cancer

Rest in Peace Gerri Miller – Metal Edge

You only had a few choices of rock magazines at the convenience stores near us.  Most prominent were Hit Parader, Rip, and Metal Edge.  Over the years, I bought plenty of Metal Edge.  Black and white pages thick with interviews and lists, punctuated by locker-ready full colour photos.  Metal Edge were cool because they gave the time of day to all varieties of bands.  They focused primarily on whatever-you-wanna-call-it:  “hard rock”, or “glam” or “hair metal”.  If you needed a fix of Sebastian Bach, Metal Edge delivered.  But they covered just about everybody, into the grunge and alterna-metal years.  At the center of it all was editor Gerri Miller.

Everybody who bought heavy metal magazines knew a few key names.  Gerri Miller was the only female among them.  We knew her face and jet black hair from the photos.

What little I knew about Gerri Miller came from her magazine.  The product that she made, that we consumed every page of.  She put out a good magazine.  I enjoyed the Metal Edge “specials”.  They’d collect all their best Bon Jovi, Kiss or Poison content and put out a dedicated magazine, usually to celebrate a new album.  It was not much better than going to the cottage for a week-long vacation with a fresh Metal Edge magazine under my arm.

According to the (unrelated) Metal Sludge website, Miller had been battling Lupus for several years, and was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Rest in peace Gerri…and fuck cancer.

 

#876: Rest in Peace to my Friend

Dear friend,

I shouldn’t say your name.  The news is fresh and your family members are finding out now, just like I did.

We met four years ago via a mutual pal, but bonded immediately over a shared love of music, and a similar empathy for the downtrodden.  You were wearing your trademark Captain America T-shirt.  At least, to me it was your trademark.  How impressed I was with your history in music journalism.  Interviewing the stars, seeing your name in print.  You invited us to your wedding.  It was actually the last wedding I attended before this Covid stuff put the brakes on everything.

Last year about this time I was hitting a wall.  Stress was taking a serious toll.  You offered to go out for a coffee to talk and I said “sure”.  But part of my depression is staying in, and blowing off social engagements, so I cancelled and said “We’ll do it another time.”  Covid happened and we never did.

You treated Jen well.  When she needed a ride for an appointment, you took care of it.  Anybody who takes good care of my Jen is a good person in my books.

A week ago or so, after a period of serious physical pain, they finally diagnosed you with cancer.  You were admitted to the hospital and you never came out.  I can’t believe how quickly this happened.  A few weeks ago you were active, full of fire.  The only thing you hated almost as much as cancer was Donald Trump.  At least you lived long enough to see him defeated.  I hope you took some comfort in that.  Man, you hated Trump!  To me it was one of your most defining and amusing traits.  You always had a great meme locked and loaded!

Man, you made me laugh.

Perhaps the only thing you really cared about as much as your own family were “the needs of the many”.  It’s appropriate that I always think of you in that Captain America shirt.  You were always ready to fight for those who didn’t have the fortune that we have.  You were a good man.  You will be fondly remembered by Jen and I, and missed terribly by your loved ones.

You really were a good man.  I can’t believe you’re gone.  I remember that day in early 2020, I messaged you and wrote, “I’m not feeling up to it, can we get a coffee another night?  In a couple weeks maybe?”

“Sure, no problem,” you answered.  I imagined your understanding smile.

The coffee that was delayed by me first, was then cancelled by Covid.  “We’ll have you guys over to the house when this is all over,” you told me.

Life can change in an instant.

Rest in peace, my friend.  I’m grateful you let Jen and I into your lives and I’m sad that the things we talked about doing will never happen.

 

#873: Happy 3 Years

There have been a lot of anniversaries lately. On January 4, I celebrated (but not did not post about) 15 years of freedom from the Record Store. (Why beat a dead horse?) But today I choked up a bit when I saw the photo.

I say it was the happiest day of my life. It was the day I brought Jen home from the hospital after finishing her cancer surgery. The photo says it all. Look at that face. The glow. Just looking at her, reminds me of how worried I was. How much I missed her. How happy I was to be able to drive her home that day.

It was not a pleasant time when she was in hospital. It was a harsh winter. The drive to London and back was hell. I wasn’t eating. Finishing an apple was an ordeal. Meanwhile poor Jen was dealing with that nauseating hospital food. She started a game called “Guess the Grossness” where she would post pictures of her meals and people had to guess what they were. She was so strong at that time.

Little did we know that her mom, who was supporting us through all this, had less than nine months left to live. I can tell a secret now. The night that Jen had her surgery, her mom collapsed at the hospital. She hit the ground and bruised her face. She brushed it off and complained about a loose rug, and refused to be seen. Deep inside, I knew that she was hiding something. She didn’t tell us. I’ll never hold that against her — she did what she thought was right to support Jen, and I truly don’t know if we could have handled more stress at that time. So she quietly fought her own battle as Jen was dealing with hers. But that’s what happened. On the night my wife was recovering from her surgery, my beloved mother-in-law was dying of cancer that we didn’t even know about. But I could not have made it through all this without her support.

I dedicate this writing to Jen’s mom, who was with us side-by-side through it all, until she was unable to be. She was just as happy to have Jen home as I was. The picture says it all — the face of an angel aglow with life.

Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time: Edward Van Halen (1955-2020)

In 1962, Jan Van Halen and his family moved from the Netherlands to the United States.  Young Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was only seven years old when he switched continents.  By his side, as always, was his older brother Alex.  The Van Halens were a musical family.  Jan played clarinet.  Soon Eddie started playing the drums, while Alex picked up the guitar.  It was not meant to be.  The Rock Gods intervened and the two switched instruments.  History had to be made.

In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed their first band.  People were starting to pay attention to this young guitar prodigy who was doing things most players hadn’t thought of yet.  Though he wasn’t the first, he popularized tapping, whammy bar dives, and all sorts of harmonics.  Unlike the average shredder, Eddie made it musical.  Insanely musical.  While his techniques were space age, his riffs and melodies were grounded in rock and roll.

There is no need to go over all the players he influenced (thousands? millions?) or the riffs he wrote.  There is no other guitar player with the influence of Eddie Van Halen.  Was he the greatest of all time?

Yes.

And his most well known guitar solo wasn’t even on his own song!

Even his keyboard playing was genius!

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

His infectious grin made all the kids love Eddie Van Halen

Cancer doesn’t care about influence or music, or even the love of millions of adoring fans.  Eddie fought for years.  His battle was a quiet one and we did not know the extent of his illness, though the rumour mills always swirled.  Certainly though his output dwindled (only one studio album in over 20 years), interest in him never waned.  An Eddie sighting at a recent Tool concert was big news.

Van Halen captained his eponymous band through two successful eras and one less so.  Through cancer, hip replacements, and divorce, Eddie plowed on.  A massive reunion with lead singer David Lee Roth made people forget the missteps and focused the spotlight on his incendiary playing once more.

Though there are only 12 studio albums in 42 years, Van Halen’s discography stands like a monolith.  A massive red, black and white striped monolith with EVH in bold letters at the top.  Gone at age 65, Eddie Van Halen will never be forgotten.  His name will stand with Paganini, Beethoven and Bach.  With Hendrix, Rhodes, and Robert Johnson.  Legendary.  Immortal.  Beyond their own time.

As the celebrity memorials inevitably (and sadly) roll in, we will be reminded of one thing:  There will only ever be one Eddie Van Halen.

Rest in peace.

 

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995) Review by Derek Kortepeter
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

+

VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – Selections from LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner promo EP)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin
GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

R.I.P. Gerry McGhee

When I was 15, I saw a band on TV called Brighton Rock.  The song was called “We Came to Rock” and it was cool.  Pop rock, not quite metal, but slick.  Then I heard the outro!  The singer was screaming like nobody I ever heard in my life!  Who were these guys?  I made sure I taped the video next time I saw it.

Brighton Rock were perhaps one of the best Canadian shoulda-been bands, with a singer who had serious ability, backed by musicians to match.  Today, that incredible voice has been silenced.

Rest in Peace, Gerry McGhee, the voice that could have shattered mountains.

I’ll tell you, Motley Crue should have snagged this guy when they had the chance.  What a sound that could have been.  Brighton Rock made three studio albums, an EP, a live CD and a number of singles and other miscellaneous tracks.  They covered “Creatures of the Night” on Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes Kiss tribute, and did it justice by going completely different from the original.  In 2019, Brighton Rock released what turned out to be their final song “End of Time”, a heavy rocker that now serves as an excellent capstone.

Gerry later went on to found Precision Records, the plant that pressed up my sister’s album Masked.  Its reputation in the industry is excellent.  Before that, his distributor Isotope Records supplied me at the Record Store with new product to sell.  I never had the chance to meet him personally, but I’ve heard only good things.  We occasionally spoke on social media, and he was happy to answer one of my vinyl-related questions for an article I was working on.

Rest in peace, Gerry.  This one is hitting me very hard.  Playing Young, Wild and Free now, I will remember you as “The Rock and Roll Kid”.  Scream on Gerry.

R.I.P. Frankie Banali

After a 16 month battle with pancreatic cancer, Frankie Banali has passed away.

His best album, W.A.S.P.’s The Headless Children, will always be a cornerstone of this collection.  Metal Health was the first hard rock album I ever acquired and it changed my life for good.  To say Frankie was dedicated would be an understatement.  His dedication led to a rejuvenated Quiet Riot and some excellent albums with James Durbin on vocals.  Against the odds, Banali silenced the critics, myself included. 

One of the hardest hitters in rock, Banali has an extensive resume including Hughes/Thrall, Heavy Bones and Faster Pussycat.  He was one of those drummers you could identify just by his snare sound.  A true original.

Now Frankie rides the wind, forever free.  Rest in peace.

R.I.P. Greg Haymes, aka Sergeant Blotto

Sad news this morning.  I’d heard through the grapevine recently that one of the members of Blotto was sick.  I had a bad feeling about it and this morning I read that Greg Haymes, aka Sergeant Blotto, has passed away from cancer.

This is particularly bitter for me.  I only got into Blotto last year.  I was so into them that Blotto became my favourite band of 2018.  As we drove to and from Toronto to take care of my sick mother in law, we had Blotto blaring in the car almost every time.  “Mum” was dying of cancer, and Blotto helped us forget and just laugh while rocking out.

Now Greg Haymes is gone from the very same, dreadful disease, and I’m pissed off.

Haymes was a writer, a musician, and an artist.  I’m sorry I only got to know his music in the last year.

Hopefully Blotto can bring you some of the joy that they brought to me when I needed it.  Here’s “I Wanna Be A Lifeguard” featuring Greg “Sarge” Haymes on lead vocals.

 

#698: Cancer Chronicles 13 – The Battle Rages On

At LeBrain HQ this summer, we have been burning the candle at both ends.  Caring for a sick family member is not easy especially when they are out of town.

Mrs. LeBrain has been on trains and busses for half of every week, going up to Toronto to provide love and support.  She can’t drive because of the seizures so she’s at the mercy of bus and train schedules.  One night she spent five hours getting home from Toronto.

I’ve been given strict instructions from her aunt:  “Don’t let Jen burn herself out”.

Easier said than done!

She’s been doing an amazing job.  Since I work full time I am only free to drive down to Toronto on weekends.  That’s exhausting too, though not as much as public transit.

We haven’t had as much time to recharge our own batteries.  It’s sad to say but we won’t be going to the cottage at all this summer.  On the hot days, we would love nothing more than to jump in the refreshing waters of Lake Huron.  It’s not happening this year.

And I haven’t had as much time to work on my reviews here at mikeladano.com.  I come home from work mentally wiped out.  I’m still playing and enjoying music every day but not writing about it very much.  Thankfully guest writers like Holen MaGroin, Kovaflyer, Harrison Kopp and Derek Kortepeter have stepped up to provide some content and relief!  (And there will be more content from Mr. MaGroin soon.)

My job, supporting Jen, is the easier of the two.  I go to work, get paid, drive her where she has to go when I can, and try to take care of her.  She’s got the harder job.  If I’m not around these parts as much, or haven’t responded to your comments, that’s why.  The struggle continues and the battle rages on.

We are not quitters!

 

#679: Cancer Chronicles 12

The good news is that Jen’s recovery has been amazing. She virtually back to full strength and still getting stronger.

Thank God for this, because I don’t think we could handle any more bad news on top of what we already have.

Our other loved one who has cancer is…not doing well.  Surgery was successful but more spread has been found.  This news is fresh and we do not know the path forward.

The future is unknown.  There are new experimental treatments that might be effective.

We are trying to continue our lives as normally as possible.  Sausagefest is less than two months away.  Cottage season has begun.  We don’t want to live our lives in a cocoon and our loved one doesn’t want us to either.  But we are in a state of shell-shock and knowing how to feel or what to think is just not happening right now.

#667: Cancer Chronicles 11

You might have noticed I’ve been quiet the last few days. I have not been able to respond to comments. The reason is, once again, I am supporting someone who has cancer. This person is very close to both Jen and I. They just had their successful surgery yesterday.  Now, on to chemo.

It’s all very much deja-vu.  Hotel rooms out of town, hospital waiting rooms, doctors and nurses.  Yesterday we clocked 10 hours waiting at the hospital.  That’s a long day — longer than a work day, and twice as tiring.  My dad said to me, “I think you deserve the Congressional Medal of Honor”.  But that’s only for Americans.  I’ll settle for a plate of sushi at the end of it.

Fuck cancer.  Two weeks ago, an original Sausagefester died of cancer.  I’ve known him for 23 years.  Some of the guys have known him since childhood.  His absence this summer will be deeply felt.  We will all miss our friend in the orange boiler suit.

These are dark days.  Neither of them wanted any online attention, so I’m being purposely vague.   Just know that 2018 has already taken a toll, and it’s only 1/4 of the way done.

Music has been a blessing, as always.  Yesterday the clever frivolity of Spinal Tap kept my spirits up.  It’s impossible not to laugh at the absurd “Stonehenge” or the just plain funny “Big Bottom”.  (“Talk about bum cakes, my girl’s got em.”)

Fuck the dark days.  I do not want to be dragged down by them.  I also don’t want any more of my loved ones to get sick, but we know we have no control over that.  That is the struggle of life.  All I can do is try to keep smiling.  So here’s Spinal Tap.  Enjoy.

 

Look for Derek Smalls’ solo debut, Smalls Change, April 13 2018.