Rodney Dangerfield

#888: The Limewire Days

RECORD STORE TALES #888: The Limewire Days

I got into the downloading business later than everyone else. As a Record Store manager, I had zero interest in downloads. I’ve never used Napster and I sided with Lars Ulrich when it came down to it.  You might not have cared about Lars’ bottom line, but I cared about mine.  Downloading hurt us.  And we weren’t a corporate entity, we were just a small indy chain.  Eventually in the year 2001, I relented and began using WinMX and Limewire to download rare tracks. I bought so many CDs annually, I figured “why not”? I quickly discovered all the new Guns N’ Roses songs that they played in Rio.

I still remember the first time using WinMX. It was at an old girlfriend’s house and she was showing me how she downloaded music. Hey neighbour was using WinMX too, and gave her a mix CD of all the tracks she had downloaded. I’ll never forget putting on this mix CD, and suddenly from the speakers it’s “Who Let the Dogs Out”!   As the song went on, I remarked “I don’t think I’ve ever heard the verses to this song before. Just the chorus.” Do you know how the verses go?

I copied what the girlfriend showed me, downloaded WinMX, and before you know it, I was listening to “The Blues” by Guns N’ Roses.

After everything dried up on WinMX, we both switched to Limewire where I continued downloading the odd rarity. I accumulated a large music folder, and began burning all my new tracks to mix CDs. I have several volumes of mixes all with tracks downloaded during this period. But there were always odds and ends that I never fit onto a mix CD. I thought all those tracks had been lost, but I just dug up an old CD labelled “MP3 downloads”. It is here that I burned the stragglers, and then stuffed the CD in with some photo discs and forgot all about it.

The title “MP3 downloads” is misleading as there are video files here too (none of which work anymore). The downloads are also not exclusively from Limewire, as we’ll get to. Let’s have a look track by track at what mp3 files I still had in my music folder back in 2004.


This CD is only 303 mb (of 656).

First, the video files are a weird variety of stuff I downloaded and intended to keep.  I didn’t have cable back then, so “Gene Simmons on MTV Cribs” is one I wanted.  Then there’s a file called “Gene’s hair on fire”.  Then there’s a file called “some jackass tells a cop to fuck off”.  I remember that one.  I think I had been searching for Jackass videos, and came across this idiot getting beat by a cop after walking up and giving him the finger.  Some Star Wars videos include the Star Wars Kid vs Yoda, a deleted scene from A New Hope, and something called “Episode 3 Leaked Marketing Video”.  All the video files appear to be corrupt and won’t play on anything.

Onto the music.  I can see there are some tracks here from albums I didn’t own then, but do now.  From the compilation CD Spaced by William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, it’s “Mr. Tambourine Man”, “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”, “I Walk the Line” and “When I Was Seventeen”.  These are strictly novelty covers, although Nimoy does give it a good effort.  All of these songs were originally released on separate Nimoy and Shatner albums in the late 1960s.  Related to these, I also have “Shaft” by Sammy Davis Jr.  I have long loved Sammy’s glittery version of the Shaft theme.  Who’s the black private dick who’s a sex machine with all the chicks?  Sammy Davis Jr. was!  The guitar work on this is great slippery fun.  I’ll have to get a copy for real.

A fun treat next:  A full hour Peter Criss interview show by Eddie Trunk.  This is with all the songs and music.  Peter was out of Kiss once again, and he spilled the full beans on his whole perspective.  Doing the Symphony show with Tommy Thayer, Peter complains “without Ace, it’s not Kiss”.  This interview is definitely a keeper.  According to the file name, this interview is from May 4, 2004.

Several of the files are really, really low quality Dokken.  These are tiny files, they are so poor.  Demos of “Back for the Attack”, “We’re Illegal”, “It’s Not Love”, “Unchain the Night”, “Upon Your Lips”, and “Sign of the Times”.  A live version of “Paris is Burning”.  Remixes of “Nothing Left to Say” and “I Feel”.  I could have burned all these to a Dokken rarities CD, but the sound quality is poor, I knew I’d never want to listen to it.

There is also a smattering of rare Leatherwolf, including some live stuff.  Some were downloads from their social media pages at the time.  “Tension” is definitely one such official track, an instrumental solo that isn’t on any albums.  (You can tell by the file size it’s official, compared to the low quality Limewire downloads.)  I also have “Black Knight” live with original singer Michael Olivieri, and a partial instrumental called “The Triple Axe Attack”.  I’m not 100% certain what these are, but they don’t seem to have originated on the rare Leatherwolf live album called Wide Open.  Best of all the finds are the three official demos they did with singer Jeff Martin:  “Burned”, Disconnect” and “Behind the Gun”.  Martin did not last, and was replaced by Wade Black of Crimson Glory on the album World Asylum.  Fortunately I had already burned these tracks (and “Tension”) to a bonus CD.

There is a smattering of Gene Simmons demos, varying in quality.  “Heart Throb” is almost unlistenable.  “Howling for Your Love” is OK but I can’t identify if it was later rewritten into something more recognizable.  “It’s Gonna Be Alright” is bright and poppy with a drum machine backing Gene.  Then there is “Jelly Roll”, a heavier track with a riff like “Tie Your Mother Down”.  “Rock and Rolls Royce” is the track that was rewritten into “Love ‘Em and Leave ‘Em” from Rock and Roll Over.  “Rotten to the Core” was recycled way later on 2009’s Sonic Boom as “Hot and Cold”.  Like the Dokken tracks, I never burned these to CD because of the poor audio that I knew I wouldn’t want to listen to.

Other miscellaneous rarities here include Faith No More, Motley Crue and Van Halen.  Faith No More were known to mess around with covers live, and here I have “Wicked Game” (Chris Isaak) and “We Will Rock You”.  Sound quality is awful and neither are full songs, just them messing around on stage.  The two unreleased Motley Tracks are “Black Widow” and something just labelled “unreleased track” which is actually “I Will Survive”.  Both of these are officially released now so I have no reason to keep them.  Onto Van Halen, not everything sounds shite, but “On Fire” is just a few seconds of a demo.  “Let’s Get Rockin'” is complete.  A good sounding track that later was reworked as “Outta Space” on A Different Kind of Truth.  Then I have 90 seconds of the sneak preview single for “It’s About Time” (2004).  And then just two seconds of shred on a track labelled “VANHwhee”.  So strange!

Other rarities include one Def Leppard treasure called “Burnout”, which was an official download from their site.  It was also available on the CD single for “Goodbye” and a Def Leppard boxed set.  I also have an audio rip of “Lick My Love Pump” from the movie This Is Spinal Tap.  I should really take this and add it to the soundtrack as a bonus track!

I downloaded some miscellaneous songs that I didn’t own the albums for, but intended to get later:

  • Blue Oyster Cult – “Don’t Fear the Reaper” (I was watching Stephen King’s The Stand that year!)
  • Budgie – “Breadfan”
  • Buckethead – “Nottingham Lace” (might be an official download)
  • Cat Stevens – “The Wind”
  • Creedence Clearwater Revival – “Down on the Corner” (mislabelled as “Willy and the Poor Boys”)
  • Fleetwood Mac – “Go Your Own Way”
  • Iced Earth – “Dracula”
  • Iced Earth – “Jack”
  • Kenny Rogers – “Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In)”
  • Marty Robbins – “El Paso”
  • Mojo Nixon & Skid Roper – “Elvis is Everywhere”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “I’m An Adult Now”
  • The Pursuit of Happiness – “Hard to Laugh”

Of these, there are some I still have not bought and some I have no intention of getting anymore.  I do own the B.O.C., Budgie, Cat Stevens, CCR, Kenny Rogers, Marty Robbins, and Fleetwood Mac.  I’d still like to get Mojo Nixon to be honest with you!

Finally, there are bits of pieces of funny things that I liked to have hanging around for making mix CDs.  Many are from a website that used to have mp3 files of movie quotes, and the rest are from Homestar Runner.  Does that take you back to the 2000s?  From Homestar, I have “Alright 4 2Night”, “Strongbadia National Anthem”, “Everybody Knows It”, “Ballad of the Sneak”, “Cheat Commandos”, “CGNU Fight Song”, and a computer voice saying “back off baby”!  I might have been using that as an MSN Messenger alert sound.  Any time someone messaged me, the computer would say “back off baby”!  If I didn’t, I should have.  From the movie Sexy Beast I grabbed a bunch of Ben Kingsley’s best lines.  Saying he’s going to put his cigarette out in somebody’s eye, calling someone “porky pig”, yelling “no!” repeatedly, and announcing he had to take a piss.  Because of course.

The last files I found on this CD are strange, but for the sake of a complete and thorough inventory, they are:

  • no_respect:  24 seconds of the pretty terrible “Rappin'” Rodney Dangerfield song from the 80s.
  • 50_10sec:  Actually 11 seconds of the “Smoke on the Water” riff.  I can tell it’s Blackmore.  Why did I keep this?
  • MM Jukebox Plus Upgrade:  18 second software ad that obviously got left there by something I downloaded.  This is probably the first time in my life that I actually played this track!
  • cant_holdon:  36 seconds long.  This took forever to identify.  Lyric searches told me nothing.  Then I figured it out by uploading to YouTube and waiting for the copyright block to tell me what it was!  “Can’t Hold On / Can’t Let Go” by a band called Thunder, but not the band Thunder that you know today.  Probably downloaded by mistake is my guess.  Sounds like something you’d hear in an 80s Bruce Willis flick.

I don’t know how interesting this will be for you to read, but I found it entertaining enough to do this complete inventory.  I had clearly not tried to listen to all the files before, or I would have weeded at least a few out.  It is likely that in 2004 I was getting a new hard drive put in my computer and hastily burned my mp3 files to CD, intending to eventually put them on mix discs like I did with the rest of my mp3 collection.

After a little further digging, I did find that I had burned some of these songs to a mix CD.  Not all, but some.  You can get an idea here of how I’d make use of weird stuff like this.  The rest of the tracks never made it to the mix CD stage, so finding the original mp3 disc is a fun reminder for me of just what I was doing in 2004.  And I’m going to keep that Peter Criss interview, and a few other worthwhile things too.! Productive morning spent, and I hope you enjoyed this look at the way we did things a decade and a half ago.

 

REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Constrictor (1986)

EPIC REVIEW TIME.

Scan_20160207 (2)ALICE COOPER – Constrictor (1986 MCA)

Alice Cooper’s bizarre DaDa album was the end of an era.  It marked the last album Alice recorded for his Warner Brothers contract, now complete.  It was also the end of his experimental period that ran from 1980’s Flush the Fashion through to DaDa.  It was the the last album Alice would make that he couldn’t remember making.

Alice mostly disappeared for the next three years.  His activities were so low key that most people didn’t even notice them.  He was hospitalized for cirrhosis of the liver caused by his blackout drinking.  He got sober, for good.  He also dealt with a divorce.  Musically there was very little going on.  In 1984, Alice starred in a very low budget horror movie called Monster Dog.  He recorded two songs for the soundtrack:  “Identity Crisises” and “See Me in the Mirror”.  These two tracks are very much the conclusion to Alice’s early 80’s art-rock persona.  “Identity Crisises” has a lo-fi, garage-y Iggy Pop sound.  “See Me in the Mirror” is in the synthpop direction of DaDa:  creepy, atmospheric and mostly electronic.  These two songs were finally released for purchase on the legendary Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper boxed set in 1999.

Alice next emerged with one of the bands he inspired:  Twisted Sister.  Along with Brian Setzer, Clarence Clemens and Billy Joey, Cooper accompanied Twisted Sister on their single “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”. A very clever zombie-filled big budget horror-inspired music video was made for the song, which Alice co-starred in, as did Bobcat Golthwait (who was also in Sister’s “Leader of the Pack” clip).  It should have been a big deal, with Alice getting equal screen time with Dee Snider.  Unfortunately hardly anyone saw the video. MTV barely touched it. As a result it did nothing to aid Alice in terms of a comeback.  It was good to note that Alice looked healthier than he had in years.

Alice regrouped and re-invented himself in a new persona. Taking inspiration from his Welcome to My Nightmare period, Alice went into “slasher film” mode. He recruited a massive muscle-bound heavy metal guitarist and songwriter, Kane Roberts, to be his co-pilot for this adventure. Also along for the ride was a hot new bassist and singer named Kip Winger, whose large mane hid the fact that the man was a classically trained musician. With producer Beau Hill, they made an album in tune with what was happening in 1986, and that meant heavy metal. Alice had always been a diverse, experimental artist, but this time the mission was pretty simple and the lines were clear.

Another horror film served to launch the next official Alice Cooper music: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Alice appeared in a brief cameo, but more importantly contributed two new songs to the movie soundtrack. They were the anthem “Hard Rock Summer”, and “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, which served as the movie’s theme song. “Hard Rock Summer” was a bit of a throwaway, and was not used on the next Alice album. You can really hear the backing vocals of Kip Winger and Kane Roberts on it, but a classic it is not. “He’s Back”, and its very cool music video became synonymous with this new period of Alice Cooper’s life.

The new album, Constrictor, was finally released in September of ’86. With a snake in his mouth on the cover (not really; you can see it’s cheaply cut and pasted) it was pretty clear that Cooper was going for the scares. Opening track “Teenage Frankenstein” continues the horror theme, but combines it with Alice’s teen anthem style from the early 1970’s. “Teenage Frankenstein” is essentially an “I’m 18” for 1986. It’s not as memorable, inventive, or as good, but it gets the job done. It’s an Alice Cooper heavy metal anthem for pounding your fist to in concert. In lieu of a proper music video, a clip from his live show The Nightmare Returns was used, featuring Alice building a living robot monster on stage, which then turns against him!  Alice was still one of the best live acts in the world.

It’s funny that DaDa is remembered as Alice’s “drum machine” album when it’s clear on “Give it Up” that a lot of the beats are programs and samples.  “Give it Up” is a radio friendly hard rocker, nondescript but at its core not that different from the music Alice made in the 70’s.  It’s even has some rock and roll piano.   It’s just dressed up for the 80’s.   There’s not much going on with “Thrill My Gorilla”, just a forgettable song with the shrill production that was so popular in the 80’s.  Much better is the somewhat epic “Life and Death of the Party”.  Slower, creepier and much more effective, “Life and Death of the Party” is the kind of song I like to point to as proof there was some mighty good material during this period.  Unfortunately “Simple Disobedience” isn’t among that material.  Like “Thrill My Gorilla”, there is little here to attract listeners today.  The electronics and samples really are a drag.  It is like there is a layer of distraction over the song that you have to penetrate through.

Flipping the record over (or pretending to since I own this on CD), “The World Needs Guts” isn’t a bad start to the second side.  It could have been much heavier.  It verges on the speedy power metal tendencies of bands like Accept, but the production keeps it from going all the way.  As such it kind of sounds like a thin Judas Priest Turbo outtake with the synths stripped off.  “Trick Bag” may sound familiar.   It actually started life as “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”.  There’s a demo version of “He’s Back” on the aforementioned Alice Cooper box set musically identical to “Trick Bag”.  “He’s Back” was re-written, but the original music ended up as “Trick Bag”.  It’s a decent album track but like much of Constrictor not particularly classic.  “Crawlin'” is pretty close.  With all the melody and hooks of an old 70’s Alice Cooper track circa Goes to Hell, “Crawlin'” is pretty good stuff.

“The Great American Success Story” is fantastic for two reasons.  One is that it was originally written for the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back to School.   Second, it’s like an updated “School’s Out” for the 80’s.  Instead of celebrating the end of school, this time we are celebrating going to school.  “He’s gonna take that plunge, gonna jump back in there.”  Which, if you’ve seen the movie, you know is also a reference to Dangerfield’s character joining the diving team.  “He thinks about the teacher in his literary class,” and I don’t blame him; it was Sally Kellerman!  “Always been a brat, don’t get no respect” is another obvious reference to Dangerfield.  But it’s a good song! It really should have been a single, and it probably would have been if it were in the movie.

Closing the album, we go full circle back to Friday the 13th and “He’s Back”.  There’s little question that “He’s Back” is the best song on Constrictor.  It actually bears more similarity to the synth-pop of DaDa than it does to the rest of the album.   It’s brilliant because they stripped the song down to a very basic frame, which is a creepy digital pulse.  There’s a little guitar but it’s mostly just horror pop of the finest quality.  Ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha…don’t turn out the lights.

Part of the problem with Constrictor is that Alice had a faceless, fairly bland group backing him.  Kane Roberts can play guitar, and Kip Winger can play the bass, but did they have their own identities?  No.  Dennis Dunaway played bass on those early Alice Cooper albums like no other bassist in the world.  Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, and the other great players Alice worked with all had their own sound.  There is none of that on Constrictor.

I want to give Alice and company an A for effort: for finally getting sober, for finally getting back there on tour, and also for going heavy this time.  Unfortunately Constrictor was a comeback album that needed a bit more comeback in it.  The good news is that Alice did eventually get back to full quality, but Constrictor is only about half an album.  Therefore:

2.5/5 stars

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#326: Not the Best Buy (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

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RECORD STORE TALES Mk II:  Getting More Tale

#326: Not the Best Buy

I don’t shop in the big corporate record stores that often anymore. Hell, I don’t even really shop in stores anymore! I used to, even at the big stores. When I started working in Cambridge, my buddy Chris and I would go to Future Shop once a week at lunch time to check out the new releases. I would typically buy a new movie and a new CD release at least once a week, sometimes more.  I’d stock up on blank CDs, or just impulsively buy a guitar there.  It happens!

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We would do the circuit around the store. We’d start with the new releases up front, then head to the movie section. I would detour over to CDs while Chris would look at electronics and computer games. We’d meet up at the bargain bin as we left. It’s there that Chris and I acquired two copies of Back to School with Rodney Dangerfield on DVD for $4.99 each. The girl at the front counter was jealous and asked if there were any left! She always knew us as the “Tuesday new release guys”. We sometimes wondered if she thought we were a gay couple since we rarely went in without the other!

Sometime in the last few years, both Future Shop and Best Buy (which are the same company) really started to change. They moved the music and movie section to the very back of the stores, providing more room for cell phones and tablets. It was a sign that things were getting worse for people like myself who enjoy owning physical product. Chris is similar to me. He likes to own “whole collections” of movie or TV series. Some of us are just like that.  He always likes to own the ones he really loves. (Such as the Police Academy series. Yes Chris I just outed you.)

So, we stopped going to Future Shop at lunch. In fact we haven’t been in ages.  Same went for Best Buy.  Strangely enough, a Best Buy soon opened in Cambridge, right next to the Future Shop.  Even the new Best Buy store didn’t have much in the way of music and movies, so we just stopped spending our money at lunch time.

IMG_20141004_123453I can tell you exactly what CD it was that I purchased the last time I bought one at Best Buy. It was the 2 CD/1 Blu-ray/1 DVD version of Led Zeppelin’s Celebration Day (2012) which was a brand new release.  And even a release that monumental was hard to find at Best Buy!

I walked into the store a few days after the initial release.  I saw that all they had on the front “new release” display was the DVD combo sets. I went over to the Zeppelin section in music – nothing there. I checked the same in the movies.  Nada.  Then I found a Zeppelin display at the side of one of the aisles. All they had there was CD and DVD; none of the 2 CD/1 Blu/1 DVD.

I found a customer service person that wasn’t chatting up her co-workers, and asked her where they kept the brand new Zeppelin Blu-rays?

In the back room, apparently! She found one for me and I purchased it, a little confused why a Led Zeppelin new release on the hot newest format would be in their back room.

So I bought the package; the very last CD set I have purchased at Best Buy. Best Buy have really abandoned the physical music releases, and that’s too bad. I used to enjoy buying music and movies at that store due to the prices, two nearby convenient locations, and the fact that I could usually find everything I was looking for. No longer. Sorry Best Buy: you and I are no longer besties!


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