kiss

Hiatus Update

I’m sorry for “vaguebooking”.  I can tell by the number of concerned messages that it wasn’t a good idea.

We have a couple problems to deal with, some health related, and one plumbing disaster.  It is taking maddenly long to resolve.  Until it’s fixed I can’t do this site.  It’s taking up all my energy, and also the time that I normally would spend doing creative stuff.  The third plumber cancelled today because somebody else had a more dire emergency, which is fine.  But it has been over a week since we first reported this issue to the condo management.  We have to replace the carpet, the drywall and redo some tiles.  But the plumbing has to be fixed first and that’s condo responsibility.

Deke will be taking over the Storm Force interview, with me riding shotgun.  He’s just getting everything set up to stream, so keep an eye on Superdekes for updates.  I’ve cancelled the Jack Frost interview, but hope to reschedule when this is all resolved.

As Deke would say though, it’s not all bad.  Yesterday Mark from Encore Records stopped by to deliver a whole bunch of music that I ordered.  Yes, that’s what you think it is.  It’s the massive Metallica 2021 box set.  24 hours of music.  Also Permanent Waves box set by Rush, and a Kiss radio broadcast of the same Tokyo show that was recently released officially.  I ordered this a long time ago, before that official bootleg was even announced.  I just forgot about it and never picked it up.  Fortunately Mark kept it and brought it with him!  I have a weekend of music, at least.

Hoping to be back soon.  Sorry for worrying you.

Mike

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: Destroyer

This one was sent in by James Kalyn of the KMA.  Marketing genius.  Since 67% of US households owns pets, it stands to reason that 67% or more of Kiss fans also own pets?  (Probably cats.)

If I owned a pet, you can bet I’d have this “Piss Destroyer” at standby for any carpet emergencies!

 

 

#914: The Bad Batch

RECORD STORE TALES #914 The Bad Batch

Mrs. Powers used to say to us, “You are the worst class I have ever taught!”  She was good at the guilt thing.  I understand that she continued to tell subsequent generations that they too were the worst class she has ever taught.  With the benefit of hindsight, she was the worst teacher we ever had.

I had her two years in a row.  Grades seven and eight.  We were the worst class she had ever taught both years.  Coincidentally, also the worst two years of grade school.  A couple years later, my sister had her.  She was still guilting and shaming the students when my sister had her.  She was the epitome of old lady Catholic school teacher clichés.

We were not particularly worse than any other class.  We had our bad apples, that the teachers didn’t seem to know how to contain.  My time with Powers coincided with my discover of heavy metal music:  Kiss, Priest, Maiden.  Wearing my Judas Priest shirt to school was one of the biggest mistakes I made in the 8th grade.  Powers gave me a good scolding in front of everyone else, who found it hilarious.  She must have thought I was going bad too.  I will always resent Powers for teaming me up with my nemesis Steve Hartman in gym class.  The guy had been picking on me since grade two, and she thought we’d get over it by doing gymnastics together?  The fact that I even had to touch the guy was disgusting to me.  Why did she have to do that?  Isn’t that borderline abusive?

In the 8th grade I had enough with Hartman and fought him one night after school.  He brought friends; my only backup was Kevin Kirby.  He was just there to enjoy the show, he didn’t care who won.  But I managed to get Steve Hartman to leave me alone for the year after that night.  That was pretty much it for his career in bullying; he never had a comeback though not without trying.

Kiss really did a lot to get me through the Powers years.  My year of discovery for Kiss was 1985, the Asylum period.  Not the greatest entry point, but I quickly found myself drawn to better albums like Hotter Than Hell and Creatures of the Night.  It was Mrs. Powers who presided over the school retreat to Mount Mary.  Possibly the loneliest week of my entire childhood as I bunked with every kid who ever tormented me.  But we had to go; Powers scared everyone in class by telling us that any student she had that skipped the Mount Mary retreat ended up “dead or on drugs”.   Bringing your own music was forbidden, so I memorized as much Kiss music as I could, to replay in my head when the going got rough.

Sex-ed was a joke of course.  I remember the usual school films with animated cells dividing, and sketches of genitalia.  The more we learned the less we knew.  But at least we got to sit there watching a movie, so the teacher didn’t have to explain anything herself.  Rock Hudson died of AIDS that fall, but none of us knew exactly what AIDS was.  She asked us if we knew.  One kid answered, “It makes you get old and die.”  She responded, “Well, it makes you look old, yes.”  We learned that much, and that you could get it from a blood infection.  That’s what we learned.  Can’t give this bad batch of kids too much graphic information.

Do you want to know the truth?  Maybe Powers was right.  Maybe our year really was the worst batch of kids she’d ever taught.  Some of them, at least.  Our only consolation was that she if she thought we were bad, she was going to find future generations were worse.  If she thought I was heading down the wrong path with Kiss and Judas Priest, I wonder what she thought of Marilyn Manson or rap!  She thought we were bad?  The 90s were still to come!

One thing that struck me from that time that will always remain is this.  Our family did not go to church much, but frequency in church visits didn’t seem to correlate to how good of a person you were.  My sister and I were good kids.  Some of these other kids that went to church every week were real assholes.  Just an observation.

I hope that Powers did end up with worse classes than us.  She deserved it.

REVIEW: KISS – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (2021)

 – Off the Soundboard – Tokyo 2001 (Tokyo Dome, Tokyo, Japan, March 13, 2001 – 2021 Universal)

Hell yeah, Kiss have started releasing official bootlegs.  Proving that they “get” the concept, the first in what we hope will be a long series, is a lineup never before heard on any official Kiss release.  After the lengthy reunion and Psycho Circus tours, Kiss embarked on a “Farewell Tour” that really wasn’t.  It was just the farewell to the original lineup, and specifically Peter Criss.  Ace Frehley stayed on board for the time being and Eric Singer was brought in as the new Catman.  This lineup lasted until Frehley left and Criss came back for the Kiss Symphony, but was never documented in any official capacity.

Confusing?  Just know three things:

  1. This is really valuable to fans.
  2. ACE FREHLEY, LEAD GUITAR!
  3. Paul Stanley was still in great voice back in 2001.

Alright, Tokyo.  You wanted the best, you got the best.  Let’s have a listen.

An electrifying “Detroit Rock City” opens, and immediately you can hear the pitter-patter of the new Catman making itself evident.  Stanley is in fine form, high energy.  And the sound is damn decent.  Sure, you could wish the vocals were mixed louder and the bass a little lower, but the “official bootleg” is a more honest experience than a polished-up Alive album.  And Paul really nails it.

“Deuce” has plenty of those Frehley solos and fills that we miss so much today.  Gene is fully engaged and frankly, you don’t miss Peter.  Paul says a quick hello in Japanese, and teases the crowd in expert frontman fashion.  Then it’s “Shout It Out Loud”, a pretty standard version.  Frehley’s “Talk To Me” from Unmasked is the real treat.  It is not the first live version released (there was an earlier live take on The Box Set with Eric Carr) but it is rarely heard.

Paul always asks the crowd “How we doin’ so far,” and the pace is slowed down for “I Love It Loud”.  This version has particularly good backing vocals in comparison with others.  Then Paul needs to know if the crowd is having a good time, just before he pulls off some impressive soulful bellowing.  It’s time to call the “Firehouse”, another solid version.  Eric Singer’s drumming is noticeably more regimented but the fills are big and bold.  It’s just great to have Ace on lead guitar.

Kiss setlists are often safe, and a steady stream of Kiss standbys roll out:  “Do You Love Me”, “Dr. Love”, “Heaven’s On Fire” and “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”.  It’s a Kiss concert; none of these songs vary much from night to night.  None of them suck; Kiss were sounding good and Eric Singer helps beef up the vocals.  The extended intro to “Heaven’s On Fire” really highlights what a truly exceptional singer Paul Stanley was.  Gene on the other hand is pretty ragged on “Let Me Go, Rock ‘n’ Roll”, not being able to decide what voice he’s singing in.  Great to hear Ace take a long solo on it though, all the while Eric Singer filling the backdrop with snares n’ toms.

Frehley takes the spotlight once more on “Shock Me” with his feature solo.  Gimme a Frehley version of “Shock Me” any day over a Tommy version.  Ace does a weird “Shock Me-ee-ee” thing on the chorus.  After telling the crowd that “Tokyo rocks,” he blasts through the fanfare of “Also sprach Zarathustra” on his Gibson.  It was indeed the year 2001!  Frehley’s solo (almost 10 minutes of it) is a CD highlight for those who miss the Spaceman.

Ending the first disc, “Psycho Circus” was the only track from the most recent Kiss album left in the set.  It is always reliable, sounding like classic Kiss, even more so when Ace plays the lead solo (which he didn’t on the album).  Continuing on disc two, “Lick It Up” makes its appearance.  This is a track that that rules completely with Ace Frehley.  “Lick It Up” has always been, let’s face it, a bland song.  When you add Ace soloing on it, it’s got some flavour.  Could be that the Tokyo Dome version of “Lick It Up” is the best available take out there.

Gene’s bass break is boring without the visuals, but “God of Thunder” is pretty hot, Ace throwing in some squeals that remind you why the real thing was special.  This track also includes Eric’s drum solo.  Momentum is built on “Cold Gin”, and the monolithic “100,000 Years”.  Raw and heavy Kiss with vintage Frehley?  Again, outside of Kiss Alive itself, these are probably the best versions you will hear.  Paul’s usual sing-a-long in “100,000 Years” is part of the party.  “Do you feel alriii-iii-iight!”  Nothing is edited out, even when Paul is busy handing out T-shirts and all you have is Eric keeping the beat.  Fans appreciate that authenticity.

There’s still plenty of heavy tonnage rock left to go.  “Love Gun” can’t be left out, fireworks blasting as Paul flies out over the crowd (which is why the song has an extended intro without vocals).  Once Paul’s on his platform in the middle of the arena it’s off to the races.  No place for hiding indeed!

The surprise is “I Still Love You” from Creatures of the Night.  The only ballad, and a track that was rarely played after the reunion.  It has always been a big Paul moment, and this is performed solo without Simmons, Frehley or Singer as part of the intro to “Black Diamond”.  Speaking of which, “Black Diamond” is also an album highlight; a version with Eric Singer on lead vocals and Ace Frehley on lead guitar!

The pairing of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You” and “Rock and Roll all Nite” are an odd one, but that’s the closing duo that got the Tokyo crowd screaming.

Besides the couple rarely played songs, the cool thing about this Tokyo setlist is the pacing.  It starts with a bang, and it never really lets go.  Even the solo breaks are really just big intros or outros that amplify the moments around them.  Then the whole show manages to even pick up the excitement at the end with stellar performances of “Love Gun” and “Black Diamond”.  It is also encouraging that Kiss are realizing the value of past lineups, and official bootlegs.  As long as they remain willing to highlight songs and band members from nooks and crannies in the band’s history, then the Kiss Off the Soundboard series is a promising one.

4.5/5 stars

#907: Lake Listenin’

RECORD STORE TALES #907: Lake Listenin’

These days, I like playing music at the lake that takes me back in time.  Maybe that’s the curse of getting older.  Everything reminds me of something else.  Since that’s the case, I might as well make the most of it.  If I’m having a good time at the lake, there is nothing better than music that reminds me of having a good time at the lake.

I set the scene with a very relaxing drive, to the 80s tunes of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled EP, plus Shakin’ Like a Human Being, and The Sport of Kings by Triumph.  It was golden.

Instead of diving right into the nostalgia pool right away again upon arrival, I officially started the weekend with some music that is new to me:  Coney Hatch and Andy Curran.  My current favourite Coney Hatch tunes are “First Time For Everything” from Outa Hand, and “She’s Gone” & “Wrong Side of Town” from Friction.  Arriving Thursday night, these tunes, along with Curran’s “No Tattoos”, led our evening on the porch, watching the sun set.  Not only did the tunes get us psyched for the weekend, but also next week’s LeBrain Train.  Andy is our guest again, so I am preparing once more.

I closed the night studying up for the next day’s episode:  the Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Judas Priest albums.  This “remastered” episode was an update on one that Harrison and I did on Facebook Live a year ago.  I re-watched the episode from the previous year, very much enjoying myself.  Harrison and I had a great time the first outing, though the second one surely topped it!

When I’m at the lake, I try to keep the volume to a reasonable level.  I like to take a walk to the end of the driveway and down the road and check the levels.  A little music at the end of the driveway is OK but I don’t want to hear myself down the road.  However, I said “to hell with that” for the rest of the weekend, when the neighbours had a loud party on the Friday night.

“I hope they enjoy ‘Detroit Rock City’ at 6:00 am,” I said.

So that’s how my Saturday began:  Destroyer, cranked.  Destroyer has never been my favourite Kiss album by a long shot, but for some reason it just clicked with me that morning.  The cool breeze coming off the lake, the birds and squirrels bickering over my head; and Kiss Destroyer on the speakers.  Things you don’t think would go together, but in my brain, actually do.  I would have played Destroyer at the lake as a kid — many times.  The difference was, now nobody was telling me to turn it down.  Apparently that “if it’s too loud, you’re too old” thing doesn’t apply.  As I get older, I love it loud.

After Destroyer came Rock and Roll Over, Dynasty, and the complete audio to the video Exposed.  This included all the studio tracks from the music videos, all the live tracks exclusive to the video, and even that little nugget of Paul and Gene harmonizing on “I’ll Be Back” by the Beatles.  As a kid, I made something similar on a cassette.  I recorded all the live stuff and “I’ll Be Back” from the VHS tape and made an album out of it.  I left off the music videos.  Today, I ripped all the music from the DVD directly to mp3 and made a double album out of it!  I sat there in wonder listening, imagining what my younger self would have thought of such an audio miracle.

That’s a lot of Kiss though; solid Kiss with no other bands breaking the streak.  When I did finally need an intermission from Kiss, I chose Iron Maiden’s Piece of Mind.  I actually bought that album at the lake in the summer of ’85, at an old record store that used to exist on the main street.

As far as volume goes, keep in mind I’m blasting my music on a $24 pair of speakers from Amazon.  The guy partying across the street must have had something stronger because I could identify “The Impression That I Get” by the Bosstones easily from my seat on the porch.

“I hope they like Star Wars,” I said as I cued up The Empire Strikes Back on my Disney Plus.

I had another revelation while watching Empire.  Objectively, it could be the best Star Wars, but because nostalgia is my thing, I flashed back to 1980.  1981.  1982.  1983.  The golden era of Star Wars fandom.  For a long time, at that ripe age, we were left with two major cliffhangers.  What would happen to the frozen Han Solo, and was Darth Vader lying about being Luke’s father?  Hard to believe but we spent years — an eternity of a child’s age, a significant fraction of our lives — not knowing the answers.

We also had to spend this time making up things to do with our Han Solo figures.  He was frozen in carbonite at this time.  Sometimes I took my Solo figure and froze him in ice in the freezer.  We used our imaginations.  Empire was such a huge part of our childhood.  For me the Empire era ran from age seven to just before age eleven.  It was the Star Wars for which I had all the collector’s cards (first series), the soundtrack, the “story of” record, the comic, the novel, colouring books, and just about everything else you could buy.  The bedsheets — check.  Dixie cups — check.  Burger King glasses — also check.  We had a good chunk of Kenner figures from that era.  We had everything we could possibly get our hands on.

Except the movie itself.  That, we could not recreate on a whim.  We brought our toys, our comics and our cards to the lake so we could re-imagine the movie.  But we could not watch it.

That was a luxury that was not lost on me as I sat on the porch watching the Battle of Hoth.  I smiled ear to ear knowing this.  Something unimaginable during the actual Empire era.  Though, we did indeed see The Empire Strikes Back at the lake.  And it wasn’t the special editions.  We saw the original, at the drive-in.  It was in a double feature with a bicycling movie called Breaking Away, which we slept through.  My sister slept through most of Empire, too!  She was only three.

I took a break in the middle of The Empire Strikes Back to take a dip in the water.  But the Sooners had come.

“Sooners” is how my dad refers to the people who show up to go to the beach for day.  I wondered what “Sooners” meant so I looked it up.  He must have got it from one of his cowboy movies.  Sooner:  “a person settling on land in the early West before its official opening to settlement in order to gain the prior claim allowed by law to the first settler after official opening.”

I don’t see how that applies to the beachgoers, but the name stuck.

Anyway there were a bunch of Sooners at the beach.  There was Man-Bun and his two girlfriends, and a family of seven who parked their bikes right in front of our place.  I know my dad would have had a fit.  The bikes were well out of the way, but it’s no fun trying to back your car out of the driveway with any kind of obstruction, so I get it.

The Sooners weren’t as bad as the renters.  They had a huge dog — the size of a small pony — that kept going after Jen any time we walked down the path to the beach on our own property.  They’d scold the dog but not put him on a leash.  I say “him” because his name was clearly Frank.  Who names their dog Frank?  Seriously.

I don’t know who held the party that night.  The salvos of US-grade fireworks began when I was sleeping.  Jen says they were still going off at 1 am.  I say “US-grade” fireworks because I know the difference.  There are the kind you can buy in the convenience stores here, and there are the ones you can’t.  This was the stuff you can’t.  On and on and on it went.  It seemed to be coming from the renters’ place.  When I went down to the beach the following morning, their firepit was still smouldering.  Late night party fire?

What could I do?  I woke up and blasted Aerosmith.  I played them while packing the car, on the car system, doors open.  I hope you like Toys in the Attic.

Sooners and renters aside, summer has gotten off to a tremendous start.  Maybe next time, I’ll play all new albums and make some new memories.  It doesn’t particularly matter — the setting is conducive to to anything you want to listen to.  And now that I can bring my entire music collection with me in my pocket, I am limited only by my own whims.

I am a lucky guy.

Sunday Screening: Trailer for KISS Off the Soundboard: Tokyo 2001

Just a quickie for you this Sunday.  In rather cool news, KISS announced a new series of live soundboard albums.  The first of these is Tokyo 2001, one of Ace Frehley’s last shows with the band.  The lineup is one never before represented on any official releases until now:  Stanley/Simmons/Frehley/Singer.

The vinyl can be purchased on black or “exclusive 3LP crystal clear vinyl with bone swirl”.  Or for those of us not made of money, plain ol’ CD.  Check it out.

 

1. “Detroit Rock City”
2. “Deuce”
3. “Shout It Out Loud”
4. “Talk to Me”
5. “I Love It Loud”
6. “Firehouse”
7. “Do You Love Me”
8. “Calling Dr. Love”
9. “Heaven’s On Fire”
10. “Let Me Go Rock & Roll”
11. “Shock Me”
12. “Psycho Circus”
13. “Lick It Up”
14. “God of Thunder”
15. “Cold Gin”
16. “100,000 Years”
17. “Love Gun”
18. “I Still Love You”
19. “Black Diamond”
20. “I Was Made For Lovin’ You”
21. “Rock and Roll All Nite”

VHS Archives #103: Paul Stanley of KISS with Slaughter & Dan Gallagher (in full Gene makeup)

“In case you tuned in, we’re here with Gene Simmons right now.”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Deke’s favourite video. The legendary Dan Gallagher put on some Kiss makeup to talk to Paul Stanley. It was such a party that Slaughter dropped in too! It was the infamous gig opening for Whitesnake, and you can get a sense of Paul’s anger that Kiss were not allowed to do their full stage show. David Coverdale’s ego is alluded to.

Best quotes:

“If I was gonna paint the Sistine Chapel, I’d do it with a roller. I’m not a fine artist folks!”

“Everything we did was always in addition to what the music was doing. We never did it in place of the music.”

“Whenever people put out sequels to movies, they’re usually not as good as the original.  Alive II was pretty much as good as Alive I.  When gotta make sure Alive III isn’t…Jaws 3D or something.”

“Michael [Bolton] used to have the mic in his hand and strut around…he’s a rocker!”

When Mark Slaughter and Dana Strum show up, it becomes a bit of a party.

 

NOTE:  There are a couple audio glitches here that I didn’t notice until too late.

REVIEW: Paul Stanley’s Soul Station – Now and Then (2021)

PAUL STANLEY’S SOUL STATION – Now and Then (2021 Universal)

Reviewing Paul Stanley’s new album, Now and Then featuring his new band Soul Station, is probably the most challenging task I have ahead of me this morning.  It’s difficult for several reasons, primarily three.  Full disclosure.

 

 

 

  1. Paul Stanley might be my favourite artist of all time.
  2. His voice is in decline and this is always evident.
  3. How can I review Paul’s soul covers without comparing to the originals?

The truth is I like soul just fine, but the bulk of my collection is made of different grades of rock.  I have an Etta James CD.  I’m far from qualified to review this.  But I have to, so I’ll try.

Paul’s band is 10 members (excluding himself) augmented by a horn and a string section.  18 musicians are credited total, with Paul as “lead singer”:  the first time on any of his albums where Paul plays no instruments.  Unexpectedly, Paul’s Kiss bandmate Eric Singer is Soul Station’s drummer.

There are 14 tracks:  nine covers, and five originals.  You can’t accuse Paul Stanley of taking the easy route.

Remember when Kiss were accused of going Disco in 1979?  “Could It Be I’m Falling In Love” really sounds Disco, and certainly there’s nothing wrong with the flawless arrangement, from the lush strings to the punchy horns.  In fact, Paul’s diminished voice is the only noticeable weakness.  He covers for it pretty well.  He used to belt it out all time; now he usually holds back in a soft whispery falsetto.  A performer has to adapt to their limits at every age.  Good tune.  But this is a new Paul Stanley and he’s not the best singer in his band.  He’s just the lead singer.

The first original, “I Do”, sounds like the real thing.  It’s a light ballad, arranged with the strings and full band treatment to sound pretty much just like the covers.  But the really surprising original is “I, Oh, I”, a terrific upbeat dance-y number.  Not only does it sound authentic but it’s also catchy as hell.  You could imagine it in a rock arrangement, and Paul points out in the liner notes that he wrote, arranged and orchestrated all his originals.

“Ooo Baby Baby” is a Smokey Robinson cover, and like the original it’s in falsetto.  It’s one of the harder songs to listen to.  “O-O-H Child” is better, though no substitute for the original.  Paul does well on the upbeat tracks with plenty of melodic hooks.  One of his backing singers take the lead on a few lines.  And although Eric Singer does a mighty job on the drums, he is a rock drummer playing soul, and that’s evident in the fills.  The groove of the 70s just isn’t something that can be recreated easily.

You can tell by the title that “Save Me (From You)” is a Paul original.  Sounds like a leftover from the Live To Win album, jazzed up for the Soul Station.  That said, it’s a pretty good track.  It’s a nocturnal rumble that does really well standing up to the classics.  It cannot be denied that Paul Stanley has a knack for writing a melodic song.  All of his writing credits on Now and Then are solo credits.

“Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me)” is not bad.  It’s the falsetto again, but massaged in the studio, and backed by the Soul Station, this one makes the grade.  Nobody doubts Paul’s genuine love of this music.  In the liner notes he takes ample time explaining his roots with Detroit soul.  And it was him that was hanging out in New York Disco clubs, when he decided he could write one of those songs for Kiss.

“Whenever You’re Ready (I’ll Be Here)” is a duet with one of his backing singers; upbeat, well done.  “The Tracks of My Tears” exposes the weaknesses in Paul’s voice but there are plenty of backing singers to cover for him.  That aside, it’s another great Soul Station cover.  “Let’s Stay Together” (Al Green) underwhelms; I mean how can it not?  The best thing I can say is that it’s better than Michael Bolton’s version.  “La-La — Means I Love You” also kind of just sits there, threatening to send the listener off to sleepytime land.  Fortunately, Paul’s original “Lorelei” revives the album, with upbeat melodic charm.  Cool guitar solo on this one too.

Two more covers to get through — “You Are Everything” (no thanks) and “Baby I Need Your Loving”.  Fortunately the latter song closes the album, on an earnest upbeat note with Paul giving the lungs a little exercise.  Solid ending.

Observation:  I enjoyed Paul Stanley’s Soul Station more the first three or four times I played it — as background music.   When it comes to listening intently, it didn’t capture me.

Observation 2:  Peter Criss got shit all over for trying to make an album somewhat like this back in 1978.

If Paul had released a mini-album (or extra large EP) with only seven or eight tracks, I think we’d be praising his originals and taste in covers.  Unfortunately chinks in the armour appear too frequently on the bulk of the album.  Good background music, but not an outstanding set.

Paul’s originals – 4/5 stars
Covers – 1.5/5 stars
Kiss Fan Fanatic Score – 100/5 stars
Realistic Score – 2/5 stars

#888: The Limewire Days

RECORD STORE TALES #888: The Limewire Days

I got into the downloading business later than everyone else. As a Record Store manager, I had zero interest in downloads. I’ve never used Napster and I sided with Lars Ulrich when it came down to it.  You might not have cared about Lars’ bottom line, but I cared about mine.  Downloading hurt us.  And we weren’t a corporate entity, we were just a small indy chain.  Eventually in the year 2001, I relented and began using WinMX and Limewire to download rare tracks. I bought so many CDs annually, I figured “why not”? I quickly discovered all the new Guns N’ Roses songs that they played in Rio.

I still remember the first time using WinMX. It was at an old girlfriend’s house and she was showing me how she downloaded music. Hey neighbour was using WinMX too, and gave her a mix CD of all the tracks she had downloaded. I’ll never forget putting on this mix CD, and suddenly from the speakers it’s “Who Let the Dogs Out”!   As the song went on, I remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the verses to this song before. Just the chorus.” Do you know how the verses go?

I copied what the girlfriend showed me, downloaded WinMX, and before you know it, I was listening to “The Blues” by Guns N’ Roses.

After everything dried up on WinMX, we both switched to Limewire where I continued downloading the odd rarity. I accumulated a large music folder, and began burning all my new tracks to mix CDs. I have several volumes of mixes all with tracks downloaded during this period. But there were always odds and ends that I never fit onto a mix CD. I thought all those tracks had been lost, but I just dug up an old CD labelled “MP3 downloads”. It is here that I burned the stragglers, and then stuffed the CD in with some photo discs and forgot all about it.

The title “MP3 downloads” is misleading as there are video files here too (none of which work anymore). The downloads are also not exclusively from Limewire, as we’ll get to. Let’s have a look track by track at what mp3 files I still had in my music folder back in 2004.


This CD is only 303 mb (of 656).

First, the video files are a weird variety of stuff I downloaded and intended to keep.  I didn’t have cable back then, so “Gene Simmons on MTV Cribs” is one I wanted.  Then there’s a file called “Gene’s hair on fire”.  Then there’s a file called “some jackass tells a cop to fuck off”.  I remember that one.  I think I had been searching for Jackass videos, and came across this idiot getting beat by a cop after walking up and giving him the finger.  Some Star Wars videos include the Star Wars Kid vs Yoda, a deleted scene from A New Hope, and something called “Episode 3 Leaked Marketing Video”.  All the video files appear to be corrupt and won’t play on anything.

Onto the music.  I can see there are some tracks here from albums I didn’t own then, but do now.  From the compilation CD Spaced by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, it’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, “I Walk the Line” and “When I Was Seventeen”.  These are strictly novelty covers, although Nimoy does give it a good effort.  All of these songs were originally released on separate Nimoy and Shatner albums in the late 1960s.  Related to these, I also have “Shaft” by Sammy Davis Jr.  I have long loved Sammy’s glittery version of the Shaft theme.  Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks?  Sammy Davis Jr. was!  The guitar work on this is great slippery fun.  I’ll have to get a copy for real.

A fun treat next:  A full hour Peter Criss interview show by Eddie Trunk.  This is with all the songs and music.  Peter was out of Kiss once again, and he spilled the full beans on his whole perspective.  Doing the Symphony show with Tommy Thayer, Peter complains “without Ace, it’s not Kiss”.  This interview is definitely a keeper.  According to the file name, this interview is from May 4, 2004.

Several of the files are really, really low quality Dokken.  These are tiny files, they are so poor.  Demos of “Back for the Attack”, “We’re Illegal”, “It’s Not Love”, “Unchain the Night”, “Upon Your Lips”, and “Sign of the Times”.  A live version of “Paris is Burning”.  Remixes of “Nothing Left to Say” and “I Feel”.  I could have burned all these to a Dokken rarities CD, but the sound quality is poor, I knew I’d never want to listen to it.

There is also a smattering of rare Leatherwolf, including some live stuff.  Some were downloads from their social media pages at the time.  “Tension” is definitely one such official track, an instrumental solo that isn’t on any albums.  (You can tell by the file size it’s official, compared to the low quality Limewire downloads.)  I also have “Black Knight” live with original singer Michael Olivieri, and a partial instrumental called “The Triple Axe Attack”.  I’m not 100% certain what these are, but they don’t seem to have originated on the rare Leatherwolf live album called Wide Open.  Best of all the finds are the three official demos they did with singer Jeff Martin:  “Burned”, Disconnect” and “Behind the Gun”.  Martin did not last, and was replaced by Wade Black of Crimson Glory on the album World Asylum.  Fortunately I had already burned these tracks (and “Tension”) to a bonus CD.

There is a smattering of Gene Simmons demos, varying in quality.  “Heart Throb” is almost unlistenable.  “Howling for Your Love” is OK but I can’t identify if it was later rewritten into something more recognizable.  “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is bright and poppy with a drum machine backing Gene.  Then there is “Jelly Roll”, a heavier track with a riff like “Tie Your Mother Down”.  “Rock and Rolls Royce” is the track that was rewritten into “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” from Rock and Roll Over.  “Rotten to the Core” was recycled way later on 2009’s Sonic Boom as “Hot and Cold”.  Like the Dokken tracks, I never burned these to CD because of the poor audio that I knew I wouldn’t want to listen to.

Other miscellaneous rarities here include Faith No More, Motley Crue and Van Halen.  Faith No More were known to mess around with covers live, and here I have “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) and “We Will Rock You”.  Sound quality is awful and neither are full songs, just them messing around on stage.  The two unreleased Motley Tracks are “Black Widow” and something just labelled “unreleased track” which is actually “I Will Survive”.  Both of these are officially released now so I have no reason to keep them.  Onto Van Halen, not everything sounds shite, but “On Fire” is just a few seconds of a demo.  “Let’s Get Rockin'” is complete.  A good sounding track that later was reworked as “Outta Space” on A Different Kind of Truth.  Then I have 90 seconds of the sneak preview single for “It’s About Time” (2004).  And then just two seconds of shred on a track labelled “VANHwhee”.  So strange!

Other rarities include one Def Leppard treasure called “Burnout”, which was an official download from their site.  It was also available on the CD single for “Goodbye” and a Def Leppard boxed set.  I also have an audio rip of “Lick My Love Pump” from the movie This Is Spinal Tap.  I should really take this and add it to the soundtrack as a bonus track!

I downloaded some miscellaneous songs that I didn’t own the albums for, but intended to get later:

  • Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (I was watching Stephen King’s The Stand that year!)
  • Budgie – “Breadfan”
  • Buckethead – “Nottingham Lace” (might be an official download)
  • Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Down on the Corner” (mislabelled as “Willy and the Poor Boys”)
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
  • Iced Earth – “Dracula”
  • Iced Earth – “Jack”
  • Kenny Rogers – “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”
  • Marty Robbins – “El Paso”
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – “Elvis is Everywhere”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m An Adult Now”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “Hard to Laugh”

Of these, there are some I still have not bought and some I have no intention of getting anymore.  I do own the B.O.C., Budgie, Cat Stevens, CCR, Kenny Rogers, Marty Robbins, and Fleetwood Mac.  I’d still like to get Mojo Nixon to be honest with you!

Finally, there are bits of pieces of funny things that I liked to have hanging around for making mix CDs.  Many are from a website that used to have mp3 files of movie quotes, and the rest are from Homestar Runner.  Does that take you back to the 2000s?  From Homestar, I have “Alright 4 2Night”, “Strongbadia National Anthem”, “Everybody Knows It”, “Ballad of the Sneak”, “Cheat Commandos”, “CGNU Fight Song”, and a computer voice saying “back off baby”!  I might have been using that as an MSN Messenger alert sound.  Any time someone messaged me, the computer would say “back off baby”!  If I didn’t, I should have.  From the movie Sexy Beast I grabbed a bunch of Ben Kingsley’s best lines.  Saying he’s going to put his cigarette out in somebody’s eye, calling someone “porky pig”, yelling “no!” repeatedly, and announcing he had to take a piss.  Because of course.

The last files I found on this CD are strange, but for the sake of a complete and thorough inventory, they are:

  • no_respect:  24 seconds of the pretty terrible “Rappin'” Rodney Dangerfield song from the 80s.
  • 50_10sec:  Actually 11 seconds of the “Smoke on the Water” riff.  I can tell it’s Blackmore.  Why did I keep this?
  • MM Jukebox Plus Upgrade:  18 second software ad that obviously got left there by something I downloaded.  This is probably the first time in my life that I actually played this track!
  • cant_holdon:  36 seconds long.  This took forever to identify.  Lyric searches told me nothing.  Then I figured it out by uploading to YouTube and waiting for the copyright block to tell me what it was!  “Can’t Hold On / Can’t Let Go” by a band called Thunder, but not the band Thunder that you know today.  Probably downloaded by mistake is my guess.  Sounds like something you’d hear in an 80s Bruce Willis flick.

I don’t know how interesting this will be for you to read, but I found it entertaining enough to do this complete inventory.  I had clearly not tried to listen to all the files before, or I would have weeded at least a few out.  It is likely that in 2004 I was getting a new hard drive put in my computer and hastily burned my mp3 files to CD, intending to eventually put them on mix discs like I did with the rest of my mp3 collection.

After a little further digging, I did find that I had burned some of these songs to a mix CD.  Not all, but some.  You can get an idea here of how I’d make use of weird stuff like this.  The rest of the tracks never made it to the mix CD stage, so finding the original mp3 disc is a fun reminder for me of just what I was doing in 2004.  And I’m going to keep that Peter Criss interview, and a few other worthwhile things too.! Productive morning spent, and I hope you enjoyed this look at the way we did things a decade and a half ago.

 

#887: A Glimpse of the Future

RECORD STORE TALES #887: A Glimpse of the Future

Sometimes I like to imagine myself in my younger self’s shoes.  I think about me as a kid, sitting in the basement watching the Pepsi Power Hour on MuchMusic.  There I am, staring intently, VCR remote grasped in hand, and set to “Record-Pause”.  Waiting for the new music video by Kiss to debut.  Hitting that un-pause button to get a good recording as soon as the video began.  Could I even have imagined the on-demand nature of YouTube?  No, but I like to imagine what I would have thought if I could have seen a glimpse of the future.

I always felt limited by technology, even though I was spoiled enough to have my own stereo, my own Walkman, and access to the family VCR (almost) whenever I wanted.  Though I had all this stuff, I couldn’t make it do what I wanted to do without some improvisation.  Making a mix tape, for example.  If I wanted a live song on a mix tape, I had to fade it in and out.  My dual tape deck couldn’t do that.  To do a fade, I plugged my Walkman, via a cable in the headphone jack, into the audio inputs of my ghetto blaster.  This was done with a Y-connector, and an RCA-to-3.5 mm adaptor cable.  Then I used the Walkman’s volume knob to fade the song in and out while the ghetto blaster recorded.  It took trial and error and the end recording usually sounded a little hot and crackly.  But I didn’t have anything better.

If that highschool kid playing with cables in his bedroom could only have imagined Audacity.  Instant fades, exactly as you want them.  Precise digital replication.  I would have lost my shit.  If you had given me Audacity as a kid, I might not have left my bedroom for a week…and not for the reasons a teen usually hides in his bedroom!

I worked long hours on mix tapes back in those days, mainly because you had to make them in real time.  And you had to keep it simple too.  Making the tape in the first place was the challenge; making it creatively was the icing.  But the end results were always…disappointing?  Underwhelming?  The second generation taped songs never sounded as good as the first.  You’d get a little noise, perhaps a pop, between tracks where you started and stopped your recording.  Little imperfections.  Maybe one track sounds a little slow, one a little fast.  Volume levels are inconsistent.  All stuff out of your control.

The amount of control I have today over what I create is astounding.  Even visually speaking.  I don’t make tape cover art anymore, but doing so was a painstaking process involving sharp pencils, rulers, erasers, and scissors.  Everything had to be handwritten and hand drawn.  Sometimes I might be able to get my dad to photocopy a cover at his work, but usually I had to make my own stuff.  I was very limited when it came to to making visuals.  Even taking a photograph, it took days or weeks to get your picture back.  You had to use the entire roll of film before getting it developed, of course.  Now you have a phone that’s a camera and a computer.

Now that’s something that young me definitely couldn’t have imagined:  our phones.  Even science fiction of the mid-80s didn’t have anything like the phones we have today.  Imagine what I could have made with that!  It took months and a lot of clunky equipment for Bob Schipper and I to make a single music video in 1989.  I can throw together a clip in minutes today, thanks to computers and phones and ubiquitous cameras that ensure I always have raw photos and videos waiting to be edited together.

Computers — now there’s a quantum leap that young me wouldn’t believe.  We had a family computer from a very early time, decked out with a dot matrix printer and a monochrome block of a monitor.  But it wasn’t connected to anything.  We didn’t have the instant access to information.  We couldn’t look up a band’s complete discography in a moment on Discogs, much less actually buy those rare items and have them shipped to the front door!  Can you imagine how much that would have blown my mind?  I had a few hundred bucks in the bank at that age.  Well, it would all have been gone if you had given me access to Discogs for an hour in 1986.  The ability to actually complete an artist’s music collection today, was something I just could not ever do as a kid.  Very few people could.

We did what we could with the resources at hand.  We’d save our pennies, and take the bus down to Sam the Record Man.  We’d look around for an hour and decide where we would best spend our dollars.  “Don’t go to Sam the Record Man and buy something you can get at the mall,” was the motto.  That would be a waste of time and bus money!

Bob Schipper made far more trips to Sam’s, usually via bike.  But if he acquired a rarity, it was always a given that I could tape it off him.  A lot of my first Maiden B-sides were just taped copies of records he found at Sam’s.

What I was doing in those early formative years was absorbing rock’s past.  Collecting the albums, discovering the bands, learning the member’s names through the magazines and interviews.  But what if I could have seen the future of all this?  What would I have thought of things like a six-man Iron Maiden lineup with three lead guitar players?  I think tunes like “The Wicker Man” would have blown me away as an evolution without losing what made Maiden great.

I wonder what I would have thought of the Kiss tour with the original members back in makeup?  I know I would have been disappointed that they never made a proper studio album together.  One thing I appreciated as a kid was that Kiss put out something new every year.  Today, Kiss only put out an album when there’s a solar eclipse on planet Jendell.  I think the success of that reunion tour would have made the younger me feel validated for my Kiss love, but I know I would have been unhappy about the lack of new material.  However, if I could have heard albums like Sonic Boom and Monster, I also know I’d have been happy that Kiss dropped the keyboards, brought Gene back to prominence, and had all four members singing.  That would have impressed me.

I’m still working on my time travel powers, and I’m also wary of doing anything that could change the future.  Since The Avengers: Endgame taught us that you can’t change your past’s future’s future (or something like that), I’m going to continue to work on the technology.  If I can show my past self some of these amazing technological advances, I might…I don’t know!  Buy first print Kiss LPs and keep them in the shrink wrap?  I haven’t fully through this through, but trust me — it’s going to be awesome.