Sunday, May 3, 2009

Down the Dusty Trail, Part 1


I can’t give you the exact year or time period when I first got infected by the record collecting fever, but it was somewhere in the early seventies, when I was 14-15 years old. The proliferation of rock mags, whether they were high or low, mainstream (Creem, Fusion, Phonograph Record), fanzines (Teenage Wasteland Gazette, New Haven Rock Press, Bomp) where filled with subtle references, throw-away asides, short or lengthy examinations, gonzo, fevered and often hilarious ruminations about obscure labels, b-side nuggets, unheard masterpieces, underground classics. Walking around my hometown I made weekly pilgrimages to the big outlet stores and patiently flipped through the rows and rows of the cut-out bins, closely examined the dusty stand-up racks that stood forlornly aside the fading counter tops of the run-down drug stores and pharmacies, and felt my adrenaline soar when I’d spot a batch of records, seemingly ignored and nestling unperturbed in some out of the way spot in some unlikely Ma and Pa milk store.
What was I looking for? The mysterious beat, the hallucinatory guitar sound, the hypnotic refrain, the primitive stomp, the unknown tongue, that particular keystone record or song that bridged the gap from there- to-here, that I knew existed, in varying degrees of significance and coolness, as evidenced by the furious scribbling of this massive army of rock nitcrits and popcult pundits that were pounding out the endless reams of rock rag cat nip I couldn’t stop devouring. I had my finds, and also hadda a whole bunch of potential treasures, lps or 45’s credited to hepcat groups and never-seen labels that I was sure would amount to a truly special spin and listen session. I wrote to other collectors and rock fiends, guys (always guys) with weird names and sometimes P.O. Box numbers in strange cities in Michigan, Tennessee, or Iowa, an enticing Brotherhood of the Ephemera, a few of which I recognized as published crits, which meant to me that they were pop mavens of the highest order.
Of course, the search for holy pop grail was as much about the process as it was about the gemlike discovery, as the latter were, in all actuality, few and far between, and limited to the financial means and geographical boundaries of adolescence. Still the thrill of finding a Chocolate Watch Band record, or a limited release Brit invasion picture sleeve, or an obscure Eddie Cochran b-side couldn’t be matched, certifying one’s status (despite the limitations of age, resources, or connections), as a bonafide hipster, a purveyor of the underground, a special keeper of the rock and roll flame, a true-blue member of the secret society despite the daily indignity of being held in junior high school jail.
Equally evident is the sad, unfettered fact that the constant proliferation of the internet has purty much ended all that jive and most of that jazz. You want it -you can find it, without much effort and hardly any brain activity, as long as you wanna pay; yet another paradise lost, however minor, however small-scale, however seemingly unsubstantial.

(Next post, I’ll get around to my recent gets- can't call 'em finds no more-- rounded up from the seemingly never-ending supply of electronic dustbins.)

5 comments:

mdoggie said...

Unlike you, I collected only a small handful of LPs. Just enough to take to Chicago with me along with my Dual turntable, Advent speakers, and maybe Kenwood or Marantz receiver. Among the few albums I had were classics like, The Modern Lovers, Weather Report, and Lothar and The Hand People. Not quite the Chocolate Watch Band, or Strawberry Alarm Clock, but just as hipster obscure. Their one song that compelled me to seek them out was "Machines" featuring the hook "machines, machines, we made them to serve us" and a clackety-clack rythym track that sucked me in. As you say, all now easily accessible. I recently googled and then downloaded several songs from their surprisingly prolific discography for my pocket juke box. I think my former college roommate Bryan in Tennessee may still have the LP. He sent me a digital version of the Modern Lovers a while back and said ot was from my LP.

diane meloccaro said...

You are making me so nostalgic! I used to LOVE spending hours in the record stores in a zen-like trance, compulsively searching every bin, to make sure I hadn't missed anything. And I've always hated cd's. There's no room for real artwork, and you need a magnifying glass to read the liner notes! I had about a thousand lp's by the time I graduated from college, but I only have a handful left. I don't even have a turntable, so they're just decorations now. The coolest one of the bunch: Alice Cooper's Love It to Death, with a sticker on it that says "Featuring the hit 'I'm Eighteen'".

mdoggie said...

I listened to that song at least 18,000,000 times. I could even play it on the guitar for awhile, or at least a halting amateurish version. I can't remember the change now, but I could probably still do the main verse....
Scott has the distinction of having been thrown off the stage during Alice's "Billion Dollar Babies" show at the Palace. Alice taunted the crowd with dollar bills on the end of, I believe, a sword. Scott will correct me if I have the details wrong.

Scotty D said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Scotty D said...

Remain hypnotized by Lothar's "Machines" even though i haven't heard it for over two decades. Did indeed get tossed off stage as a teenager during that very tour at the Palace Concert Theater. Always have thought that Love it to Death was a purty strong album and truly believe that the Cooper band of that time grew to be as dynamic and and virulent as (almost) the MC5.