t-rev

#437: So You Want to Make a Mix Tape?

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GETTING MORE TALE #437: So You Want to Make a Mix Tape?

So you’ve decided to hop into your time machine and make a mix tape?  Good for you!  In the 80’s, making a mix tape was a rite of passage.  Today it is a fading art.  Congratulations for wanting to keep that art alive!  Here are some tips.

First of all, who are you making the tape for?  What do you want on it?  Prep all your recording materials in advance.  Get out the CDs and records you want to tape.  Are you doing a straight hits tape?  A mixture of artists?  Roughly plot out your track list, but only roughly, because you will probably have to make changes on the fly.

Get your tape ready.  What length are you using?  I recommend 90 – 100 minute tapes.  Anything longer than 100 minutes and you risk stretching the tape.  This length range gives you more room to play with than a standard 60 minute tape.

Clean your equipment.  Get your tape head demagnetized, and clean those pinch rollers with isopropyl alcohol or something similar.  Use lint-free cloth.  Since you’re making a mix tape, I assume you want it to sound as good as you can make it.  Use a decent quality blank tape.

Now, using a pencil or just your finger, carefully wind the tape so that the clear tape lead is no longer visible.  When you see brown magnetic tape, you are ready to hit “record”.

I used to add the little test frequencies that they put on the start of cassettes to open my mix tapes.  Don’t have one of those?  That’s OK.  Just download one from Youtube!

My recording technique involved having as short a gap between songs as possible.  I viewed a long gap as an amateur move, unless it was intentional, for effect.   To get a short gap, hit “pause” on your recorder immediately after the song stops, but don’t pause for too long.  Leaving that pause button depressed isn’t good for the tape, because on most machines, the tape head is still making contact with the recording tape.  Still, it’s better than hitting “stop” which tends to leave an annoying clunky sound between songs.

Now, the one irritating thing that amateur tapers do is let a song be cut off at the end of a side.  Don’t do that!  It’s very difficult to get exactly a side of music, so leave some space after the last song.  In fact, I suggest having a bunch of “standby” short tracks handy, to fill up any undesired blank space.  It’s also fun to end a side with a brief movie quote or skit.  It’s up to you, how you decide to end a side, but don’t cut a song off.  That’s annoying!  You may have to improvise, select some shorter songs, and re-do some things, but cutting off a song is just a rookie mistake.  You will have to be flexible with your track list when it comes to where the sides end.  Tape speed is anything but consistent, so even if you’ve clocked your side at exactly 45 minutes, if your tape is running fast then you’ll be out of space.

The beauty of cassette is the opportunity to use the two sides to your advantage.  Each side can be its own journey, with opening and closing tracks.  Yet it’s still part of a whole.  Perhaps you’d like to make a Led Zeppelin hits tape.  Why not make side one all electric, and side two acoustic?  You can have a killer electric opening for side one (“Good Times Bad Times” perhaps), and close it with a corker too (like “Kashmir”).  Then you can kick off side two with an acoustic opener, such as “Gallows Pole” and end it with “Stairway”.  The possibilities are endless, but the ability to create distinct sides is so much fun.

Finally, write those songs down on the J-card, or make some custom cover art.  If you’re artistically inclined, the cover art can be the most fun.

Making a mix tape is a time consuming process since you need to do it in real time.  It can also be a taxing job, if you’re a perfectionist trying to make your mix tape flawless.  The main thing is keeping it fun.  Have a good time with it!

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REVIEW: Max Webster – High Class in Borrowed Shoes (1977)

Scan_20150730MAX WEBSTER – High Class in Borrowed Shoes (1977 Anthem)

It’s only the second Max Webster album, but the band were so tight and perfect that they got three radio classics off it.  “Diamonds Diamonds”, “Gravity” and the title track are all three radio staples, and “On the Road” a live classic that Kim Mitchell occasionally plays unplugged.  Every fan has a favourite Max album, and I think I probably know a couple who would put High Class in Borrowed Shoes as numero uno.

The album opens with the impressive “High Class in Borrowed Shoes”, a blaster that sounds to me like a Canadian Van Halen!  Max had tamed some of their wackier tendencies (“Toronto Tontos”, anyone?) and focussed their chops.  Not that the new Max (now featuring legendary drummer Gary McCracken) was normal by any definition.  Just listen to the lullaby-like “Diamonds Diamonds”.  Great song, but very different for a rock band.  Its dreamlike mood is heightened by the surreal lyrics by Pye Dubois.  Not to mention there are only six lines to the words!

“Gravity” would make my top five Max tracks in a heartbeat.  “What do I know?  I sat under a cloud.  I looked up, afraid to look down.”  Kim sounds like a little boy speaking the words, to great effect.  The chorus is a big one, backed by a Kim’s riffing.  I have no idea what this song is about, but to me the line “Forget that fear of gravity, get a little savagery in your life,” says everything.  Don’t be afraid to take chances.  As Pye’s friend Neil Peart once said, just roll the bones.  That’s what it means to me, anyway.

Proving he has always been capable of tender ballads, “Words to Words” is one of Kim Mitchell’s first.  The keyboards of Terry Watkinson keep it just a little left of center, but Kim’s acoustic work is impeccable and excellent.   Pye Dubois’ lyrics are magical and stirring.  It’s hard to overstate just how quality this song is.  However ballads are usually best followed by scorchers, and that’s “America’s Veins”.  Killer solos, smoking drums, and a chorus built for the concert stage: it’s here in one complete package.

“Oh War!” is an incredible monument of rock.  AC/DC did a song with a similar vibe called “Little Lover”, but “Oh War!” is a completely different animal.  The gonzo solos are more in the “Z” section of the rock aisle, as in “Zappa”.   And check out the words!  “‘Cause I say fuck you instead of thank you, your choice under your breath.”  Yes, that’s what Uncle Kim, Canada’s favourite king of the summertime, just said!  OK, so it wasn’t going to get on the radio with those words…but damn, it should have been.  This song could have been almost as big as “Battle Scar” had it been.

I have a tape here of Kim Mitchell doing “On the Road” live in the MuchMusic studios, acoustically, on their Intimate and Interactive show.  This is what you might call “campfire rock”, but that sells it far too short.  “On the Road” is more than a song that would sound good played live around a fire, it has genuine soul that you can feel.  It’s an incredible song, and once again, I wonder why Max Webster wasn’t friggin’ huge.  “Rain Child” is next in line, which I would describe as a slow burner.  Terry Watkinson’s keys take center stage, never intruding.  “Rain Child” is a classic album track, and perfect for winding down the album.

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Max Webster went mad on the last track, “In Context of the Moon”.  This is the second of four “Moon” songs on the first four records:  “Coming Off the Moon”, “Beyond the Moon”, and “Moon Voices” are the others.  “In Context” can’t be described easily, because it spans many styles and tempos in just five measly minutes!  How?!  You have to play this one a few times just to get everything that is happening.  It’s certainly one of the most challenging pieces of music Max have recorded.  The four musicians must have rehearsed the shit out of this one.  Anyway, at all times, it smokes.  Whether it’s the bright intro guitars, or the metal riffs that follow them, or the sheer madness (including bass solo) that ensues, “In Context of the Moon” is always riveting.  It’s just non-stop even though by the time you get to the end of it, you’ll wonder how you got there!

Final note:  My good buddy T-Rev, who has guest written here a couple times before, met Gary McCracken after he moved to Sarnia.  He was working at Fastenal when in came a guy to pick up an “order for Gary McCracken.”  T-Rev pondered a bit before enquiring, “I hope you don’t mind me asking, but were in a band called Max Webster?”  Yes, he had.  It was that Gary McCracken, and he was cool.  I love little stories like that.  Gary McCracken was Trevor’s biggest influence as a young drummer!

Popoff's awesome book

Popoff’s awesome book

There is nothing more to be said in just a single review.   For the whole enchilada, get the book from martinpopoff.com!  And be sure to get High Class in Borrowed Shoes for your collection.

5/5 stars

REVIEW: Van Halen – Best Of Volume I (1996)

I will be live on the Craig Fee Show on 107.5 Dave FM this afternoon 12/01/14, around 5:20 pm Ontario time, to discuss one of the tracks included on this album. Listen live by clicking right here to stream!

EDIT – Show went great!  Thanks for listening!

This review is a companion piece to my previous “Van Halen (Not Van Hagar!)” series of reviews:
Part 1: The Early Years (Zero – 1977) VH_0003
Part 2:
On Fire (Van Halen – 1978)
Part 3: Somebody Get Me A Doctor (Van Halen II – 1979)
Part 4: Everybody Wants Some!! (Women and Children First – 1980)
Part 5: Push Comes to Shove (Fair Warning – 1981)
Part 6: Intruder (Diver Down – 1982)
Part 7: House of Pain (1984 – 1984)
Coda: Can’t Get This Stuff No More & Me Wise Magic (1996 singles)

VH BEST OF V1_0001VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)

Van Halen’s first “greatest hits” compilation was historic in its fallout.  The band had talked for years about putting out a “best of” set, with one disc of Dave and one disc of Sammy.  That never happened but the concept continued to be discussed in the Van Halen camp, with Sammy Hagar adamantly against it.  When Hagar’s friend and Van Halen’s manager Ed Lefler passed away, he was replaced by Canadian Ray Danniels, who was also handling Rush, Extreme, and King’s X. Hagar and Danniels never quite saw eye to eye and when push came to shove, Hagar refused to participate in the recording of new music for the compilation.  The Van Halen camp considered this to be highly hypocritical of Sammy, since he had done just that for his own solo “greatest hits” CD, Unboxed (1994).  All of this led to a tense telephone standoff with Eddie Van Halen himself, the revelation that Ed had already started working on new songs with former singer David Lee Roth, and Hagar quitting the band.  (On top of all that, and unbeknownst to Hagar or Roth, was that was Van Halen were also eyeballing Gary Cherone, who Ray Danniels brought in from one of his other bands, Extreme. They had even recorded some test tracks with Mitch Malloy who ultimately turned the gig down.)

When Best Of Volume I was finally released in fall of 1996, there was so much confusion in the air that many fans really had no idea who was in Van Halen or what the hell was going on.   At the Record Store, I had one guy come in and return this on the day of release, October 22, 1996.

“Yeah, I want to return this CD,” he said.  “I already have these songs.”

What?!  You couldn’t tell that from the title Best Of Volume I?

That’s indicative of the confusion in fandom.  This guy had assumed, like many people, that Van Halen had a brand new album of songs out with David Lee Roth singing.

VH BEST OF V1_0004Another common urban myth was that there was such a thing as Best Of Volume II.  People would constantly ask if we had it, when it was coming out, and sometimes even insist they had seen it before in stores.  When asked when Best Of Volume II was coming out again and again, I started answering “18 years”, because that’s how long it took for them to come out with Volume I.

T-Rev wrote up a quickie review for our store newsletter.  He praised the remastering job, but bemoaned that only one song was included from Van Halen II, and that there wasn’t enough Dave in general.  I would agree.  At the very least, a song like “Can’t Stop Loving You” should have been ditched for something else like “Everybody Wants Some!!”  However, to put this into context, in 1996 that was one of Van Halen’s most recent hit singles, just over a year old.   The rest of the album takes tracks from each studio record (sans Diver Down which Eddie doesn’t speak too highly of). The most notable omissions were “Hot For Teacher” (only available on the Japanese release of Best Of) and “Love Walks In” (which I can do without). Presumably there would have been more tracks on a Volume II, which never materialized.  (18 years my arse!)

To me, the hits part of this disc is just preamble. The reason fans went out and bought this CD was the return of David Lee Roth on the two new singles. Nobody cared about the hits they already had.  Indeed, as implied by T-Rev’s review, most of us didn’t really agree with most of the hits selected.

They stuck “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” and “Me Wise Magic”, the first new songs by the original Van Halen in over a decade, at the tail end of the CD.  As fans, we were elated to hear new music that clearly hearkened back to the pre-synth, pre-1984 sound of Van Halen. Dave’s voice was lower and less powerful, but no less expressive.  His delivery is pure gleeful Dave, even on these darker songs. His lyrics (which according to Roth, Eddie didn’t like) are as Diamond Dave as ever.  As far as guitar goes, Eddie’s letting it, basing both songs purely on riffage. This was a pretty cool about-face from the too-commercial sounds of Balance.

Neither song was really single-worthy, but they would have made solid album cuts, had this incarnation of Van Halen continued to make an album.  Of course, that didn’t happen.  Best Of Volume I is, thus far, the only place you can buy them.  And that means if you love original Van Halen, you need to buy this album.

For Van Hagar fans, there was the excellent newbie “Humans Being”, with its angry modern verses and bright shiny chorus.  I’ve always liked the song, because of the chorus and Eddie’s guitar.  The verses, not so much, but as a song it holds together as something different for Van Halen.  In some ways it pointed the way forward to Van Halen 3.  This is the only ‘Halen album where you can get “Humans Being”, saving you from having to buy the terrible Twister soundtrack.

(Missing is a track called “Respect The Wind” billed by Eddie & Alex Van Halen from the same soundtrack.  It’s not really that good, and it’s not billed as Van Halen the band, so seek as per your own needs.  Presumably, “Respect the Wind” was from the batch of music that they were working on while Sammy refused to record.  See KeepsMeAlive for a review of the Twister soundtrack CD.)

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Roth mentioned in his autobiography Crazy From the Heat that he hated the cover art and booklet for this.  It looked devoid and sucked dry of all life.  I would agree.  A music video was planned but nixed.  The concept was the trio of Michael Anthony and Eddie & Alex Van Halen playing on a stage, with a big screen behind them of Dave singing.  Insulted, Roth refused to do it.

Of interest, if you’re lucky enough to own a first pressing of this CD, you might have a mini-rarity.  There was a version with an error on it.  You may own a very rare alternate mix of “Runnin’ With the Devil”, released by mistake, where the verses, chorus and solos were arranged in a different order than that of the originally released album version. Take a listen and see if you’re one of the few.  That version was quickly discontinued and corrected.*

3.5/5 stars. Despite the brevity, this album doesn’t overstay the party.


*My friend at 107.5 Dave FM, Craig Fee, had this to add about the “error” mix of “Runnin’ With the Devil”:

You just solved a huge mystery for me. Something that has been bugging me for YEARS.

When I first moved here, I was listening to Dave FM one day. I heard this fucked up version of “Runnin’ With The Devil” with the “whoooooo whooooooo” part at the end edited out. I mentioned it, but Darryl didn’t do anything about it. 5 years later, we are still playing this version. It sounded like a bad edit made by an overzealous producer who was trying to do something to the song.

Until this post, I had no idea why somebody would butcher the song like that. Now I know why. The majority of the big ‘hits’ were dubbed from that CD.

I have the version I bought the day it was released. I listened to it twice. I have no idea if it’s the edited version.

Craig advised me to load both versions (Best Of and Van Halen I) into Audacity and sync them.  I did and I could see right away visually that they did not match up.  I hit “play” and everything was synced until around 1:15.  Then, as Craig puts it, “all hell breaks loose” and the two versions completely deviate.    So apparently I do have both.

RUNNING WITH THE DEVIL WAVEFORM COMPARISON

 

The only modification I made to the tracks was to reduce the version from Van Halen in volume by 7%, so they were roughly the same.

More VH:

VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now”(1992 cassette single, Warner)
BRIAN MAY & FRIENDS – Star Fleet Project (w/ Edward Van Halen)

Part 300: Manic Nirvana

Do you own this?

MANIC

RECORD STORE TALES Part 300: Manic Nirvana

T-Rev has always been talented at building things. He built for me my first two CD towers, not to mention my cassette storage shelves built into my closet doors. No design was too elaborate. I liked a simple CD tower myself, just some shelves and some stain. T-Rev was always pushing himself to build something cooler. One of the best towers he ever built had side doors for VHS compartments, and a big black light to illuminate the whole thing. Inside the doors were stickers from some of his favourite bands. The whole thing was painted gray, it was a masterpiece.

By coincidence, T-Rev also owned a semi-rare copy of Robert Plant’s 1990 solo album, Manic Nirvana. Both of us liked to collect “rare” versions of albums. T-Rev had a red digipack copy, with symbols embossed on the cover. It’s pretty hard to find, although we did see a couple copies float by in the Record Store. There’s weren’t any bonus tracks, but the rare packaging made it something desirable.

So what’s the connection between the CD tower and Manic Nirvana?

T-Rev was checking out the Plant CD one day, and happened to take a look at it under his black light. Lo and behold, suddenly symbols appeared on the cover, previously hidden! The front cover showed what appeared to be a big “H”. The back and inside covers had their own symbols that showed under black light.

It was a mystery! The symbols didn’t seem to have any meaning that we could discern. Maybe they were intentional, maybe not? Maybe they were just a byproduct of the manufacturing process. Other similar digipacks did not show anything special under a black light.

My questions regarding this CD are as follows:
1) Have you ever owned the red digipack version of Manic Nirvana?*
2) Have you ever looked at it under a black light?
3) WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

*Aaron discovered via the Discogs listing that this seems to be a promo release.

 

Part 285: Chinese Democracy

By request of reader Johnny Sixx: A review of Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy so long that I split it into two parts. Part Two comes tomorrow. Read on!

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 285: Chinese Democracy

The story goes like this:

In late 1994/early 1995, T-Rev and I would update the store’s “new releases board” every few weeks. This board advertised what new releases were coming in the weeks and months ahead. When I was given my own store, T-Rev took over the original as manager, and continued on diligently with the new releases board.

Of course, one of the most anticipated releases even back in 1994 and 1995 was the “new” Guns N’ Roses. We’d sat through solo albums from Izzy, Duff, Gilby and finally Slash himself. While Izzy and Gilby came close to the mark, none of these were a substitute for a real Guns N’ Roses album. The only official new Guns N’ Roses CD that we had for sale was the CD single for “Sympathy For the Devil”. Little did we know back then that “Sympathy” was like the straw that broke the Guns’ backs! (Axl had secretly brought in Paul Huge as Gilby Clarke’s replacement, and had him overdub “answer” solos to go with Slash’s. Slash was furious, especially since Axl fired Gilby without telling anyone.)

The rumours were always buzzing, so T-Rev would periodically call me. “Mikey! Do you know any more new releases I can add to the board?” I was always checking out M.E.A.T Magazine, and inside a recent issue (March/April 1994), Slash himself said he was mixing the new album himself, and that it would be out by summer.  He actually went into quite a bit of detail regarding the new Guns N’ Roses album in this article.  He offered no song titles, but it’s easy to tell from his descriptions that many of the songs ended up on his and Gilby’s solo albums.  He downplays Axl Rose’s contribution to the project considerably.

An excerpt:

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Flush with cryptic updates such as these, I would always be able to help T-Rev keep the new release board up to date.

“Yeah man, I got a Guns N’ Roses update for you,” I would tell him on the phone.  “The new album’s coming out next quarter.”  After M.E.A.T Magazine went bust in 1995, I would have kept up with the latest Hit Parader or RIP Magazine.   The release dates kept getting pushed back.

Every month, T-Rev would dutifully change the board. Guns N’ Roses – spring 1995. Then the next month, he’d call me again. “Anything new?” And I’d let him know whatever I’d read. “The album’s scheduled for summer. This is according to Metal Edge,” or whatever.

And the board changed again. Fall 1995. Christmas 1995. Spring 1996. It became a running gag. Even if there was no GN’R news, T-Rev kept that album on the board dutifully. He’d just bump it ahead a couple months. He kept doing that until the store moved and changed formats at the end of ’96.  Even if no customers got the joke, the two of us thought it was freakin’ hilarious.  Trevor always predicted it would never come out.

I don’t think we would have laughed if we knew how long it would really be before Chinese Democracy was finally released to the public!  We waited through lineup change after lineup change, and the release of the new track “Oh My God” in 1999.  It would be almost a decade more before the final release.  Would it be worth the wait?  Find out tomorrow.

Gallery: The Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014

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T-Rev, Wes, Doug and I had a great time at the Toronto Musical Collectibles Record & CD Sale 2014. Trevor came home with some kind of Asian import of Foo Fighters’ In Your Honor with at least a dozen bonus tracks. He also scored a cool silver Grand Funk LP with a round cover. Wes stocked up on Tom Petty vinyl.

My treasures are below.  Let’s start with the Japanese imports!  Yes, the same vendor was there.  I probably cleared out his best stuff last year, but he still had some good ones left for me.

Japanese imports purchased:

  • Ozzy Osbourne – Under Cover ($25 with obi strip intact)  I am well on record as not being a fan of this album.  But it’s one of only two Ozzy albums that I didn’t own.  Finding a Japanese version made it easy to justify for my collection.  The bonus track is “Changes” with Kelly Osbourne, but I had that already on the Prince of Darkness box set.  This comes with a region 2 DVD.
  • Europe – Start From the Dark (sealed, $20)  I already had this album as a bonus CD within Europe’s Live From the Dark DVD set.  The Japanese get two live tracks from Sweden Rock 2004:  “Seven Doors Hotel” and “Wings Of Tomorrow”.
  • White Wolf – Endangered Species (sealed, $20) Last year I bought Standing Alone on vinyl, this year I got Endangered Species!  I always liked that song “She.”  There are no bonus tracks on it but it’s so hard to find this on CD at all, let alone Japanese.
  • Paul Gilbert – Get Out of My Yard (sealed, $20) I’ve long been a fan of Paul Gilbert (Mr. Big), and he’s a cult hero in Japan.  I know his solo stuff is pretty out there.  Although I have tracks of his on guitar compilations, this is the first solo album of his that I have found.
  • Aerosmith – “Pink” (sealed CD single, $15) In Record Store Tales Part 42, I made fun of the “Barefoot DJ” because he was looking for this Aerosmith dud.  Regardless, I’m probably most excited about this CD.  If there’s one thing rarer than Japanese CDs, it might be Japanese CD singles.  They’re produced in even more limited number.  I won’t get all the B-sides for “Pink” on this CD single, but it has plenty of tracks that I believe are exclusive to this disc.
  • Aerosmith – “Amazing” (CD single, $5 with obi strip intact) I had a domestic copy of this CD with the exact same tracks, just in a different order.  I wasn’t sure if I had it or not when I bought it, but for $5 I figured it’s still a win-win situation.  It’s in mint condition and I paid a fair price for it.

Other CDs purchased:

  • Anthrax – We’ve Come For You All (sealed German import, $10) I’ve always wanted this album, and I always promised myself I’d get it if I found an import with bonus tracks for a good price.  I have done that now.
  • Deep Purple – Smoke On My Mega-mix ($5) This is a bootleg.  I bought this from the same guy who sold me the Aerosmith “Amazing” single.  Years and years ago, there was a Deep Purple compilation LP called Anthology.  If you bought that and four other singles, you could mail away for a “Smoke On My Mega-mix” exclusive single.  This bootleg has that track, and a whole bunch of other rarities.  One such track is Deep Purple Mk V’s “Fire, Ice & Dynamite” which is only on a DVD called New, Live & Rare.
  • Iron Maiden – Revenge Is Living In the Past (bootleg from A Matter of Life and Death tour, $40)  This is a beautifully packaged triple-gatefold live bootleg.  One of the few recent tours that Maiden have not released a live album from was A Matter of Life and Death.  On that tour, they played the whole album live, and now I have it.  It’s really nicely packaged and I’m looking forward to listening to it soon.

 

“Holy Grails” seen but not purchased:

“Holy Grails” bought:

  • None

One funny story: At record shows, you always find vendors who “know it all”. T-Rev found a CD copy of Kim Mitchell’s self-titled solo EP for $5, but it was burned. Trevor asked, “Do you have the original CD of this? Because if you do, I will buy it.” The vendor swore up and down that no such CD exists. Trevor said, “Yes it does, my buddy has it.” He’s right, because I am that buddy. Here are pictures of my copy of that EP; Amazon are asking over $100 for it, since it went out of print. Photographic proof that it exists below (Wounded Bird CD edition):

Here’s a list of the next bunch of shows.  Attendance is pending funds:

  • London, April 18 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)
  • Cambridge, April 27 2014 (Holiday Inn, 200 Holiday Inn Dr.)
  • Woodstock, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), May 25 2014 (Woodstock Fairgrounds, 875 Nellis St.)
  • Ancaster, (Nostalgia Show & Sale), June 22 2014 (Ancaster Fairgrounds, 630 Trinity Rd.)
  • Mississauga, October 19 2014 (Capitol Cenvention Centre, 6435 Dixie Rd.)
  • London, October 26 2014 (Centennial Hall, 550 Wellington St.)

All four of us had a blast.  In the car, Wes commented, “I don’t think I’ve ever had musical conversations like this before!”  Then, I found something out.  Last year, Wes gave me a copy of Twisted Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It.”  He did this on condition that I rip and email him the tracks.  I did that as soon as I got home, only I sent them via Trevor, since I didn’t have Wes’ email.

Wes said he never got them.  “I emailed the tracks like a year ago,” I replied.  I explained that Trevor instructed to just send them to him, and he’d forward them along.  That never happened.  Wes said, “All this time I thought it was Ladano’s fault, turns out it’s my friend right here!” and points at Trevor.

This is turning into an annual event.  We might make it semi-annual by checking out the October show.  I’ll be sure to be you posted!

Part 269: CD Singles (of every variety) featuring T-Rev

Welcome back to the WEEK OF SINGLES 2! Each day this week we’re look at rare singles. Today, we’re looking at lots and lots of them!  WARNING:  Image heavy!

Monday: Dream Theater – “Lie” (CD single)
Tuesday: Jimi Hendrix – “Valleys of Neptune” (7″ single)
Wednesday: Them Crooked Vultures – “Mind Eraser, No Chaser” (10″ single)
Thursday: Megadeth – “Creepy Baby Head” (“Crown of Worms” CD single)

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 269:  CD Singles (of every variety)

Featuring T-Rev

I’m going to take the blame for this.  It was I who got T-Rev into collecting singles in 1994-1995.  Oasis kicked his addiction into gear big time, but it was I that sparked his interest in singles.  According to Trevor today, “I suppose it was Oasis that started that ball rolling…then Blur taught me the tricks…Metallica helped mix the sauce…and then I was almost a pro, like you!”

T-Rev was already familiar with the dominance of singles in Europe.  “They’re so much cheaper in England!” he told me then.  “They have entire walls of them, like we do here with albums, but with them it’s singles.”

He had seen me go crazy for some of the singles that came into the store in the early days.  He saw me plunk down my hard earned pay for CD singles by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard, and many more.  He didn’t get why I was spending so much money on so few songs.  CD singles are much rarer here and commanded (new) prices similar to full albums.

IMG_20140205_130708“Why do you buy singles?” he asked me one day.  “I don’t get it.  The song is on the album, they come in those little cases, and they’re expensive.”

“I buy them for the unreleased tracks,” I explained.  “I don’t buy a single if it has nothing unreleased on it, but I want all the different songs.”

“But the unreleased songs aren’t usually any good, are they?” he continued.

“Sometimes,” I answered.  “But check out this Bon Jovi single here.”  I handed him a CD single that I had bought recently at an HMV store. “This one has ‘Edge of a Broken Heart’.  It’s a song that was recorded for Slippery When Wet, but it didn’t make the album.  Sometimes you find these amazing songs that are totally worth having.  Sometimes you only get live songs or remixes, but I still collect those because I try to get everything.”

When Oasis came out with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, there were ample new singles out there to collect with bonus tracks galore.  T-Rev got me into the band very quickly.  Oasis were known not just for their mouths, but also for their B-sides.  Noel Gallagher was passionate about giving fans good songs as B-sides; he wanted them to be as good as the album.  Oasis had a lot of singles from the prior album Definitely Maybe as well, and one non-album single called “Whatever” that was absolutely marvelous.

Once T-Rev got onto the singles train, he had his own rules about what he wanted to collect and what he didn’t.  Packaging was important to him.  He hated CD singles that came inside little cardboard sleeves.  He couldn’t see them once filed on his CD tower, because there was no thickness to it; no spine to read from the side.  It didn’t matter what was on those CD singles; if the packaging sucked T-Rev was not usually interested.  This applied when we both started collecting old Metallica singles.  I found an Australian copy of “Sad But True” with the rare B-side “So What” at Encore Records for $20. This came in a cardboard sleeve; T-Rev didn’t want it.  (He also already had a live version via the Live Shit: Bing & Purge box set.)  Oasis started releasing their old singles in complete box sets, but T-Rev was only really interested in collecting the UK pressings.  There were a lot of variables to consider.  If you can’t or don’t want to buy everything, you have to set rules and pick and choose.

Once we understood each others’ needs, we were able to keep an eye open for each other.  T-Rev knew if it said Bon Jovi, Faith No More, or Def Leppard on it, that I’d be interested.  If it was a Brit-pop band like Blur or Supergrass, he’d want it (as long as it didn’t come in a paper sleeve).  Foo Fighters too, or virtually anything with Dave Grohl.  Our collections grew prodigiously with rare tracks, EPs we never heard of before, and loads of Metallica.  I believe at one point, T-Rev and I had nearly identical Metallica collections, duplicated between us.  More than half was singles and rarities.  We used to joke that there were probably only two copies of some of these things in town, and we had both of them in one apartment.

IMG_00000064T-Rev sold a lot of his singles but not all.  He still has some treasures.  Highlights include a Steve Earle tin can “Copperhead Road” promo (that he got from local legend Al “the King”).    There’s also Megadeth’s uber-rare “Sweating Bullets” featuring the in-demand “Gristle Mix” by Trent Reznor  Then there was a Blur thing, some kind of “special collectors edition” signed by Damon Albarn, in a Japanese pressing.  Trevor’s seen one sell for upwards of $100.  Then there was another band called “A”.  As Trevor said, “Remember these guys? It was like ‘Britpop punk’. I liked it anyway.”

Also still residing in his collection:  a Japanese print of Oasis’ “Some Might Say” that has two bonus tracks over the domestic version, and two versions of Foo Fighters’ “Big Me”.  One is from Canada, the other from the UK.  Both have different tracks.  I’d forgotten about these until I saw the pictures.

Those were the glory days of collecting.  I miss collecting CD singles.  I preferred hunting the stores downtown to get all the extra tracks to the way it is now.  Now, often you need to buy an iTunes download and several “deluxe editions” to get all the songs.  CD singles were just better, period.  Even just for the cover art of those Oasis singles, singles were much more fun to collect.  I miss those days!
T-Rev’s pics:
LeBrain’s pics:

Part 249: The Shirts

RECORD STORE TALES Part 249:  The Shirts

“Mikey,” said Trevor one afternoon, “I’m talking to you as a friend.  I know you don’t want to stay single forever.  I’m only try to help you out, but…that style you’re rocking just isn’t working man.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.  I thought I was actually dressed pretty cool.

IMG_00001411_edit

shorts n’ docs

“Well,” Trevor continued, “You’re wearing Doc Marten boots with shorts and a Deep Purple T-shirt.  It’s like you’re wearing three looks at once.  What you need to do is focus on one look and go with it.”

I was shell-shocked.  My Doc Marten boots were the bomb!  Deep Purple rules!

“But the boots and shorts are kind of grunge, right?  And that’s cool.”  My counterargument was sound.

“Yeah but the Deep Purple shirt isn’t grunge.  You see?  Trust me Mikey.  I’m just trying to look out for you.  I’ll take you shopping, and after that, you re going to get tons of action!”

Tons of action!  Right on.  I’m in, T-Rev, say no more man!

True to his word, that Saturday, T-Rev picked me up and took me to the mall.  And shop we did.  Apparently Hawaiian was in.  I picked up a Hawiian shirt and this cool burgundy velvety shirt.  I also picked up a couple T-shirts to wear underneath, and a beaded necklace which also was apparently in at the time.  That night, Trevor’s lovely then-girlfriend now-wife Michelle threw him a birthday party and I was able to give the burgundy shirt a test-run in a social environment.  While I did not see any “action”, the feedback was positive.  I have to say that I rocked the look really well and received numerous compliments.

Unfortunately, this kicked off a shirt addiction.  Yes, you read that correctly.  I had a flirtation with shirt addiction that lasted a couple years.  Next I bought an expensive black shirt with cool ridges at a place called Caesar’s Closet in Cambridge.  Then another burgundy shirt, even more velvety.  Then a black one with sparkles in it.  (That was my favourite, it later got recycled into my Paul Stanley Halloween costume.)  Two with flames.  One with guitars.  One with dice.  One that was shiny like a foil-wrapped baked potato, and many many more.  My bosses may have thought I’d lost my mind, as I showed up at the record store in more and more outlandish shirts.  I ended up with at least two dozen in my collection.

When I wore the silver baked potato shirt to work one day, one of my bosses was nearly blinded by it.  “Mike!  That’s a shirt for clubbing!”  Well, probably, but working in a record store gave me a certain amount of leeway that other jobs didn’t have.  I guess I wanted to have fun while I was young!

My “shirts phase” lasted a couple years before it finally faded away.  The obsession was excessive though.  One cottage weekend I packed 7 shirts for a 2 day stay.  By the end of it, I had even written a movie outline for a horror comedy film titled “The Shirt”.  The premise:

A cursed Hawaiian shirt finds its way into a clueless vacationer’s luggage.  The shirt kills those who wear it by strangulation; it can also possess the minds of those it has an affinity for.  Putting on the shirt could get you killed, or possessed — or both!  The evil shirt’s only weakness is bleach.

I’m hoping to get James Franco interested in playing the main character, the guy who makes it to the end of the movie.

Surprisingly few photos remain of my expansive shirt collection.  Perhaps that is a good thing.

More SHIRTS at mikeladano.com:
Record Store Tales Part 86: Captain Gold Shirt

Part 238: Lightning Strikes

RECORD STORE TALES Part 238:  Lightning Strikes

September, 1994

What a rotten week. I had just started my last year of school.  Fresh with the sting of rejection from that summer’s crush, with shoulders hunched, I cut a lonely figure in the hallways.  All my old school friends were gone. I had taken a bunch of classes that I didn’t like. I had nobody to talk to at school, but thankfully I now had the record store. The store gave me something to look forward to when I didn’t have much else.

I still have lyrics that I wrote from that period, and they’re…well, they reflect my age and some of my emotions at the time:

Evil man,
With demon smell,
Down on your knees,
Back into hell.

I came home from class one morning to discover that a lighting storm had fried my stereo, among many other home appliances. It was a Panasonic deck with CD and cassette. It was just toasted. My sister’s Sony stereo had also burned out in the storm. I was essentially without a good way to listen to music. I still had my lousy Walkman with its crummy earphones, but I didn’t have any way of playing a CD.

While insurance companies sorted out the damages, I waited to replace the stereo. In the meantime, Bon Jovi had just released their new single, “Always”, from their forthcoming greatest hits set called Cross Road. I loved Jon’s heartbroken lyrics, but the really good track was a B-side called “Edge of a Broken Heart”. It was a catchy commercial Pop Jovi song, an outtake from Slippery When Wet, and one of their better tunes. Certainly one of their best B-sides. But I had no equipment to play it on.

Luckily I was going to work on the Sunday, and I was working alone for the whole day. I could therefore listen to whatever I wanted, and I brought a couple discs to work to play. One of them was “Always”, and I looked forward to listening to it. I really enjoyed the slow Sunday shift, as it was only four hours long, and I always worked alone on Sundays.

JOVI

I walked to work as I always did.  I already had a key.  I unlocked and unpacked the pack of CDs that I brought with me.  Bon Jovi was my first selection.   I inserted the disc into the player, and turned up the volume so I could hear the music as I vacuumed.

I was startled by two figures at the door.  My boss, the store owner, was one, and the other was Trevor who was our new hire. What the hell were they doing there? Meanwhile, they had that exact same question for me!

“I’m opening the store…what are you doing here?” I responded.

“I’m here to train Trevor,” my boss answered. “and Trevor’s scheduled to work today.”

“No…I’m scheduled. Aren’t I?”

A quick look at the calendar had revealed that Trevor was scheduled in, and I had the day off!

“Shit…to be honest I was really looking forward to working, my stereo is blown at home and I have these new CDs!” We had a laugh at my expense, and I left feeling a little like an idiot.  I was mostly disappointed that I didn’t get to play my new Bon Jovi.

It was another week before I finally got my new stereo. Having the ability to play CDs again was a salve, to soothe my aching soul. I could not believe how much I missed it. That brief period without the ability to play my discs was a dark start to the school year. Gratefully, it got better after that!

Part 222: Mr. Self Destruct

RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

In a previous chapter, I mentioned that in 1994, I had created our store’s very first online ads.  They were in colour, made in full glorious ANSI, and eye-catching.  We even had a flashing logo on screen!  I did this for free, because I was so passionate about the store.  And it was fun!  (Tip: One thing I had to learn was that if you do something for free once, it becomes expected later.)

The reactions were mostly positive.  One guy, a 14 year old kid who went by the online handle “Mr. Self Destruct” (I think his real name was Justin), posted a message that was a bit of a wake up call.

“The kind of things I look for,” he said, “like imported Nine Inch Nails and Pop Will Eat Itself singles, you can’t get at a mall store like the one that Mike works at.  You can only get those downtown, at the good stores.”

That burned!  So I decided to do something about it.

The boss had always told T-Rev and I to order stock that we thought the store needed.  We both took this to heart.  T-Rev for example made sure we stocked things like the new Guns N’ Roses single (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and several other up and coming titles.  Later on, Trevor made sure we stocked all the Oasis singles.  I took care of the Nine Inch Nails side.

GNRNIN_0001I ordered in “Sin”, Pretty Hate Machine, “Head Like A Hole”, Fixed, and Broken.  Fixed had just been deleted, we missed that one.  I ended up buying copies of “Sin” and Pretty Hate Machine for myself (we ordered 3 copies of each).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t like having a few of these titles in stock changed the fortunes of our store.  They sold all but immediately, but there was no sudden and dramatic jump in numbers.  Yet, by summer 1995 we had a much cooler selection.  I like to think we made a difference, albeit a small one, to music lovers.  We sure did try anyway.  It was more about just loving the job and store, and wanting to give 200%.

By that summer, we were even carrying live bootlegs.  The boss picked them up in Toronto, and he’d walk in with a box full of 20 or 30.  I remember T-Rev and I drooling all over them and the boss warning us that there would be no discount on these puppies!  (I didn’t need a discount to want them!)

This period circa 1995-1996, was probably my personal peak at the record store.  It was my peak time for happiness, for motivation, input, pride, and satisfaction.  It was a time of mutual respect, fellowship, and hard work.  I loved every day of it.

Our inventory now had some stuff that you couldn’t get at the cool downtown stores.  I still have some of the bootlegs that I bought:  bands like Guns N’ Roses (Covering ‘Em) and Nine Inch Nails (Woodstock 94).  There were lots more titles (such as the Pearl Jam edition of Covering ‘Em), and our boss would try to get multiple copies of the good ones, like Nine Inch Nails. We even started getting in Japanese imports!  I remember when we carried Hormoaning, by Nirvana, it was like $60 with taxes.  The one guy who bought it had to trade in most of the rest of his collection to buy it.  My buddy Aaron got the other copy.

I spread the word online, and a few of those people became customers.  Guess who was among them?  Mr. Self Destruct!