Monday, May 31, 2021

Andy Hay "Many Rivers"

scum stats: 500 copies, all covers hand-painted by Hay, mine came direct from UK label Jazzman which is apparently a sub-edition of 50 numbered with a "Jazzman" prefix and seemingly a different colorway than the other copies I find online. With a sewn-together 12 page booklet. Also came with a watercolor painting as an insert. 

Self-released and hand-painted is an almost guaranteed buy every damn time. Even if it's a total trainwreck, the idea of the artist/singer/band/whatever being the crazed conductor of said metaphorical locomotive just feels like a beautiful balance applied to the world. I wish it could be every release. Alas...

The promotional write-up for this album states that this is Hay's debut release and that his entire 38 years on earth were a lead up to the two days it took to record. Direct quote from Andy "This is my debut public representation of my soul." Damn, that's heavy. And yet I've never before felt that my appreciation (or un-appreciation) of an album could be a direct judgement of someone's soul. 

The collection of songs here is largely instrumental jazz, at points light and airy with very little tension or conflict to be derived from the groove. Easy listening without any negative connotations yet far from challenging. Impressive piano runs tend to lead the band, accomplished, a little bit of something for everybody in the effervescence of songs like "Lost Lonnie" and "Seasons."

Yet the album has consistent pivots back and forth to a more free, frenetic sound. "Many Rivers" hinges on a dissonant saxophone counter-played to non-metered drums, strong, powerful... commanding the import of something bigger than human existence. "Walking With Ali" borders on hypnotically meditative, plucked strings, subtly brushed drums and double bass grounding with expressive vocalizations. 

The duality between "light" and "free" is impressive and best displayed on album closer "Bass Is the Place"...all chiaroscuro flourishes slowly descending into a solitary bass progression repeated with simple contemplative tranquility verging on enlightenment. In an odd way, the closest comparison I can draw, both in how it sounds and how it makes me feel, is "Lividity" the closer on the Melvins 1994 album Stoner Witch.

While I've previously been reluctant to jump into jazz that is anything less than wild, the combination of the two varied elements (wild/less than) only seems to elevate the end result. The pairing of versatility with comparative skill is truly uncommon. Ultimately, it captures my attention, my interest, my praise and my respect. "Many Rivers" is worth your effort.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Dan Sartain: A Friendship in Twelve Records

Based on the contract I signed (but did not read) with Discogs, I'm not entirely sure if I can/should post the essay here. So below is just a link to it on their site. Some caveats...

1) the title was supposed to be "Dan Sartain: A Friendship In Twelve Records" but Discogs changed it to "Dan Sartain: A Friendship In Twelve Pieces of Music" and I don't really know why. I guess a couple of the releases are the same record re-released, some of them were never even released, let alone recorded. Maybe there's a valid reason, but it's not really the end of the world.

2) the essay as I delivered it was in a numbered, list presentation. Discogs removed that as well. I guess it maybe seems a little bit more professional their way? I certainly wasn't trying to Buzzfeed this shit, but again, it's not really the end of the world. 

3) I wrote and re-wrote this three times. I've probably still got another Dan Sartain essay or two in my brain (and seemingly the unreleased album will be released, so there's my liner notes as well). This is far from my final thoughts on the guy. 

Dan Sartain: A Friendship in Twelve Records

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Dan Sartain Live at the Grand Opera House - Wilmington, DE July 27, 2007

I had the sound guy run board recordings when I was playing drums with Dan in 2007 opening for the White Stripes. This is the only one I currently have handy (the version of "Voodoo" here was used on the Sartain/Dirtbombs '08 tour 7-inch) but felt like as good a time as ever to share. Rest easy.


Sunday, February 28, 2021

Are Teenage Dreams So Hard To Beat?

I was never legally old enough to enter the Gold Dollar when it was a functioning rock and roll club. 

From my first visit on June 6th, 1998 (The White Stripes opening for Dura-Delinquent) until my final time through the front door on August 8th, 2001 (my band the Dirtbombs playing as a kick-off to a West Coast tour) I spanned the ages of 15 through 19. For insurance purposes, the bar was a 21-and-over establishment. But whether by carrying amps, playing the drums or just earnestly convincing whomever was working the door that I legitimately had no interest in consuming alcohol...I was able to see no less than two dozen shows there. 

As likely the youngest person to have been a witness/participant in the music scene at the Gold Dollar...I am well aware that I was DAMN lucky to have done so. That may be the coolest thing I am ever even remotely adjacent to and truly embracing it I feel simultaneously both proud and depressed. Most people who peak as teenagers do so as some sort of high school football/cheerleader/big shot on campus bullshit...all things that I was expressly avoiding at that time. Yet, here I am, over twenty years later, still talking about the group that had a half-dozen mildly attended performances within a nuclear blast radius of each other, across five months of 1999 like it's goddamned "Glory Days" and I'm Bruce stepping back from the mic so that the crowd can shout along the words to the chorus. 

Tony Soprano saying "Remember the lowest form of conversation" fucked me up more than any other dramatic dialog in my life. I feel like I am constantly fighting with myself. Fighting to appropriately appreciate and contextualize the past and at the same time, attempting to downplay it, hoping that I'm currently living something that will be worthwhile to recollect in another twenty years. 

While I weirdly never felt like "The Bricks" (a name we'd never called ourselves and were never referred to as when we were actually performing) were a real band, I was, by far, the weakest player in the group of otherwise professionals. I had yet to join the Dirtbombs and prior to my gigs with the Bricks I had played MAYBE three shows in front of a crowd. One of those was a high school battle of the bands. Another in a bowling alley lounge. You know...inconsequential shit. 

While an audience recording of this show has existed in tape trading circles since the performance, this multi-track soundboard recording proved revelatory in what had been unheard to my ears since that night. The opening of "Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground" shined through with Brendan Benson's striking countermelodies on guitar, all but nonexistent on the audience tape. When the opening lyrics came through, I was confused "Why is Brendan singing?" 

The delivery is unmistakably him, though through years and years of listening on a lo-fi tape I’d never noticed Brendan sang the first two lines… 

 Dead leaves and the dirty ground when I know you’re not around 
 Shiny tops and soda pops when I hear your lips make a sound… 

Only to have Jack jump in, with gusto, guts, glory and the response to Brendan’s call.. 

When I hear your lips make a sound! 

I’m not exaggerating here…when I first heard this, clear as daylight, I choked up a bit. I think it’s beautiful and feels like a truly moving moment just accidentally happened to be caught on tape that night. 

Although I play drums here, I have few clear memories of what went down that evening. Royal Trux, the headliners, were late to arrive. I believe they showed up after we’d finished our set. My mom was there. It was a school night. I was seventeen years old. Pretty sure I got paid. That’s about it. My entire time in the band I was just making a very poor attempt to play drums like Patrick Keeler. Why I thought I could approximate his style is beyond me, and I often compare myself to Billy Yule playing drums in the last-gasp iteration of the Velvet Underground. I really shouldn’t have been onstage or in this band, but am forever grateful and happy that I was. 

The setlist features a couple of songs that aren’t on the Bricks live recording from the Garden Bowl two months prior, which was released as part of Third Man's Vault #15 in 2013. “One and Two” is an original Jack White song that never ended up being used or recorded anywhere else, which is odd for him. I particularly enjoy the slippery bass playing of Kevin Peyok on this song and feel like he may well have been the glue that held the band together. “Candy Cane Children” feels odd outside of the context of the White Stripes, especially as they never really performed the song live. “Ooh My Soul” is sloppy sloppy sloppy and in my opinion, the first two chords presage what would come later via “Fell in Love With a Girl." 
All my personal caveats aside, the show is a legitimately fun listen. That weird time in '99 where Jack just seemed like he had so much music seeping out of him that he had to hurry up and start ANOTHER band after the break-up of Two Star Tabernacle and his ousting from the Go...and that band seeming to be COMPLETELY different from either of those outfits or the White Stripes even. I can't help but stress here, besides "Candy Cane Children" NONE of these songs would've been considered "White Stripes" songs at the time of this performance. They were "Jack White" songs that hadn't truly found their form or footing in the duo format. 

Originally included as part of our 27th Vault package back in the first quarter of 2016, the audio here is newly remastered by Bill Skibbe at Third Man Mastering...a facility only blocks away from the Gold Dollar address at 3129 Cass Avenue. 

As part of my duties at Third Man Records, I was able to enter what remained of the Gold Dollar building on "official business" not long after the original release of this show. Clad in a hard hat and joined by folks representing the Illitch family that owned the was a sad collection of four walls, dirt floor and collapsing ceiling. The idea was to try and see if there was some sort of collaboration that Third Man could spearhead to rehab the building. But damn...all I could think of was that besides the walls, there was no "there" there. As someone who had MANY formative nights in that space and saw more than my fair share of transformative performances on that stage AND could possibly help revitalize it...I was unmoved. I'd rather let the memories exist as they were than invoke a Ship of Theseus experiment. 

Though I did take solace in the fact that I had finally entered the building legally. 

On July 22nd 2019, the structure would meet its ultimate demise in a suspected arson, the news of which no less than a dozen people felt compelled to immediately share with me. Developers reached out to me directly asking if Third Man would be interested in trying to rebuild/recreate the spot. Dare I even mention that there was talk of Third Man getting the building for a $1/year lease prior to the fire? And that we weren't interested then? 

When asked by the Metro Times to comment on the fire at the time I said, "History like what happened at that club, for me, transcends the buildings it happened in. I'm sure there were probably at least five other fires in Detroit today that were far more tragic. Life goes on. This too shall pass. Memories are all that matter." 

I stand by that statement. I think I was unemotional about the fire because I actually had the vague "closure" of being able to walk through that room one last time. Bar missing, mirrors behind the stage desintegrated, finally able to go backstage for the first time (no one ever told me there was a backstage!)...the only sign music ever happened there being a destroyed Half Japanese / Godzuki / Wild Bunch handbill I'd dug out from underneath where the security monitors were. was just a space, empty for 15 years, left to the ravages of time and the elements and scrappers and squatters and in desperate need of being demolished. You know...a regular building in Detroit. 

So here's to the memory of the Gold Dollar, to club owner Neil Yee for being wise enough to hit "record" so many times, to the sublime summer of '99, to peaking early, to electric nights of loose rock and roll, played for no one you didn't know, figuring it all out in the process, working on mysteries without any clues, crystalline and idealized in my mind, me unaware of how clueless I actually was at the time, feeling like there was nothing but opportunity, potential and promise that lay ahead. 

While youth may be wasted on the young, why are teenage dreams so hard to beat? I think memories, true, deep, stay-with-you-the-rest-of-your-life-because-they're-fundamental-to-your-ever-so-fragile-sentience MEMORIES are only thrust onto those who are both sufficiently eager and receiving. Old guys who only talk about old times have closed off their receptors, failing to continue as memory collectors. Scientists say that humans aren't the only beings that recollect, that rats can have episodic memory, but I doubt those vermin are ever troubled by it. Yet the tenous balance between nostalgia and living in the moment shows no signs of subsiding in my consistently evolving superego...with all indications that my final actions, final words, and final thoughts on this mortal coil will almost certainly be some act of reminiscing. 

I hope when I get older I don't sit around thinking about it, but I probably will. 

You know...glory days. 

-Ben Blackwell February 17th 2021

Sunday, January 31, 2021

"We Can Try For a Boy...Or We Can Just Have the Shaggs"

 The Shaggs

Philosophy of the World

scum stats: probably 500 or 1000 pressed originally, an infinitesimal amount of which remains in existence today

Hands down one of the greatest records of all time. I'm holding an original copy here, but the currently in-print reissue from Light in the Attic will serve you just fine.

The story goes, sometime in the late '60s Austin Wiggin Jr. was told by a fortune teller that his three daughters would become famous musicians. He pulled them out of school, got them outfitted with snazzy new instruments, and motivated them to create.

Their shining moment is "Philosophy of the World" a bombshell of a record there if ever was one. I don't say this to exoticize, but the songs on this album truly sound like they come from a world that has never heard modern popular music before...rather, they'd just heard ABOUT music and then had to divine it from there. Standalone. Unique. One-of-a-kinda. Makes Beefheart sound like Louis Armstrong.

And man is this record polarizing. You either love it or you HATE it. I'm no doubt ride-or-die in the love category, first reading about it in the Rolling Stone "Alt-Rock-A-Rama" book (a BIBLE for me as a teenager) and finding a CD soon thereafter roundabout 1997 or so. The fact that I managed to trade for an original copy a few years back still strikes me as hard to fathom...I had never even SEEN an OG in person before, yet now this is one of the very few records I feel is important enough to be on display in my world. I love it that much.

At first I didn't get it, I just thought these girls didn't know how to play. But it didn't take too long for me to realize the sheer bravery and not giving a fuck-ness of putting a record out of such gargantuan singularity. I'd like to think this type of spirit and potential is deep within everyone, but the infrequency with which it is seen makes true examples of it rare and cherished.

I mean, lyrics like "All the girls with short hair want long hair, all the girls with long hair want short can never please everybody in this world" are as poetic as anything Keats, Donne or Frost ever wrote.

My love for this album is so deep that five years ago when my wife came to visit me in the TMR office with the measured "gender reveal" of a pink cupcake to signify we would be welcoming a second daughter into the family, she said "We can still try for a boy...or we can have the Shaggs."

And just like that, I WANTED a third daughter. I mean, really, who wants to raise a son? We've got three daughters and I collectively call them the Shaggs from time to time. They're just getting their feet wet making their own music. I'm holding off on any visits to fortune tellers just yet...even though, in some weird "so wrong it's right" kinda way, that fortune teller was 100% correct in their premonition to Mr. Wiggin all those years ago.

I feel like there's still SO much to say about this album, but I promised I'd go pick up milkshakes for the staff. So I'll leave it at that.

PS yes, I have two original Austin Wiggin business cards that I keep with my original copy of the LP. And yes, at one point I had FOUR original Wiggin business cards and YES, at one point I had forgotten about two of the Wiggin business cards in my general possession.

Thursday, December 31, 2020

Why Cassettes are the New 45s - OR - Using the Discogs Blog As A Bully Pulpit to Talk About the Cassettes I Desperately Need and Will Pay Unseemly Amounts of Cash For

(I wrote this a few years back for the Discogs blog celebrating Cassette Store Day and realized that I hadn't shared here yet, looking back I think it still reads well)

I can’t imagine that I’m the only one. 

A few weeks back, I dug through the mounting detritus in my basement and pulled out a box filled with upwards of 200 cassettes. Commercially-released mementos, aspiringly amorous mix tapes, amateur teenage boombox condenser mic yawps, one-of-a-kind live soundboard recordings of unmemorable also-rans, unlabeled Maxells that are most likely PXL 2000 video all truly runs the gamut.

At the ripe old age of 36, my cassettes have never been so unimportant as to be thrown away, yet it’s been a good 17 years since they’ve been legitimately necessary. Prominently displayed? Forget about it. These little plastic time capsules were treated more worthless by the majority of my generation than perhaps any other format of any other generation. Of course they got trashed...they’re just cassettes!

I’ll go to the mat arguing that Baby Boomers didn’t disown their vinyl as virulently and that a majority of Gen X-ers are still clutching them CDs. I can’t speak to Gilded Agers and their Edison cylinders, but old Millenials are seemingly dumping tapes at an alarming rate.  The “old” is a disclaimer I tack on so as to feel slightly less lame in identifying as one. Generations are made-up anyway...but I regress.

So why the title of this essay? Because the delayed discovery of 45’s has fueled the collectability and establishment of important, influential, hyper-specific genres for decades. The non-hit garage renaissance (via Pebbles, Boulders, Back From the Grave), the underground punk hierarchy (Killed By Death, Hyped to Death), basement funk and backyard soul (Numero Group’s Essential Soul series), drug burned hard rock (Ultimate Bonehead, Brown Acid) and surprisingly, even dark country tunes (Hillbillies in Hell, Twisted Tales from Vinyl Wastelands) are all PRIME examples. 

The difficulty is, there are no more unheralded genres hiding on 45’s. They’ve all been identified. These genres are not all necessarily completely mined, but flags have been planted and the colonies established. This paves the way for cassettes to be ready for their close-up. As the mid-Fifties through the mid-Eighties found most entry-level, outside-the-mainstream music was explicitly on the 7” format, cassettes would take that same status and hold it for a brief ten to fifteen year period. 

Right now, as we sit here scratching our assess, enterprising labels are already tapping the cassette undergrounds. Light in the Attic’s wonderful I Am the Center and The Microcosm compilations are both at the forefront of the “PINA” genre (private issue new age) that was often issued on obscure cassettes. The enterprising hip hop reissue outfit Dope Folks similarly mines “random” or “golden age” hip-hop that pulls largely from obscure cassettes from the late 80s and early 90’s. Hell, the recent Alice Coltrane collection compiles recordings that were originally only released on cassettes via her ashram in the early 80s. It’s already happening!

In my mid-Nineties adolescence, the cassette was clearly the lowest bar of entry. No one I knew was making vinyl and CDs were an even more-unobtainable strata of enshrinement. With the slightest bit of drive and a bare minimum of investment, the cassette was well within the grasp of the entirety of my immediate still-not-in-possession-of-a-driver’s-license musical orbit.

For a long time, I’d assumed that “cassette culture” started exactly in 1982. Maybe because it’s my birth year, maybe because it’s the year Duran Duran released “Rio”, but I’d never given much thought to any possible prehistory. So imagine my delight in discovering Vinyl On Demand’s compilation American Cassette Culture: 1971-1983

The research, context and insight let loose in this 12 x LP / 2 x 7” boxset is downright staggering. Folks were working in (and releasing?) cassettes as far back as 1971? Shit, Ron Asheton was still playing guitar in the Stooges at that point! I wholly welcome the mind-challenge to reconfigure my brain into understanding the beauty and timeline of this subculture. Kudos to Vinyl on Demand...and don’t sleep on the British Cassette Culture box either!

While the material on these sets is largely experimental, things like the Galen tracks really broke through and impressed me. But they didn’t connect with me. For that, I have to have some closer tangential connection to the music. Like the two cassette releases from Dirt Squad.

While merely a blip on the radar of any sort of scene or larger historical importance, Dirt Squad were the kids I knew, kids who lived just down the street, who I went to school with, who played the church fairs and local coffee shops, who were JUST big enough to be able to record and self-release their own cassettes, but not much bigger to do anything beyond that. 

For some unremembered reason, I never made an effort to possess these recordings when they came out back in 1996 and 1997. Maybe they’d sold out of ‘em quickly. Maybe I was too deep down my Nirvana bootleg rabbit hole, maybe I thought the band wasn’t THAT cool (they were just in high school, they were just fucking around, I knew better than they did), but for whatever reason, I did not grab these. The closest I got was that my little sister Angela (cooler than she’d ever know, cooler than I’d care to admit) owned one of these cassettes. A house fire and three moves later, it’s lost to the wind and either (both?) of these cassettes are at the absolute pinnacle of my wantlist. Consider this here my standing offer of $150 for original copies of either of the Dirt Squad cassettes. I’m looking at you suburban Detroit.

If memory serves, I think one tape was done in an edition of 60. I can’t imagine the other title existing in any significantly higher quantity. 

The tunes are varied, with thank-yous that list Ass Ponys, Violent Femmes and Sonic Youth and that only gives a tiny snapshot of what you might hear. My favorite track was “Cookie Jar” which showcased  a three-chord riff signature reminiscent of Dave Grohl’s “Pokey the Little Puppy” from his LATE! release on Simple Machines, itself a badass limited cassette if there ever was one.

Songs like “Milk River” and “Harper Ave” are both references to the east side suburbs we all haunted. Without even having the audio to these at hand, the mere mention of the titles brings me back to corduroys, ironic thrift-store t-shirts, bumming rides, secondhand smoke and the unprovable teenage feeling that SOMETHING amazing could happen at any moment.

In hindsight, this band was MADE for me and I was too busy affecting cool to truly realize it. The players were regular guys, from my neighborhood, singing specifically about my surroundings and I was too deep into impenetrable Melvins’ lyrics to take notice. Fifteen’s a bitch.

In the same realm as Dirt Squad was Mad Cow. I think some of the guys in Mad Cow were a little bit older. One of ‘em had a Marshall half-stack, and that was just not in the realm of any high school student I knew of in ‘97. Plain and simple, these guys were St. Clair Shores’ greasy-haired answer to Nirvana. With song titles like “Release Me” and “Die for Living” it may have aged closer to the realm of Silverchair, but the first time I saw them (dropped off by my dad at a coffee house across the street from the Macomb County Community College campus), it blew my mind wide open. 

The band was inarguably GOOD. They’d rehearsed. They had effects pedals. The exuded an attitude. Everything emanating from them pushed me to work THAT much harder on my own musical endeavors. I bought a hand-dubbed cassette off them that night, hand-labeled, with the only thing remotely resembling artwork being the “O” in “cow” barely illustrated to depict a cow face. Or a cat. Everything else on the j-card is literally just Bic pen scribbled text. An anti-release if there ever was one.

I’ve long searched for more material from these guys, but it is one of the more difficult queries I’ve ever typed in to Google. Even knowing band member names and high schools has proven fruitless. I know they had a later song called “Consta-poppin” and would not be surprised if they recorded a cover of Nirvana’s “Moist Vagina” as they absolutely SLAYED that one live. I’ve long been tempted to bootleg release this thing, as I think mid-to-late Nineties grunge parodies of sincerity is possibly the last “movement” that could even possibly have a Back From the Grave-worthy re-discovery.

That same night I first saw Mad Cow, a ska-punk band called Hole in One was also on the bill. Supposedly named after a porno flick, these guys were tight and polished in an entirely different way. Pretty sure they played clubs downtown. They probably even owned a van. Their release Copyright Infringement certainly gave off that impression. 

Shit looks downright professional, from the dual unauthorized use of the Elias Brothers Big Boy figure on the cover art and an “Empire Strikes Back” book/record audio sample to start the tape, prominently showcased through the slick audio quality. Even if the label name is the insanely sophomoric Elks Doin’ It Rekkids, songs like the accusatory “Mike’s Not Straight Edge” (complete with recorder solo) and the hardcore studio-filler of “Bob Sagat” are beautiful nigh-pro products of their time, horn sections and all, inspired by quasi-local heroes Suicide Machines and Mustard Plug, but still irreverent and attitudinal to impress.

I bought this cassette for $5 from the locker of Cliff Kost, the lead singer of the band. For how much I may disown ska-punk in my mid-thirties, I cannot shake the truth that buying a tape out of a high school locker may be one of the cooler things I’ve done in my life.

One cassette that I’ve been itching to release is a previously undocumented, self-recorded and self-released tape by the Come-Ons. Before their pop-soul tunes had sprouted out of the burgeoning Detroit garage scene of the early Aughts, the duo of Pat Pantano and Deanne Iovann were slumming it in Pittsburgh. In what could possibly be chalked up to a fit of homesickness, they laid down stellar covers of the MC5’s “Tonight” and the Stooges’ “Dirt.”

Man...the solo on “Dirt” is bonkers. As the two of them is just drum and bass in tandem, they get the extra punch with the solo being what could only be described as a HARD lean on ALL the keys of a 1960s Farfisa organ. Just attitude for days. Beautiful. Dirty. In the red. 

I’ll be damned that it took working on this essay for 15 hours before I finally realized I had overlooked the most noteworthy cassette in my pile.

In late 1997, an aptly-named teen trio called 400 Pounds of Punk (also from St. Clair Shores), recorded a handful of tracks in a makeshift home studio at 1203 Ferdinand Street in Southwest Detroit. The tracklist is a sparse four songs, with the snotty “From the Garbage Bin” being my personal favorite. An unlisted hidden fifth track is a rude cover of Blondie’s “One Way Or Another” with vocal duties shared by the band’s lead singer Jamie Cherry and one of the session engineers, a then-unknown Jack White.

The cassette, titled He Once Ate A Small Child is, as far as I can tell, the rarest physical release of a Jack White performance. And prior to the mention here, the release was completely undocumented. I doubt more than a half-dozen people even knew about it.

THIS is why cassettes are the new 45’s. Because there’s still so much to discover there. If I can personally rattle off these handful of releases that are otherwise non-existent both informationally and audibly in any reasonable modern Internet many other tapes are languishing in despair in moldy basements across the country? Across the globe?

If my inchoate ramblings here can serve to ANY legitimate purpose, dig out your own box and start uploading and cataloging. I thank you in advance and the rest of the world will thank you later.


HOLY SHIT!?!?!?! What does this even sound like? I am unaware of any mention of this ANYWHERE outside of Discogs. I NEED THIS AND WILL SPEND A MORTGAGE PAYMENT ON IT. User readytodie, get a hold of me, please!

I swear I saw this for sale at Car City Records once. I am not kidding that I have dreams about it.

There’s one available now, I may just buy it before they publish this article. This band is WAAAY underrated. Expect their stuff to go crazy at...some point.

Bootleg Russian copy of the Stooges “Fun House”? Sign me up.

I’m a sucker for local Michigan compilations.

I mean, sure, why not.

Monday, November 30, 2020

Insane Michigan Record Auction From 1987...

As much as I've spent my life loving history and collecting records...I find so very little documentation of the history OF collecting records. But last week the wonderful Dante Carfanga came through with a previously unknown-to-me monster of paper ephemera. From an estate he was involved in clearing out, he found the original photocopied auction sheet for an absolutely insane set sale / auction of Michigan garage 45's from 1987.

First off, this list is just an incredible guide as a starting point for Michigan garage collecting. I remember riding in the Hentchmen's van back from a gig in Cleveland back in 1998 and John Syzmanski was looking at something like an old issue of Goldmine magazine and saying that it was frustrating to see how cheap records USED to go for. And now, I myself understand that feeling, as I've obtained many of the records on this list for many multiples higher than their 1987 going rate.
As a twenty-plus year acolyte of Michigan garage rock records, the sheer depth of what was on offer here in a single auction is downright staggering. The fact that the absolute godhead single by the Keggs (which seemingly landed on most everyone's radar with its inclusion on the 1985 issue of Back From the Grave - Volume 5) is available here, barely two years later...boggles the mind. This is a record of which only 100 copies were pressed and even now, 53 years later, there are only believed to be about a dozen copies known in collections. 

Furthermore, the understanding that Death, while not really considered a "garage" band, per se, yet still existing under that same spiritual umbrella, was known and on offer to collectors this far definitely raises my eyebrows. Ever since I'd become aware of the band, roundabout summer 2006, I was aware that the band was three Black brothers from Detroit.

But as the Death single itself has no pictures along with it and the label obviously doesn't say "these guys are Black" I to this day am still curious as to WHO figured out that the Hackneys listed on the Death single were the same Hackneys listed on the psychedelic Christian music on the 4th Movement records (which DO have pictures and, you know, they're Black). In my mind, the people who enmeshed in Hendrix-worthy fuzz guitars praising Jesus don't often intersect with those geeked about a proto-punk monster taking aim at politicians. The auction doesn't answer that question of who put two and two together in regards to Dannis, David and Bobby Hackney, but it does show that at least amongst the deepest die-hard collecting circle, the "Politicians In My Eyes" single was already on their radar.

Closed out with the auctioneer's wantlist and a guide as to labels that he's interested in "most" records from (he apparently did not care for soul or country music) and this just serves as a fantastic snapshot of a moment, maybe ten years or so into the actual garage "collecting" game, which seems downright quaint now in the light of instant informational access and purchasing power provided via eBay and Discogs. Remember...this was all done exclusively through the US Postal system! At this point I am aware of just ONE dealer who still operates in this manner, prior to COVID still mailing out hard copies of his auction list...where protocol dictates you send a letter listing your bids, include a check as a form of pre-payment (as you almost certainly will not win ALL of your bids, you will receive a refund check back) and then wait a month or so to find out what shakes out. So archaic, but hell, once a year, I'm up for it.

Apparently Mr. Stricker who compiled this auction passed away back in 2007 and it's a shame because based on these few pages here, he seems like a guy I would've really liked to know.