cassettes

Brent Jensen and the Raiders of the Lost Mahogany Tape Case

Thank you Brent Jensen for appearing on the show a second time!  Although the conversation veered wildly from Cinderella to Raven and back again, we orbited around Brent’s mahogany box of cassettes.  Maybe you had one like it.  But was your stuffed alphabetically from Accept to W.A.S.P.?  Take a look inside Brent’s tape collection and listen to the amazing stories that unfold.

The chat with Brent commences at 0:23:00 of the stream.

As my One Year Anniversary Show, we are doing a CD giveaway too.  Next week we’ll draw a winner from a hat.  See bottom for the trivia question and submission form!

The trivia question was: What is the tagline on Brent’s No Sleep ‘Til Sudbury podcast? Watch the episode for some pretty obvious clues and submit your answer in the form below.  Really, really, really obvious clues.  Really obvious.

A winner will be drawn next week!

NEXT WEEK

Marco the Contrarian joins Uncle Meat and I for the Blackest of Sabbaths, only on a Friday!

#887: A Glimpse of the Future

RECORD STORE TALES #887: A Glimpse of the Future

Sometimes I like to imagine myself in my younger self’s shoes.  I think about me as a kid, sitting in the basement watching the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic.  There I am, staring intently, VCR remote grasped in hand, and set to “Record-Pause”.  Waiting for the new music video by Kiss to debut.  Hitting that un-pause button to get a good recording as soon as the video began.  Could I even have imagined the on-demand nature of YouTube?  No, but I like to imagine what I would have thought if I could have seen a glimpse of the future.

I always felt limited by technology, even though I was spoiled enough to have my own stereo, my own Walkman, and access to the family VCR (almost) whenever I wanted.  Though I had all this stuff, I couldn’t make it do what I wanted to do without some improvisation.  Making a mix tape, for example.  If I wanted a live song on a mix tape, I had to fade it in and out.  My dual tape deck couldn’t do that.  To do a fade, I plugged my Walkman, via a cable in the headphone jack, into the audio inputs of my ghetto blaster.  This was done with a Y-connector, and an RCA-to-3.5 mm adaptor cable.  Then I used the Walkman’s volume knob to fade the song in and out while the ghetto blaster recorded.  It took trial and error and the end recording usually sounded a little hot and crackly.  But I didn’t have anything better.

If that highschool kid playing with cables in his bedroom could only have imagined Audacity.  Instant fades, exactly as you want them.  Precise digital replication.  I would have lost my shit.  If you had given me Audacity as a kid, I might not have left my bedroom for a week…and not for the reasons a teen usually hides in his bedroom!

I worked long hours on mix tapes back in those days, mainly because you had to make them in real time.  And you had to keep it simple too.  Making the tape in the first place was the challenge; making it creatively was the icing.  But the end results were always…disappointing?  Underwhelming?  The second generation taped songs never sounded as good as the first.  You’d get a little noise, perhaps a pop, between tracks where you started and stopped your recording.  Little imperfections.  Maybe one track sounds a little slow, one a little fast.  Volume levels are inconsistent.  All stuff out of your control.

The amount of control I have today over what I create is astounding.  Even visually speaking.  I don’t make tape cover art anymore, but doing so was a painstaking process involving sharp pencils, rulers, erasers, and scissors.  Everything had to be handwritten and hand drawn.  Sometimes I might be able to get my dad to photocopy a cover at his work, but usually I had to make my own stuff.  I was very limited when it came to to making visuals.  Even taking a photograph, it took days or weeks to get your picture back.  You had to use the entire roll of film before getting it developed, of course.  Now you have a phone that’s a camera and a computer.

Now that’s something that young me definitely couldn’t have imagined:  our phones.  Even science fiction of the mid-80s didn’t have anything like the phones we have today.  Imagine what I could have made with that!  It took months and a lot of clunky equipment for Bob Schipper and I to make a single music video in 1989.  I can throw together a clip in minutes today, thanks to computers and phones and ubiquitous cameras that ensure I always have raw photos and videos waiting to be edited together.

Computers — now there’s a quantum leap that young me wouldn’t believe.  We had a family computer from a very early time, decked out with a dot matrix printer and a monochrome block of a monitor.  But it wasn’t connected to anything.  We didn’t have the instant access to information.  We couldn’t look up a band’s complete discography in a moment on Discogs, much less actually buy those rare items and have them shipped to the front door!  Can you imagine how much that would have blown my mind?  I had a few hundred bucks in the bank at that age.  Well, it would all have been gone if you had given me access to Discogs for an hour in 1986.  The ability to actually complete an artist’s music collection today, was something I just could not ever do as a kid.  Very few people could.

We did what we could with the resources at hand.  We’d save our pennies, and take the bus down to Sam the Record Man.  We’d look around for an hour and decide where we would best spend our dollars.  “Don’t go to Sam the Record Man and buy something you can get at the mall,” was the motto.  That would be a waste of time and bus money!

Bob Schipper made far more trips to Sam’s, usually via bike.  But if he acquired a rarity, it was always a given that I could tape it off him.  A lot of my first Maiden B-sides were just taped copies of records he found at Sam’s.

What I was doing in those early formative years was absorbing rock’s past.  Collecting the albums, discovering the bands, learning the member’s names through the magazines and interviews.  But what if I could have seen the future of all this?  What would I have thought of things like a six-man Iron Maiden lineup with three lead guitar players?  I think tunes like “The Wicker Man” would have blown me away as an evolution without losing what made Maiden great.

I wonder what I would have thought of the Kiss tour with the original members back in makeup?  I know I would have been disappointed that they never made a proper studio album together.  One thing I appreciated as a kid was that Kiss put out something new every year.  Today, Kiss only put out an album when there’s a solar eclipse on planet Jendell.  I think the success of that reunion tour would have made the younger me feel validated for my Kiss love, but I know I would have been unhappy about the lack of new material.  However, if I could have heard albums like Sonic Boom and Monster, I also know I’d have been happy that Kiss dropped the keyboards, brought Gene back to prominence, and had all four members singing.  That would have impressed me.

I’m still working on my time travel powers, and I’m also wary of doing anything that could change the future.  Since The Avengers: Endgame taught us that you can’t change your past’s future’s future (or something like that), I’m going to continue to work on the technology.  If I can show my past self some of these amazing technological advances, I might…I don’t know!  Buy first print Kiss LPs and keep them in the shrink wrap?  I haven’t fully through this through, but trust me — it’s going to be awesome.

#874: Impossible to Display

A sequel to Getting More Tale #795:  A Case for Security

GETTING MORE TALE #874: Impossible to Display

Shoplifting accounts for over a third of inventory shrinkage in retail.*  At the Record Store we had numerous strategies to combat this, as discussed in prior chapters.  An alert staff can stop a staggering amount of theft, but the last line of defence for us was a magnetic security tag system.  Trying to lift a de-tagged item would set off alarms at the store.

Cassettes, one of of our lower-cost items compared with CDs and box sets, were protected with a single magnetic strip hidden on the seam on the shrink wrap.  These had to be de-tagged magnetically with a device — they were single use only and the tag left the store with the product after being disarmed.  Each tag cost five cents, and that added up.  Higher-cost box sets were protected with multiple tags hidden on the edges of the packaging.  CDs, which also carried significant cost but were the majority of our store, were protected by a double-edged sword.  They were housed in an unbreakable and re-usable plastic longbox, with the magnetic tag stuck to an inner edge.  These tags never had to be disarmed.  You just removed the security case with a special key and set it aside for re-use on fresh inventory.

Cassettes were checked weekly to re-secure loose tags.  We kept a close eye on everything and everyone.  Combined with good practices, the security gate at the front of the store prevented a lot of theft.  Still, there were certain items that were unfortunately hard to both a) protect properly and b) display properly at the same time.  Unusual packaging made some albums difficult to stock on the shelves with the rest of the catalogue.

December 6, 1994:  Pearl Jam – Vitalogy compact disc

Although we weren’t equipped to display records, we had no problems when Vitalogy was released on vinyl November 22, 1994.  We sold the five copies we stocked on the first day.  It was the CD release two weeks later that caused us grief because we ordered those en masse.

The CD release of Vitalogy came ensconced in a miniature cardboard book-shaped package.  It had the same dimensions as a normal CD case, just flipped upright on its short side.  You could put them in a CD security box no problem, but T-Rev discovered a weakness in its design.  Because it was thinner and more flexible than a standcard CD case, you could with a little effort force it out of the security box without unlocking it.  This meant we couldn’t safely stock it out on the shelves.

Instead, the boss man set up a small box under close watchful eye at the front counter.  He placed the Vitalogy CDs in it, with every fifth copy turned 45 degrees so he could easily count how many were in there at any given time.  If he knew that he had 20 copies in the box, but suddenly only counted 19, then he would see if anyone in the store was carrying one around to purchase it.  Eventually we just put it back in the security cases, assuming nobody would be as inventive as T-Rev in trying to get one out.

May 29, 1995:  Pink Floyd – p·u·l·s·e compact disc with flashing light diode.

The original CD release of Pink Floyd’s p·u·l·s·e had a unique gimmick.  The oversized cardboard shell contained the 2 CD album in a book-style case, plus a flashing light gimmick powered by two AA batteries in a hidden compartment.  When the CD was reissued without the light and space-consuming batteries, it could fit in a standard size CD security box.  However the full-on, limited edition original was too large to be stored in our shelving.  Once again we had to put them at the front counter, this time stacked in a pile.

What I remember most about the “pile of p·u·l·s·e” is that flashing light.  However many copies were in that heap at the front counter, the lights flashed incessantly.  You could not turn them off.  Once you purchased the CD, you could remove the batteries from the inside.  Safe in their shrinkwrap on our countertop, they just flashed and flashed away.  Never in synch.  No two copies were ever in synch.  I guess it might have depended on how much juice was still in those batteries.  Copies of p·u·l·s·e flashed for years without a battery change.

June 20, 1995:  Michael Jackson – HIStory double cassette in cardboard sleeve

Although cassettes were being slowly phased out, we still had to carry certain big releases on the format.  In 1995, Michael Jackson still sold impressive numbers.  Enough that we carried one cassette copy, which once again, was packaged in such a way that we couldn’t display it on our cassette shelves.  Unlike other doubles, which sometimes came in a “fat” double cassette case (like Phantom of the Opera) or two normal cases packed together (like The Song Remains the Same), Michael Jackson’s HIStory came with the two tapes face up, side by side, in a cardboard box.  It was dimensioned like no tape shelving system known to man.

Too cumbersome to take up valuable front counter space, HIStory was deigned be displayed without fanfare on a shelf behind the desk.  To buy a copy of HIStory on cassette from us, there were only two paths to a sale:

  1. The customer would have to notice it behind the counter when purchasing other items, and ask for it.
  2. The customer would have to ask if we carried it, and not everyone asks.

My solution was clever.  I had just acquired a computer program that enabled me to create perfectly formatted cassette J-cards for my tape collection.  I used it to print a sleeve that said “MICHAEL JACKSON – HISTORY – 2 CASSETTE SET – ASK AT COUNTER”.  I put that in an empty tape case, and filed it with the rest of the Michael Jackson cassettes.  It took forever but it must have sold eventually!  I don’t know if I was responsible because it didn’t happen on my shift.

We had a cramped little space and we made the best of it.  Given that we were constantly battling for every square inch, any time an artist came out with something that was impossible to display, it created a unique little headache for us!

 

* The other 2/3rds are largely staff theft and errors.

Boxing Day Live Stream featuring LeBrain’s Mom – “Christmas Memories”

We’re locked down, but not knocked down as this week’s live show proved!  From 1977 to 1991, stories of Christmases past were unfurled for fun discussion.  From the Star Wars years, through GI Joe, Transformers, and Atari, to cassettes, CDs and VHS, the greatest years of our lives were presented.  Then, special guest LeBrain’s Mom joined the latter half of this episode for her first on-screen appearance…bearing wine!

I had a great night and I hope you did too.  Lots of visual aids this time.  Thanks for watching!

#866: Untitled ’94

GETTING MORE TALE #866: Untitled ’94

I didn’t go to the cottage at all in 1994.  I was busy with school, then in the summer met a girl, and finally got a job at the Record Store.  That was all the distraction I needed to stay home.  Girls trumped trees and water.  Priorities!

The first summer at the Record Store was a brand new world for me.  New faces, new names, new music.  Lots and lots of cleaning.  “If there’s time to lean, there’s time to clean!” went the saying.  A lot of the job was tedious.  Wednesday was “tape check day”.  From A to Z we had to check every cassette in the store and make sure the magnetic security strip was firmly attached.  If it wasn’t, we’d get some scotch tape and secure that sucker.  My hands always felt so grungy after a day of tape checking.

There was always filing to do, and new stock to price.  When we sold a tape or CD, we had to know to re-order them.  How was this accomplished?  Tapes had a little clear plastic sticker on the back.  It had the artist, title and record label written on it.  When we sold a tape, we had to file these stickers in a photo album, sorted by record label.  Then when the boss was ready to order more stock, he’d flip through the photo album and read the stickers.  When we re-stocked the tapes, we had to put the clear sticker back on.  CDs were similar except they were in clear bags with the info written on them.  The bags were used to re-order discs.

When something new was released, we had to make the stickers and bags for those items too.  I remember when T-Rev was hired, he used to leave special releases for me to do the tags and bags for.  Kiss Unplugged he specifically left for me, because it was the first Kiss album released during my tenure at the store.  The first of many.  I drew the Kiss logo on the tag and smiled.  Small things like that meant something to me, though after waiting so long for a new Kiss album, it was quite anti-climactic.

We had also started selling used CDs.  Some of the first I acquired with my staff discount were Sven Gali’s debut and Chronicles by Rush.  Weirdly, I was still buying a lot of cassettes.  Kim Mitchell’s brand new one Itch got the staff discount treatment.

In the early days the boss used to give us weekly homework.  We had to come in with a current top 10 list every week.  This was to ensure that we were familiar with the current hits that people would be asking for.  T-Rev did his homework; I did not.  I felt like I already knew it all.  Before I started at the store, I used to keep on top of “everything the kids were listening to”.  I guess the boss recognized that since he didn’t bug me for my homework every week.

I was glad to have this job at the Record Store when in late ’94 my relationship blew up in my face.  I compensated by throwing myself into the store.  I came in early every day so I could review all the new stock.  Business was fairly slow most nights.  We were not in a high-traffic mall.  We had our regulars and we had our time-wasters.  The drunks from the restaurant next door were interesting.  Some of them even spent money!  None of them were problems, just time wasters.  “Tire kickers” as I call them now.  Then there were a couple notable janitors.  Trevor Atkinson from highschool was one.  I wonder what ever happened to that guy?  He was certainly a time waster.  It’s my theory that he was the cause of the first customer complaint I ever received.

Working in that Record Store was pretty much my whole social life.  I didn’t know anybody at school anymore.  Through the store, I reconnected with highschool and neighborhood friends that dropped by to shop.  Guys like George Balasz and Scott Peddle.  The boss didn’t like his employees to socialize at work, but what could you do?  It was the local Record Store and I was working in it.  I knew lots of people.  He socialized far more than I did, but he was “the boss” so nobody could give him shit for it.  When one of his friends was in the store, he’d chat it up and get me to take care of everyone else.  “Do as I say, not as I do” was another one of his famous demoralizing sayings.

But it was a good job.  The boss used to say he was “firm but fair”.  For the first few years that was true.  For a retail job it was pretty good.  We got to listen to music during the shift and we felt like part of a team.  It was a special place during a special time.  I’m glad I was there before we grew, because that’s when things changed for the worse, from an employment point of view.  But for that brief period in the beginning, the Record Store was a part of my identity.  I’m still really proud of everything that we did there as a team.  I may be critical of some things, but I’m proud of being there on the ground floor when things were about to take off.

#857: Obsessed With Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #857: Obsessed With Rock

As this summer flies by, I’m reminded of seasons past.  My dad always took the same vacations in the summer:  one week in July and two in August.  That means we’d be up at the cottage for that time, and I wanted to be well stocked with music.  Meaning, I had to bring all my music.  All my cassettes, all my vinyl.  Everything.

It was a process, to say the least.  All my tape cases had to be wedged between seats of the car, and I had “a few” tape cases.  Then I took apart my jury-rigged stereo setup and carefully prepared it for transportation.  I taped down the tone arm on the turntable so it wouldn’t fly about.  I packed up all my wires, head cleaners, and record brushes.  My ghetto blaster and record player were loaded onto a seat in the car, with my dad’s old 8-track deck/receiver at the bottom.  I was using it as a pre-amp for the turntable, and it worked after a fashion.

My treasured Kiss cassettes were not in a case.  They occupied a shelf in my bedroom, with two custom ceramic Kiss bookends.  I placed the bookends and tapes into a plastic grocery bag for transport.  Upon arrival at the lake, I set them all up on another shelf, always in chronological order.  It’s funny to think that I didn’t get an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis until I was in my 40s.  I was pretty clearly already there in my early teens.

Once I got everything hooked up again at the cottage (stealing extension cords from other rooms), I’d begin blasting the rock.  With OCD firmly in control, I first had to finish listening to whatever tape was in my Walkman during the car trip.  Only then would I choose what I would be listening to that night.

It’s all very clearly obsessive behaviour, but I guess people were not as aware of various mental health issues back then in the 80s.

Then and now, I loved listening to music at the lake.  I liked to blast it, which sometimes earned a noise complaint from the parents.  They were pretty good about it though.  They indulged my musical obsession though never quite understanding it.  I only had one true love and it was rock and roll.

Something else I enjoyed very much was buying new music while on summer vacation at the lake.  There were not many stores that carried anything good.  Don’s Hi-Fi, and Stedman’s were all that was available when I was really young.  They sure didn’t have much.  Still, listening to Priest…Live! when it was brand new, and breaking the seal at the lake was special.  It’s hard to articulate exactly what was special about it.  Your normal listening space is a familiar place.  Most things you hear, you first played in your own home.  When you get to experience an album on less familiar territory for the first few times, it develops a different flavour.  It’s not something you can hear, it’s just something you can feel.  I guess that’s why I always see myself playing darts in the back yard at the lake every time I hear Priest…Live!

Perhaps that is a feeling only a music obsessive gets.

When we returned from vacation, it felt like I would be welcoming my new albums into their new home.  This is where you live now, Priest.  This is where I am going to be experiencing you from now on.

Weird, right?

I never claimed to be normal.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I’ve often boasted of not just “liking” music, but actually “loving” it deeply.  Maybe the only thing I’m actually boasting about is mental illness!

Whatever.  These are all good memories.  Although I speak fondly of it today, as a kid I would have chosen to stay home if I was old enough.  I missed being away from my friends, my rock magazines, my Pepsi Power Hour and all that stuff.  I missed talking about and listening to music with my best friend Bob.  Truth told, by packing up all music with me and hauling it up to the lake, I was trying to retain one aspect of being at home, which is my music collection.  Today the obsession remains, but I can do the same job with a laptop.  Crazy!  I never would have imagined that as a kid.

There are worse things to be hooked on other than rock and roll.  If it makes you feel so good, can it be so bad?

 

 

 

#847: Taping the Kiss

GETTING MORE TALE #847: Taping the Kiss

My obsession with Kiss was started in September of 1985.  You all know the story.  I knew that the neighbour, George Balasz, only needed two Kiss albums to complete his LP collection.  He needed The Elder, and Hotter Than Hell.  One day Ian Johnson called, wanting to trade some records for an Atari game:  Superman, one of the poorest games in the Atari catalogue.  He could have that stinker!  He was trading me copies of Alive! and the much coveted Hotter Than Hell.  I already knew that I was going to spin Hotter Than Hell over for more trades.

I played Hotter Than Hell once.  Then I called George to negotiate a trade.

By the conclusion of the evening, I had acquired a Walkman, Black Sabbath’s Paranoid on cassette, an Abbott and Costello record and an Iron Maiden 12″ single.  Not bad for a shitty Atari game.

Now, technically the Atari game belonged to my sister and I, and she was pissed that I traded it without at least consulting her, but today she understands the monumental significance of her sacrifice.  My Kiss collection had begun.

I owned a record player, but it was a terrible one, so my Kiss focus was going to be cassette.  I asked George to record that scratchy copy of Hotter Than Hell for me.  Between that day in September of 1985 and summer of 1987, I taped just about every Kiss album from George.  The ones I didn’t tape, I bought at the local Zellers store.  Their selection was limited.  For that matter, every store’s selection was limited.  There wasn’t much Kiss available on cassette in 1985 Kitchener.  I had to have them.  I had to get them all.

I can’t remember the specific order anymore.  I probably recorded Animalize off George next.  I say this because it was on the flipside of the 120 minute cassette that also contained Hotter Than Hell.  Those, plus my LP of Kiss Alive, kept me occupied for a few months.

There were only a few vintage Kiss albums you could find on tape in town.  Dynasty and Destroyer were common.  They had been reissued in something called The Priceless Collection, a low budget series of repressings.   The vinyl edition of Destroyer in this series lacked the gatefold.  I got Dynasty in one of the local stores, and a few weeks later, accidentally dropped it into a bucket of wallpaper water.  My dad bought me a new copy right away.  I have an amazing dad.  He always took care of me.

It was a neat experience, getting those Kiss albums on tape as a kid.  It was a whole new world to me.  Imagine getting a Kiss album, and hearing for the first time who sang which songs.  You’d try to guess from the titles.  You couldn’t guess from the writing credits, necessarily.  I’d listen to the words and try to figure out what Kiss were singing about.  Wonder if, when I was a grown-up, I would have some of these experiences with the ladies that Kiss were talking about.

I taped a few more off George in the interim.  Sometimes I’d just drop a tape off at his house while he was at work.  I asked him to record Kiss, Dressed to Kill, Unmasked, Creatures of the Night, Love Gun, and Double Platinum. He wrote down the song titles as neatly as he could, and then I made my own covers.  I had a system.  I always had a big Kiss logo on the top half of the cover.  I tried to draw them identically every time.  If it was a single album, I would add a crude drawing of something to do with the album.  On Dressed to Kill, I had Gene in a trenchcoat.  On Love Gun, a pistol.  On the back cover I’d write out the tracks.  But for a double album, I used the bottom half of the front cover to list all the songs.  There wasn’t enough room on the back for a double album tracklist once I cut (or punched) out the two holes for the tape shell.  The back cover also had the year of release, and I drew a symbol on the tape label to indicate whether I recorded it from LP or cassette.  The spine featured a “Dolby stereo” logo.  I was meticulous about keeping all my Kiss tapes looking the same.

The only one of these Kiss tapes that I still have the hand made cover for is Crazy Nights, and I half-assed it because I knew I’d be buying a copy as soon as I could.  I can remember recording Crazy Nights the day it came out from George, and this temporary cover was on the tape that tided me over until I could get a real copy.*

Of course, some were store bought.  Lick It Up was a Christmas gift and I bough Asylum myself.  Destroyer was another early purchase.  I had it before I heard Double Platinum.  I had never heard “Detroit Rock City” before.  I was familiar with some tunes from Kiss Meets the Phantom of the Park, my first exposure to many Kiss hits.  I found Destroyer to be weird and I was surprised how much George liked it.

A memory that I have of Creatures of the Night is how good that album made me feel.  Listening to that tape in the garage after a day of bullying at school was a powerful experience.  The music was defiant.  The lyrics sounded good.  “Get me off this carousel, you can do as you please, you can go to hell.” Yeah you can!

Once George got The Elder, I taped it pronto.  I remember we couldn’t read all the song titles.  “Escape from the Ish?  What is that?”  He couldn’t legibly squeeze “Island” into the line.  Then I started seeing Kiss cassette reissues in stores.  Creatures came out with Kulick on the cover.  Most importantly, all the Kiss solo albums, which were otherwise impossible to locate on tape, were reissued in early ’87.  I asked — nay, demanded — all four for my birthday.  And because I was so spoiled, I received all four.  I listened to them in alphabetical order three times each.  A lot of the tunes weirded me out.  Too much funky bass.

Last to land in my collection was Rock And Roll Over.  And I recognized, that until Kiss out with a new album, this was the last time I was going to have this experience:  hearing a Kiss song for the first time, guessing who sang what and trying to understand the lyrics.  It was bittersweet.

It turns out, even when Kiss do put out a new album, it’s just not the same.  I don’t feel like I am learning something of Kisstory, like I did with the older albums.  I don’t get the sensation of “Wow, this is a classic song that I didn’t know before.”  It is just not the same.  But I’m glad I had the experience.

* When I got Crazy Nights, I recorded over this tape and re-used the paper for the cover.  Mixed Songs replaced Crazy Nights, a compilation of singles by Dokken, Ratt, Anvil, Helix and many more.

#828: The Ones That Got Away

GETTING MORE TALE #828: The Ones That Got Away

A year ago we did a massive de-clutter.  We had gotten to the point where we accumulated too much stuff.  Especially after Jen’s mom passed away.  We probably kept too much of her stuff out of sentiment.  But in a very short period of time we made massive purge; a painful purge.  And it wasn’t the first.  As you go through life you get rid of things.  You can’t carry all your possessions with you through your whole life.

Although I have forgotten many of the myriad DVDs, books, T-shirts and collectibles that I tossed to the curb, there are some that I now regret losing.  Doner’s regret is a very real thing.  Some decisions were made in haste and others were made without sufficient foresight.

I used to record all of my CDs and LPs to cassette so that I could play them in the car.  Once I had a car CD player, I didn’t need to keep doing that.  Eventually I decided to give away all my excess cassettes and that’s how they ended up in a Thunder Bay landfill.  I only regret giving away a small handful of my tapes.  I wish I had hung onto some of the more obscure ones, and anything that I made cool artwork for.  I guess I didn’t imagine that one day people would want to look at photos of old cassettes and read reviews of them.

In years past, any time I have done a major de-cluttering, I’ve thrown a massive garage sale.  Sorting through and pricing items gives you some time to process what you’re doing, and make final decisions.  It’s an ideal way of getting rid of stuff.  But even so, I have made mistakes that I regret now.  My childhood rock magazine collection — what I would give to have some of those issues again.  They would come in handy with what I’m doing now.  I had just about every issue of Hit Parader from 1987 through to 1990.  From there I moved on to RIP, Metal Edge and the various guitar magazines available.  When I purged my magazines, I hung onto just a small handful, but knowing they were irreplaceable, I kept all my M.E.A.T.  Thank God I did!  I’d never be able to replace them all if I hadn’t, and those things have been invaluable research sources.  At least I know my magazines went to a good home.  My old friend Len came to the garage sale and took every one.  I know he is someone who would appreciate them for what they are.

I got rid of the magazines when I got married.  I had to make space for my awesome new wife and her boxes and boxes full of clothes!  Around the same time, I passed all my old Star Wars toys down to my sister Kathryn.  Again, I have no regrets.  They went to the right person to care for them.  I admit I do get a nostalgic craving to hold my Han Solo one more time, but I think that could be arranged if necessary.

More recently, I’m kicking myself for giving away all my Star Trek DVDs.  All the movies (I had the double DVD collector sets), and all the seasons of the Original Series.  The entire “Fan Collective” series, which were so good.  Gone in one trip to the Goodwill store.  Decision made far too quickly and I’ve been regretting it ever since.  Why donate instead of sell?  Because we were trying to do this very quickly.  Hiring an organizer is expensive.  Getting a couple bucks per disc wasn’t worth trying to hawk them all.  I put them in a huge bag, dropped them off at Goodwill and tried to feel good about the regained space.

Don’t get me wrong — I needed the space.  But my purge went too far.

So now I have to re-buy all the Trek movies.  I can do without the series as they are all on Netflix, but I need the films back.  I don’t know what to buy: blu-ray, DVD, whatever has the best content?  This would have been simpler had I just kept them all.  A couple weeks ago I re-bought an old Star Wars comic that I somehow lost.  It must have left the house accidentally jammed between something else because I never would have gotten rid of issue #47, “Droid World”.  It’s the only issue that means anything to me and the only one I want to have.  I used to try and draw all the different robots inside over and over again.  Cost me $5 to replace, but oh well.  Never should have left the house.

At least I didn’t let a single CD go.  That organiser tried, oh did she ever try.

“So what are we doing with these?” she asked about the three CD towers and numerous mountains of dics in my workspace.

“These are all staying.” I replied bluntly.  “These are my life and they are non-negotiable.”

“You know that you can put all of this on a computer now and not have to worry about storing all of these?  I mean when can you listen to all of this?”

The same questions everybody asks.  Everybody who’s not a music fan that is.

“I’m putting them on my computer all the time.  That’s what this setup is for.  But I collect CDs, some of these are irreplaceable.  I love them all.  I could tell you where I got almost every single one.  I read the notes inside.  I look at the artwork.”

Trying to explain it was like talking to a wall.  “But all that stuff is online!”  She was begging me to reconsider but guess what.  I still have all my CDs.

Still trying to work on a decent storage layout, but I’m not a carpenter.  I can barely hammer a nail.  I need people to help with stuff like that.  It’ll happen one day.  But the discs. aren’t. leaving.  And just on a logistical level, I need to have my music backed up to a hard copy like CD anyway just in case something happened to my 2-terrabyte digital library!

 

I would never recommend hiring a professional organiser to any of my music fans.  They won’t understand your needs and you could end up making mistakes.  Don’t make the same ones I did, but do stick to your guns when it comes to your albums!

 

 

#818: Alive and Wandering through the memorabilia bin with Gypsy Jayne

GETTING MORE TALE #818: Alive and Wandering through the memorabilia bin with Gypsy Jayne 

I wouldn’t have heard of Gypsy Jayne if not for Raw M.E.A.T.  Volume 1, specifically.  That compilation of underground bands from Ontario included one called “Wildside” with a killer, pro-level track called “Ready, Willing & Able”.  They had a guitarist, Johannes Linstead, that could really wail.  Their sleazy rock vibe had more in common with Roth-era Van Halen than current bands.

The year after, M.E.A.T magazine informed us that Wildside were now Gypsy Jayne and had a demo tape called Alive and Wandering for sale.  This demo tape, good enough to be a major release EP, showed Gypsy Jayne had world class songs:  Seven tracks including one classical guitar instrumental as good as anything coming out of California in the summer of ’92.  I’m fortunate enough to know that, since I ordered the tape upon the magazine’s recommendation.

On August 10 of 1992, guitarist Johannes Linstead wrote me a thank-you note, packed up my tape and mailed it from Oakville, Ontario.  A few days later it arrived here in Kitchener, and I was seriously impressed upon first listen.  I played it a couple times in quick succession.  Gypsy Jayne were exactly what I wanted to hear out of a new band in 1992.  No grunge, no dark depressions, just grooves and riffs and hooks and incredibly solid performances.  Even in the present, I still ranked their demo at 4/5 stars when it came up for review.

I kept just about everything I ever got in the mail from a rock band.  While searching for memorabilia, I found the letter from Linstead still inside the original mailer for the Gypsy Jayne cassette.

“Dear Mike, glad to see you support original metal.”  If you get a chance, we’d appreciate comments you might have on our music or musicianship.”  Signed, Johanne Linstead.  Not only could the guy play guitar, but his penmanship was impeccable.  Of course I wrote him back immediately.  I believe the words I used regarding the musicianship were “blown away”.  Johannes never wrote back again but I was obviously happy to have received his note in the first place.

Just recently, I received two separate inquiries about Gypsy Jayne in one week.  Johannes Linstead is now an established world class flamenco guitarist.  But I hope he hasn’t forgotten his metal roots.  Perhaps Gypsy Jayne is primitive compared to music he performs today, but it is certainly an accomplished recording for its genre.  Nothing to be ashamed of, surely.  There is a demand for a Gypsy Jayne CD reissue.  My old cassette is barely listenable and the only reason to listen is the incredible music.

It’s very pleasing to hear from fellow Gypsy Jayne fans, so if you have heard this band and also wish for a CD reissue, leave a comment below!  Songs like these should be available for anyone who likes classic rock to buy and enjoy.  They deserve to be recorded in rock history as one of the great “shoulda-woulda-coulda” stories of the Canadian 1990s.

 

 

REVIEW: Sven Gali – In My Garden (1992 Promo cassette)

SVEN GALI – In My Garden (1992 BMG promo cassette)

One of the great perks to a M.E.A.T Magazine subscription was getting free promo tapes in the mail.  One of the bands that M.E.A.T had been hyping was Sven Gali, who had a major label debut on deck with BMG for release.  We were all curious what Sven Gali sounded like…and then this promo tape arrived, previewing three of the tracks!

The lead singer can make or break a band, and Sven Gali had Dave Wanless.  Mr. Wanless had the power reminiscent of another successful Canadian, a certain Sebastian Something who was out there ruling the concert stages.  Wanless also had the right look, and of course a pretty good band!  From the ranks of Billy Idol came veteran drummer Gregg Gerson, joining with Dee Cernile (guitars, R.I.P.), Andy Frank (guitars), and “T.T.” (bass).  They could rock.  They had soloists arguably more interesting than the guys in Skid Row.  And, as evident in this tape, they could write hooks.

“Freakz” wasn’t the lead single, but it could have been.  Rebellious rock attitude, tires smoking down a dark alley, guns blazing…and just a pinch of funk.  “When you gonna learn, baybay!” screams Dave Wanless, and just know he’s got at least one fist raised when he’s singing it.

Up second is a track that did become a single, the dark ballad “In My Garden” (an edit version).  This world-class ballad has all the right ingredients including chorus hooks, a place to shout along, and perfect guitars.  In the early 1990s, if grunge had not derailed the rock n’ roll train, bands like Sven Gali (more aggressive than the 80s groups but not abandoning solos and choruses, and with an ear for musicianship) would have been the next wave.

The last track on the tape is the borderline thrash of “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow”, ironic in hindsight since Sven Gali only managed two albums before being submerged by the flotsam of the mid 90s rock scene.  Skid Row comparisons are easy to make (in a positive way), but there’s one major difference between Skid Row and Sven Gali.  That is Sven Gali still have their original singer where Skid Row do not.  (They have a new track out called “You Won’t Break Me” to be followed by a CD in 2020.)  They might not have exceeded the fame of Skid Row, but they might just end up having more material with their original singer….

This cassette whet the appetite for the eventual album, which maybe suffered from too much material, but on tape these songs sound ace!

4/5 stars

Check out the credits.  Photos by famed photographer Floria Sigismondi, who took just about every memorable photo of every 90s band you can think of.  Today she’s a movie director!  She’s the reason this tape looks so cool.