Monday, April 15, 2019

The Record Store Day Hangover

It seems that my reputation precedes me. I've been a cynic long before I knew the meaning of the word. But I don't believe that should disqualify me from voicing my displeasure over genuinely awful things. Sometimes, things are truly awful, even if some fail to see it as soon as I do.

Record Store Day is truly awful. What began as a celebration of the mom and pop record shop, with special releases created to bring people back to the disappearing record store, ten years on has become a manipulative and insulting day of greed, chaos and what can only be described as a sodomizing of the poor, genuine soul who really is only in it for the music.

If you are not familiar with the process, I'll explain.

Record labels, both major and indie, create product, usually from already existing product, that will be pressed in limited quantities, some of the time in gimmicky packaging or colored vinyl, that will be released to brick and mortar only. There is a suggested retail price (if you can find that information anywhere online) that is rarely adhered to and never policed by the clowns who run this horrible event.

So for example, Craft Recordings released Albert King's 1967 Stax classic, "Born Under A Bad Sign," newly mastered from original analogue MONO tapes, in a run of 2250 copies. Suggested list: $24.99-$27.99. About a day or two before RSD, copies began appearing on eBay for $69.99 to $99.99. It's very easy to find these rule-breakers. All you need to do is look. But no one in charge of RSD ever does. On RSD itself, this Albert King piece was nearly impossible to find, at least in the stores I checked in with.  I spoke to a few dealers, as well as some record store owners in the tri-state area, all of whom said they couldn't get any. Now, RSD is over and copies are back online for $69.99- $88.99. Has there been a resurgence of Albert King records that I didn't know about? You can still find basic, solid sounding reissues of "Born Under A Bad Sign" for about $25. I can tell a similar story about another hundred pieces.

Creating mania over picture discs, repackaged bonus tracks, live albums and god help us, 3" records that need a special player, is not celebrating the mom and pop. It's mocking the record buying public, who sadly, get mocked enough. It's bad enough to want a vinyl copy of Pink Floyd's "A Saucerful Of Secrets" in MONO, that you line up at 4AM in the pouring rain and stand around waiting for your shop to open, only to be told, "We got fucked. We didn't get any Floyd." (That's the story I heard from at least a half dozen people.) But then, after the initial humiliation, you find multiple copies on line for close to $100. This PF record had a run of 6500. Really? 6500 and records stores got "fucked?" "A Saucerful Of Secrets" is 50 years old and I don't think it has yet sold 6500 copies. As of this writing, I see over 150 available on line. Lord knows how many more were hoarded, leaving all the innocent Record Store Day visitors empty-handed.

One friend suggested this:  "Maybe if this many people shopped at record stores every weekend, we wouldn't need RSD." I wonder how many people would show up in the early hours of RSD if only 10 releases had been announced instead of 500. Of course there are throngs of people. 500 new records came out on one day. People love music.

And did you know, nothing is returnable. I bought a few records, hassle free, thanks to knowing some good people. But two of my records are defective. TOO BAD! No exchanges on RSD. And let's say a record store ordered ten copies of Sly & the Family Stone's Complete Woodstock Performance, but only moved four. TOO BAD! No returns. Now what? A three-sided album, of an oft-bootlegged show, with audio easily available with a few keystrokes, priced at the suggested list of $32.99 sits in a bin, to eventually get reduced to $24.99, just to both, add insult to injury to those who waited on line, and to help the retailer get his money back. (The Sly Woodstock performance, by the way, runs 44 minutes and could have easily been released on a single LP for $19.99. And if you come back at me with the "sound quality" argument, I'll tell you that no one gave a shit about releasing Robert Plant's 64 minute album, "Fate Of Nations" on one LP.)

Another friend pointed out: "It's a futile argument. RSD and the RnRHoF. Take the good with the hosing." I'll agree that arguing about the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame is futile. Public Enemy, yes! Def Leppard, no! Def Leppard, yes! Roxy Music, no! We can do that all day. But shouldn't it be pretty easy to get on board with RSD overpricing and scalping? Even the execution is ham-fisted. $45 for Badfinger Warner Brothers outtakes on limited vinyl, which is already available for $20 or less on CD? There's no work involved here, other than hastily pressing and printing the product, which probably accounts for so many bad pressings and chintzy packages, all wanting for at least a proper printed inner sleeve. I can do this all day, too. The labels are preying on the fans and obsessives and record store owners roll the dice. Many, still stuck with product from RSD 2016 and 2017. Seems like a lot more bad than good.

Full disclosure, I bought the Albert King piece because Kevin Gray did the mastering and it's fantastic. I bought the Sly "Woodstock" piece because I love Sly. I bought the Badfinger piece because I think the alternate mixes are terrific. But I would have bought them all anyway. I just would have preferred doing it on my own time and having the ability to exchange them, if they were defective. I don't appreciate the dog and pony show. I can't see how anyone does.

When all is said and done, you can either participate or not. No one is forced out into the early morning, money and list in hand. But there needs to be a better way. And please, if you're answer is, "Download free MP3s," you're missing both the point of Record Store Day and the heart of this blog.  

Finally, a friend and record store owner challenged me with this: 

"How about the fact that the customers REALLY REALLY LOVE IT? Everybody gets some stuff that they like. Some love the adventure, lining up, getting up early. It's not about money really, at least not around my shop. Why can't people just have some fun? I really enjoy the whole experience, including the records that I get for myself. People were happy today, and that's brings me pleasure. Why not?"

I guess that's one man's experience. It wasn't mine. I saw kid after kid after kid, come out of my local shop, whining about not getting the Pearl Jam, or the Mastodon, or The Crow soundtrack, and at least 5 people got shut out of the Pink Floyd. No one looked like they were having fun. Many sitting alone, on the wet pavement, relentlessly checking their phones. And no one could have been happy spending $38 for seven different remixes of one Roxy Music song. Try finding list prices and track listings for all of the RSD releases once they are announced. Not even the official RSD website is thorough. Everything is a mystery until you take out your wallet in the shop. I wonder how much excitement would be drummed up if you knew "Roxy Music Remixed" was not the first album remixed, but mostly just "Ladytron." Would you still be excited about dropping $38?

Another interesting point about my local shop---there is no browsing. I'm not sure how other shops run things, but here, all the product is behind the counter and NONE of it is priced. Fun? Think about this. You wait in a line for upwards of two hours, it's your turn, and you've got 50 impatient people behind you grunting while you stutter through your want list, only to be handed half of it if you're lucky, shoved off to a register, where it is all scanned and rung up. It's only then that you find out, you were charged $5-$15 over the suggested list. I observed this for over an hour and NO ONE spoke up inside the store, only when they got outside and looked at the receipt. 

It might be easy for those who don't care about any of this to simply respond with, "Just don't do it." Or, "I would have spoken up about the pricing." I won't argue with you. You're right. But remember, it's a lot easier when you're not in the thick of it.

This is what two more record store owner friends had to say about RSD:
"I hate it! I hate it! I hate it!" 
"I fucking hate it!"

I've never tried to hide my love for my records or the fact that, if you put me in a warehouse filled with thousands of record bins, you would find me dead, weeks later, with my fingers stiff over the "M" section. It is without question, my favorite thing to do. Flipping through records is my yoga. But Record Store Day is not fun. It's an unpleasant, hot Vicks vinyl enema and it takes advantage of every single soul who loves buying records, and who, by the way, never needed a "day" to go to a record store. They were always going. They only stopped because the majors fucked that up too.


Sunday, April 14, 2019

Songs Of The Week: Spring Highlights

If things go my way----HAHAHAAA---The Weekend Mix and Songs Of The Week zips will be back in business by the end of next week. Until then, I thought I'd tried this approach, as the Songs Of The Day have been piling up.

This Dorothy Berry track employs every trick in the record making book and what you get is a relentless blast of energy in under 2:00. And it was written by the same guy who wrote "Baby I'm A Want You," Mr. David Gates.

A few weeks ago, in light of Peter Frampton's health and decision to retire, a few different social media debates surfaced, both good and bad, of course. I am a fan of the man, and my two cents went towards defending the "I'm In You" album. I wasn't stupid enough to defend the title track, even though I don't hate it---Frampton plays drums on it and I think that's cool---and I certainly wouldn't have approved of the cover photo, though I hear the ladies like it. But, there are some great songs on that record, including this track, which might just be my favorite Pete song of all. A really nice cameo by Mick Jagger is another bonus.

One of my Top 10 songs out of New Orleans, from the genius pen of Alex McMurray, a NOLA legend. This is one of the nastiest and one of the funniest songs I have ever heard and it's got a badasss groove, to boot.

"Paris 1919" has always been my favorite John Cale album. But, "Slow Dazzle" is a very close second, and after having not listened to it in years, I gave it a spin three times in a week. The opening tribute to Brian Wilson is worth your three minutes.

When jazz pianist Brad Mehldau released "Largo," it turned the jazz purists world on its ear. It blew my little mind, too. I truly hadn't heard anything like it before. It wasn't jazz, or was it? Pop music? It might be. Brilliant and beautiful, for sure. This is the opening track.

The wonderful Soul Jazz record label released two deep cuts a few weeks ago, records by Steve Reid and Eddie Russ. I knew nothing about either, but I loved the press releases and the reviews from All Music. I took a chance on both and I love both. This is something from Eddie Russ.

This gorgeous track closes out "Kiko" by Los Lobos, and I thought it would be a nice closer for what would have been a SOTW zip.

Friday, April 12, 2019

"Alternates For Bill" : THE WEEKEND MIX (From The Archives)

 Here's a good ol' good one, first posted in November of 2009. Some slight tweaking in the text, but the songs remain the same.

"Sal, with all the Deluxe packaging these days, will you please do a weekend mix of your all-time top 20 favorite alternate mixes?

Sure Bill. How about 14?


Grapevine (Remix) Gladys Knight & The Pips
(This Questlove remix of the Motown classic couldn't be any funkier. I actually play this and like this more than the original. When those drums first kick in? Holy Thwack, Batman!)

Such A Night (False Starts) - Elvis Presley
(I'm pretty sure I first heard this on Scott Muni's show long before outtakes and studio chatter became commonplace on reissues. Love hearing him instruct the band. Still a Top 5 Elvis song for me.)

You're So Good To Me (New Stereo Mix) - The Beach Boys
(Self-explanatory really. Just a big, bright, new stereo mix of a Beach Boys classic.)

Baby Blue (Single Mix) - Badfinger

(Todd Rundgren's production gets a bigger drum sound for the single mix.)

Dear God (Band Demo) - XTC
(Speaking of Todd, this is the pre-Todd demo of the "Skylarking" hit." Doesn't sparkle like the finished version, but worthy of inclusion nonetheless.)

Walking In The Rain (Rare Stereo) - The Ronettes
(The super-rare, and "super-irior" stereo version)

It's Different For Girls - Joe Jackson & Elaine Caswell

(Found on the b-side of JJ's "Stranger Than Fiction" single, this acoustic piano duet is a killer and truly one of my all-time favorite "alternates.")

Twilight (Alternate) - The Band

(I think this alternate works much better than the steel-drum infected single version.)

You Can't Resist It (remix) - Lyle Lovett

(The drums get pumped up, the tambourine gets louder, and the overall feel of this remix makes the album version seem flat.)

Lady Stardust (Demo) - David Bowie

(A piano and a double-tracked Bowie vocal, with the original lyric, "Oh how I lied, when they asked if I knew his name." Kind of a genius edit, if you ask me, changing it to, "Oh, how I sighed" for the final product.)

Alison (US Single Version) - Elvis Costello
(I know many who hate this version, but I am a sucker for harmony and strings.)

Once In A Lifetime (Extended) - Talking Heads
(Longer? Yes. Better? On the fence.)

Bold As Love - Jimi Hendrix
(Longer? Yes. Instrumental? Yes. Better? HELL YEAH!!!)

Born To Run (Alternate) - Bruce Springsteen
(Interesting and maybe amazing. Decide for yourself on this one.)



Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Nat Turner Rebellion

To say that Nat Turner Rebellion was Philadelphia's answer to Sly & The Family Stone would be taking the easy way out. But seeing as how I knew nothing of this band prior to this week, when I received the record in the mail, I'll stick with that assessment for the moment.

From the notes of the just released Vinyl Me, Please LP:

"The first ever full-length release from Nat Turner Rebellion---a Philly soul and R&B group that broke up before their first LP could be completed---Laugh To Keep From Crying compiles the group's sought after singles and a wealth of never-released material that has been sitting in vaults in PA since the early 70's. As a band on the forefront of the early 70's Philly soul explosion and the back end of the Black Power movement of the late 60's, they were tapped into being a part of the revolutionary soul music movement."

I am loving this release. Not everything feels as funky as Sly. There are moments of pop/R&B brilliance, that feel like lost Delfonics singles, which makes some sense, since members of The Delfonics are in the NTR. The bonus 7" that is included in the package has a terrific A side that once again evokes the funk and spirit of the Family Stone, while the B side plays like a great hit by The Spinners. What I am saying is, if you dig any of the bands I mentioned, you need to grab this release.

There isn't much on YouTube, and what is there has been been uploaded from scratchy 45s. But you will get the idea.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

A Medley Of Our Hit

I want to thank Tinpot for asking about The John Sally Ride's Friday night performance, acoustically warming up the amazing Amy Rigby. A fun time was had by all, considering the miserable, chilly and rainy weather. It was our first live set in over two years, and the very first in a stripped down setting. Some Zapruder-quality footage has surfaced. Please enjoy.

Monday, April 8, 2019

New, Old Stock: John Howard

Me and the boys from The John Sally Ride can never get together without talking about either the New York Yankees, or obscure singer-songwriters who sound like a cross between "Hunky Dory"-era David Bowie and "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road"-era Elton John, with a touch of Al Stewart and Scott Walker. This past week, thanks to both Mr. Dunbar and Mr. Maida, I discovered the latter, Mr. John Howard.

Signed to CBS in 1973, Howard was groomed for stardom, but the BBC refused to play the first single, "Goodbye Suzie," from his debut "Kid In A Big World," deeming the suicidal theme too depressing. And that was that. It never happened. He released two more solid records for CBS and continues to sing and record to this day.

There's more to his story, but I am not his biographer. I am just crazy about "Kid In A Big World," which features both Rod Argent and Bob Henrit from Argent. Here is a trio of tracks to get you started. "Kid In A Big World"was just reissued on the You Are The Cosmos label, if you're interested.

Friday, April 5, 2019

"FEELING GROOVY" : A Weekend Mix From The Archives

This Weekend Mix first appeared on January 29, 2010. No changes have been made to the music, only some minor touching up on the copy.
Dig it.

This mix has been through a few different forms since its inception. It started simply as a cheap vehicle to get everyone to hear Nick Curran's sick and slinky Stooges' cover and Martin Belmont's brilliant take on Elvis Costello's "Alison." Then, the "Lost Tracks" series I began a few weeks ago came to mind, and the mix, at least in my head, quickly turned into a collection of not-so-familiar songs by artists everyone was familiar with.


Then, as I started picking and choosing, I noticed a groove happening, or a "happening groove," if you will. So "FEELING GROOVY" it is.

Thoughts and comments are encouraged.



shaft in africa- johnny pate
leaving here- jimmy hanna & the dynamics
right now, right now- al green
non support- ironing board sam
scraps- nrbq
no fun- nick curran & the lowlifes
alison- martin belmont
four day creep- ida cox
down home girl- the coasters
i was a fool- the casanova II
we need an understanding- ike & tina turner
temptation 'bout to get me- the knight brorthers
shotgun slim- dyke & the blazers
the first cut is the deepest- the koobas
that's the way- the kit kats
railroad man- bill withers