Face Melt

gabriel_web1peter gabriel
Peter Gabriel
SRM 1-3848

$50 large and if you know how to shop wisely a gift card at that amount is LP buyer’s gold. What I mean by this is that while you can blow it on a couple of expensive reissues – its more fun to dive into the used crates and be the vinyl prospector you are.

When I walked over to the vinyl section of HPB in Naperville, IL., Peter Gabriel’s third album (which is sometimes referred to as “Melt“) was staring directly at me. The LSD drooping visage (designed by Storm Thorgerson using a Polaroid instant camera) that literally stopped me from buying the record back in 1980, was a siren call in 2016.

Of course (even then) I knew this was Gabriel’s masterpiece solo record (arguably) but in 1980 the image was enough to keep me away. I envisioned that if I dropped a tab of acid, this is what people would end up looking like. That fright alone is what kept me away from the drug in the first place and the surreal, disfiguring artwork confirmed this weird fear of mine. But it also kept me away from the album’s brilliance back then, which was irrational thinking.

In 1980, this record was one of many genius releases to hit the shelves. It was also a year of musical transition for me, shifting my viewpoint from a top 40 / southern fried rock perspective to a more punky / new wavy sensibility that started with London Calling making its way into my hands because of – with that one – the cover. Talking Heads Remain in Light (another album with great jacket artwork) was a major player for me that year as was the Pretenders first.

But I just couldn’t make the Gabriel leap in 1980. Its only the past handful of years in which I’ve been wanting Melt in my collection in a major way. And there it was at HPB the day I had $50 burning a hole.

Not rare by any stretch – its one of those records that people don’t give up and, like finding any Gabriel on vinyl, when you see it, you grab it.

This particular one at HPB (priced at $7.99, making it even more desirable) was a Mercury label edition, which is important because it was Gabriel’s only release on Mercury (Atlantic had dropped him). After Mercury’s distribution rights to the record lapsed, Gabriel was subsequently signed to Geffen and Geffen reissued the LP in 1983. Is this a significant distinction to record collectors? Maybe. Either way, its cool to have it on the Mercury label. The thing missing is the insert sleeve, which is a considerable loss to the package as a whole. For some collectors this would be a deal breaker.

But I love the music too much to pass it up again after all these years. It’s just a good thing I was able to get over the acid face melt.

© 2016 Chris Barry




Dennis Hopper’s Record Collection

Hopper’s record collection included such artists as the Beatles, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen and Miles Davis. Come to think of it, it pretty much sounds like everyone’s collection.

To paraphrase Wikipedia’s definition of a curator, you make decisions regarding what albums to select for your own personal edification. You oversee their potential and documentation, conduct research based on your collection and its history. And, at times, you provide proper packaging for the display and transportation of your collection. And you may also share any research that you have done pertaining to your collection with the public and community through one-on-one discussion with friends and family or via some sort of online forum such as a blog (like this) or in a Facebook group setting like Vinyl Addiction.

You are the link to a physical medium that – despite its popularity now – will eventually go away. Like it or not, digital, cloud-based storage of music is the de facto way people collect their tunes. Many people don’t even store their stuff in the cloud and it may all be on their computer hard drives or on their phones. And those collections will be lost due to digital degradation, hard drive crashes or simply by losing a device.

Be glad of this. You record collectors are a historical link to a dying era.

Let’s say that in the future your curated album collection somehow manages to survive (its chances of survival are probably greater than digital), archeologists will be able to study your collection and get a pretty good understanding of who you were as a person.

That’s why Dennis Hopper’s record collection is important. But the sellers (and I’ll assume its his heirs) don’t realize this just by the mere fact that they’re selling it. Albeit for $150,000.

So who was Dennis Hopper? Anyone of a certain age knows that Hopper was an actor and filmmaker who helped usher in a new way of making and distributing movies when he directed and starred in the 1969 film Easy Rider. Its form and structure were different back then – anti-Hollywood filmmaking and, in a sense, anti-film. Hopper raised his middle finger directly at the studio system establishment. His acting style was driven by personal demons, his characterizations were manifestations of a tumultuous, drug-fueled lifestyle. But, by the time he died in 2010, Hopper was highly regarded as an innovator in the film industry.

You may or may not have known this.

In 10 years, fewer people will know this. And in 50, Hopper may only be known by a select group of film buffs (if those even exist). Eventually he won’t even be a cell in the data spreadsheet of humanity.

If Dennis Hopper’s family wanted future generations to understand Hopper as a person, they would not be selling his record collection. They would be preserving it and storing it. Preferably in an air-tight mausoleum. By releasing it now to the public, there’s a good chance it’ll disappear along with this aspect of the actor’s personality.

Of course, if you look at the collection, you’d realize that many albums in Hopper’s scant collection of 110, are probably already sitting on your own shelf or are easy to find at some used record store for pennies on the dollar.

But that’s not the point. If you’re going to pony up 150 grand on this actor’s collection, here’s hoping you’ll set up some sort of shrine to Hopper. And leave it alone as a part of your curated efforts.

Hang a sign over it that says: “Dennis Hopper’s Record Collection” and invite your friends and family over to discuss how mundane this great actor’s record collection was.

After all, your role as a curator is to share any research that you have done pertaining to your collection with the public and community.

© 2016 Chris Barry


In Praise of the Quick Dig

ziggy_web1David Bowie
The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
180 Gram Reissue
2012 (original press release date: 1972)

The chances of finding an original and playable pressing of David Bowie’s The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars in used record stores are pretty thin.

I ran into one not long ago with a price tag of $20+ but the vinyl was so compromised (dirt, divots, long deep scratches that went from the outer edge to the inner label) that there was no way I was going to grab that up just to have it. And I’ve been wanting this cosmic concept record for years.

Would it be nice to have an original Ziggy? Of course. But I want to listen to it, not look at it. And, since this is a record filled with sonic intricacies, I don’t want one with a needle-wrecking sandpaper surface.

During a recent excursion, I decided to drop by my local 2nd & Charles (Naperville, IL), for the sole purpose of pricing the recent reissue release of Pink Floyd Animals. My intent was to spend no more than $25 and if I couldn’t find the Floyd at that price, I’d do a small pick up of records at around $5.00 each and remain within that budget max of 25 bills that I set for myself.

And I was not going to spend more than an hour in the joint. A quick dig.

When I got to the store’s record section I tripped over a 180 gram reissue of Ziggy. This was a totally unexpected plot twist. Because Floyd was in my head front and center, I put the Bowie in the back of my mind as a possible pick-up knowing I’d have to spend over $20 for it.

By the way, I don’t go crate digging for reissues – but sometimes, if you want something and originals are out of reach, a reissue will have to do. But I hate spending the money on them.

For one, I have a mental block when it comes to spending over $10 for a record. When I was buying heavy in the ’70s/’80s, albums averaged around $5.95, so I’m brain locked just like my grandfather who used to lament the high cost of going to the movies when he only spent a dime to see a flick during the Depression. Costs for used LPs, in my opinion (unless you’re looking at acquiring super rare or original pressings of major artists like Bob Dylan or the Beatles), shouldn’t exceed that $5-$10 range. That’s my limit and my limitation. It’s probably why I’ll never procure an original Animals or an original Ziggy. And I can live with that.

Yet I’m also getting to the point where I realize I may need to spend a little more if I want to be ensured of a clean playing LP (for the most part), so sometimes, if budget allows, purchasing a reissue may be the best option. And I have already ponied up for Hendrix, Coltrane, and Bowie reissues.

So, during this trip to 2nd & Charles, I found that they had almost all the Floyd reissues except Animals. And, because Floyd is Floyd, the reissues are in the $25 to $50 range (a recent reissue of The Wall hovers around that $50 mark – I bought it in 1979 for $9.95 – it’s a double album and I still have it and it still plays great) so, even if I found Animals, I’d have to think long and hard about buying it.

Hence, the real thrill of this trip was finding the Ziggy reissue for $20 plus change. And, as I rifled through the “P” bin for Floyd and not finding Animals, I stumbled on Gary Numan’s The Pleasure Principal, which was misfiled. This was a happy surprise as I’d been looking for a clean copy of that one for a couple of years. Diggers, of course, will say they always see that Numan but I haven’t and there it was for $3.95.

I looked at my watch and realized I’d been in the store for just over an hour and made the swift and judicious decision to get the Bowie and the Numan, keeping to my budget of $25.

By the way – Ziggy sounds fantastic.

© 2016 Chris Barry

Liner Notes

liner_notes_web_2Neil Young
3RS 2257
Reprise Records

For all intents and purposes album liner notes are dead.

Sure, during the compact disc phase of music distribution, there was an attempt to emulate liner notes by sticking a microscopic and impossible-to-read booklet in with the disc in a lame attempt to emulate the album experience.

Once the music download era took hold, liner notes were completely eradicated from the album vernacular, although on iTunes you can download notes and credits to your computer or device. But who does that? Especially when people download one song at a time.

Vinyl addicts know that the album ‘experience’ includes liner notes. Liner notes are the writings found on jacket covers or sleeves that include information about the album’s artist and/or music.

For those who don’t know, the origin of liner notes is most likely traced back to the classical and jazz worlds, when labels like Blue Note or Impulse! included extensive essays helping to guide the listener on his or her journey through the musical soundscape within.

For neophyte jazz listeners, this conceit almost seemed necessary to help gain insight into the music. Listening to John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme is challenging enough so, subsequently, the liner notes provided by both Coltrane (DEAR LISTENER…) and critic Michael Cuscuna (in the 1995 reissue of the record) help deepen the listening experience, providing a line of breadcrumbs to help keep you on track as you meander through thickets of (possibly unfamiliar) sound.

Liner notes also became vehicles of creativity for the artist wishing to extend his or her thoughts and persona through the written word. Bob Dylan’s poetic or prose notes provided an entry point into his creative mind giving listeners an expanded experience while delving into his music.

According to Dean L. Biron, in his essay “Writing and Music: Album Liner Notes,” there are 5 prominent varieties of liner notes:

  1. The Literary Liner Note
  2. The Tangential Liner Note
  3. The Expository Liner Note
  4. The Propagandist Liner Note
  5. The Retrospective Liner Note

I’m not more fond of one type of note over the other but I do have my favorite notes that I always refer to (and enjoy) while I’m listening to a particular record.

ny_web_3Neil Young’s retrospective triple album Decade includes one of the best sets of personal liner notes you can find regarding an artist’s view on his own music. The jacket is a gatefold but also has a pull out section – all of which are loaded with photos, drawings, and handwritten historical asides by Young as we experience his musical cycle from 1966-1976. Young’s personality shines through the written word and, as notes typically go, provide added depth to the 35 song compilation.

Here are Neil’s notes about his epic “Cortez the Killer”:

“Recorded with Crazy Horse in ‘Zuma’ 1975. Banned in Spain.”

Whether that’s true or not (the Spain part), its pure Neil – anti-epic, self-deprecating and provocative. And that’s what the best liner notes are about.

NOTE: the Decade set, which is on the Reprise label, is tough to find in bins – so if you see it, snag it.

© 2016 Chris Barry

Moontan’s U.S. Alternative

ge_webGolden Earring
MCA Records

For the deep vinyl collector, the preferred Moontan by Golden Earring is the European/UK release, which has different jacket artwork than the U.S. release as well as a different line up of songs presented in a different order.

I recently found the U.S. version, which has the pierced ear cover. I’ll assume that this cover was chosen because artwork of a nude woman (on the Euro release jacket) was deemed too corrupting to youth in the States even in 1974.

I knew almost nothing about Golden Earring except they had a truncated hit song on U.S. radio played back in ’74 called “Radar Love,” a driving, hard rocker that was chopped from its LP length of 6:21 to a ‘single’ (radio-friendly) edit of 3:44.

This is important. That’s over two minutes of proggy intensity excised from the song, which diminishes its overall power. Radio kids in the 70s didn’t necessarily realize what they were missing because all they were familiar with was the single edit version that dominated AM radio. Those listeners were also prone to purchasing singles (45s) as opposed to full-length albums (not that different from today’s iTunes generation).

I was one of those kids.

But there were progressive rock radio stations (FM) back then that would play the full version of “Radar Love,” and if you stumbled on it, it was an ear-delicious delight (extended guitar solo break and drawn out drum chaos). But even hearing this never drove me to buy the full record.

That is until now some 42 years after the party. I recently found a pristine U.S. Moontan in a dollar bin at Half Price Books in Naperville, IL.

All I can say is that had I purchased this LP back in ’74 my life would have probably gone in a slightly different musical direction. This album, even in its U.S. rendition, is a mind-blowing and seductive excursion into “Prog” rock, a subgenre that I still can’t get my head around except extended jams, complex instrumentation and lofty lyrical content seem to be in its DNA (if you want to set me straight about Prog, feel free to use the comments section below).

Anyway, the way I hear Moontan is as a trippy, bluesy joint that gets more complex and gratifying with each listen. And its production is killer – rich, atmospheric, deep and lysergic. I wouldn’t want to hear a digital rip of this for nothing. There’s so much going on in the grooves its hard to pinpoint exact sonic revelations but they’re there. Heavy instrumentation is key and finding different modes is a psychedelic blast.

So my goal is to find the Euro release sitting in a lonely crate someday. That would be totally definitive.

© 2016 Chris Barry