The Vinyl 100 #93 Charlie Haden – Liberation Music Orchestra

The Vinyl 100 rolls on.. (Remember when it was 100 days of vinyl?) with album #93, plucked from my Ikea Expedit shelves, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra.

Released in 1969 and very much influenced by the politics of the time, as well as songs from the Spanish Civil War, Charlie Haden’s Liberation Music Orchestra is borderline avante-garde, free jazz, and political with intent and influence. Bringing together a group of jazz musicians to weave together some very diverse songs but with a unifying theme with a majority of arrangements written by Carla Bley I dare say a jazz album of its time is ahead of its time.. in a way…

Taken from the liner notes inside the jacket:
“The music in this album is dedicated to creating a better world; a world without war and killing, racism, without poverty and exploitation; a world where men of all governments realize the vital importance of life and strive to protect rather than to destroy it. We hope to see a new society of enlightenment and wisdom and creative thought becomes the most dominant force in all people’s lives.”

I want to say, and I think it happened this way, I actually caught the tail end of one of the album tracks being played on KUCR 88.3 (college radio station in Riverside, CA) and it intrigued me. I like my jazz mostly chaotic and without structure. And if I can’t have it that way then I at least like modal jazz. I remember sitting in my car waiting to go into work and I had a tablet with me and had a faint wi-fi connection from the building I worked in and instantly “sound hounded it”. 2 copies later (I almost purchased a white label promo copy which would make it my third but I stopped myself) and it is an album that I dearly love and if I try, I can trace some of its influence to some post-rock bands I enjoy today… like A Silver Mt. Zion. But it’s only if I listen “hard enough…”

What I’ve covered so far:

#94 Tom Waits – Small Change
#95 Captain Beefheart and his Magic and – Trout Mask Replica
#96 Fugazi – In On The Kill Taker
#97 Agent Orange “When You Least Expect It…
#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell
#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits

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The Vinyl 100 #94 Tom Waits – Small Change

The Vinyl 100 (That sounds so much better) continues on, and isn’t slowing down anytime soon, with Tom Waits 1976 album “Small Change”.

I have to backtrack a bit here.. Years ago I had people, off-and-on, ask me if I ever listen to “Tom Waits”. Tom Waits, the idea of him, as well as his myth, grew in my mind as I failed to ever really listen to his music. But instead think about this guy that several people at several different periods in my life had suggested that I listen to him.

I don’t know what ever kept me from it during the mid 00’s when I was on a weird musical journey of trying to broaden my musical tastes. Tom Waits music seemed like it would have been a great soundtrack at the time, but in retrospect getting into him as I got older made much more sense. I guess Tom Waits had to find me.

I had fun drinking in the mid 00’s. I was a late bloomer in life, but a few years before turning 30 I had fun. Tom Waits had a lot of fun in the 70’s, and Tom Waits drank a lot in the 70’s, much like I did in the mid 00’s. Sometime in 2006 it was at a bar in Riverside California that a blurry blonde haired girl asked me if I ever listened to Tom Waits. I probably mumbled “no, I haven’t” as I tried to focus on my drink and everything around me and her explanation of just why I should. Who knows what ever happened to blurry blonde haired girl.

Strangely my introduction to Tom Waits didn’t come through a stereo speaker, or even a computer speaker, it came via a movie actually, on DVD: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. Seeing him in that movie reminded me that I need to listen to Tom Waits. He was quite the character. Weird, I know. I decided to to purchase a Tom Waits “CD” because I couldn’t find any of his older albums, particularly “Small Change” on vinyl because in 2010 for some reason the 70’s albums were hard to find in the town I lived in. I even went to the Orange County Record Show in hopes of finding any, but nothing. Strangely it was a Best Buy in San Bernardino California that had a few Tom Waits CDS. The thing about me and CDS is that I do my best listening in my car. Tom Waits Small Change stayed in my car stereo for quite a while.

A lot of people know Small Change as the album with the “Waltzing Matilda” song which, in actuality, is titled “Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)” and is the listener’s introduction to the album and the characters that inhabit that album. Tom, of course, is the drunken narrator. (Tom was drinking a lot around this time) Having time traveled with Tom Waits (such a great sentence) via his albums and working my way both backwards and forwards as a collector. I rank this album highly because, not only being my entry point, it is also a point where he blended jazz perfectly with his style of music at the time. It took hi a few years until the 80’s to really change his style all-together, but for me this album is my quintessential go-to album when I want to listen to something from his 70’s era.

Small Change, with its 2 track stereo tape recording under the production guidance of Bones Howe, really captured the essence of what Tom was doing in those days. I imagine the microphone reeking of bourbon after a vocal take done by Tom while recording “The Piano Has Been Drinking..” that is of course assuming he drank while recording. While Tom liked to, and poetically sang about society’s downtrodden and other assorted cast of characters (hookers, strippers, and small people..), he was sometimes autobiographical in his music.

When I did manage to finally find this album on vinyl it was actually in Riverside California at a record store that just barely opened up. Literally, I was sitting in my apartment with my then girlfriend/future wife/future ex-wife when we saw an add for a record store in a record collector newspaper and so we drove to the store and the owner along with his wife and friend were actually putting out records still, because they literally just opened. Nothing was even priced yet. But the owner was a cool guy and still is, and his name was also Tom. So I asked Tom if he had any Tom Waits and he sure did. Since he had no prices on the records he just randomly through out the price of $7 dollars each, so  I was able to score Small Change, Heartattack and Vine, and Blue Valentine all for the price of $7 dollars each. Tom’s store still exists and if anyone reading lives in the Riverside area I suggest checking it out, his store is called “Groovers”.

Small Change was the gateway album for me. It is definitely an album I appreciated more in my early 30’s as a young man who liked to sip bourbon at home and reflect on my 20’s when I’d go to clubs and bars. But more importantly it opened me up to exploring more of Waits music. For an artist that has been around since 1974, nearly 40 years now, exploring a catalog as rich and diverse as Tom Waits catalog is, is a pleasing experience… and that is why Small Change has made into my “Vinyl 100.” Tom Waits is going to make a couple appearances on the Vinyl 100.. as I have 93 albums to go. It is going to be a fun summer.

Keeping track? So far I’ve written about:
#95 Captain Beefheart and his Magic and – Trout Mask Replica
#96 Fugazi – In On The Kill Taker
#97 Agent Orange “When You Least Expect It…
#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell
#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits

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The Vinyl 100 – #95 Captain Beefheart – Trout Mask Replica

Trout Mask Replica

The Vinyl 100 Continues (I think I will just refer to this as the Vinyl 100 now…) with the one and only Captain Beefheart and his Magic Band’s third album “Trout Mask Replica”..

What you need to know about Captain Beefheart: His real name is Don Van Vliet, born as Don Glen Vliet in Glendale California in 1941 and ultimately left the earth in 2010 at the age of 69. He liked to paint. Supposedly he liked to torture band-mates. His vocal octave range is debatable, some say 7 octaves, some day 4. I will leave that up to debate. He had a mutual and volatile relationship with fellow eccentric musician, Frank Zappa. And there was other stuff of legend like the time he sold vacuums door-to-door.

My path to Captain Beefheart lead directly from my interest in Tom Waits. When I heavily got into Tom Waits (an artist who will have several albums on my Vinyl 100 list), it was his 80’s material (Swordfish Trombones, Rain Dogs, Frank’s Wild Years) that drew me in, and the fact that every article I read about his 80’s material it was mentioned that he was influenced by Captain Beefheart after being introduced to his music via his wife, Kathleen Brennan, and well that was more than enough to set me on said path.

Also, free form jazz helped.. No kidding. Because this album, as famously written, is a very challenging album, so-to-speak… and it was released in 1969, 45 years ago. I am of the belief that some of the best music ever made is the kind that intrigues, frustrates, and puts you off upon first listen… this album might do that to some. It is very abstract in presentation and delivery. I’d be daring to say that if someone has never listened to Captain Beefheart start with Trout Mask Replica. Everything after (and even before) is easy listening. And why ease your way in? If this album isn’t for you then try Safe as Milk, or Bluejeans and Moonbeams. Good albums, but kind of safe..

Trout Mask Replica does push boundaries, and challenges one’s notion of conventional music. I don’t find it too difficult to get into, but I eventually listened to this album after broadening my own musical palette. Now a random fun fact, the fish head on the cover is actually a carp. Nothing is as it seems… But anyway, there are the typical trademarks of the Captain on this album, still.  Blues influence, abstract lyrics, etc.

This album sits in my collection among many other artists.. but I honestly can’t think of any other artists, even ones influenced by him, that can touch his output and creative and mad genius with their own material, well, aside from a few jazz greats.

For those keeping score:

#96 Fugazi – In On The Kill Taker
#97 Agent Orange “When You Least Expect It…
#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell
#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits

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100 Days of Vinyl #96 Fugazi – In On The Kill Taker

Just a note, there was a typo in the subject/title of my last entry. I fixed that, but  a few days way too late. But it is fixed regardless!

100 Days of Vinyl continues with entry #96 Fugazi’s “In On The Kill Taker”.

To borrow from the original Rolling Stone magazine review for this album, their assessment that in 1979 The Clash was the only band that mattered and in 1993 that claim belonged to Fugazi. In On The Kill Taker was my introduction to the band. I actually purchased this album, but on compact disc, at a Wherehouse Records store late in 1993 on a whim really. I had $20 and time to kill…

I’m not sure what made me buy this album without having even heard the band. I was 16 years old and in the midst of a huge U2 phase. But I did. I actually had a hard time with the album. It was incredibly heavy, and it wasn’t something I was used to hearing in the music I listened to at the time. Ian McKaye’s vocals reminded me of a drill sergeant berating troops, or something to that effect. While on the other hand Guy Picciotto’s vocals were the polar opposite.. but nothing prepared me.

It took a few good years to find Fugazi even though I had at least one of their albums. By the late 90’s I was all about Fugazi. Their mission, their myth, their attack. I found their history fascinating. A band formed out of a couple of legendary bands (Minor Threat and Rites of Spring) For someone like myself whom at the time did crave something that had a level of sincerity, Fugazi was it.

It’s hard to write about Fugazi and not write about the myth of Ian McKaye.. His beliefs, and the overall fundamental nature of how Fugazi was ran. Totally, 100% independent. And that was actually cool. It still is to this day, May 28, 2014, nearly 13 years after the band has gone on indefinite hiatus. I think that is what is missing these days in music. I think, too, that what gets overlooked when this band and its history is discussed is that they were and still are, REALLY good musicians. If you listen to them and their evolution, they had bits of post hardcore, but they were very melodic. An album like 1995’s Red Medicine showed that they could be experimental in the studio, but still retain a forceful sound.

Listening to Fugazi, buying their albums, actually taking the time to read about them, and even getting into some Minor Threat and Rites of Spring was a great musical journey I embarked on as a teenager and still find myself revisiting years later.

If you’re keeping score:

#97 Agent Orange “When You Least Expect It…
#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell
#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits

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100 Days of Vinyl #97 Agent Orange “When You Least Expect It..”

The Vinyl 100 continues on this Memorial Day Monday with album #97 Agent Orange – When You Least Expect It.

Most people remember their firsts.. Like, their first car (mine was a 1992 Buick Regal), their first love (I am actually unsure about that), first job (mine was a glorified office part time job while attending college), first pet (mine was a cool dog I named Bruce after Bruce Lee), etc, etc, etc.

I also remember the first “used” record I purchased. I do want to point out that I probably (most likely) touched upon this in an earlier posting in my blog, but I will expand upon it. Also, when I decided to begin this project of writing about 100 records selected from my collection, and what they mean to me, I began to realize what an undertaking it would be in the sense of mental time traveling and reflecting upon the past.. and also having to write about myself. Which is something I tend to do a lot, anyway.

We go back to the summer of 1995 and I am visiting my grandmother, who at the time, lived in the northern part of San Bernardino, California, in a tiny apartment. The summer of ’95 was when I had a “first” and let’s call it “my first crossroad”. I knew school was ending and I wasn’t going to attempt college right away because I felt a sense of confusion and uncertainty about what I was really going to do once high school ended. Like most/some teenagers, I was awkward, I had a deep love of music and photography and graphic design, but had no idea how to go about pursuing that as a career goal. I can’t recall ever talking to a high school guidance counselor or even sharing any career goals with family or friends. (awkward shift ahead) Also, I had long hair and I started to listen to “punk” and had “punk” friends. In retrospect being an introvert worked against me.

In a way to try and “find myself” I decided to shed the long hair while visiting my grandmother that summer.. By doing so decided to take a short walk to a local barbershop that she lived near and let a barber have his way with my head. Next door to that barbershop was a “hole-in-the-wall” second hand store.. More on that later. I am still unsure if I started listening to punk rock as a way of rebelling against a life I had and a life I was unsure about that lied ahead. I am not sure what I had to rebel against as I wasn’t an angsty teen, or if this was a way of figuring things out for myself, or if it was just a musical distraction for the time being.

I didn’t find a sense of community or belonging in the punk friends I had, unlike others who might be fortunate to find that strong sense of community, which isn’t surprising. Most kids then dropped out of high school and dropped off the face of the earth at the same time. I could define my associates as cool then, and fun to hang out with, I guess.. I might be putting too much merit in assuming everyone else the same as I back then had life figured out. More or less I just went through a punk phase. I knew what I liked about it (discovering Black Flag, and other dissolved punk bands I was too young to listen to in the 80’s and only found in the 90’s) and I knew what I began to not like about it, which is what everyone who dabbles in punk begins to realize that for some it is restrictive and limiting in a way. Really, just depending on how you use it to define your own life ideals, I think punk is a fun stop along life’s journey.

With newly shorn hair and a sense of dread and uncertainty I listened to a lot of punk, well, as much as I could get from Columbia House’s CD club at the time. I was hoping to take something away from it. This is something I still do to this day when listening to music. I also started to slowly make stylistic and fashionably changes that just come with the territory like: spike my hair, change up my clothes a little bit to feel dangerous. Funny and laughable now, looking back on that period of my life. Columbia House CD club was where I discovered the Orange County, CA surf/punk band Agent Orange’s and their two albums Living in Darkness and When You Least Expect were two cds I received through the mail. By the time I started listening to them in 1995 I believe they were on hiatus.. I liked them. So that summer while visiting grandma I wanted to visit the second hand store that was next door to the barbershop where I started a new chapter in my hair, er, I mean life. Not sure of what I was looking for at that second hand store. If I recall I probably looked for dangerous used clothes and happened to stumble upon some records (literally because they were on the floor in a heaping pile).

In a darkened corner of the store was a massive pile of used records (see previous paragraph). Remember, records were being given to second hand stores in the 90’s by the truck loads. In the 90’s vinyl was considered a dead format and CD reigned supreme. Much in the same way that in 2014 CDs are showing up in second hand stores. But anyway, I was soon sitting in that corner and digging through records and this moment would mark my first “crate digging” experience. Kind of, I don’t recall the records being in any wooden crates, they were just literally stacked and sitting on a concrete floor but I had to dig. I must have sat there for almost an hour, sifting through records. Some of what I didn’t buy I can recall still, Police, 70’s bands etc. But one record with it’s iconic cover art stood out simply because it was Agent Orange’s “When You Least Expect It” surprisingly in pristine condition, but in 12″ format. This record I had on CD, and now I was about to buy its vinyl counterpart in what would be my first used record purchase.

I didn’t own a turntable, and would not own one until 2003, nearly 8 years after buying this album. I think it says a lot that I would buy just one record and hold onto it for 8 years, somehow. The vinyl version only contains 4 songs as opposed to the CD which had 6.. something I didn’t realize until a few years ago oddly enough. I am unsure what I did with my CD either. I probably traded it in to a record store for some credit with a lot of other CDS that I got rid of in the early 00’s.

Agent Orange’s music didn’t have a profound affect on me, I thought they sounded good and were technically proficient. But the sad thing is that punk didn’t really change my life though, maybe, I mean I am writing about something that did affect me almost 20 years later. My punk phase lasted about a year, and all I took from that period of my life was that individualism comes from life experience, succeeding and failing and I learned a little bit about depression and anxiety, and true life procrastination. And I guess I learned that if you can’t at least find what you’re good at it might just find you. High school is a weird time period for most kids I feel. It’s a 4 year waiting period until the real challenge begins. I made the most of it, and didn’t at the same time. Young ideals change and mine have over the years.

That barbershop is gone, as is the second hand store. In its place now sits a .99 Cent store. Funny, now that I think about it, that Agent Orange record I purchased was only .99 cents.

I feel like watching SLC Punk! now.

For those keeping track:

#99 & #98 The Beastie Boys – Licensed to Ill & Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell

#100 History: America’s Greatest Hits

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100 Days of Vinyl #99 & #98 Beastie Boys Licensed to Ill and Run-D.M.C. Raising Hell

The Vinyl 100 or the 100 Days of Vinyl continues with albums #99 and #98 both on the same day (let’s just consolidate two days into one) for a reason. Coming in at #99 is the 1986 debut album by The Beastie Boys – “Licensed to Ill” and at #98 is the third album by Run-D.M.C. – “Raising Hell” also released in 1986. 1986 was a interesting year in my life and that is why for this entry I am going to tell you a story about those two albums and their influence on my youth during that year.

Ad Rock’s first line on which also happens to be the first song on Licensed to Ill and the first line rapped on “Rhymin’ & Stealin'” lets us know that “Because mutiny on the bounty is what we’re all about” and it is only fitting introduction to the Beastie Boys. In the fall of 1986 the Beastie Boys plundered and pillaged, like drunken pirates, their way through America and continued on into 1987 as the sales of their debut album continued to climb. No nautical nonsense there. As a nine going on ten year white kid in 1987 their brand of bravado and boastful lyrics coupled with sweet samples and a mixture of guitar, I dare say “rap rock” was fresh. I am actually surprised, in looking back, that I was allowed to even listen to them considering the lyrical content of most, if not all their songs, was about beer and girls and partying (fighting for that right) and such. My grandmother actually got me the cassette, which in itself says a lot about the time, and possibly the parenting skills of my family. I also distinctly remember my father dating a lady at the time who had a daughter who had the album on vinyl and we would listen to it a lot.

Earlier in 1986 Run-D.M.C. released “Raising Hell” and were opening the door that The Beastie Boys would tear off the hinges. Most of the songs from Raising Hell I’d actually record off the radio at the time, which was also fun to do at the time… I wish I still had those cassettes. Run-D.M.C. would cross over with the help of Aerosmith, though Run-D.M.C. more or less revived/helped the the stalled career of Aerosmith with their cover and duet of “Walk This Way”. I’d visit my mother on the weekends (my parents divorced in 1986) and she had cable and I’d get to watch MTV (again, really ‘lax parenting there.) The video for Walk This Way was in heavy rotation and was pretty cool because for the time it seemed, even though it was an old song, fresh, and it was. It was another example of early rap-rock. This video, and every Beastie Boys video, were always exciting to see when you’re a kid and videos by hair metal artists at the time were just weird and strange to you, which it was to me then. I mean I get it as an adult, but it was scary as a child.

Both albums were the soundtrack of a weird year in my life and had an affect on my youth and would slowly open the door to myself exploring rap during that time. I’d have an on again/off again relationship with early hip hop. I mean, being 10, my musical tastes were barely evolving with the decade that was the 80’s. All I knew in the early 80’s was The Beatles and music on the radio. My dad being a huge Beatles fan, and that is all I heard him play in the house. Having a young mom exposed me to what she was listening to which was popular music from the time on the radio.. Duran Duran, the Police, Queen, etc. Everyone talks about musical moments in culture, the British Invasion, Punk, and Grunge, but there was the hip hop explosion in the 80’s in New York, that kind of gets overlooked, I think. Sometime after 1987 The Beasties quietly went away, they left Def Jam for Capital and took a long time (in 1980’s kid years) to follow up Licensed to Ill with their first masterpiece “Paul’s Boutique” and Run-D.M.C. would follow up Raising Hell with Tougher Than Leather, which sold a lot, but waned in popularity compared to Raising Hell. In the same regards, Paul’s Boutique confused a lot of people (probably white kids) who expected them to make Licensed to Ill 2 and didn’t quite live up to sales expectations either.

For some reason, and maybe the fact that as a child our adolescent years seemed like really large spans of time as opposed to adult years, which fly by due to obligation and responsibility and things like work and pay checks and bills etc… but I lost touch with both artists for a while and had a weird music journey of really liking popular soundtracks of the time. My musical tastes would shift and more or less become more formative in the early 90’s as I entered my young teenage years. I touched upon this with an earlier write up in another post.

If you missed album #100 (History: America’s Greatest Hits) from the 100 Days of Vinyl Here It Is.

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100 Days of Vinyl – Records I Really, Really, REALLY, Like #100 “History: America’s Greatest Hits”

The vinyl 100 begins now..  And, I just want to say, I am not kidding and with all sincerity I think “History: America’s Greatest Hits” is the perfect encapsulation of their MOR sound, as it pulls the best of their hit singles from each of their respective albums and includes them all on one album which, over the years, has become one of my guilty pleasure albums.. (and a couple more will find their way onto the list as I progress through the next 99 albums) So where, how and when did it start..

Sometime in the year 2007, when I turned 30, I started to listen to a classic rock station in my office via my tiny AM/FM radio.. It was one of the few stations (that I could tolerate) that actually came through on that tiny AM/FM radio. I’d listen to this station every day, for 8 hours day.. I even found myself listening to this same station in my car on the way home from work. I hated this station.. But I still listened to it. I don’t know why I do that to myself. Hate is a strong word, I know.. But I noticed something, the hate and frustration and the inability to stop listening to this station began to manifest from something I began to figure out after the days and weeks and months of subjecting myself to this torture or personal endurance test… This station’s playlist.. It was incredibly repetitive. In between the Billy Joel, Elton John and Fleetwood Mac they’d play a lot of Seals & Croft, James Taylor, and America. I am not a music snob by any means. So let me explain..

Being subjected to a genre and period of music constantly does something to someone who sits under fluorescent lighting all day. I started to imagine life in the mid 70’s (I was born in 1977). I started thinking about Los Angeles and freeways.. I started thinking about warm sunny summer days, easy listening music… Yachts and mustaches. I started thinking about middle of the road commercial radio and how non threatening and accessible and how overly slick produced the songs were, and how incredibly popular it might have been at the time, and the types of people who related to or just simply enjoyed this music while possibly sipping a piña colada (this station also thought the piña colada song was appropriate to play at 6:30am) . And while time traveling in my head I’d get some work done too, I think..

The band America stood out the most to me. Songs like “A Horse With No Name”, “I Need You”, “Ventura Highway”, and “Tin Man” were played A LOT on this radio station. “Sister Golden Hair” too, with it’s deceptive acoustic strumming intro that every time it did come on I’d think I was about to hear George Harrison’s “My Sweet Lord” but oh no, America fooled me each time. If you disregard the odd, descriptive lyrics of “A Horse With No Name” such as this fine example “The heat was hot..” really? You could easily have a Neil Young inspired song. (People did confuse this song for a Young song actually). Then there are the lyrics that resonate when you’re just drunk, and by drunk I mean feeling pretty good, “Oz never did give nothin’ to the Tin Man, that he didn’t already have” yes! This was music that resonated and flowed as much as the wine did in 2007 during my life at the time. I love it and I have no shame in saying so. I even own multiple copies of this album on vinyl which is weird, I know. This album became my first “drinking album.”

America knew what they were doing, and they were talented musicians. Their albums were well produced in the mid 70’s and that is due in part to them enlisting the production of George Martin.. The man who produced the Beatles and was influential in the development of their sound on record in the 60’s. And on a final note, the cover art for America’s Greatest Hits album was drawn by the late Phil Hartman, of SNL fame and also the voice of Troy McClure of the Simpsons.

So begins my Vinyl 100. This will be interesting.

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Just a note: The vinyl 100 & Happy Birthday Bob Dylan

I had this insane thought as I was lying awake in bed sometime around 12 a.m. that I will, for 100 days, write about 100 albums that I really, really, REALLY, like, and that have influenced, or moved, or inspired, or in some way affected my life (music has the power to do so). So I will actually “go live” sometime later today with album #100 as I have record #100 ready and the post already drafted…

Also, happy birthday to Bob Dylan, who turns 73 years old today!

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Your life as parodied by The Simpsons. Kind of.

Truth be told – I “cut the cable” years ago. I didn’t really watch that much television and at the time I was paying well over $140 dollars a month for cable, internet, and even a land line that I didn’t use either. However, there was one thing I always cherished and that was Sunday night television to wrap up the weekend before going to work on a Monday morning. I guess things become ritualistic tradition when you do those same things for over a long period time. A lot of people might not remember, but The Simpsons actually aired on Thursdays for a while, after initially airing on Sunday evenings, and THEN would go back to airing on Sunday evenings, again. As a child watching TV on Sundays dreading having to go to school the next day is something I will remember because I sometimes get that same “weekend is over blues” feeling when I have to wake up the next day to go to work.

I actually remember The Simpsons airing as a short breaks on the old Tracy Ullman Show wayyyyyy back in 1988. Yep. When The Simpsons finally got their own show I can say that I watched it when it premiered. 25 seasons and 25 years later I still watch The Simpsons, but now on Mondays, on Hulu Plus. I wont get into dissecting the show because this is really a blog about records.. But I do find some charm still in some of the episodes.

Last Sunday’s episode “Pay Pal” hit close to home as it was a episode based around Lisa Simpson and touched upon her character’s likes, which for long time fans know, Lisa loves Jazz. I thought it was a cool touch, and  a nice nod to jazz fans, as well as all the record collector nerds out there, that there was a scene that showed Lisa and her “friend” (in this episode Marge Simpson pays the kid to hang out with Lisa) in a record store listening via headphones to jazz records on turntables..

Oh, and the writers got in a good dig at jazz artists from the time with the line Bart utters when he finds his sister and her friend at a record store: “Hrmm, nobody likes jazz that much.. Even the guy playing it had to take drugs.” Ouch!

Kudos to the artists who animated this episode. They actually, for the most part, drew the jazz album covers pretty close to their real life counter parts. There were some neat references to older episodes of The Simpsons. I noticed, in the record store wide shot, that there was a “Be Sharps” poster for their “Bigger Than Jesus” album which was a very old episode that parodied The Beatles with Homer starting a Barbershop Quartet with Skinner, Apu and Barney, and then the group followed a similar career path that the Beatles took. There’s also a jazz album (Sax on The Beach) on display in this scene that was released by Lisa’s jazz mentor, Bleeding Gums Murphy, which is another nice nod to the show history.

The episode was so-so, but I am not reviewing the episode, just pointing out that it is nice when facets of your real life find themselves in fictional television shows. If I was a Simpsons character I am sure I’d visit this record shop quite often!

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The 90’s, regrets, the lottery

I am about to turn 37 years old this July. What does this mean? I am pushing 40. A phrase I keep using a lot lately. I’m nearing middle age. I was born in 1977. An amazing year for music if you think about what was released that year…Ramone’s “Leave Home”, David Bowie “Low”, Television “Marquee Moon”, The Clash “The Clash”, Talking Heads “’77”, Tom Waits “Foreign Affairs”, The Sex Pistols released their one and only album, oh and Elvis died… and Elvis Costello released his debut album in the UK. So yeah, I came into the world during an incredible year in music.

It also means I turned 13 in the year 1990. I came of age in the 90’s. Hip hop, a generational shift in culture and music, an incredibly interesting and somewhat boring decade (first few years) to be a teenager. The music scene is very well documented, and I really haven’t much to offer than my experiences during that decade. It’s easy to say that Nirvana killed hair metal and the 90’s mainstream music scene took a very grungy turn in late 1991, that is a very exaggerated and general summary of how music shifted then. In all honesty, “hair metal” was just wearing out its welcome, in the same sense that disco did in the late 70’s. MTV at the time was very much important as radio and record stores were at the time, and marketing execs found something they could market to the post Reagan era disenfranchised youth. I didn’t feel as lost and hopeless in 1991 as I was apparently supposed to feel, but I actually had a weird musical journey in the 90’s.

I didn’t really dive headfirst into Nirvana and “grunge”. In 1986 I was introduced to the Beastie Boys and RUN DMC just like a lot of white kids were at the time. Those albums I listened to a lot, via radio, and taping songs off the radio to listen to later. (I’d get the cassettes about a year or so later) And other than those two artists I didn’t really find anything to latch on to right away, musically. I was also a kid. I had shifted tastes in music. I liked soundtracks, and by the early 90’s I was listening to things like The Simpsons Sing the Blues. 1991 just sort of happened.

I got into Guns N’ Roses because they felt “dangerous” but I also got into U2 because they just seemed better at the time. Eventually U2 won out as “my band”.. but on the grungier side of the spectrum I actually really liked Soundgarden. But I let my tastes and prejudice and limited view of music really shape and also deny myself of other great bands and scenes that were happening at the time.

I totally missed out on the indie rock scene of the 90’s. Guided By Voices released their seminal lo-fi album “Bee Thousand” in June of 1994 when I was just a long haired sophomore grunging away in the 90’s. Bee Thousand wasn’t an album I picked up until recently, at the age of 36. The day I picked it up was a day I literally won the lottery. I actually purchased a lotto ticket the day before and won $40 dollars. So logically I went to the record store and there was Bee Thousand.. for $24 dollars. Why was it so cheap? It was a original pressing, which tends to sell on the used market for $100 dollars. The price tag said “some background noise.” So I took a chance because for those two days I was a lucky man. And besides, Bee Thousand is a lo-fi album, maybe the background noise will just add to the lo-fi listening experience. And actually, other than a few pops and ticks on a 20 year old record that probably had a few owners, it really isn’t noticeable.

I do have musical regrets, but I live with them. I wish I worked as a teenager. I wish I had purchased more vinyl in the 90’s (Fun fact, I purchased one used album in the summer of 1995 and it was an Agent Orange album at a second hand store in San Bernardino, CA) I did frequent record stores in the 90’s, but it was to buy CDS with my allowance and more than likely I purchased Soundgarden and U2 CDs. I do recall looking at the used and new vinyl section of those record stores I was able to go to then. And yes, it isn’t worth beating oneself up over because as a 36 year old looking back at one’s 19/20 year old self and wishing I’d have purchased those early Modest Mouse albums when they were on the “UP” label, because those albums have not been reissued and they are ridiculously expensive. But come on, I was woo’d by Soundgarden and the mean masculine pipes of Chris Cornell and I just wasn’t cool or knowledgeable enough to even know who Modest Mouse were at the time.

But with age comes knowledge and shifting taste in just about everything. With age and economic stability comes the ability to backtrack and make up for lost time. At a price.. Who knows, maybe I will win the music lottery again and find a copy of The Lonesome Crowded West soon. But I will also but the 20th anniversary edition of Soundgarden’s Superunknown too. And I will don my flannel and fall on some black days again. Because I am pushin’ 40.

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