Last night after I got into the car, Bill Mallonee came on the ipod (the classic, hardwired into our Prius's sound system), and I thought to myself, "Wow, I love this CD. This guy is great." Then I realized I had hardly played it, could recite not a single one of the record's song titles or even the name of the album. Yet, it really is a terrific CD. Mallonee has been around a long time, and his music -- which sounds a bit like Neil Young's when he's playing with Crazy Horse -- is worth checking out.
This pointed up a problem for which I have no answer, and I wonder whether other BW readers have the same frustration.
When I was growing up on Long Island and dreaming of getting out of that hellhole (How bad was it? A serial killer lived on our block, and he wasn't the worst person I met up with.) we'd hear new music over two or three primary sources. There was WABC for the top ten; WNEW for cool FM type stuff - The Band, Rolling Stones, Who, etc.) and to a lesser extent WLIR. Starting in 1970 or '71, WCBS went to an oldies format but that served to introduce me to the wonders of doowop and early rock, which was pretty cool.
If I heard something that I, my friends and Pete Fornatale liked (and Pete played Poco all day along, which was fine with me), I would save my money for a few weeks, and when I finally had the $3.89, I would get on my bike and ride to Modell's, which had a pretty decent record department (as did Korvettes, but for that I had to depend on my mother to drive me) and would pick up the new Poco, or James Taylor or maybe Abbey Road. The Who's "Tommy" was a big deal, not only because it was a great album but because it was a double album, and it took twice as long to horde my allowance before I could afford it.
First, you had to hope that Modell's would have a copy. If so, I'd grab it from the bin (even though I knew maybe one or two songs from it), pay for it, then hang the record from the handlebars of my bike, and now hope against hope that when I got it home and took the plastic off the record, it wasn't too warped to play. This was a real problem then. Your heart would sink if you put it on the turntable, looked at it from eye level and saw it rising and falling like a merry-go--round horse. If so, it was get on the bike again to Modell's and get another. and prayed it didn't happen again. It happened a lot. No wonder I had strong legs in those days. I owe my years as a marathoner to cheap vinyl.
Sometimes the records were not only warped but they would all skip in the same place. The trick was to tape a penny to the arm of the record player. Sometimes it worked, if not, it was back to Modell's. Unfortunately, every one of their copies of "Sweet Baby James" skipped. I must have bought five until I finally gave up. To this day, I cannot hear Taylor's "Blossom" without waiting for the skip that would inevitably come halfway through it: "Blossomskipsunshineskipwayskiplonesome."
But here's the thing, I'd listen to Abbey Road or Sweet Baby James almost exclusively for a month. I'd not only learn every skip but every breath that Taylor took; every fill by the musicians, all the intros and outros. It wasn't long before I had the entire album memorized. Only then would I start saving my dimes and quarters to buy my next album.
Here's how it goes now: I get up in the morning, I read through several blogs (including this one), I got through Ray Gianchetti's terrific Powerpop newsletter. I read several reviews. Then I turn on Spotify and listen and save what I liked. I might even download a few new records, and if I like them, I buy them on Amazon or itunes or Bandcamp or directly from the artist (my favorite way). Soon in a week, there might be twenty new records, all of which, like Bill Mallonee's I think are terrific, few of which I really get into, and as a result some of the best music I've ever heard gets continually buried on my hard drive.
Is this progress? I don't think so. On the one hand there is just so much great music out there, much more than there ever was back then when I was a kid, but it's also overwhelming.
What to do about it? I have no idea. Collect the stuff and just listen one at a time for a long time like I used to? I'm 58. By the time I get to a month's worth of new stuff, I'll have Alzheimers.
This raises a few questions I'd like to pose: Do you feel the same about this? What do you do about it? Or if not, why not? And then, because I've become an addict, what are your sources for learning about new music? Blogs, and if so which ones? Does anyone actually listen to the radio anymore? I occasionally listen to WFUV by streaming it out here in Portland, but it's mostly for nostalgia's sake rather than to learn what Darren DeVivo is recommending these days.
Finally, before I go, let me leave you with some music by the guy who started all this, Bill Mallonee. This is the title song from his 2012 album Amber Waves.
Oh, but then I should queue up Ruth Moody's terrific version of "Dancing in the Dark." Damn, but what about the new Fleetwood Mac or Live Jerry Lee. Seasick Steve, The Lemon Clocks. Oh, Joscho Stephan!
See the problem?