Quiet Riot

LeBrain Unboxes Quiet Riot I and Quiet Riot II CDs on No Remorse records

#965: The Collector’s Disease

RECORD STORE TALES #965: The Collector’s Disease

There’s no question I have the disease of a collector.  It’s undisputed and quite obvious.  I like to have not just one of a thing, but many.  I couldn’t just start with one Kiss album, I had to get more.  The goal was to get them all.  Having one GI Joe figure wasn’t enough.  You had to have as many as you could afford.  It’s marketing genius that this common psychological flaw was exploited guilt-free for so long.  Where did it start with me?

Perhaps my collector’s nerve was first tickled by Lego.  The more you get, the better stuff you can make.  Every year, new pieces were introduced.  In 1978 they launched the “Space” theme of Lego.  Prior to that came the new “Technic” pieces.  Right as I was hitting the perfect age for creating things made of Lego, they upped their game in a way that completely meshed.  I remember getting quite a few Space sets and several Technic too, including one where you build an 8-cylinder engine.  All you needed were more pieces to fully realize your creative visions.

At the same time, Star Wars had hit theatres and we were starting to collect the action figures.  This planted a seed.  Cleverly, Kenner included pictures on the back of every figure package:  Each Star Wars figure, numbered in a checklist style.  This was cribbed from trading cards, like Topps — another Star Wars merchandising brand we tried to collect.  Something about a checklist is an itch that begs to be scratched by certain personality types.  Hasbro recycled the checklist gimmick with their in-pack Transformers catalogues in 1984.

As I’m happy to recount the tale, I discovered Kiss in 1985.  Their new album Asylum was out.  The next door neighbour George had a bunch of rock magazines, and one of them (perhaps Faces) had a big full page Kiss ad.  The famed “Accept No Imitations” Asylum ad.  Simple branding, like Coke or Pepsi.  The “real thing”.  They were really promoting the new Kiss in North America as the 20th in a series of records, including the four solo albums, two live albums, and Double Platinum.  Laid out in two rows at the bottom, checklist style, were all 19 of the previous album covers, including their release dates.

Like bells going off in my head, the collector’s itch needed to be scratched.

Gene Simmons is a lifelong comics reader, and he knew as well as anyone that Marvel had a monthly checklist near the back of each book.  He would have had many trading cards in his youth and was surely familiar with the concept of a checklist.  Whether that’s a connection or not, that Kiss ad really set off the fireworks in my brain.  I stared at it, studying each individual album cover, and the frequency of release.

I’ve detailed, many times, my process in first recording all the Kiss records from George or Bob.  The desire to have a complete set, buying as many as I could find while recording the rest.  The need to include the “forgotten” Kiss Killers album in the count.  I displayed all my tapes, either recorded or originals, in order by release date, just like the ad I had seen, except my taped collection numbered 22, including Killers and Animalize Live Uncensored.  Eventually in highschool (1987 precisely) I discarded the recorded copies and acquired a complete set on tape.  In the Record Store years, the process would repeat on remastered CD.

But wait….

While all of the above is the truth, and nothing but the truth, it is not the whole truth.  Kiss were not the first rock band I sought to “collect”.

Before I had that Kiss epiphany with the checklist, I can remember having a specific earlier conversation.  It would have been Easter of ’85, several months before the September release of Kiss Asylum.  My mom asked me what I wanted for Easter, and I told her “the new Quiet Riot” because “I want to have all their albums.”  I thought they only had two, and it would be an easy collection to complete.  But there it was:  the desire to have “all” of something.

Strange how the concept of collecting only latched onto me in some ways.  Atari games looked pretty on display in their coloured boxes, but we had no desire to get all the games.  Just the “good” ones.  Even with comic books.  I would buy issues of current books off the newstands, but did not go back to buy older issues, because they could get insanely expensive, and numbered in the hundreds.  Since comics always referred back to previous and concurrent issues, they really made you want to buy them all to get all the backstory.  But I didn’t — couldn’t.  This is exactly why Bob preferred only to buy limited series, like movie adaptations.  I guess my collector’s desires only extended as far as I could reach, in a monetary sense.

Today, musical artists exploit this common need to collect at lengths never before seen.  We’re still out there, trying to make it through an adult world, but now we have disposable income.  It used to be you’d want all the albums, and if you discovered single B-sides, you wanted those too.  Then it became the bonus tracks, the deluxe editions, the super deluxe editions, and all the different colours of vinyl you get for just about every release these days!  That’s how they get us.  Next thing you know, you just dropped a grand or two on a Gene Simmons Vault, or $800 on a Judas Priest box set.

And we go along with it, time and time again.  Once the itch has been scratched, and the soothing radiation of a complete collection rolls over you like waves…the itch inevitably returns.

And so it ends?  It never ends.

 

REVIEW: Quiet Riot – Hollywood Cowboys (2020 Japanese import)

QUIET RIOT – Hollywood Cowboys (2020 King Record Co. Japanese import)

We all wanted Frankie Banali go out on a high note.  He fought hard.  His battle with cancer was inspiring.  Unfortunately, his last Quiet Riot album Hollywood Cowboys is not memorable except as the drummer’s finale.  The shame of it is, they previous album Road Rage was pretty decent so it wasn’t unreasonable to get hopes up for the sequel.

The songs just aren’t memorable enough.  It’s bad when you can’t remember which track was the single (“In the Blood”).  The opener “Don’t Call It Love” is better; singer James Durbin was able to infuse the chorus with some passion.  The problem is none of the songs stick.  Can you remember how “Change Or Die” or “Wild Horses” goes without a listen?  “In the Blood” isn’t terrible by any stretch but there are no real singles on this album.

The musicianship is fantastic, with Frankie drumming like only he could.  There’s some tasty organ on “The Devil You Know”, but no hooks.  You can hear that they worked hard on Hollywood Cowboys, adorning songs with “woo oo ooo” backing vocals and lickity-split solos by Alex Grossi.

Some highlights include an AC/DC-like blues called “Roll On”, and the ballad “Holding On” which nails the vintage Quiet Riot vibe.  There’s also a blast of Priest-like metal called “Insanity” that has plenty of power if lacking in melodies.

The album sounds as if rushed, which would be understandable given the circumstances, but that’s the impression it gives.  Even the cover looks rushed.  The mix is really saturated and could have used some more loving care.  To its credit, it is probably the heaviest Quiet Riot album ever, from drums to riffs.

Here’s the mindblowing part.  Only one guy on this album is still in Quiet Riot, and that’s guitarist Alex Grossi.  James Durbin left before it was released, and he was replaced by former QR singer Jizzy Pearl (from the 10 album).  Legendary bassist Rudy Sarzo is returning in 2022, replacing Chuck Wright.  Lastly and most regrettably, Frankie’s stool was filled by former Type O Negative drummer Johnny Kelly.  None of that is relevant a Hollywood Cowboys review, it’s just recent history.  One does wish for more stability in the lineup, and perhaps Sarzo will bring that.

The Japanese import bonus track this time out is a lacklustre acoustic version of “Roll On”.  Frankie plays with brushes, so it’s interesting from a drummer’s point of view.  Sadly it’s the kind of bonus track that’s just not worth the price paid for the import.

Hollywood Cowboys is a scattershot collection of parts that never coalesces into songs.  Everybody wanted Frankie Banali to succeed, in every way possible.  But one must also be honest in a review, and can take no pleasure in shitting all over Frankie’s last record.

2/5 stars

#936: Captain Crash

RECORD STORE TALES #936: Captain Crash

The summer of ’85 was going swimmingly.  We were on summer holidays at the lake and I was still really into Quiet Riot.  With their two albums (the only two I knew of!) on my Sanyo, and with boxes full of Transformers to play with, I was having a great summer.

Earlier that year, my dad bought for me a minibike from a school kid.  It had a lawnmower engine but could get moving at a pretty good clip.  The cottage was the best place for it, since it was all dirt roads and trails.  I had a hockey helmet and that had to be good enough for head protection.  I loved that bike, but it did not love me back.  The chain had a habit of coming loose, and it was always hit or miss whether it would start or not.

Sometimes I’d ride the bike all the way down to Dead Man’s River, others I’d stick to the roads where it was easier going.  I enjoyed the numb feeling in my hands from the vibrating frame after an afternoon riding.  I also liked cleaning and painting details on it.  But mostly I liked the feeling of getting it up to speed.

I was riding up and down our little road one afternoon the summer when I tried to accelerate, but the chain came off again.  Usually it just fell fell off and the bike went dead, but this time it locked up and I went right over the handlebars.  Worse, the chain had taken a chunk of flesh out of my left leg on the inner knee.  The soft spot where the meat is.  There was an inch-long gash packed with grease from the chain.  My knees, elbows and wrists were all banged up and bleeding from the landing.

I needed stitches so the next obvious thing to do would have been to go to the hospital.  This is not what happened.

A neighbour helped me hobble home where my family frantically began fussing over me.  The next minutes or hours are a blur.  A lot of telling me I had to go to the hospital, a lot of screaming and refusing, my dad promising he would buy me a toy if I let him look at my leg.  I would not let anyone near it.

Eventually, however, I conceded to remove my hands from my bleeding wound, though not to go to any damn hospital.  I let my mom and dad mop up the blood and grease, and bandage my leg.  I demanded my new toy, and knocked out hard to sleep.

The rest of the summer consisted of regular checking and cleaning of the wound, which didn’t fully heal for months.  I was not allowed to swim for fear of infection, and I couldn’t run.  I was regularly reminded that this wouldn’t have been the case of I had gone to the hospital.  But I got my toy.  My dad made sure, and my sister made sure I got the right one.

She returned with the Autobot named Swoop, a Dinobot that turned into a pterodactyl.  He was one of the coolest toys of the entire G1 line, with plenty of accessories, die-cast parts and chromed plastic.  He even had landing gear if you wanted to land him like an airplane.  And he made me forget about the pain in my knee.

I can’t believe how stupidly stubborn I was.  And you have to believe I was impossible if my parents couldn’t force me to go to a hospital.  And that was pretty much it for me and the bike.  The irony here is that I named the bike “Christine” after the car from the Stephen King novel that ultimately gets its owner killed.  I regret that decision too!

 

WTF Search Terms: дип перпл edition

WTF SEARCH TERMS XLV: дип перпл edition

 

  • купить бутлеги дип перпл на сд 

It’s so rare that you see anything other than the English alphabet in search terms.  This one translates as “buy bootlegs deep purple on cd” but sadly none of my music is for sale.  I’m just blown away that Googling it led to my site.  As for the below….

  • home urinals?

I’m not surprised that Googling this leads to me.  At all.

  • what color eyes does joey tempest have
  • long big hair band joey tempest gay kiss

I’m convinced that Joey Tempest has the most obsessed fans in the world.  And not in a healthy way!

  • steve augeri shirtless

If former Journey singer Steve Augeri has shirtless photos out there, they are not to be found here.

  • quiet riot band sex tape

Again…not to be found here.  Why would you want this?  Even Kevin DuBrow didn’t want to see Kevin DuBrow naked.

  • is rogu roger son

It’s complicated but the simplest answer is “yes”.  I’m just proud that this one led to me!

  • trailer park boys europe parents guide
  • thank santa’s tits tpb

Trailer Park Boys search terms always make me chuckle.  A “parents guide”??  Oh my God, somebody out there thinks there is a parents’ guide!  As for “Thank Santa’s tits”, that’s one of Ricky’s memorable quotes from the show.

And finally, my favourite search term:

  • superbad the singer jimmys brother actor

That would be Michael Cera, who performed the greatest version of “These Eyes” ever sung  by anyone.  You remember.  My brother drove all the way from Scottsdale Arizona to be here tonight, and you’re not gonna sing for him?  You sing, and sing good!

#891: Condition Critical

RECORD STORE TALES #891 Condition Critical

Allan Runstedtler was looking at my tape collection.  This was something kids did.  Every kid had a few tapes.  Maybe they even had a nice tape case to put them in.  I started the year 1985 with only one tape case.  It held 30.

Allan reached for my Quiet Riot.

Condition Critical?  What’s that?  I only know ‘Situation Critical’ by Platinum Blonde.” said Al.

I was never one of the cool ones.

There was this kid from school named Kevin Kirby.  One day I was in his neighbourhood and he introduced me to a friend of his.  Kevin asked me to tell him what my favourite band was.  I answered “Quiet Riot” and they both laughed.  I still liked Quiet Riot?  They were so 1983.

Not much time had passed, but Quiet Riot were already toast.  I felt cool for all of 3 months when Quiet Riot were big.  Metal Health was my first hard rock album.  I loved that album.  I still love that album.  I was the anomaly.  All my classmates (the few that liked Quiet Riot in the first place) had moved on.  Platinum Blonde were huge.  And rightfully so.  Standing in the Dark was a great album.  Their followup Alien Shores was also successful, going to #3 in Canada.  Platinum Blonde, however, were not for me.  They were not a hard rock band.  I didn’t even consider them to be a rock band.  I labelled Platinum Blonde with the same label I used on everything I didn’t like.  These loathsome artists were all dubbed “wavers”.  There was no greater insult to me than “waver”.  You were either a rocker or a waver.  There was nothing else in my eyes more wretched than “New Wave” music.

Quiet Riot were not wavers, they were rockers.  They had songs like “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”.  But they had made a “Critical” blunder.  They followed Metal Health with an inferior carbon copy in Condition Critical.  It was a collection of leftovers and it was obvious.  It even included a Slade cover like the prior album.  It still went platinum.  But Metal Health sold six times that.  It was seen as a critical and commercial failure.  Dubrow earned Quiet Riot no favours when he decided to trash other bands in the press.  That stunt misfired, gloriously so.

No wonder Allan had never heard of Condition Critical.  I tried to get him into some of my music.  I showed him the video for “Death Valley Driver” by Rainbow, which I thought was really cool.  He wasn’t as impressed as I was.

Going back a bit, I received Condition Critical for Easter of 1985.  Almost a year after its release.  I can remember a conversation with my mom about what kind of gifts I would like, and I answered “the new Quiet Riot, because I want to have all the albums by a band.”  Hah!  I had no idea, none whatsoever, that Metal Health was their third, not first.  In Japan, Quiet Riot and Quiet Riot II were released in the late 70s.  These featured the late Ozzy Osbourne guitar wizard Randy Rhoads on lead guitar, but I had yet to learn all these important details.  I wanted to have Condition Critical so I could have a “complete” Quiet Riot collection.  Something I’m still attempting to have.

Easter of ’85 was spent in Ottawa with my mom’s Uncle Gar and Aunt Miriam.  We all stayed in their house.  They were amazing people.  Uncle Gar was injured in the war, but always had a smile on his face.  He didn’t like my growing hair or my rock music, but I think he was happy that I turned out OK in the end.  I stayed in a little spare bedroom.  I brought my Sanyo ghetto blaster and my parent’s old Lloyds headphones.

I hit “play” on Quiet Riot not expecting to like every song, and I didn’t.  I enjoyed the two singles, “Party All Night” and “Mama Weer All Crazee Now”.  I thought the lead track, “Sign of the Times”, as as strong as the first album.  But I didn’t think much of “Scream and Shout”, “Bad Boy” or “(We Were) Born to Rock”.  And the ballad?  I was not a ballad kid, and I thought “Winners Take All” was even worse than “Thunderbird”!

I’ve softened on the ballads since (pun intended), but it’s true that this is just an album of soundalikes.  It’s not outstanding.  I knew I’d have to give it a bunch more listens, but even then I knew a “sequel” when I saw one.  Similar.  More of the same of what you like.  But not as good.

I kept giving them chances, though.  I had to.  They were the first band I wanted “all” the albums from.  When my buddy George told me that Quiet Riot were back with an awesome new song called “The Wild and the Young”, my excitement was restored.  “Kevin Dubrow even looks like Paul Stanley in the music video,” he told me.  Cool!

Of course we know how that ended.  A sterile, keyboardy comeback that fizzled out with Dubrow’s ousting.

There are bands I have given up on and never looked back.  Yet I keep buying Quiet Riot, loyally, album after album.  If they release another, I’ll buy that too.  And it’s all because of what I told my mom when she asked me what I wanted for Easter.  “The new Quiet Riot,” I answered, “because I want to have all the albums by a band.”

 

Easter Memories: Quiet Riot, GI Joe, Alice Cooper, Def Leppard & More!

Just a short show tonight, for those stuck at home this Easter weekend with nothing much else to do! Music, toys, happy memories. Lots of audio/visual aids. Great comments and audience participation.

Quiet Riot, Black Sabbath, David Lee Roth, Def Leppard, Aerosmith, and rare Japanese imports.

Bonus: Couldn’t resist playing some music so we closed with the show with Uncle Meat singing “Fairies Wear Boots” back in 1991 with Heavy Cutting. Thank you for watching!

 

NEXT WEEK:  ANDY CURRAN!

#880: Death Team

GETTING MORE TALE #880: Death Team

One of my favourite ways to spend a Saturday morning was down in the basement drawing pictures while listening to heavy metal music with my best buddy Bob.  Most likely, we were watching one of my VHS tapes of the Pepsi Power Hour while doodling away with our pencils.  It was the best of times, with the best of friends, and the absolute best kind of music.

In the early to mid 1980s, MuchMusic was only available on pay TV.  We had it, but Bob Schipper did not.  Therefore he only had two pathways to the Pepsi Power Hour:

  1. Wait for the one or two weeks per year when pay TV was free for sneak preview.
  2. I tape the videos, and share my finds with him on Saturday mornings.

It was an amazing way to bond as kids.  He brought with him his paper and pencils, and we would get down to business while watching music videos.

In the summer, we moved activities to the front or back porches, with a ghetto blaster playing Kiss or Iron Maiden as we sketched.   In fact, the story really begins on the back porch.  The very same back porch on which we schooled George Balasz about Accept.  Bob had mastered the art of drawing muscled warriors in cool poses.  His very first was a master of escape whom he dubbed “Motor Head”.  In his first appearance, he seems doomed, hanging from a noose.  But a closer look reveals him casually smoking a cigarette and holding a pair of nun-chucks for his imminent escape.  Note the frayed rope.  He was in no danger – he was biding his time!

Having mastered this first character, it was time to expand on the concept. Bob drew many different designs and body types. Giants, archers, characters with cybernetic limbs…the field was wide open, but heavy metal music was always an influence.

Bob’s second sketch was a man in a metal Quiet Riot mask he named “Killer”.  Killer was one of Bob’s favourites.  As his drawing abilities grew, he expanded upon Killer.  Next, he designed a custom car and robotic pet for the character.  I liked the way he used metal plates and rivets for detail.

Bob taught me the secrets of drawing these heroic figures, and I began to create my own warriors.  The characters we were sketching resembled Mad Max marauders, crossed with heavy metal tropes.  Really, all of that metal stuff was inspired by the post-apocalyptic fiction genre that was all the rage in the early 80s.  Nobody did it better than Mad Max, and many of our characters wore masks like Lord Humungous.  Others had bandaged faces, like Eddie in some of the Powerslave-era Iron Maiden artwork.  Some wielded ninja-like weapons, since ninja movies were also all the rage at the time.

We called our characters “Death Team”.

Bob’s backstory concept of Death Team was a school gang, with a strong influence from martial arts movies.  The idea was that the gang evolves into a government-sanctioned fighting force.  That meant no limits.  The cars and trucks that we drew were armoured and kitted out.  Very much inspired by M.A.S.K., Mad Max, and other shows of the time.  If there was something cool on the screen, we would try to draw it and add our own twists.  What I brought to the table was my interest in GI Joe comics, and the military side of fiction.  The ninjas were the common ground between Death Team and GI Joe, and many of my characters had weapons and outfits inspired by the comics.  I started giving my characters code names and bios, just like GI Joe, and gave them the inverted star sigil.

At this point during the earliest Death Team drawings, my sister and I had our big musical schism.  That means that up until 1985, she was into the same music I was.  Well…not W.A.S.P.  But she liked Quiet Riot, Motley Crue and Iron Maiden.  Then something happened, and she went into what I called “New Wave”.  Pointer Sisters, Corey Hart, Tina Turner.  To counter our heavy metal Death Team, she created her own squad called the Wavers.  She drew her own team members:  “Waver” and “The Wave”.  Needless to say, Death Team would have crushed the Wavers in combat.

Bob and I sketched solo, during the week.  Then we’d gather on the weekends to share our work.  We’d inspire each other and keep drawing more.   Those are the Saturday morning Power Hour sessions I remember so fondly.

One weekend, Bob came over excited that he had learned to draw “a really cool bike”.  He arrived at my door with his new character “Bike Ninja”.  We helped each other name our characters, but that one didn’t need anything fancier than simply “Bike Ninja”.  His boots had outward-facing spikes, and his left hand was replaced by a robotic claw with a laser in it.

“That might make it hard for him to ride his bike,” I offered up.

“Nahh!” said Bob.  “He’s a ninja!”

My mom noticed that many of the characters were smoking cigarettes.  She asked why that was.  Bob started putting cigarettes in some of their mouths (even the ones wearing masks) to make them look cooler, so I followed suit.  That was the rock and roll influence, as many of our rock star heroes like Eddie Van Halen were constantly smoking.  We had no interest in it, but the visual followed into our art.

Bob’s art was much better and more original than mine.  I improved over time.  By 1987 I had finally drawn one I was really proud of, a character all about street justice and inspired by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister.  In fact this character was meant to be the real Dee Snider, joining our team to save Earth.  The concept was stolen from Sgt. Slaughter, the WWF wrestler who joined the fictional GI Joe team.  If that could happen, then Dee Snider could join Death Team!

As Bob and I built our little world of characters on paper, we realized our gang needed someone to fight.  Bob was watching the Silver Hawks cartoon before school in the mornings, and took influence from some of the creatures seen on early morning TV.  We decided on a force of alien invaders as our adversaries, and a wide variety we did draw.

Bob was really the visual guy though; his drawings were so far ahead of mine.  I was more a conceptual guy.  I came up with the character bios and some of the overarching story.  It was hard bridging the street gang origins together with the alien invasion concept, but I wrote an origin.  Together, Bob and I wanted Death Team to be a Canadian team (with some American and overseas volunteers).  We wrote them as a down-on-their-luck school gang who lived together on the rough side of town, wherever that was.  They actually began as two rival gangs who combined their forces together.  We wrote the first pages together and then I finished writing the story.  The guys were so tough, that they were swiftly recruited by the Canadian government as a unit of street enforcers.  The Death Team was born!

I decided that the leader of the alien invasion was to be a human.  Perhaps inspired by Xur in The Last Starfighter, the alien leader was a former Death Team computer wizard who made contact with the aliens by sending a signal through a black hole.  He then defected and joined them, determined to conquer the Earth for his own.  We even named our alien alliance the “Xor Aliens”.

Bob was really good at drawing aliens, though most had human bodies with alien heads, hands and feet.  Some were covered with hair.  He was good at drawing big round mouths with a circular row of teeth.  I thought that was a cool visual.  Many of ours were aquatic.  Planet Xor must have had a lot of oceans.

When I look back at these drawings, I see a difference between Bob and I.  It’s quality vs. quantity.  His are better while mine are plentiful.  Some of mine were little more than outlines with no shading or depth.  Plenty of mine are rip-offs.  He was coming up his own ideas.  The thing we have in common, easily seen in these sketches, is how much fun we had!

The pinnacle of of our fun was realized one afternoon when we decided to commit Death Tape to an audio adventure.  One side of a 60 minute tape contains us acting out our favourite characters, in a series of adventures.  This is all done to the backing tracks of great hard rock tunes.  It opens with “In the Beginning” and “Shout at the Devil” by the mighty Motley Crue.  This meant we used two ghetto blasters in making this tape.  One to record, and one to play the backing music while we acted out the scenes.  Quiet Riot’s “Slick Black Cadillac” and “Caught in the Crossfire” by April Wine were the songs used for the other scenes.  I just remember having so much fun doing it.  It didn’t matter if the tape is unlistenable.  My face was red from laughing so hard that day.

All this Death Team stuff goes hand-in-hand with the earliest days of my discovery of metal.  You can see the influences bleeding through.  Characters named “Motor Head” and “Killer” and “Helix” and “Crazee” and “Iron Maiden”.  We weren’t terribly original, but we were terrifically entertained.  Entertained by ourselves!  All we needed was some paper, some sharp pencils, and a good song.  I can still hear the tunes playing, whether it was W.A.S.P. or Motley Crue or Iron Maiden themselves.  The tunes were critical.  The team could not have existed with the tunes, and the tunes were only more fun to listen to while drawing pictures of the team.

Later on in school, when I was much better at art, I tried my hand at doing a sequel team, called “DT 2”.  I played the music, and tried to recreate the magic by sitting down and drawing some updated ninjas.  Without my friend it was a futile exercise.  Death Team cannot exist without three things:

  1. Heavy metal music
  2. Paper and sharp pencils
  3. My buddy Bob

Anything else is simply a knock-off.

#856: Why Metal?

GETTING MORE TALE #856: Why Metal?

As you’re aware, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately.  I hope you don’t mind.  A lot of my reflection has been to my distant past.  As I look back, I am reminded how music was always there in my life.  One of my first truly beloved records was the original soundtrack to The Empire Strikes Back.  The bombast, drama and power of those pieces really appealed to me.  It’s safe to say that I discovered music through Star Wars and John Williams.  Until they came along, music was just something that was around me.  It wasn’t inside me until Star Wars.

They stopped making Star Wars movies (or did they…?) in 1983, coincidentally the same year that Quiet Riot released Metal Health, and Styx came out with “Mr. Roboto”.  I simply jumped from one train to the other!  They were both going in the same direction so it wasn’t much of a leap.  Rock music was very much about bombast, drama and power.  And it stuck with me, bonded at a molecular level.

But why metal?  There were other trains I could have boarded.  At school, every other kid was into Duran Duran.  I couldn’t have given a crap about Duran Duran, even if they were in a James Bond movie!  So why metal?

The first factor to examine would be peer groups.  Essentially, I had two:  the school kids and the neighbourhood kids.  The school kids were, frankly, assholes.  But none of them lived in my neighbourhood.  It was like growing up in two separate worlds.  My classmates weren’t near me and I was fine with that.  Every time I came home, it was like I had entered a safe zone.  The older kids in my neighbourhood were legends.  Bob Schipper, Rob Szabo, and George Balasz.  They were the ones I looked up to and they were all rocking the metal.  Szabo’s favourite bands?  Motley Crue and Stryper.  Balasz liked Kiss.  Schipper was into Iron Maiden.

We would gather on front stoops with boomboxes powered by D-cell batteries.  Van Halen cassettes would be passed around like a joint.  I heard Maiden Japan by Iron Maiden on my front patio for the first time because George brought it over.  The guys were eager to educate me.  Quiet Riot, Helix, Judas Priest, W.A.S.P., Black Sabbath were names I was trying to memorize.  I had a few things mixed up though.  I thought the song “Sister Christian” by was Motorhead, because when they sing “Motorin’!” I heard “Motorhead”.  So sure.

On the other hand, the peer group at school was mostly what we called “wavers”.  They liked Mr. Mister and Michael Jackson and whatever else, I simply wanted nothing to do with it.  At an instinctive level, I think these people repulsed me.  I had witnessed and been victim to their cruelty.  I wanted nothing to do with their music or their sports and I think that was largely unconscious.  I would have loved if they liked me instead of mocking me; it would have made life easier.  Obviously I had given up trying.  So why not?  Heavy metal music was like Musica proibita in Catholic school.  There were a few headbangers — I didn’t like them either — but just a few.  Those guys thought it was hilarious that I was still into Quiet Riot in 1985 when they had moved onto Van Halen.  They would challenge me to “name three songs by Helix” to see if they could trip me up.  That was the difference between the rock guys at school, and my friends at home.  The guys at home would have just taught me what songs were by Helix.

Fucking school assholes.

An other notable factor on the road to heavy metal that has to be mentioned is the one nobody wants to talk about:  puberty!  But it is true that the bands I was discovering were (mostly) masculine manly men, and soon I would be wanting to attract a mate like they taught us in sex ed class.  To exude masculinity, I chose metal.  I am certain that was a conscious decision.  Despite the long hair, the guy in Iron Maiden was clearly a tougher dude than the guy in Duran Duran.  If there was going to be a fistfight, I wanted to be on the Maiden guy’s side.  Easy choice.  It seemed that simple in grade seven.

Of course, heavy metal music had the opposite effect in trying to attract girls.  It absolutely repelled them, every single one of them.  The fact that I just went double-down on the metal showed that my love for the music was genuine.  Girls didn’t like metal, but I did, and I was already too committed to discovering all the bands I could.  I was living in the rabbit hole.

A gleaming, riveted stainless steel rabbit hole.  With a million watt stereo system.

Parental approval?  Not really.  Though they liked Bob Schipper, they didn’t know what to make of this metal music.  They tolerated it, and never gave me a hard time about any of the bands I liked.  They probably would have preferred Springsteen like the family across the street listened to.  But hey, they bought me the tapes I wanted for Christmas, and they let me tape the videos on TV, so a big applause to my parents.  I think my dad was worried that I was becoming such an introvert.  I remember him telling me “Garnet Lasby doesn’t sit in his room listening to tapes all day.”

When he said that, all I could hear in my head were the Kiss lyrics, “Get me out of this rock and roll hell, take me far away.”  I was so confused.  I loved listening to music in my room.  The only thing better was listening to music with my friends.  Was it bad?  I really thought about it, but obviously decided to follow my heart.

One more factor in my journey to metal that is easily overlooked but must be accounted for:  the fact that rock and roll is one big soap opera with enough drama, violence and musical brilliance to fill an entire Star Wars trilogy.  As my friends taught me the songs, they also introduced me to the stories.  “This is Randy Rhoads.  He was the greatest until he died in a plane crash.”  And Kiss?  Woah nelly, there was every kind of story within Kisstory!  How many guitar players?  And crazy costumes and characters to go with the story?  Buying a Kiss album was never just “buying a Kiss album”.  It was always buying a issue of a comic book.  What would Kiss sound like this time?  What seedy subjects would they be wrestling with on a lyrical level?  What would the cover look like and what colour would the logo be?

It seems obvious now, but the only way for me to go was metal.  In every single alternate universe, I am a metal fan.

Music allowed me to rewrite my persona a bit.  I hoped that, instead of that nerdy kid with the Star Wars fetish, I would be remembered as the nerdy kid that was really into music.  (Music that is still popular today, incidentally.)  Why metal?  Because it really only could have been metal.

 

R.I.P. Frankie Banali

After a 16 month battle with pancreatic cancer, Frankie Banali has passed away.

His best album, W.A.S.P.’s The Headless Children, will always be a cornerstone of this collection.  Metal Health was the first hard rock album I ever acquired and it changed my life for good.  To say Frankie was dedicated would be an understatement.  His dedication led to a rejuvenated Quiet Riot and some excellent albums with James Durbin on vocals.  Against the odds, Banali silenced the critics, myself included. 

One of the hardest hitters in rock, Banali has an extensive resume including Hughes/Thrall, Heavy Bones and Faster Pussycat.  He was one of those drummers you could identify just by his snare sound.  A true original.

Now Frankie rides the wind, forever free.  Rest in peace.