kiss

#884: The Long Walk Home

RECORD STORE TALES #884: The Long Walk Home

In theory, it should have taken 15 minutes for us to walk home from school.

Cross the busy Ottawa Street with the crossing guard.  Down Ottawa, left on Crosby and then right on Secord.  All the way down Secord to Hickson, Inlet and home.  Sometimes if my dad was driving home from work at the same time, he’d see us walking and pick us up.

The reality was, we usually took a lot longer.  My dad used to say that we “dawdled home”.  Most of the time, we trudged it on foot.  We began at the start in clumps of kids, who would peel off singly or in pairs for their own homes as we walked the route.

The other day I was driving that way, and decided to take a spin down Secord and the old route.  The roads were slushy and the snowbanks were high, and suddenly I had a flashback.  Why does it seem like we were always walking home in the middle of winter?  Those are the most powerful memories.  Dodging snowballs thrown by other kids, trudging through deep snow trying to make a “short cut”.  Coming home soaked and cold.  Eating some Scotch broth for lunch and then back to school for the afternoon.  I’ve driven that way lots of times, but only this one time — in the winter, with snowbanks at kid-level — did I have a flashback.

One of the only shields from the cruel outside world that I had as a kid was music.  At the moment I was driving, suddenly the power chords in “Little Death (Mary Mary)” by the Barstool Prophets hit the speakers.  “I would have loved this song as a kid,” I said aloud.

I never knew who my friends were back in those days.  A kid who claimed to be my friend one week would be a bully the next week.  There were one or two kids I knew I could trust, like Allan Runstedtler.  He was too nice and smart a kid to get caught up in that stuff, but he walked home from school in the opposite direction.  There was nobody else I could count on to stick up for me.  KK was just as likely to be throwing the snowballs at me.  Ian Johnson used to get under my skin.  “Name five songs by Iron Maiden,” he would say, instead of just teaching me about Iron Maiden like my real friends did.  But my real friends, from my neighbourhood, didn’t go to that shitty Catholic school.

The thing that I was discovering was that music like Iron Maiden made me feel good.  It made me feel temporarily bulletproof.  Something about those proud, defiant power chords.  I felt more capable of projecting pride and defiance if I had Iron Maiden behind me.  Helix, Kiss, Judas Priest — these were the bands that kept me trudging through the snow while being pelted from behind.

The Barstool Prophets song had the same effect.  As the flashbacks hit me, the guitar riff of “Little Death” pushed back against them.  Yes, I would have loved the song as a kid, had time travel existed back then.  Still working on my flux capacitor, but I’m getting there.  It’s strange, but sometimes I sit there and imagine if I had been able to allow my past self to hear certain songs.  I imagine my younger self’s reaction.  It makes me emotional.  That’s the only kind of time travel I’m able to do.  I didn’t have a bad childhood by any means, but man those bullies did a number on me.  I made it well into my 30s before being able to assess the damage that followed me right into adulthood.  I think the hardest part was not knowing who I could trust.  As it turns out, almost nobody.  By the end of the eighth grade, only Allan hadn’t picked on me.  And then I was rid of them forever as I changed school systems.

I would try to memorize songs as best as I could so I could keep them in my head while I was at school.  The teachers were part of the problem and the defiant nature of heavy metal music was, shall we say, not appreciated by Mrs. Powers.  I don’t think she commended its aesthetics, nor song titles like “Hotter Than Hell“.  She wasn’t one of my supporters as the grade school days drew to a close.  Nor was Ian Johnson, Kenny Lawrence, Kevin Kirby or any of my supposed “friends” in class.  My only friends in that cold depressing classroom were the songs by Helix and Kiss in my head.  I drew guitars in art class.

There’s a flashback for you.  Ian Johnson may have mockingly quizzed me on how many Iron Maiden songs I could name, but he vastly underestimated just what that music meant to me.  A year later he cut his hair short and was into something else.  My love affair with music never ended and only grew with me through time.  The Barstool Prophets have just shared a serious emotional moment with me, which allows them automatic entry into my soul’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  It’s a pretty serious honour.  Please takes your seats with the other immortals enshrined within.  Graham Greer, Glenn Forrester, Al Morier, and Bobby Tamas — otherwise known as the Barstool Prophets — welcome to the hallowed Hall of Fame!

 

“Bootleg Richard Dreyfuss”, Kevin and Harrison talk Bootleg Albums on the LeBrain Train

This has been one of my personal favourite episodes!  Bootlegs were the subject, and we saw a wide variety.  Yet even with the limitless possibilities of bootleg recordings out there, we still ended up with one duplicate.  You’ll have to watch and see which one was on two lists!

Your panel:

John wins “best collection” award.

Lots of audio/visual backup here to go with these bootlegs too.  For that reason alone, this was one of the best shows we’ve ever done.  Thanks for watching and being a part of it!

#883: Live! Bootlegs – the Prequel

A prequel to Record Store Tales #286: Live! Bootlegs

 

RECORD STORE TALES #883:  Live! Bootlegs – the Prequel

 

I didn’t discover “bootlegs” right away.  But inevitably, I had my first encounter and was confused by what I saw.

The setting:  Dr. Disc, 1988 or ’89.  Downtown Kitchener.  In the store with best friend Bob and one of his friends.  Browsing in the cassettes, I had worked my way over to Guns N’ Roses, a band I was still learning about.  Something about an EP that came before Appetite?  But what I saw was not that.  In fact, there multiple Guns bootlegs in their cassette section, only I didn’t know they were called “bootlegs”, or what that even meant.  Each one seemed to have a different member on the front.  One had Slash, one had Axl, one even had Izzy.  They were printed on different coloured paper.  They had songs I never heard, like “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door”.  Live shows from the last few years.

Were they official releases?  They had to be if they were sitting there in a store, right?  But A&A Records at the mall didn’t have these.

I didn’t get of the Guns tapes.  I didn’t have the money, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have taken a chance.

My knowledge of bootlegs was limited.  In my mind, I associated the word with the kind of bootleg records they had to buy in communist Russia.  Since you could not buy American music in the Soviet Union in the time of the Iron Curtain, fans got creative.  There is a famous series of Beatles bootleg records, etched into X-ray photographs.  It was the right kind of material to cut the music on.  Like a flexi-disc.  When I heard the word “bootleg album”, I associated it with an album that was illegal to own, but somehow you got a copy of a copy.  Not live recordings smuggled out of a gig and sold for profit.

I finally put the pieces together when I bought the book Kiss On Fire on December 27, 1990.  In the back:  a massive list of live Kiss bootlegs, from Wicked Lester to the Asylum tour.  Tracklists, cover art, the works.  Suddenly, it clicked.

“These must be bootlegs!” I whispered to myself in awe.

“We must have them,” said my OCD to my unconscious self.


I acquired my first live bootleg from Rob Vuckovich in 1992.  It was David Lee Roth live in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour with Steve Vai.  It was just a taped copy on a Maxell UR 90, but it was my first.  My sister got an early Barenaked Ladies gig on tape shortly after, including the rare “I’m in Love With a McDonald’s Girl”.  Then in 1994 she bootlegged her own Barenaked Ladies show on the Maybe You Should Drive tour!

Around this time, my sister and I also started attending record shows a couple times a year.  Bootlegs were now available on CD.  And there were many.  Who to choose?

Black Sabbath with Ozzy, or with Dio?  Def Leppard before Rick Allen was even in the band?  Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue’s final gig with Vince Neil…so many to choose from!

Interestingly enough, the idea of one band member being on the cover art carried into the CD age.  By my side at one show was Bob once again.  I flipped through the Kiss.  There were so many!  I picked one out with Gene on the cover.  Not knowing what bootlegs were himself, Bob thought they were solo albums.  “Don’t get one with just Gene!” he advised.  It wasn’t something I wanted anyway — it was from the Animalize tour, which I already had represented on VHS at home.  I wanted something I didn’t have anything from yet.  There it was!  The Revenge club tour!  Unholy Kisses, they called the disc.  Stupid name, great setlist.  I only hoped it sounded good when I got it home.  They used to let you listen to it before you bought it, but I think I was too shy and just bought it.  As it turns out, I loved it.  Every thump and every shout.

That’s the thing about bootlegs.  You really never knew what the sound was going to be like.  Or even if the gig advertised was the gig you were buying.  Or just because it sounded good at the start, will it still sound good at the end?  Or did the guy recording it have to move to a different seat next to a loud dude?  A soundboard recording was almost a too-good-to-be-true find.  One thing you were certain not to hear:  overdubs.  No overdubs on a bootleg!  They were raw and authentic.

I had made a good “first bootleg” purchase.  A whole new world opened before me.  There were not just live bootlegs, no!  Also demos, remixes, even B-sides.  And among them, some great, and some dreadfully bad choices!


Hear about some of the great ones this Friday, February 26 on the LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

 

 

 

 

THREE-VIEW: KISS – Best of Solo Albums (Japanese CD)

  Best of Solo Albums (Originally 1979, 2020 Universal Japan CD)

Third review for this Kiss compilation here, but why?  A couple reasons.  For one, it’s the first-ever official CD release of this album!  It took 41 years for them to finally put out a CD, and yet only in Japan.  More remarkably, there is one track here that I’ve never heard before in this particular version.

That song is the incredible Paul Stanley epic “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.  On Paul’s solo disc, it fades away at the end of side one at 5:35 in length.  Here, it goes to 5:48, no fade, right to the end of the track.  It’s an ending I’ve never heard before.  This song isn’t even on the more common European version of Best of Solo Albums, just the Japanese.  And apparently the CD has an unreleased version without the fade.

“Oh boy!” you exclaim.  “I have to buy this import just to get 13 seconds of music I never heard before?”

No.  You don’t have to buy it.  I did, because I wanted a copy of this album on CD.  When I discovered the longer version of the track, I was ecstatic to unexpectedly get something extra for my money.

There’s no need to review this album track by track again.  I’ve done it twice, and I’ve also reviewed all four solos albums twice each.  There’s really no need to run through all the songs again, although this tracklist is quite different.  Unlike the European version, these songs are not arranged in three-track blocks for each member.  Additionally, seven of the European tracks were substituted with others.  That’s more than half the album!

Gene Simmons:  Instead of “Mr. Make Believe” and “See You In Your Dreams”, Japan used “See You Tonite” and “Living In Sin”

Paul Stanley:  “Move On” was replaced by the unreleased version of “Take Me Away (Together As One)”.

Ace Frehley:  “Speedin’ Back to my Baby” was removed in favour of the instrumental “Fractured Mirror”

Peter Criss:  All three of the Cat’s songs – “You Matter To Me”, “Tossin’ and Turnin’”, and “Hooked on Rock and Roll” were replaced!  I guess Japan didn’t care for those as much as they did “Don’t You Let Me Down”, “Rock Me Baby” and “I Can’t Stop the Rain”.

For me, I prefer the running order that Europe used, with each member of the band getting three songs in a chunk.  However, there are plenty of songs that I prefer on the Japanese version, such as “See You Tonite”, “Take Me Away (Together As One), “I Can’t Stop the Rain” and “Don’t You Let Me Down”.

It’s interesting that the solo albums are by and large panned by the masses, but nobody can agree on the “Best Of“.  Maybe those albums weren’t so bad after all, at least when you distil them down to the essential tracks.  The Japanese CD will become my preferred listening experience for two main reasons:  it sounds better than the vinyl, and I like more of the songs.  It would sound even better if I had an MQA decoder, a new-ish hi-resolution CD format from Japan, which will unlock an even better sounding version of the album, if you have a few grand to spend on upgrading your system.  If not, enjoy the disc and stellar packaging, with not one but two different covers to display.

4/5 stars

 

Best of 2020 Part 7: The Stats of Doooom

Big thanks to 2020 for making this our most successful year at mikeladano.com yet.  The final tally is:

284,513 hits from 135,708 unique viewers.  This is a massive uptick from our previous best year, 2018, which received “only” 215,440 views.  Thank you pandemic, because that’s what this totally is.  I had no new ideas for 2020; I had given up on “growth”, only for 2020 to come to the rescue with a goddamn pandemic!

One way you can tell this uptick had nothing to do with me:  All the top hits are old, old posts with deep roots on Google searches.

  1. VAN HALEN – Zero – 2331 hits
  2. AMERICAN DAD – Persona Assistant – 2133 hits
  3. #551:  You’re Wrong on Unmasked – 1318 hits
  4. RAINBOW – Rising – 1076 hits
  5. KISS – Alive II (Re-review) – 891 hits
  6. KISS – Kissworld / Re-review directory – 831 hits
  7. TRAILER PARK BOYS – Season 11 – 761 hits
  8. KISS – Unmasked (Re-review) – 727 hits
  9. #425:  The Soup Nazi – 719 hits
  10. #774:  The Original Mustard Tiger – 718 hits

The death of Eddie Van Halen caused October to be our best month ever, and helped push Van Halen to #1 this year as well as contributing to the record hits overall.  The Van Halen Zero review is now the most popular thing I’ve ever written, having been read 12,294 times.

By comparison, the best-read “new” post this year was:

  1. AC/DC – “Shot in the Dark” – 574 views

I guess the message here is:  recycle, recycle, recycle!


Hits by country in 2020:  Top Five usual suspects – the same countries as last year, just in a barely different order!


I already posted the stats for Youtube views on live streams, and I’ve also already done my look ahead at 2021.

What do these stats show us?  The power of both Eddie Van Halen and a worldwide pandemic.  I’m pleased that people chose to read my stuff at those times, but I’d give just about anything to get Eddie and our normal world back.  Since I can’t, I can only tell you this:  I don’t plan on stopping in 2021!  And that’s about all I can say.  2020 taught us that life doesn’t give a shit about your plans.  I had plans in 2021 and they didn’t involve sitting in this little space live streaming.  This time there is no plan except give ‘er.  The universe tends to unfold as it does.

I wish you nothing but peace, happiness and harmony in 2021.  Let’s give ‘er together.

 

#863: Masks Are the New T-Shirt

GETTING MORE TALE #863: Masks Are the New T-Shirt

If you have been watching my videos or live streams, I’ve occasionally shown off my new masks.  Now, I don’t wanna get into the whole “issue” of masks.  I just want to talk about masks in terms of music, marketing, and keeping businesses alive in 2020.  No matter your political affiliation (I consider myself unaffiliated and flexible enough to change who I support), then if you are reading this then I think we can all agree on three things:

  1. We love music.
  2. We want businesses to survive in this difficult year.
  3. We need to do things that make us happy, especially now.

I’ve been saying for months:  every band, brand, and icon needs to put out branded masks, pronto!  Many of us are going to need masks for at least the next six months.  I have five Kiss masks currently.  I don’t know how long these things last, especially if you wash them as frequently as you have to, so I assume we’ll all need replacement masks in a little while too.  It makes sense to put out your own branded mask right now.  I love that I can put on a Kiss mask and go out and do my shopping.  It’s like wearing a T-shirt.  In 2020, the mask is the new T-shirt.  Especially in winter time when, in Canada, we will be wearing heavy jackets on our backs like a tortoise shell.  T-shirt weather is far behind us.  Bonus:  though they fog up my glasses, the mask does keep my nose warm in the morning chill.

To Kraft Dinner:  I would love to buy a mask from you that has your delicious cheesy noodles on my face!

To the estate of Frank Zappa:  I’m looking for a mask with his trademark moustache and beard.  Does such a thing exist?

Dear ZZ Top:  You know exactly what I want!  One of those longer “goiter” masks with your beards!

And local clubs, restaurants and businesses:  I would love to be able to buy a mask with your logo or website address on it.  We need to support each other in this time, I firmly believe, and that starts at home with our venues and clubs.

Sceptics might ask me, “Will any of that actually make the life-or-death difference for a business?”  I don’t know.  I didn’t study business or economics in school.  I just know that I am (somewhat) in a position to help (a little bit), and…I have to try.

I practice what I preach and have thrown a bone or two to some local businesses and music venues.  I’m not saying this to show off what a super guy I’m am, I’m saying this so I can lead by example.  I’m not wealthy though, and what works best for me is if I can buy some merchandise.  That way I get something I need while helping somebody else out.  I would rather buy official than knockoff.  I need more masks, and if there are enough cool ones, I could even give some as gifts to certain family members.

For the next six to twelve months (who knows?), masks are going to be in our lives.  Like it or lump it, I suppose they say.  Maybe I’ve just been more successful trying to have a positive attitude in 2020, but I’ve been able to…have fun?…with masks.  We gotta support each other to get through this damn pandemic, and to play on the words of my man Jon Bon Jovi:  I’ll Be There For You!  These five words I swear to you.  If you sell, I’ll buy a mask from you.  I’ll mask up for you!

 

 

#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.

 

#857: Obsessed With Rock

GETTING MORE TALE #857: Obsessed With Rock

As this summer flies by, I’m reminded of seasons past.  My dad always took the same vacations in the summer:  one week in July and two in August.  That means we’d be up at the cottage for that time, and I wanted to be well stocked with music.  Meaning, I had to bring all my music.  All my cassettes, all my vinyl.  Everything.

It was a process, to say the least.  All my tape cases had to be wedged between seats of the car, and I had “a few” tape cases.  Then I took apart my jury-rigged stereo setup and carefully prepared it for transportation.  I taped down the tone arm on the turntable so it wouldn’t fly about.  I packed up all my wires, head cleaners, and record brushes.  My ghetto blaster and record player were loaded onto a seat in the car, with my dad’s old 8-track deck/receiver at the bottom.  I was using it as a pre-amp for the turntable, and it worked after a fashion.

My treasured Kiss cassettes were not in a case.  They occupied a shelf in my bedroom, with two custom ceramic Kiss bookends.  I placed the bookends and tapes into a plastic grocery bag for transport.  Upon arrival at the lake, I set them all up on another shelf, always in chronological order.  It’s funny to think that I didn’t get an obsessive-compulsive disorder diagnosis until I was in my 40s.  I was pretty clearly already there in my early teens.

Once I got everything hooked up again at the cottage (stealing extension cords from other rooms), I’d begin blasting the rock.  With OCD firmly in control, I first had to finish listening to whatever tape was in my Walkman during the car trip.  Only then would I choose what I would be listening to that night.

It’s all very clearly obsessive behaviour, but I guess people were not as aware of various mental health issues back then in the 80s.

Then and now, I loved listening to music at the lake.  I liked to blast it, which sometimes earned a noise complaint from the parents.  They were pretty good about it though.  They indulged my musical obsession though never quite understanding it.  I only had one true love and it was rock and roll.

Something else I enjoyed very much was buying new music while on summer vacation at the lake.  There were not many stores that carried anything good.  Don’s Hi-Fi, and Stedman’s were all that was available when I was really young.  They sure didn’t have much.  Still, listening to Priest…Live! when it was brand new, and breaking the seal at the lake was special.  It’s hard to articulate exactly what was special about it.  Your normal listening space is a familiar place.  Most things you hear, you first played in your own home.  When you get to experience an album on less familiar territory for the first few times, it develops a different flavour.  It’s not something you can hear, it’s just something you can feel.  I guess that’s why I always see myself playing darts in the back yard at the lake every time I hear Priest…Live!

Perhaps that is a feeling only a music obsessive gets.

When we returned from vacation, it felt like I would be welcoming my new albums into their new home.  This is where you live now, Priest.  This is where I am going to be experiencing you from now on.

Weird, right?

I never claimed to be normal.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  I’ve often boasted of not just “liking” music, but actually “loving” it deeply.  Maybe the only thing I’m actually boasting about is mental illness!

Whatever.  These are all good memories.  Although I speak fondly of it today, as a kid I would have chosen to stay home if I was old enough.  I missed being away from my friends, my rock magazines, my Pepsi Power Hour and all that stuff.  I missed talking about and listening to music with my best friend Bob.  Truth told, by packing up all music with me and hauling it up to the lake, I was trying to retain one aspect of being at home, which is my music collection.  Today the obsession remains, but I can do the same job with a laptop.  Crazy!  I never would have imagined that as a kid.

There are worse things to be hooked on other than rock and roll.  If it makes you feel so good, can it be so bad?

 

 

 

#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.