For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge

#820: The Last Note of Freedom (1991 – Part One)

This is Part One of a series based around the year 1991. In music, culture and my personal life, 1991 was a landmark year. There was life pre-1991, and there was life post-1991. I’ve spent a couple months piecing together details of that critical period. Stick around and enjoy the memories.

GETTING MORE TALE #820:  The Last Note of Freedom
(1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning – Part One)

After all the hard work, studying and good times, there was only one thing left to do:  attend the big highschool graduation ceremony.  I’d be seeing some of my friends for the very last time.  Shirt and tie on, I was clean shaven and ready to go.  Family arrived at the house and gifts were given.  I remember a new watch.  I even received the novelization of the hot new Schwarzenegger flick, Terminator 2: Judgement Day from my sister Kathryn.

Only this time I wouldn’t be back.  This was it.  The last hoorah.

Blue graduation cap upon my head, I looked like a girl with my long hair.  I barely recognise myself in the old photos, receiving my diploma on that big stage.

Like many graduation ceremonies, there was a slideshow to remind us of all the good times.  The song they chose for the slideshow was an interesting selection:  “The Last Note of Freedom” by David Coverdale, his first solo track in a decade and a half.  Who selected it and why, I will never know.  It was the kind of song I would have chosen myself, but I had nothing to do with it.  I just found the title very apropos:  “The Last Note of Freedom”, and when that last note rings out, we would be cast into the larger ocean of “real life”.  It was a poignant choice even if the lyrics really didn’t apply.  The words had nothing to do with a milestone like graduation, but it sure sounded cool when Coverdale started screaming in the middle of the ceremony.

We need love,
We gotta want it so bad.
We need it now,
So run for it fast.
I know it,
And the world will be cheated.
I can’t go on, in a world where love’s defeated.
I know it.
I can’t go on.

“The Last Note of Freedom” was from the Days of Thunder soundtrack, and I made sure to order a copy from Columbia House forthwith.  It was probably the most commercial track that Coverdale had recorded to date, with a vaguely 80s tropi-synth feel.

I would never see many of my friends again, and I knew it as I walked out of the building with my grad cap in my hands.  I shook hands with Anand “Boboe” Etwaru who I never crossed paths with ever again.  I was pleased to find out, many years later from a mutual friend, that he still had the nickname “Boboe” which I gave him.  (It’s just the ASCII characters for “Anand” with each letter bumped up by one, an accidental discovery I made.)

My parents owned a rental cottage and I wanted to rent it for one weekend, just a final chance to hang out with my friends.  The parents said “no way” and the last weekend never happened.  Instead, a bunch of us just made a run downtown to Sam the Record Man one afternoon.  We walked – none of us had a car.  It was fun and bittersweet.  The new Van Halen sat there on the shelves but the packaging was rather bland.  It would have to wait for my birthday.  Instead I bought some singles:  “You Could Be Mine” (CD), by Guns N’ Roses, and “More Than Words” (cassette) by Extreme.

I can still recall one thing that happened that day.  As our small group walked down Frederick Street towards King, we passed by a little old lady.  As we passed her, she smiled and chuckled an evil laugh!

“Heh heh heh heh!”

Creepy stuff, man!

“We’re hexed now!” someone commented.

I’m glad that a small group of my friends got back together for one record shopping trip in the summer of ’91.  We knew things would be different from here on in.  Many of them were going into serious engineering programs.  Intense, time consuming stuff.  On some of my lonely days that fall, I thought of picking up the phone and calling some of them.  But I didn’t.  “They all have their own lives now,” I reasoned.

An era had ended, and the last note of freedom had rung.  Onto bigger things!

 

#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

It’s #throwbackthursday!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#335: Musical Archaeological Discovery!

A couple weekends ago, I had a chance to dig through some old boxes looking for musical memories.   I found that, and a lot more.

I discovered a complete inventory of my entire music collection, that I had made as a kid.  Most of it was on cassette.  There’s no date on it, but thanks to my photographic memory of musical life events, I can easily date this to within +/- a couple months.  Let’s have a look and figure out when I made this inventory.

The first thing I noticed was there are 24 CD titles on this list.  I received my first CD player for Christmas of 1989.  That would place this list a fair bit after Christmas of ’89.

In the section for “Videos”, I only had four VHS titles at the time:  Kiss, Def Leppard, Judas Priest, and Warrant.  I know I received a Faith No More (You Fat Bastards) video for Christmas of ’92.  So we’re well before December 1992.

Back to the CD section.  The presence of the Led Zeppelin box set helps me narrow it down further.  I know I received that box set for Christmas of 1990.  I also remember getting Slaughter’s Stick It Live tape on December 28th of that year, and that cassette is on this list.

I distinctly recall my birthday in July 1991.  I received Alice Cooper’s Hey Stoopid on cassette (thanks sis), and Van Halen’s For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge on CD (thanks Bob).  Neither are on this list.  Therefore, this was made sometime between Christmas of 1990, and July of ’91.  Just over six months. To narrow it down as tightly as possible, I need to look for purchases that I know I made in early 1991.

In April or May of ’91, I can remember getting the new Mr. Big (Lean Into It) on cassette, and the first Raw M.E.A.T CD.  Neither are on here.  Most definitively however, missing on this list is David Lee Roth’s newest, A Lil’ Ain’t Enough.  I know I got that for Easter of 1991.  Now we’re really close.  Somewhere between January to March of ’91!

I know I bought the uber-rare cassette single for Helix’s “Good to the Last Drop” really early in 1991.  Snow was still on the ground, and that cassette single is not listed here.   Therefore: I conclude that I created this list after Christmas 1990 or early in 1991, but probably during Christmas break 1990!  I would have had the spare time to work on it during break.

Some additional observations:

1. Apparently I hadn’t yet discovered alphabetizing.

2. The dollar values printed represent approximate guesses as to retail value.  I later made a revised list that replaced this with 5 star ratings, but I have not as yet found that version.

Here it is, now preserved digitally forever!  And look — I only owned one CD single!*  Final interesting note:  Most of the items on this list are long gone.  I’ve upgraded to CD on all the cassettes and only kept a handful.  I have most of the vinyl, but I gave away my ’45 of the Wrestlers.  I have some of the CDs, but others (Kiss, Bon Jovi, AC/DC, Van Halen, Slaughter, Maiden, Motley Crue) have long been replaced by remasters.

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* Iron Maiden’s “Holy Smoke”, bought at Dr. Disc in the autumn of 1990.

REVIEW: Van Halen – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)

VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991 Warner Bros.)

What a frustrating experience this album was for me.  This was supposed “the one”; the album that would please the DLR fans and finally unite Van Halen fandom.  Heavier with only one ballad, For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge was to be a statement.  Edward Van Halen had said that neither 5150 nor OU812 were ever properly finished to his liking.  In both cases, the band were under pressure to get out there and tour (OU812 because of the 1988 Monsters of Rock).  F.U.C.K. was to be the album that he finally got to spend time on and properly finish.  It was also Eddie’s first album using his new Ernie Ball guitars.   I expected my brain to be blown.

And it was, or it was by the first single at least.  “Poundcake” lived up to the promise.  Sure, lyrically it was…well, pretty stoopid, but musically?  Van Halen had some balls back!  This motherfucker grooves like a slow train.  As far as guitar tricks went, Eddie went all out with harmonics, taps, and…drills?  The shimmery guitars were subtly different from Eddie’s classic “brown sound”, but a guitar sound is an ever-evolving quest.  On this song, his rhythm guitar tones recall his friend, Brian May.  With “Poundcake” as a first single, I couldn’t wait to hear the whole album.

MuchMusic came close to banning this video

I was given the CD (same copy I still have) on my birthday in ’91, by childhood friend Bob.  I still remember popping the CD in for the first time that afternoon.  Then a few days later it was given to me again (this time on cassette) by my Aunt and Uncle!

Momentum is maintained on the second track, “Judgement Day”, heavier than the first.  The riff is anchored by a whammy bar trick, and it’s tasty.  I cannot find fault with “Judgement Day”.  This is what I wanted and hoped for from the new Van Halen album.  The groove is still there, Alex and Mikey gelling in a relentless way.  Sonically, both guys are recorded better than ever.  The bass and drums on For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge are really something to behold.

Then, things slide.  The awful “Spanked” is the worst song on the album, and possible contender for worst Van Hagar song yet.  “All you bad bad boys, call her up on the spank line,” sings Sammy with a straight face.  The sad thing is, the song would have been a fine instrumental, or basis for something with David Lee Roth.  Sammy ruins it with shitty lyrics and a shitty melody.  Too bad.  “Runaround” is a good song on first and second listen, but you tire of it quickly.  It’s bland, as is much of F.U.C.K.  The problem with “going heavy” for an album is the risk of losing diversity and texture.

The 7-minute “Pleasure Dome” can barely be called a song.  Organized chaos with some lead vocals, yes.  But it’s barely a song.  There are moments of brilliance contained within (the drums in particular) but it’s not particularly worthy.  And this was the side closer.

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As crappy as “Spanked” is, “In ‘N’ Out” is virtually a carbon copy.  It has some sparkling guitars to go with it, but like “Spanked”, the song sucks.  I can’t believe somebody didn’t say, “Guys, let’s cut the album down to 9 tracks like we used to do, and leave those two for B-sides”.   “Man On a Mission” isn’t much improved.  Just dull rock with dumb lyrics.  Totally uninspired.  It’s just four guys playing music without much direction other than, “turn it up!”

Things change up a little bit on “The Dream is Over”.  This also-ran isn’t a bad tune, though nowhere near single quality for Van Halen.  It’s at least a step in the right direction.  It feels as if the album was in a slumber, and it has now woken up — the title is apt.  And thankfully Sammy isn’t singing about girl parts for a change.

Van Halen didn’t consider “Right Now” to be a ballad, but it’s the only song with a keyboard.  It’s a welcome oasis in the desert of monotonous rock.  It’s a great song.  I don’t think anyone can say that it hasn’t been played to death, so I don’t need to comment further.  MTV awards, Pepsi, blah blah blah.

Nice suit.

“316” (named for Wolfy’s birthday 3/16/1991) is an acoustic guitar part that Eddie had been playing live for years.  Later, Eddie used to play this piece for Wolfgang while still in the womb.  But it’s just a brief 90 second instrumental, a segue into “Top of the World”, also a single.  It took a while for me to recognize the riff.  In fact, I didn’t pick up on it until I heard this song following “Jump” on the album LIVE: Right here, right now.   Only then did I realize:  it’s based on the outro riff from “Jump”!  So they re-used that oft-forgotten riff and built a new song around it.  It’s a good song, very pop rock, but a suitable album closer.

As high as this album charted (US #1), I’m convinced For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge is one of the albums responsible for the death of hard rock in 1991.  Sure, a lot of people bought it.  But a lot of people also didn’t like it very much.  Maybe they were getting tired of the schtick, but I do know I found it really hard to proudly blast this album out of the car.

2.8/5 stars