Van Halen

REVIEW: David Lee Roth – Big Trouble Comes to Toronto – Maple Leaf Gardens 10/31/86 (bootleg cassette)

DAVID LEE ROTH – Big Trouble Comes to Toronto – Maple Leaf Gardens 10/31/86 (bootleg cassette)

This cassette is a second generation, recorded from a buddy (with good equipment at least) in 1992.  My first bootleg.  It opens with a Van Halen-era interview with David Lee Roth about “precision rock”.  The crackle of original vinyl is audible.

A nice fade-in brings Steve Vai’s guitar to the fore, and then it’s wide open into “Shyboy”.  High octane, even though it’s just an audience recorded cassette with not enough volume on the guitar.  Without pause they rock into “Tobacco Road”. Gregg Bissonette’s toms a-thunderin’.  Vai certainly needs no help in hitting all the guitar hooks that he baked into the vinyl, just with more flair and energy.

Dave has never shied away from Van Halen hits or deep cuts.  “Unchained”, “Panama” and “Pretty Woman” are the first three.  The bass rumblings are unlike anything Michael Anthony played on the original.  The backing vocals are far more elaborate.  Like in Van Halen, “Unchained” is interrupted part way, but this time it’s so Dave can ask what you think of his new band!  Pretty hot.  After “Unchained” he stops to talk to a “pretty Canadian girl”.  “Panama” sounds a little odd with Brett Tuggle’s keyboards so prominent in the mix.  And it’s also way way way too long, with Dave trying to figure out who is reaching down between whose legs, but that’s Dave.  You don’t go to the show just to hear the music.  You go to see the whole schtick.  You put in the quarter, you gotta let the jukebox play the whole thing out.

“Pretty Woman” is zipped through fairly quickly (with one audience participation stop), going into Dave’s rabid “Elephant Gun” and the slick “Ladies’ Night in Buffalo?”  “Elephant Gun” features solos galore that would have been pretty awesome to see up close.  It sounds like there’s a vinyl side break before heading into “Buffalo”.  Vai’s guitar is the star here, in an extended solo backed only by Tuggle.  This turns into a dual bass/guitar call-and-answer.

When Bissonette starts on those tribal beats, you know it’s Van Halen’s “Everybody Wants Some!!”  This great version includes a drum solo.  Next it’s “On Fire” from the Van Halen debut.  Dave asks for the guitars to be turned up – we agree.  “On Fire” with keyboards and Vai noodling is a different animal.  After Dave’s original “Bump and Grind”, it’s time to flip the tape.

Side two opens with some of Dave’s acoustic strummin’, and a story called “Raymond’s Song”.  It’s just an excuse for him to say “Toronto” a whole lotsa times before introducing “Ice Cream Man”.  Which completely smokes.  Vai puts his own space-age spin on it, and Tuggle adds boogie piano, but this is one wicked version!

Dave’s solo track “Big Trouble” has plenty of atmosphere and fireworks for the Toronto crowd, but “Yankee Rose” is just nuts.  Nothing but the hits from here on in:  “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love”, “Goin’ Crazy!”, “Jump” and “California Girls”.  The heavy riff of “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” sounds great in Steve’s hands, who doesn’t go too crazy with it.  Of course there has to be another long break in the middle (too many breaks at this point now).  This time it’s so Dave can get Stevie to make his guitar say “Toronto kicks ass, because the chicks are so fine”.  The rest of the songs are somewhat fluffy, the pop stuff, and rendered a little sweet with the added shimmer of Brett Tuggle.  “Jump” misses the deeper tone of Eddie’s Oberheim OBXA.

It’s worth noting that Roth closes with “California Girls”, not “Jump”.  His solo career is the point, not Van Halen, he seems to be saying.  This is the cherry on top.  Roth hands it to his new band several times in the show — he knew they had to deliver, and they did.  And he wants people to know that he has a band that can compete with his old group.

The show is complete,  and apparently Dave didn’t play “Just a Gigolo” on this tour.  The opening act in Toronto was Cinderella, supporting Night Songs.

Sometimes you wish Dave would get on with it and play the next song, but that’s only because this is a cassette bootleg being played on a Technics RS-TR272.  If you were there in Toronto on the Eat ‘Em and Smile tour, you’d be eating up every word Dave laid down.  He is the master of the stage.  Sure, it doesn’t always translate to tape but that’s the nature of Dave’s live show, isn’t it?  It’s precision rock — visually and audibly combined.

4.5/5 stars (for what the show must have been in person)

 

Mike Fraser takes us inside the recording studio on an epic LeBrain Train

“What happened to the guitars? Well put them back the way they were!” – Jimmy Page

A huge, huge, huge thanks to Mike Fraser for hanging out on a Friday night!  Growing up a young rock fan in Canada, we heard legend of Little Mountain studios in Vancouver.  Tonight, Superdekes and I got to ask the questions we wanted to know for over 30 years.  And Mike delivered!

Krokus.  Loverboy.  Honeymoon Suite.  AC/DC.  Aerosmith.  Bryan Adams.  The Cult.  Coverdale-Page.  So much more!  We tackled some of our favourite albums and a few cult classics.  From the Stone Gods to Canadian folksters The Rankin Family, we tried to explore the slightly obscure corners of Mike’s discography.  And we had a blast!  We took a few viewer questions, and if Mike comes back to the show again in the future, then maybe we can ask him the rest.

As I often do, I started early with an unboxing.  Start the video from the beginning if you want to catch that.  If you’re only interested in Mike (couldn’t blame you) then skip to 0:08:00 of the stream.

 

Make sure you watch all the way to the end to catch the brand new music video by T-Bone Erickson:  “Balls of Steel”.  This song is a tribute to Superdekes, who hooked us up with Mike Fraser for this show.  Thank you Deke, and thank you T-Bone for this awesome premiere video!

Feedback has been that this was the best LeBrain Train yet.  Do you agree?

VHS Archives #100: The Final Episode of the Pepsi Power Hour

The final episode of the Pepsi Power Hour aired at the end of the summer of 1991.  The man with the sad honour of signing off was veteran Michael Williams.  Off and on, Williams hosted the Power Hour since 1986 if not earlier.  It was filmed at a welding shop in Calgary, Alberta.  Because metal?  (Bad, bad idea!  Audio engineers, your thoughts on this setting?)

Williams played Metallica’s “One”, and “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog.  The shape of things to come.

The episode also features an interview with a new band called The Scream, featuring an up-and-comer named John Corabi.  A couple years later, and Corabi would be the new singer in Motley Crue.

The very last band ever played on the Pepsi Power Hour was Van Halen.  It was a big interview by Kim Clarke Champniss regarding the new album For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge.  The very last song ever played was “Runaround”.

The Power Hour was supplanted by the inferior Power 30.  It was a significant change.  I rarely missed a Power Hour.  The Power 30 was rarely worth catching.  However, look for the ad for a promising new Saturday show called Start Me Up – three hours of rock!

YouTube has forced me to butcher this video to get it up, so there are no music videos.  The Van Halen interview is mutilated. There are some ads and all the talking.  It’s history!

 

Speaking of history:  100 VHS Archives!  And counting!  I started posting these in 2019 and I still have plenty of files left to upload, and a few more tapes to play.  I’ve been taking it easy lately because the software is user-unfriendly and my VCR is making odd noises.  But we’re not done.  Not by a long shot.

Click here to check out all the VHS Archives!

 

#872: “Tattoo”

GETTING MORE TALE #872: “Tattoo”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Take Your Whiskey to the Dirty Movies, it’s the Van Halen Deep Cuts Show!

A hearty thank you to Kevin / Buried on Mars, Aaron / Keeps Me Alive, and Eric / Uncle Meat for appearing on this episode of the LeBrain Train!  (Conceiving, in Kevin’s case.)  And a salute to Derek Kortepeter for submitting a cool list as well.  The subject was Van Halen deep cuts and we brought ’em to ya.  Any that we forgot came up in viewer comments.  And a great show was had by all!

At the start, Kevin and I killed some time looking at some new arrivals, and talking about the forthcoming new punk EP by Max  the Axe.  (I have a copy and it is killer.)  If you want to skip that and go straight to the lists, then start at 0:20:25.

Everybody Wants Live Streams!! Van Halen Deep Cuts Friday, Halloween Memories Saturday!

For the first time since the very first time in March, I’m doing two shows in one weekend!


The LeBrain Train:  2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano

Episode 34

As suggested by the inimitable Kevin / Buried on Mars, Friday’s show will be the Nigel Tufnel Top 10 Van Halen deep cuts.  Join the panel and I as we run through the best stuff they don’t play on the radio.  Friday October 30 at 7:00 PM E.S.T. 


Episode 35

Halloween Memories!  One thing I’ve noticed this year is that many friends are really bummed about the loss of Halloween. I feel bad about this so I thought I’d throw a Halloween live stream party.  I used to be a real Halloween kid, so I thought it would be a lot of fun to just talk Halloween memories!  I have many good ones going back to the 1970s, and best of all, I will be in costume!  Saturday October 31 at 7:00 PM E.S.T.  

Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain

#864: The Inside of Van Halen

Thankfully, I didn’t give away all my magazines.  Some special ones remain.  Most of those are Kiss-related, but a few are not.  I was smart enough to hang on to a few that are special, at least to me.  Today we’re looking at the only issue I own of The Inside, an excellent Van Halen fan club magazine.  This comes from Fall ’96, a brief period where the Van Halen lineup was presumed to be a reunited band with David Lee Roth.  That’s only one of the things that makes this issue interesting.


GETTING MORE TALE #864:  The Inside

The location that I first managed had been open only about six months.  1996 was an eventful year both for music and for me.  Notably, Sammy Hagar left Van Halen, and in a whirlwind of events they were recording new music with David Lee Roth.  People wanted to talk about it at the front counter and find out what I knew.  I knew no more than anybody else, but one of my early customers had the scoop.  He had access to The Inside, an unofficial Van Hagar magazine that would have been the best place to find information on them in the pre-internet-in-everybody’s-living-room age.

I can’t precisely remember how he got this issue.  Passed down from a brother-in-law, I believe.  Issue #6.  The front cover broke the news:  David Lee Roth was back?!  With a question mark, of course.  It already had some water damage when I received it third-hand.  We had been discussing all the latest Van Halen happenings in-store, and this particular guy already read the most in-depth coverage you could find.  He told me he’d pass the magazine down onto me, and true to his word, he did.  The news was so fresh that the letters column only contained correspondence from readers pre-split.

“These are strange times indeed,” reads in the first line on the first page, “Letter from the Editor”.  On page 10 is a detailed timeline of the breakup/reunion, monitoring early internet mailing list chatter and official statements.  It’s fascinating and many of the details turned out to be true, including the title of a new song, “Me Wise Magic“.  On the 14th page is an update on Eddie’s upcoming hip surgery, and the news that the Toronto pay-per-view concert was not scheduled for home video release.  Page 15 reveals that Dimebag Darrell recorded covers of “Everybody Wants Some!!” and “Outta Love Again” for B-side use, and that Pat Boone was covering “Jump” and possibly also “Panama” for the album that became In A Metal Mood.  (Only “Panama” made the final cut.)

Most of the issue is dominated by David Lee Roth, both coverage and speculation, but with big photos splashed over the pages.  There’s an interesting interview about the Balance tour with the lighting tech, but due to circumstances beyond their control, this was old news by comparison.

For music geeks that crave the obscure, there is a two page article on Brian May’s Star Fleet Project featuring Eddie Van Halen.  This article details the two day session that brought the three track mini-album to life.  How it came together, details and trivia.  There’s even an ad for a rare CD release of the album, complete with bonus tracks, as part of Brian May’s & Cozy Powell’s Resurrection release.

The back page has information on an album called Fatherless Child by Rich Wyman, featuring a guest appearance by none other than King Edward himself.  (If you have been watching The LeBrain Train: 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano, on our Van Halen tribute episode, a viewer from Norway mentioned this release.  I claimed to have never heard of it, but apparently I had just forgotten!)  Eddie caught Wyman live and was impressed enough to produce four songs on Fatherless Child (Wyman’s second CD).  Better than that, he even played guitar on three.  This article details the songs and playing, and concludes with an interview with Wyman.

Generous customers like this, who treated people like me at the Record Store like an actual “Humans Being”, helped “Balance” out all the real assholes we got in that first year.  Shirtless dudes, shoeless dudes, (no pantsless dudes thankfully), construction workers tracking in dirt, thieves, troublemakers…and the odd real gem like this now-forgotten Van Halen fan.  All we did was talk a little Van Halen.  He had this magazine that he finished reading, and wanted to pass it on to a fellow fan.  He returned with the book in hand, and it’s been in my collection ever since.


In a way, it’s kind of wrong that I still have this issue.  The original owner passed it on to someone else, who passed it on to me.  In the spirit of the way I acquired it, I really should have passed it on again when I gave away the bulk of my collection.  But I do still have it, in the same condition as I received it.  The inner page is loose as they often come to be, but it’s perfectly readable and enjoyable.

Instead of giving it away, I’ll live up to the spirit of the gift with this story and the pictures above.  Thanks, mystery Van Halen fan.  If you’re out there anywhere, let’s raise a toast to King Edward.

Eddie Van Halen Tribute – LeBrain Train Live Stream with Guests Galore

The Cradle Did Rock!  We had a great time talking Eddie Van Halen, memories and music.  If you miss Eddie as much as we do, then watch this live stream.  We digest the loss of the Edward the Great, share stories and learn new things.  Thanks to Aaron/ Mr. Books, Kevin / Buried on Mars, John / 2 loud 2 old music, Eric / Uncle Meat, and Tyler / Dravonous for joining the panel tonight.

I started the stream with some pre-show unboxings, which you can check out if you watch the whole stream from the very start.  If you only want to see the Van Halen discussion, then start at 0:20:00.

Thanks again everyone for watching and participating!

A Tribute to Eddie Van Halen on the Friday LeBrain Train

The LeBrain Train – 2000 Words or More with Mike Ladano
Episode 31

Shitty week, huh?  That’s why I’m here — to help you deal with the bad stuff, and leave feeling better at the end.  This week we are here to grieve, to mourn, and also to pay tribute to the greatest guitar player who ever lived:  Edward Van Halen.

We’re forgoing the list format, and just talking about what Eddie and his music meant to us personally.  Expect the usual suspects on the panel, and please post your comments so we can see what you have to say about King Edward.  Together we’ll process this horrible loss, and by the end we’ll feel a little better.  Van Halen meant a lot to me.  They were one of the first bands I ever liked.  We’ll talk about that and lots more.

For best results, view on YouTube.  Facebook is notoriously stoppy-starty.  For those who tune in early (before the official 7:00 PM start), there will be three unboxings to enjoy.

7:00 PM E.S.T.  Facebook:  MikeLeBrain  YouTube:  Mike LeBrain

REVIEW: Van Halen – Live Without a Net (1987 VHS)

VAN HALEN – Live Without a Net (1987 Warner Reprise VHS/DVD)

I set the VCR to record.  MuchMusic were showing the full concert:  Van Halen, Live Without a Net!  Though they beeped the naughty words, I had to make sure I didn’t miss this special.  I’d never heard Van Halen doing Roth tunes with Hagar before!  Folks, there was a lot of beeping.

Live Without a Net is undoubtedly goofy, and that is part of its charm.  It’s kind of annoying every time Sammy proclaims that they are in “New Halen” instead of New Haven, but I guess he had to.  I still don’t understand why Sammy painted that lady’s shoes red.  The fact that a roadie had red spray paint on standby was kind of cool though.  The band were obviously wasted, but put on a completely epic show nonetheless.  It was light on the Roth stuff that Sammy didn’t want to do, like “Jump”, but they also played virtually all of their new album 5150.

The new stuff was heavier on keyboards and for many of the songs, Eddie was playing the keys while Sammy actually played the solos.  Unusual for this band; absolutely.  Sammy’s solo in “Love Walks In” ain’t half bad.  While I enjoyed this change of pace, Bob Schipper did not.  “A guy like Eddie Van Halen shouldn’t be stuck on keyboards,” he said.  I’ll be honest here.  I prefer Eddie playing keyboards live, even if it means Sammy’s on lead guitar.

The friendship between Sammy and Eddie here is obvious.  The chemistry is clear.  The tension that used to fuel Van Halen is gone here, and in it’s place is simple male comradery.  It’s audible in the music, and Eddie can’t stop grinning…except when he’s busy dragging on that cigarette!

With the new tunes dominating the set, there were only two Roth-era numbers.  “Panama” was the only big Roth hit, with “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” representing the first LP.  Balancing the Roth songs are two Hagar solo tunes, “There’s Only One Way to Rock” and “I Can’t Drive 55”.  These are great and you won’t find too many live versions that are better.  There were also the usual guitar, drum and bass solos, but Michael Anthony’s is mostly tuneless.  A Zeppelin cover, “Rock and Roll”, closes the set.

As kids, Bob and I didn’t care about the Zeppelin song.  What we watched the video for was Eddie himself.  When it was time for his solo, we studied it.  There was no way we could have understood what he was doing on a musical level, but we watched his actual technique.  We wondered if he ever burned his hand on that cigarette dangling from the headstock.  Eddie’s solo was like opening a science textbook for the first time.  Except this was a textbook that looked and sounded absolutely badass!

This always should have been a live album.  Edited, of course.  You don’t need the shoe painting episode to fully enjoy Van Halen Live Without a Net.*

4/5 stars

 

* The painting of the shoes happened during “Best of Both Worlds” and was edited out when released as a single B-side.