cancer

#1024: Where were you when Freddie died? When Eric died?

Lunch With Ladano yesterday was regarding the events of November 23, 1991.  The announcement that Freddie Mercury had AIDS, the worst kept secret in rock. Do you remember?

 

#1004: It’s Not You

RECORD STORE TALES #1004: It’s Not You

2018 was, shall we put it mildly, an interesting year. It was the summer that wasn’t. The year I spent the best months of the year driving to and from Toronto, at first waiting for a miracle, and then waiting for the inevitable. When my beloved mother in law finally passed away in September of that year, at least she left the pain behind.

Her decline at the end of the summer was rapid. Before she got too sick, she insisted that I still go record shopping with Aaron as we used to do annually. “You go and have a good time.” She had no way to know how important that was. That one record shopping excursion changed everything for Jen and I that summer. A discovery I made on that trip impacted the whole rest of the summer. That discovery was Blotto.

I’ve talked numerous times about how the skillfully comedic sounds of Blotto made the summer driving tolerable. I’ve trumpeted the merits of Blotto ad nauseum, but it cannot be overstated how important that music was to us at that time. And I had no real idea what I was buying. I just knew Blotto had one song in the 80s – “Metal Head” – that I saw on MuchMusic as a kid. But I didn’t think they were a metal band. They had a bald guy and a guy who looked like Revenge of the Nerds.  They sported funny names like “Bowtie” and “Cheese”. For the sake of personal musical history, I wanted “Metal Head” in my collection. So there in the basement of BMV, with Aaron at my side, for a mere $8.99, I acquired their important album Combo Akimbo. It was the best decision I made all summer.

What I got was a nine-track comedy-rock album that kept us in positive spirits as we drove up and down Highway 401 all summer. And what is amazing is that I can play the album today and still feel the same things.

The bad memories are still there. They bubble to the surface. I can see myself behind the wheel, stopping and starting again all the way to Toronto. I hear Jen singing along next to me. But the pain is manageable, and the positive feelings outweigh the bad.

Of the nine songs, there was always one that made us laugh the most. That song was “It’s Not You”. Not only is it a catchy song with a cool guitar lick, but the lyrics are hilarious. I’m glad that Blotto was not tainted by the summer of 2018 and I can still enjoy their music with a huge grin on my face.  That’s the gift.  All too often, because acquires the feelings of the times you hear it, and if those times weren’t good, it’s hard to get around.  Fortunately that didn’t happen with Blotto.  I feel only good feelings, especially when I play “It’s Not You”.  I can’t help but smile, every time.

This is something that’s not easy to do,
It will hit you like a bolt from the blue,
After last night, I have to tell you we are through.

When we’re alone, everything is OK,
But it’s never gonna stay that way,
When I take you home, your family has so much to say.

I try and I try, to be cool when they start,
But girl, they’re the ones who are tearing us apart.

It’s not you!
Don’t blame yourself
It’s not you!
No-one can help.
It’s not you!
I can’t be your man.
It’s not you!
It’s your family that I can’t stand.
And it’s driving me crazy!

Your mother wants to know if I am on drugs,
Your brother shows me his collection of bugs,
Your aunts don’t like me and your uncles are a bunch of thugs.

Your father coughs and blows smoke in my face,
He still believes in the superior race,
He says if he were president, the world would be a better place.

I try and I try, to ignore them for our sake,
But girl, I’m afraid it’s too much for me to take.

It’s not you!
Don’t blame yourself
It’s not you!
No-one can help.
It’s not you!
I can’t be your man.
It’s not you!
It’s your family that I can’t stand.

There is no future baby can’t you see,
Picture in your mind how it would be,
All of us living in relative misery.

I try and I try, to be cool when they start,
But girl, they’re the ones who are tearing us apart.

It’s not you!
Don’t blame yourself
It’s not you!
No-one can help.
It’s not you!
I can’t be your man.
It’s not you!
It’s your family that I can’t stand.

It isn’t you,
It’s only your family,
Don’t take it personally,
It’s just all those little things,
Like when I come over to your house and your father tells me “Don’t park in the driveway, ‘cause your car gets oil on the new white pebbles,” and then when I go inside the house, the cat jumps on my lap, and gets hair all over my shirt and pants, and your grandmother sits the newspaper and gets it so wrinkled and bunched up that I can’t even read it, and your sister brings out her scrapbooks and wants me to look at all of her prom pictures, I mean, who cares! And your brother wants me to help him with his science project, dissecting frogs, ick, what a mess, and I go into the bathroom to wash my hands, and all they have is soft soap, and my hands smell like coconuts, and I can’t dry them on those little guest towels, so I gotta wipe them on my shirt, which is already covered with cat hair, and then when I come outside, your father corners me, and wants to tell me all the jokes he read in Playboy magazine….

 

NEWS: Steve Morse taking a break from Deep Purple to care for sick family member

We know it as well as anyone:  family must come first.

Deep Purple’s Steve Morse is taking a break from touring to care for his wife who is suffering from cancer.  In a statement Morse said, “At this point, there are so many possible complications and unknowns, that whatever time we have left in our lives, I simply must be there with her.”

Replacing Morse on tour is Simon McBride who has previously worked with Ian Gillan and Don Airey.  Morse notes that if his wife Janine gets a clean bill of health, he will re-join the tour.

It is heartbreaking how cancer can derail plans so suddenly.  After two years of not touring, Morse is forced off the road again.  We wish the Morse family all the best and Janine a swift recovery.  We also wish Simon McBride all the best in what will surely be the biggest tour of his life to date.

Get well soon Janine Morse!

A Year to the Day: Rest in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

‘Twas only a year ago I wrote these words:

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?”

A year later, it’s only more certain that there will never been another Eddie.  You can read my full memorial here:  Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time.

The week Eddie passed, we did a tribute to him on the LeBrain Train.  You can watch that tribute below, starting at the 20 minute mark.

As if that wasn’t enough, we followed that with another Van Halen show: VH deep cuts!  One thing for sure, Eddie certainly inspired a lot of conversation on the LeBrain Train over the past year.  You can watch the deep cuts below, starting again at 20 minutes.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect, and play some Van Halen tonight.  Tonight, I’m going to go with “Dirty Movies” from Fair Warning to spotlight the greatest gee-tar picker of all time.  What song or album will you play for Eddie tonight?

Rest in Peace Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

Norm Macdonald had been fighting cancer for nine years, and none of us knew about it.  That takes guts, to just keep on keeping on.  What a man Norm Macdonald must have been.

Side-splittingly funny.  Like most of us, I first saw Norm on Saturday Night Live.  Then came my favourite, Dirty Work, and of course all the understated brilliance that’s waiting on YouTube for you to discover.

His style was like his fingerprint.  Laid back.  Meandering.  Riveting.

There are others who can say it better than I can, so go on Twitter and read what they wrote.  Seth Rogen cites Norm as a prime influence.  Tom Green counts him as a friend.  Hearts are broken today.  So have a laugh courtesy of Norm Macdonald.  Rest in peace

 

#906: Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Uncle Don Don,

A year ago today we got the message that you were gone.   My first thought was “at least he is not in pain anymore.”  I didn’t like that you had to suffer so much.  I’ve seen enough cancer in this life.

My next thought was for Grandma, and Mom, and Aunt.  They still miss you and talk about you.  Aunt says that it will be weird coming home to Waterloo without you around.  She says she used to like having her morning coffee when only the two of you were awake.  I can picture you guys sitting there quietly talking, and maybe even laughing a little.  That’s how I want to picture it, anyway.

I have a bunch of your CDs with me.  I really liked Jackyl.  I was surprised to find it in your collection.  Looking at your discs here, I have so many questions.  Why Jane’s Addiction?  Why the second Garbage album, and not the first?  Somebody here went to painstaking care to make you a mix CD, but why did she include “Who Let the Dogs Out”?  I’d really like to know your thoughts on that one!

Since you’ve been gone, I followed my dreams and started a YouTube show.  I chat with friends about music and I interview rock stars.  So far I’ve talked to two former members of Helix — a band we used to discuss in the old days.  You knew them long before I did.  Now here I am talking to them.  You were a part of my history with that band.  We also did an entire episode on Led Zeppelin.  That was another band you liked long before I discovered them.  You thought it was cool when I started picking up these old bands you had in your school days.  Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple.

I still don’t like sports.  There’s something we never agreed on.  Even being married to Jen and watching all this hockey, baseball and football, I still don’t like sports.  I understand them a little better.  I could converse with you about hockey now.  It wouldn’t be the topic of my choosing, but I could do it.

We spent last summer quarantined between here and the cottage.  You used to love that place.  Long hair, no shirt, cutoff jean shorts.  One summer you were there for about three weeks straight.  I hope you would like what Kathryn has done with it.  She’s kept everything intact.  It’s not as manly as it was in your day, but everything is still there.  It’s a lot quieter.  We all got older!

If it wasn’t for this damned virus, we had an idea for a tribute last summer.  Maybe we can do it this summer, or next summer.  I wanted to buy a turntable for the lake, and play some of your old records in the back yard like you used to.  I kept putting it off, and putting it off, because we can’t socialize.  It’s been a weird year, man!  Grandma really wants a hug.  I’ll give her a big one soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of worry, she used to worry about you so much.  Though we all miss you, at least she’s not worrying about you anymore.  I know she’ll appreciate it when we can finally get together as a family again.  Tell Uncle Don stories in the living room.  Cutoff shorts in the summer, badminton raquet in one hand and a Labbatt’s in the other!  Right?

I don’t drink beer, but I think if you were here right now, healthy and young again, I’d have a beer with you.  I’d think I’d like that.

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

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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)