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REVIEW: Psycho Circus – Psycho Circus (1992 cassette)

PSYCHO CIRCUS – Psycho Circus (1992 indi cassette EP)

Psycho Circus put out their one and only album in 1993.  They were a talented band who avoided grunge cliches and instead dove into funk-metal and a darker Faith No More sound circa The Real Thing.  The album was split down the middle between the two sides.  Decades later I found an earlier indi cassette, released after they signed with SRO Management, the team behind Rush.

It’s quite clear this band had musical chops.  Opening track “Picky Purple People” is killer.  Faux-horns, massive bass and busy drums are relentless.  This is a goofier side of the band, but well executed.  If the Chili Peppers and Faith No More had a baby, it would sound like “Picky Purple People”.  Next is “Funk in Our Souls”, a track that was re-recorded for the album later.  The cassette version sounds more bass heavy.  It’s more enjoyable for that reason, not to mention the smoking guitar solo.  “Can You Feel It?” was also re-recorded for the album, but this is one of those darker songs that eschew the funk.  Singer Vince Franchi hits unreal notes.  His voice is versatile.  It’s Faith No More without the twisted mind.

The final track didn’t make it onto the CD.  “Psycho Circus” opens with traditional circus music, a full six years before Kiss did the same thing with their own song called “Psycho Circus”.  Maybe they should try suing Kiss?  It would be fun to see!  That’s the only similarity.  This is another funky track, and though the circus music is a bit silly, the chorus rocks.

The tape comes with a nice J-card and full lyrics.  In a way it’s a better listen than the album.  It doesn’t have as many great songs, but it also has less filler.

3/5 stars

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REVIEW: The Candidates – Who’s Your Daddy Now? (1998 EP)

THE CANDIDATES – Who’s Your Daddy Now?  (1998 EP)

When the Candidates burst onto the local rock scene in the late 90s, I was on board from the get-go.  The Candidates were one of the “Record Store Bands” I wrote about in Record Store Tales Part 40.  They were the product of a former band, The Mighty Fisherman, who put out an actual CD album.  Members of that band formed the Candidates – great guys who made great music.  I don’t use the word “great” lightly.  All four songs on their debut EP (never released to the public) are as good as anything on a major label at the time.  When the guys recorded this EP, they loaned it out to various friends, and so I made my own copy.  (My own liner notes, too!)

I always felt the Candidates had a sound not unlike Sloan, The Who, and the Jam rolled into one.  (Maybe even a hint of Kiss; check out the slow-down ending to “Cash Money”.) The point is: they rocked.  It was rock and roll, nothing but.  No ballads, no fluff, no solos.  Great lyrics, solid riffs and rolling bass lines out the wazoo.  The whole thing is over n’ out in under 12 minutes.

First up, “You’re All Heart”, the song with the most pop in its melody, and a little twang in the six-strings.  The handclaps are a nice touch, as are the rolling thunder drum fills.  Tambourine is thrown in for good measure on “Good to Go”, a song defined by its catchy bassline.  I always liked the line, “There’s nothin’ on the walls, and woo!  There’s nothing on…”  The beat just kills.  “So leave your boyfriend at home, and come hit the town with me.”  It’s the kind of tune that, in our early 20s, was a bit of an anthem.  More handclaps!

Things start to slam heavier on “Cash Money”; a banger of a riff.  “Got my good-to-go boots and I’m gone.”  They don’t come any more rock and roll than “Cash Money”.  Although, as a younger man, I identified most with “Barely Bruised”.  It seems I was constantly having bad luck with the ladies.  I really liked the lines, “I’ve been beaten but I’m barely bruised, I’m lost but I cannot lose.”  I liked the idea of being knocked down and getting back up for more, never giving up.  The band dedicated this one to me in concert one time, and I’ll tell ya, it made my night.  The song itself is a battery of broadsides, so put your dukes up.

Since this EP was never sold, and you’ll never hear it, reviewing it is rather strange and maybe pointless. Eventually, somebody somewhere will google this band, and smile when they read these words.  I just had to tell you about these guys.

5/5 stars

Have a look at my humorous liner notes.  I also stole a setlist from an unknown gig!

#714: Born Again

GETTING MORE TALE #714: Born Again

They probably thought I was going to hell the day I showed up on the first day of school in that Judas Priest T-shirt.  Mrs. Powers was a devout Catholic, with a judgey side to go with it.  She enjoyed publicly humiliating her “misbehaved” students.  I can only imagine what she really thought.  Here was her “A” student, and over summer holidays, he’s got himself a T-shirt that says “Judas Priest” on it.  He’s drawing pictures of guitars in art and doing his class speech on a band called Kiss.  What the devil is with that Ladano kid?

If Catholic school was ever too sedate or solemn, this was magnified 100-fold in the lenses of the 8th grade.

It was the year you made the choice of which highschool to go to.  You’d undergo the Sacrament of Confirmation.  It was their last chance to make sure you didn’t go off the rails and do something stupid, like do drugs or leave the church!

There was a weeklong Catholic retreat to an old convent in Ancaster called Mount Mary.  “Every student I ever had who did not go to Mount Mary grew up to do drugs, or killed themselves,” said Mrs. Powers.  Holy shit!  I didn’t want to be there and it was obvious.  It was the middle of winter and every day had extensive outdoor activities, but worse, you were not allowed to bring any of your music.  No Walkmans, no tapes.  There was a radio tuned to an approved radio station in one of the activity rooms.  I didn’t know what to do, so before we left, I listened to and memorised as many Kiss songs as I could.  Double Platinum worked for my last minute Kiss cramming session.  The song I was most successful with was “Love Gun”.  I had just received a taped copy of The Elder but did not have time to investigate it much.  I had to go to Mount Mary instead.  This intrusion into the wants and desires of my musical passions kind of pissed me off.  I had to wait a week to get into The Elder.  Stupid retreat.  I was so scared of being caught with any contraband that I flushed my candy before getting on the bus.  Humming “Love Gun” in my head, we were off.

Mount Mary conjures up some real discomfort.  They were trying to teach you to be open minded about it but all I can really recall are negative feelings, and some disgusting hot chocolate.  I was isolated from everything I loved and stuck with a bunch of people who I didn’t particularly like, and felt the same towards me.  I knew this because we had to form circles and tell everybody something we liked about them.  Nobody seemed to know much about me at all.  “You like Star Wars, uhhh…and I don’t, but that’s cool.” was the most memorable.

There was a day spent outside in the snow as “hunters” and “hunted”.  I don’t remember the moral of this activity.  The hunters had wooden sticks as rifles, and my bully Steve Hartman was one of them.  The role playing had a bizarre shade of reality.  There were no explanations to us as to why people were selected for their roles.  The hunted were supposed to find some specially marked trees, but I spent most of the time just hiding in the woods from hunters and teachers alike.  There was another day including a long hike up something called “Agony Hill”.

The day we were released from Mount Mary and sent home was cold and wet.  The snow was melting, but it was just dirty slush.  My parents were supposed to pick me up when the busses arrived at the school, but I didn’t see them and vice versa, so lugged a giant heavy suitcase home through the snow.  At least when I got there, a brand new Marvel Transformers comic was waiting for me with my mail in the kitchen.  #17, “The Smelting Pool”, considered one of the best of the series.

“Well that’s over,” I said to myself.  “Now I just have to get through the rest of this school year and it’s freedom.”

That teacher just had a bad impression of me.  There was the rock and roll devilry which seemed to bring humiliating public interrogation.

“How many of you went to church this past Sunday?” she questioned the class.  “Put up your hands.”  She was determined to find out just how devout our behaviour was.  No excuses.

About half the class raised their hands.

“How many of you were there last week?”  A few more hands went up.

“And the week before?”  A couple more.  “How many have been to church in the last month?”  She noticed me, and I noticed her.  My hands were in my laps.

“MICHAEL.”  Radar locked.

“WHEN WAS THE LAST TIME YOU WENT TO CHURCH?” she boomed.

My sister dubbed it “The Hell Hole”.  The school and church are right across from each other

It had been a couple years.  Powers had her “no excuses permitted” policy regarding going to church, so I didn’t even try to explain.  (Essentially her policy was:  You are old enough to go to church on your own now, so don’t tell me your mom was sick.)  I just endured the firepower of Mrs. Powers.  What else could she do; send a note home to my parents?  If I wasn’t going to church, chances are they weren’t either.  And there was a reason for that.

It was an Easter service a couple years prior.  Good Friday mass, very busy, and the church was packed.  My dad always liked to get an aisle seat so that’s what he did on Good Friday.  That was his mistake.

My sister and I had better instincts.  We preferred to hide somewhere in the middle of the pews.  Do you know what our least favourite part of service was?  The part where you have to shake hands and greet your neighbours.  We were shy and would rather not, so we just turned to face each other.  We’d shake hands and say, “Hello sir how are you today?”  “Oh, I’m good sir and how are you?”  We’d do this for as long as we could credibly ignore the adults around us trying to shake our child hands.

On Good Friday we tucked in down the pew while dad sat on the aisle, when the Priest announced that for this special service, volunteers would come and wash your feet if you were sitting on the aisle.  John 13:34:  “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.”  My dad has a hard time saying no.  He kicked off his shoes and socks and politely pretended not to be hating every second.  And the family simply stopped going to church after this.  Coincidence?

Mrs. Powers, you can judge all you like.  Maybe my dad was sick of church and I was sick of your shitty school.

One of the heavy metal albums from my childhood that reminds me most of that period is Born Again, by Black Sabbath.  Boy, Powers sure would have hated those lyrics. “Good life is contradiction, because of crucifixion.” You can only imagine, if she knew what was I was hearing!

The devil and the priest can’t exist if one goes away,
It’s just like the battle of the sun and the moon and the night and day,
Force of the devil, that’s what we’re all told to fear,
Watch out for religion when he gets too near, too near….

Of course Ian Gillan isn’t a satanist; he’s just a singer!  But those lyrics would have set her head on fire, if the album cover didn’t do that first.  Do we mind “Disturbing the Priest”?  The truth is, the words were inspired by the rehearsal sessions for the album.  They were receiving noise complaints from the local church.  Do we mind “Distrurbing the Priest”?  “Not at all, not at all, not in the least.”  Once you know the genesis of the song, the lyrics fall into place.  Not exactly Catholic-friendly, but certainly not evil.

Evil-sounding though?  Absolutely.  Born Again might be the most traditionally evil sounding metal album in the history of the genre.  That’s why the original mix is so important even though it sounds like the refuse of the Golgothan excremental demon.  The lack of clarity, the muddy haze, and the echoing bottomlessness of it just add to the mystique.  You should not be able to clearly hear what the singer is saying.  It should remind of you a bad hazy dream.  Hell, it’s not the lyrics that make it evil; it’s Geezer’s fuzzy bass!

This article was produced after discussions with friends and acquaintances from different faiths and backgrounds.  Some had similar experiences.  Some are still dealing with residual Catholic guilt.  We were talking old church stories, and all this stuff came flooding back.  The sitting, the kneeling, the hand-shaking…my sister and I singing “Stars” by Hear N’ Aid instead of the hymns…the good and the bad.

One of the school bully kids was killed four years after Mount Mary, riding his motorcycle to work.  I morbidly wondered what Powers thought of that; he went to Mount Mary yet he was on her dead roster.  Would she add that detail for next year’s class?

It’s obvious I still hold a lot of resentment to those school years.  I wonder if that’s why I have such a strong attachment to the heavy metal music of the era.  Let the psychoanalysis begin!

#683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

GETTING MORE TALE #683: I (Don’t) Wanna Be Elected

It’s election season again!  The climate today is nastier than ever, even here in Ontario, Canada.  We don’t have Trump, but we do have something called Doug Ford.  The last name should be familiar to you.  He’s the brother of the late crackhead Toronto mayor Rob Ford. Remember that guy?

The important thing is getting out to the polls and having your say.  If you do not vote, then I don’t want to hear a peep outta you later on.  Not a peep.

Voting is paramount, but unlike Alice Cooper, I do not want to be elected.  I can’t imagine what it’s like to put your name out there, only to have the media dig for all your old skeletons.  We’re seeing candidates apologizing for things they said and did a decade ago.  At least the media wouldn’t have to dig far for my dirt.  One look at Record Store Tales Part 7: A Shitty Story, and they’d hang me out to dry with the laundry.

No thanks!

Some rock stars have thrown their hats in this brutal ring.  Kid Rock has recently floated the idea.  We’ll see if he ever puts his money where his mouth is.  Not all who tried can rely on their fame for an easy win.

Nirvana’s Krist Novoselic gave elections a shot in 2009.  He didn’t win, but he did run for Wahkiakum County Clerk to make a point.  The state of Washington’s laws allow you to run for office for any political party — even fictional ones.  Krist made one up and ran.  We hope being in Nirvana was good enough for the bassist.

Wyclef Jean wanted to run for President of Haiti in 2010, but wasn’t taken seriously because he doesn’t live there or speak the local languages well enough.  He put in the paperwork, but did not qualify.  A former American Idol, Clay Aiken, got a little further.  Aiken ran for congress in North Carolina.  He won the Democratic primary by a hair with 40% of the vote, but did not win the seat.  Can’t fault the guy for trying.  It takes guts!

Yet, there are a handful of success stories.

In 2005, Martha Reeves (of the Vandellas) ran for and won a seat on Detroit’s city council. Jon Fishman of Phish got himself elected to city council of Lincolnville, Maine, making him perhaps the only rock drummer ever to win an election.

The most successful musician turned politician in history would have to be Sonny Bono, hands down.  He was elected mayor of Palm Springs in 1988, and was even mentioned as the mayor in a Beavis and Butt-head music video with Cher!  (“We need a chick that used to be married to some dork, and now she’s all wild and stuff.”)  After this, he served in the US House of Representatives, from 1994 until his death in 1998.

Unfortunately, Alice Cooper has never run for political office.  That’s a shame.

There are more, but politics are not for everybody.  At least we all get to vote.

But how?  Where do you toss your one vote?  Some feel the best way to stop “Ford Nation” from turning Ontario into a mini-Trumpistan is to vote for the New Democrats (or NDP) party.  Others feel Doug Ford is the only choice for an economically troubled province, laid to waste by 15 years of Liberal mismanagement, handouts and scandals.

Choose wisely.

When I turned 18, my first election was provincial.  I had been working my first retail job at a grocery store, and the issue that I chose to cast my vote on was Sunday shopping.  Working at the store, Sundays were the only guaranteed day off and I wasn’t eager to start working them.  The NDP party led by Bob Rae promised they would not allow Sunday shopping in Ontario.  I voted NDP for the first and so far only time.  Rae won, and almost immediately, made Sunday shopping legal.

Fool me once…shame on you?

We have some excellent candidates in my riding, including Amy Fee (wife of Craig) on the Progressive Conservative side, and former boxer Fitz Vanderpool for the NDP.  But the truth is, I can’t wait to cast my vote and get it over with.  Do you know how many political calls we had last night?  Had to be at least 10.

I’m sick of elections.  Wanna be elected?  No friggin’ way.

 

 

#670: Censor This Too! – The Star Chamber

GETTING MORE TALE #670: Censor This Too! – The Star Chamber

This is the sequel to Getting More Tale #669: Censor This! In a footnote to that story, we discussed the evil, corrupt English department at Grand River Collegiate Institute in the school year 1990-1991.  With music as part and parcel of everything I do, here is the students’ revenge.

This story was written by myself and Andrew “Abbis” anonymously.  (You may remember “Abbis” was the subject of a Zeppelin-esque song I co-wrote called “Abbis’ Stomp”.)

Context:  A brilliant young student named Danny was accused of plagiarism for his independent study on part of Milton’s Paradise Lost.  The entire English department were united in their belief that he had cheated, not realizing this young dark-skinned kid with a strange sounding last name was actually just really gifted.  In a parallel to Paradise Lost, Danny soon found himself in a hell of his own.  The school treated him shamefully, but could not prove he cheated.  Instead of the A+ he deserved, he got a “no report”.  This was his final year of highschool, and he wanted that A+ to get into the university program he had applied to.

This story was our revenge on his behalf.

I take a lot of pride in our creative little rebellion. This was about as misbehaved as we got.  Our scathing story The Star Chamber (an obvious mashup of MacBeth and Star Wars) was published in the underground school newspaper, in June of 1991, exactly as you see it below.  Pay attention for a Zeppelin reference and plenty of Shakespeare.  My character is an homage to Han Solo named…Guitar Solo.

Please enjoy.

THE STAR CHAMBER
(The Uncensored Version)

BY: Robin Hood and his Merry Men

 

A long time ago, in a Collegiate Institute far, far away, a battle was being waged between the forces of Good and English.  The leader of the rebel forces, Danny “The Terror” Skywalker, had for months been a thorn in the side of the English Empire…

ACT I, SCENE I

In the caverns of Smithers the Hutt.

Enter with a flourish and really neato special effects, Darth Chamber and his English entourage.

DARTH:  (To Smithers) By Jupiter!  We must capture that foul wretch known to all as Danny “The Terror” Skywalker.

SMITHERS:  I say yea my Lord.

Exuent Darth and entourage with an even bigger flourish.

END OF SCENE

ACT I, SCENE II

Enter Danny, his faithful companion Guitar Solo at his side, zipping through space in the Tarachan Falcon.

Their favourite album, “Ten Classic Books in Ten Minutes” is suddenly drowned out by the wail of an intergalactic police siren.

Enter Robo Bolt, with colours and drums.

DANNY:  What hast thou pulled me over for, sucka?

ROBO:  Dost thou thinks that “E.N.G.-S.U.K.S.” is an appropriate licence plate for thine vehicle?

DANNY:  What say you?  Thou art a strange fellow.

ROBO:  Your horrid image doth unfix my hair!

DANNY:  Methinks thou art (and I quote Willie Shakespeare) “a coward, a rascal, an eater of broken meats, a beggar, and a lily livered knave”.

ROBO:  Draw thine sword, I’ll make a sop’ o’ the moonshine of you!  (they draw and fight, Guitar Solo slain by accident.)

GUITAR:  To be…or not to be.  What a stupid question!  GAHK!!!  (he dies.  Robo is then slain.)

ROBO:  I am slain, I am slain, dead, defunct, kicking the bucket, etc. etc. etc.  (he dies.)

DANNY:  What have I done, o Lord, o nature?  What evil spirit hast possessed me?

Exit Danny, delirious from the battle.

END OF SCENE

ACT I, SCENE III

Enter Darth Chamber having been notified of Robo’s death, mad, and garlanded with wild flowers.

DARTH:  Oh what foul deed, what evil, for my fair fair Robo.  He is killed.  (Enter Danny, furious with rage upon sighting Darth.)  Draw, or surely thou shalt perish!

DANNY:  Have at you, bud!

Enter Smithers from behind.

Smithers strikes Danny over the head with Roget’s Unabridged Dictionary, knocking him unconscious.

END OF SCENE AND ACT

ACT II, SCENE I

Later in the Star Chamber.

First trumpet.
Second trumpet.
Third trumpet.
       Trumpet answers within.
Enter Darth Chamber and Smithers, armed, a trumpet before them, attendants, the Fool, Edgar, Edmund, Oberon, The Duke of Cornwall, Elvis, drums and colours, Danny Skywalker in chains, Gloucester wandering around outside.

DARTH:  Hark, four-score and seven years ago this treasonous wretch, Danny Skywalker, hath committed the ultimate crime against the English Empire.  May his trunk be devoured by butterflies.  By Jupiter!  Behold his foul deed.  (cries of astonishment within)  He hast plagiarised the almighty Milton!!!

DANNY:  Oh Hell!  Oh spite me!  What manner of accusation is this?

DARTH:  Silence scurvy knave.  (Darth to attendants) Place him in…(drum solo)…the machine!

SMITHERS:  Goody goody gosh!  By the fairies, Darth is mighty!

FOOL:  (sings)  O nuncle, court holy water in a dry house is better than this rain water out o’ door.  For he’s buying a Stairway to Heaven.

Exuent all.  Death march, colours and banners.

END OF SCENE

ACT II, SCENE II

Enter with a flourish, Darth Chamber and Smithers the Hutt, with entourage carrying fluorescent banners with matching tights, led by an Old Man.  Danny strapped to the machine.

The machine, a relic left over from the late 20th century, known as a “Dunking Machine” is filled with water, with Danny strapped to a chair above it.

DARTH:  By Jupiter!  My seated heart dost knock at my ribs.  For the time is near o’ blossom.

SMITHERS:  Skywalker thy trial begins!  If thou float’est, thou art guilty of plagiarism and shalt be sentenced to die…slowly.  First we shall tear all the of the hair from thine body, then soak you in lemon juice, and Kraft salad oil.  Then we shall take you out to the Dune Sea you shall be eaten alive by the almighty Mouth, while’st being garnished with tomatoes and olives!  But if thou sink’est and die’est, we shall know that thou art innocent and we shall let’est you go.

DANNY:  Sorry, but I’ve got a prior engagement.

Enter Abbis Man’s ghost.  (See last issue — ed.)

Abbis Man runs onto the stage, dropkicks Darth, hits Smithers with the D.D.T. and frees Danny from the machine.

DANNY:  Thanks bud!

ABBIS:  No problem, let’s get a beer!

Exuent, too tired to flourish.

DARTH:  Gosh darn it!  Methinks this ending really sucks!

Exuent Darth and all remaining.

END OF SCENE AND ACT

EPILOGUE

Danny and Abbis Man, having formed a powerful alliance, travel to Earth where they take on aliases and fight crime as Siskel and Ebert.

 

#650: Frequent Buyer

GETTING MORE TALE #650: Frequent Buyer

I heard through the grapevine* recently that my old store (“the Record Store”) are discontinuing their frequent buyer cards.  These cards have a long, long history going back more than 25 years.  First we offered free tapes and CDs – buy 10, get one free.  Those were eventually phased out when we stopped carrying new tapes and CDs, but due to popular demand we added a free used CD card – buy 12, get one free.

Minimum wage just went up on the province of Ontario, to $14 an hour.  In 2019, it will go up again, to $15 an hour.  There is an election in six months, and the present provincial government is pulling out all the stops trying to appeal to young voters.  Some restaurants are battling the wage increase by cutting hours, raising prices or cutting staff breaks.  At the store any time wages went up, hours were cut and we reviewed what we were paying for incoming used CDs.  It appears that this time out, the Record Store is cutting the frequent buyer card.

Frequent buyer cards are on the way out anyway.  Remember when Subway used to have them?  Seems like a long time ago now, because it has been:  Sub Club cards were phased out back in 2005!

Our frequent buyer card was very popular.  We would redeem several of them on any typical day.  You could cash it in for any used CD, $11.99 or less, and we gave away a lot of free CDs.  Customers would collect the cards, save them up, and treat themselves to something they really wanted.  It was a great incentive to get customers to buy more than one CD at a time.  People would buy an extra CD or two to collect the stamps, especially if they were close to completing their card.  Very few were the people who turned down the card.  “I have too much crap in my wallet,” was the most common reason for declining, but most people like the feeling of getting something for free.

It’s sad to see this era pass.  My wallet is empty; I redeemed my card last visit.  I know some customers would be furious.  People love to complain.  They used to whine that we wouldn’t stamp their cards if they bought a cheapie out of the “bargain bin”.  (If they were nice about it, I’d give them a stamp for every two cheapies they bought, though it was against the rules.)  Now they’re going to be pissed that they can’t get stamps at all.  I don’t envy the staff members who have to explain this to the complainy types.  (“Do you know how long I’ve shopped here?” will be one complaint they can look forward to.)

Prepare for more minimum wage fallout in Ontario over the next year.  This is only beginning.

 

*  I won’t say who told me…even if you do the unskinny “Bop”.

** That was a clue.

 

 

#649: Denizens of “The Mall”

GETTING MORE TALE #649: Denizens of “The Mall”

Every mall has its questionable denizens.  I’m not talking about mall rats or bargain hunters.  I mean the people that are there every single day, not doing much of anything, just…being.

Stanley Park Mall in Kitchener, where I spent most of my childhood and early work life, had plenty of characters.

One of the first I was aware of was named “Butts”.  Nobody knew his real name, but he earned the nickname Butts by fishing cigarette butts out of ashtrays.  He was there frequently, and if not he was mining the ashtrays at Fairview Mall instead.  We left him alone, but one kid from school named Kevin Kirby decided to make fun of Butts one day.  Butts responded with a flurry of F-bombs.  It all seemed rather sad to me and not at all funny.  A kid making fun of this guy, and him telling a little kid to fuck off?  Why not just leave him alone?  I’m sure Butts was made fun of regularly, but Kirby was generally a dick.  (Any time he teamed up with me on a school project I did all the work and he coasted off my grade.)

Sue came along a little later.  She was in a bad car accident and was in a walker.  She really liked the Record Store I worked in, and had a bit of a crush on the owner.  We didn’t actually know about the crush until she gave him a Valentine’s Day card.  She used to park her walker at the front counter and talk to him for hours.  We didn’t assume that meant she had a crush, because there were lots of lonely people in the mall who just liked to talk.  It was one of the drawbacks of working there.  One day before leaving she gave him a card, and the owner didn’t realise it was a valentine.  He opened it in front of us, and we all saw it.  He was super embarrassed and really tried to avoid Sue after that.  I witnessed him taking a huge dive behind the counter to avoid her when she strolled by!  And that wasn’t an isolated incident.  I learned from it – I took a few dives behind the counter myself over the years.

The last regular denizen to discuss was the saddest and I don’t know what happened to him.  He was known as Johnny Walker.  Like Butts, nobody knew his real name although his first name may actually have been John.  They called him Johnny Walker because he would walk around the mall all day, every day.  The mall was like a big rectangle, and he would complete numerous circuits through the day.  He talked to himself as he did, mumbling away as he walked.  If you overheard him, it would sound like a normal conversation but with just one person talking.

I’ve been trying to find out what happened to Johnny Walker but nobody seems to know.  People at the mall said he was rich and didn’t work or need to work.  Maybe it was an inheritance.  Maybe an insurance claim.  Nobody knew.  His clothes weren’t ratty and he was clean shaven, but there was clearly something wrong with him.  It was no act.

The general rule of thumb was “just ignore him”.  Sometimes kids would make fun of him and he’d get loud and violent.  He’d been kicked out of the mall a few times after a violent or loud spell.  Then he’d go to a different mall to walk around, before finally returning to Stanley Park again.  He was never gone too long.

As told in Record Store Tales Part 6, I only dealt with Johnny Walker once at the Record Store.  He strolled in, talking to himself.  I took a deep breath and hoped nothing would set him off.  He walked, talked, and picked out a tape.  He came up to the counter and immediately stopped talking to himself.  I sold him the tape, gave him his change, and he walked out again, sharply resuming his conversation with himself.

All I really know about Johnny Walker is that at one point, he listened to tapes.

I hated seeing highschool mallrat kids following him around and shouting at him to “shut up”.  If Johnny got loud and violent, I have a feeling the kids were the root cause most of the time.  I’m sure they thought it was hilarious to harass this obviously damaged person.  But he was still a person, a human being.  Although it was sometimes startling to see someone walking around talking to themselves, it would have been nice if parents taught their kids a little respect.  We don’t know anybody’s secret battles.  Walker minded his own business any time I was present.

If anyone knows what happened to Butts, Sue, or Johnny Walker please drop us a line or leave a comment.  I hope they are all doing better.

 

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Raw M.E.A.T 1 – Various Artists (1990)

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RAW M.E.A.T 1 (1990 M.E.A.T Magazine)

Drew Masters’ legendary metal magazine M.E.A.T took a lot of pride in promoting Canadian talent.  The next logical step was putting out a CD featuring the best of the best in unsigned Canadian rock and metal.  The flagship band was Toronto’s Slash Puppet.  On this first volume, only groups from the province of Ontario signed up.   Even though the talent all came from a small region in and around Toronto (with one exception), it’s a surprisingly diverse selection of styles.

I look at Raw M.E.A.T as a first tapping of an oil reserve.  It was a gusher.  So much untapped raw talent, unheard in suburbs.

“Slow Down” by Slash Puppet was previously issued on their indi tape, but Raw M.E.A.T 1 was its first issue on CD.  The track has been described as Motorhead meets Faster Pussycat and that still fits the bill.  Lead singer Anthony J. Mifsud was the sandpaper throat to go with the rough and tumble music.  You can hear why there was such a buzz around Slash Puppet.  They had pro-level tunes and performance. All they needed was a break.

Most Raw M.E.A.T buyers knew what they were getting with Slash Puppet. The rest of the tunes were uncharted territory.

Eiffel Power, from Taranna, knocked it out with “City Action”.  Singer Lionel Lois  had ample range and lung capacity for this fun metal shuffle, very current for the time.  Think of Extreme’s first album but with more muscle.  Then there’s the instantly likeable “Feel Me Sweet” by Brampton’s own Ragadee Anne.  Yes, it’s true:  coming up with names for bands isn’t always easy, but “Feel Me Sweet” kicks.  One reason they sound so professional is due to the production by Tom Treumuth (Triumph), surely an advantage in the studio.  Glam rock with bite and youthful innocence sure sounds good.

Blackglama (Toronto) take it to the streets with the rock/rap hybrid of “Playin’ Hardball (With the Big Boys)”.  This was just a year or two ahead of its time, though director Bruce McDonald used it in his 1991 film Highway 61  (but not the soundtrack CD).  The next group, Washington Wives, bring it to immaculately composed AOR rock.  “Memoirs, Etc.” has backing vocals from Phil Naro, from just across the border in Buffalo.  Naro is best known for Talas and his work with Kiss’ Peter Criss.  “Memoirs, Etc.” is vaguely familiar, as if you’ve heard its like on the radio before (Journey? Night Ranger?), but there’s no question this track was hit-ready.  Zero fat content, this is all meat of the most melodic variety.

Short Avenue has another “name” attached, that being “Scarpelli”.  Guitarist Gene Scarpelli is the son of Gino, of Toronto’s Goddo.  Short Avenue sounds nothing like Goddo, rather more like some tough street punks ready to mix it up.  With hindsight, they sound like precursors to The Four Horsemen.  “Push Comes to Shove” is right in the same vein as the Horsemen’s “Rockin’ is Ma Business”.  From the Horsemen to the Cult:  The Cult have always been big in Canada.  First impressions are that Trouble In Mind (Toronto) were very inspired by Ian Astbury.  Regardless, their track “Sweet Addictions” is album quality.  Lead singer Beau (just “Beau”) turned up on a later instalment of the Raw M.E.A.T series, but that’s another story.

We depart Toronto momentarily for a trip to the nation’s capitol.  Ottawa’s Antix had been self-releasing vinyl since 1986, and “Kick It Up” was a new track.  With a Van Halen shuffle, their track hits the right spots, but suffers from inadequate production.   It’s unfortunate that the most experienced band has one of the poorest sounding tracks on the CD.

Russian Blue received their first major exposure via Raw M.E.A.T, and thanks to their incredible song “Once a Madman”, they gained a cult following.  They were a double threat:  a magnificent singer and a terrific guitar player.   Vocalist Jo E. Donner found himself compared to a young Robert Plant.  Richard Gauci backed that up with memorable guitar hooks.  “Once a Madman” gets the job done in just 3:15, leaving behind an unforgettable and unique rocker that begs for repeat listens.  One reason it sounds so good?  Produced by a pre-fame Harry Hess of Harem Scarem.

The next band, Zyle, sound like they were going for a traditional metal sound.  The Scorpions come to mind immediately, as does fellow Canadian rockers White Wolf.  They needed a bit more originality.  The guitar solo directly quotes Randy Rhoads, too close for comfort.  But then it’s The Remains with something a little more street punk.  A variation of the classic Peter Gunn riff, “Too Much” is actually never enough.  It’s the right mixture of middle finger and middle eight.

Hanging out just down the QEW are Hamilton and Oakville, from which come the last two groups.  Cathouse prove that you can never have enough permutations of the classic Van Halen shuffle.  “In For the Kill” nails it, with a vocalist who seems like equal parts Skid Roper and Rob Halford.  Finally, Oakville’s Johannes Linstead is best known today for his flamenco guitar albums.  He didn’t start there!  Wildside (later to become Gypsy Jayne) are about that sleaze rock.  You can hear that the guitarist is something special, though you wouldn’t predict the future from this one track.

It’s difficult to be objective, even though so many years have passed since Raw M.E.A.T 1.   Many (if not most) of these bands had potential.  Toronto in the early 90s was ready to explode as “the next Seattle”, but there was no “next Seattle”.  12 of these 13 songs are really fondly remembered, with one just needing a little more originality.

4.5/5 stars

 

#572: VIDEO – A Weekend at the Lake

GETTING MORE TALE #572: A Weekend at the Lake

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

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

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

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

 

#564: The Smell of Home

GETTING MORE TALE #564: The Smell of Home

What does your home town smell like?

I may complain a lot, but I do actually love this town.  I was born in Kitchener.  I don’t want to live anywhere else.  It’s certainly not the greatest town in the world, but it’s mine. Kitchener isn’t known worldwide for its burning hot music scene (polka music at Oktoberfest time excluded).  That said we have produced a few local legends:

  • Helix (formed 1974) was based out of Kitchener for many years.
  • Errol Blackwood and Messenjah are our claim to fame in the reggae community.
  • Singer/songwriters Paul MacLeod, Danny Michel, Rob Szabo and Steve Strongman all hailed from here.  You also may have heard of one of the greatest bass clarinetists in the world, Kathryn Ladano.
  • Bluesman Mel Brown wasn’t born here, but he made it home.

Not a lot to boast about, but better than a kick in the pants.

Kitchener also is not known for its arts (that would be Waterloo) or its education (also Waterloo) or sciences (Waterloo again). What it does seem to have in plenty is a number of distinct smells.

Driving up Victoria street, you can smell the Weston’s bread bakery cooking up lots of delicious scents.  My dad has a song he used to like to sing when driving by:

“Weston’s bread,
Is full of lead,
If you eat too much,
You’ll surely be dead.”

That was a nice smell, but I remember a far worse smell in the Record Store days.

I spent the majority of my years in the Fairway Road area of town.  I remember taking the garbage out on many, many nights and smelling the same unexplainable smell.  It only happened during the summer. I don’t even know how to describe it properly.  I used to call it “grape flavoured urine” smell.  It was a weird mix of grape and pee, and in the evenings taking out the garbage, it was everywhere!  What the hell was it?  Nobody knew.  I haven’t smelled grape flavoured urine in a long time…but I remember it clearly any time I take out the garbage on a warm summer night.

There was an even worse smell when I was transferred to “the wrong side of the tracks”.  The garbage bin there was behind a diner.  Back there it always smelled of dirty cooking grease.

I hope your town smells better than “grape flavoured urine”, although you don’t have Messenjah or Helix….

Oh and that red poo-shaped sculpture?  Nobody has a clue what it is!