If you read this blog and my inane dribbles it is no secret that I am a Neil Young and vinyl fan. If you combine those two obsessions you can understand my search for an album that has eluded me for some time, the Ragged Glory album by Neil and Crazy Horse.
Ragged Glory was the first Neil Young album I bought on CD, never owned the vinyl. Vinyl records were old hat. Big heavy dinosaurs of the time before compact discs. They were space wasting, easy to scratch, always noisy no matter how much care you gave them, I viewed them as relics from an old age. CDs were small (hence the word ‘compact’), no ‘pops and clicks’, easy to take on a trip and you could ‘program’ out songs you didn’t want to hear…a monster was born.
I sold or gave away my record collection, something I still feel shame and deep regret about…I drank the grape Kool-Aid.
After many years of having all the music I wanted, getting any song or album with a couple of clicks of the mouse, I noticed a change in the way I viewed music. Music was this ‘thing’ that I stored on my computer…this thing that was easy to get…and if I didn’t like the sound of it within 40 seconds I ‘clicked’ on something else. It took very little effort to listen to music and music just became background noise to fill up my silence. Then, almost by accident, I rekindled my love affair with the old fashion vinyl record.
I had forgotten the joy of the hunt. Going into a record store and just digging. Looking for something to listen to. I started hitting up local record stores and going to yard sales. You know what happened? I started meeting a new group of like minded people, I got to know my local store owners and I made a couple of new friends. They gave me some suggestions on what they thought I might like. I discovered more music that appealed to me.
I rediscovered listening to music. Really listening to music…reading the liner notes, studying the album artwork, following along with the lyric sheet, listening to an album in one sitting and in the order the artist intended.
And folks it just sounds better.
That was one I always scoffed at…but even with my old ears I can tell the difference. Vinyl has a fuller, richer and more vivid range. Which brings me back to our topic.
The album Ragged Glory is one of my favorite Neil Young and Crazy Horse albums. It is always in rotation on my iPod. Great songs, great guitars, great sound…I would turn to this album and turn it up when I needed a pick-me-up or if I was already in a good mood this would just enhance the exhilaration. There is just something special about that set of songs to me.
It was released in September of 1990. It was a time that they just didn’t make that many vinyl records, everything was compact discs and vinyl was being phased out. So when I started building up my Neil Young vinyl collection it was hard for me to track down…at a reasonable price. I had record guys looking for me. I got told stories of having seen a copy at the local Goodwill or that so-and-so has two copies just ask him to sell you one. Even on-line they were never in my price range.
Until two weeks ago. It showed up on eBay…an auction…starting bid of one dollar. I watched it all week long. After a couple of days it went up to sixteen dollars and just sat there. I watched and waited. I waited until ten seconds left on the auction and I bid twenty-six dollars and one cent. I got the record for twenty-two bucks.
My mailman brought it to me yesterday and it is a glorious thing. Buying records, especially used, on-line can be a little iffy, but the record is in great condition with very little surface noise. I played it this afternoon and even though they crammed so much music on this single disc (64 minutes) the sound is so warm, it was as if the Horse was playing in my bedroom.
I can now cross it off my list….now to find Mirror Ball.
Busy week for me with kids Birthday Party, wife’s art show, getting ready for the holidays and moving…but I did manage to watch this very cool BBC documentary on singles.
I tend to listen to National Public Radio on my morning and afternoon drives unless I am blasting music. Morning Edition and Fresh Air are just good informative shows. For the past month my local NPR station, Capitol Public Radio, has been accepting donations of used records, cds and video games for their annual used record sale fund raiser. My youngest son heard this plea for donations and told me to give them my records but keep my hands off his video games. When I explained to him that the station would be selling all the donated items for cheap he decided that this was one sale he was not going to miss. He told his brother and they were both up for going. They are gamers and the thoughts of cheap used video games drove them mad with anticipation. Which was fine with me…used records?…I am there.
This past weekend was the big sale…Saturday and Sunday. We had planned on getting an early start on Saturday, but with the boys being out of school they tend to sleep in just a little later than normal and it being Saturday I tend to sleep in just a little later than normal. So we didn’t get on the road till noon, but that was fine. It was going to be a fun outing with just us boys…video games for them and records for me. As we made our way I told them I didn’t know what to expect (or if they would have much of anything) as I had never been to one of their sales before. My oldest mentioned he didn’t expect anything good as this was going to be all donated items. I had to agree…and secretly hoped that there would be something that they would be interested in.
When we arrived and walked into the store front I saw rows and rows of tables with records. And people everywhere. I told the boys to walk around and find the games as I dug into my first box of records. Before I was finished looking through that box they were back informing me there was nothing for them. Well that sucks for them, but there was more than enough for me to look through. I told them to give me some time and I would take them to a video game store when we were done.
They gave me space and time to look through about half of what I wanted to, but they were putting on the sad faces and I beat a retreat. I had time to look through about three quarters of the rock and folk section…never made it to the jazz section or the tables of 45s. The boys told me that there was only one box with games…all computer games…from the 1990’s…GASP!
But this was heaven to me…all this vinyl was a dollar each. Nothing really rare, but there was a wide variety of records. Some stuff that I hadn’t seen when I have looked through the local record shops. I ended up grabbing twenty-five records and thought I would take the kids to get a game, drop them off at home and head back to browse in my leisure. Alas, it was not to be on that day as other things more important came up.
On the following day my wife asked me if I wanted to go back and see if there was anything left I might want…I thought for a second she was joking. So we dropped the boys off at their Grandmother’s house (no way did they want to go back) and drove down to the sale. My wife was a pro…digging through dusty records and pulling out stuff she thought I might like.
I made it through the jazz and all of the rock/folk stuff. Most everything was heavily picked over by now, but for a buck each I picked up some stuff I didn’t already have. Grabbed an additional twenty-two records on Sunday. I didn’t see anything that was rare, but I didn’t get there early so I don’t know what sold before hand. I won’t make that mistake next year…
So Record Store Day was this past Saturday which is better than Christmas morning if you are a vinyl fanatic. I was able to get most of the stuff that I wanted, so I will call the day a success. RSD can be a madhouse if you live in highly populace area of the country. I live in a mid-size city and it was just a little crazy, but not over-the-top insanity that would have me cussing and vowing to never put myself through it again…but close to it. The local store I decided to go to opened 10am and I pulled into the parking just about two minutes late. I saw no line to get in and the doors were open…all good signs. As I was walking toward the store I saw a car zip into the parking lot and two guys exit out and sprint for the door. When I walking in I was greeted with about 30 people crowding around a 4×6 table with 8 coroplast boxes filled with all the vinyl goodies of the day. The problem was everyone was crowded two deep going through the releases.
This was one of the few times in my life that I just became one of those guys that push their way into the fry. I was polite but looked for the first opening and went for it. I was a nice ‘pushy’ guy and as I was going through a box I would call out if I saw something that I thought people were really looking for…”Anybody need the White Stripes 45?” It worked out pretty good and other people started doing it.
The day was crazy. I saw some people happily buying one item and I saw others with stacks of records. I found everything I was looking for except for the Captain Beefheart singles set and the Grateful Dead “Dark Star” album. I really wanted those two releases, but it was a good haul. I would have ran over to another indie store, but I had a whole day full of projects that had to be done.
Later in the day…and I mean way later in the day…I found myself in the neighborhood of another record store. The wife and I went in to take a look at what was left. There was not much…but I did find the Captain Beefheart set! Amazing to find it still in the racks so late in the day. And yes, I did end up finding a copy of the Grateful Dead LP…the next day. I started the day by looking on eBay. I saw them going for three times what the list price was and I was not about to fork over that much dough. I put the question out on an on-line forum I visit wondering if anybody had an extra copy they wanted to sell. I was sent a link by a fellow vinyl junkie to an indie record store in Des Moines that was selling it for list price. Ordered and Done!…my record store day was complete.
Last November my wife surprised me with a gift. It was going to be my Christmas gift, but she can’t ever keep a surprise for that long. She gave me a record player. She had heard me talking to someone about the newer players that can be hooked up into your computer by USB port. She thought that would make for a nice gift for me, so she got on OverStock.com (my wife feels that it is a moral sin to pay full price for anything) and found a record player. When she gave it to me I was overjoyed and amazed. Not because the turntable was awesome (it is actually a cheap plastic piece of shit), but because she gave me a present that she truly thought I wanted. That little turntable was by far the coolest gift she could ever given me. As I child I played records constantly, mostly my parents 45 records, when I got older music became the bonding agent for my friends and myself.
I grew up in a podunk town in West Texas. The nearest town with a decent record store was a forty minute drive away. Going record shopping was a big deal. I would spend hours in the stores trying to make up my mind to what I would purchase. Then the drive back home looking at the cover, reading the liner notes (but never reading the lyric sheet, I could only do that as the song played), that drive always seemed longer coming back than going. Once home I would lie on my bed and listen to the album, usually twice and if it was a really good one I would then call up my friends and invite them over for a listen. I recall having my bedroom full of people when I got the first Clash album on import.
And then came the compact disc. When CDs started to take over the floor space in the records stores I was fine with that. The sound was without the flaws of the pops and clicks that no matter how well I seemed to treat my records were always there. They were easy to transport and I still gave my attention to the music (the graphics were harder to read, but whatever). And over the years I sold off all my records. Got a nice price for some of them in the early days of ebay. I guess I had a few rare items I had picked up over the years.
Then along came MP3 and flac files. I remember the first time I downloaded a song on my dial up internet. It took 20 minutes, but damn I had a song. I could create a folder on my computer and store all my music files on it. I could play whatever I wanted whenever with just a click of the mouse. Then I signed up with this service called emusic. They offered (at the time) unlimited downloading. They had a small but decent collection of jazz and obscure rock and roll available. The day I got DSL service I went on an ‘unlimited’ download spree. The next day I got an email from emusic explaining that unlimited was going to be changed to 90 songs a month…I had downloaded four times that in one night.
I moved on to other services (some legit and some not so legit) and I amassed a big music file collection. Then my hard drive failed and I lost it all. So I started again and amassed an even bigger collection. I started buying external hard drives to back it up. This was my childhood dream come true. I had all the music I could ever want at my fingertips.
And then along came Spotify. With this service I did not even need to have the files. They were in ‘the cloud’. All I needed to do was think of what I wanted to listen to, type it in the search box and then I could listen to it. But more and more I noticed I was not listening to music…I was sampling and moving on. Music surfing my wife called it and she would remind me how much she hated having to listen to me doing it. I would play twenty or thirty seconds then click on to something else. When I did listen to a complete new album I wouldn’t even know the names of songs I had just listened to. That being because I didn’t look at my computer screen to see what it was. Cover art? Get out of here.
Back in November, when my wife gave me the turntable, I had two 45’s that I had bought on Record Store Day with the thought of reselling them on ebay but I never got around to it. As I pulled the vinyl out of the sleeve, placed it on the table and dropped the tone arm I felt this feeling that is hard for me to put into words, but I guess I must try. It was a mixture of nostalgia and belonging. It was the feeling I had forgot. And you know what happened? I listened song…LISTENED. Then flipped it over and listened to the other side. I had this feeling of real enjoyment of listening to music. This seemed to be the way I needed to play music for total submersion.
My wife told me the other day that giving me that record player was a bad mistake. You see I have gone a little bit crazy. First I upgraded the turntable to a nice mid-priced Technics. Then an amp and speakers. And then came collecting records. It has been four months since I started my spree and I have collected 738 albums. I am discovering some damn cool music. Reading the liner notes. Reading along to the lyric sheet if they are available. Just generally falling in love with vinyl all over again.
I was recently given a turntable as a gift and this has rekindled my love of vinyl. It has spurred me to go searching in dusty record stores, digging through piles of old junk. I am not sure if it is the feeling of nostalgia washing over me or the thrill of the hunt that I love, but I have started massing a small collection old and new records.
I stumbled upon this release from J Mascis on the Sub Pop label. It just was released last week so you can head over here and order yourself a copy. It is a nice looking release, on colored vinyl with a MP3 download card. This is acoustic J (as opposed to the monolithic loud guitar-god J of Dinosaur Jr.) covering Edie Brickell and the New Bohemians with “Circle”.