music

#S18-2: Day One is Done

I sit here writing this on Saturday morning, the coldest I’ve ever been at Sausagefest.  From heat wave to chill.  Uncle Meat slept in the car.  No tent for him.  Too cold.

7:30 am.  As the sun moves into position, it’s starting to warm.

We had a great first night, though I had some lower body pain and had to lie down.  I spent two hours in the tent listening to the Countdown.

Tool.  Priest.  Willie.  Rush. Sheavy.  ‘Tallica.  Beasties.  Five Alarm Funk.  Much more.  Amazing tunes last night.

There was one hiccup.  My brand new tent broke immediately out of the box.  Not impressed.  Gorilla tape to the rescue.   My tent looks like the stunted stepchild of everybody else’s tent.

I slept well, and I will do better tonight.  Let’s do it!

 

Advertisements

#680: The End of an Era

It was the year 2000.  Not just the dawn of a new century, but a new store.  Even though I was a store manager myself, I only found out about the expansion through the grapevine.

We were at a party when Tom said to me, “You’re going to be so relieved when the new store opens.”

What?…what new store??

“They didn’t tell you?  I can’t believe they didn’t tell you.  Yeah, they’re opening up a new store and moving head office with it.  The head office people are finally going to be out of your hair when they move it.”

“Head office” was a little room in the back of my store.

Nope, nobody told me!  In fact, nobody ever told me in any official capacity.  Even when they had started building the place and deciding who would staff it, nobody ever officially told me.  Even as they chose staff members from my own crew to run it, they didn’t tell me.  Communication at the Record Store was dysfunctional.  I heard again in passing from one of my employees that was being sent there, as if I already knew.  This pissed me off, but Tom was right.  I was hugely relieved to have the head office people moving out.  Good riddance; now they could go and micromanage somebody else!

Life was peachy for a couple years.  I had them out of my hair, and I took over the back office when I began running the store website.

All things end, and in 2003, they moved me to the new store as well.  Sales were down at my old store, and I had some problematic staff members.  So they shuffled around managers and I took over the other store.  I hated working there.  It may have been new, but it never felt like “home” like my old store did.  They told me that being comfortable wasn’t a good thing.

I didn’t enjoy managing the second store like I did the first, and I hated the location.  It was smaller.  There was no room behind the counter and I was always bashing into things.  It had fewer listening stations.  I missed my old regular customers, and being micromanaged again sucked!

I finally left in 2006 and the store soldiered on with a new manager.  But again, nothing lasts forever.  In the Brave New World that is music retail, a lot of record stores bit the dust.  Now it’s 2018, and an era is coming to an end.  The store that I uncomfortably managed is closing this year.  Even though working there was not fun, it’s still a sad day for me.  It might never have felt like home, but it kind of was for three years.  Huge chunks of my CD collection came from that store.  My mint Black Sabbath Black Box, my Queen 3″ singles, and a Japanese import Deep Purple box set* all came from that location.  So did dozens of Record Store Tales.

As the sun sets on my old store, it’s bittersweet.  Not a lot of great memories there, but sadness just the same.  Any time a record store closes, it’s a loss for music fans.  The inventory will be consolidated with another store that is moving to a bigger location, but it’s hard not to see it as another one biting the dust.

 

 

 

* Review forthcoming.

#668: It’s All in the Name

GETTING MORE TALE #668: It’s All in the Name

At the Record Store, we had a habit of giving customers nicknames.  It made them easier to remember…and it was sometimes good for a chuckle!

Some customers, however, needed no nicknames.  Their real names were definitely historic enough.

First there was Bill.  Bill Board.

If I had a name like Bill Board, I think I would prefer to introduce myself just as “Bill”.  Or I’d just go by William.  We had a few CDs on order for Bill Board.  It was one of those names that made you say “Come again?”

Charlie Brown was another one.  You were not required to give a last name to order a CD.  Only a first name was necessary.  The first time he phoned, Charlie Brown gave me both his names.  He requsted a CD.  I asked for his info, and I laughed!  I thought it was a prank call.  “You laughing at my name?” he said.  “That’s my real name!”  Charlie Brown, you will never be forgotten.

There was also a fellow named Lynn, no last name given.  Yes, there are men out there named Lynn.  It’s unusual but not unheard of.  However when Lynn was put in the system for a CD order, we made sure to add the notation “Lynn – a man”.  That way when you called for Lynn and left a message, you wouldn’t say something like “Please tell her that the CD she ordered was in.”  We’d know it was a guy and which pronoun to use.  That’s how “Lynn – a man” made it into our order entries!

Finally, we had Zoltan.  Zoltan Zonger.  What an awesome name!  It recalls the “Zoltan cultists” from the movie Dude, Where’s My Car.  Remember them?  “ZOLTAN!”  Good old Zoltan, “Double-Z”.  He was not seen much, but his name was there in the order system.  It’s the kind of name that jumped out every time you scrolled past it.  Zoltan Zonger.

Fuck, I wish I had a cool name like Zoltan Zonger!

#652: Evolution ’80s: Music and Gaming

#652: Evolution ’80s: Music and Gaming

We had a big old IBM PC with dual 5 1/4″ floppy disk drives.  That meant you could copy disks from your friends much faster and easier, and so we did.  It wasn’t very powerful and we only had a monochrome monitor, but back then you had virtually unlimited access to free software.  Copy protection usually took the form of the game asking you for information that can only be found in the game manual.  So, you would just go to the library and photocopy the manual from your friend.

My dad worked at the bank at the mall, and he had a number of customers who did him cool favours over the years.  One such friend was a fellow named Scully.  Every once in a while, he’d come to my dad with a list of video game titles.  Dad would bring it home, give it to us, and say “Circle any games you want.”  My dad would buy a pack of 5 1/4″ floppy discs, and a week or two later they’d come back full of games.  “Flight Simulator” (version 1.0), “King’s Quest”, “Alleycat”, “Sierra Championship Boxing”, “Lode Runner”, “Executive Suite”, “Rogue”, “Janitor Joe”, “Decathlon”, and “Evolution” were some of the game titles written on the floppy discs that returned.

Best friend Bob, who was without a computer in his house, came often to play the new games.  Back then, a PC was a luxury.  Only a few families on the street had them.  My dad’s was subsidised via work.  And by the way, when families on the street had computers, that meant more access to free games.

Bob and I shared a mutual love of music, and so music was usually playing when we were gaming.  Mom and dad were tolerate a little noise once in a while, and damn, we had such a good time.

One game that we played to an endless soundtrack of Iron Maiden (Live After Death predominantly) is unfortunately a title long forgotten.  It was a grid-based shooting game, and the controls were so complex.  You had four keys for moving, and four keys for shooting — one for each direction.  Keyboards are not designed for that kind of gaming, and so playing alone was all but impossible as you mashed your fingers together trying to quickly move and shoot using eight keys.

Bob figured out how to play the game:  as a team!  He manned the firing keys and I moved the ship through this grid.  It was about an 8×8 grid, approximated by hand below.  As these alien things started moving around their rows and columns, I had to dodge blasts while setting Bob up for shots.  You had to kill each alien twice.  It required co-ordination, all enhanced by the steely bass of Steve Harris combined with the precision percussion that Nicko McBrain provides.

Mystery 80s DOS game (approximation)

Another game that required coordination was “Decathlon“, which unfortunately drowned out any music we could play.  My dad  hated “Decathlon”.  During the racing events, you “ran” by hammering on two keys as if you were running with your fingers.  Bob and I discovered the best way to do it was two-handed — both pointer fingers at full speed.  The clacking sound was a cacophony and my dad complained every time we played.  The point of the game was to beat Bruce Jenner, so we had to do it.  My dad hated Bruce Jenner because of that game.

Back to the teamwork:  there were some events I could do well, while others only Bob could do, and one that required both of us hammering keys in unison.  That was the pole vault.  It began with someone doing the run-hammering with their pointer fingers on two keys.  The other person had to use four keys to 1) plant the pole in the ground, 2) jump, 3) pull a handstand on the pole, and 4) release.  Music didn’t help with the pole vault — you were fucked if you weren’t focused completely on your little digital man.

Some days I played solo.  Bob was a couple years older and had a part time job at Harvey’s.  There were a few games we had for playing against the computer.  I obsessed over Sierra “Championship Boxing” one summer:  1988.  Ace Frehley had a new album out, Second Sighting, and he happened to have a boxing related track called “The Acorn in Spinning”. The game allowed you to create all kinds of your own custom boxers, so I created a whole storyline about one I built called Acorn.

One of the aforementioned games, “Evolution“, was a lot harder without Bob.  I picked it because one night, watching TV with my parents back in the early 80s, there was a story on about a new Canadian software company called Distinctive Software, based out of British Columbia.  They were being spotlighted for a new and very original video game they released:  “Evolution”.  Through a series of levels, you had to evolve from a single-celled organism to an amphibian to mammal and up the ladder to humanity.  It was praised for being different from the average computer game.  The whole premise was so cool, and the actual gameplay so awful…not to mention, even as kids, we knew that humans didn’t evolve from beavers.

Level 1: the amoeba.  You’re an amoeba floating around and trying to eat all the little edible blue dots around you, while trying to avoid a weird spinny eyeball looking thing that launches little purple spiky things at you.  You can also, like, electrify your amoeba for a little while to protect yourself.  You have five lives, but I used to typically burn three or even all five on this first level.

Level 2:  the tadpole.  A little easier this time.  Just move side to side and jump to avoid fish, and to catch food.  The simplicity of the controls meant you could make it through, losing minimal lives.

Level 3: the rodent.  Dig little mouse tunnels and drop poisonous mouse poops behind you to block it again.  Avoid being eaten by the snakes.  Be careful you don’t use up all your poops too soon.

Level 4: the beaver, yes, a fucking beaver.  Avoid the alligators while retrieving five pieces of wood to build your dam.  A surprisingly easy level.

Level 5: gorilla.  Humans didn’t evolve from gorillas, but we do share long distant ancestors, closer than beavers anyway.  In this strange level, you have to throw oranges at monkeys who are stealing your shit.  Aiming those oranges was purely just a matter of luck.  Game over here.  If you ever make it to this level, congrats, but you’re done now.  Only once, maybe twice over the years did I hit all the damn monkeys and move on to:

Level 6: human instant death.  As soon as your little fully-evolved human ejects from his neat space car, he is dead meat.  Numerous robots and aliens enter immediately after, from every direction, and being shooting.  You will have no chance, so just accept your fate instead of wishing you were still a gorilla.  And you thought those monkeys were bad.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I love/hated that game so much.  I wanted so bad to get to that final human level, and with Bob, we worked as a team to finally get there only for it to last a couple seconds at best.

Perhaps 1982’s “Evolution” had a deeper message. We climb the hill to the very top of the food chain on this world, only to be squashed immediately by whatever is waiting for us out there.  It’s a classic science fiction dystopian theme.

Can we find a suitable heavy metal song to go with this doomed fate of alien or robotic annihilation?  Of course we can!  From 1988’s Ram It Down, another album I obsessed over during this period, it’s the apocalyptic “Blood Red Skies”.

Whatever your gaming soundtrack, I hope your memories are as good as mine.

As the sun goes down, I move around,
Keeping to the shadows,
Life, hangs by a thread,
And I’ve heard it said, that I’ll not see tomorrow.
If that’s my destiny, it’ll have to be,
So I’ll face the future,
Running out of time,
I’m on the line,
But I’ll go down fighting.
 
Felt the hand of justice,
Telling wrong from right,
Threw me out upon the street in the middle of the night,
Cybernetic heartbeat,
Digital precise,
Pneumatic fingers nearly had me in their vice.
Not begging you,
I’m telling you.
 
You won’t break me,
You won’t make me,
You won’t take me,
Under blood red skies.
You won’t break me,
You won’t take me,
I’ll fight you under,
Blood red skies.
 
Through a shattered city, watched by laser eyes,
Overhead the night squad glides,
The decaying paradise.
Automatic sniper,
With computer sights,
Scans the bleak horizon for its victim of the night.
They’re closing in,
They’ll never win.
 
You won’t break me,
You won’t make me,
You won’t take me,
Under blood red skies.
You won’t break me,
You won’t take me,
I’ll fight you under,
Blood red skies.
 
As the end is drawing near,
Standing proud, I won’t give in to fear,
As I die a legend will be born,
I will stand. I will fight,
You’ll never take me alive.
I’ll stand my ground,
I won’t go down.
  
You’ll never take me alive,
I’m telling you, hands of justice,
I will stand, I will fight,
As the sun goes down,
I won’t give in to fear.

#648: “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #648:  “The Mall”

For the first 23 or 24 years of my life, Stanley Park Mall was my epicenter. If I said “Mom, I’m going to the mall!” she knew where I meant. It wasn’t the biggest mall, and certainly not the best. But it was my mall.

This very typical mall, on Ottawa Street in Kitchener, opened in 1969. It was nothing special. There was nowhere to buy music, until it expanded with a Zellers store circa 1973. As small children, we weren’t interested in music yet. Instead it was Zellers’ toy section that had us enthralled.

In 1977 my mother took me to Stanley Park to look for a birthday present for a neighbor named John Schipper, older brother of my best friend Bob. “Look mom! The movie we just saw!” I exclaimed as I laid eyes on my first Star Wars figures. My mom bought C3P0 for John, and R2D2 for me, so we could play together. Little did she know what she got me into, by buying my first Star Wars figure at that Zellers store. But to be fair, who could have known?

The mall also had a bank, and my dad soon transferred there as its manager. I used to feel like such a big shot, strolling into my dad’s office. He’d let us sit at his desk and play with his calculator and telephone. I can even remember helping him with spelling on an internal memo!  Once, when my sister was sitting in his chair, she pushed the button for the silent alarm. “Hmmm, this doesn’t do anything,” she thought. After she left, the cops arrived in force to answer the alarm. My dad realised what happened too late!

With my dad working there, plus the Zellers store, it was our main destination for shopping or just being kids. It was walking distance from home. When I was old enough to cross streets by myself, my friends and I made regular trips on our bikes. The Little Short Stop store was our main hangout. We would buy candy, pop, chips, comic books, and Star Wars or Indiana Jones cards. I managed to get a full set of The Empire Strikes Back, and Raiders of the Lost Ark. I got them slowly, pack by pack, and by trading with friends. There was a neighbor who had the one Indiana Jones card I still needed called “I Hate Snakes”. A trade was made and I completed my set. I wish I knew what happened to all the doubles and triples of those cards.

When I was older, that Little Short Stop was my store for amassing a huge collection of rock and wrestling magazines. Hit Parader was my main title and I had a complete set of every issue from 1987-1990.

The mall was also right close to our grade school. Many of my friends would “cut through” the mall as a short cut to get home. One fellow, Chris, tells me he was sometimes chased around by mall security.  Naughty kid.

I remember there was a short-lived video store there. My dad refused to rent the Twisted Sister Stay Hungry video for me. He didn’t like the look of the “guy with the ham bone” on the front cover.

In 1987, something remarkable happened. Stanley Park Mall got its first actual record store: A&A Records and Tapes. Suddenly I had close access to all kinds of music, including 12” singles. I remember flipping through their Aerosmith and Europe singles, thinking “Woah, there are songs here I have never heard of.”

We still checked Zellers, but A&A became the place for us. In fact there were even A&A coupons on the back of every box of Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes. $1.00 off tapes! We sure cashed in a lot of A&A coupons that year. I loved checking out their front charts too. Vinyl was still happening, and the front chart was a big huge display of records. Much larger and more eye catching than a CD chart. I remember rejoicing when Judas Priest’s Ram It Down was on it.

I have clear memories of Bob Schipper and I walking to the mall in early April of 1988 to pick up a new release. Two copies of course; one for each of us. Iron Maiden’s Seventh Son of a Seventh Son was an album we had been looking forward to, and we both got it on that cold Saturday in April 1988.  (It took a while to adjust to the new Maiden sound, but Bob’s immediate favourite was “Infinite Dreams”.)

In 1989 I got my first real job, and it was at that very mall. The grocery store Zehrs was my first pay cheque. I cut my hair short for that job and was teased for it at school. Not only that, but suddenly I also needed glasses!  It was a pretty drastic image change.  But it was a cool work experience. Not only was I working at Zehrs with my best friend Bob, but my dad was still working in the mall too. All three of us in one place!

I was pretty loyal to A&A during those years at the mall, but in 1990 they went under. The last thing I ever bought at an A&A (though a different location) was a CD of Steve Vai’s Flex-Able and some blank tapes.

Yet every cloud has a silver lining. A former employee of A&A Records at our mall location decided to open a business of his own. Guess who he went to for the bank loan?  My dad!  Six months after A&A closed, he opened his own record store in that mall. The rest is history. The store that I now call “The Record Store” hired me on in July of 1994. And he’s still in business in 2018, albeit not in that mall anymore which suffered a slow and steady decline in the 90s.

There are no record stores in the mall anymore. Zellers went under, and Walmart took over. Their tiny little entertainment section is the only place to buy a CD. The bank is still there, and so is the grocery store, but my Little Short Shop is long gone. There isn’t much left. No Baskin Robbins, no 31 flavors.  Bargain shops and discount stores have replaced all the places I used to frequent as a kid. Sad, but not unexpected.

The strange thing is, as much as the mall has changed, I still get a huge shot of nostalgia when I walk into that Walmart that used to be my Zellers. Like a déjà vu, suddenly I am hit with the memory of finding a rare GI Joe, or flipping through Judas Priest tapes. The mall I knew from long ago is no longer the same, but the memory remains.

#643: Boom Boxes and Walkmen

GETTING MORE TALE #643: Boom Boxes and Walkmen

In the 80s, you had to have a Boom Box.  Or a Ghetto Blaster.  Or whatever you wanted to call a portable tape deck/radio.  Everybody had one, because they were awesome.

In order to make your Boom Box truly portable, you needed batteries.  There was often a place on the back where you could wrap up and store the power cable.  Then you’d load up the deck with batteries.  My first Sanyo stereo deck took about eight D-cells.  They’d last less than one afternoon of rock and roll.  When the tape started to slow down, you knew your batteries were dying.

Next door neighbor George liked to prop his Boom Box up on his shoulder as he walked, like the kid in the video for “The Right to Rock” by Keel.  It seemed cool at the time.

My second Sanyo was a dual tape deck with detachable speakers.  To make it portable, you just secured the speakers to the sides and plugged in those batteries.  This one took even more batteries than my first one.  In addition to the D-cells to power the music, it also required two AA batteries for the clock!  The truth is, a Boom Box was such a pain in the butt to make portable, that we tended to avoid it.  Sure, we could take it to the park and assault the tennis court with Black Sabbath, but it was just better to keep it at home.  A Ghetto Blaster, plugged into an extension cord in the garage, could still keep us entertained outdoors.  Parents would yell to “turn it down!”, so we would…for a little while before turning up again.

A Walkman was easier on batteries than a Boom Box.  The only problem with a Walkman?  Nobody else could listen in.  So that made it a little awkward and a lot funny when George would walk down the street with his Walkman.

George worked an early shift at Long John Silver’s, which was walking distance.  In the morning he could be seen strolling off to work, earphones on his head.  My sister and I would watch from the window.  As he walked forcefully down the street, suddenly he burst into song.  A lot of the time, you couldn’t tell what he was singing.  Most memorably though, he serenaded the neighborhood with “Love Gun”.

We watched him walk when he suddenly yelled, “ALRIGHT! LOVE GUN!” just as Paul Stanley did on Alive II.  And then George ripped into the chorus:  “Love Gun, Looo-ooo-ove Gun…”

It was hard not to laugh.  George singing in the mornings was a daily event, rest his soul.  We teased George a bit but he was a good person.  He was certainly unique and a non-conformist.

My parents bought me a neat little speaker set to go with my Walkman.  When fully packed up, it looked like a cylinder with the speakers on each end.  When you opened it, you could remove the speakers and set them up on your desk or shelf.  Just plug in a Walkman and you were good to go.  If you wanted to go portable, there was room inside the set for both speakers and your Walkman.  It too was heavy on battery use, but it was a very cool little set.  I brought it to school when I needed musical accompaniment to any of my OAC-level presentations.

Who misses stocking up on AA and D-cell batteries?  And don’t forget extras for when your Walkman slows down. You don’t want to be stuck without batteries! Isn’t it so much easier to just charge some USB speakers and plug them into your phone?  Sure is!

 

 

#642: Who Was Your Servant Last Year?

GETTING MORE TALE #642: Who Was Your Servant Last Year?

 

I had a few big pet peeves at the Record Store, but I absolutely hated those customers who needed me to do everything for them. I don’t mean “Can you put these CDs back for me?” I don’t mind that. If I put them back at least I know they’re going back to the right place. I’d prefer to put them back myself. I’m talking about things far less reasonable. (Note: some of these stories previously appeared in Klassic Kwotes.)

Imagine this scenario.

Customer: “I heard a song on the radio, and it goes like this.” They sing a snippet. “Do you know what it is? They never say the names of the songs on the radio.”

Me: “I can’t tell from that, but I always advise people to call the station when they hear the song so you can ask them what they just played.”

Customer: “Come on you have to know the song. It’s really popular!”

Me: “Sorry I don’t, but the radio station will be able to tell you.”

Customer: “Can you call the radio station for me and ask?”

Whaaaaat? Do you want me to sing that out-of-key snippet too? Come on people. Do your own homework. You heard the song, not me. Be a grown-up and ask yourself. Fortunately, record store kids probably don’t get this question anymore. Radio station websites list all their recently played music now.

Another real favourite: “Can you watch my kid for me while I go to Canadian Tire?”

Who the hell trusts a random record store guy to watch their kid? Bad parenting, people. Never ever do this.

One person asked for a list of everything he bought from us. What? We don’t keep that data. It would be something of an invasion of privacy if we did!

Another gentleman had an SACD (Super Audio CD) that he bought at our store, but was dissatisfied. When he played it at home, the little SACD logo on his player didn’t light up. Why? I don’t know. I’ve never owned any SACDs or any SACD players. But this guy was quite insistent. “I want you to write to Sony and find out why my player doesn’t light up when I play the Super Audio CD I bought here.”

I did not write to Sony and ask. I also couldn’t believe he’d ask me to do it.

One guy lost his entire CD collection. Whether it was in a fire or to theft, I cannot remember. He asked me to help with his insurance claim. He needed retail prices for all the CDs he lost, and he had an extensive list. I complied with his request because sometimes in the past, people would replace their CDs by buying them at my store. I once made a huge $1000 sale off an insurance claim. A lot of people liked coming to a used CD store to replace CDs because they’d get a lot more music for their money.

I went through his list and provided the best estimates for retail prices I could, which took a few days. I did this at home using my own bandwidth. There were some that were out of print that he wouldn’t be able to replace easily, but I got him most of the prices. We then discussed replacing them.

“I could probably get most of them for you used, for half the price, right away,” I told him.

“Oh, I don’t want used,” he demurred.

“That’s what we sell,” I explained, having already done all this work for him.

And I didn’t make a sale – not even one disc. Two days’ work and all wasted, because this guy didn’t bother to check what kind of store he walked in to. He took his insurance claim and went to Future Shop. I guess there’s a sucker born every minute and I was one.

Finally, there was one older gentleman who wasn’t a jerk. Yes, I only have one story about a guy who asked for a lot of help, who wasn’t a jerk.

The man walked in and asked if I could find a CD for him. It was a combo that he had seen play at a resort. If they had CDs for sale, he would like some. Most of the time it’s best to ask the band while you’re at the actual gig if they have merchandise for sale. He knew it wouldn’t be easy for me to find out, so he paid me for my legwork. He handed me a $20. I didn’t want to accept the money but he insisted. “Just let me know if you find anything,” he said, and I got to work.

I found the website for the hotel but there was not much there. I contacted them with as much information as I could provide, hoping at least to find out the name of the group. They never got back to me and I eventually gave up the search.

Yet that was the first customer who asked for a big favour and actually appreciated the effort. I won’t forget that. It’s too bad that there are jerks out there that treat retail employees like their own personal servants.

#640: Getting More Tale

GETTING MORE TALE #640: Getting More Tale

At the conclusion of Record Store Tales (Part 320) I remember thinking “That was fun but I could have written another 320 chapters about the shit that went down there.”

As the sequel series Getting More Tale evolved, I expanded and incorporated a lot of Record Store stories into it.  This allowed me to explore some backstory elements that I really should have included in the original Record Store Tales.  As time went on and I found my groove, Getting More Tale became a little bit less about music and retail, and a little bit more about me.  Thankfully you have hung on for the ride despite my indulgences.

Here we are at #640, the point at which Getting More Tale and Record Store Tales are of equal size.

It’s a potential crossroads.  Should I shut down Getting More Tale and that numbering system?  Music will remain the primary focus, but could the chapter numbers be a turn off to new readers?  Or do they entice people to go back?  Should I come up with a new name for this?  Getting More Tale became a catch-all for virtually anything I wrote that wasn’t a review.

I put it to you.  If you’ve been reading along, you know what I write.

Leave your comment below.

1. Should I shut down Getting More Tale & the numbering system and re-launch as something new?

2. No!  Keep everything the same and carry on.

 

#623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

GETTING MORE TALE #623: Rocking Around the Christmas Tree

Traditions change and evolve over the years as families do.  I have always been excited about Christmas, going back my youngest days.  I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  Killing the days before Christmas was agonizing.  I guess as kids we were a little spoiled.

Spoiled kids became spoiled teens.  As I got older, I stopped asking for toys for Christmas.  Music replaced them.  Most of the time, I would circle titles that I saw in print ads.  Stores like A&A Records and even the local Zellers had flyers with new releases and sale items.  I remember the winter of 1986, circling two:  Helix’s Long Way to Heaven, and Yngwie J. Malmsteen’s Trilogy.  I didn’t know much about Yngwie other than a few videos on TV.  I circled both and I received both, on cassette.  I recall listening to them on a pair of earphones at Grandma’s after Christmas dinner that year.

The following year, 1987, was the year of a couple pretty important albums.  That Christmas I received Def Leppard’s Hysteria, and Whitesnake’s 1987Hysteria quickly became the favourite.  Its impact was immediate and that cassette kept me entertained for years.  Whitesnake took more time to get into.  It didn’t help that the cassette had speed issues.  Similarly, the Helix and Yngwie tapes from the year before had the same drag problems that made them hard to listen to.  Because of this, many albums that originally had quality problems on tape releases, I didn’t warm up to for many many years.  It was hard to enjoy Whitesnake tunes like “Don’t Turn Away” when they were slow and warbly.

When I first began receiving tapes for Christmas, the mid-80s, we had a pretty routine Christmas schedule.  There was no variation from year to year.  We have a small family compared to others.  Our celebrations always began on the 24th.  My mom and dad would spend the morning preparing food and cleaning.  My sister and I would be pains in the asses.  Then my aunt and uncle from Stratford would come over around 2:00 and we’d exchange first gifts.  My aunt and uncle always brought fun gifts.  They would never, ever buy clothes for Christmas unless it was something we asked for.  No socks, no undies, no shirts, no pants.  Fun gifts only!  Sometimes guitar strings, games, and sheet music.  There would always be at least one tape for each of us.

After gifts were opened, my sister and I would go upstairs and play our new tapes.  Sometimes, we’d have something a little bigger:  a video tape.  In 1991, my aunt and uncle gave me Faith No More’s You Fat Bastards.  They had access to a cool store in Stratford that would special order anything.  As my needs evolved, my aunt and uncle would typically buy me hard-to-find items.  The Faith No More video was one such special order.  That year, I ran downstairs to the spare VCR and fired up the live video.  My other uncle came down to watch with me, but didn’t care too much for their cover of “War Pigs”.  Admittedly, it’s pretty different.

The traditions didn’t change much as we got older.  In the 90s, my buddy Peter would come over for Christmas Eve.  And, my sister discovered wine.  One of her rituals now is drinking her wine out of her special cup which we have dubbed the “Holy Grail”, due to its perceived similarity to the one that appeared in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.  Usually, before she takes a sip, I make her say the line, “It certainly is the cup of the King of Kings…”

Our Christmas Eve dinner, which is my favourite, has remained unchanged in over 30 years.  We do a beef, chicken and veggie fondue.  We’ve only had a couple of injuries over the years, but table cloths were frequently destroyed.  Today, my sister does the Christmas Eve entertaining, as my parents have retired from this duty.  She’ll always have some Christmas music playing, though not the kind I like.  We don’t run to listen to our gifts on headphones anymore.  We had to grow up, a little bit.

Christmas Day was also special for us.  When we were kids, I’d wake up my sister early in the morning to open presents.  Now, we put on our winter boats, coats and hats and drive over, and usually quite late in the morning.  More gifts are exchanged, and always more music.  It’s interesting to look at the kinds of albums I received then compared to now.   Back then, a multi-disc set was a big big deal.  Now, a three disc set can be as little as $30, the same price as a double live CD then.  I seem to get a lot of deluxe editions and box sets for Christmas now as if it’s no big deal!

My sister and I would exchange gifts, and we always got music for each other.  She was really good at filling in gaps of my collections.  Artists like Alice Cooper and Whitesnake had large discographies and I had very little.  She would look at my tape collection, go to the mall and pick up one of the many I was missing.  Whitesnake was an annual gift for several years in a row.  This was cool because it was always going to be something I didn’t expect, because my sister didn’t buy this off of some list I made.  It always came 100% from her own intuition.

After the parents’ house, we’re still not done.  Time to see Grandma!  She always makes me laugh.  One year she wrote inside a card, “You can use your Christmas money to buy a CD record.”  Aww!

There is one Christmas tradition that I don’t particularly enjoy, and it’s a more recent one.  We call it the $10 Gift Game.  Lots of families do the same thing.  Everybody buys a generic gift worth about $10, wraps it, and puts it on a table.  Then, everybody draws a number out of a hat.  #1 goes first by picking a gift off the table.  They then open that gift for everyone to get a look at.  #2 goes next.  #2 either picks a wrapped gift off the table, or steals the gift opened by #1.  If #2 chooses to steal, then #1 must open a new gift.  But #2 must remember, their gift can be stolen by #3, #4, #5, and so on.

Each round consists of the next number in line picking a gift from the table or stealing.  It gets quite tedious in our family, because my mother really likes to drag things out.  She will encourage people to steal, so that the victim must replace their gift by picking or stealing from someone else, and then the next victim must also replace their gift, and on and on each round goes.  At the end of the game people usually just end up swapping to get the gift most suited to their needs.  For example, my mother or sister always end up with the booze.  It’s harder to settle on who gets the chocolates.

One year, in protest of the game, my gift was a bag of unwrapped nickles and pennies adding up to exactly $10.*

Yes, I can be a Christmas grump sometimes.  As a non-drinking participant, sometimes things can get a little goofy for me.  Also, my dad’s level of interest in the game is so minimal that someone basically has to play for him while he does something else!  The game definitely has a short shelf-life for me.

We are a bit older today but still try to have fun with Christmas.  My sister and I will be giving music to each other, I’m sure, as we have done just about every single year for 30 years.  Usually, we will just sit around saying, “Remember that one Christmas when…?”

I sure do.  Here is a list of my Top Ten Most Fun Christmas Gifts of All Time.

1978 – Star Wars X-Wing Fighter

1979 – Star Wars Millenium Falcon

1983 – Star Wars Jabba the Hutt playset

1984 – GI Joe Killer W.H.A.L.E. Hovercraft

1985 – My first dual tape deck

1986 – GI Joe Cobra Terrordrome

1987 – The latest by Def Leppard, Whitesnake, Kiss and also Kim Mitchell’s Akimbo Alogo

1989 – My first CD player and my first CDs:  Motley Crue – Dr. Feelgood, Whitesnake – Snakebite and Alice Cooper – Trash.

1990 – Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin boxed set.

1993 – Led Zeppelin – Boxed Set 2

 

 

Merry Christmas one and all!

* I am told that due to inflation, the game is now the $15 Gift Game.

#620: The Retired Jedi Master (of Rock)

I call this picture “Flying Elbow Drop and a Schnauzer”

GETTING MORE TALE #620: The Retired Jedi Master (of Rock)

It is always sad when one of my old Jedi Masters of Rock loses their passion for it.

I think for Bob, that began when he entered college. While Bob taught me the ins and outs of Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, and Motley Crue, he was drifting away from heavy metal. There is nothing wrong with diversifying, but his passion for the heavier side of things was waning.

I remember in the summer of ’91 when Motley Crue released their awesome new groove-laden single, “Primal Scream”. I asked Bob if he liked it, and his response was that the new Motley was “too heavy”. My heart broke in two pieces that day. I was so excited about that track. Motley were doing exactly what I wanted them to do: turning it up and giving no fucks. Bob just wasn’t into that.

His tastes were changing. I think a big part of it was that the girls he liked at college weren’t into heavy metal. Bob was checking out more commercial sounds and ballads. One of his favourite groups was Frozen Ghost.  I also remember he was very much into Bad Company’s Holy Water. Meanwhile I was digging into the roots of metal and the bands of the future as well: from Deep Purple to I Mother Earth.  Our paths diverged.  I couldn’t be less interested in new Bad Company, but I was intent on collecting the entire Black Sabbath back catalogue.  It made me a little sad, but I’m not regretful about where my explorations took me over the years.

I think it can be summed up as below:

1. The girls we liked didn’t listen to metal.
2. Bob’s tastes diversified while he outgrew metal.
3. I doubled down on metal, going all in. The girls might not like metal, but maybe they’d appreciate my don’t-give-a-fuck attitude?

Bob’s method got him dates. My method did not! But my musical journey took me far and wide.  From the deep neon coloured oceans of Frank Zappa, to the craggy peaks of Mount Marillion, and back to the Valley of Judas Priest. As real life took over – job, wife, kids – Bob was no longer the music head that I was. He has always been a hard worker, and a family guy. My passion only grew deeper. The longer, heavier and more complex the tunes, the more interested I was in the band. I loved musicianship. Ballads were starting to sound the same to me, and there were some cool new sounds coming out of the woodwork.

Life took Bob and I in different directions. He met a lovely lady named Trish and now has four kids. I have none.  If I had four kids, would I still have time to invest in my passion, music? Bob’s kids keep him very busy, believe me!

Bob sold off his collection many years ago. He had some amazing Iron Maiden 12” singles and picture discs. I bought a few of his singles, but there was one tie-dyed bootleg picture disc EP that I would have loved to get my hands on. I couldn’t tell you anything about it today, except that it was Iron Maiden. He had to do what he had to do. It’s gone now and he has little recollection at all about it.  That information is sadly lost to me now.

Not every Jedi Master of Rock stays in the trenches forever. Some do, and end up writing about it on the internet. Bob may have retired his rock and roll shoes, but his influence lives on right here in these pages.  Thank you for your wisdom and friendship.