#872: “Tattoo”

GETTING MORE TALE #872: “Tattoo”

On January 10, 2012, Van Halen released their first new single with David Lee Roth on vocals since 1996:  “Tattoo”, from the forthcoming album A Different Kind of Truth.  An exciting day to be sure.

I had not yet started this site, but if I had, on that day nine years ago I would have written this story.

In 2012, radio station 107.5 Dave FM (now Dave Rocks) was still running the contest that put me on the map locally speaking:  The Four O’Clock Four-Play.  Afternoon host Craig Fee would play four songs in a row, and listeners had to guess what the common thread between the four songs was.  I won more often than anyone else and became a local celebrity named “LeBrain”, and that’s why you’re reading this today.  But on January 10, Craig stumped me.

The Four-Play that day was, of course, Van Halen’s “Tattoo”, played four times in a row!  Craig, who has since left the radio business, was a massive Van Halen fan.  He was the kind of guy who would see “Love Walks In” on that day’s play list, and remove it in favour of “Hear About It Later”.  He was unafraid and that combined with a diehard love of Roth-era Van Halen must have been all it took to play “Tattoo” four times in a row on the Four-Play.

Truly it was a glorious time to be listening to the radio.  You never knew what Craig was going to play on any given show.  He had a penchant for “Rainbow in the Dark” by Dio, and of course Roth-era Van Halen deeper cuts.  He played half of Fair Warning on his show once.  I don’t know what the real-world consequences were for these musical shenanigans, but Craig’s bravado was inspiring.  After the Four-Play contest was discontinued in April of that year, the show’s format became more of a listener call-in program, and the glory days came to an end.

But what was the “common thread” for the purposes of the contest that day?  “Tattoo” played four times?  Arbitrarily, it was the Elvis tattoo in the lyrics.  “I got Elvis, on my elbow…”  Of course it could have been anything, but Craig just needed an excuse to play the song over and over and over again and still give away that day’s prize.

This post is dedicated to Craig, who I hope is doing well out there in his post-radio life.  I feel very fortunate to have had his show to listen to at work, playing all this stuff that no other radio station would have dared.  We Van Halen fans were in our glory that day, getting our fill of the new tune and enjoying every moment.  Of course, people who hated the song were in agony for that show.  Oh well!  So sad, too bad.

Hard to believe David Lee Roth was back and an album was really coming — and now we had the proof in our ears!  Almost as hard to believe Craig got away with playing “Tattoo” four times in the space of a 30-minute contest.

A story for the rock n’ roll history books; a memory for the ages.


Part 95: Pierced and Scarred

RECORD STORE TALES Part 95: Pierced and Scarred

When you walk into a CD store today, you might see all sorts of colourful characters.  Maybe you’ll see a mohawk, purple hair, piercings and tattoos.  Something about the music scene attracts that sort of style, and young folks in CD stores often emulate their rock star heroes.

Well, not in our store!

When I first started in ’94, the rules were clear:  No weird hair colours, no piercings (not even ears, on men), no visible tattoos.  In a music store.

The rationale behind this was that we were a mall music store – we catered to mall rats who listened to Nine Inch Nails, but also to grannies looking for the new Anne Murray.  We couldn’t scare off the old ladies with an earring.  It all came down to personality really.  The man who called the shots and paid the bills as well as the paycheques didn’t like earrings on men.  He was a pretty clean cut, physically fit, unpierced chap and earrings on men were the opposite of his vision for a record store.

I know.  I know how weird that sounds, for a music store, but rules are rules are rules.

Then in ’95, we hired a girl with a visible back tattoo, so the tattoo rule quietly went out the window.  Guys were still not allowed to have earrings.

In ’97, one of our guys spent the summer in England.  He returned in the fall with a nose ring.  He knew the policy and didn’t care.  The boss decided to bend the rule, since he had “already spent the money” to have the piercing done. This opened the door a crack.  Before too long we had girls with nose rings, guys with eyebrow rings and visible tattoos, and I decided to get my ears pierced.  I put up with a little grief over it (“Why would you want to do that to yourself?”) but the policy was no longer in effect.  We were finally starting to catch up with the rest of the world in general, and music stores specifically!  Our new policy stated that facial piercings were allowed as long as they were not “excessive”.  “Excessive” was never defined, but it was understood that a couple were OK.

I decided I wanted a lip piercing, and later on a nose piercing.  I became very active in the body modification community, making friends in tattoo shops.  (Some of those friends are LeBrain readers today.)  I never went hog wild.  To date I only have two tattoos, and one earring left.  However as I went from my 20’s to my 30’s, working in a music store, I was able to explore different looks.

By 2004, there was a rollback of the piercing policy.  Sales had been slumping thanks to downloading, and changes were made.

While girls were still allowed to keep their nose rings, guys were not.  I was given direct instructions to remove my lip and nose piercings, immediately.  I protested.  “What about our policy?  The policy states that facial piercings are allowed as long as we don’t go into excess, and I only have two, which is less than others.”

The response was, “I know.  The policy was a mistake.  We’re changing the policy back, effective immediately.”

Our Niagara Falls store owner, Lemon Kurri Klopek, was very active in his local tattoo community, and even a tattoo shop overseas, which enabled him to tour there with his band, the Legendary Klopeks.  He sent some reading material written by Shannon Larratt my way, on why allowing piercings in the work place is good for morale and good for a unique store image.  I left these reading materials for my boss, who “filed” them.  I don’t know if he read them or not.  My piercings grew in.

In the long run, this policy change was a good thing.  Don’t get me wrong – it did nothing to fix sales slumps.  It did nothing to herd in old ladies by the gaggle, to purchase Anne Murray discs.  It did succeed in making me ask questions.  One question was, “Since I can’t have the piercings anymore, why don’t I just look for a normal 9-5 job?” The piercings were already out, it only made sense to make a new resume and make some serious life changes.