GETTING MORE TALE #792: The Summer of ’93 – Live Album Explosion
Keeping up with new releases is challenging for anyone. Today, every band is releasing a box set, live album, compilation, EP, or even (gasp) new material! This is not a new phenomenon. As a young collector in an earlier time, 1993 was particularly challenging. I was suffering from “live album burnout” due to a number of double lives that year. I dutifully picked up the most important ones to me, as much as I could afford.
I plotted things out. The first batch of live albums on my radar that year were as follows:
Four of my favourite bands in one brief chunk of time, with two of the four being doubles. I had to budget this out somehow.
I’m not sure when I bought Van Halen’s album, but I most likely bought it first. The dual CD set was at Costco for thirty-something bucks so I put it in the cart. I know it was early in the year because I remember listening to it in the car while driving to school for final exams, which occur in April. Specifically I remember listening to the live version of “Cabo Wabo” on my way there.
I found the Van Halen album underwhelming. Too much stuff from For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge and some clattering solos made it a struggle to finish in one sitting. Sammy Hagar would later comment that the album sucked because too much of it was re-recorded in the studio. I just thought it was a drag.
Kiss were (and are) my #1 band, so I dutifully bought it as quickly as I could. I didn’t get it on the day of release (May 18), but I do know the exact date that I purchased it: May 20. I know this because I remember that we had to get home from the mall (Fairway Park Mall’s HMV store) in time to catch the series finale of Cheers. I got the free poster with my cassette copy. I chose cassette for strategic reasons. Double live albums were a bigger investment, so I liked to get those on CD. I was already starting to distrust the cassette tape format. I’d hate to buy a double cassette set and have one of the tapes go bad. Alive III was a single tape, so I went for that and stayed with that until I got a double vinyl reissue a couple years later.
The Ozzy was a limited edition package. I needed that special grille cover with the two “tattoos” inside. I couldn’t afford it so I put it on my birthday list. I accompanied my mom to HMV to make sure she got the right one. Killed the surprise, but also the anxiety of not getting the exact version I “needed” for my collection!
Ozzy Osbourne had already supersaturated the market with live albums, and his was tedious to listen to. I gave it more it than a fair shot, as I wanted to really hear how Zakk approached the live versions differently than Randy or Tony had. It was an exercize that paid minimal dividends, wading through minute after minute of numbing “extra extra crazy” Ozzy monologues.
I decided to hold off on Iron Maiden as long as I could. The idea of a single disc live Maiden album was a little off-kilter for me. An album of tracks from 1986-1992 didn’t sound all that appealing to me. Maybe I should wait until the second disc, due in October, came out so I could listen to both equally. Maybe I should skip A Real Live One entirely. The album seemed a hasty entity, being released so Maiden could tour to support new product. The cover art was also lo-fi sketchy, compared to predecessor Live After Death.
Good or bad, I decided to hold off on Maiden for the time being. I had enough live metal to digest anyway.
Kiss was the only album I was happy with, though it was clearly an inferior offering to Alive I and II. Unlike Osbourne, it wasn’t too long, and kept the filler to a minimum.
When the next batch of live albums rolled out, I was weary.
The Bon Jovi live disc came with a pricey special reissue of Keep the Faith, a limited edition. I immediately put that one on my Christmas list and did my best to pester my mom into buying it. I had to make a decision about the others. I scratched Satriani and Testament off my list. They weren’t going to be priorities this time.
As for the final call on Iron Maiden? The decision was made for me when I found Live at Donington, once again at HMV. What was this? It looked like a bootleg, but wasn’t. It had no liner notes. Absolutely bare minimum packaging. Nary an Eddie in sight. It was a “limited edition“, and a double CD with a complete concert. The easy choice was to buy this instead of the other two albums. For the time being, at least. I finally did get all three albums, when I was working at the Record Store, in 1996. The Boxing Day sale enabled me to get both live Maidens and the recent Tesla greatest hits for a reduced price. It took me three years to get ’em!
That busy 1993 list doesn’t include live home videos released that year (Ozzy, Van Halen, Bon Jovi, Kiss) or the albums that I didn’t even know about (Live Cult). I had to draw the line and audio has always been my priority over video.
Too much is too much, and in 1993 we just had too much.
Do you remember what live albums you bought in 1993? Comment below!