Lego

#718: Phases

GETTING MORE TALE #718:  Phases

Do you go through phases?  Perhaps you had a Hawaiian shirt phase (I did).  Maybe you had a period when you were really into crème brûlée.  It’s alright.  Don’t be ashamed.  Lets talk about different phases.

There’s always a spark.  Look back at your own phases.  Can you pinpoint something that started it?

The first time I heard Marillion was by pure chance.  A customer who liked me came in and sold three minty Marillion remasters.  (The bosses hated this customer, but he liked me because I gave him good money for his music.  The bosses thought I paid him too much and “spoiled” him so to speak.)  The three Marillion remasters he sold were  Script For A Jester’s Tear, Fugazi, and Misplaced Childhood.  Iron Tom Sharpe recommended I buy Misplaced as my first.  I spent a weekend with it and wanted more.  “Kayleigh” was absolutely immediate.  I knew it was the hit after a few verses.

A painful breakup later that year intensified my Marillion lust.  I went to their website and was astounded by what I saw:  a dozen or so exclusive albums only available online.  Some were sold out, such as Live at the Borderline.  Those that were not sold out went into my shopping cart, and showed up at my house a couple weeks later!  I even signed up for the fan club to get the free Christmas CD, and I pre-ordered their next studio album (unheard of back then).

I wasn’t done.  I wanted to track down the unavailable things.  Ebay had some and that’s how I ended up paying $300 for marillionrochester.  Only 2000 copies of it were ever made, which were sent directly to fans who donated to their 1997 American tour fund.  It’s signed and it is a holy grail item if there ever was one.  And I have it and it’s a much-loved part of my collection.

This Marillion phase also inspired a small Scottish phase.  I’m half Scottish and Marillion’s early lyrics got me interested in exploring that side of my history.  That culminated in my Rampant Lion tattoo.  I’m sure the actual Scottish guy at work, who was born and raised there, must have thought I was a wannabe.  (I probably was.)  I’m also half Italian but all I could think of for that tattoo was a bowl of spaghetti.

The shirt phase was a real thing too.  I bought a lot of shirts and not just Hawaiian.  This phase merited its own chapter:  Record Store Tales Part 249:  The Shirts.

Ugggh.

There was a Lego phase.  This was sparked inadvertently by T-Rev.  He had a giant sack of Lego from his childhood.  A lot of it was space Lego.  We spent an afternoon organising it to sell on Ebay.  He eventually got a few hundred bucks for the sack, but that afternoon of going through it all was naturally nostalgic.  So, I bought a Star Wars Lego set.  It was the Ultimate Collector Series X-Wing fighter.  Go big or go home.

It starts with one, and it just escalated from there.

The problems with collecting Lego are multiple.  Not only is it a real rabbit’s hole, but it’s just not easy to display.  When Lego gets dusty it’s a pain in the ass to clean.  Bits and pieces pop off when you dust.  And spouses tend to knock them over and try to put them back together without you noticing.  Some of those sets are just too huge to display.

My Lego collecting ended with the Star Wars prequel trilogy in 2005.  The new releases became boring after that, and the shelf space issue had peaked.  I sold almost all of it in favour of my next phase:  robots.

Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, probably more so than Lego originally was, because Transformers had an ongoing Marvel comic series keeping me on the edge of my seat waiting for the next issue.  Transformers came back into my life in 2006, just by fiddling with a Beast Wars toy that was sitting around the office.    This phase has not really abated.  These transforming figures are more than just toys.  The high-end ones are functional pieces of art.

There were a few years of a Black Sabbath phase, where I obsessed to collect “everything” just like I did with Marillion.  I had a couple really good years of collecting Deep Purple in bursts.  The internet opened up a lot of avenues.  It was easy to get rare things like Stormbringer on CD.  You just had to be prepared to pay for it.

What about tattoos and piercings?  Were they a phase?  No — I still have one earring (left tragus) and it’s more a professional thing today.  And priorities.  My “thing” for tattooed and pierced girls must have been a phase, though.  Mrs. LeBrain has neither!  Not even her ears.

All my interests over the years have ebbed and flowed, except one:  my love of Rock and Roll.  35-odd years and we are still together.  And more in love than ever.  It’s been there for me every time.  Virtually every story on this site is associated with music.  That’s a beautiful thing.

 

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Gallery: The Lego Cassette Project

Did you watch cartoons in the 1980s?  If you, you probably remember the Transformers.  Think back, and picture the cassettebots.  Remember them?  Soundwave (Decepticon) and Blaster (Autobot) were the cassette recorders, each with an arsenal of cassette mini-robots to back him up.  Using an advanced alien technology called “mass shifting”, these giant robots could shrink down to the size of an actual cassette, thereby enabling them to spy unnoticed on human and robot alike.  As affordable toys, you may have had some yourselves.  The neat thing was these cassettes designed by Japanese company Takara were designed to perfectly mimic the size and shape of actual micro cassettes.  On the TV show and in the pages of the Marvel comic book, they were depicted as standard sized cassette tapes.

cassettes

Third party company Toyhax (also known as Reprolabels) has come up with some fun ways to enhance your cassette-bot toy collection.  Recently they released a set of plastic engines and stickers for the current Buzzsaw and Laserbeak toys in the 2016/2017 Hasbro Titans Return line.  This time they transform into little media players.  Fans always complain that Hasbro toys “don’t look enough” like the original 80s toy they are an homage to.  Toyhax has created the labels and engines to enhance the current toys, and enhance them they do.  The new accessories even enable new modes, like the “Star Trek communicator” see below.

Toyhax have also released a sticker set that enables you to use ordinary Lego bricks to create you own shrunken-down cassette versions of characters both popular and obscure.  All you need  are those small 1×2 flats.  You know the ones I mean?

lego

Don’t have any of those just lying around anymore?  Get this.  You can buy them, picked to order, for just pennies a piece.  You can pick as many of any colour you like.  Mix and match the stickers to get the best looking mini cassettes around, and perfect for your Masterpiece scale figures to hold.

They look great, and it’s a fun little project you can do with very little cost.  They enhance any solid Transformers Masterpiece collection as scale accessories.  See below with Fans Toys’ “Tesla” (aka Perceptor), they look just perfect!

 

Interview: 1537 Questions

We don’t need no preamble! If you have ever wanted to know how to write the most unique music reviews that this planet has ever seen, then you need to read on as we pick the mind of the one, the only, Mr. 1537 himself. He is one talented music writer that deserves all the praise you can heap.

1537


M: It is a pleasure to speak with you, Mr. 1537.  I understand that anonymity is important to you.  It would matter to me too, if I had any sense.  How would you like us to address you in this interview?

1537:  A simple ‘sir’ would normally suffice, but in order to seem a bit more user-friendly ( I gather the masses tend to like that) you can call me 15 strictly for the duration of this interview.

Actually I sort of ballsed up the whole anonymous thang by using my name as the blog domain; oops, back to spy school for me!   I don’t do any social media at all beyond WordPress and I am basically a needlessly secretive dude.  I admire folk who can bare their souls in their blogs but that’s not me at all, I let bits and pieces of my life seep through the cracks sometimes but not very much.

M: As opposed to me, who built a cottage industry on the minutia of working in a record store.  Now…Lego.  You’ve managed to incorporate Lego in your articles’ artwork, in a simple yet innovative and endlessly entertaining way.  How long have you been a fan of Lego, and is that longer than you’ve been into music?

15: Well, the Lego came first, my daughter got the Lego DJ figure and on a whim I thought it would look good on the circle of the Flying Lotus LP Cosmogramma, then Sleep Dopesmoker and then I started to look at the possibilities of making relevant figures for relevant LPs.  I had a Blogspot thang where I’d managed three reviews years before, but I gradually realised that if you gave people something to look at they might stop by and read my Mighty Rock Words of Power (MRWoP) too.

It took me a while to hit my stride and then when people actually started reading it … wow, it really is the best feeling.

Oh, Lego.  Yup, I’ve always loved it, way before I was conscious of music – although I grew up in a very music-oriented household.  I used to make elaborate Star Wars games and fantasies up through Lego, way before they had brought out space Lego. You used to have to improvise weapons in those days too, because Lego didn’t believe in promoting weapons as toys for kids.

M: That’s right, you used to have to use the “bullhorns” as guns, until Lego started introducing actual guns in 2005.  You seem to have a Minifigure appropriate for every single album review you do, no matter how bizarre or obscure.  Presently how many figures do you think you own?

15: I have a couple hundred Minifigures, which is not all of them by a long way, I’m not obsessive about collecting them and there are plenty of gaps in my collection.  I love it when they produce a new line and one strikes me as perfect for an LP I haven’t done yet.

A lot of the fun is improvising and putting combos of different figures together.  I’ve also drawn on a couple duplicates I have to make an Alice Cooper, a Scott Ian and a Ziggy Stardust; oh and I have also added cleavage to a figure or two along the way; that’s normal behaviour for a 44 year-old isn’t it?

M: I’m not one to judge.  What drives your review?  Do you start with the text or the visuals? 

15: Always the text.  I think wordaciously, not visually.  I’m a slow writer because I edit it all as I go along, most reviews take me at least 3 hours, with another 40 minutes or so on top for the pictures.  If you add in the demands of family life, a really demanding job, a little socialising and even, hey, listening to music sometimes, it all adds up to why I don’t produce as many as I’d like to.  There are never any ‘in the can’, I tend to write them, hit publish and go straight to bed, as it’s usually 1am by then.  I like waking up to everyone’s comments.

Q: Do you use any fancy-pancy camera or lighting equipment?  The images are always very crisp and vibrant, much better than I’ve been getting with my BlackBerry in my home office.

15: Absolutely not.  Everything I do is done on my iPhone (the model before the last one – 6 is it?), I’m not particularly good at it, I just take a lot of photos.  Shiny, shiny covers are the bane of my life.

What I am pretty good at now, by trial and error, is editing the pictures, I use a Windows App called Fhotoroom and another called KVADPhoto.  I have never ever published a picture I haven’t edited for contrast, colour, or cropped and altered etc.  Some of my favourites have been very boring photos before I have messed them around.

M:  I crop everything, but I wouldn’t know what to do as far as contrast or colour, so kudos to you sir.  A two-part question next:  What are your favourite reviews that you’ve done, both in terms of writing and in terms of photos?

15: In terms of the writing I rather like this comparison between Andrew Marvell, English metaphysical poet and a Rhino Bucket song about oral sex – it’s even got my voice on it:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/12/05/to-his-coy-bitch/

I’m also rather fond of doing interviews, that’s been a whole lot of fun when the right person has been on the other side who is willing to engage properly with the silliness of it all.  It’s also a nice way to get to chat to bands when you go see them live too.  Spencer from MFC Chicken was my first and favourite:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/11/18/spencer-speaks/

I have too many favourite pictures to pick a post, but these two have to come darned close – ‘Hatting’ Isaac Hayes and my take on The Shining:

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/hot-buttered-soul-02.jpg

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/the-shining.jpg

 

M: Ahh yes, The Shining was a personal favourite of mine too.   I find I often have to listen to an album while I write, and it can’t be the first listen either.  I need a fresh listen in order to capture all my thoughts and pass them on to the weary readers.  Your reviews are very different from mine, and frankly far beyond what I’m capable of writing.  Do you use the “listen as you write” technique or something else?

15: I try to give it a good listen the night before, or on my way to/from work (an hour-long commute doesn’t have to be all bad) and I listen to bits of it as I write, or if I’m happy I know it enough – I might be writing about something I’ve been listening to in heavy rotation for 28 years (Christ, I’m old!), I have an ambient playlist I listen to when I write sometimes.

M: What else do you need to be able to write?  I need to be in my underwear with a cold beverage.  No bevvies and no skivvies means no review.  I suspect you prefer warm slippers and oatmeal.

15: I need quiet, which is ironic given that most of my favourite music involves bellowing and shrieking.  I write at a desktop (hate lap-tops) in the room that also has our biggest TV in and so there can be a certain amount of negotiation involved – it’s often why I write so late into the morning, it’s the only time I can.

Other than that my needs are simple, I prefer non-restrictive trouser ware and that’s it.  You really write in your undies?

M: Hey, who’s conducting the interview here? I ask the questions! Is there any one band you really really hope reads your stuff?

15: Nah, although there is a fair chance of some artists tuning in because a lot of the LPs I bought in the late 80’s seem to have only sold one copy, to me – I always try to be pleasant because, you just should be.  If I can’t write anything too complimentary I always add in my caveat along the lines of ‘These guys made a far better record than I ever have I’m just a loser boy sat behind a keyboard’.

Larry Miller from Uncle Sam stopping by was wonderful (I own an LP he signed and bit for me back in ’91) and we’re still in touch – I even helped get their debut LP re-released, that was a real buzz.

https://jatstorey.com/2013/07/20/i-lost-more-friends-than-youll-ever-have/

Oh and (coughs) Mark Wilkinson may have stopped by once too …

https://jatstorey.com/2014/01/19/smiling-vinyl-whores/

M: Do you have any particular influences in terms of writing?  I’ve made no secret that in my early years, I was definitely trying to be Martin Popoff, Jr.  Your style is unlike anyone I’ve read, but surely that didn’t happen in a vacuum?

stan-lee15: I had to really think about this one.  In terms of the character I write in, the tone of it, a lot of it comes from Stan Lee in those 1960’s Marvel comics – they knocked me for 6 when I first read my parent’s copies as a kid, the jokey references to himself and his fellow writers and artists in ‘the bullpen’; it was very playful and irreverent, that stuck with me.

You could maybe chuck in a bit of Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams, they were and are still, the only humorous writers I truly like and I do try to amuse.

Other than that there were all those fabulous late 80’s Kerrang! journalists, who were informative and, again, playful in the way they wrote – lots of irreverence and in-jokes, they painted their own little world and made it seem like the coolest place in the world to work.  I met Phil Wilding at a gig once and was more excited about that than the band (Dangerous Toys).

Oh and I hope there’s enough self-deprecation in there to show I do write in character and I’m not really a megalomaniac with an omnipotence delusion.

M: Sure, sure.  I knew that.  Anyway, do you ever worry you will run out of things to say about music?  Or do you see “1537” as a long-term project?

15: No, mostly because of the format I’ve set up for myself, my blog runs on rails to an extent – jokey title (usually), review of record(s), review count at the end, Lego images.  I have enough of the little vinyl buggers that I don’t have to write about the same artist too often, which would fox me – the closest I ever came to a series, like you, Geoff and Aaron do so well, was spending a month writing about artists beginning with a ‘B’ – I found that really tough.

Anyway I’ve got 809 more records to review.  Not sure where I’ll take it after that, because the whole point of the blog, apart from being an extended diary for myself, was to make sure I took time out to listen to everything I own properly – I have a horror of having stuff I haven’t heard, it makes me feel gluttonous and despicable.

M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  The agent who set this up didn’t want me to ask this last question.  But the interview is going well enough so I think I’m going to ask it.  You’re a Lego man — this is clear.  Meanwhile I’m into things that turn into little robots.  With all due respect, I think we both know that robots > bricks, but that is neither here nor there.  If you could transform into something, what would it be, and why?

I know the only reason you feel safe enough to ask me that is that I am currently orbiting earth at a crucial velocity on my space station, so I shall overlook your mortal impertinence this once.  I always wanted to be a farmer when I was little and was totally obsessed with tractors, it was all I ever drew apart from digital watches (they were new then).  So the obvious answer is a digital watch which transforms into a big kick-ass Ford County 1164 tractor (I always loved their colour scheme).

tractor

TRACTOR-TRON 1537 Lego/Transformers crossover set coming soon


Thanks again to 1537 for the chat.  We’ll leave you with a suitable music video…”Rockin’ is Ma Business”…and business is good!

 

QUIZ WINNER Scott goes Rogue, receives prize

 

Scott works hard for his prizes!  When he said that Lego Album Cover Quiz #3 was his “entire afternoon” he wasn’t kidding.  That’s what makes a winner!

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to hand over Scott’s prize (a new copy of Whitesnake’s killer Saints & Sinners CD, featuring “Here I Go Again” and “Crying in the Rain”).  We met up and saw Rogue One which gets better upon further viewings.

There are more QUIZZES and more PRIZES coming in 2017!  Stay tuned, watch this space, or better yet, sign up for daily notifications so you never miss a chance to win some cool rock.

 


 

 

 

QUIZ WINNER! Lego Album Covers 3!

We have a winner!

Congrats to Scott Peddle for cracking the Lego mosaic quiz and winning a CD of Whitesnake’s fabulous 1982 album Saints & Sinners featuring the original versions of “Here I Go Again” and “Crying in the Rain”.

Scott identified all five albums!  “That was my afternoon. Obsess much?” he asks.
1. JOE SATRIANI – Shockwave Supernova

2.  MONSTER TRUCK – Sittin’ Heavy

3. HONEYMOON SUITE – The Singles

4. HELIX – Rockin’ In My Outer Space

5. HAREM SCAREM – Mood Swings

Congrats Scott and enjoy your new Whitesnake!

scan_20161217-5

Runner-up for “most original answer” is Scott the Heavy Metal Overlord, for the below response:

 

1. THE BOABYS – Show Us Yer Boaby
2. SUMS DOG – 2 + 2 equals woof
3. IMHOTEP – s/t
4. SAMMY HAGAR – Butter on my Biscuit
5. MARILLION – Fuck Christmas and Run: Christmas CD No. 367.5

Thanks for participating you guys!

QUIZ: Lego Album Covers 3 (Win a free CD!)

WE HAVE A WINNER!

 

 

Wanna win a free CD?  This brand new copy of Whitesnake’s fantastic 1982 album Saints & Sinners (featuring the original versions of hits “Crying in the Rain” and “Here I Go Again”) can be yours if you can just solve the quiz.

scan_20161217-5

All you have to do is identify five album covers that have been converted into Lego mosaics.  It’s easy!  

Please be sure to read the rules below:

  1. Do not leave your answer in the comments.  Don’t spoil the contest!  Leave your answer by filling out the form below which will be directly emailed to my top-secret address.
  2. You may enter as many times as you like.
  3. But the first right answer and only the first answer gets the prize.
  4. You must provide the correct artist and title for all five albums.
  5. This shouldn’t be too hard, but the contest master might be cajoled into giving out a few clues if this goes sideways and takes forever.
  6. The winner will be required to provide a mailing address for the prize to be sent.
  7. An alternate prize (DVD movie(s) from a selection) will be available upon request.

Prize will be mailed after Christmas.  Fill out the below form with your answer.

Ready?  Set?  Each of these covers is a forthcoming album review at mikeladano.com (that’s a clue).  IDENTIFY and GOOD LUCK.  GO!

1.

lego-1

2.

lego-2

3.

lego-3

4.

lego-4

5.

lego-5

 

Part 316.5: 6 Happy Years

LEGO JEN
Happy Anniversary to my beautiful soul mate Jennifer.  Every day gets better and better, and you look younger and younger!  I don’t know how you do it.  Meanwhile I’ve turned into a grey-bearded old man with a bad back and lactose intolerance, and you still keep me around!  Must be love.  It’s the only possibly explanation why you live in a house full of Transformers, CDs, and records.

The last six years have been the happiest of my life.  Thank you for being the puzzle piece that was missing all that time.

Love you, sweetie. Here’s one of the songs we danced to six years ago, on the best day of my life.

QUIZ WINNER! Lego Album Covers 2

We have a winner in the Lego Album Covers 2 contest!  As promised, the winner gets my eternal respect and a shout-out.  The winner is…

LEMON KURRI KLOPEK!

Who successfully named all five albums –

  1. White LionBig Game
  2. MarillionThe Thieving Magpie (La Gazza Ladra)
  3. Mad SeasonAbove
  4. Nine Inch NailsGhosts I-IV
  5. The BeatlesYesterday and Today (butcher cover)

I had a complaint of “fixing” from somebody, but I won’t mention their name number!

Congrats to Mike aka Lemon Kurri Klopek who now has my eternal respect.

LKK

QUIZ: Lego Album Covers

I decided to go easy on you. Name all five albums in the comments section!

Part 189: Hiding the Music

RECORD STORE TALES Part 189:  Hiding the Music

1985:

There was a group of kids on the street (Bob, myself, Rob Szabo, and Peter Coulliard) that were competing for a cassette copy of Kiss Alive II.  There was only one copy that we knew of in town on cassette.   Guys like Bob and Szabo would know that — they were older, had nice bikes, and probably had been checking all over town.  The only copy we knew of was at a store called Hi-Way Market.

Other kids on the street such as George and Todd had the album on vinyl, but Bob and myself didn’t really have any decent equipment for playing records at the time.  Cassette was portable, it was our primary medium in 1985.  In 1985, you didn’t listen to “albums”, you listened to “tapes”.  The cassette copy at Hi-Way Market was priced at $12.99.  This was more expensive than most, because it was considered a “double album” even though it was still just one tape.

KISS ALIVE II BACK

None of us had $12.99 plus tax right then, but Hi-Way Market had this tape we all wanted.  Hi-Way Market was a great store.  It had old creeky wooden floors.  Downstairs were groceries and clothing.  Upstairs, the greatest toy store in town.  Every Christmas they did a giant Space Lego display.  It was incredible.  But off to the side of this store, up a narrow staircase, was a little record store.  I bought my first Iron Maiden (Live After Death, on vinyl) there.  (I think the deciding factor in buying the vinyl of that album was the massive booklet, a rarity in those days.)

Since none of us had the money, Peter Coulliard hid the copy of Alive II behind something else in the store.  Something where no Kiss fan would ever look for it.  Probably behind Duran Duran or Michael Jackson.  This enabled Peter to have the edge when he finally did gather the necessary funds, thus edging Bob, Szabo and I out in the battle for Alive II.

1999:

These two kids kept coming into the store that were fascinated by my copy of Kiss’ Carnival of Souls.  These were young kids…well, about the same age as Bob, Peter and I were back when we pulled this stuff.  They did not have the $10.99 ($12.64 with tax) to purchase Carnival of Souls.  We didn’t have the only copy they could find, but we did have the cheapest one.  The mall stores were asking at least $20 for new copies.

So these kids came in day after day, week after week, moving Carnival of Souls.  They continually got more creative with their hiding places.  My job was to make sure the shelves were also straight and orderly, and when you’d find Kiss under Anne Murray, you’d put it back.  When bosses found Kiss under Anne Murray they’d give you crap.  So, much as I sympathized with the kids’ musical choice, they were grinding my gears as manager.

Finally I got fed up.  I sent the CD to Trevor’s store with an explanation of why he had to keep it and sell it there.  Then the two kids came in again.

“Hey, umm, do you have Kiss Carnival of Souls?” asked the first one.

“Nope, sold it yesterday,” I lied.

“Awwww…” said the second kid.

It had happened.  I had become “the man”!  I had lost sight of my old self.  Didn’t I pull that “hide the album” stunt myself? In fact, didn’t I do it with GI Joe figures at Hi-Way Market?  I did!

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…Early Birds.