Special Edition: Kmart – And then there were Three By Jesse Striewski

This past Saturday, April 16, yet another Kmart met it’s demise as the Avenel, NJ location shuttered its doors for good. Being a New Jersey native originally myself, the news struck a nerve for me personally, causing me to reflect on my own childhood memories of the once giant corporation, as well as its history.

The roots of Kmart can be traced as far back as 1899, when Pennsylvania-born business man Sebastian Spering Kresge founded the S.S. Kresge Corporation, which would ultimately evolve into Kmart in 1962 (four years before Kresge’s death in 1966), opening it’s first location in Grand City, Michigan. During the ’60s and ’70s, the Kmart brand became one of the dominant retail forces in the United States and Canada, with the phrase “Attention Kmart shoppers” etching its place in pop culture history after the Blue Light Special was first introduced in 1965.

By 1977 the S.S. Kresge Corporation had officially become the Kmart Corporation, and the company continued to thrive throughout the 1980’s. Many store locations already had cafeterias inside them, but by 1985 Kmart began co-branding with major fast food companies, beginning with adding a Wendy’s to their Canton, Michigan location that same year. These would continue to expand with other big-name restaurants, Little Caesars being one of the more prominent ones used.

Daytona Beach, FL Kmart location on 1/26/16 during its final store closing days (photo by Brooke Striewski).

During this time frame of the mid-to-late ’80s, Kmart became one of the places to be. As a kid myself during the ’80s, there were few places I looked forward to stopping at more (other than maybe MacDonald’s) than Kmart. Our specific location in Clementon, NJ had a cafeteria that sold Churros, soft pretzels, and Icee’s, and there seemed to always be kids just “hanging out.” And for a moment, the toy aisle, lined from top to bottom with G.I. Joe’s, Transformers, and Ninja Turtles, seemed like the most magical place on Earth to me. And in my teens, Kmart (along with Blockbuster) was one of the first places I ever drove to on my own after first getting a driver’s license.

Kmart thrived throughout the ’90s, reaching its peak by 1994 with 2,486 store locations open worldwide. But seemingly overnight things began to wane, with competitors like Wal Mart, Target, and eventually Amazon, dominating the retail world. Kmart filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 2002, and only continued to decline from there on out.

A lone Kmart shopping cart sits outside of what used to be a Kmart (now an Ollie’s) in Orange City, FL on 4/18/22 (Photo by Jesse Striewski).

In late 2004, Kmart began the process of purchasing Sears, and by 2005, both Sears and Kmart stores would be operated under the new Sears Holdings Corporation. Over the years, more and more stores began liquidating assets and closing their doors, even with later CEO Eddie Lampert promising to bring these stores back to their prime, something that indeed still yet to come to fruition.

At the start of 2022, Kmart still had ten locations operating in the U.S. But with this past weekend’s most recent closure, there is merely three stores left in New York, New Jersey, and Florida. The last time I was in a Kmart myself was over six years ago when the Daytona Beach, FL location was in the process of closing. It was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and a clear reminder of what once was. Hopefully one day I can again walk through the doors of a Kmart store and hear the words “Attention Kmart shoppers” uttered again. Until then, I think I’ll go order something off of Kmart’s site, just to keep them around a little bit longer.

Avenel, NJ Kmart location closed its doors for good this past Saturday, April 16, leaving just three stores in the U.S. (AP Photo/Seth Weing).

Album Review: Red Hot Chili Peppers – Unlimited Love (Warner)

By: Jesse Striewski

Like many, I got into the Red Hot Chili Peppers “back in the day” at the peak of their mainstream success in the early ’90s. But when their sound started changing and becoming more mellow by 1999’s Californication album, I began losing interest…at least until I finally saw the band live in 2017 that is, and my faith in them was more or less restored.

Unlimited Love is not only the band’s twelfth studio album, but their first with former guitarist John Frusciante since 2006’s Stadium Arcadium, and having his energy back in the fold is a definite asset to the band’s sound. With Frusciante back in tow, the guys offer up seventeen new tracks and some of their best work in years here.

We were first introduced to the album via the single “Black Summer” in early February, and said track also kicks off the collection of songs here. Along the way there’s plenty of funky numbers (“She’s a Lover,” “Whatchu Thinkin'”) and just straight cool tracks (“Here Ever After,” “The Heavy Wing,” “Tangelo”), with really only a couple of duds (“It’s Only Natural,” “Veronica”) thrown in. Also worth checking out is the new video for latest single “These Are the Ways,” which finds frontman Anthony Kiedis fleeing from cops in a wild, fast-paced chase through various suburban settings.

This is the album that this band has needed to record and release for some time now; not perfect, but just strong enough to bring a waning fan such as myself back into a category that finds me caring about their music again.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

Film Review: The Batman (Warner Bros. Pictures)

By: Jesse Striewski

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I am not a big comic book/superhero flick kind of guy. I could honestly care less about the majority of these self-indulgent, overly-complicated films and their confusing, numerous “multi-verses.” But like Spider-Man, Batman is one superhero that I’ve tried to follow since my childhood, though I gave up on the character after Ben Affleck’s portrayal of him in 2016’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice (apparently he even reprised his role in a couple more crossover films, which just goes to show how little I keep up with the over-saturated superhero film market).

And I didn’t hold out much hope for The Batman, either (adding a “The” to the title before “Batman” really didn’t seem all that original to me). But early on in the film, I suddenly understood what the hype was all about. This new interpretation of Batman (this time played by Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame) creates a world of pure neo noir escapist entertainment with the ability to take one away into another reality, for better or worse.

It’s definitely a commitment to sit through the entire film (which reaches nearly three hours in running time), which finds our hero (or anti-hero?) teaming up with the Catwoman (Zoe Kravitz) to tackle the seedy corruption of Gotham’s underbelly, as well as play along to the sick games of The Riddler (Paul Dano), who is more sadistic than ever portrayed on screen before (and even reminiscent of Slipknot frontman Corey Taylor) this time around.

And for the majority of the film, they actually had me invested. That is, until Kravitz’s character had to utter a disgusting line about “white privileged men.” In an instant I felt both deeply alienated, and personally attacked, as these know-it-all Hollywood elitists (in this case, lead by a white man surely more “privileged” than myself, director Matt Reeves) once again managed to insult a good portion of its own audience all at once, just in order to get their own ignorant opinions across in a film.

What people like Reeves who incorporate these types of sentiments don’t seem to understand is, they’re actually doing nothing for “equality,” but causing further division and harm among our society as a whole. Hatred towards anyone (yes, even white men) should never be accepted, yet it’s becomes more normalized now than ever before in Hollywood thanks to this type of subtle brainwashing being injected into media, and is doing nothing more than taking us all backwards. Had it not been for these underlined racist tones in The Batman, I would have definitely rated it a higher score than I did.

Rating: 2.5/5 Stars

Retrospective: 30 Years Since we first entered ‘Wayne’s World’ By Jesse Striewski

Before Saturday Night Live became the embarrassing mess of mean-spirited, nasty nonsense that it unfortunately has, it actually gave us some great moments and memorable characters in TV history. In the ’70s the likes of the Coneheads stood out, while Eddie Murphy dominated the early part of the ’80s with multiple personas, including Gumby, Buckwheat, and Mr. Robinson.

But by the late ’80s, we were introduced to two guys who “rocked” out in a basement while filming a public access show, Wayne and Garth, potrayed wonderfully by castmates Mike Myers and Dana Carvey. The original Wayne’s World skit officially premired on February 18, 1989, ushering in a new era of pop culture phenomion. Shortly after, I began discovering many of the bands (Guns N’ Roses, Aerosmith, etc…) the duo would reference on their “show” on my own personal journey, so it made perfect sense for me to fall for these two lovable dimwits.

It didn’t take long for Producer Lorne Michaels and co. to cash in on their newfound hit skit, and by 1991, a film version for Paramount Pictures was green lit. Veteran rock director Penelope Spheeris, who at the time was best known for her Decline of Western Civilization films, was tapped to direct.

Released on February 14, 1992, Wayne’s World was an instant hit, eventually going on to gross over $180 million at the box office. Aside from Myers and Carvey, it also starred Tia Carre as Wayne’s sexy love interest, Cassandra, and ’80s brat packer Rob Lowe as sleazy television producer Benjamin, hell-bent on exploiting the show and stealing the girl all at once.

Wayne’s World was a one-of-a-kind ride like few others that came before it, with the two heroes stumbling upon a host of colorful characters along the way, with bit parts played by everyone from Meat Loaf, Ed O’Neill, Chris Farley, to even Alice Cooper himself (I couldn’t help but think of the film when I saw Cooper perform “Feed My Frankenstein” for the first time years later in 2005).

Aside from Cooper, it’s soundtrack also boosted many others who weren’t necessarily considered “in” by 1992’s standards, including Black Sabbath and Cinderella, as well as giving Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” it’s highest ever chart position sixteen years after it’s original release (shortly before his death that same year, late Queen frontman Freddie Mercury actually gave his blessing for the song to be used in the film, reportedly loving the head-banging car scene it was used in).

I myself was not able to see the film during its original run in the cinemas; just two months after it hit theaters, I was involved in a car accident that would ultimately change my life forever and leaving me permanently disabled. But during the many months I spent recovering in the hospital, I watched the film for the first time with a fellow long-term patient shortly after it came out on video.

However, I was finally able to catch Wayne and Garth on the big screen the following year when Wayne’s World 2 was released in December of 1993. Although lacking some of the charm of the original (and the direction of Spheeris, who Myers reportedly butted heads with during production of the first film), the sequel did have some of its own memorable moments, including some stand out performances from the likes of Christoper Walken, Kim Basinger, and Oliva d’Abo, among others.

Still, even with all of its flaws, I will gladly take Wayne’s World 2 over ninety-nine percent of what passes as “comedy” these days. When the Wayne’s World films were released, there was still a sort of innocence that’s just been lost today; so much of what comes out now is either hollow, or contains a level of ugliness fueled by some need to push an agenda and/or criticize in the name of “social justice.” Society is indeed headed down an unfortunate path, and should really take a cue from Wayne and Garth, and just be “excellent” to each other again.

Album Review: Cobra Spell – Anthems of the Night (Self-Released)

By: Jesse Striewski

From the moment I first heard/saw the video for Cobra Spell’s “Addicted to the Night,” I knew they had won me over as a fan (and it’s not just because three out of five of the band’s members are attractive young females – lead by former Crypta guitarist and knockout Sonia Anubis – though that certainly doesn’t hurt anything!).

Said first single also kicks off this four song EP, which, if you couldn’t already tell based off of its cover alone, echos back to rock’s ’80s heyday. “The Midnight Hour” and “Accelerate” are each layered with thick guitar work and seem destined to rock many a kegger or strip club, while “Steal My Heart Away” is a tad more on the softer side, reminiscent of early Bon Jovi, among others.

Some say this current wave of throwback rock/metal bands is just another trend that will come and go, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular again. Too much of what passes for music today is just soulless, and those of us who can see through it want more than simply what’s feed to us via mainstream media. It may take a little more effort to seek out a band like Cobra Spell versus finding the new mediocre Pop Evil album, but the payoff is much more worth it in the end.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO at Epcot’s Garden Rocks Series on 3/27/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

Earlier this month, Epcot kicked off it’s annual Garden Rocks concert series, which hosts a number of different artists spanning the course of numerous decades. This past weekend featured The Orchestra Starring Former Members of ELO, which not only features members from ’70s and ’80s prog rock outfit Electric Light Orchestra and ELO Part II as their name would suggest, but it should also be noted that former Styx guitarist/bassist Glen Burtnik is a part of the lineup as well. This past Sunday, March 27, Rewind It Magazine was able to make it out to catch one of the band’s many sets over their four day period here.

No doubt that some purists out there will likely scream there’s no ELO without Jeff Lynne leading it, but I’ve always been of the mindset that I’d rather have someone still performing the songs live, rather than no one at all. And after a full day of family fun spent at place like Epcot, what better high note is there to end on then to listen to some classic prog rock?

The band first took stage on this beautiful Florida day at 5:30pm, opening with the massive hit “Evil Woman.” More fan favorites in the form of “Sweet Talkin’ Woman,” “Hold on Tight,” “Can’t Get It Out of My Head,” and “Above the Clouds.” But nothing quite compared to the one-two punch they ended with of “Mr. Blue Sky” and “Don’t Bring Me Down,” at which point the band had the entire crowd standing on their feet.

As much as I wanted to stick around for their next set to see if they played my personal favorite (“Turn to Stone”) or not, we had other places to hit on our agenda before we left the park for the day. But as luck would have it, we had circled almost completely back around by the end of their second set to hear them performing just enough of said song. It was the perfect ending to an already memorable day, one I hope you can experience for yourself someday as well (the band will also be performing one last round of sets at Epcot tonight).

Interview with Krokus Bassist Chris von Rohr By Jesse Striewski

Swiss rockers Krokus have always been one of those bands that, while they may not have achieved some of the same heights as many of their contemporaries here in America, they’ve still always held a special place for me (and even if I sometimes do overlook them for awhile, something will always draw me back to them eventually). So it was a sheer thrill to be able to correspond recently with founder and bassist Chris Von Rohr, who I was able to have some meaningful words with, despite the distance between us.

One of the first things I asked was what the status was for the band’s “farewell” tour, which was postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. Chris explained; “Well at the moment we are looking at the world and what is happening, and wondering when – hopefully soon – it will be back to a “normal” situation. But of course we are in contact with each other, everybody is playing either with side projects, or spending time with their instruments. Musicians want to play music, you know? Day by day we hope that the clouds disappear soon, and rock and roll comes back into our lives, so we can continue our tour that was interrupted.”

I also asked if the band might have one more studio album in them before they retire, to which he stated; “At the moment we are not planning a new album. We have so many songs that we cannot even play live because there are so many albums, and we personally think there are enough Krokus songs out there. But you never know, sometimes maybe a new song might come out, but the necessity for a new album is not there. We’d much rather play gigs, that’s what we miss most.”

I was also curious if their might be any chance of a re-release for the band’s obscure 1976 self-titled debut album. Chris told me; “Yeah it definitely is obscure, and has nothing to do with the original lineup of Krokus. It was an album which I am the only survivor of it, and it went more in the direction of prog rock. It was really a…search. We don’t play songs from that period, and I don’t really see a necessity to revisit that on a wider scale. The Krokus fans we have now, I don’t think they would particularity love it.”

He continued; “And for us, the original is the band that played on Metal Rendez-vous, Hardware, One Vice at a Time, and the famous Headhunter albums. And then after the break coming back with Hoodoo, the Dirty Dynamite album, the greatest live album we had called Long Stick Goes Boom; that is the “real” lineup, the one that made it “big” and has the real sound which we want to transport with Krokus.”

Before eventually settling on the bass, Von Rohr had actually started as a drummer. I asked if these changes were due to preference or necessity, and he informed me; “Yeah, my way was a long way. As you know, I started as a drummer, and as we went on, for us to put on the “best” formation, I had to change instruments. I went from drummer, to singer, to bass player. It was about finding the right combination of the right people who blended perfectly together. For me it was interesting because as a producer a little later on, it’s good to know all instruments a little bit, you know? And I still play a little of each today.”

Shortly after the Headhunter album in 1983, Chris and the band parted ways for a bit, with him occasionally re-joining before he would come back permanently in 2008. I asked how he felt regarding some of the material the band released during his time away, and he stated; “Well the unfortunate split we had in the mid-80s was not very good for either of us. We lost direction during my absence. I didn’t consider it “bad” music, but I didn’t really consider it real Krokus, or what the fans really expect from Krokus, which is basically what was on the Headhunter or the Metal Rendez-vouz albums. That is the essence of Krokus, what made us successful. But fortunately we found each other again, and we are wiser today and we know what went wrong, and why it did.”

He continued; “It was definitely a big exhaustion, with bad management and some sad stories we don’t even want to talk or think about much. Since our reunion in 2008, we’ve played big festivals and have had number one albums, but unfortunately we couldn’t get things in America on that scale, because I think a lot of what was released after Headhunter did a lot of damage, and that’s why we concentrated on Europe. Over here they know us better, and after the reunion they instantly got it, that that’s real Krokus. Let’s see, I really hope that one day we will make it back to America for our fans.”

He continued further; “I do think this incarnation of Krokus is absolutely the strongest, because it unites all of the band members which were important, and it has three guitar players! If you listen to the last live album I mentioned, you feel that is a band on its peak; it’s an energy that has never been that strong before, as well as an experience which comes out of the playing. When you get a little bit older, you know how to play those songs best. I wish American fans can see this band live, because it is not an old band, it’s like young dogs on the loose. It’s absolutely exciting to play with Krokus.

Having gone through a rough breakup the same year I originally gotten the Headhunter album, I always associated the power ballad (and the band’s most well-known hit) “Screaming in the Night” with my own personal experience. So I always wondered if the band anything or anyone specifically in mind while writing the track. Chris explained; “What a ballad, definitely. A special mood, and a special, semi-dark ballad with a lot of feelings in it, a drama ballad in a way. It was not about any one special thing, but it is probably the most popular Krokus song. If you look at Spotifiy, it has millions and millions of views, and we always love to play it still, because it’s not like a commercialized ballad, it has this rough edge still, and we love that song.”

And as far as the song’s music video goes, which can no doubt be described as “out there,” Chris said; “A bit inspired by Conan the Barbarian, maybe, we were basically not too happy with it. We thought it was a bit too much with effects, and it looks almost like a L.S.D. trip (Laughs). But at the time it was played a lot on MTV, I don’t know why. Hopefully because of the song of course. But some people love it, and it’s a great song, and that’s what counts. But if you ask any band, videos are always a bit of a pain in the ass! We are not models, and we don’t like photo shoots. We like playing on stage and kicking ass, that’s what we like!”

I also asked if perhaps there were any songs in the bands catalog he really enjoyed that might not be as well known. He told me; “I could listen to hundreds of songs from our earliest stages which I still like, but what really makes it is what you play live. But if I could name three songs that maybe are not so well known in America, it’d definitely first be a song called “Winning Man.” That was the favorite song of Lemmy’s who, when we played with Motorhead, would almost every night come to the side of the stage to listen to that song. Then “Fire” from Metal Rendez-Vous, a great power ballad and dramatic song. And from newer times, it would definitely be “Hoodoo Woman,” which at the time is one of the most well known songs of the band here in Europe.”

Although I rarely touch base on politics or world events during interviews, it seemed impossible not to ask his thoughts on the current events unfolding in the Ukraine knowing how close in proximity Chris is. He stated; “Well, to talk about the world and what is going on would definitely take us all night probably, wouldn’t it? But as a book writer, I definitely reflect a lot, and I’m always astonished how it is still possible that human beings – which have developed so much, in so many ways over the past one-hundred years – can still be back in the medieval ages it seems? This is hard for me to understand that with all of these inventions and progress that the human being has made, that he is still just an animal. That is the unfortunate reality.”

Chris continued; “We as a band try not to go too much into politics, because, as a guy who studies history as well, it’s always a little bit strange to hear rock musicians talk about politics, because most of the time they don’t know what they say, or know history enough to really understand it. One very strong diplomat, I don’t know if it was maybe Henry Kissinger who said, ‘The more you look into a war, the more complicated it gets,’ and you don’t know any more really, who is the guilty, and who is the not guilty. And the whole black and white sides we see in the media, is not helping, you know? It divides the population in two parts, and this I don’t like. It might be a little naive, but with our music, we try to unite the people. Because there is not only god and bad, there is not only black and white, and we really should come together as The Beatles said, and stop all of this aggression, because this is not what we like. I grew up a Woodstock kid in the ’60s, and I don’t believe in all these wars and aggressiveness.”

Album Review: Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point (Concord)

By: Jesse Striewski

I really had not anticipated to be reviewing all new material from ’80s pop rockers Tears For Fears in 2022, but here we are. And with nearly two decades in the making since their last studio album, one would think they would have reached total perfection by now.

The Tipping Point (the band’s seventh album for those of you keeping track) starts off with the aptly-titled “No Small Thing,” then progresses nicely with the title track (which also features a music video to go along with it). Other songs like “My Demons” and “End of Night” inject some interest as well, but unfortunately many of the other tracks are subdued enough to induce sleep at times.

There’s no doubt that Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith – the band’s long time core masterminds – have a lifetime’s worth of experience and talent in their field that most would be envious of. But I think staying out of the public eye for so long may have had some damaging effects on them in more ways than one. But despite the time that’s passed, it’s clear the bond the two musicians share is a unique one none the less.

Rating: 3/5 Stars

Jackyl at Destination Daytona on 3/12/22 By Jesse Striewski/Photos By Brooke Striewski

For some reason I was initially hesitant to brave the Bike Week crowds and catch Jackyl at Destination Daytona for a second year in a row (‘How different could it possibly be this time?,’ I originally thought). But I was glad I ignored those early instincts and had my wife/photographer grab her gear and get ready to cover them again for Rewind It Magazine this past Saturday, March 12. It was all the more special having our teenage son, as well as a friend of the family, with us to experience it this time around (not to mention running into some familiar friendly faces while there as well).

Maybe it was the surprisingly cold weather that night, but for some reason the vibe was much more laid back this time around. This was apparent when the Georgia-based openers and neighbors to Jackyl, The Angie Lynn Carter Band, took the stage. The six piece group had a definite Fleetwood Mac feel to them (and even covered one of their songs, “Dreams”). Other standouts were covers of The Allman Brothers’ “Midnight Rider,” and originals like “Rumors.” But to be completely honest, although the band was tremendously talented, I’ve never been much of a fan of that era/genre of rock, and was more than ready for some Jackyl by the time their set was finished.

Right at the nine o’clock hour, Jesse James Dupree and company took the stage to rock yet another Bike Week audience. Starting off with a virtual repeat of last year’s set, the band opened with a trio of heavy hitters in the form of “Blast Off,” “My Moonshine Kicks Your Cocaine’s Ass,” and “Mental Masturbation,” before debuting a brand new song for the first time, which for the life of me, I can’t remember the title of.

It wasn’t long before the guys got back down to business with more classics in the form of “Screwdriver,” “Down on Me,” “Back off Brother,” “Push Comes to Shove,” and one of my personal favorites, the blues-ly ballad “Secret of the Bottle,” which was omitted from their set last year. Afterwards, the band once again brought out a Harley and several contestants on stage, with yet another Wisconsin-based rider taking home the prize (if memory serves me right, I think the winner’s name was Tim?).

Once that business was settled, it was back to business for the band, with an array of hits that included “I Stand Alone,” “Dirty Little Mind,” “When Will it Rain,” and “Redneck Punk,” before finally closing things out with “The Lumberjack,” complete with Dupree’s chainsaw solo and onstage carnage of a bar stool, which he once again set on fire before promptly smashing on stage. This was capped off by yet another blast from his custom shotgun microphone stand. It was another epic conclusion to yet another great time hosted by Jackyl – an event truly worth witnessing firsthand if you haven’t yet had the pleasure.

Book Review: The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx By Nikki Sixx (Hachette Books)

By: Jesse Striewski

I had no idea I needed even more knowledge regarding the life of Motley Crue bassist Nikki Sixx, until I started reading his latest book, The First 21: How I Became Nikki Sixx. But while much has already been written/published on the pioneering musician’s life, there was still a lot to uncover.

From his early childhood bouncing around from place to place after his father left, to discovering music and eventually seeking stardom via the west coast, there’s surprisingly no shortage of new stories to behold here. Perhaps the most fascinating are the lesser known ones; Sixx finally dives deep into the history of pre-Crue acts such as Sister and London, and working with the likes of W.A.S.P. frontman Blackie Lawless (among others).

It’s unfortunate Sixx often doesn’t get the due respect he deserves. Sure, as a bassist his playing may be simple. But as a songwriter and as an overall musician, his talent is nothing short of impressive. Do yourself the favor of getting to know him a little better by reading this book, and you might just be glad you do.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars