How I Became Spike Master D… Or, What’s In A Name?

So, aside from being The Aural Retentive, I am also known as Spike Master D. I thought I had written about this before, but I only found one mention in a previous post and it just said “More on that later”… so I guess now is later.

This has only a scant connection to music, so I am stretching here, but it was music that started it in a way, so I’ll allow it.

When I was in grade school there was a kid in my grade who was called Spike. I always thought that was the coolest nickname. When I changed schools some years later I tried to brand myself with that, but it never took. I was just plain old Mike. I let it go.

Fast forward many many years and I end up working in a factory driving forklift. It was steady work and what I needed then, but eventually I ended up going back to school and getting a job in IT. During my time there at the factory though I made several pivotal friends. Dalton for one. If you read this blog you know about Dalton. He worked as a box strapper or bander as we called it, on the assembly line next to mine. We talked music all the time and eventually became lifelong friends. Miss you bud.

When I started at the factory I grabbed cabinets off the hot shrink line and burned my hands constantly, but it was a job and I NEEDED one, bad. I was thrilled. Eventually a place on the line scraping glue from the edges of boards came up and I moved to that job with delight. From there I ended up at the end of the assembly line strapping the boxes together. I think I worked on the line for about a year when a chance to drive forklift came my way.

I had driven a forklift extensively at another factory job I had had (which I got because my handwriting was the clearest of the 5 candidates – thank you Universe!) so I parlayed that into a chance to become a coveted forklift driver. I got it. I had that job picking and delivering cardboard boxes to the assembly lines to pack furniture in for several years.

This is the time I became, to my delight… Spike! There were radios that each of us had on out lifts that were used to call orders, or for the line folks to check with us on their deliveries or whatever. We were on them a lot. Trouble was at one point we had 3 Mike’s driving forklift. It got really confusing on the radio. So we all chose nicknames. This was my chance! I declared myself Spike. I spent about 10 years being Spike. The other 2 Mike’s became Hans and Virgil.

Then a different forklift job came available and I stepped into it. This is the job I was to have for many years. Too many actually, but it was my life.

Instead of driving a propane fueled forklift like you would expect to see on a loading dock, I became a stand up driver. This was an electric lift which was used in the “wide aisle” where the long or deep parts were stored. This was opposed to the narrow aisle lifts of which we had 2 that handled the short and narrow parts.

This is similar to what I drove:

It gives me a shiver to look at this now. It was such a weirdly satisfying job that took me nowhere for a long time until I went back to school and eventually got out. While I was there though I was the king of this lift. I suited me.

I pulled the following shot from a video shoot we did at work for fun one day. They look terrible, but you get the idea of what my favorite ripped flannel looked like and the heights the parts were stored at. It was scary sometimes.

At the far end of the picture above, was the drop off spot. The “pusher” would use a track and cart system to deliver the parts to the line or bring back the leftovers back to be return to the racks. This was hard physical work and I respected it. I knew I had a plumb job and though there were days that were hard and the pace was ridiculous we did have one perk. A radio.

See the music connection? I know, weak. That radio though was a lifesaver and we took turns between the 3 drivers and 1 pusher on what station we listened to. Sometimes it was rock, sometimes it was Top 40, but whatever it was, it was always better than listening to the sounds of our own work. This radio was at the end of the pusher line at the drop off end and so it was the place to be and linger if you could. Lots of times we took break there just to listen.

So, back to Spike Master D.

For a while we had a pusher called Norm. I had known him for a bit, and he was a skinny long-haired kid that I had doubts would be able to handle the job, but he did well actually, and we talked a lot about music when I was dropping off/picking up and listening to the radio. He was a guitar player and loved rock. He loved Frank Zappa and metal bands like Queensryche and Tool. We got along great.

One day, when he was having a rough physical day, he came back to the drop off area with a huge stack of parts for me and found me singing to Young MC’s “Bust A Move” and was kind of disgusted. The radio had been tuned to Top 40 that day and Norm was not loving it. He stated flatly something like “yeah, like you’re a rap guy” and snorted. Then he laughed a cathartic laugh and shouted “Spike! Spike Master D!” and shook his head and took more parts out to the line. I think it was  a morph of Heavy D and The Boys and Grandmaster Flash? Either way it was funny. From then on he called me Spike Master D. It stuck with the other workers around too.

So to the line folks I was Spike and to the other drivers and Norm I was Spike Master D.

Norm ended up getting a job in the parts cutting area and I hardly ever saw him after that, but his impact on me was forever. I would have to drive down to that area every so often and I would stop by and talk to him. We exchanged music now and then. I gave him a copy of David Bowie’s “Outside” (he love it) and new Smashing Pumpkins and he gave me copies of Zappa stuff I had never heard of.

So the factory was a weird place to have been stuck for years and years, but eventually when I went back to school, I got to move to the Engineering department (because they knew I was taking computer classes and could use Excel. Mad skills that every grade school kid knows now.

None the less, that was where I met Kris B. who turned me on to a whole new world of music and styles. I have him to thank for knowing about Buckethead and DJ Shadow. In the engineering department I used my portable CD player that would play MP3 CD’s and absorbed Kris’s entire collection slowly over the year or so I worked up there.

Then I moved on to the Maintenance department who needed help with parts tracking and schedules and I created an Access Database for. My boss there allowed me to play music on my computer speakers, he loved Springsteen. It turned out to be my final short-lived stop on my factory tour.

When I finally finished school I got my current job and had to say goodbye to my friends at the factory. It was bittersweet. I had been there for a dozen or more years and it really shaped parts of my life and psyche, introduced me to different music that shaped me going forward, and kept me alive when I needed a job badly, but it was time to move on. I’ll always look back at the good parts of the job though, and I will always have Spike Master D.

I used it as my school e-mail, and seems silly when I fill out my e-mail on official forms, or tell it to someone over the phone, but it’s me and mine for life.

Thanks Norm wherever you are.

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Tori Amos – The Original Bootlegs

I have made no secret of being a huge Tori Amos fan.

In this Pitchfork Media short from 2017 she says she is almost 54, and yes she likes adult coloring books, and Frank Zappa. Say no more.

Of course I can’t say no more.

First a bit of history. I am pretty sure that Kris B. from Erdman turned me on to Tori Amos. I remember getting “Under The Pink” from him. That started me on a HUGE deep dive into the Tori Amos catalog, both CD’s and Bootlegs. I quote myself here from a previous post:

“I have a very large collection of Tori Amos bootlegs and spent a really alarming portion of my life finding and downloading these boots, most from a website that I found on accident one night that had literally hundreds. I only stopped when I ran out of space and had to start burning them all off to CD’s as backup and realized how much I had that I decided to take a break. I could always go back and get more I reasoned. I should probably stop for a while. That website disappeared eventually, so what I have is it, and all I will likely EVER need. Out of curiosity I just counted and I have over 145 Tori bootlegs. I am mildly ashamed.”

Let me just say that in prepping to write this post I discovered another site that has bootlegs, and tons of them. I may have to dip in again… I have plenty of storage now. However, this is not the subject of this post.

I have purchased the last few Tori albums on my phone, and I see there is another one recently that I need to get, but when I am out and about I do not look for Tori CD’s. The only actual CD’s I have purchased are weird singles or $1 St. Vinny’s or Library Book Sale CD’s.

Recently though, I found myself in Half Price Books and glancing at the CD’s while I was talking to Cindy who was calling from her travel to Mexico. As I was chatting I noticed an odd looking box set on the “look at these” shelf where they put the items that are quick movers or things they are showcasing. I almost didn’t pick it up, but I wanted to see what it was. It looked embossed and as though it was missing its cover.

When it was in my hand and I could see the price label, I was surprised to see it was Tori Amos. “Tori Amos – The Original Bootlegs”. This one I have not only never seen before, but knew I didn’t have, so… I brought it home with me.

Here is the Wiki on it:

I suspect that these were once available on Tori’s website, but couldn’t find them there anymore. So I checked Amazon.

Say what?!   $199.98   No. That is ridiculous. However, I can see from the picture that at least I am not missing the cover, it just doesn’t have one. I checked my other go to for pricing in the real world. Discogs.

That seems more reasonable.  Regardless, I paid a great price.

The box is a little dirty, but all 12 CD’s (2 per show) are there.

I listened to one disc of one of the shows on the way home and it was fantastic. In each show she does a 2 song covers bit. On this one “Paramount Theater, Denver Colorado 4/19/05” she does “I Ran” by Flock Of Seagulls, and “Suzanne” which was written by Leonard Cohen, but that I know by Neil Diamond. So cool.

I only have a limited amount of CD’s left in my collection, having given most of them away, but this is staying with me and will be at home alongside the Tori CD singles I still have squirreled away.

Listening to a YouTube mix of Tori as I write this.

Still love this music.

“Native Invader” is the new album. I just reserved it from my local library.


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“… And The Rotten Tooth Fairy Is Satisfied.”

Finally coming down off of a tooth extraction, no sleep, pain medication stupor for the last 48 hours… I couldn’t help but think of the Alice Cooper song “Unfinished Sweet” off of the Billion Dollar Babies album.

Back in the day Alice used to use (among other grand stage props, like the guillotine) giant toothbrushes and dancers dressed as giant teeth to add to the creepy and unnerving sense when he performed this song.

Only from the mind of Alice Cooper.

Only Alice could make a trip to the dentist a deeply traumatic experience. I would have loved to see Alice back in the 70’s. I think his stage show would have been great coupled with the best music his band made in my opinion. I am glad that he is still kicking it and touring, actually coming to Madison this year (2019).

Thoughts of his fight with Mr. Tooth Decay have not been far from my mind the last couple days. It has been not fun. Slept (very little) sitting up on the couch the first night and discovered all the soft foods in the house. However, managed 5 hours of sleep the next night and cut the pain pills in half the next day, so on the mend. It will be until next week until I feel “normal” but even though it has been bad I guess it could have been worse.

Thanks for staying out of my dreams Alice.

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Bowie Puzzle Attempt

So, my last attempt at a puzzle ended badly.

However, I did want to try another. I had my mind set on one of the Record Cover puzzles I had seen a long time ago at Half-Price books. Surprisingly, they didn’t have them in the place I had seen them like a year ago. Hmph.

They did have though a puzzle of David Bowie album covers! Here Reggie, whom I believe was the culprit in the Bob Marley incident poses with it.

Again, 1000 pieces. Challenging small pieces, but I’m up for it. And the subject matter is varied enough to not be TOO strenuous. It’s packaged well.

And not being a used garage sale puzzle, I can be fairly certain that all the pieces are there, unlike the ill fated Bob Marley puzzle. So I grabbed it and will start work on it this weekend. THIS time though, I will be taking measures to keep the cats off of it. I will be making a cardboard cover that should keep cats from jumping up and sliding across the table like they are surfing and knocking off all the pieces.

As I sat looking at the puzzle, I noticed that I didn’t see the Bowie album “Station To Station” among the 15 covers it showed. That got me thinking, where is “Diamond Dogs”? I started to make an inventory of missing albums:

  • Pin-Ups
  • Diamond Dogs
  • Young Americans
  • Station To Station
  • Lodger
  • Scary Monsters (And Super Creeps)
  • Heathen
  • The Next Day

I postulate that to include them ALL would have made the image maddeningly small, particularly at 1000 piece size, but… I have some questions.

I understand why “The Next Day” was not included. It’s cover is awful, and they already had “Hero’s” so what would be the point. I also think that Pin-Ups, though an inferior album of covers (in my humble opinion) is visually good and would have made a great pick over perhaps “Hours”.

Further, if you are looking for David Bowie face to adorn your puzzle, why not “Young Americans”? It’s all face.

Including “Blackstar” makes a nice chronological bookend, but it isn’t even a real representation of the actual cover. No Bowie face either. I would have left it out.

“Reality” is a cartoon, so given that, still I have to ask why no “Diamond Dogs”?

At any rate, even though I disagree with the puzzle makers picks, I am still anxious to build it.

Day One:

I won’t get into the whole “there are 2 types of people…” conversation, but I did make sorting out the edge pieces step one. That’s them lower right.

I put on Hanna’s last few episodes on Amazon Prime Video and got to work. Several hours later you can see it taking shape. I worked on Low first and made piles of like pieces, but soon found out that space in the middle was precious. I had to pile them outside the puzzle.

This is where I got before I went to bed.

The hardest parts are left. The bottom is just black and red with very little variation and Heroes and Outside and Blackstar are a lot of one color. Still missing a piece in Low, I stalk the edges of the table looking for it for an achingly long time. Joe came home from work and I complained to him and he looked down at the table and in like 4 seconds found it and put it in. I was both ecstatic and disgusted at the same time. Thanks Joe!

My eyes were bleary and I had to hang it up for the night. I chose a more secure method of protecting the puzzle this time.

It’s a good thing I did too. I came out to find Reggie on the table! That’s him fleeing.

Day Two:

My plan to keep the cats off the table worked, but Lulu the cat not pictured above decided to join me while I was working on it. Yelling “NO! GET DOWN!” was a mistake. She leaped and knocked pieces down and upended part of the puzzle mat. Sigh.

After I got that repaired, I noticed that there was 1 piece that I couldn’t seem to find. I knew it wasn’t part of the cat incident, but I simply could not find it. I shut down production and went clockwise around the puzzle, checking each and every piece so far unattached. Result. Not there. What the actual hell???!

I decided to go take a shower and leave the puzzle alone for the day. Things were getting harder now that all the obvious pieces were placed and it was all the dark variations of black and brown and the solid black , solid white and solid red pieces that remained.

Post shower, with a clear head, a thought occurred to me. The ONE place I had not checked. Sure enough.

When I had torn open the plastic bag like a Neanderthal, these 2 pieces were stuck in the bag still. OMG. Time wasted on searching for them… probably a full half hour, and the loss of a not insignificant bit of sanity.

After that, things went smoothly. Only the bottom most border section with black and red to complete.

Then finally the last bit.

9 pieces away !



In the end, I hesitate to call it FUN, but it was satisfying to complete, though my feet and back are sore from standing and leaning over the table. I binged some Neteflix, and then later some Crime Junkie podcasts, so I was satisfied AND entertained.

Did I really just write a blog about building a puzzle?

Did you really read this far?


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Current Aural Retentive Weeps For Past Aural Retentive, AND, Better Selections This Time Man, I Promise

I sat here this morning, getting some selections together for Otis whom I exchange music with and I discovered that the last set of selections I gave him (4 selections only) had 1 that he already had (Various Artists – Saturday Morning’s Greatest Hits), and 1 that I had ALREADY given him (The Kissers – On A Monday Night). What a fail! I swear I am going to build that spreadsheet database for us Otis.

So, I set out to create a 5 star selection to make up for it.

For this mega offering I ended up purchasing 2 MP3 albums from Amazon.

These were 2 selections that I had discovered through listening to an album recommended to me from my daughter Abbey. She recommended Billy Eilish. I looked for the album cover to post here, but found this instead.

Height? Really? Is that the sort of info that fans are looking for? Interesting. If you predicted that with a name like Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell she might be not your average artist, you win.

Well, I listened to it and I liked it. Sort of a weird stripped down Lorde meets Soccer Mommy with some danceable techno thrown in kind of vibe. FYI that is not the selection for Otis, but from there I “related artists” hopped to a whole other place and stumbled onto a few things I know/hope he will like.

I have of course Spotify to thank for this.

In about 2 hours in front of my computer clicking stuff in Spotify I found about 10 albums that are currently changing my life. It got me thinking about how it used to be when you couldn’t listen to an album, unless one of your friends had it, until you bought it and brought it home and put it on the turntable.

This is where I point out why I weep for my past experiences.

I can recall MORE than once when I would go out and buy and album on the basis of one song and get it home, tear it open and play it and think to myself… what the hell man? What IS this crap?! Like if you bought Jane’s Addiction because you loved “Jane Says” and then discovered that they weren’t a mellow pop calypso band.

You had to have a bit of a gambler’s spirit back in the day. You might hear a few tracks on the radio, but there was no album pre-release streaming, no Spotify, no music blogs, no sampling tracks (even though short snipets) on Amazon, or any streaming services that are so popular now.

I think perhaps that is why people USED to be SO devoted to bands and would buy everything that they released. You had to be invested to buy without knowing what you may be buying. It’s so easy to just buy the tracks you want these days. I get that, and have done it myself. I’m not gonna buy the whole album Sir Mix-A-Lot album when I just want “Baby Got Back” for a mix. You used to have to buy the 45 (if it even WAS released as a single) or borrow the album from someone to record that particular track.

CD’s really changed things, eh?

It feels good to have been alive during this time of change and can relate to the history of how things have evolved. Sometimes you don’t really understand or see it for what it is until the moment has passed and you are looking back years later. I feel like I am watching it transform and grow before my eyes.

I laughed out loud at myself while looking for something on my own blog and came across a post that linked out to Grooveshark. Yeah, it doesn’t work anymore. Oh man. So 2000’s. Anyway…

I made a list of the albums to check out as I bounced around on my Spotify rabbit hole run and then spent the morning listening to the whole album of each. Some had great songs, but had some dogs too. I noted them for adding to a personal Spotify playlist and moved on.

I ended up with 5 selections (and one supplemental album) that I think will make up for dismal offering of our last exchange. The fear though is that by picking albums I really think he will like, it’s possible that he already has them.

The conundrum is real!

Hope I picked winners.

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Greatest Hits – Essential Hits – All The Best

I have never understood highlighting in books.

You pick up a great book in a used bookstore and look inside and someone has taken a highlighter to random passages throughout the pristine pages and you sigh and put it back. I don’t want to try and ignore what someone else decided were passages that they wanted to… to what?, remember, reference again, or thought were interesting while they read through it? I especially laugh when there are more passages highlighted than not.

Highlighting. Sheesh.

I feel the same way about Greatest Hits packages.

When I was first buying music, I did buy a few, but quickly learned that if I liked a band, I would end up getting all their albums and would make the Greatest Hits packages redundant. I tended more to pick up their live albums as a starter when checking out a band, which could probably be argued were LIKE a Greatest Hits package, but at least were unique versions of the songs.

I may have written about this before, but the reason that this came to my head again was after hitting the Public Library for copies of Neil Diamond and Linda Ronstadt CD’s. I realized that I only had them on vinyl and wanted digital too. The library as you may expect was replete with copies of both.

In the pile of CD’s that soon came I found my all time least favorite example of a Greatest Hits package: the slightly different Greatest Hits package.

I do allow for an artist with as long a career as Neil Diamond’s to have a Greatest Hits package. However, and not to pick on Neil, because I really love the man’s work, but there are a ridiculous amount of these collections.

The wiki page on compilations is extensive:

In the stack I got from the library was this one from 2010:

“Neil Diamond – Icon”

This is a great set of songs, no doubt about it. However, see the last 2 listed there? Cherry Cherry (Live) and Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon (Live)?


I also like to call these Collectors Only Greatest Hits packages. They take 90% of classics and actual greatest hits and then toss in a couple of tracks from live albums, singles (that probably were not really Greatest Hits) or remixed tracks, etc. presumably to make their Greatest Hits collection just ever so slightly different from another.

The 2 live tracks on “Neil Diamond – Icon” are from “Neil Diamond – Hot August Night” and though I have and love that album… why pull the live tracks? The studio tracks are better.

Sometimes the band releases a Greatest Hits package with a couple NEW tracks on it. Are these Greatest Hits!? Did the band not have enough Greatest Hits to fill an entire album? This is an awful gimmick. Shame.

I suppose there is a layer of detail that I don’t understand… record company rules and restrictions and song releases and royalties and copyright owners, but as a consumer of music adding tracks unattainable anywhere else is a tactic I am familiar with and despise.

It seems these days to be a general tactic of the box set, which I also have mixed feelings about. They know who they are going after and use their wiles freely. They know they aren’t going after someone saying “I have no problem spending money on a 6 to 10 CD set to see if I like this artists music.”

and us poor vinyl lovers pay even more ridiculous prices for said box sets.


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Buckethead – May 7th 2019


Buckethead returns to Madison.

I need to set a Google notification for this, but managed to spot it while looking for another show that I was considering going to. WHOA! Is that Buckethead!

Tickets just arrived.

I’m already getting a shiver thinking about him playing “Soothsayer”.

Do I bring the vinyl cutting again to try to give to him?

For the record, I tried to get an opera box for this show, but the 2 seaters were already all gone. I was disappointed at first, but if we had done the opera box I’m sure there would have been a part of me that wished I was down front.

It certainly has been eventful down there.

With this show, I believe Buckethead will reach the exalted group of bands I have seen 3 times or more: T.U.G.G., Wayne Hancock and The English Beat.

Good company.

See you soon Buckethead !

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