Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Lost and Found Playlist...

The kind folks at the Detroit Institute of Arts asked me if I could provide a soundtrack to their current Lost and Found exhibit, highlighting vernacular and found photography spanning from the 1860's through the 1970's. I decided to focus on lost and found recordings from the second half of the 20th century. From Detroit. That didn't get flagged by Soundcloud's content management filter.


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Future of Vinyl Discussion with Anthony Fantano...58 Excruciating Minutes of It

Seems like Fantano "The Internet's Busiest Music Nerd" has a bit of a following. Also seems like I need to figure out whether I need to look at MY picture or HIS picture when speaking on Skype. Apologies for my less-than-crystalline audio quality...no one told me I needed a fancy microphone.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

My Recommendations from 20 Years Ago Are Still Rock Solid...

Junior year of high school, Spring of 1998, a classmate named Al told me that he'd found a record store that sold local music. In one of the coolest questions ever asked of me, he said "What should I buy?"

Good thing the store was Car City Records, which basically served as my reason for being back then.

The scan above is the hand-written notes and recommendations I gave him back when I was still sixteen years old.

(Pay no attention to Ass Ponys, Mud Hunnie, Pestiside, Blood Rust, The Reble Rousers, Punk U, My Ass the Vampire, NoFX, KRS-One or Suicide Machines...he must've been getting info from some other punks who's tastes seem to not have aged as well.)

Al posted this on Instagram recently and I was shocked at how much I STILL stand by all of these claims and suggestions twenty years later. Either I'm extremely stunted, incredibly reliable, or a combination of the two.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

How A Letter From A Failing Independant Record Label Buoyed The Self-Esteem of a Clueless 15-year-old Virgin and Set Him on a Path of Vinyl Righteousness...

Pulled this one out of the basement recently and was shocked at how responsive, thoughtful and courteous the entire conversation was. When I emailed some of my friends at Sub Pop, their initial response was "Uh oh, how mean a reply was it?"

But this simple letter, along with some "Powered by Sub Pop" stickers, two Eric's Trip pins, something promotional for the Blue Rags (guitar picks? I can't exactly remember) was just the slightest nudge I needed to venture further into the world of independent record labels and mail order. I was 15 years old. I was already asking for classic albums on vinyl. I was salty that the address on the Foo Fighters first album never wrote back to me.  I thought I was clever telling Sub Pop they were "swell."

I can never remind myself enough, but the smallest gesture can sometimes have the largest, most unexpected impact. Deep down inside, I don't think I would be on the exact path I'm on today 21 years later had I not received such a caring letter from a record label I adored.

Monday, April 30, 2018

The Dirtbombs Live, University of Toronto radio, July 31st, 1997

A garage rock time capsule to say the least.

Unheard since 1997, please relish in a time in the not-too-distant past where I was actually not a member of the Dirtbombs. The performance is the EXACT reason why I fell in love with the band and the interview with Mick is revelatory. I could go on and on, but just trust me when I say it's worth the listen. Much respect to Allyson Baker, the then-teenaged CIUT DJ (and now dear friend) who was able to convince these guys to do this performance and was smart enough to tape it! University of Toronto radio...hell yeah.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

The Beauty of La Vice and Company's "Two Sisters From Bagdad"

La Vice and Company  happily upload to YouTube if it happens.
La Vice and Company 
Two Sisters from Bagdad
Jazzman reissue, limited to 1000 numbered copies
Behold one of two or three LPs that I would actually pay more than $1000 for. This thing is deep in Detroit record collecting legend. Stories that folks have sent angry emails to Popsike asking them to remove completed auction listings so as not to obscure how rare it may or may not be. That hundreds of copies were destroyed in a basement flood. That it wasn’t really that good of a record.
The main driver behind the demand and apocrypha behind this record is the unparalleled funk of the track “Thoughs Were the Days” (sic). Featured on Numero Group’s “Good God” A Gospel Funk Hynmal” comp from 2006, that’s clearly how most folks became aware of this disc. But with literally no more than a handful of original copies known out there, even just getting to hear the rest of the album was a task, one even I was unable to accomplish until this straight full reissue landed in my lap. 
In the hubbub after the “Freedom at 21” flexi-disc had sold for $4000+ on eBay, I half-jokingly offered up a copy of said flexi as a straight trade for “Two Sisters From Bagdad” on the record nerd site Waxidermy. The response was “A one-tracker for a one-tracker.” Even just last week, a buddy deep and dear to this record said everything on this record except “Thoughs Were the Days” was “soft.”
So with the understated, repetitive opening of “Happy and Blessed” and I couldn’t help but feel frustratingly PISSED that I’d gone so long without hearing this. The variety on the album is wonderfully varied, slightly odd and the EXACT thing I imagine when I cannot sleep at night.
Background: this LP is the soundtrack accompaniment to a play of the same name that ran at Music Hall at Detroit’s Center for the Performing Arts for two weeks in August 1973. The production was a flop and the description below may explain why so few copies sold in the lobby of the performance…
“The play was the story of two sisters who met their earthly demise very early in life and were joined together in Heaven. But there was also a character named Jake, who was an agent from Hell whose job was to recruit people from Heaven because Hell was not getting the people they were used to receiving. Well, Jake got a little frisky with one of the sisters and it appeared that one of the sisters became pregnant and the two were kicked out of Heaven and had to go to Hell. Of course, the Devil took a liking to the other sisters while Jake was wrestling with this thing called LOVE.”
(quote from Ernest Garrison, composer/arranger for the album, brother-in-law to “Bagdad’s” playwright, La Vice Hendricks)
To me, odd, hodgepodge neighborhood productions, something only a couple hundred people ever saw, with no filmed evidence and (seemingly) no extant script…this is what I live for. Such a unique snapshot of a time and place, that no matter how in-depth liner notes may go, no matter how clear they explain the premise of a Hendrick’s “personal commitment to introduce non-racial comedy to a city that has been separated by crime, narcotic and racial differences” highlighted by an all-black ensemble…I will NEVER really know or understand what exactly it was like to witness the performance. It is the absolute definition of ephemeral. And honestly, I feel like the songs legitimately smoke and all those record nerds calling this a “one-tracker” are out of their minds. I STRONGLY urge to give this one a listen, even just to appreciate the industriousness of an endeavor, that while failed during its time, is beautiful and compelling near 45 years after its creation.
Side notes: 
- I think the drive behind my appreciation for this record is the same as my newfound and ever-spiraling appreciation for school band and church records. So many unexplored possibilities! So many flops! You’ll never know or find them all…that makes good collecting.
- My mother-in-law and her younger sister were literally “two sisters from Baghdad” (the production got the spelling wrong) living in Detroit in 1973. I oftentimes play fantastical feats of imagination and conspiracy theorist trying to make them the inspiration for this record.
- My grade school put on a production of a play I recall as named “Let’s Put on a Show” in the mid-Nineties. We did similar productions every year. Equal parts musical and spoken dialogue, I am DYING to know who in the hell actually wrote these things? How did they get into the hands of my music teacher? Was this a profitable endeavor for the composer? I believe my brother has a VHS copy of the entire show and I am DYING to see it, to go back and relive the awkwardness (each production had a token “rap” song that always received HUGE laughs from the largely white and moderately suburban parents that, even as a child, felt misguided). We never put on a production of ANYTHING that I’d heard of/seen ANYWHERE else. No “Annie”, no “Godspell”…just some random rinky-dink thing that I’d never hear/see again in my life…AND IT DRIVES ME CRAZY. I’ve gone on here before about the difficultly of a memory that has no outside corroboration…these things PAIN me. Bro is supposedly working on getting a transfer. I will happily upload to YouTube if it happens.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

15 Years Later I Can Reveal...Ben Blackwell is Nick Zinner

     Just shy of 15 years ago, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did a quick West Coast tour opening for the White Stripes. Towards the end of the trek, Nick of the YYY's was scheduled to do an interview with a magazine about hearse culture called Night Doings. Nick did not want to do the interview. So being up for the challenge, I subbed for him. It was a crackly 2003 cell phone, but even then I felt like the interviewer thought something was up. I clearly remember standing on the loading dock for the RIMAC Arena in San Diego. I also distinctly remember Nick saying to me afterwards something along the lines of "Wow, you really seemed to know what you're talking about."

     For YEARS I never thought this zine ever came out, but bored googling a few years back actually turned up a webpage with a still-active PayPal button that I excitedly clicked on to buy this issue. The publisher wrote back, confused, saying "I don't even know how you were able to send me money." Nevertheless, a copy was dug out and sent my way.

     I only feel slightly bad about this now. I'm still kinda proud of it.