metallica

REVIEW: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

scan_20170127Elektra’s 40th Anniversary – Plunderphonics (1991 Elektra promo EP)

This is one of the weirdest CDs I have ever run across.  Remember in 1990, when Elektra did that anniversary CD called Rubáiyát that featured Elektra’s new bands covering Elektra’s old bands? It was the first release of Metallica’s “Stone Cold Crazy” and the first time anyone heard a hint of what Metallica were up to in the studio after Justice.  This promotional EP is a companion piece to Rubáiyát.

So what’s this EP? A “plunderphonic” is like a remix. The big difference is, they use only finished recordings, no multi-track master tapes. No going back to strip a vocal out of a song, no fiddling. Only actual snips of complete songs are used. A “new” piece is creating by chopping up and rearranging bits from other previously recorded pieces. Therefore, anybody can make their own plunderphonic using readily available songs. The man who invented the term, John Oswald, did the “plunderphonics” for this very rare promotional EP. His lightning-fast edits keeps things surprising.

The main attraction here, and the reason I own the CD, is a piece called “2 Net” by Metallica. I bet you never heard of that one, let alone heard the piece! It is a 1:21 mash-up of “Stone Cold Crazy” with a bunch of bits and bobs from …And Justice For All, and it’s as weird as that sounds. It’s a blur, almost incomprehensible. Fitting the thrash giants’ riffs into 1:21 will tend to have that effect. Building a composition out of Hetfield barks and Ulrich snares is fun as it sounds, even though it’s over before you can figure out what’s going on. Oswald mixed in some of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” vocal for some melody. Crazy!

The most interesting track is the most unlikely: A cross between Carly Simon’s and Faster Pussycat’s “You’re So Vain”. The end result, “Vane” makes the two into one. If you have ever wanted to hear Taime Downe and Carly Simon perform the song together, this is your chance. It’s incredible how well the two versions contrast, since Faster Pussycat is about as different from Carly Simon as anyone can imagine.  It zips from Taime to Carly and back again, as they trade words almost seamlessly!  Another successful track is The Doors’ “O’Hell”. This is (obviously) based on “Hello, I Love You”. Bits of other Doors songs provide more instrumentation and effects.  Fans of Morrison will absolutely adore it and imagine their own plunderphonics to invent.  The MC5 arrive with “Mother”, based off the Kick Out the Jams album.  It’s a lot of shouting and screaming and it’s all good.  For something soft, check out “Anon” by Tim Buckley.  This is taken from Buckley’s “Anonymous Proposition”, made shorter and psychedelic.

It is very hard to describe the complexity of these tracks.  There could be hundreds of individual edits per song, because there is so much going on.  The Simon/Pussycat song is a great example of how this is more than just a gimmick.  It’s art, and anybody can try to do one themselves.  In fact, without knowing the name for it, I have heard many plunderphonics before, at our annual Sausagefest countdown.  Tom and Uncle Meat are skilled at making them, but I have never heard anything like these five tracks before — ever.  These are above and beyond anything I’ve heard in the field.

The liner notes indicate that five more plunderphonics were planned for this CD, but not included.  “Recipes” for making your own are inside.  It’s almost like five bonus tracks, but you have to make them yourself!

Rating this CD is difficult, and since it was never meant to be sold, almost pointless.  However you can find reasonably priced copies on Discogs, so a rating is necessary.  This CD is interesting.  It’s good, but it’s not meant for listening for pleasure.  It almost acts like caffeine to the brain.  Every song has so much going on that you are constantly listening and trying to catch it all.  It’s also short, so buy wisely.

3/5 stars

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#537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls – Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

GETTING MORE TALE #537.3: 2016 Can Suck Balls
Year End Lists, Part 3 – LeBrain

Regardless of the music, 2016 will go down in history (for most of us) for just one notorious reason:  The sheer number of stars that we lost, both young and old.  Even after I had completed a list of the most significant pop culture deaths in 2016, I had to add even more names:  Debbie Reynolds, and Carrie Fisher.  Princess Leia was one of my first heroes.  I was five years old.  Carrie was an incredible woman, who lived a hard life and came out laughing.

2016

Perspective.

 


But we’ll save the deaths for last.

Ever since the Record Store days, I have always done my albums as a Top Five. We had a newsletter and employees were asked to submit their Top Fives of the year. That being the case, I’ve always stuck with that tradition even when my compatriots have submitted some pretty awesome Top Tens.

You can check out the submitted Top Ten lists here:

After much deliberation, here are my Top Five albums of 2016.

 

5. Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct

4. Tragically Hip – Man Machine Poem

3. Jim Crean – Insatiable

2. The Cult – Hidden City

1. Monster Truck – Sittin’ Heavy

***

And of course, some killer runners-up.  These three releases rocked hard and were just barely squeezed out of the Top Five:

A Rebel Few – As The Crow Flies

Black Sabbath – The End

Evilyn Strange – Evilution


Top TV shows of 2016

Some extras!  The TV shows below are the only ones I bother with.  If you haven’t watched American Dad yet, after all my badgering, I don’t know what else I can say about the funniest show on TV!

tv

Actually I do — American Dad has the best musical jokes.  You will hear plenty of great tunes:  Metallica, The Sword, Stan Bush, Satriani, Rush, Queen, and many more.  And even the songs you don’t like (Owl City, Kelly Clarkson?) are hilarious, because of the context.  That’s what makes a musical joke work.  You can find a complete list of songs used in American Dad by clicking here.

Top four TV shows:

4. Family Guy

3. The Grinder

2. The Walking Dead

1. American Dad

Dropping off the list is the Big Bang Theory which started to suck a couple years ago, a few noteworthy episodes aside (such as any time Wil Wheaton shows up).


Top Movies of 2016
movie

Movies were…just movies.  There was nothing this year with the emotional impact of The Force Awakens.  The films below are not in any particular order.  They are just movies, nothing more and nothing less.  2016 was a somewhat disappointing year for the silver screen.  (I have not yet seen Arrival.)

Star Wars: Rogue One

Captain America: Civil War

Suicide Squad

Star Trek Beyond

Deadpool

 


And sadly, the real dead pool.  These are just some of the musicians, actors, writers and sports heroes we lost in the year of 2016. Many went way too young.  At the 11th hour, I received this sketch of Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia.  It was drawn by Wardy who you may know as regular reader here.  Thank you Wardy for sending and giving me permission to post this great sketch.  (Wardy is one talented guy with a pencil.)  Rest in peace to all below.

carrie-fisher-1956-2016-sketch-by-wardy

  • Paul MacLeod
  • David Bowie
  • Prince
  • Alan Rickman
  • George Michael
  • Rick Parfitt
  • Ralph “Chick” Schumilas
  • John Glenn
  • Muhammad Ali
  • Florence Henderson
  • Gene Wilder
  • Arnold Palmer
  • Leonard Cohen
  • Dave Broadfoot
  • Glenn Frey
  • Gordie Howe
  • Harper Lee
  • Phife Dawg
  • Sir George Martin
  • Anton Yelchin
  • Garry Shandling
  • Christina Grimmie
  • Alan Thicke
  • Kenny Baker
  • Leon Russell
  • Merle Haggard
  • Paul Kantner
  • Jimmy Bain
  • John McLaughlin
  • Abe Vigoda
  • Chyna
  • Pat Harrington Jr.
  • Keith Emerson
  • Greg Lake
  • David Huddleston
  • Maurice White
  • George Kennedy
  • Rob Ford
  • Ralph Stanley
  • George Gaynes
  • Alan Young
  • Frank Sinatra Jr.
  • Lonnie Mack
  • Nick Menza
  • Prince Be
  • Bernie Worrell
  • Matt Roberts
  • Mr. Fuji
  • Alexis Arquette
  • Stanley “Buckwheat” Dural Jr.
  • Jose Fernandez
  • Jean Shepard
  • Pete Burns
  • Robert Vaughn
  • Bobby Vee
  • Leonard Haze
  • James Wooley
  • Sandy Pearlman
  • John Berry
  • John Thomas
  • Dale “Buffin” Griffin
  • Carrie Fisher
  • Debbie Reynolds

 

Rest in peace, and thank you for making our days a little brighter.

LeBrain

REVIEW: Metallica – “Lords of Summer” vinyl & download singles (2014)

img_20161120_080611METALLICA  – “Lords of Summer” (2014 Blackened Record Store Day single, additional download versions)

This past Friday, Metallica ended the eight-year long wait for a new album and put out the sharp-edged Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.  If you go for the deluxe edition (a measly $16!) then you’ll get the full 78 minute studio album and a bonus CD (to be reviewed later) with another 14 tracks.  That’s another 79 minutes of metal for a grand total of $16.  The value is insane.

Cast your minds back to 2014.  Metallica, embarking on a summer tour, released a new single called “Lords of Summer”.  The concept of “Lords of Summer” was pretty simple.  It’s a song about touring season, and it was one of the new pieces of music that the band were working on for the next album.  Ultimately, a slightly shorter and re-recorded “Lords of Summer” was included on the bonus CD for Hardwired.  The vinyl single (Record Store Day, limited to 4000 copies) has the original “First Pass Version” (8:20).  This was also made available via download.  If you’re already familiar with “Lords of Summer” then this is the version you know.  The “First Pass” is not as polished as Hardwired, but similar in direction with the same focus on metal riffs and melody.  Like much of the album, “Lords of Summer” careens from riff to riff blasting away at different tempos.  While not one of Metallica’s most remarkable songs, it has some cool individual riffs cooked up within it.

For the sake of completion, we should also discuss the “Garage Demo Version” of “Lords of Summer”.  This was included as a bonus track with Metallica’s official live downloads from that tour.  It was first played in Bogota Columbia, March 16 2014.  The “Garage Demo” (also 8:20) is different recording from the “First Pass”; very similar but even rougher.  Fans familiar with Metallica’s usual demos know that they are often so rough that the lyrics are not yet in place.  This time, the song was already fully formed in its demo stage.

The Record Store Day vinyl single contained a bonus live version, recorded in Rome on July 1 2014.  By that time the band had been playing it all summer, so it’s tight.  Kirk’s solo is drowned out in the mix, but of course you can hear the drums loud and clear.  Compare this to the version in Bogota, which captures the song played live for the first time ever.  The arrangement is the same, but it’s still coming together in Bogota.  The Roman version demonstrates that practice makes perfect.  But why stop there?  There are a total of 33 different live versions available for download on Metallica’s site!

There is one last bonus, which is the etched B-side on the Record Store Day vinyl.  Admittedly it looks pretty…but it’s just an “M”.  It’s minimalist cool, but what happened?…they couldn’t afford to etch the etallica?

img_20161120_065505

For this review, we listened to the following:

  1. “First Pass Version” (8:20, available as single download or on vinyl Record Store Day single)
  2. “Garage Demo Version” (8:20, available with purchase of a concert at LiveMetallica)
  3. July 1, 2014, Rome Italy (8:48, available on vinyl Record Store Day single or for download at LiveMetallica)
  4. March 16, 2014, Bogota Columbia (9:18, available for download at LiveMetallica)

With 31 more live versions online, plus the new album version at 7:09, there are in total 36 official versions of “Lords of Summer” out there to consume.  Happy hunting.

3/5 stars

 

 

REVIEW: Metallica – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (2016)

Note: This is a review of the 2CD album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct.  A review of the third bonus CD will follow at a later time.

scan_20161119-2METALLICA – Hardwired…To Self-Destruct (2016 Blackened)

The ever-polarising Metallica are back.  This time, Metallica may have finally released an album that pleases everyone.  Amazon averages are remarkably high.  Fans seem to be willing to forgive past mis-steps.  Hell, Metallica are even back on Napster in 2016!

With Hardwired…To Self-Destruct being a long musical journey, it will naturally take time to absorb.  It’s easy to imagine that you could review this album a year from now and have a whole new set of thoughts to share about it.  Ultimately, Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is mostly strong throughout with few moments that drag.  It does play a tad on the long side, not even including the third bonus CD.  At 78 minutes, the album proper is actually only about as long as Load.  The difference in the listening is that Load was a very diverse album of rock stylings, but Hardwired is full-on classic sounding Metallica through its entire length.  There are a few back alleys previously unexplored, but all solidly within the realm of heavy metal.

The direction is not that dissimilar from Death Magnetic, just refined.  There are many traditional metal riffs, Maiden-esque and sweet.  You will discover several album highlights.  There is only one track, “Am I Savage?”, that hasn’t hit the mark yet.  Current contenders for favourite songs include “Hardwired“, “Atlas, Rise!”, “Now That We’re Dead” and closer “Spit Out the Bone”.  Jessie David, metal specialist at 107.5 DaveRocks, says “Murder One” is her outstanding track.  “It’s killer,” she warns.  Each listener will likely add their own to this list.  It is probable that every single track will have its fans, because none of them suck.

Many will want to know how the album is sonically — is it overdriven?  The “loudness wars” took their toll on the last album.  The best way to answer that is visually, so check out the waveform of “Hardwired” in Audacity.

hardwired

It’s pretty loud, but not quite as bad as Death Magnetic.

Hardwired…To Self-Destruct will continue to evolve in the ears of listeners as time goes on.  A provisional rating may change at any given time.  But there is no question that Metallica are still able to stir the molten iron souls of fans with great new songs and performances.  They are Metallica, and that seems unlikely to change.

4.5/5 stars

scan_20161119-3

REVIEW: Metallica – “Hardwired” (2016 single)

METALLICA – “Hardwired” (2016 single)

YES!  Now this is what I’m talking about.  Metallica haterz can leave the room now, because there is nothing here they will enjoy.

“Hardwired” is the first single from the forthcoming album Hardwired…To Self Destruct due in November.  There’s plenty here for the fans to sink their teeth into.  A very punk-like metal track, “Hardwired” is promising.  Even Lars sounds on top of it. The drums are one of the hooks of the song.  Jaymz drops an F-bomb for that street cred, but what matters most is that this is pure rock.  Call it metal, call it thrash, whatever — doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that Metallica are rocking the fuck out with a great, heavy and blazingly fast track. I love how Jaymz just spits out the words. “We’re so fucked — shit out of luck.” Metallica’s worldview is just as rosy as it was in 1984!

I don’t think anybody reasonably expects Metallica to turn back the clock, or discover some crazy new direction with this album. Fans will dig it, haterz won’t listen with an open mind, but where the single could succeed is bringing in young metal fans who might never have bought a Metallica album before. It sounds just as energetic as a new band.

As it was with Death Magnetic, the new album will be available in a variety of formats including deluxe box set.  The last single, 2014’s “Lords of Summer”, will be on one of them.  Get ready for another onslaught of Metallica.

4/5 stars

TALLICA

TRACKLIST

Disc One

Hardwired
Atlas, Rise!
Now That We’re Dead
Moth Into Flame
Am I Savage?
Halo On Fire

Disc Two

Confusion
Dream No More
ManUNkind
Here Comes Revenge
Murder One
Spit Out The Bone

Disc Three (Deluxe Edition Only)

Lords Of Summer
Riff Charge (Riff Origins)
N.W.O.B.H.M. A.T.M. (Riff Origins)
Tin Shot (Riff Origins)
Plow (Riff Origins)
Sawblade (Riff Origins)
RIP (Riff Origins)
Lima (Riff Origins)
91 (Riff Origins)
MTO (Riff Origins)
RL72 (Riff Origins)
Frankenstein (Riff Origins)
CHI (Riff Origins)
X Dust (Riff Origins)

#488: Almost Cut My Hair

GETTING MORE TALE #488: Almost Cut My Hair

Whatever musical subculture you come from, if it has a uniform, then no doubt hair style is a part of that uniform.

Nowhere has this been exemplified better than the classic mohawk made famous by 1970’s punk rockers.  Mr. T made it mainstream in the 80’s, rendering the punk shock value of it dead.  On to the next thing!  How about a a 1″ hole in your earlobe to keep it edgy?  Hair cuts and music have a much longer association than that, of course.  The Beatles were considered rough and shaggy for their hair that COVERED THEIR EARS!  Can you imagine?  On the other side of the pond, Elvis was popularizing the greaser look.  All over the world, kids tried to look like these rebellious rabble-rousers.

The late Eric Carr, who served as Kiss’ drummer from 1982 until his passing in 1991, told stories of how he desperately tried to straighten his hair to look like a Beatle.  He’d put pantyhose on his head overnight to try and get the curls out.  Meanwhile, there are photos of young Gene Simmons with bangs down to his eyebrows and Paul Stanley with hair covering his ears.  (Paul had a second motivation — one of his ears is deformed and he was eager to hide it.)

In America, another hairstyle was emerging, and it was strongly related to the funk, r&b and disco scenes:  the Afro.  It is the only hairstyle I am aware of that is probably measured in diameter, not length.  In the 1960’s, the Afro was associated with the ripple effect emanating from the civil rights movement.  Today it is a classic hairstyle, immediately adding strength and character to almost any face that it frames.  The Afro is a beautiful thing, truly.

Billy Preston "the Fifth Beatle"

Billy Preston “the Fifth Beatle”

Almost as beautiful are the dreadlocks.  In many cultures, dreadlocks are sacred.  The association of dreadlocks with modern music is due to the emergence of Reggae.  Rastafari (part of the Abrahamic family of religions) emerged in Jamaica in the 1930’s.  Who in the whole genre of Reggae was more famous than Bob Marley?  Marley was Rastafari, and as his musical fame grew, so did his locks.  As far as pop culture is concerned, Marley is an icon, and the silhouette of his dreadlocked head is known all over the world.

I think somebody must have just invented hairspray at the beginning of the 1980’s.  That’s the best explanation that I can provide for what happened next.  Everybody lost their mind, and instead of measuring their hair in length or even diameter, they began to measure it in height.  It also began to take on bizarre shapes.  Like the wings of Mike Score, from the obvious example A Flock of Seagulls.  Cultures clashed.  Culture Club, a New Wave band, featured a cross dressing lead singer with braided hair!  It was glam meets Rasta in all the wrong ways.  Boy George today is happily bald.  Meanwhile, across the pond in suburban New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi was attempting to break the 12″ height record.

The hairstyle closest to my heart is the one most associated with rock music:  the classic long-hair.  It’s the perfect hair in almost every way.  You can tie it back for the “I mean business” look, or just to keep it out of the way.  When you need to unleash the rock fury, long hair is superior.  The best part is, after a good solid thrash around, long hair usually looks better than it did before!  Only dreadlocks can rival classic long hair for headbanging money-shot images.

I never liked getting haircuts in the first place, but when I started getting interested in music in the early 80’s, it seemed as good a reason as any to stop getting them.  Besides, one kid at school named Ian used to chide me that I “didn’t look like a rocker” with my lame short hair.  I wanted so bad to look cool like a rocker.  Sure, there were some cool short haired rockers, like Rick Neilson, Alex Van Halen and Alec John Such, but they were a vast, sometimes teased, minority.  My hair started to grow down past my neck.  This caused clashes with my dad like you would not believe.  You thought Darren McGavin made for some foul language in A Christmas Story?  My dad can eat Darren McGavin for breakfast and ask for seconds.  My dad invented many of his own swears.  He even started singing in swears!  One of his biggest hit songs with us kids was always “Shittily, Shittily, La La La”.  And that is exactly how the lyrics went.  Over and over!  One day, he was singing “Shittily, Shittily, La La La” in public again.  He must have been overheard, because the next thing that happened was a Jehovah’s Witness approached him.  She handed him a Watchtower magazine, and told him, “I think you really need this.”  But I digress.  You can imagine how the hair battles in our house ended.  Usually with us not speaking to each other for the next three days.

Eric Brittingham

Eric Brittingham

That’s not due to my dad, mind you.  It’s due to me being a stubborn little shit.  To be fair, I learned the “stop speaking to your parents” schtick from my best friend Bob who frequently stopped speaking to his mother.  Bob too was attempting to grow long hair.  His goal at that time was to be a redhead version of Eric Brittingham from Cinderella during the Long Cold Winter era.  He thought that would have looked awesome.  It probably would have, but eventually he had to get a job and cut it.  He went with a classic crew cut, and a little bit of a fringe on the back:  the mullet.  This is what I ended up with as well, because instead of growing over my ears, my hair simply began curling and going back up again!  My dad hated this but more importantly, wanted me to be employable.  One day he came home to tell me that the manager of the nearby grocery store wanted to speak with me about a job opportunity.  This I was not going to be stubborn about, so I went to the barber, cut it all off, and went in for a brief interview.  I started that week.

The teasing at school was inevitable.  Most of those kids had never seen me without some form of attempted mullet.  The drastic sudden change also made my ears look (in my eyes) freaking huge.  To me, I looked like another kid in our school named “Trophy”.  Trophy was called that because his ears stuck out so far they made his head look like a big trophy.  I was hideous!  I was Samson without his locks.  I had nothing.  I attempted to grow a moustache.  This was abandoned in less than a week when a girl at the grocery store that I liked named Kathleen recommended that I lose the ‘stache.  It was hopeless.  I felt…naked.

When grunge hit the ground running in the early 90’s, rockers one by one began to shed their locks.  Many ladies of the 80’s fainted when Jon Bon Jovi went short in 1993 for Keep the Faith.  Three years later, some thrash acolytes nearly had heart failure when not one, not two, not three, but all four members of Metallica included James Fucking Hetfield cut their hair short!  The game was over.  While many rockers such as Ozzy, Alice, and Nikki elected to keep their hair, they were overshadowed by the folks who let it go:  David Lee Roth, Edward Van Halen, Tommy Lee, Paul Stanley (notably for Phantom of the Opera), pretty much all of Aerosmith except for Tyler and Perry….There were no magazine headlines that said “Alice Cooper Keeps His Hair Long”.  But there were headlines to the effect of “The World is Ending — Jon Bon Has Cut His Curls!”

As rockers age, so do our styles.  I thought Jon Lord looked very distinguished, with his silvery hair in a ponytail when he got older.  Some of us have cut our hair, some of us have lost our hair.  Some of us dye it and some of us shave it.  In this day and age, it is very difficult to tell one’s musical affiliation by hairstyle alone.  You can have long hair and be a DJ spinning samples on a laptop.  A guy shredding lead electric guitar is just as likely to have short hair as long.  Over there, that metal band has a bunch of people with dreadlocks, and that rap group does too!  Mohawk with dreadlocks?  Hello Doug Pinnick from King’s X!  Sub-cultures continue to clash in ways both new and retro, and as with any style, music will always have a part in it.

1993, return of the long hair.

 

#470: Awards

GETTING MORE TALE #470: Awards

Do you watch award shows?  I don’t — not anymore, anyway.  In the Record Store days,we had to keep an eye on this sort of thing.  If somebody swept the Grammys, we had to be prepared with inventory.   The day after an award show, the requests would circle around the winners and headline-makers.  The same still happens today, with much of the post-show sales being downloads.  Adele is most grateful.

As a child I was aware that award shows didn’t seem to recognize any music that I liked, but I also knew that didn’t mean squat.  It’s nice when a talented artist is honoured for their music, but the Grammys are the same organization who awarded Milli Vanilli with “best new artist”.  To even call such commercial product “art” at all is such a deception.  They were manufactured from the ground up as a money-making endeavour and nothing more.  That was 1990, but the year before was another titanic embarrassment for the besieged awards.

I didn’t watch the ’89 awards but I heard all about it the next day.  The following morning, my mom asked me, “Who is Jethro Tull?”  I had to confess I didn’t really know.  Old guys.  “They won best heavy metal,” my mom explained.  Who?  I was a metal fanatic but I never heard any of their music.

The actual category was best “Hard Rock/Metal” and it was introduced in 1989.  The nominees included a couple actual hard rock and heavy metal artists:  AC/DC, Tull, Metallica, Jane’s Addiction, and Iggy Pop.  Of those bands, I think only two can be consider unambiguously “hard rock” or “heavy metal”.  I’m sure the members of Jane’s Addiction didn’t consider themselves either.  God knows what Iggy Pop thinks of his music as, since he’s been all over the board.  With the benefit of hindsight, we know today that the most important album historically in that category was …And Justice For All by Metallica followed by Jane’s Nothing’s Shocking.  Tull’s Crest of a Knave was a good, solid return but hardly “hard rock”.  Ian Anderson was gracious but befuddled by it all.  Metal fans declared it highway robbery.  To them, Metallica was clearly the only band who deserved that trophy that year, and with all due respect to AC/DC and Jane’s Addiction, it is hard to argue with that.  …And Justice For All was one of the most challenging albums for the genre, real art, yet it sold millions.  Not to mention overcoming the personal tragedy of losing Cliff Burton in that crash a few years before.  Plainly, Metallica deserved that award.  Fans were livid.

The Grammys furthered their embarrassment by contritely awarding Metallica the “best metal” award for the three years in a row that followed, even when it was not deserved.  In 1990 they split “hard rock” and “metal” into two awards, and gave Metallica a trophy for “One”.  The real head-shaker was 1991, when Metallica won again for a cover of Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy” (from Rubáiyát: Elektra’s 40th Anniversary).  This little-heard cover beat out stunning new albums by Judas Priest, Anthrax and Megadeth.  A single Metallica cover from an obscure compilation CD beat Rust in Peace by Megadeth?  Yeah, right.  You could not take this seriously.  Their streak continued into 1992, when they won the prize for the Black album, Metallica, once again beating Anthrax and Megadeth (and Motorhead and Soundgarden).

Here are some other stunningly bad decisions the Grammys  made that you may not be as familiar with.  The same year of the Tull debocle, the awards introduced a “best rap” category, but chose not to air them.  The Fresh Prince Will Smith compared it to graduating high school but not being allowed on stage to accept your diploma.  Not to mention, the “best new artist” award is often a curse.  Just ask Hootie and the Blowfish, Debby Boone, Marc Cohn or Milli Vanilli.  Then there was the year that Steely Dan beat Radiohead’s Kid A and the Marshall Mathers LP.

What you may not realize is that the Grammy awards were never designed to recognize the raucous and rebellious artists of rock and roll.  In fact, they were created to stem the tide.  In order to protect “quality” and tradition against the rockers of the 1950’s, the Grammys were created in the mold of the Oscars.  And on their very first night, their mission to promote and honour quality music was blown spectacularly.  Check out this tale from my Uncle John’s desktop calendar:

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Hey, at least Frankie won.  But the awards remain as troubled today as when they began.

It’s nice to see artists and albums that you like win awards for their work.  Ultimately however the impact is zero.  How the music makes you feel is everything.

#468: The Lies of Ian

We will return to the Deep Purple Project after this instalment of Getting More Tale.

GETTING MORE TALE #468: The Lies of Ian

I feel blessed to have grown up in the 1980’s.  What an era!  It was the age of Star Wars, Van Halen, Dio, GI Joe, and Transformers.  We had the A-Team and Magnum PI fighting on the side of good.  By the end of the decade, hard rock had hit another major peak again (before being dethroned by grunge in 1991).  It was a good time to be in school.  In fact I would argue it was the best time to be in school.

I spent nine years, from Kindergarten to grade eight, in the same place:  St. Anthony Daniel Catholic school.  Or, as my sister used to call it, the “Hell Hole”.  I lived in a great time to be in school; too bad I went to a shite school!  The bullies were mean and the teachers did not give one shit — not even one.  In fact the teachers often exacerbated the situation by embarrassing the shy and fragile in obvious loud ways, giving the bullies more ammunition come recess time.

It was in this environment that I befriended Ian Johnson, a kid with a pretty wild imagination.  He was a good guy, we had birthday parties together and sleepovers and went to movies.  We played a lot of Star Wars.  His dad made Star Wars “tables”:  giant playsets of Dagobah and the Death Star, built out of actual tables with bits cut out.  Ian was definitely the only kid around who had one of those!  He was also the only kid in class who claimed to have ninjas training in his basement.

Ian Johnson lived in a townhouse.  He did not have a basement.

We would walk home from school together, usually in a small group with one or two other kids.  Ian was well known for his tall tales.  He would swear up and down that every word was true.  If that is the case, I have some startling news to share with the world!

1. It was not Walt Disney that came up with the ideas for Bambi.  It was in fact Ian Johnson who gave Disney the idea to make it.  Please don’t scrutinize the timeline of events too closely.  Ian said it; it had to be true.

2. Ian was a mathematician.  He was one of the world’s leading mathematicians.  When I asked him why he failed the math quiz in class, it was because he was “not an expert in math that hasn’t been invented yet.”  (That would be long division.)

3. He had a squad of ninjas training in his basement.  Below his townhouse, he had a training facility several storeys deep.  The exact depth changed from tale to tale.  The main takeaway from this is that Ian had a huge concrete ninja bunker full of the deadliest weaponry hiding under his townhouse in suburban Kitchener, Ontario.  This one, nobody bought.  We’d fallen for some of his lies before but this one was just too big and fat to swallow.  We nodded and smiled because to question Johnson’s stories would lead to endless arguing.

STONE (2)

 

4. Ian knew George Lucas.  He had read Star Wars episodes I, II and III.  He knew what happened in them and described it in great detail.  There was an encounter between Jabba the Hutt and Han Solo, setting up the bounty on Solo’s head.  The level of detail made this one hard to disbelieve.  Solo took a shot at Jabba with his blaster, who jumped out of the way, dodging the bolt.  Indeed early versions of Jabba the Hutt before 1983 did have legs.  He also described a sequence including creatures called “stonemites”.  Solo was hiding in a cave full of these things which could eat through stone like termites through wood.  It wasn’t until 2002 that I learned Ian had lifted these elements wholesale from Marvel Comics’ Star Wars issue #28, from 1979.  That’s why his descriptions were so clear and believable.  It was things like this that made it hard to tell when Johnson was lying or telling the truth.

5. Mixing half-truths with fiction, Ian told us all how he knew Brian Vollmer of Helix.  I later confirmed this part of the story to be true.  Back in Record Store Tales Part 2: Gimme an R! we talked in great detail about a time when Helix were local legends in these parts.  I confirmed with Vollmer myself that he did live on Breckenridge Drive in Kitchener, three doors down from Johnson, exactly as Ian described it.  He would often point to the Vollmers’ townhouse as we rode by on our bikes, but there was rarely anyone home.  Ian also described a Christmas card that Brian Vollmer received from Blackie Lawless of W.A.S.P.  This also turned out to be a true story.  I recognized the card when Brian added a picture of it to the official Helix website.  Again, it was exactly as Johnson told us.  What was not true is that Ian took credit for the “Gimme Gimme Good Lovin'” music video.  “That music video was my idea,” claimed Ian.  “I was talking to Brian Vollmer and I told him, ‘what you really need is a video with lots and lots of girls in it.'”

I will give Ian Johnson credit for one thing, which is while I was still listening to Iron Maiden and Kiss, he had discovered a newer heavier band called Metallica.  They only had two albums out, Kill ‘Em All and Ride the Lightning.  “Have you ever heard Metallica?” he asked me.  “You will.”  He brought the tapes to school and played a track or two.  Giving credit when it’s due, Ian was the first kid I knew to have heard of Metallica.  He was on top of his heavy metal.

That is, until 1986.  That is when Ian Johnson dropped the metal and went full-bore new wave.  “Girls don’t like heavy metal,” he explained to me during a heated argument.  Girls.  PAH!

This one is for Ian Johnson wherever you are.  I’m sure he’s still out there, consulting Disney on the new Star Wars movie backed by a squad of fully trained ninjas.

TV REVIEW: American Dad (featuring James Hetfield of Metallica) – “The Life Aquatic with Steve Smith”

AMERICAN DAD! – “The Life Aquatic with Steve Smith” (Episode 2, season 12)

American Dad is back!  The 12th (or 13th) season (depending on how you count) commenced last week.  While last week’s instalment was ho-hum, this week’s was a brilliant return to form, thanks in no small part to the mighty metal music of Metallica.

It is spring time.  14 year old Steve Smith has vowed that this year, he will finally get to touch his first real boobs.  His latest scheme is simple.  Varsity athletes seem to touch boobs all the time.  Therefore, Steve needs a varsity jacket.  The water polo team is looking for members, and hardly anyone has signed up.  At tryouts, we meet the coach:  “I’m the new coach, James Hetfield.  I know what you’re thinking.  ‘Woah! The James Hetfield from Metallica?’  The answer is no way.  Even though I look and sound like him, and have all his guitars.  The point is, if I had to deal with the kind of pressure that guy is under, I’d probably crack and end up as a high school water polo coach.  So it’s a good thing that I’m just this very different James Hetfield.”

Unfortunately Steve cannot swim and is cut from the team.  Only when he colludes with the family goldfish Klaus (an East German ski jumper whose brain was transferred into the body of a fish) does he have a chance.   They realize that Steve can become the greatest water polo player in the world, with a little extra help from Klaus.  Klaus operates Steve’s legs by using his short n’ curlies as puppet strings, and Steve is unstoppable!  With his legs being controlled by Klaus, Steve can concentrate on the ball.  Cue:  “Master of Puppets”.  Steve is back on the team!  In fact, he’s the star.

The next musical number is the more recent “All Nightmare Long” (one of the best tunes from Death Magnetic), accompanying a montage scene.  Steve and Klaus’ plan seems to be working, as Steve attracts the attention of Amy (Ashley Tisdale), the school sports editor.  She wants to know what makes Steve so skilled at water polo, and the pressure is on.  James Hetfield orders the team to take the rival highschool “off to neva-neva-land-ah!”

The side plot involves Stan Smith and Roger the alien buying a sailboat at a CIA auction.  Roger’s antics are always hilarious, but the side plot can’t help but remain in the shadow of the main Metallica feature.  Still, Roger’s voice is always hilarious to me, and I crack up when I get to hear Roger calling people “assholes”.  I am easily amused.  The show does benefit from the ability to use mild swearing now.  Roger and Stan realize that owning a boat is kind of useless since they have nowhere to go and no idea how to sail.  They must get rid of it…somehow!

If American Dad can maintain this level of quality, it is bound to be a great season.  It’s also good to know that American Dad is maintaining its strong musical connections, even though showrunner Mike Barker left in 2013.  Barker was responsible for many of the show’s best such moments, such as the My Morning Jacket episode.  Although last season was a little bumpy, this episode might be the best one since Barker left.

5/5 stars

#433.9: Top 15 on the 15th (by Iron Tom Sharpe)

NOTE:  Because of the three Top 15 on the 15th posts today, there will be no posting for Wednesday.  A directory to all the Top 15 on the 15th posts can be found here.  Browse them all!

Getting More Tale #433.9 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th – Guest shot by Iron Tom Sharpe

Latest to throw his hat into the Top 15 on the 15th ring is Iron Tom Sharpe, Meaford’s Greatest Athlete. One of the most knowledgeable rock fans in the country, Iron Tom is a national treasure. He is a former Record Store owner, and one of the Jedi masters who instructed me.

His message to me upon completion of his list: “Fuck that was tough…and I know I left off some big ones…I just know it…Ah fuck, The D! Max!”

There may be no Tenacious D, and there may be no Max Webster. But here is one kick-ass #Top15onthe15th.

 

WARP15. The Sword – Warp Riders

MASTER14. Metallica – Master of Puppets

PERFECT13. Deep Purple – Perfect Strangers

BONGO12. Frank Zappa – Bongo Fury

PHYSICAL11. Led Zeppelin – Physical Graffiti

SKY10. Kyuss – Sky Valley

FAIR9. Van Halen – Fair Warning

PHASES8. Willie Nelson – Phases and Stages

CLOSE7. Yes – Close to the Edge

POWERSLAVE6. Iron Maiden – Powerslave

ACTION'5. Fu Manchu – The Action Is Go

ALRIGHT4. Steve Earle – I Feel Alright

MISPLACED3. Marillion – Misplaced Childhood

II2. Queen – Queen II

MOVING1. Rush – Moving Pictures

 

 

Almost made it:

  • Orange Goblin – Time Traveling Blues
  • Crosby Stills & Nash – CSN
  • Pink Floyd – Animals
  • Motorhead – Another Perfect Day
  • Black Sabbath – Heaven and Hell

 

And finally…an extra bonus.  Iron Tom’s Top 5 Live!

5. Iron Maiden – Live After Death

4. Jimi Hendrix – Band Of Gypsys

3. Supertramp – Paris

2. Dire Straits – Alchemy Live

1. Eric Clapton – Just One Night