10th Record: The Beatles “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”

FullSizeRender-6I admit that this endeavor seems a lot less fun if the old, forgotten records I’m digging out are widely celebrated releases from some of the most recognized bands of all time … I’m assuming that once we get through the “Bea-” section, we’ll get back to more esoterica and discovery. In the meantime?

I think this was my first Beatles album. It was definitely among the first 4 CDs I got when I got my first CD player, and this LP is from around the same time, maybe a year or so later. I overplayed this album since those were the days when I had less options to throw on, and as a result I just never really put it on today or even celebrate it mentally the way I would, say, “Pet Sounds” or “Revolver.” When I do, I’m always pretty happy to hang out with an old friend; there’s nothing new or clever I’m going to be able to say about this album, so I’ll keep it brief. This is the first US mono release, and it’s in pretty good shape. No visual marks or scratches, but it’s gotten a lot of plays — plenty of surface noise in the quiet spots, occasional pops but overall a really great sounding record! Done?

Origin story: I found this at a thrift store near my childhood house. It was much easier to thrift shop records back then, I always found pretty good stuff without even trying to hard. I found my first Ramones record at the same shop, “Revolver,” Parliament…a wide range of cool stuff that would feel like a huge score if you came across it in a thrift bin today. It makes me a little surprised that the record is in such good shape (especially since I can’t imagine teenage Fredoluv took great care of his records either) all these years later.

Discogs link
Vinyl: VG/VG+ (visually pretty tight, but on play it sounds more VG)
Cover: G+ (splitting, discoloring, staining, etc. A fun time was had by all!)

10th Record: Beach Boys “Carl & the Passions: So Tough”

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I was right about hitting the Beach Boys again, and I guess it sorta ties into things from the last entry as well.

I love the Beach Boys and for sure go deeper into their catalog than casual fans (for me, up to “Surf’s Up” (1971) and then a smattering of Brian’s solo material), but I’ve never gotten into the stuff they did in the 70s. That’s obviously this record, released just a year after “Surf’s Up,” but I don’t think I even own some of the other records from that decade that hardcore fans might celebrate. I have this one, not because I’m a fan but…because Reprise weirdly decided to package this release with a pressing of “Pet Sounds” as well! It’s considered one of the best sounding versions of “PS,” especially if you’re not able/willing to drop a couple hundred bucks on a 90s vinyl remastering. Cheaper, I think, than the 80s green label reissues I mentioned in the last post — I’m not sure I’ve grabbed a “PS” in that series.

Anyway, I was fine with hearing this record and excited to be able to sneak in a listen of such a lifelong friend. Still, I held my nose as I dropped “Carl & the Passions” on the table … I just don’t get into the “rock” sound they were chasing, and even the two Brian Wilson contributions here aren’t that great (and marred by some bad Mike Love stuff as well). I gutted through it but admit I was washing dishes and tidying up while it played. I did sit down for some “Pet Sounds,” though, and tried to give that much more attention.

Hmm…my copy sounds okay, but it’s still not feeling very punchy. There’s something weird going on with the sound, and I’m not enough of even an armchair audiophile to guess what it is — some compression at the top end, maybe? I think I got very spoiled by the great digital releases of this album (and other Beach Boys albums), and it’s hard for me to find that same feeling and dynamic range in these half-ass vinyl pressings. It still sounds pretty good, a casual listener would never even notice anything; I was just hoping to have my socks blown off. Maybe by the time we spin through this section again (approximately 200 spins from now?) I’ll have that expensive DCC vinyl (or at least the 80s green label)! Either way, I doubt I’ll get this nerdy about most of the stuff I hear in the meantime…

Discogs Link
Vinyl: NM-
Cover: VG (a little ringwear)

10th Record: Beach Boys “Dance Dance Dance”

FullSizeRender-3Uh oh… Between that last Bauhaus record and this Beach Boys pressing, I’m having some slight doubts about this project. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Beach Boys like crazy — they’re one of my favorite groups and covered well enough in my collection that I wouldn’t be surprised to hit another one as the next 10th record. But this duophonic pressing is really hard to sit through.

“Today” was a definite landmark in my deepening appreciation of the Beach Boys in my 20s. I’d listened to them a bunch as a wee (some of my first LPs were the 80s reissues of “Little Deuce Coupe” and “Live” as well as the “Endless Summer”/”Spirit of America”/”Good Vibrations” compilations), liked “Pet Sounds” from my teens, but hadn’t really dug very deep into my appreciation. A friend recommended “Today,” and that re-introduction led to heavy consumption of all the 90s 2-fer CD reissues and a thorough entrenchment into the history and folklore of Brian Wilson in general — they quickly went from a band I liked to one of my all-time favorites. I still have a soft spot for “Today,” as a result, and have a few copies of this record in an effort to get something that sounds somewhat decent — that’s a challenge for Beach Boys vinyl, in general.

I know the 80s Capitol green label vinyl reissues are appreciated for their overall sound, so I scoop them up when I see them in used bins. That was the case here, but I didn’t note the Duophonic marking while doing so. This album was originally released mono, as was most of the BB’s early-to-mid canon was (with some early exceptions, but hey, grab that info somewhere else), with Capitol creating fake stereo versions to satisfy the new stereo consumers. Duophonic was one of those fake stereo processes, and the result here is pretty bad. I had a hard time not taking off the LP right away, and ended up doing other things to help me suffer through it. They basically processed two different mono signals with some time delay and echo that makes it sound muffled and echo-y and weird. Boo to that, and boo to this record! I should probably dump this one, but unlike the Bauhaus record reviewed previously, this one would have little to no value.

Origin: I found this in an odd record shop in Mound, MN. They were having real estate issues and needed to either liquidate their inventory/go out of business/or get cash to buy the building they were in; they had posted some deep sales notices on Craigslist that made me journey out to see what they had. The shop was wedged in behind a vacuum repair shop:

I dug out a few records, including this cheapy. It grabbed my attention because of the odd “Today” retitling, and I was excited enough to have another 80s green label before I really realized what I’d done. Oh well! The record store ended up surviving (they raised enough $$ to finance their building), and I’d like to visit again someday…

Discogs link
Vinyl: NM-
Cover: NM-

10th Record: Bauhaus “In the Flat Field”

FullSizeRender-2I liked Bauhaus okay in high school — I think they hit a cross-section of “mystery” and “other” that made them seem a bit cooler than their music had probably earned. I guess I’m tipping my hand a bit, this listening didn’t really go very well.

I first became aware of the band when I saw the notebook doodling of some older kids and asked them about it. Looking back on those doodles, they were a little weird — I remember a few attempts at the Fang logo, as well as a meticulous recreation of the Bauhaus logo. I just can’t imagine there being a lot of crossover appreciation of the East Bay hardcore band and the British goth pioneers, but there was that day. Anyway, the guy who answered was kind of a brat about it, telling me that if I really wanted to learn about Bauhaus to “read Tom Wolfe’s ‘From Bauhaus to Our House.” So, I did! At least partially, I mean, I figured it must be a cool book and gave it a pretty fair shake (especially considering my then naive understanding of international style and the intentions to impact socioeconomic conditions through its architecture). It took me another decade to realize that the guy who made that recommendation was just being a dillhole.

Anyway, I gave a similar shake to Bauhaus. At some point I had a few albums and 12″ singles, but it appears this is all that’s left a couple decades later. Aside from their monster smash “Bela Lugosi’s Dead,” I’m not sure that I really need to hear anything more for the next few decades either. It’s not a knock against goth music in general, there are still a few albums (i.e. the first Sisters of Mercy albums, early Cure, Joy Division, probably a teeny bit more) I actively listen to, but I just don’t find a lot of appeal to the Bauhaus sound. Listening to it now, I can appreciate the wild energy, the chaotic punk leanings on this album that push it more towards Joy Division’s “Unknown Pleasures” than JD’s “Closer,” but the songwriting is just flat and unrewarding. I don’t need a “pop” goth record (though, hey, someone should make one!), but this album is just dirge and crash and not a lot of hook and charm. Not something you’d put on before washing a tub of dishes or anything… I made it through, but I found myself thinking about pruning my record collection while I did. Why not sell albums like this that I’ll likely never put on the player again?

Origin: This is the Italian release of the LP, which helps me pinpoint where I bought it. I bought a lot of music at a tiny not-so-great used LP store in Tucson when I was in high school; a friend worked there, so it was always worth a visit to hear his recommendations and see what he could point me to in the stacks. I’d asked him to tape some Bauhaus tracks for me (which he did, while also nudging me towards better things in that universe, like PiL’s “Second Edition”), so it made sense that he’d let me know that LP had come into the shop. For some reason a lot of the better things I purchased at that store were imports, especially from Italy — I wonder who that Italian connection was that was dumping their early 80s record collection at that tiny store? I’m surprised to hear how clean the LP is, but maybe I didn’t listen to it that much in high school.

Discogs link
Vinyl: VG++
Cover: VG (Some wear to the edges)

 

10th Record: The B-52s “Wild Planet”

wp.jpgBoy, it always makes me happy to pull this one off the shelf… A lot of good memories packed into this slab of wax! This was my first B-52s album, so it benefits from being wrapped up in nostalgia in a way that elevates it over the rest of their work. Rationally, I know the first album is superior — the raw sound! the frenzied energy! rock lobster! 52 girls! — but this one got about 300 more plays during my crucial early teenager phase.

My memory isn’t good enough to pull how I had even heard of the band, but what I do remember is going to the record store and having to ask for help. I wanted a cassette, and this store kept the cassettes behind the counter for safekeeping.You know, kind of like this:

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I didn’t know which album I was supposed to get, so I vividly remember looking at each cassette trying to make a decision. The clerk wasn’t very helpful, he was more like this:

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I ended up picking by the cover and I guess the vivid red of “Wild Planet” stood out the most. Whatever it was, that cassette (along with the “Repo Man” soundtrack and home tapings of Jonathan L’s weekly “Virgin Vinyl” radio show) got a ton of play and scrutiny that summer. On a kinda cheesy and embarrasing note, I remember looking at the cover art and listening to all the banter and thinking “this is how cool grown-ups are. I hope I can be like this, some day” — a lot of my appreciation of camp, b-movies, mid-century kitsch, etc can be drawn back to those thoughts in specific. I, too, wanted to have a lava lamp, wild parties where pizza was consumed, and to name my dog goofy names like Quiche Lorraine. I succeeded, too!

Studying the album so closely paid off in other ways as well. I’ve always been around friends who loved to quote B-52s in some regard. In high school, a friend and I would have annoying call and response games in classrooms and hallways, where one of us would try to interject “what’s that on your head?” into conversations or while passing the other in order to elicit a boisterous “A WIG!” shout. In college, one of my dormmates would frequently lapse into Fred Schneider impressions, leading to even more embarrassing and insensitive exchanges and quoting. But mostly, a good litmus test for my friendship is your ability to recall every party element from “Party Out of Bounds,” a practice so nerdy that I won’t even get into its usage here.

Music notes! Hearing it again, as noted, the energy just isn’t quite the same from the first album. The songs are more consistent, though, and I think you can probably converge those two paths and see what the future held for the band — the more polished they got as a band, the less interesting they were overall.

Origin: No idea where this one came from. The cover looks pretty worn, but the vinyl plays super clearly — likely just a bargain addition to replace my cassette at some point.

Family Comments: My family wasn’t around when I was listening to this album, but the timing is pretty good nonetheless. My son has become a big fan of “Rock Lobster”, and will frequently request that song or other songs by “that guy”.  I’m sure he’d like hearing this whole album…

Discogs Link
Vinyl: VG++
Cover: VG-

Podcast: 7-11 on “Doughboys”

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“Doughboys” has secretly become one of my favorite podcasts. I held out for a little bit, I mean, the conceit of reviewing chain restaurants didn’t quite land with me since I’ve been trying for  years to never set foot in another chain restaurant again. But I love co-host Mike (“The Birthday Boys” “Love”) Mitchell enough that I had to give the show a chance. It didn’t take long for the constant bickering of Mitchell and Nick Wiger to win me over. Both are superb comedy writers and improv comedians, so the jokes and ribbings fly pretty quickly in each episode. A lot of my favorite LA improv comedians were selling points too, but I’m at the point now where I’ll not only listen to these guys review an empty water bottle  with no guests, I’ll set aside some special time to let it really breathe.

I’m calling out this episode, however, as one of their finest. I typically hate live podcasts of my favorite shows, there’s something about the audience and the laffs that disrupt the expected flow and timing a bit. Normally if I see “live” in the title, I’ll just skip that episode outright — I always have about 73 hours of podcast backlog in my player, so it’s not like the FOMO will make me too sad. This episode wasn’t advertised as live, however, and once I heard the audience chatter in the opening seconds I just bit the bullet and let it ride. Wiger and Mitch escalate their feud a few notches for the audience, but guest Fran Gillespie is what really rockets things to another level — her attacks of the podcast, its hosts, as well as her own self-effacing personal histories just completely won me over. I was laughing pretty hard at points, and when it ended I immediately queued up an earlier episode with Gillespie as well.  A solid five fork rating for this episode, and I encourage you to dig in immediately…