Part 284: The Impact of Movies

Welcome back to the Week of Rockin’ Movies.  Today I wanted to talk about my own movie collection, because pretty much the whole thing rocks.  If you missed a previous installment, click below!

MONDAY:  House of 1000 Corpses (2003)
TUESDAY: The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
WEDNESDAY: 2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 284:  The Impact of Movies

Way back, I discussed how the CD store began stocking used DVDs.  It was a slam dunk success, once the word got out.  When we had built up decent inventory,which took time, DVD sales really took off.  At first, our DVD purchases were slow.  Not enough people were selling them for us to have a large selection of movies.  In order to help maintain our stock, staff members were initially only allowed to buy one DVD per pay period.  That was to prevent us from taking all the good stuff (although some figured out ways around this if two must-haves arrived at the same time*).  Once inventory exploded, we had boxes and boxes of overstock.  We had to add a new center island to the store for the growing movie section.   Some days, we’d buy a hundred movies, but only a couple CDs.  How things had reversed!   We ended up with DVDs in our Bin O’ Bargains.  (It was in Joe‘s Bargain Bin that I acquired Incident At Loch Ness.)

This ushered in a whole new set of customers.  Now I had customers that weren’t interested in music at all.  Many people exclusively bought and sold DVDs.  I had some that were only interested in buying TV show seasons, which were expensive back then.  Now you can get a whole series for the price of what a season used to cost back then.


My friend and collaborator Aaron hasn’t had cable TV in a dog’s age.  Much like myself, he considers most of what’s on TV to be mindless, useless, and brain-rotting.  So he ditched his cable.

Meanwhile, I still had my cable, but my growing DVD collection was rendering it obsolete.  Once the restrictions were lifted on staff DVD purchases, my collection grew prodigiously.  I endeavored to collect complete filmographies from the directors that I liked.  I sought all the Kubricks, then everything by Sam Raimi, and Terry Gilliam.

Then one day in 2003, I decided to follow Aaron’s example.  If he could do it I could do it too, so I decided that I didn’t need the brain-rotting tube anymore.  I was hardly watching it anyway.  Rogers don’t like losing customers, the customer service rep asked me, “But what will you watch?” He didn’t get it.  I guess not too many people decide they’re not going to watch TV anymore, and this was long before Netflix.  Once I declined all his offers for deals and discounts, my cable was disconnected.

I lived happily without cable for five whole years.  Only my massive movie and music collection kept me company.  I enjoyed saving the money, and I continued to immerse myself in new movies all the time.  In fact, in the latter days of the record store, when I was miserable, I was more into movies than music.  Music didn’t bring me the joy it once had, it was a dark time for me.  That was when movies had their greatest impact on me.

Then I got a new job. Then I got married.  To a Maple Leafs fan.

One of the pre-conditions of marriage was that we were getting cable again.  Another pre-condition was that Mrs. LeBrain was to get the TV any time there was a hockey game on.  During hockey season, that’s three nights a week.  I didn’t realize that when the Leafs were (inevitably) knocked out of a playoff position, that Mrs. LeBrain was still going to watch hockey games right to the Stanley Cup.  I didn’t get that.  My movie watching time went down, and down, and down.  Eventually, I just gave up custody of the remote control.  I sat by as hockey and then reality TV sadly took over my screen.

I still have my movie collection, pared down a bit, to the 4 or 5 hundred that I love most.  I just wish I had more time to watch them!  Unfortunately, the Leafs are playing the Florida Panthers tonight.  Maybe I can schedule some movie time during the playoffs, since Toronto was eliminated last night.

* to be discussed in a future Record Store Tale…the story of Ivan.



REVIEW: KISS – The Ritz On Fire (2013)


KISS – The Ritz On Fire (2013 Gold Fish, recorded 1988)

This is hard to get. I got mine via eBay; Scott the Scot found his locally. Fandom went into panic mode when all Amazon pre-orders were abruptly cancelled. We all figured that Kiss’ lawyers stopped its release. It had still made it to the manufacturing stage, and enough copies have surfaced on the market that it is already a collectible that can be afforded.

If you love that poorly documented period that is late 80’s Kiss, you will love The Ritz On Fire. August 12, 1988, The Ritz, New York City. A radio broadcast, from the Crazy Nights tour. It’s not live album quality, but it’s a radio broadcast and therefore listenable. There are issues on some songs, such as “Love Gun” where Paul’s voice is too low in the mix while the drums remain more than audible. It’s such a joy to have a live recording with Eric Carr and Bruce Kulick that fans will be happy to overlook such defects.

It’s also cool to revisit some under-appreciated Kiss klassics: “Fits Like A Glove” from Lick It Up, “War Machine” from Creatures, and “Tears Are Falling” from Asylum are among the songs that are hard to find in live form. It’s also a pleasure to hear this lineup tackle Destroyer‘s “Shout It Out Loud” which was rarely performed back then.

MVP: No disprect to the late Eric Carr intended, but Bruce Kulick blows me away with his dexterity and diversity. His solos are highlights of every single song. He doesn’t emulate his predecessors, nor does he play inappropriately for the songs. Also worth mentioning is Paul Stanley. Once they get the vocal levels right, it’s a pleasure to hear Paul Stanley at his vocal peak singing live. The songs aren’t all downtuned like they are today, and some songs like “Crazy Crazy Nights” are really up there.

Eric Carr…he had his own style, and after hearing Eric Singer ably fill his shoes for so long now, we can be reminded how Eric Carr played them. He had his own signature drum rolls, and of course that unmistakable raspy voice on “Black Diamond”. Nobody was confusing Eric Carr with Peter Criss, on the drums or on the microphone; Eric’s rasp was completely different from Peter’s. He was almost a cross between Criss and Simmons.

Best of all, this is really live. We saw Kiss “singing” to backing tapes at Dodger Stadium on Saturday January 25 on national television. Meanwhile, Paul wasn’t actually singing anything at all. Not so on The Ritz On Fire. Yes, keyboardist Gary Corbett was backstage sweetening the sound and adding backing vocals, but they were live. The Ritz On Fire is all the stronger for it.

4.5/5 stars


More KISS at mikeladano.com:

Complete KISS reviews + Complete ACE FREHLEY reviews 

PETER CRISSCriss EP review + GENE SIMMONSAsshole review

Record Store Tales Part 3:  My First KISS + Part 8:  You Wanted the Best +
Part 77:  Psycho-Circus Part 151:  24kt KISS…cheap at twice the price +
Part 152:  Carnival of Lost Souls Part 173:  Gene Simmons’ Asylum Demos 
Part 179: Phantom of the Opera Part 241:  Halloween, KISS style!

Part 163: Hockey

Hockey season has begun!  Enjoy this Record Store Tale….


RECORD STORE TALES Part 163:  Hockey

The date:  May 14, 2004

The location:  My store

The characters:  Store employee Matt, and a really dumb kid who claimed to be 20 years old, selling used discs.

The NHL playoffs were in full swing.  Oftentimes, when you’re selling used CDs, it takes time to go through them all and assign values to them.  Customers like to make small talk during this time.  In Canada, small talk often amounts to hockey talk.  According to my journal, the conversation unfolded as below.

Dumb Kid Who Says He’s 20: “Who are you cheering for in hockey?”

Matt: “Calgary.”

DKWSH20: “Calgary? What for, why aren’t you cheering for someone Canadian?”

Matt: “Calgary IS in Canada.”

DKWSH20: “It is?”

Matt: “Yes.”

DKWSH20: “Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve looked at a map.”


September 7, 2012:  Once again, things are getting exciting on Planet Helix.  If the new single / video “All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup” wasn’t enough, there’s also the new anthology, Best Of 1983-2012.

Lead vocalist and founding member of Helix, Brian Vollmer talked to us about these releases, some special upcoming dates, and a lot more.

The new single seems to be off to a good start, according to the song’s co-writer, Sean Kelly.  Brian filled us in.

“Sean’s from North Bay [Ontario], and he told me we’re getting airplay up in North Bay on that song.”  The video is also doing well:  “We’re up over 5000 hits now, and we’re hoping that the video goes viral.  It’s early in the season…there might not even be an NHL season this year!”

Oh Brian, don’t get me started on Gary Bettman!

The collector in me was excited about the vinyl release of the single.  It’s also going to be on the anthology CD, but the vinyl is designed for collectors in mind.

“I had initially wanted to do vinyl on the Christmas album [A Heavy Mental Christmas], but when we wrote this song, I thought that we’d do vinyl because it’s a collector’s item.  It’s kind of a novelty type of thing, and I think that it’ll appeal to not only Helix fans but also Toronto Maple Leafs fans.  They might like the vinyl just to have in the rec room up in the bar.  We sell it for $19.99 so it makes a great stocking stuffer for people.

“We did it on green vinyl too, to fit in with the season somewhat, and when we go through that pressing we’ll probably change colours.”  Just FYI Brian:  my wife, Mrs. LeBrain, is really hoping for blue!

“We’ve been trying to write a Leafs song for a couple years,” adds Brian.  “We had the working title of ‘I’m Bleeding Blue & White Tonight’.  And we never quite got the song together.  And then we did a radio session, where we were finishing off [new song]  ‘Axe to Grind’, which is also on the anthology album.”  Brian was then supposed to meet up with Travis Wood, of the band Whosarmy (from the TV show Cover Me Canada, which Brian also guested on incidentally).

“I didn’t want to go too early, and just sit around at the restaraunt.  So we started fooling around and all of a sudden, within a couple of minutes we wrote ‘All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup’.  The song was recorded within two weeks.”  The hilarious video was done right after that.  I forgot to ask Brian if any Habs fans are offended!

All I Want For Christmas is the Leafs to Win the Cup

You can buy the single on the green vinyl in a bundle with a T-shirt and the new CD, Best Of 1983-2012.  “The Best Of album I just put out has a lot of tracks that you wouldn’t normally hear [on other best of albums] by Helix.  Stuff like ‘Animal Inside’ off the Vagabond Bones  album.  ‘Get Up’ and ‘Fill Your Head With Rock’ from The Power of Rock and Roll album.”

Coinciding with these releases is the forthcoming Heavy Mental Christmas tour.

“Yes, we just added another date in Cornwall.  We have seven dates, mostly through Masonic temples, legions, moose halls, through southern Ontario.  It’s a multi-media show.  We’re taking out screens, so there’s some video segues between songs, other times there’s still pictures with Christmas themes…some of the cameras that are places strategically around stage are broadcasting whatever member might be doing a solo during the song.”

You may want to consider getting your tickets now, as these shows are special indeed, and feature a new lineup.  Not only will you meet the new Helix guitarist, John Claus, but “also Sarah Smith.  Sarah Smith is a great London [Ontario] artist, she’s got two CDs out now under her belt, she’s a great addition to the show.  Just a smiling, very talented person.  She’s on with us instead of Kaleb [“Duckman” Duck, guitars].  Kaleb really didn’t want to do Christmas songs!  Initially, we were going to go with one guitar player, and then I thought of Sarah.”

This turned out to be a good decision, according to Brian:

“I always walk out of our Christmas practices with a big smile on my face.  I love playing the material, and it’s really fun with this group of people, to do these songs.  I wouldn’t want somebody to do any of my projects that wasn’t totally into it.

“It’s a labour of love.  We’ve been working on this show over a year now.”


“Setting up the website, and the tickets, and the halls, and putting together the show, learning the show, and getting the multi-media involved.”  But it is truly a labour of love, and you can tell by the amount of work that Brian and the band has put in so far.

I mentioned new guitar player John Claus.  As previously reported, longtime axeman Brent Doerner will be leaving Helix at the end of September 2012.  Brian helps shed some light on this lineup change, and what bringing in a new member does for the band.

“We have two more dates with Brent at the end of this month.  One’s at the Rockpile in Toronto, the other’s at the Masonic Temple in Stratford.  That’s a multi-media show as well.  Tickets are going fast for that one, I think a lot of people want to come and see Brent before he goes.

“Brent’s been in the band since about 1975.  No hard feelings with him leaving at all.  He just wants to pursue video production, and in fact, Brent will still be involved on a creative level  with the band, helping us do our videos.

“I tell everyone that Brent, when he initially came back to the fold, he was only going to be here for six months, and he ended up staying three and a half years!  He definitely was better than his word, and stayed for a long time.  So I’m really grateful to him for that.”

On John Claus, who will replace Brent:

“He plays piano and guitar.  He sings, so he’s a great addition to the band.  Nice guy, great personlity.  Whenever we hire new people in the band, we don’t want any ego trips.  So, to get someone who has a nice personality and just a good human being is a nice thing to have.”  John will join the band completed by longtime members Daryl Gray and Greg “Fritz” Hinz, on bass and drums respectively.

The piano aspect will come into play for future shows.  Brian reveals that he and John will probably perform “Dream On”, the Nazareth cover, from Helix’s Wild in the Streets album, as a duo during upcoming Helix concerts.  “And the Christmas shows, we’re doing ‘Hallelujah'” says Brian of another piano-based cover to look forward to!

It’s great to see Helix continue forward through the years.  Brian has worked hard, starting in the 1970’s as an indi artist, and now today continuing down that path.  Once again the band is behind their own music releases, selling it themselves.  Brian has nothing but praise for the team he’s surrounded himself with in recent years.

“I write with Sean [Kelly] nowadays, he’s a great writer, nice person to work with.  Aaron Murray is my producer, he studied from Danny Broadback, who won a Juno for Engineering.  And Danny studied with Jack Richardson, who as you know produced Alice Cooper and the Guess Who, and all sorts of people.”  Brian adds, “Moe Berg [The Pursuit of Happiness] sometimes comes in to write with us, Sean and I.”

Thanks to Brian Vollmer for updating us on all the new happenings on Planet Helix!  Try to get out to see the Heavy Mental Christmas tour, and get tickets while you can!

Upcoming dates:


Buy the new Helix single, album, and other stuff:


Audio of our chat below!