aka: My Christmas Metal Memories
Christmas at my Grandparents home in St. Catharines, Ontario was always exciting for my siblings and I. For the obvious usual reasons, such as the presents and the big family dinner. However for myself there was also that extra special treat.
My uncle Glyn's album collection...
Glyn's music collection was trapped in time somewhere between classic rock, and the early glam era. To a young boy, my uncle Glyn had this unfamiliar look, with long hair, and 70's platform boots. He was the first person I ever knew that owned a drum set and had his own stereo system.
Who was this crazy character?... always away from his parents house ...doing who knows what?... leaving all these treasures behind. It was my duty as a young pre-teen to investigate further. These LP albums in no particular order must hold some sort of clue.
Recently thinking about how I began to love the music that I do, I realized it was the album art in Glyn's music collection that I saw, ...during that visit to the Grand parents, that forever change my world.
Today’s digital download generation will never know the thrill of the album cover. Or the art of die cut LP's
Never know the thrill of sliding the vinyl out of the sleeve on Sweet's (1976) 'Give Us A Wink' and having the actually record blink back at them.
Led Zeppelin 's (1975) 'Physical Graffiti with the windows cut out of two New York tenement buildings, exposing well-known faces like Lee Harvey Oswald and Laurel & Hardy on the inner sleeves.
The similar Rolling Stones (1978)'Some Girls' with Mick Jagger and the boys inserted into an old Valmor Product advertisement along with Lucille Ball, and Marilyn Monroe, changing as one pulled out the inner sleeve.
Or how about the very suggestive Rolling Stones (1971) 'Sticky Fingers' with a real working zipper.
These cover art gimmicks stood out as some of the best in his record collection.
The girls on the cover of the Runaway's (1977) Queens of Noise obviously got my attention. They didn't look like any girls in my public school. Mostly I took notice..., because they reminded me of that kick ass 'Leather Tuscadero' [aka: Suzi Quatro] on the popular American sitcom Happy Days. From an early age bands like the The Runaways or Girlschool convinced me that they could rock just as hard as the boys leading to my first ever rock concert in 1981 with Joan Jett &the Blackhearts at the Peterborough Memorial Centre when I was twelve years old. After the concert blowing kisses to the album cover I promised to marry Joan when I was older. Of course the restraining orders prevented that from ever happening [: )].
Queen (1977) 'News of the World' was another favorite in my uncle's rock box, with a cover depicting a robot with the 'dead' band members in his hand. The gate fold opening up to reveal even more of the painting. While starring at these images the sounds of "We Will Rock You" would be penetrating my little brain.
I can't say for certain which was the first record in my uncle's collection to grab my attention, however in retrospect I'm sure it would have been either the (1976) Kiss album entitled 'Destroyer' or 'Rock and Roll Over'. Both covers with their bright cartoon like images, no youngster could resist. The cat man and space guy with lasers shooting from his eyes. A few records later I was to discover in his collection with the Kiss (1975) 'Dressed to Kill' album that these guys were in fact real. I was hooked. They were not just a band that played rock music. They spit blood, had smoking guitars, and levitating drum kits.
I remember being a child, after visiting that Christmas, and driving back to Peterborough thinking about all the strange sounds I had listened to. The cover art images still burned into my brain to this very day. The kids at school had to hear endless descriptions of this strange subculture that I had recently discovered. Afterwards, whenever the family would go to visit someone, I would always go straight to their record collection.
I'll never forget being at another uncle's house [David Steadman] When everyone was outside, he caught me sneaking into the house so I could snoop through his vinyl. I remember him saying. "...Do you think you're old enough to be looking through those..." Yep... my voice cracking bravely as I replied to this big biker looking fellow, ...thankfully, he said "...Ok then...", and let me go about my business.
One day, like fate..., by the side of the road I found a copy of Kiss (1977) 'Alive II'. I believe someone's parents must have tossed it out out of the house. At the time many religious parents believed that the KISS logo with it's Nazi looking double SS was an acronym that stood for 'Knights in Satan's Service' To this day the band insists this was an untrue bible belt rumor.
I took that vinyl home and dropped the needle on my dads Thorens turntable...
"...You wanted the best and you got the best, the hottest band in the world KISS..."
and then "Detroit Rock City" began to blast from the old advent speakers. I literally played that record until it wore out, and skipped. For many long hours I stared at that evil looking demon bass player on the front cover and opened the gate fold and wondered just what the hell happens at a Kiss concert.
I would later go shopping at the K-mart and Towers stores with my mother, spending endless hours pouring through the record bins wishing I could have them all. Today... thanks to the Napster software, I probably do. The year was 1979, I was ten years old, with my entire life's savings in my hand, I could only choose one. With some coaching from my older brother Joe I made my choice. AC/DC (1979) Highway to Hell. To this day my love of that band has never changed and this album still invokes many childhood memories.
My brother Joe also a huge AC/DC fan wore the band's logo on his denim jacket. He would also paint the backs of the denim jackets for many of his Hard Rock school pals, bringing home many albums while doing so. I would sit in his room quietly listening to the records and I would watch him paint.
Into the early 1980s the covers just got better and better. My cousin Adrian was another big influence. He was older and could afford to buy all the new releases. He proudly displayed the artwork by pinning the album covers to his walls with thumbtacks. During each visit to their house, I always looked forward to the chance to get into Adrian's room and memorize the artwork, in hopes of finding them in my own neck of the woods.
His wall looked something like this: Ozzy Osbourne (1980) 'Blizzard of Oz'; Iron Maiden (1981) 'Killers'; Scorpions (1982) 'Blackout; Judas Priest (1982) 'Screaming for Vengeance'.