My Music Autograph Collection

It’s show and tell time!

I’m not a huge autograph seeker.  I’ve spoken to a number of musicians at concerts I’ve attended, but never feel the urge to ask for an autograph.  I haven’t used an autograph book since I was a kid when I would go to the Oldtimers charity hockey games featuring retired NHLers.  I don’t carry an autograph book anymore, so what else could I get a musician to sign?  It involves too much planning to bring CDs or whatever else with you to a show, considering that I usually go to a concert straight from work and want to take as little with me as possible.

I’ll start out with the one that should have the most mass appeal: Iron Maiden.

I didn’t even notice that this was autographed until after I purchased it. It was in the “final sale” bin at a favourite used music store of mine, Deja Vu Discs.  It had a huge disclaimer sticker which was blocking a large chunk of the cover.  Fear Of The Dark was missing from my Maiden collection, and all I considered was the reasonable price ($4).

It’s rather evident that black pen is not a wise choice for this album cover.  The most prominent signatures here belong to drummer Nicko McBrain and either guitarist Dave Murray or singer Bruce Dickinson at the top-right corner.  The remaining signatures are done with a thinner pen, and some are partially obscured by the left side of the cover.  I count five signatures in total, and since I can’t make out the name of ex-vocalist Blaze Bayley anywhere here, I’m led to believe all these names are from those that actually appear on the album.

To me, that’s quite a relief.  I find it weird when someone signs an album they had nothing to do with.  An exception could be made if it was someone in the band that toured the album, but that’s about it.  There’s a good anecdote in comedian Marc Maron’s book Attempting Normal where he expresses disappointment when getting his copy of Lou Reed’s Transformer album signed by musicians that were not in Reed’s band at the time.  I actually happened to get Maron’s autograph after watching his stand-up act, and thankfully there was no way a similar screw up could be made unless his touring manager insisted on co-signing his posters.

These next two artists’ signatures share something in common.  It appears that they will sign absolutely anything under the sun. And they both happen to be named Mike.

The first is Mike Vennart.  He was the guitarist/vocalist of the (in my humble opinion) criminally underrated rock band Oceansize, and a touring guitarist with Biffy Clyro.  He announced his first solo album in 2015 through a campaign on PledgeMusic, so I grabbed myself a copy of The Demon Joke in a neon green vinyl LP / CD bundle.  I think it may have cost a bit more for him to sign it, but I bought it regardless.

The next year, he released an album with his project British Theatre through PledgeMusic.  Not only did he sign the album, but so did fellow collaborator Richard “Gambler” Ingram, who also happened to play in Oceansize.

Earlier this year, he announced the release of a DVD/CD package Target ’15 featuring tour performances his projects had done over the course of 2015.  Since Vennart never came to North America as a solo act, I jumped at the opportunity to obtain a copy.  To my surprise, the package included a postcard featuring yet another autograph. This time, his personalized inscribing came gratis.  I’ve included both the front and back to show his minimal but highly stylish logo, of which I almost bought the matching t-shirt.

Next up is Michael Gira, best known as the main man behind so-called “no wave” band Swans.  You don’t even need to ask the man, and you’ll likely get his autograph if you make an order off his label, Young God Records.  I pre-ordered The Glowing Man, knowing that his autograph would arrive as a neat bonus to an expansive 2-CD / DVD package.

The entire sleeve was paper bag brown, so much like the inner covers of a high school yearbook, there was plenty of space for Mr. Gira to choose to write.  However, I’m not sure how I feel about signatures appearing on the inside of a package rather than on the cover.  On one hand, the album isn’t as interesting as a display piece.  On the other hand, leaving the front cover unmarked could be done out of respect for the occasionally overlooked contributions of the visual artist.  Ideally, if I brought an album sleeve to get autographed, I’d aim to get each band member to sign above or next to their photo.  That way, it leaves the guessing game aspect of identifying the signature out of the equation.

When catching Swans live on the tour supporting The Glowing Man, I gleefully raided the merch table to grab a t-shirt, and a large chunk of their discography that I was missing.  I found it unusual that the copy of Children of God / World of Skin I just purchased was unsealed, but I should have known why.

Jarboe’s signature (the woman in the right of the photo) may be missing from the above photo, but this next one is also a woman of significant talent.

Nerina Pallot, a singer/songwriter from the UK, is currently the only female musician in my autograph collection.  I was introduced to her through the BBC documentary When Albums Ruled The World, and she was playing a Carole King song off the massively popular Tapestry (it may have actually been the song “Tapestry”).  Not only did this inspire me to get some Carole King into my collection, but also some of Nerina’s own work.

Yet again, she’s another musician that announced in partnership with PledgeMusic news of her latest album at the time, The Sound and the Fury, so I got a signed pre-order of her CD.  And on top of her musical talents, I’ve got a bit of a crush on her.  That being the case, her addition of “Love” before her name makes me smile a bit, and that is not at all pathetic.

Using the best for last cliché, here’s the latest addition to my autograph collection.  It was difficult to get a photo while fighting the reflective frame, but it’s good enough for the purpose of this blog.

This poster has not one, not two, not three, but four signatures of rather big names in jazz circles. You have two undisputed living legends in guitarist John Scofield and drummer Jack DeJohnette, along with two comtemporary jazz players in keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier. This poster was only available in limited supply during the pre-order of their collaborative Hudson album. The odds were long that I’d ever get a chance to meet each one of these men, so I leaped at the opportunity. I wanted the CD anyway, so why not get a little bit extra to go along with it?

I wish they hand-numbered the posters to give it more of a collector’s appeal, but since I’m not planning on reselling it, it’s a trivial thing to worry about.

Do I have any autograph-hunting regrets? Like I mentioned in an earlier entry, it would have been cool to have gotten Allan Holdsworth’s when I had the chance.  I also could have affordably snatched up a few signed vinyl records at a local record store that would be welcome in my collection: Al Di Meola’s Tirami Su, and Marillion’s Script From A Jester’s Tear album signed by vocalist Fish.  A friend of mine actually picked up the Marillion when the store closed it’s doors a few years ago, so I’m glad it has a good home.

Aside from that, I nearly obtained a Primus gig poster signed by the band on their Primus in 3D tour featuring their Green Naugahyde-era lineup.  I can’t remember how much more it cost compared to a blank one, but I probably would have justified the purchase now.  Not a huge deal, though, as it stands rather well on it’s own.  In addition, it would have been a purchase, and not part of a meet-and-greet with the band.  After all, the best way to get an autograph is in-person, if only to awkwardly tell them the first thing that springs to mind while they’ve little choice but to nod and smile politely.

 

 

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Packaging Perspective: Night Passage by Weather Report

This album rarely gets discussed.  It was the second Weather Report album I ever owned (Heavy Weather being the first), and the first that I spent my own money on.  It may not get the acclaim that the bulk of their 70s recordings receive, but I think this album holds its own in terms of the songwriting (on top of which is an upbeat Duke Ellington cover). However, I’m not going to get too deep into the album. It’s the packaging that I wish to discuss.

The front cover isn’t out of the ordinary, looking very typical of something released in 1980, especially the font that wouldn’t be out of place on a science fiction novel or a Radio Shack advertisement.  I never gave it much thought when I purchased it, and I still don’t.  I was looking for more music featuring bassist Jaco Pastorius at the time, so this one met that demand.  Simple as that.

What’s the first thing I typically do when buying an album?  I pull out the sleeve, usually even before I place it on the turntable or in the CD player.  Imagine my surprise when I unfolded this sleeve for the first time.

No, my scanner isn’t broken (actually, I do get Ink Cartridge Failure warnings whenever powering the thing up, but that’s beside the point).  The sleeve is as white as driven snow.  It’s mainly upsetting because there is a fold in the paper, leading me to believe at first that there would actually be liner notes.  With nothing on the inside, why didn’t they make the sleeve half the size to skip the necessity of folding?  Could the quality of paper needed to print on both sides really be that pricey?

For the sake of completion, here’s the back of the CD sleeve. It isn’t really worth discussing.  It’s just a dark backdrop with a red object resembling an Easter egg or a balloon.

Or a jelly bean

Some people may be thinking that Weather Report is an instrumental jazz fusion band, so there are no lyrics required to be printed.  Still, it doesn’t justify leaving a blank white sheet.  My brother told me that he believed his copy of Al Di Meola’s Elegant Gypsy (also released on Columbia Records) suffered the same sleeve problem, but it turns out that even that included a little more (a re-listing of the song names in white text with a turquoise background).  That almost sounds like a pointless inclusion, but at least I can rule out that my booklet was a defective printing.

I had to look up the initial vinyl release of Night Passage to see if it was as lacking in detail.  Sometimes, when an album was initially issued on CD (as is the case of my copy), they will simply copy the sleeve of the LP record.  Perhaps the record had no inner sleeve, and therefore, nothing ready to print.  Of course, that wasn’t the case, and the record was chalk full of delicious descriptives (see here). You get the lineup, production details, management, just about everything a growin’ boy needs.  Why the discrepancy?

Regardless, I’m sure I have another album or two with this problem in my collection.  It got me thinking what could best be done with an album like this.  Should I write the missing album information inside for convenient reference?  In the age where quick internet research is possible, I could find plenty to include in here.

The band’s lineup is nowhere to be found, so that could be a good place to start. The back of the CD case shows each member’s photo, but no names were included.  Some people may not recognize the man on the bottom-left (Robert Thomas Jr.) because he didn’t play on their previous studio album, Mr. Gone.  They even had the live album 8:30 come out just prior to this, so you could confuse him for Erich Zawinul (keyboardist and bandleader Joe Zawinul’s son), who contributed some percussion on that album.

There’s that red pill again!

And who wrote the songs?  The listener can just assume Joe Zawinul wrote any given tune and be right more than half of the time, but the booklet is truly where this information should be listed.  The writing credits are printed on the CD, but you would have to be holding the disc in your hand to read it, so you couldn’t check as you are listening to a song.  Most CD players cover the disc to make any attempt to read the disc impossible anyway, not to mention the rapid rotation speed.  A record spins significantly slower, so I’d be slightly more forgiving if the vinyl edition left the info off the sleeve rather than with the CD.

There are plenty of other things that would be nice to know about this album. Is “Port of Entry” live or were the crowd noises overdubbed? Where did some of the unique song titles like “Dream Clock” or “Three Views of a Secret” come from?  Someone lacking in musical theory may want to know the time signatures used in a composition. Back in the heyday of jazz, an album would often be accompanied by a descriptive essay that would answer many of the listener’s curiousities. Sometimes, a band leader would write his or her own description of the music, or a music critic (such as Ralph J. Gleason or Nat Hentoff) would chime in with their own impressions.  While this tradition may not have been as commonplace into the 80s, there’s no reason not to bring this practice back.  With disciplined control over my writing utensil (or a very precise plotter to do the writing), I could squeeze my own essay into this space.

Many albums will list a break down of the lineup of musicians track-by-track.  Guests have the tendency to sit in on a song or two in the jazz and fusion scene.  Some albums even have completely different lineups recording on each track.  In their case, Weather Report have been a band in transitional phases in the midst of some of their recording sessions. For example. Black Market featured the band’s departing bassist, Alphonso Johnson, playing on the majority of the album, and Jaco Pastorius joined the group in time to contribute with both “Barbary Coast” and “Cannon Ball”. Were there any guests or interesting lineup variants in Night Passage sessions?  Like most other facts about this album, I was left to wonder.  It appears (from my research) that the lineup was consistent track-to-track, but a list of gear and instruments on each song would be a great thing to write down.

Or should I be more inventive with the space?  Why not go the experimental route?  I should be viewing this as a blessing, a chance to spread my wings on this 9.5 × 4.75-inch canvas.  I could write my own lyrics or poetry to fit some of the songs, give each band member a new name based solely on the provided photographs, or doodle my own alternative album cover and fold the sleeve in the opposite direction.  I could hand a young child some crayons, and have them draw based on how this album makes them feel.

That last one may not be the best idea after all.  If it goes anything like my introduction to jazz, I’d imagine the page to remain as blank as the look on the kid’s face.

Albums Worth Waiting For

Sometimes life gets in the way of a good hobby.  I’m single, so it’s not as if I have family concerns that limit how I spend any excess income.  If that weren’t the case, I’m sure the idea of excess income would rapidly become a fantasy.  In that regard, perhaps I should correct myself.  Sometimes an excess of hobbies can get in the way of a good hobby.  Better?

In the quest to build the perfect music collection, I tend to come across so many different artists that I end up chasing the albums that most recently come to my attention, pushing more and more music further down my want-list.  When factoring in other hobbies, lifestyle choices, and expenses, my music collecting goals can get delayed.  As Mick Jagger sings in what is undoubtedly a different context, you can’t always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, well you just might find you get what you need.

Here are five albums that took me years to obtain, but I’m pleased to say were all worth the wait.

Gorguts – Obscura

In my first few years of listening to metal, my curiousity was sky-high.  I started with thrash and more traditional heavy metal, but I’d always make attempts to step out of my comfort zone.  Though I was stuck with a weak dial-up connection during my teen years, the internet was still one of my major music discovery methods.

The BNR Metal Pages was one of my first go-to sources for learning about metal music online.  It may seem primitive by today’s standards, but I’m glad to see the site still exists.  I was curious about finding some metal bands from my native land of Canada, and this site featured an outline of the more notable ones.  Rush, Voivod, Strapping Young Lad, Annihilator, etc.  Basically the higher profile, usual suspects that people normally identify with Canadian rock/metal would show up on my radar (though I had developed a brief Razor fascination as a teenager).  Then came Gorguts.

Gorguts was such an unusual name to me.  This was before I exposed myself to much death metal, so vulgar sounding names were a novelty to me.  I never heard them until a long while after learning about them, or if I did it was one of their earlier Roadrunner Records-era songs.  When I finally decided to invest time in finding Gorguts’ music, I needed a starting point.

Obscura kept showing up as their most notable work. It received a lot of mixed reactions because people didn’t know what to make of it at the time of it’s initial release in 1998. It’s similar to the backlash that Atheist received when they released Unquestionable Presence.  Though there’s a seven year gap between these albums, many death metal fans still weren’t open to new approaches.  Opinions have changed since then, and it is now considered a landmark album.  There’s even a notable technical death metal band that adopted Obscura as their moniker.

Unfortunately, Obscura was long out-of-print, so copies of it weren’t exactly priced to move. I put it out of my mind until Luc Lemay reformed the band to create the album Colored Sands with a new lineup featuring Dysrhythmia members Kevin Hufnagel and Colin Marston.  I loved the album, saw them live promoting said album, and shortly after learned that (at long last!) they were going to re-release Obscura.  I quickly placed an order for the fancy-schmantzy blue coloured vinyl edition.

Anyone ever get that feeling when your heart races when you unexpectedly come across an album when pouring through the shelves in a music store?  Finding a copy of Obscura in the bargain bin of a used CD store did that to me.  I was so stunned by it’s presence that I temporarily forgot I had the vinyl on pre-order!  In this case, it was the original Olympic Records version, so I easily parted with the four bucks.

I’m now the proud owner of two copies of the album.  I usually don’t grab multiple versions of the same album, but I’ll call this one a happy accident.  While they modified the cover slightly to incorporate their current logo (the pic I’ve provided is the original cover), the expanded liner notes provide great insight to the creative process and musicians.  For fans of more straight-forward death metal looking to broaden their horizons, Obscura is well-worth checking out, especially now that it is plentifully available.

Oceansize – Efflorese

This is the case of an album that was never financially out of reach, yet it still took longer than I wanted to obtain it.

My introduction to Oceansize (named after the Jane’s Addiction tune) came soon after I stumbled across a valuable music resource on the internet, Prog Archives.  The site featured a media player that showcasing songs of artists selected for inclusion in their archives.  For Oceansize, whom the site categorizes as psychedelic/space-rock, they included a track off Effloresce titled “Massive Bereavement”.  To fresh ears, it reminded me of an easier-to-digest Mr. Bungle, especially during the second half of the song.   That’s all it took to sell them to me.

I attended university in a smaller city in Canada with few music stores.   Fortunately, the HMV in the area would order in albums that you did not need to pay for in advance.  Seeing as the store’s selection wasn’t often up to my standards, I took frequent advantage of their policy.  It wasn’t too long after my Oceansize discovery before I requested that they order in a copy of Effloresce.  I expected to get a call from the store within a couple months, but that would not be the case.

Thankfully, the band, like most, had more than one album.  I received Frames as a Christmas gift months that very year , and it certainly held me over.  I had recently seen some live rehearsal-style footage on Youtube, and luckily, my copy of Frames came with the DVD featuring this among the footage.  That album helped get me through the stresses of post-secondary education, so it was very much a worthy placeholder.  In fact, the HMV called me around a week or two before I was to move back home from school to tell me that they could not fulfil my order.

Soon after heading back home, I found Self-Preserved While The Bodies Float Up at Sonic Boom Records.  Don’t get me wrong!  I like that album, but the void remained. I still hadn’t tracked down the original album that brought Oceansize to my attention.

Once I found a stable job and moved out of my parent’s house, I finally grabbed my own credit card and began making online music purchases.  Effloresce was near the top of my shopping list, so it was naturally one of the first that I crossed off it.

Forbidden – Twisted Into Form

I learned about Forbidden because Slayer’s drummer at the time I discovered them, Paul Bostaph, was once a member (as was Machine Head’s Robb Flynn).  I believe I first saw the band listed on a Slayer fan-site that I can’t seem to locate.  I also saw a brief 15-second clip of their performance of “Chalice Of Blood” from the concert video Ultimate Revenge 2.  It was such a short sampling because it was on a VHS compilation tape from Metal Head video magazine (Volume 1) that either my brother or I found at a pawn shop when we were around 16.  Albeit a very short taste, the riffage in that song sounded so devastatingly powerful that we knew one of us had to get an album of theirs.  The trouble was that their work was long out of print, so we did what we normally did to build up our CD collections.  We waited.

I typically have good fortune when checking my nearby Deja Vu Discs location’s stock of used CDs. When it came to Forbidden, lady luck did not shine down upon me. I’d estimate it took around four to five years before they had either of Forbidden’s first two albums in one of their stores. My brother grabbed Forbidden Evil, and I got Twisted Into Form, both of which appeared on the same trip.

The album was exactly what I was hoping for.  Top-notch Bay Area thrash rivaling the quality that I’ve grown accustomed to with Puppets/Justice-era Metallica or the first four Testament albums.  Russ Anderson is more in the traditional/power metal school of vocalist compared to others in thrash metal that have more grit in their voices, but I liked the contrast.

Oddly enough, I ended up purging this album from my collection after about a year or so of buying it.  I’d routinely do this type of thing when I was younger during stretches of unemployment.  If I wanted to buy more music, I’d sell some albums that I wasn’t so enthusiastic about at the time in order to free up some money.  I also remember getting rid of my copy of Dreaming Neon Black by Nevermore (which also features Tim Calvert as a guitarist) around the same time, so that’s another wrong that needs righting eventually.

I re-purchased Twisted Into Form at some point this year to cure my feelings of seller’s remorse.  It’s not the original edition I previously owned, but this version includes the Raw Evil Live at the Dynamo EP as bonus tracks, so that’s good for a taste of some Forbidden Evil material as well as a faithful cover of Judas Priest’s “Victim of Changes”.

Cardiacs – A Little Man and a House and the Whole World Window and On Land and In The Sea

Cardiacs are a hard band to describe to people.  They’re a bit proggy, a bit punk, a bit psychedelic, a bit poppy, and a bit silly.  Much of their songs sound as if you’re playing a 33 1/3rpm record on the 45rpm setting.  That may not all sound particularly appetizing, but it is to this guy.

I first heard of them when I was first getting into Napalm Death, and bassist Shane Embury mentioned them as an influence in the Noise For Music’s Sake liner notes.  I never properly checked the band out until Napalm Death recorded a cover of “To Go Off and Things” to help raise money for Cardiacs bandleader Tim Smith’s medical expenses.  It sounded rather different from Napalm Death, but they’ve always seemed to name-check a great range of influences.

It took a few songs to figure them out, but it didn’t take much for their unique sound to grow on me.  I really dug the songs “Dirty Boy” (which reminded me of Devin Townsend’s work) “Day Is Gone” “A Little Man and a House” and “Is This The Life?” which was the closest they had to a hit.  Funnily enough, a few years after listening to that Napalm Death cover, I noticed that guitarist Dan Mongrain was wearing a Cardiacs t-shirt live when his band (Voivod) co-headlined a tour with (you guessed it!) Napalm Death.  Message received!  It was time to take getting a Cardiacs album seriously.

I didn’t look in much detail over the span of the internet like I’ve just recently started doing for some obscure stuff.  I tended to stick to Amazon, which is still usually the first place I look, where a Cardiacs album typically sells at the same price as three or four standard-priced albums.  Given the option, I’d take the three-to-four albums 99 times out of 100.

This was a case where I finally bit the bullet and put down a bit more money than I would normally spend on CDs.  I acquired the two pictured albums as a bundle on eBay. They weren’t exactly cheap, but it got to the point of waiting that I didn’t want to hold off any longer.  Compared to the outrageous listed prices on other sites, finding theses CDs at around $25 CAD a piece is a relative steal.  In fact, I just snagged a copy of Heaven Born & Ever Bright from the same eBay seller nearly one year later at around $20.  If this trend remains, I should be ordering Sing to God from the same guy for $15 at some point next year.

If you’re gonna dream, dream big!

Sadus – A Vision Of Misery

The first time I heard Steve Digiorgio’s bass playing, I was completely enthralled. It coincided with my introduction to Death through watching the music video for “The Philosopher” when I was around 18.  I’m not 100% certain that it was my first exposure to fretless bass, but it was definitely my introduction to fretless bass playing in a metal context.  It was around this time that I bought my musically like-minded twin brother a copy of The Sound of Perseverance as a Christmas gift.  This album did not have Digiorgio on it (though still a great listen), so I had to do a bit of digging for albums featuring my new bass inspiration.

While The Sound of Perseverance was the only Death album available at the local mall, it wasn’t long before I found a second-hand copy of Individual Thought Patterns at Deja Vu Discs.  I’d also found his appearance in other sources such as his stint with Testament (see The Gathering) and his stand-in session work on Quo Vadis’ Defiant Imagination.  However, I was intrigued to hear more of Digiorgio’s work in his pre-Death band, Sadus.

Back when downloading MP3s was a big deal, my brother and I would vigorously search the interwebs in hopes of discovering more great metal bands.  We loaded up a stellar collection of lo-fidelity audio (that unmistakable sound as if it’s being played under water) of metal bands ranging from Agent Steel to Zyklon.  We never really dabbled with Napster or similar music-sharing sites, opting to record label or band sites, which commonly had a downloads section where you can get a song or two per album for free.  In this routine process, we found some Sadus songs on the band’s official website.  I don’t know all of their songs they featured, but one I definitely recall is “Aggression” off of Elements of Anger.  The problem was that each of their songs would fade out at around the two minute mark.  Good enough sampling for me, and I was sold.  The problem was that I couldn’t find their albums anywhere.

Fast forward fourteen years later, and one of my long Youtube video journeys led me to stumble across the song “Deceptive Perceptions” off A Vision of Misery. After sampling a few other Sadus tracks in their discography, I decided that would be the album with the most appeal.  Still, it really didn’t matter where I started because all of their albums have been out of print for a good decade and at seemingly low supply.  So I waited yet again to do some bargain hunting.  Twenty dollars may not sound like a deal on a used CD, but it was the lowest listed value I was able to find after a few extra months of patience.

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Am I alone out there in waiting so long in making such purchases?  Would it be a better strategy to get an album at any cost rather than waiting potentially years for it?  Or should I scrap my physical music collection altogether and become devoted exclusively to iTunes or Spotify?

Dream Theater – When Dream and Day Unite Ad (Musician magazine)

Here’s a perfect example of the joy I get from reading back issues of music publications.  You see, I have a tendency to tune out commercials when watching television.  When an advertisement is in printed form, I seem to pay more attention for some reason.  In a magazine that’s aimed at music fans and musicians, I could stand to learn something by reading the ads.  Take the following Dream Theater advertisement found in the April 1989 issue of Musician magazine.

This a bit of a side note, but I used to call this album “When Day and Dream Unite” due to a case of continual laziness by skimming over the title (I had a similar problem when referring to Carcass’ Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious album as “Necrotism”), but I guess the order of the words don’t matter.  It is a union, after all!  However, if you “unite” each word into a compound word, you risk changing the meaning drastically. You would either get a dream-day or a daydream, two different things.  Dream Day involves doing something (“My dream day was spent entirely at the Playboy Mansion.”), and Day Dream involves doing nothing (“I had a daydream were I went to the Playboy Mansion.”).  Realize that dream, so Dream before Day it is!

Anyway, this was very surprising seeing them with a full page ad this early into their career.  I imagine that the record label felt the need to set the stage properly with them.  They may have toyed with the idea of dubbing these guys as the next Rush or Yes, but since these bands were betraying their progressive rock roots according to certain fans, thought against the comparisons.  They were a young band built around top-notch musicianship, so they needed to reflect this in an eye-catching headline.

“For the first time in a long time… IT’S ABOUT MUSIC!

I know Dream Theater are, and always have been, considered a musician’s band.  Even with that in mind, the headline makes a very bold statement.  It comes off as a bit of a slap in the face to other 80s bands that preceded them that would blend progressive rock influences within a heavy metal sound.  Among those bands were Queensryche, Fates Warning, Savatage, Crimson Glory, and even Helloween or Yngwie Malmsteen’s Rising Force to a lesser extent.  Was it not about music with any of these bands?  What about bands and musicians in other genres?  In spite of the band’s instrumental prowess, they seem to be fairly humble guys, so this brashness would go against their character.  I’m wondering if they ever discuss this in their biography Lifting Shadows.

I’d think that with a headline like that, the ad would have turned the focus on to the music itself, showing the band performing together instead of using a lifeless, staged photograph.  It looks like they had to wait out a family with crying babies before their turn at the Sears photo studio.  What?  No smiles?  Hand them their instruments, and that would likely have changed things.  You know what, though?  They got them on the back cover of my CD copy of the album, and it didn’t make them look any less like sour pusses.

While I’m at it, I may as well discuss the album cover a little, which can be seen in the background. This cover is in the vein of what I’d expect Smell The Glove to have looked like had Spinal Tap not been forced to go to the infamous all-black cover, albeit more PG (“What’s wrong with being sexy?”).  You have a young man who has been restrained, and is about to be branded with a hot iron that features the Dream Theater logo.  It always came off to me as an image more suiting of a hair metal band than a band that sings about things other than partying and getting laid. In addition, the red font used to print “It’s About Music” on this ad (never mind the band’s perms and teased hair) wouldn’t look out of place on a Poison album sleeve.

I haven’t seen sales figures for When Dream And Day Unite, but the band’s momentum halted soon after it was released.  Even if bold advertising captured consumer’s imaginations, most of their potential audience likely never saw them tour in support of it.  Their shows were limited to select dates in the New York City area, and they parted ways with vocalist Charlie Dominici by the end of the brief tour.  They’d then run through a series of auditions (ex-Fates Warning vocalist John Arch was considered for the gig), settle on one singer (Steve Stone, who lasted for a grand total of one gig), and finally found a kindred spirit in the pride of Penetanguishene, James Labrie.

Their sophomore album, Images and Words, is not just commonly considered Dream Theater’s greatest recording and a landmark album in the progressive metal genre, it was their biggest commercial success.  The second time around, I wonder if they cut back on the boasting, and just let the music do the talking.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics (Revolutionary Comics)

I got into reading comic books well before gaining a deep appreciation of music.  With a rather limited allowance, my comic purchases would usually come in the form of a “Three For The Price Of One” bag of assorted comics that would often contain back issues from either DC or Valiant Comics.  The top comic would be visible through the plastic wrap, but the others would be a mystery.  Sometimes, when my siblings and I were on our best behaviour, our parents would buy us each a fresh comic provided it wasn’t too violent.  I could sneak some superhero titles past them, but it seemed more often than not that I’d be stuck with something Disney affiliated or one from Archie Comics.  Eventually, comic books became something I shied away from when I was approaching adolescence and my interests shifted towards other things.

When getting back into comics after a five-plus year absence while in my late teens, I found just the perfect comic series to draw me back towards the speech-bubbled art form: Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics!  The first issue I got my hands on was the Metallica one.  I liked the idea that one of my favourite bands could stand alongside The X-Men and Batman in a comic shop.  The band looked rather distorted and angular on the cover, and the lava lamp pattern wasn’t too easy on the eyes either (the original cover was given a facelift in re-releases), but I knew I needed to read this comic.  Seventeen issues later (plus a recent order of four more), and I’m still enjoying them.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics was a series put out by Revolutionary Comics, a company founded by Todd Loren in 1989.  The company had a rather brief but highly notable existence. Their comics were highly popular with music consumers, but certain artists and/or their management weren’t having any of it.  Revolutionary Comics faced much litigation, including a case revolving around the New Kids on the Block.  There’s a documentary (The Story of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics) that covers all their history better than I can say it, so I’d recommend watching that.

Despite all the legal pressures Revolution Comics faced, they held rather firm in their anti-censorship stance.  To catch a glimpse of the creator’s mindset, here’s some opening remarks that were featured in the Alice Cooper issue.

Todd Loren certainly comes off as a passionate man, and this translated in an entertaining (at least in my opinion) line of comics for music lovers.  I’ll just run through the series and my collection briefly to touch on some of the variety as well as some personal insight.

There were sixty-three issues of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics in total, but the cool thing is that you can just buy the ones that interest you as there’s no continuous story line.  It’s not as if you need to study up on Van Halen before you can get to The Black Crowes issue, and the history of Janis Joplin is not prerequisite viewing for that of Madonna.  Leave the ones you don’t want in the back issues bins, and put the money saved towards getting more albums.  That’s what I’d do anyway!

The beauty of the unauthorized aspect of the series (which was branded as “Unauthorized And Proud Of It!!”) is the over-the-top nature that will often creep into the story telling.  They come across like if you watch a Behind The Music of a band when you are half-asleep.  You don’t get a grasp on all the finer details, but it gets the point across. You are likely to catch couple of incorrect factual references, witness some slight indulgence in urban legends etc.  For instance, in the Metallica story, the moment Dave Mustaine gets kicked out of the band, he instantly starts ranting about his future plans as if he’d planned on leaving the band for a long time.

The illustration here actually reminds me of Steve Grimmett of Grim Reaper, as he’s looking a tad on the husky side here, but that’s besides the point.  The process of determining his next music venture took a bit more time than shown, but this is a clever way of fitting the origins of a Megadeth story into a more graphic context that captures their conflict and reveals the next stage of his career all at once.  However, why not go a bit more descriptive while you’re at it.

“I’m going to start a new band called Megadeth, and they’re going to play even faster. I’ll meet my bass player by throwing a potted plant at his window while hung over.  We’ll have an album called Countdown to Extinction that will peak at number 2 on the charts.  Not as high as you’ll achieve, but still.. pretty damn good!  Plus Vic Rattlehead.”

And then there’s this battle of egos in the history of Genesis:

This passive aggressive sniping they take at each other occurs in a few other panels.  Peter Gabriel seems to have developed a strong case of Lead Singer’s Disease, but Phil Collins comes across as a scheming villain who plans on overthrowing his tyrannical band-mate.  If only I could be the singer!!!  I’ve been exposed to a number of stories regarding Genesis, and don’t recall this level of animosity within the band.  Gabriel’s exit seemed to be mostly a matter a musician wanting to move on to do different things, granted his iconic use of on-stage costumes did help catapult his fame above those of the musicians behind him.

Some stories take unique approaches in their presentation.  The Queensryche issue has Doctor X, a fictional character from their concept album Operation: Mindcrime, acting as the narrator.

This goes a step beyond the breaking of the fourth wall, but is ideal for the format.  However, should he really be boasting about the exposure he was given by the band?  I don’t believe he was depicted in the most flattering of terms on that album.  That being said, I’ve never given the sequel a proper listen.  If this comic is canon, maybe Doctor X becomes a spokesman for Ronco, because he was certainly selling me on turning the page to read onward.

If you’re a fan of corny jokes, there are good odds that an issue you’d stumble across randomly would close with one. Case in point, the final panel of the Whitesnake issue.

There are several issues of this comic series that I’d love to get my hands on, but based on my exposure, I can already wager some safe guesses on how those will end.  Naturally, the Queen story would end with a “We STILL are the champions!!!” proclamation.  How about the end of a Bruce Springsteen comic?  Would he hint at retirement?  “Who, me? Baby, I was Born to Run!!!”  There was an planned issue based on Yes that was never published.  Could that have been due to the writers becoming over-exhausted trying to work a good Tales From Topographic Oceans pun into the closing panel?  The world may never know!

From cover to cover, most issues I own aren’t strictly filled with a biographical story.  Many other comic strips  and band parodies are featured within.  Take this snippet found in The Rolling Stones issue.

These side stories don’t interest me that much, but the ideas depicted in some so absurd and silly that they can be entertaining, not too different from MAD or Cracked magazine.  A random mishmash of pop-culture.  “I pity the fool.. who doesn’t phone home” surely comes to mind to The Simpsons fans out there.

An ongoing theme that is spread throughout this series in their fight against censorship and pro-First Amendment sentiment is in their negative depiction of the Parents Music Resource Center (PMRC).  The organization is chronicled/lampooned in the Public Enemy / 2 Live Crew comic.  One panel of the comic I found amusing references so good ol’ Canadiana, bringing up one of the first hardcore punk bands I was ever exposed to, the Dayglo Abortions.  Here’s some TV footage of the obscenity case in question.

One slight negative with some of these comics comes in the inconsistency from panel-to-panel at how the people appear.  In one panel you may have a teen-aged Jim Martin (from Faith No More) looking like he’s in his thirties, or another where Ozzy Osbourne circa 1986 is shown playing in concert with the wrong guitarist (Zakk Wylde when it should be Jake E. Lee).  However, these inaccuracies vary depending on the illustrator, one of which in particular seemed to more mindful of authenticity than others.  A good example of this is the work of Greg Fox.  Aside from the Genesis sample shown earlier, here’s a taste of some of his work on the David Bowie issue.

The series features a few issues where the illustrations were done in colour.  Only a few were done this way, which I’m guessing was reversed to keep costs lower.  To be honest, I prefer the look of the black and white, so maybe it’s possible others agreed and they switched back due to reader requests.  Here are some previews from the AC/DC and Alice Cooper stories.

For those who collect comic books, I suppose my copy of the Ice-T story may interest you the most.  It came signed by Jay Allen Sanford, who was the writer of the issue.

Of course to 99.99% of the population, that pales in comparison to one singed by Ice-T himself.  I agree, but I can’t help but admire Sanford’s work on this story.  Like most issues, much of the dialogue is pulled from various interviews with the artist over the years, but the manner in which they are pieced together flow so well in this issue.  Sanford really seemed to be able to capture Ice-T’s character based on all I know of the man, and from what I do know, the man is one straight-shooting character.

When exploring the entirety of their artist selections, they were fairly good in their selections.  Not many of the artists selected have faded into obscurity.  Even most of the hair metal bands can still make a decent living on the touring circuit, and Paula Abdul got a huge profile boost when on American Idol.  Of bands that didn’t get comics (other than ones I know who blocked them), I would have liked to see ones made of The Cult (since I know little of their history), Iggy Pop / The Stooges, The Misfits/Danzig (which had potential for a great cover), and The Smiths / Morrissey would be among my nominations.

Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics produced several eye-catching covers, but of the ones in my possession, here are some of my favourites.

These showcase three artists from radically different genres of music, but the covers share common traits. They all feature rather good likenesses of the featured band members, and make effective use of colour.  I didn’t even own Straight Outta Compton when I grabbed the N.W.A. / Ice Cube comic, but I clearly must have liked what I saw.  You can check out the entire gallery of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics covers on sites such as Comic Vine to make up your own mind.

Revolutionary Comics also did a few stand-alone music issues (such as Women In Rock) and some editions that contained longer stories of bands spread across multiple comics (including Pink Floyd and The Beatles).  I can’t remember where I purchased this, but years back, I found multi pack featuring Aerosmith, Def Leppard, Guns n Roses, Metallica, Motley Crue and Warrant.  I don’t have most of these stories in my collection, so this was a very convenient compilation for me, which couldn’t have cost me any more that ten bucks.  With the exception of Warrant, all these bands are legends.  It was titled Encyclopedia Metallica, and unlike what his future reputation would have you believe, Lars Ulrich didn’t take them to court.

For those with interests beyond music (that should be all of you), Revolutionary Comics also did bios on a wide range of celebrities from actors to politicians to athletes.  I recently grabbed a copy of one of Wayne Gretzky, and if you’ve seen his performance on Saturday Night Live, he’s about as far from a rock star personality as you can get.  I briefly touched on lawsuits Revolutionary Comics experienced, and here’s a clip discussing one involving the issue that featured Gretzky’s rink rival, Mario Lemieux.

One issue I’d like to get my hands on is the David Lynch issue, which is from their Bio-Graphics run of comics.  While also a comic from a non-musician line, in the years since it’s release, Lynch has created his own musical projects, and has collaborated with a number of musicians including Chrysta Bell and Lykke Li.  The recent relaunch of Twin Peaks (which happens to feature Bell in an acting role) has him lending exposure to  music acts such as Au Revoir Simone and The Cactus Blossoms.

There may be a few rarities out there, but you should be able to find a typical issue of Rock ‘N’ Roll Comics for anywhere from $2 to $10 (Canadian dollars).  Not a bad price for a taste of rock history.

Childhood Car Tunes – Bad Hair Day by “Weird Al” Yankovic

I’d like to take some time to explore my main method of music absorption when I was a kid.  I would rarely listen to music through my headphones on my portable cassette player.  The last time I remember doing that was listening to my copy of What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, and the batteries were running low.  For some reason, I assumed the tape had somehow become warped, and I never trusted that cassette player again.

For the majority of the time, I’d listen to cassettes with my family through the van’s tape deck.  My mom would keep a sleeve that would hold approximately 12 cassettes with us when we would go on summer road trips and vacation.  I’ve got plenty of tapes that were in the rotation that I would like to discuss, but I’ll focus on one at a time.  For this blog entry, I will discuss the album Bad Hair Day by “Weird Al” Yankovic.

I can’t remember exactly when I received this album, or how I was even introduced to Weird Al.  All I know is that I related to him instantly, and I can relate to him to this day.  I even dressed up as the man last year on Halloween. However, it has only been within the past year or so that I realized how much my music collection was lacking in Weird Al content.  While I like comedy albums and own a decent amount of stand-up albums, I don’t drive to collect it as much as I do other genres.  I bought Straight Outta Lynwood the year it came out, but it was several years later until I grabbed Dare To Be Stupid, and in recent weeks I’ve re-acquired Bad Hair Day (this time on CD).  This gives me a good opportunity to reflect on this one track-by-track.

“Amish Paradise” 

This is the most known song, but it’s probably among my least favourite on the album.  Part of that may be due to the over-exposure this song had at the time of release, and nowadays I tend to look out for music that flies a bit under the radar, avoiding the hit singles .  I liked it more when I was younger, but there are some stylistic choices that I can still appreciate.  Al opted to go with a more stiff rap style to keep in spirit with his caricaturing of an Amish man instead of imitating Coolio.  In case the original came out before your time, give it a listen here.

Favourite Lyric:

“Hitchin’ up the buggy, churnin’ lots of butter

Raised a barn on Monday, soon I’ll raise anutter”

I’m not sure when the term “humble brag” came into prominence, but this song has that spirit.  Most of what he’s talking about seem to be standard aspects of his daily life, which of course one of the chief sources of the humour.  The creative liberty taken in the misspelling of another is a nice touch, a technique that is often used and overused in hip-hop.

“Everything You Know Is Wrong”

Not a direct song parody, but one that was done in the style of They Might Be Giants. They aren’t a group I ever paid much attention to, but I remember really enjoying the “Particle Man” and their cover of novelty song “Istanbul (not Constantinople)” both of which featured on Tiny Toon Adventures.  They are perhaps most famous for performing the theme song to Malcolm In The Middle.  Perhaps if all of their songs had some sort of TV affiliation I’d know the band as well as I do Star Trek trivia.

This song is super catchy, more impressive considering the fast pace at which the words seem to fly from his mouth.  His voice seems to be pitched higher than normal, but I want to say that nasal tone is natural, and not something he tweaked for the recording.  Nonetheless, regardless of how he gets by in the studio, I hear the man really brings it live.

Favourite Lyric:

“And so I had them send me back to last Thursday night so I could pay my phone bill on time”

This request is very similar to the tired premise where you are granted three wishes from a genie, and you end up wasting them on frivolous, short-sighted things like a cold beer, dating a supermodel, or becoming Adolf Hitler.  I find extraterrestrial beings more fascinating than genies in a bottle, so that makes the score Weird Al: 1, Joke A Friend Of My Dad Would Tell Me: 0.

“Cavity Search” 

I’ve always liked the simple groove of this track, and Weird Al’s band do as good a job as always in nailing the sound of the band they are parodying.  That being said, I never really listened to U2 until relatively recently when I finally decided to grab a copy of The Joshua Tree.  The song “Cavity Search” is based on, “Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me”, is slightly obscure, with U2’s version having been on the soundtrack for Batman Forever, a film I remember more as my introduction to Nicole Kidman than anything else.   Also, it was within this time frame that I actually made my first visit to the dentist, making all the references seem so fresh to me.  The added drill sounds work well, though Paul Gilbert may have beat them to it by a few years.

Favourite Lyric:

“Listenin’ to the Muzak

Hearin’ people scream

Sittin’ in the waiting room

Readin’ crappy magazines”

I don’t believe my dentist office ever pumped out any music, nor can I recall any screams of terror pumping down the halls.  All I know is that all the copies of Good Housekeeping in the world couldn’t make up for the lack of a single Sports Illustrated.

“Callin’ In Sick” 

I could relate at the time from a student perspective. The chorus I could envision myself screaming over the phone at my teachers. They’d then ask if they could talk to my parents because I was only a minor without the ability to pull myself out of school, thus effectively bursting my bubble.

This song is apparently done as a grunge sound alike, with the verse sounding reminiscent of the riff in Nirvana’s “Come As You Are” or “Lithium”.  I didn’t really identify this as a grunge/alternative song when I was younger, which likely had to do with Weird Al’s voice not quite fitting the sound.

The song didn’t even necessarily have to refer to having a sick day. I’d think the objective of a fake sick day would be to do something more interesting than your job. Nothing he mentions sounds more appetizing than any job I’ve ever had.

Favourite Lyric:

“I could spend all day in my underwear watching Ernest Goes To Camp

That is sadly the most appealing thing of all his potential plans.  I’ve seen that particular B-movie more than once, so I’d likely dig for something I haven’t watched.  There’s plenty to choose from on my Letterboxd watchlist, but if I truly am sick, my fatigued state would likely lead me to pick Ricky Oh – The Story Of Ricky off the shelf for the umpteenth time.  If watching an underdog vanquish baddies in an endless montage of power punches couldn’t motivate me to get back to health, what would?

“Alternative Polka”

The beauty of listen to one of Weird Al’s medleys is trying to play Name That Tune as quickly as the band makes the transition.  It differs significantly than if you are seeing a rock band perform a medley of their own tunes due to the different arrangement

I had a very small music collection back in 1996, and didn’t listen to the radio that often, so some of these artists flew over my head. They are so masterfully woven together anyway that it feels as if I’m listening to only one composition, with lyrics that coming off as stream of consciousness.

Favourite Lyric:

The portion from “Closer” by Nine Inch Nails. Leading into the section with an electronic beat, the slapstick censorship sound effects contrast magnificently with Trent Reznor blatantly lustful lyric.

“Since You’ve Been Gone” 

To keep it brief, this one is Weird Al’s barbershop / do-wop take on a love song.  This is a great “filler” track, and I’m not saying that based on the quality.  The vocals are nicely arranged, with no need to cram in any pesky musical instruments to overshadow them.  Al sings gross exaggerations of pain after what seems like a particularly rough breakup, but the end of the song reveals he still prefers how he feels to being in a bad relationship.

Favourite Lyric:

“Since you’ve been gone

It’s like I’ve got a great big mouthful of cod liver oil”

Cod liver oil is one of those things I hear of a lot, and get the general impression of what it is, but always forget exactly what it is.  Cod’s a fish, and fish tends to stink.  Liver sounds like something that should never be eaten by a civilized human being.  Oil, I’m neutral on, but when the three words are combined it seem that much more gross than each individual components.  The idea of it turns my stomach so much that I can’t even make my way through the brief Wikipedia page to know if my queasiness is justified.

“Gump” 

Yes!! I got right into this song at age 11, and it’s still a standout for me.  Forrest Gump was one of the first dramatic films I had the patience to sit through as I was still mostly into cartoons, comedy, and action movies.  The story was so compelling, and the scenes in Forrest’s life were so varied and adventurous in nature that they jumped right off the screen.  Perhaps Weird Al doesn’t share the most relevant details of the movie, but what fun would that be?  Think of it as trimming off the meat instead of trimming the fat.

Of further relevance to me was that The Presidents of The United States Of America’s debut (which featured “Lump”) was one of those albums in our family van’s tape deck rotation, so I’ll be sure to discuss that album in a future post.

Favourite Lyric:

“His girlfriend Jenny was kind of a slut

He went to the White House, showed LBJ his butt.”

Two naughty phrases rhyming with each other, but still two memorable parts of the story (at least as a kid they were).  I’m slightly disappointing he didn’t reference Forrest’s ping-pong career, but questioning Weird Al’s songwriting?  Shame on me!  That’s like thinking Al would be less weird if he shaved his moustache and ditched the dorky glasses.  HE’S JUST AS WEIRD AS EVER!!

Thank god for that 🙂

“I’m So Sick Of You”

I almost forgot entirely about this track.  I was running through the tape by memory at first, and I caught myself remembering this by thinking about the outro of the previous track.

The chorus is one that I sort of found annoying with all that “I Yi Yi Yi Yi!!!” stuff, which is my main lasting memory of this one.  I don’t mind Elvis Costello, whom this is based off of, but perhaps this explains why I never really got into his work.  I also found it a little odd that there were two songs on the album with “sick” in the title, and it’s the second relationship song as well.  Not a standout, but by no means a bad song.

Favourite Lyric:

“You’ve got inhuman body odour

You’ve got the hair of a boxing promoter”

That is one reference that didn’t need explaining to anybody.  Everybody knew he was referring to Don King’s famous hairdo, but a kid stumbling upon this song may not know that.  You may picture a man with frizzy mop-top, but you probably are just as likely to picture hair slicked back with globs of gel or some cringe-worthy comb-overs.  Certain people may not even picture a male boxing promoter.  I can’t argue that, though a woman would need to whip up quite the ensemble to outshine the King.  If you’re hard up for ideas, watch some old reruns, and go with whatever Carol Brady happens to be wearing.

And speaking of reruns…

“Syndicated Inc.” 

I actually found this one to be a bit bland in comparison to other tracks.  Most of the song is basically listing off TV shows.  Part of it may be that I never got into Soul Asylum, but still, if I want to point somebody in a direction of a boob tube – themed track, I’d be more likely to play them “TV Party” by Black Flag.

On the positive side, the accordion solo is rather memorable, and when matched up with the original guitar lead in “Misery”, is faithful. I actually prefer hearing it on the accordion, but that could be my bias talking.

Favourite Lyric:

“Think I’m losing my sanity

I’m addicted to Regis & Kathy Lee”

That’s a true sign of having a TV addiction.  Daytime TV is one of the hardest watching experiences there is.  I remember being stuck on rainy days during summer vacation with not much on but Regis & Kathy Lee or soap operas in the afternoons.  Suddenly, being sent outside to pull weeds out of the garden didn’t seem like a chore.

“I Remember Larry”

This was a definite highlight for me.  A fantastically upbeat song with lyrics that go against a rather sinister lyrical theme, a balance that he has featured on several other songs throughout his discography (and even others on this album).  And I love the fade-out, which makes great use of multiple vocal tracks.  I’ll call this my favourite song on Bad Hair Day in spite of my lackluster explanation.

I was not aware of the original source material for this track at the time, and didn’t even explore it until a few months ago.  It’s based of the style of Hilly Michaels, and shares plenty of melodic similarities to “Calling All Girls”.

Favourite Lyric:

“You know I couldn’t help but laugh

Even though he treated me like slime

Remember when he cut my car in half?

Well, he really got me good that time”

That prank would push me over the edge as well, even though I drive around in a decade old Pontiac G5.  When I was younger, I would picture a guy with a gigantic pair of scissors cutting the car like it was the grand opening of a shopping mall.  Compared to other means of vehicular destruction, that doesn’t seem all that intimidating.

“Phony Calls” 

“Waterfalls” was a massively huge song for TLC.  So huge, in fact, that I’m surprised that Weird Al didn’t make a video for this song.  “Waterfalls” may not continue to be a radio staples or be considered a universal classic, but that actually helps this song, and many others on the album age rather well.  You don’t even need to have heard the originals to enjoy them.  Just go with the flow, and let Al’s words take you on a strange journey.

I wasn’t one of those kids who instigated this particular brand of annoyance.  Furthermore, I’ve never even been that drawn to the telephone, even with all it’s technological advancements during my lifetime.  Still, the concept of the prank call always makes for easy entertainment.  When listening to this song, my ears would perk up during Bart Simpson’s call to Moe’s Tavern.  Most of my exposure to The Simpsons at the time was the Treehouse of Horror Halloween episodes, so this sample was fresh to my ears.

Favourite Lyric:

I have to choose the entire chorus. I know it follows the same melody, but I find this more singable than the original.  I guess “No Scrubs” was more in my wheelhouse.

“Don’t go makin’ phony calls

Please stick to the seven-digit numbers you’re used to

I know that you think it’s funny drivin’ folks right up the wall

But it’s really getting’ old fast”

There are a few variants of the chorus, but arbitrarily chose the first one.  I can actually remember being prank called a couple of times by some classmates who would pretend to be one of the girls in my class. Then one day, she actually did call, and I yelled at her assuming it was another prank. Good times.

“The Night Santa Went Crazy”

I’ve got a soft spot for Christmas songs, but there’s no need to tell you that if given the chance, Bing Crosby wouldn’t have touched this one with a ten-foot pole.  This track is strikingly similar to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mama I’m Coming Home”, but who would have thought that the lyrics would be darker than those sung by The Prince of Darkness?  Perhaps this song could traumatize young children, but I was already aware that Santa was not real when I first obtained this album, so I was unscathed aside from my sides being split from laughter.

Favourite Lyric:

I’m spoiled for choice with this song, but I’ll go with

“And they say Mrs. Claus

she’s on the phone every night

With her lawyer negotiating the movie rights”

This may seem pretty heartless of the woman, but just consider the plethora of questionable or tasteless Christmas movies that had been released before and since.  Look towards Silent Night, Deadly Night, the needless Home Alone sequels,or any holiday film starring a wrestler as evidence.  I’d hate to see the pitches she would have rejected, but I hope she pours all that blood money back into the toy workshop in the North Pole, extending the elves’ work benefits beyond all the candy canes they can eat.

I definitely didn’t get a case of buyer’s remorse by grabbing this album for a second time.  It has even brought back some old memories of family vacations where this album served as a soundtrack towards our destination.  This has encouraged me to start compiling a master list of albums that my family had in our tape drawers, as I’d love to do this type of entry again.  Heck, maybe even my old Glo Friends tape had a song or two on it!

Dream Notes – “Stay Clean???”

My love of music often works its way into my dreams, occasionally in rather unusual ways.  I’ve talked about this type of thing previously in my old blog, and since this blog deals exclusively with music, I’m going to bring this idea over here.   If you’ll indulge me, here’s another mess my brain cobbled together.

This is one of those dreams where I am in some building that’s a hybrid of other types of buildings I have visited.  I’ve had similar dreams to this, including one where I discovered a hidden room in my grandparent’s house that led us on a Scooby Doo mystery to solve some vandalism case.  The graffiti in question was of Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) peeing on the wall, with a speech bubble saying “All Girls Are Lesbians” above him.  That image baffles me to this day, but the very idea I thought it up may help explain why I’m single.

Anyway, this dream began either at a high school or college/university I was attending, and my twin brother and I were walking the hallways.  It was a massive campus, we were a bit lost, but we had plenty of time to kill between classes.  I tell him, “Wait right here. I’ve gotta use the washroom” since we were right in front of the washroom signs.  That’s the last time I see my brother in this dream.  He probably stormed off due to a lack of patience, but I never even thought once to look for him.

As I walked through the passageway leading to the washroom, I noticed it more closely resembled the locker room of a public swimming pool.  It was like a big, communal shower, with water like an emergency sprinkler system raining down constantly from the ceiling.  I was in clothes, unlike those around me who were in swimwear or other states of near nudity.  Adding further oddity to the open room layout, there was a white line drawn down the middle of the room. The men were to stay on one side of the line and ladies on the other like a hackneyed sitcom plot device.  Of course, I stayed on the men’s side of the showers because it wasn’t that kind of dream.

After a long period of searching, I finally found the entrance to where the men’s toilets were.  The problem is that it was surrounded by four men in yellow raincoats, who were apparently security of some kind.  I walk up to them, assuming they’d step aside to grant me entrance, but they wouldn’t budge.  I can’t remember exactly what they said to me, but they didn’t let me in.  I go on to explain the absurdity of this entire situation.  Why am I dripping wet?  Was I supposed to check my clothes at the door before entering?  Couldn’t they at least loan out umbrellas at the door? They shrug off my concerns with a “Yeah, but what can ya do?”

Luckily, there’s an unguarded doorway to the left, which I proceed to enter.  Of course, I’m still not where I want to be.  I’m now in an apartment building.  But good news for you faithful readers, this is where the music theme finally rears it’s head.

I’m fed up at this point, my anger must have already taken the piss out of me as I don’t even care about the washroom I once searched for.  I’m soaked through to my underwear from the sprinklers, so if I went already I could hardly tell the difference.  All I wanted was a way out.

I stop at one of the first apartment doors, and I knock in hopes of getting directions. Who else but Lemmy of Motorhead answers the door!  AND he’s delighted to see me like I’m an old friend!  All this time, I thought Lemmy lived in apartment near The Rainbow Bar and Grill in Hollywood, but no, he apparently lived in a monstrosity MC Escher wouldn’t dare to draw.

I asked Lemmy, “What’s the deal with this place?”

“I dunno, mate. Security are always assholes.”

That’s the only thing about his place of residence that seemed to bother him.  We chat for a bit, and he points me to the way out, which happens to be the same direction I just came from.  “Hopefully they don’t kick you out!” he says as I walk away.  Ironically, they’d be doing me a huge favour by doing this, but nonetheless I give Lemmy a thankful nod as I walk away.

Things change again.  That shower area had been partly converted to a department store in the five minutes since I last saw it. This doesn’t phase me at all anymore.  In fact, I even took a quick look through one of the shirt racks.  I quickly see a red exit sign with natural light illuminating the doorway, so I’m good to go.

As I’m walking home, obviously forgetting the class I was allegedly supposed to get to, I keep talking to Lemmy.  He’s still in his apartment, but we are still communicating.  This is where real life facts enters the dream world because I realize that Lemmy is dead. This made his Obi-Wan Kenobiing me with parting words of guidance make a slight bit of sense.

I get about 10-15 minutes away from the building, and he says to me “Oh, shit! I forgot to give you this.”

I ask “What is it?”

“A brick.”

I think he meant a literal brick, not slang for drugs as one may suspect from a hard-living rock icon.  I’m slightly annoyed, but it seemed important to him.  If Lemmy has a gift for me, who am I to turn up my nose at it?  I turned around and headed back towards the building, but I woke up before arriving. The last thing I remember is walking past the McDonald’s that was down the street from my high school, so at least there was some real-world consistency albeit a minor one.

Since most blogs seem a bit bland if you don’t include at least one photo, here is a crude artistic rendering of my encounter with Lemmy.  I won’t apologize for my lack of drawing skills, but I will apologize for how bland the décor of his apartment is.  I checked the RIAA web site, and unfortunately Motorhead did not have any certified platinum or gold records I could stick on his wall.  However, Lemmy was a collector of Nazi memorabilia.  I could have made an effort to illustrate this, but my amateur scribblings of swastikas on his wall would do nothing but confuse many of you.