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!
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.
Father’s Day 2020 was one of the strangest yet, but we celebrated my dad outdoors with steaks and social distancing.
The day started quietly with an espresso at dawn, but I couldn’t wait to get cooking. Jen bought steaks and corn. I love cooking and I especially love barbecuing. Cooking for my mom and dad is one of the best hobbies I have.
The morning was spent relaxing by myself on the patio, reading Gord Downie and Jeff Lemire’s graphic novel Secret Path, the story of Chanie Wenjack. I spoke about this book a bit on Saturday’s live stream. To say reading this book was an intense undertaking is to sell the experience short. I had to stop twice to catch my breath. This powerful, true story is made so clear, so intense and spiritual thanks to the words of Gord and the images of Jeff. A book/album review is absolutely forthcoming. (Even though the book comes with a download of the Gord Downie album, I still bought the CD individually as well.)
It was a hot afternoon but at least my parents have a back deck with some shade. I lit the gas and let the flames do their work. I incorporated some new techniques that I picked up watching YouTube videos over the winter. I let the steaks get up to room temperature, then patted them dry and seasoned with just salt, pepper and garlic powder. Nothing fancy and no marinate was necessary. I overcooked mine a bit for my liking. Everybody else likes them a bit more done than me. I forgot how hot my dad’s barbecue can get. But they were still juicy and flavourful, I just prefer them a little more red.
We chatted current events, the cottage, and Uncle Don Don. My mom saved for me what was left of his CD collection (I gave my sister first dibs and she took Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats.) Mom asked me to sort through the music, but I decided to take them home to do that here. The CD covers have the telltale yellowing of a smoker’s home and I didn’t want to handle them and have to prepare dinner too.
There are a few CDs here that I’ll have to keep. I’m missing several Tragically Hip. I don’t have that Lee Aaron (her debut). I could probably use some Johnny Winter, George Thorogood, Garbage, and Jane’s Addiction. A few of these are duplicates; I have all the Deep Purple and Alice Cooper albums. But those are two bands that Uncle Don influenced me to get into. “Child In Time”, he said. That was the song he praised. He has two versions of “Child In Time” in this cardboard box.
Looks like I’m going to be owning Jackyl, Haywire and Collective Soul too. Cool. I’ll go through the box in detail in the coming days.
My dad enjoyed his Father’s Day meal, and we had a nice visit. The first one in many months. It wasn’t hard to stay sanitised and distant, but it was different. Just something we have to live with for a while. Hopefully not too much longer. I’m starting to get tired of the same old scenery from my little patio at home. I want to get back to the lake. Because of various health concerns and vulnerabilities, we’ve all agreed that we can’t all be at the same cottage at the same time, so we’ll have to take turns. I’ll have to wait a little while longer to cook my dad a nice barbecue chicken dinner (skin on, of course). It’ll happen though — eventually.
I hope all the fathers had as nice a Father’s Day as my dad did.
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.
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!
A couple weeks ago, we looked at “limited edition” CDs once more. Today, we follow up with a postscript reinforcing everything we discussed last time.
To recap: Deep Purple have been issuing live albums from a recent “limited edition series”, but all is not as it appears on the surface. As shown last time, the record company (Edel) couldn’t be bothered to even print the number of your limited edition on the sleeve, instead relegating it to a sticker. That was on a copy of the second album in the series, Rome 2013.
Today I received my copy of the first release in the series, Newcastle 2001. This is a track-for-track reissue of discs 5 & 6 of the 2001 Soundboard Series box set. This time the discs have been “remastered” though there is surely nothing wrong with the original release. They have also been numbered as part of a limited edition run. Mine is copy #4222/20,000.
But wait! Didn’t our friend Heavy Metal Overlord, who got his copy far earlier, have a higher number?
He sure did — #8616. Proof that it doesn’t matter how early you order these things. It will have little impact on the number you receive. It’s also proof that there are plenty of copies to go around. Confirmed: you can take your time to order this “limited” release.
This time, however, I’m complaining about a little bit of false advertising. There is a sticker on the front that says “only 2000 copies worldwide”. A bit of a typo there. 20,000 is the correct number. There’s quite a bit of difference between the two. And we still don’t know if that is for CDs, or both CD and vinyl copies.
Once again, we state what should be obvious: if the record companies can’t be bothered to get these “limited editions” right, then why should we care?
A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 188: “Limited Edition”
GETTING MORE TALE #809: “Limited Edition” 2
When we first discussed “limited edition” albums in 2013, we arrived at the conclusion that very few things truly are limited in any significant way. Even Record Store Day has done little to change the view. Yes, some Record Store Day items are really hard to get after the fact, but most sadly are not. For example, Iron Maiden’s single for “Empire of the Clouds” can be found easily on Discogs. 71 copies available, ranging from $16 and up. Yet strangely, something like Alice Cooper’s “Keepin’ Halloween Alive” is rarely seen under $50. Releases like Cooper are the exception. What we have learned in the intervening years is that nothing has really changed in the world of limited editions. Most are not all that limited and can be found later on. Others truly are rare, and you can’t really predict which will be which.
But we’re collectors here. We don’t buy these things to sell later. We buy them to have, appreciate and enjoy. Sometimes to show off.
When something is limited and numbered, collectors enjoy comparing their numbers and seeing who has the lowest. A friend of ours just scored a fairly low numbered Gene Simmons Vault which I think is pretty cool. I have a bunch of numbered items, and I’ve posted some here. It’s easy to see which are numbered because, hey, there’s the number right there on the back! And according to the numbers I have one of the last copies of Deep Purple’s “Above and Beyond” single: 1934 of 2000. Neat. I just wanted the bonus track “Space Truckin'” live in Italy, but the numbers give us collectors the jollies. It’s just a little added perk to the packaging.
When is a packaging perk not a packaging perk? When it’s not on the packaging!
Deep Purple have been issuing “limited edition series” live albums recently. Our good friend the Heavy Metal Overlord recently acquired the Newcastle set. Limited to 20,000 copies worldwide, he got #8616, handily printed on the back. He’ll always know which copy he got.
I was disappointed when I received my first Deep Purple “limited edition series”, which is Rome, the second one in the line (Newcastle being the first). I ripped open my parcel from Amazon to find that the number wasn’t printed on the CD, but on a sticker affixed to the shrinkwrap!
What is the point of that? Who, aside from nutbar collectors like myself, is going to keep the sticker? Nobody, that’s who. So again: what is the point? I’ll be one of the few people who knows what number mine is, if I manage to keep this sticker with its CD. It seems stupid to provide that information as part of something you throw in the garbage.
It’s not going to be worth anything. My number #1872 of 20,000 isn’t going to be worth more money than HMO’s #8616. That’s not the point. The point is a simple “why”? HMO figures it was probably a manufacturing oversight, that it’s not printed on the sleeve.
It’s also worth pointing out that 20,000 copies is substantial for an archival live album from a band like Deep Purple. It’ll be a long time before that pressing sells out.
Don’t be fooled into spending too much money on these things. I have a copy of Newcastle on order; it’s not sold out. You can often do well by seeing how the prices go, sitting and waiting for the right opportunity. And don’t put too much significance into those numbers. If the record company can’t be bothered to even print them on the sleeve, they can’t be that important.
GETTING MORE TALE #797: Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For It!
In the early 90s, we got our first Costco store in Kitchener. My parents raved about how much I’d love it. In those early years, I enjoyed going with them. I’d throw a 20 pack of Hot Rods into the cart and see if they’d notice (they always did). They didn’t have much of a music selection, but what they did have was priced to go. So I picked up a few current releases:
- Queen – Classic Queen
- Skid Row – Slave to the Grind
- Van Halen – LIVE: Right here, right now.
- Guns N’ Roses – Use Your Illusion World Tour – 1992 in Tokyo I & II (VHS)
The Guns was a nice score. The full Tokyo show, split onto two VHS tapes (sold separately). At Costco prices they were affordable. The show later made up a large portion of their album Live Era. Costco was great for buying new releases, junk food in bulk, and the occasional electronics. We enjoyed getting free food samples and checking out the latest in TVs and videos games. I stocked up on blank tapes. But there was one thing Costco didn’t have.
To be clear, it wasn’t that I was looking to buy this. I was just being a shit. I have a juvenile sense of humour, and always have. Costco should have known that if they were going to leave pads of paper for “suggestions” at the end of every aisle, someone was going to write silly things on it.
Most people wrote sensible suggestions. “Too much packaging on products” was a good one. It’s true, Costco would use far too much cardboard and plastic to package together three things of deodorant. But I noticed they didn’t carry something; something important that could easily be sold in bulk. My mom gave me shit for it, but I always wrote “CONDOMS” on the suggestion pads.
I didn’t need condoms, believe me. Definitely not in bulk. But something about the idea tickled my funnybone, and so every time, I wrote it down.
“MICHAEL!” my mother would scold. I’d grin and laugh. It went on and on like this, visit after visit.
But you know something? It was a good idea. So good that a few years later, they were stocked. I couldn’t believe it.
“Kathryn!” I shouted at my sister. “Get over here, you won’t believe this.” I proudly pointed at the condoms. “Do you think that’s because of me?” I mean, I wrote it down enough times.
I think I had something to do with it. At least, that’s the way I tell the story, and I’ll be damned if I’m changing it now. Costco carries condoms because of me.
There was one guy I knew back in the day who would have appreciated it. He was a friend of a friend. We were at an age when you’d be expected to be “embarrassed” to be buying condoms. Not this guy. He went up to the counter at the drug store and said, “See that? That’s a five pack. That means I’m getting it five times.” Then when the transaction was done, he’d conclude by saying “See you tomorrow!” No embarrassment for that guy. I like to think that I got Costco to carry condoms in bulk, and I did it for that guy. You’re welcome!
A sequel to #424: How to Stop a Thief
GETTING MORE TALE #795: A Case for Security
Back when people used to actually steal physical CDs instead of just stealing a download, extravagant measures were taken to secure our precious inventory.
We had a magnetic tag security system. At the entrance stood an electronic gate that would go into alarm mode any time one of those magnetic tags was near. Every item we had in-store was tagged. The system was not cheap. I believe the tags cost 5 cents each (in 1994 dollars). They were the cheapest ones available and they quickly added up. The tags were not re-usable. Once they were de-magnetized they were done. Also, because they were sticky tags, if you ripped one off you wouldn’t be able to re-apply it very well as the sticky side got less sticky. You could put it back on with tape, but no matter what you did, over time the tags would always start to peel off on their own. We did a “tape check” every week to make sure every cassette still had a security tag firmly attached.
There was a different method for securing CDs. To cut down on the use of the magnetic tags, we used plastic CD long boxes. The magnetic tags were fitted inside, didn’t peel off, and could be re-used time and time again. You couldn’t get the CD out of the long boxes without a key, or you’d destroy what was inside. The key was kept behind the counter.
Like anything at the Record Store, this security measure had its pros and cons. Storing those long boxes when not in use was a constant struggle. We always seemed to be bursting at the seams with them. We had cabinets underneath the CD shelving that were usually packed full.
The biggest “pro” was reducing the cost of the magnetic tags. Since you could use the same case over and over again with the magnetic strip intact, you didn’t have to keep buying new ones. The long boxes were also an added deterrent. If you wanted to steal a CD you had to hide the long box under your jacket.
This didn’t stop people from trying. One day, somebody from the mall came into the Record Store and told me that they found half a dozen broken long boxes in the trash outside.
“I think someone has been stealing from you,” she said.
I was immediately worried that someone managed to rip us off on my shift. Fortunately that wasn’t the case, though Zellers were not as lucky. Upon seeing the broken long boxes, I could tell they didn’t belong to us. They came from Zellers, who used a similar system. Someone managed to beat it. How?
If nobody was looking, you could lift the CDs right over the magnetic gate. That was the easiest way, and at Zellers, chances are nobody was looking. Another method (supposedly anyway) involved lining the inside of your jacket with aluminum foil. Apparently this would allow you to shoplift anything with a magnetic tag. The urban legend, which may have been true, is that a local gang of CD thieves used this method.
The gang were known locally as “Pizza Guys”. The cops were always two steps behind them. The main detective on the case gave us pretty clear instructions. We were to buy everything the “Pizza Guys” brought in, record it, and get their ID. We were to flag any “shady” purchases but otherwise they told us it was business as usual. I don’t know if the detective ever caught the “Pizza Guys”, but years later their leader Aristotles (real name!) went to jail for selling ecstasy, meth and heroin. Quite a large step from stealing CDs! According to the news, he got just six years in jail.
I don’t think the “Pizza Guys” were shoplifting CDs normally. I think they were getting them from someone on the inside. We’ll never really know. We used to joke that one day we’d be in an HMV store minding our own business, when Aristotles would pop his head out of the stock room. “We’re out of Big Shiny Tunes again!”
Even though the “Pizza Guys” usually brought in what you would call good titles (usually new releases), we all hated dealing with them. As time went on without getting caught, they got more and more cocky and difficult to deal with. It was good to know the cops were on our side, but I’m not a detective. My job was not to fight crime in the city of Kitchener. My job was to sell music, and these guys didn’t make it a pleasant experience for us.