the beatles

VHS Archives #41: The Beatles Help! home video TV ad

I found this ad in the commercials as I was fast-forwarding a tape. In 1987, MPI Home Video released The Beatles movie Help! on VHS for the first time. But wait, there’s more! Order now, and get Sixties Headlines for free! Regular price: $74.95? Holy shit! The 80s were expensive!

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#736: San Fransisky? Did you drove or did you flew?

GETTING MORE TALE #736: San Fransisky? Did you drove or did you flew?

One of the first friends I met when I started at the Record Store in 1994 was Christina, better known as “San Fransisky”.  I’ll get to that in a minute as it requires an explanation.  San Fransisky was a friendly, outgoing girl who worked at the dollar store around the corner called A Buck or Two.  When I was the rookie in my first months at the Record Store, she would come in and chat, which helped me feel welcome at the Mall.  Our store played her store in the Mall bowling tournament, and I think they probably beat us.

San Fransisky was Portuguese and proud of it.  Her house had one of those front rooms for your shoes, and another room that was strictly decorative.  You didn’t go into that room or sit in it, it was to be admired from outside.  My memory is hazy on one detail, but I could swear that room had a stuffed (taxidermied) dog in it.  But what about that nickname “San Fransisky”?

When she used to call my house, the call display showed her dad’s name Fransisco.  This led to my dad doing his best Sid Dithers impression.  Remember Sid Dithers, Eugene Levy’s overtly Jewish character on SCTV?  His catch phrase was “San Fransisky?  So how did you came here, did you drove or did you flew?”

Every time she called the house, the name came up “Fransisco” and my dad would howl, “San Fransisky?  How did you came here, did you drove or did you flew?”  Nobody in our house even called her Christina.  It was San Fransisky.  That’s the effect my dad can have when he repeats the same joke over and over again.

She was cool; we used to go out to eat, see Rangers games, and enjoy general good times.  The owner at the Record Store knew San Fransisky long before I did, and according to legend they once had this conversation:

Owner – “Hey Christina, ask me if I’ve ever had sex in my store.”

San Fransisky – “No!  I don’t want to know that!  Gross!”

Owner – “Go ahead, ask me if I’ve ever had sex in my store!”

San Fransisky, sighing – “Have you ever had sex in your store?”

Owner – “I’m not telling! Hahah!”

I like to think that he did it over in the rap section.

Nothing lasts forever and the Record Store eventually moved out of the Mall.  We continued to hang out with San Fransisky after hours but problems in the friendship began to emerge.  I was never much of a night owl.  I didn’t go out to bars, or to dance at the clubs, but once in a blue moon.  San Fransisky thought that if I wanted to meet someone, I needed to get out to the bars.  I didn’t like the music, the crowds, or even drinking that much.  I would decline but she’d really push, and push persistently.  People who really know me also know that I hate being pushed.  If I say no to something, please just respect that.

“Mike if you came out you’ll really have a good time,” she’d insist.  “You know if you keep saying no, people are going to stop asking you to go out.”  I knew that, and eventually that’s what happened.

I really pissed her off once in the winter of ’96.  She was setting me up with one of her friends.  It was a skating date, and it was OK.  Nothing happened for a while.  Several weeks after, we all went out together again as a group to go bowling, loser having to sing karaoke afterwards.  San Fransisky brought two of her friends, and I brought two of mine.  One of them happened to be my ex.  Turns out, the girl that San Fransisky was trying to set me up with, didn’t appreciate that I brought my ex bowling.  Ah well.  I screwed up that night absolutely gloriously even after that.  I lost at bowling, and I had to sing.  When I sing karaoke, there’s one song I always go to:  “The Immigrant Song”.

I don’t know if San Fransisky had ever been more embarrassed in her life.  I had a great time, but I was definitely on her shit list.

She was starting to get a little demanding as a customer at the Record Store too.  She wanted better discounts than I was allowed to give, and she wanted more money for her used DVDs than I was permitted.  There was a dispute over the movie Bubble Boy.  She wanted way more than I could pay, and the disc was pretty scratched up too.  She wouldn’t let it go.

The next bump in our friendship involved a guy named Hercules.  I have no idea what his real name was.  San Fransisky met Hercules at the bar.  If I remember the details correctly, she didn’t know his name so she called him Hercules.  I remember Hercules lied about his age and his name, which set off alarm bells.  T-Rev and I met him once, but soon after he told San Fransisky that she was not to see us anymore.  He was that kind of boyfriend.  We didn’t like it, but we were cut off.  T-Rev may or may not have felt like inflicting violence upon Hercules, but he is a peaceful man who finds violence to be the last refuge of the weak minded.  If someone got mad and challenged T-Rev to a fight, he’d laugh and say, “Sure, because if we fight and I win, that means I was right, and if you win that means you were right.”  We knew Hercules wouldn’t last long.  San Fransisky was an independent girl with lots of friends.  It wasn’t in her nature to be locked down like that.

Eventually San Fransisky re-emerged, told us that Hercules was done, that we were right.  That was that and we all moved on.  But, like many things, friendships often have a trajectory in life.  We were all changing.  T-Rev moved to Sarnia, and I drifted away from San Fransisky.

Our friendship ended permanently after I bought a place in the same condo complex that she lived.  We were briefly in contact again, but she got mad at me when I was mentioned I was interested in buying a used microwave oven from a friend of hers, and then changed my mind because new ones were so cheap.  I just went over to Canadian Tire (or “Newfy Speed N’ Sport” as T-Rev used to call it) and bought a small one out of box.  It just seemed like I should have a new clean microwave for my first place.  She was pissed that I reneged on the deal; sorry about that.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was fittingly over a CD.  We met at a CD store, and we departed over a CD.  This story was recounted in Record Store Tapes Part 313:  Not Allowed Lending!  We were living in the same building, and she was having a party upstairs.  Keep in mind, I knew how well she took care of her CDs and DVDs, because she used to trade them in to me at the store.

The story continues as follows.


A few weeks after I moved in, she came down to my unit. She was having a party upstairs. She needed some music.

“Do you have any Beatles?” she asked me.

“Yup, I have the Red and Blue albums. They’re excellent. The Red one probably has all the songs you’d want for a party.”

VH 194_0001She asked me about a couple more CDs.  Van Halen was one. I got them out of my CD tower.

“You’re going to take care of these, right? And you’ll return them tomorrow morning?” I asked pointedly.

“It might not be tomorrow morning but I’ll bring them back, of course.”

I knew how this girl took care of her own CDs. I had bought enough used discs from her at the store. She always bitched when I told her the discs were scratched up. She never put them back in the case, and left them out all the time.  Knowing her ways of handling discs, I added additional instructions.

“I want you to be careful with these discs, and put them back in the cases when you’re done. I also want you to make sure nobody else touches my CDs. Only you.  I want them back exactly as they are.”

She gave me this flabbergasted expression. What she said next was the sentence that ended what was left of our “friendship”:

“What do you care if they get scratched?! You work at the store!”

That was it. I told her I wouldn’t loan her the CDs if that was her attitude. She went upstairs in an angry huff, and we never socialized again. I ran into her now and then, and she was always bitchy.  The friendship was over.

 


She moved out of the building later that year, got married and de-friended me on social media.  I’m not even sure what her new name is.  I do know one thing that has not changed.  I still have those Beatles CDs, in the exact condition I bought them in.  That microwave still works, too!

It’s been at 15 years since she moved, but I hope San Fransisky is out there doing well.  Some personalities are just not meant to mix for extended periods of time, but there are more good memories than bad.  Bowling, arcades, playing cards, eating food, and mini-golf.  Good times.  Such a shame she couldn’t take care of her CDs!

 

#725: “Mum’s” Music

GETTING MORE TALE #725: “Mum’s” Music

We couldn’t keep everything from “Mum’s” house.  Jen’s mother amassed a huge amount of possessions over the years.  We had to choose what to keep and what to leave behind.  Like most people, she had a lot of old worthless albums and CDs.  She also had a couple good ones, some of which baffled me.  I know I gave her the Rush CD, but I don’t know where some of these others came from!  Many are still sealed with price tags affixed.

I know I’m bad for that too.  I have many CDs that have been here for years, still sealed.  My collection is several thousand albums deep now.  There is a lot of stuff I just haven’t gotten around to hearing yet.  I guess “Mum” was the same.  I never really saw her listening to music at home although I know she loved certain artists and songs.  I don’t think she even had a working CD player anymore.  Jen says they mostly listened to music in the car.

Because she was so supportive, she owned two CDs by my sister Kathryn.  Her solo album Open is ironically still sealed.  Mum would have bought that at the CD release show, back in 2010 at the Button Factory in Waterloo.  (I was supposed to perform our song “Evil Kirk” that night but I was suffering from a throat infection so it was impossible for me to do.)  Mum loved watching Kathryn perform even if the music was beyond her.  She also had a copy of my sister’s first CD, A Recital of Works for Bass Clarinet.  I brought these back home with me.  Maybe I’ll do a contest to give them away.

Some decent greatest hits discs were found.  I think Mum would be glad that we kept some of her jazz classics.  I needed some Louis Armstrong, and now I have All Time Greatest Hits (1994) with 18 songs.  She also loved Etta James; she danced with Jen’s dad to “At Last” at our wedding.  Etta James was one of her favourites.  I’m going to do my best to appreciate her music.  Etta James’ Her Best (1997, 20 tracks) is still sealed but I’ll crack it open and give it a shot.

The Beach Boys’ Sounds of Summer also looks like a good one.  It’s 30 songs and I know virtually all of them.  Jen is a huge Beach Boys fan and I think this greatest hits is better than any she had before.  We will get lots of play from this, I know.  Then there’s Experience Hendrix: The Best of Jimi Hendrix!  This one is opened!  I never heard her mention Jimi Hendrix, not once.  We have no idea what she was doing with Jimi in her collection.  I already have lots of Jimi, but this one has a really nice booklet with liner notes.

Two sealed Beatles CDs were in the collection.  Jen and I are the bigger Beatles fans, but we didn’t own Live at the BBC Volume 1 or 2!  These are the 2013 remasters, too.  I’ll admit I’ve never liked the first Live at the BBC.  It came out during my first Christmas at the Record Store, and it stiffed.  We sat on a huge pile of them that we couldn’t sell.  Nobody wanted rough live versions of Beatles songs.  People wanted the hits, and BBC disappointed many when it appeared under the Christmas tree in 1994.  (The same thing happened with Anthology 1 in 1995.)  Now we have both BBC sets, so we’ll have to give them another chance.  She also had Abbey Road on LP, which isn’t in terrible shape.  It’s my favourite Beatles album and it will be cool to hear it on vinyl, the way it was intended.

Also among the LPs was a Beach Boys double hits LP called Summer Dreams.  I was excited to find one by Gordon Lightfoot called 2 Originals of Gordon Lightfoot.  This contains two of his complete albums, Don Quixote and Summer Side of Life.  I owned neither until now.  Some of the coolest records were the soundtracks.  We took Rocky, Chariots of Fire, and The Buddy Holly Story.  The cool thing about The Buddy Holly Story is that the cast are the actual singers and musicians.  So that means it’s Gary Busey singing and playing lead guitar.  And he’s great!  This is a classic soundtrack that I am glad to finally own.

As discussed in a previous chapter, for some reason when Mum was sick, I felt a strong connection to Cat Stevens.  Specifically it was the song “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out”.  When we were watching over her in her last days, that song came into my head and I don’t know why.  I felt like she was trying to tell me something.  She never wanted either of us to be sad.  In my mind, it seemed like Mum was telling me not to be sad.  “Well, if you want to sing out, sing out.  And if you want to be free, be free.  ‘Cause there’s a million things to be, you know that there are.”  It seemed like something she would have said.  So when she finally passed, and we started going through her things, I found a Cat Stevens CD with that exact song on it.  It’s not on the 1975, 1990, or 2000 greatest hits albums.  But it is on Icon.  There it was, still sealed, and it had the song.  How strange, I thought, as a tear went down my face.

The world is strange indeed; or as Cat said it’s a “Wild World”.  There are coincidences that seem connected even if they are not.  The human brain has a knack for finding patterns, and many of us mistake this for deeper meaning.  Even though it could be pure chance, I think Mum was speaking to me when that song came into my head.  It’s a comforting thought.  I’ll take it.

When I write these stories about her, I miss her even more.  I can’t do it without crying at least once.  But it’s important to me that you get to know her a little bit.  She was an amazing woman, and this is just a small part of the music that she loved.

#722: Christmas Mix 2006

GETTING MORE TALE #722: Christmas Mix 2006

It took some searching, but I finally found a copy!  This is the first Christmas mix CD I ever made, back in 2006.  I didn’t start making these until I had left the Record Store.  Nobody who works retail wants to listen to Christmas music outside of work.  Once I had been gone a year, my brain and soul were freed!

As discussed in the previous Christmas Mix article, after a few years I was running short on good songs to use, so I had to repeat a few from prior years.  Several tracks from the 2006 disc made a return appearance in 2010.

Repeaters included:

1. Hawksley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Truly an incredible, family-oriented song that is a highlight of Hawkley’s excellent Christmas album, Almost a Full Moon. The 2006 CD has lots of Hawksley songs.

2. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My sister always liked this one, which sounds like early Extreme – perhaps first album era.

3. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  I leaned heavily on this one, though not a great song, just because it’s the Beatles and it’s a rarity you may not have heard.

4. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas“.  Bon Jovi have done several Christmas songs, but Jon’s solo version of “Please Come Home for Christmas” is by far the best.  Let’s face it, this is a great tune!

5. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Another one I lean on because a song about New Year’s Eve is a nice change of pace.  Plus, it’s Jim Cuddy!

6. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  I think every Christmas mix needs a kick in the nuts to keep things interesting.  Here’s the kick!

7. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “Twelve Days of Christmas”.  It can get a little tedious, as many joke songs are, but people know it and like it.

That’s not bad for repeat.  I’m sure Kiss have repeated more than just seven songs on their greatest hits CDs….


For creative types, the first thing you try something is often the best.  Maybe that’s the case with my line of Christmas mixes.  This first instalment is a great listen, even if you hate Christmas music and everything to do with it.  Check out the amazing songs you would have heard in 2006!

“Linus & Lucy” isn’t a Christmas song at all, but it works because Charlie Brown is associated with Christmas.  Wynton and Ellis Marsalis did an entire album dedicated to the music of Charlie Brown (Joe Cool’s Blues), but “Linus & Lucy” is the most instantly memorable.  And now, all of a sudden, you’re a kid again watching the Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Hawsley Workman’s first appearance here is “First Snow of the Year”, a song that is much too happy for a song about snow!  It’s homey, upbeat and jovial.  Keeping things upbeat, I went for the Brian Setzer Orchestra next.  “Jingle Bells” mixes the big band style with jaw-dropping guitar as only Setzer can do.  I then chose to cool things out with “The First Nowell” by the sublime Eric Johnson.  His acoustic/electric instrumental contains just as much original music as it does traditional.  It’s wonderful.

There was a time when Queen’s “Thank God It’s Christmas” was a rarity.  Now you hear it on the radio.  When I first had it, it was on a bonus CD within a Queen Classics/Greatest Hits box set.   (The “Green Cover”.)   Since just about everybody likes Queen (then and now) including it is a slam dunk.  It’s 80s Queen but that’s OK, isn’t it?

I used a lot of instrumental music on these Christmas mixes, which tended to come from Merry Axemas 1 and 2.  “Joy to the World” by Steve Morse is a beautiful rendition, much like the Eric Johnson track, though Steve’s is entirely electric.  Then it’s Joe Perry’s Hawaiian guitar version of Elvis’ “Blue Christmas”.  You may recall that I put Elvis’ version on my 2010 CD.  Joe’s version is cool because it’s different, though not as popular around our dinner table.

Trans-Siberian Orchestra is, honestly, a band I don’t get.  Look, I’m a huge Savatage fan.  Massive Savatage fan.  I’ve been a fan since I was 15.  Trans-Siberian began as a spinoff of Savatage, and I was absolutely shocked when little old men and ladies would come in to the Record Store asking for them!  Trans-Siberian isn’t as “metal” as Savatage, but the bombast is all there.  They’re popular though, so I put as much Trans-Siberian on here as I could handle.  “A Star to Follow” is a pretty gothic version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”.  Much better is “A Mad Russian’s Revenge”, an interpretation of Tchaikovsky.  I also threw on “The Silent Nutcracker” because it is a simple acoustic guitar instrumental, not at all like the other TSO tracks.

One of Marillion’s very best Christmas tunes is “I Saw Three Ships”, so for my debut Christmas mix, I used nothing but the best Marillion.  This is from 2001’s A Very Barry Christmas.  There is something special and unique about this band.  “I Saw Three Ships” is both true to the song, yet intrinsically Marillion.

Hawksley’s third appearance is a hat trick of perfect celebratory pop.  “Claire Fontaine” isn’t particularly seasonal, though it’s from his Christmas CD.  It’s about a girl who makes lovely decorative paper.  There’s a line about “going home for Christmas” but otherwise there is little connection.  Claire could use her paper to wrap gifts, though Hawksley uses it for writing.  “Your sheets are very smooth, I like to rub my pen across them.”  This was a selfish inclusion.  I just love this song.

“Ring Out Solstice Bells” is also a selfish inclusion, because although it is a brilliant track, nobody I knew actually liked Jethro Tull.  In fact some, like Mrs. LeBrain, are quite anti-Tull.  So who was this song for?  Me!  And I stand beneath the Christmas tree, doing my best Ian Anderson single-leg stand.

Lo, what is this I hear?  More Hawksley?  Yes, Hawksley Workman had four tracks on my Christmas CD.  That is a full one-half of his original album!  I chose “Common Cold” for the last Hawksley.  Nobody gets through the holidays without getting sick, not in my family anyway!  (Last year I had the flu.)  “Nearly OD, on Vitamin C, you’re standing in a lineup with a gift just for me.”

The disc ended with a slew of tracks I’d use again.  Cuddy, Nugent, and Bob & Doug closed the CD.  A joke song makes a good closer sometimes, so that’s why I re-used Bob & Doug in the exact same position on 2010’s CD!

I like this CD, but I today I would axe the first two Trans-Siberian tracks.  I don’t think I’d change anything else.  In fact I’m quite thrilled to hear “Linus & Lucy” again for the first time in ages.  (I’ll have to give the whole Wynton & Ellis CD a spin again.)  Hawksley is always a delight, and I used his very best Christmas songs here.  And that Jethro Tull song is brilliant; I don’t care what cynics say.

I’ll give myself a solid:

4/5 stars

 

#721: Christmas Mix 2010

GETTING MORE TALE #721: Christmas Mix 2010

Making mix CDs was a lot of fun (and work).  I used to make custom Christmas discs that didn’t suck, for my family and friends every year.  Why did I stop?  I ran out of good Christmas songs.  Let’s face it:  unless you’re one of “those” people, Christmas music is nails on a chalkboard.  You can only take so much.  If you’ve worked retail in the past (or present), you probably can’t take any at all!

2010’s Christmas CD is a good example of what I used to make.  You’ll notice there’s no Trans-Siberian Orchestra on there.  I used up all their best stuff on the previous instalments.  I tried to avoid duplicating songs from previous years although Hawksley Workman’s Christmas album is so good that I made exceptions for him.  Hawkley’s Almost A Full Moon is the best Christmas CD that I own, and probably the best one I’ve heard.  I bought it twice.  He reissued the album after only a year with two extra songs!  I forgave him, because Almost A Full Moon is so warm and perfect.

What do you think of the Christmas 2010 CD?  Would you have wanted a copy that year?

1. Bill Ward – “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.  Yes, that Bill Ward!  The Black Sabbath drummer did a spoken word recording of the classic Christmas poem, and I opened the CD with it.  I can tell you that when we played the CD at dinner time, this track was a failure.  Nobody paid attention.

2. Kathryn Ladano – “Jingle Bells”.  I got their attention back by putting on a track by my sister.  This instrumental version on bass clarinet is from her CD The Christmas Album.  Of note, her Schnauzer Ali is credited for barks on “Jingle Bells”!

3. Lemmy, Dave Grohl, Billy F. Gibbons – “Run Rudolph Run”.  This breakneck Christmas carol is done in the Motorhead style.  I played it in the car for sis.  “This is shit!” she proclaimed.  “Why do these guys get to put out albums and not me?”

4. Marillion – “Let It Snow”.  This drunken favourite is from 2007’s Somewhere Elf.  The spirit is intoxicating, as I’m sure they were!

Found some booze in a flight case,
And I’m afraid that we’re all shit-faced,
So I guess that we’ll have to go,
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

5. David Bowie and Bing Crosby – “Little Drummer Boy / Peace on Earth”.  This is the David Bowie song that your grandma likes.  It’s just lovely.  I didn’t own anything with this song on it, so I had to download.  That’s why it didn’t appear until 2010!

6. Helix – “Happy Christmas (War is Over)”.  Yes, it rocks, but not too hard!  Helix covered Lennon for their Heavy Metal Christmas.  Singer Brian Vollmer is trained in the Bel Canto technique and he’s more than capable of singing songs for your Christmas dinner in mind.

7. Extreme – “Christmas Time Again”.  My mom always liked Extreme, or “Nick Strean” as she thought they were called.  This isn’t the greatest Christmas song in the world, but it doesn’t suck.

8. Hawskley Workman – “3 Generations”.  Told you there would be some Hawksley.  This touching song is about three generations of women in the kitchen making Christmas dinner together.

9. Elvis Presley – “Blue Christmas”.  I must have downloaded this one too.  I am a bit of a sucker for Elvis.  I included Joe Perry’s instrumental version on a previous CD.

10. The Beatles – “Christmas Time is Here Again”.  Not one of their best songs, but it’s the Beatles so it had to be included eventually.  This version comes from the 1995 CD single for “Free As a Bird”.  Relatively few have heard it, and I thought that would get people’s ears perked up, but by this time, the wine was out….

11. Steve Vai – “Christmas Time is Here”.  This is from the first Merry Axemas.  It’s a lovely track and not too shreddy.  Remember this song from the Charlie Brown Christmas special?  Steve does it on guitar, of course!

12. Jethro Tull – “God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman”.  This funky flute version will get the toes tappin’.  Hard to believe that this is from Tull’s final studio album in 2003, The Jethro Tull Christmas Album!  It would have been nice to get one more, but Tull’s Christmas Album is a good one to have around.  If you need to tolerate Christmas music, you may as well listen to Tull jamming it out.

13. Brian Vollmer – “The First Noel”.  Helix’s Vollmer put out a rare charity album in 2005 called Raising the Roof on Mary Immaculate.  “The First Noel” is one of the best tracks.  Vollmer is the first artist to get two appearances on my CD.

14. Ted Nugent – “Deck the Halls”.  Much like “Run Rudolph Run”, this one smokes!  It’s a guitar instrumental at full speed.  Grandma didn’t like this one.

15. Twisted Sister – “O Come All Ye Faithful”.  I really don’t like the Twisted Christmas album.  This song was a hit though, and since it’s virtually identical to “We’re Not Gonna Take It”, I can…errr…take it.

16. Cheap Trick – “Come On Christmas”.  My sister was a huge Cheap Trick fan at one point.  She had this song before I did.  Essentially just a Cheap Trick pop rocker with Christmas lyrics.  Sounds like classic Cheap Trick to me.

17. AC/DC – “Mistress For Christmas”.  I put this song on as the joke it is.  I like to remind people that AC/DC did have a Christmas song.  “Jingle bells, Jingle bells, jingle all the day.  I can’t wait to Christmas time, when I roll you in the hay.”  Hey, it counts.

18. The Darkness – “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)“.  In my review, I said, “Even though the guitars are thicker than a good ol’ bowl of Thin Lizzy pudding, there is no mistaking this for anything but a Christmas song.   It is a joyous rock re-imagining of a Christmas carol, with the unmistakable Justin Hawkins falsetto.”  Plus, sis likes The Darkness.

19. Jon Bon Jovi – “Please Come Home for Christmas”.  I like this one.  Fuck off.

20. Jimi Hendrix – “Little Drummer Boy/Silent Night/Auld Lang Syne”.  From an EP called Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  Jimi and band jammed out some impressive licks but the dinner party didn’t enjoy.

21. Jim Cuddy – “New Year’s Eve”.  Cuddy’s solo debut All In Time is tremendous CD and comes highly recommended by this guy right here.  It’s like listening to a Blue Rodeo album, but only the Jim songs.  The sentimental “New Year’s Eve” is a lovely ballad that fits right in with the Christmas theme.

22. Bob & Doug McKenzie – “The Twelve Days of Christmas”.  You gotta end with a classic.  From 1981’s The Great White North comes the big Christmas hit.  We used to hear this every single year on my mom’s old clock radio.  We’d squeal with laughter trying to sing along.  “A beer…in a tree…”

 

How would you rate this one?  Trying to avoid overlap was previous instalments was my Achilles’ heel.  I’d swap out a lot of the lesser songs for better ones, but it’s not bad.  It’s listenable.  It’ll do.

3/5 stars

 

 

#488: Almost Cut My Hair

GETTING MORE TALE #488: Almost Cut My Hair

Whatever musical subculture you come from, if it has a uniform, then no doubt hair style is a part of that uniform.

Nowhere has this been exemplified better than the classic mohawk made famous by 1970’s punk rockers.  Mr. T made it mainstream in the 80’s, rendering the punk shock value of it dead.  On to the next thing!  How about a a 1″ hole in your earlobe to keep it edgy?  Hair cuts and music have a much longer association than that, of course.  The Beatles were considered rough and shaggy for their hair that COVERED THEIR EARS!  Can you imagine?  On the other side of the pond, Elvis was popularizing the greaser look.  All over the world, kids tried to look like these rebellious rabble-rousers.

The late Eric Carr, who served as Kiss’ drummer from 1982 until his passing in 1991, told stories of how he desperately tried to straighten his hair to look like a Beatle.  He’d put pantyhose on his head overnight to try and get the curls out.  Meanwhile, there are photos of young Gene Simmons with bangs down to his eyebrows and Paul Stanley with hair covering his ears.  (Paul had a second motivation — one of his ears is deformed and he was eager to hide it.)

In America, another hairstyle was emerging, and it was strongly related to the funk, r&b and disco scenes:  the Afro.  It is the only hairstyle I am aware of that is probably measured in diameter, not length.  In the 1960’s, the Afro was associated with the ripple effect emanating from the civil rights movement.  Today it is a classic hairstyle, immediately adding strength and character to almost any face that it frames.  The Afro is a beautiful thing, truly.

Billy Preston "the Fifth Beatle"

Billy Preston “the Fifth Beatle”

Almost as beautiful are the dreadlocks.  In many cultures, dreadlocks are sacred.  The association of dreadlocks with modern music is due to the emergence of Reggae.  Rastafari (part of the Abrahamic family of religions) emerged in Jamaica in the 1930’s.  Who in the whole genre of Reggae was more famous than Bob Marley?  Marley was Rastafari, and as his musical fame grew, so did his locks.  As far as pop culture is concerned, Marley is an icon, and the silhouette of his dreadlocked head is known all over the world.

I think somebody must have just invented hairspray at the beginning of the 1980’s.  That’s the best explanation that I can provide for what happened next.  Everybody lost their mind, and instead of measuring their hair in length or even diameter, they began to measure it in height.  It also began to take on bizarre shapes.  Like the wings of Mike Score, from the obvious example A Flock of Seagulls.  Cultures clashed.  Culture Club, a New Wave band, featured a cross dressing lead singer with braided hair!  It was glam meets Rasta in all the wrong ways.  Boy George today is happily bald.  Meanwhile, across the pond in suburban New Jersey, Jon Bon Jovi was attempting to break the 12″ height record.

The hairstyle closest to my heart is the one most associated with rock music:  the classic long-hair.  It’s the perfect hair in almost every way.  You can tie it back for the “I mean business” look, or just to keep it out of the way.  When you need to unleash the rock fury, long hair is superior.  The best part is, after a good solid thrash around, long hair usually looks better than it did before!  Only dreadlocks can rival classic long hair for headbanging money-shot images.

I never liked getting haircuts in the first place, but when I started getting interested in music in the early 80’s, it seemed as good a reason as any to stop getting them.  Besides, one kid at school named Ian used to chide me that I “didn’t look like a rocker” with my lame short hair.  I wanted so bad to look cool like a rocker.  Sure, there were some cool short haired rockers, like Rick Neilson, Alex Van Halen and Alec John Such, but they were a vast, sometimes teased, minority.  My hair started to grow down past my neck.  This caused clashes with my dad like you would not believe.  You thought Darren McGavin made for some foul language in A Christmas Story?  My dad can eat Darren McGavin for breakfast and ask for seconds.  My dad invented many of his own swears.  He even started singing in swears!  One of his biggest hit songs with us kids was always “Shittily, Shittily, La La La”.  And that is exactly how the lyrics went.  Over and over!  One day, he was singing “Shittily, Shittily, La La La” in public again.  He must have been overheard, because the next thing that happened was a Jehovah’s Witness approached him.  She handed him a Watchtower magazine, and told him, “I think you really need this.”  But I digress.  You can imagine how the hair battles in our house ended.  Usually with us not speaking to each other for the next three days.

Eric Brittingham

Eric Brittingham

That’s not due to my dad, mind you.  It’s due to me being a stubborn little shit.  To be fair, I learned the “stop speaking to your parents” schtick from my best friend Bob who frequently stopped speaking to his mother.  Bob too was attempting to grow long hair.  His goal at that time was to be a redhead version of Eric Brittingham from Cinderella during the Long Cold Winter era.  He thought that would have looked awesome.  It probably would have, but eventually he had to get a job and cut it.  He went with a classic crew cut, and a little bit of a fringe on the back:  the mullet.  This is what I ended up with as well, because instead of growing over my ears, my hair simply began curling and going back up again!  My dad hated this but more importantly, wanted me to be employable.  One day he came home to tell me that the manager of the nearby grocery store wanted to speak with me about a job opportunity.  This I was not going to be stubborn about, so I went to the barber, cut it all off, and went in for a brief interview.  I started that week.

The teasing at school was inevitable.  Most of those kids had never seen me without some form of attempted mullet.  The drastic sudden change also made my ears look (in my eyes) freaking huge.  To me, I looked like another kid in our school named “Trophy”.  Trophy was called that because his ears stuck out so far they made his head look like a big trophy.  I was hideous!  I was Samson without his locks.  I had nothing.  I attempted to grow a moustache.  This was abandoned in less than a week when a girl at the grocery store that I liked named Kathleen recommended that I lose the ‘stache.  It was hopeless.  I felt…naked.

When grunge hit the ground running in the early 90’s, rockers one by one began to shed their locks.  Many ladies of the 80’s fainted when Jon Bon Jovi went short in 1993 for Keep the Faith.  Three years later, some thrash acolytes nearly had heart failure when not one, not two, not three, but all four members of Metallica included James Fucking Hetfield cut their hair short!  The game was over.  While many rockers such as Ozzy, Alice, and Nikki elected to keep their hair, they were overshadowed by the folks who let it go:  David Lee Roth, Edward Van Halen, Tommy Lee, Paul Stanley (notably for Phantom of the Opera), pretty much all of Aerosmith except for Tyler and Perry….There were no magazine headlines that said “Alice Cooper Keeps His Hair Long”.  But there were headlines to the effect of “The World is Ending — Jon Bon Has Cut His Curls!”

As rockers age, so do our styles.  I thought Jon Lord looked very distinguished, with his silvery hair in a ponytail when he got older.  Some of us have cut our hair, some of us have lost our hair.  Some of us dye it and some of us shave it.  In this day and age, it is very difficult to tell one’s musical affiliation by hairstyle alone.  You can have long hair and be a DJ spinning samples on a laptop.  A guy shredding lead electric guitar is just as likely to have short hair as long.  Over there, that metal band has a bunch of people with dreadlocks, and that rap group does too!  Mohawk with dreadlocks?  Hello Doug Pinnick from King’s X!  Sub-cultures continue to clash in ways both new and retro, and as with any style, music will always have a part in it.

1993, return of the long hair.

 

RIP Sir George Martin

A multi-site collaborative memorial.  

Boppinsblog tribute – Jeff Beck Blow By Blow album review

KeepsMeAlive tribute

1001 Albums tribute

SIR GEORGE

Do you use social media?  If so, you probably know the same sinking feeling that I do.

You wake up in the morning and open your Facebook and/or Twitter.  Your feed is flooded with a certain musical artist.  “This was my favourite song of theirs…”, or “I still remember the first time I heard them.”

I knew this morning was one of those days when I saw Sir George Martin’s face, and heard tons of his music, all over my social media.  Another legend lost.  This time we can say he lived a long, fruitful life.  Sir George was 90.

Music writer Dale Sherman today highlighted that George Martin was the first real “modern” producer.  It was he who learned to push the recording studio to the limits.  He put his stamp on the songs, and was one of the first to do so.  They called him the “Fifth Beatle” and I think that is very true.  He was a collaborator, a teacher, and a genius.  Of course, he produced so many more bands than just the Beatles, but who will he always be identified with?  There is only one correct answer.

My personal favourite non-Beatles recording of his was Aerosmith’s cover of “Come Together”, and for the Beatles it would have to be “Tomorrow Never Knows”.  “Tomorrow Never Knows” was the most brilliant thing the Beatles ever did, sounding as modern today as it did in 1966.  Though it’s not the song that best represents the George/Beatles sound, I think this is their greatest achievement.

RIP, Sir George!

#447: Fist Fudge

GETTING MORE TALE #447: Fist Fudge

What’s the biggest musical rip off you’ve ever seen?

The Nine Inch Nails unofficial Fisted box set comes to mind.

This set, supposedly limited to just 1000 pieces, retailed for about $200 in the mid-90’s. It included five CDs:

  • Fixed (EP)
  • March of the Pigs parts I and II
  • Closer to God parts I and II

Those singles are available on their own, for much less. The box also included an unauthorized T-shirt that said “FIST” on the front, and “F%@#” on the back. No Nine Inch Nails logos anywhere to be found on that. It came in a cheap black plastic box with the Nine Inch Nails “n” logo and the word “Fisted” on top…except it’s not really the Nine Inch Nails “n” logo.  The official one is backwards.  This is just a normal “n”.  They were hoping you wouldn’t notice that.  This package was assembled by Phantom Imports, who must have been laughing their asses off at the ridiculous amount of markup.

This is a great example of a collectible that is not. The artist labels had no involvement and certainly did not set the pricing. The shirt and box have no logos on them. Anybody can go and print a T-shirt that says “FIST” and “FUCK” on it. All this for $200. Even if you were missing those five singles (which any real Nails fan was not) there is no reason to buy this.

We had an incomplete copy of this come into one of our stores, but it was missing the shirt and the other goodies. Looking to make a few extra bucks, we stuffed the box full of other albums and singles and jacked the price up. That was a decision made by a franchise owner. I don’t think he had an easy time selling this box, which was really just a plastic box with a random selection of CDs in it by the time we put it up for sale. A rip off box set made even more so.

FISTED

I’ve seen others just as irritating as this. One was a “deluxe” version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall. This was the 2 CD set, packed into a wooden carving of a wall. It looked cool, but it also looked like something a skilled woodworker could make in his or her shop at home. It was painted white with the Wall logo scrawled across it. Around $200 for that too, somewhere at a store in Hamilton ironically called Cheapies.

Probably made by the same company was a commemorative Beatles single for “Real Love”. It came in a red box with a heart on it, with a button “Real Love” inside that looked like a cross between a heart and an apple. We ordered this one in, new, and our cost was about $40. It sat and sat and sat there for months. It wasn’t authorized any more than the Nine Inch Nails box was.  We didn’t realize we’d brought in a lemon until it was too late.  We had to be told by a customer who was a Beatles collector.  “These things aren’t worth anything,” he said.  “They’re not issued by the Beatles.  It’s a made-up collectible.”  We should have known, but it’s hard when you’re ordering this shit from a distributor’s catalogue.

Have you ever run across a rip off like these in your travels?  Or worse, have you ever bought one?

REAL LOVE

#433: Top 15 on the 15th (by LeBrain)

15

Getting More Tale #433 presents: A worldwide online event!
THE TOP 15 ON THE 15th

This is an event spanning many sites and writers in the World Wide Web today!  I will link to as many as possible.  A few months ago, the challenge was thrown down to all comers:  List your top 15 albums of all time!  The date September 15 was chosen for the deadline.

Hashtag it:  #top15onthe15th

You might have to wait for some of these to go live, but here are the links I have so far:

J at Resurrection Songs – Top 15 on the 15th
Uncle Meat – Top 15 on the 15th
Iron Tom Sharpe – Top 15 on the 15th
James at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Sarca at Caught me Gaming – My Top 15 Music Albums of All Time
Deke at Arena Rock – DeKEs All Time Top 15 (Kinda,Sorta)
Geoff at the 1001 – Top 15 Albums
Aaron at the KMA – Top 15 on the 15th
Danica at Living a Beautiful Life – My Top 15 Albums of All Time
1537 from 1537 – Top 15 Books About Music
We Left This World Today – 15 is not enough…
Andytallman from A Hole in the Head – Top 15 Albums of All Time
Pop Culture Forays – Top 15 Albums
Brian from Boppin’s Blog – Top 15 on the 15th
Ovidiu Boar at Tangled Up In Music – Top 15 on the 15th
80sMetalMan – My Top 15 Albums
Jimmy at kingcrimsonblog – Top 15 on the 15th
Another Bad Conversation – My Top 15 on the 15th
Nick from Nick Green’s Reviews – Top 15 on the 15th
Zack at The Audible Stew – #top15onthe15th
Quirky T at The Guitar Train – The Guitar Train’s Top 15 Albums
Ian at The 80s didn’t suck – Top 15 Albums (Plus 54 Others)


Oh, how I loathe lists! Readers seem to love “Top Whatever” lists; different kinds, but I sure do hate making them.

However, I don’t like doing things in half-measures either. So for this, the Top 15 on the 15th, I’ve gone one step beyond. Not only do you get my Top 15 on the 15th, but also a list of the Top 15 tracks to listen to from these 15 amazing albums.

As of today, here are my Top 15. These will change periodically, probably tomorrow, and again the day after. See why I hate lists?  In the end I decided that I wanted to fairly represent some of my favourite artists.  But enough whining from me — let’s rock.  Spin these little bastards for a good time!

LEATHER15. Judas Priest – Hell Bent for Leather (Killing Machine)

VACATIONS14. Max Webster – A Million Vacations

NEWS13. Queen – News of the World

SCHOOL12. Alice Cooper – School’s Out

BEATLES11. The Beatles – The Beatles (The White Album)

JOHNNY10. Thin Lizzy – Johnny the Fox

HOUSES9. Led Zeppelin – Houses of the Holy

SAN8. Johnny Cash – At San Quentin

ANGEL7. Faith No More – Angel Dust

MOVING6. Rush – Moving Pictures

19845. Van Halen – 1984

Let’s stop here for a moment.  The thing about my top albums list is, the top four never change.  Four of these five albums have been in my top five for a long as I can remember making lists for.  The order may change, but that top four have been my top four, forever.  They are indelibly heat-stamped onto my grey matter.  These are as much a part of me as my left arm!

PIECE4. Iron Maiden – Piece of Mind

HOTTER3. Kiss – Hotter Than Hell

FIREBALL2. Deep Purple – Fireball

BORN1. Black Sabbath – Born Again

Right there are 15 incredible collections of music, both studio and live. But let’s not fool ourselves. Nobody is going to listen to all 15 of those albums just because some guy on the internet who goes by the name of “LeBrain” said so. I have chosen to distill these 15 amazing records down into 15 key tracks. I’m sure nobody needs an introduction to the big hits, so here are tracks you may not have heard. If you have ever cared about rock music, then you need to listen to these Top 15 Songs from the Top 15 Albums, on the 15th!

1. Rush – “Vital Signs”

2. Black Sabbath – “Disturbing the Priest”

3. Queen – “It’s Late”

4. Iron Maiden – “Where Eagles Dare”

5. The Beatles – “Dear Prudence”

6. Johnny Cash – “San Quentin”


“If any of the guards are still speakin’ to me, can I get a glass of water?”

7. Led Zeppelin – “The Ocean”

8. Thin Lizzy – “Massacre”

9. Alice Cooper – “Gutter Cat vs. the Jets”

10. Deep Purple – “Fools”

11. Iron Maiden – “Revelations”

12. Judas Priest – “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Pronged Crown)”

13. Alice Cooper – “My Stars”

14. Queen – “Spread Your Wings”

15. Deep Purple – “No No No”

Astute readers will realize that one singer appears on two albums. Ian Gillan was fronting Black Sabbath in ’83 for Born Again, and of course is best known as Deep Purple’s lead howler. Does this double appearance make Ian Gillan the greatest rock vocalist of all time? No. But the greatest does appear, with Queen on News of the World – Freddie Mercury!

Part 313: Not Allowed Lending!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 313: Not Allowed Lending!

By popular request, here’s a story about loaning your CDs out to people who don’t appreciate or take care of them properly.

Really, I should have learned my lesson in Grade 12. I loaned my brand spanking new cassette copy of Van Halen I out to this kid at school, Jamie. He was a nice kid, so I didn’t have a problem with it. What I did have a problem with was the condition in which he returned it: without the cover! How could he possibly have lost it? He did eventually find it and return it to me, but he didn’t seem to understand why it mattered. Who does that? Lots of people, I’m afraid.

At the Record Store, I befriended a customer named Len, who I actually went to highschool with, but didn’t know until after. We had the same group of friends who were all into the same music. I turned Len onto Marillion and he began borrowing my Marillion discs to burn. What upset me was when I loaned him my limited edition copy of Anoraknophobia. Remember how Marillion put out limited edition digipack versions with bonus discs? If you pre-ordered, your name would make it into the CD. My name is there inside Anoraknophobia, and the followup Marbles as well.

img_20140805_180021Len returned my copy of Anoraknophobia – a sold-out limited edition – with a crease in the spine. Probably from trying to photocopy the booklet. I wasn’t happy and I told Len I wasn’t loaning out my CDs anymore. He was sorry he had done it, and understood that I was upset, but that didn’t take the crease out.

Later on, I bought a condo. I moved into the same building as a friend of ours, somebody we all had met via the original record store location. Her nickname was “San Francisky” – a long story that involves my dad and his inability to pronounce things correctly. She was a nice girl most of the time, but very pushy. I have issues with people who try to persistently try to push me around, so I had begun to distance myself by the time I moved in.

A few weeks after I moved in, she came down to my unit. She was having a party upstairs. She needed some music.

“Do you have any Beatles?” she asked me.

“Yup, I have the Red and Blue albums. They’re excellent. The Red one probably has all the songs you’d want for a party.”

VH 194_0001She asked me about a couple more CDs.  Van Halen was one. I got them out of my CD tower.

“You’re going to take care of these, right? And you’ll return them tomorrow morning?” I asked pointedly.

“It might not be tomorrow morning but I’ll bring them back, of course.”

I knew how this girl took care of her own CDs. I had bought enough used discs from her at the store. She always bitched when I told her the discs were scratched up. She never put them back in the case, and left them out all the time.  Knowing her ways of handling discs, I added additional instructions.

“I want you to be careful with these discs, and put them back in the cases when you’re done. I also want you to make sure nobody else touches my CDs. Only you.  I want them back exactly as they are.”

She gave me this flabbergasted expression. What she said next was the sentence that ended what was left of our “friendship”:

“What do you care if they get scratched?! You work at the store!”

That was it. I told her I wouldn’t loan her the CDs if that was her attitude. She went upstairs in an angry huff, and we never socialized again. I ran into her now and then, and she was always bitchy.  The friendship was over.

I really had no regrets about that. One thing about me is that if you want to be my friend, you have to accept me as-is, quirks and all. You don’t have to understand them, but you have to accept them. Nobody can change me.  The only person who will ever change me is myself, and taking care of my property is one thing that doesn’t need changing!