Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rocky's Kindred Spirit

Contrary to my past inclinations, I've been listening to a lot of contemporary music, like Vampire Weekend, Sharon Van Etten, and Kurt Vile, and liking it. When I listen to MGMT I think if I were their age, I could really connect with their music. As it is, I enjoy and appreciate their music but without the immediacy of music that has really mattered to me.

My favorite album of the year so far (I've yet to listen to J Mascis' new solo album) is Strand of Oaks' Heal. Strand of Oaks is essentially Timothy Showalter, a small-town Midwestern boy just like me. In this hirsute stoner of a man, I've found a kindred spirit. He's got a gig in San Francisco this weekend. Rocky will be there supporting the triumph of Midwestern slackerdom.

Here's a brief introduction to Mr. Showalter:

Thursday, August 21, 2014


Can you spot the differences between the two covers of Pink Floyd's Ummagumma?

The one on the left is a US pressing and the other is a UK pressing. The US pressing has the annoying text in the upper left corner and the photo is slightly under-exposed. But what really bothers me is the blank white square above the "PINK FLOYD" text at the bottom of the cover. The UK cover shows the blank square as the soundtrack album of Gigi. For me this omission ruins the great cover designed by Hipnosis. Only very early US pressings of Ummagumma show the Gigi album. It was quickly removed from later pressings because of copyright reasons. Pressings in other countries retained the Gigi album on the cover. I had never seen the complete cover until I came across a UK pressing in a record store in Soho a few years ago. The copy wasn't in good shape. So I passed it up. I've been on the look-out ever since. 

When you've been collecting records as long as I have, it's no longer surprising that you'd be luckless finding a specific album for years and then within a short span you'd come across multiple copies. So it was last Sunday at a record swap that I came across a near mint copy of an original German pressing of Ummagumma with the Gigi album on the cover. I didn't hesitate to buy it. At the same record swap, I found a late 70s UK copy of Ummagumma, shown above. I bought that one, too. Why? Because I found it to be doubly satisfying after all these years of having gone without.

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Listening to Television Live at the Old Waldorf, a Record Store Day exclusive bought a couple of years ago, sent me into a reverie of sorts. First, there was the metronomic music. Then the play of direct and reflected light on my fire place. And the memories associated with Television....

Listening to the Violent Femmes in my college dorm room on my roommate's stereo, a guy from down the hall sticks his curly-topped head in the door, followed by his unnaturally long neck, and then the rest of his lanky frame. He's completely inside the room now. After listening for a minute, he says, "If you like this, you should check out Television. I think you'd really them." That was the first time I had heard of the group, which surprised my self-invited guest. Then again I hadn't grown up in NYC and acquired a certain knowingness like he had.

Much later, like years later, I did check out Television and discovered they were nothing like the Violent Femmes, except perhaps a similar yelping vocal delivery of the lead singers. Television were cool and sophisticated with two superbly gifted guitarists. The Violent Femmes basically played bastardized hillbilly music with amateurish gusto. There's something to be said for both. But if I had to choose Marquee Moon or the Violent Femmes' eponymous album to keep in my record collection, it would be Marquee Moon, hands down.

Several years later while living in Ann Arbor, I had a chance to see Television live at the Michigan Theater, a large old-fashioned movie house. They were supposed to play at the Michigan Theater, but a few days before the concert, the venue was changed to the Blind Pig, a small hole-in-the-wall club. Apparently there just weren't that many Television fans in Ann Arbor. I felt bad for the group. They deserved better. Then again, they never did gain the fame of their fellow CBGB cohorts like the Talking Heads, the Ramones, and Blondie.

I felt bad for the band, but I felt great for my friend and myself. We got to see and hear a great band in a small club. We were so close that I could have reached out and touched Tom Verlaine. The guitar solos were out of this world, like jazz in their inventiveness but kick-you-in-the-guts powerful like rock. It was one of the best concerts I'd seen.

Listening to Television Live at the Old Waldorf, I realized how music is a continuum for one's life--it ties moments together and also serves as a marker for how those moments differ and how one's self is the same and changed through time.