Category Archives: 30Hz Bl-g

Ramblings at the frequency of 30Hz

“$5.00-Random”

Reason #278 to buy vinyl: Rescuing misplaced treasures from a vinyl purgatory

For any open-minded, intrepid collector and music enthusiast, Reason #278 might be the best reason of all to support vinyl. The earliest lateral-cut discs (the precursor to vinyl as we know it) had been produced nearly a century before compact discs stomped all over its turf like Godzilla over Tokyo; therefore, it’s no surprise that the breadth and variety of available music for the turntable knows no equal.

Wander any decent second-hand record store and you’ll be treated to unorthodox genres long since forgotten. At some point in our consumer past, sellers/distributors shoehorned all genres into a select few. Rock/Pop. Jazz. Country. Classical. Rap/Hip-Hop. Am I missing any? Shop vinyl and you’ll find genres like Hawaiian. Banjo. Soul. Rockabilly. I am always compelled to linger over these genres even though my knowledge of the artists contained within could be found lacking. I want to pick one at random, just to give it a listen. If nothing else, experiments like these provide great fodder for the bl-g. But the number of potential targets overwhelms and ultimately I move on to more familiar pastures. Next time I’ll come armed with a Google search and a list of obscure artists in obscure genres and do some exploration. After all, $2 per adventure seems pretty damn cheap these days.

I am much more comfortable making decisions at the intersection of the familiar and random. And it turns out that the best place to discover the intersection of familiar and random is at shops that are not just music purveyors. Half-Price Books, for example. While they have vinyl, they are predominantly a seller of other used media. The vinyl that winds up in the wooden crates at Half-Price is generally of the omnipresent variety: Tom Jones, Roger Whitaker, Anne Murray, Kenny Rogers, Barbara Streisand, Huey Lewis, Kenny Loggins, Chicago and so on and so forth. These stores are a dumping ground for entire collections that no longer have value to their owners. Many are inherited. Some are just unwanted, replaced by space-saving digital media. But when people dump collections indiscriminately, collectors are often rewarded for taking the time to dig a little deeper.

Toddler Fodder

Last week I brought my daughter into Half-Price to do a little browsing. On this occasion she’d been the one that had asked to go to the “record store.” And who am I to disagree? I’m so proud of her—the “record store” resides right next door to Toys R Us and she never thinks twice about her decision. I’ve been through the crates at this particular Half-Price enough to know that I’ve pretty much picked out anything that would have interested me. My daughter sits down at my feet and re-sorts the 45s. And by “re-sorts” I mean she finds one with a spacious paper sleeve and crams as many as she can fit into that sleeve. These records are generally in such bad condition (read: unplayable) that I don’t monitor her too closely. If I notice she’s getting a little too aggressive I pick her up and ask for her help flipping through the 33s. This is for her benefit only. If you’ve ever tried to read a book in a toddler’s hands you’ll know the impossibility of browsing records when they’re similarly in control. It’s not an ideal solution but she’s two years old, almost three—there are no ideal solutions for two year olds and vinyl shopping. This particular day I noticed that she’d gone a little too far with the 45 molestation, reaching a crop of unsullied records that deserved a better fate. I bent down to redirect her attention to the previously mauled items or the Disney Princess card game (she is content to merely dump this on the ground) but as I did so I noticed the boxed sets of vinyl stacked up behind the piles of 45s. They were situated in such a way that from my angle I could not have seen them unless I’d been kneeling on her level. There were some mail order classical music collections from anonymous orchestras but the boxes were curious enough and unusual enough that I felt compelled to pull them out and peruse their innards. As I descended into the abyss behind the 45s, beyond the mail-order classical, I found a couple of boxes much more to my liking.

Inside "5.00-Random"

The first was a generic, blue vinyl folder. The Half-Price sticker labeled the set: “$5.00 – Random.” I unsnapped the cover and flipped through the sleeves. The book had been filled with 7” 33rpm singles of various big bands of the 40s and 50s. Almost all were in great condition. Bing Crosby. Louis Prima. Kay Kyser. The history of this folio intrigued me. Someone had taken exquisite care of these records, most produced between 1945 and 1955, only to have them dumped here. The value isn’t the point however. They could be worthless, everyday coaster-fodder, but it wouldn’t matter. There’s a history here that’s beyond monetary measure. Old records smell like history. They have a weight, an importance—even when they came a dime a dozen at the time of their original distribution. I could take these home and one by one, place them on my turntable and discover something old and potentially meaningful that is again made brand new. People that do not buy vinyl just do not understand this. They don’t take much care in browsing a used CD rack for oddities and curios. Anything that is odd is probably not worth having. And if there is some perceived worth in compact discs, the worth is measured in nostalgia or kitsch but not adventure or discovery. Vinyl shopping is a treasure hunt. Used CD shopping is a force of habit.

Great Jazz Artists Pla the Music of Great Composers

My second discovery wasn’t so much an oddity but a welcome and immediately identified necessity. Though the box appeared worn, somewhat torn and tattered around the edges, the picture of the front screamed “BUY ME”—Nat and Cannonball Adderly beneath the title: Great Jazz Artists Play the Music of Great Composers. So I did. I bought that sucker and the “$5.00—Random” folio. Later, I looked up the label that released the set, Murray Hill, and found that they mostly reissued other catalogues. Sure enough, there on the back of the set:

“…these unsual LPs, drawn from the extensive catalogues of Riverside and its affiliated Jazzland label, bring you a fusing of some of the finest and most interesting examples of both elements. Here are many of the best and best-loved melodies of our greatest songwriters, as interpreted by varied lineups of modern jazz talent…”

Track listing for Great Jazz Artists Play the Music of Great Composers

And some further interweb browsing revealed that the set sells for as much as $50. Again, the potential resale value isn’t important. Interesting… but not important. The find, the search, the discovery, the hope of finding something sacred in a slushpile picked through by hundreds before me. Sacred means something different to everyone. For me, it was looking on the back of Great Jazz Artists to find Cole Porter songs played by the likes of Bill Evans, George Shearing, Wes Montgomery, Cannonball Adderly, Sonny Rollins and Johnny Griffin. Thelonius Monk playing Irving Berlin. Charlie Byrd and Billy Taylor doing Gershwin. These names are sacred to me. And after only one listen through Side 1 of Record 1 I knew I’d found something special. The recordings are clear and the vinyl in excellent condition. I can’t help but imagine this set’s prior owner and their connection to the records. Did they consider it a gem or merely part of the overwhelming burden of their old music collection? Judging by the condition of the box (worn and split along one seam) compared to the condition of the vinyl (superficial scratches, no skips)—I believe it must have been treasured just as I treasure it now. And this thought gives me great pleasure, that I’ve again given this music a good home, having rescued it from a vinyl purgatory. I haven’t yet listened to the entire set—there are 12 glorious discs that must be savored and brought back to life, but all in good time. Listening is only part of the joy. Shopping for vinyl—going, browsing, inspecting—forever offers new opportunities to strike gold, but if you’re not taking the time to search those darker corners of the second-hand stores and flea markets you’re going to find a lot of Anne Murray records but nothing particularly as precious or mysterious as “$5.00—Random.”

 

 

Putting Fun Back in Short Fiction? Now that’s funny.

I haven’t lost my sh!t about this particular topic in a few years, but like the hook from “Holding Out for a Hero,” it’s always there, lurking in the back of my mind, ready to cloud all conscious activity until I spin Side A of the Footloose soundtrack for three straight hours. At which point I will either eradicate Bonnie Tyler from my mind or pass out from Kenny Loggins overload. (Which could never happen. Not really.) My beef has nothing to do with music so permit me to rampage about my life of writing for a few paragraphs. I do hope you are sufficiently entertained by rage-fueled hyperbole. I speak today of literary narrow-mindedness. Continue reading Putting Fun Back in Short Fiction? Now that’s funny.

Guster playing with the Colorado Symphony

On March 8th, Guster played with the Colorado Symphony. I really considered buying a ticket to Denver just to see this show. But then I thought about how I’m a responsible parent with a pregnant wife that can’t just jet off to concerts whenever he feels like it and that the last time I flew into Denver a hippie fiddled with a short-wave radio midway through the flight and yada yada yada everyone in my section ended up getting questioned by both Homeland Security and the FBI. True story. Continue reading Guster playing with the Colorado Symphony

Concert Dates: a 30Hz Public Service Announcent

Perhaps some of you read my little rumble about my yearly return to Boston back in November. Every year my wife and I arrange baby care and return to Boston to visit our old haunts and every year we convince ourselves that “home” will and forever be Cambridge. Truth be told, “home” is less and less Cambridge every year. Anywhere, given the chance and enough time, can replace what you formerly loved. Pittsburgh, of late, has stepped up a bit. It’s not Boston, in terms of the availability of the arts and food and negligent wait-staff, but it never really will be. I’ve accepted that I’ve moved on; I’m still in the process of moving on.

One such wound that Pittsburgh has lately mended is the concert availability. During our last two trips in ’10 and ’11 we’ve seen shows by Frightened Rabbit and the Kooks respectively. Each band, within the next year has visited the ‘burgh. Due to our FAIL-trip to see the Kooks at the Boston House of Blues. I bought tickets to the local Kooks show at the Millvale dive known as Mr. Smalls to finally right that wrong. The House of Blues starts particular Saturday shows at 6pm due to the “hottest gay dance party” in Beantown taking place there later that evening. Gotta get the hipsters  and thirtysomethings out before “the buff” arrives. See the full recap here.

When I received my Kooks tickets I penciled the date on the calendar and put the tickets back in their envelope. The envelope returned to the “Shit Drawer.” I thought nothing more of those tickets. With the date marked on the calendar — March 12 — and the babysitter already arranged, all that was left was to remember the tickets and show up at Mr. Smalls at the appropriated time. I double-checked the start time even. 8pm. I wasn’t showing up late. Not again.

Yesterday I received a curious email from Opus One promoters.

“Thank you for helping to make last night’s show with The Kooks a success! To show our appreciation, we’d like to extend a buy one, get one free offer for our upcoming show with Fanfarlo on Sunday, March 25th exclusively to The Kooks ticket buyers.”

“Last night’s show with The Kooks?” Disbelief.

There must be some mistake. I run over to check the tickets. They say March 12. Swear.

I come back to the computer and Google the show. March 6th. Everyone says March 6th. If that’s true even the email has the wrong day. I return to the tickets. I study the tickets. Where have I gone wrong (yet again)? And then I see it. The silly, stupid, idiotic cause of my foible.

I'm an idiot.

Is the image big enough to correspond to the massive reading comprehension mistake?

06 MAR12

Either I can’t handle the fact that we’re three years away from the year in which the future of Back to the Future II takes place or I’m just simply incapable of processing a simple (but still alien for most Americans) system of DAY/MONTH/YEAR ordered calendar notation. March 12! It says so right there. NO! Think in the moment for just a goddamn second instead of worrying about the twenty other things you have to do.

Anyway. Hoverboards, motherbleepers.

[tube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BIa6l4WecB0[/tube]

The point I need to make is this: for the sake of the bands, the venue and yourself, make sure you’re living in the right year and double-check the start time of your show online. I take solace in the philosophy that my wife and I were just not meant to see a Kooks show. Fate somehow intervened. I am at peace.

Though, to be fair, I’m really not at peace about 2015 being right around the corner. I mean, do you remember when you first saw Back to the Future II and thought, “My gawd, 2015 is so far away! It’s so far away I’m quite sure we’ll never actually get there.”

Sigh.

Double check your tickets.

This has been a public service announcement sponsored by 30HertzRumble.

 

 

Words and Music

I don’t mean to trod on the coattails of the magnificent 1948 Judy Garland/Lena Horne/Gene Kelly/June Allyson/Mickey Rooney flick but sometimes there’s no other way around it. Truth be told, I’ve never seen this movie and I’m just ripping off the title for a rumination on the relationship between writing and music. But seeing as how I’m providing more press for this movie than it’s received in fifty years, I feel I’m paying my royalties. Continue reading Words and Music