RECORD STORE TALES #1056: Spring Metal on the Other Side of Winter
I think many people share my sentiment that this winter was absolutely brutal.
Since ages past, it has always been a celebration when the sun emerges warmly after a long, cold winter. Memories flooding back. So many memories.
1986. On the back porch at the cottage, playing “Turbo Lover” and “Locked In”, freshly recorded in mono from MuchMusic, from the brand new Judas Priest album Turbo. I was probably told to turn it down….
1987. On my bike. I had received The Final Countdown by Europe for Easter. It was difficult for me to get into; different from what I was used to. I remember cruising down Carson Ave on my bike with that album in my head. Best track for me: “Cherokee”. I loved the keyboard hook and the chorus.
1988. I was given Skyscraper by David Lee Roth for Easter. It became a “warm weather album” that spring, played many times weekly in a Walkman while riding a bike or strolling through the neighbourhood looking for girls. (Not that I ever found any.) Memories of setting up my ghetto blaster on the front porch, with Skyscraper serenading the street. That cassette wore out rapidly. It was one my first CD re-buys a couple years down the road (spring ’91).
1989. Trying to look cool, and practicing my guitar on the front patio for the world to see. I was never any good, but I am sure that “Mary Had A Little Lamb” really delivered the spring-like vibes I was laying down. In my earphones were things like New Jersey by Bon Jovi, House Of Lords’ self-titled debut, Quiet Riot’s latest with Paul Shortino on lead vocals. Amazingly though, 1987’s Hysteria by Def Leppard was still in my Walkman. The album had incredibly long legs. I was hoping for one more single, which never came to be. I picked “Love and Affection” as my favourite in ’89. Then, I had some new buys! We had just joined Columbia House. I split the membership with my sister and picked up these treasures that rocked my whole spring:
Shortly after the first seven, I added Triumph Stages to the list, which carried on rocking me into the summer of 1989. That year was one of the most critical in my life as a music fan, and the spring motherlode from Columbia House had a lot to do with it.
1990. I was now working at the local grocery store, Zehrs. Short-haired and geekier than ever, I was really getting in Black Sabbath. Pushing the shopping carts in long lines, singing “Sweet Leaf”, but having no idea what it was about. When I declared it as my favourite Black Sabbath song, people reacted strangely and I didn’t know why. I guess they thought I was into the pot! I thought the “Leaf” of the song was a girl named Leaf.
1991. The end of highschool loomed…I felt very free. Very excited about the future. The future of hard rock. Little did I know! I was listening to a lot of the new Mr. Big that spring, an album called Lean Into It. I thought they had really refined their sound. I had also taken the dive into indi rock, and Raw M.E.A.T was absolutely one of my favourite CDs that spring.
Good place to end this trip down memory land: happy memories, all of them! I wonder what will be dominating the car stereo with the windows down this spring?
RECORD STORE TALES #883: Live! Bootlegs – the Prequel
I didn’t discover “bootlegs” right away. But inevitably, I had my first encounter and was confused by what I saw.
The setting: Dr. Disc, 1988 or ’89. Downtown Kitchener. In the store with best friend Bob and one of his friends. Browsing in the cassettes, I had worked my way over to Guns N’ Roses, a band I was still learning about. Something about an EP that came before Appetite? But what I saw was not that. In fact, there multiple Guns bootlegs in their cassette section, only I didn’t know they were called “bootlegs”, or what that even meant. Each one seemed to have a different member on the front. One had Slash, one had Axl, one even had Izzy. They were printed on different coloured paper. They had songs I never heard, like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”. Live shows from the last few years.
Were they official releases? They had to be if they were sitting there in a store, right? But A&A Records at the mall didn’t have these.
I didn’t get of the Guns tapes. I didn’t have the money, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have taken a chance.
My knowledge of bootlegs was limited. In my mind, I associated the word with the kind of bootleg records they had to buy in communist Russia. Since you could not buy American music in the Soviet Union in the time of the Iron Curtain, fans got creative. There is a famous series of Beatles bootleg records, etched into X-ray photographs. It was the right kind of material to cut the music on. Like a flexi-disc. When I heard the word “bootleg album”, I associated it with an album that was illegal to own, but somehow you got a copy of a copy. Not live recordings smuggled out of a gig and sold for profit.
I finally put the pieces together when I bought the book Kiss On Fire on December 27, 1990. In the back: a massive list of live Kiss bootlegs, from Wicked Lester to the Asylum tour. Tracklists, cover art, the works. Suddenly, it clicked.
“These must be bootlegs!” I whispered to myself in awe.
“We must have them,” said my OCD to my unconscious self.
I acquired my first live bootleg from Rob Vuckovich in 1992. It was David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour with Steve Vai. It was just a taped copy on a Maxell UR 90, but it was my first. My sister got an early Barenaked Ladies gig on tape shortly after, including the rare “I’m in Love With a McDonald’s Girl”. Then in 1994 she bootlegged her own Barenaked Ladies show on the Maybe You Should Drive tour!
Around this time, my sister and I also started attending record shows a couple times a year. Bootlegs were now available on CD. And there were many. Who to choose?
Black Sabbath with Ozzy, or with Dio? Def Leppard before Rick Allen was even in the band? Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue’s final gig with Vince Neil…so many to choose from!
Interestingly enough, the idea of one band member being on the cover art carried into the CD age. By my side at one show was Bob once again. I flipped through the Kiss. There were so many! I picked one out with Gene on the cover. Not knowing what bootlegs were himself, Bob thought they were solo albums. “Don’t get one with just Gene!” he advised. It wasn’t something I wanted anyway — it was from the Animalize tour, which I already had represented on VHS at home. I wanted something I didn’t have anything from yet. There it was! The Revenge club tour! Unholy Kisses, they called the disc. Stupid name, great setlist. I only hoped it sounded good when I got it home. They used to let you listen to it before you bought it, but I think I was too shy and just bought it. As it turns out, I loved it. Every thump and every shout.
That’s the thing about bootlegs. You really never knew what the sound was going to be like. Or even if the gig advertised was the gig you were buying. Or just because it sounded good at the start, will it still sound good at the end? Or did the guy recording it have to move to a different seat next to a loud dude? A soundboard recording was almost a too-good-to-be-true find. One thing you were certain not to hear: overdubs. No overdubs on a bootleg! They were raw and authentic.
I had made a good “first bootleg” purchase. A whole new world opened before me. There were not just live bootlegs, no! Also demos, remixes, even B-sides. And among them, some great, and some dreadfully bad choices!
Hear about some of the great ones this Friday, February 26 on the LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
DAVID LEE ROTH – Big Trouble Comes to Toronto – Maple Leaf Gardens 10/31/86 (bootleg cassette)
This cassette is a second generation, recorded from a buddy (with good equipment at least) in 1992. My first bootleg. It opens with a Van Halen-era interview with David Lee Roth about “precision rock”. The crackle of original vinyl is audible.
A nice fade-in brings Steve Vai’s guitar to the fore, and then it’s wide open into “Shyboy”. High octane, even though it’s just an audience recorded cassette with not enough volume on the guitar. Without pause they rock into “Tobacco Road”. Gregg Bissonette’s toms a-thunderin’. Vai certainly needs no help in hitting all the guitar hooks that he baked into the vinyl, just with more flair and energy.
Dave has never shied away from Van Halen hits or deep cuts. “Unchained”, “Panama” and “Pretty Woman” are the first three. The bass rumblings are unlike anything Michael Anthony played on the original. The backing vocals are far more elaborate. Like in Van Halen, “Unchained” is interrupted part way, but this time it’s so Dave can ask what you think of his new band! Pretty hot. After “Unchained” he stops to talk to a “pretty Canadian girl”. “Panama” sounds a little odd with Brett Tuggle’s keyboards so prominent in the mix. And it’s also way way way too long, with Dave trying to figure out who is reaching down between whose legs, but that’s Dave. You don’t go to the show just to hear the music. You go to see the whole schtick. You put in the quarter, you gotta let the jukebox play the whole thing out.
“Pretty Woman” is zipped through fairly quickly (with one audience participation stop), going into Dave’s rabid “Elephant Gun” and the slick “Ladies’ Night in Buffalo?” “Elephant Gun” features solos galore that would have been pretty awesome to see up close. It sounds like there’s a vinyl side break before heading into “Buffalo”. Vai’s guitar is the star here, in an extended solo backed only by Tuggle. This turns into a dual bass/guitar call-and-answer.
When Bissonette starts on those tribal beats, you know it’s Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some!!” This great version includes a drum solo. Next it’s “On Fire” from the Van Halen debut. Dave asks for the guitars to be turned up – we agree. “On Fire” with keyboards and Vai noodling is a different animal. After Dave’s original “Bump and Grind”, it’s time to flip the tape.
Side two opens with some of Dave’s acoustic strummin’, and a story called “Raymond’s Song”. It’s just an excuse for him to say “Toronto” a whole lotsa times before introducing “Ice Cream Man”. Which completely smokes. Vai puts his own space-age spin on it, and Tuggle adds boogie piano, but this is one wicked version!
Dave’s solo track “Big Trouble” has plenty of atmosphere and fireworks for the Toronto crowd, but “Yankee Rose” is just nuts. Nothing but the hits from here on in: “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, “Goin’ Crazy!”, “Jump” and “California Girls”. The heavy riff of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” sounds great in Steve’s hands, who doesn’t go too crazy with it. Of course there has to be another long break in the middle (too many breaks at this point now). This time it’s so Dave can get Stevie to make his guitar say “Toronto kicks ass, because the chicks are so fine”. The rest of the songs are somewhat fluffy, the pop stuff, and rendered a little sweet with the added shimmer of Brett Tuggle. “Jump” misses the deeper tone of Eddie’s Oberheim OBXA.
It’s worth noting that Roth closes with “California Girls”, not “Jump”. His solo career is the point, not Van Halen, he seems to be saying. This is the cherry on top. Roth hands it to his new band several times in the show — he knew they had to deliver, and they did. And he wants people to know that he has a band that can compete with his old group.
The show is complete, and apparently Dave didn’t play “Just a Gigolo” on this tour. The opening act in Toronto was Cinderella, supporting Night Songs.
Sometimes you wish Dave would get on with it and play the next song, but that’s only because this is a cassette bootleg being played on a Technics RS-TR272. If you were there in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour, you’d be eating up every word Dave laid down. He is the master of the stage. Sure, it doesn’t always translate to tape but that’s the nature of Dave’s live show, isn’t it? It’s precision rock — visually and audibly combined.
4.5/5 stars (for what the show must have been in person)
On January 10, 2012, Van Halen released their first new single with David Lee Roth on vocals since 1996: “Tattoo”, from the forthcoming album A Different Kind of Truth. An exciting day to be sure.
I had not yet started this site, but if I had, on that day nine years ago I would have written this story.
In 2012, radio station 107.5 Dave FM (now Dave Rocks) was still running the contest that put me on the map locally speaking: The Four O’Clock Four-Play. Afternoon host Craig Fee would play four songs in a row, and listeners had to guess what the common thread between the four songs was. I won more often than anyone else and became a local celebrity named “LeBrain”, and that’s why you’re reading this today. But on January 10, Craig stumped me.
The Four-Play that day was, of course, Van Halen’s “Tattoo”, played four times in a row! Craig, who has since left the radio business, was a massive Van Halen fan. He was the kind of guy who would see “Love Walks In” on that day’s play list, and remove it in favour of “Hear About It Later”. He was unafraid and that combined with a diehard love of Roth-era Van Halen must have been all it took to play “Tattoo” four times in a row on the Four-Play.
Truly it was a glorious time to be listening to the radio. You never knew what Craig was going to play on any given show. He had a penchant for “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, and of course Roth-era Van Halen deeper cuts. He played half of Fair Warning on his show once. I don’t know what the real-world consequences were for these musical shenanigans, but Craig’s bravado was inspiring. After the Four-Play contest was discontinued in April of that year, the show’s format became more of a listener call-in program, and the glory days came to an end.
But what was the “common thread” for the purposes of the contest that day? “Tattoo” played four times? Arbitrarily, it was the Elvis tattoo in the lyrics. “I got Elvis, on my elbow…” Of course it could have been anything, but Craig just needed an excuse to play the song over and over and over again and still give away that day’s prize.
This post is dedicated to Craig, who I hope is doing well out there in his post-radio life. I feel very fortunate to have had his show to listen to at work, playing all this stuff that no other radio station would have dared. We Van Halen fans were in our glory that day, getting our fill of the new tune and enjoying every moment. Of course, people who hated the song were in agony for that show. Oh well! So sad, too bad.
Hard to believe David Lee Roth was back and an album was really coming — and now we had the proof in our ears! Almost as hard to believe Craig got away with playing “Tattoo” four times in the space of a 30-minute contest.
A story for the rock n’ roll history books; a memory for the ages.
Thank you T-Bone and Deke for an awesome Friday night on the LeBrain Train! Tonight’s episode was the brainchild of Deke and it was long overdue. T-Bone, an original member of Thunder Bay’s own Current River, has plenty of great stories which we only scratched the surface of in this almost three-hour chat!
Topics discussed and their locations in the stream:
T-Bone Tales– scattered throughout.
Shaun of the Dead challenge – 0:33:20. The zombie apocalypse has come and you are unarmed. All you have to save yourself from the horde is your record collection. Choose five records from your collection to throw at the zombies to save yourself. Harder than it sounds! This segment includes a highly disputed meltdown over Tenacious D’s debut.
A special Def Leppard box set unwrapping and story from someone involved with the making of it – 1:27:25
An hour-long track by track discussion of David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper LP – 1:50:00
Truly, some of the most fun I’ve had on a Friday night. Good stories, good times, good beverages. Good friends. Spend your Friday nights with us, or catch us on Youtube after the fact. Give the videos a share if you think your friends would like watching too. It’s all about community and thanks for being a part of it. Special appreciation to Harrison the Mad Metal Man for hilarious commentary. I shall dub thee: Hilarrison.
The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
This special 40th episode of the LeBrain Train is brought to you by T-Bone! That’s right folks — after months of isolation in the wilds of Lake Superior, finally we have the one and only T-Bone from Thunder Bay joining us this week. Deke and I will be talking rock with a true original. On the docket this week:
An advent beer calendar “de-canning”
An in-depth discussion on David Lee Roth’s Skyscraper LP
A mental musical exercise based on Shaun of the Dead
…and lots more
T-Bone has contributed to list shows in the past but this is his first real live experience on the LeBrain Train. T-Bone’s past submissions to the show were all Nigel Tufnel Top Ten lists and you can check out his rock pedigree in the following shows:
Thankfully, I didn’t give away all my magazines. Some special ones remain. Most of those are Kiss-related, but a few are not. I was smart enough to hang on to a few that are special, at least to me. Today we’re looking at the only issue I own of The Inside, an excellent Van Halen fan club magazine. This comes from Fall ’96, a brief period where the Van Halen lineup was presumed to be a reunited band with David Lee Roth. That’s only one of the things that makes this issue interesting.
GETTING MORE TALE #864: The Inside
The location that I first managed had been open only about six months. 1996 was an eventful year both for music and for me. Notably, Sammy Hagar left Van Halen, and in a whirlwind of events they were recording new music with David Lee Roth. People wanted to talk about it at the front counter and find out what I knew. I knew no more than anybody else, but one of my early customers had the scoop. He had access to The Inside, an unofficial Van Hagar magazine that would have been the best place to find information on them in the pre-internet-in-everybody’s-living-room age.
I can’t precisely remember how he got this issue. Passed down from a brother-in-law, I believe. Issue #6. The front cover broke the news: David Lee Roth was back?! With a question mark, of course. It already had some water damage when I received it third-hand. We had been discussing all the latest Van Halen happenings in-store, and this particular guy already read the most in-depth coverage you could find. He told me he’d pass the magazine down onto me, and true to his word, he did. The news was so fresh that the letters column only contained correspondence from readers pre-split.
“These are strange times indeed,” reads in the first line on the first page, “Letter from the Editor”. On page 10 is a detailed timeline of the breakup/reunion, monitoring early internet mailing list chatter and official statements. It’s fascinating and many of the details turned out to be true, including the title of a new song, “Me Wise Magic“. On the 14th page is an update on Eddie’s upcoming hip surgery, and the news that the Toronto pay-per-view concert was not scheduled for home video release. Page 15 reveals that Dimebag Darrell recorded covers of “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Outta Love Again” for B-side use, and that Pat Boone was covering “Jump” and possibly also “Panama” for the album that became In A Metal Mood. (Only “Panama” made the final cut.)
Most of the issue is dominated by David Lee Roth, both coverage and speculation, but with big photos splashed over the pages. There’s an interesting interview about the Balance tour with the lighting tech, but due to circumstances beyond their control, this was old news by comparison.
For music geeks that crave the obscure, there is a two page article on Brian May’s Star Fleet Project featuring Eddie Van Halen. This article details the two day session that brought the three track mini-album to life. How it came together, details and trivia. There’s even an ad for a rare CD release of the album, complete with bonus tracks, as part of Brian May’s & Cozy Powell’s Resurrection release.
The back page has information on an album called Fatherless Child by Rich Wyman, featuring a guest appearance by none other than King Edward himself. (If you have been watching The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano, on our Van Halen tribute episode, a viewer from Norway mentioned this release. I claimed to have never heard of it, but apparently I had just forgotten!) Eddie caught Wyman live and was impressed enough to produce four songs on Fatherless Child (Wyman’s second CD). Better than that, he even played guitar on three. This article details the songs and playing, and concludes with an interview with Wyman.
Generous customers like this, who treated people like me at the Record Store like an actual “Humans Being”, helped “Balance” out all the real assholes we got in that first year. Shirtless dudes, shoeless dudes, (no pantsless dudes thankfully), construction workers tracking in dirt, thieves, troublemakers…and the odd real gem like this now-forgotten Van Halen fan. All we did was talk a little Van Halen. He had this magazine that he finished reading, and wanted to pass it on to a fellow fan. He returned with the book in hand, and it’s been in my collection ever since.
In a way, it’s kind of wrong that I still have this issue. The original owner passed it on to someone else, who passed it on to me. In the spirit of the way I acquired it, I really should have passed it on again when I gave away the bulk of my collection. But I do still have it, in the same condition as I received it. The inner page is loose as they often come to be, but it’s perfectly readable and enjoyable.
Instead of giving it away, I’ll live up to the spirit of the gift with this story and the pictures above. Thanks, mystery Van Halen fan. If you’re out there anywhere, let’s raise a toast to King Edward.
I’ve never been much of a winter guy. I get that from my dad. The winter of ’92 was long with a number of serious snow days. I had just learned how to drive and it was certainly a challenge. Details are not important. You don’t need an accounting of times my little Plymouth Sundance got stuck or struggled to make it home from school. All you really need to know was what was in my tape deck.
I was still digesting a lot of the music that I received for Christmas at the end of ’91. The live Poison and Queensryche sets got a lot of car play once I dubbed them onto cassette. At this point my attention to detail was becoming overwhelming. I painstakingly faded in and faded out the sides of the live albums onto cassette. This had to be done manually as you were recording. If I missed the cue I’d do it over again until I got it right to my satisfaction. I should have known there was something wrong with me!
We had one serious snow day that year, and although class wasn’t cancelled I stayed home. My school friend Rob V made a tape for me of David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour. I know that I played that tape on that day because the memory is so clear. It was a great concert. Roth and Steve Vai had a fun interplay, where Steve imitated Roth’s vocal intonations with his guitar. Vai followed his voice as Roth told the crowd, “Toronto kicks ass, because the girls are soooo fiiiine!”
Time flies, and 1992 didn’t take long to kick into gear with new releases.
I had just discovered Queen. Suddenly here comes this new movie Wayne’s World which made Queen a worldwide phenomenon for a second time. More important to me though was the fact that the soundtrack CD included the first new Black Sabbath track with Ronnie James Dio in a decade: “Time Machine”! My buddy Peter didn’t care — he was strictly an Ozzy Sabbath fan. No Dio! (And certainly no Tony Martin!) But I was excited. I wanted to get that soundtrack as soon as possible.
There was a new music store that had just opened at the mall about six months prior. The very first tape I would ever buy there was the debut album by Mr. Bungle in late ’91. It would be the very Record Store that I would later dedicate years of my life to…but not yet. When it opened, I recall my sister and I being glad that there was finally a music store at the mall again, but disappointed in the prices. $14.99 for a tape was a lot of cash. CDs were unfortunately out of our price range. New cassette releases like Wayne’s World were cheaper at $10.99, so I went to the mall before class one morning to get a copy. And this is a funny memory as you’ll see.
When I worked at the store, the boss would give me shit if he thought I was talking to someone too much. I think he would have preferred good old fashioned silent labour, but I don’t know that. He also drilled into us to pay attention to every customer and don’t ignore anybody. So it’s quite ironic that he lost a sale that day by ignoring me and talking it up with some hot girl visiting him!
I was standing there in front of his new release rack looking for Wayne’s World. I knew it was out, but didn’t see it anywhere. I checked his soundtracks and it was missing in action. I wanted to ask him if he had it, but he was chatting it up with this girl. Eventually I caught his attention, but only because as I stood there waiting, I thought he did ask me a question. So I said, “Pardon me?” But he wasn’t actually talking to me, he was still talking to the girl. Once he noticed me, he informed me that Wayne’s World was sold out but he could hold a copy for me as soon as the next shipment arrived. I was ticked off so I said no thanks, and picked it up at the Zellers store down the hall instead.
Wayne’s World in the deck, I happily rocked to Queen, Sabbath, Cinderella, and hell even Gary Wright. Peter and I saw the movie one Saturday night at a theater in Guelph, and liked it so much that we went back to see it again the following afternoon. I saw Wayne’s World four times that winter!
I got my fill of Queen with the recent Classic Queen CD, released later that March. I got the CD for a good price at the local Costco! This enabled me to get a good chunk of Queen hits all at once in glorious CD quality.
The next big release to hit my car deck was a big one. A really big one. An album five years in the making through triumph and tragedy.
On March 31 I went back to the Record Store on my way to class, and the new release I was waiting for had arrived. I left gripping Adrenalize in my hands. An album I had been waiting for since highschool and even had actual dreams about! It was finally real. Into the tape deck it went as I drove to school. Less riffy…more reliant on vocal melody…not bad? I’ll let them have it though. After what they’ve been through? Yeah, I’ll cut them some slack.
Two weeks later, I was digesting another massive chunk of music.
I didn’t get Pandora’s Box in 1991 when it was released. There was so much going on. But my parents bought it for me as an Easter gift in April ’92. That Easter I was “Back in the Saddle” with three CDs of Aerosmith!
It was a bittersweet gift. Traditionally the family spent Easter at the cottage. I have lots of happy memories of playing GI Joe in the fresh Easter afternoons up there. This time I had to study for final exams and stayed home with my gift. I must have played that box set two times through while studying that weekend.
Exams were over by the end of April and suddenly…it was summer holidays. In April! It was…incredible! I stubbornly refused to get a summer job. I have to say I don’t regret that. I had savings from my previous job at the grocery store and I was getting Chrysler dividends cheques (yeah, baby). Between that, Christmas & birthday gifts, I got most of the music I wanted. And I got to spend that summer just enjoying it all. It felt really good after such a long and frankly lonely winter.
Pandora’s Box tided me over. After all, it was a lot to absorb having heard very little “old” Aerosmith up til that point. My favourite track was “Sharpshooter” by Whitford – St. Holmes. I liked that they included a sampling of solo material by various members. These were new worlds to discover, but what about the next big release? Who would be the one to spend my valuable savings on?
Iron Maiden were back on May 11 after a very short absence with Fear of the Dark, their second of the Janick Gers era. But I needed to save my money, and wait one more week for something even more important to me. It was Revenge time.
Speaking of triumph and tragedy, it was time for some overdue spoils for Kiss. Having lost drummer Eric Carr to cancer in late ’91, Kiss deserved to catch a break. Fortunately Revenge turned out to be a far better album than the previous few. I recall getting over a really bad cold, and my lungs were still congested on that spring day. The outdoor air felt amazing. I walked over to the mall on release day and bought my CD copy at the Record Store. I probably ran all the way home to play it, lungs be damned.
To say I was happy was an understatement. In 1992 you had to come out with something strong or you would sink. It was a more vicious musical world than just a year ago. Fortunately Kiss did not wimp out and came out with an album just heavy enough, without following trends. It would be my favourite album of the year, though a few strong contenders were still lined up.
My birthday was coming and I would have to wait a little while to get some more essential tunes. Fear of the Dark was on the list. So was Faith No More’s Angel Dust, which was a must. And, of course, rock’s ultimate royalty returned in 1992. A band that rock history cannot ignore, though it arguably should. A band that defined the term “odorous”. A band with a colourful and tragic backstory. A band making its long feared return with its first album since 1984’s Smell the Glove. And with their new album Break Like the Wind, they proudly proclaimed, yes indeed, this is Spinal Tap.
Once again, quite a bit of music to absorb. I had been anticipating the Iron Maiden. I heard the first single “Be Quick or Be Dead” on Q107 late one night, and didn’t think much of it at first. I was concerned that Bruce Dickinson’s voice was becoming more growly and less melodic. The album helped assuage these concerns with a number of melodic numbers including “Wasting Love”, “Afraid to Shoot Strangers” and “Fear of the Dark”. But the album was infected with lots of filler. “Weekend Warrior”, “Fear is the Key”, “Chains of Misery”…lots of songs that were just not memorable. Fear of the Dark sounded better than its predecessor but could you say it was better than Seventh Son? Somewhere in Time? Powerslave? No.
Though it was murky and dense, the Faith No More album blew me away. The M.E.A.T Magazine review by Drew Masters gave it 2/5 M’s. I gave it 5/5. I wanted something heavy and weird from Faith No More. I got what I wanted. Peter was a big Faith No More fan too, but I don’t think he dug Angel Dust as much as I did. We both appreciated the comedic aspects but I really got into the samples, nuances and rhythms. It was, and is, a masterpiece. I believe I can say that I was of that opinion from the very beginning.
And Spinal Tap, dear Spinal Tap. The Majesties of Rock took a little longer for me to fully understand. And no wonder, for Spinal Tap are playing musical 4-dimensional chess inside your ear canals. I simply had to accept that several years had passed since Spinal Tap last recorded, and they had grown in their own stunted way. I’ve always thought that the title track was sincerely brilliant. But I never liked that Nigel Tufnel had so few lead vocals. I have long appreciated bands that had multiple lead singers. While this time even bassist Derek Smalls stepped up to the microphone, it was David St. Hubbins who sang lead on 11 of the 14 tracks. Now, this is certainly not to criticise the enviable lead pipes of St. Hubbins, but merely to state that there wasn’t enough Nigel. Having said that, Nigel did branch out by employing a new guitar playing technique — doubling his solos with vocals, like Gillan used to do with Blackmore. He also got to unleash his new amps that went up to infinity, which debuted live at the Freddie Mercury tribute concert in April.
Like all things, summer eventually came to an end and it was back to school once again. That fall and into Christmas I got some of the last new releases that were on my radar. I missed Black Sabbath when Dehumanizer came out in June. That one took a long time to really like. While the production was incredibly crisp, the songs didn’t seem up to snuff to me. At least at first. In time, it became a personal favourite album.
That Christmas came the new Bon Jovi album Keep the Faith, Queen’s new Greatest Hits, and of course AC/DC Live. It was also the Christmas that I first realized there was something wrong inside my head, and I realized it because of those albums. It was partly the obsessive-compulsive disorder, but also a massive hangup about being ignored. I wanted the AC/DC double Live, but was given the single. I wanted Keep the Faith and Queen on CD but got cassette. As I grew older and learned more about myself, I realized that I became very upset if I felt like someone was not listening to me or understanding me. Nobody seemed to get why I wanted specific versions (because of my OCD actually), and I couldn’t explain it, so that set me off even further. I became extremely grumpy that Christmas over these gifts, and it was ugly. I isolated myself to stew in my own negativity. It’s not something I’m proud of, and you can call me a spoiled brat if you want to (you wouldn’t be wrong). At least I’ve worked at trying to figure out my defects.
It’s not like any of it mattered in the long term. I have re-bought all of those albums twice since, each!
1992 went out much like it came in, cold and snowy. Canadian winters are hard. Some people have the DNA for it, but I don’t. I’m half Italian. I wasn’t designed for snowy, damp winters. That’s why music is so important to me in the winter months. Music can be a completely indoor activity and I had a continually fresh supply. 1992 was a big year for heavy metal even though the grunge revolution had already started. Of course, things were not to stay as they are. Iron Maiden and Faith No More were about to hit some major speedbumps, and Black Sabbath had already split in two by the end of the year! 1992 was the last time we could pretend heavy metal was still in good health. Hard rock was about to endure further challenges and hardships. At least we had ’92.
“We’re Van Halen, for those who just walked in.” – David Lee Roth
VAN HALEN – Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo (1975 radio broadcast, Laser Media)
Not all Van Halen was great and not all radio broadcasts worth buying. Some are quite shoddy, but important for historical reasons. Welcome to the 1975 KSWM broadcast CD!
“We’re playing dance music for people who like to party tonight!” says Dave. The first track to dance to is the Stones’ “If You Can’t Rock Me”: Sloppy, ragged, barely holding together, and then the shitty disc fades the song out! This might have been an act of mercy, as it sounds absolutely rubbish. Listen – if there’s no complete song, then list it as such on the back!
“We came unprepared for this, as usual!” says Dave, but my patience with the CD is already wearing thin. “Jean Genie” is a full song (more talking than singing) and it’s pretty terrible. On one hand, at least Van Halen did it in their own still-forming style, but it’s barely listenable, except for Eddie’s free sololing. An original “Women In Love” is actually better than the Bowie cover, but warbling tape makes it difficult to enjoy. Too bad, since this older version is different from the final Van Halen II arrangement.
Dave says wants to get funky on “Rock Steady”, while Michael Anthony acts as cheerleader on stage left. It’s not really funky but it does groove. Like all the songs, it’s a vehicle for Eddie to solo, and that’s always a good thing. A long rendition of “Rock ‘N Roll Hoochie Koo” follows (yes, they spelled the song title differently from the CD title). This one’s a good jam, with Eddie predictably blowing ’em all away. Dave’s with him with the odd “Ow!” and “Woo!” but this is the Eddie Show, from rhythms to leads.
A track called “The Fool and Me” from Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower is a brilliant inclusion. This allows Eddie to show off that side of him that was inspired by Eric Clapton. It’s also Dave’s first chance to really sing, when his voice was raw and wild. Same with “Keep Playing that Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Edgar Winter). This one is just fun, and the band play it tight. Judging by the change in audio at this point, this is probably the end of the actual radio broadcast.
A couple minutes of rambling chatter with no value is laughingly listed as “Eddie & Dave Talk About Recording”. There is no such talk. It sounds like hitting on a woman.
“Eddie Warming Up” is what it sounds like. It’s cool. He plays several licks, some of which ended up in well known Van Halen songs later on. You can hear the telltale scratch of vinyl, which indicates this one was a vinyl bootleg at one point before being digitized.
Finally “I’m the One (Show Your Love)” is live once more, maybe from the same show as the broadcast, maybe not, who knows. This ‘Halen original is already fully formed, though the flimsy equipment they were playing through can’t communicate the full fury of original Van Halen.
This broadcast is pretty hard to recommend. The centrepiece is Eddie warming up, and that’s not even from the show. It’s pretty hard to play the whole thing through, but at least most of the problems are up front at the start.