I am a broadcaster, podcaster and writer. I love music, vintage stereo equipment, guitars and amps.
My salute to consumerism. (Clockwise from top left) Robert Plant “Band of Joy”, White Stripes “White Blood Cells”, White Stripes “Icky Thump”, The Clash “Give ‘Em Enough Rope”, Willis Earl Beal “Acousmatic Sorcery” (CD), Joe Strummer “Live at Acton Town Hall”, Beck “Sea Change”.
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I stopped at an estate sale on my way home from work the other day. I was interested in the $20 Black & Decker leaf blower that was “featured” in the online ad for the sale. You know, a leaf blower, the thing you use to make your problem your neighbour’s problem? Anyway, while I was there I asked about the records that were also listed in the ad. The guy said he had them in the trunk of his car because he was going to take them to a used record store and try and unload them. Obviously I asked to see them and he obliged.
Now, I don’t know what the weather is like in your part of the world, but here–where I live–it’s full-on winter. We’re talking 10 to 15cm of snow and day time highs of -12 Celsius. I’m sure the seller wasn’t in the mood to stand there on the street while some guy thumbed through the entire 200 LP collection in the trunk of his car and I certainly wasn’t in the mood either. I asked him what was in the collection. He said he wasn’t sure but, in his words, “It’s mostly contemporary.” He then added, “I think there are some Beatles records and some Ella Fitzgerald, maybe some Ray Charles…” It wasn’t much to go on, but his asking price wasn’t out of line (not even close) so I loaded the records and my new leaf blower into the backseat of my car and sped off into the snow and ice.
I’ve since had a chance to thumb through the collection in the warmth and comfort of my home and, “He shoots, he scores!” In total I got 197 records and the leaf blower for less than $100. Of those 197 records, 150 of them are German and British imports. Clearly, the woman that owned them had once lived in Germany (I’m guessing between 1958 and 1970) and had acquired a pretty good collection of jazz (especially female vocal) rock and pop. She did, however, write her name on the back of each and every album, but the records themselves are nearly spotless. And aside from her name on the back covers, the jackets are in very good condition. Some of the highlights:
The Beatles – Hard Day’s Night (original German pressing)
The Beatles – The Beatles Greatest (original German pressing)
The Animals – self-titled (German)
At least 5 Ella Fitzgerald (German)
At least 5 Lena Horne (German)
At least 7 Eartha Kitt (German and UK)
4 or 5 Sarah Vaughan (German and US)
Stan Getz, Duane Eddy, June Christy, Vera Lynn, Joan Baez, Gene Pitney, Cliff Richard, Chubby Checker, Della Reese and, of course, the perfunctory ABBA.
Part of the 197 LP collection I picked up on my way home from work on October 31, 2012
Oh, and a leaf blower.
The leaf blower I scored from the estate sale.
Now, good day and good record hunting.
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If I had a time machine I would focus the bulk of my attention on the years of 1958 to 1972. I’d be back there two, three, four times a weeks slapping ball-point pens out of the hands of teenagers before they could write their names on their album covers. And then, if there was time, I’d go tell all those people not to get on the Titanic. But, for the most part, I’d be slapping pens out of hands.
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My $6 Cult “Live at the Lyceum” mispressing. Side 1 is correct, Side 2 is actually Side 2 of Canadian folk rock icon Bruce Cockburn’s “Further Adventures of” album.
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When it comes to thrift store record scores I have been in the midst of what can only be described as an historic slump. Until this past Thursday. Thursday was one of those magical days that all record hunters/collectors dream of. The dream where you walk into the thrift store just as they’re brining out the “new” stock from the back.
I was standing at the racks thumbing through the thrift store usuals (Charley Pride, Linda Ronstadt, Herb Alpert, Roger Whittaker) when I heard a shopping cart crash through the swinging doors that separate the record collecting masses from that magical, mysterious, enchanted, off-limits place that is the thrift store sorting room. The girl pushing the cart pulled right up beside me and started jamming the new arrivals into the shelves no more than 5-feet away. ( TANGENT: why do the thrift store workers put records into the shelves backwards, upside down, opening facing up, opening facing down? They don’t put the books on the shelves that way, why the LPs?)
At this point fireworks are going off in my head. Alarms are sounding. Microscopic children take turns whacking the pinata that hangs inside my skull in the space my brain normally occupies. And then, as quickly as she appeared, the thrift store lady disappeared. I looked around and there was not another soul. No one. Just me and, well, who knows? A Beatles “Butcher” cover? An original Island pressing of Nick Drake’s Fruit Tree box set? Sadly, neither of those but of the 70 or 80 records she put out, I grabbed 12. There were more–like the complete Police discography, some Queen and some Rush–but I threw those back like a fisherman tosses back a pike. In the end I walked away with an original import (Holland) first issue of The Best of Pink Floyd. I grabbed 3 Joni Mitchell LPs, 3 Traffic LPs, some R.E.M., the Pogues, Lou Reed and a copy of the Pretenders Get Close.
A dozen VG++ to near mint records for less than $24. You’ve got to like that. Feel free to share your super-amazing thrift store scores in the comments section. Thanks for reading and thanks to Brad for calling my radio show the other day and nudging me to update this blog.
Now, good day and good record huntin’.
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(The Cars "Candy-O", the second greatest album cover of all time.)
You don’t need to hang around a record store or high-end stereo shop for very long before you’ll hear some variation of the audiophile mantra, Music sounds better on vinyl. “Music sounds better on vinyl” is to audiophiles what “Breakfast is the most important meal of the day” was to your mother: unquantifiable. There is no way to conclusively measure how music sounds better on vinyl any more than you can measure how a bowl of Frosted Flakes at 7am is better than a bowl of tomato soup at noon. Both claims are purely subjective and with infinite variables. I will agree with a statement like “The music listening experience is better with vinyl”, but as far as claiming music sounds best on vinyl, I can’t buy into it.
Listen up, Vinyl guys, we’re all getting a little bored with your vinyl sounds better than digital diatribes. It’s time to arm yourself with some actual Quantifiable Reasons Why Vinyl is Better Than Digital (and none of them have anything to do with sound quality.)
– You can hold an LP in your hand. Now smell it. That LP has been to some good, good parties and has been handled by some interesting people.
– When the girl you love dumps you, you don’t get one more chance to see her under the guise of “Dropping by to pick up your MP3s.”
– You don’t meet interesting people at an MP3 swap meet.
– An LP keeps you close to the stereo where the music sounds best. Listening to a record is the activity. The complete lack of portability when it comes to a turntable, speakers and an amplifier negates that nagging feeling that you should be cutting the lawn or re-stippling your bathroom ceiling.
– You don’t get the exhilaration of going out late at night with your friends to steal milk crates from behind the 7-11 so you have some place to neatly stack your MP3s.
– You can’t melt an MP3 into a chip bowl for your next party.
– The 13-year old version of you didn’t get his mind blown by staring at album artwork on a 2-1/2 inch screen. No, it was 12-square inches of Herb Alpert’s Whipped Cream and Other Delights or the Cars Candy-O (see above) that did that.
There, just a few reasons why the vinyl listening EXPERIENCE is better than digital. Now, put on a record and add your own reasons to the comments below.
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I love it when I listen to an old live album and the crowd doesn’t immediately erupt into applause as soon as they hear the opening riff of a popular song. It’s not that they’re being polite, reserved and respectful either. The reason they don’t applaud and “Wooooo!” through the opening bars is because the song is not a hit yet at the time the live album was recorded. I love this. It never gets old. It happened again this afternoon while I was out for a walk. The live version of Neil Young’s Needle and the Damage Done (Live at Massey Hall 1971) popped up on my iPod and the crowd remained absolutely silent through that beautiful opening guitar riff, a riff that would go on to become one of Neil’s most famous.
I just turned it up, nodded knowingly to no one in particular and continued trudging through the snow like an all-knowing music snob from the future.
1 Comment | tags: guitar riff, Massey Hall, Needle and the Damage Done, Neil Young | posted in Music
Moving Sale Find (Jan. 14, 2012) $10
On my way home yesterday I saw a sign reading “Moving Sale”. Because it’s winter where I live the sale was being held inside the person’s house. That’s always uncomfortable. At least at a garage sale you can walk up the driveway, look at a few things and then pretend to get an urgent text in order to extract yourself from the sea of overpriced Danielle Steel hardcovers and chipped Corelle dinnerware. No hurt feelings, no awkwardness. When it’s being held inside the house there’s the removal of shoes, gloves and hats. You get a glimpse into their life. You see their children’s artwork hanging on the fridge, you smell what they had for dinner. You see that they have the same Costco kitchen table as you but theirs is holding up better. When you walk into that house you are entering into a weird and binding social contract. Names and pleasantries are exchanged. Now, when you find out they’re asking $35 for a 1990s Barbie with a missing hand and a Sharpied-on Hitler mustache, it becomes very awkward to adopt a condescending tone to say, “I don’t think so!” and storm off. Now you have to stop at the front door, tie your shoes (crap, the lace is frayed and came out of the eyelet–doink, doink, doink–this is taking forever) before you can finally make your retreat.
Against my better judgement I went to such a sale in my neighbourhood yesterday afternoon and, well, score. Maybe. There on the floor next to the Thighmaster and one of those foot spas that everyone gets for Christmas and then never uses, was a well-worn box of approximately 150 45-rpm records. My heart started racing. Game show bells started ringing in my head. Does she know anything about music? Will it all be crappy country music from the 80s? I see picture sleeves. I offered her $10. She immediately accepted. Crap. I should have said $5. Attempting to sweeten my score I asked her if she’d throw in that ratty copy of Jim Croce’s Greatest Hits and a Moby Grape LP that were both in horrendous condition. Yes. I left without tying my shoes or zipping my jacket.
It was all I could do this morning to stay in bed past 5:30am. All I could think about was that tattered box of 45s I left on the kitchen table last night. Even harder to do was sit down and write this post before taking a look. What’s in there? I guess I’ll find out in just a few minutes now. But let me just say this. Even if it turns out they’re totally worthless or scratched and scarred beyond playability, it was $10 well spent just for the anticipation. For anyone that has forgotten what Christmas Eve felt like when you were 7-years old, buy a box of records at a flea market or garage sale and then don’t look at them until the following morning. Exhilarating at the very least.
Leave a comment | tags: 45-rpm, 7-inch, garage sale, record collecting | posted in 45s, Garage Sales, LPs, Music, Record Collecting
I love notebooks and notepads. I have Moleskines (some real, many fakes) in every vehicle and jacket pocket. My mother-in-law staples sheets of scrap paper together at the top and keeps them by her phone. I love that too. To me a notebook is a place where that novel I’ve been meaning to write will finally take shape. It’s a place where those song lyrics (She had hair the colour of ketchup chips and a Celtic knot from hip to hip…) that bounce around in my head will become more than just an idea, they’ll be real song lyrics because they’ve been committed to paper.
When you buy a notebook and stick it in your pocket or purse you’re sending a signal to your brain that says, “I’m a writer now–let’s get to work–I’m open to ideas.” It’s sort of like buying yoga pants because, well, everyone knows you can’t become a yoga enthusiast without the pants. Actually, that’s a horrible analogy because if everyone in yoga pants was actually doing yoga there would be no one at this Walmart.
Anyway, Santa slipped this one into my Christmas stocking this year. I’m going to fill it with song lyrics and thoughts on music. My first musical thought of 2012: Can a guy my age wear Dr. Dre Studio Beats without looking like a complete douche bag? (I got those for Christmas too.) Discuss.
Leave a comment | tags: art, creativity, lyrics, moleskine, music, notebook, notepad, novel, painting, radio, writing, yoga | posted in Creativity, Music, Writing