It has been almost 20 years since I last saw Sarge in person. 2003? 2004? The “greatest piercer in southern England” make the trek to Canada once again to hang out with our Niagara Falls friends, the Legendary Klopeks. Sarge loved Canada. He was hoping to make another visit from Bournemouth, post-pandemic, or so he told me in one of our late night chats.
Late night for me; for him in England it would have been early morning. We talked science fiction into the wee hours. We’d speculate on what Marvel was going to do next and what was going on elsewhere in entertainment.
The last time I saw him, we were in St. Catharines and he gave me the awesome Motorhead T-shirt seen below. He brought it especially for me.
A few weeks ago, Sarge’s wife posted that he was in hospital with bleeding in the brain. As if that wasn’t enough, he got Covid while he was there. I hoped we hadn’t had our very last chat about Thanos and Loki.
But we had, and with no time stone to turn things around. No soul stone for a final meeting.
I’ll never forget my favourite Sarge story. He told me this tale when I interviewed him years ago:
The year was 1986. Sarge was out at the bar. Although he had no way of knowing, Philip Lynott from Thin Lizzy had died that day, and the bar was playing his music in tribute to the fallen rock hero. Sarge, however, was not a fan. When he openly criticized the music of Thin Lizzy with some choice words, a large man with “bad teeth, long black hair and a low gruff voice,” told the young Sarge to fuck off. This was Sarge’s first and last meeting with the infamous Lemmy Kilmister!
Though he hasn’t been in the best of health in recent years, I didn’t see this coming.
Because of his size, Michael (Marvin) Aday named his first band Meat Loaf Soul. The name stuck. He was offered recording contracts, but felt that he wasn’t being taken seriously. He worked in musicals, such as Hair and the The Rocky Horror Show, which gave him his big break. As Eddie, he was cast in the movie The Rocky Horror Picture Show. He was unforgettable even in that jam-packed film. Next came Jim Steinman, and Bat Out of Hell.
Bat and Bat II will go down as some of Meat Loaf’s most remembered albums, among Dead Ringer, Midnight at the Lost and Found, and Bad Attitude. His movie career continued to bloom with memorable roles in films like Fight Club and Spice World. He even sang and appeared as Jack Black’s dad in Tenacious D in the Pick of Destiny.
Meat Loaf had intended to record seven songs for a new live/studio album this month. Sadly this will never come to be.
We all “knew” who Budgie was thanks to Metallica. Their cover of “Breadfan” was better than many of Metallica’s originals. Then, I came across Martin Popoff’s debut tome Riff Kills Man. The praise thrown at the Welsh trio got all our attention.
I always thought Budgie had elements of all the classic metal bands. Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Priest, Maiden, with a vocal vibe reminiscent of Geddy Lee.
Burke Shelley was the voice, the vision, and the rumble. He made basslines into hooks and had a knack for a long, twisted song title. “I’m Compressing the Comb on a Cockerel’s Head”. “Nude Disintegrating Parachute Woman”. “In the Grip of a Tyrefitter’s Hand”. Unforgettable! Metallica covered “Crash Course in Brain Surgery”. Maiden covered “I Can’t See My Feelings”. But not all the song titles were labyrinthine. “Guts” from the debut LP packed just as much punch in just four letters!
Budgie’s first album soared in 1971. They broke up in the 80s, but flew once more with 2006’s You’re All Living in Cuckooland and a new lineup. Now Burke has left us in Cuckooland, but at least we have a rich back catalogue of albums and singles to enjoy.
1975. My Uncle Don Don had amazing hair. Naturally red and with curls, and for a while my hair was similar but never as cool. But what I really love about this photo is the checkered bellbottoms. For that reason alone, this has been my favourite picture of Uncle Don Don for as long as I can remember. You knew he was a rocker just by looking at him!
Charlie Watts, the legendary Rolling Stones drummer, has passed at age 80.
While not the original drummer, Watts joined the fledgling Stones in 1963 and played on every album they ever recorded. He was as steady as the morning star, and the Stones often said if Charlie wasn’t there, then the Stones weren’t either. However in recent weeks doctors advised Watts that he should not tour with the band and they enlisted Steve Jordan as a fill-in. Watts never recovered and passed away in hospital.
The Stones have sold 200,000,000 albums over the last 57 years. Watts’ steady beat was behind them all.
His style was simple yet essential. Charlie was one of the steadiest drummers in rock history. Perhaps his greatest performance was on “Gimme Shelter”, his unmistakable rhythm propelling the song.
Of all the rock star deaths in 2021, this could be the most devastating. Rest in peace, Charlie Watts. You helped make rock and roll what it became.
The band that has had the same three members for 50 years has lost a brother. ZZ Top’s Dusty Hill is gone, in the middle of an absolutely brutal week for music. Joey Jordinson, Mike Howe, Don Simmons, and now Dusty Hill.
The bassist with the groove. The mover and the shaker. The guy who sang “I think it’s time to spank my monkey” on a mainstream rock album. He’s gone.
Dusty missed a show earlier and it was most likely the first time ZZ Top ever played without the bearded bassist. After 50 years in the same band together, you can bet that Billy Gibbons and Frank Beard are going to miss their brother.
Rest in Peace, Dusty Hill, May 19 1949 – July 28 2021.
Late yesterday we were informed that Don Simmons, the original founding keyboard player from Helix, had passed away. He was 64.
Simmons played in the original Helix band, with singer Brian Vollmer, drummer Bruce Arnold, guitarist Ron Watson, and bassist Keith “Burt” Zurbrigg. Simmons gigged with Helix from 1974-1976, and was still in the group for a short time when Brent “The Doctor” Doerner joined, beginning the transformation into the modern band.
In 2004, Helix staged a massive reunion that included many of their former surviving members. The original band, including Simmons on keyboards, got up on stage for the first time in 30 years and played “Buff’s Bar Blues”, a mainstay of their early sets. The show was released as the 30th Anniversary Concert.
Don never stopped loving music and continued to play keyboard and guitar. Rest in peace, Don Simmons.
A year ago today we got the message that you were gone. My first thought was “at least he is not in pain anymore.” I didn’t like that you had to suffer so much. I’ve seen enough cancer in this life.
My next thought was for Grandma, and Mom, and Aunt. They still miss you and talk about you. Aunt says that it will be weird coming home to Waterloo without you around. She says she used to like having her morning coffee when only the two of you were awake. I can picture you guys sitting there quietly talking, and maybe even laughing a little. That’s how I want to picture it, anyway.
I have a bunch of your CDs with me. I really liked Jackyl. I was surprised to find it in your collection. Looking at your discs here, I have so many questions. Why Jane’s Addiction? Why the second Garbage album, and not the first? Somebody here went to painstaking care to make you a mix CD, but why did she include “Who Let the Dogs Out”? I’d really like to know your thoughts on that one!
Since you’ve been gone, I followed my dreams and started a YouTube show. I chat with friends about music and I interview rock stars. So far I’ve talked to two former members of Helix — a band we used to discuss in the old days. You knew them long before I did. Now here I am talking to them. You were a part of my history with that band. We also did an entire episode on Led Zeppelin. That was another band you liked long before I discovered them. You thought it was cool when I started picking up these old bands you had in your school days. Led Zeppelin, Alice Cooper, Deep Purple.
I still don’t like sports. There’s something we never agreed on. Even being married to Jen and watching all this hockey, baseball and football, I still don’t like sports. I understand them a little better. I could converse with you about hockey now. It wouldn’t be the topic of my choosing, but I could do it.
We spent last summer quarantined between here and the cottage. You used to love that place. Long hair, no shirt, cutoff jean shorts. One summer you were there for about three weeks straight. I hope you would like what Kathryn has done with it. She’s kept everything intact. It’s not as manly as it was in your day, but everything is still there. It’s a lot quieter. We all got older!
If it wasn’t for this damned virus, we had an idea for a tribute last summer. Maybe we can do it this summer, or next summer. I wanted to buy a turntable for the lake, and play some of your old records in the back yard like you used to. I kept putting it off, and putting it off, because we can’t socialize. It’s been a weird year, man! Grandma really wants a hug. I’ll give her a big one soon, don’t worry.
Speaking of worry, she used to worry about you so much. Though we all miss you, at least she’s not worrying about you anymore. I know she’ll appreciate it when we can finally get together as a family again. Tell Uncle Don stories in the living room. Cutoff shorts in the summer, badminton raquet in one hand and a Labbatt’s in the other! Right?
I don’t drink beer, but I think if you were here right now, healthy and young again, I’d have a beer with you. I’d think I’d like that.
I met David Prowse, the original Darth Vader, in 1978.
That’s not entirely true. My dad met him and got his autograph for me while five-year-old me was terrified of the Dark Lord of the Sith. Prowse signed it “Darth Vader”. In fact nobody knew it was actually David Prowse, the real Vader, until the next day when it was in the newspapers.
Sears announced, to coincide with the latest wave of Kenner action figures, that “Darth Vader” was coming to the store to meet the kids and sign autographs. (I got the brand new R5-D4 figure that night.) It was typical for people in Star Wars costumes to show up at stores and wave to kids. It was usually low budget. This was anything but, as Prowse wore the real costume and even spoke. If you’ve ever seen making-of footage, you know that Prowse spoke his lines on set before being overdubbed by James Earl Jones at the end of the process. Jones, in fact, was not even credited in 1977.
Prowse is the forgotten Vader. As a trained bodybuilder he was the right size to fill that towering suit. All he lacked was the voice, but Vader was so much more than the voice. He was also the body language and the sword fighting. The sudden, deliberate movements. The hacking and slashing that terrified Luke, and us as kids!
Prowse joins his friends Carrie Fischer, Kenny Baker, Peter Mayhew, Sir Alec Guiness and Peter Cushing as he becomes one with the Force. The rest of the world watches A New Hope one more time. I think I’ll watch the original untampered cut as released on DVD. I really hope my parents kept that autograph.
My Uncle Don was the only rock n’ roller in the family. When we were kids, we called him “Uncle Don Don”. Our cousin Geoff already had an Uncle Don (my dad), so my mom’s brother became Uncle Don Don. It’s just much simpler for kids if everybody has a different name.
Uncle Don had curly, flaming red hair. Those Scottish roots. In the old days he wore it long. Come summer, he’d be at the cottage in nothing but a pair of old cutoff jean shorts. Whether he was playing badminton with us, or just drinking a beer with the adults, he was always there with the jean shorts.
“Occasionally we would hear rumours. Usually these ‘little known facts’ would come from that one uncle that everyone had, the one who wore no shirt, watched a lot of football, and had a handlebar moustache. Usually this stereotypical uncle would say, ‘Yeah, Helix have been around a long time, like 20 years, I saw them when they were still a country band. My buddy was in the band too.'”
Uncle Don was the very uncle who told me that Helix were once a country band. That was him. No shirt, football and that moustache! Flaming red. And jean shorts.
As I got older and into classic rock, we started to connect a little bit. We were closer in the late 80s and early 90s. He used to come over to the house and borrow tapes off me so he could record them. He liked my Zeppelin and my Deep Purple. From him, I recorded Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits — my very first Alice. That happened in the summer of 1989, and I had no idea what to expect from Alice. I also have a fond memory of us hanging out at the beach one afternoon, just the two of us. It was a wavy day in August 1992. I wonder if he wore the jean shorts that day too?
As the years passed, Uncle Don became more reclusive. I had not seen him in many months. He was not well. Cancer was slowly starting to take him. He knew he was going, and he knew he didn’t have many days left. At least we had time to prepare. My mom and aunt, and especially my grandmother, will miss him very much. Uncle Don was the “baby of the family”, born much later than his two older sisters. In many ways he had to live with being the “baby of the family” for his whole life.
Uncle Don passed away this afternoon at Freeport hospital in Kitchener. As a family, we are all relieved that he is no longer in pain. It is going to take time to process these feelings. I worry about my grandmother, who still lived with him. She is 95. I spoke to her just yesterday. She is prepared to go on without him, but I worry all the same.
There was nobody else in the family with long hair, listening to Alice Cooper. It was nice having somebody else with the same tastes. I thought a bit about what song he would have liked for this post. I thought about “Over the Hills and Far Away” by Zeppelin, but I think I need a song for me this time. From Alice Cooper’s Greatest Hits, it’s “Teenage Lament ’74”. The song that jumped out at me immediately as something really special. The song I played over and over again, trying to figure out the words. The song that just inexplicably connected with me. I thought it was neat that I was going into my teens, listening to the music he listened to in his teens. I started collecting Alice Cooper immediately. Trash was next, followed by Billion Dollar Babies, School’s Out and Welcome to My Nightmare. Thanks for introducing me to Alice Cooper, Uncle Don. You changed a life. I will never forget you.
What a drag it is, In these gold lame jeans. Is this the coolest way, To get though your teens? Well I cut my hair weird, I read that it was in. I look like a rooster, That was drowned and raised again.
What are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. Why don’t you get away? I’m going to leave today.
I ran into my room, And I fell down on my knees, Well I thought that fifteen, Was going to be a breeze. I picked up my guitar, To blast away the clouds, Somebody in the next room yelled, You got to turn that damn thing down.
What are you going to do? I’ll tell you what I’m going to do. Why don’t you get away? Well I’m going to cry all day.