately this album has not aged well, certainly not compared to their classic early albums.

One problem with the record is that it’s not actually by the band Twisted Sister! Even as a kid I wondered why people with names like “Reb Beach” or “Kip Winger” were listed in the credits. That’s because Love is For Suckers was written and recorded as the first Dee Snider solo album. Record company pressure forced Dee to release this as the next Twisted Sister album, even though no Twisted members appear on it (aside from new drummer Joey Franco). This only hastened the breakup of Twisted Sister in October of that year.

TS_0003

The album is produced by Beau Hill, a guy also known for Warrant and Winger albums (that’s why Reb and Kip are on here). Beau Hill is one of my least favourite metal producers of all time. He over-produces, uses too many samples, and glosses everything up. As such I find most of his albums pretty hard to listen to today. On Love is For Suckers, all the drums are samples and you sure can tell by that awkward gated sound, and identical snare hits.

Like when we used to climb the rope in gym class

As an 80’s glam metal album, the songs are not that bad. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” could have been a Twisted Sister song with its themes of rebellion and youth angst. “Hot Love”, the first single, was the song that got me to buy this album. A catchy pop-rocker with irrestible guitars courtesy of maestro Reb Beach, “Hot Love” was as commercial as it gets. Other standout songs included “Me And the Boys”, which was our theme song that summer. “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” was a Van Hagar sounding pop-rocker with another great chorus. I think, if anything, Love is For Suckers sounds mostly like 5150-era Van Hagar, but with gang vocals and way more glossed up.

Love is For Suckers was reissued a while ago with 4 bonus tracks, demos from these sessions that fit right into the sound of the album. They’re just not as good. “Statuatory Date” for example suffers from extremely bad lyrics.  One of them, “If That’s What You Want” is an early version of an album song, in this case “Me And the Boys”.  Consider looking into these 4 bonus tracks when you’re choosing to purchase Love is For Suckers.

As an added little “insult to injury” following this album’s failure, producer Beau Hill took Dee Snider’s scream from one song, “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and used it as the opening scream on Warrant’s smash hit album Cherry Pie.  Uncredited! I’m sure 99.9% of Warrant fans assume it’s Jani Lane.

If this album description sounds good to you, check it out. You may enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago.  For me, the years have not been kind.

2.5/5 stars

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino Handmade)
TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Under The Blade (1985 remix)
TWISTED SISTER – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)

Part 245: Metal in my Ears

RECORD STORE TALES Part 245:  Metal in my Ears

and bonus “Shit LeBrain’s Dad Says”

Even though ear piercings on men at the record store were against our backwards “body piercing policy”, I thought for years about getting my ears pierced.  Thought about it, never really did anything about it.  This inaction went way back, even in highschool I just never got my ears pieced.  I came close on summer holidays after graduation.  Today, My Favourite Aunt still blames me for the day my cousin came home with his ear pierced.  It happened like this…

Bob, myself, cousin

Bob, myself, cousin – 1991

Summer holidays ’91, my cousin was visiting from Calgary, Alberta.  By coincidence, my friend Bob had decided to spend a few days at our cottage with the whole family, which was cool by me.   Bob was like family.  My cousin liked to be active.  He was never the type to sit quietly.  Or do anything quietly.

He kept telling us that wanted to get his ear pierced.  We decided, “Hey, why don’t we all drive into town, and the three of us get our ears pierced?”  We found a hair salon on Queen Street in Kincardine, Ontario called The Clan that did ears (gun-style).  Somehow, on the way there, Bob chickened out.  He said, “You know, I’m starting my new job next week.  I don’t think I want to go in there with an earring on my first day.”

“Are you…what are you saying?” I asked.

“I’m not getting it done.  You can get yours, but I can’t go to a new job like that.”  Bob was standing firm.

Feeling my backbone melt away, I said, “I’m not doing it either.”

“WHAT?!” Bob and my cousin both said in unison.  “You’re chickening out?”

“I’m not chickening out!” I protested.  “We all agreed to do it.  If Bob’s not doing it I don’t have to either.”

My resilient cousin said, “I’m still doing it.”  True to his word, he did.  The crap hit the fan when we got back to the cottage.  Why was he the only one with his ear pierced?  The questions came fast and furious.  I was accused of  “tricking him” and “suckering him in”.  But I didn’t trick anyone.

I simply chickened out.

I still thought about getting an ear piercing, on and off, but the point was moot since the record store did not allow piercings on men.  Obviously this policy couldn’t stand forever or they’d never be able to hire anybody.  Finally after much petitioning and complaining by many, the day came when they changed their policies regarding earrings on men.

I knew the only person who would still give me a hard time about an earring would be my dad.  Sometimes people would ask me, “Why don’t you get an ear piercing?” and I’d usually respond, “Because my dad’s retired and I don’t want to give him a heart attack.”

My friend Shannon promised to help me to soften the blow.  She accompanied me to Tora Tattoo in Waterloo, where the young lady there (Shelley) pierced both lobes with 10 gauge rings.  I was pretty happy with the results.  My dad was not.  Upon entering the house, his only words to me were:

“I sure hope those things come out!”

No dad, I had them solder them in.  Jesus Murphy!

Part 163: Hockey

Hockey season has begun!  Enjoy this Record Store Tale….

flames

RECORD STORE TALES Part 163:  Hockey

The date:  May 14, 2004

The location:  My store

The characters:  Store employee Matt, and a really dumb kid who claimed to be 20 years old, selling used discs.

The NHL playoffs were in full swing.  Oftentimes, when you’re selling used CDs, it takes time to go through them all and assign values to them.  Customers like to make small talk during this time.  In Canada, small talk often amounts to hockey talk.  According to my journal, the conversation unfolded as below.

Dumb Kid Who Says He’s 20: “Who are you cheering for in hockey?”

Matt: “Calgary.”

DKWSH20: “Calgary? What for, why aren’t you cheering for someone Canadian?”

Matt: “Calgary IS in Canada.”

DKWSH20: “It is?”

Matt: “Yes.”

DKWSH20: “Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at a map.”