#942: My Brushes With Metallica

RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica

I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load.  Yeah, I was one of them.  Hate on if you gotta.

Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video:  “One”.  To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate.  Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on.  Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them.  I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.

The Black album was released in 1991.  I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”.  The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me.  I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly.  The sonics were outstanding.  While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album.  Why?

Three main reasons.  The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years.  That was, as yet, a bridge too far.  Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual.  It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”.  It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”.  It was perfect for my needs.  Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.

When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone.  I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin.  I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!”  He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.

A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris.  He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All.  I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on.  “I know this song!  I love this song!”  I exclaimed as I jumped up.  Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff.  “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris.  “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced.  I didn’t know he covered it.”

This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan.  Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print.  Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.

1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer!  I was managing my own Record Store for the first time.  The weather was gorgeous.  The stock we had was incredible.  The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs!  There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store.  There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse.  And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.

On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation.  Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative.  Of course this was stretching the truth a tad.  Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier.  Alternative?  Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).

Load was the kind of rock I liked.  The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years.  I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears.  Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.

And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue.  Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time.  I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory.  We were selling them for $25 each, no discount.  I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20.  The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release.  The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting:  when I was managing my own used CD store!  I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD.  A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.

Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do.  However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica.  Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap.  His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard.  Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car.  Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.



REVIEW: Metallica – Enter Sandman (Remastered 2021 German CD singles)

METALLICA – “Enter Sandman” (Remastered 2021 German CD singles – 5″ Maxi CD and 3″ Pockit-CD)

The Black Album box set is coming!  Batten down your wallet because it looks absolutely incredible.  Yet on the 14 CDs and 6 DVDs, you won’t find the specific live tracks released only in Germany on the new set of “Enter Sandman” CD singles.  (There is also a glow-in-the-dark vinyl single, but it is missing the live tracks.)  All the discs maintain the style and design of Metallica’s original 1991-1992 singles.  This is an appetiser for what is to come, including two of the newly remastered Metallica tracks.  Proceeds went to German charity.

“Enter Sandman” and “Sad But True” are the two remastered studio cuts included.  The remastering sounds good and the tracks are not brickwalled.  Fans will be pleased to know that Metallica opted out of the Loudness Wars this time.  Good thumping bass, nice and prominent.  Crisp, clear, and loud enough.  “Sad But True” is really punchy.

The live tracks are all taken from Frankfurt or Stuttgart, shows not included in the box set.  The 5″ Maxi-CD and 3″ Pockit-CD each contain two exclusives.  Just like in the days of old, you have to buy both formats to get all the tracks.

“Through the Never” is one of the thrashiest songs from the Black era, and the very dry recording here is evidence of non-tampering.  Tasty wah-wah from Kirk Hammett.  “Damage, Inc.” brings thrash the old school way, Metallica as frantic as ever, barely holding it all together, but making the heads bang no matter what.  By the end it’s a total steamroller.

The teeny little 3″ CD is no less mighty.  “Of Wolf and Man” is choppy and heavy.  Hunting relentlessly like the titular wolf, Metallica are out for blood.  What’s really wild is the long jammy section at the end which contains a surprise.  Finally the Budgie cover of “Breadfan” ends the whole series of tracks with an explosive go-for-the-throat attitude.  Sloppy but foot on the gas the whole way.

What’s better than a wicked set of Metallica CD singles, including a 3″?  What could beat that?  How about if both discs were pressed in black plastic?  Would that do anything for ya?  These limited singles are sure to be collectible for their exclusive tracks and unique traits.  Try the German Amazon site for international shipping.  Contrary to a report in Bravewords, these singles do ship worldwide.

4/5 stars

REVIEW: Faith No More – Live at the Brixton Academy (1991)

FAITH NO MORE – Live at the Brixton Academy (1991 Slash UK)

My mom and dad bought this European import for me Christmas ’92.  A rarity for sure, it cost over $30 at HMV Fairview Mall.  I was thrilled to get the two rare studio tracks, although the live material already existed on the classic You Fat Bastards VHS tape.  I received that tape the previous Christmas and didn’t know a CD version existed, until I saw it at HMV myself.

For the record, here is the full tracklist from You Fat Bastards: Live at the Brixton Academy which has since been reissued on DVD:

1. “From Out of Nowhere”
2. “Falling to Pieces”
3. “The Real Thing”
4. “Underwater Love”
5. “As the Worm Turns”
6. “Edge of the World”
7. “We Care a Lot”
8. “Epic”
9. “Woodpecker from Mars” (Instrumental)
10. “Zombie Eaters”
11. “War Pigs”

The CD loses “Underwater Love”, “Woodpecker From Mars”, and “As the Worm Turns” from the first Faith No More LP. While this is unfortunate, I am glad that “As the Worm Turns” from this video showed up on a version of the “Epic” CD single. I added to the album as a “bonus track” when I ripped it to mp3. (The band actually played 18 songs that night including rarities like “Why Do You Bother” and “Crab Song”.)

For some reason the CD also shuffles up the track order, opening with “Falling to Pieces” instead of the natural opener “From Out of Nowhere”.  It’s the funkier side of Faith No More’s Real Thing era.  Although it was a single I don’t think it’s all that exceptional and certainly not as a CD opener, but whatever.  (There also seems to be some kind of weird phasing or something going on with Jim Martin’s guitar sound.)  “The Real Thing” is seven minutes of ups and downs and drama and Patton shrieks.  This is the kind of Faith No More track that is initially too fucky to digest in one sitting.  Patton’s live improvisations vocally are a joy to fans who know what the song sounded like in the studio.

“This next song…is a song…that has four letters in the title…and it starts…with an E,” introduces Patton, and we all know what song that would be.  In April 1990, they might not have.  25 years later, the song is still fresh, especially with Patton’s ad-libs.  “Ooo-woo-oo-oo!”

The Black Sabbath cover “War Pigs” is edited in next, a perplexing slot considering it was played in the encores.  This is the same version that later re-emerged on the Black Sabbath tribute album Nativity in Black.  Sabbath fans unfamiliar with Faith No More’s idiosyncratic side did not like Patton’s loose work with vocal and lyrics, although I think “Mlah mlah mlah mlah mlah mlah mlah mlaaaghaah” works just as well as “On their knees the wars pigs crawling.”  To each their own.  You either like Faith No More or you don’t.

Actual show opener “From Out of Nowhere” is slotted next, a breakneck metal-with-keys anthem showcasing the musical chops of this underrated band.  Judging by the fades, I’d say this is where Side Two would be on a cassette version. On VHS I remember an animated Patton bounding about the stage, confident and unpredictable.

“We Care a Lot”, which contains within it a hilarious nod to the New Kids on the Block, was a show highlight. “Zombie Eaters” on the other is a foreboding rollercoaster. From dark quiet guitar chords, to thrashing ones, this song has it all. In some ways it is similar to “The Real Thing”, in that it takes a few listens to get it.

“Hey it’s time to snap kids…it’s time to fuckin’ snap, goddamit” instructs Patton. “Listen!” he says, putting the microphone to his buttocks and farting. “That was real.” Like I said, you either like Faith No More or you do not. “Edge of the World” is a nice little piano slow dance, but it is totally inappropriate for ending the live portion of the album. This is one of the worst sequenced CDs I have ever owned.

Two unreleased studio tracks from The Real Thing sessions are the real treat of this CD. “The Grade” sounds like a pedal steel guitar instrumental. It sounds like Jimmy Page. Jim Martin never got enough credit as a guitar player, and this track is exhibit A. “The Cowboy Song” is not a Thin Lizzy cover, in fact it’s an original. It occupies the same space as some of the more accessible tracks on The Real Thing. Young Patton was in peak voice, singing a powerfully melodic chorus. Roddy Bottum lays down some tasty Purple organ backing the song, which truthfully is a Faith No More favourite of mine.

Since it’s from the same concert I’ll add a word about “As the Worm Turns”, an oldie from the first album with Chuck Mosely. I’ll never forget the sight of Patton coming out in a weird mask and laying waste to it. Mike was able to do the Mosely songs with no problem, and this is one of the tunes that works best. Because it was based on yelling out a vocal melody, Mike takes it to another level.

You can get “As the Worm Turns” on the 1990 UK CD single for “Epic”, on Slash records (LASCD 26).

I’d be happy to give this CD 5/5 stars based on performance alone, but since the sequencing is so illogical and random, it’s only worth:

4/5 stars


REVIEW: Deep Purple – Purpendicular (1996 US bonus track)

“The banjo player took a hike” — Ian Gillan

PURPENDICULAR US_0001DEEP PURPLE – Purpendicular (1996 BMG)

When Blackmore quit Purple for the second time, I had written the band off. I wasn’t too keen on the previous studio record The Battle Rages On, and what is Purple without the man in black? I didn’t want to hear a hack Deep Purple, struggling on to pay the bills with some sub-Blackmore player.  The first time he left, it shattered the band and they were unable to continue past one record with Tommy Bolin. Then I started reading reviews of live shows with Steve Morse on guitar. Steve Morse? What the hell was that going to sound like? Morse and Ritchie Blackmore — it is hard to imagine two electric guitar players who sound less alike. (Joe Satriani was also briefly in the band to help them finish up touring commitments.  Bootlegs of shows with Satriani are well worth checking out.)

When Purple finally released their new studio album Purpendicular, I had to buy it on import.  It didn’t even have a North American release.   When it was released officially in the US, an extra bonus track was added, so I tracked that down and bought it too. That is how much I really love this record. It had a huge impact on me musically in the mid to late 90’s, and when I saw Purple on this tour, they were smoking!



Kicking off with some of that patented Morse shredding, the oddly titled “Vavoom: Ted The Mechanic” kicks you in the teeth and won’t let go. This was, according to Gillan, done on purpose.  It was a statement: “Here is our new guitar player, bitches.”  Ian’s lyrics, ranging from bizarre to absurd and back again, are at their absolute peak on this album. (Check out “Somebody Stole My Guitar”.) Clearly, when the man had been freed of Blackmore’s shackles, he had been creatively revitalized.  That probably followed in turn for each of the members.

The second track is the melancholy, bass-driven “Loosen My Strings”, a song which wouldn’t sound out of place on Slaves and Masters. From there, the album goes from strength to strength: The powerful progressive epic “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming” (probably the best track on the album) to the bright and positive “A Touch Away”. Every song is backed by Morse’s unmistakable picking, miles away from Blackmore’s style of riffing, or medieval tendencies. That is not an attack against Blackmore, but sometimes a quality change can be refreshing. Morse utilizes pinch harmonics frequently on this album, which is a new sound for Deep Purple.  He also utilizes long sustained notes with wide vibrato, a classic Steve Morse sound.


There are very few weak songs on Purpendicular.  The plodding “Soon Forgotten” can be skipped.  Not all the songs are immediate.  Some of them are complex arrangements designed to take a little effort to penetrate. This album must be played a couple times for it to sink in. But when it does, stand back and prepare to be blown away.  I wouldn’t want to miss “The Aviator”, a rare acoustic Purple tune.  Morse lends it a celtic feel.  For folks who prefer the 70’s jamming Deep Purple, check into “Rosa’s Cantina” and give a shout-out to “Hey Cisco”.  And if you like it a little more straightforward and rocking, you may prefer catchy rockers like “Somebody Stole My Guitar” and “I’m Not Your Lover Now”.

PURPENDICULAR US_0003I mentioned that I re-bought this album for a US bonus track.  “Don’t Hold Your Breath” is a bright upbeat rock song, and worth tracking down.  It’s not necessarily an album highlight, but why do without?  Jon Lord’s organ sounds on this one are particularly enticing.


There was also one outtake from this album, a silly little jam/band intro called “Dick Pimple”.  This was put out on a fanclub-only release, and later reissued on Ian Gillan & Tony Iommi’s compilation CD WhoCares.  It’s a 10 minute track, giving the fans a rare chance to hear Purple with Morse jam just for shits & giggles.  Because it’s Deep Purple, it is a quality jam, and completely unlike anything on Purpendicular.

Purpendicular was a vital record for Deep Purple.  If they had blown it, that would have been it.  They couldn’t have continued with any credibility if it didn’t kill.  Fortunately it did.  I am pleased to report that despite the tragic death of Jon Lord, Deep Purple has managed four more great records since, all with Steve Morse on guitar.

4.5/5 stars


Part 272: Priest Week – The Re-Masters


It’s the end of PRIEST WEEK! It was all Judas Priest all week, and what better way to end it then with a 12 CD remastered box set?
Monday:  Rocka Rolla (1974)
Tuesday: Priest…Live! (1987)

Wednesday: Metal Works 73-93 (1993)
Thursday: Demolition (2001 Japanese version)

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When Judas Priest began reissuing their albums in 2001 (in three waves of four CDs each), of course I had to have all 12.  I’ve been a fan of the band since I was a kid, and my complete Judas Priest collection has always brought me much joy.  Priest’s “Re-masters” series included all the studio and live albums from 1977’s Sin After Sin to 1990’s Painkiller.  Each was expanded with two bonus tracks, with the exception of the live albums.  Unleashed in the East contained the four bonus tracks from the Japanese Priest in the East release (which I already had) and Priest…Live had three extra songs.  (Today, there is a new budget box set that collects the entire Halford era into one box called The Complete Albums Collection.)

In late 2001, local record store legend Al “the King” dropped into my store to sell some discs.  Nimble-minded readers will recall that on day 1 of Priest Week, Al King sold me my vinyl copy of Rocka Rolla in 1989!  Al now worked at another store in town called Encore Records.  Al’s a good guy.  He didn’t see us so much as competition, because really we catered to different groups of people.  There were certain discs that Al couldn’t sell at Encore (pop and mainstream stuff), and he knew I would give him the fairest prices in town, so he came to me.  It was a good mutually beneficial arrangement.  I wanted his stock and he wanted the money!

On this afternoon, I chatted with Al while going through his discs, and he informed me of a forthcoming Priest collectible.

“It’s expensive,” he began, “but it does look cool.  It’s a UK import.  I sold one to this really excited guy, but Mark’s trying to order another one in.  If you want it no problem, but fair warning, it’s not cheap.”

“Tell me more!” I said to Al.

PRIEST WORKINGThe details were scant.  The box set was titled The Re-Masters, and it contained four CDs with room for the other eight, sold separately.  The CDs included with the box were the first four of the Columbia years:  Sin After Sin, Stained Class, Killing Machine (Hell Bent for Leather) and Unleashed in the East.  It was an attractive box, printed to look like it is held together by metal rivets.  There was also supposed to be a booklet included.  At the time, I was obsessed with collecting the “best” versions of anything.  This meant having all the songs, and the best packaging available.  I asked Al to hold the box for me.  At various points in the conversation, I felt like Al was trying to talk me out of buying it due to the price!  What Al didn’t understand was my deep obsession for this band.

A few days later I headed down to Encore and bought my treasure.  I eagerly opened it up and discovered one little additional bonus!  Nothing major, but cool enough for me:  the four CDs included had embossed silver logos on both front and back covers, instead of the regular printed ones.  This differentiated the discs from the versions I could buy separately at retail.  Also, Hell Bent for Leather was indeed included under the UK name Killing Machine, something I hadn’t seen on CD before. Finally, once all 12 discs were collected, together the CD spines read JUDAS PRIEST and depicted their “devil’s tuning fork” logo.  The spaces for the 8 discs sold separately were taken up by individual foam spacers.

Back covers with silver embossed “tuning fork” logo, and without.

The bonus tracks were a mixed bag of live and demo songs from all over Priest history, but some, such as “Race With the Devil” (The Gun cover) were incredible and classic.  One by one, I added to the set.  Some discs came in used rather quickly:  Point of Entry was one such disc.  Others I had to order via Amazon, or buy in-store at Encore, such as Turbo and Painkiller.  But I did get them all, and my complete Priest Re-Masters set has served me well for over a decade now.  Although I have since bought the newer deluxe editions of Screaming for Vengeance and British Steel (with bonus DVDs) I have felt no need to replace this box set with anything else.  Having to buy the discs individually and complete it myself makes it rare to find, not to mention the box was made only in small numbers.  Some fans expected more out of the box set, and some were upset that the Gull Records and Ripper Owens years are not represented inside, even though Ripper was still the current singer.  My attitude was and is, “Who cares?”  It’s a great looking set and it comprises a complete era of Priest.  I like it a lot and according to Al King I’m one of two guys in town that own it.  Cool.

REVIEW: W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (both versions)


W.A.S.P. – Still Not Black Enough (Castle, US and UK versions)

This one came up due to some discussion between myself and Jon Wilmenius who suggested that I not outright dismiss Still Not Black Enough.  I decided to give it a listen again, all the tracks from both versions, and listen with an open mind.  I haven’t listened to this album in years.  I went through a brief W.A.S.P. phase not long after quitting the store.  I bought Helldorado, Unholy Terror, and both Neon God CDs, which might not have been a good idea; doing so many at once.

Still Not Black Enough was a treat to revisit.  It’s top-loaded with some pretty great W.A.S.P. songs.  In fact the album rocks and rolls along quite excellently for four solid tracks in a row:  “Still Not Black Enough”, “Skinwalker”, “Black Forever” and the awesome “Scared To Death”.  I’ve never heard Blackie attempt anything like “Scared To Death” before.  Female backing vocals on a W.A.S.P. album?  It actually works, and brings this track to a much higher level.   Nothing wrong with the other three songs either — all are catchy, heavy W.A.S.P. songs with that Crimson Idol sound.

The album skids to a halt upon track 5, “Goodbye America”.  The unfortunate thing is that “Goodbye America” is a great W.A.S.P. song, kinda similar to “Chainsaw Charlie”, like a shorter twin brother.  Blackie chose to introduce it with a boring, spoken word political thing, which sucks all the air out of the room.  Cut the shit, Blackie.  You’re a rock star who drinks fake blood from a fake skull for a living.  Leave the politics to Bono on the left and Ted on the right.  Shit, even Ted doesn’t write his songs about it.

After a rousing cover of Jefferson Airplane’s “Somebody To Love”, Blackie gets out the piano and does the first ballad of the album.  It’s essentially a reprise to “Hold Onto My Heart” from Crimson Idol.  It’s even called “Keep Holding On”.  Nice song, but no need to do it twice.  OK sure, “Keep Holding On” is a different slant, on a lot of different instruments, but it’s the same damn song.

“Rock And Roll To Death” is both old (previously released on 1993’s excellent First Blood…Last Cuts compilation) and too gimmicky.  It’s an old-timey rock and roll song a-la Chuck Berry played metal style.  I guess it’s supposed to sound like “old W.A.S.P.”, like “Blind In Texas”?  Regardless it’s out of place on Still Not Black Enough, and it was already on the last album, so to me, that means “delete”.

The original ten-track version of the CD placed a ballad here, after “Rock And Roll To Death”.  The acoustic-with-strings ballad “Breathe” was removed from the re-release, and I get why.  It’s similar once again to Crimson Idol songs like “The Idol” and “Hold On To My Heart”.  The actual sonic quality of the song is not good at all, it sounds like a demo.  The drums are obviously not real, they sound like a drum program.  The strings are obviously synth.  It sounds unfinished, compared to the rest of the album.

No matter which version of the CD you buy, track 9 is “I Can’t”.  It’s also acoustic, so again it’s good they removed “Breathe” from the CD, two acoustic songs in a row is too much for a W.A.S.P. album.  This one’s a little edgier, it’s not a ballad.  It’s more a cheesy bad-ass cowboy song with gratuitous “fucks”.  Thankfully it turns electric at the end.  Track ten, and original album closer, is “No Way Out Of Here” which sounds like any number of songs from Crimson Idol.  The similarities are more than superficial.  There are lyrical references to that album, and both albums were performed by the same band:  Frankie Banali and Bob Kulick.

The re-release of Still Not Black Enough has three bonus tracks.  (It also has “Skinwalker” which was track 2, but not on the original release of the CD.)  Track 11 is “One Tribe”, which is pretty different and pretty cool.  It’s a softer song, but it’s about the most original song on the album.  It has strong melodies, and a dramatic enough arrangement.  There’s also what sounds like an electric violin solo!  Lyrically, this sounds like redemption.

Then come the unnecessary covers:  “Tie Your Mother Down” and “Whole Lotta Rosie”.  Of the two, I would say “Tie Your Mother Down” works best.  It brings back the female backing vocals from “Scared To Death” and it’s fun!  “Whole Lotta Rosie” isn’t particularly notable.

I was surprised that I like Still Not Black Enough as much as I do.  I dismissed it outright years ago as an inferior clone of Crimson Idol.  It has moments like that, most definitely.   It’s also a pretty enjoyable listen, and now that I’ve dusted it off, I’ll spin it a couple more times.  Regardless of which version you get (track listings for both below), I think Still Not Black Enough is worth about:

3.5/5 stars

Part 260: GUEST SHOT! Sho’ Nuff – The Return of STATHAM

Good things come to those who wait.  Longtime contributor STATHAM has returned to talk about shoppin’ for Black Crowes.  He’s in italics, me in burgundy.  (That makes him Snake Eyes while I remain the Crimson Guard.)  Let’s boogie!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 260:  Sho’ Nuff – The Return of Statham

I believe in being friendly to record store employees. A lot of people just treat them like any other retail clerk, but not me. Talk to them, find out common ground. They learn your interests, make recommendations… it’s a way better world than just treating them like a gas jockey. And there’s no reason why you can’t be nice to the people at the gas station, either, you know.

I started going to Mike’s shop sometime in 1995. And I left to go live in Montreal in 1999. In those four years I was in that shop a lot. I like music, and it was basically across the street from where I lived. My favourite was the Bargain Bin. Always a treasure or three in there. And Mike always seemed to be there. Rare was the trip in that he wasn’t on duty. I think he slept in the back room.

True to my practice, I talked to the guy, we discovered a lot of common ground. He was most fair on CDs I was trading in. He steered me to many great records (and laughed with [or at] me when I chose some stinkers). We never hung out outside the store, though there’s no reason why not. But over that time I got to know him as a stand-up guy.

IMG_00001779In late 1998, The Black Crowes were gearing up for what was hyped to be a “comeback”; a “return to their classic sounds.” The fact that Chris Robinson had shaved off his cave-beard was supposed to indicate something to fans that fell off the wagon after 1994’s Amorica. Part of this calculated campaign including reissuing all four original Black Crowes studio albums, remastered, with bonus tracks and videos.

Statham kept me apprised of the latest Crowes happenings. He had his finger on the pulse, and during his regular visits he would update me. We discussed the band, the reissues, what we hoped for, and as always we disagreed over favourite albums. I’m an Amorica guy.  He’s a Southern guy.

One day, Statham phoned me at the store with some exciting news.

IMG_00001780Somewhere in 1998, my sister (who took my introduction of her to the Black Crowes and ran with it something fierce) told me the Crowes had announced a box set, called Sho’ Nuff. This was exciting for many reasons, mainly the extra tracks that were rare (at that point), two on each album, and the live EP to be included. We already owned the four albums in the box, and couldn’t care less about any remastering job done to them.

Also remember, this was in the days when the internet existed, but it was nowhere near what it is now. We certainly never ordered CDs online. It was pure brick and mortar for us. Seemed this set was (purportedly) some kind of exclusive release. We HAD to have it.

IMG_00001784He’s right, the box set was an American exclusive — no Canadian release. However, the big HMV in Toronto was going to be importing a limited quantity. The live EP included within was from the Amorica tour which put it high on my priority list, and it was also exclusive to the box set. It is simply titled The Black Crowes Live.

I told Mike about the set, and how we were going to Toronto to get them ASAP. I’d called ahead to the HMV at 333 Yonge and they said they might still have a couple on hand. We panicked. “A couple?” Gah! We need to get these! Our course was set. I asked Mike, did he want us to bring one back for him? I don’t think his reply was precisely “hell yes!” but the level of enthusiasm was in that ballpark.

Even today I can recall the tingle of anticipation, the trip there taking too long. We got downtown, made the trek to the flagship HMV and… the staff didn’t know where the sets were. Computer said there should be some on-hand, they’d have to look… finally they were found in some corner, nowhere near anywhere that one would think (like, near the Crowes section, or in a Boxed Sets section. No, that would’ve been too easy). And there were enough for each of us (and not many more). Hooray!

Box sets procurred, we made the most of the rest of our day, and headed home. I brought Mike his copy on my next trip in to the store. He seemed pretty damn happy about it. I wouldn’t do something like that for everyone I meet, probably, but Mike was another story and it was a pleasure to help out. He’d helped me out with a lot, in the store. It was good to return the favour, in some small way.

I wouldn’t be lying if I said whenever I listen to that Black Crowes set, it always reminds me of all the great conversations with Statham. Some obscure memory always flashes back, be it a conversation or a long meandering email thread.

I still have the box set (of course), everything intact including the four stickers (one included in each studio CD) and the fragile blue jewel case for Three Snakes and One Charm. I’m not sure how I would have acquired (or even known about) Sho’ Nuff without Statham. Thanks man. I still owe you for this one! (Figuratively, I did pay him!)

Part 247: Her Royal Majesty

RECORD STORE TALES Part 247:  Her Royal Majesty

I never forgot this one, but I’ll let my journal tell the story from the perspective of “then”…

Date: 2004/08/12 21:36

Today sucked ass.

First of all, they installed this router at work, so we can’t use anything but the 10 sites they prescribe.  Everything else is off limits.  So, no more Google at work.  Fuckers.

OH!  By the way, I’m in a real bad mood.

This girl comes in.  Friend of Matt’s.  She’s a totally unpleasant human being.  She wanted to exchange a Deftones import she bought a month ago.  [The CD was Deftones Live (1998) which was pretty rare.]  Our exchange policy is seven days, it says so on the receipt.  We’ll stretch it to 14 without a hassle, but not over a month, even if you’re the friggin’ Pope.

She gave me a real hard time about this.  I’m thinking, “what, you live in Asia?  You can’t get here, or even call here, within seven days?  You bought a CD you didn’t like, so suck it up.  You even previewed it before you bought it (don’t think I forgot that tried it out, at length, in the store beforehand), and you still bought it.  THEN you decided you didn’t like it.  Fuck you.”  That’s what I’m thinking.  What I’m saying is something completely different, about how I can’t really accept a return after this length of time under these circumstances.

She said, “Do you treat everyone this way?”

Yes, I treat everyone the same:  by the fucking rules.  I don’t give anyone special treatment, especially when they try to push me around, like you are doing.

You know, I’m getting so pissed, I can’t even finish.

I can finish now, though.  I remember the very next thing she said was, “When is Matt working?”  In other words, I’ll return this CD when my friend is working, not you.  I explained to her that Matt wouldn’t exchange the CD, because I was Matt’s boss.  She was with her mom, and even her mom told her to drop it and accept the situation.

I also remember that she never came in again, which in my view was a good thing.  She rarely bought anything that she didn’t return, and she made us run around like chickens with our heads cut off, serving her Royal Majesty.  Yeah, I didn’t miss her at all.  In fact I even pre-emptively went to my bosses and said, “If you get a phone call complaining about me, this is what happened.”  I explained what I did and why I did it and for once, they actually took my side.

Her Royal Majesty was just reason #10,137 for me to move on from retail.

Part 19: The Rules (IRON MAIDEN – The First Ten Years box set gallery!)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 19:  The Rules

After a few years had gone by, there were too many damn rules to follow.  There were so many, we literally had books full of them, with new rules being added regularly.  It was pure insanity, because you had to remember some rule that was made (for example) 26 months ago.  Not to mention if you dug far enough back, you could find rules that contradicted each other.  It was like telling a dog to sit and come at the same time, you can’t do it.

One rule that stood firm was:  “Thou Shalt Not Buy Product From a Sister Store“.

We had a complex structure of locations, but under no circumstances could a staff member buy product from a store that had a different owner.  Their product was for their customers and not for us to pillage.  But, when one of those owners who was a friend, sees the Iron Maiden First Ten Years box set come in, they call you to tell you.  The rules meant nothing at that point.  There were greater goals at hand.

This ultra-rare box was issued in 1990, as 10 discs, all sold separately.  You could also get them on vinyl.  I recall seeing a few of them, on 12″ vinyl, at my local Sam The Record Man (run by the near-legendary Al King) during one of my many teenage record store excursions.

IMG_20140427_101356CDs are my preferred format today.  Collect all ten of the Maiden singles, and you could send away for the box that contains them.  Obviously, a complete set is a rare find.  This set came in complete, as is.  I still have the receipt.  I paid $135.99 on Oct 7, 2003.  (With taxes, $156.39.)

It was worth every penny, but it was also worth the shit I caught for buying it from another owner.  And did I get in shit for it!

At best, I was bending the rules.  At best!  I paid full price (no discount!), the owner himself rang it in, and he was happily on board with making a quick buck.  He even personally delivered it to Kitchener.  He could have simply said, “No”.  He didn’t.  Now, I take responsibility for my actions, but an owner has a lot more say in things than I do.  I didn’t deserve what happened next.

A higher-up stormed into my store, pulled me into the office, slammed the door, and yelled.   And yelled.  And pointed a lot, and yelled some more.

It was a weird feeling.  Here I was getting screamed at so much that the dogs could hear it 4 miles away, but also elated about my Iron Maiden find at the exact same time.  It was like I didn’t know if I should be happy or pissed off!  It’s like any time you see someone trying so hard not to smile.

I pulled it off.  I also owned the fucking Iron Maiden First Ten Years box set!

Their big argument was “It’s a bad example to the employees”.  But really, that wasn’t an issue.  No employees knew about it — not one! — until they made a big show of it by yelling at me in store!   The one that said I was a bad example, was the one who let the cat out of the bag.

I walked out of the office, head hanging, but then when out of sight, grinning ear to ear.  Of course the two people who overheard the whole thing asked about it afterwards.  Dandy Douche asked, “Do you think it was worth it?  Would you do it again?”  I said, “Absolutely.  But next time I’m wearing a beard and a moustache, the whole disguise, and buying it in person!”

Unfortunately I never had the chance to do that.  The Iron Maiden box set was one of the last big big items from my “holy grail list.” that came in.

Each disc contains two singles, plus an unreleased 10 minute interview with Nicko.  One on every disc.  They are called “Listen With Nicko!” parts I through X.  Well worth the money, Nicko is friggin’ hilarious.

FIRST TEN_0002All singles included are complete (except Maiden Japan), plus a “Listen With Nicko!” bonus track.  And again, you had to buy these all separately!   On import!  And according to the terms on the mail-in card, only UK residents could order the boxes to house the discs.  Another thing I found interesting was that you had to mail in all ten slips in order to get the box.  Whoever owned my box previously still has nine of his ten slips!  (I am missing #9, “Can I Play With Madness” / “The Evil That Men Do”.)  This can only make my box set rarer and more desirable to collectors.

DISC 1Running Free / Sanctuary

DISC 2Women In Uniform / Twilight Zone

DISC 3 Purgatory / Maiden Japan

DISC 4Run to the Hills / The Number of the Beast

DISC 5Flight Of Icarus / The Trooper

DISC 62 Minutes to Midnight / Aces High

DISC 7Running Free (Live) / Run to the Hills (Live)

DISC 8Wasted Years / Stranger in a Strange Land

DISC 9Can I Play With Madness / The Evil That Men Do

DISC 10The Clairvoyant (Live) / Infinite Dreams (Live)

Click below to embiggen the brand new photo gallery!


And the old Nokia pics below: