There’s no time to think…

It’s been an interesting few days/weeks/months/years.

I’ve been wrestling with what to do next in that all too familiar mid-life crisis way. I completed my fiftieth year on the planet not so long ago, actually in February so at the rate the months are currently passing, it was a lifetime ago. This coincided with me beginning to buy records again, I thought I’d make a list of records I had to own and go from there, fifty seemed a good number. Seems nostalgia and self reflection are two things that grab us at a certain point in life, they are also two things that are difficult to wrestle with together.

So I have been curating this list for over a year now, adding albums, removing albums and dithering and considering. Just today I realized there was no Dylan and maybe that Beatles album should be replaced with Rubber Soul. It’s as if it is impossible to get to what will be the 50 albums that will represent me on some level, is my mind and taste really so restless and fickle. I’m looking at the list and there is no Fleetwood Mac, Stones, Zeppelin or Black Sabbath and Purple are nowhere to be seen, damn where is the Whitesnake not to mention UFO or the glorious Scorpions. It is almost as if the metal years are no longer there, but the mighty Hawkwind make it twice and it could have been four.

It seems there are constants and then the albums that come and go. When I play Quicksilver Messenger Service or the Grateful Dead it seems that is all I want to hear but they are not on the list. Since January I have been listening to the Dead every week, at least one concert and yet they still have never made the list, Uriah Heep are on constant blasting rotation in the car but nowhere to be seen, yet Manassass are on the list and it has been months since I played the record, however great the album is. It seems to be the more important and familiar you are with an album the less you almost need to hear it.

It seems that the list may be more defined by what is not on it some days than what made it. It is maybe a reflection of my shifting musical memory, songs and albums coming into focus as memories emerge and comfort me or at times discomfort me. Around my wedding anniversary time Matthews Southern Comfort are important and later in August Fairport Convention as I pine for Cropredy or the connections that make that festival important even though it is never what I hoped for.

Then there is the question that as on some level this began as a buying guide can you add an album that you don’t own. I desperately want Solid Sir by John Martyn on there but I don’t think I will be able to afford a copy in the near future, unless I suck it up and spend the money on a reissue, which I hear is really worth the money. Lists are by there nature limiting and the question is do I want to be limited? Or as my wife would I am sure agree maybe I need to be limited.

This list has now become an albatross. It is something that is now apparently becoming consuming of too much thought. Am I ever going to get to that 50 albums or should I go for 100, 1000 or maybe more. As I look at the list in front of me as I write I am thinking I should add some more bands, maybe if I limit my choice to only one album by each band I can increase the variety. Is that though really an indicator of what I truly see as defining myself, do I want to define myself or am I happy to constantly change the list as the ever shifting playlist in my head is going all the time.

I am thinking of the time as a teenager heading out on vacation to Wales I would be happy with three records and a stack of books for two weeks. Really taking the time to listen and stare at the scenery. So in the interest of my sanity you will not get the list but here is a picture of where I spent most of my holidays as a child watching the Irish Sea, swimming, reading and listening to the few records I had. Nothing says the Llyn Peninsular like a morning pie apparently.


Started out in Sausolito, They said “You talk just like the Beatles”…

Or you are not on the list.

So I made a list had a think, or thunk,  and thought what happened to Head Like A Rock? Why is it not on the list. So here it is too cool to be on time and always late to the party but actually brings the party with it.head

Ian McNabb’s masterpiece Head Like A Rock.

Actually I got an email from Dave stating that he would categorically come over and steal my records if I did not correct this travesty of justice and list making. He is also 6000 miles away from my record collection so that is a commitment to justice and this is the second time he has threatened my records this week alone.

Recorded with members of Crazy Horse it is one of the best guitar albums from the 90’s. Full of feedback and melodies to die for, it is a classic. As far as I know there is no vinyl version but there is a very cool expanded edition CD with all sorts of fun B. Sides and singles.

Supposedly a concept album but I got that from wikepedia and have never heard that idea before. My guess would be tortured artist form Liverpool overcome with angst plays loud guitar with his heroes band would do as a concept though.

In truth there are many styles on the album from country to gospel and pop but all with the McNabb wit and bite.

No I will not be removing an album from my 15 this is a kind of bonus disc and I am locking the doors securely to keep intruders away from the beloved vinyl.

Ride the post atomic radioactive trash…

Back to the lists, well the ever evolving list.

I have an affection for Hawkwind that sometimes flows over to obsession.

I got Quark Strangeness and Charm in the early 80’s. It was a Christmas gift from my parents, I am not sure they knew what they were buying. Over the years I wore our three records I think through various mishaps and disasters.

Hawkwind-Quark-Strangness-and-Charm I sold my last copy to buy baby formula when our youngest was young enough for formula. Well to be honest I sold my entire Hawkwind collection for baby stuff, we were poor and the records seemed surplus to requirements at the time.

When we moved to the USA Hawkwind were too obscure it seemed and there was no Amazon and discogs to meet a need.

Over time I replaced many of the Hawkwind albums on CD mainly when I went back to the UK but those Charisma albums seemed to never be released except on dodgy Russian labels. I lived with the memory alone and played Space Ritual and other masterpieces of blanga constantly much to the annoyance of my wife.

The album became the Holy Grail of my cd searches, never turning up but always rumored to be available. Eventually I bought Epocheclipse which had many of the songs but none of the flow.The Cherry Red releases came but I never bought them, there was something about the memory of the vinyl, the sleeve and the inner sleeve with the typos and crossing out.

So finally I succumbed spending $20 on  used vinyl copy on the Sire label. It is not the Charisma label with the mad hatter and Cheshire cat but the music is all there in the right order.

The science fiction lyrics of Robert Calvert, the social commentary, the homage to Krautrock in the Forge of Vulcan, the riff’s the violin solos and other fun stuff to marvel at as the synths wash over you. When I first got the album it seemed like one of the greatest things I had ever heard and it still makes the list of my 50 favorites I guess.

I want to talk glowingly about the audio and the sound but it is Hawkwind. It sounds like it was recorded in a hurry between tours. It has some mistakes on there and the urgency of a band getting something important out. It is the best of the Charisma albums although I have to admit to a love of PXR5 as well.


What’s In A List?

So many lists, honey do’s and honey don’ts and things to think about.

  1. Sell the damn house.
  2. Move somewhere cheaper.
  3. Open a book store/cafe. Twenty years ago this would have been a bar but I don’t think I could stay up that late anymore.
  4. Listen to more records, yes records, those large pieces of plastic we used to carry around.
  5. Read more books.
  6. Take deep breaths.
  7. Eat more veggies,

No that isn’t really the list, well some of them are the list but not all. And at the end of the day it really is a list but not the A – List.

There is a budding list of what my vinyl play list should be, I started compiling it two weeks ago when the turn table took up residence. It has grown to 23 records so far and who knows where it will go. It is far from complete, although I assigned the completely random number of 50 as the top number so it may take some time to edit and get to where I want it. I am not even close to ready to share the number yet.

The list is symbolic of aspirations, what has made that more meaningful is the changing nature of the list. As well as how hard it is to find some of these albums. It is all tied up in hopes and how you get there. It is wonderful to have goals but sometimes they can be as hard to find as a copy of Solid Air by John Martyn. So the search goes on and the rummaging through Goodwill piles of vinyl and the online browsing. All I can do is sit here and wait for my much anticipated copy of I Often Dream of Trains by Robyn Hitchcock. An album I have not touched in excess of twenty years.

The wait goes on.

I have this image of this idyllic place, shady but warm, lazy and relaxing, Passersby stopping in to hang out and play chess or checkers, look at books and drink coffee. Every morning begins with a stroll  and every day ends with a stroll. In between there are conversations about music, books and the best place to sit and read. Neighbors stop to say hi and people care about each other. People lean their bike against the wall and stop to chat as children run down the street laughing.

Maybe it will happen one day, it is a good place to go though when needed. It is in the future somewhere, some when though.

Another thought. Why are there so many Gordon Lightfoot albums laying around in used record stores? If all the Gordo fans out there got rid of there vinyl did they then go out and binge buy all those records on CD again. I have the same thought about Neil Diamond, augit is not Frampton Comes Alive that was the soundtrack of the suburbs but Gordon Lightfoot and Neil Diamond. Hot August Night is an awesome album though, I hide it next to Gordo and Frampton so it feels happy in it’s suburban home, the only question really is why did Neil approve that picture, he looks like he is doing the robot dance or holding a very large… well let us not got there.

nowhereTalking about Neil’s. I have played Cowgirl In The Sand three times so far this week. Each time I focus on a different part of the song, the solo, the harmonies, the lyrics, the bass and the rhythm. It is a psychedelic anthem, a meandering statement, a gorgeous song and it fades out. I can’t help but wonder what did I miss every time I hear it. What happened after the fade, how much more was there that night as Neil and Crazy Horse played. It’s a song with a groove as much as any Motown or Atlantic cut, it meanders and travels like an old blues song but hits places the Dead never will and the Airplane only think about.

In fact Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere is a masterpiece in it’s own right. I remember sitting one evening playing Round and Round over and over again many years ago. It is probably the least of the songs on the album and I remember thinking that there must be some really deep reason Neil had placed it on the album. It surely must hold the secrets of the universe in its almost 6 minutes. But no, after hours of listening and consulting the lyrics it really is just a kind of cool weird psychedelic country song. Very fun but not so deep after all. Those hours may have been wasted.

The first time I heard Everyone Knows This Is Nowhere I was floored. The album is almost a force of nature. It was all the more powerful because I had just played the Neil Young album which at times sounds like poor mans Buffalo Springfield. I remember thinking he should have taken The Loner and squeezed it onto the follow up album, it would have been perfect with a little Horse injection. The first time I heard the big songs from Everyone Knows… I knew I would be a young fan forever.

So another week of vinyl ends. This weeks playing was:

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, After the Goldrush, Zuma, Neil Young

Now We Are Six and Bedlam Born, Steeleye Span

All Things Must Pass, George Harrison

The Icicle Works first album

The Royal Scam, Steely Dan

Beautiful Vision, Van Morrison

Bare Trees, Fleetwood Mac

There you go another list.


Record stores…Up and over we go.

So we have the turn table and some records, what next? It is obvious really, let’s go buy more records. Who even thought to really consider that question in any serious manner. Luckily I have a supremely patient wife who seems to understand the need to buy an album for the third time. Or maybe she was just too sick to really care today. Either way the die was cast.

So where to go? Luckily Portland potentially being the center of hipsterdom has may record stores selling vinyl by the pound, not to forget Goodwill after all. So off to brave the big city which is a lot easier since GPS became something nestling on my phone. I tried to con one of my kids into coming with me but one wanted to sleep after working an overnight and the other preferred schoolwork. So it was a solo journey, reminiscent of my teen vinyl buying years.

Off to Everyday Music on Sandy Blvd, I had never been in the vinyl section here before, usually buying cd’s, a much safer used purchase than fragile vinyl. The store was large and well laid out and easily navigated. I was however looking for a nostalgia fest maybe or something else than I got at least. Record stores used to be these fun loud flamboyant places with interested people working as well as odd balls,probe or maybe that was just Probe records on Button street. This is how I remember it looking. The repository of all that was cool about records in the day. I managed to buy Harper’s Lifemask, Fairport’s Moat on The Ledge and Give and Take by Here and Now all on the same day.

Before the internet the cork board by the door would tell you where and when the gig was for most bands nobody else wanted to see was. All of the staff were characters and would tell you how badly what you were buying sucked, or if you were lucky or hip enough that you happened to be the only person with any taste that had walked through the door this week. Even the main chain stores such as HMV or Virgin would have knowledgeable people who seemed to realize that they were being paid to listen to music and talk about it all day. Consequently the disappointment of hearing the depressed hipsters at Everyday music complain about how sad they are was not easily overcome. Yes they were pierced by enough hardware and had a dizzying array of tattoos, actually pretty normal for Portland, and tried so hard to be alternative but they did not really seem to realize just how cool their job really was.

Maybe the staff at the Beaverton store will be more fun.

However the important stuff, wow so may records all nicely arranged, new and used all together. Banks of 50c records that I was a little afraid of and most of the records in great quality and reasonably priced. As well as a new arrival section arranged by day of arrival. So I rummaged around for an hour, a few guys my age looking for all those things that they had given away or sold in the past and the young kids looking to discover something they missed as a teen, the joy of records. Out the window went all good intentions of sticking to the idea of albums that blew me away and I just started collecting vinyl to buy. Then I had to go back and put half of it all back, however for some reason I still ended up with three Jethro Tull albums, go figure.

The Purchases:

Stills and Stills 2 – Stephen Stills, not quite on the list but maybe they should be.

Deja Vu – CSNY, of course it is on the list.

Below the Salt – Steeleye Span

Nine, and an odd compilation called Chronicles by Fairport Convention, Nine should be on any self respecting Fairport fans list.

Bursting Out, one of the great live albums, Songs from the Wood, Stormwatch, the first Tull album I ever bought, – Jethro Tull

Hergest Ridge – Mike Oldfield, no idea why apart from it was in perfect condition and everyone needs some Oldfield and it is better than Tubular Bells.

So two from the list if I ever get to writing it. Well I have got to 16 so far.

But in the mail arrived In The Aeroplane Over The Sea by Neutral Milk Hotel,aeroplanejpg the very first piece of brand new vinyl I have bought in over 20 years. So why this record and why is it on the list?

I first heard this album on the same day as I heard Belle and Sebastien’s Lazy Line Painter Jane and they have both stuck in my mind in a good way. So I guess that is the answer, if the record sticks with you for years then it is on the list, of course that leaves space for the Hollies Greatest Hits, which is not a bad thing.

Well it has a great cover. It is also a wonderfully naive, twisted album with some of the best use of trumpet and musical saw ever, despite the slightly desperate sixth form poetry it still manages to hold itself together barely. It reminds me of Julian Cope at his greatest but it is also very American with a vocalist in Jeff Mangum that sounds just about this side of sane. It is as idiosyncratic as it is wonderful, with an epic use of dissonance and melody almost simultaneously and a wonderful punk sensibility.

So there you have it, the first visit to a record store to buy vinyl in over twenty years and the first brand new album bought in twenty years or so. It is still exciting to hold a brand new record by the way, and they really seem to be making them so much better, it is a reassuringly solid feeling piece of plastic.