Put the Needle on the Record

What is it about other people’s record collections that cause one to be so covetous? I take a look at my homies’ vinyl and think, “Damn, Oak Ridge Boys. Cool.” Shit, I’ve got every single Bruce Springsteen album from the ’70s and almost all the Neil Young from the same period, not to mention about two hundred other great records and several hundred pieces of shit that I don’t even listen to, many that I have never listened to, so why should I be so bent when I see that a friend has two copies of The Village People-Live and Sleazy and he won’t give me one? (Better yet, why the fuck won’t he? But that’s not the point.)

Does my envy simmer because at some time in the future, when I’m sitting around my apartment drunk by myself I’ll want to listen to some track from his 10cc-Greatest Hits that I can’t even remember exists when I’m sober? Not likely, but that’s the way I usually think. In fact, that’s why I own a copy of that stupid album: Every time I decide to give it away or put it in the trash or smash it against the turntable stand, I give it one last listen. And fuck if there isn’t always that one song that makes me want to keep it.

Maybe this attitude is brought on by the fact that I want to burn a mix CD right now, but I don’t have a copy of an old Conway Twitty song that’s probably on three out of five K-Tel country collections, any of which could be purchased at your finer neighborhood Value Village. But see, that’s the problem, I didn’t buy that 50 cent record when I had the chance, someone else did (that bastard friend of mine), and now I can’t make the CD because the whole fucking thing revolves around that one lynchpin song. Yeah, I can ask him to borrow it, but that’s a whole other mess. What if he’s on vacation? Or what if he can’t find it? Or what if the damn record is stored in some parental basement somewhere, as fully 35% of all records must be?

Funny thing is that all the songs you keep—on the Toto albums, the Culture Club, the awful Queen records that hold about as much interest as a Freddy Mercury moustache ride—they never are the right ones. So you buy more and more records until you’ve got a whole collection of garbage that takes up as much space as all the rest of your personal belongings and weighs at least as much as your car.

Ever try helping one of your friends move? Notice the uneasiness everyone has about moving anything in the room that has his record collection in it? “No way, dude, I’m not going near the records.” I’d rather help move a sofa or a fucking refrigerator than help move goddamn records. It’s usually worth it to move yourself, just to get out of helping someone with a big record collection relocate.

On a related tangent, ever see the stupid behavior that results when a friend is moving and he gives away some of his record collection? Yeah, it’s always total crap. What, you think someone’s just going to unhand a nice mint copy of Like A Virgin? No way. He will, however, almost be willing to pay you to make off with his studio Peter Frampton albums and pretty much anything released on Arista in the 1980s. But you don’t need a bribe. No, you will be more than willing to slug one of your best friends in the nose as the two of you fight over a copy of a live Thin Lizzy album, making good entertainment for the friend who’s trying to relieve himself of his plastic burden. It’s a momentary distraction from the fact that no matter how asinine his friends will behave in dividing up his lousy records, there’s always two or three stinkers that they all already have. An extra, scratched and unplayable copy of Thriller, with devil horns gouged into the album sleeve above M.J.’s head or something similar, a Paula Abdul or Judas Priest that would play just fine if you could stomach more than 15 seconds of the music.

Ever come across the record in someone else’s give-aways that you yourself dumped years ago? And discover that it’s the same damn copy of It’s Hard that you used to own, because it’s got your initials marked in that special place where you mark all your albums? And further realize that you absolutely have to have it back because your life has not been complete since you gave up the ability to listen to “Athena”?

If you get it, if you’re into records, I think you can see where I’m going with all this by now. Records are great. They are one of my favorite things on earth. We all know that they are better than CDs for all the reasons that Neil used to howl about and a hundred more, not the least of which is the tactile sensation of handling one and the care that must go into owning one, but especially the beauty in the design of the album covers, done on a scale to which no crummy little jewel box will ever compare. And though CDs may have a small size and weight advantage, a durability advantage, a portability advantage over records, all these were the same advantages of cassettes, never enough to cause anyone to wax nostalgic over metal oxide. Part of the joy of records is certainly the insanity of being a record owner, all the strange behavior that we exhibit that we just don’t for any other form of recorded music. It’s a great feeling to be a record junkie, even if we freely buy CDs and tapes or even listen to mp3s.

But it’s time to face the reality that records are no longer really sufficient for keeping the bulk of our music collections. Unfortunately, that in itself is probably one of the things that makes records so precious, their inherent stupidity and eternal obsolescence. And just because I’ve now gone digital and forego listening to my stereo for my computer (let’s hope that this computer thing turns out better for me than Trans for Neil), surely I’m not going to get rid of my records just yet. At least not until I’ve ripped them all into mp3s and probably not even after that. We still need records, just like we still need burgers, cigarettes, Bacardi, weed, and an occasional blow job. But humans need more than just vices, we need an occasional blast of rationality and good, clean living. Where music is concerned, we need Napster. Internet-based digital music is like health food—it makes it possible for us to live to be a hundred years old without giving up booze.

So when Napster finally joins Tupac in that great musical oblivion, I sure as hell hope that someone else picks up the slack. If we could depend on its existence, it could help us weed out the Tony Orlando and the Larry Gatlin and the half-dozen Sugar Hill label 12-inches that would only be cool if you decided to start your own retro-rap act. Sure, you’ll still have to keep that moldy old Beatles album that besides being worthless would certainly ruin your needle after only half of “Here Comes the Sun”, simply because you’ve got be able to show that you own an original Fab Four slab. And that’s the point: Digital music is made for the record owner, it gets us off the hook but it doesn’t keep us from continuing to engage in the less socially destructive behavior that we know and love.

Having access to stuff that we don’t really need on the Internet as a sort of musical security blanket will make it possible for us to all live better and have more space in our lives for things like significant others, pets, perhaps even children. And even if you’re not planning on becoming a family man, God knows I’m not, Napster can help continue to fill the space absented by that discarded Perry Como LP, hopefully replaced by something more Johnny Cash or even Orbison-esque. Something better. Something more useful and worth owning. Because Napster allows us to discover, develop a liking for, and even—get this you evil fucking corporate music industry retards—buy more music. Take one look at my music collection and you’ll see just what a sicko I am. I have no choice but to continue to acquire more, even if I have to pay for it, which I routinely do out of either convenience or stupidity (at this point in time, I’m not sure which).

Someday, when the broadband gets wide and wireless enough and the memory gets small and fast enough, our mp3 files will truly become as transparent as our records are opaque, and it will no longer be a pain in the ass to have a great and sufficiently broad collection of music. Until then, I’m still going to be caging my pals records with an eye out for the Twit.

Pedal Steel Transmission at Schubas

In 1996, I stood in the front row of Detroit’s St Andrews Hall and watched Polvo unleash hell. The North Carolina quartet was at the height of its considerable indie-rock power, and proved it with a blistering reset of Gary Numan’s “Cars.” It was the perfect cover song, mixing the black lipstick’d histrionics of Numan’s signature tune with Polvo’s gull wave bridge of Silvertone fury. “Cars” remained, but Ash Bowie and Co. had ripped out the circuit board and jury-rigged the mainframe, re-programming the original’s dirty vibe into a distorted lockgroove. It was a real Rock and Roll moment, and somewhere, AC/DC stood up and cheered.

Last Friday, it was time to root for the cool kids again, as The Pedal Steel Transmission took the stage at Schubas. Like the name suggests, the Chicago quartet is built around its pedal steel guitar. But this isn’t Gene Autrey, beans out of a can, or yodeling. It’s more like a pedal steel guitar with its collar up and a knife in its teeth. Warriors, come out and play…and they did. The Pedal Steel Transmission is cosmic American music, like Gram Parsons, The Band, Sixteen Horsepower, or Afghan Whigs (r.i.p.) before them. But this country music is made in The Big City. The high-lonesome, Neil Young soul is present and accounted for, but it’s ghost-riding on a dark back road called Rock and Roll. Churning, LOUD guitar clashes with the pedal steel, and both hit up the rhythm section for a fix of Polvo-esque groove. Cowboys in leather jackets? Maybe. But it’s more like rough riders listening to Fugazi and Stereolab around the fire. When The Pedal Steel Transmission really got on their horse about midway through the set Friday night, it was like Lou Reed in a cowboy hat, and somewhere Adam Duritz cried into his beer.

Rock and Roll ain’t noise pollution.

JTL

Kiss touring without Peter Criss

So Kiss is touring without Peter Criss (update: new link), and the new drummer is going to be wearing the makeup and costume of “the Cat.” Why should I care? Why does this seem so blasphemous to me? Peter Criss has deteriorated into an awful drummer who can barely lift his sticks anymore. And as my wife said last night as I was ranting about the audacity of Gene and Paul allowing some imposter to pose as the Cat, “People should fucking retire before they get disgusting.” She was referring to the entire band in general, and her words made me stop and realize that maybe I shouldn’t get so worked up over Kiss. Why should I care? Why does this seem so blasphemous?

I’ll tell you why. Because Peter Criss was my favorite Kiss member back when I was seven in the glory days of the Kiss Army, and this whole reunion tour is all about recapturing those wild times when men wore clown makeup (scary clown makeup) and platform shoes. Without Peter Criss, it’s all just a sham — demon Gene swindling thirty-somethings out of their money. But then again, maybe they all should have retired long ago, because if you’ve seen any of them lately without the makeup, they’re pretty fucking disgusting.

Slurping blow off of prostitutes’ tits

When Liam and Noel aren’t busy slurping really good blow off of prostitutes’ tits, they’re leading on the British press about whether or not Oasis has broken up. Last year’s ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ was a nice, fuzzed out attempt at rocking out. With the addition of Gem Archer on 2nd guitar, Noel finally had somebody with as big of balls as him on stage with which to duel. Liam doesn’t count because he’s the younger brother with the spinning hat, licking a LSD-laced lollipop as he sneers Noel’s lyrics into the mic. ‘Shoulder’ and its subsequent world tour proved that Oasis can be more than a (bad) Beatles cover band. It proved that Noel is an equal opportunity ripoff artist, who is as equally enamored with T.Rex, Free, and Thin Lizzy as he is with Les Beatles and Paul Weller. Even if the record was a critical failure (especially in the UK, where blowhards proclaimed Oasis dead, despite 3 sellout nights of 70,000+ at Reading…), for fans of good old pint-swilling rock and roll, the Gallaghers proved they can still come with these thangs. If the boys want to fight, you better let ’em.

Nowadays, the boys’re laying low. Liam, who seems to base his loutish behavior on an early 80s template of Sean Penn, was recently accused of, and subsequently acquitted of, charges that he tried to give an British Airways stewardess an unwanted rogering. Good ol’ Liam. God love ‘im! Meanwhile, Noel is hanging around with the aforementioned Weller, no doubt wearing skinny pants and pounding back Carlings, envisioning new Oasis material (through a haze of hash, blow, and stale perfume, but envisioning nonetheless…)

If you ask me, I’d like to see the boys next come out of the blocks with an album that continues the Rawk of ‘Shoulder’. And if Noel’s appreciation of Gem Archer’s guitar and songwriting isn’t just shite, he might think of letting some of the other humps write a song or two. And no, Liam’s “Little James” from ‘Shoulder’ doesn’t count, as it seemingly was done using the “Write Songs The Noel Gallagher Way” manual that he sent away for out of the back of Melody Maker.

And anyway I’m pissed the fuck off at Liam. Who kicks Patsy Kensit out of their bed? Honestly…

JTL

At the Drive-In vs. Oasis

Jeff, you should check out At the Drive-In. They are a wild bunch from Texas that kick it out Detroit-style. They have a real MC5 attitude and great hair. I don’t know what the Gallaghers are up to these days besides getting divorced. I reckon they’re sitting around listening to Abbey Road, which would be a great influence for their next record if they can’t get off the Beatles’ tips, and who can what with the fab four hitting #1 30 odd years after their demise. Judas Priest that’s a long time. Have you heard “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants?” It came out a little over a year ago I guess. Maybe longer, I don’t recall.

Britney vs. Madonna

If Britney manages to have as long and successful of a career as Madonna, I will renounce Ms. Ciccone as my Supreme Woman and no longer think about her when I masturbate. Yeah, that would be harder than quitting smoking was, seeing as it’s a 16+ year-old habit, but I won’t have to do it. No way, no how. Britney Spears is just a little talentless pandering hotbox. Madonna was a bitch (and yes, I’m using that in the complimentary way) and a rebel and Britney, well, she’s a corporate brand. In ten years she’ll be fat and married to some burnt out former child actor (Macauley Culkin perhaps?). They’ll have a house in Orange county and a decent income from investments and periodically she’ll appear on Entertainment Tonight talking about her cause du jour— freeing caged apes or some shit like that. Why are we even wasting our time thinking about her? Is the world that devoid of good new artists that we have to actually pay attention to her? I know we can’t just wallow in the early 70s forever (or can we?) but isn’t somebody doing something more interesting than B.S. (nice initials)? What are Liam and Noel up to?

Hot Burritos!

Now, thanks to Jeff, I have just invested twenty five hard earned dollars in “Hot Burritos!: The Flying Burrito Bros. Anthology 1969-1972.” Anyone who has not heard this music should set aside a weekend and take it in. Forty three songs spanning three years of music from the architect of alt.country. This is where Gram stretches his theory on cosmic american music. Some of the songs venture so far from Nashville that they really can’t be considered country. It really was a new style of music. More on this to come…

Phil

The Credibility of Britney Spears

Goodnight, Irene. I can’t believe you guys. Do you think this will all seem rediculous in five years? Or will this be where the credibility of Britney Spears will be hammered out? I am as big a fan of pop music (especially that created by Nords—Dancing Queen is my favorite song after all…) but really, folks, this just doesn’t ring my bell. Why? What am I missing? I find Britney Spears to be utterly annoying. That little Rock in Rio freak out of hers just added fuel to the fire. Had we heard some little hussie in the mall bitchin’ like that in the mall we would have sneered and shaken our heads because we hate those people. We sure wouldn’t be high-fiving and pointing to it as proof of her coolness. These are the girls we hated in highschool. Is that why you love them now? What is the psychology behind it? And don’t say it’s the music, Jake, because you really did defend Britney Spears like a teenage girl in the LOST LETTER. I think there’s something deeper. Dig it up and smell it.

Phil

A Fan of Goatee’d Svengalies Transliterating Swedish Pop into English

Well, it looks like I’m in the Jake camp on this one. Given my 02/06/01 comments about Britney and her tube sock wristbands, I can only be called what I am: A fan. Fan of what? Goatee’d svengalies transliterating Swedish pop into english so Britney, Mandy, Christina, or Jessica can rake in some t-shirt and Official Program sales down at local arena? By suggesting that there is a sliver of entertainment value extracted from listening to “Stronger” or “Baby One More Time,” am I admitting that I had a Roxette poster over my bed in 1989, and that I don’t like pop music unless there’s a shady impresario in a fire-lit chamber somewhere in the Swedish hill country, smoking cigars made of Swedish C-Notes, and laughing as he eats his meat and swills Bayerskt from a flagon?

No, man. I just think that Britney kid puts me in a good mood when I see her. All that singin’, dancin’, and jiggling flesh HAS to turn that frown upside down!

JTL

The Value of Britney Spears

I’m a little embarrassed to be spending more time on this, but my man Phil and I were recently harassing each other over our difference of opinion on the value of Britney Spears. Our email discussion went like this:

> Every time you say something or write about Britney

> Spears I cringe. I really do. My face gets all twisted

> and I just shake my head. I just don’t get it.

> Phil

I like her hits. And I like her. I think she’s sassy.

Jake

> Yeah, but that awful music. Seriously…

> Phil

I am convinced that in the future, people are going to look back at N Sync and the Backstreet Boys and all this Destiny’s Child crap like we look back at Leo Sayer and the Partridge Family and all the throwaway disco hits of the day. And Britney, depending how she deals with her career, might end up like ABBA or someone who’s a little more respected now. I don’t know. She a step above the Christina Aguelleras and the Mandy Moores (or whatever). “Baby One More Time” and “Oops! I Did It Again” are both really cool songs. I like them.

Most music freaks hated Madonna when she came out, but now who doesn’t love “Borderline”? Right? And that’s not even talking about her latest two albums which have both been great.

Give Britney some time. She’ll grow on you. (I don’t care for her ballads though.)

Jake

> Um, I think you’re right that it all depends on how

> Britney Spears handles her career. She could just as

> easily end up like Tiffany or Debbie Gibson. The

> difference with Madonna (who I can not even stand to

> hear speak anymore, but that’s another issue) is that

> she came from the club scene. She did have some

> credibility. She was not molded into her pop star

> persona. The clothes and attitude she had back then

> was very Rock and Roll, and entirely hers, even if her

> songs were pop. Britney Spears is manufactured. Does

> anyone really believe she’s a virgin? Does anyone

> care? Yet, that is key to her marketing. I like her

> boobies too, just like I like Christina Aguilara’s

> rear-end, but their music stinks. It’s just plain bad.

> Phil

The Monkees were manufactured and they rule. Being manufactured does not disqualify an artist from being good and you know it. You’ve put songs by the Partridge Family on mix tapes for me. And who doesn’t love the Banana Splits?

If you don’t like her music, you don’t like her music, and we can agree to disagree on that. I like it and I think some of her songs are really good.

But I hear a lot of people giving her crap not based on her music but on her image or whatever.

There are other bands I like that you don’t like that you don’t give me such a hard time about. What’s the big deal with Britney?

Jake

PS – I’ve started enjoying listening to Madonna’s accent du jour… Is she English? Is she European? Is she Spanish? I think she went to the Elizabeth Taylor school of pronunciation.

Phil responded to this, calling me a 14-year-old girl, and other funny stuff, but we lost that message. So you’ll never know what the big deal is with Britney. And so I get the last word. Until next time…

Rock and roll can change your life.