I wonder if the folks in the Family Truckster ahead of me realized they were advertising for a thrash metal band from space!
GETTING MORE TALE #783: Take A Look at this Photograph
One day in mid ’95, Tom Morwood brought a camera to work at ye olde Record Store. It was the earliest of days, and I was still working at the original mall store. “What are you taking pictures in this place for?” He snapped one of me flashing the devil horns behind the counter. “Just for the memories man,” he answered. I’m glad he did it.
He dug up that very same old photo recently, and a like a rush of blood, suddenly memories flooded my brain. I barely recognised myself, but the store? I’ll never forget it. Let’s have a look at the anatomy of this picture and dissect it for details!
Before we went corporate, most of the signage was hand made. Most was done by T-Rev, though “DJ Donny D” helped. “NOW PLAYING”, “CD CASES”, “RAP/DANCE”. It looks totally ghetto, like a real record store. None of this professionally printed generic signage like today. Now all the stores have to look exactly the same, like a chain. Back then we could be artistic and do what we wanted. The boss didn’t think I was very good at making signs so he let T-Rev do the majority. He was probably right, though it wasn’t for lack of effort, just ability. And it looks like an actual cool record store. Not a video arcade or whatever they’re trying to be today.
There’s one sign that isn’t hand made, and that’s the “no smoking” sticker at the cash register! Can you imagine needing that sticker in a store today? Also: cash register! The first and last one I ever used. Everything was done on computers after this store closed.
It looks black. It was not black. I dyed my hair dark once in 2000, but this picture is not from 2000 (as we’ll get to). It must just be the lighting. That’s definitely me though. You can just make out my mullet. I loved that Laurier sweatshirt! I’m guessing it’s not summer; it must be a colder month or I wouldn’t be wearing a sweatshirt. I’m assuming here, but I look really goofy and totally uncool.
On the top left of the photo you can clearly make out CD and cassette copies of REM’s Monster. That dates this photo to sometime in 1995. The album came out in ’94 but Tom wasn’t hired until ’95. There’s no way it was still front racked all the way into 1996, so it has to be ’95. I can’t make out the other titles on the front rack. You can see the plastic security cases that we kept the CDs and tapes in. Anti-theft devices were not cheap, by the way, but a future chapter called “A Case For Security” will get into this in more detail.
We used to sell Rolling Stone and Spin. Funny enough, here we have them displayed in a rack for Vibe magazine! We stopped carrying Vibe in 1994 but kept using the rack.
If you glance over to the far right, you can see a vertical line in the wall slats. That’s actually a corner; the back wall was a mirror. As told in Getting More Tale #409, it fooled some people. One day an elderly gentleman asked me if “that section back there is closed to cripples and old men?” Nope, it’s just a mirror, not a secret room! We must have kept it pretty clean if we fooled him!
Notice there are no clear CD cases there? Just the ones with the black spines? We didn’t carry clear cases. If memory serves, our supplier didn’t carry them until a year or two later. That meant clear cases were a rare treasured commodity to us. I have a few memories of needing clear trays to replace broken ones, but not having any lying around. We had to conserve them.
See all those CDs behind me? Those are overstock – additional copies of stuff that was already on display on the racks. Generally these were titles that were not moving, and I can absolutely guarantee that there are multiple copies Motley Crue ’94 and David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth in this picture.
Detail #8: Happiness.
Don’t let the metal faced scowl fool you. This was my happy place. I don’t care what ex-bosses and regional managers thought. That store was special. One of the bosses used to tell me that my nostalgia for the old store was warped by rose-coloured glasses. I disagree. Look at this picture. It’s one guy working in a cramped little music store. There is nobody looking over my shoulder, no “suits” wheeling and dealing. We were free to make that store as cool as possible. We could listen to music of our choosing with few but sensible limits. Nothing like the spiteful “No Kiss” rule of later years. (Although you can see here I didn’t display anything under the “Now Playing” sign. I didn’t like the way the alligator clip could scuff up a case.) We were responsible for cashing out, doing the bank deposit, and closing up.
Sure, it was a little like working in caveman times to a certain degree. We had no computer, just a gnarly old cash register. If you look behind me, under the overstock shelves you can see boxes full of clear plastic baggies. Each one had a CD inside. If somebody wanted to know if we had a used CD in stock, we’d flip through the baggies which were in alphabetical order. Not an exact science but we got the job done.
As the store got bigger, we became more sophisticated, had more buying power, and better stock as a result. Yet it’s the original store that I’m nostalgic for, not the second or third one with the larger floor space and computerized inventory. Those stores had their own perks and problems, but they didn’t have as much personality. Some may disagree. This isn’t a critique on the owner, either. He had to do what he had to do in order to grow, put bread on his table, and follow his own dreams. We understand. He had a vision and it led him to success. Together as a tight team, we ran a pretty cool music store. We all contributed ideas and our talents, and did the best with what we had. The fact that so many people tell me they have fond memories of that store means it couldn’t have been all that bad.
When I look at this photograph all I see are good memories. Thanks for the foresight, Tom.
I’ve had this camera for just a week, and look at this fool.
Spotted in Kitchener. Who do you think this guy’s favourite wrestler is?
Bonus points: note that he is also a “panties bandit”. How many panties do you think this car got him?
GETTING MORE TALE #770: Encore!
I’ve been avoiding downtown Kitchener for the last couple years. All that construction (five years’ worth) installing our new light-rail transit system…it’s been hellacious. But that construction is now over, and the LRT train (called the ION) is running every 15 minutes. Only two years behind schedule! And guess where one of the stops is? Right by legendary record store Encore Records. Perfect! No need to worry about parking.
Mrs. LeBrain and I hopped on a bus to the mall, and a few minutes later the train pulled in. Using the free Wi-fi, I live-streamed myself making goofy faces on our new train. The ride was quiet and fast since it only stopped a handful of times. These new trains are lovely! Now that they are finally running, I can see that the headaches will be worth it. Clean and quick – I’d use the ION again. It’s a shame but there are still people who hate the train so much that they would actually like to spend taxpayer money on ripping up the tracks! What a waste that would be. Let’s give this LRT a fair shake.
We disembarked the train at the City Hall stop, only a brief walk from Encore. Not only was this my first ride on the train, but also my first visit to Encore since they moved from their old Queen St. location. The new store, though not wheelchair accessible, seemed bigger and cleaner. Old pal Al “The” King was there, happily still slinging the rock for us patrons.
We chatted a bit. Al really enjoyed working at Encore. There was a guy that I trained at my old Record Store about 15 years ago. He left shortly after to work at Encore, and he’s still there! When you find a place you enjoy working, I guess you stay!
Time to go look at music….
It didn’t take long for me to exceed my budget for the day. First snag was from the new release rack: The Beaches’ excellent new EP The Professional, $9.99. A great recording; it will be getting a few spins this summer. Next: the used CD racks. Plenty of stock as usual. I came looking for old Styx, but there was no used Styx that I needed. Instead I grabbed three Scorpions remasters: World Wide Live (with DVD), Savage Amusement (with DVD), and Animal Magnetism. $20 each.
Whoops! I already owned Animal Magnetism. No big deal; looks like some lucky person will be getting a free copy from me. I really have to keep track of reissues better. This is happening more and more frequently as my collection grows.
I still wanted some more classic Styx. I’ve been playing my Styx albums repeatedly. I needed some more classics to throw in the shuffle, so I moved on to the new CD racks. There I picked up Pieces of Eight and Crystal Ball. $9.99 each. One by one and I’ll get them all.
Continuing through the racks of new stock, I spied two Kick Axe remasters by Rock Candy. I’ve wanted both these albums for a long time: Vices and Welcome to the Club, $22.99 each. I’ve spun through both twice and was impressed with both the music and liner notes. What an underrated singer George Criston is. This sparked more Kick Axe purchases later on Discogs and Amazon. The third album, Rock the World, is coming in the form of another Rock Candy remaster. And thanks to the excellent liner notes inside Vices, I also tracked down some early Kick Axe on Discogs. Debut single “Week-End Ride” / “One More Time” from 1981 is inbound! Also coming, from the same year, is a compilation LP called Playboy Street Rock. Kick Axe have a live track on that called “Reality is the Nightmare”. It’s going to be cool hearing those early songs, which had a different singer.
It’s funny about Kick Axe. One of the first buttons I ever bought for my jacket was Vices. It only took close to 40 years to finally get the album.
Finally we closed the Encore trip with some vinyl. A lovely reissue of Alice Cooper’s Zipper Catches Skin, on clear “black smoke” vinyl. It looks and sounds great, and now I finally have all the Alice Cooper studio albums.
We bid farewell to Al and headed home again on the ION. Now that the train is up and running, I do believe I’ll be making Encore a fairly regular weekend stop.
A sequel to Getting More Tale #332: Getting Older Everyday
GETTING MORE TALE #767: Just Older
Unless you’re a teenager buying booze with your fake ID, nobody likes being mistaken for older than they actually are.
When I was in my 30s, people used to think I was in my 20s. I looked younger and I dressed younger because I worked at a Record Store and I could get away with it. I bleached my hair, had piercings, and flashy shirts. I saw people working at hair salons looking like rock stars so I thought the same could work for me in a Record Store. Eventually I had a collection of over 30 flashy shirts. I don’t think my bosses were impressed with my new image, but it was a hit with the ladies.
I loved looking younger than my actual age but all good things come to an end.
After quitting the store I wanted to change my line of work and look more professional. The fancy shirts went into a closet. The pleather pants were saved for Halloween. The hair was toned down. Eventually it started to go grey. My beard turned white and I got fat. It can happen to anyone.
I own the “old man” schtick now, but there is still one thing that I hate. And I do mean hate.
Mrs. LeBrain is a little younger than me (I’m a 1972 model and she’s a 1978), but not by a significant difference. Where she wins is a natural youthful look. People always mistake her for someone much younger. She loves being asked for ID. That kind of thing makes her day. What pisses me off is when people mistake me for her father! And it keeps happening!
I took Jen to the hospital to have some tests done (no worries, all good) and had about an hour to kill. I had an mp3 player loaded up with Kiss. Because Heavy Metal OverloRd had been talking about Hotter Than Hell (a personal favourite and among the first Kiss records I ever owned), I decided to take a nice morning walk while listening to that album. When done I progressed onward to Rock and Roll Over. It was a lovely morning filled with cool summer breezes, trainspotting, and Paul Stanley at his peak.
I got back in good time and soon a nurse called to tell me Jen was all set to go. She led me to her bed, and I saw a big bright smile on her face. It’s the smile that keeps me going every day. “Hi ‘dad’!” she said grinning. I was confused. Did she have a seizure? Was she really mistaking me for her dad?
No, she was playing around. The nurse asked if she wanted them to call “her father” to come and get her. Me being her father! Jesus Murphy….
I hate, hate, hate being mistaken for her father! I didn’t even have my big white beard!
I’ll let it slide because those nurses did a great job as always, but c’mon!
I looked exactly like the guy in the photograph below. I don’t think he looks old enough to be Jen’s dad, do you?
The hat, maybe? The day I took Jen to the hospital I was wearing a Van Halen T-shirt and camo shorts with shoes and socks.
I have since shed the locks; a mixture of “shit brown” (my dad’s words) and grey highlights. I now rock the bald head again, but do I look any younger? I don’t think so.
It’s a game I just can’t win! Though it doesn’t really matter does it? Jen prefers me with less hair, and it’s a lot less work. I was just keeping it long just to have long hair at Sausagefest for once. I enjoyed that (it also kept my neck from getting burned), but long hair doesn’t feel nice in the summer time. It’s time to go back to what feels good!
I have a birthday coming up this week, but I’m not old. Just older!
Dr. Kathryn saw Cheap Trick at the Centre in the Square and has returned with photographic proof.
“Cheap Trick were great! They played for about an hour and a half straight with no encore. It was a good mix of old songs and new. There were a bunch in the middle I didn’t know. Robin Zander can still sing pretty well, but his shortcomings were very obvious when he started to sing ‘The Flame’ with just himself on guitar. When he has all the other players behind him, his voice sounds much better and you can’t hear where he’s lacking. There was an extra guitar player (Robin Zander’s son Robin Taylor Zander) in the back and Tom Petersson played a twelve string bass. Rick Nielsen threw picks into the audience and I caught three! Looking back, I didn’t get any close ups of Robin Zander! He was right in front of me plenty.”
GETTING MORE TALE #738: Mike and Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure
September 29, 1990.
Mike and Bob rented a video camera at Steve’s TV. That afternoon, they began filming (full title) Mike and Bob’s Excellent Cross-Kitchener Adventure Part II. They recruited amateur film maker (and Mike’s sister) Kathryn (Cujo 3: Revenge of the Schnauzer) to tape their adventure. The result has, 29 years later, finally been edited down by Mike into a proper director’s cut.
It started with us and an idea. We wanted to show off our home town to our friends living elsewhere in Ontario. The best way to do that was with a video.
Bob and I spent the afternoon driving around Kitchener in his Dodge Daytona, with Kathryn on camera, tunes blasting. Bryan Adams, Northern Pikes, Barney Bentall, Grapes of Wrath and…Wilson Phillips…. Wilson Phillips? Driver picks the tunes. That’s always been the rule. For once, I’m proud to say I didn’t have my license yet. It means I can’t claim to have picked Wilson Phillips!
Downtown Kitchener is familiar, but completely transformed today. In our film, we captured both Sam the Record Man and Dr. Disc, just down the street from one another. Neither exist anymore. Dutch Boy, the old movie theatres, stores and restaurants disappeared years ago but at least we got them on tape.
We stopped by Grand River Collegiate Institute, so you can see what it looked like (on the outside) almost 30 years ago. Stanley Park Mall, before complete renovation, is another filming location. Back then, “JohnnyCash” machines were some of the first popular bank ATMs. Today, younger people often don’t believe me they were real. They were real, and here’s one in our movie! Off to Pioneer Sports World, which today is a nothing more than a shopping plaza with restaurants and outlet stores. In 1990, it had a water park, mini-golf, driving range, video arcade, and go-karts. All of this is gone now, but preserved in our little movie.
The old McDonalds on Victoria Street was torn down long ago, but we were recording when we stopped for fries. Our order came to $5.38 total. Kathryn couldn’t resist taking a break from the camera and heading into the McDonalds Play Place. It was always a sad time when you realized you were too big for the Play Place. Looks like for Kathryn, that day may have been September 29, 1990.*
For personal history, I’m glad to find my old bedroom still preserved on film. There it is, my old stereo. My tiny record collection! About 15 to 20 LPs in there? My old posters. A decent model tank diorama. My old Judas Priest shirt, the first rock shirt I ever owned. Another shirt discovered in this movie did not survive. Oh, and there’s the cutest (but grumpiest Schnauzer in history, Crytal Belle.
We also visited Kitchener’s most controversial landmark: “Aphoria”, a worm-shaped piece of art in front of the old courthouse. We certainly made our feelings about the monument known in our film. My position hasn’t changed much since.
Admittedly, we didn’t put much effort into making Mike and Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure at the time. We only had the camera for a day. It’s what our old film teacher Mrs. Beckman would have called “just some kids goofing off.” True, but maybe with 30 years’ time, that has some value now. We didn’t script anything; we had no way of editing it, so there didn’t seem much point. We had to just film everything in sequence and what we had on tape was what we got. Before transferring it to digital, the movie was an hour long, and completely unwatchable to anyone but us. I’ve since sunk several hours into Mike and Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure, and I think I may have salvaged it. At 32 minutes, this is more like what we would have done at the time if we had a way to edit tape.
If you’ve read this far, I’m not going to beg you to watch Mike and Bob’s Cross-Kitchener Adventure. Old friends that remember those days will not want to miss it. Most won’t care. Whichever category you fall in, I recorded an audio commentary track to go with it (which helps a lot). Choose which version to watch from the videos below. Or watch both!
* The date was determined thanks to the film. I had an old Hit Parader calendar and I mention that it was Alex Skolnick from Testament’s birthday. That made it September 29, 1990. This jives with the colour of the leaves and my own memory of the day.
I’m breathless because I found all my VHS tapes. Every last one of them!
The first one to go in the player is the most important to me.
In 1989, Bob and I made a music video for “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison for a highschool project. Until now I’ve only been able to describe it to you. In Getting More Tale #455: How to Make a Music Video (The Old-Fashioned Way) I went into as much detail as possible into how two kids made a music video. That was fun but it was disappointing that I couldn’t show you the finished product.
Ladies and Gentlemen, filmed on location in Kitchener (1988 and 1989), here is “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison, as interpreted by Mike and Bob! Get a good look at the town and Grand River Collegiate Institute as it was 30 years ago.
God damn I’ve been waiting a long time for this!
In 1988-1989, a teenage LeBrain and his buddy Bob were very active in the school film program. We both took the highschool film course, and loved it. I remember writing an essay comparing the early and later films of Steven Speilberg, and scoring 98% or 99% on it. I just loved film and still do today, but Bob and I had our eyes on a different prize. We wanted to make a music video.
We both had guitars, and another kid in the film club named John had a camera. A kid from drama class named Dave offered to be the drummer. We didn’t have any drums (or even sticks), but that’s OK; Journey used the “no drums” thing as a gimmick in their video for “Separate Ways”. Taking that as inspiration, I got Dave to hit rocks and tables with chopsticks. We tried to access the drum kit in the school music room but it was booked. We could still do it, thanks to Journey. We could make an awesome music video!
It was our vision, so Bob and I got together one Saturday afternoon and spent several hours planning and doing rough storyboards.
The Charlie Awards were film awards for highschool kids, and Bob and I sought to enter our video that year. It was fall, and we began planning. The first thing we needed to do was pick a song. Wanting something upbeat that would allow us to run around a lot and make rock poses, we chose Poison’s “Nothin’ But A Good Time”. There was only one problem, which was that neither of us owned the album. So, I conned my dad out of the $10 to buy a copy at A&A Records & Tapes. I told him it was for a school project, which is true, but I didn’t tell him it was for a non-credit school project. Nor did I tell him the tape would then become part of my permanent music collection!
Bob and I plotted out what we needed to film. We wanted an intro similar to what Poison did in their very fun video (although this opening has since been edited out, probably due to “Rock and Roll All Nite” playing in the background of it). We got an English teacher, Mr. Payette, to help us out. In the school cafeteria, Bob’s character was sweeping the floor, playing air guitar and lip-synching to Van Halen’s “Jump”. Then Mr. Payette stormed in! “I pay you to clean the equipment, not play with it!” he yelled, nailing his part in just one take. Bob, not used to a nice guy like Mr. Payette yelling, was visibly having trouble keeping a straight face: but it worked! In the next shot, we utilized jump-cuts to have Bob’s leather jacket, sunglasses and guitar suddenly appear on him. And then the song began.
Since we had no idea how to make a music video and synch up the cassette audio afterwards, we had to figure it out as we went. We wound up shooting the “band” miming the video multiple times in many locations. Rockway Gardens in Kitchener was one such location. The school stage was another. We also did an incredible scene in a Geography class that was just terrific. We wanted a really angry looking teacher for that one, so we asked the Science teacher Mr. Marrow. He was a nice guy, but he sure could look mad when he needed to! For this shot, we taped a Samantha Fox swimsuit poster to one of the geography maps. Marrow pulled the map down, only to reveal Miss Fox! He then gave the camera a glare and stormed out. It was great. We filmed some guitar solos at the same time.
We spent a few months filming shots for the video, gathering scenes from different locations. We took some inspiration from the Beatles and had all of us rolling down a hill, jumping around on rocks, me doing several power slides…all kinds of rock and roll. Still winging it, we figured we would have more than enough great shots when it came time to editing.
We did not expect editing to be easy and it was not. Not in the least. At our disposal, we had a state of the art VHS editing suite. The school board owned it, and each high school got to keep it for a couple weeks a year. We had access to the suite in early ’89, around March. Bob and I stayed late at school every day for two weeks trying to get the video done by the deadline. We also had permission to skip a few classes. Still figuring things out as we went, we did not realize that the audio synch was a huge problem.
Bob pieced together the editing technique we would use. He chose a “master take” of us miming on the drummer Dave’s front lawn. This was a good master to use, because the audio was excellent. Bob was pumping the song through his car stereo, so we had a nice loud audio track to edit to. Then, when the video was done, we’d overdub the original song from the Poison cassette onto the video. Although it was hard work, the video pretty much edited itself. Bob and I both had plenty of shots we wanted to include, so it was just a matter of inserting them at the appropriate points. We had seen so many music videos over the years that cutting it was like second nature, once we figured out how to do it.
That’s when we ran into the audio synch issue.
Cut completed, we dubbed in the brand new clean audio direct from the Poison tape. By about halfway through the song, we started noticing problems. Even though every shot was perfectly synced in with the “master track”, the clean audio overdub was not. We struggled and struggled, trying to cue it up differently, and make it synch. We just couldn’t do it. By the end of the song, each line of the lyrics was off synch with our lips by at least one line. We called in the film teacher to help us. That’s when we learned something that we didn’t know about cassettes.
“Where is the original audio coming from on this video?” she asked. We explained that Bob had a great car deck, so we used that for our master take.
“That’s the problem then,” she said, telling us something we did not want to hear. “Car tape decks and regular cassette recorders often run at slightly different speeds,” she explained. “That’s why your audio is off. Either the car deck is playing the song fast, or this tape deck here is playing it slow, or both.”
There was nothing we could do with the technology at hand. We had no way to slightly speed up the cassette so it would match the video. And we were out of time on the editing suite. It had to go back, and if we couldn’t change the tape speed then we’d be stuck with a video we couldn’t synch up.
Using what little time we had left, we re-edited the end of the video slightly, to try and bring the words back into sync where they were the most glaring. We were able to fix some shots, but we were out of time and had to declare the project finished.
Bob and I attended the Charlie awards and saw some really amazing video work. In particular there was some clay animation that was brilliant, but there were also plenty of videos that were not nearly as good as ours. We got a special mention, but did not win a Charlie award, because of the audio synch. It was bittersweet, but Bob and I were both really proud of that video.
Here’s a new Canadian three-piece with some hard rock for your ears! Their new three track EP has potential. They’ve kept the songwriting short and to the point. There’s a distinct 90s groove to the EP, without resorting to direct references or ripoffs. When we say “90s groove” we’re referring to rhythm front-and-center, and a singer who does it from the guts.
Opener “Fear the Monster” has a pretty immediate chug, perhaps from the Stone Temple Playbook. This track is the clear winner of the three. As soon as it hit, my right hand started doing the air guitar motion. Chug chug — the riff is the key. Good song, and probably really good live.
“Lost in the Dark” and “Great Day” make up the rest of the EP, good songs both. The edge is on the dark side, these are not party songs but good ones for those angsty days. They could use some guitar embellishment, but the grooves crush. Get your headbangin’ on.
The EP sounds like a good first outing for DevilsRadio. There’s room to grow but they have a solid foundation from which to build. I’d like to hear them write more songs and add more to their sound, be it backing vocals or instrumental flourishes. There is good material here and “Fear the Monster” should get you movin’.
1. “Fear the Monster” 2:57
2. “Lost in the Dark” 4:43
3. “Great Day” 3:37