RECORDS STORE TALES #1003: Animalize Live Uncensored
36 summers ago, I taped Kiss Animalize Live Uncensored off next door neighbor George. I recorded the video (which he recorded from a rental) onto a VHS, and the audio onto a 90 minute blank cassette. For that summer, Animalize Live was my Kiss live experience. I only had Alive on vinyl, which wasn’t portable. I didn’t have Alive II yet. My cassette copy of Animalize Live was constantly in my ears all summer.
I knew every word of every Paul rap.
“Detroit let me tell ya something just between you and me. That baby had the longest fuckin’ tongue I ever seen in my life!”
“Paul, what are you doing with a pistol down your pants?”
“Eric may look like a baby, but he’s built like a man.”
Paul did a striptease, and the guys hung the panties that they were thrown by girls in the crowd from their microphone stands. The concert dripped of raw sex and I was like a kid in shock. I had never seen anything like this before. I didn’t even know if I wanted to! But there it was in full glory, Paul Stanley telling stories about his “Love Gun” and me sitting there watching it multiple times a week. The summer I had mono. I couldn’t do much else. I watched a lot of videos and a lot of them were Kiss.
Listening today, I remember every note of every solo. Paul went first with a guitar solo. Bruce Kulick, the new kid, was standing in for Mark St. John and didn’t even get an introduction or solo. Eric’s drum solo was second, and Gene’s bass solo last. I liked the bass solo. It actually seemed more musical than the other two. Its simplicity is one thing…but I was humming the bass solo hours later.
I still know every vocal divergence each song takes in this live incarnation. Like old muscle memory. And you know what? There’s something to be said about 80s Kiss. They were playing things faster and Eric Carr added his own unique elements to Kiss, as did Bruce. On some songs the speed works. I was just thinking that if they came out playing “Creatures of the Night” this fast today in 2022, people would lose their minds.
On my Walkman, I went for cottage adventures with this concert in my ears. It was the worst recording possible; a cassette copy of a VHS copy of a VHS copy, in mono. Bootleggy as hell. But there I sat in the grass, as Paul Stanley told us of the women who wanted to “mother” Eric Carr. And I had no idea what, specifically, “mothering” Eric Carr meant. I knew it meant sexy times of some kind, but…nope, right over my head.
Animalize Live Uncensored was my Alive III from a time when we didn’t think we’d get an Alive III. Or at least, I didn’t. It was several albums and several years before we did get one, and Eric was gone by then. I liked it. I still do.
DEF LEPPARD – Video Archive (1995, 2001 Mercury DVD)
Only two years since their last home video, Def Leppard went back in for round three. There were not many new video clips waiting to be released, just the four from Retro-Active and Vault, plus an alternate version. Mostly, this Video Archive focused on live material.
Def Leppard’s big hometown gig in Sheffield was something they were very proud of, and so it appears here and on the previous album’s Vault double disc edition Well, some of it anyway. Nine songs were on Vault; you can watch eight of those on video here. (The ninth, “Photograph” is available on Visualize.) The whole show has never been released (22 songs total) but this small handful can be had. The hometown gig had 40,000 people going nuts for Leppard, something Joe mentions in the opening interview.
No shirts for Phil right from the first song, “Let’s Get Rocked”. The editing in this concert relies on minimal gimmicks, but the choppy slo-mo bits probably were not necessary. It also seems like the songs aren’t in order, because at the outdoor gig it gets dark and then light again.
On CD, “Armageddon It” comes second. Here, it’s “Foolin'”. I like when the camera switches to Phil when Joe sings “take your fill”. Take your “Phil”? Solid version of “Foolin'” and nice to see it with Vivian picking away for the first time on video. “Rocket” features a cool light show, but what’s cool here is seeing Phil Collen and Vivian Campbell taking turns soloing. Getting the chance to appreciate the differences between the two. It’s definitely fun seeing Viv do the ol’ two-handed tapping like it was the 80s again. Then Joe goes into “Whole Lotta Love”, before “Rocket” resumes its course.
The acoustic B-side “Two Steps Behind” is introduced as being from their next album Retro-Active. The crowd already knows it. The atmosphere goes from campfire singalong to party mode in seconds flat as “Armageddon It” begins. Vivian does an admirable job of Steve Clark’s original solo – and then Joe Elliott jumps down to crowd level!
The familiar drum beat to “Pour Some Sugar On Me” is greated with the appropriate “hey! hey! heys!” necessary to start the song. Viv is really having fun on this one, running and sliding across the stage. “Rock of Ages” is a natural song to follow it with. Rick “Sav” Savage doubles on bass and keys. Some good shots here of Rick Allen doing his thing on his specialised drum kit. Finally, “Love Bites” closes this portion of the program dramatically. Fantastically fitting solo work by Viv, and Sav on keys one more time.
The next section of the DVD focuses on the music videos released since “Visualize”, beginning with their latest hit “When Love & Hate Collide”. It’s here in two forms, but the straight performance is better than the “Epic 8 minute version”, which is bogged down by boring story and dialogue. The simple, stripped version of the video suits the 90s even though it doesn’t really fit the string-adorned track. “Two Steps Behind” was a cool grainy clip, featuring a string section this time! The backwards-walking footage is fascinating and trippy. Next is the rarely seen “Action” filmed on tour. Joe’s sportin’ a goatee this time. Toto, I don’t think we’re in the 80s anymore! Also rarely seen, “Miss You In A Heartbeat”. It’s the version with piano & band, and Joe’s tinklin’ the ivories, goatee still intact. It’s like Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, as each band member is playing in beautiful mansion settings.
The highlight of the video is the final section: Def Leppard unplugged at the Wapantake Club back in Sheffield, 1995. In the interview footage, Phil says that he enjoys the acoustic setting because it proves that Def Leppard’s famous backing vocals are indeed live. Meanwhile, Rick Allen appreciates the challenge of using an acoustic drum kit again. But what’s really special is that the last time Def Leppard played the Wapantake, it was 1978. Their triumphant return in 1995 is really cool and really should be released in CD form. Fortunately it was filmed!
Once again, it’s “Two Steps Behind” but without a screaming crowd. It’s just Def Leppard in a very packed but respectfully quiet room. “Armageddon It” is bouncy, and the audience responds. This take is one of the best versions of “Armageddon It” out there; just fun and perfectly performed in the right setting. Then the new song: “When Love & Hate Collide” was made available in live form right here mere weeks after its single release. The acoustic setting works, but novelty aside, Def Leppard have better ballads. “Animal” and “Sugar” bring the party atmosphere back to the Wapantake. “Animal” works great acoustically, and “Sugar” takes on a different form. Phil makes a good point about the backing vocals. It’s great to hear them live and bare like this because they’re stellar!
Even though Joe said that was the last song, he lied because for the first time, and “for a laugh”, it’s “Ziggy Stardust”! Joe says it’s the first time they ever played it live as a band in front of a crowd, so that’s special. It’s also a brilliant version which doesn’t hurt. Leppard nailed it with pure love.
But wait, there’s more! The closing interviews discuss the new album Slang: “Up to date”, “stuck in the 90s”, “different direction”, “complete different turn”, “experimental” are a selection of words used…but then there’s a preview. Live at the Wapantake, and only for a few seconds, is the new song “All I Want Is Everything”. One chorus and that’s all we get, though the folks at the gig that night heard the whole song. The viewing audience at home only got a taste. Not enough to judge by. Not enough to get a feeling of what Def Leppard meant when they used words like “experimental”.
We’d find out soon enough.
The end credit music is an instrumental version of “When Love & Hate Collide” with only piano and strings and no band. Now that would be something cool to include in a future box set.
Perhaps a tad prematurely, immediately after Adrenalize had given all it had in terms of singles, Def Leppard released the spiritual sequel to 1989’s home video Historia. That thorough collection of videos was composed of music from four albums, while Visualize only covered one (and a bit). As such, this time they added interviews and interesting TV clips to fill out the run time.
Since Historia closed on “Love Bites”, it’s only fitting that Visualize opens with the next video, “Rocket”. As far as cool 80s videos go, “Rocket” was a success. It was even an educational slideshow of all Def Leppard’s musical heroes! It’s also very very 80s, with lots of TV sets hanging about.
Then Visualize takes a different track. The next big event in the lives of Def Leppard was a sad one: the passing of Steve Clark. He is commemorated with TV clips, interviews and an excellent all-Steve video for “Switch 625”. Joe Elliott laments that all Steve had in his life was a guitar and a bottle, but at least he left something worthwhile behind — the music.
Interview tracks are interspersed between music videos. Rick Allen discusses his drum kit and how he uses his left leg to do what he used to with his arm. Then there’s a surprising video of a live Ben E. King TV performance, featuring his new backing band, Def Leppard. “Stand By Me” is not the complete clip but enough to show you that Leppard could do it! Rick Savage plays a strange 80s synth bass guitar, and Steve Clark was still with them. Another partial clip, “Jean Genie” with Joe, Ronnie Wood and the Hothouse Flowers, is cool but just a snippet. Same with an acoustic version of “Ziggy Stardust”. Shame they couldn’t use the full tracks. The origin of the track “From the Inside” is discussed with a short clip as well.
“Let’s Get Rocked” is opened by an amusing interview with Sav about filming in front of a blue screen. Indeed, “Let’s Get Rocked” was a pioneering video, if terribly dated. It’s also their only video as a four-piece band without Steve. The next interviews address this — the hiring of Vivian Campbell. His big debut was the Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert in early 1992. His music video debut with the band was on the mediocre “Make Love Like A Man”. Its gimmick was a big screen behind the band; pretty standard stuff. The rarely seen “I Wanna Touch U” follows, with Leppard once again live in the round! The fake crowd screams are distracting but the video is cool, if not triumphant.
The big ballad “Have You Ever Wanted Someone So Bad” has a gothic look, but oh so 90s in style. The picture-in-picture (some colour, some black and white) look was overdone. A small batch of interviews from the period are followed by “Tonight”, an excellent understated ballad. The conceptual side of these videos was getting progressively foggy, but when they’re on the screen in start black and white, the band look cool. “Heaven Is” was another rarely seen clip, and perhaps it’s better that way. As always, the band stuff looks great but the conceptual shots are just bizarre. Ditto “Stand Up (Kick Love Into Motion)”. Dunno what’s up with the naked people or Cliff Burnstein playing baseball with a window. A true shame, as this semi-ballad is a Def Leppard masterpiece of a song, simply top drawer. It deserved better. When the video came out, I was so disappointed. “What have they done?” We deserved better.
“Two Steps Behind”, “Love Bites” and “Photograph” are live, from a hometown gig in Sheffield. More of the show would be made available on a 1995 home video release called Video Archive.
Finally, the future: Joe says there’s a long long way to go, not realizing he just wrote a future Def Leppard hit song title! Collectively, they were excited to write together. Rick Savage says it’s “Phase 2”, and Joe Elliott employs another Star Trek analogy about exploring. There was plenty of creative energy in the band and it’s obvious. But don’t hit “eject”! Stay tuned for the post-credit scene! An important message from Joe.
Visualize was one of those sequels that just came too soon. Interview material is valuable and desirable, but Historia played more like a visual album. It was a better entertainment experience. Visualize is choppier. It wouldn’t matter so much if all the songs were complete, but the TV performances are just teases of complete tracks. Unfortunate.
DEF LEPPARD – In the Round In Your Face (1989 VHS, 2001 Universal DVD)
When I was a kid, in love with music and watching every video on television, there was only one concert I wanted to see. Grade 10, going on grade 11, the only show I craved was Def Leppard. Their innovative stage in the round, in the center of the arena, seemed like the ultimate package. But I was just too young and had no one to go with, so I never made it. Fortunately, Def Leppard released a home video to satisfy those of us who could not be there. I rented the tape from Steve’s TV and made a copy. It was the best I could do on my allowance. To make up for it, I bought it three times since on different formats (VHS, DVD, CD).
I popped the tape into the VCR with anticipation. A sped-up collage of the stage assembly flashed before my eyes, to the sound of “Rocket”. A massive undertaking, but this was just pre-amble. The show was about to begin!
It was just as I had heard about in the highschool halls. The stage was draped on all four sides by massive Hysteria curtains.
“I know what you’re thinking,” says Clint Eastwood over the sound system. “‘Did he fire six shots, or only five?’ Well to tell you the truth you know in all is excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself.” A laser show begins dancing on the curtains. “You’ve got to ask yourself one question. ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well do ya, punk (punk punk punk)?”
Guitars replace the echo of Eastwood’s voice.
“I said welcome to my show!” screams Joe Elliot, teasing us before the curtains finally crash down and “Stagefright” kicks off the proceedings! Even in my armchair, there’s still goosebumps.
Def Leppard rip through “Stagefright”, completely in control, on fire as hot as their early days. Each member throws shapes on stage while Rick Allen keeps the whole thing moving, on drums in the middle. Leppard’s stage is not flat, with catwalks and staircases for the band to run and jump all over, which they do. Overhead cameras capture everything, from every angle. Nobody but Allen is confined to one space, as the band leap from place to place in the name of entertainment.
Continuing with the Pyromania, “Rock! Rock!” keeps the pace going at full speed. It brings a tear to the eye, seeing Steve Clark do his trademark whirlwind moves on stage, accented by his red scarf and made only more perfect in the round setting. A reminder that this was it — the last high point of the Clark era. Fortunately captured on camera and tape.
The first new song, and break in tempo, is “Women”. This is the famous version released as a single B-side with the “We got everything we need!” intro. You know it, you love it, it’s legendary: the live version of “Women”. Rick Savage mans the keyboard station for the time being while the lights get dimmer. Lots of echo on this one to duplicate the album ambience. “Too Late For Love” — a damn fine version — brings a ballady vibe, which they then lean into fully on an early appearance of “Hysteria”. The live version of “Hysteria” is lengthier with an extended bass intro. It feels like Def Leppard are a band with four frontmen, with the amount of shape-throwing going on here! And, for a moment, Joe Elliott on rhythm guitar! A funny little 80s axe with no headstock it is, locking down the riff while Steve and Phil embark on a glorious dual-guitar harmony solo.
Steve Clark gets a mini-solo to open “Gods Of War”, a Leppard epic that really shines in the live setting. We always thought it should have been the 8th Hysteria single. Rick Savage on acoustic guitar during the outro. The lights blast at the end, simulation “the bomb” and the band exist the stage as the lights go black. It’s a perfect transition to the gunshot sound effects that open “Die Hard the Hunter”. Lighters up! Off goes Phil’s shirt. This track is a return to the tempo of the opening duo, all three being from Pyromania.
Indeed, it is time to address the setlist. You may have noticed all the tracks are from Pyromania and Hysteria thus far. There is nothing from On Through the Night, and only one from High N’ Dry: “Bringing On the Heartbreak”. “This is one of our earlier songs, that we’re going to play a brand new way for ya,” says Joe. It seems they were trying to focus on the big albums that people had heard on MTV rather than their heavier metallic roots on this tour. Phil Collen gets a nice acoustic intro to show off his skills, along with Steve on doubleneck. This new semi-acoustic version of “Heartbreak” was so the band wouldn’t get sick of the song; it’s interesting anyway.
“Foolin'” ushers in a long stream of big, big hits. Steve’s still rockin’ the doubleneck. Then “Armageddon It” is nice and fresh. Much of this footage will be familiar to fans of the music video. “Animal” is tight, and received with a rapturous applause. Lots of girls in the front row dancing to this one.
There’s a touching moment in the “Pour Some Sugar On Me” intro when Joe says that the return of Rick Allen “the Thundergod” on drums was the biggest “up” that the band ever had. They then make easy work of the hit single. Phil takes a solo rip on the fretboard before “Rock of Ages”, and then of course the obligatory long audience singalong section. (“You can do better than that!”) The encore “Photograph” closes the show, and a great song to do it with. Shirts are no longer required where Joe and Steve are concerned.
This video was expertly directed by Wayne Isham. It is simply one of the best shot and edited live concerts available on DVD. It’s also – sadly – a document of the last stand for this lineup of the band. They had hit the top. Unfortunately you can never stay.
When I was a kid, I wanted to collect “all” the Def Leppard music videos. Hysteria was pretty much my favourite album for two years. Their videos were ubiquitous. Any time MuchMusic had a new one to debut, you could count on it being a hit. “Pour Some Sugar On Me” was the anthem of the summer of ’88 and the video was on all the time. But some Def Leppard videos were played far less frequently.
The 1988 VHS Historia collected all Def Leppard’s music videos up to “Love Bites”, along with some rare television performances that never aired over here. They were introduced by quaint title cards, and each video was presented in full — no edits.
“Hello America” with Pete Willis was the first one we’d never seen before. Why was the drum kit out front? Nobody knew, but this cool song sounded like a lost hit. The “fake live” trio of “Let It Go”, “High ‘N’ Dry”, and “Bringing on the Heartbreak” ended the Willis era of music videos. These three were seen on TV here, but only rarely. “Heartbreak” was the original album mix.
The big three Pyromania videos by David Mallet were up next, “Photograph” in its uncensored version. Then there’s a TV performance (lip syncing of course) of “Too Late For Love”. This includes a neat set up with Steve Clark and Phil Collen coming down these hydraulic staircases. When spending the money to buy a VHS tape of music videos you can see on TV, it’s nice to get real rarities like this.
“Rock! Rock! (Till You Drop)” is another serious rarity from Japanese TV. With Union Jacks draped behind, Leppard rarely looked this cool. It’s no shirt required for Rick Allen, and a mop-topped Joe Elliot screams behind his hair into the microphone cupped in his hands. Unfortunately, during the guitar solo the director chose to focus everywhere but on Phil for most of it.
After Pyromania blew up all over the world, Leppard reissued Hign ‘N’ Dry with two bonus tracks. Music videos were made for each: The remixed versions of “Bringing on the Heartbreak” and “Me and My Wine”. The DVD release is mucked up and includes the wrong audio instead of the remix of “Heartbreak” but the VHS has everything right. These two videos are exact opposites. “Heartbreak” is a high budget extravaganza with the two guitarists playing on massive silos, smoke all around. Then there’s Joe crucified on a barge for some reason. The performance stuff is pretty cool at least. But “Me and My Wine” is a total contrast, just Leppard jamming it up in a cheap flat, wrecking stuff and playing in the showing.
And then finally it’s the Hysteria era, the big big hits with the million dollar videos. “Women” was cool, with that Def Leppard comic book theme. “Animal” and “Hysteria” had a lot of mainstream play. There’s also the original UK version of “Pour Some Sugar On Me”, with Leppard playing in a house in the midst of demolition. The “fake live” US version is also included, with the familiar extended remixed intro that was actually unreleased in audio form at that time. It is paired with “Armageddon It”, made from the same batch of concert footage.
Finally, in the days before hidden CD tracks were all that common, Leppard hit you with an unlisted bonus video. It’s “Love Bites”, the brand new video that shortly took over the world for them once more.
Videos weren’t cheap to buy — they were $25 to $30 for something like Historia. What you wanted was value for your money (stuff you didn’t see on TV) and rewatchability. Historia was constantly in our VCR, often for a full play-through. It more than earned its share of my allowance.
Music videos of the 80s could, in theory, be broken down into three major categories:
Conceptual videos. Sometimes with a storyline intercut. Occasionally the musicians got to act. Other examples have no musicians at all. (Iron Maiden’s “Can I Play With Madness”.) Conceptual were majority of music videos — usually combining the conceptual part with the band performing on some kind of stage. Not to be confused with…
Stage videos. Or, as Harrison calls then, “fake live videos”. Lipsynching the hits, on a stage, sometimes in front of a crowd, with no conceptual content. Sometimes these were simply live concert videos dubbed over with the album tracks. “Thrills in the Night” by Kiss, for example.
True live videos. Many Van Halen videos we grew up with, from “Unchained” to “Best of Both Worlds”, were live in concert — audio and video both. In some cases you could not buy these live tracks on any kind of release.
Of course there are more categories and sub-categories, just less significant. Some videos are entirely animated, which is more common today. We also have something new — the lyric video.
I can remember the sixth grade. Mrs. Peterson’s class. Van Halen’s 1984 was out and Quiet Riot were burning up the charts. These were pretty much the only bands I heard of. I hadn’t seen the music videos and I didn’t even know what Quiet Riot looked like. The only pictures I had ever seen of Quiet Riot were the buttons that the masked guy is wearing on his vest on the front cover of the cassette version of Metal Health. I squinted hard, but the Kevin DuBrow I imagined on that button looked nothing like the real deal.
The teacher was getting us started on simple surveys. To make it fun, she took a survey of all the most popular music in the class. Each kid got to name one favourite artist. I named Quiet Riot, and Kevin Kirby named Van Halen. Michael Jackson and Duran Duran were the top two.
As the discussion proceeded, many of the kids mentioned that they liked the music videos. Michael Jackson was at his peak, and he was the pioneer of the modern music video. Other artists like Culture Club made an impact with their image, which came across best on video. The teacher was curious about all this, so the class explained what a music video was. Something dawned on the teacher, and she exclaimed, “So to be a music star today, you not only have to be able to sing, but you also have to be able to act!”
No, and yes. You didn’t have to “act” per se, but you did have to be able to present yourself and play to a camera. David Lee Roth was not an according-to-Hoyle actor. Some would say he’s also not a singer, but he is a master at playing for the camera. Staring deep into the lens, gazing with the come-hither look, just so. Doing easily what other rock stars couldn’t, or didn’t want to.
So yes Mrs. Peterson, in a sense, to be a star in 1984, you had to be able to “act”. Video didn’t kill the radio star but it sure took a bite out of them.
Kids used to catch the videos on various cable shows. There was one called The Great Record Album Collection on WUTV that I sometimes caught before dinner. The Canadian movie channels (Superchannel, First Choice) would run music videos in the dead minutes after the credits rolled, to the top off the hour. Until MuchMusic came along, we Canadian kids didn’t have a one-stop-shop to watch all our music videos. Fortunately, having MuchMusic coincided with getting our first VCR.
Once we became seasoned in the way of the music video, we developed clear favourites. 12 and 13 year olds didn’t have a lot of money. We also had never attended a concert. Therefore, live videos with music that wasn’t what we were getting on the album were rarely favourites. We preferred the “fake live”, as Harrison the Mad Metal Man calls them. Then our immature ears could hear the songs clearly, and that would help us decide if were going to spend our nickles on a new tape.
Best of all though were the conceptual videos. Some were not good (just ask Billy Squier), but some really captured our imaginations. In Record Store Tales Part 206: Rock Video Night, we discussed some of my favourite clips to show to younger folks who weren’t there in the 80s. They were all conceptual clips. Many of them involved a band on a mission of some kind. There were so many of that kind. Thor had “Knock ‘Em Down”, Queensryche had “Queen of the Reich”, and Armored Saint had “Can U Deliver”. These videos featured, at least partially, a band on a quest. They also featured scantily clad women, and lots of “fake live” footage.
But the “fake live” footage often featured cool angles and close-ups. That meant we could examine the finer details of the outfits and guitars. You couldn’t just look up pictures of your favourite stars on the internet back in 1986. “I want hair like that!” Bob said about Eric Brittingham from Cinderalla. “That would look cool in red!” Meanwhile, I wanted Rob Halford’s leather jacket from the “Turbo” video. Of all these videos, we liked the Iron Maiden clip for “Wasted Years” best, which we watched in slow motion, pausing to identify every single Eddie. There were many we had never seen before.
We just weren’t as interested in purely live videos back then. For example, MuchMusic had two versions of Judas Priest’s “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'”: the original and the live one from Priest! Live. After the live video came out, that’s the one they primarily played. It was disappointing because if I was going to only hear Priest on TV once that week, I preferred the original. Frankly, we didn’t buy a lot of live albums as kids. When we collected bands, we would try to get all the albums including the live ones. But when we wanted to buy one tape from a band, we didn’t go for live ones. Some live albums we heard scared us off from the format. The Song Remains the Same wasn’t the kind of thing we had patience for.
That all changed for me in highschool. I wanted to buy a Triumph album. It would be my first. On recommendation from a kid in my history class, I picked Stages. And it was like a lightbulb went off in my head. Virtually every song was awesome! In fact the only track that wasn’t was a studio track! And then I had the joy of making those live versions my first Triumph loves. When I got the studio renditions, they seems thinner and colder by comparison. I never had that experience before.
I wonder if any of this will be interesting to anyone at all. Videos are irrelevant today as far as heavy metal goes. Today, we are not interested in the same things we were in our youths. We don’t care what the singer is wearing or what the drummer did to his hair. We care more about how the band is sounding, and how the crowd is responding. A new music video by a metal band is not as interesting as pro-shot live footage from Wacken. We want to listen carefully for backing tapes, we want to see the band gel on stage, and we want to cheer along when it’s good.
It is incredibly fortunate to have grown up in the 80s, when videos were in their prime, and still be rocking today when all that stuff is available at our fingertips any time we need a blast of nostalgia. Younger readers will never know the tense excitement of hitting “record-pause” on a VCR and waiting for the premier of the newest video by Maiden, Priest, or Def Leppard. Seeing the carefully edited stage moves paired with salon-fresh hair. It was a glorious time even if was completely ridiculous.
I don’t know how I got mono, but it happened it the 8th grade. Everybody was getting ready to graduate and move on to highschool, which was something I could not wait for. I also can’t remember how long I was sick for. I was home from school for a long time. Weeks? Felt like months. I almost missed graduation. I made it back to school for the last few days of the year. I remember everybody was nice to me when I came back. That was a first. I only managed half a day upon my return, but felt well enough to do a full day the next time. Then it was all over.
I didn’t mind having to stay home from school. It kept me away from the bullies. There wasn’t much to do except watch music videos on the Pepsi Power Hour. That’s how my “music collection” grew, song by song. One of the defining songs from that period in my life is “Rough Boy” by ZZ Top. MuchMusic played that video a lot, and I captured a really good recording of it that I played incessantly. I didn’t own any albums by the artists I was recording. Anvil, Dio, Hear N’ Aid, Loudness — but I added the songs to my life. “Metal On Metal” was what I craved.
The limitation here was that I could, in theory, only listen to these songs on the TV in the basement. Like most people, we had an ordinary mono VCR and a TV with only one speaker. It was a strange JVC machine, with a dockable remote. I can’t find any pictures online of the exact model. It looked cool but it had a potentially fatal flaw. It was that dockable remote. It was the only set of controls. If you lost the remote, you were in trouble!
Like all kids, I wasn’t allowed to spend all day in front of the TV, even when I was sick. But I wanted my tunes. Songs like “Let It Go” by Loudness. “Shake It Up” by Lee Aaron. “Lay It On the Line” by Triumph. I was just a kid; I didn’t have money to buy all the records. I had enough to start collecting the core bands I loved, like Maiden and Kiss. Not outliers like Loudness or Dio.
My buddy Bob taught me how to improvise. I had a box of primitive wires and connectors. At a very early stage, I realized I could connect the single “audio out” port on the VCR to one of the two “stereo in” jacks on my Panasonic dual tape deck. This meant that the mono signal from the VCR was really going to be in mono on my tape deck. One speaker only. Left or right, it was my choice. Neither was ideal. But I could put my music from the Pepsi Power Hour onto a cassette, which could then be enjoyed in my bedroom.
I saved my allowance and my parents took me to Steve’s TV so I could buy a Y-connector. It was a cheap, grey cable with one RCA connector on one end, and two on the other. It split a mono signal into a fake stereo, which is exactly what I needed.
I recorded all my MuchMusic videos (the ones I didn’t own on album) to cassette in this way. When I got around to buying an album, I wouldn’t need the recorded songs anymore. I didn’t like to waste valuable cassette space, so I would record over any redundant songs. I still have all these tapes, but the tracks today are a mish-mash of different years of recording and re-recording. When we got a stereo VCR in early 1991, I was able to put the Y-connector back in the box for good. No more need for fake stereo. Now I had the real thing for every music video I recorded going forward.
Having so many great songs recorded in mono (often with truncated beginnings and endings) gave me a real appreciation for buying the albums later on. Listening to my tapes made me want the really good songs that much more. When I finally got them, in full stereo cassette glory, and I heard the songs come to life, it was like going from black and white to full colour. Or 2D to 3D. Albums versions were often longer than the edited video versions as well. Buying the album was always rewarding. But there were so many songs, and only so many dollars. I had to pick and choose what to buy. Sometimes I wouldn’t get around to them for years. Or decades.
You just read a story about a kid with mono, listening to music in mono. You can say you’ve done that now.
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.*
* The painting of the shoes happened during “Best of Both Worlds” and was edited out when released as a single B-side.
Not all great bands make it, and Feel was a great band. Formerly Russian Blue, Feel were active on the Toronto rock scene in the early 90s. When things went grunge, they adapted their melodic rock to the times. The result was dark, not-quite-mainstream hard rock that could appeal to both sides of the aisle. Their album This (get it? Feel This?) had a number of memorable tracks. They also released a home video for lead song “I Become You”.
The video arrived personally autographed by all four band members; a nice touch. In addition to being a top quality song, “I Become You” is also a slick looking, well-edited music video. It utilises tricks like slow and fast motion, still photos, and plenty of camera movement. The result is a briskly paced video with a band always in motion. The guitar solo segment is particularly good. Feel were television ready, if only the chips had fallen differently. Frontman Joe Donner had the chops and certainly appeared ready to be the next rock sensation.
Make sure you watch the video to the end, as I added some bonus content! In 1993 Feel released a sampler cassette called A Taste Of…. I included the “Introduction” track at the end of the video, as it has a sampling of the album and even an unreleased riff that didn’t make it. Check it out and let me know what you think of Feel!