trevor

Part 135: GUEST SHOT! Back In A Tracksuit

“It’s alright to say things will only get better.  You haven’t lost your brand new sweater.”

RECORD STORE TALES PART 135:  Back In A Tracksuit

Way, way back, in Part 15, I talked about a band called the Sultans Of Ping F.C.  (F.C. stands for Football Club.)

Their album, Casual Sex in the Cineplex, was discovered in-store by T-Rev and quickly spread to the rest of us. It was Irish punk rock with hilarious lyrics!

My brother knows Karl Marx
He met him eating mushrooms in the public park
He said ‘What do you think of my manifesto?’
I like your manifesto, put it to the testo   – (“Where’s Me Jumper?”)

That album spread line fungus among us.  One problem:  there was just one copy in the entire chain of stores.  And all of us wanted it.  So, the CD went on hold into a “store play” pile.  Anybody could listen to it on their shift, but it stayed in the store.  That arrangement lasted a few months.

But T-Rev remembers this much more clearly than I do.  I’ll let him take over:

Here is the official “Sultans Of Ping F.C.” story! We stumbled across this album, as Mike has said, completely by happenstance, put it on, laughed our heads off…history was made!

So, none of us wanted to put it “on the floor” for sale, fearing it would be gone forever, so I put it in my “pile” and there it sat for probably 3-4 months. Other staff members would listen to it (even when I was off) and just put it back in my pile at the end of the night. They didn’t want me to buy it either, as that would mean it would leave the store and enter my collection…which meant we couldn’t listen to it at the store (obviously), and I enjoyed the laugh occasionally. So it kind of became a sort of “store copy”.

One day, the boss came in and it was playing. He hated the album from the get-go (as he got a taste of it shortly after we discovered it) and he made a comment about it still being here in my “pile” and said “if you are not going to buy it, then put it out for sale!” so I did, reluctantly (thinking it would never sell anyway, and i’d be able to snag it later “unnoticed”). That same day, just before shift change, Matty came in and perused the new arrivals (as he often did prior to starting his shift).  He found the “Sultans” in said area and looks at me and says “You’re not buying this? Fuck, I will!!”…and the boss sold it to him right in front of me.

That’s the last time I have ever seen an actual copy of that album (although I have a downloaded copy of it now) – not the same!

Should’ve put it in the “Saskatoon pile”!

“Back In A Tracksuit”…”Two Pints of Raza”…”Where’s Me Jumper?”…”Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass”…all great tunes, funny yet insanely catchy and quirky!

I remember that we could barely understand the words, and “Indeed You Are” sounded to us a hell of a lot like “Konnichiwa”!

I know that Trevor did once locate a CD single from the Sultans.  Was it “Japanese Girls”?  Trevor adds:

I have 2 CD singles as well!!

Coincidentally, I have EVERY OTHER Sultans album except Casual Sex…

I have never seen an actual physical copy of Casual Sex again either.  A guy in Ireland burned me a copy and mailed it to me, but the sound’s not that great, and the speed sounds a little off.

Still, great songs.  Anybody got a copy?  You could have a bidding war between me and T-Rev!

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Part 123 / NON-REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Missing Maidens! (Live!! +one and more)

Not really part of my series of Iron Maiden reviews.

There are a few Iron Maiden musical items that I’ll probably never own.  I know I won’t own all the singles, but that’s OK — The First Ten Years set, and the first 10 albums with bonus discs takes care of those songs.  There are rarer things to be discussed.  As I pause between Live After Death and Somewhere In Time in my review series, this is a good time to talk about a couple items.

IRON MAIDEN – Live!! +one (EP, 1980 Japan, 1984 Greece reissue)

This four song EP was released in Japan shortly after the “Women In Uniform” single came out.  It contains two songs from that single:  the title track, and the live version of “Phantom of the Opera” from the Marquee.

It also contains two live songs not available anywhere else:  “Sanctuary” and “Drifter” from the same Marquee show.  They’re awesome of course, if you’ve heard the early live Di’Anno stuff that I talked about in my Maiden reviews, then you can imagine these are just as good.  Di’Anno does his “yo, yo yo yo” thing on “Drifter”.

I have seen them go for around $100 on eBay.   This is definitely on my current “Holy Grail” list.

4/5 stars

IRON MAIDEN – Best of the Beast (1996 four-LP box set)

For this, I’m going to take a moment and slide into a Record Store Tale because this is one of those moments that I wish I could change!

RECORD STORE TALES PART 123:  Missing Maidens!

Trevor and I frequented record shows several times a year.  On one such excursion, we were in a Dr. Disc store.  It was in Hamilton, Ontario.  That same visit, the same Dr. Disc store even had Chikara, a rare Japanese Kiss compilation, on CD.  But I passed on that, and I passed on the vinyl edition of Best of the Beast, too….

You know those high shelves where they put the expensive items?  And you have to ask someone to get it down for you?  And they’d go to the back room and get a step ladder?  That’s where Best of the Beast was.

Back then, information about such sets wasn’t readily available.  I didn’t know it existed until I saw it.  If I did, I would have known that the vinyl version had an exclusive live cut of “Revelations”… not the live version from Live After Death!  This wasn’t immediately obvious from the back cover.  It is only today that I know this!

 

The vinyl version had plenty more music as well, including album cuts such as “Where Eagles Dare” and “The Prisoner”.  It also had the only official re-release of The Soundhouse Tapes ever, since the original 5000.   I had that bootleg copy of The Soundhouse Tapes and More so I deemed this to be a less essential purchase.  Especially for the $200 that Dr. Disc was asking.  But it was sealed, mint, brand new.

I recently saw one in questionable shape on eBay for $240.  Some joker on Amazon is asking $900 for sealed copies right now.

So, right now, odds do not seem to be in my favour of lightning striking twice.  I don’t know if I will ever have another chance to own this at a decent price in good condition.  Alas.  I wish I could turn back time!

Part 121: Movies

RECORD STORE TALES PART 121:  MOVIES

 As a movie buff I was glad when one of our stores decided to carry VHS tapes!  My movie collection grew massively at the time.  I had access to lots of cool items, in widescreen format.  I bought virtually everything that we saw come in, if it was in widescreen format.  The staff, T-Rev in particular, knew to keep an eye out for widescreen movies for me.  This opened up a whole new retail world for us, for now we had customers that were not interested in music at all, just movies.  Of course movie knowledge now came into play, especially when customers would ask a question like, “Do you have that John Wayne movie where he’s after the outlaw guys?”

In 1998 or 1999, I bought my first DVD player.  We started carrying DVDs at that time as well.  That was exciting too.   A lot of people had been asking about them.

When they were still big, you could expect to pay $8.99 to $11.99 for a used VHS tape.  $5.99 if it was a cheapie bin special.  For DVDs, you might expect to pay $16.99 to $19.99 for a used one.  That was in the beginning, prices dropped quickly and within five years, DVDs were almost as cheap as CDs!  We even had laserdiscs, on the rare occasion that they came in.  They were giant.  If you don’t remember what I’m talking about, here’s a size comparison to a CD.

We learned right away though that handling DVDs was not the same as handling CDs!  Maybe the plastic they were made of was softer, because they scratched so much more easily than a CD, and the scratches were so much harder to remove.  This trouble was doubled with the 2-sided DVD discs.

Fixing a scratched double sided DVD was very, very difficult.  You could spend 5 minutes buffing the scratches out of one side, only to find that handling the disc put more scratches in the other side.  They were very tricky, and a lot of the DVD discs that we sold in the early days looked terrible, for that reason.  They would work fine on most players (most), but looked cloudy and streaky.  And a lot of our DVD customers were really, really picky.

Eventually the 2-sided discs became a lot less common.  In the meantime, we had to set up display spaces for DVDs, figured out how to store the discs themselves behind the counter without damaging them, and so on.  Even slight handling or dust could create problems.  Dusting the DVDs could often make them look worse, as the wiping left slight but visible scratches.

At first the selection was pretty poor.  Sony were giving away a number of titles for free with their players, so we had a lot of copies of Sphere, and The Negotiator.  Trade-ins started after a few months.  We started seeing box sets, before they were really common, Criterion Editions, all kinds of stuff.  It happened quick, our stock grew and grew….

…And so did my own personal collection!  Ain’t it the way?

Continued in Part 284:  The Impact of Movies

Part 120: T-Rev Appreciation Day!

I was sitting here, trying to think of some new content to write.  Then it hit me:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!  

RECORD STORE TALES PART 120:  T-Rev Appreciation Day!

T-Rev, a past contributor here at LeBrain’s Blog, is a man whom I owe a lot.  Not only is he one of the best buds I’ve ever had (sniff) but he’s also responsible for getting me so damn many of my treasures.  Directly responsible.  Like, I’m not talking about stuff like, “Mike, you really need to buy some Oasis, Max Webster, and Steve Earle.  Oh, and while you’re at it, the second Four Horsemen album is awesome!” 

He did, in fact, turn me onto all four of those things.  But I’m talking more about the kind of situation where a combination of his eagle eyes, musical knowledge, and friendship scored me some discs!

Here’s two:

QUEENSRYCHE – Road To Promised Land aka ARRIVED!

This 1995  promo CD is a neat little greatest hits, going chronologically from the first EP to the Promised Land album!  The only exclusive track is a radio edit of “Damaged” but Trevor saw this one and gave me a call.  He knew I loved Queensryche, especially since I was going to see them with Tom that summer.

DIAMOND HEAD – Lightning To The Nations (original mix!)

T-Rev and I were both Metallica fans, and were both aware that they had covered numerous Diamond Head songs.  This, like the Queensryche disc, came into Trevor’s store.  While I wouldn’t fault him for snagging this one for himself, he deemed it slightly out of the scope of his core collection.  I’m glad he did, because this disc rocks!  And this is the original “Lars Ulrich approved” mix of the album, ripped straight from the LP.  Most CD editions were remixed, and the master tapes are now lost.  So this is a real treat and hopefully I’ll get around to reviewing it.   15 tracks, from the album itself plus B-sides and so on. 

I raise a glass to Trevor, surely one of the finest Record Store Dudes to ever grace a cash register!  My memories, and my collection, would be poorer without you.

   

REVIEW: Max Webster – Max Webster (1976)

This one goes out to T-Rev!

MAX WEBSTER – Max Webster (1976 Anthem Records)

It is difficult to recall a better debut album than this 1976 masterpiece by the four-headed enigma known as Max Webster. Kim Mitchell (vocals/guitars), Mike Tilka (bass), Terry Watkinson (keys) and short-tenured drummer Paul Kersey, along with lyricist Pye Dubois, seemingly emerged fully-formed with this immortal classic.  Right from the feedback kicking off “Hangover”, this album feels like it was custom designed for awesome sauce.

When I first heard it, I recall finding the album artwork mildly disturbing and the music jittery and off-putting. That was first listen.  Then, Trevor bought it (and numerous others) for me for my birthday one year.  THANKS T-REV! 

It only took two more listens to appreciate this album for what it is: A paradoxically funny yet progressive masterpiece that runs the gamut from bizarre to blues to rock to country to campfire,with poetic lyrics to match. From the seemingly out-of-control “Hangover” to the mournful “Lily”, this album really does have it all.

Of note:  This album was produced with Terry Brown, who helmed many Rush classics.

Like Frank Zappa’s bastard children, Max Webster emerged from Sarnia Ontario, perplexing and rocking audiences from coast to coast. Despite the diversity in sounds and challenging arrangements, this band was not short on melody and managed to create catchy songs out of the most absurd material, such as “Toronto Tontos”.  Yet this is balanced by songs like the groovy “Here Among the Cats”.  Regardless, it’s impossible to get either song out of your head.  Mitchell’s soloing on “Here Among the Cats” is stunning, by the way. 

You can’t understate how important, groundbreaking, and fantastic this album is. Just listen to the upbeat “Blowing The Blues Away”, or “Only Your Nose Knows” for a taste of the best music that Canada has ever put up for offer.  “Summer’s Up”…”Coming Off the Moon”…not a bad song in the bunch.  I understand that there are deluxe Max editions available now. I think I might pick one up and see how they are.

I think I’ll start with Max Webster!  (Note:  Don’t tell Mrs. LeBrain, but I did order it from Amazon a few moments ago.)

5/5 stars

GUEST REVIEW: Steel Panther – Balls Out & Feel the Steel

LeBrain will always be straight with you when he doesn’t know something.  I have had a few requests for a write up on Steel Panther.  The problem is, I’ve never actually listened to Steel Panther.  Maybe I should change that.

So I asked the infamous T-Rev, aka Trevor from the Record Store Tales to see if he could do a review. He could, and he did. Enjoy.

STEEL PANTHER:  Feel the Steel (2009) & Balls Out (2011)

  

Steel Panther: Your New Favourite Band, by T-Rev

Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, and Stix Zadinia are Steel Panther. The X-rated, Spinal Tap-esque modern day Hair band.  Intent on bringing back Heavy Metal , with a sound that will impress any fan of the “hair” genre.   Formed with ex-members of various metal bands in the 1990’s ( Rob Halford’s Fight, Paul Gilbert’s Racer X, and L.A. Guns!) originally as Metal Skool (yes…Metal’s Cool) in the early 2000’s, and a brief stint as Danger Kitty (getting some recognition on MTV and the Drew Carey Show).   Feel the Steel, the first album as Steel Panther, stands out because of its period-correct guitar assaults, its bandana wearing 4-armed drummer and the spandex covered, lipstick sporting, teased hair bass player, (reminding me of Warrant circa Cherry Pie mixed with some early Motley Crue attitude!) and of course, its lyrics!

Feel the Steel has it all, killer riffs  (often mimicking classic tunes of the past like “Fuck All Night, Party All Day’s” intentional resemblance to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”)  Hilariously refreshing lyrics (like the first time you ever heard “Fuck Her Gently” by the D) throw in some top notch guest star clout (Justin Hawkins duets with Michael Starr) and top it off with manufactured “rock star” personas (a la Spinal Tap), and you’ve got all the best parts of what a hair metal band should be…SEX & DRUGS & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!  Crazy stories of sex with asian hookers, sex with fat girls, sex with neighbours, and copious amounts of “blow”, all done in a way you’d never expect…even though it feels strangely familiar.   Sounding like it came from 1989, but containing enough modern relevance to remind you it’s current.   After about the first verse, I knew I was a fan for good.  “Eminem can suck it, so can Dr. Dre, or they can suck each other…just because they’re gay” screams Starr on “Death To All But Metal”.  “Two in the pink, one in the stink”describes the “Shocker” to newcomers.  And “You’re the only girl that I like to screw…when I’m not on the road,” Michael reassures his girl on “Community Property”

Balls Out, their sophomore effort, continues where F.T.S. left off.  A lot of the same sexual scenarios, but the music seems to have picked up another gear, with more focus on riffage (bigger, faster, louder).   The lyrics, however, are lacking the furious onslaught they had on F.T.S.   Perhaps because the initial shock is over, now I expect it!  There is more celebrity name-dropping than before…mentioning that Charlie Sheen “is winning in the bedroom upstairs”, and that Tiger Woods thinks “3 holes are better than a hole in one”.    A good album upon first listen…just didn’t have the impact that Feel the Steel did on me.  Having said that, this album grows on you…big time!  Like any good album…it takes a while for their sauce to mix with yours!

I should also discuss Starr’s instrument…this guys voice is classic, vintage, powerful, cheesy, awesome, hilarious, and adaptive!  Vocal range that would bring a tear to Dio’s eye, heartfelt (x-rated), ballads on par with anything Bon Jovi or Poison ever did, rockers that could have appeared on stage with the great Bon Scott!   I don’t mean to come across as though I consider this band “flawless”, but, these guys are PRO’s!   Certainly impressive musically…sometimes though, they sway over the cheese line a bit, and even take the lyrics too far, but all in all, I do love these albums.  Afterall, isn’t it the cheese that we now love about 80’s metal? 

You really get the feeling that these guys are true fans of metal, not just cashing in on the novelty of wearing spandex and makeup.  Much like the ribbing the Darkness took during their invasion, some people misunderstood the flattery for ridicule.  True fans see past the hair and hear the talent in the music…every time I listen to them, they get better!  Like a drug that you can’t get enough of…you want to hear it again and again.   In a world where Justin Beiber and Nickelback win music awards, this is a welcome addiction.   A perfect mix of metal and comedy!  Destined to become a staple at everyone’s annual “sausagefest”

Feel the Steel    5/5

Balls Out              4/5

Part 69: Porn Don’t Go Platinum

RECORD STORE TALES PART 69:  Porn Don’t Go Platinum

Yeah, it happened.  Every once in a while, someone would try to sell porn to us.  Us, a mainstream, family-oriented used CD store.

On one ocassion which, sadly, I was not there to witness, I was told that the video in question was anime “robot porn”.  I don’t know what that really means, in terms of, what you will see on the video screen.  However that description alone was enough to politely turn down the video in question.

Another time, some porn came into Trevor’s store.  Trevor declined it, but the customer left it behind anyway.  At the time, Trev and I were roomates.  We were renting this shitty basement apartment.  Good times for sure, but the hallways of the building always smelled like fish.

I went to the cottage one weekend, and Trev surprised me upon my return.  Upon my bed was that porn tape.  He wasn’t home, so I decided, “What the hell?”  I removed the tape from its cardboard shell, placed in the VCR, and washed my hands.  I thought, “I wonder what kind of porn our clientiele are into?”  The store was in Cambridge so I expected the quality to be less than stellar.

Well, what I saw horrified me.  This chick with missing teeth, going at it with four dudes, with the cheesiest piano music in the background, like John Tesh cheesey.  I couldn’t handle the missing teeth though, they were so friggin’ gross…

So:  Apparently, according to a survey of one, people in Cambridge watch toothless cheesey porn with John Tesh sounding music in the background.  Way to go Cambridge!