Monday, April 23, 2018

Reflections on RSD '18

As mentioned last time, I did indeed get up early Saturday to spin the roulette wheel that is Record Store Day. I had not lined up with the other lemmings since 2011. During the in-between years, I either waited until much later in the day to try my luck, or I didn't bother at all. I found going in in the PM worked well for me because most of my wants were records that, frankly, were not the more coveted releases.

Not to be a curmudgeon, but through the years, I grew tired of the whole thing. There was a certain cynicism that sunk in that all of the vultures running into the store when the doors opened were flippers looking to make a fast buck on the backs of real fans that would be tempted to pay big bucks on eBay when they struck out. I'm willing to bet many of you stopped going or never went in the first place for that very reason. Plus, as the saying goes, every day should be record store day, anyway. Well, this year I decided to go because there were four singles I wanted (plus the UK only release I mentioned last time) that I thought might be tough finds by the PM. For those cynics out there, I thought I would give you an update on what RSD felt like these days.

I arrived at my nearest shop about 7:30 for a 9:00 opening. When I pulled up, there were already 50 people lined up in the front, and folks were beginning to snake around the corner of the store. Most of these early risers were sitting on lawn chairs or blankets and sipping coffee from Thermoses. Grizzled veterans. They could also be described as such because I would put the median age at 55. Sure, there were a few millennials, but they were outliers. This surprised me because I assumed the vinyl renaissance was because of the tykes. After standing in line and reflecting, I decided we were a bunch of old guys because most of the RSD releases were catered to us. Most twentysomethings aren't looking for singles by Zeppelin or Jimi. Most of this crew looked like that's exactly why they were there.

By 8:30, I estimated the line to be around 300. It was overcast and cold, and I stood there shivering and wondering whether this was all worth it. I continued to people watch. Everyone seemed much happier and more excited than I was. There were many couples, which was another surprise. The first real warning sign that my cynical nature was founded came when I heard a male-female duo behind me plotting strategy. One said to the other, "I'll pick up two copies of that one, and you'll get two copies too." Friggin' flippers. By 8:55, the chairs had been put way, and the line had tightened considerably. So much so that I was now at least in front of the store instead of along the side of it. Seeing the door made me feel a whole lot better.

I've heard there are stores that only let a certain number of customers in at a time. As shoppers leave, new customers take their place. I was not at one of those shops. At 9:02, the doors were unlocked and every person in that line pushed their way into the store like a tsunami, pouring in and filling every available inch of floor space. The left side of the store had a couple of folding tables put up for the RSD albums that started with letter A-H. The middle of the store had I-P. The right side had Q-Z. The 7" records were on a tiny table in the back.

My four wants were as follows: David Bowie - "Let's Dance (Full-Length Demo)" 12", Chris Bell - "I Am the Cosmos" 7" with gatefold sleeve and liner notes by Chris Stamey, Nico - "I'm Not Sayin'" 7" with gatefold sleeve on white vinyl, and Frank Wilson - "Do I Love You (Indeed I Do)" 7" on purple vinyl. The Bowie 12" was No. 4 on my list of four, but I thought it might be the first to go. I pushed my arm through a mess of people crowded around the table and grabbed it as someone thumbed through the box. I made my way to the 7" section and was shocked twice over. First, none of the 300 strong were looking at them. Not one. Second, 7" singles were housed in a shoe-sized box. Clearly, this store got the shaft or the employees nabbed everything before the doors opened. I found my three wants in seconds, and there was only one copy Wilson and Nico. There were two copies of Bell. As I walked away, there were a couple of guys behind me ready to look at the singles. I was lucky enough to have had the table to myself.

There were four registers open at the counter with no wait. My purchases were put into a really nice burlap RSD album bag full of swag I could appreciate. Buttons, CD and photo promos and the like. I squeezed through the aggressive crowd with my bounty and made my way to the door. I did enjoy seeing one guy look at me with his jaw open as if it ask, "You're done?" When I got outside, I exhaled and looked at the time on my phone as tardy customers literally ran around me and pushed themselves into the door. 9:07. I was in and out in five minutes. The scene inside was savage, but it was like the seas had parted just for me. I got everything I wanted... quickly, easily and priced decently.

In the past 24 hours, I have monitored eBay and other markets. Yes, the flippers have been busy. For example, the numerous Nico singles up for sale on eBay are priced between $25 and $42 before shipping, and some of those shipping prices are ridiculous. One bastard in the UK is charging $27 for shipping the 7" to America. C'mon, man. Isn't it enough you've already nearly quadrupled the price I paid for it on Saturday before shipping? Disgusting. To sum up, everything I hated about RSD at the beginning of the decade is as evident as ever, and it has left a bad taste. I think I just got lucky this year. I will need to be tempted by several interesting releases before I would even consider doing it again. Of course, that's what I said in 2011.

Chris Bell - You and Your Sister (Country Version)
Chris Bell - You and Your Sister (Acoustic Version)

Friday, April 20, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 9)

This is where it all began for me with the Go-Betweens. I was 16 when 'Liberty Belle And The Black Diamond Express' came out. I heard "Spring Rain". That was it. I ran to this otherwise terrible national-chain shop to pick it up. They didn't have it... but wait... there was a copy on cassette. As you can see above, I must have been champing at the bit because I bought it on the inferior format. Obviously, that wasn't good enough because I got it on vinyl later that year. I fell for the Aussies hard, and picked up what I could. Remember, this was 1986. Even though they were on Beggars Banquet, the band was a hard get among the cornfields of Illinois.

For example, in '87, I remember finding 'Tallulah' in the import bin of the record store in the nearest college town. For some inexplicable reason it was the German release on Rebel Rec. That more or less sums up the hodgepodge that is the Go-Betweens on my shelf. Used 12" singles, cassettes, imports from strange lands and, sadly, more CDs than vinyl. If you put all of the formats together, I can claim to have all of their long players, but I was still so tempted to get that 'G Stands For Go-Betweens' box Domino put out in 2015. It wasn't because of all the extras either. I liked the idea of all that Go-Betweens in one smart set. I suppose I liked the idea of buying something new from the Go-Betweens too. I had it in my hands, but I couldn't pull the trigger. Regret? Yes, a little, but seeing all of these records spread across the floor just now is a smile as I think about all of those trips to the shops as a lad.

For today's selections, I'm going to stick with my first love, the 'Liberty Belle' era. I have the two singles from that album on 12", and the flip sides are far from the usual B-side fare. At time of release, the best part was these were non-album tracks. These days, "The Wrong Road" is probably my favorite song on 'Liberty Belle', and this early version shows it was special from the beginning. It's nice to hear Tracey Thorn sing with Robert on "Head Full of Steam" too. I had no idea Robert and Lindy had been such good friends with Ben and Tracey back then until I read Tracey's book.

Spring Rain
The Life At Hand
Little Joe

Head Full of Steam (Remix)
Don't Let Him Come Back
The Wrong Road (Early Version)

Tomorrow is Record Store Day, and I'm actually going this year. One record I really want, however, is being sold only in the UK. If any of my friends from across the pond plan to stop into a shop tomorrow and need an American only release, I would love to make a deal. This is the 7" I'm seeking:

The Hit Parade - Happy World

Drop me a line at if you would like to work something out. I'll do my best to pick up your wants. That is all.

Friday, April 13, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Parts 6-8)

Girls! Girls! Girls! We've got a threefer today, but not quite all of them are from the ladies. Let's start with something from 2009. 'Album' from Girls came in as my No. 2 long player on this blog's first year-end list. Sometimes these countdowns can come back to embarrass us all these years later. Not in this case. I still listen to this one and the follow-up EP "Broken Dreams Club" with regularity. The next album, 'Father, Son, Holy Ghost', had a few bright spots but felt like a letdown overall, and I haven't taken to Christopher Owens' solo material either. Even if there isn't another "Lust for Life" or "Laura" on the horizon, I thank Owens for getting me back in the indie scene during this blog's infancy... and for making me think of Wreckless Eric again.

Lust for Life

I thought I could settle with having Cherry Red's 2009 CD reissue of this classic from 1981, but then I saw a pristine vinyl copy earlier this year on that jaunt to Portland. Ooh, so tempting. Did it come with the limited edition "pleasure bag" of two postcards, a sticker and a pleasure symbol stencil? It sure did, and that clinched it. I paid the big bucks and never looked back. Still love that delivery, Jo! Here's the band's final single as well as a little trivia: That's Thomas Dolby on synthesizer.

Fast Boyfriends

I don't keep a various artists section in my vinyl collection. So you'll find the 1984 Rhino compilation 'The Girls Can't Help It' in the Gs. When I picked this one up, I only knew a couple of the bands that were featured, but there turned out to be a number of gems. My favorite is "Even Try" by L.A.-based band On the Air. Think Bangles on their first E.P. Bliss. I knew the Pandoras from Kim Shattuck's time with the band, but this song is from just before she joined. It will take you back to the garage in 1966. Sophisticated Boom Boom was an all-girl group from Glasgow that reminds me just a bit of early Altered Images when Clare and the clan were still being influenced by Sioxsie and the Banshees. The girls of Sophisticated Boom Boom would go back to the drawing board, get serious and call themselves His Latest Flame. I took quite a liking to them. Kudos to Rhino for finding them early.

Sophisticated Boom Boom - The Only One
On the Air - Even Try
The Pandoras - You Lie

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Special Beats From the Ol' Stereo

Tired. That's how some of you might describe my stereo. Every component, save for Wharfedale speakers bought this decade, have been with me since the 1980s. Truth is, I love my stereo, and I wouldn't trade any part of it. We've been through a lot together. Besides, every once in a while, I hear something blast through those Wharfedales that seems to bring those old components to life and, for a moment anyway, I can't imagine a better sounding stereo in existence. In my last post, I featured General Public. That, of course, got me on an (English) Beat kick all weekend, and I would argue the 1982 album 'English Beat Service' might be the best sounding album in my entire collection. Clean, crisp, and those horns pop like no other. Yes, I actually danced.

That brings me to today's question. No, I'm not going to ask about stereo components. That's a blog of a different stripe. What I want to know is, do you have a special record that seems to sound just a bit better than all of the rest when you play it on your stereo? If a new friend came over and you wanted to show off a bit, what would you put on the platter? Mine would be 'Special Beat Service'.

Sole Salvation

Thursday, April 5, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 5)

Some of these G selections are pretty damned good... -- George

I'm thinking here's where I might lose our old pal. Hang in there, George. There are a couple of more from letter G that just may strike your fancy.

The plan was to cover Game Theory today, but I featured a song by them on (Mitch) Easter. Moving on, you know the world is unjust when the Beat, or the English Beat, as we say here in America, never had a hit on these shores, but General Public cracked the Billboard Top 40 twice. I can't think about the English Beat and its spawn without comparing them to the Specials and what their roster was doing in the mid-'80s. I definitely veered towards what Terry Hall was doing then, but the record collection doesn't lie. I do have a whole mess of singles and both '80s albums from Ranking Roger and Dave Wakeling's band too.

As you may know, in General Public's infancy, Mick Jones was a member, and I can't help but wonder how much influence he had on debut album 'All the Rage'. His name appears on the sleeve, and it is thought he played guitar on many of the songs, including the singles "Tenderness" and "Never You Done That", arguably the best moments on the LP. Regardless, the rest of the band, with member of Dexys Midnight Runners and the Specials pitching in, were very good. What's clear to these ears is follow-up album 'Hand to Mouth', with an altered lineup, was a big drop in quality.

I found out just today there was another American hit single (a cover of "I'll Take You There") in 1994 and a third album in 1995. That's when I was in Japan. Completely missed it. Anybody heard that one? Here are some 12" mixes... mostly from 1984. "General Public" is much more political than pop. The instrumental "Dishwasher" sounds a bit like Big Audio Dynamite, but that might just be a coincidence. I can't find anything that says Jones was involved. The lone inclusion from 'Hand to Mouth' is "Too Much or Nothing". Not a favorite but probably their best from that album.

General Public (Longer)
Dishwasher (Longer)
Tenderness (Special Dance Mix)
Never You Done That (Special Dance Mix)
Too Much or Nothing (Dance Radio Edit)

Monday, April 2, 2018


Ah, the Monday after a holiday weekend. After a few days of ignoring the papers, I woke up today to news stories chock full of politics as usual. I need to listen to something to break through the malaise. Here's one from the 2010 debut album by the Westfield Mining Disaster. This is where I would explain I was a big fan of the Haywains back in the day, and I rejoiced when about a decade after their demise Paul Towler started up this jangly outfit with more than just a touch of left-leaning country and soul. All of that is true, but the Westfield Mining Disaster has since disbanded and the Haywains have since reunited. There has been more rejoicing as the new stuff by the Haywains is really good. We'll get to some of that soon when I get to the next letter in my vinyl-ripping series. In the meantime, here's something to get us off our bottoms and into the streets. This album, 'Big Ideas From Small Places', came out on Cider City Records, a label co-run by Jeremy Hunt of the Haywains. Highly recommended.

Greedy Bastards, Save Your Souls!

Towler and Co. had a wry sense of humor too. I recalled an interview the Westfield Mining Disaster did with a BBC affiliate several years ago, and I just dug it up. Here's a snippet:

What is your most memorable gig so far?
Wembley. OK, so that's the Dog & Duck in Wembley, but it still counts doesn't it?

Where would you most like to play?
We hear there's a new place just up the road from the Dog & Duck in Wembley.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Happy (Mitch) Easter!

For the seventh consecutive Easter, we celebrate all things Mitch. Most of today's picks feature him as producer, but Mitch played on most of these songs too. Of course, Easter wouldn't be Easter without one from his old band Let's Active as well. I like to dig up something new from Easter for my record collection each year, and this time around it's Big Troubles. I bought 'Romantic Comedy' a year ago without ever hearing a note but with complete faith in a band signed by Slumberland. I was not disappointed. I hope Mr. Bunny left you a little something in your basket. If not, enjoy these sweet pieces of indie pop.

Game Theory - Waltz the Halls Always ('Real Nighttime' LP, 1985)
Let's Active - In Little Ways ('Big Plans for Everybody' LP, 1986)
Cowboy and Spin Girl - Set the World on Fire (self-titled LP, 1988)
The Someloves - Melt ('Something or Other' LP, 1989)
Big Troubles - She Smiles for Pictures ('Romantic Comedy' LP, 2011)

Friday, March 30, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 4)

From Gang of Four to Marvin Gaye. Anyone need a neck brace? I was half tempted to play smash hit "Sexual Healing", a song I dearly love, but was afraid of being pelted with rotting vegetables. Surely, you can give the '80s a rest this one time, I can hear you saying. You may have a point. After all, Gaye had nearly 70 singles on the Billboard charts before that one. Before we get to today's selection, how about a poll question? Of all the Motown ladies he sang duets with, who was Gaye's best partner? Lots of choices there. Mary? Tammi? Kim? Diana?

Here's the third single from landmark 1971 album 'What's Going On'. Like so many of the best songs on Motown, Gaye is backed by the Funk Brothers. Like the first two singles, this one also cracked the top 10, but it seems like with the passage of time "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" isn't played quite as much as the title track and "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)". The social and economic plight of those left behind in inner cities like Detroit is the subject, and I have always been taken by the unusual line "make me wanna holler" sung with such a smooth silky voice, giving the song a melancholy mood rather than an angry one. In hindsight, I have always found Gaye's complaints about inner-city residents paying high taxes an interesting view since Gaye would spend much of the rest of his days fighting the Internal Revenue Service.

This version of album closer "Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)" is taken from my very scratchy LP and includes an extra minute with a brooding reprise of "What's Going On" at the end that was not part of the 7" single.

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)

Sorry, but I can't resist. After all those years on Motown, here is Gaye's first single for CBS. It peaked at No. 3 in America and No. 4 in the UK. I'm not sure I'll go so far as to vouch for the rest of 'Midnight Love', but I never tire of this one. There are some nice covers out there too.

Sexual Healing

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 3)

"It made me laugh to hear the guy from U2 talk about his guitar influences being old bluesmen. I thought, 'Hey, you dipshit, what about Andy Gill?'" -- Flea

Never pass on sticking it to U2.

Tough to choose just one, but here's a selection from Gang of Four's 1979 album 'Entertainment!' If you don't have this one, go get it right now. One of the best albums from the best year in music. Angular. Angry. Ahead of it's time. You'll be amazed how so many of your favorite bands sound like these lads from Leeds. Everybody lifted from them. I used to wonder where Minutemen came from. Then I heard 'Entertainment!' Here's how the album opens. Buckle up.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

A Questionable Selection?

We covered A Craze in 2016 and Tracie Young in 2017 more or less unscathed. Do I dare press my luck with a third act from Paul Weller's Respond Records? Sure. The Questions were out of Edinburgh, and they had a couple of singles on legendary local label Zoom Records (early home to Simple Minds) in the late '70s. The band opened for the Jam when they came through Edinburgh in 1980, as well as a few other places, and Weller thought they fit well with the "new Motown" plan he envisioned for Respond. Like Tracie, A Craze and others in the Respond stable, Weller was actively involved with the Questions early on, producing first single "Work and Play" in 1982. The Questions would have five more singles between '82 and '84, as well as long player 'Belief'. Although the Questions would never produce a commercial hit, band mates Paul Barry and John Robinson did write a few songs for Tracie, including the '83 smash "The House That Jack Built", Respond's high-water mark.

This won't be for everybody, but I still enjoy the sophisti-pop singles surrounding the '84 album 'Belief'. I'm going to save my favorite for the letter Q in my vinyl-ripping series, which at the rate I'm progressing means you'll get to hear that one in late 2020. For today, here is a double-A sided single I have as a 12". Warning: "Belief" is an extended mix. Therefore, the bells and whistles of the time can and will take you back 34 years.

A Month of Sundays
Belief (Don't Give It Up) (Extended Mix)

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

ABCs of My Vinyl Collection (Letter G, Part 2)

In the '80s, you could probably count the number of Scandinavian bands I had in my collection on one hand. My, how times have changed, particularly this century. Back then, Copenhagen-based Gangway were quite an anomaly. I saw a video for their '88 single "My Girl and Me" and fell hard for their aesthetic. This was a big hit in Denmark, and it should have been in the UK and America too. With the benefit of hindsight, I realize the music is awfully slick and of its time, but I still love the lyrics. Part playful, part dark and oh so very, well, Scandinavian. Here's the chorus:

My girl and me we hang around in bars
and we're usually drunk but never too drunk
to fight like cats and dogs all night

After buying the album 'Sitting in the Park', I soon discovered many of the songs were re-recordings of a 1986 album out on Danish indie label Irmgardz. It took some doing, but I eventually found the earlier album and was shocked to hear the originals. This is an old story that comes up many times in our collections, but hearing that indie album up against the antiseptic polish of the newer edition on London Records left me thinking either Gangway had been swayed by all that major-label flash or they left their hearts at the fancy studio door because the '86 version of 'Sitting in the Park' sounded much better to these ears... then and now. See if you agree.

"My Girl and Me" (From 'Sitting in the Park')
"My Girl and Me" (From 'Sitting in the Park Again')

Now I'll leave with you with my favorite song from the original 'Sitting in the Park'. Again, here are some wonderfully bizarre lyrics that have you feeling a pop song like this could have only come from that part of the world. It sounds so uplifting, and yet...

"Once Bitten, Twice Shy"

Last night I had a terrible dream
I dreamt I was present at your funeral
the scent of carnations pleased my mind
the sound from the organ filled me with joy
I was so pleased by your death
I was so happy at your funeral
But seeing you now fills me with remorse
I'm trying so hard to show that I like you
my tap on your shoulder makes me embarrassed
I'm laughing and joking a little too much
you're like a Sunday afternoon
you fill me with sadness, depression and gloom

Monday, February 26, 2018

A Twofer From Our Nottingham Correspondent

Mister Prime returns with reviews from shows last week on back-to-back nights. Those were the days...

A Week of Indie Royalty Old and New
(in the dank East Midlands of Old England)

On Wednesday night this week I went to an in-store at Rough Trade to see Pete Astor promoting his fine new album, 'One For The Ghost', with a signing and a short live set. He was ably accompanied on second guitar by Neil Scott (who was apparently one of the "ever-changing succession" of guitarists for the mighty Felt after Maurice Deebank left -- cheers, Wikipedia) who rounded out the sound nicely, what with the addition of a bit of stamped-foot percussion. And they bought their stools down off the small stage, got the audience to sit on the floor and played without mics to ensure an intimate and convivial atmosphere for the set -- half a dozen songs from '...Ghost' and his last album, 'Spilt Milk', and an encore of a rather marvellous version of the Weather Prophets song 'Like Frankie Lymon'. Excellent stuff.

Mr. Astor is an engaging host ("You'll see that I'm quite old..." were his first words to the frankly mostly less than youthful gathering of the faithful), and there was a certain amount of gentle chiding from Scott about the lack of rehearsal time and the number of pre-gig setlist changes that had been made and some suitably mordant between-song chat. Apparently the title of the song 'Tango Uniform', for example (for me, one of the highlights of the latest album), is a phonetic alphabet acronym for "Tits Up". ("As in, you know, dead..." explains the man himself, helpfully.)

As always, thanks, Mister Prime. I nicked a couple of wonderful YouTube clips of this very show from a Mr. Jim Bethell. Well done to you too, sir. One of the songs is brand-spankin' new and the other will take you back to aforementioned days in the Weather Prophets.

And up next from Mister Prime's impressive back-to-back nights...

And then on Thursday it was off to Leicester for the altogether more lively prospect of Canada's finest young purveyors of indie pop, Alvvays. Molly asked the crowd at one point what Leicester was like and the answer -- possibly misheard, misunderstood or both -- was "basic." "That's like a big insult in the UK, right...?" she asked, cheerfully. Not such a basic crowd though in that it was both significantly more youthful and significantly larger than the previous night's entertainment. Indeed, the O2 Academy at the University was a boisterous and sweaty sellout -- even if we were, in fact, in "Academy 2", round the back, not as it happens my favourite venue (despite the fact that it reminds me of the Riley Smith Hall at Leeds Uni, and thus of Fall gigs in the late '80s and the Afghan Whigs in particularly ferocious form) since it's rather like a school hall, unusually chill and characterless and redolent of suet farts and desultory crowds for midweek Wedding Present gigs, however much blue light and dry ice they try to disguise it with. "Nice room!" said Molly, cheerfully.

And so Alvvays continue their seemingly inevitable rise to greatness, and it's in a setting like this you realise that for all their impeccable jangle-pop pedigree pretty much everyone of this band's songs has a pretty unstoppable groove and killer, sing-along chorus. Alvvays were great, then, as ever -- and my regular afternoon trawl of the Internet for stage times (potential boon for the middle-aged gig goer that it is...) had revealed the added bonus that Spinning Coin were supporting! I made the effort to get there early for a change and was treated to a short but sprightly set-- the two front men swapping vocals and lead lines to great effect and making pretty determined inroads into warming up an initially skeptical crowd.

-- Mister Prime

No such luck finding clips from this particular show. We will have to make due with this video of my favorite song from the latest album. Thanks again, Mister Prime.