warrant

#596: Arrest Warrant

GETTING MORE TALE #596: Arrest Warrant

In a spring/summer 1989 edition of the Columbia House catalogue, a brand new band appeared.  It was the first I had heard of them.  Inside, my Selection of the Month was the debut album by a glam band called Warrant.  The hype machine was soon in full force.  Warrant were the latest group out of California with the look and the hooks.

I got the debut on cassette, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The deciding factor in buying the album was a little throw-away bit of information, which was that lead singer Jani Lane played guitar (albeit acoustic).  With a three guitar lineup, I thought Warrant might be new and different so I gave them a try.

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich arrived at the house, but there were only a few good tunes on it.  Maybe about half:  “32 Pennies”, “Down Boys”, “Heaven”, “Sometimes She Cries” and “Big Talk”.  Most of these were crammed onto the first side, leaving the second a fairly barren wasteland.

I liked the singles, but more importantly, the girl I liked also liked Warrant!  This inspired me to prematurely proclaim Warrant as my “favourite new band” of 1989.

I will always own up to my mistakes, especially musical ones.  A few months later I acquired the debut albums by Mr. Big and Badlands.  Both were better than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  Suddenly Warrant had competition in the “favourite new band” stakes.  I continued to spin Warrant, and as I did, a few more songs began to appeal.  “In the Sticks” was decent enough, but my God the title track was awful no matter how many times I played it.

Warrant had a hit album and began work on a followup.  Vertical Smile was the tentative title, a name ripped off from Blackfoot.  Soon they renamed it the equally unimaginative Cherry Pie, and even covered a Blackfoot song called “Train, Train”.

Although 1990’s Cherry Pie was undoubtedly a better album than Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich, after a few months I began to turn sour on the band.  The new album was very commercial, more so than the debut, with lots of ballads.  There was an uncredited vocal by Dee Snider from Twisted Sister in the very intro of the record.  That rubbed me the wrong way, because it was so obvious to me, and the lack of credits would make people think it was Jani Lane.  The only song that really had legs was “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, which was unlike Warrant’s other singles.

By the summer, Warrant were feuding with their tourmates Poison.  What really killed it for me was Warrant’s admission in a guitar magazine interview that they had two tutors who taught them how to play their own solos.  That was the last straw.  I was getting into heavier music anyway, but I had enough of Warrant.  Uncredited vocalists, feuds, guys writing solos for them…this wasn’t a band for me.  I let them go.

I never bought any studio album after Cherry Pie, which means I missed 1992’s heavy comeback, Dog Eat Dog.  When singer Jani Lane quit the band and proclaimed he wasn’t into that heavy sound at all, I felt justified.  Lane said his heart was in rootsy acoustic rock music, like John Mellencamp.  Dog Eat Dog was what the rest of the band wanted to do, and Lane went with it until he quit.  He did rejoin the following year for another heavy album called Ultraphobic, but I had long gotten off the “Train Train”.

Warrant were one band who, for this listener, failed to live up to the hype.  Have I missed out?  Is it too late to catch this train, or should I leave the station completely?

 

Advertisements

REVIEW: Warrant – Cherry Pie (1990, remastered)

scan_20161207WARRANT – Cherry Pie (1990, 2004 Sony remaster)

It was bands like Warrant, and albums like Cherry Pie, that made the 1991 grunge onslaught inevitable.

If Motley Crue were the poor man’s Kiss, and Poison were the poorer man’s Motley Crue, then Warrant are the pauper’s Poison.  Heck, Poison’s C.C. Deville even shows up on guest lead guitar on Cherry Pie‘s title track.  Think about that a moment.  How bad do a band have to be to warrant (no pun intended) a C.C. Deville guest guitar solo?  Guitarists Joey Allen and Erik Turner even confessed to having guitar tutors in the studio helping them come up with their own lead work.

Cherry Pie was an improvement in some regards over the prior album Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich.  The second single, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, remains a high point for this band.  Swampy bluesy guitars and a kick ass melody?  Who cares if that’s not Warrant playing on the acoustic intro (it’s singer Jani Lane’s brother Eric Oswald), and so what if that’s not Warrant on the banjo (that’s producer Beau Hill)?  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is one of those rare Warrant songs that you just have to get.  Instead of singing about girls, Jani chose to write a story about a murder and a coverup.  It’s far more entertaining than “She’s my cherry pie, put a smile on your face ten miles wide.”

Speaking of “Cherry Pie”, as embarrassing as it is, did you notice that’s not Jani Lane on the opening scream?  It’s an uncredited Dee Snider, sampled from Twisted Sister’s song “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”.  Guess who produced both albums?  Beau Hill.   Rather, he overproduced the hell out of both albums. Rather misleading.

Warrant’s biggest hit was a ballad, and so Cherry Pie has more.  “I Saw Red” was glossy and enhanced with piano, but the acoustic version that was later released as a B-side was better.  The second ballad, “Blind Faith” had more heft, though it is little more than a rewrite of “Heaven”.  Another acoustic track called “Thin Disguise” was even better than either of these songs, but was relegated to a B-side.  Too bad.  This album could have used it.

Warrant are better when just rocking out.  There are a couple indispensable Warrant rockers on Cherry Pie.  “Mr. Rainmaker” is remarkably powerful with dark clouds.  It’s in the same mold as “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, with a chorus that is still memorable today.  “Bed of Roses” and “Song and Dance Man” are strong also-rans.  There are other notable songs (“Sure Feels Good to Me” set speed records for this band) but on the whole they are a harsh blend of sound-alikes.

Buyers should be aware there are two versions out there of Cherry Pie, “clean” and “dirty”.  The “clean” version is missing the track “Ode to Tipper Gore”, and has a naughty word beeped at the start of the Blackfoot cover “Train Train” (1979).  How unexpected it was to hear that beep, and how ripped off did we feel since it was not advertised as a censored version?  A beep in a rock song is a rare thing indeed.  If you get the uncensored version, you’ll hear the “All a-fuckin’ board!” intro correctly, which is important since “Train Train” absolutely smokes.  “All a-BEEPin’ board!” just didn’t cut it.  Covering “Train Train” was one of the best decisions Warrant made on this album.  Warrant transforms it from a hard southern rocker to a plain old hard rocker, but the transformation works and the groove is the only solid one on Cherry Pie.

As for “Ode to Tipper Gore”, it is just a joke track made up of naughty outtakes from Warrant concerts spliced together into one stream of “fuck”.  (Tipper Gore was behind the PMRC, the scourge of 1980s censorship.)  It is included on the 2004 Sony remastered edition, along with two bonus tracks.  Strangely enough the two bonus tracks have nothing to do with this album.  “Game of War” is the long-sought 1988 demo that garnered Warrant attention at the labels.  It’s unpolished but you can hear how an A&R person looking for the next Poison would have signed this band.  Finally there is a track called “The Power” from a 1992 Cuba Gooding Jr. movie called “Gladiator”.  It is the only song on the CD not produced by Beau Hill.  Erwin Musper gave the band a less cluttered sound, and the song has a corny stadium-ready stomp like “Rock and Roll, Part 2”.

Although you don’t need the remastered version if you just want to check out Cherry Pie, you do need to at least seek out the uncensored version with “Ode to Tipper Gore”.  That way you won’t have to listen to the beep in “Train Train”, which is a song worth having.

2.5/5 stars

scan_20161207-3

REVIEW: Warrant – The Best of Warrant (1996)

WARRANT – The Best of Warrant (1996 Sony)

Whooboy.  Look, I’m sure Warrant are a nice bunch of guys, and poor Jani sure suffered his demons.  I’ve always considered Warrant a bit of a jokey band, and that was certainly true for the first two albums.  Even when I did love ’em (that would be August and September of 1989), I always sensed that they weren’t taking anything very seriously.   I had their live video, Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich – Live. Lemme tell ya, they were just too jokey and inconsistent live. I outgrew Warrant pretty fast. Which in a way was too bad, because the next album after our “breakup” was the critically acclaimed third record Dog Eat Dog.

All this being said, their first Best Of (1996) was actually a reasonably solid collection of songs, if a bit long at 57 minutes.  You get the three big hits from album #1, including “Down Boys”, “Sometimes She Cries”, and “Heaven”.  Decent also-rans from that album include “32 Pennies” and “Big Talk”.  Nothing but pure stink is “D.R.F.S.R.”, a song I never understood the popularity of among Warrant fans.  I guess the joke is still funny to some?

Album #2, Cherry Pie, was a mixed bag like its predecessor.  The title track of course was the biggest steaming pile of crap released by a rock band in the year 1990.  Having said that, there is video evidence of a young LeBrain rocking out to it, but I didn’t really know what Jani was singing about!  We all have our musical skeletons in our closets, I believe.  Mine is that there is a VHS tape in my house right now with footage of me, age 18, lip synching to “Cherry Pie”.  I cannot lie about that.

Cherry Pie didn’t suck all the way through, however.  It was a step up in sound, and boasted some cool tunes.  “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” is the one Warrant song that really still stands up today as a great single.  “Mr. Rainmaker” is also a pretty memorable rocker, with chorus built to please.  I like that they included two single B-sides on this set.  The pop rock track “Thin Disguise” was always better than most of the album tracks.  Perhaps it was too middle of the road?  Not quite ballad, not quite rocker, but pretty classy nonetheless.  And please note, “classy” is not a word often used to describe a Warrant song.  The other B-side was the acoustic version of “I Saw Red”, which was actually released as its own music video.

Things seemed to get most interesting with Warrant on their third album.  By 1992, Warrant were absolutely buried by the new wave of grunge rock bands that swept in between their albums.   They were also playing catch-up with the biggest metal albums of the period, Metallica and Slave to the Grind (Skid Row).  These high-charting smash hits were much heavier than Warrant’s general output.  They had to heavy up; they really had no choice.  They started wearing Doc Marten boots and growing facial stubble.  It all seemed so very contrived, and according to Jani Lane, it was.  Even though he was the soul songwriter, he later claimed to strongly dislike the new heavier direction Warrant took.  He quit Warrant briefly after this album to explore mellower Mellencamp-esque songs and ballads.  It was all very shocking and confusing, considering that Warrant’s heavy and choppy single “Machine Gun” was so fucking awesome.  Not that it mattered.  Nobody but die-hards were listening to Warrant in 1992.  I only ever saw the video for “Machine Gun” on TV once.  Once!  Compare that to the mega-exposure that “Heaven” and “I Saw Red” once had.

What Sony should have done with this CD is end it there.  But no, they tacked on one more useless song at the end, the horrendously putrid cover of “We Will Rock You”.  This was done for a really early Cuba Gooding Jr. movie called Gladiator.  Warrant actually had two songs on the soundtrack, but this one was released as a single.  In my opinion, if you choose to cover “We Will Rock You”, then you are doomed.  Warrant were doomed before they even set foot in a recording studio.

Overall, not a bad little Best Of.  You get the requisite non-album tracks, and they are generally good (“We Will Rock You” being the big exception).  All the big songs are included.  You have to wade through a little bit of poo, but otherwise The Best of Warrant is pretty solid.

3.5/5 stars

 

REVIEW: Warrant – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (Remaster)

Scan_20150915WARRANT – Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich (1989, 2004 Sony remaster)

In 1989, I bought this album as soon as it came out, based on hype alone — never heard a note.  Put it on, and felt immediately that this was a middle-of-the-road hard rock album with little of their own to bring to the genre.  That didn’t stop me from becoming a big fan, of course.  I haven’t played Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich in about a decade.  I wonder what it sounds like today?

I hate to speak ill of the dead, but I think one of the reasons my love of Warrant didn’t last was Jani Lane.  I’m sorry, Warrant fans.  I don’t think Jani’s voice was anything special.  He had an ability to deliver pop hooks, but he always seemed to live in the shadow of other singers who had more character to their voices.  I mean no disrespect to Jani, but that is the way my ears have always heard it.

Things sure started on a great note.  “32 Pennies” is just fun hard rock, with loads of hook and that glam rock riff that Motley Crue mastered a few years prior.  Beau Hill’s production is bland but not bad.  There is a vague Aerosmith vibe, crossed with Motley and Poison — 1989 in a nutshell (or should I say a Ragu jar?).  “32 Pennies” is still good for rocking out to, and I have to admit that the guitar solos smoke.  Similar is “Down Boys”, the first single and video.  Even today, this is probably the catchiest thing Warrant have ever done.  It’s pure nonsense, of course:

Where the down boys go? Go!
Where the down boys go? Go-oh-oh-oh!
Where the down boys go? Ya,
I wanna go where the down boys go, baby!

“Big Talk” was a single too, and I had forgotten all about this one. It boasts some fun lite-Lizzy guitar harmonies and a great chorus. Count this as another good Warrant tune. None of these songs will challenge the listener in any way, but they have enough guitar and hooks to keep you engaged. But what happens when you throw a ballad into the mix?

Dirty Rotten Filthy Stinking Rich had two ballads, the first of which was the electric “Sometimes She Cries”. A solid chorus made this one a hit, although you’d be hard pressed to tell the difference between this and a Bon Jovi song. There are a few cheesy key changes and some absolutely ball-busting notes that Jani hits, and it’s all not too bad. Side one ended on a speedy rocker: “So Damn Pretty (Should Be Against the Law)”. It could be a Motley Crue outtake from Theater of Pain, but it’s not. Faceless, with turgid sounding drums, all it really had going for it is velocity. Fun, but derivative. The guitar solos are the best part.

The title track “D.R.F.S.R.” is pure crap. Lyrically, musically, and production-wise, this sucks. I really can’t believe how bad the drums sound. This was once considered acceptable!  “In the Sticks” isn’t bad.  It sounds vaguely like another song that I can’t quite think of right now.  But that goes for the whole album!  It’s still a very enjoyable song, with that late-80’s good time slow riding vibe.  Cruisin’ with the windows down.

The big hit, the one everybody remembers today, was the acoustic ballad “Heaven”.  It’s really hard to be objective about this song, because I used to be so into it, but it makes me cringe today!  Let’s just move on.

“Ridin’ High” brings the thrills back. Sounding a heck of a lot like their future tourmates Poison, Warrant found the gas pedal again. The closing track “Cold Sweat” is much in the same vein. You gotta give Warrant credit for one thing, they wore their influences on their sleeves. The only problem was, it was the same bunch of bands that influenced every other band on the Sunset Strip in 1989. When you buy this Warrant album, you are at least getting what you think you’re getting.

Sony threw on two bonus tracks for this edition. Both are 1988 demos that failed to make the cut. Ironically, for demos, the drums actually sound better! They don’t sound like samples on these demos. “Only A Man”, an acoustic ballad, sounds entirely more sincere and classic than “Heaven” does. It’s harder edged and resembles Skid Row, who had yet to release their first album. “All Night Long” is a slow rocker, but it’s no better or worse than the rest of the album. Both songs could have been on the album originally had it not been limited to just 10 tracks.

Conclusion:  What stood out in 1989 fades into the woodwork today.

2/5 stars

#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

ZEPPERS

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#358: The Personal Impact of Led Zeppelin

Christmas 1990 was another major turning point in my musical life. I know others who can say the same thing for the same reason. Led Zeppelin had released their first box set, a 4 CD collection of 54 essential tracks, remastered by Jimmy Page himself. This was the impetus I needed to finally take the Zeppelin plunge.

Prior to this, I had stayed away from Zeppelin.  I only knew a couple live videos from MuchMusic, which didn’t appeal to me at all.  A rock band wearing sandals?  The fuck was this?  I couldn’t wrap my head around the violin bow solo, nor the band.  I remember watching the old live “Dazed and Confused” video with my friend Bob.  “You can tell that guy’s on drugs,” he said of Jimmy Page.

That was in the 1980’s.  By the turn of the decade, I was starting to tire of plastic sounding pop rock bands. I was craving authenticity, and I know I wasn’t the only one. Bands like Warrant were wracked by controversy, when it was revealed that they employed two guitar teachers to write their guitar solos and teach the members how to play them. Too much fakery for me — at that point I decided to stop listening to them.  I sold my Warrant tapes.  Warrant in turn accused Poison, the band they were opening for, of using backing tapes live. All kinds of bands were accused of using backing tapes. Sebastian Bach was quoted as saying, “The only band out there that doesn’t use backing tapes live today is Metallica, and that’s a fact.”  (I am fairly certain Iron Maiden are above such tom foolery as well.)


The old “Dazed and Confused” video that Much used to play

I didn’t want backing tapes, I wanted authentic pure rock music. There was a bustle in my hedgerow. I wasn’t satisfied with the new releases coming out either. A lot of groups that I really liked released disappointing albums in 1990.  From Dio to Iron Maiden to Winger, there were too many bands that failed to impress that year.   A band like Zeppelin seemed to have not only authenticity, but solid consistently.  They were hailed as the greatest rock band of all time by just about every rock group I heard of!

I received the box set from my parents on Christmas day 1990. The following day, Boxing day, I had set aside to listen to the entire box set from start to finish – about five and a half hours of listening. I took a brief lunch break between discs 2 and 3. I emerged from my room that afternoon, dazed, but not confused at all. There were some songs that I didn’t care too much for – “Poor Tom”, “Wearing and Tearing”, “Ozone Baby” – mostly songs from Coda. They were vastly outnumbered by the songs that absolutely blew me away, even though I had never heard of them before: “Your Time Is Gonna Come”, “Immigrant Song”, “Ramble On”, “The Ocean”, “All My Love”…I could not believe the sheer quality of the music.

Sure, Led Zeppelin’s songs weren’t produced as slick as I was used to. They were a far cry from Whitesnake. Jimmy Page wasn’t a shredder like Steve Vai, but I felt a personal shift. I thought bands like Whitesnake and Cinderella had been exhibiting the epitome of integrity, with the ace players and incredible musicianship. Like athletes, musicians only seemed to achieve loftier heights over the decades with their playing. This was exemplified by a guy like Steve Vai who pushed guitar into entirely new frontiers. Cinderella, on the other hand, had even worked with Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, who provided strings to their bluesy Heartbreak Station LP. I thought Cinderella were the blues! But now, my eyes were really opening.  It was like Obi-Wan Kenobi had prophesized:  “You’ve just taken your first step, in a larger world.”

IMG_20150114_182807Led Zeppelin (and also ZZ Top) were talking about blues artists I never heard of. Muddy Waters? Lightning Hopkins? Robert Johnson? Who were these people that were so influential that Zeppelin were known to lift entire songs from them?

I had a thought: “From this moment on, I will never be able to listen to rock bands the same way again. I used to think Cinderella were authentic blues. How can I ever go back to listening to Cinderella with the same feeling of passion? How can I play bands like Slaughter and Judas Priest, and think for a second that these guys are any better than the old guys like Zep?”

Fortunately I found that eventually Cinderella, Whitesnake and Led Zeppelin could co-exist in my collection. Liking one does not mean you can’t like the others. Even though Led Zeppelin raised the bar to extraordinary heights, I found it wasn’t too hard to “lower my standards” sometimes and enjoy a little “Slow An’ Easy” with David Coverdale. Zeppelin simply opened my eyes: that there was an entire history of blues that I hadn’t really been aware of before. My musical life journey was about to expand exponentially.

IMG_20150114_182150

REVIEW: Twisted Sister – Love Is For Suckers (1987)

Bought in 1997 at an unknown HMV store in Calgary Alberta, on import, for like $25.  For Aaron’s take on this CD, click here!

TS_0001TWISTED SISTER – Love Is For Suckers (1987 Atlantic, Spitfire reissue)

If the year was 1987, I would have given this CD 5/5 stars easily. When it came out in the summer of ’87 I was really into it. My best friend Bob and I used to play it all the time during that long hot summer, we had all the lyrics memorized. Unfortunately this album has not aged well, certainly not compared to their classic early albums.

One problem with the record is that it’s not actually by the band Twisted Sister! Even as a kid I wondered why people with names like “Reb Beach” or “Kip Winger” were listed in the credits. That’s because Love is For Suckers was written and recorded as the first Dee Snider solo album. Record company pressure forced Dee to release this as the next Twisted Sister album, even though no Twisted members appear on it (aside from new drummer Joey Franco). This only hastened the breakup of Twisted Sister in October of that year.

TS_0003

The album is produced by Beau Hill, a guy also known for Warrant and Winger albums (that’s why Reb and Kip are on here). Beau Hill is one of my least favourite metal producers of all time. He over-produces, uses too many samples, and glosses everything up. As such I find most of his albums pretty hard to listen to today. On Love is For Suckers, all the drums are samples and you sure can tell by that awkward gated sound, and identical snare hits.

Like when we used to climb the rope in gym class

As an 80’s glam metal album, the songs are not that bad. “Wake Up (The Sleeping Giant)” could have been a Twisted Sister song with its themes of rebellion and youth angst. “Hot Love”, the first single, was the song that got me to buy this album. A catchy pop-rocker with irrestible guitars courtesy of maestro Reb Beach, “Hot Love” was as commercial as it gets. Other standout songs included “Me And the Boys”, which was our theme song that summer. “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)” was a Van Hagar sounding pop-rocker with another great chorus. I think, if anything, Love is For Suckers sounds mostly like 5150-era Van Hagar, but with gang vocals and way more glossed up.

Love is For Suckers was reissued a while ago with 4 bonus tracks, demos from these sessions that fit right into the sound of the album. They’re just not as good. “Statuatory Date” for example suffers from extremely bad lyrics.  One of them, “If That’s What You Want” is an early version of an album song, in this case “Me And the Boys”.  Consider looking into these 4 bonus tracks when you’re choosing to purchase Love is For Suckers.

As an added little “insult to injury” following this album’s failure, producer Beau Hill took Dee Snider’s scream from one song, “I Want This Night (To Last Forever)”, and used it as the opening scream on Warrant’s smash hit album Cherry Pie.  Uncredited! I’m sure 99.9% of Warrant fans assume it’s Jani Lane.

If this album description sounds good to you, check it out. You may enjoy it as much as I did all those years ago.  For me, the years have not been kind.

2.5/5 stars

More TWISTED SISTER at mikeladano.com:

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

GUEST CONCERT REVIEW: W.A.S.P. w/ Metallica and Armored Saint – January 19, 1985

A treat for you boys & girls today!  A guest shot, a vintage concert review, and a significant one at that.  Remember when Metallica was just an opening act for mediocre bands?  Meat does.  And he’s back to tell you the story.  Enjoy the first guest shot of 2013, by Meat!

TALLICA

W.A.S.P. w/ METALLICA and ARMORED SAINT – January 19, 1985

By Meat

I was lucky at a young age to have the opportunity to see some great concerts.  The first concert of my life was at The Center in the Square in Kitchener, Ontario.  It was The Monks (remember “Drugs in my Pocket”?)  and I went with my childhood friend, Scott Hunter, and his mother.  I also saw the almighty Black Sabbath play the Kitchener Memorial  Auditorium, three days before my 12th birthday, on the Mob Rules tour on November 19, 1981. I saw Triumph on the Allied Forces tour play the Center in the Square, with my father not long after that.  But really my early concert experiences were mostly, and most memorably, with the aforementioned Scott Hunter.   I believe it was his uncle who had connections with a concert promotion at the time called CPI.  He would leave free tickets at Will Call for us at Maple Leaf Gardens or wherever the show was.  We saw the last Kiss tour with makeup at the time (Creatures of the Night tour) on January 14, 1983 with The Headpins opening.  Also saw the first ever Kiss tour without makeup (Lick it Up tour) on March 15, 1984 with Accept as the opening act.  As well as Motley Crue on the Shout at the Devil tour on June 10, 1984, at what is now the Ricoh Coliseum, also with Accept as support.   Many of these shows are quite memorable and monumental, but none so much as the first time I saw Metallica live.

I remember the first time Scott and I heard Metallica.  We would have a sleepover at his place every Friday night specifically because Toronto radio station Q107 had their “Midnight Metal Hour” on that night.  We would have first heard Metallica (“Seek and Destroy”) either late 1982 or early 1983, before Kill ‘Em All was even released.  Obviously it was an instant shot of Metal Up Our Ass!   Kill ‘Em All was released on vinyl and cassette on July 25, 1983.   I specifically remember  (but not exactly when) walking into a record store downtown Kitchener called Records on Wheels and buying that album, Anthrax’s Fistful of Metal and Van Halen’s 1984 on vinyl,  all during the same visit.   I also remember buying Metallica’s second album, Ride the Lightning, the day it was released.  Thanks to the World Wide Web, I know now that date was July 27, 1984. Starting grade ten that September, I was pushing Metallica on anyone that would be open to it at my high school.   There were a very select few of us who were die-hards and would have Sony Walkmans stuck to our heads at every opportunity possible.  Now I cannot recall if we got free tickets for this particular show, but I do remember how pumped I was when I knew I was gonna see Metallica live.

The bill was as follows: Armored Saint (with Anthrax’s John Bush on vocals), Metallica and W.A.S.P.  Yes you read that right.  Metallica was opening up for W.A.S.P.  I do know that further along on the tour, Metallica and W.A.S.P. would trade headlining sets due to the obvious buzz around Metallica at the time.  Here is a picture of an actual ticket stub of this show.  Note the price ($15.00) and Armored Saint being spelled wrong on the ticket.

ticket 1

One thing I will add before I go on.  Of all the concerts and bands I have seen multiple times live, it is kinda strange I only saw Metallica live twice ever.  One of the reasons for this is quite obviously that after their album Load (otherwise known as Mighty Load of Shit), I never really had a great interest in seeing the band live again.  But it is worthwhile noting that I have seen Metallica live twice and BOTH TIMES they were opening for someone else.  (The second time being the strange bill of The Black Crowes / Warrant / Metallica / Aerosmith on June 29, 1990 at CNE Exhibition Stadium in Toronto) Again, note the ticket price for this.  This was before The Eagles ruined ticket prices for all acts with the ridiculous prices for their shows.   To quote “The Dude”  I hate the fuckin’ Eagles.

ticket 2

So there we were, January 19th 1985 standing in line in front of the late great Toronto concert venue named The Concert Hall. It was freezing cold out, and windy too.   So since this was a General Admission event, standing in line braving at least -15 Celsius weather, you can imagine how cold and bitchy people were.  I recall the rush of metalheads being ushered  quickly into the venue.  The second I got in there I went straight for the merch booth and bought a Ride the Lightning tour shirt for me and a high school friend named Joe DeLeo.  After that, like seemingly everybody, I had to take a wicked piss.  After doing that, I was horrified when I tried to zip my probably really tight jeans back up, and couldn’t because my hands were numb from the cold.  My embarrassed horror turned to laughter as I turned my head to see dozens of much older and much larger long-haired headbangers all having the same problem.  Only in Canada I guess eh?

Sometime later, Armored Saint took the stage.  I remember them being great and how loud it was in there.  They were received well and that venue was filling up. While enjoying their set my buddy Scott gets my attention and points to the much-shorter person beside me.  Immediately I recognized him as Russell Dwarf from the Toronto band Killer Dwarfs. Their name was very apropos considering this band consisted of nothing but short dudes with long hair.  I can only imagine how this band got together.  Wonder if an ad went out that said.  “Metal musicians needed.  Must not be over 5 foot 6 inches tall and have long hair”.  I loved that first album.  If you don’t know of them, here is their first single and video.

It was time for the Mighty Metallica.  They started out with the first track off Ride The Lightning, the classic riff-monster “Fight Fire With Fire”.   At this point I was probably about mid-way to the stage in a sea of metalheads.  This was before the days of the “moshpit”.  This was more of a Hair Swarm packed with long-haired sardines covered in denim and leather.   It would have been about half-way through the show that I wormed my way to the front of the stage.  This was no easy task as I am sure you can imagine, however being only 15 and much smaller than the masses (with the exception of the Killer Dwarfs of course), there I was literally feet from what would become the best-selling metal band of all-time.  This brings me to a memory I will cherish forever.  The seemingly monstrous Cliff Burton was right in front of me.  I reached out and had in my hand, the bottom leg of his ragged bell-bottom jeans.  He tried to kick me in the face, and thankfully missed.  Can’t blame him either for trying to kick my head off, and honestly it was the first thing I thought of  when said legend died in a bus accident a year and a half later in Sweden on September 27, 1986. R.I.P. Clifford Lee Burton.  Check out this YouTube audio clip I found of Metallica playing “Seek and Destroy” from this exact show.  Gotta love YouTube.

Check out this set list of the show the next night in Buffalo at some place called the Salty Dog Saloon. (I couldn’t find the Toronto set list online but I am sure it is identical)

  • “Fight Fire With Fire”
  • “Ride the Lightning”
  • “Phantom Lord”
  • “(Anethesia) Pulling Teeth”
  • “For Whom the Bell Tolls”
  • “No Remorse”
  • “The Call of Ktulu”
  • “Seek & Destroy”
  • “Whiplash”

Encores:

  • “Creeping Death”
  • Guitar solo
  • “Am I Evil?”
  • “Motorbreath”

Which brings me to winding down this novel of a concert review.  How could W.A.S.P. possibly follow Metallica?  Well, I do remember chants of “you suck”.  I remember that the front was nowhere near as packed as it was for Metallica.  Maybe Blackie thought he could follow them by drinking fake blood out of a skull (which he did).  Here is a quote from Mr. Blackie Lawless comparing separate tours with both Slayer and Metallica and musing about this particular tour.

Blackie: I’ll tell you what was worse – us and Metallica.  It was our first or second U.S. tour.  It was us, Metallica, and Armored Saint.  When they (Slayer) went out with us, they were still an up n’ coming band, didn’t have a lot of fans, so there was a pocket of division every night.  With Metallica, I kid you not, it was like an invisible line was drawn right down the middle of the room, and half was theirs and half was ours.  It didn’t matter what we were doing on stage.  It looked like two opposing armies.  Sometimes we just stopped what we were doing and watched. It was a war.

I realize that the merit of music is subjective and it is all in the Ear Of The Beholder.  But lets face it.  W.A.S.P. really does kinda suck.  Some good moments but really not much to speak of.  During their set myself and others that with us were just kind of mulling about as most others were really.  It was during this time that a guy we were with named Kevin B. (nicknamed Little Dude) said that he saw Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson leaving out a side door during their set.  Now to give some perspective on this, this person was a known bull-shitter.  None of us believed him.  True story:  Kevin years later had trans-gender surgery and now is a she-male known as Treva. But anyways, we shrugged this off as yet another lie from Little Dude.  It was months later reading a Blackie Lawless interview in Circus magazine that I read this quote.  “Geddy Lee and Alex Lifeson were actually at one of our shows in Toronto last year…. But they were not there to see us.”    A classic example of the she-boy who cried wolf.

Meat

 

GUEST REVIEW: Steel Panther – Balls Out & Feel the Steel

LeBrain will always be straight with you when he doesn’t know something.  I have had a few requests for a write up on Steel Panther.  The problem is, I’ve never actually listened to Steel Panther.  Maybe I should change that.

So I asked the infamous T-Rev, aka Trevor from the Record Store Tales to see if he could do a review. He could, and he did. Enjoy.

STEEL PANTHER:  Feel the Steel (2009) & Balls Out (2011)

  

Steel Panther: Your New Favourite Band, by T-Rev

Michael Starr, Satchel, Lexxi Foxx, and Stix Zadinia are Steel Panther. The X-rated, Spinal Tap-esque modern day Hair band.  Intent on bringing back Heavy Metal , with a sound that will impress any fan of the “hair” genre.   Formed with ex-members of various metal bands in the 1990’s ( Rob Halford’s Fight, Paul Gilbert’s Racer X, and L.A. Guns!) originally as Metal Skool (yes…Metal’s Cool) in the early 2000’s, and a brief stint as Danger Kitty (getting some recognition on MTV and the Drew Carey Show).   Feel the Steel, the first album as Steel Panther, stands out because of its period-correct guitar assaults, its bandana wearing 4-armed drummer and the spandex covered, lipstick sporting, teased hair bass player, (reminding me of Warrant circa Cherry Pie mixed with some early Motley Crue attitude!) and of course, its lyrics!

Feel the Steel has it all, killer riffs  (often mimicking classic tunes of the past like “Fuck All Night, Party All Day’s” intentional resemblance to Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On A Prayer”)  Hilariously refreshing lyrics (like the first time you ever heard “Fuck Her Gently” by the D) throw in some top notch guest star clout (Justin Hawkins duets with Michael Starr) and top it off with manufactured “rock star” personas (a la Spinal Tap), and you’ve got all the best parts of what a hair metal band should be…SEX & DRUGS & ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!  Crazy stories of sex with asian hookers, sex with fat girls, sex with neighbours, and copious amounts of “blow”, all done in a way you’d never expect…even though it feels strangely familiar.   Sounding like it came from 1989, but containing enough modern relevance to remind you it’s current.   After about the first verse, I knew I was a fan for good.  “Eminem can suck it, so can Dr. Dre, or they can suck each other…just because they’re gay” screams Starr on “Death To All But Metal”.  “Two in the pink, one in the stink”describes the “Shocker” to newcomers.  And “You’re the only girl that I like to screw…when I’m not on the road,” Michael reassures his girl on “Community Property”

Balls Out, their sophomore effort, continues where F.T.S. left off.  A lot of the same sexual scenarios, but the music seems to have picked up another gear, with more focus on riffage (bigger, faster, louder).   The lyrics, however, are lacking the furious onslaught they had on F.T.S.   Perhaps because the initial shock is over, now I expect it!  There is more celebrity name-dropping than before…mentioning that Charlie Sheen “is winning in the bedroom upstairs”, and that Tiger Woods thinks “3 holes are better than a hole in one”.    A good album upon first listen…just didn’t have the impact that Feel the Steel did on me.  Having said that, this album grows on you…big time!  Like any good album…it takes a while for their sauce to mix with yours!

I should also discuss Starr’s instrument…this guys voice is classic, vintage, powerful, cheesy, awesome, hilarious, and adaptive!  Vocal range that would bring a tear to Dio’s eye, heartfelt (x-rated), ballads on par with anything Bon Jovi or Poison ever did, rockers that could have appeared on stage with the great Bon Scott!   I don’t mean to come across as though I consider this band “flawless”, but, these guys are PRO’s!   Certainly impressive musically…sometimes though, they sway over the cheese line a bit, and even take the lyrics too far, but all in all, I do love these albums.  Afterall, isn’t it the cheese that we now love about 80’s metal? 

You really get the feeling that these guys are true fans of metal, not just cashing in on the novelty of wearing spandex and makeup.  Much like the ribbing the Darkness took during their invasion, some people misunderstood the flattery for ridicule.  True fans see past the hair and hear the talent in the music…every time I listen to them, they get better!  Like a drug that you can’t get enough of…you want to hear it again and again.   In a world where Justin Beiber and Nickelback win music awards, this is a welcome addiction.   A perfect mix of metal and comedy!  Destined to become a staple at everyone’s annual “sausagefest”

Feel the Steel    5/5

Balls Out              4/5

Part 34: SPECIAL! “Bands That I Think Suck” FROM THE ARCHIVES!

I was cleaning out the closet two weeks ago.  I found a folder, full of old writing.  I found stuff that I had written with chums Danesh and Andy back in highschool.  But most interestingly, I found this.  This is not my first published work (that would be an article about turtles from grade 2 in the local newspaper).  This may be, however, my first published work along the lines of what I’m doing now.

Dating back to 1995, my second year at the store, I was already getting jaded!  This is my very first music article:  “Bands That I Think Suck”.  It was published in the University of Waterloo paper Scientific Notation as a comedy piece.  Thanks to Abbas Rizvi for doing so, wherever you are.

I still stand by most of this, but I have since grown to like Pink Floyd.  (See:  Part 28: The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd). 

OK…ON WITH THE EMBARASSMENT!