music

#572: VIDEO – A Weekend at the Lake

GETTING MORE TALE #572: A Weekend at the Lake

A new summer, and new tech! My beloved BlackBerry Z10, bought over four years ago in early 2013, has bitten the dust.  That Blackberry was responsible for most of my Sausagefest and Mike and Aaron Go to Toronto videos, not to mention the hundreds of photos it provided for this site.  In that time, my BlackBerry required no service at all.  So to all those who told me not to buy a CrackBerry:

My new weapon is a Samsung (not the kind that explodes) and so far I’m very pleased with it.  This past weekend I had a chance to give its camera and video abilities a test run.  Needless to say the quality of both exceeds my four year old phone.  I was so happy with the quality that I decided to edit together a little video and post it for you.  I’ve done this for a few good reasons:

  1. It’s another excuse to showcase the excellent music of Stealth, featuring Kathryn Ladano and Richard Burrows.
  2. I have a chance to give my Samsung a dry run before using it to create the 2017 Sausagefest video in July!
  3. This video ties in nicely with Getting More Tale #567:  Creatures of the Night.  I wanted to give you a feeling for what it actually sounds like at the lake, and I captured a bit of a nice rain storm.  In this video you’ll get that, some nice crashing waves, and a raging river at near-flood levels.  In fact the water level at our location on Lake Huron has returned to its 1980s level.  Old-timers there always said the water levels rise and fall over decades-long cycles.

Please enjoy some of the music of Stealth, and the sounds of pure nature.  Look for a cameo by my dad, up to no good prob’ly.  Leave your comments below:  What do you think LeBrain’s dad is up to this time?

 

Advertisements

#569: Webb Surfing

GETTING MORE TALE #569:  Webb Surfing

Some readers are young enough to never have known a time without the internet.  Half my lifetime ago, in 1997, the World Wide Web was was a luxury that few had regular access to.  Tom, T-Rev and myself were eager to check out what the web had to offer to a bunch of music geeks.  We visited an internet cafe in downtown Kitchener, paid a couple bucks, and searched.  Remember Webcrawler?

T-Rev was trying to find rare releases by Steve Earle, and another country rocker named Webb Wilder.  Trevor owned his album Doo Dad and wanted to see what Wilder had been up to since.  He found a plethora of releases listed on some now-defunct website.  He also confirmed the existence of Steve Earle’s very rare debut EP, Pink and Black.  Thus the Pink and Black EP became one of T-Rev’s first “Holy Grail” must-haves.  Meanwhile, I was exploring previously unseen Deep Purple live albums and compilations.

Together we decided we should join forces and order some impossible-to-find CDs that we knew were out there, but lacked access to.  Tom had a friend who had the internet at home:  British Phil.  What luck!  One winter evening we ventured to British Phil’s house and gathered around a small computer monitor in the basement.  CDNow was the best online retailer for music.  We took turns browsing and deciding.  The only one who didn’t order anything was British Phil.  Trevor bought Webb Wilder’s Town and Country.  I can’t remember what Tom would have chosen, but I remember mine well:  Deep Purple’s Stormbringer.  It was $30.  I had it on cassette, but I was dying to get a CD copy.

British Phil and LeBrain

We pooled our goodies into one order and used my credit card.  A week or two later, we each had some new music to enjoy.  Our test run went smooth without a hitch.  Having proven that ordering music online was safe and easy, the door had opened to hundreds upon hundreds of purchases over the years.  Now, it’s simply second nature.

I need some new tunes and have a $25 Amazon gift card to burn.  I think I’m going to place an online order right now!

#568: Time Traveler

GETTING MORE TALE #568: Time Traveler

Not a pet peeve, exactly, but annoying just the same:  Why did customers ordering CDs often leave a work number as their only contact?  Was this CD such an urgent issue that one had to be notified immediately at work?  I’ve never left a work number as a contact for anything I’ve ever ordered from a store.  Why would I?  Call me at home.  Leave a message if you have to.  Let me know it’s in, and I’ll pick it up.  I won’t make you jump through hoops or speak to my receptionist, just call me.

I would also tend to think that receiving calls at work about something as trivial as a CD might not be the best plan.  “You have a call from a client on 201, and a call from a CD store about the new Sarah McLachlan on 202.”  I don’t know and I still don’t understand.  Leaving a work number was an annoyance to us all.   A couple times, a customer left just a first name and a work number.  Upon calling the number, I was told “We have three people here with that name.”  Great.  Can you put me on the line with the one who listens to Sarah McLachlan?

Then it would really grind my gears when one of the “work number” people would come in and say “I’ve been waiting for a call and you never phoned me.”  Then I’d pull the CD and find the slip inside where it said “left message” and the date.  Of course this could happen at home too, and you could usually tell when a disinterested parent or roommate wasn’t taking down the message.  At least in those cases, you could make a note to do a callback because it didn’t seem like the person was going to get the message.

The most memorable “work number” guy was a fellow that used to come in during 1996-1997.  I’m guessing he was self employed because he seemed to be the only one working at that number.  What I remember most was how he answered the phone:  “Time travel,” he would say.  Ring ring,”Time travel!”  That’s how he answered the phone.  “Ummm, is Greg* there?” we’d ask.  Then he’d act weirded out that somebody called and asked for Greg.  I assume the business was called Time Travel and I have no idea what they did, though we certainly did speculate.  Thus, his nickname at the store became “Time Traveler”.  It didn’t help that he was a bit of an ass and nobody liked dealing with him.  I think that’s why he stopped coming in.  He could sense that nobody liked helping him.

Did he run a travel agency?  Maybe he was building a time machine?  Or better yet, maybe he had combined the two — a time travel agency!  Want to see the Spanish Inquisition?  Book a trip with Time Travel today!…or yesterday!  Ask for Greg.

* not his real name

#567: Creatures of the Night

GETTING MORE TALE #567: Creatures of the Night

“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” – Bram Stoker

For decades, trips to the cottage and music were synonymous. When I was a younger fella, I would bring all my music with me. That usually meant five or six tape boxes, full of cassettes, and a walkman. I even brought my turntable with me for a couple summers.

As the music collection grew, I’d have to pick and choose tunes for the trip. It’s sad to admit it, but true nonetheless: I spent hours picking music, far more time than I used to pack clothes and essentials. It wouldn’t be unusual to find I didn’t pack enough pants, but plenty of Deep Purple.

It’s much easier today. Load up some flash drives, or better yet, bring all the music I have ripped so far on my 2T external hard drive. In the olden days, we didn’t even have a phone or cable TV. We had radios and a big TV antenna that could pick up two channels.  It was a cavalcade of classic Ontario television:  Bowling for Dollars, the Hilarious House of Frightenstein, and Trivia Company with Johnnie Walters.  Now, we have five or six devices fighting for the Wi-Fi signal, with me usually streaming Netflix. We have multiple computers, several phones, and of course cable TV. Talk about roughing it! In the 1980s, my sister and I would struggle to pick up any radio station that wasn’t playing country. Now, I just set my browser window to my home station of 107.5 DaveRocks. Unbelievable!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The interesting thing is, there are already plenty of sounds available to listen to if you don’t bring your own music. People used to spend tons of money on “nature sounds” CDs, but at the cottage you can get that for free.

You haven’t lived until you’ve gone to sleep with the sound of crashing waves coming through your open window. Nothing can put you to sleep faster, even when it’s just an afternoon nap. The sound of children playing in the lake only makes the afternoon snooze that much more peaceful. In the evening, the waves pick up intensity and are augmented by nocturnal woodland creatures. These “children of the night” can be heard pitter-patting around the deck, and in the branches just outside the window. Soothing sounds. Nothing to be afraid of, even in the dark. The only thing to fear would be a wayward skunk poking around looking for garbage. I used to like pitching a tent in the back yard and sleeping there. I used to bring a Walkman in there to listen to tunes on the earphones, but sometimes in the night I’d be woken up by a raccoon sniffing around for scraps.

The absence of city sounds can be strange for those not used to it. In the city there is a constant backdrop of automobile sounds, planes flying overhead, and trucks hauling their freight. Even at night, there is a dim background hum of traffic, and of electric lights buzzing overhead. At the cottage the quiet is amplified by the dark. We are so used to the light pollution of the city, that the pitch black of a cottage night can be quite striking, especially during a late night stroll.

Bringing music to the lake is still mandatory. It’s important to turn it off now and then, and just listen to the creatures of the night.

 

#566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

GETTING MORE TALE #566: Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!

1998. I had just moved in with the legendary T-Rev. Two Record Store managers under one roof. Can you imagine the CD collections? We used to marvel at the wall of discs. Two CD towers, massive ones, side by side. We’d boast that nowhere else in town would you find two copies of Metallica’s Garage Days in the same place. Same went for many of our rare singles and imports. Finding one was difficult enough, but with our combined collections we often had two. You could come over for a drink and end up spending hours just going through our collections.

Collection samples

T-Rev and I had a lot of fun, although as it turned out, I wasn’t the right guy to have a roommate. I’m a real early to bed, early to rise kind of guy and our wake/sleep cycles didn’t really work out. Having said that, I wouldn’t trade those months for the world! I’d never fallen asleep on the floor before, but we had some pretty epic parties. It was also the first time I’d woken up to find girls in the apartment! Yeah, we had good times. When we weren’t partying, we’d be playing video games on the good old N64. Goldeneye was a staple. Duke Nukem and Top Gear Rally were regular go-to’s.

Another thing we had fun with was our answering machine. We couldn’t just have a normal answering machine message. One weekend, Trevor went out to see a Britpop band who I can’t remember. Supergrass? One of those. They met the manager Andy who kept on hitting on the girlfriends. So Trevor came home and did an answering machine message with a British accent. “You’ve reached Trevor, Michael and Andy! Leave a message after the beep!” That confused a few people. “Who is that British guy who is living with you?”

T-Rev was also a big fan of Jerry Springer. I’d never really watched before, but T-Rev was into it. The fights, the yelling, the chanting of “Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!”…we found it all terribly entertaining. In particular, I liked Jerry’s “final thought”. That’s the part of the show where he somehow simultaneously agrees with all parties on the episode.

Our enjoyment of the chaos of the Jerry Springer show led to a couple tributes.

T-Rev came up with a sign idea, and I wish he was able to put it up in the store. It was a “no shirt no shoes no service” sign that said:

Because highschool is free,
And Jerry Springer does not work here,
Shirts and shoes must be worn in store.

Yeah, shirts and shoes were an ongoing summer issue. When I once asked a guy to put on a shirt, his answer was “Why, are you serving food here?”  I just didn’t want to watch that bead of sweat dripping off his nipple ring.

It only made sense that we should honour the mighty Jerry Springer Show with a new answering machine message. I did it up:

“Thank you for calling the offices of the Jerry Springer Show! If you’re a white trash mother who’s pissed off at your little white trash daughter, press one! If you’re a white trash daughter who can’t stand your bitchy mother, press two! For all others leave a message after the beep!”

People were used to bizarre answering machine messages from us by now.

The best response to it came from the boss at the old Record Store. He called one evening we were out, and left a message asking if one of us could cover a shift. And he ended the message by saying, “Oh, and I’ll take option two. Thank you.” He was a good sport.

#563: ID3 Request Error – Check File

GETTING MORE TALE #563: ID3 Request Error – Check File

Ever seen one of these errors on your media player of choice?

Let’s start by talking about what an ID3 tag is, in case you didn’t know.  If you play music files, then you use ID3 tags.  These tags contain the metadata about your song files.  You know that info that automatically pops up on your player?  Artist, album, cover art…that’s from your ID3 tags.  There is free software out there to edit your songs’ tags, although such features are bafflingly not standard in Windows.  I use a combination of two:  Audio Shell, and Mp3tag.  They have different user interfaces, but more or less have all the features you need.

Sometimes my Sony Walkman mp3 player can’t pick up the cover art, but that is rare.  The tracks will still play.  The error that has caused me problems for years comes from my factory installed GM car stereo.  Otherwise, it’s a great player, but sometimes it hits an ID3 tag it doesn’t like and I get an error message.  It reads:

 

ID3 Tag Request Error
Check File

 

When I get this message, the songs will not play.  I first ran into that issue about four years ago.  When it does happen, it’s usually on something that I recorded with Audacity, like vinyl or cassettes.  Audacity can write the ID tags for you when you export the files to mp3.  The error message here doesn’t give much detail.  It’s not the cover art; that was the first variable I checked.  I’ll get this error message with or without cover art.  It’s frustrating when you can’t play an album in the car, and only the car.

This baffled me for years.  “Check File”, eh?  I did – many times.  Changing this, changing that.  Writing the ID3 tags with different software.  Nothing worked.  Googling solutions wasn’t very helpful.

I recently came across the solution, and it was so obvious I don’t know why I didn’t think of it earlier.  Probably because I was looking for something easier.

Just erase all the ID3 tags – all of them – and start from scratch.  Both Mp3tag and Audio Shell have easy features to do exactly this.   Most ID3 editing programs will allow you to completely clean all tags from the file.  Once that is done, start over, manually.  By hand, enter the song titles, artist, album title, artwork and (very importantly) the track sequence.  You’ll want to make sure you get that right.  Once you’ve done that the mp3 file will play just fine, as seen below.

Enjoy the music!

Before & After

 

 

 

#548: Bad Boys

 

GETTING MORE TALE #548: Bad Boys

I was speaking to a friend’s son the other day.  He’s in his late teens.  We chatted about parents and rules and chores and I realized, “The ‘bad’ stuff I used to do as a kid is nothing compared to what teenagers think is ‘bad’ today.”  When I was teenager, I had never seen a drug.  I didn’t know any kids who drank.  None of my friends had tattoos.  We liked heavy metal music, which had an aura of evil, but that was just the image.  Our lives were pretty mundane…but we did have our fun.

My buddy Bob was the leader when we were growing up.  He was creative and had all the best ideas.  We invented our own games.  A version of street volleyball with no net was one.  A backyard obstacle course made of chairs and sprinklers was another.  I have a book full of drawings we made for video game ideas we planned on selling to Atari.  There is a huge binder (3″)  filled with action figure ideas — we called it “Death Team”  It was a years-long project that included written story lines and an audio sketch.  We imagined the AC/DC instrumental “D.T.” was their theme song.  We even made an elaborate board game using old cardboard, a lot of tape, and a bag of army men.  Making things (or modifying them) was a big part of our creative process.  In 9th grade, we made elaborate cardboard guitars for air guitar purposes.  We used yardsticks as the guitar necks, and the bodies were cut from old boxes.  We then painted them, using my mom’s workshop with dozens of colours to choose from.  We really let it loose for Halloween.  We started preparing for Halloween in late August.  We began by making heads out of papier-mâché. Ours were crude, but when dressed up with sunglasses, hats or wigs, did the trick. Then we would begin working on an audio tape. This was a 60-minute long compilation of scary bits from Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden albums. We hid some speakers outside and would play the tape on a loop for background scary sounds.   Kids loved it.  Really small ones were scared, so we had to stop the tape and turn on the lights for them, but 95% thought it was awesome (including parents).  We’d see kids across the street, and they’d make a beeline for our house as soon as they saw it.  My favourite costume was the one I made in grade 10:  Alice Cooper.

We also did a bunch of things that we didn’t tell our parents about.  My mother is about to read about some of these things for the first time.

We loved to make prank calls.  In the days before call display, Bob and I were the kings.  My parents went out every single Wednesday night to take my sister to dance classes.  Bob came over, we watched music videos, ate chips, and made prank calls.  We didn’t dial random numbers like most kids.  We looked up names that we thought were funny in the phone book, and called them.  There was one name in the phone book that Bob found especially amusing: Hans.  So Bob called up Hans and sang him a little song.  “Hans, hans, hans and feet, I have hans and feet.”  Somebody named Price was met with the phone call, “Come on down, the price is right!”  We really thought we were the most hilarious pair in the world.  Then we started pretending we were calling from the Coca Cola company and asking people if they preferred “New” Coke to old Coke.  Only Bob had a deep enough voice to fool anyone.

Then, there was the time I nailed “Phat Curtis” in the back of the neck with a projectile I named “The Killerang”.  When I was really young, I know I hit Mrs. Reddekopp’s car right in the middle of the hood with one of Bob’s lawn darts.  Bob reluctantly retrieved my errant dart, because I was too scared to get it.  “You can never ever tell anyone about this,” he cautioned me.  We knew that if we kept quiet, everybody would assume another neighbor kid, George, did it.  That’s exactly what happened.

Like many other kids of the 80s, we recorded comedy sketches on tape.  I have seven volumes of “Mike and Bob” on cassette here.  Having played them recently, I can assure you that you are missing out on nothing.  We sure did have fun making those tapes, but I can see why Bob found them embarrassing a few years later.  The recordings usually took place at my house, in the basement or garage.  His parents were pretty strict.

On recording nights, we had to stock up on snacks.  The only place within walking distance was the Little Short Stop at Stanley Park Mall, long gone now.  We spent many, many days and nights at the Short Stop over the years, pouring over comic books, Star Wars (or Indiana Jones) cards, and candy bars.  Later on it was rock magazines.  Our snack fix during this period was ketchup flavoured potato chips.  The thicker that ketchup dust, the better.  When we didn’t get ketchup, we got dill pickle.  It was only a 10 minute walk to the mall, but on those recording nights, we probably took half an hour each way.  We were busy ringing doorbells.

“Nicky Nicky Nine Door” was what they called it, but we were just being little shits.  We would choose houses on the way to the store, ring the doorbell and then hide in the bushes.  Once or twice, Bob was almost caught.  Sometimes we’d find a house we really liked and hit him up on the way to the store and on the way back.  And sometimes, a third for good measure.

We bored of “Nicky Nicky Nine Door” and soon found a new night time occupation:  walking around the nearby public school.  Stanley Park Sr. Public School was not locked at night.  At least, it wasn’t until we were caught.  Bob and I would wander the hallways, and buy a pop from the Pepsi machine inside.  We didn’t vandalize, and we didn’t steal.  All we did was go in and buy a can of soda for each of us.  The custodian never seemed to be around, but one night, they were.  They told us to get out, we were trespassing!  Bob asked, “But can I buy my can of pop still?”  The custodian said sure, so Bob walked over to the pop machine, bought his soda, thanked the guy, and left!  Is it still trespassing if you buy merchandise?  We didn’t think so!

That school was the site of many of our escapades.  Most of them were benign:  baseball in the park, basketball on the courts, and later on, tennis.  We had many late night tennis matches.  We ran sprints, we did the long jump, we rode our bikes.  When we didn’t have a ghetto blaster playing, we were probably singing.  George would often provide the boom box, loaded up with Kiss, Black Sabbath, or Iron Maiden.  When boredom set in, our activities became more mischievous.  Bob and George were skilled at climbing up to the school’s roof to retrieve lost tennis balls and basketballs.  One cold Sunday afternoon, Bob decided he wanted to throw his old bike off the roof.  We got a rope, Bob climbed up onto the roof, and then hauled the bike up by the rope.  He backed up, made a running start, and tossed the bike off.  There was barely any damage!  He went for round two, and the front wheel was heavily dented.  As he hauled it up one more time for round three, a man in a car drove up to us and told us to leave.  Bob asked, “So I can’t throw my bike off this roof?”  Wordlessly the man shook his head.  Who knew you couldn’t just throw a bike off a roof?  It was his bike, right?  No harm no foul?

It’s funny to look back at these moments and realize, these were the best times of our childhoods.  I don’t think Bob would want his kids to read this.  For that reason, I’m leaving out other sordid details and I’ll deny everything else.  For example, we may or may not have spelled the word “FUCK” on the lawn of the school in strips of fresh sod.  I can’t confirm or deny that we scratched KISS and IRON MAIDEN in the school doors with paper clips.  Both of us had pellet guns, and I may or may not have fired a round through George’s mom’s laundry.  My dad found pellets in the fence.  He knew what we were up to.  We denied.  We water-ballooned George’s bedroom window.  We would hide behind the fence, laughing, listening to him singing “Love Gun” loudly and out of key in his room.

We knew that not all these activities were particularly “good” behaviour (that’s why we didn’t tell our parents), but we considered it all pretty innocent.  We did well in school.  Both of us got into the schools we wanted to go to.  He has a large family and I’m happily married to a beautiful wife.  That leads us into the last story.

At my wedding, Bob decided he wanted to make a short speech, and tell a story about us.  It was so true, and so funny, that I had tears in my eyes.  I mentioned earlier that Bob’s parents were stricter than mine.  As such, Bob was not allowed to eat any sweet cereals for breakfast.  He complained and complained of shredded wheat.  He also was not really allowed to indulge himself in snacks at home, and he really loved our microwave oven.  This is how Bob invented some of his classic foods and beverages:

  • The Froot Loops dog – A hot dog topped with Froot Loops and any other toppings of your choice.
  • Froot Loops orange juice – A glass of orange juice with a handful of Froot Loops as a garnish.
  • Froot Loops swamp water – combine milk, orange juice and grape juice in one glass.  Top with Froot Loops and serve.  In case of Froot Loop shortage, substitute with Apple Jacks.

Those were the times of our lives.

 

 

Interview: 1537 Questions

We don’t need no preamble! If you have ever wanted to know how to write the most unique music reviews that this planet has ever seen, then you need to read on as we pick the mind of the one, the only, Mr. 1537 himself. He is one talented music writer that deserves all the praise you can heap.

1537


M: It is a pleasure to speak with you, Mr. 1537.  I understand that anonymity is important to you.  It would matter to me too, if I had any sense.  How would you like us to address you in this interview?

1537:  A simple ‘sir’ would normally suffice, but in order to seem a bit more user-friendly ( I gather the masses tend to like that) you can call me 15 strictly for the duration of this interview.

Actually I sort of ballsed up the whole anonymous thang by using my name as the blog domain; oops, back to spy school for me!   I don’t do any social media at all beyond WordPress and I am basically a needlessly secretive dude.  I admire folk who can bare their souls in their blogs but that’s not me at all, I let bits and pieces of my life seep through the cracks sometimes but not very much.

M: As opposed to me, who built a cottage industry on the minutia of working in a record store.  Now…Lego.  You’ve managed to incorporate Lego in your articles’ artwork, in a simple yet innovative and endlessly entertaining way.  How long have you been a fan of Lego, and is that longer than you’ve been into music?

15: Well, the Lego came first, my daughter got the Lego DJ figure and on a whim I thought it would look good on the circle of the Flying Lotus LP Cosmogramma, then Sleep Dopesmoker and then I started to look at the possibilities of making relevant figures for relevant LPs.  I had a Blogspot thang where I’d managed three reviews years before, but I gradually realised that if you gave people something to look at they might stop by and read my Mighty Rock Words of Power (MRWoP) too.

It took me a while to hit my stride and then when people actually started reading it … wow, it really is the best feeling.

Oh, Lego.  Yup, I’ve always loved it, way before I was conscious of music – although I grew up in a very music-oriented household.  I used to make elaborate Star Wars games and fantasies up through Lego, way before they had brought out space Lego. You used to have to improvise weapons in those days too, because Lego didn’t believe in promoting weapons as toys for kids.

M: That’s right, you used to have to use the “bullhorns” as guns, until Lego started introducing actual guns in 2005.  You seem to have a Minifigure appropriate for every single album review you do, no matter how bizarre or obscure.  Presently how many figures do you think you own?

15: I have a couple hundred Minifigures, which is not all of them by a long way, I’m not obsessive about collecting them and there are plenty of gaps in my collection.  I love it when they produce a new line and one strikes me as perfect for an LP I haven’t done yet.

A lot of the fun is improvising and putting combos of different figures together.  I’ve also drawn on a couple duplicates I have to make an Alice Cooper, a Scott Ian and a Ziggy Stardust; oh and I have also added cleavage to a figure or two along the way; that’s normal behaviour for a 44 year-old isn’t it?

M: I’m not one to judge.  What drives your review?  Do you start with the text or the visuals? 

15: Always the text.  I think wordaciously, not visually.  I’m a slow writer because I edit it all as I go along, most reviews take me at least 3 hours, with another 40 minutes or so on top for the pictures.  If you add in the demands of family life, a really demanding job, a little socialising and even, hey, listening to music sometimes, it all adds up to why I don’t produce as many as I’d like to.  There are never any ‘in the can’, I tend to write them, hit publish and go straight to bed, as it’s usually 1am by then.  I like waking up to everyone’s comments.

Q: Do you use any fancy-pancy camera or lighting equipment?  The images are always very crisp and vibrant, much better than I’ve been getting with my BlackBerry in my home office.

15: Absolutely not.  Everything I do is done on my iPhone (the model before the last one – 6 is it?), I’m not particularly good at it, I just take a lot of photos.  Shiny, shiny covers are the bane of my life.

What I am pretty good at now, by trial and error, is editing the pictures, I use a Windows App called Fhotoroom and another called KVADPhoto.  I have never ever published a picture I haven’t edited for contrast, colour, or cropped and altered etc.  Some of my favourites have been very boring photos before I have messed them around.

M:  I crop everything, but I wouldn’t know what to do as far as contrast or colour, so kudos to you sir.  A two-part question next:  What are your favourite reviews that you’ve done, both in terms of writing and in terms of photos?

15: In terms of the writing I rather like this comparison between Andrew Marvell, English metaphysical poet and a Rhino Bucket song about oral sex – it’s even got my voice on it:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/12/05/to-his-coy-bitch/

I’m also rather fond of doing interviews, that’s been a whole lot of fun when the right person has been on the other side who is willing to engage properly with the silliness of it all.  It’s also a nice way to get to chat to bands when you go see them live too.  Spencer from MFC Chicken was my first and favourite:

https://jatstorey.com/2014/11/18/spencer-speaks/

I have too many favourite pictures to pick a post, but these two have to come darned close – ‘Hatting’ Isaac Hayes and my take on The Shining:

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/hot-buttered-soul-02.jpg

https://jatstorey.files.wordpress.com/2016/02/the-shining.jpg

 

M: Ahh yes, The Shining was a personal favourite of mine too.   I find I often have to listen to an album while I write, and it can’t be the first listen either.  I need a fresh listen in order to capture all my thoughts and pass them on to the weary readers.  Your reviews are very different from mine, and frankly far beyond what I’m capable of writing.  Do you use the “listen as you write” technique or something else?

15: I try to give it a good listen the night before, or on my way to/from work (an hour-long commute doesn’t have to be all bad) and I listen to bits of it as I write, or if I’m happy I know it enough – I might be writing about something I’ve been listening to in heavy rotation for 28 years (Christ, I’m old!), I have an ambient playlist I listen to when I write sometimes.

M: What else do you need to be able to write?  I need to be in my underwear with a cold beverage.  No bevvies and no skivvies means no review.  I suspect you prefer warm slippers and oatmeal.

15: I need quiet, which is ironic given that most of my favourite music involves bellowing and shrieking.  I write at a desktop (hate lap-tops) in the room that also has our biggest TV in and so there can be a certain amount of negotiation involved – it’s often why I write so late into the morning, it’s the only time I can.

Other than that my needs are simple, I prefer non-restrictive trouser ware and that’s it.  You really write in your undies?

M: Hey, who’s conducting the interview here? I ask the questions! Is there any one band you really really hope reads your stuff?

15: Nah, although there is a fair chance of some artists tuning in because a lot of the LPs I bought in the late 80’s seem to have only sold one copy, to me – I always try to be pleasant because, you just should be.  If I can’t write anything too complimentary I always add in my caveat along the lines of ‘These guys made a far better record than I ever have I’m just a loser boy sat behind a keyboard’.

Larry Miller from Uncle Sam stopping by was wonderful (I own an LP he signed and bit for me back in ’91) and we’re still in touch – I even helped get their debut LP re-released, that was a real buzz.

https://jatstorey.com/2013/07/20/i-lost-more-friends-than-youll-ever-have/

Oh and (coughs) Mark Wilkinson may have stopped by once too …

https://jatstorey.com/2014/01/19/smiling-vinyl-whores/

M: Do you have any particular influences in terms of writing?  I’ve made no secret that in my early years, I was definitely trying to be Martin Popoff, Jr.  Your style is unlike anyone I’ve read, but surely that didn’t happen in a vacuum?

stan-lee15: I had to really think about this one.  In terms of the character I write in, the tone of it, a lot of it comes from Stan Lee in those 1960’s Marvel comics – they knocked me for 6 when I first read my parent’s copies as a kid, the jokey references to himself and his fellow writers and artists in ‘the bullpen’; it was very playful and irreverent, that stuck with me.

You could maybe chuck in a bit of Harry Harrison and Douglas Adams, they were and are still, the only humorous writers I truly like and I do try to amuse.

Other than that there were all those fabulous late 80’s Kerrang! journalists, who were informative and, again, playful in the way they wrote – lots of irreverence and in-jokes, they painted their own little world and made it seem like the coolest place in the world to work.  I met Phil Wilding at a gig once and was more excited about that than the band (Dangerous Toys).

Oh and I hope there’s enough self-deprecation in there to show I do write in character and I’m not really a megalomaniac with an omnipotence delusion.

M: Sure, sure.  I knew that.  Anyway, do you ever worry you will run out of things to say about music?  Or do you see “1537” as a long-term project?

15: No, mostly because of the format I’ve set up for myself, my blog runs on rails to an extent – jokey title (usually), review of record(s), review count at the end, Lego images.  I have enough of the little vinyl buggers that I don’t have to write about the same artist too often, which would fox me – the closest I ever came to a series, like you, Geoff and Aaron do so well, was spending a month writing about artists beginning with a ‘B’ – I found that really tough.

Anyway I’ve got 809 more records to review.  Not sure where I’ll take it after that, because the whole point of the blog, apart from being an extended diary for myself, was to make sure I took time out to listen to everything I own properly – I have a horror of having stuff I haven’t heard, it makes me feel gluttonous and despicable.

M: Thanks for taking the time to do this interview.  The agent who set this up didn’t want me to ask this last question.  But the interview is going well enough so I think I’m going to ask it.  You’re a Lego man — this is clear.  Meanwhile I’m into things that turn into little robots.  With all due respect, I think we both know that robots > bricks, but that is neither here nor there.  If you could transform into something, what would it be, and why?

I know the only reason you feel safe enough to ask me that is that I am currently orbiting earth at a crucial velocity on my space station, so I shall overlook your mortal impertinence this once.  I always wanted to be a farmer when I was little and was totally obsessed with tractors, it was all I ever drew apart from digital watches (they were new then).  So the obvious answer is a digital watch which transforms into a big kick-ass Ford County 1164 tractor (I always loved their colour scheme).

tractor

TRACTOR-TRON 1537 Lego/Transformers crossover set coming soon


Thanks again to 1537 for the chat.  We’ll leave you with a suitable music video…”Rockin’ is Ma Business”…and business is good!

 

#541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

GETTING MORE TALE #541: When the Packaging Gets Wrecked

It’s so easy for a store to wreck the very product that you want to buy.  It happens every day.  A CD jewel case helps protect your precious music…if it comes in a CD jewel case.  How did stores wreck the packaging?  Here are some of the most common!

  1. Box cutters

When you open up a fresh shipment of music, it’s very easy to damage the product inside with a box cutter and it happens all the time.  If it’s LPs inside the box, or digipack CDs, it’s very easy to cut open the top-most item inside the box.  Not only do you see this happen with music but toys and games too.  I’ve seen a few toys on shelves with the bubbles accidentally scored by overzealous box cutters.  I’ve accidentally done it to a few CDs because I wasn’t being careful enough.

  1. Price (and other) tags

I have some great examples here.  The first revolves around a rare Led Zeppelin Complete Studio Recordings box set.  This deluxe box set was released in 1993, but by 1996 it was deleted and hard to find.  The boss man apparently knew somebody from Warner who supposedly had a cache of them stashed away.  If so that would have been a potential goldmine.

If there was a cache of them or not, I don’t know, but we did get one to sell.  We sold it as new, but because of the format of stores (all CD cases on display were empty), the boss opened it up.  I believed this to be a mistake and I still do.  I think we could have sold it just as easily had we kept the sealed box on display behind the counter somehow.  But we didn’t, and we had to put stickers all over the now opened box set to proclaim that it was BRAND NEW and OUT OF PRINT.

IMG_00000655

One customer came up to the counter to complain.

“Why is this thing so expensive?” he asked, for good reason.

“It’s brand new,” I answered.  “The owner brought this one in sealed, and he opened it himself, so I can vouch for the fact that it’s brand new.”

“Yeah but he put stickers all over it!” complained the customer.  “Can you give me a deal?”

We were only selling the box for a few dollars over cost, so no deals were to be had.

We eventually sold that box set after it had sat there for a few weeks.  The stickers came off no problem, but had they stayed on there a while longer, they might have been an issue.  Sticker residue on paper can leave nasty stains, sticky spots, or even tears.

Our price tags were usually pretty good.  At one point we ordered a cheaper batch, and they were just awful.  You couldn’t peel them off in one piece, and you’d always leave paper on whatever you were peeling them off from.  Whenever we re-priced something, we were supposed to completely remove the old tag, leaving nothing behind.  These tags made that a chore.  It was a relief when that batch was used up.

The worst price tags I have seen in any store in my life came from Dr. Disc.   They are still around, though only in Hamilton now, and I don’t know if they still use the Yellow Tags of Death.  These tags had a magnetic security chip embedded in them, and left a horrible red residue on everything.  It was like taking a red crayon and melting it on your CD cover.  You could never get the red residue off, unless you used a product like Goo Gone, but it left its own oily residue behind that was equally impossible to remove.  I had to replace the case on every used CD I ever bought from Dr. Disc.  Every single case!

  1. Regular wear and tear

This is all but unavoidable.  Stuff gets damaged in shipping.  Customers drop stuff.  In our store, just about every front cover of Metallica’s Load CD was dog-eared.  Its thickness made it hard to put back in the CD case.  When the CD came out new, our display copies took severe beatings.  The front covers were so damaged that we had to sell them as used.

If you see something in a store that’s a little dinged up, but not too badly, ask if you can get a discount.  If you ask nicely, they will usually agree.  Whether it is worth it or not, is up to you!  Remember, most things tend to show up again.  You can usually wait until you find a better condition copy.

Are you picky?  Some of my customers were so picky that I actually told them “I don’t think buying anything used is really for you.”  Do you want everything as mint as possible?  Let us know in the comments.

 

#540: I Can Drive 55

GETTING MORE TALE #540:  I Can Drive 55

In 25 years of driving, I believe I have only had three speeding tickets.  Apparently, I can drive 55. Most of the time.

I took driver training at Canada Driving School, and there is one thing I’ll never forget from one of the in-class sessions.

“Music can have an influence on your driving,” said the instructor.  “Fast and upbeat music can trick your brain into driving faster without realizing it.  Keep an eye on your speedometer and don’t listen to AC/DC if this is a problem!”

A couple months later I had my license and was driving myself to and from school in my dad’s Plymouth Sundance.  There was no graduated licensing in Ontario back then.  I was driving alone on the expressway.  Of course, I loved having a car stereo to myself.  In short order it was proven that listening to AC/DC was not a problem for me.  Instead of weighing down the accelerator pedal, AC/DC kept me calm in traffic.  Silence made me nervous but music soothed.  If I was speeding it had nothing to do with the song on the tape deck.  If anything, I tended to slow myself down a bit so my trip could take a little longer, and I could finish a song.

In fact, recent studies have shown that, generally speaking, if music is an influence on driving it tends to be a positive influence.  I can’t say I’m surprised.

Sure, I’ve admitted to air drumming and so on in the car.  This is usually at red lights though, so I’m letting myself off.

I like to listen to live albums in the car.  They work very well in that noisy environment.  Instead of silence between songs that lets in all that road noise, you hear only the screaming of a crowd.  In addition, the length of a live album works well for highway driving.  If I’m heading to the Toronto area, a typical double live album will easily get a full play on the road.  At home, I don’t always have time to listen to a double live album in one sitting.

IMG_20140914_094438

Facing the roads on a daily basis in this town can be like taking your life in your hands.  I’ve whined and moaned about the drivers here and it has been getting worse.  The 401 is undergoing heavy construction and drivers have a loose grasp on what lanes are lanes and what are not.  It’s treacherous, and more and more drivers are thinking only about their commute time rather than driving like a sane person.  Instead of weaving in and out desperately trying to get a little further ahead in the pack, I tend to stay in one lane as much as possible.  Perhaps this is the calming effect of good music.  I don’t need to race home if there is a good song I want to finish.  Maybe the racing guys should put on a good song, too.

I’ll admit it, driving is far from my favourite activity.  My favourite kind of day off involves no driving anywhere.  There are estimates that we spend about five years of our lives locked in our cars on the road.  I prefer to think of that as five years of road testing some amazing albums.  I would also argue that roughly 50% of the music reviews here are mikeladano.com were brainstormed while listening to the albums in the car.

Quite frankly, I don’t understand the speed demons.  Where are you going in such a hurry?  Maybe you should have left a little earlier.  Some music in the car makes the time fly easier.

han-solo-cameo-in-the-i-cant-drive-55-music-video

Did you catch Han Solo’s cameo in the “I Can’t Drive 55” music video? Left – John David Kalodner. Right – Han Solo.