Wild, wacky vinyl

4 10 2012

I’m starting to buy vinyl, not to be a pretentious hipster or audiophile, but because I love music.  Buying vinyl allows me to get some old stuff that is hard to find on CD and also to get my hands on some great stuff from places like the Salvation Army or other thrift stores.

Because I am trolling resale shops, hoping to stumble on a rare gem or two, I’m running across a lot of crazy stuff that I can’t even imagine anyone ever having owned.  It’s no secret that there are thousands of crazy, kooky, ugly, bizarre LP jackets.  They can be interesting pieces of  bad pop art.  Some of it has comedic value — good for a cheap laugh.  I found some records yesterday that made me giggle, made me shake my head in disbelief…  I didn’t buy any of these albums, but I hope you can appreciate the pics.

Rockin’ Easy — It’s entirely possible that many of us Generation X-ers were conceived with the sweets sounds of albums like this playing in the background.  What I’m quite sure of is that our parents didn’t “make whoopy” on an unsteady rowboat, in the middle of some scummy pond.

Win This Record (?), David Lindley & El Rayo X — I don’t know what the heck the name of this album really is.  Is it Win This Record, or does that mean that the distribution strategy for this record was to give it away as some crappy prize to a radio call in contest?  Was “caller number 5” the lucky guy or gal to pick up this rockin’ piece?  Clearly, the smash hit on this album is “Talk to the Lawyer.”  I’m speculating that’s a song about a couple heading for divorce.  The can’t agree on who gets the sofa and who gets the china.  An argument ensues and one of the disgruntled soon-to-be-ex spouses says, “Talk to the Lawyer.”  What else could it be?

A Brand New Song, the Carroll McGruder Trio — There’s no beating what I assume to be their stage outfits.  I tried to look up this album and find a track listing, but I was unsuccessful.  This is …err was … a southern gospel group.  I’ll betcha lunch that this is a record full of ole’ time gospel covers, with not a “brand new” song to be found.

Champion of Love, Glad — Just how does one become a “champion of love”?  Is there a playoff system?  How do you score the match.  The lads look like So Cal version of Menudo.  Given their appearance, maybe the band name should be GLAAD.

The Last of the Romantics, Englebert (Humperdink) — Boy, someone really thinks quite highly of himself.  This album was released in 1978.  I’m quite sure that there have been plenty of “romantics” in the last 34 years.   I’m sure she’s thinking, as he holds her steady with a death grip on her face, “Please release me, let me gooooo….”  An aside: everytime I hear or see this guy’s name, I can’t help but giggle at John Lennon having called Paul McCartney “Englebert Humperdink” in the early 70’s.

A Lover’s Question, Jacky Ward — “A Lover’s Question,” “Fools Fall in Love,” and “Big Blue Diamond.”  I don’t know what question the “lover” asked, but I just can’t see Jacky knowing the answer.  “Fools Fall in Love,” obviously, suggests it’s not good to fall in love.  So why the “Big Blue Diamond”?  We are left to conclude that only a “fool” would “fall in love” and give his girl a diamond worth four months rent at the trailer park.

Hollywood in Rhythm, Ray Coniff — Maybe it’s me, but I don’t understand what the connection exists between a skinny mannequin and “Hollywood.”

Swingin’ School Songs — Perfect mid-century collegiate material.  Fight Songs from some of America’s most well-known universities are found on this disk.  I want one of those sweaters, but I just want the block “S” to be green — Go State!  The “artists” are Dave Pell and his Octet.  I’m assuming the gleeful collegians on the cover aren’t the octet since there are only 5 of them.

Heleno — Our man, Heleno (presumably), appears to be a mafia tough guy dressed up for a night out at Studio 54 circa 1979.  Supposedly, you can’t judge a book but its cover.  But you might be able to judge an album buy it.  I’d bet a baker’s dozen donuts that the music on this album is measurably worse than the cover itself.

Whipped Cream & Other Delights, Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass — For reasons I still don’t understand, there were two copies of this record in my parent’s album collection.  I never once put this on the turntable, but I was always interested in the cover.  You can find this album anywhere.  By the amount of copies floating around at garage sales, flea markets and second-hand stores, you’d think this album went 10x platinum back in the day.


August 8, 1969 — the Beatles shoot the most iconic album cover ever

8 08 2012

On August 8, 1969, Scottish photographer Iain MacMillan shot the Fab Four crossing that most famous of London cross walks.  Within 10 minutes, he captured what we all know and love as the cover of the Beatles’ swan song, Abbey Road, released in September 1969.

Almost as interesting as the album cover itself are some of the candid shots; the ones that weren’t used; the outtakes, if you will.  I had some fun with some of these outtakes, giving them a just a bit of an artsy flair.  [NOTE:  Obviously the source photos are not mine.  I don’t know who holds copyright.]

You couldn’t tell from these pictures that, in a little over a month, John would ask for his “divorce” from the Beatles, effectively finishing the group for good.  They seem at least cordial, if not friendly with each other.

It’s hard to believe it’s been 10 years since…

30 11 2011

George Harrison passed away.  Yesterday was the anniversary of his death, but I got distracted by other things.  In any event, I really can’t believe a decade has come and gone without George

It’s nice to think that he was surrounded by friends and loved ones in his last months.  Unlike his former bandmate, John Lennon, he had a chance to iron out all his differences with Paul McCartney (and any he might’ve had with Ringo, as well.)  Before leaving us, he apparently embraced “traditional Christianity” (though he passed during a Hindu ritual of some sort) and left us with a really dang good album, Brainwashed.  He was truly a great talent and a highly entertaining, funny cat.   He was always searching for God and I hope, George found Him.

George and Olivia Harrison

Here’s one of his best solo songs.  Luckily, we were able to hear it.


Julian Lennon: a right and fitting keeper of Beatles treasures

14 11 2011

At the risk of making this yet another “Yoko Ono is the manipulating dragon lady that broke up the Beatles” kind of statement, I will say that she should be ashamed of herself for the way in which she dealt with Julian and his rights to a portion of his own father’s Estate.  Sadly, John probably loved his second wife miles more than his own flesh and blood, and it shows in what little provisions were made for him growing up.  To Julian’s credit, he’s used his own money (earned and with the “settlement” he got from Mrs. Ono-Lennon) to buy back a bunch of his dad’s stuff.  Some of the great pieces he’s gathered over the years are now on loan from Julian for display.  Good on him.


SMiLE (Random Thoughts Part 1)

10 11 2011

I’ve been wanting to talk about SMiLE, or more accurately, The SMiLE Sessions, released last week.  Honestly, though, I’ve not known where to start with it.  I wanted to tackle the whole thing in a big long tome-like post, but people wouldn’t read it, and I’m too lazy to spend hours and hours at a time digesting and regurgitating it all at once.   So I’m going to handle it in small bites.  It’s hard to tell if anyone besides hardcore Beach Boys fans even care at this point.  I can’t ignore it because it’s a pretty significant release.

  • With little exception, The SMiLE Sessions (at least the double disc set) reveals little that is new.  The majority of the songs that were intended for SMiLE originally, ended up on its shoddy replacement, Smiley Smile, or later albums like 20/20, Surf’s Up, and Sunflower.  Granted, some of these songs were released in different form.  Brian’s masterpiece, Surf’s Up, was sung by Carl Wilson for release on the album of the same name.  What didn’t end up on later studio albums came out in later official Beach Boys releases like Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys, the band’s anthology (for all intents and purposes.)
  • One of my first experiences with online music was when I stumbled upon a website dedicated solely to the SMiLE album (that never was.)  It was the late 90’s and MP3’s were starting to come into heavy use — it made sense for internet-based music sharing.  This site — sadly it has been gone for years — had essentially the full SMiLE album, with links to the songs in their entirety.  The site ordered the songs in pretty close to the same order as The SMiLE Sessions; eerily close! All that said, I was not surprised by much.
  • What I have found striking is that SMiLE was…. ahem would have been… ahead of its time, though maybe not in some of the ways fans have imagined over the years.  The “what could have been” scenario that people have probably fantasized over these 40 years typically goes something like this: “If Brian had been able to get the album out, it would have been the soundtrack for the (so-called) Summer of Love, and would have been what Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band has been all these years.  It would have been the it record of the 60’s.”  I don’t think there is enough to demonstrate it would have been universally loved in that way.  I would guess it probably would not have been understood and would have even been flaky or “far out” to stoners, acid heads, hippies and, of course, old school Beach Boys fans.   More than Sgt. Pepper’s, SMiLE  would have prefigured Abbey Road.
  • Why Abbey Road?  Right off the bat, understand that I’m not claiming it had anything like the grit of Abbey Road.  But, it has the feel, flow and almost free association style of Abbey Road’s famous medley.  Half the songs on Abbey Road were fragments or sort of half songs, strung together to make a strong, somewhat unified side.  “You Never Give Me Your Money” recurs on the big medley, ties bits and pieces of it together.  Likewise, “Heroes and Villains” is the unifying musical piece that ties SMiLE together.  The album’s fragmentation is hardly an accident.  Brian Wilson recently said in an interview that Van Dyke Parks suggest the album be built around song fragments just as “Good Vibrations” had been assembled as a mini-rock orchestra-like piece from bits and pieces patched together over months in 1966.
  • More than the earlier albums, SMiLE is driven by vocals.  The most important instruments are the voices.  That doesn’t say much when you’re talking about the Beach Boys.  Vocal harmonies were their bread and butter.  But, the vocal work is so complex and strong, that most of the album could have been a cappella.  John Lennon’s beautiful “Because” on Abbey Road hints, in one song, at what SMiLE would have felt like had it been finished.


Paul weds on John’s birthday

10 10 2011

In what was an obvious trip down memory lane, on several fronts, for Sir Paul McCartney, he married Nancy Shevell at the Old Marylebone Town Hall in London yesterday.  It can’t be an accident that he got married on what would have been John Lennon’s 71st birthday.  Hopefully Paul has found a mate for the rest of his life.


September 18, 1970

18 09 2011

Not only did the idealism of the mid to late 60’s come crashing down (arguably) following Altamont, the Manson family killings, the seeming failure of the (music-driven) anti-war movement to end the war, the break up of the Beatles, and election of a law and order president like Nixon, but pop stars seemed to drop like flies as the 60’s ended and the 70’s began.  Rolling Stones founder, Brian Jones, died in July 1969, after being booted out of the band.  Janis Joplin died in October 1970, of an apparent heroin overdose.  Depending on whom you ask, Jim Morrison died in July 1971, most likely due to the affects of years of heavy boozing.  That’s to say nothing of the numerous 60’s and 70’s rockers who, over the years, have come unglued, destroying their families and careers, due to substance abuse and the inability to handle the challenges of fame and fortune.

The most significant of those late 60’s/early 70’s losses was the untimely death of Jimi Hendrix.  He was found dead in his London apartment on this day in 1970.  There is some debate over the precise cause of death, but both (prescription) drugs and alcohol played significant roles.  When Jimi died, the most influential player to ever pick up the guitar was lost forever.

Not only was a great guitarist lost, but the 60’s died with him and his contemporaries.  All the hope held out for mankind in psychedelics was dashed.  That drugs could change society for the better, bring about world peace as well as individual spiritual growth, was shown to be a lie.  John Lennon summed this up when he said in 1971:

Okay, so Flower Power didn’t work. So what? We try again.

Jimi is not and never will be my favorite rock guitarist.  As amazing as he was, and as utterly mindblowing some of the sounds he created were, I think others that followed were able to get more out of the instrument.  I think some others that followed were cleaner, better technical players.  But they wouldn’t have done what they did had Jimi not paved the way.  What I like about Jimi’s sound, especially some of his later work, is that it really had a lot of jazz, funk and fusion sounds in it.  The music might not have held a pop appeal, but it was unique.  No one can copy Jimi.  He was like the Miles Davis of electric guitar.