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#739: Aces High

GETTING MORE TALE #739: Aces High

I am fortunate, oh so very fortunate, that I still have my old VHS tapes.  Watching them again, over 30 years down the road, has been the closest I’ve ever come to real time travel.  These tapes were my childhood!  I sat in the basement, remote control in hand, recording as much music as possible from, well, MuchMusic!

The Pepsi Power Hour was in its infancy, with J.D. Roberts in the hosting chair.  One by one, each video rolls out in the order I recorded them.  In many cases that means the order in which I first heard them!

The good fortune that I even have these tapes goes further, back to my parents.  They had pay TV, meaning we had MuchMusic when it first began, not when it became free in the late 80s.  They bought a VCR and pretty much let me monopolise it when the Power Hour was on.  Even though it was the middle of the big “Satan scare”, they let me watch the Power Hour, unlike the Dolphs, the weirdo neighbours across the street.  They didn’t even let their kids watch Dr. Who.  Here I am watching Ronnie James Dio slaying people with his sword in “Holy Diver”.  A few clips earlier, a bathing suit clad teacher was dancing on desks in a Van Halen video.  Then there was Kiss.  Were they really “Knights in Satan’s Service”?  My mom asked me that question, but she didn’t stop me from watching.  That couldn’t have been easy, considering the subject matter of “I Love It Loud”.

So I kept recording videos, and stored the tapes safely, as if knowing that 30 years down the road I’d be wanting them again.  Iron Maiden came up frequently on the earliest tapes, and I can’t help thinking of my dad.

The only Iron Maiden videos my dad liked were “Aces High” and “The Trooper”.  He approved of the lyrics and explained them to me in historical context.  I knew all about the Battle of Britain long before I hit the age that they teach you about it in school.  I knew the Charge of the Light Brigade, what a “Cossack” was, and where it happened.  That’s because of Iron Maiden and my dad!  He used it as educational material.  He really seemed to like those lyrics.

Today, my friend Tom who is a teacher uses rock music in the same way — to teach.

“Aces High” was always a personal favourite.  Not only was it a great song, but also a great video.  The single had some of the best cover art you could find on a Maiden vinyl.  “Aces High” received many spins, on the turntable and the VCR alike.  At that age, my sister was like a little shadow, and copied me with everything.  We watched videos together.  We also went to the same school.  In one class, she and her friends were asked about their favourite songs.  My sister said “Aces High” but they wrote down “Ace Is High”.  Come on, people!  It’s not that kind of song!  She was in the 4th grade.

Now I sit, watching my tapes, reliving old memories fresh and new once again.  What a lucky guy I am.

 

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#666: 666

GETTING MORE TALE #666: 666

“Here is Wisdom, Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast.”

Ye metal fans!  You have all heard of the number of the Beast, but do you actually know what it is?  Iron Maiden mined the Bible for lyrical ideas in the early days.  The Book of Revelation was a favourite of theirs.  Of the Beast, it tells us that we can identify him by his number.  This is not Satan himself, but the first Beast of the apocalypse, the end of the world.  The Beast, it says, comes from the sea.  There are many interpretations of the Revelations.  Three main schools of thought are that these are prophecies of events that already occurred, will occur in the future, or are happening now in the present day.

The Beast will “rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. (Revelation 13:1)”  Scholars say the seven heads represent seven kings.  The 10 crowns are 10 more kings that have yet to be crowned.  With an appearance like that, why do we need a number to identify the Beast?

Relevation is a symbolic book of the Bible and no one really claims to understand it all. The apocalyptic writings say that the Beast and the false prophet will muster the armies of the world against the man on the “white horse”.  When they lose, they are tossed into a “lake of fire”.  Some theologians believe the number 666 symbolizes the nations of the Earth that are in conflict with God.  In the 1980s, some thought that 666 represented President Reagan, whose full name, Ronald Wilson Reagan, is three names of six letters each – 666.  Indeed, Reagan changed his Bel-Air address from 666 St. Cloud Road to 668.

With the imagery and mystery inside, the Book of Revelation is great source material for heavy metal lyrics.  The Bible has always been a source for popular music.  Pete Seeger wrote “Turn! Turn! Turn!” around the Book of Ecclesiastes, but Revelations is great for darker themes. Iron Maiden (and even Anvil) made the number of the Beast famous to the secular community.  Every metal head knows the number of the Beast. Or do they?

It turns out, the number may have been wrong all along.  Older and older fragments of the Bible are constantly being unearthed.  The oldest manuscript of Revelation chapter 13 (Papyrus 115) found to date is 1700 years old. This ancient fragment gives the number of the Beast as 616.

Scholars today are split.  Many think 616 is the original number of the Beast, later changed to the more interesting 666 for aesthetic reasons.  Try this trick with a calculator or spreadsheet:  The sum of the numbers 1 through 36 is 666.

If this is true, Iron Maiden has a lot to revise, and metal fans may have some tattoos to fix!

REVIEW: The Sword – Age of Winters (2006)

Purchased at BMV in Toronto 2016 for $6.99.

scan_20161126THE SWORD – Age of Winters (2006 Kemado Records)

The scene:  Earth, post-Rapture.  A seedy bar somewhere in America, haunted by the few remaining survivors.  In walks a cloaked figure, here to recruit the only man who can help him defeat the Antichrist:  former CIA agent Stan Smith.  On the jukebox in the futuristic post-apocalyptic watering hole:  “Barael’s Blade” by The Sword.  (American Dad season 5 episode 9 – “Rapture’s Delight”)

Sounds bizarre, right?  Seth MacFarlane’s American Dad has always used modern rock music in interesting ways, and this wasn’t the only use of music by The Sword on that show.  “Iron Swan” appeared in an episode called “Minstrel Krampus” (also featuring soul crooner Charles Bradley).  Interestingly, not only are both these appearances in rather twisted Christmas episodes, but both songs were drawn from The Sword’s debut long-player, Age of Winters.

The doomy riffs of opening track “Celestial Crown” immediately recall early Black Sabbath circa 1970-72, but drawn out, slowed down, grinding heavy like a glacier carving its path through a mountain.  J.D. Cronise’s howling vocals break the ice on “Barael’s Blade”, but the assault continues right on to “Freya”.  This track, the ogre stomping “Freya”, wields multiple guitar riffs as heavy as the thunder of an avalanche.  The Norse goddess of fertility is also the goddess of war and death.  “Freya” brings the sonic conflict to your speakers.

When the “Winter’s Wolves” arrive, your senses are already overloaded by the riff-heavy metal.  “Wolves” centers on a heavy drum section, like Bill Ward on ephedrine.  Almost as if part of the same song, “The Horned Goddess” reverberates like a coda to “Winter’s Wolves”, different yet solidly in the same icy field.  “The Horned Goddess” soon transforms into a stampede of mammoths making their last stand.  Hypnotizing lead vocals welcome you into this hazy landscape of sound.

Acoustic instrumentation brings “Iron Swan” a different aura, like the Beatles via The Sword.  Then it immediately launches in a thrash metal “War Pigs”, as if all the speedy chops the band had in storage were being used up right now at this very moment.  Epic only touches on what “Iron Swan” is, as there is so much riffery that it becomes overwhelming.  Scientific studies* have shown that the human memory can only retain so many riffs at one time, and so “Iron Swan” becomes like a wave of them hitting your senses one after the other.

Painting of an Aurochs from Wikipedia

Painting of an Aurochs (Wikipedia)

The Aurochs, a part of European megafauna until their extinction in the early 1600s, were the direct ancestor of the modern domestic bovine whose products millions of people consume every day.  It is the Aurochs you see in cave paintings today.  The Sword have given us a seven-minute-plus “Lament for the Aurochs”, and we do not forget the impact that mankind has had on the ancient land we inhabit.  Although back-breeding has produced Auroch-like “Heck cattle”, we shall never feel the ground shake with a herd of Aurochs again.

“And none may see again the shimmering of Avalon,
Or know the fates of all the races man has cursed,
Long gone are the ages of the alchemists,
Now there are none who know the secrets of the earth.

“Lament the passing of the Aurochs,
And the slaying of the ancient wyrm,
Would you dare meet the gaze of the basilisk,
Or face the flames as the phoenix burns?”

The Aurochs give way to an epic instrumental “March of the Lor”, another exercise in maximizing potential riffage.  When “Ebethron” arrives to end the album with a hammering blow, it is a mercy killing.  Age of Winters is almost non-stop, all-in, nothing but riffs and pounding through its entire length.  That in mind, it only takes a short while to recover, and hit play one more time….

I look forward to exploring more of The Sword’s discography.

4.5/5 stars

Look for a review of album #2, Gods of the Earth, soon.

*Not really.

 

GUEST SHOT! #439: 10 E 23rd Street

GUEST SHOT by Mike Lukas

GETTING MORE TALE #439: 10 E 23rd Street

I just finished 93 shows in North America with Steve Earle & The Dukes. I’m their Tour Manager. We have four days off before heading to the west coast for a festival, then on to Europe for another month of touring. Being away from home for so long is tough. So when this little break came up, I told the wife, we were going to take a short trip to NYC. We have tickets to a concert and a Broadway show, a few great dinners, shopping, the works. It was something nice to do together before I leave again.

We are staying at a small boutique hotel in Gramercy. Today [September 29 2015] we were heading across 23rd street on our way to lunch when I saw the number 10 and for some reason that address just kept ringing in my head. 10 East 23rd Street. Over and over, I said to myself 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street, 10 East 23rd Street. Why do I know that address? Then it clicked! 10 East 23rd Street was the loft where KISS was born! It’s the spot where they auditioned Ace and Peter. It’s the place where they took those early pre-make-up photos. I grabbed my wife’s hand and told her we had to stop here.

I filled her in as to the significance this place played in the mind of a KISS fan. I took a quick photo of the façade of the building and noticed the door to #10 was wide open. I beckoned my wife to follow me in. Just a quick peek, the door is open after all.

We went inside and were greeted by a man with a little Boston terrier holding a ball in his mouth. The dog, not the man. He was holding the small service elevator door for us. “Coming up?” he asked. “Nope just popping in for a quick look.” I replied. His expression changed. “You’re KISS fans.” He said with a smile. “Get in the elevator, but we have to be quiet.” In we went and up we went, petting the little pup as we rose. The nice man who went on to explain that every so often people show up at 10 East 23rd Street to see where KISS was born, showed us the door to their former rehearsal spot. “Come over here” he pointed to the stairway. “See those pipes? That’s where that picture was taken.” I of course walked down and snapped a couple pics.

We looked around some more before descending back down to the street. We said thank you again to the man with the dog and made our way down to The Gramercy Tavern for a nice lunch. At lunch I texted a pic over to LeBrain. Knowing full well he would appreciate the experience as only another fellow KISS fan would. His response is what led to this little story!

Mike Lukas

Gallery: Wilfrid Laurier (Canadian Legends series figure)

Earlier this weekend, a discussion was unfolding in the posting for my Johnny Cash action figure gallery.  I have provided the pertinent text between Aaron and myself:

A:  You know what I want for Christmas? The John A. MacDonald action figure! Yes, it exists. It’s not music-related, but since we’re talking about action figures of our heroes…

M:  At some point in the near future I fully intend to work in my Sir Wilfrid Laurier action figure. I haven’t figured out how yet…but I WILL! In fact I was going to throw it in here as a mind-fuck at the end, but it wasn’t working and wasn’t funny so I axed it at the last minute!

Screw it.  Not music-related?  Wouldn’t be the first time!  This figure, 2006 Nafekh, is from “Series 1” of the Canadian Legends.  “Series 2” never came to be.   (My series 2 would have included Pierre Elliott Trudeau, Terry Fox, and Alexander Graham Bell, if such a thing were ever made.)

Part 220: Blackout!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 220:  Blackout!

It seems like only last year, but in fact it was 10 years ago today.  One of the only times we ever closed the store early was the Great Blackout of 2003.  If you lived in, well, North America, you probably remember Blackout 2003.

I recall closing up shop in the mid-afternoon.  It was obvious the power wasn’t coming back on, but the phones were working.  We got the call to do our best to close up without power, and head home.

For many people, particularly in Toronto, this turned out to be an exceptional evening.  People left their homes, went out and socialized.  Many went to the beach.  Me, I just sat at home and read a book until it was too dark to read.  Then I turned in.

I fell asleep quickly, it was so quiet.  Suddenly I woke up to the sound of the phone ringing.  I reached  for my watch, my eyes trying to focus on the glowing hands.  4:30 am.  I didn’t know what to think.

On the other end was Brandon “You Are So Punk”, who worked at our Niagara Falls location.  That first night, they incredibly still had power, although that wasn’t going to last!

“Man, why are you calling?” I yawned.  “It’s 4:30 in the morning.”

Brandon paused.  “What are you talking about?”

Frustrated, I answered, “I’m looking at my watch, you’re calling me at 4:30 in the morning!”

Brandon paused again, and answered simply, “Dude.  Your watch is upside down.  It’s 10:00 pm. I just got home from work.”

D’Oh!

The next day, Friday the 15th, the power was restored in the early morning.  Still, we weren’t supposed to be open.  The government had advised all non-essential businesses to stay closed, and not put additional strain on our fried power grid.  Us being so essential, were open (of course).  That is until about mid-afternoon when we again had to close, due to rolling blackouts.  The shit thing about that was that we were absolutely slammed with people that morning, we were overwhelmed.  A lot of them were what I called “tire kickers” — they like to ask you a lot of questions but they don’t buy anything.  Since nobody was open except us and a few other “essential” businesses, it was like a holiday for the general public.  People brought in used discs by the box load to sell, I kid you not.  I went through 300 discs from one guy alone.  I had him leave his box behind because it was going to take a couple hours to go through, and then we ended up closing while he was out.  He came back a few days later for his cash and unwanted discs (which was most of them).

When people reflect back on the blackout, they usually have fond memories and stories.  Not me!  I remember shit stories!  Oh!  And I had to throw out all the meat that I had bought that day before work too, because the fridge had no power.  Fuck you, blackouts!

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