Guelph

#934: What Now?

RECORD STORE TALES #934:  What Now?

I sound like a broken record at the end of every summer.  It’s tough to keep the spirits up at this time of year.  It’s likely I’ve taken my last swim of 2021.  Next time we get to the lake, the sun will be down by the time we arrive.  And then will come the day it is covered with snow, and empty for the winter slumber.

Music helps – music always, always helps.  So does writing.  But it is an annual challenge.

When I was a kid, the end of August would signal the start of the “sad times”.  The back-to-school ads.   Reminders that I was going to have to spend another year with a bunch of bullies again.  Then the colder weather started to roll in.  Our family would take two weeks of vacation in August but back then, they were two cold, rainy weeks. (Not like today.)  You had to start dressing in long pants and sweat shirts.

Shopping for notebooks and new school clothes.  Realizing that a few weeks of warm freedom were about to be replaced by 10 months of misery.  I hated Labour Day weekend.  Back to the “hell hole” as my sister would say.  These feelings stick with me today.  I can’t flip the calendar from August to September without them.

Even though I’m not in school anymore, the heavy heart returns.  I now know that I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and it’s something I need to fight every fall.

Last year was a success!  I avoided the seasonal depression.  I spent my summer making lots of videos, to take me back there in my mind when I needed it.  I also had the show, the LeBrain Train, to look forward to every weekend.  This year is different.  The videos and photos don’t have the same impact two years in a row, and since May the LeBrain Train has become more of a burden than a joy.  I need something new to keep my spirits up this winter, and I don’t yet know what that is.  It is true that we have a long September ahead, warm but shorter days.  I hope this mitigating factor helps.  I think what I really need is some new creative spark to keep me looking forward.  Last year it was the LeBrain Train but the burnout factor has ensured that I need something fresh that I can look forward to from September to May.

What used to cheer me up at this time of year?

As a kid I used to be excited for a new season of the Pepsi Power Hour which hasn’t existed in 30 years.  I don’t watch a lot of TV these days, but fortunately Marvel has constant content forthcoming on Disney+.  We have a new Iron Maiden album to look forward to, but the idea of new music from my favourite bands doesn’t have the same excitement factor as when I was 15 years old.  Yes I’m happy there is a new Iron Maiden coming, but compared to the sheer expectation of Seventh Son coming out in ’88?  No chills.

It feels like…work?  Like I haven’t finished digesting The Book of Souls and here comes another one.  I can’t remember how half that album goes, and now we have a new one to get to know.  It’s not like in the old days when I felt literally starved of Iron Maiden because I’d played all their albums over and over and over.  Now, there are so many that you don’t necessarily even play them all in a year.

Back then, getting a new Iron Maiden album felt just as amazing as a new Star Wars or Marvel movie today.  Something you have been anticipating for a while.  Music videos were like movie trailers.  We’d watch repeatedly, we’d pause, and we’d slo-mo trying to glimpse details.  Costumes, instruments, stage sets, all of it.

When I was working at the Record Store, I still didn’t know that this seasonal depression thing was real and not just me.  It often came and went in spurts.  I used to call them a “big blue funk”.  2003 was a very “funky” year for me.  I’d been dumped (twice) by my Radio Station Girl, and even with a new Iron Maiden in my back pocket (Dance of Death, and also a new Deep Purple called Bananas) I still felt like I needed to do something to help me get through the winter.  And there was something I used to do to pick myself up back then, especially if I had my heart broke.  Yes, broken hearts are for assholes, but I chose to get new holes.  On September 3, I went to Stigmata in Guelph and got my nose pierced.

It was my third visit to the tattoo studio that year.  After Radio Station Girl dumped me, I got my lip pierced at Stigmata.  A couple months later I got my tragus pierced — that piece of cartilage at the opening of your ear.  A friend of mine named Lois Sarah had just started piercing there and if I remember the details correctly, I was a guinea pig.  It’s fun to go back and read my notes!

Lois asked if I was ready. I said yes, and she asked me to take a deep breath and exhale….

I said, “Wow, I didn’t feel a thing.”

Lois said, “That’s because it’s not through yet.”

I felt the needle go through at least 3 distinct layers of cartilage. Each one hurt more than the last. On the last layer, I said, “FUCK” and both my legs shot out. 

Lois did a great job and it’s the one piercing that I do still have.

But September 3 2003 was just my nose, nothing too painful.  It was Labour Day weekend once more, and I decided to go for it.  Normally I went to get a piercing with a “wingman” but this was my first time going alone.  I distinctly remember wearing my Iron Bitchface T-shirt.  An uber-cool looking guy with a massive afro shot me an approving glance, so I felt good from the get-go.

I was led to the back room, but not before washing up my hands with disinfectant gel. I sat down in the Very Big Chair, as I liked to call it, and Lois prepared the goods. She marked my nostril with a dot and got the position right where I wanted it. Then she applied some iodine to the area, both inside and out. She tested out the position of the receiving tube, and finally asked me to take a deep breath.  As I exhaled, the needle went in no problem. Almost no pain at all. I’ve been pinched harder.  (By your mom.)

The rest of the year still sucked, nose ring or not.  It was the year of working with the Dandy, a manchild that drove me slowly mad as he sucked up to the big-wigs.  Work was miserable and not getting any better.  But at least I was proactive, and did something that I thought would help.  Something that helped in the past.

I’ve been there and done that with piercings, and though I like the look of them, I don’t enjoy the upkeep.  I prefer to spend my money on something more permanent, like a tattoo.  That’s something to consider, but I think I need to look elsewhere for a bright spot this winter.  Maybe I will find my joy in the live show once again, but I can’t count on it.  Truth be told, I haven’t been feeling it as much since May.  I remember telling Deke that I was struggling and he suggested back then that I take a break.  But I didn’t feel like I could take that break until the end of the summer.  And here we are.

So now I search for some new slant on my creative outlet to revitalize me.  Something to look forward to regularly.  I was very lucky during the winter of 2020-2021.  I hope I can pull it off again!

 

#904: 2000 Dates

A sequel to #616:  None of My Exes Live in Texas (But One Lives in Thunder Bay)
and #903: Online Dating in the Brave New World

 

RECORD STORE TALES #904: 2000 Dates

When I think back on the year 2000, I realize, holy shit:  I went on a lot of dates that year.  Most of them were first dates; things generally weren’t working out for me.  When I look back,  I can’t believe how many there were.  I’ve already talked about “Hamilton #1”, “Toronto”, “Hamilton #2” (in detail!) and briefly “Kingston”.  But there were more.  Many more.  Some names are forgotten; the rest are redacted.  The cities and places are clear in my memory.

“Kingston” was cute and I fell for her hard over the telephone.  I remember finding it cool that she wore mismatched socks on purpose.  Some people teased me for that.  But she was quirky and had great taste in music.  She was a musician; a really good one too.  She came up to visit me one weekend.  We met in the parking lot of the Cambridge Record Store as it was right off the highway.  We drove from there to the cottage where we spent the night.  She brought her acoustic guitar and played some of her original tunes for me.  She also brought her copy of Pink Floyd’s The Wall.  The next day we came back to Waterloo for a Record Store party.  You can see why I liked her.

I was supposed to visit her in Kingston next.  The day of departure, there was a massive accident on highway 401.  I was stuck in it for hours and ultimately had to turn back home.  Things fizzled out from there.  She was planning on going to school in Thunder Bay, and while I said “no problem, I can do long distance relationships,” it was not meant to be.  Kingston is four hours away by car.  Thunder Bay takes a whole day, unless you fly.  It wasn’t going to work and I reluctantly had to let her go.  She already knew there was no future to it; I was the holdout.

I wasn’t over her yet, but immediately I jumped into dating once more.  It was a new girl every two weeks.  I was on the rebound.

“Guelph 1” was nice.  She was a student, who had long black synthetic dreadlocks.  The most memorable thing about her was that she was legally blind.  Maybe that was one reason why she went out with me!  She could see, she could get around, but her vision was impaired enough that she was classified as blind.   This meant that she actually got in to movies for free.  She had to sit in the very front row to see anything, but that was OK by me.

We went to see The Cell, starring Jennifer Lopez, Vincent D’Onofrio, and Vince Vaughn.  It was shit, but good enough for a date movie.   We actually went out a second time, after she had relocated to Hamilton.  But she wasn’t into me and there wasn’t much chemistry aside from a couple pleasant dates.

That’s not be confused with “Hamilton #3”.  I distinctly remember going to have coffee in Hamilton with a girl I never saw again.  I can’t recall any other details about her.  She had short black hair?  I think she brought a friend with her?  I got somewhat lost on my way back home (as I usually did when visiting Hamilton) but managed to turn myself around this time without having to call for directions.

“Toronto #2” was more memorable.  I felt a little weird that I was meeting her in the same parking lot as “Kingston”, but she didn’t need to know that.   We wanted to get a bite to eat, so we headed over to East Side Mario’s in the mall next door.

“Make sure we get a smoking table,” she said.

To her surprise, I answered “No such thing here!”

“Whaaaat?” she exclaimed.

Unbeknownst to her, the region had implemented an indoor smoking ban on January 1 2000.  They don’t pay attention to Kitchener news in Toronto, so she had no idea.  Not happy!  That was our only date.  The indoor smoking ban was a trial run, and it was soon enforced everywhere else.  There was a lot of complaining then, and a temporary dip in revenues at bingo halls.  Just like with Covid lockdowns today, many establishments fought the ban and were served up hefty fines.  Things bounced back eventually.

Not me though.  I was still rebounding.  Around the same time as  “Toronto #2” came “London”.  That was my first drive-in movie in 15 years.  The setting was more memorable than the movie, which was the Kevin Bacon turd called Hollow Man.  All I can really remember is the windows fogging up – and we weren’t even doing anything.

Then came “Mississauga”.  This is the one I felt worst about.  Most of the other dates were just dates.  We went out, we hung out, we went home.  “Mississauga” met me at the local Chapters store and we went book shopping.  Then, I believe, we went to see a movie.  I can’t remember exactly because the night ended with us making out in the back seat of my car.  Although I felt cool as hell at the time for having finally made out with a girl in the back seat of a car, afterwards I felt shitty.  She went home, and we never saw each other again.  I didn’t like that.  I was really confused, working my way through all these feelings.  But it was a mutual thing.  She didn’t call me, and I didn’t call her.

“Guelph #2” was the second last date of the year 2000.  Also a student.  Nice enough girl; we went out a couple times.  I think the moment I bailed was when she messaged me one weekend telling about this other guy she was hanging out with.  I had no problem with her seeing another guy.  We had just gone on a couple dates, we weren’t exclusive or anything like that.  It was the nature of this one specific message that scared me away.

“I’m here with a guy and his penis is stuck in a bottle!” she said.

All the best of luck to ya!  I didn’t have any follow-up questions.

At the same time, I had just met “Kitchener #1”.  The year was coming to an end.  I was 28.  I was tired.  I had done all the rebounding a man could do.  I was ready, but the first date didn’t work out as well as I hoped.  We went to the Boathouse and had lunch.  Afterwards she sent me an email titled “Let’s Hang”.  She just wanted to be friends.  I was OK with that because I did like her, and I thought, “Being friends is OK.  Nothing wrong with that.  I would like more friends.”

Right around the time some dude in Guelph was struggling to remove his penis from a bottle, “Kitchener” was having second thoughts.  We got along really well, and had continued to hang out as she wanted to.  A few weeks after that first date at the Boathouse, she had a change of heart.  She asked if I was still interested and I was.

And so, as the year 2000 ended (and with it the millennium), so did my misadventures in dating!  “Kitchener” and I stuck together for two years which was the longest relationship I ever had at that point.  We had good times.  She became like a member of the family.  In fact she still has Christmases with our family today, even though we split in 2003.  When I finally met my true soulmate Jennifer, my ex attended my wedding.  I liked that we were able to do that.  And now, my dating days are truly over!

 

 

 

Part 311: Record Store Gallery IV (Shite Photies)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 311: Record Store Gallery IV (Shite Photies)

This is what it’s come to in this crap-fest known as Record Store Tales:  Another batch of semi-embarrassing photos of a much younger and thinner LeBrain.  These are from a party circa 2003 or so.  I can’t remember the names of anybody in these photos except one, which is Jesse Villemaire (last photo), the owner of Thrive tattoo studios in Cambridge.  I can’t remember a single other name!

Long time LeBrain readers will recall that vintage Marillion tour shirt (that I don’t fit into anymore) from Part 126:  The Marillion Shirt.

Part 279: Record Store Gallery Deux

RECORD STORE TALES Part 279:  Record Store Gallery Deux

I found another whack of old photos going back to the record store days.  Allow me to take you on a guided tour!

Gallery #1:  This would have been 2002.  The tragus was the most painful piercing I experienced.  It was the only time that somebody said, “he’s turning white, get him some juice to drink.”  The piercer was my friend Lois who works at Stigmata in Guelph.  She was apprenticing, with me as a test subject.  She even gave me the labret stud that they pierced it with, so the experience was free!  Note that Marillion shirt, and my then-sveldt shape!

Gallery #2:  A variety of sushi and fancy dinners with our Niagara Falls store owner Lemon Kurri Klopek, Guinness’ Book alumnus Sweet Pepper Klopek, the British piercer Sarge, and the mysterious man known only as Mr. Lebowski.

I look like a goth Leprechaun.

Gallery #3:  New arrivals! My birthday 2004! The Paul Stanley interview picture disc was from a friend in York, England named Kim. The Marillion singles were a birthday gift from a guy in France named Charly. And the Marillion Marbles deluxe edition was a gift for me, from me, that happened to arrive at the right time!

 

Last Words:  I love that this photo gallery contains three completely different facial hair styles:  A simple goatee, my Ian Paice mutton chops, and finally a full beard.  Cool!

REVIEW: Black Sabbath – The Sabbath Stones (1996)

Bought at HMV, Stone Road Mall, Guelph ON, on import for $29.99 in 1996.

BLACK SABBATH – The Sabbath Stones (1996 IRS)

The Sabbath Stones, a record-company cash-grab, is a greatest hits compilation of Sabbath’s Tony Martin years (mostly) plus a smattering of bonus tracks. While it is not perfect, and so many great songs were omitted, it is still a really great listen from start to finish. Tony Martin is probably the most derided of all Sabbath vocalists. Having seen Sabbath live on their final tour with Martin (also including Cozy Powell and Neil Murray) I can say that I quite enjoyed that incarnation of Sabbath. Also, in 1996 when this was released, albums such as Headless Cross and The Eternal Idol were very hard to find on CD.  With that in mind, read my track-by-track breakdown.

1. “Headless Cross” — This compilation is the IRS years (that’s the record label, not the government agency) and thus starts with their first IRS album, Headless Cross. The title track is one of those underground classics. The groove here is monstrous (thanks, Cozy)  and the notes Martin hits in the chorus are superhuman. This track, back in 1989, was Sabbath getting back to a truly heavy evil sound. Shame that the keyboards (on all tracks by Geoff Nicholls) are mixed so high!

2. “When Death Calls” — One of my favourites from Headless. Beginning with fretless bass (by temp bassist Lawrence Cottle) and haunting vocals, you’d almost think this was a ballad. By the end, it’s breakneck, with Tony Martin singing these evil lyrics about how “your tongue will blister” when Satan says you’re to die! The guest guitar solo by Brian May will sear your soul.

3. “Devil and Daughter” — A third great track from Headless, an album loaded with great tracks. This is an uptempo one all the way through!

4. “The Sabbath Stones” — From 1990’s underrated Tyr album. I quite liked Tyr. “The Sabbath Stones” is a fast one, wicked, but muddy in sound as was all of Tyr. Once again, Martin hits inhuman high notes by the end.

5-7. “The Battle Of Tyr/Odin’s Court/Valhalla” — These three tracks are actually all bits of one long piece, on Viking mythology. Sabbath at the time were trying to get away from the “Satanic thing”, and Vikings were still evil enough to sing about. Some fans didn’t like that turn of events but I think Sabbath were well ahead of their time. “The Battle Of Tyr” is a keyboard-y bit, just an intro to get you in the mood. “Odin’s Court” is acoustic, with Iommi picking a simple melody while Martin sings about “leading us on, to the land of eternity, riding the cold cold winds of Valhalla”. That takes us into the main meat of the trilogy, the “Valhalla” portion. One of the most powerful of all Martin-era tracks, with great keyboard accents and a memorable Iommi riff, this was my favourite track off Tyr.  (It’s either this one, or “Jerusalem”.)

8. “TV Crimes” — A brief departure from the Tony Martin years. In 1992, he was out and Ronnie James Dio, Geezer Butler, and Vinny Appice were back in. The album was called Dehumanizer and even though it did not sell well, a hardcore following now consider it among the very best Sabbath albums of all time, and possibly one of the best things Dio’s ever done. Why it was underrepresented here with just one song is beyond me. There should have been at least three Dehumanizer tracks on this CD (I would have nixed “Devil and Daughter” and “The Sabbath Stones” in favour of two more with Dio singing.) Anyway, “TV Crimes” (the single) is here, and while not one of the best songs from Dehumanizer, it and “Time Machine” were the two most well-known.

9. “Virtual Death” — Tony Martin is back, with Rainbow’s Bobby Rondinelli and Geezer Butler too!  That would not last long, as Geezer soon fled back to Ozzy’s solo band to record the Ozzmosis CD. “Virtual Death” is hardly one of the better songs from the Cross Purposes album, a decent record if a bit soft. Having said that, the soft tracks were really quite good and “Virtual Death” was just a grunge song.  Black Sabbath influenced that whole scene, but they ended up copying Alice In Chains’ trademark vocal style on “Virtual Death”.  That double tracked vocal melody could have come right off Dirt.

10. “Evil Eye” — Another puzzling Cross Purposes selection.  I can’t think of a reason to include it.  There was once a legend that “Evil Eye” was co-written by Eddie Van Halen, who went uncredited.  The same rumour suggested that Van Halen either performed the guitar solo or wrote the solo for Iommi to play.  Joe Seigler of black-sabbth.com has busted this rumour as false.   My two tracks from this album would have been “I Witness” (fast one) and “Cross Of Thorns” (slow one).

11. “Kiss Of Death” — Finally we arrive at the end of the Martin years with the dreadful Forbidden album. It’s sad because it wasn’t the end that Tony Martin deserved. The album just got out of hand and next thing you know, Ozzy was back. This track was at least one of the strongest ones. A killer, slow closer with some unbelievable Cozy Powell drum fills, if it had been recorded right it would have just slammed you in the face.

12. “Guilty As Hell” — Another Forbidden track, and one of the weakest. “Can’t Get Close Enough” should have been subbed in. Just filler.

13. “Loser Gets It All”TREASURE!  The Japanese Forbidden bonus track, finally available domestically! (Please note, the Cross Purposes Japanese bonus track “What’s The Use” is still unreleased outside Japan, dangit.) This song, a shorty just over 2 minutes, is actually stronger than all the other Forbidden stuff. Good riff, good keyboards, not bad sounding. Shame it was buried on a Japanese release.  Why?  Who knows.  Maybe Tony Martin does.  Tony, drop me a line.  I’d love to talk.

And that finishes the final IRS album, and the final one for Martin. He’d been replaced once before by Dio, and now finally by the once and future Ozzy, and it’s all over for him.  Since then he’s taken a back seat to his more famous predecessors, although he released the strongly reviewed (by me) Scream solo album in 2005.  He also did a number of albums with guitarist Dario Mollo, two of which I own but have to revisit.

There are three “bonus tracks”, songs that were included under license, from the period before the IRS years.  The inclusion of these songs really make the album a fun listen.

14. “Disturbing The Priest” — My favourite incarnation of Sabbath was 1983’s Gillan/Iommi/Butler/Ward and this is my favourite song from Born Again. It’s so evil you’ll feel like you need to confess your sins after listening! I have no idea how Gillan managed such demonic screams. Brilliant selection!

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15. “Heart Like A Wheel” — I’m actually quite fond of the Glenn Hughes fronted album, Seventh Star, but this song has no place on this album. Granted Sabbath played it live on the ’86 tour with Ray Gillen subbing in for Hughes, but it’s too slow and bluesy. The title track or “In For The Kill” should have been subbed in.

16. “The Shining” — Tony Martin triumphantly ends the album with his first single with Black Sabbath.  “The Shining” has a vintage Iommi riff, and more ungodly high notes. There are early demos of this song from before Tony joined the band, with other singers, as Iommi had this riff a long time before.  A 1984 demo entitled “No Way Out” was recorded with Ian Gillan’s short-lived replacement singer, David “Donut” Donato.  Then it was re-written and re-sung by Ray Gilllen, and this version was recently released on the Eternal Idol deluxe edition. Tony Martin’s version then is the third incarnation of the song that I have, and it’s a triumphant one.  I love the way this album was bookended with Tony Martin songs.

That’s the CD: 80 MINUTES LONG! You just can’t argue with cramming that much music onto one disc. And yes, you can get 80 minutes onto a CD, and this album is the proof.

While I have argued against the inclusion of some songs, by and large this is a well-made compilation, for a record company cash-grab. Considering the Martin years have been buried, I think it is well worth owning. I listened to it all the time.

4/5 stars