lick it up

#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.

Sunday Chuckle: Not Kiss!

A good buddy of mine has three kids.  He will often play them music via Youtube, and they have been enjoying classic Kiss lately.  In fact about a year ago, I myself was trying to teach them the correct words to “Shout it Out Loud”, for which they were singing their own variation.

My buddy tells me that the other day, Youtube shuffled to the “Lick It Up” video and he pointed out, “Look kids, Kiss.”  His infant daughter looked up, saw four guys with no makeup on, and yelled, “NOT KISS!”

Smart kid.  Just a child and already knows “new” Kiss from “old” Kiss.

REVIEW: KISS – Demos 1981-1983

The KISS RE-REVIEW SERIES Part 24 New bonus review!

Demos 1981-1983  (Bootleg)

For the first time in my life, I bought a CD that sounded so shitty, I couldn’t even stand to listen to it. I knew that the bootleg CD, Kiss Demos 1981-1983 wasn’t going to sound terrific, because my neighbor George had a version of this on LP way back in the day. I didn’t know it was going to sound this horrid.

Demos 1981-1983 collects some Kiss and assorted tracks, from some very dubious sources.  It sounds like 12th generation cassettes, complete with music bleeding through.  You can actually hear “Tokyo Road” by Bon Jovi bleeding through on track 7.  Enjoy the tape drop-out and inaudible drums too.  There are some interesting bits here, and some useless ones.

You can divide this CD into three sections.  The first six tracks seem to be Vinnie Vincent demos.  They include “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”, which evolved into two separate songs.  The verses became “And on the 8th Day” by Kiss, from the 1983 album Lick It Up.  The choruses became “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” from Vinnie Vincent Invasion’s debut LP.  These demos reportedly feature Vinnie himself on lead vocals, and he does a fine job of it in fact.  Why did he even need a lead singer?  Another curious track is “Back on the Streets” which Ace Frehley was known to play live before his first Frehley’s Comet album.  In fact the Comet band covered it on the tribute album Return of the Comet, and Vinnie put it on the first Invasion album. Finally there is the track listed on the back as “Your Baby”.  This is actually “Baby O” also from Invasion’s debut.

Moving on from the Vincent tracks, there are a few Kiss demos supposedly from The Elder sessions.  These include titles that are probably made up:  “Heaven”, “The Unknown Force” and “Council of the Elder”.  They are accompanied by an instrumental demo of “A World Without Heroes” and the original Frehley version of “Dark Light”, called “Don’t Run”.  These are actually really cool skeletons of tracks.  The one titled “Unknown Force” is a bass-led instrumental, and it has a funky little guitar part that is insanely nifty, but it’s just one idea that needs to be fleshed out.  Then there is “Heaven” which fans today know better as “Carr Jam” (on Kiss’s Revenge) or “Breakout” (on Frehley’s Comet).  Eric Carr wrote this riff for The Elder sessions and though Kiss didn’t use it, Ace did.  “A World Without Heroes” is an instrumental on which you can barely hear guitars.  Finally there is the track called “Council of the Elder” which could be the best of the lot.  It has a Zeppelin-y beginning reminiscent of things like “Thank You”, before it blasts into a cool riff that I don’t recognize from anywhere else.  Only a small part of the song seems to have been used, in “Only You”.

The third chunk of songs focuses on Lick It Up demos, a boring bunch of inaudible crap, all but one snippet called “You”.  It’s just a few chords and a vocal melody idea that Paul and Vinnie came up with, but it’s cool to hear them harmonize.  It’s possible this track evolved into “A Million to One” as the chords are similar.

The most inexcusable inclusion on this CD is “Young & Wreckless” which claims to be a Lick It Up demo with vocals by Vinnie Vincent.  This inclusion is an error that goes all the way back to the vinyl versions of this bootleg that circulated in the 80s.  The immediately obvious issue is that it’s not Vinnie Vincent singing, it’s Brian Vollmer.  That’s because “Young & Wreckless” is a Helix song, and this track is lifted right from their 1984 album Walkin’ the Razor’s Edge!  Like the rest of the CD, it sounds like an 18th generation cassette copy.

This disc is for die-hards only.  What I’d like to see is an official release of the demo tracks from The Elder period, which are great.  Next box set, boys?

1/5 stars

To be continued…


RE-REVIEW: KISS – Lick It Up (1983)


  Lick It Up (1983 Polygram, 1997 Mercury remaster)

On September 18 1983, Kiss publicly unmasked on MTV.  They each appeared with a name tag at a desk and answered questions from the press.  Their first album with their bare faces on the cover was just released on that day:  Lick It Up.  With two non-original members now in the band, and their fortunes fading, it seemed like the best move commercially and artistically.  According to writer Robert V. Conte, the Kiss press conference was overshadowed by an MTV special on Van Halen, broadcast the same evening.

It would be easy for skeptics to dismiss Kiss’ unmasking as a mere stunt, and in many ways they would be right, but it was not a decision made lightly.  Kiss had legitimate fears about how they could carry on without the makeup and costumes.  They came to realize that they could just continue doing what they do – playing their songs live as they always have.

The new album, Lick It Up, was brilliant. It is “exhibit A” in the case of “Did Vinnie Vincent save Kiss?”  With eight out of ten writing credits, all of them great, it certainly appears that Vinnie gave Lick It Up a swift kick in the afterburner.

The stark white cover featured Kiss in their street clothes.  It was a minimalist cover with the only clue to their identities being Gene’s tongue.  In Japan, a full cover obi retained the band in makeup (including Vinnie) until you opened the package and saw the white cover inside.  This led to an urban legend that Japan actually had a rare makeup cover on their edition of Lick It Up.

Strangely enough, even though Lick It Up was Vinnie’s official debut as a Kiss member, He didn’t play the solo on opening salvo “Exciter”.  This was unknown to fans at the time, but “Exciter” was performed by Rick Derringer after Vinnie couldn’t nail the right vibe in the studio.  It was an ominous warning of things to come.

Otherwise, “Exciter” ushered Kiss into the 1980s with a sound that fit.  It had a chunky guitar chug, and killer melodic chorus, and left the sound of the 70s far behind.  Perhaps most importantly, it had no outside writers.  Nothing on Lick It Up required outside writers now that they had Vinnie in the band.

After the blowout opening of “Exciter”, Gene Simmons grinds it down slow with one of his heaviest tracks to date: “Not For the Innocent”.  Gene adapted his singing style to include a Demon scream, and “Not For the Innocent” features lots of it on the outro.  “Not For the Innocent” built on the heavy Kiss of Creatures of the Night and pushed it heavier.

The first single was the successful and surprisingly simple “Lick It Up”.  It’s basically a textbook guitar chug with verses and a chorus – no solo.  It was enough to go top 40 in the UK and Canada and has since become a concert staple.  In fact it’s the only Lick It Up song to remain in the set beyond the 80s, and it’s a pretty good song for what it is.

Simmons returned to the fore on the frenetic “Young and Wasted”, an example of speedy 80s Kiss keeping up with their metal compatriots.  Fortunately, Vincent provided a kicking riff.  Live, “Young and Wasted” was often given to Eric Carr to sing.  The studio version is the one to beat.  Then it was Paul Stanley’s turn in the driver’s seat with “Gimme More”, keeping things rolling in a non-descript top gear.

One of the most interesting tunes on Lick It Up is the side two opener and second single “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose.”  It was begun as a Zeppelin-y riff by Eric Carr, and finished by all four members – only the second Kiss song ever credited to all four members.  It became, in Eric’s words, a “rock and roll rap song!”  That’s not quite so, though Paul’s talk-singing in the verses evokes the basics of rap.  No worries though; this is one brilliant Kiss song that really deserved more exposure.  One worth buying the album for.

The Simmons-dominated second side of Lick It Up is where most of the treasures are found, but Paul had one more kick at the can.  Paul’s “A Million to One” is an unsung classic.  A defiant Stanley tells an ex that her chances of finding a better lover are “a million to one”.  With such an awesome song backing him, Paul makes a convincing argument.  He hits a homerun with melody and angst.

A trio of Simmons tunes ends Lick It Up as one of Kiss’ heaviest album.  “Fits Like a Glove” is speedy-Kiss again, hyper-caffeinated and playing as fast as they can.  Gene’s barking out the words, chewing them up, spitting them out and taking no prisoners.  Then, he brings it back to a groove on “Dance All Over Your Face”.  It’s a song you might not know, but you should.  Kiss’ deep cuts from the 80s have some rare diamonds, and this is one of them.

The closer was an apocalyptic rocker called “And on the 8th Day” which was based on a Vinnie Vincent demo.  The verses of that demo became “And on the 8th Day”.  The choruses became a later Vinnie Vincent Invasion track called “Boyz Are Gonna Rock”, which we will look at later on.  The two songs share DNA but have little else in common.  The Vincent demo is the kind of speed rocker that dominated Lick It Up.  Meanwhile the Kiss song “And on the 8th Day” has the slow monster plod, a killer riff, and a chorus that goes on for days.  Although it’s never seen the light of a concert stage, it really should have.

Though Vinnie Vincent co-wrote the songs that may or may not have saved Kiss, he was a real problem.  His personality didn’t mesh, and his ego got the better of him.  He couldn’t come to an agreement with Kiss over his contract, and in fact never signed one to become an official Kiss member.  This caused him to be let go at the end of the European Lick It Up tour.

Finding a replacement for Vincent wasn’t easy, and he was re-hired for the American tour, though he still delayed signing a contract.  Issues with Vinnie grew on this tour, as he grabbed more of the spotlight from his bandmates.  Like Ace Frehley before him, Vinnie was given a five minute solo spot, but sometimes Vinnie dragged them out well into overtime.  This caused plenty of tension, especially when he once broke into an impromptu solo leaving the band on stage not sure what to do.  The issue of Vinnie’s contract became a non-issue when he was let go permanently.  The band have had very little good to say about Vinnie Vincent since then, especially when the lawsuits began.  Despite this, Lick It Up was not to be Vinnie’s final collaboration with his former band.

Did Vinnie Vincent save Kiss?  This argument will go on as long as there are Kiss fans to discuss it.  Vinnie certainly did provide Kiss with some grade-A songs, both here and on Creatures of the Night.  However he wasn’t the kind of guitar player they needed, who could play the old stuff authentically and also shred with the new kids.  If Vinnie hadn’t come along, another talented writer would have, and Kiss would have continued.  This doesn’t do anything to discredit Lick It Up, a damn fine “comeback” indeed.

Today’s rating:

5/5 stars

Uncle Meat’s rating:

3.5/5 steaks 

Meat’s slice:  After my scathing review of Creatures of the Night, I wasn’t sure how to approach this Lick It Up Meat’s Slice. I guess I’ll start with March 15, 1984. My buddy Scott Hunter and I went to Maple Leaf Gardens to see Kiss on the Lick it Up tour, with supporting act Accept! This was to be my second Kiss concert, as we were also at Maple Leaf Gardens for the Creatures tour on January 14, 1983. A concert in which we didn’t know until well after that it wasn’t Ace Frehley on guitar…but none other than Vinnie Vincent. Of course Vinnie was on guitar for the Lick it Up tour as well. Great show with openers The Headpins. Before my 15th birthday, I had now seen Kiss twice. I am 47 now and haven’t seen them live since.

Kiss had taken the makeup off between these albums. Years before I remember seeing a People magazine in my grandmother’s bathroom, while taking a shit, that showed Gene Simmons with a bandana over his face just over his nose. Up until now I had not seen any Kiss member without makeup. So there they are on the Lick It Up cover and all I can think is…”Damn…wish they still had makeup at least for that really ugly dude,” (Vinnie).  The title track of the album has become a bit of a Kiss classic and is still a great song. Not a lot of this album is exceptionally great in my opinion, but there are some good gems in there. The best of which I think is “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, which I have always loved and still do. Other than those two songs? The album lies somewhere between Meh and Good for me.

Funny Vinnie story for me though. Many years ago our makeshift band at the time were playing a Christmas assembly at St. David’s High School in Waterloo here. I was standing behind the soundboard as my guitar player was on stage doing a sound check. The sound guy asked my buddy Dave to play a bit to get a starting level. As per usual, Dave went ripping into some heavy metal bullshit soloing. After a few seconds of that I could see the sound guy waving his hands in the air in front of me, and after getting Dave’s attention, says into the microphone at the board, “Okay Vinnie Vincent…Settle down there.”  Always found that kinda defined the Vinnie Vincent Invasion.

Favorite Tracks: “All Hell’s Breakin’ Loose”, “Lick It Up”

Forgettable Tracks: I don’t know about forgettable, but the rest isn’t that memorable.

To be continued…

Original review:  2012/07/20





DVD REVIEW: KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004)

KISS – 20th Century Masters: The DVD Collection (2004 Universal)

These 20th Century Masters DVDs were a fun way to pick up key music videos from major bands at a cheap price.  Today this role is largely filled by sites such as YouTube.  The Kiss edition features five of their biggest from the 1980’s:  One with makeup, four without.  One each from Creatures, Lick It Up, Animalize, Asylum, and Crazy Nights.

“I Love It Loud”, of course, features the band in full makeup and costumes, including Ace Frehley, even though he did not play on Creatures of the Night.  This brilliant video spoofed the popular “rock and roll is brainwashing our kids” fears of the 80’s.  In this video, Kiss use their incredible brain powers to do that very thing.  Gene can even melt objects with his fire breathing, through a fucking television set.

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Let me set the stage for you in the clip for “Lick It Up”:  It is the Future.  Nuclear war has seemlingly reduced America to a wasteland, the population are dressed in rags.  The only human beings left alive are women…and of course the four guys from Kiss (now including Vinnie Vincent on guitar).  Only they can bring salvation (and music) to the surviving ladies.

“Heaven’s On Fire is a pretty standard 80’s video.  The band frolic with babes, Gene wags his tongue, Eric shakes his hair.  This video is however notable as the one and only appearance of guitarist Mark St. John (who replaced Vinnie Vincent) on lead guitar.

The clip for “Tears Are Falling” isn’t the best.  It’s a better song than a video, but there’s a cool part where Bruce plays a guitar solo in the rain.  It’s too bad that Kiss chose the Asylum period for a garish set of sequined covered bathrobes, a popular 1985-86 trend.

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“Crazy Crazy Nights” boasts some pretty big production values and the debut of the “new” late-80’s KISS sign.  I hated the softening of the musical and visual direction of Kiss in this video.  This is the beginning of Paul Stanley merely dancing with his guitar in videos, rather than playing it.  Watch the video.  At no point is Paul doing anything more than wearing or dancing with his guitar!

Eric Carr was the drummer on all tracks, rest his soul.

3/5 stars


REVIEW: KISS – Kissin’ Time in San Fransisco (1974/1975 bootleg)


KISS – Kissin’ Time in San Fransisco (1974 or 1975 bootleg , Black Diamond Records 1994)

Early Kiss, live Kiss at least, was the best!  They were young hungry punks, a garage band in makeup and heels, playing with an intensity that they never equaled even on later triumphs like Kiss Alive! or Love Gun.  It was a ferocity on stage, made doubly impressive when you remember that they were weighed down by those costumes.

This widely available bootleg recording showcases exactly what early Kiss was about.  Recorded shortly after the release of their second album, Hotter Than Hell, it actually sounds pretty good for 1974 or 75.  You may be familiar with some of these recordings.  “Deuce” for example was on the Kiss eXposed video.  “Parasite” was later made available on the Kiss My Ass VHS and DVD.

What’s astounding here is just how good Peter Criss used to be.  I don’t mean technically.  I mean in that way that a good rock drummer just slams you in the guts and doesn’t let up.  Peter Criss plays like a savage.  The two best moments are “Watchin’ You” and “Parasite”.  He absolutely demolishes his kit, he’s relentless, and it’s so damn fun to listen to him, young and powerful, laying waste.

Gene’s bass is very loud in the mix, and while Gene was also no virtuoso, it’s nice to hear his compositional abilities on bass. Especially in early Kiss, Gene wrote and played some very cool basslines, melodic and solid.  It’s a side of Kiss that is often ignored by the critics.  Gene was heavily influenced by bands like Cream and I think you can hear that.

The setlist is pretty standard, with every song later getting showcased on the aforementioned Kiss Alive!  These versions are without the spit n’ polish that Eddie Kramer put on that disc, live as it was on that night.   In a lot of ways, I prefer these versions.  What they lack in audio fidelity, they make up for in sheer adrenaline and barbarism.  Paul’s as confident as ever on stage.  His stage raps are fully-formed and cocky.  His “Do you believe in rock and roll?” rap is present on “100,000 Years”, with Peter Criss hammering out a consistently tribal backdrop.

The CD is padded out by a bunch of unrelated (and often misspelled) bonus tracks.  “A World Without Heros” is an instrument demo from The Elder, widely circulated.  So is “The Difference Between Men & Boys”, which can be found under different names.  “Young and Wasted” is a Lick It Up demo (not from 1971 as stated on the back, who are we kidding?).  Lastly, “(We Want To) Shout It Out Loud” is from the Wicked Lester album.

4.5/5 stars

Part 170: Jonathan

RECORD STORE TALES Part 170:  Jonathan

I’ve worked with a lot of accountants over the years.  I like accountants.  I seem to get along with accountants, don’t know why.  The coolest accountant I ever worked with was Jonathan.  I like to describe Jonathan’s appearance as being a dead ringer for the actor Romany Malco:

Jonathan always made me laugh.  Check out this journal entry:

Date: 2004/06/17

It was really amusing walking into the office today, and seeing Jonathan singing “Lick It Up” by Kiss.

Very un-accountant like behaviour!

Jonathan was good people.  He took a pay cut to work with us, because he wanted to do something he was passionate about.  He taught all us knuckle-draggers on the store floors about cash flow vs. profit.  He helped us out a lot on the financial side, and he was smart.  Plus he loved music.

One time when my mom came into the store to visit, I introduced her to Jon.  He said to my mom, “You brought up a good son, Mrs. Ladano.”

I used to drive Jonathan home from work once or twice a week, and it was always good to talk to him.  He used to give me advice every time.  He encouraged me to better myself.  He used to call me “Lifer”.  He said, “You’re never going to get out of here.  You’re going to work here forever.”  But he did it to rile me up, to get me looking for work elsewhere, because he knew the CD store was a dead end for me.  He had respect for me, when he called me “Lifer” he meant it to motivate me.

I’d talk to him about girls I liked.  There was this girl that worked at the Money Mart next door, but I was too shy to walk in and talk to her.  So Jonathan did it for me!  Witness these journal entries:

Date: 2004/05/21,  10:08

The one girl at the Money Mart next door is really cute, and I see her out there all the time having a smoke. When Jonathan goes out to have a smoke, he talks to her, give her a light, whatever.  I mentioned to Jonathan that I thought the one girl was real cute yesterday.  Then today, I TOTALLY got busted staring at her through the window!  THEN Jonathan went out to chat it up with her, right after I got busted, to tell her all about me, ask her if she wants to go out on a date with me…Jesus Christ!

Date: 2004/05/22,  09:52

  • Cheap Trick – Authorized Greatest Hits
  • Alice In Chains – Jar of Flies
  • KISS tribute – Kiss My Ass
  • The Goo Goo Dolls – Gutterflower
  • Rush – Vapor Trails

Nice thing about working the day alone with no bosses around is that you can listen to whatever the hell you want!

I don’t think Money Mart Girl, who I learned from Jonathan is named Jessica, is working today. So I couldn’t say hi to her even if I worked up the guts!

In the end, Jonathan had to split.  He had three kids and being an accountant for a CD store wasn’t going to cut it anymore.  He took an offer he could not refuse, and bid us farewell.

I’ll always remember good times working with Jonathan, a true character, and the guy who got me thinking about my future.


GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: W.A.S.P. w/ Metallica and Armored Saint – January 19, 1985

A treat for you boys & girls today!  A guest shot, a vintage concert review, and a significant one at that.  Remember when Metallica was just an opening act for mediocre bands?  Meat does.  And he’s back to tell you the story.  Enjoy the first guest shot of 2013, by Meat!


W.A.S.P. w/ METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT – January 19, 1985

By Meat

I was lucky at a young age to have the opportunity to see some great concerts.  The first concert of my life was at The Center in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario.  It was The Monks (remember “Drugs in my Pocket”?)  and I went with my childhood friend, Scott Hunter, and his mother.  I also saw the almighty Black Sabbath play the Kitchener Memorial  Auditorium, three days before my 12th birthday, on the Mob Rules tour on November 19, 1981. I saw Triumph on the Allied Forces tour play the Center in the Square, with my father not long after that.  But really my early concert experiences were mostly, and most memorably, with the aforementioned Scott Hunter.   I believe it was his uncle who had connections with a concert promotion at the time called CPI.  He would leave free tickets at Will Call for us at Maple Leaf Gardens or wherever the show was.  We saw the last Kiss tour with makeup at the time (Creatures of the Night tour) on January 14, 1983 with The Headpins opening.  Also saw the first ever Kiss tour without makeup (Lick it Up tour) on March 15, 1984 with Accept as the opening act.  As well as Motley Crue on the Shout at the Devil tour on June 10, 1984, at what is now the Ricoh Coliseum, also with Accept as support.   Many of these shows are quite memorable and monumental, but none so much as the first time I saw Metallica live.

I remember the first time Scott and I heard Metallica.  We would have a sleepover at his place every Friday night specifically because Toronto radio station Q107 had their “Midnight Metal Hour” on that night.  We would have first heard Metallica (“Seek and Destroy”) either late 1982 or early 1983, before Kill ‘Em All was even released.  Obviously it was an instant shot of Metal Up Our Ass!   Kill ‘Em All was released on vinyl and cassette on July 25, 1983.   I specifically remember  (but not exactly when) walking into a record store downtown Kitchener called Records on Wheels and buying that album, Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal and Van Halen’s 1984 on vinyl,  all during the same visit.   I also remember buying Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, the day it was released.  Thanks to the World Wide Web, I know now that date was July 27, 1984. Starting grade ten that September, I was pushing Metallica on anyone that would be open to it at my high school.   There were a very select few of us who were die-hards and would have Sony Walkmans stuck to our heads at every opportunity possible.  Now I cannot recall if we got free tickets for this particular show, but I do remember how pumped I was when I knew I was gonna see Metallica live.

The bill was as follows: Armored Saint (with Anthrax’s John Bush on vocals), Metallica and W.A.S.P.  Yes you read that right.  Metallica was opening up for W.A.S.P.  I do know that further along on the tour, Metallica and W.A.S.P. would trade headlining sets due to the obvious buzz around Metallica at the time.  Here is a picture of an actual ticket stub of this show.  Note the price ($15.00) and Armored Saint being spelled wrong on the ticket.

ticket 1

One thing I will add before I go on.  Of all the concerts and bands I have seen multiple times live, it is kinda strange I only saw Metallica live twice ever.  One of the reasons for this is quite obviously that after their album Load (otherwise known as Mighty Load of Shit), I never really had a great interest in seeing the band live again.  But it is worthwhile noting that I have seen Metallica live twice and BOTH TIMES they were opening for someone else.  (The second time being the strange bill of The Black Crowes / Warrant / Metallica / Aerosmith on June 29, 1990 at CNE Exhibition Stadium in Toronto) Again, note the ticket price for this.  This was before The Eagles ruined ticket prices for all acts with the ridiculous prices for their shows.   To quote “The Dude”  I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.

ticket 2

So there we were, January 19th 1985 standing in line in front of the late great Toronto concert venue named The Concert Hall. It was freezing cold out, and windy too.   So since this was a General Admission event, standing in line braving at least -15 Celsius weather, you can imagine how cold and bitchy people were.  I recall the rush of metalheads being ushered  quickly into the venue.  The second I got in there I went straight for the merch booth and bought a Ride the Lightning tour shirt for me and a high school friend named Joe DeLeo.  After that, like seemingly everybody, I had to take a wicked piss.  After doing that, I was horrified when I tried to zip my probably really tight jeans back up, and couldn’t because my hands were numb from the cold.  My embarrassed horror turned to laughter as I turned my head to see dozens of much older and much larger long-haired headbangers all having the same problem.  Only in Canada I guess eh?

Sometime later, Armored Saint took the stage.  I remember them being great and how loud it was in there.  They were received well and that venue was filling up. While enjoying their set my buddy Scott gets my attention and points to the much-shorter person beside me.  Immediately I recognized him as Russell Dwarf from the Toronto band Killer Dwarfs. Their name was very apropos considering this band consisted of nothing but short dudes with long hair.  I can only imagine how this band got together.  Wonder if an ad went out that said.  “Metal musicians needed.  Must not be over 5 foot 6 inches tall and have long hair”.  I loved that first album.  If you don’t know of them, here is their first single and video.

It was time for the Mighty Metallica.  They started out with the first track off Ride The Lightning, the classic riff-monster “Fight Fire With Fire”.   At this point I was probably about mid-way to the stage in a sea of metalheads.  This was before the days of the “moshpit”.  This was more of a Hair Swarm packed with long-haired sardines covered in denim and leather.   It would have been about half-way through the show that I wormed my way to the front of the stage.  This was no easy task as I am sure you can imagine, however being only 15 and much smaller than the masses (with the exception of the Killer Dwarfs of course), there I was literally feet from what would become the best-selling metal band of all-time.  This brings me to a memory I will cherish forever.  The seemingly monstrous Cliff Burton was right in front of me.  I reached out and had in my hand, the bottom leg of his ragged bell-bottom jeans.  He tried to kick me in the face, and thankfully missed.  Can’t blame him either for trying to kick my head off, and honestly it was the first thing I thought of  when said legend died in a bus accident a year and a half later in Sweden on September 27, 1986. R.I.P. Clifford Lee Burton.  Check out this YouTube audio clip I found of Metallica playing “Seek and Destroy” from this exact show.  Gotta love YouTube.

Check out this set list of the show the next night in Buffalo at some place called the Salty Dog Saloon. (I couldn’t find the Toronto set list online but I am sure it is identical)

  • “Fight Fire With Fire”
  • “Ride the Lightning”
  • “Phantom Lord”
  • “(Anethesia) Pulling Teeth”
  • “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  • “No Remorse”
  • “The Call of Ktulu”
  • “Seek & Destroy”
  • “Whiplash”


  • “Creeping Death”
  • Guitar solo
  • “Am I Evil?”
  • “Motorbreath”

Which brings me to winding down this novel of a concert review.  How could W.A.S.P. possibly follow Metallica?  Well, I do remember chants of “you suck”.  I remember that the front was nowhere near as packed as it was for Metallica.  Maybe Blackie thought he could follow them by drinking fake blood out of a skull (which he did).  Here is a quote from Mr. Blackie Lawless comparing separate tours with both Slayer and Metallica and musing about this particular tour.

Blackie: I’ll tell you what was worse – us and Metallica.  It was our first or second U.S. tour.  It was us, Metallica, and Armored Saint.  When they (Slayer) went out with us, they were still an up n’ coming band, didn’t have a lot of fans, so there was a pocket of division every night.  With Metallica, I kid you not, it was like an invisible line was drawn right down the middle of the room, and half was theirs and half was ours.  It didn’t matter what we were doing on stage.  It looked like two opposing armies.  Sometimes we just stopped what we were doing and watched. It was a war.

I realize that the merit of music is subjective and it is all in the Ear Of The Beholder.  But lets face it.  W.A.S.P. really does kinda suck.  Some good moments but really not much to speak of.  During their set myself and others that with us were just kind of mulling about as most others were really.  It was during this time that a guy we were with named Kevin B. (nicknamed Little Dude) said that he saw Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson leaving out a side door during their set.  Now to give some perspective on this, this person was a known bull-shitter.  None of us believed him.  True story:  Kevin years later had trans-gender surgery and now is known as Treva. But anyways, we shrugged this off as yet another lie from Little Dude.  It was months later reading a Blackie Lawless interview in Circus magazine that I read this quote.  “Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were actually at one of our shows in Toronto last year…. But they were not there to see us.”    A classic example of the Little Dude who cried wolf.



REVIEW: KISS – Lick It Up (1983)

Part 20 of my series of Kiss reviews, leading up to the release of Monster!

KISS – Lick It Up (1983)

And off came the makeup.  Showing up for the cover photo session in their street clothes, the world now knew what Gene Simmons, Paul Stanley, Eric Carr, and Vinnie Vincent looked like.  I always found that concept kind of funny — like, did anyone care what Vinnie Vincent looked like?  It wasn’t until much later — around 1986 — that I first saw a photo of Ace Frehley without makeup.  I cared a lot more about that!

Musically?  What a rebirth! Like a snake shedding its skin (ooh, I bet Gene would have loved my analogy there) Kiss found new life on Lick It Up. This is a strong, strong album, almost as strong as Creatures Of The Night. Fresh blood, a fresh look, and new freedom to be taken seriously as musicians gave Kiss a serious kick in the pants. It might not be considered classic today by critics, but the song “Lick It Up” only left the setlist briefly during the 96-97 reunion tour.

Witness the strenths:

1. All songs written by the band, no outside writers, thanks to the strong talents of Vinnie Vincent.
2. All songs played by the band except one solo by Rick Derringer (“Exciter”).
3. A fresh sound thanks to Vinnie Vincent.

I’ve always said this: When restrained, Vinnie Vincent is one of my favourite guitar players. His tone on Lick It Up is just oustanding and so unique. When left to his own devices like on his solo albums, his playing sounds like razor blades in your ears. Here, he plays melodically, powerfully, and manipulates his tone with his hands like an artist. Hear his guitar whine and cry as only a master can make it do.  He could have been a guitar hero if he wasn’t a psycho!

Every song is good, not one bad tune in the pack.  Some of my favourites include:

  • “Exciter”, a great riffy opener with a catchy chorus.
  • “Not For The Innocent” which has a bit of Vinnie’s “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” riff at the end there.
  • “A Million To One” which probably would have made a great third single.
  • “All Hell’s Breaking Loose” — Eric Carr’s Zeppelin influences meet Paul’s…rapping?
  • “Dance All Over Your Face” which is a slow monster plod Gene song with a great chorus.
  • “And On The 8th Day”, the album closer, and another song that spun off of Vinnie’s original “Boyz Are Gonna Rock” demo.

Any one of those songs can stand up with the best rock songs in the Kiss canon.  And you’ll noticed I didn’t include “Lick It Up” itself.  That’s how strong this album is.  It’s also worth noting that two other songs from this album were frequently performed live.  Gene’s “Fits Like A Glove” was one of those speedy songs that Kiss were starting to do in the 80’s.  So was “Young and Wasted”, which Eric Carr sang live.

The Japanese had a neat idea when issuing this on LP. They put on obi sheet over the non-makeup cover, featuring Kiss in makeup — you had to buy the LP and remove it to see Kiss’ real faces! This was a great idea, and is the origin of the rumours that Japan had a makeup cover while the rest of the world did not.  Also, this obi featured Vinnie’s only cover photo in makeup.

Vinnie Vincent proved to be too unstable a personality to stay in the band much longer.  Gene and Paul have always said Vinnie was a gifted writer,  and he’d come back as a writer 1992’s Revenge. Keep reading LeBrain’s Blog for the story there!

Lick It Up to me is a classic, and it deserves no less than:

5/5 stars

Part 78: GUEST SHOT! Meat on LeBrain

Normally I wouldn’t post something so self-glorifying, but I won’t edit a word out of any of my guest shots.  This one comes from the infamous Sausagefester, ex-record store alumnus, and music connoisseur, Meat.  He sent this to me by surprise this afternoon, so I had to post it.   Enjoy.


Today is Lebrain’s 40th birthday.  Today seems like a good day to give you all my thoughts  on the man…the myth…the legend…Michael Ladano.

I would have first met Mr. Ladano in I believe late 1998 or early 1999.  I was working at a record store and really didn’t know anyone at other locations.  Since there was a fair amount of phone activity between different stores, it was inevitable that our paths would cross.  I kept hearing about the manager of another store that was something of a music aficionado, and the biggest Kiss fan in town.  Considering myself of the same ilk, and a long-time Kiss fan myself, I was looking forward to the inevitable.  I don’t remember the first conversation we had honestly,  it was probably some sort of inquiry about an Anita Baker stock transfer , but anyways,  I do remember the first time we talked about Kiss.  I remember his genuine enthusiasm hearing that I had seen Kiss on the last tour with makeup (Creatures of the Night) and the first tour without makeup (Lick it Up).  He proceeded to tell me that Ace Frehley was not actually in the makeup on the first aforementioned tour (something I already knew) and a bunch of other obscure Kiss facts.  Needless to say we immediately hit it off.  We worked together only once at his location.  He actually has a better memory of that one shift (Meat’s memory is randomly hazy…gee I wonder why) but I do remember that the shift literally seemed to go faster than any shift I had worked previously.

[LeBRAIN’S NOTE:  I do remember that night very well.  I remember driving Meat home, talking about Metallica’s medley of Mercyful Fate tunes.  As it happens, I had that tape in the car, so we rocked it!] 

I am lucky to know many guys who are self-proclaimed and ordained-by-others as music experts.  The mighty Tom has been mentioned in this blog before.  Others include Scottie Geffros…Scott Hunter and more.  Michael Ladano trumps them all in both knowledge and actual music collection.  No one loves music more than LeBrain.  I certainly disagree with a lot of music that Ladano loves, and have been very vocal to him about that, but I guess that’s just part and parcel with being “LeBrain”.  But most importantly, Michael Ladano’s greatest trait is simply being himself.  If there is someone who is more truly sincere and kind, I have not met them.  No one treated complete strangers better during his record store days than Mike Ladano.  No one loves his wife or significant other more than Mike Ladano.  The truth is  everyone likes Ladano.  As a matter of fact, there are only a very, very select few that I know that don’t like him.  Literally a few select people that all hang together and work together. Not-coincidentally these people are sincerely some of the worst people I have ever encountered in my life.  Truly lacking character, substance and kindness of any sort, they should be ashamed of themselves.  It says something that only the worst people in the Tri-Cities are the select few that don’t like him.

I really enjoy this blog Mike and try to read every entry.  Even old Meatdogs can learn new tricks, and I appreciate reading and learning about musical artists, bands and albums that I thought I already knew everything about.  Your love of music is infectious and impressive,  but not as impressive as Mike the friend, the person and the husband.  Is this blog-entry just alot of over-blown Maudlin? Of course it is. If anyone I know deserves Maudlin, its Sir Michael Ladano.  Remember, when the rest of you are sleeping comfortably at night…LeBrain is rolling in his sleep anticipating the upcoming Kiss and Darkness albums.  You gotta love the guy.