Canadian winters

Sunday Chuckle: Tom’s Frozen Beater

Here’s a Sausagefest telling of what would later become Record Store Tales Part 289:  Tom’s Frozen Beater.  This was recorded for the 2013 ‘Fest.

#466: Clap for the Wolfman

 

“Another lovely day begins, for ghosts and ghouls with greenish skin. So close your eyes and you will find that you’ve arrived in Frightenstein. Perhaps the Count will find a way to make his monster work today. For if he solves this monster-mania, he can return to Transylvania! So welcome where the sun won’t shine, to the castle of Count Frightenstein!”Vincent Price

GETTING MORE TALE #466:  Clap for the Wolfman

I surely cannot be the only person in the world who heard of rock and roll because of the legendary radio DJ Wolfman Jack…although mine was in a roundabout way!

The irresistibly gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack was born in 1938 as Robert Smith.  A love of classic horror led to the creation of the Wolfman character.  He played rock and roll records from a high-powered transmitter on the Mexico border.  So powerful was the signal that Jack claimed “Birds dropped dead when they flew too close to the tower.”  On a clear night, listeners in the Soviet Union could hear the Wolfman half a world away.

Killing birds and eating records, the Wolfman really came to fame when tapes of his broadcasts were used for radio syndication.  By selling his tapes world-wide, Jack could be heard on over 2000 stations at his peak.    The Wolfman character became synonymous with rock and roll no matter where you lived.

American Graffiti: Richard Dreyfuss and Wolfman Jack

I was too young to know of Wolfman Jack directly.  I was even too young for American Graffiti, the 1973 George Lucas classic about the cruising scene in Modesto California circa the summer of ’62.  Wolfman Jack made a memorable appearance as himself, and did radio DJ intros for most of the tunes through the movie.  This however was preceded by a 1971 Canadian kid’s comedy show called The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. Similarly to of the syndication that made the Wolfman a smash success, Frightenstein was on TV well into the 70’s and 80’s, even though all the episodes were made in 1971.  Via Frightenstein, I learned who the Wolfman was.

Because of the endless re-runs, there was no way for young Canadian kids to miss it.  Before we had cable, it was one of the few shows we could reliably get, both at home and at the cottage, as it was broadcast from Hamilton Ontario.  Billy Van played almost every character himself: Grizelda the Witch, the Librarian, Dr. Pet Vet, Bwana Clyde Batty (a British explorer who ran the “Zany Zoo”), and many more.  Van’s most memorable character however had to be The Wolfman – an actual wolfman radio DJ inspired by Jack, down to the gravelly voice and wolf howls!  The Wolfman would spin classic rock and roll records each show, accompanied by psychedelic images of him dancing and playing air guitar with the character of Igor, played by Fishka Rais.  (The huge Rais was one of very few additional actors on the show.  Vincent Price and Professor Julius Sumner Miller recorded all their parts over the course of the summer of 1971.  And let’s not forget Guy Big, as the Midget Count!)

When the Wolfman’s segments would begin, you would know it immediately.  His theme song was “I Wanna Take You Higher” by Sly and the Family Stone.  “I am the Wolfman!  Ah-oooooooo!” he would howl at the start of his show.  He would play “golden oldies” by the Stones and other classic rock and roll artists, on his radio station “EECH”. He would tell callers that he was “fangtastic”.  (The “golden oldies” concept was brilliant.  Even if he was playing a fairly recent Stones single, he’d call it a “golden oldie”, thus ensuring that the show seemed current even when being broadcast in, say, 1986.  Planning and syndication!)

One of the few Youtube clips featuring original audio and music.

So there I was, a young kid sitting on the basement floor during Canadian winter, playing with Lego and watching  this pretty low-budget kid’s show, when suddenly this wolfman appeared!  “I am the Wolfman!  Ahooooooo!”  I didn’t know the music.  I’d never heard Sly and the Family Stone.  They were great!  I was hooked.  I even made my own tapes of the Wolfman.  I played the Wolfman…and all the other characters.  I had him battling Star Wars composer John Williams for chart superiority!  Fortunately, these tapes no longer exist!

I had no idea yet that Billy Van’s Wolfman was based on a real person.   That came later, probably through my parents, as I learned more about rock and roll.  All I knew was that he was a fun character who played good songs.  “I Wanna Take You Higher” was an early favourite.  The Stones made a strong impression.  He also played Mungo Jerry.  I didn’t like the slow songs.  Unfortunately due to the legal rights involved, “I Wanna Take You Higher” had to be replaced on the DVD versions.  Rights could only be obtained to release a few episodes on disc. (Most of the Youtube clips you will find are overdubbed versions with different music, and a new voice, since Billy Van had passed away before the DVDs were released.)

Wolfman Jack himself appeared on many television shows and records over the years.  After American Graffiti, he appeared in the ill-advised sequel, which flopped.  TV loved him; he even guested on Battlestar Galactica’s spinoff series Galactica 1980.  Notably, in 1974 he appeared as himself on The Guess Who’s classic single “Clap for the Wolfman”, a memorable tribute featuring plenty of the Wolfman’s trademark growl.  His influence trickled down, creating waves far exceeding the radio broadcasts that once reached Russia.  Via these tributes to his accomplishments, the Wolfman served to introduce rock and roll music to new generations, either via TV and movies or Billy Van’s character inspired by him.  Clap for the Wolfman indeed!

#374: The Winter of Our Discontent

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#374: The Winter of Our Discontent

I don’t think there is any question that driving around here has been especially tough this winter.  There were a couple days when it was colder here in Ontario than it was in Alaska!  The snowfall has been relentless, and the roads chaotic.  Although we in Canada get to work on our winter driving skills every single year, it rarely seems to help the majority.  This winter has most definitely been the winter of our discontent for driving.

The snow banks are piled high, making it hard to see cars about to turn onto the street.  Some streets are packed hard with slick ice.  Road salt is not effective below -10 degrees, and the city has been cutting down on salt usage for environmental concerns.  Meanwhile because of the plowing and piling of snow, lanes have been rendered too narrow by the massive banks on either side.  Not to mention the visibility issues of snow blowing in front of you as the sun sets in your eyeline.

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As usual, my commuting has been done to the tune of several 8 gig flash drives in my car.  Albums spun in the last several weeks included:

  • Marillion – The Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra)
  • Marillion – Live in Caracas
  • Ozzy Osbourne – Diary of a Madman (2 CD set)
  • David Lee Roth – A Little Ain’t Enough
  • Rush – Roll the Bones
  • Rush – Feedback (EP)
  • Savatage – Power of the Night
  • Van Halen – Best of Volume I
  • Van Halen – A Different Kind of Truth
  • Whitesnake – Come An’ Get It (w/ bonus tracks)
  • Whitesnake – Saints An’ Sinners (w/ bonus tracks)
  • ZZ Top – ZZ Top’s First Album
  • ZZ Top – Rio Grande Mud
  • ZZ Top – Tres Hombres

That’s when I wasn’t listening to the radio.  Local radio is always helpful when one needs to find and navigate the least messy route home.  If I hear that there is an accident on King St., that means I’m taking Highway 8 home.  Most days the roads have been plugged with accidents all over the place.  My radio is good for helpful navigation, and also entertainment.  I enjoyed when, on the Friday February 27 commute home, Craig Fee played a wonderful tribute to Leonard Nimoy on the Overdrive at 5:00.  The station assembled some of the best, all time classic Spock quotes and backed them with the theatrical Trek theme.  Craig followed that with “Intergalactic” by the Beastie Boys, which of course features the line, “like a pinch on the neck from Mr. Spock.”  I think Leonard would have enjoyed his musical tribute.  It was certainly an emotional ride in the car that day for me.

Sadly, killer tunes on a flash drive or the radio can only do so much to ease the nerves when a transport truck is passing cars on the shoulder of the 401 in the middle of a snow storm.  There is, unfortunately, nothing that music can do to protect us from the idiots out there who somehow managed to wield a driver’s license and get behind the wheel in a blizzard.

I think in Canada, drivers should have to take an additional test.  Not only should they have to take their road test, but a winter road test too.  Only then can we know if they are up for the challenges of driving in a Canadian winter!

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#355: “The man’s hot piss warmed my freezing cold hands”

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#355: “The man’s hot piss warmed my freezing cold hands”

Once upon a time, in a Record Store not far away, there was a manager named Joe. Some people call him “Big Nose”. Some people just call him Joe. Two things about Joe you must understand: 1) Joe doesn’t give a crap about what anybody thinks, and 2) Joe doesn’t really know boundaries. Joe is the one who told me he had a crush on my mom. Joe is the one who introduced me to the Open Door Piss. I like Joe, don’t get me wrong.  He was pretty much the only one at the Record Store that I could confide in towards the end.  He is trustworthy, 100%.  A solid individual.  He was the best support I could have had.  But I’d be lying to you if I didn’t tell you that Joe is different from just about everybody you know.

The Tale goes like this:

Joe and Uncle Meat were driving from Waterloo to Windsor, to go and visit Tom who was attending teacher’s college there.  It was December, and a cold one it was.  By this time, Tom sold his own branch of the Record Store, so he could continue his education and become a teacher.  Joe and Meat were travelling in Joe’s old beat up piece of shit.  It was the quintessential “old man car”.  It was huge, ancient, and nothing worked.  I’m amazed it made to Windsor and back, honestly.  One of the features that no longer functioned was the heat, which is a pretty darned important thing during a Canadian December.

Sometime during the three hour tour, Joe had to piss.  Pulling off highway 401 to pee isn’t Joe’s style.  Instead, he re-invented the piss jug, but with a large Tim Horton’s coffee cup.  After relieving himself in said cup, he passed it to Meat!

Meat, all this time, was freezing his ass off in the passenger side.  His hands and fingers in particular were as frigid as icicles.  Although being passed a cup of piss in most situations isn’t a position you want to be in, this time it wasn’t so bad.  The cup “felt like a hot double double in my hands,” says Meat.  Still warm with Joe’s body heat, the piss-cup helped Meat regain some of the sensation in his digits.  “What’s the greatest gift you can give?  The warmth from inside of you.  The man’s hot piss warmed my freezing cold hands,” according to Uncle Meat.

After warming his fingers, Meat rolled down the window.  He carefully prepared the cup for ejection.  He managed to throw it while only getting a surprisingly “minimal amount of piss” on his arm.

Neither Uncle Meat nor I condone littering, but sometimes life hands you a warm cup of piss, and you have no choice in the matter!

PISS CUP

Part 289: Tom’s Frozen Beater

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 289:  Tom’s Frozen Beater

This is a previously unreleased story!  It was first recorded in audio format only, as a special “exclusive” Record Store Tale for Sausagefest XII.  Now, the text version is available for all to enjoy — a rare exclusion to the “What happens at Sausagefest, stays at Sausagefest” rule.

It was early in 1995, winter.  The near-legendary Tom, who today hosts Sausagefest every year, was working the day shift at our mall store.  I was working the 5-9 shift.  As was my modus operandi, I showed up early (about 4:30) to check out the new stock and do bank runs.  Tom and I caught up for a bit; he was acting as store manager for the moment and let me know what needed to be done.

His shifted ended, Tom met some of his friends at the store, and departed.  I began my shift and started pricing new CDs for sale.

10 minutes later, Tom and his friends stormed back into the store.

TOM2“FUCK! Fucking piece of shit car! Fucking doors are frozen shut!”

It was the first time I had ever seen Tom enraged.

“Jeez, is there anything I can do to help?”

“Not unless you have lock de-icer on you,” Tom responded.  I did not have lock de-icer.  I had walked to work.

I’m assuming the Zellers store in the mall was also sold out of de-icer, because Tom’s next proposed solution surprised me.

“Fuck it.  I’ll just sleep here tonight.  I have to open tomorrow anyway.  Yeah, fuck it.  This is fine.  I’ll fucking just lie down in between Easy Listening and Rap.  Fuck it.  Yeah.  Fuck, I’m sleeping here tonight.”

Great googly-moogly!  Was that even allowed?  Tom scoped out that section of floor, eyeballing it, making mental measurements.

“Fuck, this is perfect, I’ll just sleep right there on the floor.”

Thankfully one of Tom’s friends found some hot water from the mall coffee shop, and with some effort they got one of the car’s doors open.  If they hadn’t, it might have been the first time somebody slept on the floor!  (It would not have been the last time – a homeless man fell asleep on my floor in the middle of the afternoon once.)

Tom however has a different conclusion to the story:  “A little piss on the lock and voila…”