Thursday, June 21, 2012

Vinyl News of the Weird

Well, there's one thing rocky and L. Ron Hubbard have in common, faith in analog recordings. From the Analog Planet website:
"One organization is very much into DMM* and that would be The Church of Scientology. It has bought up every DMM lathe it can find and uses them to transfer founder L. Ron Hubbard's speeches to DMM metal discs, which are then plated and sealed with a pop top kind of mechanism that they developed. The plating is done at a major American pressing plant in a room devoted exclusively to the Church's work.

The plated and sealed discs are then transported and stored in a bunker said to be in the Mojave Desert, along with specially developed solar powered turntables fitted with phono cartridges that don't use rubber dampers for their suspensions. That way they won't deteriorate over time.

Way into the future when all of digital data has disappeared of is no longer playable, some future civilization will find the bunker and figure out how to play these discs. They will conclude that L. Ron Hubbard must have been the most important person in our civilization since only he was accorded such special treatment (kind of like the Pharaohs)."
* Direct Metal Mastering is a method of producing vinyl records 
rocky is hatching a plan to sneak into the bunker to replace all the L. Ron Hubbard records with Hasil Adkins records.

Monday, June 18, 2012

In Dystopia We'll At Least Have Free Music

I just read some sad news of the passing of another venerable record store. Cutler's in New Haven, after 64 years, became the latest victim of illegal downloads. I have fond memories of browsing through the racks and discovering a lot of new music at Cutler's.

I thought about this particular bit of news more after reading this blog post by an NPR intern, which seems representative of the new normal. The part that really stands out (my italics):

"As I've grown up, I've come to realize the gravity of what file-sharing means to the musicians I love. I can't support them with concert tickets and t-shirts alone. But I honestly don't think my peers and I will ever pay for albums. I do think we will pay for convenience."

And this long, well-considered response to the NPR post, with the following rhetorical questions:

"Why do we value the network and hardware that delivers music but not the music itself?

Why are we willing to pay for computers, iPods, smartphones, data plans, and high speed internet access but not the music itself?

Why do we gladly give our money to some of the largest richest corporations in the world but not the companies and individuals who create and sell music?

This is a bit of hyperbole to emphasize the point. But it’s as if:

Networks: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Hardware: Giant mega corporations. Cool! have some money!

Artists: 99.9 % lower middle class. Screw you, you greedy bastards!"

The article could've also included "Stores: Independent record stores. Screw you, if I pay for music I'm going to give my money to Apple iTunes and Amazon, because it's too inconvenient to drag my lazy ass to your store."

I have more thoughts on the subject, which I may or may not post.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Swedish Pop Music Break: Sakert!

It's been a while since the last cheery Swedish pop music break. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Recent Acquisitions: June 10, 2012

It's getting damn near impossible to find good deals on used records at record stores. How times change. The vinyl section is now chock full of normal people. Just the other day, I saw a young couple who looked like they got lost on the way to Abercrombie and Fitch. No, they were checking out ELO albums. Cute! Not so cute if they start buying classic jazz and rare krautrock LPs. I'd have to hate them then.

Fortunately, normal people haven't discovered record swaps. I was among the hardcore misfits this morning at the local record swap, squinting at stampers in the deadwax, checking to see if the dog on the back cover of Diamond Dogs has genitals (more on that below). There are still good records and good deals to be found at record swaps.

Bob Cooper, Coop! (Contemporary, original mono pressing, $2.50). Just like in baseball and other great American traditions, there's an East Coast bias against West Coast jazz. You can still buy Contemporary albums for cheap, unlike Blue Note and Prestige albums of the same era. The music is usually excellent and the sound quality is as it gets. Most of the albums were recorded by Roy DuNann, who was the West Coast equivalent to Rudy Van Gelder. I pick up Contemporary original pressings whenever I get the chance. I really dig the cover of this one.

Teddy Edwards, Nothin' But the Truth! (Prestige, original mono pressing, $5). Edwards is another underrated West Coast jazz musician. This album, though, was recorded on the East Coast with a topnotch rhythm section consisting of Walter Davis, Jr., Paul Chambers, and Billy Higgins. But I really bought the album for the conga player, Montego Joe. Seriously, I've never heard of him, but feel like I should.

Miles Davis, Birth of the Cool (Capitol, early 60s pressing, $15). A while ago I bought a 70s reissue of this album. It has a cheesy sketch of Miles instead of the iconic photo of him blowing on the original cover. That's always bugged me. Now, I have one less thing to be bugged about.

Jonathon Richman and the Modern Lovers, self-titled album (Beserkeley, original pressing, $2.50). Yeah, I still listen to Jonathon Richman. So What? It's not like I still get excited by the sight of an ice cream truck and walk around town in Converse All-Stars. Oh, wait. Nevermind.

Ozzy Osbourne, Diary of a Madman (Jet Records, original pressing, $2.50). If you think about it, Ozzy's really the Jonathon Richman of the Satan worshipping crowd.

X, Los Angeles (Slash, original pressing, $2.50). I've already got an 80s reissue of this album, but I figure it was worth a couple of bucks to get the original pressing.

Cream, Wheels of Fire (Atco, 2-LP original pressing, $2.50). Just doubled my Cream collection. I only had Disreali Gears.

David Gilmour, self-titled album (CBS, $2.50). In college, I had room-mates who were really into Floyd. We sat around listening to this album as well as Roger Waters' solo album. We didn't get high, but instead discussed the philosophical aspects of Floyd. God, we were stupid morons!

Wanda Jackson, Sings Country Songs (Capitol, original stereo pressing, $5). Kind of a stupid title for its obviousness, unless you're just learning how to read. "Jane writes a book. Jesse runs fast. Wanda sings country songs." Oh, I forgot this album is for country music fans. Maybe the title is just about right. Just kidding!

Wanda Jackson, Blues in My Heart (Capitol, original stereo pressing, $2.50). I wonder whether country music fans understand metaphor? Maybe Wanda should've titled this one, I Feel Sad. Kidding, again! Good thing Jethro can't slug me across the internet.

David Bowie, Diamond Dogs (RCA, original pressing, $2.50). Another original pressing to replace a later reissue in my collection. If you remember the album cover, it's a gatefold cover with an illustration of Bowie with a human torso and a canine rear half. The dog half is on the back cover. A few original covers include the dog's genitals before they got the airbrush treatment. These are extremely rare. I check for the dog's balls every time I come across this album. It sounds kind of sick, doesn't it? Yes, we better keep the normal people separated from the record swap crowd.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Playing Records in Movies: Moonrise Kingdom

You know you're watching a great movie when there's an important scene involving a character playing a record. Before you dismiss it with a snort, think about it. Great directors know the cinematic appeal of the humble turntable and a black slab of vinyl, including Barry Levinson, Albert Brooks, Quentin Tarantino, and Sergei Eisenstein (okay, maybe old Sergei wasn't hip to records or audio technology in general; otherwise his films would've had sound). One director who sees the magic in records is Wes Anderson.

In Moonrise Kingdom, one of the protagonists runs away from home and one of the things she brings with her is a portable record player. The album she brings to play on it is Francoise Hardy's The "Yeh-Yeh" Girl from Paris*. If there was any doubt this was a great movie, it flew out the window after these details were revealed. But the critical scene occurs later when she and her fellow-truant/love reach their destination, an isolated cove on the island they inhabit. Here these two outsiders, self-knowing problem children, experience a moment of freedom and connection. She plays Francoise Hardy's "Le Temps de l'Amour" and they dance. The scene ends and the next scene begins with the two inside a tent pitched on the shore.

A couple, a record player, and a tent. The scene in Moonrise Kingdom is like a re-staging of the scene in The Royal Tenenbaums, in which Richie and Margo find themselves inside a tent in the living room of the Tenenbaum house, listening to the Rolling Stones' Between the Buttons on a record player. The similarities and contrasts between these two scenes sum up the profound difference between the two movies. The Royal Tenenbaums are about people who are already broken and the possibilities of putting them back together again. What kind of adult pitches a tent in a living room and sleeps in it? The act reveals a fucked-up longing to return to a childhood sense of security. In Moonrise Kingdom, the tent is pitched on a lovely island cove by children. It doesn't represent the sense of a beautiful, protected realm for the two. It is that realm, at least for a moment, between scenes where family members and acquaintances and indifferent social forces are in the process of turning them into the broken adult characters of Anderson's past and future films. In other words, Moonrise Kingdom captures the main characters in a moment of hope. The film seems more expansive, because of it.

* I couldn't tell from the passing shot of the album cover whether it was the mono or stereo version of the album. rocky recommends the mono recording.