janradder: (watt)
In the days before the Internet just about the only way you were ever going to hear anything other than Hall and Oates, Journey, Van Halen, or whatever other dreck the radio played was by finding a tiny independent record store and walking through its doors. There, in the usually cramped confines, you'd make your way through aisles of vinyl while the clerks blasted something by the Misfits or X or Hüsker Dü or some other band you'd probably never have heard of if you hadn't just walked into the store at that very moment. You'd find a spot in front of a bin and start flipping through LP's, listening to the sound the shrink wrap made as you looked at each album cover, reading the title, studying the band's name, and imagining what was held inside.

In front of you was an undiscovered world of music, just waiting for you to take it home. Your mind swam with the seemingly endless choices at your fingertips: Black Flag, Big Black, the Decendents, the Dead Kennedys, Dinosaur jr., the Feelies, the Gun Club, the Jam, the Minutemen, the Meat Puppets, Mission of Burma, Minor Threat, Naked Raygun, the Replacements, R.E.M., Sonic Youth, Saccharine Trust. Your head ached with the weight of the decision before you. In fact, you could almost feel the ten dollars in your pocket begging you to pick the right record -- to buy that perfect album that you knew rested somewhere in one of those bins, the one that when you brought it home and slapped it on your turntable would utterly and irreversibly change your life. You knew that once you'd heard the music it held, you could never look at the world in the same way again.

If it weren't for places like Phoenix Records in Waterbury, CT (still around, minus the Professor) or Rhyme's in New Haven (sadly, no longer with us) I wouldn't have known about even half the music I love, and my life wouldn't be anywhere near as rich as it is. So today on Record Store Day, go and show a little love to your own local independent record store and buy that CD or LP you know is waiting for you -- the one that's going to change your life -- and thank the clerks for helping to keep good music alive. Because if it wasn't for them, a lot of those bands you love might still exist, but you'd have probably never heard of them.
janradder: (Default)
Top 5 Underground LP Covers from the 80's

Back in the day before before underground music was anything but, sometimes the only thing you knew about a band before you bought their record was the picture on the front. There was no internet to look bands up on and no local radio station spinning their songs (except maybe that college signal that only came in on your receiver on Tuesday afternoons at 3 PM when it was snowing and the moon was out), so unless your friend had already bought the LP, you flipped through stacks of vinyl at the record store literally judging the contents by their cover. With that in mind, here's my top five all indie record sleeves.

1. Black Flag, Damaged
They sound almost quaint now but in 1985, when I first heard them, I'd never realized that music could sound that angry, alive or frightening, nor that it could capture exactly how I felt at that moment in my life. The cover of this album, showing a pissed off Henry Rollins putting his fist through a mirror, captures that feeling perfectly.

2. Angry Samoans, Back From Samoa
A man in a rubber monster suit, a severed head, and squadron of WWII fighter planes soaring through the sunset -- what more could you ask for in the cover of a record that clocks in at a little over fifteen minutes and features songs like "My Old Man's a Fatso" and "They Saved Hitler's Cock."

3. Hüsker Dü, New Day Rising
A pair of dogs wade through the waters of Bare-Ass Beach in Minneapolis as a setting black sun shines down on them in the distance. The sonic assault of Hüsker Dü that lies therein matches that negative image of the skyline exactly -- stark, shocking, and intense, yet someone how vaguely familiar.

4. The Replacements, Let it Be
Four scruffy joes in Chucks sitting on a Minneapolis rooftop. The word iconic is used often and usually incorrectly, but if any album cover from the 80's deserves the title iconic, this is it. That the record in the sleeve is arguably the best of the band's career is not surprising in the least -- with a cover this good, it has to be.

5. The Minutemen, Double Nickels on the Dime
That the joke intended through the title and the cover is completely lost on most (it was making fun of Sammy Hagar's "I Can't Drive 55" -- full story here) really doesn't matter. Mike Watt's smiling eyes look back at you from the rearview mirror of his VW bug, inviting you to ride along with the band. And though the car's speedometer may read fifty-five leading you to think this might just be another typical drive, it's those eyes that promise to take you on a trip down side-roads and alleys you never knew existed.

Old records

Jun. 2nd, 2009 01:06 pm
janradder: (watt)
Quite often I browse ebay listings to see what old punk records are for sale and I'm always shocked at how pricey some of them are. Looking at them, I sometimes kick myself for not picking them up back when I was a kid and they only cost three bucks a 7-inch and eight for an LP. Mostly, though, I think of the record collection my friend, Matt, had.

When we were in high school, his sister started dating an ex-punk who had this incredible hardcore collection he kept in milk crates in his college dorm. I first got to listen to it when Matt and I drove up to UConn in the spring of 1986 to see Black Flag. Matt and I pored over those records until about three or four in the morning, trying to listen to all of it in one night because we never knew if we'd get the chance again.

As fate would have it, Jeff decided to get rid of the collection and sold the entire two crates of records to Matt for something like fifty bucks (it may even have been less), and the collection was there for the listening whenever Matt wanted and whenever I went over to his house. There was a lot of crap in it, but there was also a lot of really great stuff, like the Angry Samoans Back from Samoa, an original pressing of Hüsker Dü's Everything Falls Apart, a couple Circle Jerks LP's, and all of Minor Threat's catalog. It was the Minor Threat stuff that was most amazing, because included with Jeff's copy of Out of Step was a personal note from Ian McKaye apologizing for the delay in shipping the record out (the band hadn't pressed enough copies of the record, not realizing their popularity, and so a lot of people who'd ordered it from them had to wait while new copies were pressed).

Though I could listen to it practically whenever I wanted to, I was always jealous of Matt for getting that huge collection for what seemed like a steal (even if I couldn't have afforded that price myself). But I did listen to it, and it provided a lifeline to a punk world that lay somewhere out beyond the confines of our tiny suburban Connecticut town, so even though it wasn't mine, I felt some sense of ownership of it, even if I never actually possessed the records. So I was a little pissed at Matt when he sold them in the early nineties.

He'd taken them to some record store in Massachusetts and gotten maybe a hundred bucks for the whole shebang. None of them brought in much, not even the record with the Ian McKaye letter, which only garnered about ten dollars (if that). I think of that now as I look through those ebay listings, looking at records that I yearned for back in the day, and that I yearn for still. Now, of course, the records are going for a lot more than a few bucks a side -- I think even the crap that we hated is going for more than that -- and in doing so, those records become more and more consigned to the world of the wealthy few who have several hundreds of spare dollars to spend on a single piece of vinyl.
janradder: (watt)
One perk of doing it, though, is that I've been listening to a ton of records that I haven't heard in years.  Today I found myself listening to Talking Heads' More Songs About Buildings and FoodI'd forgotten what a great album it is.  Years ago, when I was fifteen, a friend played it for me and I couldn't stand it -- too dancey was my opinion.  It took about ten or more years before I finally changed that opinion.  So I've spent half the day obsessively listening to it over and over again and if I could travel back in time I'd  probably track down my fifteen year old self and smack some sense into him.  Too dancey?  What the hell was I thinking?
janradder: (dork)
I am still totally freaking out over how great my records are sounding.  They have never sounded this good -- not even new.  I just cleaned Black Flag's My War and played the first track on the first side.  Bill Stevenson's tom fills were actually truly inside my left speaker.  I am not speaking in hyperbole.  My new record cleaning kit has actually placed Bill Frickin' Stevenson inside my speaker just to play his tom fills.  How cool is that?
janradder: (dork)
As [livejournal.com profile] haddayr can agonizingly attest to, I can get pretty obsessive compulsive about cleaning.  One of my favorite things is to polish up scuffed boots or go to town on my guitars, picking out all the crud around the frets, using naptha to remove any difficult sticky crap, buffing the finish up nice so it shines.

Well, as she can also testify, I get especially compulsive and anal when it comes to records.  Today I have combined my two OCD joys as I purchased an enzymatic cleaning kit for my vinyl collection.  Starting on the first records, I was a little suspect about what the result would be, yet kind of hopeful after reading some online reviews by audiophiles.  After cleaning the first lp -- PiL's Second Edition -- I put the needle in the groove for a test drive.  The sound was absolutely, positively amazing!  Not only were all the tiny pops and crackles gone, the bass actually seemed to pop out of the speakers more than it did before the cleaning.  The high and low ends were both deeper and better heard.  I really couldn't believe it.

To put the cleaner to the real test, I set out to clean some old 45's that had been sitting in a stack, uncleaned in nearly fifty years (if they ever were cleaned, that is), covered in greasy fingerprints.  Before the cleaning the pops, hiss and crackles almost made the record unlistenable.   After the cleaning there was no longer evidence of any finger smudges on the vinyl.  When I put the single on the platter and dropped the needle, I could still hear some slight crackling (due to the fact that they'd been stored unsleeved in a stack most  of their life and had developed little nicks and scratches) but the vast majority were gone and the sound was incredible.  Needless to say, I am utterly delighted!
janradder: (Default)
I recently found a vinyl copy of The Faces' Long Player from 1971 for $2.99 at Electric Fetus in Minneapolis.  I don't usually shop there for used records, instead preferring Hymie's over on Lake Street, but I went to pick up a cd for a friend's birthday and checked out the used lp's.  What a really great album, bluesy and kind of sloppy, some great guitar lines, and hearing Rod Stewart makes you kind scratch your head and wonder what happened to him later in his career.  If you listen to anything he's done from the late 70's to the present you tend to forget what a great rock vocalist he could be.  The Faces, on a whole, though, seem to be one of those bands  whose sum is greater than their parts.  Listen to anything any of the individual members did post-Faces -- Ron Wood in the Stones (his arrival coincided with their decline), Kenny Jones with The Who (clearly the wrong choice of drummers for that band), solo Ronnie Lane (for the most part), and Rod Stewart solo, excluding his first couple of albums -- and none of  it really matches up with what they accomplished together.  It's too bad their short career (and their predecessor, Small Faces with Steve Marriott on vocals) has been overshadowed by other British rock giants liike the Stones, the Who, and Led Zeppelin because, at their best, they could be one of the great rock and roll bands of their era.


Nov. 2nd, 2007 06:26 pm
janradder: (Default)
I just won Hüsker Dü's 1st single, "Amusement" b/w "Statues" on ebay! Needless to say, I'm pretty geeked out about it (I did pay $56 for it but that's less than the $70-$95 range I've seen it sell for in the past). No, it's not the "In a Free Land" single, but still kind of rare (only 2500 pressed, supposedly 1000 distributed). It isn't like finding an Action Comics #1 but maybe like getting some early Alan Moore comic from England (Miracleman or some of his Dr. Who stuff?) Anyway, I'm pretty happy about it.

Here's a clip of early Hüsker Dü recorded at the 7th St. Entry in 1981. Dig the hair nets! (not sure why, but they stop right in the lead up to the chorus, Grant walks out from behind the drums and Greg takes off his bass)


janradder: (Default)

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