1993: Native Tongue was not doing well on the charts, but MuchMusic dutifully had Bret Michaels and new guitarist Richie Kotzen on hand for an interview with Erica Ehm. It’s a pretty solid 10 minutes, touching on the following topics:
Getting “serious” lyrically
C.C. leaving the band, Bobby breaking his hand
Reasons for being in a band, still
The “Stand” video, and the Bill Clinton inauguration
Bret writing “country music”?
Toning down the image
Richie Kotzen utters one complete sentence the whole time. This interview is remarkable not because Bret Michaels is always entertaining, but because Richie Kotzen didn’t fit in and it’s painfully obvious.
Had this album come out 30 years ago, it might have been called Smith/Curran. According to our good pal Andy Curran from Coney Hatch, Iron Maiden’s Adrian Smith has been looking for a project like this for quite some time. The right partner arrived with soulful singer/songwriter/shredder Richie Kotzen. As heard on the nine-track debut, everything clicked. It was Smith’s wife Nathalie that introduced the two. Friendship turned to jamming, and jamming turned to writing and recording. We owe Nathalie a huge debt of rocking’ gratitude.
Fans of Kotzen, either via his solo work or the Winery Dogs, won’t be shocked by what they hear. It is the Maiden fans who are in for an adjustment. Not that Smith/Kotzen is wimpy — it isn’t at all — but it is vastly different from the traditional metal that Maiden peddle in. This is a soul/blues/rock fusion from the heart.
None of the nine songs should earn a “skip” in your player. Each one boasts a wicked blend of guitars and voices. Who would have thought that two players and singers, so different in style, would mix so naturally? You can usually pick out who is playing what, but it all works as one monolithic gestalt. The whole thing is brilliant. You can choose your own peaks, because everyone will have their own favourites.
“Running” should be an uptempo high point in anyone’s scorebook. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the power ballad “Scars” (if you want to call it that). Over six minutes with heartfelt playing and harmonizing over a slow riff — pigeonhole it any way you like. The guitar tones on this album are rich and sometimes trippy. Fans of both guitarists are in for a tour-de-force of feel.
Another high water mark is “Glory Road” which may be a slower blues, but boasts a melodic power chorus that you can imagine Iron Maiden pulling off successfully. That gives way to a wicked series of solo trade-offs that blow the mind and punch the gut all at once. But if you really like Maiden, there is no way you will not recognize the one and only Nicko McBrain on the Purple-y “Solar Fire”. (The drums on the rest of the album are performed by Kotzen and Tal Bergman, which Richie and Adrian share bass duties.) Picture the Coverdale/Hughes/Blackmore vibe. An album highlight, “Solar Fire” is as hot as the stellar eruptions it’s named for.
Pick a song — “I Wanna Stay”, “Some People”, “Taking My Chances”, or “‘Til Tomorrow” — all are excellent choices. Smith/Kotzen has nine remarkable tracks to choose from. They’ve all been road tested, and given fair play at home and on the porch. Though they vary in tempo and direction, all nine promise excellent, memorable melodies and powerful playing. This is an album for the summer of 2021 — an album we need.
There’s a sports phrase in the parlance of the profession: a “ringer”. It means boosting your team with a player who who’s above your league, usually with accusations of dishonesty or bad sportsmanship. If you had a beer league hockey team, and your friend’s son happens to be Connor McDavid, and he substitutes for your usual center Big Jim McBob, then you have a ringer.
I was watching some live music on YouTube and wondered if there is a rock band equivalent.
Though it’s not considered cheating, did Queensryche pull a ringer when they got Todd La Torre to sing? Todd is a fine vocalist who enables Queensryche to perform the old material properly; stuff with notes so high that only a young singer can really pull it off. Journey did something similar with Arnel Pineda. They wanted to play the original songs in the original keys, not tune them down for an older singer.
Original Queensryche singer Geoff Tate’s voice has changed over the decades. That’s nature. He can be hit or miss when singing the high stuff, so he tends not to anymore. He’s able to steer around difficult notes and still play the song. La Lorre has no issues with them however, adding some of his own grit to the screams. Todd La Torre is 45 years old. Geoff Tate is closer to his old bandmates at age 61. If Queensryche were to look for another singer in his 60s, they wouldn’t be able to find one able to scream the opening to “Queen of the Reich”.
Go back in time further, to the early 1990s. One band that absolutely hired a ringer was Poison when they acquired Richie Kotzen to replace C.C. Deville.
Without being too unkind, C.C. and Richie are not playing the same sport when it comes to guitar. C.C. is a WWF wrestler, hammering you over the head with loud sloppy moves and tricks. Richie is like a light boxer with heart, a fast contender with a feel for it.
When Poison picked up Kotzen, they plucked someone from the upper echelons to replace somebody who was basically still in the garage. While it failed to win fans in the “get serious 90s”, it did give them an album that they never would have been able to create otherwise. Eventually they were forced to bring C.C. back, but they can never perform material from the Kotzen album. They’d sound ridiculous.
It could be argued that Kiss hired ringers with almost every replacement member in their band, from Eric Carr to Vinnie Vincent to Eric Singer and Bruce Kulick. All of these guys are, on a technical level at least, lightyears better players than the original members. But on the other hand, none of those replacements could capture the sheer vibe of the original band either.
Think about it. When a veteran band loses an original member, do they ever replace them with a peer? Very rarely. Deep Purple replaced Jon Lord (age 61 at retirement) with Don Airey (54 at hiring). But Black Sabbath replaced Bill Ward (age 71 today) with Tommy Clufetos (40 today). No matter what Bill claims, Clufetos is simply in better physical condition. He’s a ringer.
What is your take on this subject? Are these guys ringers, or just regular hired guns? Is there really a difference?
What is a “CHR edit”? It’s a special single edit of a song specifically intended for “contemporary hit radio”. In other words, Top 40. So, when “Stand” by Poison was selected to be the first single from 1993’s brand new Native Tongue album, it had to be trimmed for length. Getting Poison on the radio was going to prove to be an impossible task, so why make it harder by giving them a 5:16 long track that they definitely wouldn’t touch? “Stand” was shortened to 4:21, with much of Richie Kotzen’s delightfully idiosyncratic guitar licks getting the axe, along with some of the choir.
The cassette you see here contains two edited versions of “Stand”: the 4:21 “CHR edit” and another at 4:30 simply called “edit”. The differences are in the guitar solo which starts to deviate at the 2:28 mark. It’s in interesting curiosity, a peak inside the minutia of thinking that goes into marketing a song. “Hey, this format needs another nine seconds of song, leave in some guitar solo.” Is that how it worked?
The tape has both edit versions on both sides…twice. 2x2x2=8 times total, that you will hear “Stand” by Poison, if you play it all the way through. Call the CIA and let ’em know I have this cassette; they can use it with their enhanced interrogation techniques. I’ll sell.
On that note I can all but guarantee this cassette has never been played through, ever. It was sent to the Record Store about a year and a half before I started working there. The owner hated Poison. Hated — with a passion. There is no way he played this tape in store, ever. I rescued it from a giant, forgotten stack of promos that were stuffed into a bin. All garbage. “Don’t take any of those,” said the owner. Eventually all that junk was slated to be thrown out when the only location that sold tapes changed formats at the end of 1996.
This tape is valuable for one thing: it reveals the true North American release date for Native Tongue. Currently (August 2019), Wikipedia claims Native Tongue was released on February 8, 1993. That’s impossible because the 8th was a Monday. New releases came out on Tuesdays. This promo cassette clearly states on the back that the forthcoming album Native Tongue was retailing on February 16 — a Tuesday. You’re welcome, internet.
Poison’s last album of original songs was not a letdown at all. To be disappointed, you have to have expectations. I don’t think anybody expected much out of Poison in 2002. This dull, bland album had no hits for a good reason. Was Bret saving his best material for his solo career?
#8: Power to the People 2000
Part live, part studio, this album should be included as it was the first new Poison material with C.C. Deville in a decade. Shame that the studio songs are largely forgettable. All but “I Hate Every Bone in Your Body but Mine”, sung by an autotuned C.C., which you’ll wish you could forget. Nobody asked for this, nor the live guitar and drum solos. In concert, Poison need to play long solos so Bret Michaels can take his insulin. On album, there is no excuse for including such boring solos.
This album is plagued by the same problem as Power to the People: horribly long live solos that should have been omitted. At least the studio side was decent. There were two pretty good songs, and one excellent single called “So Tell Me Why”. Possibly their best single, actually. Unfortunately you had to wade through 2 CDs of crap to get to it.
Kinda sad that Poison’s last album was a covers album over 10 years ago. Still, it was a surprisingly good covers album. Just delete the Walmart bonus track “SexyBack” and you’re all set for nothing’ but a good time. Incidentally this is the easiest place to find Poison’s first recorded cover, “Rock and Roll all Nite”!
#5: Crack A Smile…And More! 2000
In 1994, Poison began working on their first album with new guitarist Blues Saraceno. It sat unreleased for another six years. When it finally came out, it was beefed up with two new B-sides, the cool and unfinished “Crack A Smile” demo, an old B-side with C.C., and four songs from MTV Unplugged (also with C.C.). Hence the “And More!” tag in the title. Saraceno is a wiz on the guitar, and with Poison he wrote some cool songs. Just not enough for such a long album. There’s a bit of filler on Crack A Smile, but for guitar playing it’s one of their best.
I know, I know, it’s their “classic” debut, right? But it ain’t produced so good, and there’s some filler in those grooves. The singles, however, are all great, with “Cry Tough” joining “So Tell Me Why” as one of their all-time best. Poison had an adorable rawness and party attitude, but like many bands they got better as they went.
This is when Poison really started getting good. By my measure, this album only has one filler song, “Bad to Be Good”. There’s actually some stunning material here, including non-singles like “Love On the Rocks”. It has the big ballad (and only one ballad!) as well as the unforgettable “Nothing But a Good Time“. Open Up and Say…Ahh! is definitely the best of Poison’s “party rock” albums.
A lot of people consider this to be Poison’s best, and while that argument can be made, I just can’t get past “Poor Boy Blues”. That song is so awful it leaves a limburger-like aftertaste. (It’s even worse when it’s extended on Swallow This Live.) “Unskinny Bop” is painfully dumb, a fact we recognized back in 1990. It didn’t fit the more mature sound Poison were going for with new producer Bruce Fairbairn. “Why is this song the single?” we asked each other, as we discovered way better material buried inside. “Valley of Lost Souls”, “Sacrifice”, and “Life Loves a Tragedy” were never singles but certainly catalogue highlights. Flesh & Blood also boasts two of their best ballads, “Something to Believe In” and “Life Goes On”. It’s a tough album to beat.
But Native Tongue does surpass Flesh & Blood, thanks to the supernatural talents of Mr. Richie Kotzen. On paper, it was a slam dunk. Poison were never taken seriously as musicians, but with Kotzen, suddenly that bar was raised. That tone! Earthy and hot. He was a shredder, and a soulful singer/songwriter. He dominated Native Tongue. Unfortunately the personalities didn’t mesh (or so we will word it). It was a weird fit, but it resulted in a very special album. Most of the songs are clearly Richie’s, with Bret Michaels singing. (It’s possible that Richie played other instruments as well, but we’ll leave that to speculation.) Kotzen brought to Poison a real soulful bent that they simply didn’t have without him, although they sure did try on Flesh & Blood. His raspy voice didn’t hurt. The good time rock isn’t gone either, though there’s less of it. “Ride Child Ride”, “Strike Up the Band” and “Seven Days Over You” are as fun as the old days, but with a richer more musical palette. Poison also went heavier than ever before. “Scream” and “Bring it Home” groove harder than anything before or after. Perhaps this album should be disqualified from the list as it’s more a Kotzen record with Poison as his backing band? Nope, it’s my list and this is #1.
“Richie takes a little getting used to. He’s a strange cat.” — Bret Michaels
In 1991, a new cable access show catering to metalheads hit the local airwaves: The Metal Mike show, with host Mike Coughlin. Since MuchMusic’s Power 30 was declining in quality, there was a vacuum for another good metal show.
Check out this terrific interview with Poison frontman Bret Michaels in 1993. The band had parted with C.C. Deville and were re-emerging the middle of the grunge era with Native Tongue. Today it’s considered to be their best album, but nobody cared in ’93.
Metal Mike eases Bret in comfortably but then hits him up with a tough question: what really happened with C.C. Deville? And Bret doesn’t hold back. Fist fights, drugs and alcohol all came into play, and the trainwreck MTV Awards appearance all contributed.
They move on to finding Richie Kotzen. Pay attention and notice that the fit seems awkward. The clues were there. “He sometimes can be kinda weird,” says Bret of his new bandmate. There was no question of the man’s chops, however, nor his stage presence. Check it out.
Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B.
RICHIE KOTZEN presents the Mother Head’s Family Reunion(1994 Geffen, Japanese with bonus track)
Did anybody really expect Richie Kotzen to stay in Poison? The chances of that happening were always about as good as a Beatles reunion tour — next to zilch. Kotzen’s talent burst at the seams that were Poison. He could not have been content for long. Post-Poison he resumed business swiftly with Mother Head’s Family Reunion, his fifth overall recording.
A funky “Socialite” demonstrates Kotzen’s diversity. Drummer Atma Anur breaks it down while Richie brings the soul. Kotzen’s music is cut for hard rockers who like insane playing and a side of R&B. The soulful profile is on full display with “Mother Head’s Family Reunion” which sounds like a Black Crowes cover. Switch to blues balladeering on “Where Did Our Love Go”, and “Natural Thing” brings it all the way to funk again.
Listening closely, Mother Head’s Family Reunion sounds a lot like Native Tongue, Phase II. It’s that album, but beyond: it’s Kotzen completely unleashed and without Bret Michaels. You could easily imagine a track like “A Love Divine” on side two of Native Tongue, among the more grooving material. That connects seamlessly with “Soul to Soul”, another bluesy ballad, with a summery feel. “Testify” has a similar bright side, and a wailing chorus.
Cover songs can be shaky ground, and “Reach Out I’ll Be There” sticks out like a sore thumb, a song from another era that doesn’t match up with Richie’s originals. That’s not to say it’s bad. Far from it — it’s one of the best covers of it that you’ll find. It’s just on the wrong album, even as it jams on for seven minutes!
Through the last four tracks (“Used”, “A Woman & A Man”, “Livin’ Easy” and “Cover Me”) Richie and company rock it up and slow it down again with consistently impressive chops. There are no weak songs, and Kotzen’s ballads have a genuine sound that stays timeless no matter the year. The speedy funk-soul-metal soup of “Cover Me” concludes the standard domestic album by smoking your ears with blazing hot licks.
This album, long out of print, has been reissued in Japan with the bonus track intact, at a surprisingly low price. (Amazon Canada had it in stock for $22.33.) If you’re lucky enough to acquire it, you’ll get the extra song “Wailing Wall”. Sometimes the Japanese fans got the best exclusives. “Wailing Wall” is one. It taps into the spirit of Tommy Bolin-era Deep Purple and it could be the best song of them all.
It’s time for 10 more WTF Search Terms! WTF Search Terms are those weird and wacky things that people typed into search engines to get here. This instalment is a mixed bag, some of which I can explain and some I cannot!
1.is jeff vwcj bliw vy blow valuable
This person, with fingers too large for their phone, is asking if Jeff Beck’s Blow By Blow album is valuable. Would you have figured it out?
2.what year did ozzy do the randy rhodes tribute tour
A reasonable question — except there was no such “tribute” tour. The Randy Rhoads Tribute live album came out in 1987 and there was no tour to support it. It was recorded on 1982’s Diary of a Madman tour.
3.has bret michaels and richie kotzen made up
Again, a minor detail is wrong here — Richie Kotzen had an affair with Rikki Rockett’s fiance, not Bret’s. And I doubt they have spoken since!
Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York(1997 DeRock)
Produced and arranged by T.M. Stevens
This is one of the coolest and most different Deep Purple tributes you are likely to find. It’s also by far the funkiest.
Bassist T.M. Stevens (aka Shocka Zooloo) might be best known for his work with Joe Cocker, James Brown, Billy Joel and many others…but he first came to the attention of hard rockers via Steve Vai. He was a member of Vai’s Sex & Religion band, and immediately stood out on CD and on stage. Although his name doesn’t appear prominently on the front cover for Black Night: Deep Purple Tribute According to New York, it’s clearly his project. He produced it, arranged it, and is the only musician who appears on every track. He has a pocket full of well known friends to fill out the instruments including: Will Calhoun (Living Color, drums), Cory Glover (Living Color, vocals), Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple/Rainbow, vocals), Richie Kotzen (guitar, vocals), Al Pitrelli (Savatage, guitars), Vinnie Moore (UFO, guitars), Stevie Salas (guitars), Bernie Worrell (Parliament/Funkadelic, keys), Cindy Blackman (Lenny Kravitz, drums), and Tony Harnell (TNT, vocals). What a team!
Black Night is not for everyone. Each and every song is drastically changed. “Black Night” itself is slowed down and turned into a metallic bluesy grind. Dual lead guitars by Pitrelli and Moore ensure its metal credentials, and Joe Lynn Turner comes down with his raspy soul. Another raspy soul singer, Richie Kotzen, handles “Strange Kind of Woman” on guitar and vocals. This one turns the funk right up! The rhythm section of Calhoun and Stevens generates a punchy funk that can’t be stopped. A standout. Living Color’s Cory Glover takes over on the even funkier “Fireball”. The creative arrangement deconstructs the song. “Fireball” was one of the few Purple songs to feature a bass solo, so Stevens takes the opportunity to slap some bass. A Purple tribute without “Smoke on the Water” wouldn’t be a real Deep Purple tribute. It’s a hard track to funk up, so it’s more of a steamroller with funky verses. Kotzen turns in a hell of a soulful vocal, proving how versatile any music can be. An original and refreshing slant on a tired classic.
The most interesting arrangement is by far “Child in Time”. The epic soft/loud dynamic of Purple’s beloved classic has been replaced by reggae, and why not? Bernie Worrell does his best with Jon Lord’s original outline to create his own organ parts. T.M. and Tony Harnell share lead vocals: Tony singing the clean and high parts (with absolutely no difficulty!), while T.M. does his Rasta take on the rest. Sacrilege? Keep an open mind.
Keeping an open mind is the key for this entire album. If you cannot do that, you will probably hate Deep Purple According to New York. That title says it all. This is Purple according to Stevens and friends, and they do their own thing. The rest of the material — “Woman From Tokyo”, “Stormbringer”, “Speed King”, “Burn”, and “Space Truckin'” — are as different as the first five tunes. “Woman From Tokyo” is funky soul vocal nirvana, featuring four lead singers (Kotzen, Stevens, Harnell and Turner)!
In case you’re wondering what the closing track “Deep Purple NY” is, it’s just a funky shout-out to all the players on the CD. “New York is in the house, New Jersey, Bernie Worrell!” That kind of thing.
I’ve heard a number of Deep Purple tribute albums over the years. Yngwie did four Purple songs on his mediocre Inspiration album. Thin Lizzy did a Purple tribute under the name Funky Junction. There was the star-studded Re-Machined CD. There was even a 1994 tribute album called Smoke on the Water that featured three of the same guys on this album! (Joe Lynn Turner, Tony Harnell, Richie Kotzen, as well as another ex-Purple member, Glenn Hughes). None of those albums, even with all that star power, are nearly as interesting as Black Night. I chose that word “interesting” on purpose. It’s a very neutral word. Your reaction to this album could be wildly positive, violently negative, or simply passively unmoved. The listening experience will be anything but dull. Whether you like it or not, if you pick up this CD you’re going to hear some of the greatest rock and funk players on the planet, so get your dancing shoes on.
GETTING MORE TALE #539: Been a long time since I been to Frankenmuth
Frankenmuth Michigan is a small Bavarian hamlet/tourist trap not too far from the Canada border. Some people love going; I seem to be one of the only dissenting voices. My best friend Peter introduced us to the Frankenmuth tradition. His family would typically go once a year, staying at the Bavarian Inn. The big draws to the town are two. One is the big “family style” chicken dinner at Zehnder’s, where the food just keeps coming. The other attraction is Bronner’s, an all-year-round Christmas store. Some in my family seemed absolutely thrilled to be buying our Christmas ornaments in April.
Frankenmuth seemed a long way to go for some chicken and Christmas ornaments. However, it’s not too far for a shopping excursion focused on music, so that’s what I turned it into for me. In the three years I went to Frankenmuth, I found plenty of goodies, and accumulated some entertaining memories.
My first year was 1992. I had just finished writing all my final exams for my first year classes at Laurier. The Freddie Mercury Tribute concert had just aired. I taped the whole thing, and then recorded it to cassette (three 100 minute tapes). I tossed that into the Walkman, and joined the family for our first US road trip together.
The Mercury concert was special. Queen shared the stage with some luminaries as David Bowie (RIP), George Michael (RIP), Mick Ronson (RIP), and many more. Vivian Campbell played live with Def Leppard for the first time. Tony Iommi and James Hetfield shared the stage with Queen on “Stone Cold Crazy”. Guns N’ Roses were there, and Axl got to sing with new friend Elton John. The excitement in the air was genuine. There was talk afterwards of someone charismatic, like George Michael or Gary Cherone joining Queen permanently so they could continue.
Our first road stop was a McDonalds in a small town just outside of Flint. The washroom stunk of piss so badly that my dad couldn’t even use it. Great first impression, Michigan!
When we got to the Bavarian Inn, I had the chance to watch MTV for the first time at length. After all I’d heard about it, I was disappointed to see it was not nearly as good as Canada’s MuchMusic. The American coverage of the Mercury concert (which was re-running all weekend) was truncated compared to what we saw in Canada. MuchMusic had Erica Ehm and others on site at Wembley interviewing the stars and covering behind-the-scenes, while the US coverage cut away to other things. The food at the Bavarian Inn was incredible, including what I remember to be the best omelette I’ve ever tasted.
I can’t say that I cared for the family style chicken dinner. “Family style” isn’t my thing (where everybody has the same dinner, all served together on big platters). If I’m eating out, I will rarely order chicken. Seemed like a big waste of a night out, to go and eat somewhere that serves chicken dinner just like you get at home. But I didn’t make these decisions, I just complained about them!
On the way home, we stopped at a Target store in Port Huron. My first Target store; I had never even heard of them before. This is where I made my first US music purchases. In stock was the cassette single for “Let’s Get Rocked” by Def Leppard. This featured the bonus track “Only After Dark”, a Mick Ronson track, who had just played at the Mercury concert! The other item I picked up was Slaughter’s new The Wild Life CD, which had a different cover than the ones I’d seen in Canada. It still appears to be the rarest version today.
The 1993 trip was even better, because this time Peter came with us. In 1993, Peter was the man with the plan. He was looking for something. Something very specific, that as of yet was not released in Canada. He had read about this new comedy tape called The Jerky Boys, and he was determined to find a copy. And find a copy he did.
We found The Jerky Boys at a record store just on the outskirts of Frankenmuth. At the same store, I picked five tapes that I couldn’t get back home: Savatage’s first albums Sirens (1983), The Dungeons are Calling (1985), Power of the Night (1986) and the brand new Edge of Thorns (1993). There was also Richie Kotzen’s third album, Electric Joy. These fine records meant that the summer of 1993 was filled with sounds both heavy and complex. The Kotzen album was a whole level beyond was I was used to listening to. As for Savatage, they heavied up my tastes at a time when I was craving faster/heavier/louder.
I spent a lot of time absorbing each of these albums, but it was The Jerky Boys that dominated the car tape deck on that Frankenmuth trip. Peter and I listened to the entire thing through. Tarbash the Egyptian Magician, Sol Rosenberg and his glasses (he can’t see goddammit), and the whole gang had us laughing so hard, my sides actually hurt. When the tape was done, we put it on repeat and played it again. I’m not sure if my mom and dad enjoyed the Jerky Boys as much as I did. I started calling people “sizzlechest” and responding to questions with “listen jerky, I don’t need to talk to you.”
What a summer.
This Frankenmuth trip was also my Karaoke debut. I chose “The Immigrant Song”. And I fucking killed it, in my opinion! Like Axl Rose gyrating on meth, I owned that stage. The heels of my cowboy boots stomped the boards, keeping their own beat. I asked my entire family to leave the room, but I lost my place in the song when I caught them spying around a corner.
On we sweep, with threshing oar, our only goal will be the western shore.
That was a fantastic trip. Mission accomplished, with both the music shopping and the Jerky Boys acquisition. On my third and final year going to Frankenmuth, Peter really upped his game. Once again, the goal was to acquire something that we could not get in Canada.
Instead of travelling in one car, we did a convoy with two. Peter and I needed transportation of our own to run the missions we were planning.
As much as MTV did not impress me on my first US trip, our goal this time was dependant on MTV.
“Let’s rent a VCR and tape some episodes of Beavis and Butthead!” We didn’t get the show in Canada.
That is exactly what we did. We drove over to the local video store, and rented a VCR. You might think renting a VCR in a foreign country might be difficult, but it wasn’t. We hooked it up to the hotel TV (much easier than doing something like this today — more on that in a future instalment of Getting More Tale also involving Peter). Tuning up MTV, we watched some music before Beavis and Butthead was scheduled.
This time, MTV really pissed me off. They gleefully ran the embarrassing 1994 Motley Crue interview that the band infamously walked out of. But the band didn’t do themselves any favours in that interview. MTV baited them a bit with the questions, but they didn’t have to attack Vince Neil in their answers. “No one cares anyway,” said Nikki Sixx when asked about his former frontman. Pushed further, they were asked to comment on Vince’s recent jet-ski accident that put him in hospital with broken ribs. Laughing, Mick Mars asked “What happened to the coral reef?” Sixx answered, “Hey, when 300 pounds of blubber lands on a coral reef, there’s gonna be some dust flying around.”
The question that killed the interview was about “women, hairspray and fire.” MTV ran the segment complete with Nikki mocking the question, while showing images of women, hairspray and fire from their music videos. Stick in a fork in that lineup; it was done. No matter how good that 1994 Motley Crue album was (and is), that interview polished off the attempted comeback in one stroke.
We recorded a couple episodes of Beavis and Butthead and called it a night. The next day we did some music and comic book shopping. US exclusive once more: Quiet Riot’s reunion album Terrified found and liberated. I didn’t even know they had come out with anything new. A cassette single for “Heaven Help” by Lenny Kravitz also found its way home with me. I scored an oversized Black Sabbath comic (Rock-It Comics) and Transformers: Generation 2 #1 with the silver foil fold out cover.
With another successful trip in the books, we packed our bags and checked out. The last mission to run was returning the VCR to the video store. There was only one snag. We were primed and ready to head home early…and the video store opened at noon. We had to kill some hours driving around, but when that store opened we got the hell out of dodge. Not the greatest return trip ever, but at least we had Lenny Kravitz.
I stopped going to Frankenmuth after that trip, although Peter and his family returned yearly for some chicken and Christmas ornaments. My family too. My mom tells me of a memorable trip that ended in the hospital! Four years ago my mother, father and sister made a trip where they did the usual; Frankenmuth chicken and the Christmas store. They also ate a lot of junk food; pizza, hot dogs, French fries and candy. On the way home they stopped along the 401 for more French fries. That night my mother ended up in the hospital with a gall bladder attack. It was serious enough that she had it removed two weeks later. Thank goodness they were home when it happened as they never bothered with extra insurance for a short trip to the US.
As years went on, I ran into people all the time who had gone to Frankenmuth for a vacation. Inevitably, they will always talk about three things: the Bavarian Inn, the chicken dinners, and the Christmas store. None of them seem to have any stories about cool comic books, or finding rare tapes and CDs in Frankenmuth. Very few of them have done Karaoke, and none have performed “The Immigrant Song” at the Bavarian Inn. Nobody rented a VCR to record Beavis and Butthead, and then have to wait hours for the store to open to return said VCR. Nobody even discovered the Jerky Boys on their Michigan trips.
I guess that means that Peter and I are the only ones who did Frankenmuth right.