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#501: Free Personality Test

GETTING MORE TALE #501: Free Personality Test

There are very few experiences in the world quite as trying as being forced to listen to a captive audience religious lecture at work.  Now why would that happen?  Well shit; in retail it happens all the time!

At the Record Store, I worked alone most of the time.  Most of us did; we only staffed one person on duty for most of the day, from 10-5, for many years.  This led to a number of inconveniences such as trying to find a moment to eat a lunch or take a wizz.  Everybody dealt with it in their own ways; my way usually involved eating less lunch and more junk food, and getting really good at “holding it” for hours at a time.

But we weren’t busy all of the time.  There were long stretches of…not boredom, but different kinds of work, when the store was slow and empty.  Cleaning, balancing books, organising, doing inventory, taking annoying phone calls from higher-ups asking if the store was busy yet (and then somehow implying it’s your fault because “Cambridge is really busy right now”)…there was always lots to do!  Unfortunately when you were alone at the store, you could sometimes get cornered by a talky customer for long periods of time.

The worst of these “conversations” (not really because they were usually one-sided) were the religious lectures.  These were rare.  I don’t want to mis-represent the situation. These religious lectures didn’t happen every day.  But every once in a while, you would get cornered by somebody who just wants to tell you all about Jesus.

Yes, Jesus.  I was never bothered by atheists, Muslims, Hindus or Wiccans.  It was only the Christians, and only certain varieties of them, that wanted to tell you about their faith.  I have nothing against any religions; I am a Christian myself but I consider this a somewhat personal journey.  I really hate when people get my back up lecturing me about their faith.  I like talking, not being lectured, and not at work!  I’m trapped there; I don’t have an escape route.  I don’t think this is an unreasonable pet peeve.  But it happened.  I’ve been handed Watchtower pamphlets, been invited to church services, and been told the music that was playing was satanic.

My strategy was “nod and smile”:  Trying not to say too much, trying to get it overwith, and praying to my own Lord and saviour for the phone to ring so I could exit. You may think to yourself, “Well why not just tell the person you’re not interested?”  Because they are used to hearing that and have answers to everything.

The religious solicitation at work continues today but with new methods.  And there is only one church soliciting me today.

It started with the faxes in 2013:  “Come to lunch at the Church of Scientology”.  They were arriving weekly, the faxes, shortly after the new church opened in town.  We joked about going; apparently they had a cafeteria that served lunch.  We were getting sick of all the Wendy’s, McDonalds, and Burger Kings in town, but it never progressed further than joking.   “Wouldn’t it be funny if…?”  Even though they are open seven days a week during the day, the place always looked ominously deserted.  It is mere walking distance from where I work today.

This week, I got my first Scientology invitation at home.  It came in the guise of an offer for a “Free Personality Test” in my mailbox.  It’s a “limited time” offer only (I’m pretty sure that’s false) and takes just one hour.  It’ll help me improve my happiness and success in life.  On the front it says “Oxford Capacity Analysis” (a nonsense phrase unrelated to Oxford university, designed to sound smart), and has graphs inside showing…something?  The numbers on the axes aren’t explained.  Only when you turn to the very back do you see who is offering this “Free Personality Test”, and yes, it’s the local Church of Travolta.

I find all of these tactics very cunning and shifty.  In all these situations, they are coming at the target (me/us) with an advantage.  I was cornered at work at the Record Store, putting me in a situation where it’s hard to escape the lecture.  Today they send out these enticing booklets and invitations without being truthful about who they are until the last page.  There’s something un-trustworthy about that.

Free personality test?  Remember folks — nothing’s free.


#500: 500 Up

Holy craaap! It’s chapter 500 of Record Store Tales/Getting More Tale! Chapter one (“Run to the Hills“) was posted on March 9, 2012. Over four years and 500 chapters later, we are still rocking.  If you’ve been here since day one, then you rule.  If you’re new, then stay tuned because the stories are far from over!

500 up


A little four-piece band from Halifax formed in 1991, at an art school.  Hardly the kind of thing to make history, but they strove to make history just the same.  Another art school band in the 1990’s?  Who needed that?

They named themselves after a friend who had the nickname “Slow One”.  Within a few months, the band known as “Sloan” had recorded and released their first EP, peppermint.   Their debut single “Underwhelmed” began to make waves on MuchMusic and the buzz was building.  Sloan’s secret weapon was the sheer talent of the four members.  Not only were all four lead singers in their own right, but also multi-instrumentalists.  Chris Murphy, Patrick Pentland, Andrew Scott and Jay Ferguson were more than capable of playing whatever music they envisioned.   In 1992, Sloan signed to Geffen.

Sloan’s debut album Smeared boasted a couple hit singles:  a re-recorded “Underwhelmed”, and a song called “500 Up” featuring lead vocals by Patrick Pentland and drummer Andrew Scott.  A few album tracks such as “Sugartune” and “I am the Cancer” gave the album some depth, but it wasn’t until their crucial second LP that Sloan really broke some serious artistic ground.

“500 Up”

Unfortunately that second album, the brilliant Twice Removed, was engulfed in problems.  Chart magazine called it “the best Canadian album of all time”, in 1996.  Geffen however was unwilling to promote it.  They would have preferred if the band remained an alterna-grunge darling, rather than explore the lush sounds of Twice Removed.

The band went on hiatus and somehow managed to extricate themselves from their contract with Geffen.  A brilliant single (“Stood Up”/”Same Old Flame”) released on their own Murderecords let the die-hards know they weren’t dead, although the impression in mainstream circles was that the band had folded.   They were actually hard at work, recording yet another album for just $10,000 in only two weeks.

That album, the critically hailed One Chord to Another, cemented Sloan as a force to be reckoned with in Canada.  Three brilliant singles including the hard edged “The Good in Everyone” ensured Sloan lots of air play in 1996.  But it was 1998’s Navy Blues that hooked me in.

There was a palpable buzz in the air.  Customers were asking about the new Sloan song “Money City Maniacs”, a hard edged rocker often compared to “Firehouse” by Kiss.  Some people know it as the “goat piss” song due to one of the commonly misheard lyrics in the song:  “And the joke is, when he awoke his body was covered in Coke fizz.”  Coke fizz, goat piss:  Same difference right?

“Money City Maniacs”

Upon release, we gave Navy Blues daily store play.  I can all but guarantee that album was played in one of our stores each and every day upon release in ’98.  Although it was not as well received critically as the prior two Sloan albums, it did go gold and earned a Juno nomination for Best Rock Album.

Even though Navy Blues was the first Sloan album I bought, I didn’t become a full-fledged Sloan fanatic until they did the inevitable double live album.  Sloan are Kiss fans and classic rock fans, so a double live was all but inevitable.  It’s only appropriate that this is the album that cemented my fandom.

4 Nights at the Palais Royale was recorded in Toronto, and the full tally was 28 great all-original songs over the course of almost two hours.  It is simply one of the greatest live albums I’ve ever heard:  fun, very live sounding, with loads of audience participation.  The band consider it representative of a typical Sloan show, and you can hear both their sloppy rock chops and lush pop vocalizing.  It’s all there.  The package was brilliant, stuffed with photos and liner notes from the band.  If one can claim a single moment when Sloan “arrived”, I would argue for 4 Nights at the Palais Royale as that moment.   Talk about being on a roll:  the even managed to release another studio album that year!  (My favourite one, Between the Bridges.)

Now completely addicted to Sloan, I bought all the albums, and then soon upgraded them.  During a trip to Toronto in 1999, I headed over to the once-big HMV on Yonge and bought all the Japanese versions of the Sloan albums, with bonus B-sides added.  It was quite a haul and a brilliant score.  Like any good classic rock band, they have a number of B-sides that are as good as the hits.  I still have these; it is hard to find Sloan singles, but worthwhile.  Some of their most interesting material exist on B-sides, such as the aforementioned “Stood Up”/”Same Old Flame” and the impossible to find instrumental “Rhodes Jam”.  (I’m still missing that one.)

Though the Sloan story continues on today with 11 albums and a 25th anniversary tour, my story peaks here.  That double live album remains the high water mark for this fan.  It’s a time machine.  Upon hitting play I am instantly transported back in time.   What a glorious summer that was.  As it turned out, 4 Nights at the Palais Royale is the exact same length as a drive to the cottage.  As such it got car play almost every single trip.  Even my grandmother liked it.

On the occasion of this 500th instalment of Record Store Tales/Getting More Tale, I encourage everyone to check out some Sloan.  Not only an incredible band, but Canadian, eh?


Selected Discography

1992 Peppermint (EP)
1992 Smeared
1994 Twice Removed
1996 One Chord to Another
1998 Navy Blues
1999 4 Nights at the Palais Royale (live)
1999 Between the Bridges
2001 Pretty Together
2003 Action Pact
2005 A Sides Win: Singles 1992-2005 (best of)
2006 Never Hear the End of It
2008 Parallel Play
2009 Hit & Run (download-only EP)
2010 B Sides Win: extras, bonus tracks and b-sides 1992-2008 (download-only compilation)
2011 The Double Cross
2014 Commonwealth

#499: Top Five Most Heinous Rock Criminals

Welcome back to the week of Getting More Getting More Tale.  This one is…not funny.

GETTING MORE TALE #499: Top Five Most Heinous Rock Criminals

Who are the biggest dicks in rock? People who have committed crimes so atrocious, so heinous, that forgiveness is all but impossible? Here is a list of some of the most well known examples of extreme douchebaggery in rock and roll.

SID5. Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols)

Not everybody gets to have Gary Oldman play them in a movie. In order to attain this dubious distinction, you have to be the bassist for the most notorious punk band in the world, stab your girlfriend (Nancy Spungeon) to death, and then die of an overdose before the case can go to trial. The unanswered questions will remain so forever.

PHIL4. Phil Spector

The genius producer extraordinaire may have been most well known for his “wall of sound” in the 1960’s, but today people remember him showing up in an array of outrageous wigs for his murder trial. On February 3 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was killed by a gunshot to the head at Spector’s mansion. Spector was found guilty on April 13 2009, and has been in jail ever since. His bald mugshot was a stark contrast to the huge wigs he was known for.

VARG3. Varg Vikernes (Burzum)

This bizarre tale cannot be summed up in a paragraph. Varg did 21 years in jail for stabbing Mayhem guitarist Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth) to death. Vikernes has explained and justified the events of August 10 1993 many times, but every interview just makes the situation more bizarre and surreal. Vikernes is a free man today, continually working on and releasing new music with his solo project Burzum.

VINCE2. Vince Neil (Motley Crue)

Drinking and driving is a crime that no-one should ever take lightly. When it involves injury and death, that goes double. On December 8 1984, a drunk Vince hopped into his Pantera with Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley to pick up some more booze. Neil hit an oncoming car, seriously injuring its passengers, and killing Dingley. Neil spent 15 days in jail. To make matters even worse, this was not Neil’s last instance of drinking and driving. He faced charges in 2007 and again in 2010. This is an example of a man who is old enough to know better, but will never learn.

WATKINS1. Ian Watkins (Lostprophets)

Ian Watkins is in jail right now, and hopefully will remain there for a very long time. His crime? According to investigators, Watkins is a “committed, organized paedophile” and “potentially the most dangerous sex offender” they had ever seen. His lack of any sort of remorse has made his crimes that much more disgusting.

#498: Hang-Up Wars

Welcome back to the week of Getting More Getting More Tale!


GETTING MORE TALE #498: Hang-Up Wars

When the employee Joe “Big Nose” began working at one our stores in the late 90’s, he quickly became known for his surly phone demeanor.  Not towards customers mind you; just towards co-workers!  Joe was not much for pleasantries:  “How ya doin’,” or “Have a great day.”  We have said it many times in these pages before:  Joe Big Nose was a very unique personAnd hilarious.

The first time I ever spoke to Joe on the phone, I was calling his store from mine, looking for a stock check.  Somebody wanted to see if a particular CD was in stock at his location.  Joe pleasantly got it for us, took down the customer’s info, and put it aside.  “Hey thanks a lot eh!” I said to the new guy.  He didn’t answer.

I stared at the phone.  “Did that guy just hang up on me?”  He had!  Joe doesn’t wait on the phone long enough for thanks and goodbyes.  In fact there were uncountable times I thought I was speaking to him, and he had already hung up!

“Don’t worry, that’s Joe,” said his boss.  “He doesn’t mean anything by it.  That’s just his way.”  OK, then, fine and dandy!

As I befriended Joe over the years, we would get into some friendly competitions over who could hang up the phone fastest on the other person.   This started as part of the normal course of a day.  We’d call each other looking for stock, but when business was done, it was only a question of who could hang up on the other fastest.  My strategy was delaying him by asking something like, “I just have one more thing for you to check,” and THEN hanging up.

This grew into a competition with a life its own.  We began calling each other with no purpose other than just to hang up.

For example, “Hey, do you have a used copy of the new Metallica?”  CLICK!

Or, “Mike, I have a customer who wants to know if the new Bon Jovi is any good?”  CLICK!

Or my favourite, just at the start of the call:  “Hey Mike.”  CLICK!

We took this to its natural extreme, which was me phoning Joe and hanging up just as he answers.  A hang up can’t get much faster than that!  I won the hang-up wars!  (The bosses didn’t approve, but since the owner started the store pranks in the first place by stealing my Mars bar, I think they had it coming!)



#497: Sausagefest 2016 Official Report

Welcome to another week of Getting More Getting More Tale!  Join us each day this week for a new instalment of the Getting More Tale series, including the all-important, top-secret #500.




GETTING MORE TALE: #497: Sausagefest 2016 Official Report

I have returned, bitten by many insects of all kinds, from Sausagefest.

Every year, Countdown has its own personality, or personalities.  This year, the fifteenth annual, the 81 songs were drawn in almost equal amounts from the fountains of heavy metal and soul/funk.  There was Metallica, and there was Five Alarm Funk.  There was Iron Maiden, and there was Charles Bradley.  It was a stunning mix, also including long bombers by Yes and ELP.   Because of this year’s countdown, I will soon be purchasing Close to the Edge by Yes, and a number of Clutch CDs.

The countdown began, appropriately, with a song by Hibakusha and a previously unheard Paul MacLeod comedic bit.  MacLeod had a comeback show scheduled for the same weekend as Sausagefest.  It is sad that it could not come to pass.

I was given 10 songs to do “LeBrain” intros for.  They were as follows:

78. “Hanger 18” – Megadeth (for this I did a 7-minute comedic steam-of-consciousness bit as my own intro)
67. “Go Down Gambling” – Blood Sweat and Tears
60. “Snakes for the Divine” – High on Fire
55. “Rock and Roll Suicide” – David Bowie
49. “Why is it So Hard” – Charles Bradley
42. “Old Joe’s Place” – The Folksmen
36. “Burn In Hell” – Twisted Sister
29. “Fade to Black” – Metallica
18. “The Sounds of Silence” – Disturbed
11. “Empire of the Clouds” – Iron Maiden

Now, I do not care for Disturbed, and I did not want to introduce that song. I wanted another tune because I had an intro planned already for it (“Hollywood”, by Thin Lizzy). Tom and Uncle Meat refused to give me Thin Lizzy. They did not want to hear Disturbed so they left it to me. I told Meat, “Fine, but I am going to record my intro in the bathroom while taking my morning shit.” And that’s exactly what I did. The intro was received…with grace, all thing considered, by the people who voted for Disturbed. I have no issue with David Draiman, he is an incredibly gifted and obviously trained singer. It’s just not my cup of tea. It’s not a song I wanted to hear done that way. So I did my intro the only way I knew how: with exaggerated disgust. Love it or hate it, nobody ignored it!

The weather was a challenge, but not unbeatable.  Friday afternoon and early evening, we were pelted with rain, hail and lightning.  Due to the weather forecasts, it was decided late last week that there would be no live jams this year.  The more capable among us assembled tarps and gazebos to protect the precious Wall of Sound, and us.  Standing in the refreshing rain on such a hot day, I felt like Andy Dufresne after having climbed through the mile-long shitpipe.  There were many personal highlights for me this year, but I will say this. I am glad that I slept in Saturday morning, and did not go into Flesherton to get breakfast at the Flying Spatula. A highlight of previous trips, the Spatula is now under new, surly ownership. Our guys were treated to disinterested and slow service. One group of eight guys was asked to share one booth. Disappointing. We’re disappointed in you, Flying Spatula.

The most important part of Sausagefest besides the countdown is the camaraderie. Every year it gets better, too. Many of these guys only see each other once a year. Some of us show up fatter, balder, or both. Some of us even showed up with a broken ankle. That’s dedication. It’s that important to us.

Or, as Uncle Meat sang during his interpretation of Pink Floyd’s “Hey You”:

“Hey Scott,
Where the fuck are you?
Did you have better things to do
Than rock and roll, man?”

Can’t wait to do it all again.

#486: Dream Music

Welcome to another theme week at This week: Getting MORE Getting More Tale. Instead of reviews, we have lined up five days of music stories in the Getting More Tale series. Hope you enjoy.


dream music

Have you ever heard music in your dreams?

Steve Vai has.  When he was a young musician, he experimented with lucid dreaming.  When you’re in a lucid dream, you can control your own actions.  Vai’s lucid dreams were very sexual, and musical.  Eventually his album Passion & Warfare emerged from these experiences.  The opening track “Liberty” is directly inspired by one of his dreams where he was standing saluting a flag (“a different kind of flag,” said Steve).  His song “Liberty” was meant to approximate what he heard in the dream, but what he was able to write versus what he actually heard in his head were very different.  He was unable to capture the fullness and grandeur of his dream.

Terence Trent D’Arby too has heard music in his dreams.  In his case, Marvin Gaye approached him in a dream, and asked if he’d be interested in a song Gaye had written.  Perhaps as an expression of his own ego, D’Arby answered, “If I like it.”  He must have, because D’Arby recorded the song as “To Know Someone Deeply is to Know Someone Softly” on 1989’s Neither Fish Nor Flesh.  Much like Vai, D’Arby found it impossible to translate the beauty of his dream music accurately into the real world.

As for me?  I’m no musician; I wish I was.  Maybe if I was, I could do something with the music constantly cruising around in my unconscious LeBrain!*

I don’t know why it is, but music does exist in dreams, and vividly so.  Bringing that music into the auditory realm is so damn hard no matter how hard you try to remember.  I like to write songs – little riffs and melodies that fit together into ditties that I can hum, but not really perform on an instrument.  Some of the music I have heard in my dreams would have been the best songs in the world, had they been real!

It’s impossible to describe anything specifically, except to say the music I heard in my dreams was heavy, symphonic, grand and complex.  If I wanted to, I could focus in on any specific part.  I could dive into the strings and hear the individual parts.   I could even manipulate the music once immersed.  As if I was playing the guitar myself, I could make the guitar solo go any way I wanted it to.  I could control the music like I was a conductor.   The only thing I couldn’t do was remember it when I woke up.

I’d wake up, and even though I could remember dreaming of an amazing piece of music, I couldn’t get it out of my head and onto tape or paper.  I could hum a melody or two, but nothing more.  The grandness and power was all gone.  Who knows if the melody I was humming was even anything like what I heard.  Either way, the melodies I would hum after would be tiny snippets, special in no way at all.

It’s a rare, bizarre, beautiful, frustrating experience.  Has this ever happened to you?



*Thanks to Mr. Books for perfecting that sentence for me.