Rach and I spend a fair amount of time in op shops, and often the pickings are slim. The most disappointing area of the op shop, for me, is usually the record bin. Most op shops have one, and they are typically crammed with the absolute worst horrors ever committed to vinyl: pan pipe music, Hammond organ instrumentals, strange German orchestral easy listening (often with saucy semi-nude women on the cover), Kamahl records, and so on.
Imagine my surprise when on a recent op shop excursion, among the usual dross I came across this record sleeve:
It was a little beaten up, and had a large black texta mark diagonally across the cover, but nevertheless my pulse quickened considerably. To explain why, let me go back in time 25 years or so …
In 1984 I was committed to the cause of metal. But owing to my miniscule music-buying budget I was interested in only the best that metal had to offer, and I was especially keen on any record that could offer up some killer guitar solos. Around this time a good buddy of mine – let’s call him Pete – travelled to the US with local High School concert band The Marching Koalas. On his return he had a suitcase crammed with records and cassettes from the States, apparently having spent his entire travel budget on music. One of the tapes he brought back was by a band I had never heard of, called Vandenberg.
Vandenberg were a Dutch metal band that formed in 1981, centred around the guitar exploits of Adrian Vandenberg. The tape Pete had bought was their second album, Heading For a Storm, from 1983. The cover illustration, featuring a pack of sharks cruising down a desert highway, is surely a classic of the genre.
The first I heard of this record was a song called “This is War”, specifically the guitar solo. Pete played it to me on his ghetto-blaster while we were on a bus during a school excursion. My mind was well and truly blown. We must’ve listened to the guitar solo fifty times on that bus trip, until someone threatened to throw Pete’s tape player out the window. You can hear the song in the clip below (audio only). Mr Vandenberg starts warming up his fingers around 2:03 and hits full stride at 2:30. Imagine it’s 1984 and you are an impressionable 14-year-old wannabe metal guitar hero …
Anyway, the years passed. I made a dodgy copy of Pete’s cassette and eventually bought the Heading For a Storm LP (available here only as an expensive import) in the late ’80s, but never got around to tracking down their first, self-titled album. Which brings me back to the Gosford Vinnies in 2010.
There I was, standing at the record bin, with a copy of the first Vandenberg album in my hands. Questions flooded my brain. How the fuck did this record get here? Who donated it, and where are the rest of their records? Am I dreaming? I quickly slipped the disc from the sleeve to make sure it wasn’t some shitty Perry Como LP, which thankfully it wasn’t. The vinyl was even in decent condition. The asking price was $1. Thank you very much.
The circle is closed.
Vandenberg split in the mid-’80s after a third LP, with Adrian leaving to join David Coverdale in Whitesnake. Here’s a video of Vandenberg’s biggest “hit”, a classic metal-ballad called “Burning Heart”.