Special thanks to our readers

Hey Black Wax Reviews Reader,

Queensryche, circa early '80's.

We know you… You are our brothers and sisters…

Before there was an internet you’d catch a ride with whomever to the nearest bigger town or city. You’d flip through thousands… TENS of thousands of albums and buy the ones with the coolest covers… no chance to preview them on amazon. The only amazon was the jungle. There was no ‘dot com’ to run to. And if you lived in a town small enough, you went to the hardware store, where they’d special order LPs for you. But you had to be careful… you could order Highway To Hell and easily end up with Powerage. They didn’t know the difference. We were putting our hard-earned cash on the counter and hoping for the best. Lots of times, we got burned. Dropped the needle only to find we hated what we heard. Or that it was initially only tolerable, but grew on us over time.

But there were the winners, too. The ones we fell in love with. Ride the Lightning. Master of Puppets on cassette two weeks after it was released. Grim Reaper’s first album. Armored Saint’s ep. Queensryche’s ep. Great White’s first album. (Remember? Before the rockabilly thing?) These days, when someone says they only like ‘old Scorpions’, and we ask what that means for them, we smile a little bit when they say ‘Love At First Sting’ or anything later. Give us Lovedrive. Animal Magnetism. Blackout. (And some of us are so hardcore that only Lonesome Crow will do.)

We remember our first rock concert. Some of us traveled for hours in the back of a pickup truck on a Sunday night to see it. Some of us had our first encounter with second-hand smoke at that concert. (On the way home, excitedly talking about what we’d remember as one of the best shows of our lives, one of my friends asked, “Hey man… do you have a buzz?” Started laughing at me when I reached up to feel my head. “No… what are you talking about?” Young and innocent, all it took for me to have my world rocked was breathing the air in the arena.) And for some of us, that band became gigantic. Or not.

For me it was Maiden. July 24, 1983. A trip to a certain big city (rhymes with “Houston”) in the back of a pickup. Granted, it had a topper. Fastway opened. Then Saxon. Then Maiden. In the weeks leading up to the concert, I sold all my 8-tracks and my portable 8-track player for cash to take to the concert. Once I got in the door of the Houston Coliseum, bought all three concert jerseys available. Put them all on right away, before they could get stolen.

They went over my Number Of The Beast t-shirt. I’d taken that shirt to the local printing shop and had them put “Maiden Rules” on the back, in all caps, in red iron-on letters. An hour earlier, while standing in line, some Older Guys had admired my shirt. “Hey, that’s pretty cool! Why don’t you give it to me!” As I stood there dumbstruck, my friend and fellow Black Wax Reviewer diffused the situation cooly… “Ha ha… that’s pretty funny, man…” I’m still grateful for that one.

Brain damage in Tejas...

Saved the ticket stub forever. Until i lost it. Kept the shirts forever. Until I threw them out in a fit of ‘maturity’. (Those very shirts are now worth hundreds of dollars on e-bay). Maybe like us, you saw the same band(s) multiple times. In different states. Maybe even in different territories or countries. Some shows were better than others. But even after all these years, these experiences are dear to our hearts.

For some of you, I’m describing a dad, mom, step-parent, uncle, or twisted older brother or sister. For some of you, the internet delivered your first taste of your beloved bands.

That’s totally cool.

Whatever path we take, the destination is the same; our undying passion for music. Honestly, at the end of the day, we don’t even mind what kind of music it is that you love — if you’re passionate about music, like we are, then you have our respect.

Photo courtesy of G.

What was your first rock concert? Which albums did you buy with fingers crossed? Which ones ended up standing the test of time? Which ones didn’t? What was your best concert experience? What was your worst?

We’d love to hear from you. Just add your comments down below, if and when you feel like it.

And thanks for stopping by. You rule.

Horns To You,
Black Wax Reviews


Blue Oyster Cult: Fire Of Unknown Origin (1981)

Before starting this piece, I made the mistake of reading other peoples’ reviews of this classic album, a practice I’ve entirely avoided to date.

It almost ruined the entire affair for me.

From references to the movie Heavy Metal to listings of various co-writers and collaborators, so much has already been said about Fire of Unknown Origin. In so many different languages. A 15-second visit to the googleramps reveals a wide variety of reviews in everything from French, Spanish and English to this, from Strangecharm:

The only 3 which rank this largely junk-cult of previous decade hardened pop-rock trash above 1+1/2 stars, which ever really flared up enough to keep this ‘gee-wiz’ kid more than disaffectedly chill about the whole 9-yards of raw mid-glossed-over target-marketed material were the opening-salvo triad of shot, put above the usual same-old burn-out studio mixing board fare for such down-but-not-too-willingly-dirty modern swine-heardsmen & bore-huntswomen…”

(Someone’s trying a little too hard to sound like Don and Walt. But I digress.)

So I stepped away from the computer, put on my vinyl copy and got back in touch with why I love this album.

Simply put, it’s bright without being to cheery; it’s dark without being too moody; and it’s over-the-top without taking itself too seriously. The perfect balance, in my book.

At times the keyboard sounds come close to sounding dated, but still sound pretty fresh. I remember thinking how heavy this album sounded back in ’83, when I first heard it. With the technological advances in the past 30 years, it’s unfair to pull it out of context and judge it as pop. Yet, as we’ve said before, there’s really no other way to judge the timelessness of an album.

With this in mind, Fire of Unknown Origin stands the test of time pretty well if you enjoy pop (by today’s standards) hooks and tongue-in-cheek humor. And really, all things considered, it is still pretty heavy sounding.

Intended Sound vs. Actual Sound

Part of what makes this album magical for me is how I listen to it. That is to say, when I hear these songs, the soundstage is much broader in my head than what is actually being presented by the recording. The distortion, while being just fine on the record, for me is simply a respresentation of a much larger and heavier distortion; almost as if the actual recording is simply a reminder of a much more powerful recording, albeit one that has never actually existed.

For me this is part of the magic of Blue Oyster Cult; through Fire of Unknown Origin they’ve captured the spirit of something much grander than can be actually articulated.