Wednesday, August 23, 2017

'Strange Fruit' at the Produce Stand

It has been an interesting couple of days. Here in the Pacific Northwest, eclipse fever had become an epidemic. Basically, everyone in the Puget Sound area headed south to catch the eclipse in totality. Something like one million visitors descended on the Oregon Coast alone. Mrs. LTL really wanted to go. I didn't want to go at all. We compromised with a quick trip east and a bit south through Snoqualmie Pass and into central Washington. We left on Sunday morning and were rafting down the Yakima River by lunchtime. Sure beat all of that traffic going down I-5. The family, including my mother visiting from Illinois, went ahead and stayed overnight on the east side of the Cascade Mountains.

Early the next morning, we headed a bit further south in search of a nice spot to see the eclipse. We ended up at Manastash Ridge, a mountain with a beautiful viewpoint of the valley at about 2,700 feet. We didn't get a total solar eclipse where we were, but the sun was 95 percent covered and well worth the trip. You'll have to take my word for it. My camera didn't care for the eclipse.

By now you might be asking, what does this have to do with music? I'm getting to that. On the way home, after lunch at a roadside diner worth the trip alone, I was told to pull over at a produce stand that can only be described as in the middle of nowhere. The town was called Thorp, population 240, and Thorp's commerce boiled down to the structure pictured below and a gas station next door. As Mom and Mrs. LTL shopped away, I more or less stood in the corner, hands in pockets, staring at my shoes. After about 15 minutes, I noticed some stairs to a second floor that looked like might be full of antiques. I decided to head up. Among the A&W root-beer mugs, vintage dishes, clothes and toys, I did see a stack of old albums, but I didn't even go straight for them. I wasn't in the mood to look through worn copies of REO Speedwagon and Leo Sayer. From upstairs, I could see my party was about to wrap things up down there. I went to the albums for a quick peek. Wow, this was not your usual '70s schlock.

Gasps turned into giddy laughter as I spotted one tremendous record after another: The Wedding Present on Peel, a Lush EP from 1989, the only SST-era fIREHOSE album I didn't have on vinyl, singles by Kevin Rowland, Propaganda and the Teardrop Explodes. How could this be? How could I get back those 15 wasted minutes downstairs? Before I could get through the rack, it was time to go. Just as well. I didn't have a lot of cash in my pocket anyway. As I descended the stairs in triumph, my mind was racing. Whose records were these? How did an album on Peel's Strange Fruit label get to a fruit stand in the sticks? The person in front of me in line was buying zucchini. Now I'm putting a ZTT 7" on the counter. A surreal moment, to be sure. Great albums don't grow on trees, but maybe they do in Thorp, Washington.

Mom is in the music room for another week. So, no turntable access, but I do have that Peel Session from the Wedding Present on the deluxe edition of 'Tommy' as well. Let's give that a listen. Recorded Feb. 11, 1986 and broadcast 15 days later, this was the first of nine sessions Gedge did for John Peel's show. Listeners would learn early the band knew how to pick a cover. Yep, that's Orange Juice's "Felicity."

The Wedding Present - "Felicity" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "What Becomes Of The Broken-Hearted?" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "You Should Always Keep In Touch With Your Friends" (Peel Session)
The Wedding Present - "This Boy Can Wait" (Peel Session)


Charity Chic said...

* ignores eclipse and heads straight for the records*
An unexpected haul is always the best kind Brian
I had a similar experience in Stranraer coming away with an impressive wedge of Americana
* looks up Thorp on the map *

drew said...

Sounds like an excellent trip all round. When watching all the media about the eclipse, I wondered if you had watched it strangely enough. US roadside diners have always held an attraction for me ever since I was a teenager and saw Diner for the first time. If only I could make myself get n a plane for a journey over two hours!

The Swede said...

I barely know where to begin. For starters - Snoqualmie Pass, Yakima River, Cascade Mountains, Manastash Ridge, all sound like mythical places plucked from a great American novel - my imagination is reeling. What a wonderful part of the world you live in. Secondly, the photos - fantastic, just fantastic. Thirdly, the whole story - the eclipse, the diner, the small town store selling speciality foods, wine and...peaches? Then of course there's the denouement, the gold at the end of the rainbow, your fabulous treasure trove of vinyl.
A masterful post Brian.

TheRobster said...

I'm trying to imagine the look on your face as those lovely items revealed themselves to you. But I don't think I can get close. What a find. Next thing we know, we'll get Brian's Road Trip in which our hero scours the mystical hidden stores of tiny American towns no one outside of them knew existed...

C said...

As TS says... delightful in every respect!
I think you should take up The Robster's suggestion of 'Brian's Road Trip' - in fact it would make a great film, would it not? (with appropriate soundtrack of course).

Brian said...

CC, I couldn't help but think of you and your trips to the charity shops. Hope you still get exciting moments like this from time to time.

Drew, I wanted to see the total solar eclipse, but I didn't think it would be worth all of the traffic hassles to go to Oregon. I should have done a part two to this post where I explained how Mrs. LTL made more than $200 profit selling eclipse glasses in one day. This area was bonkers for a while there. It's a very long trip from Glasgow to Seattle, I can tell you, but you will always have a place to stay if you ever think you could do it. We'll go to Twin Pines for some great diner fare.

Swede, I have lived here for seven years, and I still can't get over the beauty this part of the country holds. Sure beats the flat cornfields of Illinois where I grew up. As for the photos, the ones from the rafting trip were great. We have rafted that stretch of river before, but the water was much higher than usual and a bit treacherous. Have to admit I was nervous. Hated not getting a good eclipse shot though. You were supposed to put the lens behind your solar glasses, but it didn't work for me at all.

Robster, We raft and hike in that part of the state from time to time. There will be future stops for vinyl in Thorp, but was it just a strange fluke? I have to think that's the case, but I didn't get through the entire rack in the roughly five minutes I scoured. The turnover must be slow. Perhaps there will still be some gems next time. At any rate, an experience I won't soon forget. Must be a cool farmer in those parts.

C, There have been some pretty interesting trips since we moved to this part of the country. Perhaps you two are on to something. Thanks for the kind words. I enjoyed your recent finds that you shared with us too.

George said...

Looks like we're all jealous that you founds such a great little find in the middle of nowhere. Going back next week???????

Brian said...

Not next week, George, but I will be back for sure. Family is looking at a new hike in those parts.

JC said...

Good things happen to good people....I'm sure all those treasures will still be waiting for you on your eventual return to Thorp.