Say Hello To Heaven – R.I.P Chris Cornell

On Monday, I was at a memorial. A catholic service. The deceased had killed himself. Mixed with the grief was a disbelief – an incomprehensible place where nothing can possibly make sense. I was trying to explain depression to a friend. It wasn’t working. A hushed conversation in the back of a funeral parlour isn’t going to do it. Where is a good place?


Some people talk to me about music. It’s built into the description of being a music geek. Like minded people communicate in that somewhat nuanced language, and others will ask you about it when something happens… usually a tragedy. As I walk into my son’s school yard another parent begins.

“Did you hear about Chris Corn…”

“Stop.” I reply. “I don’t mean to be a jerk, but I don’t want to talk about it. Especially in the school yard. And definitely not as a casual conversation.”

He stumbles with his next words. “Sorry, I just…”

“No problem. Just not going to talk about it.” And with those words I deliver my child to the door of the school and walk home.


My turntable spins. A line keeps coming back to me. I grab the liner notes to verify it. Fuck Wikipedia and the second-hand sources that screw up lyrics on the best of days.

“He hurt so bad / like a soul breaking / but he never said nothing to me…”

In the spring of 1991 I picked up this record – Temple Of The Dog. It was before Soundgarden had released Badmotorfinger in October, and I was telling a recently met acquaintance/friend about it. I hadn’t realized he was the Entertainment Editor at the campus paper until he asked me to write a review. Although, “Hunger Strike” would go on to be a hit the following year, it was “Say Hello To Heaven” that had sold me on the record. It was a song Chris Cornell had written after his former roommate Andrew Wood had died of an overdose. Wood, the vocalist for Mother Love Bone passed before the bands debut record had hit the streets. Like all overdose deaths tend to do, the lines between substance abuse and mental illness get blurred. Wood’s public persona had been one of fun loving and flamboyance, Cornell’s interpretation said something far more personal.

“Since you can’t say to me / now how the dogs broke your bone / there’s just one thing left to be said…”

Cornell’s voice soars into what I think is his most poignant moment. “Say hello to heaven.”

The turntable spins.


Other people talk to me about depression. I’ve been pretty open about my own battles with it. But, trust me when I say that like minded people do not communicate with conversations about it. You don’t walk up to someone on the street and say, “so, I hear you feel like you’ve been run over and dragged on gravel.” Or… if they do, I’ve not joined that club. Those that have gone through it will either talk about their own experience, or listen as someone talks about theirs. Usually, these take place either one on one, or, if you’ve ever been hospitalized, a group setting. I tend to try and bring a sense of the ridiculous when I do open up, mentioning the full on weeping despair I once had over not finding a clean pair of socks. While a person’s tone can be jocular or matter of fact, there is nothing casual about depression, anxiety or mental illness. Still, my lack of foot covering story gets a laugh as a ‘WTF’ moment.

Still, life can be wonderful and then you have an episode…


In June 2001, I was looking out the window of a hospital room down upon a place I had dubbed the “crop circle refueling station.” A fire hydrant in the middle of a large grass field, mowed in circles until it reached the concrete of the building itself. Detoxing off of thirteen prescriptions given for a mixture of pain and overwhelming sadness. It had been six months since I cried about the socks. Three months since the back surgery to remove two herniated discs, one of which had been calcified and impaled the sciatic nerve. The doctors hadn’t caught onto the fact that the ‘Oxy’ mixed with an already diagnosed ‘clinical depression’ was causing a severe reaction.

My life was good, but it felt like shit.

I was so heavily medicated I wasn’t sure which thoughts were real and which were the drugs. What I do remember most about that time in my life… an eternity worth of sleep seemed a whole lot better for me and everybody else than sitting around and waiting for the pain to subside. Three days after I arrived in the hospital, down to just my meds for cholesterol, it felt like a fog was lifting off my brain. Looking down on the “crop circle refueling station” I wondered what the fuck had happened to me.



April 2001. A month after my surgery.

The meds say half a pill before bed. That was an hour earlier. I want to be better. I want to sleep. Fuck it! I’m taking more.


Chris Cornell’s wife released a statement on Thursday. She believes her husband had taken a few extra Ativan tablets after his concert on Wednesday night. A medication that helps with anxiety when taken in low dosage.

Problem with anxiety… patience for medication to kick in doesn’t work so well. If you are having a panic attack, or looking darkness in the eye waiting isn’t something you are prone to do.  In a moment like that, when the abyss creeps in, it’s easy to over medicate. And that’s when the real shit begins.


Friday afternoon the CD player is shooting a laser on a plastic disc and I’m being flooded with traces of doom. Every god damned lyric has me projecting bullshit about how dark everything must have gotten over the years. I’m looking for reasons. Except, you know, they just don’t exist. What am I searching for…


A month ago, I was talking to my thirteen-year-old son about Vic Chesnutt. His suicide came up and we both cried. He asked why, and if it was wrong. It went something like this…

My head began to hurt. “I don’t have a good answer for that. Some people will hold up a Bible and tell you it is a sin. Others will talk about how selfish it is to hurt the people you love by ending your own life. Personally, I don’t buy into that. I believe that mental illness… depression; it takes away the hope you have for a good future. It only leaves you with the impression that your pain needs to end, and that you are a burden on those who suffer through it beside you.”

“That doesn’t make sense!”


“The burden thing. Mommy pays for you to be home with us. You’re not a burden. So what if he owes money.”

“Part of being an adult is the desire to be self sustaining. That our own life should not impede or lower the people we care about.”

“THAT DOESN’T MAKE SENSE! When Grandma and Grumpa got sick you moved and took care of them didn’t you?”


“Were they a burden?”

“No. I was exactly where I needed to be. Where I wanted to be. However, they didn’t see it that way. Grandma saw me leave my family to take care of her and it really bugged her.”

“That’s what I mean, if you were sick I would want to be with you.”

“That is how depression works. You forget that people really want to be there for you. You don’t want to ask for help. You don’t want to hold people back from their own lives. You just want to end the pain.”

The conversation went on… it never really reached a satisfying conclusion.


Looking through the scores of articles published in the first 24 hours, I come across one in the Huffpost, from Julie A. Fast, an expert on mental illness and a survivor herself. I’m struck by a small paragraph near the end of the piece.

“If he has a brain like mine, he has an illness and his brain was triggered by something that resulted in a suicidal episode. It may have had nothing to do with his amazing life. Sometimes an illness is simply stronger than the person. Sometimes medications mess with our sensitive brain chemicals.”

The words hit me with a mix of confirmation, resignation and an awful strong desire to say “No shit – Sherlock.” I’m pissed off at everyone and no one at all. I resist the idea of opening a bottle of wine as Cornell’s epic voice pleads “reach down, and pick the crowd up.”


The day Kurt Cobain died I was the Entertainment Editor of my campus paper. Quite a few people were bugging me to write an obituary. When I didn’t, a couple staff blamed the EIC (Editor In Chief), actually suggesting she didn’t want one. It was ludicrous. She knew why I didn’t, and I never had to explain myself. She could always see right through me. It was personal. As someone who had visited dark places, I wasn’t prepared to go there. I couldn’t express myself in terms that would bring anything remotely insightful. It had nothing to do with all that ‘voice of a generation’ crap, just a sadness that I couldn’t comprehend. Always regretted not saying something, but I simply can’t find words for it. Still haven’t got them.

Kurt Cobain – Elliott Smith – Mark Linkous – Vic Chesnutt – Chris Cornell. All artists I adored.

What’s the old saying… there but for the grace of God, go I?

I don’t know these people, but I know that place. I can’t help but take it personally. Every suicide I hear about hits me. My ears burn. I ache. I place it in a compartment tagged “to deal with later” and wait until I have time alone. Then I ache some more.


Last year a friend posted an article on Facebook – Suicide Rates Amongst Middle Aged Men Rises 43% in the last 15 years. Chris Cornell was 52. I turn 50 in July.

Fuckin’ Facebook and its fuckin’ statistics.


Twenty-four news cycle, major media, outlets that only mention artists when tragedy strikes, headlines about a voice silenced, and I feel rage. Misdirected rage. Quite honestly, why should I give a shit about all the talk about ‘grunge’ and ‘Seattle’ and ‘vocal range’ and the hyperbole surrounding it. 1990’s superlatives that lessen the time to a cliché. I’m smart enough to know what I’m searching for; the need to find something – someone to articulate how I’m feeling. Words that parallel my thoughts and give them voice. A smarter person than I to bring perspective. I’m searching, listening, searching and listening. Nothing so far.


It’s Saturday morning. It starts with “Big Dumb Sex.” Cornell sreams ‘fuck’ enough times to make even Zac De La Rocha blush. This back before Soundgarden could fill a stadium. Before metalheads and alt-rock fans had been hearing “Jesus Christ Pose” on Walkman’s. Before people were bringing his voice up in conversations about rock’s greatest vocalists. It’s just a stupid fuckin’ song by a barely twenty something guy. The hook is the fact that he is using profanity to the point of hilarity, as a means to say “this is my version of pop music.” A parody of all the glam metal/big hair bands of the day. Essentially, it was meant to make you laugh. No deep meaning. Just a moment of being a dumbass.


Outside the funeral home my friend and I get a bit into the whole self-referential morbid mortality thing. He wonders how people can catch up inside a funeral home. How laughter can continue in a room with the deceased. I take a different angle.

“Do me a favor. If or when I go – laugh. I don’t care what the circumstances are – laugh. I don’t want how I died to define me. I don’t want singular moments of when I was exceptional or unexceptional being the focus. I want The Lemonheads punk version of “Amazing Grace” played at the memorial. I want stupid stories regaled for all to hear.”


I didn’t know Chris Cornell. But I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want Wednesday night in Detroit to be his epitaph. So, If, like me, you are looking for something to make sense of it… stop.

Just go put on a record.

Don’t watch the latest CNN updates.

Just put on a record.



I suggest the Soundgarden cover of Devo’s “Girl You Want” from the EP SOMMS. It’s awesome fun and a great way to remember a person in their happier “dumbass” moments.


Damn fine Wine: Enter The Vaselines

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You know you’ve had a couple drinks (bottle of Cave Springs Riesling Dry) when you find yourself dancing around the house to the beautiful lo-fi emanations of The Vaselines. Released recently by Sub Pop, via Newbury Comics on “Baby Poop” yellow wax, (which is actually a rather stunning mix of yellow, green and black) it makes you wonder why the f@#k no one had bothered to do it earlier. Truthfully, because I wouldn’t lie to you, most of the indie that came out in the nineties (or 80’s as in this case) seems to be meant for vinyl and The Vaselines especially so.


There is just something about an acoustic/electric guitar and accordion mixed in a very simple rhythm that is just so damn appropriate to the crackle and pop of a turntable and a good set of speakers. Scratch that, even a cheap old paper pair of laminated shit sounds like bliss when Frances McKee is singing about “Molly’s Lips”. Then you add the (oh so) timely nasal and barely on key Eugene Kelly pontificating how inappropriate it is to die for religion (“Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam”) and you have reason to pull out boogie shoes… even if the music doesn’t really have ‘night at the disco’ as a prominent theme (or sound). However, the best stuff isn’t found in the familiar songs that a certain Seattle band covered, but rather in the deep cuts found in the supplementary discs.

Let’s be clear, this isn’t the first time The Vaselines have been repackaged for release… but I’ll be damned if this isn’t the best of the lot. Sure, you got the CD copy of 1992’s, The Way of The Vaselines, put out quickly to capitalize on the Nirvana covers on Incesticide, but really, this particular compilation from 2009 is all about an influential band in their prime. While they might be forever linked to the aforementioned band, The Vaselines have far more in common with the sounds of Australian bands Smudge and Godstar than grunge. Down under there was a far better understanding of “who gives a damn about mix” dynamics and instead “just play the f@#king song” than anything out of Europe or the States (except for Sebadoh, because they are the lo-fi version of rock GAWDS).That said, my point is rather odd as The Vaselines are a Scottish band. Regardless, this three disc set covers their entire early output with demos and live sets. The live stuff sounds as if it is being played in front of no more than 30 arts patrons… which is pretty much exactly how I would want to see them.

way vaselines

You see, (in my mind at least) The Vaselines are not epic rock gods in the classic sense, but rather, a simply epic band in the most direct of ways. There is no place for superfluous crap… just honest and straight forward songs that get straight to the heart of the matter and are done. If all you have heard is a few covers you owe it to yourself to (at very least use Spotify if you must) give them a listen.

As for the vinyl, and the new 300 copies out through Newbury Comics sounds great, you’ve only got two choices. The original 2009 Sub Pop release of Enter The Vaselines is still available at record stores. Then again, if you have a few days and are not worried about waiting for delivery, that “baby poop yellow” version is pretty sweet looking and sounds great too.

Wolf Alice: From Glastonbury To Adelaide Hall, The Bus Keeps Rolling


(Hey folks, here is the link to my interview with Wolf Alice in its proper published form, with all the cool pictures from Sugar Beach & Adelaide Hall. I’m also leaving the text here on the blog, but it looks much better at Hope You enjoy!)

In the atrium of the Corus Entertainment building at Sugar Beach in Toronto, there is a three story slide that Wolf Alice guitarist Joff Oddie and bassist Theo Ellis have decided to try and climb… together. It’s an odd take on the myth of Sisyphus, where in place of the rock, they shove each other up the hill. Upon failure, they both tumble out of the slide atop each other. Oddie springs up and exclaims “and that is how babies are made.”

It really isn’t surprising to see them blowing off steam in a spectacle of childish glee. After all, they’ve just disembarked for a quick visit to 102.1 The Edge after a twelve hour bus ride from New York. Following their Toronto show at Adelaide Hall, they will undertake a fourteen hour haul to Minneapolis for another gig.

Wolf Alice has been moving at a dizzying pace for months now, without a day off. A show at The Drake in Toronto this March, an album release and an epic performance at Glastonbury this past June, strung between many other appearances, keeps the bus rolling. The need for a good laugh seems paramount.

The interview itself begins with Ellis mockingly suggesting “He doesn’t want to talk to me. I’m the bass player. He wants to talk to Ellie… or Alice!” It’s a moment with a pure facetious tone as he explains how some people still seem to think that the “Alice” in the band name is a person on stage. Of course, there is no “Alice” just like there is no “Pink” in Pink Floyd. “Kid calls me Alice and I just want to…” It’s a throwaway line filled with deadpan dark humour from a guy who has glitter under his eyes where heavy bags should be.

The contrast fits well with the band that, less than two weeks before Adelaide Hall’s 500 capacity venue, they were playing Brixton Academy to 5000. Ellis admits “It has been weird. Just before Pawtucket (Rhode Island), the last show was our headline London (UK) show. There is definitely a difference… It wasn’t a million people, but… it’s quite cool, quite exciting, to do it (large and small venues) like that.” As he finishes the sentence, Ellie Roswell (vocals/guitar) and Joel Amey (drums/vocals) enter the room.

For the uninitiated, Wolf Alice released their debut My Love Is Cool at the beginning of summer. They have had critics comparing them to bands ranging from ‘grunge’ to ‘shoegaze’ and all points in between. Yet stylistically, the comparisons don’t cover it. Roswell comments, “When we went into the recording studio, we didn’t have a list of bands we wanted to replicate. But we do listen to Queens of The Stone Age, whatever Jack White does, Radiohead… who we always forget to mention. And they’re a big influence.”

My Love Is Cool tends to cover themes from dark desperation to depression, which the band also brings out when doing covers at some of their shows. Roswell grins at the observation. “I think it’s fun to play something as far from you as possible and sometimes it’s a “cheer people up” song. It’s quite cool to see how dark you can make it. Like the One Direction song (“Steal My Girl”). It’s obviously about his girlfriend but when you make it dark, the lyrics come out as possessive and nasty.” Drummer/vocalist Joel Amey elaborates “It is a cool thing to explore. Like with Sting’s (The Police) “Every Breath You Take.” Everybody thinks it’s a love song about a guy and his girl… but it’s twisted… it’s about a guy watching (obsessing about) her. That subversiveness is fun to play with.”

Still, I’m looking at the band and I can’t help wondering what the hell they do to break the monotony of being on the road. They offer quips to the question. There is an awkward exchange involving fully clothed, separate bed, band bonding over episodes of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Another about the movie Saw not enhancing song writing and then a nod to touring mates Drenge as the “weirdest and nicest guys in the world.” But, never having been in a touring rock band, I leave the interview confused as to how Wolf Alice can bring their “A Game” for every show. That thought stays with me as I arrive at Adelaide Hall later that evening.

It takes all of thirty seconds for those questions about monotony and energy levels on the road to be answered. The venue might be small, but the audience is loud, and from the opening chords of “Your Love’s Whore”, band and patrons alike show their enthusiasm for one another. With just a few instruments, a sound system and lights, Wolf Alice emerges with full rock star swagger. The show they put on is electric.

Joff Oddie’s fingers are up and down the neck of his Fender Jaguar, only interrupted on the occasions he flips over to a keyboard and then back to guitar. Joel Amey puts down the steady beat even when he takes the lead vocals on “Swallowtail.” Theo Ellis is all over the stage with the bass, whipping fans into frenzy as he leaps atop the kick drum in full ‘rock out’ pose. Ellie Roswell balances between the ethereal vocal moments of “Silk” and the explosiveness of “You’re A Germ.” While I hadn’t noticed the Radiohead influence on My Love Is Cool, hearing it performed live makes it all become clear. Nuances are flushed out and the show as a whole is proof that this band has surpassed the tag of “next big thing” and has become “the band to see.”

As the final encore ends with “Smiling Mona Lisa”, there is a mutual admiration thing going on with the band thanking the audience, and the crowd wanting more. A promise to return soon is given, and people disperse with wide grins. Driving home, I realize that to Wolf Alice, being on the road in a bus is a small price to pay for the opportunity to have a great night playing their music to appreciative fans.


Punk Before Anyone Coined The Phrase or The Sonics – Here Are The Sonics!!!


No one quite did early garage rock like The Sonics. They were a musical mess of fuzzy guitar, earth pounding drums, screaming vocals and lyrics that were dirty and just plain asinine at times. This was the early sixties and while The Beatles were singing “Love Me Do” The Sonics were belting out “she’s gonna make you itch / ‘cause she’s the witch” (from the song “The Witch”) and as the Stones sang about “Mother’s Little Helper” these guys were blasting out a tune named “Strychnine.” It was a sound that reverberated from the 60’s and had enough impact to influence everyone one from The Stooges to Nirvana. The fact is that they were punk long before anyone even coined the phrase.

That The Sonics are not a household name is more at testament to poor timing than quality of expression. They were loud and crass before it became popular, and when they tried to move in a more commercial direction, that sound changed again and the band wasn’t thrilled about their new path anyway. Their debut, Here Are The Sonics!!!, was released in 1965 and by ’68 they called it a day. However, punk in the 70’s and grunge in the 90’s brought renewed interest in the band. Nirvana and later the White Stripes and Hives hailed them as influences while cover versions of their songs were played by the Flaming Lips, The Fall, L7, The Cramps, LCD Soundsystem and more.

If you are considering giving these guys a try the best place to start is with Here Are The Sonics!!! which provides the best overall example of their sound. On vinyl, you have a few choices, but your best bet is actually the 1998 mono edition released on regular vinyl. Mono being how it was originally recorded, it sounds far better. The great thing is that it is still widely available, NEW, for around the twenty dollar mark. A re-united Sonics has been touring and recently released a new album, This Is The Sonics.

Oh Beautiful Desolation! or Elliott Smith – Eponymous


Some albums just seem timeless by their very nature, and such is the case with Elliott Smith and his eponymous record. What made Smith unique was his ability to be a singer/songwriter playing music in a way reminiscent of Nick Drake but with a sensibility that came from his own life and the darker era of the 1990’s. Call it grunge without a Fender Jaguar to scream emotions in your face. Instead he used light strumming on an acoustic guitar mixed with a thin voice that always seemed like it was on the cusp of breaking. He was heartbreaking and mesmerizing in the same breath. He was better off without the bombast of the era as is proven in his earlier band Heatmiser, which often times seemed like just another band trying to be the ‘flavour of the month,’ because, as hindsight has shown us, he was so much more.

So last night I’m sitting down at the computer to do some writing and I throw Elliott Smith onto Spotify… and I stop before “Needle In the Hay” is even half way finished. I shut down the computer and put the vinyl version on… everything opens up. Streaming just doesn’t capture the depth of low notes and emotional resonance; which is important with Smith or you miss out on the actual desolation being presented in the most beautiful of ways.


My advice, get a physical copy on CD or preferably vinyl, and let the music take you somewhere. The thing is you have quite a few choices. Since its original release in 1995 Kill Rock Stars in the US and Domino in the UK have released nine separate versions of this record. Early copies were on standard vinyl, but starting in starting in 2005 it has been released more in audiophile vinyl with two pressings in 180 Gram.


The first is standard black and is widely available at your local record retailers, while the second is a limited (1000) blue vinyl edition that can be ordered from Newbury Comics.

There is also an orange copy floating around out there but I couldn’t find a vinyl weight or release date for it.


Anyway, get a copy, listen, enjoy!

New thing is the same as the old thing… or Everclear – Black Is The New Black


It’s one thing to lead a charge into a glorious new music wave and be seen in terms of trail blazer, but it is a whole different thing when you come on the second, or worse, third wave. The early nineties were ripe with finding the “next big thing.” Great bands got lumped into grunge when their sound wasn’t even close to it (Posies, Teenage Fanclub) and when second generation bands hit the airwaves (Stone Temple Pilots, Bush etc) they were hailed as posers or keepers of a flame – there wasn’t much in between. Believe me, I worked in a record store back in ’94 – ’95 and the used bins were filled with the promise of stardom fallen short.

Then there was Everclear.

Art Alexakis wasn’t just a guy who talked a good game and wrote lyrics about other people’s experiences. He had fallen, picked himself up and wrote music about it. Sparkle & Fade wasn’t him acting like a 90’s rock star to gain fame, he was the real deal… except… well, he was clean and ambitious. Alexakis worked his way into rock stardom in a time when it was supposed to “appear by accident” and stars were supposed to be indifferent. Worse, the sound he was using was derivative of the 90’s biggest star (Nirvana) and filtered through second generation guitar rock bands. Still, I play that debut from time to time and still enjoy it. However…

The rest is history, by the third record hipsters sold their CD’s to ‘used’ music stores, and the regular public just stopped paying attention. Everclear wasn’t doing anything that expand on their original promise.

Now it’s 2015, Everclear have been headlining nostalgia tours of other mid-late 90’s bands, and they’re still putting out music. Cool right?

Not so much.

Alexakis hasn’t grown as a songwriter. He started writing music about broken people and tragic lives and, he still does, in the exact same way he always has. Black Is The New Black could be the follow up to Sparkle & Fade or any other in the successive number of albums; it just doesn’t go anywhere new, and it seems dated out of the gate.

It’s really too bad. I wanted to like this record, but it just doesn’t offer anything I haven’t heard from them before.

Fallen Into a Black Hole? or Hole – Live Through This


Four days after Kurt Cobain was found dead and Live Through This hit the streets, the grand bashing of Courtney Love went into overdrive. Gone was the trash of calling her some kind of “Yoko Ono” (I never understood that one. I mean really, is every woman married to a rock star supposed to be a Yoko?) and in its place were the conspiracy theories that started with crap about “who REALLY wrote the music” and finished with “who really killed…” you know what, I’m not even going to finish the sentence… the whole idea was to fucking stupid to repeat. All I will say is this – If cops can’t find a reason to arrest one of the most vilified persons on the planet, there is NO reason to arrest them. Oh, and as for writing credits – they’re in the liner notes of the album.

The only thing anyone should have been talking about was her music, and for several years, her and her compatriots in Hole put out some fantastic music. In fact, Live Through This is not only one of the greatest albums to come out of the 90’s, but is in fact one of the greatest all-time.

So why the hell can’t it be found on vinyl?

Well, actually, it can… if you like counterfeits made in Europe from a CD source.

E-Bay has dump loads being sold as “Imports” without any place listed as having made them. Discogs on the other hand have a time and place listed for this album. In 2014, an unofficial version was released by a “mystery” company in Germany, (or rumoured France) due to the fact that fans really want to get their hands on it. It can be found for around 20 dollars and those that have it seem to like it. However, I wouldn’t touch it.

What I would like is the cash to buy the original pressing or for DGC and Love to put out a cool anniversary edition.

Back in 1994, City Slang put out two editions of Live Through This on vinyl, one black and the other white. The white vinyl has an asking price of nearly $300.00 (only 3000 made) while the regular vinyl goes for just over $100.00 on discogs. This is pretty damn funny considering people are asking for as much as $60.00 + shipping for the counterfeit on E-Bay.

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All this information and I remain confused. No official reissue on either CD or vinyl – WHY?

Honestly, I can’t figure out why Live Through This hasn’t had a re-release and been given the respect that it is due. With the plethora of box sets and special editions on the market for every other important band (and some not so important bands) that blazed trails during that era, where is Hole?

The “Best-est” Album & Concert Ever – Lemonheads – Musical Memories


Back in May of ‘92 I was handed an advanced copy of the Lemonheads It’s A Shame About Ray. It was the very first album review that I did for the now defunct id Magazine, and it was a giant part of “my musical eye opening.” While Seattle had led the world towards what would be called “alternative” (whatever that means) this album slapped me in the face way harder than anything coming out of the so-called grunge scene.

It was twelve songs of pure ‘jangle pop’ joy that played like folk/punk/country/power-pop/lo-fi and whatever other style you decide applies all at the same time. You could play it at a party or a campfire. It had the energy of the Ramones with the pop sensibility of Big Star and the emotional depth of Gram Parsons. Under thirty minutes in length, Ray was a meaningful shot of music that did away with the heavy guitar bombast, and just gave you a perfect group of songs. What guitar solos that existed were of the “blink and you’ve missed it” kind. Hell, when I started playing guitar the following year, the first tune I learned was “Hannah & Gabi.”

To say that I was I was raving about this record would be a giant understatement. Every person that knew me was hearing about it and I was converting people into fans by the day. All this, and their cover of “Mrs. Robinson” wasn’t even on the record yet.

By the time they played Toronto’s Edgefest a couple summers later, it felt like I had personally invited half (ok – maybe a dozen) the audience. However, it isn’t the big show that comes to mind most when I think of the Lemonheads – it’s a much smaller venue that I attended in November of ’93.

The Masonic Temple, also known as the Concert Hall, was the sight of one of the coolest shows I had ever witnessed. The Line up was Magnapop, Redd Kross and the Lemonheads. As Magnapop began its set I noticed that the age of the audience was wickedly varied between aging hipsters who were into great shows and young hipsters who were now caught by the 90’s “alternative” bug. Looking back, this should have been just another of the frickin’ tons of shows I was attending… but no. Magnapop, who most of us had never heard of, began their set tossing candy out to the audience. The crowd was going insane with enthusiasm and applause. Then the brothers McDonald, who are essentially Redd Kross, jumped on stage treating a small venue ‘all ages show’ to a taste of ‘rock star swagger’ that would not have been out of place at Glastonbury. It was ‘hair rock’ for the alt-rock kids who were now “pogo-ing” in a mosh pit that was quickly expanding to all areas. By the time the Lemonheads hit the stage the November audience was dripping in summer sweat.


redd kross

Then came the body surfing. Oh sure, this was the usual fare for concerts in ’93, but something was different. Usually, it is your friends or a couple very good concert goers who keep you safe from falling. Not this time. The kids – all of them – a community of fans were keeping each other aloft and preventing falls. Women, were body surfing and not getting groped by idiots/assholes in the pit – because… well, this concert was the coolest, safest, “best-est” (yeah I know it isn’t a word) ever! In fact, this is what concerts are supposed to be like! Evan Dando is on stage playing guitar and singing and I’m in awe of both the performer and the audience alike.

Honestly, I had been to a lot of concerts before that one, and a lot more since, but outside of a few local acts playing to their hometown crowds, this was the most appreciative audience I had ever been a part of.

Today the mail arrived with my copy of It’s A Shame About Ray on 180 gram vinyl. It isn’t just one of my all time favorite records, or a ‘must have’ for fans of 90’s music… nope… it’s a good friend I’m always happy to see.

Thanks Evan