Christmas

#728: Christmas Eve 2018

GETTING MORE TALE #728: Christmas Eve 2018

Way back in the 80s, my sister and I would get so hyped up for Christmas that we would actually “play” Christmas.  How do you “play Christmas”?  You pretend to go to bed, then one of you makes jingle bell sounds.  You run to the other’s room and tell them that Santa came!  Then you leap downstairs and pretend to open presents.  I swear to God, this is what we did.  “Oh look I got Atari Pac Man!”  Killing time was hard when you’re a kid on Christmas holidays.  We’d invent anything just to kill an hour.  Parents would have preferred that we help out instead of playing around.

It’s 2018 now and Sis is probably working hard getting ready to host dinner tonight.  Beef fondue again.  Always good.  If your meat isn’t cooked right, it’s your own fault!

I’ve been off for a couple days, trying not to work too hard.  This year, I decided to focus on playing vinyl during the Christmas break.  As I write this, to my immediate right is a bright clear pink disc spinning at 33 1/3 RPM.  It’s a vinyl exclusive, which quite frankly, is the best thing to enjoy on LP.  Live From the Astroturf is a very rare Record Store Day live album, featuring the surviving members of the original Alice Cooper Group reunited.  I’ve been ogling it ever since it arrived a few days ago.  I finally cracked the seal and placed it carefully on the platter. I had no idea what colour the vinyl would be until that moment.  There are 12 randomly inserted colours!  In addition, the photo on the label B-side is random (mine is Dennis Dunaway).  Let me tell you people, there is nothing like the original Alice Cooper band, playing the original songs.

Another wonderful sonic experience is playing a brand minty new record, so clean that you can’t tell it’s not digital.  Contrarily, it’s also unique to play an old record and hear the same pops and ticks that the previous owner heard too.  The first record I played this holiday was Jen’s mom’s old Buddy Holly Story soundtrack.  Got the movie, never heard the soundtrack.  It does exist on a pretty rare CD, but once the needle hit the groove I realized I’d rather listen to the same record her mom did.  It creates a connection, almost like a time machine.  (Even though I planned on taking it easy, I did write a review and you can look for that in the new year.)

I still have time to squeeze in a couple more records before the festivities begin.  I’m sure you’re busy and I won’t take up any more of your time!  For those working retail:  Hang in there and it will be all over soon.  At least until December 26.

It’s weird to be finishing this article while the original Alice Cooper Group sings, “School’s out for summer, school’s out forever”!  That’s how it worked out though, and it’s funny enough to mention.  To all of you, I wish a safe and happy Christmas.  It goes by so fast, try to savour the moments.

Merry Christmas readers and friends, and remember:  “School’s out for summer!”

 

 

#727: An Aaron Xmas

GETTING MORE TALE #727: An Aaron Xmas

How many Aarons do you know? I know several, but only one that bombards me on a regular basis with mystery parcels!

We’ve written about Aaron many, many times in these pages.  There is a whole series of videos called Mike and Aaron go to Toronto, where we spend our money on all things musical.  Then there are the numerous albums and even holy grail items he’s found for me over the years.  Aaron is a non-stop fountain of music!

The truth is, he sends me far more stuff than I send in return.  Hopefully he’s not keeping track too hard.  But now it is Christmas!  I sent him a couple CDs last week (Max the Axe and Styx), and he has returned the favour with interest (as he usually does).  Let’s see what’s inside, shall we?

Riiiiiiiip!

Christmas came early indeed!  Aaron and I have discussed Gowan before.  Many today know Gowan as the lead singer of Styx, but before that he had a couple decades worth of a solo career under his belt.  I told Aaron, “I want to start a Gowan collection, all of it.”  Amazingly I didn’t find any last time we were in Toronto, but Aaron doesn’t quit.

Check this out:  the two Gowan albums I wanted most!  Strange Animal, and Lost Brotherhood.  Woah!  What names in the credits!  Tony Levin on stick and bass, on both albums.  Alex Lifeson (Rush) and Kenny Greer (Red Rider) on guitar for Lost Brotherhood.  Talk about the best of the best of the best.  And between the two albums, I get all the Gowan songs that I like (so far)!  Those would be “Strange Animal”, “A Criminal Mind”, and “All the Lovers in the World”.

But that’s not all!

Clearly, Aaron remembered that I once had a crush on “Sporty Spice”, Melanie C.  I even owned her first solo album Northern Star.  I still think Mel C is the best Spice Girl; she even worked with Bryan Adams.  She’s arguably the most talented and the one with the most integrity.  My crush is long gone, but she’s still beautiful today; even more than 1996.  Yeah, I still like Sporty!  Knowing this, Aaron bought me the “Unofficial” Sporty Spice In My Pocket book.  From this, I learned that Mel C once worked in a fish and chip shop.  What a couple we could have been.  I love fish!

 

You know, I wasn’t actually looking forward to Christmas, until now.  It’s been a horribly downer year for us.  Thank you again Aaron for the thoughtful gifts.  I’m feeling the spirit now!  Maybe I’ll go put some Christmas lights on.  I’m a “Strange Animal”, that’s what I know, but Aaron seems to know what makes me tick.

Thanks buddy!  Did you know that Sporty Spice was kicked out of a gym in Japan because they saw her tattoos and thought she was Yakuza Ominus Spiritus!

 

 

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#624: Christmas in Bed

I started feeling sick on the 24th. By Christmas Day it was a fully blown flu.

I’ve been running on empty. Driving back and forth from London for cancer doctor appointments, fighting to get an MRI done, Jen’s biopsy, work…the tank has been empty for two weeks. It’s no wonder I got sick. I generally don’t get the flu shot, though it is free and widely available. Last time I got it was in 2006. I got so ill that I swore I’d never get the flu shot again.

On Christmas Day, a couple people in the family made a rude comment behind my back about how I’d better be in a “better mood” by dinner. They thought I couldn’t hear. That was that. Energy = tapped. Why even keep trying. I’ve been in bed ever since. I’m writing this from bed on my laptop. I haven’t been out of bed. I haven’t felt this exhausted in many years.

There will be no Christmas update and we’ll have to see about end-of-year lists. I’m too tired.

I hope your Christmas has been germ and drama-free!

#623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

GETTING MORE TALE #623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

Traditions change and evolve over the years as families do.  I have always been excited about Christmas, going back my youngest days.  I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  Killing the days before Christmas was agonizing.  I guess as kids we were a little spoiled.

Spoiled kids became spoiled teens.  As I got older, I stopped asking for toys for Christmas.  Music replaced them.  Most of the time, I would circle titles that I saw in print ads.  Stores like A&A Records and even the local Zellers had flyers with new releases and sale items.  I remember the winter of 1986, circling two:  Helix’s Long Way to Heaven, and Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Trilogy.  I didn’t know much about Yngwie other than a few videos on TV.  I circled both and I received both, on cassette.  I recall listening to them on a pair of earphones at Grandma’s after Christmas dinner that year.

The following year, 1987, was the year of a couple pretty important albums.  That Christmas I received Def Leppard’s Hysteria, and Whitesnake’s 1987Hysteria quickly became the favourite.  Its impact was immediate and that cassette kept me entertained for years.  Whitesnake took more time to get into.  It didn’t help that the cassette had speed issues.  Similarly, the Helix and Yngwie tapes from the year before had the same drag problems that made them hard to listen to.  Because of this, many albums that originally had quality problems on tape releases, I didn’t warm up to for many many years.  It was hard to enjoy Whitesnake tunes like “Don’t Turn Away” when they were slow and warbly.

When I first began receiving tapes for Christmas, the mid-80s, we had a pretty routine Christmas schedule.  There was no variation from year to year.  We have a small family compared to others.  Our celebrations always began on the 24th.  My mom and dad would spend the morning preparing food and cleaning.  My sister and I would be pains in the asses.  Then my aunt and uncle from Stratford would come over around 2:00 and we’d exchange first gifts.  My aunt and uncle always brought fun gifts.  They would never, ever buy clothes for Christmas unless it was something we asked for.  No socks, no undies, no shirts, no pants.  Fun gifts only!  Sometimes guitar strings, games, and sheet music.  There would always be at least one tape for each of us.

After gifts were opened, my sister and I would go upstairs and play our new tapes.  Sometimes, we’d have something a little bigger:  a video tape.  In 1991, my aunt and uncle gave me Faith No More’s You Fat Bastards.  They had access to a cool store in Stratford that would special order anything.  As my needs evolved, my aunt and uncle would typically buy me hard-to-find items.  The Faith No More video was one such special order.  That year, I ran downstairs to the spare VCR and fired up the live video.  My other uncle came down to watch with me, but didn’t care too much for their cover of “War Pigs”.  Admittedly, it’s pretty different.

The traditions didn’t change much as we got older.  In the 90s, my buddy Peter would come over for Christmas Eve.  And, my sister discovered wine.  One of her rituals now is drinking her wine out of her special cup which we have dubbed the “Holy Grail”, due to its perceived similarity to the one that appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Usually, before she takes a sip, I make her say the line, “It certainly is the cup of the King of Kings…”

Our Christmas Eve dinner, which is my favourite, has remained unchanged in over 30 years.  We do a beef, chicken and veggie fondue.  We’ve only had a couple of injuries over the years, but table cloths were frequently destroyed.  Today, my sister does the Christmas Eve entertaining, as my parents have retired from this duty.  She’ll always have some Christmas music playing, though not the kind I like.  We don’t run to listen to our gifts on headphones anymore.  We had to grow up, a little bit.

Christmas Day was also special for us.  When we were kids, I’d wake up my sister early in the morning to open presents.  Now, we put on our winter boats, coats and hats and drive over, and usually quite late in the morning.  More gifts are exchanged, and always more music.  It’s interesting to look at the kinds of albums I received then compared to now.   Back then, a multi-disc set was a big big deal.  Now, a three disc set can be as little as $30, the same price as a double live CD then.  I seem to get a lot of deluxe editions and box sets for Christmas now as if it’s no big deal!

My sister and I would exchange gifts, and we always got music for each other.  She was really good at filling in gaps of my collections.  Artists like Alice Cooper and Whitesnake had large discographies and I had very little.  She would look at my tape collection, go to the mall and pick up one of the many I was missing.  Whitesnake was an annual gift for several years in a row.  This was cool because it was always going to be something I didn’t expect, because my sister didn’t buy this off of some list I made.  It always came 100% from her own intuition.

After the parents’ house, we’re still not done.  Time to see Grandma!  She always makes me laugh.  One year she wrote inside a card, “You can use your Christmas money to buy a CD record.”  Aww!

There is one Christmas tradition that I don’t particularly enjoy, and it’s a more recent one.  We call it the $10 Gift Game.  Lots of families do the same thing.  Everybody buys a generic gift worth about $10, wraps it, and puts it on a table.  Then, everybody draws a number out of a hat.  #1 goes first by picking a gift off the table.  They then open that gift for everyone to get a look at.  #2 goes next.  #2 either picks a wrapped gift off the table, or steals the gift opened by #1.  If #2 chooses to steal, then #1 must open a new gift.  But #2 must remember, their gift can be stolen by #3, #4, #5, and so on.

Each round consists of the next number in line picking a gift from the table or stealing.  It gets quite tedious in our family, because my mother really likes to drag things out.  She will encourage people to steal, so that the victim must replace their gift by picking or stealing from someone else, and then the next victim must also replace their gift, and on and on each round goes.  At the end of the game people usually just end up swapping to get the gift most suited to their needs.  For example, my mother or sister always end up with the booze.  It’s harder to settle on who gets the chocolates.

One year, in protest of the game, my gift was a bag of unwrapped nickles and pennies adding up to exactly $10.*

Yes, I can be a Christmas grump sometimes.  As a non-drinking participant, sometimes things can get a little goofy for me.  Also, my dad’s level of interest in the game is so minimal that someone basically has to play for him while he does something else!  The game definitely has a short shelf-life for me.

We are a bit older today but still try to have fun with Christmas.  My sister and I will be giving music to each other, I’m sure, as we have done just about every single year for 30 years.  Usually, we will just sit around saying, “Remember that one Christmas when…?”

I sure do.  Here is a list of my Top Ten Most Fun Christmas Gifts of All Time.

1978 – Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

1979 – Star Wars Millenium Falcon

1983 – Star Wars Jabba the Hutt playset

1984 – GI Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. Hovercraft

1985 – My first dual tape deck

1986 – GI Joe Cobra Terrordrome

1987 – The latest by Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Kiss and also Kim Mitchell’s Akimbo Alogo

1989 – My first CD player and my first CDs:  Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood, Whitesnake – Snakebite and Alice Cooper – Trash.

1990 – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin boxed set.

1993 – Led Zeppelin – Boxed Set 2

 

 

Merry Christmas one and all!

* I am told that due to inflation, the game is now the $15 Gift Game.

#536: Obligatory Christmas Post 2016

This Christmas has been tinged with sadness.  Rick Parfitt, George Michael…and a man you haven’t heard of named Peter Cavan Sr.  I grew up with his son Peter Cavan Jr.  Pete was the best man at my wedding, and his dad Peter Sr. always treated me well.  The Cavans made me feel like part of the family.  In my first year of university, I decided to stay home from the cottage on Thanksgiving weekend, so I could study for my first exam undistracted.  Alone that Thanksgiving, Pete’s family had me over for dinner.  I’ll never forget their kindness.  I always enjoyed Peter Sr.’s stories, of growing up in Germany during the Second World War.  Those are tales you don’t hear every day.  And he was funny.  Peter Sr. was truly funny.  Whether intentionally or not, I knew his stories entertained us for many hours over the years.  I received the sad message on Christmas morning that Peter Sr. passed after a short battle with cancer, peacefully at home that morning.

So it is with profound sadness that I give you this year’s annual post-Christmas commentary.  My entire family knows and loves the Cavans, and we hope Pete and Joanne know we are there for them.


As it does every year, Christmas began early for me, at our office Christmas luncheon on November 25.  Just look at that food.  When you like the people you work with, an office Christmas party is a very rare and special chance to unwind with them.

My sister hosted Christmas Eve at her new place.  What a spread she put out!  Cheesey good appetizers, steak fondue, cheese fondue (the surprise winner), and chocolate fondue to boot.  The guests had a spirited debate on the merits of CD versus vinyl, with myself being the only holdout who still prefers CD.  (I know I’m not alone, just ask rock journalist Mitch Lafon which format he prefers.)  My sister did a great job of decorating her tree.  Have a gander.

And now, on to the good stuff.  Broken down into categories, let’s give’r!

Stuff You Listen To:

I have only played the Rik Emmett so far, given to me by Mrs. LeBrain who met Rik back in highschool as part of her guitar class.  Pretty cool!  It features a Triumph reunion on the bonus track, “Grand Parade”.  The Queen set is six discs of radio recordings.  The Rush set I am both grateful for and bitter about.  This is the third time I’ve received Rush 2112 as a gift in the last five years!  First as part of the Sector 1 box set, then the “deluxe edition“, and now this 40th anniversary edition which has some tracks not included on the deluxe (and a slew of artists covering Rush including Jacob Moon, Alice in Chains and Foo Fighters).  However, the 40th anniversary edition doesn’t include the 5.1 surround mix of the album, meaning…you kinda need both.  It’s sad that Rush reissues have become so exploitive.

The Keel reissue of The Right to Rock has a bonus track, a remix of “Easier Said Than Done”.  And this is my first time owning any version of Jethro Tull’s first album, This Was.

Stuff You Read:

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Stuff You Play With:

The Force Is With This Stuff:

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Stuff You Watch:

The Sopranos set I orchestrated myself.  Sometimes-contributor Thussy and I both always said:  “If the blu-ray set drops below $100, we’ll buy it.”  A few weeks ago he texted me that Amazon has it on for 24 hours only at just $80!  So this Christmas holiday, we will be enjoying some Sopranos and Italian food.

Stuff That Transforms From Stuff Into Robots:

Pictured below are the official Transformers Titans Return Astrotrain figure and a couple very interesting third party figs.  These are Masterpiece scale and heavy as fuck with plenty of die-cast parts.  Please meet Generation 1 Decepticon Reflector, incarnated here as KFC’s Eavi Metal series “Opticlones”.  Representing the Autobots is Dinobot Snarl, produced by the excellent Fans Toys in their Iron Dibots line as “Sever”.  I long ran out of room for more Masterpiece figures (especially Dinobots)…but who cares.

And finally…

Stuff That Flies:

I always wanted to try flying a drone.  My mom and dad surprised me with this starter drone, and is it ever a lot of fun.  I can almost get it to hover!  Getting it to fly in the direction I want is still a challenge.  So far there are no serious injuries.  Jen has a couple bruises.  I think my mistake was calling her into the room when I got it into the air, rather than when I figured out how the controls worked.  That was a lesson there.

 

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That’s another Christmas for the books!  I hope each and every one of you had a safe and happy holiday.  As I think of my friends the Cavan family, I ask you to remember that life is short.  Tell the people who matter that you love them.  Let’s try and make the world a better place in 2017.

LeBrain

#349: Christmas Eve [Reblog]

One more reblog for this season.  Here’s an instalment of Getting More Tale (the sequel series to Record Store Tales) about Christmas Eve in the glorious, wonderful period we knew as the 1980s.  Feliz Navidad!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#349: Christmas Eve

So here we are once again, Christmas Eve.  When I was a kid, you were my favourite day of the entire year.   It’s hard not to get excited about you, today in 2014.  Christmas Eve, you were the center of everything, 30 years ago!   Such a short but exciting day.  Inevitably, relatives would start handing us colourfully wrapped boxes, the best ones saved for last.  Then the ritual of steps:  Shake the box.  Give the card a cursory read and give it a toss.  Rip the paper.  Peer inside.  30 years ago, there would have been Star Wars figures inside.  Perhaps my Jabba the Hutt gift set.  An Atari game, possibly.  I wasn’t into music that much until about 1985, when Kiss really opened my eyes.

Around that time, Christmas Eve changed a little bit, but only in a subtle way.  Instead of racing downstairs to play our new Atari games, we would race upstairs to play our new cassette tapes!  Some Helix, Kiss, or Twisted Sister would have been among the music received back then.  We also would have received our fair share of GI Joe and Transformers toys.  I remember the year I got the GI Joe Hovercraft from “Santa”!  Oh boy.  My dad won’t let me forget that one.  I woke up at 1 in the morning to play with it.  Yeah, the parents weren’t overly thrilled to be woken up by the noise at that hour.  I just couldn’t stay asleep!  Having a younger sister meant the whole Santa thing went on longer than its normal sell-by date, but I wasn’t complaining.  It was a lot of fun.

I’m sure tonight won’t be that different.  If I’m lucky, I will receive a CD or two from somebody who loves me.  I won’t race anywhere to go and listen to it right away, but it will be just as appreciated.  After I got older, got a job, and started buying people gifts with my own money, I’ve realized that it’s the giving that is so much more fun.  I cannot wait to see the look on people’s faces, especially when forced to open my elaborately disguised surprises.  That’s what I get a kick out of the most now.

This year, I wish each one of you all the best, and indeed a Merry, Merry Christmas.  Whether you celebrate it or not, have a good day, eh?  Be safe.  Please drink responsibly, and please call a cab if you have been drinking.  But that’s enough serious talk.  I’ll leave you with one of my favourite Christmas videos (still unreleased on CD to this day), and some links to past Christmas posts.  Enjoy!  Ho ho ho!


Winger’s cool traditional / funky version of “Silent Night”!

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

Part 255: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas [Reblog]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I thought it would be fun to re-post old  chapters of Record Store Tales that you may have missed. Enjoy this Holly-Jolly re-post!

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 255: ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas

December 24th.  One of our busiest days of the year.  Not the busiest though – that would often fall on the last Saturday before Christmas, on the 23rd, or our annual Boxing Day sale on the 26th.  Nearly two months of buildup and hard work, and it’s all over in what feels like a blink!

The 24th could sometimes be a fun day to work.  Not all customers were your typical cranky shopper, although we certainly saw those too.  Many of our Christmas Eve customers were simply killing time.  Some were spending their Christmas money a little bit early.  Some didn’t care what day it was, particularly those who came in to sell CDs for cash.

Yes, many people did come in to sell even on Christmas Eve.  A few were looking for credit to buy gifts, some were just looking for money to buy a Christmas dime bag.  Either way it was always a busy day, and we were kept moving on our feet.  Many dollars exchanged hands on the 24th.

I recall Christmas music was in such demand that a few years I was left with 4 or 5 Christmas CDs left in stock.  Often these would be the ones that always sat, year after year, unwanted, unsold.  As a person who’s never liked Christmas music, I could never understand the NEED to have it, just to listen to it once a year.  To me, that’s what the radio was for.  But I wasn’t there to try to analyze the wants and desires of the people.  My job was to sell them whatever crap we had left.

The 24th was a messy day.  Usually you could count on snow getting tracked in on the carpets (which were only cleaned a few weeks prior – why??).  Also, most customers could not seem to put discs back where they found them.  This was a combination of poor shelf design, customers who didn’t give a shit, parents that don’t watch their children as they tear the store apart, and people who didn’t know the alphabet.  Discs would be everywhere by the end of it all, scattered hither and yon, with no rhyme or reason as to why they were left there.

I always wore a suit and tie on Christmas Eve.  This was a tradition begun by the boss and owner in the early 1990’s, but I was the only one who carried on this tradition.  The first time we did the suits T-Rev said, “I like it, it makes me feel important!”  People do treat you a little differently when you’re wearing a tie.

After all the rushes of customers died down, we’d start hanging the signs in preparation for the big Boxing Day sale on the 26th.  Buy 3 Get 1 Free!  Or something like that.  Not good with any other special offers though, so people would have something to bitch about.  “Why can’t you stamp my card too?”  Etc. etc.

One year (’96 or ’97) after close at 6 pm, the boss told me to stay late and help him hang these signs.  They were big banners for our Boxing Day sale.  He climbed a ladder to clip these huge hanging signs from the ceiling.  I was there on the floor in my tie trying to hold the sign aloft as he worked.  Then he dropped a clip to the ground and we couldn’t see where it landed.  And apparently we didn’t have any spares.

On hands and knees I searched and searched.  We even got out a flashlight to try to find the damned thing.  No luck!  Meanwhile the clock ticked and ticked.  6:30.  6:45.  7:00.  The parking lot outside was quickly resembling a frozen ghost town, as people raced home to begin their own festivities.

Just as I found the damn clip on the ground, the phone rang.  Normally I wouldn’t answer the phone this late after close on Christmas Eve, but my boss answered, and it was my mom.

“When are you sending my son home to enjoy his Christmas Eve dinner with his family?” she chided.

“Oh I’m sorry Mrs. Ladano!” my boss responded.  “We’re almost done.  You’ll have him soon.”

I think if my mom hadn’t called, we would have been there all night hanging those stupid signs!

At home there was plenty of hot food to enjoy, as I let my body relax after a long day of serious hard work.  Thankfully I did not have to work Boxing Day, probably the longest most tiring day of the whole year.  I therefore had two whole days to relax, watch movies, and spend time with the family.

On that note, I wish all of you a Merry  Christmas.  Whether you celebrate the holiday or not, be safe and warm this season.  And most important I hope you all make it home on time and don’t have to stay late hanging signs!

 

 

Part 150: Smells Like Presents [Reblog]

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I thought it would be fun going forward to re-post old chapters of Record Store Tales that you may have missed. Enjoy this Christmas-themed re-post!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 150:  Smells Like Presents

Our original computerized inventory system forced us to manually type in every album title ourselves.  Out of sheer boredom, often we’d shake it up a bit.  For example, just for laughs, we’d often input Alanis Morissette’s album Jagged Little Pill in the system as Jagged Little Pillow.  Or whatever.

When we saw this Celine Dion Christmas album come in, somebody came up with a clever custom title for our system.  Remember that Marilyn Manson album, Smells Like Children?  Take a look at the Celine Dion album cover.  You’ll understand why we used to call this one Smells Like Presents!

Photo0942

R.I.P. Sunrise Records, Fairview mall

GALLERY: Visual Enhancements

Gah!  Don’t you hate “losing” files among your many hard drives and devices?  I meant to include these pics with past posts, but had forgotten where they were (or just forgot to add them)!  So here are some visual enhancements to past posts (and links to the articles they go with).

1. Soundwave making energon cubes!  (He comes with the cube accessory and I added the effects.)

Originally for the gallery “Alice Cooper vs. the Decepticons”.

sw

2. A screenshot of the Risk-like computer game Lux.  This particular board is Las Vegas, Nevada being invaded by aliens.  I am purple.

Originally for the review of Michael Hunter – River.

LUX

3. I am on iTunes!

Originally for the review of Kathryn Ladano – Open.

itunes

4. Tracklist for one of my annual Christmas CDs that I made for family and co-workers.  Unfortunately I didn’t capture the artist names.  I do know them — in track order, the artists are:  1. Bill Ward, 2. Helix, 3. Twisted Sister, 4. Bryan Adams, 5. Marillion, 6. Bing Crosby & David Bowie, 7. Lemmy, 8. Helix, 9. Ted Nugent, 10. Steve Morse, 11. Hawksley Workman, 12. Wynton & Ellis Marsalis, 13. Trans-Siberian Orchestra, 14. John Lennon, 15. Def Leppard, 16. Jon Bon Jovi, 17. Eric Johnson, 18. Brian Vollmer, 19. Bruce Springsteen, 20. Sir Christopher Lee, and 21. Bob & Doug McKenzie!

Originally from the review of Marillion – A Very Barry Christmas.

 

Christmas CD 2012

5. Tracklist for a Bruce Dickinson “greatest hits” CD that I made for Aaron to accompany his copy of The Chemical Wedding.  Pretty sweet.  “The Best of the Rest of Bruce Dickinson”.  Heh!

Originally for the review of Bruce Dickinon’s The Chemical Wedding.

Best of the Rest of Bruce

6. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH!  Click here only if you wanna see the bloody tooth that the dentist ripped out of my jaw in #352: “It’s All Helix’ Fault! – The Story Of My Tooth”.  I strongly urge you to heed this warning, it ain’t pretty!

7. And lastly, this wasn’t for anything special.  I just wanted to have a permanent record of that one day (Nov 11 2013) when two articles featuring poop were in my top five most popular posts!  Ta-da!

TOP 6