zz top

#833: Flag Boy (Part Two of the 1986 Saga)

STOPARRETPotentially triggering material ahead.

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #833: Flag Boy

Part Two of the 1986 Saga

One of the many recurring themes here has been the awful experiences of being a metalhead in Catholic school.  A story that has somehow escaped being told until now is the one where those bastard kids gave me the name “Fag Boy” for a whole school year.

Grade 8, the 1985-86 year, had to be the worst.  It was kicked off by a huge fight with the school bully Steve Hartman, a total piece of shit, but at least I won.  Not that it helped.  I was teased relentlessly all year for my love of Kiss and Judas Priest.  Then I had mono.  Incidentally, Catholic school bullies are the worst and the teachers didn’t give a fuck.  When one kid, Ian Johnson, got into a fight with another bully, the teachers made them walk around the schoolyard together hand in hand.  What was that supposed to do?

The only thing that made life easier that year was beating Hartman in September of ’85.  That kept him off my back for the school year, although there were other bullies waiting in the wings.  Jeff Brooks, who stuffed snow down my jacket every Thursday after shop class.  Kevin Kirby, who copied my homework.  Towards the end even Hartman was campaigning for a “rematch”.

My sister used to call that school the “Hell Hole”.  She would sing Spinal Tap’s “Hell Hole” when we drove by.  This is a little kid in grade 4 calling her school that name.

At the start of the eighth grade, to learn social responsibility, we all had to volunteer for something.  There were a limited selection of slots for each role we were offered.  I cannot remember all of the duties that were set out on our menu of options.  Volunteering at the church was definitely among them, but I volunteered for the one I thought would be the most interesting:  security!  On a regular basis, we were to walk around the school when it was closed to make sure all was well.  Keep an eye out for anything wrong, like vandalism.  It was perfect because I was always biking around that direction anyway.  It was really the most appealing of all the options to me.

I’m sure you have already guessed they didn’t give me the security assignment.  No, I was given something that was supposed to be better, but was actually far worse.  It was such a dubious honour.  I was Flag Boy.

I wasn’t athletic, I was a skinny kid who openly listened to Judas Priest.  No way were they putting me on security.  They gave the two open positions to a couple of the athletic kids.  I don’t think either of them did any security that year.

As Flag Boy, I was responsible for putting out and bringing in the Maple Leaf at the start and end of every day for the year. It was worst at the start of the day.  When announcements were about to commence, I had to get out of my seat and leave the class, which always seemed to amuse them.  Then I had to walk down the hallway past the other grade 8 classroom, who always mocked and laughed and pointed at me as I went.  They called me “Fag Boy” from day one.  What made it even worse were my boots.  My dad gave them to me.  I thought they were so cool.  They didn’t have laces, they had dual zippers.  The boots only made me more a “Fag Boy”.

When the first pair of boots wore out, my dad gave me his second identical backup pair.  Ironically those boots would be considered so retro and stylish today.

The abuse that year was pretty bad and I faked sick a lot.  I faked sick mostly on Thursdays, which was shop class.  They bussed us to another school, St. Joseph, which had a woodworking shop.  The supervision was minimal and the bus rides were all but intolerable.  At one point or another I just decided I couldn’t take it anymore and faked sick as many Thursdays as I could.  By the time I got sick with mono for real, I had several incomplete projects in woodworking.  I was home for the rest of the term, and I never had to worry about those Thursday bus trips again.

Having mono sucked a lot, but Thursdays on the bus were far worse.  I considered it more than a fair trade.

While sick at home for real, I absorbed as many Pepsi Power Hours as I could.  I heard Hear N’ Aid for the first time.  I became addicted to “Rough Boy” by ZZ Top because of that damn music video.  (I guess I learned from an early age that I’m really a leg man.)  My heavy metal credentials grew by leaps and bounds and I listened to more and more songs:  “Metal on Metal”, “Never Surrender”, “Turbo Lover”, “Rock and Roll Children”.  To this day, I associate those songs with my sick time in 1986.  Especially Dio’s “Rock and Roll Children”.  The surreal music video suited the way I felt physically.  It didn’t look like the real world and I didn’t feel like myself.

My association of heavy metal music with relief from the outside world was cemented that year.  I had always come home to the comfort of a few Kiss tapes.  In 1986, sick with mono, I was safe from the school and surrounded not by bullies but by Ronnie James Dio, Ozzy Osbourne, Rob Halford, and Bruce Dickinson.  They didn’t call me “Fag Boy”, in fact their lyrics encouraged me to dig for strength.  Recovering from my illness, I had built this wall of metal around me.  It would be my armour for life.

I don’t know if those kids remember calling me “Fag Boy”, or if they would admit it.  I know I wouldn’t recognize Hartman if I saw him today.  They used to talk about forgiveness a lot in Catholic school.  You can forgive, but you never forget.

 

REVIEW: ZZ Top – Chrome, Smoke & BBQ (2003 limited edition BBQ shack)

ZZ TOP –  Chrome, Smoke & BBQ (2003 Warner limited edition BBQ shack version)

Though it seems an outlandish thought today, there was once a time when if you desired to hear original ZZ Top music, you couldn’t do that on CD.  You had to purchase original ZZ Top LPs.  In 1987, most of the original ZZ Top albums were issued on CD as part of the ZZ Top Six Pack, which featured remixed percussion to make them sound more like Eliminator and Afterburner.  Needless to say this was a very unpopular idea, though it didn’t stop the Six Pack from selling.  The original ZZ Top albums were finally given a CD reissue in 2013.  Until then, your best bet on compact disc was to buy the 4 CD Chrome, Smoke & BBQ anthology.

Because Chrome, Smoke & BBQ features original mixes and a helping of rarities, it still makes for an enjoyable listen and valuable collectible today.  The limited edition version came housed in a box like a little BBQ shack, but both have the same four discs of bluesy, greasy ZZ rock.  A well-assembled anthology can make for a great listen even well after its expiry date, and this is one such set.

Disc 1 of Chrome, Smoke & BBQ features three tracks from Billy Gibbons’ first band the Moving Sidewalks.  The guitar work is brilliant even in Billy’s youth.  These tracks are notably more psychedelic than ZZ Top.  The year was 1969, the same year as the first ZZ Top single “Miller’s Farm” / “Salt Lick”.  This early version of ZZ Top (credited as “embryonic ZZ Top”) was a transition from Moving Sidewalks and didn’t feature Frank Beard nor Dusty Hill.  Organ on a ZZ Top song is an unusual sound, and it’s quite prominent on “Miller’s Farm”.  It’s a pretty standard blues with the emphasis on the keys and with one foot solidly in 60s rock.  “Salt Lick” has a bit more of the mid-tempo ZZ groove, but the with the organ still part of the whole.  Chrome, Smoke & BBQ remains the easiest way to obtain this rare single.

ZZ Top’s First Album takes the spotlight next with three tracks including “Brown Sugar”, the first “real” ZZ Top track.  An impactful one it is, and so obviously ZZ Top.  It seems by the time the right three guys got together, the ZZ Top sound was born.  “Brown Sugar” is so essential to the ZZ Top sound that maybe the box set should have opened with it, chronology be damned!  Dusty’s pulse on bass is already present, and Frank’s sheer style adds some much needed character.  Then “Just Got Back From Baby’s” has the spare nocturnal blues that is a ZZ signature.

The next three ZZ Top albums – Rio Grande Mud, Tres Hombres and Fandango! are featured much more prominently with seven tracks apiece.  This part of the set is deep with essential music.  “Francene”, obviously “Francene”, the catchiest song during this part of history, is present and accounted for.  (Even in Spanish!)  For relentless groove, ZZ Top never nailed one as hard as “Just Got Paid”, slide guitar right in the pocket.  “Chevrolet” showed how they could just lay back.  For shuffles, “Bar-B-Q” got the spice you need.  “Sure Got Cold After the Rain” covers the sad, spare blues that Billy’s guitar can evoke.  The music goes on, and on:  “La Grange”, “Beer Drinkers & Hell Raisers”, “Heard It on the X”, “Blue Jean Blues”, “Tush”.  Though the songs in between are all excellent as well, it’s hard to ignore the hit power of these tracks.

Six tracks from Tejas feature on this set, still more than half the album.  The ZZ Top direction was gradually making tentative steps towards modernizing.  “It’s Only Love”, a bluesy country pop, sounds like something new.  They hadn’t left anything behind though, as told by the menacing “Arrested for Driving While Blind”.  It’s a cleaner, more studio-driven sound, as heard on “El Diablo” with its subtle overdubs and dynamics.  “Enjoy and Get it On” is a nice sentiment, with the slide all greased up and ready to go.  Two of the most interesting of the Tejas tracks are the quiet instrumental “Asleep in the Desert” and the twangy “She’s a Heartbreaker”.

At this point ZZ Top took a break to decompress after years of consecutive touring and recording.  The Best of ZZ Top came out during this break, but what was going on behind the scenes was to be far more important down the road.  ZZ Top’s image began its final evolution when Gibbons and Hill returned from vacation with matching full length beards. Their next album Degüello allowed the music to evolve as well.  Six songs from Degüello represent this period, along with a rare radio spot advertising the album.

ZZ Top’s cover of Sam & Dave’s “I Thank You” is iconic enough that many people probably assume it’s an original.  What was original was “Cheap Sunglasses”, a staggering hangover of a track — the new ZZ Top.  Same with “Maniac Mechanic”, a track so bizarre that you could mistake it for Zappa.  Meanwhile “I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide” has the laid back, cruisin’ ZZ Top vibe that fans always loved.  “A Fool For Your Stockings” showed that Gibbons could still play the blues, too.

Another six tracks from El Loco account for the last hits before the MTV generation took hold.  “Leila”, a 50s inspired ballad is clearly an experiment albeit a successful one.  As is the surf rocker “Tube Snake Boogie”, a track unlike any ZZ Top ever attempted before.  Another ballad, “It’s So Hard” is not out of place, with its roots in soul music.  “Pearl Necklace” has surf vibes but is most memorable for its dirty double entendre.  “Heaven, Hell or Houston” is even weirder than “Maniac Mechanic”.  It’s quite clear that ZZ Top were stretching out, while still maintaining a foot in their bluesy, rock and roll roots.

And then came MTV, the music videos, the car, and the girls.  The music was laden with sequencers and electronic percussion, but this unlikely combination is the one that really struck oil.  Black gold, Texas tea, and platinum records.  Eight tracks from Eliminator are included here, almost the whole album minus three.  Only “Thug”, “I Need You Tonight” and “Bad Girl” are left behind.  So you get all the hits, and then some.  “I Got the Six” had to be on here, a dirty but slick little favourite from the day.  “Dirty Dog” is a fun also-ran too, but didn’t need to be on a box set.

When ZZ Top found their successful formula, they really ran with it, right into the next album Afterburner.  As we know a sequel rarely tops an original, but the album still features eight songs, and this is where Chrome, Smoke & BBQ begins to stumble.  By featuring so many songs from this period, the box set is really unfairly weighted.  Surely another few tracks could have been included from ZZ Top’s First Album instead of so many from Afterburner and Recycler.  “Can’t Stop Rockin'” and “Woke Up With Wood” could have been dropped, but let’s keep “Sleeping Bag”, “Stages”, “Rough Boy”, Delirious, “Velcro Fly”,  and “Planet of Women”.  Around Afterburner, ZZ Top had taken their music to its most commercial extreme.  They decided to reduce, though not remove, technology on the third album of the MTV trilogy Recycler.  Notable from this period:  “Concrete and Steel”, “My Head’s In Mississippi”, “Give It Up”, “2000 Blues” and “Doubleback”.

ZZ Top switched from Warner to RCA for their next studio album 1994’s Antenna, and nothing from that era onwards is included.  There is still some more music on this box set to enjoy.  In 1990, ZZ Top recorded a cover of “Reverberation (Doubt)” by Roky Erickson for the tribute album Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye.  Gratefully, this ZZ Top rarity is included here.  You can note the Recycler-era sequencers, but they compliment the psychedelic track nicely.  This is followed by the two “new” songs that ZZ Top recorded for 1992’s Greatest Hits.  “The corniest Elvis song ever” is “Viva Las Vegas”, sung by Dusty Hill, and overproduced to the gills.  Huge hit of course.  “Gun Love” is also included.

Disc 4 ends with six “medium rare” tracks.  Some are actually super rare.  These include a spanish version of “Francene” with Dusty Hill singing.  It sounds like thie audio could be taken from an actual vinyl single.  A live version of “Cheap Sunglasses” comes from a 1980 promo-only single, and it smokes.  Then there are some dance mixes from 12″ singles, easily the most skippable part of this box set.  None of these will be played regularly by you, the listener.  Especially not “Viva Las Vegas”.

The booklet included with Chrome, Smoke & BBQ is impressive on its own.  It’s packed with music and text, including a track by track commentary by the band.  “Seems like all our songs are about dicks and pussies,” says Frank Beard.

Limited edition box sets are fun to get while they last.  Chrome, Smoke & BBQ boasts its box shaped like a steel shack, including corrugated roof.  (It’s actually great because it doesn’t collect dust!)  Include the box, all four CDs are safely housed in individual jewel cases.  If you dig inside a little more you’ll find cut-out characters to add to your BBQ shack display.  You could scan and print these cut-outs yourself.  Enjoy a picnic table, ribs, sausages, cacti, and of course the guys from ZZ Top themselves (on a bike, or disembarked).  Also hidden in the box is an animated flip-book.  See the video below for a quick demonstration.

As with many box sets, tracklists could use a little tweaking and everybody will have their own ideas for how to fix that.  Perhaps instead of dumping all those remixes at the end, they could have been included chronologically so the set doesn’t end on such a…tepid concept as the extended dance remix.  The set could certainly use some balancing away from Afterburner and Recycler with more focus on the earlier stuff.  The exclusive rarities are adequate and appropriate for a set of this stature.  Not too few, not too many.  The ZZ Top completist will want this set for them and will still enjoy giving it a complete spin from time to time.

The regular edition will do nicely, but if you can find a complete limited version for a good price, don’t hesitate to snag it.

4/5 stars

MOVIE REVIEW: ZZ Top – That Little Ol’ Band from Texas (2019)

ZZ TOP – That Little Ol’ Band from Texas (2019)

Directed by Sam Dunn

Banger Films have never released a dud, have they?  Their latest documentary, ZZ Top: That Little Ol’ Band from Texas is another well made, entertaining film to add to your collection.

And it’s about time, isn’t it?  50 years?  And not just that, but the same three guys for 50 years solid!  The only thing that changed were the grooming habits.  Frank Beard tried to grow one but just couldn’t pull it off.  I think it’s better that way.  Two guys with beards plus a moustache guy in the back on the drums.  Although it was completely accidentally, it’s so genius it seems planned.  The beard tale, and many more like it, make up the backbone of this film.

As it turns out, there isn’t a lot of craziness and drama in the official ZZ Top story.  We never learn much about their personal lives outside the band.  Beard is quite “frank” about his past drug situations, but Aerosmith they were not.  This movie is actually mostly about the music.  Imagine that!  About the influences — both blues and rock.  About opening for the big boys like the Stones.  About Texas.

Texas plays a huge role in this film, and in ZZ Top.  That unique blend of forces that spawned ZZ Top came together in Houston.  But then they got too big to be just a Houston band.  Things were about to happen.  Their sound is half nurture, and half nature.  Yes, Texas (the nurturer) had its influence on the three, but so did their sheer talent and chemistry (the nature).  Hill and Beard talk of playing together for the first time, and it was obviously just meant to be.  As much as ZZ Top rocked, their down-home country image certainly confused people in the early days.

What really comes across is the music.  Via the old recordings, and brand new footage of the boys playing in the studio, you can hear just how little they have lost over 50 years.  What a tight, yet thick sound.  Overdubs were a part of the ZZ Top studio sound early on (though not without some doing).  Of course, we know that ZZ Top made a massive sonic change in the 80s with Eliminator.  This is briefly discussed, as is the MTV revolution and just how ZZ Top came to dominate in that era.  Unfortunately that is where the film ends.  Potentially you could have added another hour just talking about the seven albums that followed Eliminator, some of which were pretty big.  Or another hour getting to know the three guys a little better. That Little Ol’ Band from Texas goes no deeper than just the bare surface when it comes to the guys and their interpersonal relationships.  Surely in 50 years there must have been some drama.  You won’t find much of it in this film.  Clearly, that’s the way ZZ Top want it.  Maintain the mystique.  Never reveal too much.  Hone the mythology.

As with any music documentary, other stars must be interviewed in order to gush and add context and detailed observations.  These include Josh Homme (what isn’t he in?), Steve Miller, Billy Bob Thornton (?) and Dan Auerbach.  But you’ll also hear from Tim Newman (director of those classic videos and brother of Randy Newman), and Robin Hood Brians, a studio owner who helped shape their early sound.

Any Banger film is going to be a quality product going in.  It’s not so much “will it be good?”  It’s more “what nits will I pick?”  Because any serious fan will have some with any rock film.  I have very few to pick with this film.  Just that I wish it was an hour longer.

4.5/5 stars

#782: Eliminated Headlight Restored

A sequel to #760: Eliminated Headlight

I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car. A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight. It’s gone. If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car. I only had two suspects. One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing. I know it was my dad!

 

 

GETTING MORE TALE #782:  Eliminated Headlight Restored

The old cottage bedroom isn’t the safe storage space it used to be!

For over 30 years, my old Monogram model kit of ZZ Top’s “Eliminator” car sat undisturbed.  The shelf it occupied was shared by a stunningly beautiful red Ferrari Testarossa, some old books, and several Lego battle droids.  Eliminator’s structure held sound, with only minor repairs needed over the years to keep it intact.

Then one day in 2019 a headlight went missing.  We didn’t need a confession to know that my dad did it while puttering around!

I thought the story was over, but a few weeks ago my dad said to me “I found your headlight”.

What?  Did it just fall behind the bed?

“No, I got you a new one!”

Right on, thanks dad!  Did you find an old model kit on Ebay?

“No, I saw a brand new one at the hobby store and picked it up for you!”

I couldn’t believe my luck!  But what are the chances the kits are the exact same?  Could I simply swap out an old headlight for a brand new one?

Turns out, I can.  Both kits are 1/72 scale, and though the new one is made by Revell instead of Monogram, they are identical.  Revell actually bought out Monogram in 2007, so they must have acquired these old molds and reissued the exact same kit.

Opening the kit and seeing the exact parts, I found myself at a crossroads.  I did a good job back in 1987-88 when I built my original Eliminator.  There are some things I would change; I would have painted the red engine block to be more accurate if I had another crack at it.  And now I do.  Or, I could just glue the new headlight onto the old car and leave it be.

Pros to building a new car:

  • Fixing mistakes I made as a kid, like the engine colour.
  • A higher budget, better tools, access to more paints.

Cons:

  • Possibly screwing up and wrecking a new model kit.
  • I hate, hate, hate water decals.
  • Realising I’m not as good at this as I used to be.

“You know my hands aren’t as steady as they used to be,” I told my dad.

“Fuck your hands!” he responded.

I turned to my mom and asked if she just heard what he told me to do.  She did and said I should write about it.

Betcha didn’t expect that’s where this story would go at the start!  I neglected to take my father’s advice, but vowed to tell the tale in my own way.

The end.

 

 

The ZZ Top Eliminator Project will continue in Summer 2020.  What would you do with the model kit?  Let us know in the comments below.

 

#760: Eliminated Headlight

GETTING MORE TALE #760: Eliminated Headlight

As children, we were told many stories of what being a kid was like in the 1940s and 50s.  The greatest toy was Mecanno.  (My dad’s Mecanno #7 set was a treasured possession.)  Movies were 12 cents on Saturdays, and you could stay as long as you like.  (Once my dad went to go see Red Rider with his pal Jerry Irwin.  He stayed for four — well, three and a half — showings.  Then his father phoned the theatre looking for him, as he was supposed to home a long time ago!  Boy did he catch hell at home!)  One thing my dad always emphasized to us was how sad he was that all his childhood toys were gone.  His little brother wrecked some, and his dad threw out the rest.  He says they’d be priceless today.  All gone; somewhere in a Guelph landfill.

When kids move away from home, they don’t take everything with them.  Things like old toys get left behind.  That’s how my dad lost all his stuff.  I had trust in him that the same wouldn’t happen to me, and my sister.  The number of times we had to hear about his lost toys, his Mecanno #7 set, and all that stuff…I assumed he wouldn’t do that to us.

I assumed incorrectly.

A few months ago my sister was over at his house, went down into the basement to look at the board games…our old childhood board games…and they were gone.

We found some of them in a storage bin, but the rest had been thrown out.  That included my copy of Chopper Strike, a turn based combat strategy game that came with intricate little pieces and a massive two-level board.  I bought it at a garage sale for a couple dollars in the early 80s.  It was complete.  The game came with an army of plastic jeeps and helicopters.  The copters had rotating blades, and the jeeps had moving anti-aircraft guns.  Lots of easily lost components.  Rare for an such an old game (1976).  We played it over and over and over again as kids.  I thought it would remain safely stored at the old house.  It cost over $50 to replace it with a complete one again (thanks, Mom).

At least my dad saved some of the obviously valuable games, like our original Star Wars and Transformers.  Everything else from Admirals to Careers ended up in the trash, lost forever.  Feeling bad, my mom bought my sister a new Careers game on Ebay (and replaced my Chopper Strike).

I thought that was it.  I thought the point was made.  I thought our possessions were safe again.

Wrong again.

Some of my old model kits are at the cottage.  The cottage is a great place to build a model.  My ZZ Top Eliminator kit has safely lived at the cottage for 30 years.  A few years ago I took it out, dusted it off, and secured a few loose pieces with glue.  The last time I saw Eliminator, it was fine.

This time, I noticed a few things on my shelves had been moved.  When I returned them to their proper places, I saw Eliminator was now a one-eyed cyclops car.  A headlight came off and was nowhere in sight.  It’s gone.  If it had simply fallen off, it would be on the shelf, next to the car.  I only had two suspects.  One of the two was more credible, while the other claims to know nothing.  I know it was my dad!

“You can always pretend it was in an accident,” said my sister.

I used to think my stuff was safe in the hands of my dad.  Now I realize I need to keep valuables far, far away from him!

VHS Archives #17: ZZ Top talk to Much (1990)

ZZ Top sat with MuchMusic’s Terry David Mulligan to discuss the making of 1990’s Recycler, and their cameo in Back to the Future III.

These segments were recorded from a Much Spotlight.

Sunday Chuckle: The Long Road

It has been a long hard road for Jen and I this whole year.  It’s Sunday though, and that means a Sunday Chuckle, not a Sunday Mope!  A few days ago, Jen finished cleaning out her mom’s house.  We found some incredible stuff there.  One of the books (from her dad’s collection) is over 200 years old.  A few others were dated from the 1800s.  Lots of cool stuff, but….

Also some not-so-cool stuffs.

Some context:

In the penultimate episode of Record Store Tales (Part 319: The Musical Crimes of LeBrain), my wife made fun of me for owning one song by Nickelback.  The controversial Canadian quartet appeared on the ZZ Top tribute album A Tribute From Friends, performing (of all songs) “Legs”.  Quite badly!  She mocked me by writing, “Three words: MIKE OWNS NICKELBACK!”  [Bold and underlining are hers.]

This is what I found in her old bedroom.  You can tell it’s hers by the rainbow wallpaper.

There you have it.  I had a song, but you had the poster, baby.  You had the poster.

Still love you most though!

 

#631: The Locker Door

GETTING MORE TALE #631: The Locker Door

Before the first day of highschool even began, I had selected the posters I was going to hang up inside.  For my first locker ever, at the beginning of grade nine, I chose Gene Simmons.  It was a weird picture of him from the Asylum era, no makeup, and his tongue pinned to the neck of his bass by the strings.  I was truly disappointed that girls found the picture repulsive and didn’t want to talk to me.  I’m still proud that I was flying the Kiss flag right from day one.  For some reason, I also had a picture of Mr. Mini Wheats, from a box of the same-named cereal.

Meanwhile, my best buddy Bob had something cooler.  It was a poster of Bruce Dickinson, circa 1986, standing next to the giant stage Eddie from Somewhere in Time.  Everybody seemed to agree that the new Blade Runner Eddie was the coolest one yet, and that poster was the envy of the hallway.  When he was done with it, Bob passed the locker poster down to me.  I was thrilled — so much that I used it again the next year.

Bob moved on to Samantha Fox.  She took over from where Eddie and Bruce once were.  “Hey, that one’s topless,” remarked the English teacher Mr. Payette as he strolled past.  She was covering her modesty with her arms, but she was indeed missing her top.

In grade 10, Bob and I did something sneaky.  On the first day of school, he advised me to bring an extra lock, and see if I could snag an extra, unoccupied locker.  I did — right next to my own, in fact.  So that year, Bob and I had this spare locker that we shared right next to mine.  He had this little Nerf basketball set.  You could hang a net from the locker door.  We also had gotten into remote control cars.  We stashed them in the spare locker and played with them during the lunch hour.  We got caught by the stern science teacher, Mr. Branday.  “Take this to the gym!” he shouted at us.

Branday was a weird guy.  Every year, he began his science class with the same line.  “Science is a tool of the mind.  With it, one can open more doors than with the bare hands alone!”

Bob and I had such a good time, that year of the two lockers.  A fresh succession of posters went up, although I hung onto Bruce and Eddie until it was literally falling apart.  One I liked a lot was a cardboard cut out of ZZ Top’s Eliminator car, from a Monogram model kit I built.  I always wanted to rig up a Walkman with a speaker in the door of that locker, but we figured if the racing cars got us in shit, music would even more.

Locker posters usually came from magazines such as Hit Parader, but it had to be a vertical poster.  A horizontal one would only be good for home.  A kid down the hall, Michael Wright, had a picture of a computer in his locker one year.  I tended to stick to rock stars.  Def Leppard went in there, and so did a rare picture of Vinnie Vincent in his Kiss makeup.

Some of the posters that survived

I tried to take care of my posters so I could use them again.  They seemed like a big part of my identity.  I brought my posters to school on the first day every year, so my locker would never be bare.  Nobody but Bob seemed to get that.  I always enjoyed carefully packing them up on the last day of school before summer holidays.  Except for the last year of highschool, when I knew it was the very last time.  There would be no more lockers.  The very last locker posters were coming down, for good.  I hated the feeling, the finality of it.  Knowing life was about to change and almost all my old friends would be gone doing their own things.  It was a…lonely feeling.  The lockers were always a communal place.  You’d chat with friends before or between classes.  Life really felt different afterwards.

Somewhere in this house in an old video tape, of my grade 13 year circa 1990.  Bob and I rented a camera one weekend, went into the unlocked school and did a tour.  On that video is a detailed look at my locker posters of 1990-1991.  One day I’m going to have to get a USB VCR and take a look.

#411: Stop Playing ‘Beth’ – The Post-Sausagefest Countdown

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RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#411: Stop Playing ‘Beth’ – The Post-Sausagefest Countdown

Perhaps the only bigger production than going to Sausagefest is coming home from Sausagefest.  At least when you’re travelling with Uncle Meat.

As we have previous years, Uncle Meat rode up with me.  This time he slept in my car too.  This pretty much left me responsible for him.  I roused bright and early from a restful slumber on Saturday morning to evacuate my bladder.  Imagine my surprise when I found, at 6:30 in the morning, Uncle Meat, Bucky and Matt still up from the night before.  They were just starting to fall asleep when I took my morning shit.  I then went back to sleep in my tent for a few more hours.

Our Saturday morning tradition is to hit up the Flying Spatula in Flesherton for our breakfast fill-up.  Sebastien, driving his 4×4, stopped by my tent and asked if I was riding up with him.  Ready for some bacon and eggs, I hopped on board with Seb, while Meat snoozed away in my car’s passenger side seat.

My first controversy of the weekend was not waking Meat up for breakfast.  Being that he had only gone to bed a couple hours before, I thought I was doing him a favour.  Apparently not.  “Breakfast before sleep!” he said.  Apparently that’s the Meat priorities.

Saturday went off without a hitch, breakfast arrangements aside.  I will post the full 78 song countdown (plus a couple odds n’ ends) in the days ahead.  Saturday night was loaded with long bombers, such as “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” (13 minutes), the live “Child in Time” from Made In Japan (12 minutes), and “Shine On You Crazy Diamond” (25 minutes).  The excellent countdown (dubbed “the greatest songs of all time”) ended after midnight.

Sunday morning, I found I had the most difficult job of all.  It took me an hour and a half (close to two hours) to wake Uncle Meat from his slumber.  As the others were packing up their tents and heading off into the sunrise, I found I had a passenger unwilling or unable to rouse himself.  “If you let him sleep in your car again next year, then there will be nobody to blame but you,” said Troy.

I cranked “I Stole Your Love” at max volume.  No reaction.  Tom threw a 12-pack of socks at his head (photo above).  No reaction.  I played Kiss’ “Beth”, followed by the 1988 Eric Carr re-recording.  Still  nothing.  Only when I put the car in drive and started moving it around did Meat finally decide to wake himself.  I took him on a drousy “drive of shame” to visit all the people who had no trouble waking up.  “I have a boner” he announced.  Yes, it’s true — Uncle Meat woke up with wood.

After telling us all about his boner, he kept shouting “Stop playing ‘Beth’!” even though the song was no longer playing. This continued when we pulled into our first stop, Top of the Rock, for him to get his first coffee. “Stop playing ‘Beth’!” he shouted in a barely-there voice, any time somebody was in his vicinity.

“Stop playing ‘Beth’!” he shouted, when his roomate Zack also pulled into Top of the Rock. Zack informed us, “That’s just him. He’ll just keep repeating it unless he gets something new in his head.” Zack paused and said, “Watch. Rododendron!”

“Rhododendron!” shouted Meat, parroting his roomate. “Rhododendron! Stop playing ‘Beth’!”

And that was it pretty much the rest of the ride home. A selection of brief statements, repeated ad nauseum: “Rhododendron!” “Stop playing ‘Beth’!” “Coffee!” Repeat.

The weekend more than made up for the ride home. Sebastien and I shot lots of footage, including underwater stuff with his GoPro. For the first time ever, we will be combining footage and doing the annual videos together. Be patient, this will be worth it.

Three albums I must own, after this year’s Sausagefest:

  • Trouble – Trouble (1990)
  • Rheostatics – Whale Music (1992)
  • Grand Funk Railroad – Live: The 1971 Tour (2002)

Stop playing “Beth”? Never, man! Stay tuned….

#367: Greatest Hits 2

lebrainsgreatest2

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#367: Greatest Hits 2
A sequel to #364: Greatest Hits

The last time we talked about greatest hits albums, I listed seven reasons that die-hard fans usually shun them.  Readers came up with some of their own, and also arguments to defend greatest hits albums.  I usually advise fans to buy key studio albums rather than compilations, depending on the person.  Yet I still own a few hundred greatest hits albums. There have to be good reasons.

And what about you?  How many do you own?  What are your favourites?  Why did you buy them?  I asked myself those three questions too.  #1. I don’t know.  #2. There are many, but Double Platinum and Killers by Kiss are up there.  #3.  Let’s talk about that in depth…I broke it down into seven points:

KENNY_00011. There are some artists that I barely know. Neil Diamond or Kenny Rogers, for example.  There might be a handful of songs I like, but not enough that I have heard to take the plunge and buy an actual album. Or, I know it’s an artist that I don’t want many albums from.  I have a feeling that I only want one or two CDs, so one of them is usually a greatest hits.  I collect a lot of music, but I can’t collect everybody. Sometimes I’ve done the research to know that I need one or two CDs and nothing more.

2. Exclusive tracks are often dangled as bait. But sometimes greatest hits albums are stuffed with exclusive radio edits and remixes that aren’t obviously credited. Kiss’ Double Platinum is one such album. Aerosmith’s Greatest Hits had a number of special edits of songs. Collectors like myself often look for such versions. They make for an enjoyable way to hear a familiar song with a slightly different slant.

SAM_17443. Artwork. Younger folks might not understand why this matters, but I come from the age of physical product. With some bands, you don’t want just the music. You want all the album covers too; they are sometimes as important as any other aspect of the music. Iron Maiden is the first, obvious example. I own several Iron Maiden greatest hits discs simply because I wanted to own all the Eddies. There is a certain satisfaction in viewing them all lined up in order.

4. Historical importance. Some greatest hits albums are just historically important. Best of Van Halen Volume I for example – even if I didn’t buy it for the two new songs, I would have wanted it for the significant role it played in breaking up Van Hagar! You might want to own Their Greatest Hits by the Eagles for the fact it’s the top selling hits album of all time.

5. Sometimes, I actually do listen to greatest hits! Sure, not often by comparison. But if I’m in the car with the Mrs., she might prefer a Deep Purple greatest hits set to a 5 disc version of Made in Japan. I own ‘em, so if they’re good I may as well play ‘em. Also, If I’m going somewhere and I only have an hour or so to listen to music, a greatest hits album often scratches whatever itch I have.

6. Gateway music. My entrance into the world of Thin Lizzy was one CD (Dedication: The Very Best of).

DEDICATIONThat point is the most important one.  Using a greatest hits album to delve further in the discography is such an excellent experience.  My first two Deep Purple’s were greatest hits.  Now my Purple collection is of a prodigious size.  I don’t even know how many I have.  100 maybe?  More?  And it keeps growing!

My first Floyd? Echoes: The Best of Pink Floyd.  My first Rush?  Chronicles.  First ZZ Top? Greatest Hits.  See where I’m going with this?  These are bands that, today, I am still collecting.  I still buy whatever’s coming out.  Which brings me to my last point.

7. Personal history.  I’ve developed a relationship with some of those greatest hits albums over the years, even if they have been superseded by better ones.  Something about the familiarity, I suppose.  But even though all my first greatest hits albums were on cassette, I still went and bought CD copies of them all.  In some cases, vinyl too!

What are your favourites?  Does it bother you to own multiple copies of the same songs?  If your favourite band came out with a greatest hits album tomorrow, would you consider buying it?  Let me know!