Saturday, December 28, 2013

Neil Young - Comes a Time

I finally got around to reading my last issue of Rolling Stone magazine.  A friend got it for me and never said a word, and it turned out to be the kind of thing I thought I'd hate, but it's a decent magazine most every issue.  My last issue wast the one with Lou Reed on the cover, shortly after he died.  I'm not going to write about a Lou Reed album here.  I haven't (as of this moment) decided what record I'm going to write about.  But first I'm going to paraphrase a quote from the main Lou article.  He said something like this:

Rock music is the one kind of art where you can get directly to a person.  Where the person is alone.  Someone may be listening to your music at 5 AM, all by themselves.

At least that's what I remember and I don't feel like getting up to get it verbatim.  But Lou is dead on, at least so far as I'm concerned.  I like to listen to music with other people, but I'm more than content to do it by myself.  I know I listen to music by myself a lot more than I listen to it with other people, but it's pretty cool how when there's a record that I do find to be the kind of thing I need to hear by myself at 5 AM I can on occasion go to see  that artist with 100 or 100,000 people that may have done the exact same thing.  What other art is like that?  Sure an author can get you to read at 5 AM, but there's never going to be anything other that you absorbing.  There's never the chance for feedback.  I realize that Rock isn't the only music that this is possible with, but Lou struck a chord with me.

I don't know what it is with Neil Young, but damn, he's the kind of guy that I've hung out with at 5 AM with more than once.  Maybe because he has some really mellow but still great stuff, like Comes a Time.  I mean, what a great song!  The violins, the beautiful harmony vocals by Nicolette Larson and the generally mellow, but good outlook.  I mean, at 5 AM you can use a good outlook, especially when you're looking at the second 5 AM in your day.  Look Out for My Love is more of a 5 AM kinda song, I guess.  It's kind of a warning, and it's kind of insistent and weird.

This came out when I was in high school.  Lotta Love made me even tolerate Nicolette Larson's disco-ish version of that song back when sometimes an AM radio was all we had in the car we were in.  I think Neil back then could be melancholy and optimistic at the same time, and I think this album is a really good example of that.  Like everything is kind of going to shit, but at least I've got a friend.  So at least maybe it's not just me, ya know?

I think I used to fall asleep to this a lot.  Especially side two.  I hardly remember it.  I also think that this record has a hole way the fuck off center.  It's pretty wobbly, but Neil is kind of wobbly anyway.  But Peace of Mind sounds pretty messed up.  Maybe I'll get a new one of these, but when push comes to shove, I really don't listen to it all that much.  As much as I think Nicolette really adds a lot to this, I think the record just kind of peters out.  I suppose that's what happens at 5 AM.  Ya just kind of peter out.  And then you end up with something like Motorcycle Mama.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Alice Cooper - Killer

"Trust me on this, I'm a true audiophile.  I can't listen to anything but perfect sound, and these Monster headphones are even better than the Beats.  What kind of mp3 player do you have?"

I actually overheard this conversation in a store last night.  Now, I'm no audiophile, but if I were, I'm pretty sure I'd never bother a stranger that just wants to buy some headphones for his kid with some blather about how golden my ears are.  Hell, I know how the lady must have felt with this guy going on and on, because the last time I was in a room with speakers to audition while my wife was looking at something else, some dude took up all my Me Time and tried to convince me that some Bose 301's were the best speakers in the room, whether that was what I was interested in or not.  I think our friend the audiophile doesn't quite understand that kids that asked for Beats headphones probably like the brand and don't particularly care if they sound great or not.  Mr. Audiophile also doesn't seem to understand that mp3's generally sound like shit anyway.  I'm not some analog purist, either.  I've heard plenty of great sounding cd's and while I listen to a lot of vinyl, I actually don't need it to be the be all and end all of my music listening.  I mean, c'mon dude, no audiophile gives a rat's ass what anyone blasts mp3's into their brains with.

What's this got to do with Alice Cooper's Killer, you ask? Well, it just reminded me of an afternoon hanging out at some other kid's house when I was in Jr. High and I had brought Killer over.  He liked Progressive Rock, and I'm sure I brought some Yes over, but I had just got Killer and I thought it was just fantastic and I was sure he would, too.  Well, I never even got to play it.  I heard a long, rambling, early teenage dissertation about how stupid Alice Cooper was and how Emerson Lake and Palmer and Pink Floyd were where my head should be at.  It made me a little salty, and was probably an early bit of sunlight on my little seed of thought that Rock music should be fun, and everything else is just a bonus.  I don't think I could even convince him to listen to Killer, and as I sit and listen to it right now, I think he is the one that screwed up.  He could have added some fun to his musical journey.

Because Killer is just a really cool record.  It's fun.  It rocks hard, and if anything, these guys were an extremely underrated and talented group of musicians.  Maybe they didn't play twenty minute epics like Emerson Lake and Palmer, but the eight minute Halo of Flies is a sort of mini West Side Story and I think a lot of the Prog rockers of those times past could have gotten in to this, but they didn't like that the band that had the kids at the Roller Rink dropping their smokes to come in and skate to Under My Wheels could upstage their upside down keyboard solo's with something as cool as Halo of Flies.

I had another friend that turned his nose up at Alice Cooper and I made him come by one day and see what he was missing.  He was completely blown away by Desperado (and if you think it's anything like that crappy Eagles song, you're wrong) and he was equally impressed with the ability of the band to just bring the rock on songs like Be My Lover, You Drive Me Nervous and Under My Wheels.  This was a fun party album, and while I was most into Alice Cooper when I was a teenager, I think the early albums with Michael Bruce and Glen Buxton are some of the coolest albums of the early 70's, even though they seem to be kind of overlooked these days.  I know they got inducted into the Rock Hall, but when is the last time you heard anyone give them any credit or play anything other than School's Out?

So how's my copy?  Well, it's well loved, but I don't care.  I like this copy.  I like that I carried it to some one's house and they never played it.  I like that I know it's one of my touchstones that reminds me that it doesn't matter if I'm the only person that thinks it's cool.  I put the wear and tear on this, and this record showed a lot of other people how good Alice Cooper could be.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Record Stores

I just had a conversation with someone that said record stores were an unnecessary thing of the past, and that I was essentially collecting records incorrectly because apparently I should buy my records in bulk, and sell off what I don't want because paying over three bucks for a record means I'm getting ripped off.  I said, "But I like a lot of new records that you can't get like that.  You have to buy them new."  He says, "That's what the internet is for."  So we went on for a few minutes and I ended up telling him that Music Saves here in Cleveland regularly beats internet prices, except maybe from the label themselves, but as soon as you add shipping, they win every time.  He still says I do the used thing wrong, too.  His last purchase was 500 records, and he found some rare 60's mono in there. and he paid 100 bucks for the boxes of records.  So here's how I looked at it:

I asked, "How many records are you keeping?"

"About thirty, I think."

I said, "So you're selling off 470 records.  That's a lot.  How much will you make?  How long will it take you to sell them?"

"He looked a little sheepish and said, "Well...I'll sell 100 or so online, because those are doubles or records I'm not interested in, but they'll all fetch at least ten bucks a record."  He let me think about the math, but I already was.

"So how long will this take?"  I asked again.

"Well, it might take a few months, but I'll make like $1000, plus I'm keeping thirty records.  That's a great investment!"

"Well see, I'm thinking you have to store 470 records, of which you're going to knowingly rip off people because used records are only worth three bucks (according to you), you have to list them, pack them and ship them.  That's going to take at least twenty hours.  Time I'd call overtime.  That's fifty bucks an hour, which is more than I make on OT, but I don't have to buy any mailers, go to the post office or deal with returns and eBay or GEMM.  I also don't have 370 records that may or may not be worth the trouble of dragging to the record store for store credit, or packaging up in special lot deals.  Which is also cutting in to your 30 record score."

He said I just didn't understand and didn't want free records.  I just said, "No, I want free records.  I don't want to be a used record dealer for a second job."  Besides, I think I just proved to him that he's not getting anything for free, and it's probably not even cheap.

Me, I'll stick with record stores like Music Saves.  For several reasons.  They carry records I want, and they carry records I don't even know that I want.  Then they tell me, "Hey, you should check this record out," and I do and I almost always have a new favorite band!  Special orders?  Easiest thing in the world.  I call or shoot an email, they call me or shoot me an email when it comes in.  I can meet other people in the store and talk music, and since the store is kind of specialized (the only way to make it work these days), I can find common ground with most any customer that comes in.  So if it's not busy, it's not uncommon to actually have a conversation with the owner, another customer or two and me.  I met a guy from San Francisco in there once, and he said that comparatively Music Saves didn't have a lot of records, but they had more records he wanted than any other store he'd been to, and he could actually come in and browse comfortably.  Isn't that cool?

The first record store I ever went to (hey, we bought records at Sears and Woolworth's, man!) was a little local place called Daisy Music Co.  This was a tiny record store.  It's where I learned record store etiquette.  You know, don't open sealed records, put them back where they were, don't flip at the corners (they bend, man), if it's crowded, don't take up three rows while you're looking through one.  In other words, relax and enjoy your visit and make sure the guy after you enjoys their visit, too.  Sort of like camping, I guess.

Did you ever see High Fidelity?  If you're reading this, I'm sure you did.  I've never been in a store where people had that kind of attitude.  I've only met people as excited about records as me.  People that want you to walk out with a new record that you'll love for the rest of your life.  I remember the people that sold me records I love.  I don't always remember their names, but I remember that they maybe liked a record I bought and recommended something else.  I remember that maybe they asked my opinion on something after I had bought a few records.  I remember that even if I didn't order the new Lucero record, it was behind the counter, just waiting for me on the first day of the release (I told ya, I love Music Saves!).  The internet or someone dumping their uncle's record collection doesn't know me, and they don't care if I'm totally satisfied or not.  They just have shit taking up room they want to sell.  A great store like Music Saves or My Mind's Eye in Lakewood caters to the people they sell to.  Sure, they stick to their strengths, but that's what makes a store great.  They know what they're good at, and they just do it.

I don't want my music collection to be downloaded files.  I don't want to hear a song and move on.  I want to hear what you can do for a whole album, because if you just have a single, I'll wait until it comes out on a Various Artists compilation, because maybe by then I won't still be sick of your song.  Make an album and sell it in stores.  Let it be sitting there when I have a spare couple of bucks and don't know what I want to listen to.  Make a cool cover, stop in and play in the record store for twenty minutes if you're in town.  Hell, ya know one more reason for me to like John Doe?  He was in town and I couldn't go to his show because I was working, but he stopped in at Music Saves and wanted to buy a cd that I had bought just that afternoon.  That was okay (I can't remember what it was right now), he wanted another cd, too.  He found out that I bought that, too!  I found that out the next time I was in, so I bought a John Doe album.  John did get lucky and find his third request, but I thought it was cool that someone that has made music that really means something to me liked the same kind of music I was interested in.  Guess who doesn't tell you stuff like that next time you stop by?  The internet and eBay, that's who.

Because you're just an account number and a couple of bucks to them.  To the local record store you're a fan.  Just like they're fans.  Stop in and say "Hi!"  They'll always say "Hi!" right back.  Ask questions, compliment the new record display or read the new release board.  The record store doesn't sell toilet paper, nails or motor oil.  You don't need anything they have, but what they sell is necessary for good mental health and when you buy from your local record store, you're buying from someone that understands why you're there.  They get it.  They look for record stores when they go out of town, too.  They want to have what you like, so tell them.  Think about it, most everything you buy is gone in hours, or maybe days.  Great records stay with you for your whole life, and you don't want to mess that kind of purchase up by filling out a form.  You want to have fun buying that record, and you should be getting your ass to the record store and enjoying your life more!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Michael Stanley Band - Stagepass

OK, so as far as official Rock Snob Cool Points go, just mentioning this album is like minus 100, taken off your final weighted score.  So what?  I'm from around Cleveland, and that means that pretty much from 1977 - 1980 every party I went to included at least one entire spin of all four sides of this record.  Most rides in cars meant at least one run through Stagepass, too.  That's okay, too.  So what if I've heard this more times than I've had a glass of water?  I think it's just a part of my DNA and there's not much I can do about it.  Blame WMMS and suburban teenagers.

The thing is, Michael Stanley never really made it big outside of Cleveland.  People here loved the guy, and even Joe Walsh covered his song, Rosewood Bitters so it always seemed like any minute you people out there would think he was okay and Cleveland Youth would be vindicated.  It never happened and the direction he went after this double live album is definitely south, but this record is really pretty okay.

Hell, in 1978 I took it to North Carolina with me on 8 track and people vacationing with me and enjoying some fine Gold were asking me what album I was playing and they seemed to like it.  I know one guy came and visited me the next spring and he even bought this to take home to Illinois or Indiana, wherever he lived.  I guess it's not as bad as Mike Hudson of The Pagans would have you believe.  In fact, I'd guess if you find one in your city, it would be really, really cheap and I think you'd like some of it.  Parts of it a pretty generic Midwestern Rawk, but there's a few songs that are a notch above the usual dreck.  I still think One Good Reason and Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind are better than average, and even today I like to hear them.  When I was 15 I'd drop everything to pay more attention to Nothing's Gonna Change My Mind.  I really loved it to death.  I think the guy that wrote and sang that song, Jonah Koslen, left the band shortly after this album and started his own band, Breathless.  They went just about as far as Michael Stanley, but I think they screwed up and should have kept working together.

I went and saw Michael Stanley twice.  Once was when he sold out Blossom Music Center three nights in a row.  That's like 70,000 tickets, and they went fast.  I don't remember that, I just went for the party.  The other time was at Richfield Coliseum.  I was in Belkin Concert Club and I used to write them notes about the tickets I ordered.  Belkin were the big promoters here, and for like 20 bucks a year you could join their club and get really decent seats.  I told them I just wanted a comfortable seat and give some die hard my killer seat for MSB.  They gave me a great, first row of the upper side level where the sound was good, no one could stand in front of me and I even had a place to set my drink.  It was very comfortable, and while I felt like an old man kinda, I also felt it was kinda the way MSB made me feel anyway.  Comfortable.

This record just oozes Cleveland.  It was recorded at the old Cleveland Agora.  I used to go there, and I thought it was the coolest bar ever.  I still say it's one of the greatest Rock Clubs that ever happened.  The stage was big and it was up high enough that you could see the band.  The house PA fucking killed it!  Everybody sounded great in there.  The crowds were totally cool.  There was some kind of weird shag carpet on the floor (don't ask me why), and it stuck to your feet because of a weird mixture of fire retardant stuff and spilled beer and vomit (I saw Jane Scott get barfed on in there, and I don't think she noticed!).  But it sounded great and Bruce Springsteen and Todd Rundgren played there as well as cover bands on Mug Night.  You bought a 19 ounce mug for like three dollars, and then you got in free every Wednesday night and refills of whatever draft they had (I swear I drank Schlitz and Stroh's in there) were a quarter.  Even after mug night ended they'd let me in for free cuz I raised a stink about buying their dumb mug.  I've still got it, too.

The damned staples of WMMS and M105 here were what everyone always wanted to hear at parties (and still want to hear on the Classic Rock Saturday night request show), but I always liked side three with their cover of Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow, and a nice song called Waste a Little Time on Me.  It's kind of mellow stuff, which is usually not my bag, but I just liked these a lot.  The bad thing was that side three had some utterly shitty song called Pierette on it, and lemme tell ya, you have heard few snorefests as snorey as this stupid song.  I have a feeling they left it off the tape versions.  Either that or tape decks just automatically fast forwarded through it.  Maybe that's why I like the other two songs on side three so much.  I bet no one ever played that side!  Which can't be true because the side ends with "The first song, from the first Michael Stanley album, and it goes like this," then they play Rosewood Bitters.   And that's a really great song.  It really is.  I mean, it's good enough that I'd buy this record for that song alone if I had to.  In spite of one of the worst songs ever recorded, side three remains my favorite.

Which gets us all the way to side four.  I think anyone that grew up here thinks side four is pretty much one song.  That's how often radio played it like that.  Hey, DJ's gotta shit, too.  I get it.  They could call it a triple play or album side.  It didn't matter, but they got to hit the can!  I'll mention Let's Get the Show on the Road here because it's kind of like Bob Seger's Turn the Page when it comes to wistful songs about fame Clevelanders seem to really get.  The correct way to listen to this song is to hold your beer high, swaying to the slow music, with your eyes mostly closed.  Even if you're driving (that's why we sell single cans at the gas station).  Much as I make fun of it, I think it's a pretty fucking great song.  I mean, "Today's for sale and it's all you can afford, and by your own admission the whole things got you bored" is just a great line.  Much great Midwestern Rawk ensues and it's just fun.  The last song, Strike Up the Band is something everyone seems to love, but it's pretty mediocre if you ask me.

Now, my record is in pretty terrific shape (like I said, they're cheap and no one knows who they are outside of Cleveland and that's where I got mine).  It is on energy crisis recycled vinyl and I can see a piece of label in the playing area that won't come up, but it never makes a sound going over it, so I don't care.  Both records are nice and flat and if you were a teenaged boy where I grew up, the cover is iconic and it's nice that mine's not shot to shit with cigarette burns and beer stains on it.  Both records are nice and flat and it's nice to have this, seeing as how I still live around here.  people actually ask if I have it, sometimes just to look at it and hold it.  It's weird.  I get it.  I don't want to get it because I like being the Rock Snob I am, but I get it.  I really do.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Thelonious Monster - Stormy Monday

So the internet is kind of a cool place, sometimes.  I know there's some truly stupid things on it, but music wise it's been one of the greatest things that's ever happened.  Unfortunately it's also one of the worst things that ever happened to music, but I'm going to dwell on the cool stuff.  Like the people I've met.  I don't really meet people here, but then again I'm writing about the records I own, and apparently no one gives a shit about that, but that's okay because I didn't figure I'd have some taste making cash cow here.  In fact, I'm always surprised to see that someone looked at my blog, let alone actually left a comment!  I've met most of the people at Stones message boards, and some of them I've met in person and it's seemed like we've known each other for years.  But there's more people that I actually never met in person.  There was a guy that lived in California named Jimmy Whitley that died earlier this year that I got along famously with.  We traded music, and did a lot of behind the scenes email conversations where we talked about everything but The Stones that was out there to listen to.  Jimmy had drug troubles, so I'm kind of glad I never really met him because that's a scene I don't want much to do with these days.  After a certain age I think you should have pretty much tried everything worth trying that you were going to try, and it's time to lay off the hard stuff and grow up a little.

Jimmy and I talked a lot about bands from our towns.  He was a musician.  He had a lot of talent, but I don't think he had a lot of drive.  He talked a good game and once in awhile he'd send me something he wrote and recorded and it was usually pretty good, but, I dunno.  He just didn't do anything with it.  The thing was, he loved almost all the same dumb things I do.  He liked Speed Racer.  He loved The Stones.  He knew that some music is just better than other music, and being a snob is okay.  He also knew that he lived in a vital local music scene, and it was his job as a fan to tell other people how great it was.  The dude had enthusiasm.  I love that.  One of the bands he was always enthused about was Thelonious Monster.  He emailed me about them all the time and couldn't believe I didn't know who they were.  He said he only had their releases on vinyl, and he'd rip them for me.  I told him not to do that, because I'd find those records here and I'd like them more.  I'm weird like that.  Sometimes if someone just gives me music I'll never get around to listening to it, then I'll hear it at their house, flip out over it and they'll tell me I've had it for two years on a cd they burned me (or long ago a cassette tape - I hate tape).

I think I found my copy of Stormy Weather at a record show, maybe just a couple of years ago.  Jimmy was still alive, but we didn't talk much anymore.  He messed up royally, pissed a bunch of cyber people off and I think he just felt I was one of them.  I emailed him now and then but eventually gave up.  But even though we hadn't talked in awhile, I knew I'd like Thelonious Monster, because Jimmy liked it.  I was right, too.  I think Stormy Weather is a terrific album.  There's a cover of a Tracy Chapman song, For My Lover that I just think is fantastic.  I had no idea she wrote songs I might like that much (I'm not a musician so I never see the full band treatment of a guitar and singer kind of songs potential).  It's just a great cover.  The songs are kind of a garage rock style, I suppose.

Man, I hate that term almost as much as power pop.  It's just Rock N' Roll.  Straight ahead, guitars, bass and drums with a singer.  A song like Real Kinda Hatred is just a little too big to be a garage rock song, and it's too small to be arena rock.  There's just so many great sounding guitars on this album, and singer Bob Forrest makes a good front man, if you ask me.  I don't know why these guys never got any airplay outside of LA (who knows how much they got there?).  These guys are just one of those bands that I get instantly, and everyone else seems fine living without them.  Isn't that weird?  How one person can just fall in love with a band that no one cares about?  I think it's kind of funny.  I used to be the one in my group of friends that almost always picked the music we were listening to (I even played Chicago and Hall and Oates for my friends because they liked them).  Thelonious Monster would have been the kind of band I'd have just tossed on between those two bands, and my friends would have loved them and maybe even bought their records.  But I don't carry that kind of weight anymore, that's for sure.  I think Tim McGraw and Carrie Underwood suck left hind tit, so those friends think I essentially listen to some kind of screeching rock that sounds like someone amplified the feeling tin foil makes on your teeth.  I'm not saying I don't listen to some kind of abrasive stuff, but not around other people!

I have one friend who we went to dinner with awhile back and he was telling his wife how he liked to come by the house because he liked the music I play.  She asked what he had heard and I said I thought I had played Scruffy the Cat, Thelonious Monster and Lucero the last time he was over.  She didn't even give it a chance, and just said, "I don't think I'd like that kind of music."  He assured her she would, so we have to have them by for drinks and a few records, I think.  I know I really just rambled here, and if you made it this far, there really isn't much of a payoff.  I was just listening to a record and thinking about a friend, and this is just pretty much were it went.

My copy of Stormy Weather was cheap, I know that.  Easily less than five bucks, and when I pulled it out of the bin the dealer probably wished he had ten bucks on it, because I'd have paid it!  Mine's also nice and flat and pretty quiet.  Thanks for the recommendation, Jimmy!

David Bowie - The Man Who Sold the World

I think I’ve already mentioned how many people I knew in school that hated David Bowie because he was supposed to be this evil gay guy.  Now, I wasn’t some enlightened, way ahead of my time middle class white teenage boy.  I’m sure I was a complete asshole to people on more than one occasion.  Because I think empathy is something you learn, not something you just have.  When I had a tutor for math that was a teacher with a “roommate” is when I first figured out I knew someone that was really, actually gay.  I mentioned it to my parents (thinking I could get out of math tutoring) and I found out that my parents knew, didn’t care and had nothing but respect and admiration for the teacher that was my tutor.  In fact, the guy was on my dad’s bowling team.  So I was told at a pretty early age to get over myself.  So I think I did.  As I get older I think I get better at understanding other people’s problems.

Back then, I used to hang out at a friend’s almost every day.  I slept there as much as I slept at home, and we spent a lot of time listening to music.  One of the cool things was that his dad had a night job as a janitor in an office building.  Yeah, you’re thinking, “what’s so cool about that?”  Well, Capitol Records had an office there, that’s what!  My friend’s dad had a good memory and remembered a lot of artists I used to tell him I liked, and the dude came home with stacks of promo records and posters all the time.  I didn’t get to keep the records because it was my friend’s dad, after all.  I got several posters, and my friend and I put posters up over every square inch of his room.  We thought it looked really, really cool.

One of the records in my friend’s bin was David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World.  It was the one with the black and white cover.  This was probably one of the first Bowie albums I ever heard, and they played very little of it on the radio, even here in Cleveland.  They did play a little, mostly late at night.  WMMS took all the credit for breaking Bowie in the US (Rush, Springsteen outside of the Jersey Shore, Alex Harvey and Roxy Music were all claimed WMMS’ own, too).  I remember I really loved The Width of a Circle (still do) and I thought Black Country Rock and All the Madmen were fantastic as well.  The title track did get a little play on WMMS, and I know Nirvana laid claim to it (Kurt did a great job on it).  But I remember playing this album and some people just looking at me like I was goofy or something.  I never really thought this was such a weird record, but as I’m listening to it right now, I guess it kind of is.  After All is some strange stuff, but I think I really thought it was more mature than weird.  I don’t know if I agree with that assessment these days, but I really wanted to be older than I was when I was a kid, which is funny, because I don’t want to be older now, nor do I want to be younger.  I’m good with what I am and I just want to be happy.

And lemme tell ya, The Man Who Sold the World makes me very happy.  Running Gun Blues is super cool.  The Width of a Circle is still one of my favorite songs, and Saviour Machine is one of those songs that as I’ve gotten older I’ve really grown to appreciate.  I think Saviour Machine’s kind of cheesy keyboards could have wrecked everything, but they don’t.  They’re dated, yeah, but so is the whole album.  The Man Who Sold the World is definitely a product of its time, but that’s okay with me.  I don’t need everything to be timeless or even a step forward.  Just being good is good enough, ya know?

I mean, the sleaziness of She Shook Me Cold never really goes out of style, does it?  If it has for you, you should probably rethink your style, because this is some cool, heavy stuff.  Mick Ronson has such a great sound all over this record, and Bowie’s lyrics are both dumb and perfect.  I think that’s something Bowie does really well, dumb and perfect lyrics.  He gazed a gazely stare and strange fascinations fascinate me are inane things to say, but when Bowie sings them it’s okay.  Hey, it could be a lot worse!  I can also remember that when I actually got to hear The Supermen on the radio I’d be pretty excited.  I like the way the tension builds and fades in that song.  It’s like it’s stretchy music, and I can really get behind stretchy music.

The other thing about this record is that there’s multiple covers.  Not cover songs, but album covers.  The original has Bowie wearing a dress.  I guess in 1970 that was as bad as having an anatomically correct dog body on a Bowie drawing a few years later.  So they came out with the black and white cover, I think.  I’ve got another cover, like a comic or cartoon.  That one has been widely faked!  I was really worried after I bought one not too long ago because it was a good price and it’s a cool cover.  But I checked and mine’s the real deal (I guess the matrix numbers aren’t stamped on the fakes, and mine are stamped).  Sound wise, I could probably look for a more perfect record because mine’s been loved by me for a long time, but I think I’m good.  I’ve got the Rykodisc cd and the black and white and comic covers, so I probably have enough.  The Rykodisc is an excellent sounding cd, with some bonus tracks that don’t matter much.  Both of my records play with a little noise on them, but it’s not very noticeable.  I think for a record I dragged around to parties, the black and white cover one I have is pretty nice, actually!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Joe Walsh - So What

One day I was waiting on parts deliveries so I could do my job and I decided I'd take my lunch while I waited, and I went to a record store in Cuyahoga Falls I have a love/hate relationship with.  Actually it's a like/hate relationship because I think they carry way too many mainstream titles of the Classic Rock variety.  I had heard they were going out of business, which is bad.  I think what he needs is a smaller store and he'd be doing okay.  I don't know for sure, but his store is too big and probably costs a lot.  He's a nice guy, though.

So since he has this massive classic rock collection, that's just what you hear in that store.  It's pretty seldom I've heard anything I don't know like the back of my hand.  Frankly, I don't know how you sit there all day, everyday and listen to essentially the classic rock radio station, an entire cd at a time.  He does get some vinyl in there, and he can be flexible on his prices so it's always worth a lunch break to stop in.  One day I was flipping through the "new" used vinyl and he was playing a Joe Walsh best of cd.  Now, I'm from Cleveland, and I've got Joe's snaky solo's going through my veins like everyone else my age around here.  The guy was just cool, and I like him.  While I'm flipping through the records Welcome to the Club comes on and I just really, totally got into it.  I couldn't remember the last time I heard it.  Probably not since Betty Korvan was at WMMS!  What a great song, though.  While I was digging, I saw a really good looking copy of So What, and I grabbed it.  I may have bought a few other things, but when I get to the register to ring it up, another customer is hanging out, not buying anything and just bullshitting (fine by me, record stores are good for that), and he says, "He's got that Joe Walsh album on cd if you don't want to buy an old record."

WTF?  I just put four vinyl records on the counter, and never once even walked towards the cd's (because I've been burned there on something), and I only looked in the records.  I'm not a vinyl purist by any means, but these days I generally stick with vinyl.  So I said, "Yeah, but it's probably not three bucks, and it doesn't have this really cool embossed art and absolutely fantastic inner sleeve."  He looks at me like I don't understand, and says in what I perceive to be the most assholier than thou voice I've ever heard, "You can't listen to an album cover."

WTF?  I just kind of looked at him, hopefully full of pity and sympathy generally reserved for only the saddest cases of humanity I ever have to meet and I says, "You can just download cd's, and hang out at message boards on the internet and never have to go into a place they sell vinyl records, too."  I think he thought I was a dick, and he went and picked through cd's until I got rung out and left.  I don't know what choice words he had for me, but I bet the dude that owns the place appreciated me being there more that day than he did the other dude, seeing as how I moved some inventory for him.  Ya know, I never say anything to anyone in a store about what they're buying unless I like it.  Who needs some toolio pissing on their happy record store moment?  No one, that's who.

So What is like most Joe Walsh albums.  Which means that the good stuff is great, and the not so good stuff is not so good.  Overall I think So What is better than a lot of stuff from 1975 and it's just over half an hour, so it's not overwhelming.  Welcome to the Club is a real cool song that got very little airplay except at night around here.  The three best songs, Time Out, Turn to Stone and Help Me Through the Night make up side two of Joe's single live album, so people must have liked it.  They're great songs, and they hold up well almost forty years later.  I wish every album I bought could boast four really good songs, because then I don't mind the not so good ones that much.  At least he was trying to not just keep rewriting Rocky Mountain Way.

My copy is pretty good.  It's an earlier pressing since it still has the embossed cover, but I don't know if it's original.  It's nice and flat and it's not too noisy.  I can't see any reason to look for another one, but if I found a really great one, I might buy it.  You never know.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Police - Synchronicity

One thing about being a music snob is that there are records and bands you're not supposed to like; but the nice thing about being the kind of snob I am, I don't give a shit about whether or not I'm supposed to like something or not.  So I end up able to enjoy an album by The Police that isn't Outlandos d'Amour.  In fact, when Synchronicity came out for half a summer in 1983 I thought it was their best album, and 1983 me really liked The Police so that was saying something.  One of the things I think I liked is that this is a really good sounding record, even though it has some dorky 1980's production on it.  If it didn't, I'd probably put an Audiophile Alert on this.  But I just let a little of the sound get under my skin, I guess.

In 1983 I had been at the printing press I used to work at  for over a year, and my oldest son was just about a year old when this came out.  That means I was making just over four dollars an hour and buying a record was a big deal, because that's not much money for raising a family on, in just about any era during my lifetime.  Minimum wage is just over eight bucks now, I think.  So if I had to raise a family at about 5% over minimum wage I probably wouldn't be able to afford any records.  That's bullshit.  Anyway, even though times were tight I did manage to get a few new records now and then, and this was one of them.

I think I took this to a friend's house and taped this.  He had moved into his own place, above his girlfriend's grandparent's old house.  We used to hang out there a lot, and he bought a JVC stereo on credit.  I went with him and tried to convince him that we could do a better system with components from other companies, but this came in a rack with a glass door (worthless if you ask me), and all the lights were the same color of green.  I didn't dislike it, but it didn't last very long and a few years later we were replacing things one component at a time.  I had spent the same amount of money on my system and that lasted into the next century!  He didn't know how to use his cassette deck, so I used to record things for him if he'd let me record what I wanted so I could listen to it on my little boombox in my crappy car.  I think this was one of the first albums we could both agree to actually liking.

This sucker was packed with the hits, too.  Man, I think you could make a case that this album is the sound of the first half of the 80's.  Every Breath You Take was huge.  I mean, I can't hardly imagine a bigger hit song.  Sure Fleetwood Mac's Rumours  had spawned hits like this a few years earlier, but this song was ubiquitous.  I heard it in the morning, I heard it late at night (I think that's when I still like to hear it - it's a good late night song).  It took me a long time to get really tired of it, too.  I swear the radio just started letting side two of this record play.  King of Pain was a giant smash, Wrapped Around Your Finger was a monster hit and Synchronicity II was a big hit, and much more of a rocker than the other songs.  I never figured out why they called it Synchronicity II, since Synchronicity I is really kind of a cool Prog Rock kind of song (which I always liked, much to my Punk Rock brother's chagrin).  Considering how many hits this had and how often I heard the album, I still played it quite a bit.

Nowadays it doesn't seem to get out much, but when it does I enjoy it, and it's not just a nostalgia thing.  It doesn't make me think of feeding pockets in a bindery, or working all three shifts in a week (plus overtime) and drinking the cheapest beer I could find (Busch, mainly - that stuff sucks but I like the looks of the old labels).  We used to hang out at a softball field and drink beers most nights I didn't have to work.  That's one of the things I liked about my wife, she was okay with grabbing a twelve pack and hanging out.  On Sundays we used to play softball.  It was fun.  My wife and I never played on the same team because that way one of us could watch the kid.  Things weren't easy, but things were good.  I still have some of the same friends, but there's a lot of them that have drifted away due to divorces or taking a job in another place to keep food on their family.  A couple of them have died or found Jesus, which doesn't seem much different to me.  It's funny how Synchronicity makes me think about that stuff for a minute, but mostly I just enjoy it and think about all the crap I've gotten over this through the years from my friends that are snobs.

Trust me, that crap is well deserved!  You won't hear me go off on how I hate some band with every fiber of my being here because I always grab one of my records to write these inane little essays and I don' t really have many records I don't like.  I have a few things that some other people have given me that I maybe don't love, but there's no Eagles records here.  I can take the heat from the snobs, because I think you have to be willing to do that if you're going to piss all over someone's snob parade (and I have).  I know a guy that tried to tell me that The Police were one of my "guilty pleasures." but I don't have musical guilty pleasures.  I don't care if someone thinks I've got good taste because I like The Pagans or Deer Tick, because one minute later I'll admit to an undying devotion to Bachman Turner Overdrive and Grand Funk.  My dad thought everything I listened to sounded the same and he could never understand just what it was that made me turn up my nose at one band, and buy every bootleg with every burp and fart of another band.  So I'm really not some ironic hipster when it comes to Synchronicity, and I'm not just nostalgic for it.  I just like it.

Did you ever notice the Allmusic review of this?  It pretty much says half the record is filler or crap, then give it 4 1/2 stars!  WTF?

My copy of this is still in decent shape and plays pretty quietly.  There's a little noise between tracks but it's inaudible when the music starts.  I could probably clean it next time I get a stack of records to clean, but if I forget it will still be okay.  I'm sure it's worth three bucks these days.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Yes - Fragile

When I think about how I used to listen to music when I was a kid, I think of Fragile a lot.  I bought it because I absolutely loved Roundabout.  I had a friend that I was with constantly and we both loved Yes, but I think we loved Roundabout first.  I liked it so much, I bought the album.  He liked it so much, he bought the album, too.  I think between us we had about ten albums, and that meant it pretty much didn't matter who's house we were at, at some point we were going to listen to Fragile.  Probably more than once.  So this was a record I was deeply familiar with, front to back, inside and out.

I don't think the younger generation of kids have records like that.  I think that since they all know where to download music for nothing, they have way too much music.  I know, I can hardly believe I said that.  How can anyone have too much music?  Well, they can't, really.  Eventually there will be things they feel a need to hear, even if they have a large library, but when you're discovering music and yourself, I think there should be an opportunity to really learn some records really well.  If I had 25,000 songs by the time I downloaded Fragile, I wouldn't have listened to it in nearly the same way I did then, and that would change the way I listen to it now.  It would probably change the way I listen to everything, and I already think I have the attention span of a preoccupied gnat.

I can remember certain things when I hear this, but today I'm really not trying to be nostalgic.  I'm thinking more like how I loved Roundabout, and  heard it on the radio all the time, and now I was able to hear it at home, too.  But there were eight other songs on Fragile, and I grew to love them all.  I don't think I ever would have heard South Side of the Sky unless it was played on some Yes special on the radio.  If I had just downloaded things and hit shuffle all the time, I'd have never gotten past the slightly abrasive opening of South Side of the Sky.  But since I was limited in my choices, I think time and listening helped get me past the abrasiveness, to where I could hear the cool guitars and remarkable drumming and eventually decide that my favorite song on the album was South Side of the Sky.  I honestly don't think people grow up listening that way anymore.  I've been told I'm pretty condescending sometimes when it comes to how other people decide to listen to music, but really, if you think all good music was made from 19xx to 19xx and there's nothing else worth hearing, then it's really not me being condescending when I say you should change the way you listen to open yourself up to discovering something new that you love that you maybe can't even be bothered to go look for.

It's weird that an album I have possibly heard more than any other recorded piece of music in my life, for forty years at this point, would make me think of how to find and enjoy something new.  But if I hadn't been limited in what was available to me, I wouldn't have listened to We Have Heaven, Five Per-Cent for Nothing or The Fish more than once or twice at most.  I'd have probably skipped out on Mood for a Day after just a listen or two.  I think that would be a tragedy.  Maybe not a major tragedy, but I wouldn't be the same person (though it's certainly open to interpretation if that's good or bad).  I still love the end of Mood for a Day and I can remember just taking the needle off the record then and going to bed, because that was good, I felt done with the day.

But a lot more often I'd play Heart of the Sunrise twice.  I love how it's so fast, and then so mellow, and then so fast.  God, my dad hated that song!  If he came in to talk to me about something he'd always say to turn it down, because it was too jarring.  Me, I still think it's cool as hell.  And all those songs that came before it, that I had to learn how to hear for what they were, are what helped me to find a way in to appreciate songs like Heart of the Sunrise and South Side of the Sky.  I remember thinking that lyrically this stuff was deep.  But that's because it didn't really make much sense and I didn't know that it would never make sense, because it was mostly just crazy lyrics that fit in with the crazy music.  I'd like to have a conversation back where I just wouldn't accept that the coolest thing about Yes wasn't the lyrics with someone older than me.  I must have been an insufferable little turd.  I still like straight light moving and removing sharpness of the color sunshine as a lyric, because it fits the song so well.  It sure as hell doesn't make any sense, though!

So Fragile is one of those things that because of my limited resources, actually helped me to appreciate that some things were going to take some time for me to understand.  That's one reason I so rarely "review" a new album.  I don't care to convince people that something is or isn't good.  I don't care what other people listen to so long as I can continue to listen to what I like (which is why I feel cheated by the radio).  I mean, I'm talking about my records, so I'd think most of my little essays would be towards the positive.  If they aren't, then trust me, that record is in the return for store credit pile!

My copy of this has two booklets in it, because I saved the one from the copy my GE record player killed.  I think this is a copy I repurchased in high school, and it's in good shape.  The cover looks like it has some weird rubbing, not ringwear, but it's in fine shape overall.  The inside is perfect, too bad it's pretty devoid of any cool Roger Dean art in there!  The record is nice and flat and pretty quiet, so it's enjoyable to listen to.  It's funny that we always thought Yes should sound pristine and that if you could you'd want it on the best system possible, but I don't think any Yes albums would ever get an audiophile excited.  They sound good, but they're never great.  I think that's okay with me, because Steve Howe's guitars always cut right through any business or murkiness, anyway.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Lynyrd Skynyrd - Gimme Back My Bullets

Boy, you wanna talk about bands I despisedLynyrd Skynyrd is very high up on that list, lemme tell ya.  I felt they stood for pretty much everything the douchenozzles that record under that moniker these days actually stand for.  That's that it's okay to be a bigoted, gun toting alcoholic that likes to get in fights and treat other people like shit.  I went through a lot of years thinking this, and making a "Ppppphhhhhtttt!!!!" noise whenever my buddy would bring them up.  I was proud to dislike Lynyrd Skynyrd.

These days, I've changed my stance on them.  Every few years I try to listen to things I don't like, like Led Zeppelin or The Eagles and see if I like them now, the way I started to like mushrooms and cheese.  People change, and I'm a person, and I hope I keep changing.  Not too much, but I hope I get better as I get older.  So to my buddy Hobie:  You were right.  I was wrong.  Lynyrd Skynyrd was a great American band.  Definitely one of the best of the 70's and they deserve all the good things said about them, and they deserve apologies from liberal assholes like me that just shut them out.  I mean, I still hate that confederate flag and everything it stands for.  It stands for evil so far as I'm concerned.  But I think Ronnie Van Zant was a probably a far better person than I imagined, and I wish I had seen it through my own shortcomings a long time ago.

So with that out of the way, I'm gonna talk about Gimme Back My Bullets before I talk about any other Skynyrd albums.  I remember when it came out a lot of kids were pretty excited.  Not me, but friends of mine were, and more importantly other friends of theirs were.  So I was at a guy's house one day shortly after this came out, and he had it.  We were upstairs in his bedroom/attic and it was kind of cool because we could smoke over there.  I thought this guy was a freaking redneck and a half.  To make my point he got a girl pregnant and moved into a trailer with her and the baby.  They both dropped out of school.  He was sixteen and she was fifteen.  Teenage me thought they were total losers, and over fifty me hopes they made it against long odds.  Over fifty me thinks teenage me was kind of an intolerant, judgmental dick.  I hope I'm better.

But I can remember hanging out in his mom's house before they moved into their trailer, and listening to this.  I think I complained between every song.  I think they played other stuff and I was happy later, but for some reason I really remember listening to Gimme Back My Bullets that afternoon.  And this afternoon while I'm listening to it, I'm thinking I genuinely like this album.  I think the lyrics are good.  I think the music is really good.  I think I missed out, and I think it's my fault that I missed out.

So even though I missed out on this, I eventually did catch on to these guys.  I really like the title track and All I Can Do Is Write About It.  I think the other songs are good, but not great.  Like the kinds of songs that don't seem to be any great shakes on their own, but as a group, they work really well.  They definitely have some better albums, and some day I'll get around to those, but I felt like doing this one first.  Maybe because I needed to just write down me saying that I let myself get in the way of enjoying something I should have been able to enjoy if I didn't have so many hangups.

Now, my record is nice.  It plays great, it's flat and it's quiet.  The cover is okay,  One corner has some wear but it hasn't split, so it's not too bad.  I buy a lot of used records like that.  If the record looks really nice but the cover was never in a plastic sleeve they can get a little roughed up, but if the record looks like no one ever played it, that's fine with me.  I'll buy it for a buck or two.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Rolling Stones - Past and Present

OK, so I've said repeatedly here that I'm a big Rolling Stones fan, but you could certainly make the point that I haven't shown much so far.  So I was looking through my records and I found this little bootleg gem that I haven't played in a long, long time.  Isn't that a great cover?  It's a really glossy cover and I didn't use a flash on my crappy phone camera and I still got a little spot from the light in the room.  So these guys actually spent some of their profits on artwork instead of just running off a bunch of xerox sheets on the copier at work.  I think I remember getting this, and I think I had a bunch of bootlegs by other bands, and I felt that if I wasn't going to dig deep into a band's official collection, I probably shouldn't collect their bootlegs.  I know that sounds weird, but that's the way I looked at it.  I figured The Stones weren't losing any money on me, because they didn't release enough material to keep me happy, but I knew I didn't need any Genesis or Doors bootlegs because I wasn't that interested in that stuff. So I took a bunch of records up to a record show that used to happen a few times a year in Richfield, and looked around for the guy with the most Stones bootlegs and opened my bag and said, "Hey, wanna trade?"

He started saying he didn't really do that and I'd have to have a certain kind of record for him to be interested in and I started pulling them out of the bag and he said, "Yeah. Yeah, I think we can work something out.  What are you looking for?"  I said "Stones.  That's it for for special interest records for me from now on."  Special Interest Records used to be a euphemism for bootlegs.  A lot of times it got you led into a back storeroom or office, or a box would be retrieved from under the racks.  It was fun back then.  Hunting bootlegs was a terrific hobby.

So anyway, this guy looks at my stuff and says, "Title for title?"  I said that since one was a three record set how about I get one extra so long as it's not a double?  He agreed and I took home a nice little selection of Stones records that day, and this is one of them.  I remember asking him if he knew anything about it because I had never seen it, and he said it was a European pressing, and he didn't know much about it.  Is it really European?  I don't know.  I think so because the cover art is so nice and in the early - mid 80's US bootleggers didn't usually put much effort into covers.  This guy had a nice selection and really liked my stuff so I think he might be right.  Plus, I never saw another one of these so maybe it really is European.

The songs ranged from As Time Goes By, which is the early demo of As Tears Go By up to Keith Richards doing a cover of Apartment No. 9 from 1981.  I hadn't heard these yet, and I was really excited to get my mitts on this one.  I just crossed my fingers and hoped to hell it wasn't a really nice cover with a bunch of hissy, horrid speed issue outtakes that sounded like they were recorded through a door with a tape deck with dying batteries so the speed could never be right.  I got lucky, though.  This is mostly pretty great, with a couple of dropouts and some tape hiss here and there, but hey, it's a bootleg and back then I was one of a very few that probably ever heard these songs.

I know everyone just downloads everything they want these days, and believe me, I get the idea of free bootlegs, but now that you get stuff like Van Morrison singing Brown Eyed Girl and some doofus lists it as The Stones, I just don't play with that stuff much anymore.  I've got pretty much everything I want, I think.  So I just live with that and concentrate on finding new music (even if it's old) to make me happy.

So Past and Present is a pretty good bootleg.  I don't think I'd say it's essential, because I never said any bootlegs were essential.  Sure a really great one is very cool to have, but if you've never heard the instrumental outtake Separately, which is on here and is a big reason I grabbed this, you're really not missing much.  It sounds like one of Mick Taylor's ultra mellow ideas, which could be okay, but he hadn't even thought up a killer solo for it, so it's kind of like musical Ambien.  The version of Highway Child is a little fast, but it's still such a great song.  I've always loved every second of that monster riffage, and this may have been one of the first records I had it on, but I'd have to check a little more.

I think the record is in really good shape.  I wonder what turntable I had then?  I'm guessing my B&O.  That was a nice table, but the proprietary cartridge that didn't have a replaceable stylus kind of let me just get rid of it, live a few years without a turntable and then get a Rega (of which the internet audiophiles say I bought one that can't hold speed and sounds like shit).  I really like the Rega.  I never had a full manual table, but I always liked the idea that if it didn't help make things sound better, then the expense of something like a light, a brake, a speed selector switch or auto anything left more money for a decent tonearm and motor.  I borrowed a strobe disk from a friend and we checked and my table is dead on at 33 1/3 and 45.  So apparently I got one that's all messed up, or the people on the internet that don't like Rega tables are busy justifying how a company that makes some of the best tonearms ever made is too stupid to make a pulley the right size.  I suppose that's what audio forums are all about.  I swear I saw a forum that had record reviews as a subject, and in order to submit reviews you had to tell them what kind of equipment you had.  As if buying expensive equipment makes you more qualified!  How about submitting your latest hearing test?

Anyway, I hope you like whatever you listen to music on.  My system isn't exactly a huge investment, and it's been done a little at a time, but I like the way it sounds.  Most other people come in and are really surprised at how my little stereo sounds.  I know a guy that keeps trying to get the same punch in his music that I get, but he keeps buying these funny (but cool looking) things to play music on.  I told him until he bought a stereo, he wasn't going to get what he was looking for.  I bet he's spent more than me on disappointing "systems" over the past few years.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Pagans - Shit Street

So usually I talk about something that happened a really long time ago when I talk about a record.  Today I’m going to talk about a record that I never had until I was an adult.  I kind of wish I had known about The Pagans when I was a kid, but let’s face it – no one knew who they were.   No one knew then, and very few know now, but The Pagans were quite possibly the best and most “punk” of all the early Cleveland Punk bands that were making an everlasting impact on a musical generation that if not for the internet, never would have known who The Pagans were.

The Pagans were probably more out to just be a Rock N’ Roll band and have fun than to actually be famous, or everlasting or to be Punks on the scene.  They were undoubtedly Punks, but I don’t know that they were Punk Rock so much as just Punks that got high a lot and were probably unbearable to live with (Read singer Mike Hudson’s book Diary of a Punk for more info).  When an actual Punk Rock movement came along, I think The Pagans were okay with being labeled Punk, but they weren’t out to change the world.  They were just making music that they liked, and to hell with anyone else.  You can tell by their cover songs, like Little Black Egg, Heart of Stone and Can't Explain.  These guys came from a good place musically.  I think that's why I like so many of the early Punk bands compared to the bands doing Punk today. 

So the first Pagans song I ever heard was probably Six and Change or maybe What's This Shit Called Love on an old Cleveland show that used to play on WCSB called London’s Burning.  They had a really funny commercial that aired on other college shows that started off with The Clash singing London’s Burning, and then the DJ would do a voice over that said, "Are you bored, and do you hate everything?"  How could I not listen to that show?  I’m not bored, and I don’t hate everything, but this guy seemed to actually like Punk Rock and didn’t take it so seriously!  I forget when it was on, but I think it was pretty late and I used to listen to it like Friday after work (I worked mostly night shifts back then).  He played all sorts of stuff.  It didn’t have to be just British, but in the early 80’s here in Cleveland people considered Punk to be something from England, not a local thing.

This is too bad, because The Pagans captured the feel of this gritty, crumbly and kind of dirty city far better than the Michael Stanley Band ever could.  I still think they capture the essence of what Cleveland is better than almost anyone.  The Pagans are noisy, brash and sloppy.  The Pagans drink too much, and it shows.  Most people won’t get The Pagans, and that’s just so like Cleveland to me.  Most people that aren’t from here seem to wonder why anyone would ever come here, even for fifteen minutes, let alone actually live here.

I remember one time when I had to go to Massachusetts for work for a week or two.  I had been there before, and I knew exactly where I needed to go.  When I got in my rental car, I put Shit Street in the cd player, and twisted the volume knob and let The Pagans blast through me like a sonic boom.  I completely missed my merge and would up pulling into a State Highway Patrol station and asking them just how far away I was from my hotel.  I think he considered giving me a field sobriety test, because I was at the other end of the state!  But it just didn’t matter because I felt like I was just rubbing the stink of home all over MA with The Pagans.  So I was happy enough about that.  I switched cd’s because by then Shit Street was over, but I also wanted to make sure I didn’t miss the hotel again.

It was a Pagans week for me, too.  I remember I went to a Newbury Comics store out in the boonies (people on the East Coast call where I was the boonies – I thought it was just suburbia), and figured I’d buy some cd’s with my per Diem.  I don’t remember what cd’s I chose, but I remember the cashier was probably still a teenager, but a future music snob in training.  While he was ringing up my music he told me, “I really like your picks here!  I’m going to say that you’ve bought the best music all day, so you’re my favorite customer today.”  Now, I love having my ego stroked and being told that I listen to cool music, because believe me, no one else ever tells me I listen to anything good.  So I asked the kid what kind of music he liked and he said he liked garage rock, early punk (not Green Day and the modern punks) and stuff like early Stones and Kinks.  I talked to him about The Yardbirds and asked if he know them.  He didn’t, so I told him Clapton and Jimmy Page played with them, but not to hold that against them because their best music was done with Jeff Beck, and that Jeff didn’t do any lengthy soft jazz stuff when he was with them.  He said he’d check them out.  We talked about a few other things and I asked if he had ever heard any Cleveland Punk bands.

“Uuuuh…no.  I don’t think I ever heard any bands from Cleveland,” he says.  I told him, “Hey, I’m not saying they’re all good, or even that most of them are any good, but you guys have one copy of The Pagans Shit Street over there.  I’m sure with your store discount it’s not much of a risk for you to check them out.  But if you like the stuff I bought today, then I think you’ll like them, because I’ve been listening to Shit Street for three days straight.”
I gotta hand it to the kid.  He looked over his glasses and said, “There’s only one copy?  I’ll go grab it now.  Is it kind of raw?”
A million ideas about how raw The Pagans were entered my mind, like “It’s more raw than Ted Nugent’s dinner, “ or “It’s as raw as a skateboard trainee’s palms.”  I just said, “If you want raw, you want the Pagans.”  So he went and grabbed it and rang it up for himself while we were still talking.  He asked if I had seen them, and I said I hadn’t.  No one had.  Maybe 100 people can legitimately claim to having saw The Pagans and they were the same people that went to every show (might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea).  I told him a song like Boy Can I Dance Good would have been my teenage anthem if I had actually heard it back then.  I told him Dead End America is the political Punk song to match anything by Stiff Little Fingers, The Clash or The Pistols.
I still believe that, too (not that I said this all that long ago).  I thought it was really cool to talk to a kid that wasn’t my kid about the music I love and see him actually care.  I thought it was really cool of him to try to turn me onto bands that I was already either really digging myself, or didn’t care about.  But the kid was just so dorky, like me when I was his age.  His enthusiasm was so cool to me.  I could tell looking at him that he wasn’t a popular kid and it didn’t matter to him.  He had something to care about, and he found a place to be where maybe everyone didn’t care about the music he liked the same way he did, but once in a while, he’d find someone like me that had time to kill on a day when no one was in the store and he could talk.  The way we used to talk at record stores.  We’d go in and just talk about music and it was great; and that was a great afternoon hanging with that kid, even if he never does get who or what The Pagans were all about.
When I left, instead of playing new music, I put The Pagans back in.  Cranked it up and let it start spreading Cleveland stink all over Massachusetts.  And I missed my exit on the way back, but I didn’t care.
As I mentioned, I have the cd of Shit Street.  It’s kind of nice because there’s some bonus tracks on there, but they’re mostly pretty raw live recordings.  It’s also available on vinyl, and I have that, too.  It has a song called Jaguar Ride (old Electric Eels song) on it that isn't on the cd.  When I was in Memphis a year or so ago I told my wife I had to go to Goner Records.  I liked the store, but I like my options here in Cleveland better.  In fact, I think while I was at Goner I ended up buying a copy of Shit Street and The Dead Boys – We Have Come For Your Children.  The guy at the register said, “These bands are both from Cleveland.”  I told him I was, too.  So this vinyl is terrific, because I bought it new.  The recordings are pretty much a lo fi experience, but I don't know if I'd have it any other way.