Motley Crue

REVIEW: Make A Difference Foundation – Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (1989)

Make A Difference Foundation – Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (1989 Polygram)

In 1989, I proudly sported my Moscow Music Peace Festival T-shirt in the highschool halls.  It was cool to see the rock bands on the forefront of heavy metal bringing music to the Soviet Union.  Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne and Skid Row joined Russian metal band Gorky Park in the name of peace and being drug free.

Drug free?  Ozzy?  It’s true that this was a little strange, but Motley were at least clean for the first time in their lives.  The Scorpions had played behind the Iron Curtain before, and Sabbath were huge in Russia.  Meanwhile Bon Jovi were one of the few bands to legally release an album in the USSR, and in return they brought Gorky Park to the US.  I was lucky enough to have a girlfriend who recorded the televised part of the concert off MTV and sent me a copy.  It was a pretty mindblowing video.  Those Russians were going absolutely nuts, seeing their idols on stage.

Later on, the bands each contributed a song to a compilation album called Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell, each covering an artist who had been touched by substance abuse.  The CD was produced by the biggest name at the time, Bruce Fairbairn himself.  The proceeds went to an anti-drug charity, for all the good “just saying no” does.  The album itself was a pretty great compilation of mostly exclusive music.  Though almost all of it is now available elsewhere, that wasn’t the case in 1989, making this a tempting buy.

Gorky Park, the up and comers, started off with “My Generation”.  Some find it too putrid to stomach.  It’s virtually an original song with only the lyrics recognizable.  The riffs and melodies seem otherwise new.  So give Gorky Park some credit for at least not attempting a carbon copy, but then you gotta take off some points for turning “My Generation” into a Bon Motley song.  Unfortunately for Gorky Park, their momentum halted when singer Nikolai Noskov quit in 1990.

Skid Row surprised the hell out of everyone with the Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun”.  It was the first indication that Skid Row had punk roots.  “Holidays” was very much a look ahead to where they would go on Slave to the Grind.  They were on the punk bandwagon a full two years before Motley decided to cover the Sex Pistols.  It’s always strange to hear flashy metal guitar solos on a Pistols song, but it’s sheer joy to hear Sebastian spitting and screaming up a storm.

Scorpions had a new compilation out called Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads.  Another Who song, “I Can’t Explain” was taken from it to be used on this CD.  It is by far the better of the Who covers, as Scorpions really made it their own.  Next, Ozzy’s track is quite interesting.  It’s the only studio recording of the lineup including Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, and Geezer Butler.  Geezer quit the band shortly after, and this incredible lineup never recorded anything else.  I consider it the strongest band that Ozzy had after Randy Rhoads.  The quartet did a live sounding cover of “Purple Haze”, unfortunately not the greatest version.  It is at least a showcase for Zakk Wylde to go nuts on the wah-wah pedal.

I will argue that the best track on this album came from the band that was riding a brand new high:  Motley Crue.  Clean and mean, they were incredibly strong in 1989.  They the balls to choose an obscure Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple) solo tune:  “Teaser”.  Motley put on that Dr. Feelgood groove, and Mick Mars laid waste to the land with his slidey guitar goodness.  It’s no surprise that “Teaser” has reappeared on Motley compilations several times since.  It has balls as big as a bus!

Another strong contender is Bon Jovi’s take on Thin Lizzy.  “The Boys are Back in Town” fits seamlessly with that small town New Jersey vibe that Bon Jovi used to have.  Lynott must have had some influence on a young Jon Bon, because all his old tunes are about the boys – back in town!  Dino’s bar and grill could be in Sayreville NJ.  Of course, Bon Jovi are a competent enough band to be able to cover Thin Lizzy and do it well.

Another surprise:  Cinderella doing Janis Joplin.  Singer Tom Keifer suited Joplin, though you don’t immediately associate the two!  “Move Over” takes advantage of that Keifer shriek that isn’t too far removed from Janis.  From there on though, it’s filler.  Jason Bonham, Tico Torres and Mickey Curry do a pretty boring “Moby Dick”.  It’s funny how John Bonham sounds bigger on the original, than three drummers on this remake.  Then it’s a bunch of live jams from the Moscow concert:  “Hound Dog”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Rock and Roll” (Bonham on drums again for the latter).  Vince Neil is hopelessly out-screamed by Sebastian Bach on the Zep tune.  All the singers participated, but Sebastian Bach and Tom Keifer blew ’em all away.

This disc has been out of print a while, but isn’t too hard to find.  80s rockers need to have it for its historical value.

3/5 stars

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#595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

GETTING MORE TALE #595: Fighting for Kenner and Ivy

Sorry for the lack of musical content in this instalment of Getting More Tale, usually a series of stories about music.  In lieu of a music story, I’ll include my Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause at the end!

 


Our friend Kenner Fee has not given up the fight, so neither will we.

Kenner has Autism. And Ivy is a Black Lab. Ivy calms Kenner’s anxieties and helps him cope with school and socializing. Outside of school, the two are inseparable. At school however, Ivy isn’t allowed to be with Kenner. The Waterloo Catholic District School Board says that Kenner doesn’t need a service dog. Kenner’s doctors, psychologists, therapists, parents and the Lions Foundation say otherwise.

Kenner’s parents, Craig and Amy. have been fighting with the WCDSB for over three years to get them to allow Ivy to attend school with Kenner at St. Kateri Catholic Elementary School in Kitchener. The fight has now escalated to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, where the Fee’s have had to invest thousands of dollars into lawyers and their charges, out of pocket. While the WCDSB has, what seems to be, unlimited taxpayer resources to pay for their lawyers.

Kenner was denied his basic human right to have his service dog in class with him.  Allow me to share a little bit about what I know of Kenner, because I see quite a few people are misinformed about this situation.

Ivy is not a therapy dog, as some sources have stated.  She is a service dog, trained and matched by the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides.  Some bystanders have asked, “What about kids who are afraid of dogs?”  An excellent question, and I think Kenner’s supporters have offered a lot of great suggestions about that.  The truth is, if you have ever met a service dog, you know that they basically just…lay there!  That’s part of the training.  Second, having a service dog in a school would be a rare and valuable teaching experience.  I was terrified of dogs as a kid.  I’d run and they’d give chase!  Ivy would not do that, because she is a service dog.  If I had the chance to meet a dog like Ivy as a kid, it really would have helped me get over my fear of dogs earlier.

Another legitimate question has been about kids with allergies.  Supporters have suggested solutions to these problems too.  None of them are unsolvable.  I’m terribly allergic myself.  If there happens to be only one class for Kenner’s grade, make sure the classroom doesn’t have carpet flooring, and keep Kenner on the opposite side of the room as any kids with allergies.  Ensure that teachers have a supply of each child’s allergy medication — Reactine, Visine, whatever.  Why is every other child’s needs more important than Kenner’s?  Allergies are real, but so is autism.  And the results Kenner has seen because of Ivy are extraordinary.  I know a little bit more about the situation than I can talk about, but I can say this.

I’ve seen Kenner, with Ivy at his side, give an amazing speech in front of hundreds of adults.  I couldn’t believe it.  Seeing that knocked me out; he made me see what potential can be unlocked.  He’s a gifted young man.  He deserves to be able to go to school and be at his best.  The Catholic school board keeps talking about how they assess each kid on a case by case basis.  It is interesting to note that they don’t have any service dogs in any of their schools in Ontario.  A child in Burlington is currently fighting the same battle as Kenner Fee, for the same reason.  He too has autism.  I wonder if the Catholic School Board is fighting this so hard simply because it’s easier than doing the work to accommodate. Currently, the Board is denying Kenner his basic right to fulfill his potential in school.  They say he gets good grades without Ivy.  That may be true, but he is truly exceptional when he is with her.  I have seen this and  I admire the little guy.

This is an expensive fight.  A GoFundMe page has been set up.

We’re asking the public to join us in raising  funds to help the Fee’s offset a fraction of the legal expenses they’ve personally incurred throughout the Human Rights Tribunal.  Anything raised over our target amount will be donated to the Lions Foundation of Canada Dog Guides, where Ivy was obtained.

Even if you can’t donate, every comment helps!  I know for a fact that Kenner is blown away by the amount of support he’s seen.  “I didn’t know so many people cared about me!” he said after a recent service dog protest.  He loves to know he has support so feel free to leave a comment, and we’ll make sure his parents get them!

#KennerAndIvy #WeStandWithKennerAndIvy #IStandWithKennerAndIvy

 


Top Five Tracks About Fighting for a Good Cause

5. Triumph – “Fight the Good Fight”

4. Warrior – “Fighting for the Earth”

3. Motley Crue – “Fight for Your Rights”

2. Bob Marley – “Get Up Stand Up”

1. Tom Petty – “I Won’t Back Down”

 

In the top photo there is a service dog and a Party Dog.  Can you tell which is which?

 

 

#594: St. Anger

GETTING MORE TALE #594: St. Anger

As a half-Italian, part-German, part Scottish guy, I was born with a fuse.  Sometimes that fuse can go off.  Nothing makes me angrier than when my wife, who has epilepsy, is told to “fuck off” because of her need to be away from flashing lights.  We’ve written extensively about epilepsy and our experiences, good and bad.  We are very open about it, happy to answer questions and eager to educate.   So when I hear that my wife had a seizure at the mall because of flashing lights and a guy who told her to “fuck off” and “stay indoors”, I feel like I could explode!

Here’s what happened.  Our wedding anniversary is August 31.  We had a nice dinner booked at Borealis, our favourite local eatery.  Jennifer went out to the mall that afternoon to get some things we needed for the weekend.  At the Walmart checkout, there was a child with those shoes that have flashing lights in the heels.  I don’t understand the need for those shoes.  At night, sure, I get it.  In a brightly lit Walmart, they’re a hazard to people prone to seizures.  An actual hazard as real as a slippery floor.

My wife asked the closest lady if that was her child.  She said “No.”  But it actually was her child.  Jen covered her eyes as the kid danced around the checkout aisle with the flashing heels.  She asked the lady to tell her when the flashing stopped so she could uncover her eyes.  The lady said it stopped.  She opened her eyes and the kid was still dancing and the shoes were still flashing.  She covered her eyes again.  She was getting upset.  Suddenly the lady’s husband showed up out of nowhere and began berating my wife.  He told her to “mind your own business”, that she should “fuck off”, and “stay indoors” if she had a problem with the shoes.

And so, she had a seizure in the checkout.  She doesn’t remember anything after paying for her things.  She remembers telling the cashier that she was probably going to have a seizure.  The next thing she knew is that the paramedics were there and she was in an ambulance.  I will give Walmart and the mall credit for being proactive about this.  They know my wife (unfortunately from past seizures) and they have my phone number on file.  They called me immediately.

I took Jen home and she had a good rest.   We didn’t have our dinner out that night.  But we had a great dinner in, and a lovely anniversary at home.  We went out the following night instead.

Here’s the kick in the nuts.  At the exact time I got that phone call from the mall about my wife, I read the story about how our friend Kenner Fee, who has autism, will not be allowed to bring his service dog to school. It was a painful one-two punch.

The anger simmered in me.  I came home and keyboard-warriored my way around Facebook, to the ignorant trolls on the Kenner Fee threads.  I wrote a few zingers, and before I knew it, two hours had gone by.  But by the end, I wasn’t angry anymore.  It might not have been the healthiest method of anger management.

I think there are two really healthy ways to let the anger out.  They are music, and being physically active.

I like to kill two birds with one stone.  My favourite thing is to put on something fast and heavy.  Metallica works as a go-to.  Testament, even Sabbath, they all work.  Hit play, turn up the volume.  Then I just fucking thrash.  Air drums, air guitar, headbanging, whatever.  Just physically moving with the tunes.  Air drums work fantastic for this.  Lipsynching helps.  Or, sing along if you’re not too self-conscious.

“And I want my anger to be healthy” — Metallica

I remember when I was younger, there was this one girl named Tracy that I really liked.  But she just kept me hanging along for months.  One night she had a friend of hers crank call me, pretending to be somebody from my history class that liked me.  I fell for it and got crushed.  And I was pissed off.

The music that came in handy that time was Motley Crue.  “Primal Scream” might have been their heaviest tune at the time.  The lyrics were in sync too.  “You just got to scream!  And shout!  Let that mother out!”  And I believed that.  Sometimes you do have to let that mother out.

Whatever you do, do it healthy!  I recommend a solid soundtrack of heavy metal to go with it.

#588: Broken Hearts are for A**holes

GETTING MORE TALE #588: Broken Hearts are for Assholes

What music do you seek out most when your soul needs soothing?

I remember my first “real” breakup in 1994.  Upset and confused, I sought solace in music.  I had just ordered a new release from Columbia House.  The Alice in Chains Jar of Flies EP hit me right where it hurt.  Why music resonates the way it does with certain feelings in specific people, nobody knows for sure.  If they did, there would be a perfect formula for writing perfect songs, but there is not.

It wasn’t the lyrics on Jar of Flies that affected me.  I didn’t consider “Hey ah na na, innocence is over, over,” to be particularly revelatory.  It was the music that got me.  While soft, Jar of Flies was also very dark and soaked with emotions.  Perhaps a lot of this had to do with new bassist Mike Inez.  Jar of Flies was one of the first things they wrote with Inez.  According to guitarist Jerry Cantrell, “He plays the nastiest, darkest shit but he’s got the sweetest heart in the world.” Both the weird darkness and the heart can be heard on Jar of Flies.  That EP stuck to me like glue.  Play it once, flip it over, play it again.

We got back together and broke up again a couple months later.  This time it was final.  I remember trying music again to feel better.  I put on “Love Song” by Tesla.  This time, this music only made me feel worse.  The line “Love will find the way,” didn’t seem real to me anymore.  So I put on something angrier.  In 1994, I was very much into Motley Crue.  I put on “Primal Scream”.  I felt the tension; I felt the frustration, and the seething.

Broke dick dog,
My head slung low,
Tail knocked in the dirt.
Time and time,
Of being told,
Trash is all I’m worth.
When I was just a young boy,
Had to take a little grief,
Now that I’m much older,
Don’t put that shit on me.

This had nothing to do with the breakup, but digging into my anger brought with it a lot of baggage from being bullied as a kid at school.  “Primal Scream” helped bring that to the fore.  It was the beginning of a long period of self-discovery and realizing that trauma as a kid can carry forward.

Breakup #3 happened in November of 1995.  Different girl this time.  I didn’t want to get angry anymore.  I decided to try to re-ground myself and get back to who I was before this.  I started hanging out with my family more.  I was listening to more old music like the Beatles.  The Anthology had just come out.  Via the Beatles (and co-worker T-Rev) I discovered Oasis (see: Getting More Tale #561: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?).  These new bands like Oasis weren’t that much different from the old ones.

What really clicked with me this time were bands from the extensive Deep Purple family tree.  (See:  Record Store Tales Part 141: When We Rock, We Rock and When We Roll, We Roll). I was playing British bands with a blues base.  Whitesnake, Purple, Rainbow and so on.  Why these bands resonated with me during this breakup, I don’t know.  Maybe it was the male posturing and testosterone.  Whatever the reason was, for a little while Deep Purple and Whitesnake really helped me put the pain out of mind.  I felt more or less normal and I think the tunes had a lot to do with it.  This kicked off a huge Purple obsession with me.

It’s strange but every breakup had its own music.  There was a girl named Jasmine in the year 2000, and the music for her breakup was Marillion.  “So here I am once more, in the playground of the broken hearts.”  Both Fish (first singer) and Steve Hogarth (second singer) are real poets.  With Marillion, both the music and lyrics seemed to fit.  I was becoming a little bit of a broken-hearted douche bag, but I had to do what I had to do to get by.

Perhaps what I really needed was some Frank Zappa.

 

Some of you might not agree,
‘Cause you probably likes a lot of misery,
But think a while and you will see…
Broken hearts are for assholes,
Broken hearts are for assholes.

Sunday Chuckle: 8:30 am Walmart Run

When you know the guy ran out of toilet paper at 8:30 am on a Saturday, but didn’t want to put just the toilet paper on his debit card.

walmart-haul

 

And then I got home and it turns out I bought the “wrong” toilet paper.

#539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

GETTING MORE TALE #539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth

Frankenmuth Michigan is a small Bavarian hamlet/tourist trap not too far from the Canada border.  Some people love going; I seem to be one of the only dissenting voices.  My best friend Peter introduced us to the Frankenmuth tradition.  His family would typically go once a year, staying at the Bavarian Inn.  The big draws to the town are two.  One is the big “family style” chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, where the food just keeps coming.  The other attraction is Bronner’s, an all-year-round Christmas store.  Some in my family seemed absolutely thrilled to be buying our Christmas ornaments in April.

Frankenmuth seemed a long way to go for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  However, it’s not too far for a shopping excursion focused on music, so that’s what I turned it into for me.  In the three years I went to Frankenmuth, I found plenty of goodies, and accumulated some entertaining memories.

frankenmuth

My first year was 1992.  I had just finished writing all my final exams for my first year classes at Laurier.  The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert had just aired.  I taped the whole thing, and then recorded it to cassette (three 100 minute tapes).  I tossed that into the Walkman, and joined the family for our first US road trip together.

The Mercury concert was special.  Queen shared the stage with some luminaries as David Bowie (RIP), George Michael (RIP), Mick Ronson (RIP), and many more.  Vivian Campbell played live with Def Leppard for the first time.  Tony Iommi and James Hetfield shared the stage with Queen on “Stone Cold Crazy”.  Guns N’ Roses were there, and Axl got to sing with new friend Elton John.  The excitement in the air was genuine.  There was talk afterwards of someone charismatic, like George Michael or Gary Cherone joining Queen permanently so they could continue.

Our first road stop was a McDonalds in a small town just outside of Flint.  The washroom stunk of piss so badly that my dad couldn’t even use it. Great first impression, Michigan!

When we got to the Bavarian Inn, I had the chance to watch MTV for the first time at length.  After all I’d heard about it, I was disappointed to see it was not nearly as good as Canada’s MuchMusic.  The American coverage of the Mercury concert (which was re-running all weekend) was truncated compared to what we saw in Canada.  MuchMusic had Erica Ehm and others on site at Wembley interviewing the stars and covering behind-the-scenes, while the US coverage cut away to other things.  The food at the Bavarian Inn was incredible, including what I remember to be the best omelette I’ve ever tasted.

I can’t say that I cared for the family style chicken dinner.  “Family style” isn’t my thing (where everybody has the same dinner, all served together on big platters).  If I’m eating out, I will rarely order chicken.  Seemed like a big waste of a night out, to go and eat somewhere that serves chicken dinner just like you get at home.  But I didn’t make these decisions, I just complained about them!

On the way home, we stopped at a Target store in Port Huron.  My first Target store; I had never even heard of them before.  This is where I made my first US music purchases.  In stock was the cassette single for “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard.  This featured the bonus track “Only After Dark”, a Mick Ronson track, who had just played at the Mercury concert!  The other item I picked up was Slaughter’s new The Wild Life CD, which had a different cover than the ones I’d seen in Canada.  It still appears to be the rarest version today.

The 1993 trip was even better, because this time Peter came with us.  In 1993, Peter was the man with the plan.  He was looking for something.  Something very specific, that as of yet was not released in Canada.  He had read about this new comedy tape called The Jerky Boys, and he was determined to find a copy.  And find a copy he did.

We found The Jerky Boys at a record store just on the outskirts of Frankenmuth.  At the same store, I picked five tapes that I couldn’t get back home:  Savatage’s first albums Sirens (1983), The Dungeons are Calling (1985), Power of the Night (1986) and the brand new Edge of Thorns (1993).  There was also Richie Kotzen’s third album, Electric Joy.  These fine records meant that the summer of 1993 was filled with sounds both heavy and complex.  The Kotzen album was a whole level beyond was I was used to listening to.  As for Savatage, they heavied up my tastes at a time when I was craving faster/heavier/louder.

I spent a lot of time absorbing each of these albums, but it was The Jerky Boys that dominated the car tape deck on that Frankenmuth trip.  Peter and I listened to the entire thing through.  Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Sol Rosenberg and his glasses (he can’t see goddammit), and the whole gang had us laughing so hard, my sides actually hurt.  When the tape was done, we put it on repeat and played it again.  I’m not sure if my mom and dad enjoyed the Jerky Boys as much as I did.  I started calling people “sizzlechest” and responding to questions with “listen jerky, I don’t need to talk to you.”

What a summer.

This Frankenmuth trip was also my Karaoke debut.  I chose “The Immigrant Song”.  And I fucking killed it, in my opinion!  Like Axl Rose gyrating on meth, I owned that stage.  The heels of my cowboy boots stomped the boards, keeping their own beat.  I asked my entire family to leave the room, but I lost my place in the song when I caught them spying around a corner.

On we sweep, with threshing oar, our only goal will be the western shore.

That was a fantastic trip.  Mission accomplished, with both the music shopping and the Jerky Boys acquisition.  On my third and final year going to Frankenmuth, Peter really upped his game.  Once again, the goal was to acquire something that we could not get in Canada.

Instead of travelling in one car, we did a convoy with two.  Peter and I needed transportation of our own to run the missions we were planning.

As much as MTV did not impress me on my first US trip, our goal this time was dependant on MTV.

“Let’s rent a VCR and tape some episodes of Beavis and Butthead!”  We didn’t get the show in Canada.

That is exactly what we did.  We drove over to the local video store, and rented a VCR.  You might think renting a VCR in a foreign country might be difficult, but it wasn’t.  We hooked it up to the hotel TV (much easier than doing something like this today — more on that in a future instalment of Getting More Tale also involving Peter).  Tuning up MTV, we watched some music before Beavis and Butthead was scheduled.

This time, MTV really pissed me off.  They gleefully ran the embarrassing 1994 Motley Crue interview that the band infamously walked out of.  But the band didn’t do themselves any favours in that interview. MTV baited them a bit with the questions, but they didn’t have to attack Vince Neil in their answers. “No one cares anyway,” said Nikki Sixx when asked about his former frontman. Pushed further, they were asked to comment on Vince’s recent jet-ski accident that put him in hospital with broken ribs. Laughing, Mick Mars asked “What happened to the coral reef?” Sixx answered, “Hey, when 300 pounds of blubber lands on a coral reef, there’s gonna be some dust flying around.”

The question that killed the interview was about “women, hairspray and fire.” MTV ran the segment complete with Nikki mocking the question, while showing images of women, hairspray and fire from their music videos. Stick in a fork in that lineup; it was done.  No matter how good that 1994 Motley Crue album was (and is), that interview polished off the attempted comeback in one stroke.

We recorded a couple episodes of Beavis and Butthead and called it a night.  The next day we did some music and comic book shopping.  US exclusive once more:  Quiet Riot’s reunion album Terrified found and liberated.  I didn’t even know they had come out with anything new.  A cassette single for “Heaven Help” by Lenny Kravitz also found its way home with me. I scored an oversized Black Sabbath comic (Rock-It Comics) and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with the silver foil fold out cover.

With another successful trip in the books, we packed our bags and checked out.  The last mission to run was returning the VCR to the video store.  There was only one snag.  We were primed and ready to head home early…and the video store opened at noon.  We had to kill some hours driving around, but when that store opened we got the hell out of dodge.  Not the greatest return trip ever, but at least we had Lenny Kravitz.

I stopped going to Frankenmuth after that trip, although Peter and his family returned yearly for some chicken and Christmas ornaments.  My family too.  My mom tells me of a memorable trip that ended in the hospital!   Four years ago my mother, father and sister made a trip where they did the usual; Frankenmuth chicken and the Christmas store. They also ate a lot of junk food; pizza, hot dogs, French fries and candy. On the way home they stopped along the 401 for more French fries. That night my mother ended up in the hospital with a gall bladder attack. It was serious enough that she had it removed two weeks later.  Thank goodness they were home when it happened as they never bothered with extra insurance for a short trip to the US.

As years went on, I ran into people all the time who had gone to Frankenmuth for a vacation.  Inevitably, they will always talk about three things:  the Bavarian Inn, the chicken dinners, and the Christmas store.  None of them seem to have any stories about cool comic books, or finding rare tapes and CDs in Frankenmuth.  Very few of them have done Karaoke, and none have performed “The Immigrant Song” at the Bavarian Inn.  Nobody rented a VCR to record Beavis and Butthead, and then have to wait hours for the store to open to return said VCR.   Nobody even discovered the Jerky Boys on their Michigan trips.

I guess that means that Peter and I are the only ones who did Frankenmuth right.

REVIEW: Mötley Crüe – Girls, Girls, Girls (2003 remastered edition)

girlsMÖTLEY CRÜE – Girls, Girls, Girls (originally 1987, 2003 remaster)

The Tom Werman-produced Girls, Girls, Girls album is a bit underrated.  Its weaknesses are fairly obvious, but its strengths are less appreciated.  The Crue were coming off a bit of a stinker (Theater of Pain), so some changes were in order.  The band dropped the makeup and spandex in favour of a tougher street-ready look.  The intended direction this time was a bit of a combo of the first three Crue album.  They wanted the rawness of Too Fast For Love, the heaviness of Shout at the Devil, and the sleaze of Theater.  There was no reinvention of the wheel, nor was anybody in the band capable of that.  Nikki Sixx was deep into a heroin problem at this time, barely focused on the music at all.  This has been documented in his graphic book The Heroin Diaries.  Much of his time was spent hiding in a closet with a gun, afraid of imaginary intruders.

As an audience in 1987, we really did not suspect that things were such a shambles behind the scenes.  The band looked good, and sounded like they had rediscovered the skills of writing memorable songs.  Case in point:  opening track (and second single) “Wild Side”.  Boasting the kind of rock groove that Motley made their trademark, “Wild Side” rocked.  They even threw in a time change on the bridge.  “Wild Side” was augmented with a cool music video, showcasing the Motley stage show in 1987.  This included a spinning, upside down Tommy Lee drum kit.  “Girls, Girls, Girls” was a video too, but it never saw airplay up in Canada. Too risqué for the frozen tundra of the north?  It too was a hit, played live in concert right to Motley’s final show (opening number, in fact).

The album was rounded out by a number of cool, sleazy rock tracks and a couple ballads.  “Dancing On Glass” kicks; it’s pretty much an autobiographical track about living in the fast lane.  This is something the Crue were well acquainted with.

“Silver spoon and needle,
Witchy tombstone smile,
I’m no puppet, 
I engrave my veins with style.”

Since the cassette didn’t come with a lyric sheet, kids of the 80’s (or at least the parents of the 80’s) probably had no idea what Vince was singing about.  The song is given some traditional rock cred with soulful female backing vocals and boogie piano.

“Bad Boy Boogie” continued the theme, this time with some tasty Mick Mars slide guitar instead of piano.  “Better lock up your daughters when the Motleys hit the road.”  The song is a series of sexual innuendos, cleverness put to the side in favour of blunt sleaze.  “Got my finger in the pie, my hand in the cookie jar.”  Aerosmith leaks through the grooves on “Bad Boy Boogie” which wears its influence on its sleeve.  The good times continue to bounce on “Five Years Dead”, loaded with more of Mick’s greasy slide.  It’s a similar song to “Sumthin’ for Nuthin'”, which is even more fun.  This time Vince is a gigolo, getting paid for pleasure (sumthin’ for nuthin’)!  “Leave the money where it’s easy to see,” he sings with glee.  It’s brilliant Motley filth just the way you like it.  Best of all is the smokin’ “All in the Name Of…”, which pours high octane fuel in the tank and opens ‘er up wide.  It’s sleazier than sleazy:  “She’s only 15, she’s the reason, the reason I can’t sleep.  You say illegal, I say legal’s never been my scene.”  Probably a true story….

There are only two ballads, one of which is just 1:26 of filler (“Nona”).  The other is the very entertaining “You’re All I Need”, which sounds inspired by Alice Cooper.  It is a delicate piano based murder ballad, like the Coop has done so well.  “You’re All I Need” isn’t Coop quality, but on the Motley scale it’s one of their better ballads.  It has an anthemic quality, a pompous melancholy.  The lyrics doomed it to semi-obscurity, which is too bad, since on the whole it’s a stronger song than the better known “Without You”.

Unfortunately for this album, “Nona” was not the only filler.  An excruciating (and live?!) cover of “Jailhouse Rock” ends the album on a pretty putrid note.  It’s not good at all, and reeks of weakness.  Why would you end your new album with a cover, and a live cover at that?  Only because you didn’t have enough quality tunes to make the cut.

The 2003 remastered edition of Girls, Girls, Girls came with bonus tracks, like all the albums in the Crucial Crue collection.  Three of them are instrumental versions, bordering on filler material.  Motley Crue are not Rainbow or Marillion — you don’t get much out of an instrumental version.  “Nona” did once have a rock section in its longer demo form.  More entertaining than the demos is the band and Tom Werman intro. Funny stuff.  Then there is a long sought ballad “Rodeo”.  This song was first mentioned in band interviews in 1989, when it was mentioned for possible inclusion on a never-released album called Motley Crue: The Ballads.  The demo here is not very well fleshed out, but you can hear that it had a cool chorus ready to go.  Finally there is a live version for “All in the Name Of…” from Moscow in 1989.  Fans may recall that Motley played at the infamous Moscow Music Peace Festival…shortly before Tommy attacked Jon Bon Jovi and ripped the shirt off his back.  Peace and love, man!

Although the Crue were only firing on a couple cylinders at the time, they managed to piece together a worthwhile album.  There are only two mis-steps, which are “Nona” and “Jailhouse Rock”.  The remastered edition adds a couple more worthwhile bonus tracks to extend your listening experience.  Go for that one if you find it first.

3.5/5 stars

Side one
1. “Wild Side” 4:40
2. “Girls, Girls, Girls” 4:30
3. “Dancing on Glass” 4:18
4. “Bad Boy Boogie” 3:27
5. “Nona” 1:27

Side two
6. “Five Years Dead” 3:50
7. “All in the Name Of…” 3:39
8. “Sumthin’ for Nuthin'” 4:41
9. “You’re All I Need” 4:43
10. “Jailhouse Rock” (live) 4:39

2003 Remastered Edition bonus tracks
11. “Girls, Girls, Girls” (Tom Werman & band intro, rough mix of instrumental track) 5:38
12. “Wild Side” (rough mix of instrumental track) 4:06
13. “Rodeo” (unreleased track) 4:14
14. “Nona” (instrumental demo idea) 2:42
15. “All in the Name Of…” (live in Moscow) 5:02

#523: Columbia House

GETTING MORE TALE #523: Columbia House

How many of you were members of the Columbia House music club?  Tapes or CDs?

The concept was simple.  Get 12 tapes or records for one penny.  Then agree to buy “X” more at “regular club prices” within a year.  They would usually offer all sorts of incentives, such as getting your first regularly priced item for half price.  Their “regular club prices” were fairly high, but if you played your cards right you could make joining the club worthwhile.

Every few weeks after signing up, Columbia House would send you a catalogue and an order form.  The order system was controversial, because it required a negative response if you didn’t want to buy something.  When you signed up, you could pick your favourite genre of music (I chose “metal”).  Each time a catalogue came out, your selected genre would have a “selection of the month”, usually a new release but not always.   If you did not respond with an order form expressing that you didn’t want it, they would automatically mail you the “selection of the month” and bill you for it too.  (The Columbia Record Club system was worked into a sub-plot of the movie A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers.)

For many people this wasn’t a problem.  Our parents let my sister and I sign up when I was in grade 11.  We split the membership and free tapes 50/50.  We paid for everything ourselves and diligently sent in our order forms each time.  We were both already massive music fans, so we poured over every single page.  Most times, one of us ended up buying something, if not the selection of the month itself.

I can still remember every album I received in that first shipment. Seven tapes.  These tapes went into immediate and constant rotation, which is why I remember them all so well today.

  1. Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
  2. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
  3. Hurricane – Over the Edge
  4. Stryper – To Hell With the Devil
  5. Stryper – In God We Trust
  6. White Lion – Pride
  7. Sammy Hagar – VOA

Our musical world opened up in a massive way, and not just because of the new music we were listening to.  The catalogues introduced us to names and album covers that we’d not experienced yet.  What is this Bitches Brew thing?  Why did Deep Purple albums have so few songs?  Did Iron Maiden copy their Maiden Japan from Purple’s Made In Japan?  Holy crap, Hank Williams Jr. has three greatest hits albums?

Everything was absorbed.  Five years later, when I started at the Record Store, my boss was surprised that I knew who most of the artists were, what sections they should go in, and even what record labels they were on.

“I read the Columbia House catalogue cover to cover every month,” was my answer!

The catalogue provided knowledge, and pictures to cut out for locker or wall.  We made the most of that catalogue every time.  It was rare when pictures were not cut out!

I was even able to acquire things that might have been considered rarities back then.  I had never seen Leatherwolf stocked in a store, but Columbia House had it.  When vinyl was being discontinued, I was still able to get Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind (1991) on LP.  They had most of the Savatage albums.

It all sounds wonderful, but Columbia House had flaws too.  The biggest one was horrendous quality control.  They licensed and manufactured the tapes themselves, which were simply not as good quality wise as the ones you could find in a store.  They would be warbling within weeks (if not right out of the case) and the J-cards were sometimes shoddy, with printing not lining up with fold lines, or just they’d just start falling apart along perforations.  They also didn’t carry certain record labels.  While they had everything Warner Bros and Columbia Records, they had nothing from EMI.  Finally, bands made next to nothing on albums that were sold through Columbia House.  Some bands such as the Tragically Hip refused to sell their music via Columbia House.  We didn’t know all of this as kids, of course.  I started to pick up on the quality issues when they seemed to take a serious dive around 1991.

The key to not getting ripped off by Columbia House was to order smart.  The 12 free tapes sounds like a great deal, but when you balance in buying the rest of your selections at full price, most people ended up on the losing side.  Get in and get out, buying the bare minimum.  That was the way to do it.  Of course, we didn’t.  We just enjoyed the convenience and stayed members for years!  No regrets since this led directly to a 12 year career in the Record Store!

REVIEW: Union – Union (1998, 1999 reissue with bonus track)

The third and final Kulick review from our Kulick week at mikeladano.com!

Tuesday: Blackjack – Blackjack (1979)
Wednesday: Blackjack – Worlds Apart (1980)

scan_20160928UNION – Union (1998, 1999 Spitfire reissue)

A mighty Union was formed from the ashes of two classic bands’ lesser-known lineups.  First up is Bruce Kulick, formerly of Kiss and now in Grand Funk.  Kulick had been taking an increasingly important role within Kiss, leading to the Carnival of Souls LP which Bruce was instrumental in writing and recording.  With him was John Corabi who had just been booted from Motley Crue after making (arguably) their best album (or one of).  Corabi was in a bit of a state.  His confidence in himself was shaken after the Motley experience, who seemed impossible to please when their album tanked.  John told Bruce that he didn’t want to sing anymore, he just wanted to play guitar.  Bruce’s response was “Dude, you’re fuckin’ high!”

And so it was that Bruce and John teamed up (with Brent Fitz and Jamie Hunting) in the aptly named Union.

You wouldn’t call Union a supergroup, but they did create a fine album.  It is in the mold of the last albums these guys made separately (Motley ’94 and Carnival).  Union turned out as an angry, dark rock record, very much a child of the 1990’s.  With Kulick on guitar, Union was more than a 90’s alt-grunge retread.  The 90’s are omnipresent in the droning riffs and staggered rhythms, but then Bruce dumped out his tackle box of guitar tricks.  Bruce evolved over the years from a guy who played really fast on 80’s Kiss albums to a serious player interested in pushing his own limits.  Where he used to be content to play flurries of notes, on Union he goes for maximum gut impact.  It’s less about playing the notes than bending them to his will.

It’s also quite clear how much writing Bruce and John did in their respective bands, judging by the sound of this.  “Around Again” bears groovy similarities to tracks like “Jungle” by Kiss and “Uncle Jack” by Motley.  There’s a pissed-off attitude, and musicianship that would make Nikki Sixx crap his pants.  Thankfully Union have a good batch of songs backing them.  Much like the previous Kiss and Crue records, Union is not instant love.  It takes about three good listens to penetrate its metal-grunge (with a touch of Beatles) hybrid sound.  Union usually seem to go for the guts rather than singalong melodies.

One of the exceptions to this rule is the pure fun “Love (I Don’t Need it Anymore)”.  This is the one that hooks you on the first round.  With a funky little riff and a chorus that sinks right in, it slays.  The ballad “October Morning Wind” is another catchy track, an acoustic number a-la Zeppelin.  Think of a track like “Loveshine” from the Motley album for the right ballpark.  Stealing a Zeppelin title, Union’s song “Tangerine” is a groove rock tune like a heavier Aerosmith.

On the other side of the spectrum:  psychedelic rock.  “Let It Flow” is a trippy song broken up into sections called “The Invitation”, “The Journey” and “The Celebration”.  I think John was smoking something green when he wrote the lyrics, but Bruce’s sitar-like guitar is the perfect complement.  “Empty Soul” has similar scope, being a pretty huge song with musical goodness coming out the wazoo.

Adding the Beatles cover “Oh Darlin'” to a reissued version of the album is a little greedy, but fortunately worth it.  As it turned out this band only made two studio albums, so more Union is good Union.  If you recall the original song, Paul McCartney gave it his best rasp screams.  Up to bat is John Corabi who can sing that way in his sleep.  It’s a perfect match and “Oh Darlin'” is a nice little extra on which to end an exceptional album.  The only issue I have with “Oh Darlin” is actually its placement as the last song.  Previously, the solo-written Corabi acoustic ballad “Robin’s Song” was the closer, much like “Driftaway” was on the Motley album.  You become accustomed to “Robin’s Song” as a closer, because it has that quality to it.  “Oh Darlin'” is not a closer.  It would have worked better earlier in the track list, so feel free to shuffle as you choose.

Whatever version you acquire, any fan of Kulick and/or Corabi would be foolhardy to live without this CD.  It ranks as one of the best albums by either.

4.5/5 stars

#499: Top Five Most Heinous Rock Criminals

Welcome back to the week of Getting More Getting More Tale.  This one is…not funny.

GETTING MORE TALE #499: Top Five Most Heinous Rock Criminals

Who are the biggest dicks in rock? People who have committed crimes so atrocious, so heinous, that forgiveness is all but impossible? Here is a list of some of the most well known examples of extreme douchebaggery in rock and roll.

SID5. Sid Vicious (Sex Pistols)

Not everybody gets to have Gary Oldman play them in a movie. In order to attain this dubious distinction, you have to be the bassist for the most notorious punk band in the world, stab your girlfriend (Nancy Spungeon) to death, and then die of an overdose before the case can go to trial. The unanswered questions will remain so forever.

PHIL4. Phil Spector

The genius producer extraordinaire may have been most well known for his “wall of sound” in the 1960’s, but today people remember him showing up in an array of outrageous wigs for his murder trial. On February 3 2003, actress Lana Clarkson was killed by a gunshot to the head at Spector’s mansion. Spector was found guilty on April 13 2009, and has been in jail ever since. His bald mugshot was a stark contrast to the huge wigs he was known for.

VARG3. Varg Vikernes (Burzum)

This bizarre tale cannot be summed up in a paragraph. Varg did 21 years in jail for stabbing Mayhem guitarist Euronymous (Øystein Aarseth) to death. Vikernes has explained and justified the events of August 10 1993 many times, but every interview just makes the situation more bizarre and surreal. Vikernes is a free man today, continually working on and releasing new music with his solo project Burzum.

VINCE2. Vince Neil (Motley Crue)

Drinking and driving is a crime that no-one should ever take lightly. When it involves injury and death, that goes double. On December 8 1984, a drunk Vince hopped into his Pantera with Hanoi Rocks drummer Razzle Dingley to pick up some more booze. Neil hit an oncoming car, seriously injuring its passengers, and killing Dingley. Neil spent 15 days in jail. To make matters even worse, this was not Neil’s last instance of drinking and driving. He faced charges in 2007 and again in 2010. This is an example of a man who is old enough to know better, but will never learn.

WATKINS1. Ian Watkins (Lostprophets)

Ian Watkins is in jail right now, and hopefully will remain there for a very long time. His crime? According to investigators, Watkins is a “committed, organized paedophile” and “potentially the most dangerous sex offender” they had ever seen. His lack of any sort of remorse has made his crimes that much more disgusting.