Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mink DeVille - Cabretta

I remember when this record came out.  Pretty much no one bothered with it.  At least no one I knew bothered with it.  I thought Willy DeVille was a pretty cool looking guy and I heard Cadillac Walk once or twice on WMMS, so I figured these guys were just around the corner from getting big.  Apparently that corner is a lot harder to get around than I ever seem to think, because I was talking to someone the other day about great dollar records, and I mentioned that I got the first Mink DeVille album for a dollar at a Record X back when they were trying to make their records just go away.  I wonder if Record X would put three or four dollars on a Mink DeVille album these days, or if it would still just be a dollar?  I have a feeling they wouldn't even take it in trade because i don't think anyone really remembers them.

Which is kind of a shame, because I thought these guys were really cool.  They had what I kind of considered a sophisticated garage sound.  Which meant that they could kill it with a song like Cadillac Walk, but they could also bring it all down a couple of notches and make a pretty song like Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl really work.  These guys were on Capitol, so you'd think they might have had some publicity behind them, but like I said, I was talking to a guy about dollar records and he said he'd never heard of Mink DeVille and didn't know if it would be worth it to take a chance on them.

In this day and age how can you  not be willing to spend ONE DOLLAR on a record someone tells you is good?  I'd even consider pretty much any record, even if it was recommended by a friend that listens to Kiss, Nickelback and Def Leppard.  I mean, if the record is clean, and it's ONE DOLLAR then where's the risk?  I was telling him about how I thought Mixed Up, Shook Up Girl was kind of like The Stones' Beast of Burden in that it was slower and kind of pretty, but not at all smarmy or gross.  Then there's songs like the rocking Gunslinger, and a great cover of Moon Martin's Cadillac Walk.  Ya know, for a dollar if you can find a record with two songs that good on it, you really need to go out and buy the damned thing!

I'm not sure what ever made it so these guys didn't get noticed by anyone.  Looking on the internet, it looks like Spanish Stroll actually cracked the Top 20 over in England.  I like that song, but I don't remember ever hearing it anywhere.  It sort of reminds me of what Lou Reed was up to in the latter part of the 70's, with a touch of the Barrio thrown in for good measure.  I really wish I had been one of the kids that bought this back in 1977.  I think if I had I'd have forced my friends to sit and listen to it all the time.  As it is, I pretty much listen to it myself quite a bit these days, because it really has a kind of timeless quality to it.  I can hear the touchstones from the 50's and 60's and the record was produced by Jack Nitzsche (yeah, that Jack Nitzsche) so the sound is very natural and not the kind of thing that gets dated easily.  What a really great album.  It's hard to believe I've had it for like twenty years and even though I've had it for so long I still feel like I really missed the boat on Mink DeVille.

My copy is nice and flat, the cover shows some ringwear and there's a click on it here and there, but like the big sticker says, it was ONE DOLLAR.  It's definitely one of the best dollars I ever spent.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Johnny Winter - Second Winter

Ya know, I know I've mentioned a lot how it's kind of funny that a lot of my friends had older sisters and that's where I found out about a lot of music when I was a kid.  Johnny Winter is not on that list of "Music I Learned About From Girls."  Johnny is on the list of "Music I Learned About Hanging Around With Guys That Are Older Than Me."  By the time I was in high school, I had expanded my circle of friends to where I was all of a sudden hanging around with a couple of guys that were definitely the babies of the family.  In age, not attitude.  I had really good friends, and I actually still see a lot of them quite regularly (I know, that's kind of weird).

Johnny Winter was the kind of guy that you'd hear hanging around in a garage, drinking beer and smoking cigarettes while taking turns trying to burn an exhaust system off an old car.  Cars in Ohio see rough winters and a lot of salt, and in a few years, those muffler clamps turn into rusty blobs and wrenches are worthless.  So we'd get under the car and bust knuckles and swear in turns and get that stuff off of there.  It was kind of fun, but I don't miss working on cars.  I kind of miss listening to things like Johnny Winter over some Frankenstereo with an old pair of Panasonic Thrusters or Zenith Allegro speakers screwed into the rafters of a detached garage with five other guys.  Those guys weren't listening to Elvis Costello or The Cars.  Those guys wanted to hear some wailing on guitars, and Johnny Winter was one of the kings of that.

You'd hear all kinds of stuff in a garage.  Too much Led Zeppelin, for sure.  That's where I heard stuff like Les Dudek and Frank Marino and Mahogany Rush for the first time.  Hanging in a garage with guys was kind of fun back then.  We got to work on some really cool cars, too.  I had a friend with a 56 Chevy 2 door, a 62 Mercury Monterey S-55, a 67 Cougar with a 390 - that list goes on and on.  You could get those cars so cheap back then.  I'm not much of a car guy, but I just don't get what they're doing when they aren't working.  I'm a wonderful assistant, though!

I loved hearing Johnny Winter on a nice summer evening with a cold beer and a cool car up on jack stands, or with the hood up and guys figuring out how to get an old water pump off, or get valves to quit ticking.  It was a lot of fun, and hearing something like Johnny Winter giving a serious set of balls to Dylan's Highway 61 Revisited.  I know, I heard it in the garage more than once; Dylan's version has plenty of balls of its own, but like I said then, "Not like Johnny's does.  That's some serious badass shit, right there."  I still say that.  Johnny's voice just matches his muscular guitar tone so well, that he can make a song his own.  Dylan shouldn't feel bad, because Johnny takes Johnny B. Goode and makes that his, too.  I love the originals of both of those songs, but Johnny just puts them into his Texas Tornado of Sound and they come out so, so great.

I think those visits in garages are what makes me still so enamored of what so many upper middle aged mid western men think is what "Rock" should be all about.  I can listen to a lot of those kinds of guitar slinger records and I just get it.  I love the wailing.  I dig the big drums and thumpin' bass.  I know it's out of style and it was pretty much out of style the day it came out, but I just get it, man.  I think it's cool and I never cared when old girlfriends didn't want to hear a guy like Johnny play six hundred notes when three might have done.  There's something to be said for excess, but you have to do it right, or you just become a stupid wanker.  I'm not exactly sure where that line is, but Johnny Winter knows  exactly where it is, and he goes right up to that line and steps back just in time, every time.  I think he's the guy Stevie Ray Vaughan really, truly aspired to be, but I think Stevie crossed that line now and then.  He couldn't pull back consistently enough.

So my copy of Second Winter isn't one of the original 1969 copies.  If I had to guess, I think I'd guess late 70's.  It's in nice shape, a couple clicks here and there, but I think this one was played and loved, the same way I'd have played and loved it if I had owned it for its entire life.  It's a gatefold cover with a cool inside picture and side four is blank.  I always liked that they did that, because they didn't try to squeeze out one song and then squish everything onto a single lp.  It's nice because it sounds really good and you don't need to crank it way up to make it sound that way.  I think Second Winter is really, truly one of the great guitar albums of the 70's.  Yes, I'm aware it came out in 69 but believe me, this was a staple in almost every group of guys that hung out throughout the 70's, and no one considered it an old 60's album.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Tubes - Remote Control

Ya know, I never know what blogs I write that people will actually read.  I think that if I do something by The Stones or Neil Young, people will find it and maybe read it.  Then I do something like The Slickee Boys or Jacobites, and I get a ton of hits from all over the world.  I really don't get it.  Then again, even when I have a blog entry more read than another one it still means almost no one on the planet has read it.  So I think I'll just keep doing it the way I have been and if I have time, and I'm thinking about a record all day, I'll write about that one.

With The Tubes - Remote Control album I wasn't so much thinking about this album all day, but how odd I always thought it was that I knew people that liked The Sensational Alex Harvey Band, but couldn't stand The Tubes.  I really kind of don't get that.  I always thought that if I had the chance to see both of those bands in like a co-headlining thing I'd have paid pretty much anything they asked.  I saw The Tubes and I never saw Alex, and I'll tell you some time how much I liked seeing them.  For now, I'm gonna stick with what I was thinking all day.

The Tubes should have been bigger.  I don't know why they weren't.  My friends and I loved them.  I went to a school where they were really popular.  I mean, everyone knew who they were.  Even this album, Remote Control, was a constant at parties all over town.  I liked that after some stupid fucking Ted Nugent album was over I could put on something like this and everyone liked it.  So where was the rest of the country?  Why weren't these guys huge?

By the time they got to Remote Control, they had Todd Rundgren producing, and I think he went a long way to making sure that Remote Control sounded like a modern, major label release.  They always sounded pretty good, but Todd is good at making a big sound huge.  If there was anything The Tubes needed it was the hugeness of their live show to translate onto vinyl.  I think they succeeded here.  It gets some Todd signature backing vocals here and there, but the record still sounds like The Tubes.

In 1979 when this came out, I was pretty sure that TV was evil, and that bands like The Tubes that were pointing out just how really horrible TV really is would maybe be able to help change things for the better.  Here's one of those bands that I thought was going to change the way things were, but all it did is eventually show my idealistic young self that as much as it seemed like it was changing my life, Rock N' Roll was never going to change the world and make it better.  It was just going to be another way for rich people to print money.  Man, that sucked when I really finally understood that.

I have a friend who had an old Nova he bought from the old lady across the street.  It was a blue 4 door, early 70's.  It was rotted from the bottom of the door panels about a quarter of the way up the doors and fenders.  It looked like someone dipped it in acid or something.  We couldn't put any speakers in the doors because they'd get wet, but we got a decent sounding stereo in there in spite of the challenges.  The damned thing only had like 25.000 miles on it, but man, was it rusty!

We used to drive around and listen to Remote Control all the time.  I think we listened to side one most of the time, because everyone really liked the title track, and Prime Time, which is kind of a derivative of Don't Touch Me There, their first brush with chart success.  The one two punch of opener Remote Control going into TV Is King was a pretty strong way to kick off an album, and it was hard to argue when someone wanted to hear that side of the album again.

Side two has strong tracks, too.  Where my friends liked the opening songs on side one, and the hit single, I still to this day think my two favorite songs are Only the Strong Survive and Telecide.  I especially love Telecide.  It's one of my all time favorite Tubes songs.  It starts off really fast and it's got a wailing guitar solo.  I guess there's just not that much more that I need to make me happy!

I bought this a couple years ago. I think I got it at a record show.  It's in really nice shape, with a nice, clean cover and the record is nice and flat.  It was probably only two or three dollars and I can't think of  a better thing to spend the price of a coke and a bag of chips on.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

The Record Store Clerk - Friend or Foe?

I think lately people have been posting things about record store clerks on some of the vinyl collector groups I read, so this subject has been rattling about in my head for a few days.  It's funny to read how so many people seem to actually like the fact that they can just sit in their house and order a record so easily these days.  Not really just a record, but any record.  I get that.  it's nothing new, really.  Goldmine and Record Collector have provided that service for as long as I've been collecting records, but I think a whole lot of it seems that people are intimidated by the store clerk.  Like this person behind the counter knows everything and thinks you buy shitty music and might sneer at you.  I mostly just don't get this.  Maybe I've always kind of bought records at stores that carried the kinds of things I liked anyways, but I've never had anyone in a record store be anything other than at the least courteous, if not downright friendly.

Yeah, I've seen High Fidelity and the people in that movie really only wished they actually worked in a record store.  I mean, if a guy comes in looking for any record that store stocks and is met with any shit whatsoever, what record store owner isn't going to can the guy and give the customer a discount on that record?  Yeah, I thought Jack Black's character was pretty funny mostly, too.  Where could he really exist except as a story?

Here in Cleveland we had one huge chain record store called Peaches.  I bought a crate for records there, but I could always get the records they had that I wanted cheaper at stores I liked more.  yeah, they had a ton of records in there, but when one section is Classical, one section is Country, one section is Jazz and Blues and one section is Rock, then you've just got a shitload of records I'll never even flip through.  I've always had better luck at a smaller, independent store that catered more specifically to a Rock crowd, and maybe carried a few of the "cool with the Rockers" artists like Johnny Cash or Miles Davis.  It's no big deal for me to skip and artists section and move on.  I mean, I'm going to ignore Led Zeppelin, too.  Skipping a handful of records is one thing, but I don't get all excited because a store has 20,000 records, because I'm probably only interested in a portion of them anyway.

So if I'm dealing with a person in a big chain store, I figure the odds they even know what I'm getting are slim.  There's a chain of smaller stores around here that are franchises and they're called The Exchange.  Each one is actually kind of different.  The Lakewood store is supposed to be the "cool" one, where the Rock Snobs like myself can find odd things.  I think it's a hit or miss kind of place, but I got Big Star's Nothing Can Hurt Me on orange vinyl there on Record Store Day.  It was late in the day, and when i took it up, the clerk was visibly annoyed that I got it and he didn't even know they got any copies.  I know this, because he said so.  He wasn't rude, though.  He was just kind of upset because he said he was a Real Big Fan, and the manager didn't mind if they found something they liked and bought it themselves.  He just thought they didn't get a copy.  In fact, he asked if there was another one, and my son told him that someone had moved this one out of the Record Store Day rack and mixed it in with something else, and he just happened to find it for me.  the guy was real cool about it, though.  I told him I hoped it would get a wider release so he could get one and he seemed pretty good about it.  He asked about a Dr. John album I bought and I told him it was my first Dr. John album, and that I hoped I'd like it.  I liked the kid a lot.

I've been to other cities to buy records, and I've never met this scary clerk in those, either.  I went to Goner in Memphis, and I had a hard time finding much that I was interested in.  I thought that was odd, because people I think I have a lot in common with said it would be a good store for me.  I found a Pagans album and a Dead Boys album.  The guy there said, "Hey, ya know both of those bands were from Cleveland?"  I said, "So am I.  I'm here on vacation and these are actually long gone up there."  We talked about stuff to do in Memphis and I told him I was a big Reigning Sound fan.  We talked about them and while I didn't find a lot there, I'll be back.

I've been to Jerry's in Pittsburgh.  Jerry is really nice, and we talked about how great Dr. Feelgood was.  We talked about David Werner and Norm Nardini.  He gave me a good chunk of money off the records I bought.  I've bought records from his employees and they were super nice, too.  I loved talking to the guy at Angry Mom in Ithaca.  My wife came down when I was checking out and I told her I needed more money because I got such great records there.  She said something like, "Are you really gonna play the ones you have here?"  Mr. Angry Mom said, "He'll play those.  He picked the really great kinds of records you never get tired of."

What a great guy!

I mean, the first record store clerk I really dealt with was at the long defunct Daisy Music.  I was about 11 and I stopped there and just looked at records all the time, and when I would actually buy one, I'd just ask, "What's the best Yes album?"  I asked that because when you're that young, you think everything can be quantified like that.  He would tell me that the earliest albums were very different from the newer ones, and some people liked the new stuff and hated the old stuff and vice versa.  I told him I loved Roundabout, and he helped me get started on my first favorite band in the world.  I knew the girl that ran the record section at The Shoppe, and she was invaluable in helping me figure out some of the New Wave bands of the early and mid 80's.  I never saw her be anything more than helpful, even when handling a return.  Even from the guy that was returning a record that he claimed made constant noises that shouldn't be there, and when she played it, I confirmed that I couldn't hear it, either.  She told me he returned half of what he bought, and she always made him get the same record, and if it was out of stock she ordered it for him, no matter how much he complained that he wanted something else.  She just put his perfectly good records in the used bin and they'd sell real fast because he just bought new, popular stuff.

These days around Cleveland every owner I've seen is terrific.  Melanie at Music Saves is  my favorite, but she stocks the kind of music I like and makes my special orders easy.  She seems genuinely happy when I say, "Hey that last album I bought here is fantastic and I love it!"  The people there have turned me on to new bands, and I enjoy driving across town, past other record stores so that I can shop there.  I can stop in and say, "Hi."  I can talk about another store I went to.  I can ask about shows around town that people there went to see.  I always walk out with a smile on my face.

I've had to order some things from the internet, but let's face it, Amazon doesn't know me at all.  Their suggestions are often stupid as hell, and if I can order a record locally, I do.  Even if it costs more.  I'm sure the people that work for Amazon are nice enough, but I like talking to real people and I've found that if you go into a record store and say, "Hi!" almost every single person behind that counter is great.  If they're really actually a jerk, then leave.  Don't even poke around.

I think if I actually did run into this mythical Record Store Snob, I'd put my purchases on the counter, excited like I always am, and if they said something condescending or rude, I'd be twice as rude back to them.  I try to be polite, but I don't have any problem being a giant asshole.   What's wrong with just saying, "What the fuck do you know about what I like?"

Look, you're collecting records.  The big selling points are things like, "The tangible product makes me feel more connected to the artist.  Records make me feel more connected to the community."  So get connected to the community.  Meet the 99% of people in record stores that are really great.  Talk to people like you.  People that love records.  Your computer and your credit card may not judge you, but they also provide the same excitement as making your car payment.  You deserve better than that when it comes to your hobby.  Ask the people that live hours away from any record stores.  They don't miss driving to the store.  They miss flipping through the records, which were laid out by a person that made decisions about where to the bins, what order the display bins go, what's on sale and what records go on the walls.  The person that does that is there for the love of it, not because they're making tons of money.  Go meet a real person in a real record store!