This World of Vinyl is a Wild World

Takin’ It to the Streets
Doobie Brothers
BS 2899
Warner Bros.

Takin’ It to the Streets is a very precise, very analog listen.

Ted Templeman (Van Halen) produced and Steely Dan influenced, which isn’t a surprise since both Jeff ‘Skunk’ Baxter and Michael McDonald spent time with Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Either way, this is my favorite McDonald-era Doobies joint because it’s just so sonically embracing on a melodic trip that grabs you.

For those not convinced that vinyl is the best (if not the only) way to hear music, you have to spin discs like Takin’ It to the Streets. It’s not about whether the music sounds ‘dated’ (Takin’ It to the Streets isn’t dated, its of a certain time), or if doesn’t quite fit within the oeuvre of an Ed Sheeran or a Mac DeMarco.

DeMarco, by the way, is a huge fan of Michael McDonald, a fact he revealed on Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast recently. DeMarco also had some interesting things to say about Steely Dan – a band he also loves. But he said things I don’t necessarily agree with when it comes to Steely Dan. Like Steely Dan is good for people who don’t necessarily want to be challenged.

Opposite of that, Steely Dan is challenging, instrumentally and lyrically. DeMarco’s complaint about Dan is their lack of emotional connection – but that’s the point and, ultimately, their music’s emotional connection.

Either way, this whole analog business, this vinyl business, has some people really angsty.

Fans vs. profiteers.

Music fans resent music profiteers. They resent shelf-stackers who buy everything up just to load their collections.

This world of vinyl is a wild world.

© 2017 Chris Barry


Never Leave a Record Unattended

What’s Going On
Marvin Gaye

A  few weeks back I was at 2nd & Charles in Naperville, IL, digging through crates of vinyl when I came across a pretty rough 1965 mono release of Decembers Children (And Everybody’s) by the Stones. The jacket was pretty beat up and the vinyl was dirty and scuffed (but no deep divots) and, I figured, a run through the Spin-Clean, and it would probably be relatively playable.

It had a price tag of $20 and my LP budget for that day was $25. So the inner debate started. Do I spend $20 on a rough and tumble Stones (probably as I’m currently in the process of building my Stones collection) or continue to hunt through the bins and buy 3-5 inexpensive LPs and stay within my budget (another probably)?

There appeared to be nobody else near the album bins, so I figured I’d continue digging and then come back to the Stones after I was finished flipping through the rest of the records in the store – a process which typically takes about an hour at this particular 2nd & Charles.

The mistake I made was leaving the Stones unattended because while I was going through the bins, I decided I’d bite and purchase the record. So I went back to where it was and…it was gone. My heart sank. I felt a surge of panic, like something was stolen from me. I looked around and didn’t see anyone carrying it with them – in fact, I didn’t see anyone else in the store.

I went to the clerk at the checkout counter and asked her if someone had just bought the Stones record and she said someone had – about 10 minutes ago.

What I learned from this miserable experience was never to leave records you may want unattended. From that point on, I decided that every time I go on a vinyl expedition, I was going to carry around with me every record I was thinking I may buy while digging through crates.

Is that rude to do so? To keep someone from accessing a record I’m carrying? I don’t care.

Is it a pain in the ass to carry arms full of records around with me while browsing? Yes. But, again, I don’t care.

Just the other day I grabbed up a well-loved Marvin Gaye What’s Going On and held on to it (with about 10 other possibilities) during my search.

When it came time to choose from my stack (of which What’s Going On was one of), I neatly replaced the ones I decided not to buy in their rightful place.

© 2017 Chris Barry

Q: Are We Not Punk? A: We Are New Wave!

Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!
BSK 3239
Warner Bros. Records Inc.

By 1980, I was acquiring a lot of vinyl. Every weekend I’d drive to my local record store to dig through crates looking for the latest LPs. The Clash’s London Calling was my first taste of ‘punk,’ although now I don’t consider it punk at all – its just straight up rock. But in those bygone days it did open my doors of musical perception.

The definitions of subgenres within rock music have always been confusing especially to consumers. In the late ’70s, the term ‘punk’ incited a visceral reaction in your average top-40 listener with images of Johnny Rotten spitting on his audience so new bands like the Cars needed a safer tag and “New Wave” seemed to work.

According to a passage in Wikepedia, here’s one theory on the genesis of the term “New Wave”:

In November 1976 Caroline Coon used Malcolm McLaren’s term “new wave” to designate music by bands not exactly punk, but related to the same musical scene. The term was also used in that sense by music journalist Charles Shaar Murray in his comments about the Boomtown Rats. For a period of time in 1976 and 1977, the terms new wave and punk were somewhat interchangeable. By the end of 1977, “new wave” had replaced “punk” as the definition for new underground music in the UK.

In 1978 Devo’s first LP, Q: Are We Not Men A: We Are Devo! was considered a ‘novelty,’ but I think it fit squarely into the New Wave subgenre.

Recently finding this record was a coup for me because their quirky song, Jocko Homo (which barely got any radio airplay back in ’78), has been an earworm of mine forever. I just haven’t been able to secure the record even though its probably not too hard to find.

I remember Devo doing Jocko Homo on SNL back in ’79 and thinking they were certifiable and weird. But I also remember my parents actually being outraged at the performance, which is crazy because Devo didn’t do anything salacious – they were just wacked.

Now, some 40 years later, the album, which was produced by Brian Eno, sounds more akin to Talking Heads. In fact, Talking Heads released More Songs About Buildings and Food the same year and it was also produced by Eno. Hence the similarities.

Hearing the record on vinyl is a sonic kick – its rich and filled with strange noises like the ‘calculator’ sound found in the first cut Uncontrollable Urge.

The LP is also subversive. Listen to their cover of the Stones’ (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction. It roboticizes the Jagger swagger, which makes the already suggestive song sound dirtier. And its funny to hear Devo kill it better than the Stones.

Side two is raucous and loud and actually contains some lengthy (by Devo standards) guitar solos, not to mention  dissonant guitar blips juxtaposed next to some beautifully rendered guitar passages as well as some Chuck Berry riffing going on. The whole LP is a stew of weirdness and style in the making.

The jacket’s artwork provided no clue as to what the band was actually like. Illustrated by Joe Heiner, the image is based on a picture of golfer Chi-Chi Rodriguez. Its a compelling graphic and seems to satirize…something. Golf? Corporate image-making? Candy-coated fun? The suburban sporting life? Hard to say, but the jacket artwork is worthy of framing.

So – Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! is one of those records that if you see it and don’t have it, grab it.

© 2017 Chris Barry