skid row

VHS Archives #16: Sebastian Bach talks to the Power 30 (1992)

Power 30 host Teresa Roncon doesn’t let Baz off easy here. Yes she does bring up the “AIDS Kills Fags Dead” shirt, and Sebastian answers. It’s a fascinating interview from a different time, only a few years after “One In a Million” by Guns N’ Roses.

What do you think of Sebastian’s response on this?

And just in case you wanted to hear Sebastian’s laugh on loop again, here ya go!

Sunday Chuckle: Sebastian Bach Has a Weird Laugh

This Sunday, a sneak preview of an upcoming episode of VHS Archives! Sebastian Bach of Skid Row sat down with Teresa Roncon on the Power 30 in 1992, and laughed real funny. I recorded it and 27 years later I made a clip of it. ENJOY!

REVIEW: Make A Difference Foundation – Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (1989)

Make A Difference Foundation – Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (1989 Polygram)

In 1989, I proudly sported my Moscow Music Peace Festival T-shirt in the highschool halls.  It was cool to see the rock bands on the forefront of heavy metal bringing music to the Soviet Union.  Scorpions, Bon Jovi, Motley Crue, Cinderella, Ozzy Osbourne and Skid Row joined Russian metal band Gorky Park in the name of peace and being drug free.

Drug free?  Ozzy?  It’s true that this was a little strange, but Motley were at least clean for the first time in their lives.  The Scorpions had played behind the Iron Curtain before, and Sabbath were huge in Russia.  Meanwhile Bon Jovi were one of the few bands to legally release an album in the USSR, and in return they brought Gorky Park to the US.  I was lucky enough to have a girlfriend who recorded the televised part of the concert off MTV and sent me a copy.  It was a pretty mindblowing video.  Those Russians were going absolutely nuts, seeing their idols on stage.

Later on, the bands each contributed a song to a compilation album called Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell, each covering an artist who had been touched by substance abuse.  The CD was produced by the biggest name at the time, Bruce Fairbairn himself.  The proceeds went to an anti-drug charity, for all the good “just saying no” does.  The album itself was a pretty great compilation of mostly exclusive music.  Though almost all of it is now available elsewhere, that wasn’t the case in 1989, making this a tempting buy.

Gorky Park, the up and comers, started off with “My Generation”.  Some find it too putrid to stomach.  It’s virtually an original song with only the lyrics recognizable.  The riffs and melodies seem otherwise new.  So give Gorky Park some credit for at least not attempting a carbon copy, but then you gotta take off some points for turning “My Generation” into a Bon Motley song.  Unfortunately for Gorky Park, their momentum halted when singer Nikolai Noskov quit in 1990.

Skid Row surprised the hell out of everyone with the Pistols’ “Holidays in the Sun”.  It was the first indication that Skid Row had punk roots.  “Holidays” was very much a look ahead to where they would go on Slave to the Grind.  They were on the punk bandwagon a full two years before Motley decided to cover the Sex Pistols.  It’s always strange to hear flashy metal guitar solos on a Pistols song, but it’s sheer joy to hear Sebastian spitting and screaming up a storm.

Scorpions had a new compilation out called Best of Rockers ‘n’ Ballads.  Another Who song, “I Can’t Explain” was taken from it to be used on this CD.  It is by far the better of the Who covers, as Scorpions really made it their own.  Next, Ozzy’s track is quite interesting.  It’s the only studio recording of the lineup including Zakk Wylde, Randy Castillo, and Geezer Butler.  Geezer quit the band shortly after, and this incredible lineup never recorded anything else.  I consider it the strongest band that Ozzy had after Randy Rhoads.  The quartet did a live sounding cover of “Purple Haze”, unfortunately not the greatest version.  It is at least a showcase for Zakk Wylde to go nuts on the wah-wah pedal.

I will argue that the best track on this album came from the band that was riding a brand new high:  Motley Crue.  Clean and mean, they were incredibly strong in 1989.  They the balls to choose an obscure Tommy Bolin (Deep Purple) solo tune:  “Teaser”.  Motley put on that Dr. Feelgood groove, and Mick Mars laid waste to the land with his slidey guitar goodness.  It’s no surprise that “Teaser” has reappeared on Motley compilations several times since.  It has balls as big as a bus!

Another strong contender is Bon Jovi’s take on Thin Lizzy.  “The Boys are Back in Town” fits seamlessly with that small town New Jersey vibe that Bon Jovi used to have.  Lynott must have had some influence on a young Jon Bon, because all his old tunes are about the boys – back in town!  Dino’s bar and grill could be in Sayreville NJ.  Of course, Bon Jovi are a competent enough band to be able to cover Thin Lizzy and do it well.

Another surprise:  Cinderella doing Janis Joplin.  Singer Tom Keifer suited Joplin, though you don’t immediately associate the two!  “Move Over” takes advantage of that Keifer shriek that isn’t too far removed from Janis.  From there on though, it’s filler.  Jason Bonham, Tico Torres and Mickey Curry do a pretty boring “Moby Dick”.  It’s funny how John Bonham sounds bigger on the original, than three drummers on this remake.  Then it’s a bunch of live jams from the Moscow concert:  “Hound Dog”, “Long Tall Sally”, “Blue Suede Shoes” and “Rock and Roll” (Bonham on drums again for the latter).  Vince Neil is hopelessly out-screamed by Sebastian Bach on the Zep tune.  All the singers participated, but Sebastian Bach and Tom Keifer blew ’em all away.

This disc has been out of print a while, but isn’t too hard to find.  80s rockers need to have it for its historical value.

3/5 stars

WTF Search Terms: WOO! edition

WTF SEARCH TERMS XXXVII: WOO! edition

What are “WTF Search Terms”, you ask?  Simply, they are phrases that people typed into a search engine to wind up at mikeladano.com.  They’re sometimes weird, sometimes wonderful, and always amusing.  I hope you enjoy this 37th instalment of WTF Search Terms!

First please welcome “Nature Boy” Ric Flair to the WTF Search Term family!  The 16 time world wrestling champion was immortalized in the Legendary Klopeks song “Ric Flair” from their album Straight to Hell.  Someone googled the lyrics:

i wanna do a chop i wanna do a woo i wanna be like ric flair cause he’s so fucking cool

I love that somebody heard that lyric and had to google it.  Next up:

does anyone like the 2002 version of blizzard of ozz

The answer is yes:  Sharon does.  But next is a band that Sharon does not like.

benjamin of beef iron maiden

Oh, autocarrot.  I think they meant Benjamin Breeg.

This next person mixed up two bands, but it also could be autocarrot.  Funny either way:

deep leppard heartbreak

Then a grouping of searches for Snake the Tattoo Man.  But people need to decide where he’s from.  (It’s London).

snake from brantford tattoo guy
guy named snake in london, on
the man called snake, london, on

I got a chuckle from this next one:

fankie banali sucks

Well, let’s be fair.  Frankie Banali is an awesome drummer.  I’d never say he sucks.  I never have.  But his current version of Quiet Riot does kinda suck.  Unlike the following album:

europe last look at eden satanic lyrics

Oh, come on.  I’m sick of the “satanic” accusations levelled at this band.  Some deluded people actually think Joey Tempest is a demon.  I’m not fucking kidding.  Next question.

does album slave to the grind have any value?

Only what the music is worth to you.

which rock band was dressed to die in 1974

Hah!  None.  But Kiss were Dressed to Kill in 1975.

Thanks for reading!  The WTF Search Terms keep rolling in, so there will always be more….

 

 

 

#523: Columbia House

GETTING MORE TALE #523: Columbia House

How many of you were members of the Columbia House music club?  Tapes or CDs?

The concept was simple.  Get 12 tapes or records for one penny.  Then agree to buy “X” more at “regular club prices” within a year.  They would usually offer all sorts of incentives, such as getting your first regularly priced item for half price.  Their “regular club prices” were fairly high, but if you played your cards right you could make joining the club worthwhile.

Every few weeks after signing up, Columbia House would send you a catalogue and an order form.  The order system was controversial, because it required a negative response if you didn’t want to buy something.  When you signed up, you could pick your favourite genre of music (I chose “metal”).  Each time a catalogue came out, your selected genre would have a “selection of the month”, usually a new release but not always.   If you did not respond with an order form expressing that you didn’t want it, they would automatically mail you the “selection of the month” and bill you for it too.  (The Columbia Record Club system was worked into a sub-plot of the movie A Serious Man by the Coen Brothers.)

For many people this wasn’t a problem.  Our parents let my sister and I sign up when I was in grade 11.  We split the membership and free tapes 50/50.  We paid for everything ourselves and diligently sent in our order forms each time.  We were both already massive music fans, so we poured over every single page.  Most times, one of us ended up buying something, if not the selection of the month itself.

I can still remember every album I received in that first shipment. Seven tapes.  These tapes went into immediate and constant rotation, which is why I remember them all so well today.

  1. Leatherwolf – Leatherwolf
  2. Motley Crue – Girls, Girls, Girls
  3. Hurricane – Over the Edge
  4. Stryper – To Hell With the Devil
  5. Stryper – In God We Trust
  6. White Lion – Pride
  7. Sammy Hagar – VOA

Our musical world opened up in a massive way, and not just because of the new music we were listening to.  The catalogues introduced us to names and album covers that we’d not experienced yet.  What is this Bitches Brew thing?  Why did Deep Purple albums have so few songs?  Did Iron Maiden copy their Maiden Japan from Purple’s Made In Japan?  Holy crap, Hank Williams Jr. has three greatest hits albums?

Everything was absorbed.  Five years later, when I started at the Record Store, my boss was surprised that I knew who most of the artists were, what sections they should go in, and even what record labels they were on.

“I read the Columbia House catalogue cover to cover every month,” was my answer!

The catalogue provided knowledge, and pictures to cut out for locker or wall.  We made the most of that catalogue every time.  It was rare when pictures were not cut out!

I was even able to acquire things that might have been considered rarities back then.  I had never seen Leatherwolf stocked in a store, but Columbia House had it.  When vinyl was being discontinued, I was still able to get Skid Row’s Slave to the Grind (1991) on LP.  They had most of the Savatage albums.

It all sounds wonderful, but Columbia House had flaws too.  The biggest one was horrendous quality control.  They licensed and manufactured the tapes themselves, which were simply not as good quality wise as the ones you could find in a store.  They would be warbling within weeks (if not right out of the case) and the J-cards were sometimes shoddy, with printing not lining up with fold lines, or just they’d just start falling apart along perforations.  They also didn’t carry certain record labels.  While they had everything Warner Bros and Columbia Records, they had nothing from EMI.  Finally, bands made next to nothing on albums that were sold through Columbia House.  Some bands such as the Tragically Hip refused to sell their music via Columbia House.  We didn’t know all of this as kids, of course.  I started to pick up on the quality issues when they seemed to take a serious dive around 1991.

The key to not getting ripped off by Columbia House was to order smart.  The 12 free tapes sounds like a great deal, but when you balance in buying the rest of your selections at full price, most people ended up on the losing side.  Get in and get out, buying the bare minimum.  That was the way to do it.  Of course, we didn’t.  We just enjoyed the convenience and stayed members for years!  No regrets since this led directly to a 12 year career in the Record Store!

REVIEW: Skid Row – Skid Row (1989)


Scan_20160812 (3)SKID ROW – Skid Row (1989 Atlantic)

You can’t argue with five million copies sold.

Skid Row had the songs, but most importantly, they had the frontman.  Only once in a blue moon does a congenital entertainer like Sebastian Back happen upon the scene.  Born in the U.S. but raised in Canada, Bach had it all:  the looks, the youth, the charisma, and most importantly the voice.  He was a bull-headed bastard in those days too, but that is often a part of the frontman package.  Bach was a dynamo, always “on”, and with that voice on his side, people paid attention.

Without Bach, would Skid Row ever have made the impact they did?  Not to that degree, no.  Sure they had Jon Bon Jovi in their corner (and to take them out on tour) but without Bach, Skid Row would have been just another hard rock band in 1989, the peak year for the genre.  It can’t be understated how important the voice was.  Bach had the power, range and unique style required, but he had it right out of the gate!  The band was good too:  Dave “Snake” Sabo, Rachel Bolan and Scotti Hill wrote some great, bone-shaking cock rocking tunes.  Rob Affuso (today in Four by Fate with members of Frehley’s Comet) has long been an underrated drummer capable of some serious steppin’.  With Michael Wagener in the producer’s chair, everything aligned and came up platinum.

Three major hit singles made the album a must-have.  They were, of course, “Youth Gone Wild”, “18 and Life” and “I Remember You”.  These have become their career-defining songs, particularly the ballad.  “I Remember You” may have misled more than a few listeners when it first came out.  This is not a ballad album, but a very hard rockin’ record.  This wasn’t Bon Jovi.  It was heavier than everybody else on the radio that summer:  Motley, Warrant, Aerosmith, Van Halen, Def Leppard.  Though it rocks hard, it’s still memorable.

With the benefit of hindsight, we know Skid Row were capable of so much more, and they delivered on the next album Slave to the Grind.  Once they let the thrash metal and punk influences come out, the real Skid Row sound was conceived.  Their debut is good, but the next two were even better.

3.5/5 stars

#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

BRETT LORE

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#405: Brett-Lore (Excerpts)

All artwork created by: Various denizens of Grand River Collegiate Institute, circa 1989-1991.

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#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

NOTE:  None of the information below should be taken as actual singing advice!

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale
#337: Oh Say Can You Scream

In the 1980’s, screamers were king.  Rob Halford, Bruce Dickinson, Brian Johnson, Udo Dirkschneider…all of them were able to scream the high notes, sending chills up and down your spine.  We all wanted to be screamers back then!  None of my friends were able to croon like Coverdale, so screaming seemed like a viable option.  We worked on our screaming voices with practice, practice, practice.

My buddy Bob came up with two ways to practice our scream techniques:

  • At home: Go to your bedroom and close the door. Put on AC/DC’s Who Made Who cassette, and grab a pillow.  Then, scream along with Johnson directly IN to your pillow.  Nobody should be able to hear you!  The pillow should muffle your wailing Johnson imitation.  You can belt it at top lung power without disturbing mom and dad’s TV shows.  Just remember to lift your head from the pillow for breathing!  (That part is really important.)
  • If out at dusk: Go to your local park. Make sure the coast is clear.  Then, just sing and let it out!  Bob and I did this one frequently, walking through our local Stanley Park.  We serenaded the neighbors with a selection of AC/DC and Iron Maiden.

There were a couple specific Maiden songs that Bob and I really enjoyed screaming along to.  One was a classic from Powerslave: “Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.  Such an excellent, challenging choice.  We would focus on the line, “Then down in falls comes the raaaaaaaaaaain!”  We’d scream that section over and over again until we were satisfied that we had it right.

After a few years, I became quite good at hitting the high notes.  I moved on from my screaming by the time I was in University, and focused on the Bee Gees.  I knew that screaming Maiden tunes wasn’t a good way to attract female attention.  Singing “Stayin’ Alive” note for note though?  That may have had potential!  (Note: it didn’t.)

Although I can no longer perform the song as I used to, I am proud to say that I used to be able to hit every note in “Stayin’ Alive”.  Something to be proud of at Karaoke.

REVIEW: Skid Row – Slave to the Grind (both versions)

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SKID ROW – Slave to the Grind (1991 Atlantic “clean” and “dirty” versions)

The Skids knew the second album had to kill. The band, always heavier live than the first album implied, also knew the second album had to sound more like they did in concert. And following up a huge hit debut, they also demanded the album be all killer, no filler. Raising the bar and ignoring the record company, the band re-convened and kicked every ass in the room. The result is Slave to the Grind, one of the best hard rock albums of ’91 period.

The first single “Monkey Business”, which is essentially just dirty grooves n’ screams, was about as commercial as the album got.   With this as first single, it was clear that Skid Row didn’t care whether they got played on MTV or not.  There was nothing glossy or slick about it.  It’s still obvious that there’s something special here, and I credit that to two factors:  the songwriting talents of Snake Sabo & Rachel Bolan, and the frontman chops of Sebastian Bach.  Bach commands this song.   It’s not just his vocals.  It’s his confidence, his swagger, and his ego shining through.

If “Monkey Business” didn’t scare your little sister, then the second single “Slave to the Grind” definitely did.  For the first time, Skid Row jumped straight into the thrash metal deep end.  Drummer Rob Affuso had the chops to do it, and it really was a natural step to take.  Other bands were getting heavier in 1991 too, but none of them took a turn like this.  Skid Row raised the bar for everyone in their field in ’91.

The other singles from the album were technically “ballads”, although the band were eager to point out that none of them were anything like “I Remember You”.  They were dark and edgy.  The record company execs no doubt shit their pants when they heard the magnificent “Wasted Time”, which I can only describe as epic.   It’s an incredible song, and it’s one of the few that Bach had a hand in writing.  Baz wrenches all the emotions from his soul and that’s what I hear coming from the speakers.   “Quicksand Jesus” and “In A Darkened Room” are only a little less impressive.  They share the same kind of mood and sonic landscape.  There is really nothing commercial about any of them.  They all have headbanging moments and integrity.

Rounding out the album were several very strong deep cuts.  “The Threat”, track 3 on the disc, easily could have been a single.  In fact Terry David Mulligan of MuchMusic asked Sebastian if it was going to be selected as a future video, so I’m not alone in thinking that.  “Psycho Love” is a bangin’ bass groove, laid to waste by Bach’s scorching vocal.  “Livin’ on a Chain Gang” is another standout, an angry one about injustice.  Then you have slow, landmine-infested blasters like “Mudkicker”, and fast smokers like “Riot Act”.  All strong songs.  The only one I’m not keen on is “Creepshow”, a jokey tune about the kind of people you’d see on daytime talk shows.

SLAVE TO THE GRIND_0003Skid Row knew well ahead of time that some markets would not release an album with a song called “Get the Fuck Out” on it.  This fun punk rocker sounds like a Rachel song, but Bach’s attitude nails it.  It’s probably a bit of a novelty, but it’s fun.  “Fuck you if you can’t take a joke!” says Bach in one line.  But it’s OK: if you can’t take the joke, you can buy the version of the album without “Get the Fuck Out”.  Earlier pioneers in the clean/dirty dual releases, Skid Row saved the song “Beggars Day” for the Walmart version of the album.  (Also sold by Columbia House in Canada.)  I think it’s cool that they gave both markets added value with exclusive songs.  This song is more traditional metal (perhaps Priest-like) than the rest of the record, but it’s equally strong.

Michael Wagener produced this album with a raw, unpolished finish.  But there are backing vocals where you need ’em, and the instruments are clear and in your face.  It still sounds heavy today, unlike a lot of other music from the same year.  It just seems like everything clicked, and all the factors were in place.  Slave to the Grind kicks ass with the best of them.

4.5/5 stars

REVIEW: Skid Row – Forty Seasons: The Best of Skid Row (Japanese version)

SKID ROW – Forty Seasons: The Best of Skid Row (1998 Atlantic Japan)

US cover

US cover

The Japanese fans always seem to get the coolest stuff.  Look at this package: shiny silver, instead of the boring grey of the American release.  Digipack with foil stickers!  Bonus track!  So much cooler than the standard release here.  Hell, the Japanese title is even spelled F-o-r-t-y, where the American version has the briefer 40.  Why?  Not sure.  Either way I’m glad to have this version, which fell in my hands thanks to customer Conrad in the late 90’s.  He sold it to me with stickers intact and still sealed; all that is missing is the obi strip.

Whether you own Forty Seasons or 40 Seasons, the party starts with “Youth Gone Wild”.  Any commemoration of the Sebastian Bach years should open with that track.  Although “Youth Gone Wild” is Bach’s signature track today (along with “I Remember You”), he actually wrote neither.  Some fans would be surprised how little Bach has written in Skid Row, and indeed he only has two writing credits on this greatest hits disc.  What Bach brings to the party is his spirit, attitude, and incredible voice.  When Skid Row came out in ’89, Bach was almost instantaneously a 21 year old superstar.  He had the ego to deliver the rock star vibe in concert and in print, and he certainly had the vocal chops.  This is why Bach has remained a thorn in Skid Row’s side today, 15 years since hiring Johnny Solinger to replace him.

Track two is a little too soon for a mellow song in my opinion, but “18 and Life” works in this slot due to its dark vibe and powerful choruses.  The singles “Piece of Me” and “I Remember You” are the other representations from album #1, although I definitely could have done without “Piece of Me”.  Skid Row have written much better heavy rockers since.  “I Remember You” is a song I still haven’t really tired of, thanks to Bach’s timeless performance.  Every time Baz sang this tune in Toronto, the place went insane, as Bach always sang it for his old stomping grounds.  Rachel Bolan and Snake Sabo may have written the song, but when I think of “I Remember You”, I think of Toronto.

Skid Row’s second album Slave to the Grind blew away the first.  I’m glad “The Threat” was included.  It may not have been a single, but it was one of the outstanding album cuts.  Equally solid was the bass groove of “Psycho Love”, which is relentless.  Skid Row really turned up the octane on that second album.  I think both tracks outshine the single “Monkey Business”, but nothing can overpowerful the thrash metal of “Slave to the Grind” itself.  When it was released, I couldn’t believe how full-on Skid Row had become.  This is a high water mark of heaviosity.

“Quicksand Jesus” represents one of the three slow tunes on Slave; I would have selected “Wasted Time”.  “Quicksand Jesus” is an outstanding song, and so is the other slow tune not included here, “In A Darkened Room”.   “Wasted Time” is so clearly above and beyond either of those two, that I can’t understand why it’s not on this CD.  It has something special to it, like “I Remember You” did.

FORTY SEASONS_0005So the first half of the CD covers the first two Skid Row records with all the big hits.  The second half covers the rest, plus rare and unreleased stuff.  I love the third Skid Row record, Subhuman Race.  I consider it a great metal record in the context of the mid 1990’s.  For some reason, none of the Subhuman songs included here are the album versions.  I know the band fought with Bob Rock over the production on that album, and maybe that is why.  “Into Another”, which might be considered a slower song, is remixed making a little lusher.  The single “My Enemy” is also remixed, perhaps to tame down the St. Anger-esque drums.  My favourite Skid Row ballad, “Breakin’ Down” is remixed as well, but you have to know the song really well like I do to notice by ear alone.  (Listen to the guitar accents.)  Overall it’s more polished and finished, which is fine, because the album version was actually more or less just the demo version.  Lyrically the song is a message from Sabo to Bach, about their failing relationship.  Bach reportedly received the demo, sang to it, and that’s what was put on the record.

The excellent banger “Frozen” is presented in demo form, which is interesting but inferior to the excellent, slamming album version.  Finally, “Beat Yourself Blind” (Bach’s favourite song from Subhuman Race) is live.  What an awesome tune live.  This is from the Japanese Subhuman Beings on Tour EP. As great as the stuttery album version is, the live one is more fluid.   I’ve heard Rachel Bolan say the Subhuman album “sucked”.  I don’t understand how he can say that, and I think the five songs here prove my point.

The album closes with a pair of treats: unreleased songs!  “Forever” from the first album’s sessions is better than many of the songs on that record!  Who chooses these songs?  Perhaps it was a bit too derivative of other popular 80’s bands, but Sebastian makes it sound like nobody else but Skid Row.  This not only should have been on the album, but could have been a hit single.   Then there’s “Fire in the Hole”, a great little slammer that didn’t make the second album.  This time I agree.  That second album is incredible and “Fire in the Hole” isn’t up to those high standards.  It’s definitely better than many bands’ album tracks, but not Skid Row.

Last of all, the lucky Japanese got the Ramones cover “Psycho Therapy” from the B-Sides Ourselves EP (1992).  This is the only inclusion from that EP, and it’s a gooder.  Rachel sang lead (with Taime Downe of Faster Pussycat backing him).  We all know Rachel’s a punk guy, and I think that’s the side of Skid Row that clashed with Bach’s metal tendencies.  Just my theory.

Great CD, loads of fun and value.

4.5/5 stars