Iron Maiden

Best of 2020 Part 5: Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Albums and More of 2020

2020 may have sucked, but the music didn’t.  This year I bought and reviewed more new releases than ever before, which I narrowed down to the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten studio albums of 2020 listed below.

I would like to dedicate this list to my good pal Uncle Meat who originated the concept of a “Nigen Tufnel Top Ten” earlier this year.  It has become our thing.

BEST ALBUMS OF 2020

11. Now or Never – III

10. Mr. Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

9. Sven Gali – 3 (EP)

8. Kim Mitchel – The Big Fantasize

7. Corey Taylor – CMFT

6. Stryper – Even the Devil Believes

5. Harem Scarem – Change the World

4. Dennis DeYoung – 26 East Vol 1

3. AC/DC – Power Up

2. Deep Purple – Whoosh!

1. Storm Force – Age of Fear

 

Storm Force’s debut album goes straight to #1 on their very first appearance!  No surprise here.  I’ve been raving about this disc since February and I owe it to Superdekes for putting these guys on my radar in the first place.  This is a well-deserved #1.  Age of Fear is an uplifting album with depth.  It’s a thoughtful, heart-pounding blast of classic hard rock.

Deep Purple’s Whoosh! and AC/DC’s PWRUP prove two things:  old dogs that both learn and don’t learn new tricks can all be champions.  (I call this theory “Schrödinger’s Dog”.) Deep Purple’s growth continues while AC/DC managed to tap into the vein of success that always worked for them.  Both records deserve their spots in the Top 3.

It was a thrill for me to learn that Dennis DeYoung both read and enjoyed my review of his newest album 26 East Vol 1.  It’s a terrific, Styx-like conceptual work that will please the old fans.  As will the new albums by Harem Scarem and Stryper, who didn’t stray far from their successful classic hard rock formulas.  Kim Mitchell and Sven Gali on the other hand dared to be different.  Kim went laid back and acoustic, while Sven Gali went with their heaviest uninhibited inclinations.  As for Mr. Bungle, it has been 21 years since their last album California.  All four Bungle studio albums are completely different from one another — four different genres.  For The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny, they teamed up with Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo to re-record their first thrash metal demo tape.  And it could be their best album since the self-titled debut in 1991.  Not bad for a bunch of songs they wrote in highschool.

Corey “Mother Fuckin'” Taylor makes his debut on any list of mine with his solo album CMFT.  It’s a surprising collection of commercial hard rockin’ tunes.  Also appearing for the first time is Now Or Never (NoN) with their third album called III, featuring singer Steph Honde.  It’s an excellent, dramatic metal album with light and shade.


BONUS LISTS

Most disappointing:  Ozzy Osbourne – Ordinary Man

Song of the year:  LeBrain Train by T-Bone Erickson

Single of the Year:  Mammoth WVH – “Distance”

Ultimately whether or not you liked the new Ozzy, its success or failure falls at the feet of producer/guitarist Andrew Watt.  He is already working on the next Ozzy album, so….

Huge thanks to T-Bone Erickson for the “LeBrain Train” theme song, which amazingly and unexpectedly became the song of the year in 2020!  Weird how that happened.  No bias here I assure you.

Finally, Wolfgang Van Halen finally released his first solo music under the name Mammoth WVH.  The non-album single “Distance” is dedicated to his late father Eddie.  Though musically it’s a modern power ballad, the lyrics and especially the music video evoke serious emotion.  Well done Wolfgang.  Can’t wait to check out his album in 2021.


TOP FIVE LIVE OR COMPILATION ALBUMS IN 2020

5. Metallica – S&M2

4. Thin Lizzy – Rock Legends

3. Sloan – B Sides Win Vol. 1 1992-1997

2. Def Leppard – The Early Years 78-81

1. Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast

There were a lot of cool rock releases in 2020, so we need more lists!  Of course the brilliant new live Maiden deserved some loving attention.  Meanwhile, Sloan, Def Leppard and Thin Lizzy have continued to put out quality collections of rarities & unreleased material, well worth the time and money you’ll spend on them.  The Sloan collection is a vinyl exclusive and the first in a series of LPs re-releasing some of their B-sides and non-album and bonus tracks.  Finally, Metallica delivered the goods even without Michael Kamen on S&M2, a very different live set than the first S&M.  That’s the way to do it!


BEST LOCKDOWN SINGLE

5. Queen + Adam Lambert – “You Are the Champions”

4. Scorpions – “Sign of Hope”

3. Marillion – “Made Again 2020”

2. Marillion – “Easter 2020”

1. Alice Cooper – “Don’t Give Up”


 

A LOOK AHEAD AT 2021

It’s naive to assume that major touring and concerts will return in 2021.  This appears highly optimistic at present, with Covid still ravaging the landscape and vaccinations only just beginning.  Instead of looking ahead at things like the resuming Kiss tour, or the Motley Crue reunion, we should continue to put our faith in new music.

Accept have a new album due January 15 intriguingly titled Too Mean to Die.  It is their first without bassist Peter Baltes.  Steven Wilson has a new record out at the end of that month.  In February we get new Foo Fighters, The Pretty Reckless, Willie Nelson and Alice Cooper.  Greta Van Fleet, Weezer, Rob Zombie, Ringo Starr, and Thunder will be back soon too.  Many other bands are writing and recording without an announced due date.  Ghost, Marillion, Scorpions, Megadeth and even Ratt are hard at work to make next year suck a little less.  Support the bands by buying the music.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast – Live in Mexico City (2020)

IRON MAIDEN – Nights of the Dead – Legacy of the Beast – Live in Mexico City (2020 Parlophone)

I feel a bit like a jackass reviewing this, because so many people I know caught this tour, or at least one of the recent tours, and I’ve never seen Maiden live.  I only have these live albums to go by.  But what I like about Iron Maiden is that they take the time to document almost every single tour since the Bruce reunion era began.  (Only three tours did not receive a live album.)  The Legacy of the Beast tour was in support of a video game, and featured a sort of “legacy” setlist, heavy on the old classics with a small smattering of more recent material.  This prevents too much crossover with the prior live album, The Book of Souls – Live Chapter.

Without going track by track, I can tell you that Nights of the Dead was pieced together from three shows in Mexico City, much like Live After Death in Long Beach and Hammersmith.  Even so, Bruce’s voice only tends to get stronger as they go further down the setlist.  By “Hallowed” and “Run to the Hills”, it sounds like the man is just warming up!

The setlist is a delightful mix of hits, deeper cuts and the odd recent classic.  “Where Eagles Dare” from Piece of Mind whips the throng into immediate hysteria.  “Revelations” from the same LP has a certain contemplative gravity that it brings to any live album, and hearing it here is sheer nostalgic delight.  Two Blaze-era songs return to the set in “Sign of the Cross” and “Clansman”, both lengthy epics.  Enhanced by the three-guitar lineup and the Air Raid Siren, can we say these versions challenge the originals for supremacy?  Though it wasn’t written for Bruce, “Sign of the Cross” has more dynamics with him at the microphone — he adds a few high notes for embellishment.  Not to mention the depth that the third guitar adds to a song that was always a bit thin sounding.

Reunion era Maiden is cut back, leaving only “Wicker Man” and the always welcome “For the Greater Good of God”.  Both deserving songs.  Stuff like “Wicker Man” (and the earlier “Flight of Icarus”) really pump up the adrenaline levels by keeping it short, sharp and unshackled.

Then you have the stuff that you have to call “the hits”:  songs like “Aces High”, “2 Minutes to Midnight”, “Trooper”, “Beast”, “The Evil that Men Do”, “Iron Maiden”, “Fear of the Dark” and “Run to the Hills”.  These are the Maiden standards; a serving of essentials that everybody has connected with at some point in their life.  Some of them float in and out of setlists, and some always remain.

A word should always be said about the packaging and artwork of any Iron Maiden album.  The Mexican-themed Eddie can be found in a couple pieces of art inside and out.  Manager Rod Smallwood wrote the included liner notes, explaining that the live album came to be when the world came to a halt due to Covid-19.  Yay Covid?  Joking aside, Smallwood’s notes are always informative to read while rocking along to the CD.  There is even a mini 2021 tour poster (let’s hope!) included, with the Trooper version of Eddie surrounded by iconic imagery from prior Maiden artwork.  Icarus, the mushroom cloud from “2 Minutes to Midnight”, a crashed Spitfire…have a look.  Finally, a sticker sheet is an added bonus though most of us will be keeping the stickers intact, I reckon.

Perhaps it’s just giddy glee that there’s a new Maiden live album to cap off this year, but Nights of the Dead is so good that I wouldn’t change a thing.

5/5 stars

Iron Maiden Deep Cuts Gonna Get Ya No Matter How Far

Picking a favourite episode among the 41 (!) shows we’ve done is a bit like picking a favourite child.  Impossible to do!  But I took a real shine to this week’s instalment:  the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Iron Maiden Deep Cuts.

Each of us had our own personal criteria to determine if a song was a “deep cut”.  For example, I chose no songs from Live After Death, or any leading tracks from an album.  Harrison the Mad Metal Man decided that he would include no single A-sides, and no songs that were played live…ever.

As an added bonus to this episode, we brought back Geoff from 1001albumsin10years.  The Graph Alchemist himself had to be involved, to track all these crucial Iron Maiden songs.  In particular I wanted to see what albums were dominant.  Geoff then went above and beyond the call of duty by bringing us a four-way Venn diagram showing all the songs that the panel had in common.  Ever seen a four-way oval Venn before?  You will!

The panel tonight consisted of:

  • LeBrain (Yours truly)
  • Harrison the Mad Metal Man
  • Aaron from KeepsMeAlive (in absentium)
  • Uncle Meat

These four lists were all graphed and included in the episode’s statistics.

We also had three “bonus lists” that we ran right at the top of the show.  These bonus lists were submitted by:

  • Reader KK
  • The Mighty Holen
  • Michael the Box Set Wizard

Finally this episode also marked the debut of the brand new LeBrain Train theme song by T-Bone.  So good that I played it three times.  Everybody loves the song and video — let me know what you think too.

Best show ever?  Definitely top five.

Shoot, do I have to do a Nigel Tufnel Top Ten LeBrain Trains now?*

Click to enlarge the graphs:

 

 

* Foreshadowing.

 

 

 

Iron Maiden Deep Cuts with Harrison on the LeBrain Train Tonight!

The LeBrain Train:  2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 41

It had to happen eventually:  the return of Harrison the Mad Metal Man, and our first Iron Maiden list show!  It’s the Iron Maiden Deep Cuts this time, a subject sure to generate tons of discussion.  Of course, B-sides are fair game, as are Blaze Bayley cuts!

No spoilers but I can tell you that Harrison is being very stringent about what certifies as a “deep cut”.  However, this is a “no disqualifications” episode, so nobody will be getting killed by Eddie tonight.

Iron Maiden’s gonna get ya no matter how far.

The Nigel Tufnel Top Ten lists (concept by Uncle Meat) are always a pleasurable diversion, especially when we keep track of the stats!  To that end, Geoff from 1001albumsin10years will be back tonight to bring us more graphs!  We also hope that the Meat Man himself will be joining the fun with his hard-laboured list.

We have not had Harrison on the show since May, when we counted down the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Judas Priest albums.*  Because of the time difference between Canada and Australia, Harrison and I did the last show in the morning here.  He also had an awesome moustache.  This time we’re doing it at the usual 7:00 PM E.S.T.  (He can be the one to get up early this time.)  Will the moustache remain?

 

7:00 PM E.S.T.
Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain

 

Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Judas Priest albums

 

 

* The last time Harrison was on also happened to the first show broadcast from the cottage.  A very special show for me because of both location and guest.

 

 

 

#869: Piece of Mind

GETTING MORE TALE #869: Piece of Mind

Trying to remember exact details is a bit like filling in the blanks, but here are the facts that I know I can state with confidence:

  1. The vinyl copy of Piece of Mind by Iron Maiden is the original that I bought back for Bob Schipper as a gift in the mid-80s.
  2. It was purchased at a music store in Kincardine, Ontario.
  3. It ended up becoming my property because he already had it.

I think it had to be the summer of 1985.  I remember being on vacation at the cottage.  I was just getting into heavy metal.  I know the basics but not the details.  Being away from home, I missed my best friend Bob, but I looked forward to getting him a birthday present.  I wanted to get him an Iron Maiden album.  I thought that he didn’t own Piece of Mind, and there it was in stock at this little music store on the main street of Kincardine.  I got it for him, or, more likely, I picked it out and my parents paid for it.  I was 12 turning 13.

For some reason, I think the record did not come sealed.  Again, memories are hazy here.  I might have known two songs:  “The Trooper” and “Flight of Icarus”.  I seem to remember looking at the credits and wanting to tell Bob about these two guys pictured inside named Martin “Black Night” Birch and Derek “Dr. Death” Riggs.  Bob knew the names of the band members, sure, but did he know these two guys?  I actually didn’t note that it was spelled “Black Night” instead of “Black Knight”, nor would I have caught the Deep Purple reference if I did.

On the other side of the inner sleeve, I thought Bob would love the photo of the band at the banquet table, Bruce wielding a mean looking blade.  At that point, I at least knew who Bruce was.  I also recall that the neighbour kids liked Dave Murray least because they thought he looked kind of goofy.  Meanwhile, Adrian Smith appears absolutely flabbergasted at the feast before them.

I looked forward to giving Bob the record, but there was a hiccup of some kind.  Either he already got Piece of Mind, or the LP format wasn’t good for him anymore.  He would have had to play LPs on the living room stereo rather than his own bedroom’s tape deck.  It could even have been both those things.  Either way, because of that well-intentioned gift, I ended up with my first Iron Maiden.

I consider myself lucky to have this record so early in my life.

By ’86-87, I was spinning it pretty regularly on the turntable.  I was lucky enough not only own this album as a young teen, but to even have a turntable in my own bedroom.  My parents weren’t going to use it anymore, so they handed it down.  Any time they wanted to hear a song from their records, I would tape it for them.

I can recall studying for exams in the 9th grade playing Piece of Mind, and a Triumph single, in constant rotation.  Although I should have had my mind on other things, I ended up memorizing the lyrics of the Dave Murray tune “Still Life” instead.  It was one of my first love affairs with a deep cut.  I mostly memorized “Sun and Steel” too.  I practiced singing these songs in my bedroom.

I had the writing credits committed to memory.  I liked all the songs.  It was an extraordinary album to me.  Few were the albums where I truly liked all the songs.  Some more than others, (“Quest For Fire” is perhaps not as good as “Revelations”, yeah?) but I liked them all for their own reasons.  Even the twisting, complex “To Tame a Land” was a cool Iron Maiden epic, though certainly not as accessible as “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” or “Alexander the Great”.

20 years later I went full circle back to Piece of Mind once again dominating a time in my life.  I had finally quit the Record Store and was working a blissful job in the mail room at United Rentals.  I had just started reading Frank Herbert, starting of course with Dune.  This led me right back to Piece of Mind and “To Tame a Land”.  And finally, I memorized those lyrics too.  “He is the Kwizatz Haderach, he is born of Caladan, and will take the Gom Jabbar”.  I finally understand what the shit those words meant!  Insofar as a layman in the Herbert world, anyway.  The lyrics are a bit ham-fisted, but did it matter?  No, of course not, as I sang the words over the incessant rattle of that mail machine.

It was a contraption of aligned (or mis-aligned more often than not) components, at least 10 feet long.  Place a carefully sorted stack of invoices in one end, load a handful of windowed envelopes somewhere in the middle, and in theory, the thing would fold, insert, seal and stamp all the mail.  In reality it required constant babysitting at almost every step, but I soon became its master.  And I sang away in victory:

The time will come for him
To lay claim his crown
And then the foe yes
They’ll be cut down
You’ll see he’ll be the
Best that there’s been
Messiah supreme
True leader of men
And when the time
For judgement’s at hand
Don’t fret he’s strong
And he’ll make a stand
Against evil and fire
That spreads through the land
He has the power
To make it all eeeeeend!

Even over the clanking of that machine, I could still be heard.  I knew that, and I kept singing anyway.  I actually loved that job and wanted the world to know it.  I was so happy to be free of the Record Store.

Playing back Piece of Mind today is like putting on an old familiar T-shirt.  It fits just right, no adjustments needed.  Eventually you forget that it’s there, except that for persistent smile on your face.  Peace of mind indeed.

 

 

 

 

New Release Friday Live Stream

The LeBrain Train – 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Episode 32

We were supposed to talk about the upcoming big releases in music last week — and then King Edward died.  Devastating.  We needed to talk about Eddie.  But now, we’ll talk some AC/DC, Iron Maiden, Sloan and more!  The angle is based on something Deke said (and others have echoed) a few weeks ago:  something along the lines of “2020 needs new AC/DC”.  And it does.  We deserve it.

This week’s panel will include John from 2loud2oldmusic, the expert on all things New Release-wise.  He will be joined by AC/DC scholar Kevin / Buried On Mars, who will bring the perspective of the diehard, deep cut kind of fan.  I’ll probably just stand by and drink coffee!

For those who show up early, there will be the customary unboxing, this one courtesy of CDJapan!

7:00 PM E.S.T.  Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain


New artwork!

The new LeBrain Train artwork was made by Weeping Willow Creations.  If you don’t like it, blame me, not her!  She took the image I had in my head and made it digital.  All aboard the LeBrain Train — thank you Weeping Willow Creations!

 

#858: School Days

GETTING MORE TALE #858: School Days

Did anybody really enjoy doing speeches in school?  I dreaded them year after year.  Pick a subject, write a speech, memorize it, time it right, and then it’s showtime.  My first speech was an award winner.  In was in grade three, and I wrote a speech about falling into the Athabasca glacier on my summer vacation.  It was a hit.  But that didn’t get me off the hook.  Year after year, you had to keep coming up with new speeches.

Grade five was Pac-Man, and it didn’t do as well.  Not that I minded.  I wanted to do just well enough, not so well that I had to do it again in a semi-finals.  I was obsessed with Pac-Man that year.  I truly had Pac-Man fever.  In my speech I discussed sequels like Ms. Pac-Man, and how the Atari 2600 version was such a disappointment.

In eighth grade I changed things up considerably and did my speech on Kiss.  I can tell you that the teacher Mrs. Powers visibly reacted every time I said the words Hotter Than Hell.  My speech was like a condensed version of Kisstory, a predecessor perhaps to what I like to do today.  It was actually really good although it was mostly off the cuff.  I knew I wasn’t going to get a good grade because of the subject matter, and I knew a speech about Kiss wasn’t going to make it to any kind of semi-finals, and I really knew they didn’t like the word “hell”.  Name dropping Mick Jagger didn’t help.  But it was really good, natural sounding and I only stumbled a couple of times.

The teachers didn’t really want you to do a speech about rock bands, but I was determined to express myself.  I didn’t want to spend five minutes talking about, I dunno, making steak sandwiches.  I could have whipped up an easy speech on Antarctic exploration or World War II, and gotten a better mark.  The more I look back, I guess I was a teeny tiny bit of a rebel.  But it was the teachers who gave me shit about my Judas Priest shirt that brought it on.

In grade nine I did my speech about Iron Maiden.  I should have diversified.  I could have spoken about nuclear power, Baron Von Richthofen, or Wrestlemania.  To my credit I was always good at telling a story, and I made them interesting.  I just tried to squeeze music into my schoolwork any chance I could.  If the jocks could do a speech about baseball, I should be able to do one about heavy metal.  I do remember one guy had a really well written comedic speech about a blind date.  If I knew fiction was a category I would have tried a hand at that!

In later years I did more expansive independent studies on other subjects, but still managed to work in music.  I did it for a sociology project and a few English ones.  And why not?  I couldn’t do that in algebra, physics, chemistry, or calculus.

These little acts of rock and roll rebellion didn’t get me an A, but I did well enough to be admitted to Wilfrid Laurier University in 1991.  So:  no regrets.  I can still write about Manfred von Richthofen if I want, and I’m fortunate enough that you would probably still read it.  I’ve written about history (tied into music) here a number of times.  I’m sure I’ll do it again.  And why not?  It’s easy to tie this stuff to music; Iced Earth have a song about Richthofen.  Queen have a song about Robert Falcon Scott.  Iron Maiden have songs about everything that ever happened.  The field is wide open.

 

#856: Why Metal?

GETTING MORE TALE #856: Why Metal?

As you’re aware, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately.  I hope you don’t mind.  A lot of my reflection has been to my distant past.  As I look back, I am reminded how music was always there in my life.  One of my first truly beloved records was the original soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back.  The bombast, drama and power of those pieces really appealed to me.  It’s safe to say that I discovered music through Star Wars and John Williams.  Until they came along, music was just something that was around me.  It wasn’t inside me until Star Wars.

They stopped making Star Wars movies (or did they…?) in 1983, coincidentally the same year that Quiet Riot released Metal Health, and Styx came out with “Mr. Roboto”.  I simply jumped from one train to the other!  They were both going in the same direction so it wasn’t much of a leap.  Rock music was very much about bombast, drama and power.  And it stuck with me, bonded at a molecular level.

But why metal?  There were other trains I could have boarded.  At school, every other kid was into Duran Duran.  I couldn’t have given a crap about Duran Duran, even if they were in a James Bond movie!  So why metal?

The first factor to examine would be peer groups.  Essentially, I had two:  the school kids and the neighbourhood kids.  The school kids were, frankly, assholes.  But none of them lived in my neighbourhood.  It was like growing up in two separate worlds.  My classmates weren’t near me and I was fine with that.  Every time I came home, it was like I had entered a safe zone.  The older kids in my neighbourhood were legends.  Bob Schipper, Rob Szabo, and George Balasz.  They were the ones I looked up to and they were all rocking the metal.  Szabo’s favourite bands?  Motley Crue and Stryper.  Balasz liked Kiss.  Schipper was into Iron Maiden.

We would gather on front stoops with boomboxes powered by D-cell batteries.  Van Halen cassettes would be passed around like a joint.  I heard Maiden Japan by Iron Maiden on my front patio for the first time because George brought it over.  The guys were eager to educate me.  Quiet Riot, Helix, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P., Black Sabbath were names I was trying to memorize.  I had a few things mixed up though.  I thought the song “Sister Christian” by was Motorhead, because when they sing “Motorin’!” I heard “Motorhead”.  So sure.

On the other hand, the peer group at school was mostly what we called “wavers”.  They liked Mr. Mister and Michael Jackson and whatever else, I simply wanted nothing to do with it.  At an instinctive level, I think these people repulsed me.  I had witnessed and been victim to their cruelty.  I wanted nothing to do with their music or their sports and I think that was largely unconscious.  I would have loved if they liked me instead of mocking me; it would have made life easier.  Obviously I had given up trying.  So why not?  Heavy metal music was like Musica proibita in Catholic school.  There were a few headbangers — I didn’t like them either — but just a few.  Those guys thought it was hilarious that I was still into Quiet Riot in 1985 when they had moved onto Van Halen.  They would challenge me to “name three songs by Helix” to see if they could trip me up.  That was the difference between the rock guys at school, and my friends at home.  The guys at home would have just taught me what songs were by Helix.

Fucking school assholes.

An other notable factor on the road to heavy metal that has to be mentioned is the one nobody wants to talk about:  puberty!  But it is true that the bands I was discovering were (mostly) masculine manly men, and soon I would be wanting to attract a mate like they taught us in sex ed class.  To exude masculinity, I chose metal.  I am certain that was a conscious decision.  Despite the long hair, the guy in Iron Maiden was clearly a tougher dude than the guy in Duran Duran.  If there was going to be a fistfight, I wanted to be on the Maiden guy’s side.  Easy choice.  It seemed that simple in grade seven.

Of course, heavy metal music had the opposite effect in trying to attract girls.  It absolutely repelled them, every single one of them.  The fact that I just went double-down on the metal showed that my love for the music was genuine.  Girls didn’t like metal, but I did, and I was already too committed to discovering all the bands I could.  I was living in the rabbit hole.

A gleaming, riveted stainless steel rabbit hole.  With a million watt stereo system.

Parental approval?  Not really.  Though they liked Bob Schipper, they didn’t know what to make of this metal music.  They tolerated it, and never gave me a hard time about any of the bands I liked.  They probably would have preferred Springsteen like the family across the street listened to.  But hey, they bought me the tapes I wanted for Christmas, and they let me tape the videos on TV, so a big applause to my parents.  I think my dad was worried that I was becoming such an introvert.  I remember him telling me “Garnet Lasby doesn’t sit in his room listening to tapes all day.”

When he said that, all I could hear in my head were the Kiss lyrics, “Get me out of this rock and roll hell, take me far away.”  I was so confused.  I loved listening to music in my room.  The only thing better was listening to music with my friends.  Was it bad?  I really thought about it, but obviously decided to follow my heart.

One more factor in my journey to metal that is easily overlooked but must be accounted for:  the fact that rock and roll is one big soap opera with enough drama, violence and musical brilliance to fill an entire Star Wars trilogy.  As my friends taught me the songs, they also introduced me to the stories.  “This is Randy Rhoads.  He was the greatest until he died in a plane crash.”  And Kiss?  Woah nelly, there was every kind of story within Kisstory!  How many guitar players?  And crazy costumes and characters to go with the story?  Buying a Kiss album was never just “buying a Kiss album”.  It was always buying a issue of a comic book.  What would Kiss sound like this time?  What seedy subjects would they be wrestling with on a lyrical level?  What would the cover look like and what colour would the logo be?

It seems obvious now, but the only way for me to go was metal.  In every single alternate universe, I am a metal fan.

Music allowed me to rewrite my persona a bit.  I hoped that, instead of that nerdy kid with the Star Wars fetish, I would be remembered as the nerdy kid that was really into music.  (Music that is still popular today, incidentally.)  Why metal?  Because it really only could have been metal.

 

#851: Freestylin’ 8 – Back to the Future

GETTING MORE TALE #851: Freestylin’ 8 – Back to the Future

“May you have interesting times.”  Have you heard that saying before?  They call it the “Chinese curse” but there’s no evidence it originated in China.  There is little doubt that today we are living in interesting times.  Historic times, too.  The days we are living through now are the days that your children and grandchildren will be studying in school.  Remember asking your grandparents what World War II was like?  Kids one day will be asking you about the great pandemic of 2020-2021.

In recent days we’ve seen some worthwhile attempts to get “back to normal”, specifically with entertainment.  Concerts are a thing again, albeit most of them are different from the ones we remember.  Drive-in concerts could help get us through this period.  Live-streamed concerts have also started.  Bands have used the downtime to jam, write, and record.  It is reported that the Scorpions and the Cult are back in the studio working on new albums.

The landscape has also been devastated.  Venues are closing at a blurry pace, with Rhapsody Barrel Bar being the latest local casualty in a dizzying series.  When this is all over, I believe we will see demand for sports events, movies and concerts as if Covid never happened.  In the meantime, people have to put food on their tables.  There are no easy answers.

I’ll tell you one thing, though:  I’m glad for once that I’m not a parent.  I have enough to deal with.  Talking to my folks the other night, my mom said “I don’t think I would have sent you back to school if this pandemic happened when you were kids.”  I don’t think I would have wanted to go back.  Right now all I can do is cross my fingers, say a prayer and hope that the kids going back now will be safe.  In Canada, we just don’t know yet.  We’ll be finding out soon enough.

It’s true that I have a lot on my plate.  I don’t need to get into the work details — you all have problems, too.  But here we are in late August and I haven’t missed a day (except for scheduled vacations of course).  There were many times I didn’t think I could finish a whole day, but I did it.  But the hard times are relentless.  On August 14, Jen lost her grandfather, a proud Air Force veteran with the wisdom of a sage.  Yet another loss for poor Jen, who nevertheless keeps on getting up and going at it every single day.  This in the same year I lost my Uncle Don.  It’s been hard on our family.  My grandmother turned 96 and is just aching to get out of the house.  She still lives in her own home but can’t go anywhere except out onto the driveway, due to the dangers of Covid when combined with her age.

I’ve talked about this a number of times already, but my 2020 was stressful well before Covid hit our shores and I decided to get some help.  According to my records my first counselling session was February 7.  I’m very lucky that I had good support already setup when lockdown began a little over a month later!  All of this coincided with deep desire to delve back into childhood memories, and music.  I’ve been focused on music I used to enjoy in my teens.  Kiss has dominated.  Judas Priest, Iron Maiden, Europe, Frehley’s Comet.  Stuff from happy summers of the past.

It’s incredible how, in the correct mindset, these albums have created aural time travel for me.  I don’t even have to close my eyes, but all the feelings and images and words from that time come back to me like pictures on a screen.  When I listen to The Final Countdown, all I can think of is spring, 1987.  With Frehley’s Comet, suddenly it’s July.  The last time I played Frehley’s Comet, I was at the cottage.  I yelled over to my sister (she’s two lots over to the left), “Hey!  I’m playing the album you gave me for my birthday in 1987.  What is it?”  Without hesitation she yelled back, “Frehley’s Comet!”  She remembered!  That’s pretty cool.

You know what?  These have been interesting times.  I’ve been on my own personal journey, and it probably wouldn’t have taken the same path if it wasn’t for Covid.  As shitty as 2020 has been (and make no mistake, this has been a shit show of a year) I cannot deny that it came with some personal good.  The only thing better than discovering new music for the first time is rediscovering it with fresh eyes, ears and soul.  Take it in anew.  Relive the experience and rejuvenate.

#840: 40 Years in Photos

GETTING MORE TALE #840: 40 Years in Photos

According to Ye Olde Photo Album, we began building the cottage in the summer of 1980.  Until then we stayed in a log cabin down the road with Grandma and Grandpa.  It was a tight squeeze.  Grampa had a bunk house out back where he spent the night.  Grandma had a bedroom where Little Baby Kathryn Ladano slept in a crib.  My mom and dad had a room.  That left me to sleep on a cot in the living room.

Many of my memories of that cabin are Star Wars memories.  The Empire Strikes Back had just come out.  I remember reading the comic book and the collector’s cards by the little front windows.  My mom bought a whole box of Empire Dixie cups for the lake.  Our action figures were always there with us.  I didn’t have a Boba Fett yet, so in the meantime I used a Micronaut with missile-firing backpack.  The cabin had structural support cables running from front to back, and they were great for hanging Star Wars figures in precarious adventurous positions.

There wasn’t much room in that little log cabin so eventually we needed to get a place of our own.  My parents bought a vacant lot nearby and began clearing the land.  We had no phone, no cable TV, nothing other than what we brought with us.  That was usually our Star Wars guys and sometimes a little Fisher-Price tape recorder to play cassettes.  But all my Star Wars soundtracks were on vinyl.  My grandfather had a record player at the cottage but we didn’t play Star Wars records.  Just country!

The land was cleared, a foundation was poured, and flooring laid.  Insulation was installed under the floors and that’s when it rained.  Insulation had to be re-done, a messy job.  The construction attracted attention from local cottagers and a curious little boy named Cyril became my first cottage friend.

Cyril was not only my first cottage friend, and not only my first black friend, but also the first black kid I’d ever met in my life.  Growing up in Catholic schools in Kitchener Ontario was a very white experience.  I’d never even see a black kid before that wasn’t on television.  The picture of Cyril checking out the brand new window delivery was typical.  That was as exciting as things got.  There were always trucks dropping off mountains of lumber.  Like all other little boys in 1980, Cyril was a Star Wars fan.  We got our figures together and played.  I remember freezing Han Solo in a glass of water.  It was the best way to make a “frozen Han” back then!

Funny thing about Cyril.  He had an older step-brother.  Eight years after meeting Cyril, his older brother was my science teacher:  the legendary Mr. Marrow, one of the greatest teachers I ever had, and a guest star in my “Nothing But A Good Time” music video.  He played – surprise surprise – the teacher!  And he nailed it!

I’m not sure what happened to Cyril or Mr. Marrow as their family sold the cottage long ago.  I did see Cyril once as an adult.  He towered over me, and apparently developed a love of Phil Collins!

By 1981 we had a space we could live in.  The interior was not finished, and we used an old folding table in the kitchen.  The back yard was nothing but dirt and stones.  My mom’s ashtray and cigarettes sat on the kitchen table.  It took years to finish the inside, room by room.  The wall slats went up and the ceiling was eventually finished too.  Soon, front and back decks went on.

The next photos come from Easter of 1986, an occasion I’ve written extensively about.  Easter fell in March that year, and we spent it at the lake.  The water was still partly frozen, but a few leads opened up in the ice and we took out the canoe for a trip.  You can see my little sister hunkered down in the middle while my uncle and dad paddled.  Later on in the back yard, I could be found playing air guitar on my favourite weapon – a badminton racquet.  If there was a tape deck on the back porch, it would have been playing “Turbo Lover” by Judas Priest.  The video had just come out and I recorded it to tape so I could listen to it whenever I wanted.  Naturally “Turbo Lover” was followed by “Locked In”.  I wouldn’t get the album itself until September.

One of the most interesting things to me about the older photos is the lack of puppies.  The first Schnauzers arrived in August of ’86.  We had two to choose from – Gentle Ben and Crystal Belle.  I connected with little Ben as the photos show.  I thought he might like to listen to some Triumph on my earphones.  But we chose Crystal (I was outvoted 3-1), and she was our puppy for the next many years.  I’ll be honest and admit that the stories you’ve heard were true.  At the time, I did not want a dog.  I didn’t want a dog because my sister did, and I didn’t want her to have her way.

In a photo from fall of 1987, she can be seen looking for cookie scraps as we lounged on a hammock.  I was wearing an Iron Maiden “Trooper” shirt that I don’t even remember owning at that age.  Later that fall we went on a big hike, following the lake north.  Shortly after, I painted that black vest with flames, and it became part of my Alice Cooper Halloween costume.

During the school years, I stayed home more often.  I didn’t want to miss any WWF wresting, or Much Music Power Hour music videos.  The absence of cable TV and a telephone made it feel like you were really out of contact with the outside world.  Of course, that was the point, but when you’re in your teens that’s not a point you really feel like making.

In the winter, my parents would go for day trips while I would stay home and get into mischief with Bob Schipper.  A photo was snapped of my dad shooting one of his guns on one such trip.  I stayed home to make cardboard guitars with Bob.

Time flew – and so did we!  My dad had a good friend named Jack, who was an airline pilot.  Because of Jack, any time we were going on a flight, he could made arrangements with the pilot to let us come up to the cockpit.  I felt like the kid in the movie Airplane!, meeting Captain Oveur.  Jack was a customer of my dad’s at the bank and that’s how they met.

Jack also had a small plane over his own.  When he came to the cottage for a visit, he didn’t drive.  He flew.  Summer after summer we always looked forward to his visits.  He’d take us all up two at a time if we wanted to.  It was pretty wild being able to see the cottage from the sky.  Too bad we didn’t think to take pictures from the air.

The 80s turned into the 90s.  I’ve written extensively about the summer of 1991, and the photos show change!  The old brown back deck was never meant to be a permanent fixture.  In ’91 we designed and built a bigger and better deck.  It was my job to cut out holes for the trees to grow through and you can see this in the photos.  Or at least you can see me goofing around for the cameras in my beloved Jon Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory T-shirt.  I bought that album there, on cassette the previous year.  The “bloody” scene was caused by a bottle of ketchup, cropped out of the photo (but left in on the original print).  Neon pink was in at the time, by the way.

1991 was a special summer because it was the last summer that Bob came to stay, and the first one that my buddy Peter came for.

Seasons passed and hair grew.  I had pretty good long hair when my Aunt came to visit in 1992.  You can tell it was 1992 by the Wayne’s World shirt.  I just had to have one.  Wayne’s World was everything in 1992.  I started talking like Wayne, using words like “spew” and “not”!  The tape deck that summer was loaded with Queen, Iron Maiden, and my favourite band Kiss who was out for Revenge.  We still have those old plastic deck chairs too!

What is really amazing to me is how quickly the time has gone by, especially those early years.  It felt like ages to finish the cottage.  It seemed like the unpanelled walls and temporary furniture was forever.  Even into the 1990s, our closets were not finished.  You could find the words KISS and NEW KIDS ON THE BLOCK inked into the wooden 2x4s framing our closets.  Archaeologists will be able to determine whose room was whose based on hidden graffiti.

I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane and can imagine what it was like to be a kid at the lake, playing Star Wars, and later rocking the air guitar badminton racquet to “Turbo Lover”.  Maybe next time there I will break out the racquet for another go.