OCD

#477: “Holy sh*t, jackpot, holy sh*t, jackpot…”

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GETTING MORE TALE #477:  “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…”

Collectors know the feeling.  You walk into a store, and saunter over to a favourite section.  Upon spying a gold mine of things you had been looking for, the euphoric feeling hits you just a shot of adrenaline straight in the heart.

“Holy shit! Jackpot…”

Whether you collect music, movies, books, toys, hockey cards or Kiss stuff (they being a whole category of their own), we have all experienced the feelings.  Finding a mother lode of treasures can be such a ride of emotions!  The excitement when you see it all.  The dread when you feel your thin wallet.  The pain of picking out the things you can afford.  The second-guessing and flip-flopping over what to actually get.  The sorrow of having to choose something to leave behind.

This has been happening to me for decades.  Having broad tastes and interests plus a healthy case of OCD will do that to you.  Over 20 years ago, my love for my childhood favourites the Transformers was re-ignited by such a jackpot.  While browsing junk at a church garage sale with my buddy Peter, I ran into a large pile of Marvel Transformers comics.  Most of these were from near the end of the series (issues #50-80), and long after I stopped collecting Transformers.  I couldn’t just leave them there!  Who knows where they would wind up then?  I had to rescue them.

At 50 cents each, this hardly broke the bank, but all the same feelings arose:  The excitement upon spying these comics, the picking out of the ones I needed, the angst of leaving some behind (even though I didn’t really need them).  And it kick-started a stunted adulthood that quickly reverted back to youth, a place I’m still stuck today.

IMG_20160319_105213Today, whenever I spot a stack of Japanese imports at a store (as I did last month as Vertigo Records in Ottawa), the adrenaline hits.

If I spy a pile of 90’s Metallica singles, the same thing happens.

A collection of rare 80’s Canadian metal records?  Same thing again.

But I still collect toys and comics too, and this same experience just happened to me at a local Walmart store.

The Star Wars Black Series 6” action figures have been hard to find.  There are always “shelf warmer” characters that nobody wants, and in 2015 that was poor Finn.  Other figures have been impossible to spot at retail.  Whenever a shipment arrives, people snap them all up and often end up re-selling them on eBay for more than double what they’re worth.  It’s not cool but that’s what happens.  I’m sure the store staff know all the eBayers  by heart, because they the know when the shipments arrive and are there when the store opens.

Cases are also “short-packed”, meaning a box of eight figures might have three Finns, but only one Kylo Ren.

A couple weeks ago, I was at a small Walmart store at Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener.  Interestingly enough, this is the same mall at which the very first Record Store in the chain that I worked opened.  My dad worked at that mall (at a bank), and I worked there twice (at a grocery store and finally at the Record Store).  It’s a pretty shitty mall and the shittiest Walmart around, but sometimes you can find real treasures at the out-of-the-way ones.

Even though this is a sucky Walmart, I still found a Star Wars 6” New Order Flametrooper there a few weeks earlier, so I knew that figures could be had there.  What I did not expect this time were FOUR more figures I needed, and some of the hardest to get:  “Old” Han (the most popular), Captain Phasma (very hard to find), Jango Fett with removable helmet and jetpack, and Finn in Stormtrooper gear!  Most of these are going for stupid money online, so to find them in store was quite an exciting surprise.

I frantically sifted through the row of figures, animatedly pulling out all the ones I needed, and singing out loud “Holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot, holy shit, jackpot…

That’s when I noticed the stock guy staring at me.  I spied several boxes of figures that he was unloading and opening.  Did he figure me to be one of the eBayers?  Maybe, maybe not, but I then saw two more employees stocking the toy shelves, giving me glances.  I’m sure they all heard my “Holy shit, jackpot” song and dance.   I smiled and ran away.

That haul cost me $100, but it was worth it!  And I still love the rush of discovery.

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#462: The Deep Purple Project

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GETTING MORE TALE #462: The Deep Purple Project

If loyal readers know one thing about LeBrain, it is that he owns a lot of CDs.

A LOT.

I haven’t done a count in ages and I’m giving up on keeping track of these things.  I estimate over 3000 CDs are in inventory currently.  Add to that a few hundred tapes, LPs, DVDs and other miscellaneous musical formats.

For Christmas this year, I received a number of Deep Purple releases.  Some of these releases would presumably replace older Deep Purple discs in my collection.  For example, I expected the 5 CD box set Hard Road 1968-1969 to replace the first three Purple albums in my collection, and I could retire those discs permanently.  This was not the case.  I began checking, track by track, and it turns out the individual CD versions have tracks that are not on the Hard Road box set.  “Hush” live from US TV is one such track.  There are also BBC Top Gear sessions on the remastered CDs that are not on Hard Road, but I believe all of these are duplicated on yet another Deep Purple CD, BBC Sessions 1968-1970.  On top of all that, there is another CD called The Early Years that covers the same ground, but it too has one exclusive track on it.  That is an alternate take of “Kentucky Woman” that I don’t have elsewhere.  This is crazy!  How can anyone keep track of it all?

I’ve been ripping all the CDs in my collection to the computer in bits and pieces for a couple years.  It didn’t have much rhyme or reason.  If I wanted to listen to something, I ripped it at that time.  If it was a new arrival, I’d rip it to PC on first listen.  This Deep Purple situation got me to go over my entire Purple collection, looking for duplicates and redundant releases.  (I didn’t find any.)   This in turn prompted me to get the rest of my Purple albums ripped and digitized for good.  This has turned out to be a monumental task.

My Deep Purple folder had 74 sub-folders in it, each one an album or a disc from one.  That’s a lot of Purple.  So how many did I have still to rip?

At first count, it was 64 more discs.  That includes 12 discs from a box set called The Soundboard Series (the second of two 12 disc live Purple box sets I have!).  It includes all the multi-disc sets I got for Christmas.  With the exception of the Hard Road box set, these are all live discs, and all official releases!  Then, I had to adjust my count.  I found two more box sets tucked away (as box sets sometimes are, due to their odd shapes):  On Tour MCMXCIII (4 discs), and Live Encounters (2 CDs, plus 2 DVDs too).  Last week, a double live from Japan arrived at LeBrain HQ, called Live in Verona.  Up that count to 72 more discs.  So far, I’ve ripped 25 of them.

This isn’t even all the Deep Purple I have left un-ripped.  I have some things that I don’t particularly need to listen to.  The 3 CD Live in Japan was a great package for its time.  It contained a remixed and expanded version of Made in Japan.  While I always want a unique official remix in my collection, just to have it, I don’t need to listen to it since it has been usurped by the remixed (again) 4 CD deluxe Made in Japan.  Who cares about a remix they did in ’93?  Obviously I only care enough to keep it (for “completion”), not to play it.  There are more like that, such as an earlier mix of California Jam that has since been replaced by a better, more complete version.

Now that you have a glimpse at what Obsessive Compulsive Disorder looks like up close, I’m sure you have one specific question.

“How many versions of ‘Smoke on the Water’ are there?”  Well, it appears that I have 63 versions on CD.  63. Different. Versions. Of.  “Smoke on the Water”.  By Deep Purple.  None of these are covers by other bands.

This, folks, is a shat-ton of Deep Purple!  Won’t you join me each day this week for some live Purple action?

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#354: Packaging & Cellophane

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#354: Packaging & Cellophane

As I sit here finally ripping the cellophane off some of the discs I received for Christmas, a pile of discarded shrink wrap sits before me.  I find the plastic waste problematic, but I also recognize that in today’s consumer market, you have to present your product as “brand new” or “untouched by human hands” in some way.  So they seal up every CD and DVD, ensuring that nobody got their sticky hands on the playing surface of your disc.  As an added bonus the shrink wrap protects the CD or DVD case, meaning you and only you can scuff it up yourself.

IMG_20150102_094208Part of me hates waste.  The other part (the OCD part) really enjoys ripping the shrink wrap off a brand new CD and knowing that its appearance is perfect inside.  Only I can mark it up, now.  Same goes with toys, appliances, tools…we all want everything to be brand-spanking-new when we open them, when possible.  We want to be the ones to rip the protective plastic film off that new TV.  We want to be the ones who carefully remove our new laptops from the layers of packaging protecting them.

This seems to be especially important when giving gifts.  When you’re giving something to a loved one, you want everything about it to be perfect as possible, from the box to the product, right?  In cases like this, we tend to look at the layers of wasteful packaging as a necessary evil.  You probably recycle and re-use as much as possible, but we all throw a whole lot of packaging straight into the garbage bin whenever we open something new.

IMG_20150102_094112I’ll give you an example from the Record Store days, just how some people value packaging over waste when gift giving.  We used to offer a shrink wrap service.  I don’t remember what we charged.  If you wanted to buy a used CD and shrink wrap it in order to hide the fact that you were buying a used CD, we’d do it for 25 cents or 75 cents or something.  It might shock you how many times I heard variations of the question, “This is a gift.  Can you shrink wrap it for me?”

“Is there a way to put plastic on this so he doesn’t know it’s a used CD?”

“I don’t want her to know this is used.  Do you have a shrink wrapping machine or something like that?”

And so on and so forth.  There was a demand (clearly) so we offered it.

I found a better use for the shrink wrap machine.  When I happened upon a rare digipack version of a CD, or something with fragile packaging, I would reseal it, to protect it.  You’d be amazed how much you can wreck a CD case just from normal shelf wear.  If it’s something which has value in its packaging, then you want to prevent that.  I had (and later sold at a profit) a rare copy of The Black Crowes’ Amorica album.  This had the “x-rated” cover on a good condition digipack.  To prevent it from getting scuffed or damaged and losing value, I resealed it.   When I later got the Sho’ Nuff box set, I sold it for like $20.

IMG_20150102_093955You know those burgundy and yellow jewel cases that came with Kiss’ You Wanted the Best, You Got the Best CD?  Another prime candidate for resealing (though you will still have to be careful you don’t crack the plastic)!

Some of my co-workers were known to reseal their hands.  I do not know why.  I did not partake in that ritual.

My quandary can be summed up as this:  I like packaging to a certain degree.  I hate the waste aspect of it, and the environmental impact.  In my own life I try to reduce waste as much as possible.  But I can’t get around my preference to tear open the shrink wrap on a brand new virgin CD and be the first to touch it with bare hands.

What is the compromise?  I don’t know.

I don’t think there is a compromise.  I don’t think wasteful packaging is a sustainable practice.  I think, sooner or later, we all are going to have to get used to shedding layers of waste in our future.

Part 290: The Vacuum Conflict

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 290:  The Vacuum Conflict

You’re always going to get conflict in any work place, and a CD store is no different.  Back in the early days we hired this kid named DJ Donnie D.  He was a regular customer that was well liked, so the boss gave him a chance.

Donnie was a good kid, a bit of a neat-freak perhaps, but that’s not a bad kind of person to have around a store.  As we expanded, we hired another new kid named Jason.  Donnie and Jason did not really get along all that well.  Donnie was often criticizing Jason’s musical selections and work habits.  He thought Jason was lazy, often leaving work undone for someone else to finish.  Donnie seemed to develop a bit of a personal grudge because he always made sure the store was left as he found it:  Clean, things put away, not left out for others to tidy up.

What really chapped Donnie’s ass was that Jason didn’t like to vacuum.   We had to vacuum before closing every night and Donnie was certain that Jason didn’t do it when he was closing.  Jason said he did of course but Donnie had his doubts and took it upon himself to prove he was right.

Taking matters into his own hands, Donnie set an elaborate snare for Jason.

We stored our vacuum cleaner in a cabinet underneath the Classical section.  Before Jason’s shift, Donnie tied a hair to the door of the cabinet.  If Jason opened the door, it would break.  If he did not, the hair would be intact the following morning, thus proving that Jason was averse to vacuuming.

I know you’re dying to know what happens next.  I’ll drag this out a little longer.

Donnie really did take this kind of thing really seriously.  I can’t say anything bad about Donnie, I think he always had good intentions.  For example, his neatness obsession extended to painting the bathroom in our brand new store one night.  He wasn’t told to paint it, he just decided to make it look nice.  I came in one morning to find it neat & tidy, and painted from floor to ceiling!  The bathroom also doubled as a storage room.  He had organized all the supplies and tools, marking their new storage places.  He had even drawn the outline of a hammer and labelled the spot “HAMMER”.  Same with “SHOVEL”; it too had an outline of a shovel where it was to be hung.  The boss flipped on him, but Donnie meant well.  That’s just how he was.

So what about the vacuum cleaner?

The hair was intact, unbroken.  Jason said that he vacuumed that night, but he obviously had not.  Busted!

 

Part 206: Rock Video Night!

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 206:  Rock Video Night!

Last time on Record Store Tales, we talked about Andy and Ashleigh and the discovery of great rock bands such as Rush, Max Webster, and Van Halen.  Andy was even more curious now about what great rock was out there.

Rock music is about so much more than just the songs.  There’s the concerts, the live experience.  There’s the history of the bands, the stories and the context.  And there were the music videos.  How could one possibly talk about a great band like Van Halen without mentioning groundbreaking, defining music videos that they made?  Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I decided the best way to explain these things was to have a Rock Video Night at my place.

90% of my video collection was from the Pepsi Power Hour.  Back in the days before YouTube, a channel like MuchMusic would have an hour or two a week devoted to the heaviest videos in rock, and I tried to record the show every week.  I had amassed a large collection of VHS tapes, probably about 120 hours of music videos, interviews and concerts altogether.  That’s not including the hundred or so officially released video tapes that I bought over the years.  We had a lot to watch so I had to hone down the set list for the evening.

Since I am and always have been OCD about my music collection, I had a meticulously typed list of every track on every video that I made.  I carefully planned the evening’s entertainment.  There were some videos that I know these kids had to see.  They were all one musical generation younger than me.  They grew up on videos like “Jeremy” and “Fell on Black Days”, not “Jump” or “Go For Soda”.  I had to make them understand my time, when it was OK to have sword fights and dwarves and laser guns in your videos.

Ash and Andy arrived along with my other employees Braddy D and Chris P.  The set of videos that I chose to share with them that evening included:

SAVATAGE – “Hall of the Mountain King”.  Summary:  Dwarf seeks Mountain King’s gold.  Must try to steal it without waking him, while band is playing in the same caverns.  Not sure why the King doesn’t hear Jon Oliva singing.  (below)

VAN HALEN – “Oh Pretty Woman”.  Summary:  Lady in distress has been kidnapped by two dwarves.  A hunchback in a treehouse (David Lee Roth) telephones a samurai (Michael Anthony), Tarzan (Alex Van Halen),  a cowboy (Eddie Van Halen), and Napoleon Bonaparte (David Lee Roth) to save her.  (below)

ARMORED SAINT – “Can U Deliver”. Summary:  Band driving a Buick with armor and an anti-aircraft cannon seek a glowy sword.  Band plays concert in front of rocker dudes and scantily clad babes while wearing leather armor.  (below)

GRIM REAPER – “Fear No Evil”.  Summary:  Band drive a DIY armored APC on a quest to free long-haired slaves from an evil half-man half-something with Wolverine claws. (below)

MIKE LADANO, BOB SCHIPPER and DAVE KIDD – “Nothing But A Good Time”.  Summary:  A highschool video I made, lip synching to “Nothing But A Good Time” by Poison.  We had our English teacher do the schtick at the beginning where he plays the prick boss who gives the kid a hard time before the song comes on.  We made it in ’89 and it was our school’s selection to send to the annual regional Film Awards! (no video until I get a USB VCR!)

Rock Video Night was a great success in many regards.  The kids had a great time finally seeing David Lee Roth doing the splits in “Jump”.  Ash was still not won over by the rock, but that’s OK.  What wasn’t OK is that I had really sour stomach issues that night!  I tried so hard to be a good host, and I kept excusing myself, but…they tell me the smell was wafting down from the upstairs bathroom.

So, Rock Video Night ended on a rather stinky note.

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

Make ’em say uhhh!

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Live & Rare (2005)

Part 1 of my 2-part review of the Quiet Riot Twin Pack set.  Twin Pack bundled the band’s final two releases before DuBrow’s untimely death:  a retro live album, and the final studio album, Rehab.

QUIET RIOT – Live & Rare (2005 Demolition)

I will tell you right off the bat, the only reason to own Live & Rare by Quiet Riot is if you are like me (obsessive collector), and must own everything. That’s it. There are no other reasons. This is a terrible, terrible CD. Awful. It is so cheaply and carelessly put together that it truly is the definition of “cash grab”.

The original pressing of this CD had a major flaw, a 2 second gap between the songs.  This amateur mistake caused the audience noise to cut out and then start again in a way that was just jarring and unpleasant. They partially fixed the problem on my second printing…but only partially. The 2 second gap is gone, but it is replaced by a quick split-second pause — think about the way a live album sounds when you play it on an mp3 player. It’s not nearly as bad as the 2 second gaps, and it makes the album so much more listenable.   At the end, the live portion doesn’t even finish with a fade-out.  Just an amateur abrupt silence.  Lastly, the three demo tracks at the end aren’t even listed in the correct order on the CD sleeve.  I have a hard time imagining how these flaws made it past quality control — twice!!

I can remove the gaps using Audacity, and re-burn the thing using Nero, but really what’s the point?  If the album was decent, it might be worth the effort.  Unfortunately, Live & Rare is pretty poor.  You wouldn’t expect this to be the case upon reading the track list.  Live performances from the 1983 Metal Health and 1984 Condition Critical tours, the golden years with the classic lineup.  Throw on three bonus tracks from the 1981 DuBrow demo and it should be a pretty satisfying listen, gaps or no gaps.

Musically the songs are fine, but the recordings are terrible! Basically this sounds like a bootleg, and I have heard far better bootlegs.  I’ve heard audience bootlegs that were better quality than Live & Rare.  It’s nice that there are some rarely played tracks on here (“Gonna Have a Riot” and “Danger Zone”) plus a drum solo, but otherwise the CD is close to unlistenable. What’s the point of a drum solo if it sounds this terrible?  The only, and I mean only, saving grace on this CD are the three unreleased DuBrow demos. They date from a time when Quiet Riot was actually broken up, and Kevin was  recording under the name DuBrow. Banali was a part of the DuBrow lineup. They were eventually renamed Quiet Riot and they recorded Metal Health and made metal history. These demo tracks are historically significant to fans, and it’s nice to finally have them.

Buyer beware. I was not at all impressed with this CD, and I think Quiet Riot should have been embarrassed to release it. The liner notes state that it was “produced and mixed by Neil Citron and Frankie Banali”. I wonder exactly what they did to produce and mix it. I speculate that they adjusted some levels on a home PC and burned a copy to CD…without removing the 2 second gaps! Not very pro at all.

1/5 stars

Part 186: The Van Halen Tin

RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin

March 17, 1998.  The wait was over – Van Halen 3 was out!

Van Halen’s 3 was kind of like The Phantom Menace for me:  I was really excited about it, so much that it clouded my judgement of the music.  I wanted new Van Halen so bad I would have taken just about anything I guess.  Just like I would take Phantom Menace the following year.  T-Rev, always the level-headed one, questioned whether I was enjoying the album more simply because of the absurd money that I had paid for it.

I paid $45 for the “collector’s tin”.  I was hoping for bonus tracks, but there was nothing like that.  A pick, a tin, some paper stuff, a sticker.  It was still pretty cool to look at, and collectible.

I was living with T-Rev at the time.  I was and still am very “OCD” about my CD collection.  I don’t lend discs out anymore for example.  Back then and today I am very fussy about the condition of the album.

A day or two after Van Halen came out, our buddy Neil came by to play N64 and have a beer.  I was working the night shift that night, so I didn’t get in until after 9.  When I came in, I played some N64 with Neil and headed off to bed.

The next day I woke up and wanted to play the new Van Halen.  I grabbed it off my CD tower, and noticed something…not right.  A fingerprint!  On the tin!  I could see it!  But it wasn’t mine!  Before I filed it, I distinctly remember wiping the tin.  It had no fingerprints!

When T-Rev got up I asked him, “Hey, I know you wouldn’t have done it, you know me too well, but did Neil happen to look at my Van Halen 3 yesterday?”

T-Rev grinned and asked how I knew.  I explained the fingerprint.

“The funny thing,” said T-Rev, “is that I told Neil you were going to notice if he touched it!  He didn’t believe me!”

Trevor assured me that Neil was very careful with it, and didn’t touch the CD itself, etc. etc.  We couldn’t help laughing at the fact that I did notice.  That’s the OCD!  I had a lot invested in that Van Halen disc, emotionally and monetarily.

Listening to it today with fresh ears, it’s not the disaster that some (cough cough Craig Fee cough) think it is.  But it’s certainly not worthy of the praise that I gave it back in ’98.  If it were an Extreme album, it wouldn’t be the best Extreme album.  As a Van Halen album, well…

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…A Day In the Life (VIDEO BLOG!)