MarriedAndHeels is a Superstar on Grab A Stack of Rock!

It may have been -18 degrees Celcius here, but  “California Girl” aka “Edie Van Heelin’” aka MarriedAndHeels brought the sun!  This fun episode featured:

  • Lego & lightsabers with full custom M.A.H. sound effects!
  • Lots and lots of heels & heel knowledge.
  • Running in heels, peacocks and more.
  • Tea.
  • Kiss figures, though not unboxed, due to difficulty of doing so on camera.
  • Unboxing 7 rare Japanese import CD.
  • Stories, stories, stories and more!

We kept going until her battery ran out, and she’ll be back for more soon!

Everything I create is free.  I have never asked for money for any video or story.  I pay for WordPress and I pay for Streamyard out of pocket, and advertising dollars do not bring in enough to cover even half of the cost.  Therefore, if you’d like to buy me a coffee on Ko-fi, I would muchly appreciate!

kofi Ko-fi MikeLeBrain – buy me a coffee?

MarriedAndHeels Grabs Her Heels and Rocks your Friday Afternoon! (Special Time)

GRAB A STACK OF ROCK…with Mike and MarriedAndHeels
Episode 14:  More Heels, More Lego, More Rock!

You might know her as “California Girl” or “Edie Van Heelin’“, but I just call her my friend.  Her fans have spoken and MarriedAndHeels returns today to the co-hosting chair, but today she’ll be LIVE!  What can you expect this time?  Like her previous feature episode, we’re just going to wing it and have a good time…but we are planning the following:

  • Video footage and details about one of her many passions:  running!
  • “Ask California Girl” questions from the Mad Metal Man and Tee Bone.
  • Unboxing all four KISS “BST AXN” figures including the very rare Spaceman.
  • Mike gets to pick her heels for an upcoming event.
  • Music, Lego and lots more.

Please extend a warm welcome to one of my favourite guests, the amazing MarriedAndHeels, and get ready for a good time!

Friday February 3 at 3:00 P.M. E.S.T. and 12 Noon Pacific. Enjoy on YouTube or on Facebook.



#1038: Cool


Recently I’ve been thinking about what it means to be “cool”.  I certainly do not feel “cool”.  I have certainly pretended to be cool.  I had many phases of attempts at being cool.  They were mostly spectacular failures with a few notable successes.  Yet only rarely and sporadically did I ever actually feel “cool”.

As a young misfit kid with only a few close friends, I was a loner at school.  I was more interested in reading books while listening to John Williams soundtracks than hockey.  There’s a line in a Tragically Hip song called “Fireworks” that sort of outlines what it was like to have no interest in hockey.  “You said you didn’t give a fuck about hockey, and I never saw someone say that before.”  The kids at school teased me because I didn’t know who any of the Maple Leafs were and I certainly had no interest in skating.  It was just something I had to do.  My mother made me take hockey lessons and I hated the way those skates made my feet ache.  I just couldn’t wait to get off the ice where my dad would buy me a Mountain Dew.  I could barely skate and still can’t.  My mom told me that “every good Canadian should know how to skate.”  I just wanted to go home and play with my beloved Star Wars guys.  My Luke, Han, Darth, and Stormtrooper figures were always a comfort at home.  I was not cool.

Along came music and I was still not cool.  The other kids had Duran Duran and Mr. Mister while I discovered the back catalogue of a dinosaur rock band called Kiss.  I made a pathetic attempt at growing my hair.  To the other kids at school, I was the nerd who wore the Han Solo shirt a couple years ago, and was now decked out in a Judas Priest shirt that said “Rock Hard Ride Free”.  I was not cool.

I sat in my basement with my VCR, and I watched and rewatched Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored and studied Paul Stanley.  He obviously had no problem being cool.  All he had to do was tell a story about his Love Gun and he had women throwing their underwear at him.  He looked so cool when he danced on stage.  He had these tassels on his pants that twirled when he did these spinning kick moves.  I would get a tennis racket and try doing the same moves in the street in front of my house.  I felt cool.  I imagined the music behind me.  I imagined it was a real guitar in my arms, and tassels on my pants.  I felt cool…but I was not cool.

Highschool came and went, and I had a pretty low profile.  Girls didn’t know my name and I didn’t raise my hand in class.  I wanted to be cool but anonymity was OK too.  I didn’t have the baggage of my nerdy Star Wars past so I established myself as a rocker from day one.  That didn’t really make me cool; the majority of kids were short-hairs who liked music I wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole.  I got by, but I was not cool.

University came and went with the same anonymity, but the very foundations on which I had built my persona were crumbling.  In 1991 Kurt Cobain made greasy hair and ratty sweaters the new cool, and I was left behind in the dust.  It took two years, but in 1993 I finally cut my hair.  I went with a short hair and bearded look.  I didn’t even feel cool anymore.  I was not cool.

I don’t think I really felt a smidgen cool until I started working at the record store in 1994.  Then I had something I could boast about.  It was a cool job.  I felt a bit like an imposter, that I was not cool enough for that job, but I sure made people know I worked in a record store.  Grunge was popular, nu-metal was on its way, and I was still stuck in the 70s and 80s.  I really struggled with a persona during the record store years.  I had a variety of hair styles and colours.  I bought a pair of Doc Marten boots.  I got a whole bunch of piercings.  At this point, I started to become a little bit more successful in my dating life.  The ladies seemed to like the spiky blonde hair and the piercings.  I may have looked cool, but in hindsight it was just another attempt at being cool.  I was not cool.

I quit the record store, and I got married.  For the first time in my life, I started to feel a little cool.  I had a good job, the most amazing wife, and I had a killer wedding.  Awesome music.  We were told by mulitple guests from all age groups that it was the best, most fun wedding, they’d ever been to.  I felt awesome.  After marriage, Jen and I threw a number of killer house parties.  I did multiple studio appearances on radio.  I felt cool and I think for a little while, for a change, I was cool.

Age started creeping up on me and the years started taking their toll.  I began to take more value in how comfortable things were, rather than how cool they looked.  I had new priorities in life, like maintaining a house and taking care of a sick wife.  The things that used to matter more were trivial now.  I had to appear somewhat professional at work and be prepared to put on steel toe boots and a helmet.  Carefully crafted hair and flashy shoes had no place anymore.  I was not cool.

Yet the definitions of cool have once again changed.  Have they moved in a direction more to my favour this time?  I don’t know, but suddenly Star Wars is popular again and old rock bands pull in crowds of all ages when they embark on the second-last ever farewell tours.  Older guys with grey hair seem to be popular — looking at you Anson Mount (and Tim Durling).  Is it possible…that the time has come that I’m cool again?

I wear Crocs.  In fact now I wear Crocs with freakin’ headlights on them.  People know this.  They are aware of it.  Yet some of the coolest people in the world that I know…tell me I’m cool?

You can imagine why I’m skeptical.

I don’t think I’ll ever really feel cool.  Do you?  Have you felt cool in your life?  What did it feel like, and what did it do for your life?  I think when I feel cool, I feel more confident.  Confidence is important in moderation.  It won’t be long before I used to be with “it”, but then they changed what”it” was.  Then what I’m with isn’t “it” anymore and what’s “it” seems weird and scary. It’ll happen to you!

REVIEW: Ace Frehley – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

ACE FREHLEY – Origins Vol. 2 (2020)

Three cheers for Matt Starr!  Ace Frehley’s drummer is the “starr” of the show on 11 of the 12 tracks on Origins Vol. 2.  This is evident immediately on the Zeppelin cover “Good Times Bad Times”.  There are plenty of guests on this album, but doing justice to John Bonham ain’t easy.  Starr nails it!  Fortunately the Ace Man himself is also able to tribute Jimmy Page ably on his solo.

In fact the weakest part of the album are the vocals.  As Ace ages, his voice has gotten lower.  Some of these songs are in a lower key than usual to accommodate.  It’s also, quite frankly, difficult to get excited about a second album of covers.  A lot of the same bands are covered, including the aforementioned Zeppelin, Kiss, Cream, Stones, Kinks, and Jimi Hendrix.

It’s an OK covers album.  It’s nice to get so much Ace-sounding rock.  Frehley makes Mountain sound like his own originals, as he does “Kicks” by Paul Revere and the Raiders.  He’s a bit heavy-handed on “We Gotta Get Out of this Place”.  But “Space Truckin'”?  Not necessary, or even wanted.  “Space-Ace truckin’!” he sings and it’s borderline cringe.  “Hey where’s Jendell?”  While it’s good to put your own twist on a song, dropping your own name in doesn’t cut it.  And Ace is no Ian Gillan.  (Ian Gillan is also no Ian Gillan, but that’s beside the point.)

Among the guests, John 5 rips solos on “I’m Down” (Beatles) and the thumpin’ “Politician” (Stones).  He executes both modern and traditional rock and roll guitar solos, but goes wild for the “I’m Down” outro, on which he shreds.  Lita Ford also appears, but not on guitar.  She sings on “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”.  While there’s no denying that’s a classic song that influenced Ace, how many people have covered “Jumpin’ Jack Flash”?  Lita’s voice has barely changed since the 80s and she is easily the charismatic highlight of this overplayed tune, and a highlight of the album as a whole.  One guy whose voice has changed a bit is Robin Zander of Cheap Trick, who sings on “30 Days in the Hole”.  He can still do it with power and range, but you can hear the years.  Speaking of voices, Ace doesn’t sing on the Kiss cover “She” but the vocals are split three ways among the backing musicians, and they capture a reasonable facsimile of that vintage Paul/Gene layered vibe.

The most interesting guest of the lot could be one of Ace’s replacements in Kiss, Mr. Bruce Kulick himself.  Of course, over the years Bruce and Ace have jammed a few times, and it’s sheer delight to hear them together.  Bruce has, arguably, the best guitar solo on the whole album, with “Manic Depression”.  The guy is greased lightning, extra greasy!  It’s warming to see Ace and Bruce put egos aside and just play some music.  Any time, guys, any time.

Giving credit to Ace for one more thing, “Lola” does sound like his kind of tune.  His vocal shortcomings are obvious here but don’t really get in the way.  Whether you like that song or not, Ace has a quirky side that “Lola” fits, just as sweet as Coca-Cola.

Bonus:  the album comes with nice liner notes by Kiss scribe Julian Gill.

Let’s hope Ace has the covers out of his system for now.  Another original album, hell even a live album would be cool, but no more covers Ace, please!

3/5 stars

#1034: December 27

RECORD STORE TALES #1034: December 27

In the Christmases of youth when families were bigger and healthier, it was close to a week-long celebration.  December 27 was a day we looked forward to annually.

Before I started working at the Record Store, we would depart for Stratford Ontario mid-day on the 27th for an early birthday celebration.  My sister’s birthday is the 28th, and she would have a second party that day too!  Stratford has a lot of really cool stores, especially if you’re looking for comics, books and board games like I was.  There was a small record store as well, and my sister and I would hit up these stores while my mother and aunt shopped for clothes and knick-knacks for what felt like hours upon hours.  One thing I know for sure:  we were the ones waiting for them, and not vice-versa!

I acquired many treasures in Stratford in those days.  After shopping, we would head to my aunt and uncle’s place for warming up.  My sister would receive her gifts, and we would eat treats while waiting for the main course to arrive:  garlic spaghetti, agio e olio, my absolute favourite.  Then we would settle in for a movie (always a comedy).  It was always a special day even though it wasn’t my birthday.

Even when we were young, I remember we were allowed to play some of our new tapes on my uncle’s big stereo during dinner.  I can recall listening to Kiss.  Smashes, Thrashes & HitsDynasty?  I can’t remember – could have been either, or both, but I know we listened to Kiss during dinner (or dessert).  My uncle made us listen to someone named Juice Newton.

In the Record Store days, I would only be able to make it for dinner and not the fun shopping part.  Stratford is a little colder and snowier, and I recall having to step over massive snowbanks to get to parked cars.  The cool shops made it worth it.  I came home with Stratford with Transformers comics, Star Trek comics, loads of science fiction books, and rare board games.  There was also a Scottish-themed shop where I bought Billy Connolly CDs and DVDs, Jaffa cakes, and other treats.

“Peak Stratford” would have been Dec 27 1990:  the year I found Kiss On Fire at the book store.  All those bootlegs!  I sat and read during dinner amazed at all the records I now knew I had to collect!  What a score for a kid.

#1029: Lick It Up (In Bed)

RECORD STORE TALES #1029: Lick It Up (In Bed)

When I was a kid I used to rock myself to sleep with music.  I missed doing that in my adulthood.  I don’t find headphones or earbuds comfortable to sleep in, and I’ve never found a really good device like that to fall asleep in.  I have a pair of “sleep headphones” which are basically little speakers inside a headband.  But I basically have to tie something tight around my head to get the little speakers close enough to my ears to be effective, and then the whole thing becomes too uncomfortable.

I remember my mom had this “pillow speaker”.  You could plug it into your Walkman, and it would convert the stereo signal down to mono, and you’d put this little speaker in your pillowcase.  But that wasn’t really a good solution either.

The best way to fall asleep then was with a tape or CD in the deck, and let your speakers rock you off to la-la-land.  Having a spouse might put a cramp in that tradition, as it has mine.  But nowadays, with Jen’s different health issues, we are on vastly different sleep schedules.  I’m usually in bed by nine and up by six.  She might be in bed by 2:00 AM, after all the late night hosts have signed off.  I might try returning to the “rock myself to sleep” method as an experiment.

I took a Saturday afternoon nap, but I was just too wired to get a good solid sleep.  I brought the laptop into the bedroom, put on “Lick It Up”, and tried to get some shuteye.  Unlike my youthful days, I didn’t fall asleep during the album, though I did doze off shortly after.

Sure enough though, memories of childhood came rushing back.  I think got Lick It Up for Christmas of ’85, the same year I was given my dual-deck Sanyo with detachable speakers.  I remember the Sanyo came with a sample cassette.  It had “Spanish Flea” on one side, and the other was blank for recording.  I think I tried to put “And On the 8th Day” on the second side, and I think it just fit.

Back in those days, I didn’t know most of the words to the songs, so I just kind of made up my own.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t know the words.  In fact, only on the recently released Creatures of the Night box set can I clearly hear all the words to “Not For the Innocent”.  Otherwise, it was cool to hear Lick It Up, in bed like when I was a kid, but with perfectly clear sound, no tape hiss, no side change, and at perfect speed with no drag.  If only my 13 year-old self could have imagined that.  The sound quality, with my little laptop speakers, wasn’t great so I ordered another pair of small externals from Amazon.  That’s the next step of the test.

Lick It Up has been a favourite for a long time.  Back when I only owned one or two cases full of cassettes, it received frequent spins.  I remember accidentally dropping it into a bucket of wallpaper water.  My dad thankfully bought me a brand new copy.  I’d buy it again if Kiss offer another deluxe box set as they have recently.

We’ll see how my sleep experiment goes, but I definitely picked the right album for the first try.

Marco D’Auria and Tim Durling are Creatures of the Night! Box set dissected, bootleg DVDs examined, and Harrison questioned!

Marco, Tim and I had a blast taking a deep dive into Kiss’ Creatures of the Night album, box set, and tour!  Marco presented a collection of four Kiss bootlegs from the Creatures era.  Tim brought the vinyl and cassettes.  He even had a related 8-track tape.  I dove deep into the Kiss box set:  the book, the goodies, the music, the stories and the packaging!  (For those asking me for a box set review, this is pretty much it!)  Additionally, Uncle Meat stopped by with his memories of seeing the Creatures tour at Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.  Finally, “Ask Harrison” returned with two of the best questions for my Aussie co-host yet.  Harrison doesn’t have much in the way of Kiss but did present some interesting stuff in terms of Slade, Deep Purple, Def Leppard, and more.

“Ask Harrison” questions this time were asked by Lana (via Tee Bone) and our newest castmember, an actual Instagram influencer with 200,000 followers who discovered our Led Zeppelin list episode earlier this year, became a fan, and wanted to be a part of our little show herself! Please give her a big welcome.

Next week I’ll be doing a taping with Grant Arthur from Grant’s Rock Warehaus, but we’ll be back again soon.  Thanks for watching!

Creatures of the Night! Contrarians Marco D’Auria and Tim Durling Grab Stacks of KISS tonight with Mike and the Mad Metal Man! – 7:00 P.M. E.S.T.

GRAB A STACK OF ROCK…with Mike and the Mad Metal Man
Episode 5: Special guests Marco D’Auria and Tim Durling

Week five of Grab a Stack of Rock, and the Kiss Creatures of the Night box set has finally arrived!  And it’s awesome – the best Kiss box set to date.  We’ll tell you why tonight.  Additionally, Marco D’Auria and Tim Durling from the Contrarians will be on hand to show off some of their own Kiss goodies.  D’ya think Tim will have 8-track tapes?  What are the odds?

The popular “Ask Harrison” feature also returns, with two of the best questions yet.  Let’s hope our boy from Australia is ready!

Friday November 25 at 7:00 P.M. E.S.T. Enjoy on YouTube or on Facebook.


#1024: Where were you when Freddie died? When Eric died?

Lunch With Ladano yesterday was regarding the events of November 23, 1991.  The announcement that Freddie Mercury had AIDS, the worst kept secret in rock. Do you remember?


#1023: “Just the pieces of the man I used to be”

RECORD STORE TALES #1023: “Just the pieces of the man I used to be”

You never know how it’s gonna go.

You roll out of bed feeling like a winner, and then suddenly for absolutely no reason, that completely changes and you’re struggling to break even.

Maybe it’s the pressures of modern life.  The hustle and the bustle.  The need to get things done, even though you’re behind and energy is in short supply.

The feeling of loneliness even though you are not alone.  There’s a dark place in your heart, only inhabited by you, that no one can break into.  It’s not that you can’t let them in.  It’s that you don’t even know how to open that door.  Of if you actually want to.  If you’d prefer to be alone.

The daily monotony, the commute, the cold, the damp.

The fact that all the hours of daylight happen when you’re in an office doing your daily grind.

The pressure and drive to do something important, to be someone who matters.  To make a difference.  To be somebody…anybody…but who you are.

Somehow, a sad song helps.  There’s something about a sad song that can pry its way into your soul.  Provide sympathy.  Warmth.  Help you dry the tears.  That tells you someone out there is feeling the exact same way you do.  It’s as if someone in the world knows you, just as well as you know yourself.

You could be in a room full of happy celebrations, and feel so alone, so completely down, yet have to fake it to make it.

One of the worst winters of my younger life was the winter of ’95-96.  I had just been dumped by my first real serious girlfriend.  I put on a brave face and for a few days, I thought I had weathered the storm.  I listened to “classic British hard blues” that week and felt super strong.  The crash came later.  One of the albums that helped me through that winter was Queen’s Made In Heaven.  The final album with Freddie.  Though there is some undeniable dark material on the album, such as “Mother Love”, and “Too Much Love Will Kill You”, I was amazed at how positive some of the other songs such as “Heaven For Everyone” were.  The album was like a journey through my own convoluted feelings.

“I’m just the pieces of the man I used to be,
Too many bitter tears are raining down on me.”

Yet on the same album:

“In these days of cold affections,
You sit by me and everything’s fine.”

What will the album for the winter of 2022 be?  For the last several years, I’ve been digging deep down into the albums that made me happy as a youth.

“Listen! They said I didn’t stand a chance,
I wouldn’t win no way,
But I’ve got news for you,
There’s nothing I can’t do!”

It was a different time.  There was misery, but nothing can duplicate that feeling of hearing a song for the first time.  A song that you know means something to you.  That is destined to stick with you for your whole life.  And when you put those records on again, a million things start happening in your head.  You can be 12 or 13 again.  A time when the real problems of life were completely unknown to you and the biggest issue you had was figuring out how to talk to the girl you liked.

Like a phantom of a dream, old songs make the memories real again.  As you wipe a tear from your eye, you remember.  It can help sooth the sadness.

Sometimes you just have to cry it out, whatever it is.  Hell, I don’t know what it is exactly.  I just know it sucks.

They say that life never hands you anything you can’t handle.  I don’t know about that.  History is rife with people who could not handle what life has given them.  I think I can – but it’s never simple, straightforward, or obvious how to do it.

So I write.

It’s the only thing I’m really good at.  The only thing people really notice about me.

I write in the hopes that someone will understand.

That someone will relate.

That someone can take what I have experienced and draw something good from it.

And that maybe I’ll get some of that goodness back.

This winter has been pretty good.  My strategies are working.  My support personnel are solid.  But there will always be days where I can’t help it.  Can’t help FEELING IT.  The old familiar sting of that cold, unrelenting loneliness.  The kind of loneliness that can strike even when you are in a room full of loved ones.

One of the best albums for this time of year is Catherine Wheel’s Adam & Eve record.  It captures it all.

“Start the day, in a cold December way, feel what’s new, it’s December through and through.”

And on the same record:

“And we crown ourselves again,
There’s been no change since you and I were young,
When we burned ourselves again,
The spaceship days when you and I were young.”

I crave those spaceship days so hard sometimes.  But you can never really go back.

Except with a song.

Come back with me.  Join me in my memories, on this sad, cold winter day.