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REVIEW: Max the Axe – Status Electric (2018)

MAX THE AXE – Status Electric (2018 Mutant Music)

Two simple words:  “You gotta”.

Max the Axe is back with possibly his most potent lineup yet.  Led by Max and his thrilling axe, the band now boasts Dr. David Haslam on drums, Mike Mitchell on bass, and powerhouse lead vocalist Eric “Uncle Meat” Litwiller.

Full disclosure:  I know these guys.   I love these guys.  But I also just love hard rock and heavy metal.  So, out of integrity, I swear that if I did not like their new album, Status Electric, I would be straight up and tell you.  But I do like it.  A lot.  How much of that is due to friendship?  I don’t know.  Read the review and decide for yourself.  This is a good album.  I have bought way worse albums, for way more money.

I’ll give you some honesty right from the start.  “River Grand” is a good song, but not for an opener.  I rarely like when an album opens on a slow grind like this.  It’s enough to throw some people, but the song kicks by chorus time.  Eric Litwiller pours it all on, his lead vocal being the highlight of the track.  What’s he sound like?  He’s like an amalgam of many.  You can hear some Tenacious D, some Anvil, some Maiden.

As for Max, his solos are simple, memorable and to the point.  Pure rock and roll with a side of Ace Frehley.  His lyrics almost steal the spotlight though, as many are clever for the genre, and catchy as fuck.  “Next Plane to Vegas” is one such example, a pure blast…win place or show.

Who is “Randy”?  What’s your real name, Randy?  One of the weirdest choruses you’ll ever hear also happens to be one of the catchiest.  I can’t help it though.  I was sitting at my desk going, “Randy!  Randy!  What’s your name, Randy?”  Musically, we’re at debut-album Maiden, or reasonably close to it.  This is one of two semi-epic tracks on the album.

Max the Axe goes pop metal on “Call of the Wild”, nothing but a Motley Rokken good time.  The decent chorus is mashed up with a verse that doesn’t quite mesh.  But then things go full-on metal with “Sick of Living”.  This fuel-injected track has Eric singing at his most Bayley with a dash of Dickinson.  Litwiller’s roots include thrash metal, and there are healthy doses of that along with his best David St. Hubbins screams.  “Sick of Living” smokes the competition, besting several tracks on the great new Judas Priest album!  More great metal:  “The Other Side”.  The lead riff sounds as if bequeathed by Lord Iommi himself, with a modern slice.  And like any good Iommi track, it boasts two solid riffs, and a smokingly Sabbath solo.

Sometimes you hear an album and know right away which song should be the single.  That is “Gods on the Radio”.  Punctuation error aside, this track is winning 110%.  It shall henceforth be known as “You Gotta”, since that is the vocal hook that will be rattling inside your head for days.  The lyrics (Litwiller’s first writing credit) are borderline genius for being so goddamn memorable.

God’s on the radio,
With the world in his video,
Phil Collins in the studio,
Phil Collins in the Su-su-su-su-sudio.

The song itself is punky Queens of the Stone Age, with vintage 1977 Ace Frehley lead guitar and maybe a hint of Mike Patton.  Yes, this is the single, absolutely.  I’ll say it’s one of the best songs to come out this year.  At least, if the amount it’s stuck in my head is anything to judge by.  In fact I’m gonna go back and play it again.  “You gotta,” as the man says.

Yeah, even on repeat listens, it remains as fun as the first.  I only wish for a better sounding recording; it would be brilliant with full-on studio fidelity.  “You gotta turn it up louder,” says the man, so that helps.

Garage rock is embodied with the sloppy “Uptite Friday Nite”.  Stupidly catchy, it’s not one of the best tracks but it’s the noisiest.  This is the kind of jam you’d put on before going out for the night.  It sounds like the guys shoutin’ out the chorus are already halfway there.

The second, and superior album epic is “Scales of Justice”, Litwiller’s other co-write.  Vintage 1976-era Judas Priest (circa Sad Wings) meets a slick Zeppelin groove.  Jimmy Page definitely sounds like an influence in parts, while others are jagged riffs of metal.  Max uses his Axe to carve music from pure granite, and it’s all very satisfying.  The song snakes in and out with different sections and grooves.  As a closer it is suitably climactic and leaves you wanting more.

I played some tracks for some friends.  One disagreed with my praise of “You Gotta” and thought “Scales of Justice” was far better.  Another commented, “You know what this sounds like?  A bunch of 40 year olds in a basement.”  And I responded, “What’s wrong with that?”  Here are some guys in their 40s that are still passionate about rock, and after many years, have written a collection of nine good songs.  With regular-Joe money, they made an album.  And it’s a good album.  I hear things on this album that keep me coming back.  I ask myself, “am I biased”?  Of course I am.  But I wouldn’t have to listen to it if I didn’t want to.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve played this album in totality.  It’s a lot.  You don’t do that unless you like it.  Whatever it is that I am hearing on Status Electric by Max the Axe, I can only hope that you can hear it too.

4/5 stars

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Interview: HELLO HOPELESS – November 2018

HELLO HOPELESS CD release – Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures – November 30 2018

At the Boathouse in Kitchener (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario)

Hello Hopeless & Max the Axe — CD Release Parties

Locals!  We have two gigs/CD release parties to alert you to.

Both gigs are at the Boathouse in Kitchener, in Victoria Park.  It’s a fantastic, much-loved local venue right on the water. (57 Jubilee Drive, Kitchener, Ontario.)

2/3rds of Hello Hopeless

November 30HELLO HOPELESS CD release

Hello Hopeless are a great new punk band from the local scene.  They are releasing their second EP Dark Pasts, Brighter Futures and I promise you, it’s a gooder. I had the chance to sit down and interview the band recently, and that will be out soon.  I learned that they put a lot of time and effort into the mix to get it sounding just how they wanted.  And don’t let the punk tag fool you.  These guys aren’t afraid of guitar solos.  I look forward to sharing the video interview — you are going to like Hello Hopeless!  The EP will be released digitally on November 23 if you wanna spin it in advance.  Check yer Spotify!

 

Max the Axe

December 8MAX THE AXE CD release / with the Hellen Keller Band

“You Gotta” check out the new album by Max the Axe called Status Electric.  According to Max, it’s his “3rd LP and 6th record.”  Max has put everything into this one.  On lead vocals:  Uncle Meat.  If you follow this site regularly I guarantee that you will see some familiar faces at the Boathouse on December 8.  Various flavours of hard rock from old men — it fucking rips!  And you’ll hear it live at the Boathouse.

Won’t you join Max for some Status Electric?

 

 

 

#715: The Lost Chapters – “The First Year”

These paragraphs were chopped from Record Store Tales Part 6:  The Record Store, Year 1.  I dunno why.

 

GETTING MORE TALE #715: The Lost Chapters – “The First Year”

Ever seen High Fidelity with John Cusack?  When Cusack says, “I hired these guys to come in three days a week, and they started coming in every day.  There’s nothing I can do to stop it.”  That was us.  That me and T-Rev.  The boss man hired on Trev in the fall, two months after I started.  We worked opposite nights and opposite weekends.  We were like ships passing in the night.  We never would have gotten to be such tight friends if we didn’t keep coming into the store every freaking day!

See, as used CD store, we got in new inventory every day.  We were getting in cool shit.  I was just beginning to transfer my music collection over from cassette to CD, so I just started to upgrade and buy up old back catalogue.  I snagged You Can’t Stop Rock And Roll by Twisted Sister that year, which was a big deal to me because it was deleted at the time.  I got some Dio CDs that I never had before.  I began collecting Rush in earnest.  We had rarities too.  I got a split King’s X / Faith No More live bootleg called Kings of the Absurb which is pretty damn good.  I really got quite a few CD singles at that time too.  A few previously unknown Faith No More singles dropped into my lap.  It was crucial to come in frequently.  If you didn’t, you might miss something you were looking for.  Or something you didn’t know you were looking for.

After two months of shadowing the owner, I was working solo and loving it.  I got to pick my own music every night, within reason.  There were obscure rules.  Judas Priest was out, but Soundgarden was OK.  Anything that was a new charting release was considered OK for store play.  We were allowed to open anything to play it, as long as we didn’t abuse that.  For the first while we were even allowed to bring music from home.

That ended when I brought in a bunch of recent purchases to listen to one morning.  They included an indi band from Toronto, called Feel, formerly known as Russian Blue.  The sound was vital, and the early 90s buzz was that Toronto was going to be the next Seattle.  I was all over these bands, like Slash Puppet, Russian Blue, Attitude (later Jesus Chris), Gypsy Jayne, and the rest.

[An aside:  I caught a little flak when I took in a used copy of Slash Puppet.  “This is an indi band,” the boss complained.  “It’ll sell,” I defended myself.  “Trust me I know this band.”  I knew half a dozen customers by name that I could recommend it to.  I sold it to the first of those guys to come in, this insurance guy named Tony who loved 80s rock.  He bought it after one listen.]

The day I had my personal Feel This CD in the store player, a customer noticed it.  He thought it was cool, wanted it, and asked how much.  I had to tell him it was my own personal copy, and no I couldn’t order it in because it was an indi band.  He would have to write to the band to get a copy, and I wrote down the information inside the CD for him.

The boss thought this was kind of a silly situation, and rightfully so.  Why play music we weren’t selling and were not able to sell?  This was a store.  So that ended.  No more bringing music from home.  I guess I’m the guy who ruined it for generations of Record Store employees to come.

 

#714: Born Again

GETTING MORE TALE #714: Born Again

They probably thought I was going to hell the day I showed up on the first day of school in that Judas Priest T-shirt.  Mrs. Powers was a devout Catholic, with a judgey side to go with it.  She enjoyed publicly humiliating her “misbehaved” students.  I can only imagine what she really thought.  Here was her “A” student, and over summer holidays, he’s got himself a T-shirt that says “Judas Priest” on it.  He’s drawing pictures of guitars in art and doing his class speech on a band called Kiss.  What the devil is with that Ladano kid?

If Catholic school was ever too sedate or solemn, this was magnified 100-fold in the lenses of the 8th grade.

It was the year you made the choice of which highschool to go to.  You’d undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation.  It was their last chance to make sure you didn’t go off the rails and do something stupid, like do drugs or leave the church!

There was a weeklong Catholic retreat to an old convent in Ancaster called Mount Mary.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” said Mrs. Powers.  Holy shit!  I didn’t want to be there and it was obvious.  It was the middle of winter and every day had extensive outdoor activities, but worse, you were not allowed to bring any of your music.  No Walkmans, no tapes.  There was a radio tuned to an approved radio station in one of the activity rooms.  I didn’t know what to do, so before we left, I listened to and memorised as many Kiss songs as I could.  Double Platinum worked for my last minute Kiss cramming session.  The song I was most successful with was “Love Gun”.  I had just received a taped copy of The Elder but did not have time to investigate it much.  I had to go to Mount Mary instead.  This intrusion into the wants and desires of my musical passions kind of pissed me off.  I had to wait a week to get into The Elder.  Stupid retreat.  I was so scared of being caught with any contraband that I flushed my candy before getting on the bus.  Humming “Love Gun” in my head, we were off.

Mount Mary conjures up some real discomfort.  They were trying to teach you to be open minded about it but all I can really recall are negative feelings, and some disgusting hot chocolate.  I was isolated from everything I loved and stuck with a bunch of people who I didn’t particularly like, and felt the same towards me.  I knew this because we had to form circles and tell everybody something we liked about them.  Nobody seemed to know much about me at all.  “You like Star Wars, uhhh…and I don’t, but that’s cool.” was the most memorable.

There was a day spent outside in the snow as “hunters” and “hunted”.  I don’t remember the moral of this activity.  The hunters had wooden sticks as rifles, and my bully Steve Hartman was one of them.  The role playing had a bizarre shade of reality.  There were no explanations to us as to why people were selected for their roles.  The hunted were supposed to find some specially marked trees, but I spent most of the time just hiding in the woods from hunters and teachers alike.  There was another day including a long hike up something called “Agony Hill”.

The day we were released from Mount Mary and sent home was cold and wet.  The snow was melting, but it was just dirty slush.  My parents were supposed to pick me up when the busses arrived at the school, but I didn’t see them and vice versa, so lugged a giant heavy suitcase home through the snow.  At least when I got there, a brand new Marvel Transformers comic was waiting for me with my mail in the kitchen.  #17, “The Smelting Pool”, considered one of the best of the series.

“Well that’s over,” I said to myself.  “Now I just have to get through the rest of this school year and it’s freedom.”

That teacher just had a bad impression of me.  There was the rock and roll devilry which seemed to bring humiliating public interrogation.

“How many of you went to church this past Sunday?” she questioned the class.  “Put up your hands.”  She was determined to find out just how devout our behaviour was.  No excuses.

About half the class raised their hands.

“How many of you were there last week?”  A few more hands went up.

“And the week before?”  A couple more.  “How many have been to church in the last month?”  She noticed me, and I noticed her.  My hands were in my laps.

“MICHAEL.”  Radar locked.

“WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WENT TO CHURCH?” she boomed.

My sister dubbed it “The Hell Hole”.  The school and church are right across from each other

It had been a couple years.  Powers had her “no excuses permitted” policy regarding going to church, so I didn’t even try to explain.  (Essentially her policy was:  You are old enough to go to church on your own now, so don’t tell me your mom was sick.)  I just endured the firepower of Mrs. Powers.  What else could she do; send a note home to my parents?  If I wasn’t going to church, chances are they weren’t either.  And there was a reason for that.

It was an Easter service a couple years prior.  Good Friday mass, very busy, and the church was packed.  My dad always liked to get an aisle seat so that’s what he did on Good Friday.  That was his mistake.

My sister and I had better instincts.  We preferred to hide somewhere in the middle of the pews.  Do you know what our least favourite part of service was?  The part where you have to shake hands and greet your neighbours.  We were shy and would rather not, so we just turned to face each other.  We’d shake hands and say, “Hello sir how are you today?”  “Oh, I’m good sir and how are you?”  We’d do this for as long as we could credibly ignore the adults around us trying to shake our child hands.

On Good Friday we tucked in down the pew while dad sat on the aisle, when the Priest announced that for this special service, volunteers would come and wash your feet if you were sitting on the aisle.  John 13:34:  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”  My dad has a hard time saying no.  He kicked off his shoes and socks and politely pretended not to be hating every second.  And the family simply stopped going to church after this.  Coincidence?

Mrs. Powers, you can judge all you like.  Maybe my dad was sick of church and I was sick of your shitty school.

One of the heavy metal albums from my childhood that reminds me most of that period is Born Again, by Black Sabbath.  Boy, Powers sure would have hated those lyrics. “Good life is contradiction, because of crucifixion.” You can only imagine, if she knew what was I was hearing!

The devil and the priest can’t exist if one goes away,
It’s just like the battle of the sun and the moon and the night and day,
Force of the devil, that’s we’re all told to fear,
Watch out for religion when he gets too near, too near….

Of course Ian Gillan isn’t a satanist; he’s just a singer!  But those lyrics would have set her head on fire, if the album cover didn’t do that first.  Do we mind “Disturbing the Priest”?  The truth is, the words were inspired by the rehearsal sessions for the album.  They were receiving noise complaints from the local church.  Do we mind “Distrurbing the Priest”?  “Not at all, not at all, not in the least.”  Once you know the genesis of the song, the lyrics fall into place.  Not exactly Catholic-friendly, but certainly not evil.

Evil-sounding though?  Absolutely.  Born Again might be the most traditionally evil sounding metal album in the history of the genre.  That’s why the original mix is so important even though it sounds like the refuse of the Golgothan excremental demon.  The lack of clarity, the muddy haze, and the echoing bottomlessness of it just add to the mystique.  You should not be able to clearly hear what the singer is saying.  It should remind of you a bad hazy dream.  Hell, it’s not the lyrics that make it evil; it’s Geezer’s fuzzy bass!

This article was produced after discussions with friends and acquaintances from different faiths and backgrounds.  Some had similar experiences.  Some are still dealing with residual Catholic guilt.  We were talking old church stories, and all this stuff came flooding back.  The sitting, the kneeling, the hand-shaking…my sister and I singing “Stars” by Hear N’ Aid instead of the hymns…the good and the bad.

One of the school bully kids was killed four years after Mount Mary, riding his motorcycle to work.  I morbidly wondered what Powers thought of that; he went to Mount Mary yet he was on her dead roster.  Would she add that detail for next year’s class?

It’s obvious I still hold a lot of resentment to those school years.  I wonder if that’s why I have such a strong attachment to the heavy metal music of the era.  Let the psychoanalysis begin!

#707: Alice Cooper…Live!

GETTING MORE TALE #707: Alice Cooper…Live!

I’ve seen Alice Cooper twice.  Unfortunately, I didn’t write a review either time.  I certainly should have.  Both shows were special and perhaps unique in unexpected ways.  I have a couple stories to tell you.

The first time I witnessed the Alice Cooper show was on his Rock N’ Roll Carnival tour (no opening act), August 28 1998.  We were lucky enough to get the lineup with Reb Beach (Winger) and Eric Singer (Kiss), who had recently rejoined the band.  It was the now legendary Lulu’s Roadhouse featuring the world’s longest bar.  Thanks to the internet, we know the entire setlist.

  • Hello Hooray
  • Sideshow
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Public Animal #9
  • Be My Lover
  • Lost in America
  • I’m Eighteen
  • From the Inside
  • Only Women Bleed
  • Steven
  • Halo of Flies
  • Nothing’s Free
  • Cleansed by Fire
  • Poison
  • Cold Ethyl
  • Unfinished Sweet
  • School’s Out

Encore:

  • Jailhouse Rock
  • Under My Wheels

I went with Lyne (one of our store managers) and her husband. A little while later Lyne was bullied right out of the organisation and went to work for HMV instead.  (I used to call her “Lynie Lynie Boing Boing” for some reason.)  We had an amazing time and I remember being impressed that Alice was still playing material from 1994’s The Last Temptation.  “Sideshow”, “Nothing’s Free” and “Cleansed By Fire” were unexpected treats.  It was also a pleasure to hear so many Nightmare-era songs.

At the end, as per usual, Alice introduced his band, and then himself.  He tore open the front of his jacket to reveal a T-shirt that said “Alice Spice”.  Yes, 1998 was the time of Girl Power and Spice Girls were the biggest thing in the world.  It got the required laughs.

One weird memory stands out.  A few tables ahead of us was a girl who was missing an arm below the elbow.  But that didn’t stop her from getting into the show, air guitar and all.  The missing arm was her strumming arm and she was just pumping it and going for it.  It was an unusual thing to see but she had a great time and that’s all that matters.  An unforgettable night.

The thing about the late 90s period of Alice Cooper:  It was a remarkably unproductive time as far as new material.  From 1994’s The Last Temptation to 1999’s A Fistful of Alice (a live album), there was nothing new.  In 2000, Alice cranked the machine again for a rapid-fire series of new albums starting with Brutal Planet.  The live setlist had changed dramatically too.  When I saw Cooper in 2006 with my new girlfriend (now known as Mrs. LeBrain), we got a very different show.

My mom had early access to tickets at the Center in the Square and surprised us with second row seats. On May 9, Alice rolled into town with his new band and new show. On drums once more: Eric Singer of Kiss. Opening act: Helix! Another favourite of mine in a hometown setting! Alice’s latest album was the excellent Dirty Diamonds and we got to hear the title track plus “Woman of Mass Distraction”.  In addition Alice rolled out a few forgotten oldies like “You Drive Me Nervous”, and “Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills” which was dedicated to Paris Hilton.

  • Department of Youth
  • No More Mr. Nice Guy
  • Dirty Diamonds
  • Billion Dollar Babies
  • Be My Lover
  • Lost in America
  • I Never Cry
  • Woman of Mass Distraction
  • I’m Eighteen
  • You Drive Me Nervous
  • Is It My Body
  • Go to Hell
  • Black Widow Jam
  • Feed My Frankenstein
  • Welcome to My Nightmare

Medley:

  • The Awakening
  • Steven
  • Only Women Bleed (with Steven reprise)
  • Ballad of Dwight Fry
  • Killer
  • I Love the Dead
  • School’s Out

Encore:

  • Poison
  • Wish I Were Born in Beverly Hills
  • Under My Wheels

There’s no record of Helix’s setlist, but they were able to play a number of songs including a brand new one: “Get Up“.  I was sad to see that a few people in the front row didn’t bother coming early enough to see Helix, but that made it easier for Brian Vollmer to see me in the second.  I pumped my first and sang along to every song — including the new one, once I got the hang of the chorus.  Vollmer obviously noticed the one guy singing every song, and came down to shake my hand.  Vollmer is one of the most fan-friendly artists in rock, bar none.   This was only the first of several times he’d shake my hand.

(Back) Brent “Ned” Niemi, Alice Cooper, Brian Vollmer, Rainer Wiechmann
(Front) Jim Lawson, Jeff “Stan” Fountain, Cindy Wiechmann – May 9 2006

From Planet Helix

 

As good as Helix were that night, nobody puts on a show like Alice Cooper.  Kitchener was no exception.  Mrs. LeBrain found herself swooning over guitarist Damon Johnson.  (I thought bassist Chuck Garric would be more her style, based on a previous Tommy Lee crush.)  Guitarist Eric Dover and the aforementioned Eric Singer rounded out the band, with Alice’s daughter Calico playing numerous roles as stage dancer!  (“Put some clothes on!” said her dad after introducing her.)

I remember two things about the show very clearly.  At one point, right in the middle of a song, a woman walked up to the front of the stage and held up a CD for Alice to sign.  I didn’t get it…you expect him to sign your CD while he’s performing?  While he’s in character as Alice Cooper?  Who did she think she was?

Alice ignored her until he was obviously fed up.  Swinging his cane in the air, he smashed the CD out of her hands.  The sour looking woman returned to her seat dejected.  You don’t interrupt Alice when he’s doing his show.  “What a self-centered idiot,” was all I could think.

Alice’s action with the autograph seeker was made all the more noteworthy later in the show.  Contrasting his attitude towards the previous woman, Alice paid special attention to a young girl in the front row.  Wearing proper ear protection, the young girl was with her dad, possibly seeing her first ever rock concert.  Recognising this, Alice personally handed her some of the fake Alice money lying on stage after “Billion Dollar Babies”, and some of the plastic pearls from “Dirty Diamonds”.  The little girl was the only person in the audience who got special attention from the performer.  Cooper, the consummate showman, plays for everyone not just the front row.  That girl will never forget Alice Cooper as long as she lives, and he made sure of it.  I couldn’t help but think Alice was also making a statement.  “Treat my show with respect and this kind of stuff happens.  Don’t interrupt me mid-song for an autograph.”

Whether I’m right or not, that’s one outsider’s impression of the events of the night.

Whatever I happen to think, there would be no argument that Alice Cooper puts on some of the best concerts in rock, and you should try to see him.  Make it a bucket list goal.  The lineups change, and the setlists evolve.  You’ll always get “School’s Out” but chances are you will also hear a smattering of special classics that don’t get rolled out very often.

Go see Cooper and come back with your own stories to tell.

 

#704: Battle of the Bands

A kinda-sorta retelling from a different perspective of Part 258:  Uncle Meat

GETTING MORE TALE #704: Battle of the Bands

Poor George.  He really wanted to be in a band.  Rob Szabo had a band.  He was just starting out with one of the neighbour kids.  He even had two original tunes (I remember one was called “The Stroll” and I can still hum it).  George really wanted to be in Rob’s band.  He hung out at their basement rehearsals and watched them play.  Rob would teach him things.  They needed a bass player.

George secretly saved his money, and eventually bought a bass.  Rob was horrified.  He didn’t want George in his band, he wanted a musician who already knew how to play music.  He didn’t want to have to teach the bass player how to play bass.  He also felt terribly guilty, because George bought the bass specifically because Rob needed a bass player!

I can remember George playing Rob’s tape to the girl he liked.  “That’s us!” he said.  “That’s my band.”  He wasn’t on the recording at all.

Like a kid who didn’t know how to break up with his girlfriend, Rob took a while to tell George he was “out” of the band.  When he did, George was not deterred.  He just went it alone.  He taught himself how to play by playing along to records.  He studied Steve Harris and Gene Simmons who quickly became his favourite bassist.  He practiced all the time.  I know, because we could hear him from our house.  We laughed about it, because George also attempted to sing.

He eventually got pretty good at bass; good enough anyway for the bar band scene.  He would never be any good at singing, although that hardly stopped him, and you have to respect that.

In the summer time, George took his amp outside and played for anybody who happened to be around.  He loved to play, “Guess this song from the bassline!”  Not an easy game when I didn’t know many songs yet myself.  I had a few albums, but I’d only been into rock and roll for a couple years.  Every bassline sounded the same to me.

“Guess this one”!  Durm durm durm durm.  Durm durm durm durm.

“Uhh, I dunno, ‘Shout It Out Loud’?”

“No, it’s ‘Love Gun!'”

George finished highschool, but I was just beginning.  It was there I saw my first Battle of the Bands.  I sat with Bob Schipper, Rob Daniels and the gang at lunch watching the bands play.  Rob Szabo had a band called Under 550 — the total body weight of the four members.  Even in highschool, it was obvious Rob had real talent.  There were all the other bands, and then there was Under 550.  He was levels above the others.  He could play “YYZ”.  I’d never even heard of “YYZ” (though I’d seen those letters on my parents’ luggage tags).  There was only one clear winner and that was Under 550.  It was obvious to everyone.  They would be going to the regionals at the Humanities Theatre.

Rob Szabo on the left

Bob and I got our tickets.  We went with neighborhood friends Scott Peddle and Todd Meyer.  The four of us sat together and waited giddily.  Not only was Rob Szabo playing, but so was George.  He joined a band called Zephyr (no relation to the other Zephyr), and they were on the bill.  I planned my catcalls.

George always told me he wanted to play “I Love It Loud”, and introduce it by saying to the crowd:  “How do you like your music?  Well I love it loud!”  I hoped and prayed he was going to do that.

Each band got two songs.  We waited through noise bands like Stomach Acid and F.U.H.Q., who had the plug pulled early for swearing.  We waited through boring acoustic and pop crapola.  There was one group that rocked really fucking hard.  I wasn’t into thrash, and these guys were heavy.  A group of bangers came down to the front row and started banging their heads to the thrash!  You could see the long hair flailing.  I didn’t know the singer, but many years later I found out his name was Eric.  But nobody calls him Eric.  Today they just call him Uncle Meat.  The Legendary Uncle Meat.

Meat

Truth is, his band was too scary for a 14 year old me!

On came Zephyr.  “You suck George!” I yelled, with Scott joining me.  He ignored us, or couldn’t hear us.  It didn’t matter, Scott and I were laughing so hard!

Sadly, George did not play “I Love It Loud”.  Zephyr disbanded a little after, with George again going solo.

Rob stacked the deck for the regionals.  Under 550 added a lead singer, and became Over 550 for this one night.  Though they didn’t win, they ranked high.  Uncle Meat and George went home empty-handed, but with memories etched forever.

The winners of that event? The now-somewhat-but-not-really-legendary Gordie Gordo and the G Men, featuring Sausagefester Scottie G, on the not-very-well played guitar! $100 dollar first prize which went promptly towards a mic stand.

We laughed on the way home at our witty catcalls like “Don’t fall over George!”

And that, friends, is why my highschool years were better than yours.

 

 

#697: Kiss My Ass

GETTING MORE TALE #697: Kiss My Ass

Spring, 1994.

An unemployed 21 year old student not-yet-named LeBrain was having a particularly lazy summer.  In a year I would graduate.  I didn’t have a lot of spending money.

There was a CD store at the mall.  The owner was a friend of my dad’s.  It was within walking distance.  I wandered in once or twice a week.  but their prices were too high.  They had a “buy 10 get 1 free card”, and I’d redeemed one of those (for cassettes) already, but in general I couldn’t afford to buy things there.  Most of my music was coming from Columbia House.

July rolled around, but I hadn’t been to the mall in a while.  There was a bunch of new stuff I was curious about.  David Lee Roth had an album out, and the new Soundgarden was supposed to be incredible.  Kim Mitchell had something new, and there were a bunch of 1993 albums I still wanted.  I took a walk to the mall.

Something was different at the CD store.  Where there were once these red wire clearance bins, there was now a display of…used CDs!?  Quality guaranteed?!  Woah!  I could afford these!

I saw it immediately:  a brand new release sitting there used for $11.99.  Kiss My Ass.  It was only out for about two weeks!  I didn’t care why it was there, it was MINE!  I hated spending full CD prices on a “various artists” album.  In general I’d only get three tracks per album that I wanted.  I preferred to buy stuff like that on cassette, just so I wasn’t paying 20 bucks or more for three songs.  Twelve bucks for Kiss My Ass?  Stop twisting my arm!

I remarked to the owner how excited I was to get this brand new album at such a great price!  He told me they just started selling used CDs.  I learned later the now-legendary story:  it started with about 10 CDs that he brought in from home to sell.  People wanted more, and so he began buying and selling.  So far, it was working well.  He had a few hundred on display, and there were already some great titles in there!

I ran home excited about my score.  The three tracks I was interested in were Lenny Kravitz, Extreme, and Shandi’s Addiction.  I got my required three songs.  Over time, the rest began to appeal more, but I mostly played those three.  When I learned that Kiss themselves played on the Garth Brooks song, I upped it to four.

About a week later, my dad came home from work and instructed me to go to the mall the following morning.  The owner of the CD store wanted to talk to me.

What?

“He’s interested in hiring you,” said my mom.

“Nah,” I answered.  “I ordered a Japanese version of Kiss Alive III.  I bet that came in.”

“Just go to the mall and talk to him,” they both said, and so I put on some nice(r) clothes for what was in effect an interview.  I wore cowboy boots because I didn’t have anything else but sneakers.  He already knew me as a customer, and trusted my dad as well.  We just chatted for a bit.  He told me that his employee Craig would be leaving for school at the end of the summer, and he needed a replacement.  There were only the two of them, so it was actually a bigger deal than just “working at a CD store”.  Craig opened, closed, did bank deposits, and everything else that needed doing, and eventually so would I!

He told me the job was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work.  Sure, sure, stop twisting my arm!

Therefore, the CD copy of Kiss My Ass (that I still own today) is the very first used CD I bought at the store I would eventually work, and also the last one that I bought before actually being hired!  And he was right about the job.  It was hard work, and it was fun.  When I began working there, I used to show up about 30 minutes early just to flip through all the new arrivals.  If something jumped out at me, I’d put it in the front row.  If something was priced too low, I’d tell him.   “This is really rare”.  I impressed him by knowing the details of who was in what bands, and their different side projects.  I told him I learned this stuff by reading the Columbia House catalogue every month.

What an awesome time to work!  The used CDs were on the ground floor.  Soon they’d be 99% of what we did.  I was there for many releases of what are now classic albums.  I’m really proud to have been there for those times, even if not everybody gets that.  It was work and it was fun.  Not everybody gets to have a job they can be passionate about.  When I was there at the beginning, putting in 200% every day, it was simply an amazing time to be alive.

 

 

Sunday Chuckle: No Dumping

Shady St.“, Kitchener Ontario.  The irony of this picture is that a bird already “dumped” over the No Dumping sign….

 

#S18-0: Sausagefest 2018 prelude