highschool

#674: Bad Moon Rising

GETTING MORE TALE #674: Bad Moon Rising

A sequel to Getting More Tale #455:  How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way)

Best buddy Bob and I shot and edited a successful music video for Poison’s “Nothin’ But a Good Time” in the 11th grade.  We were sent to the local Charlie awards, representing our school in a film competition.  We didn’t win one (audio sync issues caused by the unreliable cassette format) but by summer holidays, I was back to the drawing board.

I called up a couple friends:  Danesh and Anand.  They came over and we hashed out an outline for a horror movie.  The truth is, I just wanted an excuse to do another music video but I needed a different concept this time.  It had to be a step up.  That summer, I was enthused about Leatherwolf’s second album, and their cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising”.  I thought it was the perfect track for a cheesy horror movie.  Any 80s horror film needed a heavy metal theme song.  Leatherwolf’s “Bad Moon Rising” struck me as perfectly fitting.  “I hope you got your things together, I hope you are quite prepared to die.”  So I had the idea of a double feature:  a horror movie with a heavy metal music video accompanying.  The other guys were into it.

Over a fun afternoon in the basement, we came up with our little movie.  Bob was no longer available.  He would be in college the next year.  It was my first film project without him.  As the film’s lead actor, we chose David Kidd, who was the “drummer” in my Poison video.  He was a drama geek.  His nickname was “Emperor Kiddspeare”.  He’d be perfect.

At the start of grade 12, we approached the Film Education teacher about our new project.  She was not enthused and objected to the music video.  “Why don’t you just use the original song?” she asked about “Bad Moon Rising”, when I explained the concept of the heavy metal tie-in music video.  She just didn’t get it.  The video was the whole seed of the idea!  Maybe she was completely unaware of the metal/horror relationship, based on past movies such as Friday the 13th and Nightmare on Elm St.  We proceeded with the project anyway.  Trying to make your own horror movie is like a rite of passage.  Hasn’t every school kid tried?

We only shot one scene.  It was a hospital scene where the lead character played by David moved a chair with his mind.  It looked great although we were already short on footage.  We had to loop a couple shots to edit together the full scene.  So we did, and it was a start.

But I had just started my first part time job, at Zehrs at the mall.  This cut into my after school hours and the film project dissolved.  I don’t have the scene we shot; it is lost for good.  So is our script.

For a project of that size, I really needed a partner with the dedication and creativity of Bob, but he was off in college doing his own thing.  We couldn’t get it done in grade 12 without him.  Grade 13 was also hopeless for a film project.*  Everybody was far too busy trying to get into University.  Everybody except Emperor Kiddspeare.  He seemed to go off the rails a bit when he started smoking.  First, he burned a “lucky horseshoe” into his hand with a cigarette lighter.  Then he just stopped showing up for school.  Danesh and I used to (jokingly) calculate the odds that he was dead during Algebra class.  Every once in a while, he would actually show up, throwing all our “calculations” to the wind.  Either way, I didn’t have Bob, and Dave was a write-off.  There would be no more highschool film projects.  Bad Moon Rising was dead in the water.

Emperor Kiddspeare ended up becoming a goth, and is very popular in the local industrial music scene.  The last time I saw him, a decade ago on a sweltering hot July day, he was wearing a full length leather trenchcoat.  Good on him.

* Partially.  One weekend, Bob and I rented a camera and we shot a video for our long-distance girlfriends.  It was called Mike & Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure.  I still have that but it’s not particularly watchable.

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#670: Censor This Too! – The Star Chamber

GETTING MORE TALE #670: Censor This Too! – The Star Chamber

This is the sequel to Getting More Tale #669: Censor This! In a footnote to that story, we discussed the evil, corrupt English department at Grand River Collegiate Institute in the school year 1990-1991.  With music as part and parcel of everything I do, here is the students’ revenge.

This story was written by myself and Andrew “Abbis” anonymously.  (You may remember “Abbis” was the subject of a Zeppelin-esque song I co-wrote called “Abbis’ Stomp”.)

Context:  A brilliant young student named Danny was accused of plagiarism for his independent study on part of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  The entire English department were united in their belief that he had cheated, not realizing this young dark-skinned kid with a strange sounding last name was actually just really gifted.  In a parallel to Paradise Lost, Danny soon found himself in a hell of his own.  The school treated him shamefully, but could not prove he cheated.  Instead of the A+ he deserved, he got a “no report”.  This was his final year of highschool, and he wanted that A+ to get into the university program he had applied to.

This story was our revenge on his behalf.

I take a lot of pride in our creative little rebellion. This was about as misbehaved as we got.  Our scathing story The Star Chamber (an obvious mashup of MacBeth and Star Wars) was published in the underground school newspaper, in June of 1991, exactly as you see it below.  Pay attention for a Zeppelin reference and plenty of Shakespeare.  My character is an homage to Han Solo named…Guitar Solo.

Please enjoy.

THE STAR CHAMBER
(The Uncensored Version)

BY: Robin Hood and his Merry Men

 

A long time ago, in a Collegiate Institute far, far away, a battle was being waged between the forces of Good and English.  The leader of the rebel forces, Danny “The Terror” Skywalker, had for months been a thorn in the side of the English Empire…

ACT I, SCENE I

In the caverns of Smithers the Hutt.

Enter with a flourish and really neato special effects, Darth Chamber and his English entourage.

DARTH:  (To Smithers) By Jupiter!  We must capture that foul wretch known to all as Danny “The Terror” Skywalker.

SMITHERS:  I say yea my Lord.

Exuent Darth and entourage with an even bigger flourish.

END OF SCENE

ACT I, SCENE II

Enter Danny, his faithful companion Guitar Solo at his side, zipping through space in the Tarachan Falcon.

Their favourite album, “Ten Classic Books in Ten Minutes” is suddenly drowned out by the wail of an intergalactic police siren.

Enter Robo Bolt, with colours and drums.

DANNY:  What hast thou pulled me over for, sucka?

ROBO:  Dost thou thinks that “E.N.G.-S.U.K.S.” is an appropriate licence plate for thine vehicle?

DANNY:  What say you?  Thou art a strange fellow.

ROBO:  Your horrid image doth unfix my hair!

DANNY:  Methinks thou art (and I quote Willie Shakespeare) “a coward, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a beggar, and a lily livered knave”.

ROBO:  Draw thine sword, I’ll make a sop’ o’ the moonshine of you!  (they draw and fight, Guitar Solo slain by accident.)

GUITAR:  To be…or not to be.  What a stupid question!  GAHK!!!  (he dies.  Robo is then slain.)

ROBO:  I am slain, I am slain, dead, defunct, kicking the bucket, etc. etc. etc.  (he dies.)

DANNY:  What have I done, o Lord, o nature?  What evil spirit hast possessed me?

Exit Danny, delirious from the battle.

END OF SCENE

ACT I, SCENE III

Enter Darth Chamber having been notified of Robo’s death, mad, and garlanded with wild flowers.

DARTH:  Oh what foul deed, what evil, for my fair fair Robo.  He is killed.  (Enter Danny, furious with rage upon sighting Darth.)  Draw, or surely thou shalt perish!

DANNY:  Have at you, bud!

Enter Smithers from behind.

Smithers strikes Danny over the head with Roget’s Unabridged Dictionary, knocking him unconscious.

END OF SCENE AND ACT

ACT II, SCENE I

Later in the Star Chamber.

First trumpet.
Second trumpet.
Third trumpet.
       Trumpet answers within.
Enter Darth Chamber and Smithers, armed, a trumpet before them, attendants, the Fool, Edgar, Edmund, Oberon, The Duke of Cornwall, Elvis, drums and colours, Danny Skywalker in chains, Gloucester wandering around outside.

DARTH:  Hark, four-score and seven years ago this treasonous wretch, Danny Skywalker, hath committed the ultimate crime against the English Empire.  May his trunk be devoured by butterflies.  By Jupiter!  Behold his foul deed.  (cries of astonishment within)  He hast plagiarised the almighty Milton!!!

DANNY:  Oh Hell!  Oh spite me!  What manner of accusation is this?

DARTH:  Silence scurvy knave.  (Darth to attendants) Place him in…(drum solo)…the machine!

SMITHERS:  Goody goody gosh!  By the fairies, Darth is mighty!

FOOL:  (sings)  O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rain water out o’ door.  For he’s buying a Stairway to Heaven.

Exuent all.  Death march, colours and banners.

END OF SCENE

ACT II, SCENE II

Enter with a flourish, Darth Chamber and Smithers the Hutt, with entourage carrying fluorescent banners with matching tights, led by an Old Man.  Danny strapped to the machine.

The machine, a relic left over from the late 20th century, known as a “Dunking Machine” is filled with water, with Danny strapped to a chair above it.

DARTH:  By Jupiter!  My seated heart dost knock at my ribs.  For the time is near o’ blossom.

SMITHERS:  Skywalker thy trial begins!  If thou float’est, thou art guilty of plagiarism and shalt be sentenced to die…slowly.  First we shall tear all the of the hair from thine body, then soak you in lemon juice, and Kraft salad oil.  Then we shall take you out to the Dune Sea you shall be eaten alive by the almighty Mouth, while’st being garnished with tomatoes and olives!  But if thou sink’est and die’est, we shall know that thou art innocent and we shall let’est you go.

DANNY:  Sorry, but I’ve got a prior engagement.

Enter Abbis Man’s ghost.  (See last issue — ed.)

Abbis Man runs onto the stage, dropkicks Darth, hits Smithers with the D.D.T. and frees Danny from the machine.

DANNY:  Thanks bud!

ABBIS:  No problem, let’s get a beer!

Exuent, too tired to flourish.

DARTH:  Gosh darn it!  Methinks this ending really sucks!

Exuent Darth and all remaining.

END OF SCENE AND ACT

EPILOGUE

Danny and Abbis Man, having formed a powerful alliance, travel to Earth where they take on aliases and fight crime as Siskel and Ebert.

 

#669: Censor This!

GETTING MORE TALE #669: Censor This!

A sequel to Record Store Tales Part 219: Parental Advisory – Explicit Lyrics

Grade 13, otherwise known as our “OAC” (Ontario Academic Credit) year, was critical.  They don’t have grade 13 anymore, which is a real shame.  Some of the best courses were in that year.  I worked my tail off, and got accepted into Wilfrid Laurier University’s History program.  That’s why today, I try and mix music and history together in many of my articles.  You’ve read about Billy the Kid and the real wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald here, all within the context of songs.  It’s what I enjoy; it’s what I do.

Some of my friends were taking some serious math courses, to enter Computer Science at the University of Waterloo.  Those guys worked diligently and I barely saw them all year.  I worked hard too, but my courses weren’t like theirs.  I had two maths (Algebra and Finite) and three courses in the arts:  American/Canadian History, Sociology, and English.  All three courses required a major project called an “independent study”.  And me being me, I worked music into each.

These were massive projects.  An entire term was spent working on them.  Because I had so many arts credits, I had more than the average independent study to complete.  By sheer bad luck, all three of them were due in the same week.  All three also involved a full one-hour presentation.  I busted my ass and delivered the goods, in my own unique way.

First was American and Canadian history, which was easily the most intense of the independent studies.  I chose to do the War of 1812, which I thought I’d never get because everybody would want to do it.  Wrong!  Nobody else picked it; it was all mine.  My goal was to research books by Canadian and American authors, and compare and contrast their perspectives on the war.  It was a very enlightening experience.  Do you know how hard it is to find a book written by an American author on the War of 1812?  Back then, virtually impossible.  I had to resort to American history books on broader subjects.  Meanwhile, Canadian books were numerous.  For example I used one by noted historian Pierre Burton.

This disparity made it clear how differently the two nations viewed the war.  Americans didn’t spend much time thinking about it, while Canadians were eager to boast that it was us who beat the Yankees (more accurately, the British empire beat them) and burned down the White House (that was pretty much us Canucks*).  American authors barely mention the war, but don’t consider it a loss.  They tended to focus instead of the Battle of New Orleans.  This battle took place after the war had officially ended, but because it was an American victory, it was celebrated.

I illustrated this in song.  Johnny Horton’s “The Battle of New Orleans” was enjoyed by the classroom, but the point was, it demonstrates how important this one battle was to America, in context of their conflicts with the Brits.  Canadians would rather talk about our fiery misadventures at the White House.

I prepared intensely for the presentation.  The essay portion was done, so I rehearsed the spoken part several times to get the timing just right.  You had to leave time at the end for questions.  That was another challenge:  you couldn’t prepare for the class questions at the end!  You had to know your stuff and be able to answer things off the cuff, which I did.  A+!  Thanks, Johnny Horton, for all your help and inspiration!

Admittedly, I didn’t put as much effort into the English independent study. I rolled with what I knew best, which was music. For my project I did “Lyrics and Poems on War”. The Gulf War was on, and it was topical. For the presentation portion, I wore a shirt with a picture of Elvis Presley on a tank. It said “Iran, Iraq, I roll”. I hated that shirt; it was a gift from my dad, but it was actually perfect for that day. Some of the lyrics I used were Guns N’ Roses (“Civil War”), Sammy Hagar (“V.O.A.”), Queensryche (“Surgical Strike”) and Iron Maiden (several including “Tailgunner”). I got an OK grade on that one. Considering my work load, I was glad just to have completed it.

For Sociology, I chose censorship as my subject. I knew this would be easy for me to do. Finding books and articles on the subject was easy, but I had an ace in the hole. I had amassed a huge collection of video interviews with rock stars, and many were on the subject of censorship. I didn’t take the easy route; I worked very hard. The only advantage I had was access to my own library, which was extensive, and I knew where every single quote was that I needed.

I put together a video tape with all the censorship related interviews: Blackie Lawless, Bruce Dickinson, Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, and Gene Simmons among many.  I also used the words of Frank Zappa and George Bernard Shaw. My stance was clearly anti-censorship.

By coincidence, the Sociology teacher was also my History teacher from the prior presentation. In a way that made things easier. She was an amazing teacher and part of the project involved sitting down with her every step of the way. I had to do a proposal for each of the projects, and check-ins as things progressed. This is all normal at the University level, but for highschool, it was all new to me. It enabled her to get to know me a bit better and guide me to better results.

One of the things I wanted to do in the presentation was show the class some album covers that had been banned.  I learned from one of the interviews that Scorpions covers were routinely banned.  In one of our consultations, I showed the teacher the two banned covers.  I figured there was no way she would let me use Lovedrive.  A woman’s breast is partly exposed with a man’s bubble gum all over it.  Love at First Sting is a rather sexy shot of a woman getting a thigh tattoo.  You can see some sideboob,  but to me it seemed less dirty.

To my surprise, she chose Lovedrive and said “no” to Love at First Sting.  I don’t know if it was the tattoo or the sideboob, but she was clear that I couldn’t use it.

I can’t explain what came over me next.  As I rehearsed the presentation the night before, I decided to use both anyway.  I didn’t have any other banned album covers that I could use.  I didn’t want to present Appetite for Destruction to the class because it’s just a little rape-y.  I just didn’t think Love at First Sting was that bad, and I didn’t have anything else to replace it with.  I wanted to have more than just one example of a banned cover.

So, I defied my own censor, and used both.  As I handed out the album covers for the class to look at, I caught my teacher’s glance.  Not pleased!  But she said nothing.

I nailed that presentation.  It was another “A”, but she did speak to me afterwards.  “You used it anyway!” she said, but I had already won.  She knew I did a great job so she didn’t penalize me.

Was I ever glad when that week was over.  I worked so hard; I had a little schedule in my locker to make sure I kept on top of everything.  I remember walking out of the final presentation, tired but feeling so good.  There was only one girl who was in all three of those classes.  She came up afterwards and asked, “Didn’t you do two other presentations this week?”  I sure did!  I admitted that I chose subjects that I was knowledgeable about, but that didn’t mean I didn’t sink many many hours into it.

One of my friends didn’t have it so easy.  Danesh was concentrating on his math courses, but English was compulsory for everyone.  He chose to do his independent study on Milton’s Paradise Lost.  He studied it meticulously and wrote an essay so professional that he was pulled out of class one day and accused of plagiarism.  He had to defend his essay, for hours, in front of the entire sceptical English department.  All of his friends knew he wasn’t a cheat.  He was just gifted.  The constant meetings with the English department absolutely tapped him out.  What they did to him was unfair and we all knew it.  There were some pretty scathing things said about the English department in the underground school newspaper, which I may or may not have had anything to do with.**  In the end they declined to give him an F, but instead gave him a “no report”.  And they were 100% in the wrong.***

It wasn’t a pleasant note on which to end highschool for us.  At least I was able to give myself a little bit of a rock and roll ending!

 

* My biased Canadian opinion.

** I co-wrote a new version of MacBeth, in Shakespearean English, with Danesh as the hero, all the teachers as villains, and myself as his hotshot pilot sidekick Guitar Solo.  I still have it.  

*** I don’t know if race was a factor or not, but Danesh was a quiet, dark-skinned Guyanese kid.  The teachers were all white, and our teacher that year was actually a fill-in.  He didn’t know Danesh at all.

#657: GUEST SHOT! Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)
Guest post by guitarist and songwriter Derek Kortepeter

Alright, so I’m pretty sure all of us can relay some embarrassing moments from our teenage years. I dunno if it’s the changing hormones or what, but we tend to be pretty damn stupid in these formative years. I have been thinking about my teen years a lot recently, most likely since my high school 10 year reunion is coming up in 2019.

I don’t if it’s nostalgia or what, but I have suddenly been reliving a lot of moments from this time. Here’s something you have to know to know about me first before I start my story. I spent most of my education in public schools in Southern California, namely elementary school and college (two years at a Pasadena City College and then three at UCLA as a transfer student). I switched to a small Christian K-12 school for middle and high school because of bullying (cops got involved, nasty stuff). While I was a working class kid of a single mom, this small school had scholarships and financial aid that made it possible for me to attend.

It is at this small school in “SoCal” that my story takes place. This story involves a CD; well, two CDs to be exact. You see, music has been my obsession my entire life (it eventually became what I studied in college). I had a far ranging interest in all kinds of music from around the world but as a teenager rock, namely punk and metal, amped me up the most.

Above all bands was Van Halen.

Pretty much every person that knew me also knew how obsessed I was with the band. It didn’t matter what incarnation of the band, I owned every damn CD and cut my teeth as a guitarist on all those records.

So while I was a teenage metalhead and punk, what went along with that was that I was a bit of…let’s say, a social anomaly. I didn’t really fit into any clique, but most knew me as a decent guy who was just a tad obsessed with Eddie Van Halen. To go along with this, I was horrifically shy around girls I found attractive.

Awkward doesn’t even really cover it, but holy shit did this come to a head in a hilariously embarrassing way with a girl I liked from age 14 to age 15 (this story ranges from late middle school to early high school). Let’s call this girl “S” so that this never makes it back to people I know. Remember how I mentioned that I was a bit of a social misfit? This girl S wasn’t. In fact, she was popular.

Very. Popular.

My dumb ass had the bright idea to get a crush on a (future) cheerleader who hung around (future) jocks that hated my guts (incidentally I did play starting right tackle on the high school football team) and boy was I about to make my mark. Remember how I mentioned that I was shy around girls? Yeah, that meant I couldn’t hold a conversation without my voice cracking from nerves.

So I had a plan to say something without too many words. I was going to go old school and make a mix tape for her since my conversations were very limited. “Oh man S, is going to so dig this! She’ll love that I shared this amazing band with her,” I thought to myself. The thing is, it was my 8th grade year in the early 2000s so cassettes weren’t the thing anymore. As such, I made her a mix CD.

Not just any mix CD though. A VAN HALEN mix CD.

All the classic Roth and Hagar love songs were there man, it didn’t matter that S was more of a Mariah Carey fan, I figured NOBODY could deny the mighty VH.

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA BOY WAS I WRONG.

Once I made the CD I approached her locker shaking like my apartment during an earthquake and the conversation went something like this.

Me: Hey… uh… hi S!

S: Oh hi Derek.

Me: So uhhhh…I really like Van Halen…and I…uh…(reaching into my backpack) made this CD for you.

S: Ok?

Me: Yeah…soooo…let me know what you think…k bye!

A day passed and I approached her again towards the end of the day. I figured “OK dude, this is it, you’re gonna find out how much she dug it!” Cue scene:

Me: So… how did you like Van Halen?

S: (nods slightly, forces a polite smile) Yeah… it was… pretty good.

Me: Cool! I, um, yeah cool see ya!

Later on I found out that she didn’t even listen to the damn thing. Friends of mine standing near the “popular group” heard that she didn’t even want the CD and tried to hand it over to guys in the group that liked metal. Major bummer.

But I wasn’t finished embarrassing myself hooooooooo boy I was just getting started.

The 8th grade year ended and I continued to make awkward conversation with S and left a couple of really geeky messages on her home answering machine (FUN FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY). On the last day of the end of the year I was risking my neck by wearing a Van Halen t-shirt (band shirts were banned by the fascists at my school). I wore it in rebellion of the fact that we were going to have to wear uniforms starting my freshman year of high school. That day I got her to sign my yearbook and she wrote, I’m paraphrasing more or less, “you’re awesome, never change <3 –S”

DUDE SHE PUT A HEART OMG.

You see I didn’t realize at the time that girls just do that sort of thing, so I figured I still had a chance. Anyways, I got made fun of quite a bit by the jocks for the whole Van Halen thing, but still liked S. Come freshman year I was a starter on the football team (still not a jock…just was a great lineman), and S had recently had her birthday.

Operation Van Halen part 2 was on.

This time I made a pastel artwork for her (I was a decent artist back then) and… also made another fucking mix CD. This time it was mixed with some more recent bands popular at the time, but still had Van Halen and also some solo Roth and Hagar as well.

Conversation follows here:

Me: So… I have something for you, wait here (I run into the athletic locker room and get the gift).

Me: (hands the artwork and CD over) Happy birthday S.

S: (stares blankly) Oh… you didn’t have to do that (gives awkward hug).

Me: (freaking out that she hugged me) Yeah…uh happy birthday, bye!

In the year that followed this solidified my place in the pantheon of stupidity as the hostility of the jocks increased since I continued to try to pursue a chick outside of my social standing. Eventually I gave up and moved on with my life. Van Halen became a running joke among the popular crowd (one jock grabbed my yearbook and wrote VAN HALEN SUCKS just for “lolz”).

Joke was on them though, I eventually became a really great guitarist (I’m sure Mike can testify to this) and performed frequently in front of the school. My senior year the leader of the worship band asked me to play this Steve Vai piece; I won 2nd place in the talent show for (most people thought I was robbed of 1st). Incidentally, I was placed right in front of S and her pals for the performance.

I wonder if she remembered those stupid CDs I made.

#646: “O Canada”

GETTING MORE TALE #646: “O Canada”

What’s the worst first impression you ever made?  Mine must be unique.

Every Canadian knows the national anthem.  The music was written in 1880, and the modern lyrics emerged in 1908, updated slightly in 1914.  Even so, it did not become Canada’s official national anthem until 1980 when it finally received royal assent from the Queen.  My dad remembers singing both “God Save the King” and “God Save the Queen” in his school days.  Today, true north strong and free, we are all taught “O Canada” from our youngest years.  We are brought up to know and respect the anthem, and in fact we always honour it every year at Sausagefest.  Before the festivities begin, hats are removed and we all stand for “O Canada”.

Controversially, the government of Canada just announced a lyric change.  The line “In all thy sons command” has been altered to the gender-neutral “In all of us command”.  Less poetic, yes.  How do you feel about that?

When I was in Catholic school, you really had to sing it.  The teacher would walk around the room, listening to make sure we were all singing, not just going through the motions.  This went for all the hymns we had to learn as well.  If you were just mouthing the words and not singing, eventually you’d get caught.  We all learned to belt it out.  A general rule of thumb at Catholic school was:  thou SHALT sing along.

Our anthem is far easier than the more complex “Star Spangled Banner” that our neighbours to the south must sing.  All the notes are generally within range, and the words are easier to remember, even the bilingual version.  (And we don’t have rockets and bombs in our anthem either!)

When I graduated grade 8, I went into the public school system.  I didn’t consider myself Catholic anymore, but I was more interested in putting some distance between me and some of the school bullies.  I would be making a fresh start in grade 9.

First day of grade 9, I arrived in class but didn’t know anyone.  I was seated next to a guy named Steve Van Der Veen, potentially my first new friend.  The national anthem came on, and I sang it as I was accustomed to.

 

“O Canada!
Our home and native land!
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!…”

 

I thought I was doing a good job, until it was over.

 

“From far and wide,
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
God keep our land glorious and free!
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!”

 

“If you’re going to keep sitting next to me, never sing again,” said Steve.

It was at that moment that I realized nobody else was singing.  Not one person.   Just me.  Apparently, in the public schools, you didn’t have to sing “O Canada” like you did in the Catholic system.  You just had to stand at attention.  I didn’t know, and I didn’t notice.

First day of class, first impressions, and I blew it!

 

 

Rene Rancourt is my favourite anthem singer of all time.  Enjoy your retirement, Rene!

#632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

GETTING MORE TALE #632: Early Attempts at Songwriting

Because nothing we did in highschool lasts forever, I chose to keep as much stuff as possible.  I have an entire binder full of our highschool comic book “Brett-Lore”.  Everybody knew that it needed to be kept safe and sound, and so I was the one to do it.  27 years after graduation, I still have Brett-Lore safe and sound.  I would never get rid of it.  Too many great memories.

I also kept some early attempts at songwriting.  Specifically:  lyrics.  Some of these songs had music written or recorded for them, but it is now lost.  Not that it matters, since the lyrics are so hot.

On a page of lyrics “by Mike + Dan”, I found this potential smash hit song.

“Fuck, Hell is Hot”

Fuck it’s hot in this pit,

So damn hot I feel like shit,

I wake up in the morning,

From the torment of my bed,

I had spikes for my pillow,

That went straight through my head.

Guitar solo – end

This was a thrash metal song, which was all the rage in 1990.  Obviously a novelty song, it was based off other joke thrash songs I’d heard.  A local band called F.U.H.Q. had a song called “Jimi Hendrix Falling Off a Roof”.  It was basically just them screaming “AHHHHHH!” and then “I’m dead!”

The next song down is scribbled next to a half-assed Van Halen logo.  It’s another novelty song:

“Snake in my Pants”

I  got a snake in my pants,

And it loves to dance,

Sometimes it spits venom,

Sometimes it bites victims,

But all the time my snake’s alive.

I remember that one.  Definitely my work, not Dan’s.  You can tell by the subtle use of metaphor.

Dan and I were really into Led Zeppelin at this time, because they had just released their first box set.  We both found Robert Plant’s lyrics a little comical, so over-the-top they were with symbolism.  We attempted to write our own version of a Led Zeppelin song.  We called it “Abbis’ Stomp”.  Abbis was a nickname for a guy in class who was actually named Andrew.  I don’t know why they called him Abbis, but he too loved Zeppelin and we named it after him.

“Abbis’ Stomp” was recorded and I still have it on cassette.  I sang it and a guy named Dave played guitar.  There was a 20 minute instrumental section if I remember correctly.

“Abbis’ Stomp”

The forest is alive and vibrant green,

And here she comes: the reigning Queen,

The moon is bright and over the lake,

And the Queen is on the make.

Oh, oh, ah!

The beat, it pounds in my heart,

The Stallion takes off like a dart,

The streets are deadly in these times,

But killing dwarves is a crime.

Oh, oh, ah!

Great Christmas Tree,

Someday you’ll come back to me,

Beautiful Christmas Tree….

I open the Book of Life and see,

The pages staring back at me,

The dragon breathes its acrid breath,

And fries the Christmas Tree to death.

Oh, oh, oh, oh, ahh!

Reading back, and singing the melody in my head, I understand now why Robert Plant never contacted us for songwriting help.  And I see bits of lines that were directly ripped off from Iron Maiden.  See if you can spot them.

There was better stuff on other pages.  “Unleashed in the Middle East” was a topical song about the Gulf War, written by Dan, myself and a third guy named Andy.  It was a more innocent time and this song reflects it.  It’s all about driving out evil Saddam.  “From this chaos rose a man, a tyrant for all to see…”  Then there is “Night of the Serpent”, a lyric Dan wrote solo.  It has religious overtones and it’s by far the best thing in the binder.  He was a talented writer.

I should contact the guys.  We should complete these songs and make an album!  I know the binder alone contains more than enough material for one record.  We always talked about sitting down and properly recording some originals and covers.  We never did because we weren’t good enough.  But in the glowing light of nostalgia, anything can have value.

#448: Phat Curtis

KILLERANG 2

GETTING MORE TALE #448: Phat Curtis

I started highschool in 1986, and the best days of the week were Thursdays.  They called it “Game Day”.  Thursdays were shortened, and we all got to go home at 2:45 instead of 4:45.  Not only did that mean I would be able to catch the start of the Pepsi Power Hour, but it also meant extra time to goof around!

My best friend Bob and I were walking home from school one Thursday afternoon.  A few days earlier he found something that we dubbed “the Killerang”.  It was actually just a piece of red plastic from a grocery store’s pop bottle plastic crate.  It was kind of shaped like an elongated “E”.  An inner slat from one of those cases had come out and found its way onto the road by which we were walking.  Bob threw it away assuming it was junk, but when he did, that sucker took off and flew, better than a boomerang!  We saw it land far away in a vacant lot.  We both stared at each other at the unexpected aerodynamics of this plastic fork.  We ran after it knowing we’d found a cool toy to play with!  The Killerang.

KILLERANG

Then on Thursday, Bob brought the Killerang to school so we could mess with it on the way home.  Killerang in hand, Bob and I stopped at a park by a local public school that was still in class.  We were going to use their schoolyard to see how far we could get this thing to fly.  Off in the distance was a class of kids watching a football game.  Way, way off in the distance.  It is on that field that two fates collided.

Bob wound up and threw the boomerang.  He didn’t throw it hard but again it caught air and took off.  We ran to collect it, and it was my turn.

“Don’t throw it too hard,” Bob advised.  “It really flies.”

“OK,” I said as I wound up.

I threw the boomerang a little too hard.  I watched as it flew…and flew…and flew…on its way to the distant football game.

“Oh no,” I muttered as the boomerang continued its flight.  By its trajectory, it was going to hit one of the kids in the crowd.

There was one kid on that field that could not be missed even from that distance.  He was huge.  He was a giant.  I watched as my boomerang felled that giant, striking him directly in the back of the neck.  His arms went wide and he collapsed to the ground.

“Holy shit,” said Bob as I cried “Oh no!”

“You have to go apologize,” said Bob, stating the obvious.  I’d never apologized to a giant before.

Sheepishly, and possibly with a huge and sudden dump in my pants, I went over to the football field to apologize to the giant.

Fortunately the giant, whom I learned one addresses as “Phat Curtis”, was the forgiving type.  He did not kill me (this much is obvious).  He did not stomp me, nor did he piledrive me into the ground.  You don’t get a name like “Phat Curtis” for being small, but thankfully he wasn’t a vengeful giant.

A year later, Phat Curtis started highschool, and it was there that I learned he was a drummer.   In fact he had a reputation as the most talented drummer in school.  Later on he added five and six string bass to his musical repertoire.   He went on to play with my sister in various ensembles, and became a customer at the Record Store too.  He was always looking for live albums with good bass.  Didn’t buy much stuff, but he sure kept me busy every time he came in.

Maybe that was his revenge?  To haunt the Record Store of the guy who boomeranged him in the back of the neck?  To make that Record Store guy run around the store looking for live albums with good bass, but not make a sale?  Could that be it?  If so, I cannot say that Phat Curtis put me in as much pain as I put him in.  However at least I can boast that single-handedly took down a giant!

#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

BRETT LORE

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

All artwork created by: Various denizens of Grand River Collegiate Institute, circa 1989-1991.

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