twisted sister

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – A Twisted Christmas (2006)

TWISTED SISTERA Twisted Christmas (2006 Razor & Tie)

One thing I love about Christmas time is the ability to knock out all these Christmas album reviews.  I can only listen to this stuff seasonally, and I wouldn’t subject you to it otherwise.  In my quest to Review Everything I Own and Then Some, we must occasionally delve into Christmas music.

Rock bands doing Christmas tunes is…well, I mean it worked out OK for Elvis, and then later on Twisted Sister and the guys from Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  Each of those artists had success with Christmas music for good reasons, but I think Twisted Sister’s was purely the novelty value of it.  The humour.  The nudge-nudge-jokey-ness of it.  It wasn’t that they made a Christmas album laden with integrity.  It’s a joke album as the intro implies.

The album commences with Dee & company singing a traditional acoustic version of “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”.  They are then interrupted by someone saying “This isn’t Twisted Sister!”  It then goes metal with a dash a punk.  “Ho ho ho!  Let’s go!”

The biggest joke is that, apparently, “We’re Not Gonna Take It” was always just “Oh Come All Ye Faithful” in disguise.  This was the big Christmas hit that put Twisted back in the spotlight, and it’s certainly the most enjoyable track on the CD.

Songs follow vague heavy metal blueprints.  “White Christmas” is imbued with an Iron Maiden gallop and a couple chords from “SMF”.  One thing is clear, and that is Dee Snider’s voice still has it.  The guy is a hell of a singer, period.  He’s joined by Lita Ford on “I’ll be Home for Christmas”, in the style of Twisted’s original epic ballad “The Price”.  Unfortunately this one stinks like Christmas cheese that should have been thrown out last year.  A shouty “Silver Bells” is done with a splash of AC/DC, but ends up sounding more like Poison.  Bassist/producer Mark “The Animal” Mendoza has a pretty kickass bass solo, though.

Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” is the foundation of “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus”, and it is at this point that you realise a whole album of this stuff is a bit too much.  “Let It Snow” is given the doomy treatment, as an amalgam with Black Sabbath’s “Children of the Grave”.  I suppose the doomy direction does go better with lines like “The weather outside is frightful”.  Maybe Dee & company are on to something here, but I’m not too sure about the Sabbathy version of “Deck the Halls” with echoes of “War Pigs” and “Never Say Die”.

“Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire” is a little dull, and “The Twelve Days of Christmas” is too long, as it often is.  The only version of “Twelve Days of Christmas” anyone needs for a novelty is Bob & Doug McKenzie’s classic.  That’ll make your party pop a lot better than Twisted’s version.

Let’s check some boxes.  Is this album:

  • Fun?  (sometimes)
  • Heavy?  
  • Twisted?  
  • Creative?  

All well and good.  But will you:

  • Listen to it more than once a year?  
  • Enjoy as much as something else you could have played instead?  
  • Be able to use more than one or two songs for your Christmas party?  
  • Ever really look forward to hearing it again?

It is good that A Twisted Christmas brought the band the kind of success they deserved, but it is truly a shame that it is the final Twisted studio album.  They were always considered a joke to the critics, they shouldn’t have gone out on vinyl as a joke.

2/5 stars

 

 

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#508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

GETTING MORE TALE #508: The Weirdest CD that I Own

The size of my personal CD collection now has exceeded my ability to store it properly.  I count it not in the hundreds but the thousands, my best guess right now being about 3500 titles on CD.  As one would expect, with that many titles here, you’re going to find some odd ones.  In fact, for the second-last chapter of the original Record Store Tales, Mrs. LeBrain brought out 10 of her favourite weird finds in my collection.  She missed the strangest one of all.

Scan_20160731 (2)Promos Volume 6 – Don Buchwald & Associates Inc.

This CD was given to me by a short-lived employee named Damien.  Damien will forever be scorned in the annals of Record Store History, for he quit (to become a roadie for the summer) with zero days notice, on the day before my vacation.  And boy, did I get in shit for going on vacation anyway.  This was one more incident that caused my direct supervisor, the one I call the “office bully”, to stop speaking to me for three weeks straight.*  The punishment far outweighed (and outlasted) the crime.  Cut that shit out, act like a damned professional.

So I will always have memories surrounding this strange 2 CD set, Promos Volume 6 put out by a New York talent agency in the late 1990’s.  It’s a free promo that has 87 samples of various performers such as Joy Behar and Stockard Channing showing off their voice talents.  “Chevy Chase stars in Modern Problems, tonight on HBO!” says Behar.  “Jack Lemmon starring in five movies, all day on Cinemax.”  She has a bit for Comedy Central, and so on.  Each voice talent name on these discs (the majority of which you’ve never heard of) has roughly a minute of samples to show off their skills.

None, not even Joy Behar, have anything on Dee Snider of Twisted Sister.

“From a frenzy of emotion, to a frenzy of violence.  What happens when fans become fanatics?  It’s an athlete’s worst nightmare:  Being stalked by a fan whose devotion becomes obsession.  [gunshot sounds]  CNN presents:  Fans who turn the field of sports, into a field of screams.”

Wow.  Who writes this stuff?  I can all but guarantee that any one of my readers can come up with a better tagline than that paid CNN employee!  Snider delivers his lines with the sobriety necessary.  But that’s nothing.  Nothing at all, compared to Sexy Snider.

The scene is set with sweltering sax, to go with the velvet voice of Snider’s sultry seduction.

“Lifetime has what you’ve been waiting for.  Spend every night of the week with a different man.  We’re not talking boys here.  We’re talking men, who leave you breathless.  Richard Gere.  Tom Cruise.  Kevin Costner.  Sean Penn.  All this week, only on Lifetime.”

It’s great stuff and I’ve used it for filler at the end of mix CDs before, when I needed something less than a minute long to max it out.  What I really love is how Snider’s New York accent really comes out when he says “Sean Penn”.  Damien may have been a dick, but this one track 51 second in length has given me…many minutes…of enjoyment over the years.

The 2 CD set comes in a “fat style” case, taking up far too much room for its 51 seconds of dubious value.  I wouldn’t trade it away for all the specials on HBO and Lifetime combined…but I also don’t need Volumes 1-5!

What’s the weirdest CD that you own?

* Three weeks was the standard waiting period for her to get around to speaking to me again.  Pretty awkward when you work together every almost single day.  This happened on multiple occasions.  

 

REVIEW: Dee Snider’s S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997)

Scan_20160602DEE SNIDER’S S.M.F.s – Live / Twisted Forever (1997 Pulse)

When Twisted Sister split in 1987, I don’t think anybody ever really expected there to be enough demand for a reunion.  How wrong we were!  During the downtime when the band was acrimoniously separated, Dee Snider carried on with a low-key solo career.  Widowmaker’s Blood & Bullets (featuring Al Pitrelli and Joey Franco) was heavy as fuck even compared to early Twisted Sister, but failed to make any sales impact.

A few years later (1995), Dee went on the road with the S.M.F.s (Sick Mutha Fuckers, of course) playing nothing but classic Twisted Sister.  It went almost completely unnoticed, but a live album (recorded raw, straight to two track tape) was recorded and released as Twisted Forever.  This hard to find disc is well worth having.  Dee played a variety of Twisted material, some of which you’ll probably never hear live again.  It was a surprisingly good album on some fly by night label, and an easy must-have for any Twisted fan that finds it in good shape.

Just like the good old days at the Marquee in England, Dee opened with “What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”, one of the fastest tunes in the Twisted catalogue.  Only the true fan will realize by listening alone that the band is not Twisted Sister.  I don’t know any of these guys, but they are more than up to the task.  As for Dee, the year may as well be 1981 for all the ferocity he pours into every shriek and every scream.  With a double shot of early Sister, “The Kids Are Back” lives up to its name, and the crowd are behind Dee 100 fucking percent.  “Stay Hungry” only gets them going more and more.  The audio quality is good enough for rock n’ roll.  Think of it as a great bootleg, a desk mix.  You can hear the bass clearly, not always true for bootlegs, and the vocals are clear as a bell.  What is also clear is that this is 100% live.

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Dee Snider never changes and there is plenty of time for lightning-fast stage rants!  “Am I in your way?  Oh that’s OK, now the fucking BEER comes through here!  NO!  This is my fucking stage, do me a favour, and get the fuckin’ beer off the stage!”  Then, “Yes, but I’ve mellowed with fuckin’ age.  No I haven’t!”  It’s true, though his schtick is probably at least partly done because it’s expected of him.  (Later, he does a Cornholio impression, and rips into Al Gore.  Ah, the 1990’s!)  Dee even does some of the same song intros, such as “Destroyer”.  “You got hands!  Use ’em!” screams Dee as the riff begins.  Now you can bring that tough New York street vibe into your living room.

Hit after hit, and fan favourites galore, Twisted Forever is especially desirable for some more obscure songs.  1985’s Come Out and Play was the album that more or less did Sister in.  Dee can’t seem to remember when he recorded it (1987 he says).  The Come Out and Play medley is an eight minute stream of tunes includes parts of the title track, “Leader of the Pack”, “I Believe in Rock ‘N’ Roll” and “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”.  A little bit later in the set is the awesome “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” from 1987’s controversial Love is For Suckers.  Dee says they do those tunes due to relentless demand from the fans.  I believe it:  “Sleeping Giant” is one of those hard rock songs that should have been a classic.  All these tunes are heavier than the somewhat limp album versions, and Dee could still hit all the notes.

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I think Twisted Sister is a band that were always better than people assumed they were.  Their new film, We Are Twisted Fucking Sister, demonstrated just how driven they actually were, with care and craft put into their reckless music.  These are songs that might not be known to the masses, but should be.  I’d rather hear “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘N’ Roll” on the radio than the oft-played “We’re Not Gonna Take It”.  There is so much emotion on this album.  At one point, Dee stops to tell the crowd, “I’d appreciate it, if everybody would stop smiling for the next 30 minutes or so.  You’re making it very hard for me to act mean on stage.”  This particular moment is from a home gig in Long Island, and it sounds like a family reunion of the twisted kind.  The climax of the CD is Twisted’s signature ballad “The Price”, and Dee didn’t even need to sing, the crowd could have done it all for him.  All that’s left after a song like that is “S.M.F.”, over and out!

For my money you can’t beat a good raw live album recorded in a small club.  Twisted Forever delivers.  It might not be Twisted Sister…but when I listen to it I honestly don’t care!

4/5 stars

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REVIEW: Alice Cooper – Constrictor (1986)

EPIC REVIEW TIME.

Scan_20160207 (2)ALICE COOPER – Constrictor (1986 MCA)

Alice Cooper’s bizarre DaDa album was the end of an era.  It marked the last album Alice recorded for his Warner Brothers contract, now complete.  It was also the end of his experimental period that ran from 1980’s Flush the Fashion through to DaDa.  It was the the last album Alice would make that he couldn’t remember making.

Alice mostly disappeared for the next three years.  His activities were so low key that most people didn’t even notice them.  He was hospitalized for cirrhosis of the liver caused by his blackout drinking.  He got sober, for good.  He also dealt with a divorce.  Musically there was very little going on.  In 1984, Alice starred in a very low budget horror movie called Monster Dog.  He recorded two songs for the soundtrack:  “Identity Crisises” and “See Me in the Mirror”.  These two tracks are very much the conclusion to Alice’s early 80’s art-rock persona.  “Identity Crisises” has a lo-fi, garage-y Iggy Pop sound.  “See Me in the Mirror” is in the synthpop direction of DaDa:  creepy, atmospheric and mostly electronic.  These two songs were finally released for purchase on the legendary Life and Crimes of Alice Cooper boxed set in 1999.

Alice next emerged with one of the bands he inspired:  Twisted Sister.  Along with Brian Setzer, Clarence Clemens and Billy Joey, Cooper accompanied Twisted Sister on their single “Be Chrool to Your Scuel”. A very clever zombie-filled big budget horror-inspired music video was made for the song, which Alice co-starred in, as did Bobcat Golthwait (who was also in Sister’s “Leader of the Pack” clip).  It should have been a big deal, with Alice getting equal screen time with Dee Snider.  Unfortunately hardly anyone saw the video. MTV barely touched it. As a result it did nothing to aid Alice in terms of a comeback.  It was good to note that Alice looked healthier than he had in years.

Alice regrouped and re-invented himself in a new persona. Taking inspiration from his Welcome to My Nightmare period, Alice went into “slasher film” mode. He recruited a massive muscle-bound heavy metal guitarist and songwriter, Kane Roberts, to be his co-pilot for this adventure. Also along for the ride was a hot new bassist and singer named Kip Winger, whose large mane hid the fact that the man was a classically trained musician. With producer Beau Hill, they made an album in tune with what was happening in 1986, and that meant heavy metal. Alice had always been a diverse, experimental artist, but this time the mission was pretty simple and the lines were clear.

Another horror film served to launch the next official Alice Cooper music: Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. Alice appeared in a brief cameo, but more importantly contributed two new songs to the movie soundtrack. They were the anthem “Hard Rock Summer”, and “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”, which served as the movie’s theme song. “Hard Rock Summer” was a bit of a throwaway, and was not used on the next Alice album. You can really hear the backing vocals of Kip Winger and Kane Roberts on it, but a classic it is not. “He’s Back”, and its very cool music video became synonymous with this new period of Alice Cooper’s life.

The new album, Constrictor, was finally released in September of ’86. With a snake in his mouth on the cover (not really; you can see it’s cheaply cut and pasted) it was pretty clear that Cooper was going for the scares. Opening track “Teenage Frankenstein” continues the horror theme, but combines it with Alice’s teen anthem style from the early 1970’s. “Teenage Frankenstein” is essentially an “I’m 18” for 1986. It’s not as memorable, inventive, or as good, but it gets the job done. It’s an Alice Cooper heavy metal anthem for pounding your fist to in concert. In lieu of a proper music video, a clip from his live show The Nightmare Returns was used, featuring Alice building a living robot monster on stage, which then turns against him!  Alice was still one of the best live acts in the world.

It’s funny that DaDa is remembered as Alice’s “drum machine” album when it’s clear on “Give it Up” that a lot of the beats are programs and samples.  “Give it Up” is a radio friendly hard rocker, nondescript but at its core not that different from the music Alice made in the 70’s.  It’s even has some rock and roll piano.   It’s just dressed up for the 80’s.   There’s not much going on with “Thrill My Gorilla”, just a forgettable song with the shrill production that was so popular in the 80’s.  Much better is the somewhat epic “Life and Death of the Party”.  Slower, creepier and much more effective, “Life and Death of the Party” is the kind of song I like to point to as proof there was some mighty good material during this period.  Unfortunately “Simple Disobedience” isn’t among that material.  Like “Thrill My Gorilla”, there is little here to attract listeners today.  The electronics and samples really are a drag.  It is like there is a layer of distraction over the song that you have to penetrate through.

Flipping the record over (or pretending to since I own this on CD), “The World Needs Guts” isn’t a bad start to the second side.  It could have been much heavier.  It verges on the speedy power metal tendencies of bands like Accept, but the production keeps it from going all the way.  As such it kind of sounds like a thin Judas Priest Turbo outtake with the synths stripped off.  “Trick Bag” may sound familiar.   It actually started life as “He’s Back (The Man Behind the Mask)”.  There’s a demo version of “He’s Back” on the aforementioned Alice Cooper box set musically identical to “Trick Bag”.  “He’s Back” was re-written, but the original music ended up as “Trick Bag”.  It’s a decent album track but like much of Constrictor not particularly classic.  “Crawlin'” is pretty close.  With all the melody and hooks of an old 70’s Alice Cooper track circa Goes to Hell, “Crawlin'” is pretty good stuff.

“The Great American Success Story” is fantastic for two reasons.  One is that it was originally written for the Rodney Dangerfield classic Back to School.   Second, it’s like an updated “School’s Out” for the 80’s.  Instead of celebrating the end of school, this time we are celebrating going to school.  “He’s gonna take that plunge, gonna jump back in there.”  Which, if you’ve seen the movie, you know is also a reference to Dangerfield’s character joining the diving team.  “He thinks about the teacher in his literary class,” and I don’t blame him; it was Sally Kellerman!  “Always been a brat, don’t get no respect” is another obvious reference to Dangerfield.  But it’s a good song! It really should have been a single, and it probably would have been if it were in the movie.

Closing the album, we go full circle back to Friday the 13th and “He’s Back”.  There’s little question that “He’s Back” is the best song on Constrictor.  It actually bears more similarity to the synth-pop of DaDa than it does to the rest of the album.   It’s brilliant because they stripped the song down to a very basic frame, which is a creepy digital pulse.  There’s a little guitar but it’s mostly just horror pop of the finest quality.  Ch-ch-ch-ha-ha-ha…don’t turn out the lights.

Part of the problem with Constrictor is that Alice had a faceless, fairly bland group backing him.  Kane Roberts can play guitar, and Kip Winger can play the bass, but did they have their own identities?  No.  Dennis Dunaway played bass on those early Alice Cooper albums like no other bassist in the world.  Michael Bruce, Steve Hunter, Dick Wagner, and the other great players Alice worked with all had their own sound.  There is none of that on Constrictor.

I want to give Alice and company an A for effort: for finally getting sober, for finally getting back there on tour, and also for going heavy this time.  Unfortunately Constrictor was a comeback album that needed a bit more comeback in it.  The good news is that Alice did eventually get back to full quality, but Constrictor is only about half an album.  Therefore:

2.5/5 stars

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#403: Bully

This is an incredibly difficult, but very important story to write.  I did a draft back in November…put it in a drawer and didn’t want to see it again.  Even now I don’t want to look at it. 

There’s stuff in here that people don’t know, because I haven’t discussed it.

It’s clear to me now that finishing the original Record Store Tales without this chapter was a big mistake.  It should have been in there, to explain how things went from “point A” to “point B”.  Any questions left lingering after that ending should now be answered.

SCUT FARCAS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#403: Bully

Bullying is a huge issue today.  Every week it seems we’re seeing kids kill themselves, because their bullies are everywhere.  They don’t disappear.  They’re online, they’re in the classroom, and they’re on the job.  I tend to think that everybody has been bullied somewhat, so my story is no more important than yours.  I’ve been criticized for talking about some of my experiences publicly.  One or two people might not even believe me that these events happened.

Tough.

The experiences are mine.  I don’t want them buried.  I want somebody to draw some kind of strength or inspiration from them.  That’s how I have chosen to turn a negative into a positive.  If you don’t like it, I invite you to read something else today.

Grade school was tough.  Teachers turned a blind eye.  One teacher specifically teamed me up with my bully in gym class.  This kid had been picking on me straight from grade 2.  I don’t remember anymore what started it.  I probably tattled on him for talking in class, but who knows now.  He focused on me like a laser beam, right from grade 2 up.  I could not shake this kid.  He was always there, picking on me, through grade school.  My 7th grade teacher, knowing all this, decided to team us up in gym.  God knows what she was thinking.  Did she assume that because we had to throw a ball back and forth, we’d suddenly become friends?  Bonding over ball throwing?   I hated that teacher.   I hated that bully.  That guy was so persistent, that once we hit highschool, he skipped his own gym class and attended mine, just to continue.  My highschool gym teacher was so out of it he didn’t even realize he had an extra student.

What got me through these things?  Music.

I saw a guy like Dee Snider take a stand against his own bullies.  They called him a “sick mother fucker”.  He turned it around and showed them he didn’t care.  “Yes, I am a sick mother fucker.  Thank you very much.”  Later on, Twisted Sister even named their fan club the Sick Mother Fuckin’ Friends of Twisted Sister.  SMF’s for short.  He took something negative, robbed it of its power, and created something positive from it.

Twisted Sister, Motley Crue, and especially Kiss had lyrics about not letting these guys bother you.  I took them to heart, and listened to the music day and night.  The fact that not one kid in my school liked Kiss, Twisted Sister, or Motley Crue only made me that much more fanatic.  “If the others don’t like these groups, and I don’t want to be like them, then this music is meant for me.”

Around grade 9, the bullying finally stopped.  I made it through the rest of my school life without incident.  The bullies had dropped out of school.  Or switched schools.  The truth is I don’t know what happened to them, I was just glad to be rid of them.

My love for my music never died.  It grew stronger as I became more obsessed.  Music eventually lead me to the Record Store where, unfortunately, after time, bullying began again.

It happened again in 2000.  I remember 2000 quite clearly.  There were two or three separate incidents in 2000.  One event is permanently emblazoned in my memory, never fading, always vivid as it was 15 years ago.

One person in the organization, who happened to also be my supervisor, had been working for weeks and months on our master CD pricing catalogue.   [Some of us refer to this person as “She Who Shall Not Be Named”.]  Shortly after the CD master had been completed, I was buying some CDs from a customer.  I will never forget they were Roch Voisine discs.  For some reason Roch was not in our CD master catalogue.  I couldn’t find him under “V” or even “R”.  The owner was in my store that day, so I asked him.

“Hey, I can’t find Roch Voisine in the CD master.  It’s supposed to be done now right?”

“I’m not sure,” he responded.  “Why don’t you phone her [She Who Shall Not Be Named] and find out?”

I called and asked the question to her, my direct supervisor.  She somehow took this as an insult and me trying to undermine her seniority.  “You’re just mad that your precious Steve Vai isn’t in the CD master!” she shouted at me.  I’ll never forget the words, “your precious Steve Vai.”  It underlined things that were wrong about this person being in authority:  she was making it personal.

During this rant, I was told that I was trying to sabotage her position in front of the big owner.  When this person eventually arrived at my store, she walked past me at the counter, scowled and told me that I was “so dead for this.”

What?  So dead for what?  What did I do?  I noticed Roch Voisine was not in our master list.  My boss asked me to find out why.  So I did.  I was accused of this “sabotage”, and had the Steve Vai comment thrown at me, and then told I was “so dead”?  I was absolutely floored.

She stopped speaking to me for two weeks straight.  My direct supervisor, working almost daily in the same location as me, completely ignoring me, for two weeks.   The tension could be cut with a knife.  One customer, witnessing the tension and action of my supervisor one day, said “I can’t believe they treat you like that at work.”  I developed a nervous twitch in my left eye that would not go away for months.  My sleep was disturbed nightly.  I was a tense, stressed out disaster on a daily basis at work.  Then two weeks later it blew over, as if nothing had happened.   The supervisor was once again friendly as pie.  I think that is one reason why some don’t believe me that these events happened.  Not everybody got to see that side of her.  Some did.  I remember them.  Lyne, who couldn’t hack it anymore and bailed to work at HMV.  They knew what I was going through, because they went through something similar with the same person.

Another thing about being bullied – victims sometimes protect their bullies.  Sometimes they don’t tattle.  They pretend everything is fine.  They do this to avoid more retribution, to regain favour of the bully, and to hide embarrassment at being bullied in the first place.  I know because that’s what I did.  I did bring it up to the owner once, and he asked me if I wanted him to speak to her about it.  I reacted in terror.  “No!  Then I’m afraid it will get worse!”  So nothing happened.

Then it happened again…and again.  Repeating  the same pattern of bullying at work.  The worst was not being spoken to for weeks on end by my supervisor.  The next time it happened, it lasted three weeks.  I’d be asked by the owner, “Mike, why didn’t you get this done?”  Because nobody told me to do it.

The second time was worse because it was personal.  It had nothing at all to do with work.  This supervisor had an acrimonious split with her fiancé, who also worked within the company.  I knew them both.  I won’t go into any details on this, because the people involved probably don’t want to be reminded of this epic shitstorm.  In fact one of my bully’s friends emailed me three years ago when I first started publishing Record Store Tales, hoping I had no plans for writing about that very shitstorm.  He said he was losing sleep over the thought.  I told him I was not going to talk about it, because it had nothing to do with me, and I still have respect for some of the people involved.  Suffice to say – there was a relationship that ended within the store, and even though it shouldn’t have, it affected the store.  And me.

There was a show in town that I had attended one Saturday night.  My supervisor also attended it, along with several staff members.  After the gig, I said goodnight and told everyone that I was heading home, see you all Monday.

On the way home, I realized that it was her ex-fiance’s birthday, and that he was celebrating at a bar that was on my way.  So I stopped in to wish him a happy birthday, and resumed my trek home.

On Monday, my supervisor confronted me about it!  “You told me you were going home, but you lied to me!  I found out you went to see him after the show!  I don’t care if you see him!   Don’t ever lie to me!  If you ever lie to me again you are dead!”

I denied having lied to anyone, but she was on a roll.  I was in tears when she was done.  I knew that I was going to be treated to more weeks of silence and bullying, and it had nothing to do with work at all.  It had to do with someone who was in a position of power, who was not able to keep her work and personal lives separate.   Although the first bullying incident nearly destroyed me, the second one was worse, and I knew that there was no way I was ever going to shake this person as long as we both worked for the same company.   I tried to out-last her, but she out-lasted me and I quit first.  I broke the cycle by removing myself from it.

Someone once asked me, “Was it bullying, or just somebody being an asshole repeatedly?”  It sure felt like bullying to me, although it took me years to admit it to myself.  The pattern of protecting the bully and pretending everything was normal continued for six years, out of fear.   It was like grade school all over again.  It felt exactly the same.  I consider myself a survivor.  I made it through.  I had to quit the store to do it, but I did it.

After leaving, I began to put the pieces together.  That what I had experienced wasn’t “normal” like some seemed to think it was.  Calling it something else didn’t change the fact that this person was a total bully.  My bully.  And like most bullies, she was good at wearing two faces.  That’s why, I guess, some of her friends today choose not to believe me that it sucked as bad as it did.  Just because she was nice 50% of the time didn’t negate the stuff they didn’t see.  A bully can still be mean to you part of the time, even if they bring chocolates to work and act nice the rest of the time.  It was an experience that drove me close to the point of nervous breakdown (or beyond), and nobody is going to tell me that it didn’t happen, or that it wasn’t as bad as it was.

It did happen.  It made me a stronger person today.

I’m grateful that artists such as Paul Stanley and Dee Snider went through something like what I went through, and survived to sing about it.  Now it’s my turn to tell you about it.  Somewhere out there, I hope there’s a kid who decides not to take any more shit from their bully.  Break the cycle.

I have disabled comments for this chapter. I want the story to stand on its own, and I don’t want to talk about “She Who Shall Not Be Named” any more.  Thank you.

#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#399: Record Shopping in the Sticks

Summers in Kincardine, Ontario in the late 1980s and early 90s were beautiful, but to a teenage me they felt isolated.  No phone at the cottage, no cable TV, and nothing that cityfolk would call a record store.  We did have a few options.  There were places that you could buy music, including one crummy music store that popped up for a brief while.  Summertime is made for music, and one of my favourite childhood experiences was listening to brand new tunes in the summer.

We’d be at the cottage for two weeks straight every August, and I would usually pack my entire my tape collection to come with me (oh how my dad loved that).   Having all my favourite songs with me meant I’d always have music for whatever mood I was in.  Still, nothing could beat the rush of new music!  New didn’t have to mean “new” per se; I was collecting the back catalogues of many metal masters too.  There was always something to buy that would be brand new to me.

In the very early days, you could buy tapes at the local Stedmans store downtown.  Stedmans sold everything from clothes to musical instruments to toys.  Like many of these places, they are now closed.  It was one store to buy new cassettes, and that is where I picked up Priest…Live! back in July of 1987.  The other place to buy tapes at that time was an electronics store called Don’s Hi Fi.  White Lion’s Big Game and W.A.S.P.’s Headless Children came from Don’s Hi Fi during the summer of 1989.  I couldn’t wait until I got home and played them.  We’d rip open the plastic and check out the pictures in the car, waiting to get back and hit play.  The following summer, I bought Jon Bon Jovi’s Blaze of Glory at the same store.  We would also be able to find tapes in the cheapie bin at places like drug stores, and I picked up The Earthquake Album from such a bin.

Around 1988, an actual music store opened up in Kincardine.  It was there that I purchased Painkiller by Judas Priest, and Exposed by Vince Neil.  It was a small store and they didn’t have many catalogue items, but you could pick up new releases there and some key older releases such as greatest hits.

Beyond these few stores, you had to get out of town.  Kincardine is a small place, but Port Elgin to the north offered a few more options.  There was a Radio Shack there with a different selection of tapes.  They also had 7” singles, of which we bought a couple on clearance.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck.  He always was the best dresser.

L-R Peter, Bob, Mike. Note Peter wearing deck shoes on a deck. He always was the best dresser. Also note my official Starfleet sideburns.  Summer 1992

In the summer of ’92 we made several day trips to Port Elgin.  My sister and I were headed to a “cards & comics” store that we discovered.  One afternoon my sister phoned them up to ask if they had any promotional Star Wars cards?  They did – road trip!  The first of many happy and successful trips to Port Elgin looking for goodies.  (Yes, promo cards are collectible just like some promo CDs.)

On the same trip, we found this grungy record store on the corner of the main drag.  Really scummy, really dirty.  They bought and sold used tapes and records.  My sister brought in a whole bunch of her cassettes for store credit, and walked out with Rod Stewart’s Out of Order and one or two others.  My first purchase there was Black Sabbath’s Live at Last.  I bought my original copy of Helix’s Wild in the Streets on cassette at that store.  The tape glowed in the dark.  I’ve never seen another glow-in-the-dark tape before or since!  I also picked up Kiss’ Creatures of the Night (original cover) on vinyl, as well as Twister Sister’s Come Out and Play.  You might remember that Come Out and Play had that awesome cover with the opening manhole?  That was the reason I bought it.

Those stores in Port Elgin are both gone.  Don’s Hi Fi still exists in Kincardine, but they don’t sell music anymore.  I did buy a pair of earbuds there about five years ago, but things have changed so much.  There’s no such thing as “isolation” anymore, not like it felt back then.  Today I can sit on the front porch of the cottage, streaming live radio from home straight to the laptop.  I used to pack my entire tape collection for the cottage, but now anything I want to listen to, I can search for on Youtube.  It is simply amazing how much has changed in the last two decades, and I am sure that in another 20 years it will be just as startlingly different.

As long as I can still listen to my music there, I’ll be happy!

#329: Selling My CDs (RSTs Mk II: Getting More Tale)

RECORD STORE TALES Mk II: Getting More Tale

#329: Selling My CDs

We all end up with CDs that we no longer want or need.  I very rarely sell my CDs anymore. I’d rather donate them to a new home, where I know they will be loved and appreciated.  The money part is less important to me.  The last time I decided to sell off some CDs, I decided to try Sunrise at Fairview Mall (now closed). I’d never tried selling there before, but I had bought plenty.  Their pricing was more than fair, but the guy was very slow.  He didn’t seem as knowledgeable as the people I was used to dealing with. For example, I sold him my original, non-remastered CD copy of Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry. He asked me, “What is wrong with this CD?” It seemed he didn’t know what remastered vs. non-remastered was, only that the bar code he had punched in came up as something “discontinued”.  So I had to explain the remastered vs. original thing to him. He ended up giving me $5 for the CD which was good, and I took store credit (which was a little bit more).

Still, it took him a lot of time. I only had a handful to sell that day (10 CDs if I remember) and it took the guy more than half an hour to look at them.  It wasn’t a bad experience; I ended up with enough store credit to buy a some things.   The money was good, about the same as I would have got at my old workplace.  It was a comparable total, and I was happy with it, but the wait was a little excessive.   I used the store credit to buy my friend Peter the new Metallica live set for his birthday.

I have also sold my discs (CD and DVD) at garage sales, an experience so memorable that I’ve written a future Getting More Tale about that story.  Stay tuned!  I’m saving that one.  Let’s just say that serious garage sale people are an entire species to themselves; the cheapest people you will ever meet in your life.

I don’t need to do any more major purges of my music collection, currently.  Any time I need to weed things out (usually an old version of a CD that I have upgraded) I can always find them a new home.  You might say, “Sure, but money is better.”  Maybe, but my friends return the favor in spades, so I can’t complain.  I’m often the recipient of used CDs and movies that are sent to me in repayment for the discs I gifted earlier.  Nobody ever asks for repayment, we just seem to have created circles of friends who share the wealth.  In fact I’ve acquired some really great collectible stuff just due to the charity of friends.  Thanks!

What do you do with your old CDs?  Sell ’em, trade ’em, gift ’em?  I’m curious so let me know in the comments!

Part 310: Logos Galore

RECORD STORE TALES Part 310: Logos Galore

This subject came up in discussion a few months ago: Did you used to draw band logos on all of your stuff? Sure you did! If you’re reading this blog, then you’re a music lover, and all true music lovers have scrawled a logo on something at least once.

I found a single page with dozens of my old hand-drawn logos. This goes back to my first days at the Record Store!  Some are good, some are shite, some aren’t even the real logo!   I think the TS “bone” logo looks pretty good, and I’m going to give myself props for using obscure versions of the Kiss and Helix logos.

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REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Club Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

TSCD_0001 TWISTED SISTERClub Daze, Volume I: The Studio Sessions (1999)

Everybody knows that Twisted Sister has been around a long time; since 1973 in fact, just as long as Kiss. However not too many people have heard Twisted’s early material outside of their first single “I’ll Never Grow Up, Now!” which was on their “best of” CD. Club Daze, Volume I fills in the gaps.

This CD is for fans only. It will have absolutely no appeal at all to casual listeners who only want songs they recognize. In fact, some of these songs are painfully bad. “High Steppin'”, “Big Gun”, and “T.V. Wife” for example are all examples of some very poor early songwriting. These tunes are in a more traditional rock and roll vibe, and are lyrically quite awful. Take “T.V. Wife” for example, written and sung by JJ French, a song about a woman who sits around all day watching soaps. Really bad song.

On the flipside there are rough and ready versions of some really decent songs, such as “Come Back” which had Dee Snider writing in a heavy metal mode. “Rock ‘N’ Roll Saviours” is a personal favourite, a 1978 attack upon disco music. “We’re gonna fight until disco is dead!” sings Snider.  And they did!

To make collectors salivate just a little more, the best tracks on the CD are the three songs originally from the (then) impossible-to-find EP Ruff Cutts (now since made available on the Under the Blade reissue). This includes an early version of “Leader of the Pack” and more familiar songs: “Shoot ‘Em Down” and “Under The Blade”. It is only these last two songs that really show what Twisted Sister was capable of and where they would go in the future.

There’s one Ruff Cutt missing (“What You Don’t Know (Sure Can Hurt You)”), and a few other miscellaneous early tracks as well, but Club Daze is a compilation of these years.  Club Daze is also loaded with ample pictures and liner notes (from Jay Jay and Dee).

As an album purchase, this CD is not the greatest release. Twisted Sister were never virtuoso musicians, and it shows. Most of these songs don’t have Mark “The Animal” Mendoza on bass, who really helped make their songs heavier. Most tracks feature Kenny Neill on bass and Tony Petri on drums. This is for collectors only, and anybody who wants to know what this band sounded like in the 70’s before they did their first serious recordings, and found the sound that would make them famous.

3/5 stars

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Live At Wacken CD/DVD

For the consideration of the Heavy Metal OverloRd.


WACKEN_0002TWISTED SISTER – Live At Wacken   The Reunion (2005 Eagle Rock)

Here’s a rare find: A CD/DVD combo pack where the CD is equally worth the price of purchase as the DVD. This package contains an 11 song live album as well as a great DVD concert/documentary. Twisted Sister certainly have risen in the esteem of rock fans since the 80’s. Sister’s resilience has won them over, not to mention their heaviness which was lost on the 80’s crowd.

I will say that I was disappointed when I first bought it in 2005.  It was issued as a dual-disc.  Remember those?  I’ll get into the dual-disc crap at the end of this review.  I later bought a far superior CD/DVD set, and that’s the version that I recommend over the dual-disc.  Regardless of which version you have, at least both have nice big booklets with loads of pictures and some liner notes too.

The DVD is peppered with documentary footage and interviews with all five Twisted members. The documentary covers the entire history of the band, and sheds light on their acrimonious breakup and triumphant reunion. I found Mark Mendoza’s segments particularly interesting as he had the most problems with Dee, and in fact was not on board when TS first reunited in 1990’s. The live program is, of course, great.  It’s well shot, and sounds good.

WACKEN_0003The CD is nice as it’s not just a soundtrack to the DVD, but a standalone live album on its own with 11 tracks total, spanning the early years plus six songs from Wacken. I enjoy this one quite a bit on its own as a live album.  From 1980, “Bad Boys of Rock ‘n’ Roll” through to the rare “You Know I Cry” are all replete with loud n’ dodgy sound.  Then from ’82, “You Can’t Stop Rock ‘n; Roll”.  The Marquee, London:  Yes, that would be earlier than the Live at the Marquee album, recorded in ’83.  The fidelity here is improved, although the band’s on-stage fury goes on unabated.

Finally, six 2003 recordings from Wacken.  It’s not the entire show obviously, which seems a bit of a shame.  Goodies here include personal favourites “I Am (I’m Me)”, “Like a Knife in the Back” and “The Fire Still Burns”.  That last one’s interesting because it’s not really a great track on its album, Come Out and Play.  It’s heavier and better live.  Best of all, Dee’s voice is still in excellent shape.  Everybody ages; that’s to be expected, but I don’t think Twisted Sister have lost a thing with age.

Now, let’s talk about this dual-disc.

This is by far the worst dual-disc I’ve ever tried to play. It certainly looks cool (see gallery below). The DVD side has the TS “bone” logo emblazoned directly on the playing surface. I’ve never seen graphics on the playing surface of a disc before, and it looks awesome. This side plays on all my DVD players, no problem. The CD side will not play correctly on any of my CD players, although it plays fine on my blu-ray player. The CD doesn’t conform to the Red Book standards, which is to say it’s slightly thicker than the CDs that many CD players are designed to accommodate.   It all depends on the tolerances built into the players.  Dual-discs are delicate in the first place, and they should never be played in a front-loading car deck or it could get destroyed along with your deck. In the long run, in order to enjoy the CD on a CD player, I had to buy the damn thing again, this time on the CD/DVD set.

So, great video side, great live album, cool looking disc and package. Dual-disc technology…not so great. Buy accordingly.

5/5 stars (for the CD/DVD combo set)

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

TWISTED SISTER – Live at the Marquee (2011 Rhino limited edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)
TWISTED SISTER – Stay Hungry (25th Anniversary Edition)
TWISTED SISTER – Under The Blade (1985 remix)
TWISTED SISTER – “We’re Not Gonna Take It” (1984 Atlantic single)