gi joe

#623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

GETTING MORE TALE #623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

1978 – Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

1979 – Star Wars Millenium Falcon

1983 – Star Wars Jabba the Hutt playset

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

1985 – My first dual tape deck

1986 – GI Joe Cobra Terrordrome

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

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

1990 – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin boxed set.

1993 – Led Zeppelin – Boxed Set 2

 

 

Merry Christmas one and all!

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

#349: Christmas Eve [Reblog]

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

 

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

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

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

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

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


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

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

#349: Christmas Eve

Every year at this time I take a break from posting to spend a little more time relaxing with my family.  Enjoy this final post before Christmas, and I’ll see you all again soon in a couple of days!  Feliz Navidad!

JABBA

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

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

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

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

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


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

RECORD STORE TALES:

WHALE

PREVIEW: The Next LeBrain

Dear readers,

As you are aware, the original Record Store Tales are almost done.   There are only a few sub-chapters left in Part 320: End of the Line.  I believe that, taken as a body of work and not cherry-picking bits and pieces, that it is a story of human frailty but also human strength and survival.  There are laughs, and there are tunes.  Lots and lots of good tunes.

Even though the entire story is almost told, I will continue telling tales of life’s absurdities.  These Post-Record Store Tales (if you will) are already being written and are ready to be rolled out!  The title, as suggested by you, will be revealed soon.

I just needed a new mascot.  I felt that the old GI Joe LeBrain had run his course.  Finding a new mascot, a new LeBrain, was a bit of a quest but I’ve finally settled on one.  May I present to you:

THE NEXT LEBRAIN!

IMG_20140913_105632

Yes, it’s Simon Pegg.

Gallery: Other Stuff I Collect That Isn’t Music

I collect toys.  Lots of toys.

Part 0: A Few Words for Days Gone By…

I decided to do something special for Part 250…by not doing Part 250 at all.

This isn’t one of those bullshit prequels, like when George Lucas says, “Oh, Episode I, I had that written for decades,” when it was pretty obvious he was making it up as he went along!  Nope, this isn’t like that.  I started writing the Record Store Tales over 10 years ago, and what you see below is the original first chapter.  It existed solely for the purpose of background and context, but I excised it in favour of starting things faster with the second chapter, “Run To The Hills”.  Since that became Part 1, it makes sense that this earlier introduction should be Part 0.  With hindight, I kind of wished I’d kept it in, so here it is!  And don’t forget to check out my new complete Table of Contents, should you wish to read  more!

KATHRYN GEOFF MIKEYeah…don’t ask. That’s me on the right.

A Few Words for Days Gone By…

What is childhood made of? In my mind, when you’re a kid, life consists of two things:

1. School
2. Summer Holidays

That was the cycle.  To break it down to the core, to an 11 year old life was 10 months of school followed by two months of glorious, warm sunny freedom.  Sure, you’d get to go home at the end of the day, but you were never truly free until the end of June. No more pencils, no more books, all that stuff.  It was way better than Christmas holidays.  The Canadian winters offered such fun treats as shoveling, besides snow pants, parka, boots (laced up too tight), and mittens which prevented you from using your fingers.

Our summers were boisterous. My sister Kathryn and I were like peas in a pod. We would play some kind of game every day, usually under my leadership. I would declare that today, we were going to play Star Wars. Other possible declarations included building fleets of Lego ships and cars, and having a giant war. Or inventing a new ball game.  Once GI Joe came along, we’d dig trenches in the yard, as well as forts and garages of twigs and leaves, and have an entire day (or week) dedicated to Cobra Commander’s new secret weapon. Aside from an occasional rebellion from my sister, our summers were mostly uninterrupted merriment.

STAR WARS

My sister and I both clearly remember one such rebellion, where she wanted to do things her way.  It involved our Star Wars figures.  We were already mid-battle.  I was setting up a perfect counter-offensive. The Millenium Falcon would sneak attack Vader’s base, take out his Tie Fighter early in the melee, while Luke would take out Boba Fett. Leia and Lando had to distract Jabba The Hutt, so that he couldn’t stop Luke when he eventually confronted the Emperor. Game over! The plan was perfect. Now I just needed my sister to coordinate the battle with me, under my command of course.

Much to my disappointment, she had moved around some of the figures and now had them seated.  Luke and Vader were next to each other. “Why are Luke and Vader sitting there? Luke is about to attack and Vader should be getting into his ship.”

My sister continued playing with the figures, and without looking up, replied, “Luke and Vader want to be friends now. They’re having tea.”

It didn’t matter that half the figures were hers, if she didn’t know how to play Star Wars right. So I’d yell a bit, act like a big brother usually does, and eventually she’d go along with the plan, or cry and leave.  The evil Empire would be defeated once and for all, thanks to my brilliant leadership and strategy.  We were definitely pals, growing up.

For years, this was the way of the summer holidays. We’d be doing something awesome at home, or at the cottage, but it would always be something cool. It didn’t matter where we were: games continued wherever we went.  We’d make a game out of anything.   You give us a pile of junk and we’ll make a game out of it.

STYX FRONTAll things do come to an end. The Star Wars trilogy ended in 1983 and something needed to fill the vacuum. While GI Joe and later Transformers would temporarily take its place, I was getting older.  My attention was drifting.  I was looking for something cool, new, and exciting.  Video games didn’t hold my attention and neither did sports.

Starting in 1983, several things happened in a short time frame.  Styx released a single called “Mr. Roboto” that some of my friends at school were obsessed with.   Then I heard a song called “Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap” by AC/DC, and it was pretty cool too.  Then, a newer band called Quiet Riot came out with an album called Metal Health that would go on to sell three million copies.  This was my first rock cassette purchase when I was in the 6th grade.  Something connected…

AC/DC.  Van Halen.  Ozzy Osbourne.  Black Sabbath.  Def Leppard.  Motley Crue.  Iron Maiden.  Who were these people? I had a lot to find out.

Continued in Record Store Tales Part 1:  Run to the Hills

Part 131.5: The Crimson Guard

RECORD STORE TALES PART 131.5:  The Crimson Guard

Sort of an intermission here:  People often come to me and say, “LeBrain, what’s with that GI Joe you that’s in all your Record Store Tales?”

I say, “Oh, you mean this guy?”

“I used him for re-enacting scenes from the old days at the store.  I’ve chosen him due to his uncanny resemblance to the real thing.”

Part 84: Carpet Cleaning in December

RECORD STORE TALES Part 84: Carpet Cleaning in December

We used to get our carpets steam cleaned twice a year, once in the summer and once in the winter.  The winter one was the biggest waste of money you can wipe muddy boots on.

The very last one that I was there for, 2005, was memorable. To make it even more fun, earlier in the day as he was leaving the store, my boss said, “Do good sales or you’re both dead.” Total morale boost!

I had to stay late to watch the store while the cleaners were doing their business, and lock up after them.  They usually took an hour, so that’s not too bad.  What sucks more is the day after.  Because you have to move everything off the carpets for the cleaners, you have to come in super early the next morning to put it all back.

So, 8 am, December.  It was starting to snow. I entered the store.

1. Everything is wet.  Condensation on the windows means I had to remake a whole bunch of paper signs. (We had no lamination device.)
2. The carpets will probably remain wet for most of the week.
3. The very first customer of the day tracked in muddy snow on his boots.
4. It’s STUPID!

By the end of the day, the carpets looked the same as they did before! At least we must have done good sales, because I’m still alive.