My favourite part of the Friday live stream was when my mom interrupted my #1 AC/DC pick with instructions to water the plants.
My favourite part of the Friday live stream was when my mom interrupted my #1 AC/DC pick with instructions to water the plants.
GETTING MORE TALE #775: Eleven
It was eleven years ago this weekend that life changed forever.
On August 31 2008, I dressed up in a tux, gathered a hundred of our closest family and friends, and got married. It was the best decision I’ve ever made.
We didn’t get to celebrate ten years. At this time last year, Jen’s mom was terminally ill. We were at her bedside. I know what she would have said to us if she knew what day it was. “You guys go out, have a nice dinner, on me. Enjoy yourselves.” That’s just who she was. But we didn’t feel much like eating or celebrating.
I think “mum” would appreciate that this year, we are going to celebrate #11. We’re going to remember her, and we’re going to be thankful that we have each other. Making #11 our year to celebrate seems appropriate for us; we’re the couple that is 1) always late, and 2) rarely doing anything the “normal” way.
In order to do things right, I’ll be taking a break from mikeladano.com but we will all re-convene back here after Labour Day.
It’s a well deserved break! We have some general ideas but the plan is just to take it easy and go with the flow. I just bought a 2 terabyte external hard drive, so I’ll actually be able to take all my music with me, in the car and on the laptop. I couldn’t do that eleven years ago!
Here are some songs that mean the most to Jen and I. Turn ’em up and we’ll catch up again next week.
Stompin’ Tom Connors – “Sudbury Saturday Night”
It started with Stompin’ Tom. I think I had told her that I had a stack of new movies, a huge bag of chips & a case of Red Bull, and was ready for the weekend or something. She responded, “Sounds like you’re ready for a Sudbury Saturday Night.” So right then and there, boom! She was speaking my language.
The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
I was into The Darkness in a big way. As told in Record Store Tales Part 80, these guys were absolutely one of my favourites when we met. “I Believe In A Thing Called Love” was a major feature at the wedding reception.
Guns N’ Roses – “Patience”
This was one of Jen’s favourites from the reception. When it played, all the couples slow-danced together. She thought it was a really sweet moment, and a lot of those couples are still couples today!
The Beatles – “Revolution”
When I asked Jen to pick a song she liked, this was the first one she named.
Van Halen – “Why Can’t This Be Love”
Before we met, Jen actively disliked Van Halen (classic rock in general). Today this is one of her favourite songs. Rock radio had a lot to do with that.
Neil Peart – “The Hockey Theme”
Before I met Jen, I’d never heard this theme in my life. Today, I can name pretty much every Maple Leaf and dozens of other players too. I can’t believe she’s done this to me! But don’t you dare call me a “hockey fan”.
The Traveling Wilburys – “Handle With Care”
No story, we just love this song.
Johnny Cash – “In My Life”
I’m sure everybody plays this at their weddings, don’t they? We knew that, so we chose Johnny Cash’s version. Let me tell you, that was a really cool moment, in the church signing the registry to this song. I hope my buddy Tom appreciated that, being such a huge Cash fan. I was psyched for him to hear it at a wedding instead of the usual.
I hope you enjoy some of our songs too.
GETTING MORE TALE #725: “Mum’s” Music
We couldn’t keep everything from “Mum’s” house. Jen’s mother amassed a huge amount of possessions over the years. We had to choose what to keep and what to leave behind. Like most people, she had a lot of old worthless albums and CDs. She also had a couple good ones, some of which baffled me. I know I gave her the Rush CD, but I don’t know where some of these others came from! Many are still sealed with price tags affixed.
I know I’m bad for that too. I have many CDs that have been here for years, still sealed. My collection is several thousand albums deep now. There is a lot of stuff I just haven’t gotten around to hearing yet. I guess “Mum” was the same. I never really saw her listening to music at home although I know she loved certain artists and songs. I don’t think she even had a working CD player anymore. Jen says they mostly listened to music in the car.
Because she was so supportive, she owned two CDs by my sister Kathryn. Her solo album Open is ironically still sealed. Mum would have bought that at the CD release show, back in 2010 at the Button Factory in Waterloo. (I was supposed to perform our song “Evil Kirk” that night but I was suffering from a throat infection so it was impossible for me to do.) Mum loved watching Kathryn perform even if the music was beyond her. She also had a copy of my sister’s first CD, A Recital of Works for Bass Clarinet. I brought these back home with me. Maybe I’ll do a contest to give them away.
Some decent greatest hits discs were found. I think Mum would be glad that we kept some of her jazz classics. I needed some Louis Armstrong, and now I have All Time Greatest Hits (1994) with 18 songs. She also loved Etta James; she danced with Jen’s dad to “At Last” at our wedding. Etta James was one of her favourites. I’m going to do my best to appreciate her music. Etta James’ Her Best (1997, 20 tracks) is still sealed but I’ll crack it open and give it a shot.
The Beach Boys’ Sounds of Summer also looks like a good one. It’s 30 songs and I know virtually all of them. Jen is a huge Beach Boys fan and I think this greatest hits is better than any she had before. We will get lots of play from this, I know. Then there’s Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix! This one is opened! I never heard her mention Jimi Hendrix, not once. We have no idea what she was doing with Jimi in her collection. I already have lots of Jimi, but this one has a really nice booklet with liner notes.
Two sealed Beatles CDs were in the collection. Jen and I are the bigger Beatles fans, but we didn’t own Live at the BBC Volume 1 or 2! These are the 2013 remasters, too. I’ll admit I’ve never liked the first Live at the BBC. It came out during my first Christmas at the Record Store, and it stiffed. We sat on a huge pile of them that we couldn’t sell. Nobody wanted rough live versions of Beatles songs. People wanted the hits, and BBC disappointed many when it appeared under the Christmas tree in 1994. (The same thing happened with Anthology 1 in 1995.) Now we have both BBC sets, so we’ll have to give them another chance. She also had Abbey Road on LP, which isn’t in terrible shape. It’s my favourite Beatles album and it will be cool to hear it on vinyl, the way it was intended.
Also among the LPs was a Beach Boys double hits LP called Summer Dreams. I was excited to find one by Gordon Lightfoot called 2 Originals of Gordon Lightfoot. This contains two of his complete albums, Don Quixote and Summer Side of Life. I owned neither until now. Some of the coolest records were the soundtracks. We took Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and The Buddy Holly Story. The cool thing about The Buddy Holly Story is that the cast are the actual singers and musicians. So that means it’s Gary Busey singing and playing lead guitar. And he’s great! This is a classic soundtrack that I am glad to finally own.
As discussed in a previous chapter, for some reason when Mum was sick, I felt a strong connection to Cat Stevens. Specifically it was the song “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”. When we were watching over her in her last days, that song came into my head and I don’t know why. I felt like she was trying to tell me something. She never wanted either of us to be sad. In my mind, it seemed like Mum was telling me not to be sad. “Well, if you want to sing out, sing out. And if you want to be free, be free. ‘Cause there’s a million things to be, you know that there are.” It seemed like something she would have said. So when she finally passed, and we started going through her things, I found a Cat Stevens CD with that exact song on it. It’s not on the 1975, 1990, or 2000 greatest hits albums. But it is on Icon. There it was, still sealed, and it had the song. How strange, I thought, as a tear went down my face.
The world is strange indeed; or as Cat said it’s a “Wild World”. There are coincidences that seem connected even if they are not. The human brain has a knack for finding patterns, and many of us mistake this for deeper meaning. Even though it could be pure chance, I think Mum was speaking to me when that song came into my head. It’s a comforting thought. I’ll take it.
When I write these stories about her, I miss her even more. I can’t do it without crying at least once. But it’s important to me that you get to know her a little bit. She was an amazing woman, and this is just a small part of the music that she loved.
It’s funny. You can know someone your whole life, and still find new stories about them. Such is the case with Mrs. LeBrain and her mom.
“Mum”, also known as Debbie, passed away last month but one of the joys has been the journey of discovery. One of Debbie’s best friends sent us a newspaper clipping from the Toronto Star, June 16 1994. The article was called “Say what? Words to cringe by”. It had a story about her mom that we’ve never heard before. It’s hilarious and it reminds us so much of the way she was. These are exactly the kind of things she would say!
GETTING MORE TALE #700: How Are You Doing?
It’s been a week since we lost Mum…and we are doing OK. Jen’s been focused like an electron microscope on getting things done for the funeral. My job is scanning photos and preparing music…and catching up on laundry. Attempting to put a dent into the pile of clothes I call “Sock Mountain”. I’m assuming reality will hit us later.
For music, Mum would have liked if we used something by my sister Dr. Kathryn. I hope I can find something appropriate, perhaps from her Stealth CD. At least one track. For the reception after, I’m using Mike Slayen’s awesome acoustic guitar album DUDE. Don’t let the title fool you! If Mum was well enough, I know she would have been enjoying this album with us. Probably in the car on the way to the cottage. She would have loved it. Me, I would have loved just having Mum with us.
This has been a very hard year for us, and I know the power of music is such that you always associate certain tracks or albums with periods in your life. Music also has the power to raise the spirits, and it did that for me quite a few times this summer. On every shitty drive to Toronto on the 401, to every dismal hospital parking lot, my stereo was on. A lot of albums were repeat listens, and I worry: “Will I always associate the Bosstones or Blotto with this shitty summer?”
I might. And that might make the Bosstones or Blotto hard to listen to, down the road. I think we have to try and make more memories of those bands later on. Maybe when we finally do return to the cottage.
That aside, we sure did devour a lot of music on the road. Just last week, between Toronto and the work commute, I polished off Marillion’s The Singles ’82-’88 (12 discs), its followup Singles Box Vol 2 ’89 – ’95 (12 more discs), and a third “box set” of eight more singles. A whopping 1.5 gig of music. Basically all their singles and B-sides in one massive weeklong stretch. Meanwhile, back at the office, I had my Kiss flash drive. Basically, everything I own by Kiss in one place. I’ve been focused on the studio albums, and each one has been spun more than once. I realised this: I never seem to get tired of Kiss!
Whether it was Lick it Up, Hotter Than Hell, Dressed to Kill, Love Gun, Rock and Roll Over, Dynasty, Unmasked, Creatures…even Asylum got multiple plays in the last couple weeks. When a band has been your favourite for over 30 years and you can’t explain why, I guess you can just keep playing those albums in rotation. The later albums…admittedly less so. The emotional attachment isn’t quite there.
Get this! While I was bopping to Kiss Unmasked one afternoon, the guy in the office next to me put on “Summerland” by King’s X! How cool is that? When was the last time you heard King’s X in the office? The guy even knew the names of the members. Said a friend recently turned him onto King’s X, but all he had was the Best Of. Gotta start somewhere!
Thanks for checking in. We’ll be OK. I think we’ll manage to make it through this, but not without the support of friends and loved ones.
Some people knew her as “Debbie”. Some called her “sis”. Jen called her “mommy”. Readers here remember her as “Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom”.
As for me, she liked it when I called her “Mum”, so that’s what I did.
She’s been sick for a little while. She was diagnosed with cancer at the same time as my wife, late last year. Because Mum only cared about other people, she tried to protect us. She did not tell us about it. She lived with her secret, so we could focus on Jen. We knew she was sicker than she claimed, but at the end of the day we had to trust her. I don’t begrudge this. She was right — I needed to focus on Jen, beating her own cancer. When she did, Mum told us the news.
She’s so important to me. We became much closer when Jen’s dad passed away in 2009. When that happened, our little unit circled the wagons and held on to each other tight. We invited her to come and stay with us on the weekends, and she did, probably two out of every three times. She came and celebrated Christmas (and all the holidays) with my family. She bought us dinners and treats and spoiled us. She took good care of Jen. We talked and laughed.
I already miss our talks. I just wanna call her.
She even contributed to my website. She co-reviewed Machete Kills with me. She helped with two of my videos, always as comedy relief. She was a great sport.
I miss her so much.
I could count on her for wisdom, for support, and she was always there when Jen needed her. If Jen called, Mum would be on a train. She just liked being here. She wanted to retire in Kitchener. Over the years she made a lot of friends. Lots of people here will miss her. Her generosity won’t be easily forgotten. She was good to everyone.
I have always tried to put on an optimistic face when it comes to health. Until you’re done, you’re still fighting to win. But as summer progressed, it was clear Mum wasn’t getting better. She bravely tried a new experimental treatment. The upside was that some tumors were shrinking, but the treatment made her incredibly ill. She couldn’t continue. Eventually the doctors just ran out of things to try.
The last thing she said clearly to me, many many times, was “I only trust Michael. I only trust Michael.”
I will never forget that for the rest of my life. “I only trust Michael.”
I guess she means to take care of Jen. Hearing her say this, repeating it, was the heaviest moment of my life.
But it felt good at the same time. I couldn’t have asked for the trust of a more important person. She was a second mom to me. I am a very lucky person to have even known her.
She fought that cancer, and fought, and fought. She fought longer than any of the doctors said she would.
She was the toughest woman I ever knew. I miss her like crazy.
Rest in peace, Mum.
Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom had a cameo in this video. She was a good sport and played the role well.
GETTING MORE TALE #555.5: A Short Visit to Sonic Boom
Yesterday I took Mrs. LeBrain to Toronto to see a neurosurgeon. It was a great meeting; very positive, but we will get more into that in a future tale. (Look for an upcoming Getting More Tale story called “Seize the Day” if you want to know more.) After the meeting with the doctor, she had some tests. I didn’t need to be around for the those, so with a couple hours to kill, I went down to Sonic Boom on Spadina. I was accompanied by Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom, who insisted we cab to the store. It was a rainy miserable day outside. Wet, cold, windy and unpleasant. The cab ride wasn’t unwelcome.
I’m glad I shaved my beard down to a goatee the other day, because almost every dude in that store looked the same. Bearded hipsters buying vinyl, left right and center, lookalikes all! I tuned out the background noise and focused on the cool. Upstairs they had two colouring books I almost considered getting. Do you know anyone who is a huge fan of either James Franco or Benedict Cumberbatch? If so, I am happy to report that Sonic Boom had colouring books of both. (They also had Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation.) I spied the new Mastodon among the new releases, but headed downstairs where the real treasures usually lay.
Although I put in a Herculean effort, there was little to be found. Maybe I have too many CDs, because everywhere I flipped it seemed to be “got it, got it, got it, got it…” Aaron asked me to look for Danny Michel and a few other titles. Nothing to be found. I was struck by how just about everything seems to be reissued on vinyl today. The Spice Girls’ first album, Spice. I fail to comprehend. It doesn’t compute. I considered buying some Kiss reissues, but I didn’t really want to come home with something I already owned.
With some persistence I did liberate three titles:
The Queen set was in the recent arrivals, and that is a nice score. I’m nowhere near complete with my Queen remasters, but when I can pick them off one by one, used? That’s the best way. The Rush on the other hand is something of a chance I’m taking. This is a radio broadcast vinyl, and I’ve never bought one of those before. They had several available. I don’t have anything live from Rush in 1975, so that was the key factor. Also a non-album track: “Bad Boy”, a Larry Williams cover. 180 gram coloured vinyl to boot. Should be good times.
Not a knockout shopping excursion, but not a waste of time either. We walked back to the hospital (although Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom would have preferred a cab) and got soaked, but it’s good to stretch the legs when it’s a long day of driving and sitting. Besides, we enjoyed looking at the Toronto scenery. The fruit and vegetable markets smelled great. They even had bonsai trees.
Back in the hospital waiting room, I was able to do a little research for my Kiss Re-Review series in progress. Guess which album I have to write up next.
I don’t want to use the word “disappointing” for this Sonic Boom trip, because I am very pleased with my new albums. I told Uncle Meat I wanted some more The Sword, and Sonic Boom delivered. I’m more surprised than disappointed that I was only able to scrounge up three finds this time. Every visit is different, and I’m sure that next time I return (either in the fall with Aaron, or sooner for more tests) it will be another story. Sonic Boom is still an absolute must for any music fan visiting Toronto. Don’t miss out, and be sure to check out the new arrival bins. They are often the key to many great finds.
As always Sonic Boom gets 5/5 stars. And so does Mrs. LeBrain for being a tough-as-nails trooper.
DESPICABLE ME Fart Blaster (Illumination Entertainment)
5/5 stars from LeBrain
7/5 stars from Martin LePage
“Oh my goodness. That lady just shot blades out of her boobs.” – Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom
MACHETE KILLS (2013 Aldamisa)
Directed by Robert Rodriguez
Machete Kills is the sequel to Robert Rodriguez’ Machete (2010), starring 69 year old cult hero Danny Trejo. Minor spoiler alert: It begins with an over the top preview trailer for the third Machete movie, guest starring “Justin Bieber” as “Bleep”. (Guess what happens to “Bleep”!)* Hold on to your hats.
For Machete Kills, I decided to co-review it with special guest, Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom. I enjoy subjecting Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom to movies now and then. Sometimes she likes them: Paul (2011) was her favourite of my selections. Jackass 3D (2010) was definitely her least favourite.
Machete Kills sort of has a plot: The US military is selling weapons to the cartel. Another mysterious faction with black Venom-like masks are also after the weapons. The masked leader of this group gives Machete something terrible to avenge. Then, the President of the United States of America (Carlos Estevez/Charlie Sheen) makes him offer he can’t refuse, and he is soon back in Mexico fighting a one-man war. But he is not completely on his own, as undercover agent Miss San Antonio (Amber Heard) has plenty of gadgets that go boom. His target: Marcos Mendez, the head of the cartel with a nuke aimed at Washington.
Add in a master of disguise after a $20M bounty, a Star Wars-obsessed evil genius, Sofía Vergara’s machine gun boobs, a madman with multiple personalities and a load of evil clones, and we’re in for a good time.
The story as such serves simply to introduce the complex of characters. Machete is less a film and more a series of action sequences separated by dialogue explaining what’s happening. As the movie goes on, many interested parties emerge (all played by big name actors or Rodriguez regulars). There are so many back-stabs and switcheroos that we are well past incredulity and into outlandish. Machete is a perfect mix of camp and violence. Although the movie seems built to support the large cast, the actors in turn are all pros clearly having a good time. I liked them all…all but Amber Heard. Something about her, so wooden.
I made three minor observations. 1) It’s convenient that the bad guys only attack Machete one at a time. 2) It’s also a good thing for Machete that none of the generic bad guys can aim. 3) The female characters in the movie might want to put on some pants next time they go into combat.
As for my co-reviewer, Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom didn’t like when Machete’s girlfriend Sartana (Jessica Alba) gets shot in the head. “She was a pretty girl,” she says. “She shouldn’t have been shot.” She also didn’t like seeing Marko Zaror getting sucked into helicopter blades by his intestines. Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom had a few choice words for Lady Gaga, which she asked me to edit out so to avoid the wrath of her Little Monsters. She did not enjoy the number of heads that got removed from their bodies (at least a dozen), but I did see her laugh at several points. She largely enjoyed the cast, particularly Mel Gibson. Upon seeing Carlos Estevez, she shrieked “He’s the President? Oh my God!” She did not enjoy the foul language, particularly when out of the mouths of the young female characters.
4/5 stars – LeBrain
A “solid” 3/5 stars – Mrs. LeBrain’s Mom (“It was really kind of…strange.”)
* actors subject to change