The original title for this chapter was “My Sister, Age, and How Things Change”. It was originally Chapter 8.
RECORD STORE TALES #1045: The Lost Chapters: Doctor Kathryn
My sister had some distinct musical phases. Early on, she decided that she was going to like most of the music that I liked. At first that meant Quiet Riot, Kiss, and Motley Crue. Motley Crue was her favourite, but not for the right reasons. They were her favourite because a) Nikki and Tommy were really tall, and b) they both had spikey hair.
There was further evidence that my sister was bordering on wimp territory. One was that she didn’t like W.A.S.P. In fact she hated W.A.S.P. I’m not sure if it was Blackie Lawless’ voice, or if it was the fact that he drank “blood” from a “human skull”. Either way, I liked W.A.S.P. a lot, and if she didn’t like them too, this demonstrated an unhealthy streak of independence.
Then, the proverbial shit hit the fan. (We didn’t have air conditioning back then, just fans.) One day in 1985, she decided that she liked The Pointer Sisters. And Cyndi Lauper. And Corey Hart. She always liked Bryan Adams, but I forgave her this. Bryan wore jeans and T-shirts, so he was still firmly in rock territory, even if he wasn’t heavy metal. (I didn’t find out for a while yet that Bryan did in fact have some metallic roots. He wrote several songs with Kiss, including the heaviest material on the Creatures Of The Night album.) The music that Kathryn liked was incorrectly labelled by us as “New Wave”. We didn’t know that New Wave was a term usually used for bands like Blondie, Devo, or the Talking Heads. We just assumed all crappy pop music with synthesizers was New Wave. And New Wave was bad. Very very bad.
Back then, life was simple. Life was black and white. Whatever MuchMusic’s “Power Hour” played was good. Everything else was bad. The only exceptions to that that rule were Kim Mitchell and Bryan Adams. I’m not sure why Kim was an exception, except that he and long hair, and that I liked him, and so did the next door neighbour. If you wanted to boil it down further, stuff with guitars was good. Stuff with keyboards was bad. And the stuff Kathryn listened to didn’t have any guitars, just lots of keyboards, fake synth drums and people with really silly clothes and hair.
There were a few exceptions. I had never known a Van Halen without keyboards, so I accepted them. They were clearly a heavy metal band. The Power Hour played them all the time, David Lee Roth had wicked hair, and everybody was talking about that guitar player. Even if I didn’t know the difference between a guitar and a bass, and thought that Michael Anthony was in fact Eddie Van Halen, I decided that Van Halen were cool. You were allowed to like them. Eventually I sneaked ZZ Top into the list of music that was allowed as well, because one of the neighbours said they were like Van Halen.
So if the music Kathryn liked was bad, and the music I liked was good, you can imagine the arguments. They were glorious and often ended in physical injury and/or destruction of property, and not just by me.
Her awful taste in music even held back my own progress. She liked Bon Jovi first, therefore I had to dislike Bon Jovi—until they released that damned “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” song. The song was so good, so undeniable, I had to let Bon Jovi into my life. I still think it’s a fantastic song, well written, well played, with some beautiful 12 string guitar. (Another reason Bon Jovi didn’t make the grade at first was due to their keyboards. This does not explain why Europe did make the grade. There were many inconsistencies.)
Kathryn’s rebellion worsened. Her taste in music declined. I won’t even begin to list some of the awful music she listened to, but I will say that she bottomed out in 1990 with New Kids On The Block, MC Hammer, and Vanilla Ice. Obviously, this was a person who had no clear idea about integrity within music. However, like a junkie who hits rock bottom, she eventually started to rise up again, with a little encouragement from Her Loving Brother.
The turning point was when Vanilla Ice cancelled his Kitchener tour date in early 1991. His reason stated was that he was too big a star to play a town like Kitchener. There was an instant hatred for the man all over town. Kathryn sold her Vanilla Ice tape immediately.
There were some other clear signs of improvement. A newfound obsession with Cheap Trick was good. Sure, they weren’t metal, but they were definitely rock! Hell, they even worshipped Kiss within their song lyrics. I happily encouraged this love of Cheap Trick, and even bought her Cheap Trick tapes. I think most of her Cheap Trick collection was courtesy of moi.
Rod Stewart came next. I feel that perhaps Rod snuck in the door due to his enormous hair, but I didn’t care. Rod still had a rock pedigree. I encouraged her love of Rod. I asked her questions about him and his music. It was like carefully manipulating a mentally ill person back to health, and I was succeeding in a marginal way. I felt that she’d never come all the way back to metal, even though she owned tapes by Bon Jovi, Def Leppard and Poison. Yet I was satisfied with the progress we were making.
Now, 15 years later, I own Rod Stewart, Cheap Trick, Bryan Adams, The Payola$…all music that she introduced me to. She got the last laugh. I’ll never admit that she was always the smarter one (I can’t, since she never understood any movies we watched) but I’ll admit that she got the better of me on this one. We even attended concerts together. It started with Blue Rodeo, then we saw Jann Arden and Amanda Marshall. While I still won’t own any albums by Arden or Marshall, they both put on excellent shows. Blue Rodeo blew us both away and now they’re one of my favourites. I’ve never seen any band more often than Blue Rodeo, and I’ll argue that they’re Canada’s best band, with Rush as a close second.
Even my parents get points. They sure hated “Big Balls” by AC/DC, but now I own more Johnny Cash and Gordon Lightfoot than they do.
Now, I certainly can’t allow Kathryn to come off as the winner in this chapter. So here’s a punch in the arm for you. There, now we’re even.