wasted years

#833: This Is Me in Grade 9 (Part Five of the 1986 Saga)

GETTING MORE TALE #833: This Is Me in Grade 9

(Part Five of the 1986 Saga)

“If you’re going to keep sitting next to me, never sing again,” said Steve Vanderveen.  It was the first day of grade 9, the first day of highschool, the first day of my new life.  And I fucked it up!  In Catholic school, we had to sing “O Canada” and we had to sing it like we meant it.  Little did I know, in public school, they didn’t sing.  They just stood at attention.  But on that first day of school, it was me and only me singing, without even realizing it.

What a winner.

I managed to recover from this embarrassment, and make a go of highschool.  Without all the loser baggage I carried from the grade school days, it was a fresh start.  The bullies were gone.  I was making new friends!  There was Rob Daniels and his buddy “Gumby”, there was Danesh and Anand, and I had never seen such diversity in a classroom before.  As strange is this sounds, in all the years from kindergarten up, I never had a black kid in my class before.  And now here was Carlton, a popular kid who loved to talk about how beautiful Jamaica was.  I don’t think I knew anyone who’d even been to Jamaica before.  I wanted to be his friend!  And of course there was Peter Cavan, who absolutely was not my friend in grade 9!  I ratted him out for eating liquorice in Geography class, so you can understand why it took him a few years to warm up to me.  By the end of highschool, we were best friends.

And the girls?  I had never seen so many in one place before.  I developed many secret crushes.  They never knew, because I never quite figured out how to talk to them!  But they were there, lots of them, and I thought maybe I’d have a shot.

The first week of school, I bought some new music:  Turbo, by Judas Priest.  I did my homework on the back porch, with that cassette on the boom box.  I only had three Priest albums:  Screaming, Defenders, and TurboTurbo was easily my favourite.  While not as heavy as the other two (and let’s face it, Screaming for Vengeance can rip heads clean off), Turbo was more the kind of music that I was into.  It was melodic, with hook after hook, and possibly even female appeal.

But soon after, something monumental happened.  Monolithic.  Youth-defining.

Iron Maiden came out with a new video.

“So, understand!” sang Bruce Dickinson in what was, quite honestly, the best video we’d ever seen.  “Don’t waste your time always searching for those wasted years!”  A bit of a word salad.  If a certain president said something like this today, we’d consider it another sign of his declining mental faculties.  But even to us as kids, it was obviously a road song.  A song about the loneliness of touring.  Many of the new Maiden songs were darker and introspective.  This was not lost on us.  Nor was the lack of Dickinson writing credits on Somewhere In Time.  It was clear to us that some of the rumours were true, and Maiden were starting to burn out a bit.  That they put out an album as awesome as Somewhere In Time is remarkable, but I recall an air of disappointment in the press.  Certainly, after the triumvirate of Beast, Piece of Mind, and Powerslave, it had a lot to follow.

My best friend Bob and I sat in the basement, watching my recording of “Wasted Years” over and over again, pausing to catch every single Eddie painting.  The video was a combination of black & white performance, with still photos and album artwork edited in quick flashes.  The kind of thing two kids should be obsessively pausing and analysing!  Eventually we both got the album and naturally gravitated to the same songs.  I used the lyrics for “Alexander the Great” as a calligraphy project in art class.

My friendship with Bob was the cornerstone of my youth, and as much as I looked up to and emulated him, there were times he did me no good whatsover.

One night we were throwing a ball around the park, and one of us (probably me) threw it over someone’s hedge.  Steve Pushcar’s hedge, as it turned out.  Bob jumped the fence to retrieve it, and got yelled at by Steve’s mom.  Bob said he was only getting his ball back, but this quickly degenerated into an argument.  Bob always was a bit cocky.  Whatever he said that night, Steve Pushcar went at me for the next two months.

Me?  Why me?  I was just the sidekick!  I just stood there?  I didn’t say one word!  Why me?  Because Pushcar couldn’t get at Bob, and he’d have been flattened if he tried.

Pushcar was in my art class.  First he stole my pencil case and returned it to me completely empty.  Then he stole my art.  He was a fucking asshole.  The shitty thing was, he did all this anonymously.  I didn’t even know he had a grudge against me.  Not until a mutual friend told me.  That’s the kind of coward he was.  But his campaign only lasted a couple months, and highschool was actually pretty uneventful after that.

As the year went on, I discovered two “new” bands:  Bon Jovi, and Europe. Neither were really new; they were both on their third albums.  But the teen magazines pitted them as rivals:  heartthrob vs heartthrob, Jon vs. Joey.  Who would win?  (Jon.)  Really, all they had in common musically was the use of a full time keyboardist.

Partway through the year, who should show up but Steve Hartman, my old nemesis from Catholic school.  He had transferred from wherever the hell he was.  But he couldn’t get to me.  I was in the “advanced” program and he was in the “general” level.  We had no classes together, and I think he only lasted half a year.  I do remember him showing up in our gym class, wearing his shirt over his face so the teacher wouldn’t realize he had an extra student.  We were doing ball hockey, and the teacher Mr. Paull was too spun to figure it out.  I had a malingering wrist injury that I really milked so I could stay on the benches.  As if Mr. Paull would even notice.

At the end of the year, it was obvious where my talents did not lie.  My two worst classes were French, and typing,  66% in each.  Typing?  I know, right?  I type all day.  It’s all I do.  And I still fucking suck at it.  I was never good at proper form, and today type using only four fingers.  Funny thing.  The French and typing teachers were married.  Monsieur and Madame Euler.  They were fantastic teachers, just because I was a disappointment doesn’t reflect on them.  It reflects on me absolutely sucking at languages other than English, and my lack of physical coordination.  I mean, the following year I tried to play guitar.  The same problem followed me from keyboard to strings:  I can’t make my extremities go exactly where I want them to.  I’m sloppy and clumsy and have no timing.  Madame Euler wasn’t going to be able to fix that in a grade 9 typing class.

I didn’t get any girls to talk to me, but I had a good year.  For what might have been the first time, I really had a good year.  They’d only get better.  I was heading into a summer full of great music.  Stuff like Priest Live, Frehley’s Comet, and Love Is For Suckers.  Even then, I could not believe how much my life had changed for the better.  I succeeded — I escaped.

The future was bright.  Bob and I went on to have many adventures and a few “Crazy, Crazy Nights”.  But that’s another story.

 

 

THE 1986 SAGA

Sausagefest XII: The Complete Countdown!

There were some pretty awesome picks this year.  I have to give Scottie props for “Coming Home” by Iron Maiden, from the excellent Final Frontier album.  I found some things a bit surprising, such as the overplayed-on-radio “Black Betty” by Ram Jam, placing so high.

“Thick As A Brick” was the live version, so just over 10 minutes.  Other long bombers included all of “Supper’s Ready” by Genesis, which resulted in a tirade by Phil for just as long, about how much he thinks it sucks!  (And he’s an old-school Marillion fan…surprising.)  And of course there were several Maiden tunes that clock in well over 5 minutes.

For your edification, here is the official Sausagefest XII Countdown:  75 tracks, plus 35 tributes.  One tribute for each person that submitted a list!  110 songs over one weekend!  Awesome.

1 Toronto Tontos Max Webster
2 Long Cool Woman in a Red Dress The Hollies
3 The Grudge Tool
4 Rooster Alice in Chains
5 Supper’s Ready Genesis
6 Papa Was a Rolling Stone The Temptations
7 Mississippi Queen Mountain
8 Black Betty Ram Jam
9 Locomotive Breath Jethro Tull
10 I’m Your Captain Grand Funk Railroad
11 Wasted Years Iron Maiden
12 Low Hanging Fruit Tenacious D
13 Green Eyed Lady Sugarloaf
14 Hey Joe Jimi Hendrix
15 Headlong Flight Rush
16 Roadhouse Blues The Doors
17 Thick as a Brick Jethro Tull
18 Powerslave Iron Maiden
19 Bohemian Rhapsody Queen
20 Trapped Under Ice Metallica
21 Nautical Disaster Tragically Hip
22 No Quarter Led Zeppelin
23 Mr. Blue Sky Electric Light Orchestra
24 The Wizard Black Sabbath
25 Mama Told Me Not To Come Three Dog Night
26 Blackened Metallica
27 Jungle Boogie Kool and the Gang
28 Telegraph Road Dire Straits
29 Sanitarium Metallica
30 Renegade Styx
31 Eulogy of the Damned Orange Goblin
32 Throw Down the Sword Wishbone Ash
33 Electric Worry Clutch
34 The Alabama Song The Doors
35 Rise of the Fenix Tenacious D
36 Livin Thing Electric Light Orchestra
37 The Shape I’m In The Band
38 Mother Danzig
39 The Chain Fleetwood Mac
40 No One Knows Queens of the Stone Age
41 Die Young Black Sabbath
42 Bang Bang Terry Reid
43 Caught Somewhere in Time Iron Maiden
44 Buried Alive Avenged Sevenfold
45 Dream Police Cheap Trick
46 Would Alice in Chains
47 Don’t Fear the Reaper Blue Oyster Cult
48 Zero the Hero Black Sabbath
49 Pool of Booze Volbeat
50 Parabola Tool
51 Why Cant We Be Friends? War
52 Rock and Roll Led Zeppelin
53 While My Guitar Gently Weeps The Beatles
54 Breadfan Budgie
55 Strutter KISS
56 Holy Wars Megadeth
57 Old Man Neil Young
58 Southern Man Neil Young
59 The Pusher Steppenwolf
60 Tempus Fugit Yes
61 Fight Fire With Fire Metallica
62 Kielbasa Tenacious D
63 Green Onions Booker T and the MG’s
64 Weird Beard Fu Manchu
65 Tonight’s the Night Neil Young
66 BYOB System of a Down
67 The Zoo Scorpions
68 As the Years Go By Mashmakhan
69 Toxicity System of a Down
70 Deuce KISS
71 Space Truckin’ Deep Purple
72 South of Heaven Slayer
73 Rocky Mountain Way Joe Walsh
74 Roadie Tenacious D
75 Rock and Roll Motorhead
TRIBUTES
TOM Earache My Eye Cheech and Chong
ERIC Rosanna Toto
BUCKY A Day in the Life WAR
LAMB LORD The Wizard Uriah Heep
LEBRAIN Well You Needn`t Herbie Hancock Quartet
TROY Caught Up in You .38 Special
ERNIE Apocrophon The Sword
SCOTTIE Coming Home Iron Maiden
RYAN Still Counting VolBeat
SEB Demiurge Meshuggah
PHIL Under Black Flags We March Arch Enemy
CHUCK New Fang Them Crooked Vultures
TYLER G. Come on in my Kitchen Robert Johnson
C Time After Time Savage Steel
CHAD She`s a Rainbow The Rolling Stones
DR DAVE Ogre Battle Queen
LOGAN Cowboys From Hell Pantera
GRANT Around the World Red Hot Chili Peppers
WAYNE Inside Looking Out Grand Funk Railroad
CAM Red Hot Mama Funkadelic
AARON High Caliber Consecrator Clutch
JOHN B. I Stay Away Alice in Chains
TAL Dear God XTC
LAMB LAD Kick Out the Jams MC5
ALEX Chicken Strut The Meters
TREVER Volare Dean Martin
FRANK Whiskey in the Jar Metallica
JAGGER Frozen Love Buckingham/Nicks
MARK E. Are You Mine? The Arctic Monkeys
JON K. Stone Deaf Forever Motorhead/Metallica
TYLER W. We Are All on Drugs Weezer
MARK S. People are Strange The Doors
JUSTIN Monsters Blue Oyster Cult
MIKE Monarchy of Roses Red Hot Chili Peppers

The official video

REVIEW: Iron Maiden – Somewhere In Time (1986, 1996 bonus CD)

Part 9 of my series of Iron Maiden reviews!

IRON MAIDEN – Somewhere In Time (1986, 1996 bonus CD)

After the yearlong World Slavery Tour, to hear it told by Steve Harris, lead singer Bruce Dickinson had “lost the plot”.  Bruce on the other hand felt that the next album should be a game changer:  their Physical Graffiti.  But burned out from the road, all he brought to the table were some acoustic tunes which were all rejected. According Steve Harris, it wasn’t so much that the songs were acoustic.  It was because they weren’t very good.  This was the first time Bruce didn’t get a writing credit since The Number of the Beast!  And instead of Physical Graffiti, Bruce said that they “just made another Iron Maiden album.”

Bruce and Janick Gers acoustic, 1990

In spite of the lack of Bruce songs,  Steve, Adrian Smith and even Dave Murray came in with enough songs for an album.  They also came in with synthesizers for the first time.   All three were credited with guitar or bass synth on Somewhere In Time, a sound that threw some of us for a loop.  Also for the first time, Adrian would take sole writing credits on several Maiden songs (lyrics, music and all) which lent his more melodic bent to the resulting album.

The production, again by Martin Birch, was paradoxically both cold, and warm.  It’s a chilly sounding album, but the synths actually bring some warmth back to it.  Unfortunately there isn’t as much guitar grit as before, everything sounding smoothed out.

“Caught Somewhere In Time”, the excellent opener, starts right off the bat with synth; Maiden were laying their cards on the table.  The gallop is still there and Steve still drives the Beast forward withi his bass.  The synth doesn’t really detract from it.  It is plenty riffy, and Bruce’s voice soars with the excellent chorus.  This is a Maiden rocker to sing along to.

Adrian contributed the first of the two singles:  “Wasted Years”.  This classic song was my introduction to the new Maiden sound, since it came out a bit before the album was available.  Not only was the video great (black and white footage of the band rehearsing with collages of Eddies and tour photos) but the song was also great.  This is definitely hard rock Maiden, the kind of thing that made good Maiden singles, like “Flight of Icarus”.  The lyrics, also by Adrian, are clearly about the road life and I’m sure Bruce could pour his heart into the words.

Two lacklustre songs follow:  “Sea Of Madness” and “Heaven Can Wait”.  Neither song have ever really blown me away, but at the same time “Heaven Can Wait” turned into a tour classic for many years so what do I know?  It was the traditional concert spot for the crowd to sing along.  Smith contributed “Sea of Madness”, while Steve wrote “Heaven Can Wait”.  I do like the slow part in the middle of “Sea of Madness”, with its nice solo.

That ended side one.  Side two started with “The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner”, one of Steve’s longer songs.  It was based on a short story of the same name, and I have to admit that lyrically it’s not one of those Maiden songs that really has me waiting to sing the next line.  The choruses are pretty straightforward:  “Run, on and on.  Ru-uu-un, on and on.  The loneliness of the long distance runner.”  The synth in this song is effective although the song is arguably filler.

(Of note:  The intro portion of this song would really serve as a blueprint for many many Maiden songs to come.  You know the kind:  Steve’s rinky-dinky-rink bass, backing a mellow guitar melody, with mild synth in the background.  “Fear of the Dark”, starting 30 seconds in, is similar.  “Mother Russia”, 30 seconds in.  Most of  The X Factor.  And so on.)

The excellent “Stranger In A Strange Land” follows, the third of Adrian’s writing contributions.  This was the second single, and a good choice it was.  A catchy mid-tempo song, it took advantage of the textures of the new synths effectively.  I’ve read in the past that it’s based on Stranger In A Strange Land by Heinlein, but I fail to see the connection.  I always felt it may as well be about the 1984 film, Iceman.  The lyrics fit.

“Stranger” was also host to another excellent Adrian guitar solo.  It was around this time that I bought a white guitar simply because Adrian played one in the video!  And yes, the video was an excellent summation of their stage show, with giant inflatable Eddie coming out of the stage!

Steve and Davey’s “Deja-Vu” is up next, and I have always loved this one.  It’s the only song under five minutes, and it has a furiously fast pace.  The synths take a bit of the edge off, but this one is irresistible

But alas, we are now at the end:  The 8th and final song is yet another Steve Harris epic album closer.  This time the topic he chose was “Alexander the Great”.  Another historical topic for me to devour!  I later majored in history.  I wonder how much of that was due to my two greatest influences?  My dad, and Iron Maiden?

“Alexander the Great” has been criticized by some as being a lesser epic.  I really don’t know.  At this point you’re into splitting hairs.  Who cares?  It’s still awesome.  Maybe you don’t like it as much as “Ancient Mariner”; maybe you prefer “Fear Of the Dark”.  It doesn’t matter:  It’s a Steve epic and that means fast parts, slow parts, different tempos and riffs.  And through it all Bruce manages to spit out the tricky lyrics:

A Phrygian king had bound a chariot yoke
And Alexander cut the ‘Gordian Knot’
And the legend said that who untied the knot
He would become the master of Asia

The choruses are awesome, and I consider this to be one of Maiden’s lesser-known triumphs.

And what about that album cover?  Absolutely my favourite Maiden cover of all time, look for all kinds of hidden messages.  What time is it again?  Oh yeah…

I imagined that after Eddie’s resurrection on Live After Death, he had emerged some time in the future (around the time period of Blade Runner, it appears) and gotten himself some cybernetic enhancements.  The cover is, in essence, an updated take on Killers.  Emerging from his Spinner, Eddie’s traded in his hatchet for a laser.  On the back, you can see the members of Maiden themselves witnessing Eddie’s deed.  Notice Nicko’s goggles?  He’d just got his pilot’s license!

The artwork for the singles were equally awesome:  On “Wasted Years”, we see Eddie travelling back in time to 1986…chasing the T.A.R.D.I.S.?  Its B-sides were excellent!  As far as B-side material goes, these were two of the best.  “Reach Out” was a rare thing:  A song written by an outside writer, Adrian’s buddy Dave “Bucket” Colwell who would later end up in Bad Company.  Perhaps even more astonishing was the lead vocalist:  Adrian Smith!  Martin Birch compared it to Bryan Adams-type rock, but fear not! Bruce shows up by chorus-time to blow you away with his wail, as he answers Adrian’s lines.  Pure awesome in a nice sweet hard rock package.

Then there was “The Sheriff of Huddersfield”, a not-very-complimentary roast of Maiden manager Rod Smallwood!  “‘Rufus the Red’ has a crane by his bed, to wrench himself up in morn’, but if you dare to tread at the foot of his bed, you’ll wish you’d never been born!”  Not a great song, it’s still pretty damn funny.  Rodney, it seems, had fallen for the L.A. lifestyle and the band were not beyond giving him a hard time about it!

The “Stranger In A Strange Land” single had even cooler artwork:  Eddie entering a space bar full of space-scum and villainy!  Looking like a cross between Harrison Ford’s Deckard, and Clint Eastwood’s “Man With No Name”, Eddie ignores their stares.  This might be my favourite Maiden single art of all time.  (Of ALL time, Kanye!)

Its B-sides were two covers:  “That Girl” (FM) and “Juanita” (Marshall Fury).  “That Girl” is a pretty good hard rock song, very much in line with a song like “Reach Out”.  I never liked “Juanita” much though.

Don’t worry – Maiden’s arrangement is nothing like this!  Makes you wonder why they covered it though.

I have a real soft spot in my metal heart for Somewhere In Time.   Although it sags a bit in the middle, and it’s toned-down Maiden, this is still one of my personal favourites.  It came out when I first started high school, and you can’t compete with nostalgia.  Although today many consider inferior to the albums that came before and the album that came after, I have to rate it pretty high.

4/5 stars