Recollections of the hunter and his prey

About this blog

This is a blog describing the descent into madness brought about by record collecting. It is primarily about the hunt, the smells, the disappointments, the excitement, and the random occurrences surrounding vinyl records. I listen to them too, a lot, but from my perspective the hunt is what makes collecting records an exciting hobby, although it may be maddeningly frustrating and incomprehensible to those around me.

On the hunt for:

  • Articles of Faith-Give Thanks LP
  • Bhopal Stiffs 10 song demo tape
  • Black Cat Bones-Barbed Wire Sandwich LP
  • Blues Creation - Live LP
  • Freddie Hubbard-Black Angel LP
  • Henry Franklin - The Skipper LP
  • Herbie Hancock-Flood LP
  • Mount Everest Trio - LP
  • Neu!-75 LP
  • Revenant - Prophecies of a Dying World LP
  • Sam Cooke-Ain't That Good News LP
  • Sam Cooke-Night Beat LP
  • Strike Under-Immediate Action 12" EP
  • The Effigies-Haunted Town 12" EP
  • The Virgil Lights - (anything else out there besides the 45?)
  • Watchtower-Energetic Disassembly LP
  • Witchcraft-s/t LP

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Drunk blogging with Brian Auger and the Trinity

Today was a very long day, I took my second and last comprehensive exam before I move onto the dissertation stage of my degree (I'm working on a Ph.D. in political science). I had to answer three questions and I had nine hours. I turned in a 41 page essay and finished in 6 hours, which meant I had time to decompress at the record store before going out drinking with my fellow exam takers. I ended up spending quite a while at one of my favorite local record shops, Mecca Records and Books, listening to a bunch of random records before deciding on bringing home this album by Brian Auger. 

I have never listened to anything by Brian Auger before, but luckily Mecca is one of those stores where you can actually listen to most items before you buy, so this sounded pretty good after checking it out. I didn't really feel like picking up a bunch of records today, since I also received in the mail my Flower Travellin' Band-Made in Japan and a copy of Miles Davis' On the Corner. The trip was more about getting my mind off of political science, and there is nothing better than just flipping through records and listening to a bunch of unheard of albums. I was thinking about also picking up a Lydia Lunch record called Honeymoon in Red, and a Fred Frith record, but Brian Auger's psychedelic rock/fusion thing caught my attention.

Right now I jamming to it as I write this post, a little buzzed after going out with the other poor souls that had to suffer the exam process as well, and after having a slightly less than coherent argument over voter registration and voter id with my wife. 

Monday, October 27, 2008

88 Fingers Louie

This is 88 Fingers Louie's first 7" from 1993 on Go Deaf Records. I just sold it. Why? Its absolutely horrible, but rare. I love this band, and I picked this up years ago used in a Chicago record store, but its only gotten a handful of listens over the years. 

When I was growing up in the Chicago 'burbs, I was introduced to punk rock through going to VFW shows of bands like 88 Fingers Louie, the Bollweevils, Slapstick, 30 Seconds Deep, Hashbrown, and other Chicago bands of the mid-90s. I think 88FL was one of my favorites because their guitar player was an obvious metal head, with long hair and white tennis shoes, and definitely stuck out from the rest of the band and the scene. 

I have this really bad habit of needing the entire discographies of my favorite bands, despite the fact that most bands only have a few good records, and if they stick around, manage to put out garbage for years on end. This bad habit explains why I actually own the 80s albums by Deep Purple and why I continue to buy all the new Cure albums. Selling off this 88FL record was somewhat therapeutic in that I let go of an absolutely awful record that for some reason I felt like I needed for the "collection." Hopefully I don't regret it, but I am at least consoled in the fact that the money went towards the purchase of one of my major wants, the Flower Travellin' Band's-Made in Japan. When it arrives I'll post some pics of my FTB collection.

The psycho geography of record fairs

This was posted over at waxidermy, but definitely deserves a read. Here's a sample:

So thank god for record blogs, where you can hype your recent finds, and attempt to increase their worth through the osmosis of the sound-file. This sometimes back-fires as records described as KBD punk monsters on the blog or in the Ebay description have sounded a bit like poorly played REO Speedwagon to these ears, and described “Acid Folk masterpieces” have come across like James Taylor or the hippie couple in Mike Leigh’s “Nuts In May”. Pure gloating is also an option. An obsessive Swedish psychedelic fatso posts photos of his latest rare record finds, like others post photos of their cats or their grandchildren. This comes across as a bit sad, lonely and unhealthy. 
I’d rather hang with the goths and their frikandellen.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Black Mass Lucifer

This Black Mass Lucifer record has a lot of sentimental value for me in terms of my personal evolution as a record collector. My entry into record collecting really started with punk rock and hardcore, primarily because when I began going to punk shows, most bands at the time only had seven inches for sale, or if they had full lengths, their LPs were always cheaper than the CD. What does this have to do with satanic moog music? This record was the first important addition to my collection that I had picked up more as a collector than because it was cheaper than a CD. I had absolutely no idea what it was when I bought it, and it was the real loner in my collection for a long time afterwards before I began to branch out musically and become a more serious collector. Even after several purges of my collection, this record has stuck around and still gets the occasional play.

I bought this record probably about 10 years ago, maybe longer, at Dodd's Records in Grand Rapids, MI. This shop was always a strange place for me when I was younger. I don't think the owner had realized music was still being made after the mid-1980s, and so I typically had no idea what most of the stuff was in his shop. It was stuffed full of LPs of all genres, as well as a lot of cassettes and a handful of CD's. I primarily went there to buy record supplies, like sleeves and the occasional record box. The one thing I never liked about this shop is that all his records were sealed (I have to look at the vinyl before I purchase), even though I never did get anything here that wasn't mint. I'm not sure how much longer this store will be around, or if its even open now. I was there two years ago and picked up a few unspectacular records, but the owner is incredibly old and works by himself. Its amazing to me Mr. Dodd has kept this store open; I wish I could go interview him and find out the history of the store. Its almost like a time warp walking into this place, and I bet he has some great stories about Grand Rapids and the changes he has seen over the years just working at his shop.

The record itself is a black mass performed by Mort Garson on a moog synthesizer that was released in 1971. I know very little about this record, but Garson did release a number of other moog-based records based on other (non-satanic) themes. Its a fairly enjoyable record, if you are into dark-sounding electronic music. It definitely has the feel of a soundtrack to a cheesy slasher flick from the 70s, but its worth a listen if you can find it. 

Saturday, October 18, 2008

In Search of the blues... pt. 2

If you haven't yet, read part 1 of this post first.

This sleeve came with my recently purchased copy of Miles Davis' E.S.P. and served as a faux newspaper for Columbia Records to promote other artists on the label. The short description of Leadbelly, intended to promote an upcoming record of his and other blues artists, is telling in what it leads readers and listeners to think of as the black experience and what the blues is supposed to mean.

"Leadbelly is generally thought of as a folk singer. But one look at the man and you can tell that he lived the blues. He had a scar on his neck, ear to ear, from a knife fight. The fight ended because he was left for dead. In 1917 Leadbelly was sentenced to 30 years in prison for killing a man in Texas. He literally sang his way to freedom eight years later by writing a song for the governor and obtaining a pardon. Instant Replay. In 1930 Leadbelly was sentenced to ten years in a Louisiana prison for assault with intent to kill. He composed a song for the governor, and by 1935 he was out of prison, making his first commercial recordings. They were blues (What else?)"

Besides the somewhat racist overtones of this description, the selling point for Columbia was that Leadbelly was an authentic blues musician, because he had experienced misery and violence in his life. Hamilton spends a lot of time in her book on Leadbelly, and suggests the above story is highly implausible, but was embellished to promote a certain image.

The liner notes on these records of Robert Johnson, the most famous of delta blues singers, does not deviate from the above script. In the liner notes of Vol. 1, it states:

"Robert Johnson sang primitive blues about women. His references were earthy and only thinly disguised. He lived the life he sang about and which ultimately killed him."

Nevermind the fact, as Hamilton discusses, we know very little about Johnson's life and the evidence surrounding his death is more myth than fact. Even the liner notes go on to say how little is known of Johnson, but somehow we are led to believe he sang about his experiences, and this makes his music authentic and primitive.

Even more telling is an interesting footnote at the bottom of the liner notes of the same record:

"Country blues artists are usually distinguished from city blues artists by almost exclusive use of guitar accompaniment or other semi-legitimate instruments like kazoos, harmonicas, jugs, slide whistles, washboards and washtub basses. City blues artists are generally accompanied by piano, and guitar, bass, drums and occasionally one or more brass and reed instruments. The style of a country blues artist is generally more primitive and direct than that of a city blues performer."

Even here, we are lead to believe that city blues is less authentic and "real", the country blues artists, such as Robert Johnson and Leadbelly, are more primitive and better representatives of the "authentic" blues. Somehow, the black experience in the cities is implied here to be less valid. As Hamilton mentions repeatedly in her book, The white pilgrims and record collectors tended to denigrate black popular music and attempted to keep "true" blues musicians from moving to the city, as this would somehow corrupt their abilities to transmit the primitive black experience from the countryside.

In search of the blues... pt. 1

Several months back I read Marybeth Hamilton's In Search of the Blues. Here is a brief synopsis (courtesy of Amazon):

Leadbelly, Robert Johnson, Charley Patton-we are all familiar with the story of the Delta blues. Fierce, raw voices; tormented drifters; deals with the devil at the crossroads at midnight. 

In this extraordinary reconstruction of the origins of the Delta blues, historian Marybeth Hamilton demonstrates that the story as we know it is largely a myth. The idea of something called Delta blues only emerged in the mid-twentieth century, the culmination of a longstanding white fascination with the exotic mysteries of black music. 

Hamilton shows that the Delta blues was effectively invented by white pilgrims, seekers, and propagandists [i.e. record collectors] who headed deep into America’s south in search of an authentic black voice of rage and redemption. In their quest, and in the immense popularity of the music they championed, we confront America’s ongoing love affair with racial difference.

I found this book fascinating unlike most music-related books out there, primarily because its theme of the search for authenticity is relevant beyond an understanding of the blues or the manias of record collectors. In this book, white record collectors and other researchers had preconceived notions of what black music was supposed to represent. To them, the blues represented the uncorrupted black experience, and they had little tolerance for the nuances, subtleties, contradictions, and emotions that are not only part of life, but that did not fit into a rigidly constructed idea of authentic black music that is only about oppression, sorrow, and misery. 

According to the reviews on Amazon, it seems some people are pretty upset about Hamilton's claims and attack her for supposedly lacking real knowledge of the blues. But, this book isn't really about the blues per se, but about those who recorded, collected, listened, promoted, and marketed the blues. 

Looking at some the blues records I own, I am now struck by how much Hamilton’s story rings true. Much of the liner notes that accompany the records tend to stress the authenticity of the artist as a selling point, rather the music on its own merits.


Some examples:

On the back of this John Lee Hooker records released on the Everest Records Archive of Folk & Jazz Music, there are several telling quotes:

"John Lee Hooker is one of the few authentic blues artists left in this country today.... While Jazz is still a struggling infant and spirituals are on the uprise in America, authentic blues is being sung less and less throughout the county."

There is no deliberate snubbing of this art form; on the contrary, it is most welcomed. The truth of the matter is that the authentic blues of the John Lee Hooker type was spawned and nurtured in the misery, ignorance, and destitution of the Negro in a particular American society. "

The notes in their entirety are in the picture above, they should be readable after clicking on the image.

Next up is Howlin' Wolf's Moanin' in the Moonlight.

This record also has some pretty choice quotes.

"In contrast to the ballad, which tends to present an over-idealization of life, blues presents a factual accounting which more often than not is sad rather than happy. The blues tells of trouble, of faithless men and women, of disaster. But with a true human touch, it also tells of hope...."

"Many of the aforementioned aspects of folk music and blues will be readily discernible in these sides by Howlin' Wolf. His primitive quality, it may be stated, goes hand-in-hand with the authenticity of his material. Like all folk artists, Howlin' Wolf is a songwriter too, and the songs in this album are all his own. In the true folk tradition, the story each song tells is straight from the heart of Howlin' Wolf."

In both cases, these records make the claim that these singers are authentic, leading the listener to believe that the artists have actually suffered the events in their songs. Unlike other forms of music, the blues is about "factual" events, it is presumably more true, more historical, than other forms of music and it is because of these qualities that the blues should be appreciated. Whether or not these two artists, or blues singers in general, are singing about actual things they have felt or experienced is beside the point. The point is we as listeners are led to believe so, which somehow makes us feel more connected to what is "primitive", "authentic", and "true." 

to be continued...

Friday, October 17, 2008

"You must be one weird guy..."

At least that is what the clerk at one of my local record shops said when I bought this:

Right, and he listens to the Swans and kinda looks like this guy:

In all seriousness though (no intent here to insult a local clerk, he's really nice!), I've sort of been keeping my eye out for this Michael Jackson record. A few months ago while having dinner and drinks with some friends, they played Off the Wall for us and I really dug it. My love of Michael goes way back to my childhood when another friend and I would blast my Bad tape and take turns jumping on the bed and singing along at the top of our lungs. And no, we didn't have any other friends at the time as you might guess.

After leaving the store, I also found that Michael has his own special surprise for me, a dead spider in its web. (The record store in question re-shrinks all their records, so while I always ask to check the vinyl before buying, I rarely open gatefolds to see what dirt, tags, and other weirdness lay inside).

Also on this visit, I managed to pick up the following records. Davis' ESP has been on my hunting list for a while, as well as the Maiden album. Living in New Mexico, Iron Maiden is the equivalent of the holy grail, so I was somewhat surprised to see this available at a reasonable price. Not sure why I got the Gentle Giant record, I'm a sucker for cool fantasy covers. I guess that explains why I have a pile of Yes records that are extremely painful to stomach. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

those krazy kats of jazz fusion

These are some recent finds from Albuquerque's Krazy Kat Records. For as long as I have lived here, I have only recently started my rounds at Krazy Kat. For some reason, I never thought about checking out this place, and it wasn't until a recent news story about the store being raided by the police and representatives of the RIAA for pirating CD's that I thought I should see what they have (before the close down??). 

I think it was back in August that I first went down to the store, and I ended up spending about 3 hours on my first visit. Krazy Kat is actually two separate stores, one is a regular store of new and used records and CD's, and the other is a discount store full of records from $1-5, cassettes and old VHS movies. In the regular store, underneath the displayed records and the cd's are shelves upon shelves of unpriced and largely unorganized records. After quickly flipping through the records on display, I decided to make the gargantuan effort of going through the mass of unorganized records and ask for prices. Most of these where behind other boxes of empty jewel cases, cardboxes and other garbage the store had laying around, so there was a lot of moving junk around to make space and trying to get out of the way of other customers trying to walk around me. After hours of sitting on the floor, my pants were filthy, my hands were black from going through so many dirty records, and my back was telling me cd's and mp3s are not as hazardous to my health. One of these days when I don't feel like working and am feeling slightly masochistic, I will dig through the massive number of boxes of 45s they have sitting around. At least they were nice enough to let me wash the black grime off my hands in their employee bathroom, although the employee kitchen/bathroom area was so disgusting it made me imagine what Amy Winehouse's apartment might look like.

On the first trip, I came away pretty happy, with a nice minty copy of an early pressing of John Coltrane's My Favorite Things, the double LP set of Syd Barrett's two albums, a cheap copy of Mercyful Fate's Melissa and some other things I can't remember right now. The pricing process was pretty frustrating. I have no idea what they were doing when they took the records away to be priced after I pulled out those I was interested in (maybe checking ebay??), but they'd come back with trashed copies of the non-gatefold version of the Allman Brothers-Eat a Peach for $10-12. I just wanted a listening copy, and just because they taped the completely split and water-stained seams for me, I wasn't gonna fork over that much money for it. Not to mention $8-9 for a junky copy of Bad Company's first album (somehow the images on the inner gatefold were completely torn off). 

While their idiosyncratic pricing policy was laughable, they also have a great selection of good records in fairly decent condition in their discount store. I recently walked away with the above four records for under $10, and the vinyl for each plays great with only a few surface scratches. I'm pretty new to the whole fusion thing, but it was great to walk away with some classic fusion albums for such a low price. Next time I may have to grab one of the ten copies of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch's tapes they have there.

Hot Roddin'

Here are two records from Crown Records: The Winners-Checkered Flag, and The Hot Rodders-Big Hot Rod. Both of these records were picked out by my wife at the most recent Albuquerque Record Show held on September 28th. 

Here's some info on Crown Records courtesy of Both Sides Now (more here):

Crown Records was a budget label for the Bahari Brothers, who ran Modern and RPM labels. It started in 1957 and continued for about a dozen years, earning itself the reputation of the king of the junk record labels. Aside from endlessly reissuing the legitimate hits that were on Modern and RPM, and the B.B. King material, what Crown had to offer was musical junk food on plastic plates. The covers and the vinyl were cheaply made, fell apart almost instantly, and the records sounded worn out right out of the package. 

Neither my wife or I had any idea what these records were, they were picked up on a whim, but it generally was a good choice. Another seller actually had the same records for sale but they were completely trashed, these are in great condition keeping in mind the low quality of the records on this label. While the records we found are in great shape, the covers are exceptionally thin and the vinyl has a number of pressing flaws in the form of dimples that don't affect play. I couldn't find any information on either of these Hot Rod bands, but my (somewhat uneducated) guess is they were studio creations put together by the label in the early 60s. Nevertheless, both bands are fairly decent, garage-style rock and roll with sax, dubbed in race car sounds, and lyrics about cars. 

The collection

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last updated 05/17/09