#fuckcancer

A Year to the Day: Rest in Peace, Eddie Van Halen

‘Twas only a year ago I wrote these words:

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

A year later, it’s only more certain that there will never been another Eddie.  You can read my full memorial here:  Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time.

The week Eddie passed, we did a tribute to him on the LeBrain Train.  You can watch that tribute below, starting at the 20 minute mark.

As if that wasn’t enough, we followed that with another Van Halen show: VH deep cuts!  One thing for sure, Eddie certainly inspired a lot of conversation on the LeBrain Train over the past year.  You can watch the deep cuts below, starting again at 20 minutes.

Let’s all take a moment to reflect, and play some Van Halen tonight.  Tonight, I’m going to go with “Dirty Movies” from Fair Warning to spotlight the greatest gee-tar picker of all time.  What song or album will you play for Eddie tonight?

Rest in Peace Norm Macdonald (1959-2021)

Norm Macdonald had been fighting cancer for nine years, and none of us knew about it.  That takes guts, to just keep on keeping on.  What a man Norm Macdonald must have been.

Side-splittingly funny.  Like most of us, I first saw Norm on Saturday Night Live.  Then came my favourite, Dirty Work, and of course all the understated brilliance that’s waiting on YouTube for you to discover.

His style was like his fingerprint.  Laid back.  Meandering.  Riveting.

There are others who can say it better than I can, so go on Twitter and read what they wrote.  Seth Rogen cites Norm as a prime influence.  Tom Green counts him as a friend.  Hearts are broken today.  So have a laugh courtesy of Norm Macdonald.  Rest in peace

 

#906: Since You’ve Been Gone

Dear Uncle Don Don,

A year ago today we got the message that you were gone.   My first thought was “at least he is not in pain anymore.”  I didn’t like that you had to suffer so much.  I’ve seen enough cancer in this life.

My next thought was for Grandma, and Mom, and Aunt.  They still miss you and talk about you.  Aunt says that it will be weird coming home to Waterloo without you around.  She says she used to like having her morning coffee when only the two of you were awake.  I can picture you guys sitting there quietly talking, and maybe even laughing a little.  That’s how I want to picture it, anyway.

I have a bunch of your CDs with me.  I really liked Jackyl.  I was surprised to find it in your collection.  Looking at your discs here, I have so many questions.  Why Jane’s Addiction?  Why the second Garbage album, and not the first?  Somebody here went to painstaking care to make you a mix CD, but why did she include “Who Let the Dogs Out”?  I’d really like to know your thoughts on that one!

Since you’ve been gone, I followed my dreams and started a YouTube show.  I chat with friends about music and I interview rock stars.  So far I’ve talked to two former members of Helix — a band we used to discuss in the old days.  You knew them long before I did.  Now here I am talking to them.  You were a part of my history with that band.  We also did an entire episode on Led Zeppelin.  That was another band you liked long before I discovered them.  You thought it was cool when I started picking up these old bands you had in your school days.  Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple.

I still don’t like sports.  There’s something we never agreed on.  Even being married to Jen and watching all this hockey, baseball and football, I still don’t like sports.  I understand them a little better.  I could converse with you about hockey now.  It wouldn’t be the topic of my choosing, but I could do it.

We spent last summer quarantined between here and the cottage.  You used to love that place.  Long hair, no shirt, cutoff jean shorts.  One summer you were there for about three weeks straight.  I hope you would like what Kathryn has done with it.  She’s kept everything intact.  It’s not as manly as it was in your day, but everything is still there.  It’s a lot quieter.  We all got older!

If it wasn’t for this damned virus, we had an idea for a tribute last summer.  Maybe we can do it this summer, or next summer.  I wanted to buy a turntable for the lake, and play some of your old records in the back yard like you used to.  I kept putting it off, and putting it off, because we can’t socialize.  It’s been a weird year, man!  Grandma really wants a hug.  I’ll give her a big one soon, don’t worry.

Speaking of worry, she used to worry about you so much.  Though we all miss you, at least she’s not worrying about you anymore.  I know she’ll appreciate it when we can finally get together as a family again.  Tell Uncle Don stories in the living room.  Cutoff shorts in the summer, badminton raquet in one hand and a Labbatt’s in the other!  Right?

I don’t drink beer, but I think if you were here right now, healthy and young again, I’d have a beer with you.  I’d think I’d like that.

Rest in Peace Gerri Miller – Metal Edge

You only had a few choices of rock magazines at the convenience stores near us.  Most prominent were Hit Parader, Rip, and Metal Edge.  Over the years, I bought plenty of Metal Edge.  Black and white pages thick with interviews and lists, punctuated by locker-ready full colour photos.  Metal Edge were cool because they gave the time of day to all varieties of bands.  They focused primarily on whatever-you-wanna-call-it:  “hard rock”, or “glam” or “hair metal”.  If you needed a fix of Sebastian Bach, Metal Edge delivered.  But they covered just about everybody, into the grunge and alterna-metal years.  At the center of it all was editor Gerri Miller.

Everybody who bought heavy metal magazines knew a few key names.  Gerri Miller was the only female among them.  We knew her face and jet black hair from the photos.

What little I knew about Gerri Miller came from her magazine.  The product that she made, that we consumed every page of.  She put out a good magazine.  I enjoyed the Metal Edge “specials”.  They’d collect all their best Bon Jovi, Kiss or Poison content and put out a dedicated magazine, usually to celebrate a new album.  It was not much better than going to the cottage for a week-long vacation with a fresh Metal Edge magazine under my arm.

According to the (unrelated) Metal Sludge website, Miller had been battling Lupus for several years, and was recently diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Rest in peace Gerri…and fuck cancer.

 

#876: Rest in Peace to my Friend

Dear friend,

I shouldn’t say your name.  The news is fresh and your family members are finding out now, just like I did.

We met four years ago via a mutual pal, but bonded immediately over a shared love of music, and a similar empathy for the downtrodden.  You were wearing your trademark Captain America T-shirt.  At least, to me it was your trademark.  How impressed I was with your history in music journalism.  Interviewing the stars, seeing your name in print.  You invited us to your wedding.  It was actually the last wedding I attended before this Covid stuff put the brakes on everything.

Last year about this time I was hitting a wall.  Stress was taking a serious toll.  You offered to go out for a coffee to talk and I said “sure”.  But part of my depression is staying in, and blowing off social engagements, so I cancelled and said “We’ll do it another time.”  Covid happened and we never did.

You treated Jen well.  When she needed a ride for an appointment, you took care of it.  Anybody who takes good care of my Jen is a good person in my books.

A week ago or so, after a period of serious physical pain, they finally diagnosed you with cancer.  You were admitted to the hospital and you never came out.  I can’t believe how quickly this happened.  A few weeks ago you were active, full of fire.  The only thing you hated almost as much as cancer was Donald Trump.  At least you lived long enough to see him defeated.  I hope you took some comfort in that.  Man, you hated Trump!  To me it was one of your most defining and amusing traits.  You always had a great meme locked and loaded!

Man, you made me laugh.

Perhaps the only thing you really cared about as much as your own family were “the needs of the many”.  It’s appropriate that I always think of you in that Captain America shirt.  You were always ready to fight for those who didn’t have the fortune that we have.  You were a good man.  You will be fondly remembered by Jen and I, and missed terribly by your loved ones.

You really were a good man.  I can’t believe you’re gone.  I remember that day in early 2020, I messaged you and wrote, “I’m not feeling up to it, can we get a coffee another night?  In a couple weeks maybe?”

“Sure, no problem,” you answered.  I imagined your understanding smile.

The coffee that was delayed by me first, was then cancelled by Covid.  “We’ll have you guys over to the house when this is all over,” you told me.

Life can change in an instant.

Rest in peace, my friend.  I’m grateful you let Jen and I into your lives and I’m sad that the things we talked about doing will never happen.

 

#873: Happy 3 Years

There have been a lot of anniversaries lately. On January 4, I celebrated (but not did not post about) 15 years of freedom from the Record Store. (Why beat a dead horse?) But today I choked up a bit when I saw the photo.

I say it was the happiest day of my life. It was the day I brought Jen home from the hospital after finishing her cancer surgery. The photo says it all. Look at that face. The glow. Just looking at her, reminds me of how worried I was. How much I missed her. How happy I was to be able to drive her home that day.

It was not a pleasant time when she was in hospital. It was a harsh winter. The drive to London and back was hell. I wasn’t eating. Finishing an apple was an ordeal. Meanwhile poor Jen was dealing with that nauseating hospital food. She started a game called “Guess the Grossness” where she would post pictures of her meals and people had to guess what they were. She was so strong at that time.

Little did we know that her mom, who was supporting us through all this, had less than nine months left to live. I can tell a secret now. The night that Jen had her surgery, her mom collapsed at the hospital. She hit the ground and bruised her face. She brushed it off and complained about a loose rug, and refused to be seen. Deep inside, I knew that she was hiding something. She didn’t tell us. I’ll never hold that against her — she did what she thought was right to support Jen, and I truly don’t know if we could have handled more stress at that time. So she quietly fought her own battle as Jen was dealing with hers. But that’s what happened. On the night my wife was recovering from her surgery, my beloved mother-in-law was dying of cancer that we didn’t even know about. But I could not have made it through all this without her support.

I dedicate this writing to Jen’s mom, who was with us side-by-side through it all, until she was unable to be. She was just as happy to have Jen home as I was. The picture says it all — the face of an angel aglow with life.

Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time: Edward Van Halen (1955-2020)

In 1962, Jan Van Halen and his family moved from the Netherlands to the United States.  Young Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was only seven years old when he switched continents.  By his side, as always, was his older brother Alex.  The Van Halens were a musical family.  Jan played clarinet.  Soon Eddie started playing the drums, while Alex picked up the guitar.  It was not meant to be.  The Rock Gods intervened and the two switched instruments.  History had to be made.

In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed their first band.  People were starting to pay attention to this young guitar prodigy who was doing things most players hadn’t thought of yet.  Though he wasn’t the first, he popularized tapping, whammy bar dives, and all sorts of harmonics.  Unlike the average shredder, Eddie made it musical.  Insanely musical.  While his techniques were space age, his riffs and melodies were grounded in rock and roll.

There is no need to go over all the players he influenced (thousands? millions?) or the riffs he wrote.  There is no other guitar player with the influence of Eddie Van Halen.  Was he the greatest of all time?

Yes.

And his most well known guitar solo wasn’t even on his own song!

Even his keyboard playing was genius!

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

His infectious grin made all the kids love Eddie Van Halen

Cancer doesn’t care about influence or music, or even the love of millions of adoring fans.  Eddie fought for years.  His battle was a quiet one and we did not know the extent of his illness, though the rumour mills always swirled.  Certainly though his output dwindled (only one studio album in over 20 years), interest in him never waned.  An Eddie sighting at a recent Tool concert was big news.

Van Halen captained his eponymous band through two successful eras and one less so.  Through cancer, hip replacements, and divorce, Eddie plowed on.  A massive reunion with lead singer David Lee Roth made people forget the missteps and focused the spotlight on his incendiary playing once more.

Though there are only 12 studio albums in 42 years, Van Halen’s discography stands like a monolith.  A massive red, black and white striped monolith with EVH in bold letters at the top.  Gone at age 65, Eddie Van Halen will never be forgotten.  His name will stand with Paganini, Beethoven and Bach.  With Hendrix, Rhodes, and Robert Johnson.  Legendary.  Immortal.  Beyond their own time.

As the celebrity memorials inevitably (and sadly) roll in, we will be reminded of one thing:  There will only ever be one Eddie Van Halen.

Rest in peace.

 

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995) Review by Derek Kortepeter
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

+

VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – Selections from LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner promo EP)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin
GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

R.I.P. Gerry McGhee

When I was 15, I saw a band on TV called Brighton Rock.  The song was called “We Came to Rock” and it was cool.  Pop rock, not quite metal, but slick.  Then I heard the outro!  The singer was screaming like nobody I ever heard in my life!  Who were these guys?  I made sure I taped the video next time I saw it.

Brighton Rock were perhaps one of the best Canadian shoulda-been bands, with a singer who had serious ability, backed by musicians to match.  Today, that incredible voice has been silenced.

Rest in Peace, Gerry McGhee, the voice that could have shattered mountains.

I’ll tell you, Motley Crue should have snagged this guy when they had the chance.  What a sound that could have been.  Brighton Rock made three studio albums, an EP, a live CD and a number of singles and other miscellaneous tracks.  They covered “Creatures of the Night” on Mitch Lafon’s A World With Heroes Kiss tribute, and did it justice by going completely different from the original.  In 2019, Brighton Rock released what turned out to be their final song “End of Time”, a heavy rocker that now serves as an excellent capstone.

Gerry later went on to found Precision Records, the plant that pressed up my sister’s album Masked.  Its reputation in the industry is excellent.  Before that, his distributor Isotope Records supplied me at the Record Store with new product to sell.  I never had the chance to meet him personally, but I’ve heard only good things.  We occasionally spoke on social media, and he was happy to answer one of my vinyl-related questions for an article I was working on.

Rest in peace, Gerry.  This one is hitting me very hard.  Playing Young, Wild and Free now, I will remember you as “The Rock and Roll Kid”.  Scream on Gerry.

R.I.P. Frankie Banali

After a 16 month battle with pancreatic cancer, Frankie Banali has passed away.

His best album, W.A.S.P.’s The Headless Children, will always be a cornerstone of this collection.  Metal Health was the first hard rock album I ever acquired and it changed my life for good.  To say Frankie was dedicated would be an understatement.  His dedication led to a rejuvenated Quiet Riot and some excellent albums with James Durbin on vocals.  Against the odds, Banali silenced the critics, myself included. 

One of the hardest hitters in rock, Banali has an extensive resume including Hughes/Thrall, Heavy Bones and Faster Pussycat.  He was one of those drummers you could identify just by his snare sound.  A true original.

Now Frankie rides the wind, forever free.  Rest in peace.

#808: Remembering Neil – Ten of his Best

Forever I’ll be grateful for Neil Peart.  If there was ever one shining example of a rock star you’d want to emulate, it was Neil Peart.  He was a giant.  Musically he was untouchable.  Considering Rush have 19 studio albums and other odds and ends in their discography, it’s a daunting task to make a list of the best.

Probably half the list fell together immediately.  The other half was agonizing.  Focusing on songs, not necessarily solos, made it a simpler task.  Any one of Neil’s big live solos are essential listening anyway.  “The Rhythm Method” on Different Stages comes highly recommended.

At one point I had nine tracks and needed one more.  I asked Facebook for help.  Facebook responded with so many great runners-up that I have to list them.

  • “War Paint” (T-Rev)
  • “The Pass” (Leo)
  • “Afterimage” (Leo)
  • “The Body Electric” (Jamie)
  • “Xanadu” (Jamie)
  • “Mystic Rhythms” (Jamie)
  • “Animate” (Jamie)
  • “Between the Wheels” (HMO)
  • All of Hemispheres (Uncle Meat)
  • “Natural Science” (Scotty G)

A good showing for Presto tunes there, notably.  T-Rev always loved that album.  Ultimately I used none of these suggestions and completed the list below.  A list that I believe are the 10 best songs to represent Neil Peart.

All of these songs (above and below) will enrich your lives.  Enjoy.  And rest in peace, Neil Peart OC (Order of Canada), one of our proudest native sons.


Novelty #11: 

The Hockey Theme

I use the term “novelty” with a caveat: really, only because the song is 70 seconds long.  Neil’s arrangement of the classic Hockey Night in Canada theme written by Dolores Claman deserves note as one of very few tracks credited to him as a solo artist.  This track shows off his roots and his ability to make anything sound heavy!  Yet dig in and listen to his meticulously arranged drum part.  He put just as much creativity into this as he did any of Rush’s originals.


#10:

“One Little Victory”

A victory indeed!  Neil suffered immeasurable tragedy in the late 1990s when he lost both his wife and daughter.  He disappeared on a motorcycle, remaining out of sight for five years, the wind on his back as he sought healing.  His return was “One Little Victory” from Vapor Trails with a crescendo of power drumming.  It’s Rush saying, “He’s back, baby.  The Professor is back!”


#9:

“Bravado”

This track from Roll the Bones is a personal favourite.  Well, they all are, but this one is for just one moment in time. At 3:50 of the song, Peart performs a drum roll that I can only describe as pure ecstasy.

And if the music stops, there’s only the sound of the rain.


#8:

“Red Sector A”

80s Rush rules! Neil was using more and more electronic percussion, but to no less lethal effect. Give this number from Grace Under Pressure a spin.  The programmed pulse of synth topped by the crashing clank of Neil’s electronic drums give this track a digital, otherworldly feeling.  By this time, Peart’s cymbal work was just as interesting as what he was doing elsewhere on the kit.  Listen to him ride that beat and accent it with the perfect touch.


#7:

“The Spirit of Radio”

This enduring track from Permanent Waves is a lyrical and rhythmic triumph.  It’s easy for cynics to mock descriptive phrases like “Invisible airwaves crackle with life, bright antennae bristle with the energy.”  But there is no denying the truth that is “Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength, bearing a gift beyond price, almost free.”  Music.


#6:

“Cygnus X-1”

A Farewell to Kings was Rush during their progressive peak, a stream of albums with side-long concepts.  “Cygnus X-1” utilises such Peart favourites as bells.  And it’s 11 minutes about a black hole.


#5:

“Cotton Tail”

In 1994, Neil Peart organized the Buddy Rich tribute album Burning For Buddy, uniting the Buddy Rich Big Band with drummers such as Dave Weckl, Steve Smith, Matt Sorum, Simon Phillips, and of course Neil with his debut in the jazz section.  His groove on “Cotton Tail” is unlike anything he’s done in Rush. It’s unreal that he could master both rock and jazz like this.


#4:

“Vital Signs”

80s Rush rules!  Introducing reggae vibes seems natural in hindsight given Neil’s willingness to explore new rhythms.  Peart’s creativity knew no bounds.  His delicate touch on the Police-like “Vital Signs” (from Moving Pictures) is so good that it should probably be higher on this list.  But there are some key tracks still to come.


#3:

“YYZ”

Rush’s most famous instrumental.  This number showcases all three of Rush’s members.  Of course Neil Peart’s drums are in integral part of it all.  And there’s a reason they call him “The Professor”.  According to minds more musical than mine, “The piece’s introduction, played in a time signature of 10/8, repeatedly renders “Y-Y-Z” in Morse Code using various musical arrangements.”


#2:

“Subdivisions”

This track from Signals exemplifies Neil’s philosophy of drums as an active part of the composition of a song.  Every beat matters; everything the stick hits is a hook.  Never before have the drums been so integral a part of what makes a song truly great.


#1:

“Tom Sawyer”

The quintessential Neil Peart song.  Iconic, untouchable.  Barenaked Ladies even quoted his famous drum part in their song “Grade Nine”. When people think of Rush 100 years from now, it’ll be the image of them jamming “Tom Sawyer” at Le Studio, with Neil framed by that big window and snowy landscape behind.

 

 


Epilogue:  Meanwhile, in England…

Sarge from the piercing shop Metal Fatigue in Bournemouth tells us “I have been listening to Rush…ALL DAY.  Really loud.  He added, “I did 40-odd piercings today with that soundtrack!!”  Absolutely brilliant.