They’re Back! Jackpot and Exiled Records on Hawthorne Open

IMG_4813I can’t tell you how many times in the last two months I have driven or walked by Exiled Records (4628 SE Hawthorne Blvd.) and Jackpot Records (3574 SE Hawthorne Blvd), two boutique record shops here in Portland, and sighed. The curse of COVID-19 has kept a favorite Sunday pastime, to have a bit of coffee, go for a stroll, and then go thumb the bins at the shops. I know you have been missing it too. Wells here’s back to the new normal.

I have had concerns, like many in Portland, and the world for that matter, if this might be the demise of the independent record shops. COVID-19 lockdowns have shuttered many a business. Despite the last three years of vinyl and independent record shops making a comeback, many more have been crushed by the weight of high rents and a large inventory of, let’s face it, passion merchandise. With restrictions on only necessary stores being open, those with services usually for food, all other small shops had to shut down and lay off workers.

Most record shops turned to online sales, which many of them do on a regular basis with Discogs and eBay back up sales, as their main source of income. Many of the local shops that were larger, such as Millenium Music, started doing curbside pickup with phone sales. Well, at least some of them survived. I saw the neon open signs for Exiled last week, but I guess I was in a stupor, denial. Naw, that can’t be true? Then today I walked up to Jackpot and the door was open, there were rules for shopping boards. I had my mask and whipped out my nitrile gloves. I totally got my mind off of Portland in lockdown curfew days.

Thank you for managing to stay alive guys. My Sundays are getting back to normal.

And Record Store Day lists revised comes out later today. https://recordstoreday.com/Home

The UK Release List

Exiled on Facebook

(503) 232-0751

Jackpot on Facebook

(503) 239-7561

 

 

Vinyl Revival Interview With Author Graham Jones

vinyl revivalTo start off my series of social media sites and blogs that I follow and highly recommend, I asked a few contacts on Twitter to tell me about their adventures in music and record store worship over the years. I felt that during this time of lockin music blaring and worship we could all use even more entertainment to help us get through. Please check out their films, blogs, and all other goodies listed.

My first kind victim is Graham Jones, author of The Vinyl Revival And The Shops That Made it Happen, a documentary based on the book The Vinyl Revival. He’s created two other fun books, The Last Shop Standing and Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops. He has a great presence on Twitter, where he shares some of his tales, and a podcast. Actually, he’s got a lot going on.

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So how did the “I gotta blog/write book about record shops!” come about? 

Back in 2009, I had been working as a record company sales rep for 25 years and so many of the shops I was visiting were closing. Not only were they losing their business but some of their homes. It was a very depressing time for record shops. In the UK 540 had closed in just 4 years. Nobody seemed to be noticing the record shops vanishing from our High Street, so I decided to do something about it and write a book. My Auntie who was in her 80’s told me when she was a child the High Street had coin shops, stamp shops, and candlestick makers yet nobody talks about them anymore. I wanted to document the stories of record shops before they all closed. I toured the UK and interviewed 50 record shops who I thought would be amongst the ‘Last Shops Standing’.

How did you first get the push that writing and blogging just weren’t enough, it had to be a documentary? 

Much to my surprise, the book did well, it seemed to strike a chord with music fans. It also brought an amazingly lot of publicity for record shops. Many had features in their local paper, many did radio and TV interviews thanks to the book. I was approached by a film company to turn the book in to a film which again I knew would bring lots of publicity for the shops. The film company struggled to get the film financed so we ended up going down the crowdfunding route. The money was raised by music fans. We were grateful to the artist Richard Hawley who organized a fundraising evening for the film. Along with a soundman, a cameraman, the producer Pip Piper and myself piled into a car and drove around the UK interviewing musicians in their favourite record shops. The film became the Official Film of Record Store Day 2012 and was screened in over 90 venues across the world on the day.Strange Requests and Comic Tales From Record Shops

What are some future projects you may be developing?

My third book ‘The Vinyl Revival and the Shops That Made it Happen’ was also turned in to a film. It features Nick Mason of Pink Floyd and Phil Selway of Radiohead and updates the situation. It had a cinema release at the end of 2019 and came out on DVD last month. Bad timing as all the shops were shut. It is also available on Vimeo.

I have just started a Podcast telling funny stories from the crazy world of record retailing. You can listen on Spotify https://open.spotify.com/show/5k0WMLkk9sjtxs5N8hR54l

What has been your greatest challenge in keeping your books/blog/FB/Zine/Twitter full of great content?

It is not difficult; the world of record shops is ever-changing. Being known as the man who has visited more record shops than any other human plus the three books and two films have made me a magnet for record shop tales. Most days I will get an email from a record shop somewhere on the globe with a funny tale of what has happened in their shop.

Along with meeting some great record shop owners and, have you met any of your music heroes as a result of your publishing? 

Interviewing Paul Weller, Norman Cook, Richard Hawley and most of all Johnnie Marr was a thrill. Johnnie Marr spent ages with us and was full of very funny anecdotes. It is always lovely when somebody you admired turns out to be even nicer than you could have hoped. I also spent an enjoyable weekend in the company of Andy McClusky of the band OMD in Oslo. We were both talking at a music festival and we were both from the same area of the UK. Andy was a big record shop fan, so we had a lot in common.

Any great followers you were astounded checked you out? Bought your Book? Wanted to be in your Doco? 

We were coming to the end of filming “Last Shop Standing” when we received a message that Paul Weller had asked if he could contribute. We were thrilled to have him. Record shops always tell me when a famous musician has bought the book and various people in the music industry mention it too. I have had messages that the likes of Elton John, Roger Taylor of Queen, Colin Blunstone of the Zombies had copies. Biggest thrill was meeting Johnnie Marr and his first words were ‘Loved the book’. I could have retired then.

Anything you can tell us about your daily routine to stay sane in our current global lockdown? How have your music habits been affected?

I am furloughed from my job as it involves traveling around the country selling to record shops. As they are all closed, I have no work. It had given me the chance to listen to lots of records I have not heard in ages. I also started the podcast and have been writing a few things on my record shop blog.

https://grahamjonesvinylrevival.blogspot.com/

What blogs/Zines/Books/Documentaries are you obsessed with right now?

I have been reading a lot of late. Just finished biographies of Robert Johnson, The Go – Between and my favourite was Viv Albertine of The Slits.

Where can people discover your media or publications?

I hate to say it but unless you are in the UK were my books and DVDs are available in record and book shops, Amazon is your best bet. All the books are available on Kindle.

 https://www.facebook.com/vinylrevival1

https://www.thevinylrevivalfilm.com/

Check out on Twitter @revival_vinyl

Message for the world at large right now?

Keep calm and carry on listening to records. Music is here to make the bad times better and the good times even better.

The Writer as a Consumer

The first record bought?

‘Ball Park Incident’, a single by the band Wizzard. First LP Sparks – Kymono  in my House

How did you listen to new music when you were young?

My early memories of my Dad who was a big Beatles fan and used to play them on his record player. Before I bought my own I utilised his. On the radio I listened to DJ’S John Peel and Johnnie Walker who introduced me to new bands. I still get excited today when I hear something new that is brilliant

First gig you went to. Who were you with and what did you wear?

I went with some schoolmates to see the now-disgraced Gary Glitter at Liverpool Empire. These were pre-punk days so I am sure I would have been wearing jeans

Favorite bands or artists in your youth?

Mott the Hoople – though I do remember going in to a record shop with my Mum and her saying ‘He wants a Dr Hoople poster”.

After that, Queen – first time I watched them it cost me 75p

The Beatles

David Bowie

Then punk came along

Buzzcocks

Joy Division – first watched them supporting The Buzzcocks. So many bands I enjoyed during then.

The Stranglers

The Clash

The Smiths

Julian Cope

The Waterboys

The Saw Doctors

Of Monsters and Men

First Aid Kit

What is your favorite new artist/s?

Jade Bird – Best female singer-songwriter I have ever seen. Dynamic live and superb lyrics. The first album came in the charts at number 10. I would expect her to make a big breakthrough with the next.

What Twitter or other social media accounts are you hooked on lately?

#loverecordshops – promoting record shops and helping organise 20 June as a day full of exclusive vinyl releases.

Favorite music venues?

Barrowlands Glasgow were I watched the Saw Doctors and Waterboys play together on New Year’s Eve. The last number featured a pipe band and as I left the venue fireworks lit up the sky – magical.

Eric’s in Liverpool where I watched so many punk bands.

The Vinyl Revival Film

The Vinyl Revival from Blue Hippo Media on Vimeo.

Watch on Vimeo

DVD Out of Print Documentary The Last Shop Standing

Books:The Vinyl Revival And The Shops That Made it Happen, The Last Shop Standing, Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops

Vinyl Revival Podcast on Soundcloud

Vinal Revival on Facebook

39 Years of Faith in The Cure and RSD2020

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I remember the first time I heard the music of the new Cure record, Faith, on the college radio station. It was another night of me staying up late to catch the beginning of a student-run set and getting new TDK 90 and longer cassette tapes ready. It was damned difficult for a 16-year-old to find the great imports coming out of the UK. And if you did, it wasn’t the one you had been looking for. Or because it was so costly, as, in a Japanese Kimono sleeve, you wanted to make damn sure you liked as much on the album as possible before you lay down that kind of cash. So most of my early favs were of course taken off the radio. Lucky for me, some of the kids spinning would play the whole record and tell you the tracks off each side so you could edit. It was a way to survive until you could get a clean factory copy. When I heard “Primary” for the first time, it was all I could do to not start dancing on the bed. Frowned upon at 1 am in the morning. Still, it would take a few years before I got a good copy of Faith on CD.

So it was when Faith was released by The Cure on 14 April 1981. Many of us “alternative” kids had another step into the new genre of Gothic music that was evolving out of Post-Punk.  It was a great follow up to their 1980 release 17 Seconds and tour. It was filled with more moody chords and lyrics in the same vein, but as discordant as the mood of the band. The recording took place at Morgan Studios in September of 1980, without Matthieu Hartley, who left under that creative differences mist.  The recording started at the studios, but the remaining members of The Cure, Smith, Gallup, and Tolhurst, with Former Member Porl Thompson back for cover design, would try several studios after not getting the sound right, including Abbey Road. It was a turbulent time of transition for the band. Did you know that there was a soundtrack to a short film involved? “Carnage Visors” only made it to an extended cassette version and would finally turn up on a 2005 reissue with the single only “Charlotte Sometimes”.

So this record in its 39th year this week will probably get a 40th-anniversary reboot. But I’m happy to have the original track lineup on 180 vinyl. If you’re feeling a little dystopic in these trying times try a little Faith for some classic The Cure dirge. It will make you melt and dance at the same time. Perfect for your home COVID dance club.

Will COVID-19 kill the Independent Record Shops?

Not if we can help it. Americans get their stimulus checks rolled out this week. We know it’s hard, as many are laughing at how little it will cover to pay rent and bills. But if you can spare a few dollars, try to find a local record shop that is doing curbside. Here in Portland, it’s Music Millenium and a few other smaller shops. Others have had to close up. Call up with your list of wants, help keep someone employed in this insanity.

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Record Store Day 2020 Update

You’ve probably heard by now that RSD has been moved to June 20, 2020, due to the COVID-19 shut-downs around the world. While it looks like this terrible virus and the country may be shut down through mid- June, keep an eye out on their website. Many artists have decided to go ahead and sell the RSD releases via their own sites. Here’s to a socially distanced line, that will go for blocks. As if anything else couldn’t get more muddled this year.

Record Store Day New Date

How Record Stores are Getting Vinyl To You During the Pandemic

‘A grinding halt’: Record stores struggle to stay afloat amid coronavirus crisis

Support your vinyl shops! Check and see if they are taking phone orders and either doing curbside or shipping. Keep small businesses alive!

Crossroads Records, Portland

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Some CD and cassette action for fans

Crossroads Records 8112 SE Foster Rd, Portland, OR 97206 (503) 232-1767

Ratings:  Very Good All Genres, Jazz, Alternative, Folk, heavy on Rock. WARNING: There are 50 vendors selling out of this store. Good choices, but a lot of them.

Crossroads Records is one of the better vinyl shops in Portland. When other stores send you there to look, it means that’s where some of the employees may go to shop. Mainly a lot of used selections and some good rare finds. I say rare as in 1960s to present. Many music dealers sell out of this shop,(50 +), so they are always combing the highways and byways looking for great music deals. Check often. Here’s the rub: There are 50 different vendors, and 50 different styles of selling.

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Rock heavy store, also check the uppers for collectables.

Pros

Singles are fairly organized, but as you walk in you will notice the 45 heap as well. This means another mans trash is your treasure. The other 45s are by genre, but not always listed by bands. You will need to dig through quite a few crates and boxes. 12 inch singles and EPs are with the LPs, or for some vendors in their own bin. There are a lot of Indie label singles available, some new. However, that is just one vendor’s 45s. Check all sections and look below. Below can be very disorganized. But if you love a dig, you can for hours and may find some gems that are often overlooked.

CDs and Cassettes: Yes, are plentiful and fairly well organized.

Hit up the JUST IN bins first of course, by vendor. Then check the genre for your band in the main isles. You may want to check on Discogs while you shop, the band you like may have been in several genres (rock/folk) over it’s lifespan and if you don’t find it in one area, it may actually be in another.

>>>>>How To Survive Crossroads Records

Since you have a massive selection, you need to think on the level that yes, it’s a collaborative. It’s a bit more organized than the huge swap meets, or 50 small record shops under one roof. That said, here’s the store’s break down and how you can plan to work that to your advantage:

  1. There are many rows and a vendor can be one whole row or more. So that means each vendor has their selection organized the way they want it. This means you must adapt per vendor. Each vendor has their box style, for example row of bins the same, same labeling, one vendor. Some are good about putting a name at the front, some it’s by box and color. Some are very good at labeling for alpha or band names, some label sparsely. And some have their idea of where a artist may need to be, that isn’t what you think should classify that artist or band. Once you like a vendor or the way they do their small store within a store, you know where to go for future visits.
  2. Start from the front of the store or the back and work it, row by row. Plan your first visit to be mostly figuring the bins out by vendor. Also, if you know you are mostly a Jazz fan, you can comb all rows and boxes underneath labeled Jazz. You obviously know what you want. The same for Alternative/Indie. Pretty much all vendors have Rock.
  3. Strongly advise you look for the same artist/band in all vendors. Example: I found 3 different copies of U2’s October in various states. The best copy or collector’s copy really worth having will be behind the counter, so if you are really that into the best, ask. But if you want playable but with best no-scratch surface, you will need to go through all copies and go from there. Also, look above as best copies for each vendor are sometimes there (cover).
  4. Bring a microfibre cloth and solution. They don’t supply you with cleaner to try the records out.
  5. Keep in mind you may pay more than a brand new 180 vinyl if the copy in hand is first release, as you would expect. But if you are on a budget and patient, you can find a copy that has been well kept, or even one that was a recent rerelease and someone has sold back.
  6. Ask. If you know you have certain recordings you must have, or prefer to just be really focused, ask the counter people which vendors tend to have X. If they don’t have you specifics, they can tell you who may carry it at another shop.
  7. If you are into really old collectors records, 1920-1950 vintage, there are a few vendors that have some, but the stock may not be out. They may have their better collections as an appointment only situation, or know someone else that collects like they do. Hopefully this is a good networking connection for you.
  8. Take a friend with you. You like to geek on the records anyway, so have a friend come along. They know you and if they bump into something you may like, they will let you know. Or you find records they like. It’s a classic record geek time well spent with a friend.

Cons

Fairly decent listening table, but it’s a one table store and no place to sit. You will have to wait your turn. However, the equipment is in better shape than in some record shops, at least there isn’t packing tape all over the tone arm head holding it on (as of this review).

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Many different vendors, so check all the genre sections.

Respect The Vinyl and Respect the Customer

imagesLike many of you, I have to resort to buying vinyl online at times. Oh, the horrors. Yes, please cringe. Why? Well, I no longer live in San Francisco where I had both SF and Berkeley to cruise record shops before giving up. And while many records have been re-released on the lovely new 180 weight, I really miss some of the collectibles I once had that got stolen, misappropriated, damaged, or had to be sold out of desperation due to housing crisis (GRRRRRR). I had UK issued and some Japanese issued records, and damn it I miss them.

Slowly over the last year I have had to keep watch on services like Discogs and occasionally eBay. Cringe again. You try very hard to read all the reviews on a seller, see if other people have had a good experience. You are desperate. There is a rating service, M/M+ (Mint) for perfect, nearly perfect. You are hoping that the people selling the items are looking at the scales and description and are at the very least honest. But this is highly subjective as one person may have completely different standards than you do. A record shop may have thousands of records, buys and doesn’t clean them before restocking, or may be really good about it and looks very carefully at everything they sell. You hope that people will disclose a slight tear in a sleeve.

Sellers, If You Want a Good Reputation and to Sell More…

If you haven’t figured this out yet, many collectors are buying for that cover just as much as the hopefully the well cared for vinyl. Of course, there can be many versions of the released single, and someone may want them all. But we like them as clean as possible, given that some are 30 plus years old. And if it’s damaged, or scuffed with wear, it should be disclosed. If the label on the record is damaged, labeled wrong, that should be disclosed. Yes, some of these are collectables, sometimes bad batches get out and they can become quite famous and some people collect them, I read something about a run of Factory label’s Joy Division issued records that some people collect, where the black and white side labels are switched. While this is a flaw, depending on the band, it may actually become a collectable. But all of this should be disclosed.

You should also package the records in a box designed for shipping records. Someone is paying for Mint or as near perfect as new, having it arrive dinged up and shredded is a bad thing. We can type, we can make complaints. It can get ugly. And we will tell other people who also collect.

Then There is Really Messing Up The Order

My case in point this week. Three days back I received a record, very late, from the UK. The postal employee looked at me and said, “I hope that your record is not damaged. I haven’t seen that poor of packaging with a record in a long time.” My wame began to get that very bad, sinking feeling. It was a favorite 12 inch single from the eighties. I had been patient about finding a good one, in Near Mint Condition. I got the poorly packaged thing home. I found my hands were shaking a bit. I opened it. What looked like what had been Near Mint Condition cover even, had had all corners dinged very badly. There was a gouge on the back of the glossy cover. And then I realized it was the band I liked, but the wrong 12 inch single. Not that I didn’t want to have this one, and had hoped to eventually get this one as well. But it was the wrong 12 inch single, and the one that arrived had been damaged. I then looked at it and noticed that the label on the one side was creased at the plant. Oh, and the label hadn’t been centered. The record was drilled right, but not the label.

Arghhhhh!!! I went to Discogs and looked up the vendor. I looked on their web store and sure enough, the record that had just arrived was still listed on their store. The one I had purchased was not. There was no disclosure about the creased label, which is sad because the label itself is part of the spark of this particular single. Sadly it plays well. But there is no mention of any of that on their site. And of course, more to the point, I didn’t get the one I had ordered.

The Responsibilities of Complaining

Discogs and eBay have their buyer beware warnings and complaints systems. You have to try to contact the seller over a series of days to give them a chance to fix the problem. Okay, it’s several days later, still no response. There is a grinding of teeth. I don’t like being angry and a consumer freak over this, and I too have made some mistakes. But there needs to be some way to remedy this. I also cringe at how many other unsuspecting people are purchasing at this very moment.

I also feel very bad about the otherwise unfortunate, miss-formed thing that did show up. Like I have to keep it now as an adopted 12 inch single that came from the island of misfit records or something. A Curiosity.

For All Those Careful Conservators and Sellers

If you are a kindly one, who loves your own vinyl collection and likes to share with others and send off beautiful gems to the happy collectors around the globe, we salute you. However, there are always mishaps in shipping, no matter how careful you are. Please ship the way you would like someone to ship to you:

  1. Separate the inner sleeve and record from the outer jacket and pad or repackage separately.
  2. You can put the inner sleeve with all the cool artwork and lyrics separate and the record in the sleeve, with a generic paper or plastic liner. The nice inner picture and lyric sheet one doesn’t get slit in transit.
  3. Ship in a box made for shipping records. They make them. Yes they cost money, but you can figure that into your cost build. And depending on what country you are from, you may even get these boxes through your post service. Think of it as insurance policy so that you don’t have to refund if record gets shattered in transit.

We happy consumers like to give squishy, good reviews if you make us squee with delight. We will give fabulous review credo, tell you your shipping style rocked, what worked with the shipping, and friend or favorite you in the online store we buy from. This means you get a repeat customer. If you get those, you get good, constant cash flow as we also tell other people. It should all make sense.

Remember, please do not forget to disclose even the slightest imperfections. You may rely on the ratings system, but we really want to know what we are getting. Please don’t ask us to look at the Discogs or eBay generic rating. That is not really a good picture.

Where to Go From Here?

So now I look at the sad, now more damaged 12 inch of one of my favorite songs and just sigh. I will have to actually buy a copy of this hopefully not damaged from some other vendor after spending an hour combing all their reviews. Sigh. It looks like really I will have to buy two from another vendor at this point, because the one I was to have gotten in the first place still hasn’t shown up. Misfortunes of a Lapsed Vinyl Goddess.

Update: I finally did hear from the vendor after I lodged an official complaint. They had been away. Is there not a system in Discogs where you can alert customers that you are closed for a time? I tried to get them to cancel and refund. No response.

2nd Avenue Records PDX

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2nd Avenue Records 400SW 2nd Ave, Portland OR 97204 503-222-3783 11-8 pm

Ratings: Good, mostly new vinyl

This grand dame of record stores is starting to show it’s age, but still has great things to offer to Portlands vinyl crowd. Heavy on the rerelease vinyl, you will not find a lot of retro or used records here, unless you are looking in the 45s. The store carries rock, Reggae, the Country and International sections do have some used to choose from, especially the country.

What this shop is known for, memorabilia and tee shirts, lots of band shirts and boxes of badges from bands. These are all reproduction. Ask for anything rare or collectable. Very heavy on the new vinyl, multiples.

Cassette fiends, you will have to dig a bit. They have boxes of them.

What’s nice is they actually have taken the time to sort out and have band labels and dividers for singles. Much of the singles are reissues, but there are a few used and some rare. However, if you are looking for that fun find in used, you had better try one of the other shops in town.

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Clinton Street Record and Stereo PDX

Clinton Street Record and Stereo 2510 SE Clinton St Portland, OR 97202 (503) 235-5323

Rating: Okay

This wee store is a slim sliver of a place, with one third dedicated to used stereos and the rest a huge collection of vinyl and cassettes. Problem is, the signage and organizing of the bins is very hap hazard and not a lot of real gold in them hills for records. Now it’s true with all shops that depending on who got there before you, things can be wiped out. This place is a bit of a jumble. So you need to make it one of your shops you hit on your once a week troll.

Now there are those of you that love to just dig, and will search for hours. Than this is your place. Some of us don’t mind digging, we just like a little better clue which direction we are going in when we do it. Not such a good place for that. So if you don’t have patience for disorganized, don’t frustrate yourself.

Basics: Hip-Hop, some international, Jazz, Gospel. Very little punk or new wave. Rock was okay, heavy 70s early.

Listening Turntables at front, two set up with stools. These are in good shape as are the headphones.

Music Millennium Records, Laurelhurst

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MUSIC MILLENNIUM 3158 E Burnside Portland, OR 97214 Voice 503/231-8926
Ratings: Okay
Music: Rock through Shock, but fairly subdued
This building is quite fun and reflective of the eclectic PNW architecture of Portland. I entered with great hopes for a fun bin dive. On entering I was hit with massive bins of CDs, always bit discouraging. However, following the fun, multi levels of the location and roaming through rooms, I found the twists of the vinyl selections fun. Very small rooms and sadly, more new vinyl than old. Which isn’t bad, as new vinyl is heavier and pressed nicely. However, having choices between new and old is preferred. But it’s got way better lighting than some of the mega vinyl shops in town.
Pricey. Many of the new vinyls, while fun rereleased pressings, were very steep in price. It does depend on the label, and yes since vinyl is not massively produced as it once was. I get the quality versus quantity and limited runs, like fine Brews call for dues. I was shocked by some of what I saw. $50.00 plus for some titles at a single record, black vinyl. I would expect colored to start at that price, and even some picture discs. Wait, is it the neighborhood? It is in the Laurelhurst area. I managed to find two records in the $24.99 range which is not too much more than I paid for them back in the 1980s. However for the pricing, I would expect to find more original pressings on original labels in good condition. But anything used is always going to vary.
Used. Bit ratty in the bins. There are some sections where by letter they are broken down into sizable chunks. This is really helpful. Of course this always depends on when collections come in and if there has been a sale.
Large section on movie soundtracks and large international selection.
If you like multi levels and twisty looking, it’s got character for that. Too many CDs for my tastes.

The Waterboys, a Light that Still Reaches

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This Amazing Light

I’m barreling up to San Francisco with some concert going friends. I wouldn’t say they were close friends, but a group of kids that managed to get to rock and punk shows in the SF Bay Area together. We were packed in the car, too many of us. They were talking about getting there by the time U2 gets on. It’s December 1984, and U2 is making it big. It was not assigned seating for the tickets we could get and that point it didn’t matter. I start talking about wanting to make it before the opening act starts. The others commented, “Who cares about the warm up band?” I did, it wasn’t  just any warm up band. It was a band I had been waiting for, a Scottish and Irish band called The Waterboys. The show was U2 at the San Francisco Civic Auditorium. Always a bad band venue, standing room only affair, and getting in and through the doors was usually akin to a cattle chute. I was determined to find somewhere I could dance and sing along, so we muscled in.

This was California. We weren’t the East Coast, where the record stores got the imports first. If a band wasn’t big enough yet or had not signed with a big American label, it was hell to find the vinyl. Growing up on the Left Coast of the US, you would have a rough time getting decent music choices for the fresh new music coming out of the UK. It was like fashion, it took a while to filter in and bands were up against the great American Music Machine. The new music was taking a while to hit our coast.

Music was changing again, and I was too. I was still just a kid, however I was finding I really wanted more out of music than what was being offered on AM Radio and FM commercial Alternative Rock. I knew there had to be more musicians and acts that were just not breaking the American music bubble. So I spent late nights listening to college radio stations where you could hear world music. I made cassettes of shows featuring British and Irish bands, because finding vinyl imports for the upcoming Irish and Scots bands was extremely difficult, unless you had a connection at one of the local record shops. I would make lists of song titles and album names from the DJ, and listen to someone who really liked to explore the new music and took our phone calls. Music magazines were often a great resource, but coming from the UK they were hard to find, and usually very out of date. Not that that mattered, because by the time the bands toured, it would be relevant and fresh. Strange how we lived without the Internet for so long.

One of the DJs would play Celtic Trad as well as the rock and pop coming from these countries. This was my first exposure to U2, The Alarm, The Cult, and many other bands. I heard The Waterboys one night after reviewing the tapes that I would set up and leave recording as the shows were usually on in the wee hours. The album was called A Pagan Place, and the few songs played off of the album had me hooked. Scott’s voice was a unique pitch, the lyrics really spoke, and the sound was very different. I then began the hunt for their elusive LP. It proved to be a futile endeavor and I was not to find the album until after the show. However, in the process, I did find out about U2 touring and as luck would have it, they would have The Waterboys as their opening act.

My concert friends and I made it in the venue about 15 minutes before The Waterboys came on. It was packed and insane, and I could not get a great view, despite the fact that the lead singer and songwriter, Mike Scott, was fairly tall. I finally found a place to stand where I could make a space to just listen. My friends were complaining, and I said, “Just give it a chance.” So I kept them in sight and knew where the car was parked if we parted ways. I heard that unique sound that is the Waterboys and what was called The Big Music. There was a song titled, “The Big Music”, but the thrust of the sound was what was big, that you could really feel it. Songs came like “The Earth Only Endures and started bringing out this amazing feeling, a light was going on in and around me. It didn’t matter how dark the auditorium was, there was a light that wasn’t the stage lighting. It was in Scott’s voice and lyrics, the amazing fiddle, and everything else being felt by the sound the band created. The lyrics were fantastic, real feeling stories about the mystical and the amazing landscapes of people and places. I was elated. I doubt my friends got it, they were too U2 centric. I didn’t care. It would be a few months before I could finally get the album and I wore out the tapes I had made by that time.

Life takes you along and while I have listened to the many incarnations of The Waterboys over the over 30 years they have been performing, I started really listening to them again over the last two years as part of one of the life re-evaluations I have had. When you look back on a section of years and how your life is and what you want it to be. Your youth and how you have changed. What made you what you are. That was what music did for this shy teen that is still inside me. It was the music that helped me to grow as I became an adult, if in body only. For really we are still all children on magical music journeys.  And somewhere, there has to be that light, that big connection, that Big Music feeling. 

Adventures of a Waterboy waterboys

Mike Scott has written an exceptional memoir about life as a Waterboy.  I grabbed the second edition called Adventures of a Waterboy: Remastered. After reading the first chapter, I was taken on a rollicking Rock journey. I had to limit my reading to two chapters a night, I just devoured the thing. The detail and feel of each chapter’s theme was consuming. Scott really opens up as a musician and shows us amazing snapshots of the history of the punk and post punk years in the late seventies and early eighties in the UK. He gives us great details about the music that influenced him and his peers. What the music scene was like with someone sailing through it and somehow surviving it. The recording labels, the music industry itself, and the creativity and drive of the music in his head and how to make sure the message got out, with integrity, in a fight against the controls of the music labels and Faustian commercialism that followed. Then of course there were the people who managed, or tried to control him and the band, and how the hero fought that battle. His writing makes you feel like you were right there with him in the room and had met every musician he had met and worked with. The tales are strongly written and absorbing. I recommend it for a great biography read.

Vinyl Hop

Twenty minutes after finishing this article, I walked into a local vinyl shop and found a copy of A Pagan Place. That elusive album that took so long to find the first time in 1984. Sadly it’s not the original copy of the album on if I remember right was Island or Ensign, and would have been worth quite a bit more if it was. But I have it on vinyl again, that’s what matters.

You can catch up with The Waterboys on their website and Twitter. If you are traveling to Europe this summer, they are playing several dates. You can find their tour information here:

Website The Waterboys

Facebook

Mike Scott Twitter @MickPuck

 

Achtung! The Turntable as Sibling

 

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This ELAC Benjamin Miracord turntable used to be my Dad’s. It’s ancient, it’s German. And the memories it brought back were really bizarre. Dad had the thing until the 90s. It was the record player I had to learn to play my Beatle I bought at age 8 on, and I had to be supervised. Well, actually, I had my old and busted turntable he rebuilt for me, came from Sears. You know the kind. The lessons on how to treat and handle turntables and records were taught on the important one. But I didn’t have the fabulous speakers he did. So I used to sneak out and play them occasionally when they were out.

My brother had a massive collection of 60s through late 70s rock. Yeah, there were three turntables in the house. He wanted to teach me about music history. But there were rules about that collection. He had some really rare stuff. There was the lecture about why you had doubles. One was the super clean, no scratches one for recording your mix tapes with. One was the everyday playing one you fought to keep dust off. Then there were the rare collectables. I wasn’t allowed to touch the collection. He would set up the record and let me listen. Then eventually he realized I would be too tempted and set up a section of ones I was allowed to handle and play, under supervision. This is also the time before brother left, when tensions were getting bad, that father son time of the late teens. We won’t go into the rest. I think brother thought he might get the BM some day. But Dad never let go of anything.

Cut to the mid 90s. I had hooked up with a boyfriend and started a long partnership that is still going on. We lived in San Francisco and hung out with the extreme misfit crowd of aging punk rockers and goth fiends, the whole piercing and Nomad culture of the American Left Coast was in full swing. It was time to do the traditional, yeah, meet the boyfriend ritual. The heavily tattooed, LA Punk and Flesh Hook Suspension aficionado, body piercing studio owner, Vaughn. You know how that went over. A few years later when Dad realized that this man was in my life and no it wasn’t a phase, he did a really bizarre thing. He offered the sacred Benjamin Miracord turntable to him. We were both kinda shocked. I think it was some way of him surrendering, realizing that I was with this person and he took care of me.

We have lived with the turntable ever since. Sadly last year it died, or so Vaughn said. Hell, it’s a 1965 model. A short time after that, Vaughn decided to start selling off his massive vinyl collection. It was as really weird thing. I tried to talk to him about it. You see, as most of you know, a collection you have had since age 10 or so, is like your child. I have lost two of my collections due to financial hardship and not having places to live where I could really keep one, and a cavalcade of roommates and friends where mysteriously records started disappearing. When I got together with my partner, I figured we liked a lot of the same music and he’d play vinyl if I asked him to. Then of course YouTube arrived and it was: watch music videos, then play the complete album. But suddenly, a mid-life decision happened, and the turntable wasn’t working. So, I assumed it was just the end of it’s vinyl collection life.

In the last few weeks I have walked by the place where the collection lived. I have had some really bad medical news, heart surgery is imminent. I’m really a healthy person, I fit in the jeans size I wore in High School. But it’s been a year of bizarre setbacks. I started really listening to music again, like I did when I was a young shy teen. I have been using my iPhone mainly for playback. But it’s not vinyl. The music was my friend, along with books like the Hobbit and other classic SciFi, and going to rock shows. And record albums were like great, playable furniture. So, as we do in this Mid-Life, we revisit the music. Digital makes it easier to find things these days, convenient. But it’s not tangible like a book. Many records open with lyrics and sometimes fun features Because, really a record album is a book of song, and messages that the musicians share with you. I wondered why the collection really went away. I kept having the conversation with Vaughn.

In the last two weeks, I decided it was time to get playing records again. I asked my partner why he had sold everything. It’s a conversation I should have had last year, but he seemed really raw about it and I just guess I waited. Then all the looming health issue things came up. My declaration recently was, “I want to live through this and have life.” Part of life is music. We talked a bit about it, and I found out he had not sold all of it off, a large chunk, but not all of it. We talked more about it. I decided I wanted a turntable back. And will start going through the box that has been stashed in the garage somewhere.

Helpful insight and encouragement came from Twitterverse. Scottish Post-Punk @ScotsPostPunk suggested a Technica. I started researching. Vaughn looked a bit too. Then he came back and said he thinks he fixed the old ELAC. I told him I still wanted a Technica because I can digitize from there if I want. We are beginning the resurrection. I need the distraction. Have to have that heart surgery. Need something to help get me through it. I have my eye on the Technica AT-LP120BK-USB.

Lesson learned: Never give up on the music, even if you are not a musician. Just because you don’t play doesn’t mean it’s not part of you, part of your light and being. It will always be there as a child. And appreciate when others share and reach out their joy with it. Happy vinyl hunting.