Albums Purchased One Hot Weekend
Marvin Gaye and His Girls
John Lennon & Yoko Ono – Double Fantasy
Paul & Linda McCartney – Ram
Loudon Wainwright III – Album II
Rick Nelson – The Very Thought Of You
Herman’s Hermits – There’s A Kind Of Hush All Over The World
Yaz – Upstairs At Eric’s
The Best of Burt Bacharach
Burt Bacharach Plays His Hits
Donovan’s Greatest Hits
“I’ll throw the Tim Buckley (happy sad) in for a couple of bucks,” said the record clerk. “It’s my last day. What do I care.” He slides the records into a brown plastic bag. “Overworked and underpaid.”
“Well, thanks for your help, and good luck with whatever you do next.”
“I’m going to the moon.”
“To the moon?”
“Yeah, to the moon.”
“Well, good luck with that.”
Tammy Wynette – Stand By Your Man/Bedtime Story
Elvis Costello & The Attractions – Punch the Clock
Cat Stevens – Tea for the Tillerman
The Steve Miller Band – Book of Dreams
Dick Hyman at the Lowrey Organ – Electrodynamics
Utopia – Oops! Wrong Planet
Utopia – Adventures in Utopia
Utopia – Utopia
“Do you want to try anything out?” said the girl at the counter. “I’ve been listening to The Kinks all day.”
“I’d love to hear how this side sounds. There’s a big scratch.”
“Do you come in here often?”
“I try not to. If I do, I’ll just spend loads of money on Todd Rundgren albums.”
“I know what you mean. That’s like me and bookstores.”
“Oh, me too.” Dick Hyman plays his Lowrey Organ. “I’m definitely getting this one.”
“I used to be so into listening to new music. Now I’m just like, whatever.” The sound of a cash register. “My boss will be so happy. He called before and said ‘did we earn any money?’ and I was, like, ‘no.’ I’ve been here for seven hours.”
And with that, I crossed “record store” off our list of possible storefront ideas.
Record Haul No. 2
Prince – Purple Rain
Grand Funk – Phoenix
Christopher Cross* – s/t
Bessie Smith – Nobody’s Blues But Mine
Kate Bush – Hounds Of Love
“Ah, yes. Kate Bush. I met her once.”
“Was she nuts?”
“Well, hold on, hold on. She was signing records as a promotion for her album back in 1993.”
“Well, no, let’s see, it was… hmmm. It was called The Red Shoes.”
“This was in the days before the internet, but somehow word got out, and by the time I got there the line stretched six blocks. She ended up signing for six hours.”
“Wow.” (…ow, wow, wow, wow, wow; unbelievable.)
“I actually handed her something to sign that she’d never seen before.”
“Cool. Do you still have it?”
“Of course.” He flips back to the beginning of the stack and starts counting the prices all over again.
He never did tell me if she was crazy or not.
Record Haul No. 3
Sergio Mendes & Brasil ‘66 – Four Sider
XTC – Skylarking
Badfinger – Straight Up
Grand Funk Railroad – Caught in the Act
Utopia – Ra
Utopia – Another Live
Todd Rundgren – A Wizard, A True Star
“Ooo, look! I love this one.”
The girl in the big glasses shows the die-cut sleeve to her bottle blonde co-worker. They turn it over in their hands, amazed at the intricate shape of the corners, the crazy painting that apparently drove Mark Chapman to do something he shouldn’t have.
“EXCUSE ME, MISS…” A wobbling man carries stacks of 45s.
“I love this album, but I don’t really like his other stuff. It’s too… smooth, you know?”
“I didn’t like a lot of his stuff at first, and then I just kept listening, and now – ask him (a thumb to J) – it’s all I listen to.” J nods solemnly. “It grows on you. And I actually like the smooth stuff. I still think some of this (a thumb to the record) is too weird.”
“I like the weird stuff.”
“CAN YOU HOLD ON TO THESE? I HAVE TO GET HOME TO FEED MY DOGS!”
“That guy back there, though, (a thumb to a guy in back) he’s, like, the world’s biggest Todd Rundgren fan. You should talk to him.”
She walks back to a man with glasses slowly pawing through a stack of records and says something to him, shows him the die-cut, then points a thumb in my direction. He says a curt word or two and turns his attention back to the stack of records still to be priced in front of him. She turns back to me and shrugs her shoulders in a way that says Todd Rundgren fans don’t always have the time to talk to each other, I guess.
“I NEED TO PRICK MY FINGER! I’M A DIABETIC!”
“Could you do it over there in the corner? Is that okay? Away from the customers?”
I ask to hear the Badfinger, the side with “Baby Blue,” to make sure that scratch isn’t so bad.
“Whose turn is it to pick? Can I turn this off?”
The Neu-metal fades out and Welsh power pop fades in. Shoppers crick their necks in the direction of the counter, glaring at me and my AM gold.
“Well, that certainly changed the mood of the room.”
“I’LL JUST STAND RIGHT HERE AND PRICK MY FINGER, OKAY?”
Record Haul No. 4
Lita Ford – “Kiss Me Deadly” 45 rpm
Harry Nilsson – “Everybody’s Talking” 45 rpm
“I love what you’ve done with the wall. Can I take a picture?”
“Sure. I usually say no, but you’re a regular so it’s okay.”
Record Haul No. 5
Ella Fitzgerald – Live In Hamburg
Sinead O’Connor – I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got
Adam & The Ants – Prince Charming
I’m posting this simply for the memory of coming home, putting on Adam & The Ants, and watching J completely obliterate our carpet with the best moves he’s come up with yet.
You guys, he knows ALL the words.
Record Haul No. 6
Vanguard Stereolab Demonstration Disc – Dvorak’s New World Symphony
Todd Rundgren (*cough*) – Nearly Human
Todd Rundgren (*shuffle*) – A Cappella
Bruce Springsteen – Darkness on the Edge of Town
“How much for this one?”
“Call it ten even.”
“Is it a good copy?”
“It has the lyric sheet.”
“You know what’s sad about the way his career was treated by the people at Columbia Records is that no one had the sense of mind to record the infamous concert at The Bottom Line.”
“I don’t think anyone was thinking straight in 1974.”
“Well it was 1975 and the guest list alone…”
“So there’s no tape of it?”
“There’s a bootleg, but you’d think someone would have said ‘let’s just tape this for reference’…”
“Amazing, isn’t it, how much history just disappears.”
Record Haul No. 7
Wham – Music From the Edge Of Heaven*
Chicago Transit Authority – s/t
Al Caiola and Orchestra – Guitars Woodwinds & Bongos
The Doobie Brothers – What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits
Rod Stewart – Sing It Again Rod**
Dolly Parton – Here You Come Again
* With a Madonna/Herb Ritts True Blue poster tucked inside.
** Shaped like a lowball glass of Scotch on the rocks; the inner sleeve is the same glass, drained.
Here I come again. Tripping over classical albums to get to the rock. He just put Kate Bush on; does he remember me from last time?
“We’re closing in about five or ten minutes.”
“I was just looking at this last one…”
“I’ll give you the Dolly for $2.”
“Do you have any Gram Parsons?”
“No, we don’t.”
“You never see it used, do you? Him or ELO.”
“Well, you sometimes do. The Greatest Hits. If you ever see The Move, you should pick that up. The band that preceded ELO.”
The bell on the door tinkles. A young man walks in, blows on his hands, removes his cap.
“Hello! We’ll be locking the door in literally five minutes. Were you looking for something in particular?”
“I was just going to browse your Soul…”
Record Haul No. 9 (Record Store Day Edition)
Big Star – Third (test pressing reproduction)
WILD FLAG – Future Crimes/Glass Tambourine 7”
Kate Bush – Hounds of Love Collector’s Edition 10” (on pink vinyl)
Velvet Underground – Foggy Notion/I Can’t Stand It 7”
The Rolling Stones – Brown Sugar/Bitch/Let It Rock 7”
Bruce Springsteen – Gotta Get The Feeling/Racing In The Streets 10”
Kill Rock Stars sampler
Built To Spill – Ripple 7”
The International Submarine Band w/ Gram Parsons – Safe At Home
Peter Tosh – Legalize It/Equal Rights 7” (on green vinyl, for J)
There is something to be said in this world for kindness. For helping your neighbor, for saying please and thank you. For understanding the rules and playing fair. For civility. These are rules I grew up with. I use these rules with my fellow men. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Yes, no matter what I said about sharp elbows: do unto others, even on Record Store Day.
I had a plan. And a list. There were only two limited releases I really, really wanted: the WILD FLAG 7”, and the Big Star Third test pressing reproduction. The rest would be icing. I was there to buy music, after all, not collectibles, and this is the music I truly love. Kim’s, who opened at 9, had the WILD FLAG, and J&R, who opened at 10, had the Big Star. I had a plan.
I arrived at Kim’s at 9 on the dot, just as the block-long line started to move inside the store… (Read the rest here.)
Record Haul No. 10
Laura Nyro – The First Songs
Laura Nyro – New York Tendaberry
Heavy Metal: Music From The Motion Picture
The Virtuoso Oboe Vol. 3
Tom Verlaine – S/T
April Wine – Stand Back
The Move – Shazam
“Where would your Betty Davis be?” I clutch a dusty Best of Sam & Dave and wonder if it’s better than other best ofs.
“I assume you don’t mean the actress?”
“Not the actress.”
“Funk & Soul.”
I find no Betty Davis, but plenty of Laura Nyro and others. I bring my stack to the register.
“Huh.” Here it comes. I used to fear the assessment of my collected albums from record store staff. But I’ve been shopping here long enough to know to expect and welcome a little nugget of musical knowledge in place of judgment from the man behind the register. My mind flips open its stenopad. “You know, when Blood, Sweat & Tears were looking to change their sound they nearly asked Laura Nyro to be their singer. She auditioned and everything. This was before David Clayton-Thomas. Then she did something to alienate the rock journalists. I still can’t figure out what it was.”
I think it must be pretty easy to alienate rock journalists.
“Do you ever get any King Crimson in here?”
“Sometimes. We had a nice copy of In the Wake of Poseidon recently. If you like King Crimson you should seek out Giles, Giles & Fripp. I know it sounds like a law firm but…”
“You close?” says a man with an accent browsing soundtracks on a stepladder.
“Five more minutes.” In those five minutes he digs through the Ms to find an album by The Move — remembering that I’d previously asked about ELO — and promises with a shake of the hand that I’ll find something on there I like.
With a ding of the bell, I’m on the street again. Hours later: he was right.
Record Haul No. 11
Laura Nyro – Christmas and the Beads of Sweat
Laura Nyro – Eli and the Thirteenth Confession
Beyond the Fringe: Alan Bennett, Peter Cook, Jonathan Miller, Dudley Moore
The Alan Parsons Project – I Robot
Joni Mitchell – Song to a Seagull
Stevie Nicks – Bella Donna
Record buying has taken on a desperate, scrambling nature. I’ve started to become possessive, to think of records as ephemeral things that must be owned or forgotten. If I don’t get that record, it might be gone the next time I come to this shop. And then I’ll never ever hear it again ever.
Today, as I was listening to my Stevie Nicks Pandora station, I remembered a copy of Bella Donna I’d seen while browsing the record store last time, a record I’d hovered over, then shoved back in the stacks. Not now.
Late in the afternoon as I was tidying my desk, I noticed my heart rate rising. I was thinking of that album. If I didn’t get it, it might be gone. It might be gone now.
As soon as my little work clock wound down to its end with a rattle, I raced outside, onto the subway, racing through the turnstiles, tapping my toes impatiently by the doors, raced up the stairs, out onto the street, and, sweaty now, into the shop, quickly greeting the man behind the register.
“I just came to get a record I saw last time but didn’t get,” I said, a bit breathless.
More than fifteen minutes later, I emerged from the stacks. “Did you find what you were looking for?”
“Yes. That. And quite a few more.”
Because if not, I’ll never ever hear them again ever.
And so I sit here singing whoo, baby, whoo, said whoo along with Stevie. Satisfied for the moment. My pulse slowed. Until I think about that copy of Kick Inside I passed by, lingering in the dusty stacks, waiting, haunting the moors, it might be gone…
Record Haul No. 12
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours
Todd Rundgren – Something/Anything
Todd Rundgren – “Hello It’s Me” b/w “A Dream Goes On Forever” 45rpm
Todd Rundgren – “We Gotta Get You A Woman” 45rpm
Otis Redding – “Try A Little Tenderness” 45rpm
Bruce Springsteen – Born To Run
WEBN 3 (featuring The Raisins “Your Song is Mine”, seen above)
“Fleetwood Mac, Todd, Bruce… God, I’m predictable.” We’re thumbing through the vinyl at Shake It Records.
“How can you not already own Rumours? And don’t you already own that Todd album?”
“This is a better copy; I’ve never seen one with this insert before. Hey…” I pluck a Charley Harper frog from the stacks. “This was in that auction we were just watching… I think it went for a lot more than 99 cents.”
At home, “Your Song Is Mine” goes on repeat while I cook dinner. It echoes in our bare dining room; beyond the wall of glass the sky is still bright through the trees. J comes downstairs and hears this song, and says “this song is everything you’re about these days.”
“Isn’t it so local band in the 70s?” The sound of it makes me happy to be living in Ohio.
“What’s going to happen if you suddenly stop liking this stuff?”
What happens the moment we stop liking anything? On to the next thing. But for now…
(God it feels good to watch YouTube videos again.)
Record Haul No. 13
Pere Ubu – Cloudland
The Raisins – “Valentine”/”Hoy Hoy Hoy” 7”
The Waterboys – A Pagan Place
Ultra Vivid Scene – “Staring At The Sun”/”Three Stars (*** Version)”
They didn’t have the Buckingham/Nicks album I’d seen on my last visit and had come back to buy. I browsed the 33 1/3 Series books lined up in order on a high shelf, briefly considered buying the one on Tusk, then realized we were about to reach Nicks Overload and put it back.
(Side note that could take up an entire post of its own: I find it strangely fascinating that the entire internet decided to love Stevie Nicks all at once, myself included. I thankblame Tumblr and Emily Gould in equal parts for her resurrection among 20- and 30-somethings, knowing for a fact that up until last year I still thought Fleetwood Mac were a band for White Zin-drinking single mothers with highlights who still looked good in jeans. Since we’re all in this strange gypsy boat together now, seek out the Lester Bangs article “Stevie Nicks: Lilith or Bimbo?” and let’s have a discussion about it.)
I listlessly started browsing the Alt/Punk/Indie used records. Flip, flip-flip *sigh* flip, flip, flip — STOP.
“OH my god. THIS one.”
“Remember Ultra Vivid Scene? I was trying to think of who it was Joy Formidable reminded me of, and it’s this song. Those sort of Loop-esque repeated chords and driving drumbeats. [Yes, I actually said that out loud. Who AM I?] I LOVED this song.”
I tucked the album under my arm and carried it to the register. Somewhere in 1992, the wind changed direction and a young Zan’s nose started to itch.
Record Hauls No. 14, 15, and 16
Buckingham Nicks – s/t
The Raisins – s/t
Abba – Greatest Hits
Led Zeppelin – Led Zeppelin I
Warren Zevon – Excitable Boy
Cocteau Twins – Bluebell Knoll
Tones On Tail – Pop
Kansas – Leftoverture
Yes – The Yes Album
Percy Faith – The Beatles Album
Dylan Thomas Reads A Child’s Christmas in Wales
The Edgar Winter Group – They Only Come Out At Night
Herb Albert & The Tijuana Brass – The Christmas Album
Engelbert Humperdinck – We Made It Happen
The moment we purchased the shag rug, I knew it belonged in my life. The room made sense. ABBA made sense. I started buying albums for that rug; the synthetic beast from China had its talons in me. Its soft, soft, shaggy talons.
One night while J was still away in England, I went out to buy sausages and contact lens solution from the grocery store and ended up taking an hour detour because I suddenly had to buy a Led Zeppelin record. For the rug? Possibly. Probably. The desperation of the errand made it feel like I was on a tampon run. I think I may have been wearing my pajamas. I made it back home, ripped open the brown paper bag and spent all night lying on that rug listening to Jimmy Page play guitar like he’d invented rock and roll. (I think Jimmy Page would really like our rug.)
This morning I shuffled across the rug, kneeling into its depths to put on Kansas and Percy Faith. I’m turning us whiter and more midwestern one needle drop at a time, swollen with Grand Funk and bongos. The rug is putting ideas in my head for fondue parties and a wardrobe of deep green chiffon evening dresses. I instigate slow dances.
I am not alone: my cousin and his partner recently brought their own record haul to our house, spreading them out on the rug: Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Bare Trees, Court and Spark. A gift to the rug gods. It looked like Our Lady of the Shag had given virgin birth.
What is it in these old records I love so much? Why do I keep feeding this addiction? Probably there’s something comforting in bringing an older time back to life. Maybe there’s even something to it that makes me feel the tiniest bit immortal. Maybe it hints at the possibility of aural time travel.
Or maybe, in all likelihood? They just go with the rug.
Record Haul No. 17
Bon Iver – s/t
Fleet Foxes – Helplessness Blues
Dan Fogelberg – High Country Snows
Dan Fogelberg – Souvenirs
Dan Fogelberg – Nether Lands
“Eh, I already own the shirt.”
I honestly bought all of these Dan Fogelberg albums because they were 99 cents. And because I love the way Carrie Brownstein says “Dan Fogelberg,” and because this video of his starts with a story of him cross-country skiing to an abandoned cabin in the mountains and finding old pictures in the walls. And because last May I bought a Dan Fogelberg t-shirt in a thrift store in LA and didn’t want owning it to be ironic any more. I honestly didn’t expect to like the Dan Fogelberg.
But then I’d forgotten about this song. This song!
I love this song.
Record Haul No. 18
The Smiths – Shakespeare’s Sister 12”
The Smiths – Boy With A Thorn In His Side 12”
Nancy Sinatra – Sugar
Les Paul – Feedback
As I’m leaving, I glance back at the bearded guy behind the counter. He’s looking over at where The Smiths singles I didn’t buy are still leaning against the shelf, shaking his head.
“Did I take the ones you wanted?” I shouted back.
He continues to shake his head.
“Or are you shaking your head because I didn’t take them all?”
“This will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.” He seems offended.
“They do seem like they should all go to the same home. I wish I could take them all.”
“Why can’t you?”
“Money? MONEY?!? Money comes and goes. This will NEVER HAPPEN AGAIN.”
“Why are they all here? Did somebody die?”
“Death, divorce, drug habits… all sorts of reasons this stuff ends up here.”
“Well, unfortunately, I had to make choices myself.”
“Like I said: this will NEVER…”
“…HAPPEN AGAIN. I know. I KNOW.”
Record Haul No. 19 (Valentine’s Day Edition)
Dobie Gray – Drift Away
Minnie Ripperton – Perfect Angel
This was the plan: after lunch, we’d go to Shake It and pick out a record for each other. The rules: it had to be cheap, it had to have something to do with love.
I held up T’pau’s “Heart and Soul” from the 99 cent bin. “Would you hate me if I bought this one for you?”
I found a reggae album of 20 love songs by John Holt.
“Will this do?”
“That’s okay, sure.”
I lingered over The Romantics’ In Heat for a few minutes before putting it back in the bins. (“Talking In Your Sleep” is a love song, right? I might have to go back to get that one.) He was wandering into the country section when I coughed and gestured to Madonna’s Like A Prayer.
And so we headed towards the register with a reggae version of “Touch Me In The Morning,” and Madge’s “Open Your Heart.”
“I guess these are as good as Valentine’s Day purchases get?”
Before we got there, though, we both paused to flip through the R&B section. Hello, Dobie; hello, Minnie. That’s when we realized it’s not about finding the love songs, necessarily, but about finding the songs we love to listen to together.
Record Haul No. 20
Gerry Rafferty – Night Owl
King Crimson – In the Court of the Crimson King (An Observation By King Crimson)
Django Reinhardt and the Guitars Unlimited – Swing It Lightly
Django Reinhardt with the Glen Miller’s All Stars – Paris 1945
Fleetwood Mac – Bare Trees
Outside the bar across the street from the record store, I watch cars trying to negotiate a full parking lot, while a stranger next to me calls them “numb-nuts.” We turn our attention to the fireless fire pit on the patio. “It’s almost the season for lighting fires,” I say.
“It’s always the season for lighting fires,” says the stranger.
Inside the bar, as we talk with a friend about finding the motivation and inspiration to create something, little fires start burning, and I think about the stories I want to write about people around here: stories about Andy, the guy who wrote his name on the eyeball of the face on the cover of a King Crimson album. Stories about the women I see dancing freely at concerts. Stories about the jocks who crowd the bar, one of them wearing hardly a t-shirt at all, the sleeves gashed carelessly with scissors, gingerly carrying little plastic tubs of ranch dressing over to a table of his friends. I try to imagine what the houses are like that they’d go home to. If Andy had a wood-panelled basement (because everything in Ohio looks like the set of Freaks & Geeks), if the ranch dressing-carrying jock keeps his weights in a damp garage. If Andy might have invited a girl over to listen to that album once, what he said to her when Side A ended, if he said anything at all. What dark thoughts the jock might have as he does his reps.
I think about what I’d actually have to say about their lives if I tried to pick up these little pieces of observation and put them together into a story, and then fear that I’d have nothing to say at all. I’m collecting a list of plotless characters who live in a place I’m both new to and overly sentimental about.
We live in a time when meaning falls in splinters from our lives.
And yet: by the time we’re leaving the bar, they’ve lit a fire in the fire pit and patrons (potential characters, numb-nut antiheroes) are crowded around it, raising pint glasses and laughing.
Even without a story of my own, I can’t resist collecting characters from these stories already being written all around me. And who knows: it’s always the season for lighting fires.
Record Haul No. 21
Les/Larry Elgart – Girl Watchers
Fleetwood Mac – Tusk
Asia – s/t
Flashdance: The Original Soundtrack
Little River Band – First Under the Wire
Joni Mitchell – Ladies of the Canyon
Olivia Newton-John, Jane Fonda Workout (gifts for my cousin)
The Smiths – “William, It Was Really Nothing” (b/w “How Soon Is Now?” and “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”) 12” Maxi Single
This need to see inside other people’s lives has resulted in an obsession with estate sales. Yesterday, we drove to a neighborhood north of here for one particular sale, stopping in a Half Price Music & Books on the way and scoring a German Smiths maxi single in purple marble vinyl. Let me get what I want…
The house was in a little cul-de-sac near a golf course. Unremarkable brick houses and man-made ponds. “Neighborhoods like this depress me.”
“I don’t know why; they just do.”
We wander through the dining room, speckled with crystal goblets and chandeliers. The built-in wall radio peeps classical music, and we discover the bathroom with its heart-shaped tub and vintage powder canisters. The bedroom with a massive walk-in closet full of shoes and furs and afghan blankets. The cliched femininity of it was overwhelming.
Then downstairs: walls littered with arcade games, electric probes, a working Skee-ball machine. In another room, a hot tub sits covered, shaded by a tall fiberglass palm tree. A bar stocked with tiki mugs and gag gifts: “This Bar Is For High Class Patrons (Excepting the Bartender)” and a geezer crutch with a little flip-down panel for one’s old drooping genitals. In another room, a large workshop, and an office with a drafting table and photo developing equipment.
“The upstairs was really hers, and the downstairs was his, wasn’t it?”
Two red silk jackets hanging on the wall with names stitched onto them: Cindy and Bob, Corvette Club members.
“Cindy and Bob must have had some fun parties.”
We dig deeper through their lives, their book collections, their kitchen cupboards, their model train sets with model Kentucky Fried Chickens and vintage tin cars. Their ashtrays from Hawaii and boxes and boxes of jolly Christmas decorations. Behind the Skee-ball machine, we find a closet of records, full of standards and some light jazz, and on the bottom shelf, tucked at the back, the video cassettes with handwritten titles: Corporate Assets, Dreamgirls, Emmanuel… a brown cardboard box…
“Is that their porn?”
“XXX… it sure is.”
And there, right next to the brown cardboard box, another stack: cassette tapes of inspirational Christian sermons. (The things we see when we look behind closed doors.)
Lives are stories: Cindy and Bob’s must have been a good one.