Van Halen

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.

 

Rest in Peace to the greatest guitar player of all time: Edward Van Halen (1955-2020)

In 1962, Jan Van Halen and his family moved from the Netherlands to the United States.  Young Edward Lodewijk Van Halen was only seven years old when he switched continents.  By his side, as always, was his older brother Alex.  The Van Halens were a musical family.  Jan played clarinet.  Soon Eddie started playing the drums, while Alex picked up the guitar.  It was not meant to be.  The Rock Gods intervened and the two switched instruments.  History had to be made.

In 1972, the Van Halen brothers formed their first band.  People were starting to pay attention to this young guitar prodigy who was doing things most players hadn’t thought of yet.  Though he wasn’t the first, he popularized tapping, whammy bar dives, and all sorts of harmonics.  Unlike the average shredder, Eddie made it musical.  Insanely musical.  While his techniques were space age, his riffs and melodies were grounded in rock and roll.

There is no need to go over all the players he influenced (thousands? millions?) or the riffs he wrote.  There is no other guitar player with the influence of Eddie Van Halen.  Was he the greatest of all time?

Yes.

And his most well known guitar solo wasn’t even on his own song!

Even his keyboard playing was genius!

There will never be another Van Halen.  No player before or since will have the ingenuity and influence he did.  From modifying his own guitars and amps to achieve the perfect “brown sound”, to brutalizing the strings with a drill, he was an innovator.  He was the most important of all the guitar innovators. And he sheepishly grinned through the whole thing as if to say, “Who, me? I did that?”

His infectious grin made all the kids love Eddie Van Halen

Cancer doesn’t care about influence or music, or even the love of millions of adoring fans.  Eddie fought for years.  His battle was a quiet one and we did not know the extent of his illness, though the rumour mills always swirled.  Certainly though his output dwindled (only one studio album in over 20 years), interest in him never waned.  An Eddie sighting at a recent Tool concert was big news.

Van Halen captained his eponymous band through two successful eras and one less so.  Through cancer, hip replacements, and divorce, Eddie plowed on.  A massive reunion with lead singer David Lee Roth made people forget the missteps and focused the spotlight on his incendiary playing once more.

Though there are only 12 studio albums in 42 years, Van Halen’s discography stands like a monolith.  A massive red, black and white striped monolith with EVH in bold letters at the top.  Gone at age 65, Eddie Van Halen will never be forgotten.  His name will stand with Paganini, Beethoven and Bach.  With Hendrix, Rhodes, and Robert Johnson.  Legendary.  Immortal.  Beyond their own time.

As the celebrity memorials inevitably (and sadly) roll in, we will be reminded of one thing:  There will only ever be one Eddie Van Halen.

Rest in peace.

 

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995) Review by Derek Kortepeter
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

+

VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – Selections from LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner promo EP)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin
GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

#845: VHIII

This piece is a followup to the Friday July 17 live stream “Lead Singer’s Disease”.

GETTING MORE TALE #845: VHIII

We carried two magazines at the Record Store:  Spin, and Rolling Stone.  I cannot remember which printed the following comment in 1996, when Van Halen announced their new lead singer.  After a tumultuous few months with Sammy Hagar quitting and David Lee Roth briefly re-joining, the Van Halens decided on Extreme frontman Gary Cherone to carry the VH torch.

Spin or Stone, in a brief paragraph, commented:  “Roth, Hagar, Cherone…the downward spiral continues.”

Bullshit!

I called bullshit then and I call bullshit now.  That is crap journalism, and so typical of the anti-rock attitudes of the 1990s.

First of all, we hadn’t heard one note of Gary Cherone’s new music with Van Halen, so how could they make that judgement?  Second, it severely short-sells Sammy Hagar, who took Van Halen to their first #1 and scored some seriously massive followup hits with the band.  Critically acclaimed ones too, like “Right Now”.  So:  bullshit!  They were absolutely out of line to print that, and we had many reasons to be optimistic about Gary Cherone.

Some of the thoughts that crossed our minds when the Van Halen news hit:

  • Will Van Halen play “More Than Words” live, like they use to give Sammy a solo song or two?  Eddie would sound amazing on that, wouldn’t he?  He’d put his own spin on it, surely.
  • With Cherone, Van Halen would be able to play a wider variety of Roth tunes again.
  • Gary’s natural charisma, as witnessed at the 1992 Freddie Mercury tribute concert, was bound to bring new life to Van Halen.
  • His lyrics, usually more serious than Hagar’s, would allow Van Halen to adapt to the 1990s.
  • The only drawback I saw was that Gary didn’t play guitar, bringing Van Halen back to just one guitar, live.  The tiniest of issues.

I was not only optimistic, but I was excited.  It’s natural, when two bands you like merge in such a way.  One of my favourite singers working with one of my favourite bands?  Yeah, I was overly excited.  At that time, coming off three amazing Extreme albums in a row, I was a bigger Gary fan than Sammy.  However, when Van Halen III finally came out in 1998 after an agonising wait, I was not immediately impressed.  Nor were a lot of people.  But I gave it more than a fair shake, cranking it as much as I could get away with at the Record Store.  And it grew on me.  It was my favourite album to play in the car during the spring of ’98.

I bought the album in the limited edition tin.  I got it from Al King at Sam the Record Man.  I had a lot invested it in emotionally and monetarily.  T-Rev will remember me praising the record, but also telling him, “Something about it doesn’t sound like Van Halen.”  What I sensed then was the lack of Michael Anthony who only appeared on three tracks.  His lack of vocals was very obvious.

When Eddie first decided upon Gary Cherone as singer, one of the things he commented was that Gary had the “voice of an angel”.  I found that encouraging, but when they made Van Halen III, Gary bellowed almost every single song at the top of his lungs.  His blown-out voice carried none of the nuance it did on the same-titled Extreme album III.  It was a disappointing choice, making Cherone sounding overly similar to Sammy Hagar.

“Why bother changing singers if the new guy is trying to sound like the old guy?” I wondered to myself.

Van Halen did not play “More Than Words” or any other Extreme songs live.  One could argue that Extreme didn’t have the pedigree of Sammy Hagar and didn’t deserve to take up any time in a setlist when you could play another Roth song instead.  Many of them returned to the live setting after an absence:  “I’m the One”, “Unchained”, “Mean Street”, “Romeo Delight”, “Dance the Night Away”, “Feel Your Love Tonight”, and even “Somebody Get Me a Doctor”, albeit now sung by Michael Anthony.  The new Cherone album took up a generous chunk of the set, and the Hagar tracks were reduced to a few key hits:  “Why Can’t This Be Love”, “When It’s Love”, “Humans Being” and “Right Now”.

The new Van Halen underperformed to say the least.  I was shocked when we received 50 copies at the Record Store.  There was no way I was going to be able to sell 50 copies, and I tried.  Lord did I try!  I have been very critical of our regional manager in the past, because she was absolutely merciless in pointing out every one of my failures.  Now that she can’t hurt me anymore, I feel freer to talk about some of it.  She definitely can’t blame me for us getting stuck with a huge pule of Van Halen III.  I never would have ordered 50 copies.  20 was what I had in mind.  But she didn’t ask me.  Hand on the bible, this one was not on me.

YouTuber Todd in the Shadows tackled Van Halen III in one of his “Trainwreckords” episodes, and he goes into great detail about every single thing that went wrong with the album.  This excellent and funny analysis is well worth the 18 minutes of your time.

 

REVIEW: Van Halen – Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo (1975 radio broadcast)

“We’re Van Halen, for those who just walked in.” – David Lee Roth

VAN HALEN – Rock & Roll Hoochie Koo (1975 radio broadcast, Laser Media)

Not all Van Halen was great and not all radio broadcasts worth buying.  Some are quite shoddy, but important for historical reasons.  Welcome to the 1975 KSWM broadcast CD!

“We’re playing dance music for people who like to party tonight!” says Dave.  The first track to dance to is the Stones’ “If You Can’t Rock Me”:  Sloppy, ragged, barely holding together, and then the shitty disc fades the song out!  This might have been an act of mercy, as it sounds absolutely rubbish.  Listen – if there’s no complete song, then list it as such on the back!

“We came unprepared for this, as usual!” says Dave, but my patience with the CD is already wearing thin.  “Jean Genie” is a full song (more talking than singing) and it’s pretty terrible.  On one hand, at least Van Halen did it in their own still-forming style, but it’s barely listenable, except for Eddie’s free sololing.  An original “Women In Love” is actually better than the Bowie cover, but warbling tape makes it difficult to enjoy.  Too bad, since this older version is different from the final Van Halen II arrangement.

Dave says wants to get funky on “Rock Steady”, while Michael Anthony acts as cheerleader on stage left.  It’s not really funky but it does groove.  Like all the songs, it’s a vehicle for Eddie to solo, and that’s always a good thing.  A long rendition of “Rock ‘N Roll Hoochie Koo” follows (yes, they spelled the song title differently from the CD title).  This one’s a good jam, with Eddie predictably blowing ’em all away.  Dave’s with him with the odd “Ow!” and “Woo!” but this is the Eddie Show, from rhythms to leads.

A track called “The Fool and Me” from Bridge of Sighs by Robin Trower is a brilliant inclusion.  This allows Eddie to show off that side of him that was inspired by Eric Clapton.  It’s also Dave’s first chance to really sing, when his voice was raw and wild.  Same with “Keep Playing that Rock ‘N’ Roll” (Edgar Winter).  This one is just fun, and the band play it tight.  Judging by the change in audio at this point, this is probably the end of the actual radio broadcast.

A couple minutes of rambling chatter with no value is laughingly listed as “Eddie & Dave Talk About Recording”.  There is no such talk.  It sounds like hitting on a woman.

“Eddie Warming Up” is what it sounds like.  It’s cool.  He plays several licks, some of which ended up in well known Van Halen songs later on.  You can hear the telltale scratch of vinyl, which indicates this one was a vinyl bootleg at one point before being digitized.

Finally “I’m the One (Show Your Love)” is live once more, maybe from the same show as the broadcast, maybe not, who knows.  This ‘Halen original is already fully formed, though the flimsy equipment they were playing through can’t communicate the full fury of original Van Halen.

This broadcast is pretty hard to recommend.  The centrepiece is Eddie warming up, and that’s not even from the show.  It’s pretty hard to play the whole thing through, but at least most of the problems are up front at the start.

2/5 stars

 

COMPLETE VAN HALEN REVIEW SERIES:

VAN HALEN – Zero (1977 Gene Simmons demo bootleg)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen (1978 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Van Halen II (1979 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Women and Children First (1980 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Fair Warning (1981 Warner)
VAN HALEN – Diver Down (1982 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 1984 (1984 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 5150 (1986 Warner Bros.)
VAN HALEN – OU812 (1988 Warner)
VAN HALEN – For Unlawful Carnal Knowledge (1991)
VAN HALEN – LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner Bros, plus “Jump” live single)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995 Warner – Japanese version included)
VAN HALEN – Balance (1995) Review by Derek Kortepeter
VAN HALEN – Best Of Volume I (1996 Warner)
VAN HALEN – 3 (Collectors’ tin 1998)
VAN HALEN – The Best of Both Worlds (2005 Warner)
VAN HALEN – A Different Kind of Truth (2012)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015)
VAN HALEN – Tokyo Dome Live in Concert (2015) Review by Tommy Morais

+

VAN HALEN – “Best of Both Worlds” (1986 Warner 7″ single)
VAN HALEN – Selections from LIVE: Right here, right now. (1993 Warner promo EP)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Get This Stuff No More” / “Me Wise Magic” (1996 Warner promo singles)
VAN HALEN – “Can’t Stop Loving You” (Parts 1 & 2, inc. collector’s tin)
VAN HALEN – “Right Now” (1992 cassette single, Warner)
VAN HALEN – Video Hits Volume I (1998 DVD)
VAN HALEN vs. JOHN LENNON – “Imagine A Jump” mashup by “Mighty Mike”
RECORD STORE TALES Part 186:  The Van Halen Tin

GETTING MORE TALE #657: Operation: Van Halen (Derek’s Story)

#820: The Last Note of Freedom (1991 – Part One)

This is Part One of a series based around the year 1991. In music, culture and my personal life, 1991 was a landmark year. There was life pre-1991, and there was life post-1991. I’ve spent a couple months piecing together details of that critical period. Stick around and enjoy the memories.

GETTING MORE TALE #820:  The Last Note of Freedom
(1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning – Part One)

After all the hard work, studying and good times, there was only one thing left to do:  attend the big highschool graduation ceremony.  I’d be seeing some of my friends for the very last time.  Shirt and tie on, I was clean shaven and ready to go.  Family arrived at the house and gifts were given.  I remember a new watch.  I even received the novelization of the hot new Schwarzenegger flick, Terminator 2: Judgement Day from my sister Kathryn.

Only this time I wouldn’t be back.  This was it.  The last hoorah.

Blue graduation cap upon my head, I looked like a girl with my long hair.  I barely recognise myself in the old photos, receiving my diploma on that big stage.

Like many graduation ceremonies, there was a slideshow to remind us of all the good times.  The song they chose for the slideshow was an interesting selection:  “The Last Note of Freedom” by David Coverdale, his first solo track in a decade and a half.  Who selected it and why, I will never know.  It was the kind of song I would have chosen myself, but I had nothing to do with it.  I just found the title very apropos:  “The Last Note of Freedom”, and when that last note rings out, we would be cast into the larger ocean of “real life”.  It was a poignant choice even if the lyrics really didn’t apply.  The words had nothing to do with a milestone like graduation, but it sure sounded cool when Coverdale started screaming in the middle of the ceremony.

We need love,
We gotta want it so bad.
We need it now,
So run for it fast.
I know it,
And the world will be cheated.
I can’t go on, in a world where love’s defeated.
I know it.
I can’t go on.

“The Last Note of Freedom” was from the Days of Thunder soundtrack, and I made sure to order a copy from Columbia House forthwith.  It was probably the most commercial track that Coverdale had recorded to date, with a vaguely 80s tropi-synth feel.

I would never see many of my friends again, and I knew it as I walked out of the building with my grad cap in my hands.  I shook hands with Anand “Boboe” Etwaru who I never crossed paths with ever again.  I was pleased to find out, many years later from a mutual friend, that he still had the nickname “Boboe” which I gave him.  (It’s just the ASCII characters for “Anand” with each letter bumped up by one, an accidental discovery I made.)

My parents owned a rental cottage and I wanted to rent it for one weekend, just a final chance to hang out with my friends.  The parents said “no way” and the last weekend never happened.  Instead, a bunch of us just made a run downtown to Sam the Record Man one afternoon.  We walked – none of us had a car.  It was fun and bittersweet.  The new Van Halen sat there on the shelves but the packaging was rather bland.  It would have to wait for my birthday.  Instead I bought some singles:  “You Could Be Mine” (CD), by Guns N’ Roses, and “More Than Words” (cassette) by Extreme.

I can still recall one thing that happened that day.  As our small group walked down Frederick Street towards King, we passed by a little old lady.  As we passed her, she smiled and chuckled an evil laugh!

“Heh heh heh heh!”

Creepy stuff, man!

“We’re hexed now!” someone commented.

I’m glad that a small group of my friends got back together for one record shopping trip in the summer of ’91.  We knew things would be different from here on in.  Many of them were going into serious engineering programs.  Intense, time consuming stuff.  On some of my lonely days that fall, I thought of picking up the phone and calling some of them.  But I didn’t.  “They all have their own lives now,” I reasoned.

An era had ended, and the last note of freedom had rung.  Onto bigger things!