Friday, September 18, 2020

Triumph In The Hall, Bandmates With Tattoos, and Do We Keep The Guy With The Flying V? Doctor Rock Answers Your Band-Related Questions!


Every so often, our resident "Rock Doc" stops by to answer a few questions from readers just like you. Enjoy!

Q: Since you're known for championing bands that deserve to be in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, why is there never any mention of inducting Canadian hard rock act Triumph?

A: Is that you, Jeff Turnbow? Boy, I sure don't miss those 10th grade Civics classes where you constantly kept pulling my attention away from the teacher with talk about how great Triumph were and how they were going to change the world. Precisely what was it about my Devo and B-52's textbook covers and notebooks with logos of every new wave band in existence made you think I wanted to hear about your favorite Canadian mullet-rock trio?

Though I can barely remember my own social security number, thanks to you, I can still name all three members, despite numerous attempts to delete such info from my head's internal hard drive. Having said that, they're not the worst band in the world, but ask yourself, "When's the last time another band mentioned Triumph as an influence?" 

Plus, the RRHOF hates Canadians (Bryan Adams isn't in the Hall either and he actually deserves to be), so I don't see Triumph ever gaining entry into the Rock Hall.

Q: We're a relatively new band still getting our feet wet on the local scene and a local booker who we're trying to work with has suggested that we "get a chick in the band". What do you think?

A: I have a few responses to choose from, take your pick:

      a) Easier said than done. You see, you can't just go out and find any "chick" to be in your band. Just remember how hard it was finding a bass player whose chewing didn't annoy you or a drummer who didn't leave spent condoms in every nook and cranny of the band van. Now multiply that times ten.

      b) Feel free to grovel, beg, and lie to land that coveted gig but NEVER listen to club talent bookers.

      c) Has any all-female band ever been told to "get a dude in the band", I wonder? I ask only because, deep down, it is every dude's dream to be the only guy in a band full of gals. In fact, some of my rock idols are those who have managed this rare feat, like Joe Vincent from NYC band the Prissteens (a band Joey Ramone LOVED!)

Q: In this pandemic age, what recommendations can you make to musicians eager to find new revenue streams?  

A: Buy one of those old ice cream trucks that used to drive through our neighborhoods when we were kids and instead of blaring that cheesy carnival music, blast tunes from your album, which you can then sell to the kids who come flying out of their houses. It might also help to actually sell ice cream, or tacos.

Q: Did any band do more coke in the '80s than Toto?

A: No.

Q: I'm the only member of my band that doesn't have any tattoos and am constantly being pressured by the rest of the band to get some ink, but thus far I have refused. How would you suggest I handle this moving forward?

A: You can either quit the band and be done with those losers or, better yet, fight fire with fire: It ay take a little doing, but show up to your next band rehearsal with your face full of satanic tattoos and piercings that are painful just to look at. When your bandmates see you, reply, "Your move, bitches" and go about your business like normal. That'll show 'em. 

Q: I'm in a goth band and we recently auditioned a guitarist who was everything we had been looking for - very tasteful player, awesome stage presence - but he insists on playing a Flying V guitar. What should we do?

A: Seriously? Even if it was one of those cheesy Charvels with the pointy head stock, I wouldn't give it a second thought. Hell, they could show up to gigs wearing a flaming tutu and I'd be completely okay with it if they were everything else I had dreamed about in a band member. If this is the biggest problem you've got, buy a lottery ticket. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Listener's Guide To Air Supply Studio Albums: Part 1, Life Before Clive!


I've always had a bit of a light-hearted love-hate relationship with the Australian band Air Supply, whose run of massive U.S. hits in the '80s remains fresh in one's mind since 4 out of 5 radio stations favored by dentists' offices to this day continue to play their music.

Songs like "Here I Am", "Even The Nights Are Better", "Lost In Love", "Every Woman In The World", and "Making Love Out Of Nothing At All", just to name a few, rank as some of the most overplayed songs in radio history, thus meaning that few of us ever really hear a popular Air Supply song anymore so much as subconsciously deflect it for fear of annoying ourselves and/or loved ones by singing the darn thing for the rest of the day while we run errands.

Thing is, for all of the millions of singles and albums sold over the years, has anyone ever listened to an Air Supply album all the way through? I ask only because I can't possibly be the only one who imagines that your typical Air Supply fan seems like the sort of person who buys an album and then only listens to the songs they hear on the radio.

Being a fan of deep cuts, myself, I suddenly found myself thinking "What does an Air Supply deep cut actually sound like? 


Air Supply - self-titled (1976)

Had this album been released in the U.S., I can see myself overlooking it based solely on their resemblance to one of the many faceless UK prog bands a la Gentle Giant or Curved Air. Musically, there are no prog leanings to be found, but the band does try out a lot of different musical styles in a search for something resembling an identity.

First single "Love & Other Bruises" is an unremarkable string-laden ballad that inexplicably went Top 10 in Australia, but their next two singles would miss the Top 40 altogether. 

One can't help wonder how things might have been different had they released the peppy "What A Life" or the Doobies-adjacent "Secret Agent", both of which feature lead vocals from main songwriter Graham Russell instead of Russell Hitchcock. The album closes on a passable, albeit forgettable note with by-the-numbers disco cut "Ain't It A Shame".

Best track: What A Life
Rating: 4 on a 10 scale

The Whole Thing's Started (1977)

Released only seven months after their debut, this album boasts more piano-driven balladry than the debut, but most of the material seems half-baked, although the then-struggling band ends their album on a ballsy note with the aptly-titled "The End of The Line", which boasts a prog-worthy bridge highlighted by a Keith Emerson-worthy Moog synth solo.  

Best track: The End of The Line
Rating: 2/10

Love And Other Bruises (1978)

While in the States on tour with Rod Stewart, it is decided that the band should perhaps have some product in the stores, as their first two albums were not released in North America. Stewart's producer, Jimmy Horowitz is given a budget by Columbia Records to hire sessions players with which to re-record a number of selections from the band's first two albums, along with two new tracks, so that all Russell and Hitchcock have to do is record their vocals. Not utilizing their own band, with whom they were on the road at the time, causes such friction within the band that original bassist Jeremy Paul quits in disgust. Only the re-recorded version of "The End of The Line" seems to improve upon the original. The album's lack of success ends their relationship with CBS Records.

Best track: The End of The Line
Rating: 5/10

Life Support (1979)

Judging by the title of their fourth album, and first for Big Time Records, the boys still have a sense of humor after two albums that have thus far failed to dent the charts in any meaningful way.

Based on the original cover, which, to this day, confounds our sensibilities, one would think the band was moving in a new wave direction, but lead off cuts "Give Me Love" and "Looking Out For Something Outside" are the same old song and dance that didn't work at CBS.

However, the album's third track, "Lost In Love" is a game changer, although the band doesn't know it just yet. 

The original recording of what would later become their first U.S hit single features a vocal performance by Russell Hitchcock (the bloke with the dark hair) that can melt asphalt and outshines the hit version, yet the synth arrangement and female backing vocals here recalls 10cc's "I'm Not In Love", which is great for those of us who love that sort of thing. Of course, part of the fun of hearing this original version is trying to figure out what made Clive Davis do a double-take and sign the band just to get his hands on this song.

Funny thing is, the song that sounds like an "emphasis cut" is "More Than Natural", which, beneath the less-than-evocative title, is actually a credible Sgt. Pepper-era Beatles detour with an ear worm chorus that truly makes you wonder why the band never went back to it once they broke big in the States. 

Meanwhile, "Bring On The Magic" and "I Don't Want To Lose You" boast soaring choruses atop musical arrangements where one can actually hear a distorted guitar or two. I kid you not! Does that make this the band's guitar album?

Album closer "Believe In The Supernatural" rises above a dreadful title with soaring harmonies and enough Marshall-driven riffage to give Styx or Toto (pre-"Rosanna") a run for their money, so make that a solid Yes (and Howe, har har!).

Best track: More Than Natural
Rating: 6/10

TO BE CONTINUED!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Five 80s Albums I Can't Believe I Bought!

Swing Out Sister - It's Better To Travel 

Come on, who didn't think "Breakout" was a catchy little jam and that their CD collection could stand a little class & sophistication? Who knows, you might have someone classy & sophisticated over for Hot Pockets and Bartles & Jaymes!

At the time, there was a mad rush by every label in the UK to turn the "New wave '80s" into The "Hey, let's re-hash all those Motown songs you're sick of, but with white folks and drum machines" Decade and this camper was having none of it. Forced to choose between Simply Red and not Simply Red, we made the right choice and stick by it.


Rolling Stones - Sucking In The '70s

I grew up with my old man's Stones records, but, oddly enough, did not follow the Stones on their country-tinged '70s adventures, but, a few months before my parents got me Tattoo You for Christmas, I grabbed this compilation during my high school lunch break and then had t wait the rest of the day to get it home and listen to it.

Maybe in those three hours of watching the clock instead of my teachers, my expectations became too great because what I heard when I finally got off that damn school bus was a supreme disappointment.

Thing is, I can't put my finger on exactly why. The track listing is a mix of semi-hits and deep cuts, some performed live, but perhaps it is the slap-dash nature of the tracks assembled here and the seemingly random mix of studio and live cuts that has absolutely no continuity whatsoever.

Is it really possible to wreck a teenage boy's life via "poor sequencing"? Perhaps PTSD should also stand for "Poor Track Sequencing Disorder" and be taken more seriously.


The Roadie Soundtrack

Ugh, I can still feel the Massive Letdown when this long-awaited movie and soundtrack finally hit the streets, but if you blinked at the wrong time, you might have missed it because neither the film nor the soundtrack were around for long.

For months and months and months, every rock mag on the planet had been hyping the project because Cheap Trick had "written a song" for the movie with Beatles producer George Martin, Blondie contributed a live version of "Ring of Fire" to both film and soundtrack, and Alice Cooper makes a cameo at the end! What, that's not enough for you?

Aside from Cheap Trick and Blondie's contributions, the soundtrack was so absolutely forgettable that I almost forgot about the Teddy Pendergrass, Jerry Lee Lewis and Yvonne Elliman tracks! Zzz. 

As for the film itself, just think: A major movie studio pinned their financial hopes and dreams for their entire third quarter on, uh...Meatloaf, what could possibly go wrong!

What chaps my hide is that I bought the entire TWO ALBUM SET just to get ONE Cheap Trick song and then Epic Records wound up GIVING THE SONG AWAY with copies of the band's specially-priced EP Found All The Parts!

Have I seen the film, you ask? Not on your life, buddy.

Platinum Blonde - Alien Shores

Now, it might debatable as to whether Canada's answer to both The Police and Duran Duran was ever cool in the first place, but this kid thought the band's debut album was a lo-fi new wave masterpiece, but when I saw the Maybelline make-over and clown outfits the band were sporting on the cover of their eagerly anticipated follow-up, my heart sank.

But wait, isn't that Kenny Maclean from the Deserters?! Now I know why there haven't been any new Deserters albums! Well, then maybe this album won't be as bad as it looks like it might be.

Wrong!

If you ever want to hear every shitty '80s production bell & whistle compiled all in one place for easy mocking, this is the album. Sure, I have told myself (and members of Platinum Blonde) that it wasn't so bad, but it was. Even the album's best song would have been the one you skipped over had it been included on their debut.

Thing is, as bad as it was, Alien Shores is Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band compared to the album they released next, Contact, which this writer avoided until I could pick it up for a couple bucks.

I still love the band, though, and am glad that they reunited and have been tearing up the nostalgia circuit in Canada lo the past decade or so.


The Romantics - Rhythm Romance

Anytime a key member leaves a popular band, not only are the fans eager to hear the band's next album to see if they somehow managed to find an adequate replacement and actually make a noteworthy record, but I always imagine that the member who left is also eager to hear what they sound like without them - kind of like seeing who an old flame is going out with now.

In the case of the Romantics, I just imagine Marinos getting an advance copy of the band's new album and speeding down the highway in a jet black Mustang laughing his ass off. Sadly, Marinos' own output left much to be desired, but at least it had some fucking energy.

Rhythm Romance, on the other hand, is just the limpest wet noodle of a rock album, which is weird because the only change made to the formula between In Heat (two massive Top 40 hits, including "Talking In Your Sleep") and Rhythm Romance was to piss off the songwriting/singing drummer so much that he left. 

Also, if your little one refuses to go sleep, just play them the Romantics' cover of "Poison Ivy" and you'll be checking for a pulse before the song is done.

Monday, August 17, 2020

Ode To The Cool Uncle!

You can get along without a lot of things, just ask my car and my girlfriend, ba dum bum, but the fact of the matter is that the one thing no young boy can go without is a cool uncle.

As a kid, I didn't have a whole lot going for me except for the fact that I had two cool uncles; my dad's younger brother who was every bit as funny as Robin Williams, and my mom's younger brother, who was a bit of a gadget geek throughout the 60s and 70s. By the time I was reaching my teen years, all that sixties schtick was coming back into vogue and he was looking like the coolest dude on the planet to this young kid.

Then one fateful day in 1976. he played me a VHS copy of the original network airing of The Beatles' second movie, "Help!", and my ten-year-old brain...exploded.

Suddenly, I was seeing all the hip gear that my uncle owned, and kept in pristine condition, in episodes of The Monkees' TV series, Gilligan's Island, and other well-known TV portrayals of the psych rock scene that had become "in" again.

Vox organ? Check.

Transparent bass guitar? Check.

Multi-track reel to reel recorder? Check

Fancy Swedish speakers hand made by fine Swedes and once mentioned by Mike Nesmith in a Stereo Review interview that you not only had to order from freakin' Sweden BY MAIL, but then assemble yourself 6-8 weeks later? Check.

Who had the first big screen projection TV (just like the one pictured with Hef above)? My uncle.

Who had every variant of VCR because if one manufacturer added a new feature ("Whoa, DIGITAL CLOCK!", they just had to have it? My uncle.

Who was such a pop culture geek that they had a satellite dish back in the late '70s/early '80s in order to watch local news coverage in other markets, as well as live feeds from on-site news broadcasts, and the hours-long "affiliate feeds" allowing him to watch movies and TV shows days before they aired? My uncle.

He was the uncle who kept my brother and I up-to-date in the latest Commodore computer equipment every Christmas, leading me to develop an early distaste for coding long before HTML and CSS.

He was also the uncle who lent me his video camera equipment on numerous occasions in order to film an ill-fated music video for my band. Ugh, what a disaster I was, but he humored me none the less and it meant a lot as a kid to have someone who would do that.

I mean, my uncle might not have set the next Spike Jonze or Daniel Lanois loose upon the world, but he sure as hell did his part. 

To those who never had an uncle like that, I never knew how you felt until a few days ago, when he passed away at the age of 70.

Through a comical set of circumstances, I now live in the house that he grew up in, full of belongings he once held dear, but left behind.

My cool uncle left his coolness behind ages ago, spending his last days at "the lake house", squirreling away plastic grocery bags and packing materials. If anyone ever needed the box a replacement hard drive for a computer purchased in 1998 came in, he had it, just good luck ever finding it.

 In my once-cool uncle, I saw how life changes us all and how, after awhile, dreams don't just go untouched, but unsought. 

I saw a man who had always been on the cutting edge eventually surpassed and overcome by a present that moved faster than he did and no longer resembled anything he could remotely give a shit about.

That which had always been so much a part of his world had gone obsolete, just like all the other crap it replaced.

There's a lesson in there somewhere, I suppose, but it isn't the gadgets I will remember about my uncle as much as the fact that he made a concerted effort to share his world and, in doing so, not only taught this kid\how to interact with adults beyond parents and teachers, but expanded my horizons exponentially in the process.

On the day of my high school graduation ceremony, he and I drove right past my schoolmates in their caps and gowns sweltering in the mid-day heat on the varsity football field on our way to one high-end stereo equipment stores that was commonplace then but has long-since gone out-of-business to purchase a state-of-the-art recording device for a format that has long since been discontinued as my present for graduating high school.

It all seemed so "cool" at the time, staring at wall upon wall of the absolute latest in stereo sound regurgitation, knowing that I could have the most up-to-date device available and, or a solid four months or so, being top dog on the block until the new machines with even more bells & whistles came along.

It was nice while it lasted, but we had some good times together. For that, I thank you, Uncle Bruce.  May you rest in peace. 

Friday, August 7, 2020

Ten Super-Cool '80s Bands That Time Has Forgotten!

The Buck Pets

Why did this writer overlook the The Buck Pets on first sight, you ask? Well, for starters, just the mention of the name "Buck" back then inspired thoughts of yet another ambitious southern band trying to emulate R.E.M.'s sound. By 1989, when this Dallas band's Island Records debut hit the streets, we were - to put it mildly - just starting to suffer the first hints of "R.E.M. fatigue".

In hindsight, the band's sound is so "Sub Pop grunge" in nature that one almost can't believe the band isn't from Seattle.

One factoid that should make Chicago alt. rock fans go "Hmmm" is the fact that the band wrote a song about Veruca Salt's Louise Post (called "Song For Louise Post") in 1987, a good five years before Veruca Salt even existed. According to promo materials for the first album, Post was someone singer Chris Savage "knew for a day".

What a day it must have been!

Love Tractor

Speaking of R.E.M., this Athens, GA foursome seems to have gotten shunned just by their geographic proximity to America's favorite indie rock band. Of course, R.E.M. drummer Bill Berry was also one of their first drummers, but that's where the similarities end.

Beginning as an arty instrumental band, the group added vocals for their third album (and major label debut) This Ain't No Outer Space Ship, creating a sound that bands like Tortoise and The Sea & Cake seem to have co-opted to varying degrees over the years.

1989's Themes From Venus (produced by Mitch Easter) upped the ante considerably with a handful of stellar ear-worms ready for MTV airplay, but their RCA-distributed label (Big Time Records, also briefly home to Love & Rockets and Hoodoo Gurus, among others) went belly up the year prior, leaving them with no other option than to return to the same indie label (DB Records) that had released their earlier albums, dooming its commercial fate and that of the band, which broke up in 1992.
 


Cactus World News

While it was cool of bands like R.E.M. and U2 to champion younger bands by either mentioning them in interviews or producing their records, Ireland's Cactus World News getting the "U2 stamp of approval" should have been enough to launch them into the stratosphere, but acted like a cement block tied to their feet instead.

Of course, it probably didn't help that the band chose to sign to MCA (a.k.a. Music Cemetery of America), but, even so, when one cranks up a tune like "World's Apart" or "Years Later"and hears those ringing guitars and arena-ready hooks, you'll be left scratching your head as to why this band made nary a ripple in the States.


The Bears

Take an immensely popular Ohio-based rock band with impeccably stellar tunes who, quite frankly, should have gotten signed on their own (The Raisins), add guitar-god Adrian Belew to the line-up, sign them as the flagship act for new I.R.S. Records subsidiary (Primitive Man Recording Company) and what could possibly go wrong?

In hindsight, everything!

Not only did the band's superb debut album not sell, it didn't even get the usual smattering of mid-level press attention that Adrian Belew's involvement would normally bring, thereby failing to build any sort of buzz for what was truly one of the most buzz-worthy bands to ever walk the earth.

Coming off of the failure of the band's second album, Belew would score a worldwide hit in 1989 ("Oh Daddy") with young daughter Audie while the rest of the Bears went back to Ohio and resumed life as The Raisins (and later Psychodots).

Insiders

It might be hard for those of us in Chicago to consider the Insiders as some "lost '80s band" due to WXRT's continuing love affair with the band's first single and title cut to their lone CBS Records album Ghost On The Beach, but the fact that said album remains completely unavailable in any digital format (or on today's popular streaming services) proves that the powers-that-be (whoever they may be) buried this album deeper than Jimmy Hoffa's lifeless corpse.

Of course, those evil jackals also saw fit to make sure the band's second album never ever saw the light of day, either, which is a damn shame because, when it came to introspective heartland rock, few did it better. Meanwhile, Henry Lee Summer (on the same label) scored not one, but two Top 20 singles during the same period.

John Moore and The Expressway

With a singer whose claim to fame was his brief tenure as the drummer in The Jesus & Mary Chain, this short-lived band fit neatly between JAMC and Flesh For Lulu in this writer's record collection, but, if you blinked, you might have missed them entirely, save for the appearance of this song in the film "Class of 1999" in 1990.

A second album, Distortion, was released a year later (but not in the U.S.), sounding more like the proper follow-up to Billy Idol's Rebel Yell than Billy's own Whiplash Smile.


Chiefs of Relief


With a line-up boasting a former member of Bow Wow Wow and the drummer from the Sex Pistols, one would think that a song as catchy as "Freedom To Rock" would have done at least as much business as, say, EMF's "Unbelievable", but what was ultimately unbelievable was just how little interest there was for the futuristic rock this band was peddling circa 1987-88.

Had they shown up three years later, one thinks the world would have beaten a path to their door, but that's the thing about timing and/or the lack thereof in the crazy world of rock & roll.

Think Sigue Sigue Sputnik with better songs and much less campy nonsense.


Darling Buds

After the success of the Primitives' "Crash" in 1988, it seemed every label had to have their own blonde-female-fronted rock band and the best out of them all was this foursome from New South Wales.

Debut album Pop Said was the most immediate of their three albums for Epic, showcasing the band's rapid-fire pop sensibilities as well as singer Andrea Lewis' playfully matter-of-fact vocals.

Whether it was the public's inability (or unwillingness) to see them as anything but a Primitives knock-off or the fact that their entire major label run seemed to take place during that weird transitional period between grunge and techno house music becoming all the rage, there is something almost criminal in how unceremoniously this band was relegated to the dollar bins.


The Railway Children


This writer will always fondly remember this jangly UK guitar band as the first act to be signed to the newly-established US office of Virgin Records and how, sometimes, it just doesn't pay to be first.

While "120 Minutes" aired the band's videos, they were completely ignored by radio programmers, thereby sealing the fate of their two albums (1988's Recurrence and 1990's Native Place).

Prior to that, they'd been part of the esteemed Factory Records roster, which no doubt helped their debut album Reunion Wilderness go to #1 on the UK Indie chart.

Once leaving Factory, it seems, the band's good fortune seemed to run out despite no discernible drop in quality of material or presentation. Perhaps it is that nuanced consistency that many took for granted despite the noteworthy vocals of Gary Newby, who should have been marketed as a solo star after the band called it a day in 1992, but chose to quietly continue releasing records under the Railway Children name.


The Sugarcubes

Mention the name "Bjork" and at least ten hipsters will faint on-sight, but nary a mention seems to be made these days of the groundbreaking band that put her on the map in the first place.

After all, prior to the band's completely unexpected arrival on these shores, the number of Icelandic rock bands to break into the U.S. Billboard charts was precisely ZERO and remains so to this day, yet it was the band themselves (not just Bjork) who crafted the amazing and still waaaaaay ahead of its time Life's Too Good in 1987 with absolutely no plans or expectations for global chart success.

In fact, there formation was driven by a desire to skewer rock conventions, which they did, and to avoid the trappings of the mainstream, which they did not. Despite their best efforts, from the moment their first single "Birthday" was released, it seemed every major label on the planet wanted a piece of them. 

Sure, much of that interest had to do with Bjork's unassuming charisma and powerful vocals, but no group of collaborators have challenged Bjork to reach such musical heights since. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

The Absolute Best/Worst Feeling In The World As An Indie Musician!



By befriending, or, GASP, "becoming involved with" any longtime musician, you will invariably and without exception have the good fortune of moving the same lame-ass box(es) of unsold records and CD's that have come to be in their possession; many from bands long since dead and forgotten.

If that sounds like a good way to spend the occasional weekend every few years or so - "Did someone say 'free beer'?" - then, by all means, jump in with both feet, but, be warned: There will always be more. New bands require new albums, t-shirts, & beer coozies. Old bands, too. Before you know it, you and the lifelong musician will have settled into a comfortable life together competely uninterrupted by any level of sudden success, yet more albums will be recorded and some will even be released.

Heck, some will even sell a few dozen, but the unsold EIGHT BOXES will follow you around like Sgt. Columbo, slowly wearing you down with every move.

Before you know it, a bigger truck will be required just to move the "crap that will never sell" and a frustrated spouse begins gazing lustily at the nearest construction dumpster. With one late-night visit, all of your future back problems could be avoided and just think of all the space you'd have for your Beanie babies!!

It'd be months before your musical half even realizes they're gone.

Before long, it isn't just the devil on your shoulder, but the angel as well, both screaming "DO IT!!"

Nah, you say, too much sentimental value.

And then the unthinkable happens: After decades of TRYING to give the people what they want and failing miserably, you're finally a part of something that people actually want to buy.

How did that happen, you ask?

It takes a little while to get used to the sensation of reaching into your pocket and there actually being a few crumpled up dollar bills in there, but you eventually adjust and then the unthinkable happens again: You sell through all of your shit.

In the same split second, you feel complete joy and then, BOOM, total heartbreak.

The joy hits the moment you see the words "SOLD OUT" on your website and realize that you finally sold every - last - single - fucking - copy of something that you made. Your dad says "Quit while you're on top" - haha, thanks Pop.

The heartbreak comes when you realize that you have to...RE-ORDER.

Oh shit, is THIS what it feels like to call the pressing plant and actually talk to the person who sold you the first batch and tell 'em that you need more? I thought that only happened in the movies.

It isn't always just a matter of ordering the same quantity, either. I mean, if you blew through 300 copies of your new 7" single and the west coast tour doesn't start for another month, you might wanna double the quantity...or did we blow through all the money thinking such a day would never come and haven't got the liquidity at present to re-order?

Man, have you ever had to borrow money to re-order t-shirts or vinyl because you honestly didn't think such a day would ever come and the person you're borrowing from (Hi Dad!) just scratches their head at how you couldn't at least have imagined such a scenario...and, if not, then why are we doing it?

Ouch, Daddy-O. Make check payable to my LLC, thanks.

Little Ol' Me vs. Van Halen 3: The Trade That Cost Me Dearly!


Being an old school Van Halen fan who had begrudgingly weathered the "Van Hagar" years, I was absolutely livid when the band chose former Extreme singer Gary Cherone to replace Sammy Hagar and knew that nothing remotely listenable could result from this line-up.

Of course, the fact that I was living just a few miles from Eddie's residence meant that, not only did I see the legendary guitarist in public from time to time, but also heard many a rumor about his condition, which, at the time, was reported to be "the complete opposite of sober".

Now, many a great rock album has been recorded under the influence of booze and, in fact, I've met many for whom a little nip was like jet fuel when it came to getting revved up in the studio, but something about EVH's condition led this writer to believe that the once-formidable guitar innovator was no longer musically productive under the influence.

Upon getting my hands on an advance copy of Van Halen III, the first Van Halen album to feature Cherone, a quick glance at the credits revealed that the album had been produced by "Eddie Van Halen and Mike Post".

Wait, THE Mike Post? The "Hill Street Blues" theme Mike Post?

Now, I wouldn't have batted an eye had Post been involved in the songwriting, but, instead, he was credited a co-producer, which, to me, sounded about as suspect as hiring Diane Warren to sweep your studio.

Putting all apprehensions aside, I hastily inserted the CD into the best stereo system I could find (in my car) and hit "play". My neighbor was raking the yard at the time and, after I had given the album one listen from start to finish, he wandered over and asked what was wrong. Apparently, he had seen my face drop numerous times as I sat in my $500 jalopy with the thousand-dollar sound system and was worried that I'd just been informed of a death in the family.


"No," I replied. "I was just listening to the new Van Halen album."

Over the next couple days, I would re-listen to Van Halen III on numerous occasions in hopes that what I had heard previously had somehow been the result of collected ear wax or speaker malfunction, but it only took a few seconds to realize that the crap emanating from my stereo was, in fact, an actual album that the members of Van Halen had seen fit it to release under their name.

That was the part that I couldn't get. Was there nobody in the Van Halen camp that had the balls to pull Eddie and/or Alex aside and tell them that their new album completely sucked?

Granted, the band's last couple of melodically-thrifty albums with Hagar (specifically Balance) had lowered the bar considerably, but Van Halen III was an abomination by any level of measurement.

Yet, according to numerous articles I was reading. album sales had been strong out of the gate, leading me to feel a sense of empathy for those who had actually plopped down money for this turd.

It was then that I knew what I had to do.

Having recently released my first album under the name Time Bomb Symphony called If You See Kay (an admittedly sophomoric title that was a veiled middle finger to the labels for whom the material had initially been recorded and who "may or may not have still owned the rights"), I came up with an idea to a) drum up a little publicity for my album, and b) give back to those who'd bought VHIII and been as disappointed as I had been:

My offer: Those disappointed by their purchase of VHIII could send their copy of the album to me and, in return, I'd send them a copy of If You See Kay.

Now, being no stranger to "creative self-promotion", I knew that even if my campaign got some traction after being picked up by reputable media sources, the percentage of those who heard or red about the offer and actually physically went to the trouble of mailing in their unwanted copies of VHIII would be minimal.


After crafting a press release that was humorous, yet professional, I fired it off via email to a few notable online rock news sites and hoped for the best. Within days, Wall of Sound - then part of the ABC news network - ran my story.

It wasn't until my offer was featured on Mancow's Morning Madhouse, a heavily syndicated radio show, that all hell broke loose. As a result, I now had dozens of radio station contacting me to do on-air interviews.

Then the copies of VHIII started to show up in my mail box.

Day One: 12 copies of VHIII arrived.
The next day: 25 copies.
Day 3: A USPS delivery truck showed up at my door and dropped off five mail bags full of nothing but VHIII.

That day, I also received a strongly-worded letter from VH management instructing me to halt my campaign immediately OR ELSE. Pfft.

With many radio and press interviews already scheduled, I chose to continue with the campaign and, by Day 5, had received over 800 copies of VHIII.

Hilariously, I had simply taken the first 40 or so copies I had received down to the local Second Spin used record store and sold them for something close to a buck each, but when I informed them of how many I was now in possession of, they informed me that not only were no more new copies of VHIII being purchased, but exactly ZERO used copies had been sold either.

Ruh-roh raggy!

I quickly got on the phone with every other used CD chain in the L.A. area that I could think of and was only able to move 50 or so copies before the entire world became aware that VHIII was a total turd.

By the time all was said and done, the campaign had done what it was supposed to do: increase demand for my CD, but I also had to do a larger second-pressing than initially planned due to the fact that over 1,500 rock fans had sent in their VHIII and were now owed a copy of If You See Kay.