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!