#1040: The Tag Jar


As your typical mall music store in the 1990s, we had the usual magnetic tag security system.  The idea was fairly simple.  At the store entrance there was a magnetic detector that you had to pass through.  Our merchandise was tagged with these little magnetic strips, about an inch long.  If you passed one of these strips through the detector by the door, a loud siren would be triggered.  It was one of several loss prevention methods we used.

There were two ways to utilise the security tags.  One was to double up with a re-usable security case.  These cases locked the CD into a longer “long box” length package.  This package was tagged on the inside with the magnetic security system.  At the front counter, a special key would unlock the security case.  You’d then put another CD in there and re-use it.  The other method involved tagging the CD or tape itself, in an inconspicuous place on the spine of the cellophane.  In this case, a special magnetic device behind the counter would “de-tag” the disc.  It was not totally reliable so you wanted to use the device three or four times, running it over the tag.  You wanted to make sure you properly de-tagged the item before the customer left the store.

Since no customer liked setting off the security alarm, it was heavily emphasized:  make sure you de-tag!  And we had a jar where you had to pay a dollar if you were caught checking out a customer without de-tagging.  The boss warned us:  everybody screws this up, it’s just a matter of time until you do.  I was like, nahhh man, not me.  I was hired in July and my first dollar went into the tag jar before Christmas.

The money in the tag jar went towards paying for our annual Christmas dinner.  The boss invited one of his personal friends to join us, which in hindsight seems weird.  It was a nice dinner though, and we worked hard earning it.  My first Christmas there was a busy one and we were both buying and selling discs the whole time, all at one little tiny counter.

The security alarms were loud.  You could hear them down the hallway of the mall, all the way down to the Zellers store.  That’s how I got caught one time.  I was hoping the boss didn’t hear me while he was out doing his bank run, but he did, and I had to pony up my dollar.  I couldn’t remember if I de-tagged the guy or not, which meant I probably didn’t.  But sometimes I swear it was just that the device wasn’t de-tagging properly.  Some box sets also had two or three tags on the shrinkwrap.  There were multiple ways to screw it up.

Thieves always find ways around your best security measures, and ultimately the tags were not worth the cost and were phased out in future stores, in a new and innovative way:  ditching new product almost altogether in favour of a 90% used strategy.  But that’s a whole other story.


#1039: Catalogue

RECORD STORE TALES #1039: Catalogue

There was one chain back in the Record Store days that was considered our chief rival.  They weren’t really; they were actually much bigger than us, but the Boss Man really had his radar locked on that one specific rival.  The other guy made an offer to buy us out, but there wasn’t much he could do if we were not for sale.  It was a cold war rather than a hot war from my perspective.  I did have to eject the rival from my store once.  We had standing orders (and a picture of the guy behind the counter, a Mutt Lange lookalike) to eject if he was seen in store.  That wasn’t fun.  He was with someone else, a buddy or a business associate and I had to kick him out!

I cannot be certain, but I think one of the main reasons the Boss Man didn’t want his rival in our store was one particular secret.

It is true that we had a general policy of “loose lips sink ships” – meaning “don’t say shit”!  You can imagine how much the Boss loves my website, which is why I don’t name any of the guilty parties, but these stories are from another millennium.  None of it actually matters anymore.  One thing he didn’t want known is just what we were using as our pricing guide when buying and stocking used CDs from the public.

The rival’s store had an annual catalogue.  It was about the size of a telephone book.  From the very start, we used that catalogue as a guide.  We knew their lowest retail price for everything they sold, which was virtually everything currently in print on a major label.  Every year, the store managers were sent out to buy the latest issue.  One at a time, so as to not raise flags.  Every year, we had to make white book covers to disguise the true origin of the catalogues that we could be seen flipping through.  When things got computerized, we scanned, line by line, every single CD in that catalogue to begin our own pricing guide.

It grew from there by many times over, as we added discs from other labels, out of print CDs, and everything else we ran across in our travels.  Within a short period of time, our pricing guide was many times the size of their original catalogue.  Obviously, having a custom made pricing guide on the computer was superior and a mere glimpse at the future.  Still, I kinda miss wrapping those big ole catalogues in paper and decorating the new covers.  The new kids will never know.


#1033: Boxing Daze

RECORD STORE TALES #1033: Boxing Daze

Boxing Day (December 26) is for relaxing.  After all this activity, we need a break.  That’s my opinion.  For others, including my wife, it’s for shopping for crazy bargains.  In her defence, she doesn’t do that anymore, but I used to question her sanity.  After all, I remember working Boxing Day…many Boxing Days…and it was definitely one of the worst days of the year to have to work at the Record Store.

Christmas Eve wasn’t so bad.  There was usually lots of cheer in the air.  Many customers were pre-spending Christmas money on themselves.  By the end of the day though, the shelves were so damn bare.  I’d look at them and wonder just what the hell we would have left for sale when we had our big “Buy Three Get One Free” sale on the 26th.  Yet people still found things to buy.

After working straight the month of December with only a couple days off, having one day’s break on Christmas Day wasn’t enough.  The 25th was always busy.  Multiple visits with family, lots going on, lots to do, and no time to actually rest.  Then I had to go to bed on time to be up for the Boxing Day sale.  That’s exactly how I spent my last Christmas at the Record Store.  I even gave up one of the days off in December to a co-worker who wanted to go see a concert.  Why?  Because I was a nice manager.  A good manager.  The kind of manager you wanted to have.  Yet that guy stabbed me in the back years later when he took issue with my side of the story in Record Store Tales.  I should have taken the day off and made him work!  Ah well.  Didn’t Green Day say that nice guys finish last?

Working on Boxing Day always felt depressing.  You didn’t want to be behind the counter working 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM.  I would be powered by caffeine and saddened that the cheer in the air that was so obvious a few days earlier was all gone.  Now it was replaced by bargain hunting.  Deals.  Surly door-crashers and people unhappy with the gifts they did receive.  It was a different kind of day compared to Christmas Eve, and it was long.  And worst of all, there was nothing to look forward to after the 26th.  Just going back to work on the 27th for what was essentially a normal back-to-the-grind day, except with loads of returns.  After the high of Christmas, the comedown of Boxing Day was just brutal.

I’ll never miss it, and I’ll never shop on Boxing Day.  I will not contribute to that culture.  I remember when stores had to be closed on the 26th.  In fact the first Boxing Days at the Record Store, we were closed.  The second one, we opened illegally, and working was on a voluntary basis.  It was voluntary for the first few years.  Then it became near impossible to get it off, though I did get it off for most years that I was manager.  The rule of thumb was you could have Christmas Eve or Boxing Day off, but not both.  Yet that last year I worked both.  Because I was a sucker I guess.  Merry Christmas motherfucker.

#1006: Too Many Cooks

RECORD STORE TAILS #1006: Too Many Cooks

Every so often, a thought or a memory has casting my mind back onto the old Record Store Days.

You probably don’t often think about a job that you quit almost 20 years ago now.  Then again, you probably didn’t work in a Record Store.

It was the Dream Job.  I always wanted to work in some way with music, and selling CDs was pretty high on my list.  It truly was everything I had hoped for.  I acquired hundreds of rare treasures, out of print CDs and things I never knew existed.  I got them with a discount, and I got to listen to music every day.  Lifelong friends were made.  That’s something I never thought would happen from a workplace.

The Record Store also put me back in touch with friends I had seen in years.  The Store was located at the local mall, the epicenter of the neighbourhood.  Banking, groceries, and everything you needed could be found at the Mall, and so a lot of the people I went to school with drifted in through my doors.  Some managed to stay in touch since then, thanks to social media.  I would not trade those connections for the world.

I know a young fella who now works at one of the many stores that I did time in.  It was one of my least favourite stores, in fact.  I hated working at that location.  The customers were not, shall we say, the upper crust of society in that neighbourhood.  But the kid loves his job!  Have things changed, or did I get it wrong? That’s what I ask myself sometimes.  Did I misrepresent those years in Record Store Tales?  Was I unfair?

The first two years were really awesome.  I looked forward to going to work every day.  I got there early and stayed late.  There is no question that the fun atmosphere changed when we started to expand.  10 years later I was having panic attacks.  Too many years of a retail job that was treated with as much urgency as a doctor’s or a lawyer’s.  Family came second.  Performance was everything.  Weakness was inapplicable.

Too many cooks spoil the brew.

At the end I had three bosses, and it was kind of shady how some of that went down.

I never looked forward to work anymore.  I still got there early, but that was more to take my own time opening.  Get ahead on some things.  Listen to music.  Fill orders.  I still do that today in my current job.  I arrive early, and slowly and casually start getting stuff done before we’re officially open for business.  Make a coffee.  Read some news.  Answer emails, before the phone starts ringing.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but the boss told me, “If you worked at IBM, coming in early to do extra is considered bad work habits.”  I distinctly remember him saying that.  I simply could not win with them.  It was a record store, not IBM!  Who cares what IBM do?  They don’t buy and sell used CDs from the public.

I’ve said before that there were cliques at the Record Store, and I stand by that claim.  I never felt like I belonged.  I was the only hard rocking sci-fi nerd with severe social anxiety.  I wasn’t hanging out with the right people at the right bars, because that’s not my thing.  Being invited out to the bar doesn’t count.   I.  Did.  Not.  Fit.  In.  I stand by that.  And I maintain that people in power did let their personal lives leak into their work life.

No.  Upon reflection I feel like I was fair in my previous assessments.  I will say that I am guilty of one thing in my writing.  Once I knew that people at the Record Store were reading, I let that influence my writing too much.  Too often, I wrote with that knowledge in the back of my head, whether consciously or unconsciously.  Perhaps that was unavoidable.

Too many cooks spoil the brew,
Wanna be the king of the world,
Yeah, and too many jailers makin’ the news,
Wanna be the king of the world.

#848: Dear Bob [Reblog]

Happy birthday, big guy!

Dear Bob,

I know we don’t get to talk much anymore.  I think the last time I saw you was at a funeral.  We both have our own lives now.  You have four kids to raise, and I have a Jen to take care of and cherish.  While we have separate journeys now, I will always remember and treasure our shared origins.  We were the lucky few to grow up on a very special street in a neighbourhood like no other.

Some of my earliest memories are of us playing in the front yard.  You were two years older but at that young age it hardly mattered.  All that mattered were our adventures.  It started with dinky cars, Lego and plastic swords.  Do you remember building little garages for our cars?  I do.  You showed me how.  A few twigs stuck into the ground covered with a grass roof, and we had multi-car garages right in the front lawn.

You taught me how to improvise our fun.  With cardboard boxes, we constructed a Cloud City for my Star Wars guys to play around in.  Do you remember showing me how to make little sliding pocket doors?  Or how about that board game we came up with on our own?  It was huge!  How many of my mom’s shoeboxes did we cut up to make that?  We used my Army Men for the pieces.  We constructed traps for them, that could you trigger with the pull of a thread.  Mom eventually said “No more shoeboxes!”

I could go on, and on, and on about how we created our own worlds to live in.  The drawings, a huge binder of which I still have!  We designed our own video game.  We wanted to submit it to Atari.  Then, when my family got a computer, we discovered a new world:  word processing!  No more pen and paper; now we could really come up with stories.  The program was called IBM Writer’s Assistant and we pushed the limits of what we could achieve.  We co-wrote the Adventures of Comet-tron, though it was your idea.  I even sold copies of our “book” at a garage sale.  25 cents each, and there were two issues!

Building obstacle courses in the back yard.  Improvising audio equipment with little more than a few wires and black electrical tape.  Riding our bikes, exploring the trails.  Renting horror movies and pausing to see fake rubber props.  Writing down the rules to our own invented version of street volleyball.  These are all things I did with my best friend.  If I didn’t have you, do you think “Double Bounce Volleyball” ever would have been conceived, much less documented with actual rules?  Chances are high that the only reason I owned a volleyball was because you had one first.

It’s funny that you studied architecture later in life, because I remember us sitting down with pencils and designing our future houses.  In our blueprints, we still lived on the same street.  We bulldozed all the other houses, and added on to our own (things like swimming pools and helipads and secret tunnels and overhead bridges).  We put new houses for our families to live in, while our original homes were connected by an enclosed bridge so we could hang out without even having to go out!

As your interests changed, so did mine.  Where you led I was eager to follow.  Music was next.  Do you realize how lucky I was to have you and other older kids around the neighbourhood?  While my classmates were listening to music they’d be embarrassed by in six months, you guys had discovered Van Halen.

Do you remember our front porch listening sessions?  One of us would plug in the stereo, and somebody else would bring over the Van Halen.

“Van Halen!?” said my dad as he came home from work.  “Sounds like some kind of tropical disease!”

And so began the long tradition of my dad creating memorable quotes about rock bands.  Wouldn’t have happened without you.  Your dad had some good ones too.

“Is there something wrong with that man?” he mocked when Bruce Dickinson was screaming the high notes.

Classic!  Absolutely classic.  You were not only there for it, but you were the guy who supplied the music for them to mock!

What I’m getting at here is this.  I need to really let you know how much you shaped my life, and how much I looked up to you.  I wanted to be you.  For years I was your mini-me.  You were smart, you were cool, you were big and strong and creative and everything I wanted to be.  I had nobody like you at my school.  Why did you have to go to a different school?  How life would have been different if you were able to stand up for me during the dark times.

I’ll never forget one thing you did for me.  It was grade six.  My bully Steve went at me really hard that year.  He made me cry in class.  It’s not a good feeling, crying publicly with 30 of your peers.  All I could think is how badly I wished you were there to stop him.  Stop all of them.  Then one day, you did make an appearance.  Our schools had March break during two different weeks.  During your March break, you got on your bike and paid me a visit during recess.  None of those kids had ever seen you before.  Maybe they thought you were my imaginary friend.  Not any more!  Steve actually fell flat down on his back when he saw how much bigger you were.  The memory still makes me smile.

I don’t know if you really understood how bad I had it at school.  It was a daily living nightmare.  You were the opposite of that.  I’d come home, phone you up, and 10 minutes later we’d be in the back yard jumping hurdles made of lawn chairs, and everything was forgotten.  You just got me; we shared the exact same sense of humour.  Nothing can gravitate two friends together like a shared love of laughing at the same things.  You also drew out and nurtured my creative side.  Anytime you came up with something cool on your own (which was frequent) you’d share it with me and together we’d expand on it.  It was the exact opposite of what I had at school.  There, nobody understood me.  There, nobody nurtured me.  There, nobody laughed with me.  Only at me.

You were my hero, man.  You were my Wolverine or Iron Man.  Funny enough, I got into Marvel comics because that’s what you read!  Do you remember reading comics on the patio?  Hawkeye was your favourite Avenger back then.

I mean it when I say you were my hero.  You were smart and popular and I was just happy to be the sidekick!  When I finally made it to highschool, you sneakily got an extra locker next to mine.  I felt so cool sharing that illicit locker, like part of an elite club.  We had some excellent times in highschool.  You bought a black guitar and so for contrast I bought a white one.  We never really put the effort in, but we did have fun drawing our logo.  “Paragon” was the name you chose for our band.  We never really learned to play, but we made a music video.  I know you’ll never forget that.  Together we spent a week after hours at the school in the editing suite, finishing the video with a very tight deadline.  We did it, though.  It was hard work.  We fought through technical issues and were recognized for our efforts by having our video shown at the local 1989 Charlie Awards.  What an honour for us.

I know for a fact that I would not be the person I am today had we not crossed paths 40-some years ago.  I think I’d still find ways to be creative, but the things I do today are just extensions of the things we did then.  Sequels, reboots, remasterings.  I like to think that I’m continuing with the projects we started together.  Together we made a music video and two movies.  Today, I make several music videos every year!  And as hard as it is to believe, I even completely re-edited one of the movies we made 30 years ago.  Finishing the work that we started.

It’s OK that you went to college and started your own life.  It was always going to be that way.  We were never really going to bulldoze the neighbourhood and live in connected houses.  Back then, I was never able to express how important you were — and still are.  You helped me survive.  I knew that all I had to do was endure a week at school.  On Saturday it would be us again, you and me, racing cars, flying starships or hosting our own shows.  Despite everything I had to go through at school, I always have considered it a good childhood.  The best childhood.  And that’s because I had you, my best friend.  We embarked on truly great adventures, and they far outweigh the damage the other kids could do.  When it was you and me, they couldn’t touch me.  They weren’t a part of the worlds we were building out of cardboard and Scotch tape.  You projected a force field around yourself and nobody would touch you.  In turn you were able to shield me with it too.  That was a tremendous gift that you can’t understand unless you were the beneficiary.

Do you remember why you chose the name “Paragon” for our band that never was?  “Because it means we’re the best,” you said.  It was true!  We were the best.  We were the paragon of friendships with adventures that shaped a lifetime.  Thank you for sharing that with me.



#995: Terminology

RECORD STORE TALES #995: Terminology

All of us music-heads do it:  we like to celebrate the anniversaries of our favourite (and occasionally not-so-favourite) albums!  But how do you like to say it?  That’s up to you.  Is there a right and wrong way to do it?

I’ll tell you one thing you’ll never hear me say:  “This album dropped on this day…”

I do not use the word “dropped” to refer to an album release.  I know that’s what the kids say today.  That’s precisely why I won’t say it.

A lot people say “Celebrate the anniversary of this album’s release today…” which is perfectly fine.  No issue.  Lots of big words that my fat thumbs have trouble typing on my phone though.

So I choose something simple and easy for my fingers to mash out on my phone while I’m eating my Cheerios.  I choose to say “Happy birthday to this album!”

I don’t write long album birthday posts.  Instead I simply paste the link to my review (when applicable) and post “Happy birthday!”  I figure the review has most of the info if anybody cares enough to click it.

Two people have questioned my use of the word “birthday” in this context:  rock journalist Mitch Lafon, and one loyal LeBrain Train viewer who you might be able to guess.  I get it, I really do.  Wishing “happy birthday” to an album?  Is an album “born”?

According to Merriam Webster dictionary, the word “birth” can also mean “to give rise to”.  Even so, I like to have fun with words and use them in ways not always intended.  I’m also not the only person to wish a “happy birthday” to an inanimate object.

Look, it’s real simple.  I won’t say “dropped”, and I don’t like the word “anniversary” (or typing it with my thumbs).  I’ve chosen “happy birthday” for my album anniversary celebrations, and I think most people understand “Oh, he means it must have been released on this day.”  I find a lot of arguments in the music community comes down to what I consider semantics.  You’ll see all kinds of debates on what “metal” really is, or what qualifies members of a band as “original”.  We care about these things because we’re music fans.

Admittedly, for me to type “Happy birthday!” on social media for an album, instead of a proper sentence about its release, is an act of laziness.  But social media itself is an embodiment of laziness so I won’t apologize for that.

How do you post about an album’s anniversary?  Are albums “born”?  Does anyone actually care about English anymore?  Let us know in the comments.

#966: Crossing the Line

As hinted in the past, there are many Record Store Tales that have gone untold.  Some I have been asked not to share.  Some I’ve waited years to write, in hope that the past two decades will put some distance between the events and the people concerned.

RECORD STORE TALES #966:  Crossing the Line

It took time for the world to catch up to my needs.  As an introvert, I hadn’t had much luck meeting girls.  I said stupid things, I put my foot in my mouth, I didn’t know how to introduce myself.  I’d tried going to the bars with friends, I’d been set up on dates, but I had no success.  Thanks to the internet, I was soon able to make a better first impression, online.  There I could take my time with my words and hopefully make a connection with someone.  It was the summer of 1999, when I met a local girl named Jen online (not the one I married, I must like the name).  We got along great so she decided to meet me in person.  I was not hard to find, working at the local Record Store.

Convenient, yes.  Smart, no.

Though I was at the end of my shift and it was OK for me to chat, my boss did not like the looks of Jen.  She was exceptionally tall, and worked as a bouncer at Oktoberfest because she could physically handle herself.  But that wasn’t the boss man’s problem.  His issue was that she had a piercing in her bottom lip.

I know, right?  In 1999, a labret piercing wasn’t as common, and my boss absolutely hated piercings.  He flat out told us once that he would not hire a guy that might have been fully qualified for the job because he had a ring in his nose.

He warned me against “crazy girls”, and then proceeded to tell one of our customers all about it behind my back.

The customer that we called “Tony Macaroni” was in one day and wanted to check out some newer metal releases.  (I was always trying to sell him on Bruce Dickinson who he found to be too “Satantic”, thanks to the Chemical Wedding album.)  Tony said to me, “So your boss tells me you’re dating a…” he paused looking for the appropriate words.  “A different kind of girl.”  He probably meant to say “freak” or “weirdo”.

“Huh?” I responded in confusion.  Jen and I never actually got to dating, but I knew what was up.  The boss was telling Tony about this “freak” he spotted me with in the store.  I guess he found that amusing enough to share.

I really should have spoken to the boss then and there about privacy and overstepping his bounds.  But I found him intimidating, and so I said nothing.  As a business owner in charge of dozens of people, he certainly should have known better.

The funny thing is that I’m still friends with that Jen.  We never hooked up romantically, but she’s a solid human.

The next incidents happened in 2003.  Again, he involved himself in my dating life.  I had recently turned 30 and for the first time in my life, was getting turned down by girls in their mid-20s for being “too old”.  29 was fine, but 30 was apparently over the top.  Unable to turn back the clock, I was not happy when this started happening.

I had one weakness back then.  I liked to talk.  Some of the other store managers were friends, and I would periodically call them up and ask for advice.  The boss absolutely hated when we talked on the phone to employees at other stores.  It meant that during the phone call, there were two people not working.  I did this too often and got caught.  The next day he pulled me into the office for a chat.  Then I made another mistake.

The correct course of action would have been to keep my mouth shut and accept a slap on the wrist.  Instead, I opened up.  I told my boss about how I wasn’t enjoying turning 30, how I just found a gray hair, and how this girl I was seeing decided to break it off because she was 24 or 25 and her parents wouldn’t like that I was 30.

“What’s her middle name?” he asked me.

I could not remember her middle name.

“Well she couldn’t have meant that much to you if you don’t even know her middle name.  What are her parents’ names?” he continued.

The meeting ended with him handing me a slip of paper with a phone number written on it.  I consider this to be the second time the line was crossed.  “Give these people a call, it’s counselling”.  It wasn’t an EAP program, it was a piece of paper with a phone number written on it and I felt very uncomfortable.  Legally and ethically, no lines were crossed.  But I left that meeting feeling pressured.  Later on, he did follow up and asked if I called the number.  I had tossed the paper out.

The third and final time he crossed the line with me, it was unambiguous.  I have no idea what his issue was this time, because I only heard about it after the fact.  Behind my back, he had called my parents!  My parents!  He called them to tell them that Mike was “used to doing things the old way,” and not adapting to the “new way”.  I am not sure exactly what he was on about.  There were lots of possibilities.  Maybe it was the time I did some employee reviews on the “old” forms because I didn’t have any of the “new” ones. Or maybe it was when I got piercings of my own.  Nobody knows anymore, but when he made that one phone call, he went a step too far and my dad isn’t quick to forgive.

Over the years, I’ve been accused of being unfair and too harsh towards the store ownership.  I don’t think so.  Not when you know the context.  Best thing I ever did for myself was quit.

* That was my fault.  The copier was right next to the office bully‘s desk so I probably neglected to copy the new forms out of avoidance.

#948: Post-script

RECORD STORE TALES #948:  Post-script

In this life, at least since 2018, we have learned to take nothing for granted.  We treat every trip to the cottage like it’s the last, but I really didn’t expect to get back this late in the season.

With some Judas Priest on the stereo (Sad Wings of Destiny), we made one more uneventful trip up north.  The weather forecast was not good, but the Friday was still lovely.  We arrived early afternoon and I set up my laptop and speakers on the front porch for what really might be the last time in 2021.  I did not waste a note of music.  It was raining but the overhang kept me dry.  Listening to song after song, I chose my Top 5 best album closing tracks for that night’s show.  Finalized!

The best office you could want, rain or shine

I can’t remember the last time we made it to the lake this late in October.  Friday I wore shorts.  Saturday was another story….

I woke up early Saturday morning and went for a walk in the pitch black.  It was wet from the rain but otherwise warm and dead quiet.  A few hours later, the wind and rain picked up and Saturday became an “indoor day”.

I went down to the beach for a few moments to capture some video but I couldn’t make it further than the treeline.  The wind was blasting the rain right through my clothes.  It’s been many years since I’ve experienced that kind of weather.  We battened down the hatches and prepared for a cold one.  It was a good day for movies, music and toys.  The heat went on and so did the long pants!

You can feel this picture

Sunday was the really interesting day.  The reality was hitting me that it could possibly be months before we saw this place again.  I was trying to really absorb the sounds, sights and feelings.  I had two flashbacks, and they were intense.

The first happened in the early morning.  I was cleaning the kitchen and put on some tunes to work to.  I chose Rock and Roll Over by Kiss, as it had the classic Kiss vibe I wanted and strong cottage memories associated with it.  The first time I heard Rock and Roll Over was there at the cottage – it was the last Kiss studio album I needed.  I would have been about 15.  As I was washing the dishes, singing and dancing to “Mr. Speed” I suddenly had the first flashback.  I was in that very kitchen with my best friend Bob and I was a teenager again.  We were doing the dishes and rocking out to Kiss.  It was entirely in my imagination.  We never washed the dishes to Kiss that I can think of.  Yes the parents would usually ask us to help with the dishes, and any time we had company over, I conceded because I didn’t want to look like a spoiled brat.  But we never did it with music playing, that I can remember.  But we would have if we could.

It was such an intense feeling that I needed to stop what I was doing and take a breath.  I could literally see us both, washing the dishes and rocking to Kiss.  It probably never happened that way but my flashback didn’t care.

Once that intense experience had passed and the kitchen was clean, I went outside to wander and take some last pictures.  My 49th season in this place.  An awesome season and truly one of the very best.   It was then that I had the second intense flashback.

49 years

I was walking around the side of the cottage, thinking about how awesome it was to be walking around shirtless in this paradise all summer.  And then suddenly – I was.  For a brief moment the sun was blasting my shirtless skin.  And then it was over.  It was like when Will Byers suddenly flashes into the Update Down on Stranger Things.  In a blink it ended and was gone.  I just enjoyed the experience.  I’d like more flashbacks like this to happen.  It’s all about the setting and the mindset.

Once Jen and I had finished packing, I was locking up and I noticed her at the end of the driveway staring at the lake.  It is her favourite place in the world; she calls it her “safe place”.  I joined her and asked if she wanted to take one more look around.  We walked down to the windy beach one more time and just drank it all in.  The sight of the churning lake, the sound of the crashing waves, and the feeling of the wind on our skin.

And that was it.  With heavy heart we started the car and hit the road.  If that was the end of the season, by God we had a good one!  Some of the best tunes, meals, swimming, live shows and videos were had this year.  An unforgettable summer, interviewing rock stars from the comfort of the front porch with Lake Huron before me.  Top that, 2022.


Awesome Show & Tell! Top Music We’d Save From a Fire on the LeBrain Train

Let’s have a huge round of applause for our awesome panel tonight!  Showing off all our most beloved treasures, this show was a bounty of beautiful musical mana.

We didn’t stick strictly to the idea of saving “albums” from a fire.  We just made it “music” and in some cases it was “musical memorabilia”.  All good — all valuable in their own way.  Some valuable in serious monetary ways!  Wait until you hear how much some of these things cost today!

Special features tonight included:

  • Tons of show & tell! – Gene Simmons’ Vault, Metallica’s Fan Can #4, autographs, vinyl, cassettes, CDs & VHS!
  • The return of “The Author Reads“, the first in over 16 months.  This time I read Record Store Tales Part 19:  “The Rules” which directly related to my #1 pick.  (2:55:00 of the stream.)
  • Great stories from Aaron about his awesome Nana and B.B. King.


Thanks for watching and the awesome comments.  See you next week!



FIRE! What Music Would You Save? Join the discussion on the LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike and Friends

Episode 80 – Nigel Tufnel Top Music We’d Save From A Fire

We’ve all heard the question while hanging with pals over a couple drinks.  “What albums would you save from a fire?”  Nobody even wants to think of it!  But as a fun exercise, tonight we’ll tell you our Nigel Tufnel Top Ten Albums We’d Save From A Fire!  Whatever gets saved, you can be you’ll hear about some treasures that are very near and dear to our hearts.

Your panel this week:

Expect lots of show & tell.  John owns The Vault… I own a Fan Can… will these items make our lists?  What will be left to burn?  Find out tonight.

Friday August 20, 7:00 PM E.S.T. on Facebook:  MikeLeBrain and YouTube:  Mike LeBrain.


  • Greg Fraser of Storm Force returns!  Friday September 24 7:00 PM