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.)