Archive for August, 2013

Blow Up Your Video with AC/DC

Posted: August 31, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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Despite the fact I am blogging about my experiences with the above AC/DC album Blow Up Your Video, this entry is actually about my discovery of this band and its stellar catalog. I picked Blow Up Your Video, not for its weaker link among the chain of AC/DC albums (true), but because it was my first vinyl AC/DC record owned. And of course, there is actually a story to that. So here goes a whole lotta rosie… I mean nothing. 

I did not get into AC/DC until I met Jennie and Carol. Jennie is my other best friend. She is the yin to Heidi’s yang. She is the polar opposite. Heidi and I have so many things in common it’s downright frightening; whereas Jen and I are so different it works in a different dynamic. Not all of us are lucky enough to have two best friends in life; I am blessed to be one who does.

Anyway, Jen and I started hanging out in earnest in 1988. That’s the same year that Blow Up Your Video was released. I didn’t meet Carol and Don, Jen’s mom and her stepfather, until 1990. That was the start of some crazy times, right there. I used to go out there and stay a day/night here or there in Blue Island whenever I could manage a day off.  How Carol, Jen, and Don managed to introduce me to so many great bands during those visits, as well as the joys of innumerable Cheez-It’s, coffee by the potful, and fried bologna, as well as Beggar’s Pizza, are times that will never be forgotten, and they helped shape my love of heavy music, in ways that are hard to express in a blog post, but I am going to attempt to do so.

Carol was a rock n’ roller. Seriously, the first 40 year old mom I had met who listened to rock music- the louder, the better. She was a huge Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, and AC/DC fan. One weekend while we were discussing “Prince Chucky” and how he was a royal ass to Diana (Carol was great to talk about English history with, and she is to blame for my obsession with Russian history), she popped another record onto the player, and blasted it. I had no idea what this “Hell’s Bells song was, but the driving guitar riff, the rhythm of that bass guitar, and that voice, instantly got me. Who did that amazing voice belong to? My first introduction to AC/DC was that song. I still tell people that’s why I am a bigger Brian Johnson fan than Bon Scott (RIP, Bon, no disrespect, you ruled). Regardless, I was hooked. Carol was stunned that I had not heard AC/DC in full, so out came every album. Jen buried her head in the couch and said “Mom, not Mouse too.” (PS- Mouse was Carol and Don’s nickname for me). Jen was terrified Carol was about to induct me into the AC/DC army. And indeed, she did. As much as Jen loved AC/DC, she had grown up with it. Every day. Every year. Her first year of Catholic school, she got expelled because she was walking down the hall and was overheard singing “working double time on the seduction line.” True story, made better by the fact that she had no idea what it meant. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall in the principal’s office for Carol having to explain that one. Anyway, I got a little off track there. Jen was heartily sick of AC/DC by the time Carol inducted me into the Hall. The match was lit for me.

Jen and I were at Beautiful Day in Lagrange one day and I was at a loss as to what to get on vinyl. I was still going through my heavy metal/classic rock phase, so I was looking for that genre of music instead of my usual 80’s new wave stuff. I found Blow Up Your Video, and since AC/DC was my newfound love, I had to have it.  Jen winced and tried, to no avail, to talk me into buying the Accept album that was placed behind AC/DC. Let’s talk about that argument- I was, and still am, highly influenced by the cover of a book, or the cover of an album. There was no way that awesome Angus Young bursting through a television was going to NOT win over the cover of Accept’s “Balls To The Wall”No way was the awesome Mr. Young going to be put back into that bin for an album cover which featured a hairy Danish man’s ball sack, clad in leather underwear.  I did not listen, and while I was glad to have my first AC/DC on vinyl, I was instantly regretful that it was not a different album.  

At this blogging post, we make a point of telling the good, the bad, and the even worse. This would go into that category- the even worse. I did not care for this album much at all. With the exception of “That’s the Way I Wanna Rock N’ Roll“, “Heatseeker”, and “Meanstreak” (which I was inexplicably obsessed with forever. Now I listen and cringe), I did not care a whit for this AC/DC album. As per usual with me, that didn’t keep me from playing it over and over, in the fervent hope that it would grow on me like fruit fungus, and I would enjoy it.

I still own it, and it’s in pretty decent shape. Likely, because I did not and do not, play it that much. I remember telling Carol several years before she passed that the album never quite did it for me. She didn’t look disappointed; in fact, she agreed that it wasn’t their strongest card in the deck. She did, however, advise me to not let one album of not-so-great deter you from listening to new product from them. I think she would be proud that I am still a card-carrying AC/DC fanatic to this day.

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I have no earthly idea as to why but I remember watching cartoons in 1985 or ’86 at six or seven years old. This isn’t the strange part as I watched cartoons before and, certainly, well after that. I only know this particular timeline because I definitely recall watching the Star Wars: Ewok and Droids cartoons. I actually went to a website to see when they would have aired. Where am I going with this? It’s a weird of a segue way as I can manage and I can’t promise that you’re going to get it. I have a recollection of something that doesn’t seem to exist. I could have sworn, during or around this block of programming, that I saw some weird psychedelic music video for Billy Idol‘s “Eyes Without a Face”. It was like watching a motion Magic Eye painting. I have been completely unable to figure out what program this might have been from. Does anyone remember this? No? Maybe it was just my imagination.

Regardless, this is just an example of how I experienced Billy Idol’s music in the eighties and nineties: tangentially. Don’t get me wrong. I liked the songs but I never really gave him, as an artist, much thought. When Big with Tom Hanks came out, there was the scene with Hanks and Elizabeth Perkins in the limo. She was trying to get him drunk and seduce her while “Hot In the City” is playing. There’s also that scene where he and his grade school chum are eating pizza in that shithole motel. That sounds so much more wrong in this day and age, a grown man bringing a ten year old back to a motel with the promise of pizza and ice cream….In that scene, we hear “Rebel Yell” and it reminded me that that song was awesome. But that was where it ended.

Fast forward to The Wedding Singer. You might know it as the last good Adam Sandler movie. And that was 1998! Who keeps going to see this crap? We get to the romantic climax of the movie where Adam’s character is, in defiance of all logic, on the same airplane as the girl he is in love with, played by Drew Barrymore (Her? He could have had, and I mean, had Christine Taylor’s character. Sandler really is a dumbass). Also on the plane is Billy Idol. I deem this is not that huge of a coincidence as my aunt and uncle were recently on the same plane as Billy Idol and Steve Stevens. Earlier in the movie, we heard “White Wedding” (which I have never cared for, honestly) and now Billy is trying to give Sandler love advice. He steals the whole damned movie in two minutes of screen time. It was then that I decided to finally explore his discography.

Very quickly, I realized that I had heard nearly all of his solo work already. I had only ever owned the “Shock To the System” cassingle 3 years prior and knew that there were no other Cyberpunk songs I needed to hear. Billy Idol is one of the few artists I listen to that you really don’t miss that much if you just listen to a Greatest Hits collection. His self-titled debut and Rebel Yell are fine albums and certainly worth getting, if I could ever find them on vinyl. I always come across Whiplash Smile and, fuck that, it just isn’t good. His last album, Devils Playground, not that holiday abortion album, was actually really good. People have seen me sing “Rebel Yell” and “Dancing With Myself” at karaoke nights and actually requested an encore. I even sang “DWM” at my friend Steve’s wedding, at his behest. But I’m a punk at heart, so I gravitate toward Idol’s pre-solo work, which is where “DWM” originally came from.

Generation X was Billy Idol’s first band and they were fucking great. They came on the scene in the second wave of British punk and released three full length LP’s. I have found all three at a couple of different occasions at the Chicagoland Record Collectors Show. I picked up my two favorites at the same show on May 16, 2010 for $18 total. I had found Valley Of the Dolls at another show but that was just to complete the set. Generation X has three of my favorite punk songs ever with “Your Generation”, “Ready Steady Go”,  and “Kiss Me Deadly”. The latter two I was lucky to see Idol perform at the Congress Theater (when you could still hear music there). The album Kiss Me Deadly, which is credited to just Gen X, contains the first version of “Dancing With Myself”, complete with more prevalent guitars by the Sex Pistols’ Steve Jones. Also, there is the original and less slick rendition of “Untouchables” that Idol later redid, like “DWM” on the Don’t Stop EP.

It’s weird knowing that I am more interested in Billy Idol could be up to now than I ever was at the height of his popularity. I’ve seen him twice, once at the Congress and once at Lollapalooza. He still puts on a phenomenal show. I look forward to when his next actual “rock” album will come out so I can go for another ride on the “Blue Highway”. I also would like a sequel to Big where we find Elizabeth Perkins’s character, played by someone younger as that movie came out 25 years ago, checking in on Josh Baskin from time to time and is a hardcore alcoholic. She can’t deal with the fact that she fell in love with a little kid but she still loves him and can’t wait until he turns 18, so she forces herself on him. I realize that this is not the kind of movie Penny Marshall tends to make but Robert Loggia is only going to be around so long.

Notorious by Duran Duran

Posted: August 24, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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Eventually, I was going to have to write about my favorite band. I decided to quit screwing around and craft a blog this evening on this album.  Notorious coincided with my first true heartbreak. It also helped me through through those events unfurling. It continues to be one of my favorite Duran Duran albums, not just for the material contained on it, but because of the overall presentation of the album.

Of the Duran Duran albums that were remastered and re-released in the last few years, this was the first I went out and purchased. When I have told other people this, I got many a concerned look. Notorious wasn’t a smash. It was the first Duran Duran album without Andy and Roger Taylor. Essentially, it was LeBon, Taylor, & Rhodes, along with a session guitarist by the name of Warren Cuccurullo, formerly of Frank Zappa’s band and later on, Missing Persons, known for Ms. Dale Bozzio’s wasting of Plastic Wrap over her mostly naked body in the 1980’s. It was released on November 18, 1986, my friend Nick M’s birthday.

At that time, I was going through some rough times with my grade school guy. I had realized that I was digging on him. I was, and still am, friends with this guy (since kindergarten). Something about him growing the hair out reminded me of John Taylor in the video for “Notorious”. The bastard even had a long black coat much like the one John wears in the video. I was doomed. Doomed. Months go by, and things got worse. I started high school the next summer, and there was definitely something going on. Things continued until sophomore year, then a new young lady appeared, and I lost him. Except I never really had him to begin with. I had so many feelings for this guy, and I just couldn’t act upon them. Until someone else came into the picture, and then it was too late. He was gone. What did I do to escape heartache? I got a work permit and started working at Phar-Mor. My friend Missy B. got me the job, and even helped my cause by humiliating the two of them when they came in looking for condoms one day (take that!) while I was there. Of course, they complained to my boss, and Missy and I got in trouble, but understand me- totally worth it! With the advent of a new job came a paycheck! I went hunting for the Notorious record.

I had heard the record company approved singles released the previous year. “Notorious”the “funky” song, was a hit. “Skin Trade”their next song and in my top 5 of Duran Duran songs of all time, was not (this is something that will puzzle me to my dying day.). And then-nothing. The radio quit playing the other single, “Meet El Presidente”. A damn shame for a damn fine song, but I should have known it just showed that radio was starting to suck it in the late 1980’s. I had to have the album. I finally found the vinyl copy at Venture in Countryside Plaza, and purchased it. I ran home and showed my mom. Of course, she came in to listen to it with me. She was an awesome mom with music appreciation, meaning she always listened to whatever shit I was playing, to give it a fair chance. I was, at the time, still heartbroken over what never was. The album perfectly mirrored that. For all of its poppy effervescence, there were dark songs of unrequited love, passion, and despair. Perfect!  “American Science”with the notes of longing and questions, was moody and made me delirious with unshed tears. “A Matter of Feeling”about someone who can’t commit, rattled the bars on my emotional cage. “Hold Me” was a whirling dervish of unshed desires colliding with the unattainable. “Vertigo (Do The Demolition”) questioned everything you knew as truth or fiction. “So Misled” was a poppy little ditty, a break from the dirge-like curtain that was hanging over the mirror. “Winter Marches On”about the season of bleakness matching the winter of the heart, shines hypnotic and thought provoking. It ends with the other shining star on the album, “Proposition”a tale of someone trying to save the sinking ship, with the lightest of touches and unspoken love, despite the inevitability of doom.

All in all, the album destroyed me, and renewed me, on multiple levels. For as much as you want to lie down in a puddle of manure while the one you love is driving down the street with another girl in the car while your high school friends look at you with the old “WTF?” look, there is a heart still beating that deserves to have a chance on someone else’s horizon.  The album artwork, black and white and not a smile cracked, fits the album so well it’s not even funny. I have called it “A Winter Album” since I became obsessed with it in 1987.  The overall vibe is not sunshine and models, rather darkness and solitude. And there’s a very real side of that in me, so it still resonates with me.  The album is one of the few that I own that is almost brand new, largely because I’m on my 5th or 6th copy of it. (Idiots scratching it while moving, or selling it to get that Playstation 2 that was so the rage in 1998, among other disasters). It’s one of those that if I see any sort of abnormality with the condition, I’m hunting for a new copy post haste. I’ll never tire of it, and I do my damndest to make sure that my copy stays in the plastic these days, as it’s harder and harder to search for a new one, when record stores are becoming less and less visible.

Ramones by The Ramones

Posted: August 19, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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rbayley-albumI discovered the Ramones through a crappy greatest hits compilation that my brother bought while we were working together at Little Caesar’s Pizza. I’m not sure if this was influenced by Nick Jedd, but there’s a good chance it may have been. Nick is singularly responsible for my discovering Faith No More. My brother, whether I like it or not, was responsible for my discovery of Joey, Johnny, Dee Dee, and Tommy.

I’m not even sure what the greatest hits collection was titled, but it was a CD that we played constantly. Little Caesar’s, like my current job, had a boom box and the rules were- there are no rules. Music could not be heard by customers in the lobby, because we had a dough machine (the berkel) going at many times throughout the day, and we also had those two 650 degree ovens cranking. We had the boom box stationed on the ice machine in the back, near the wash station and the dish station. Pretty much anyone, except whomever had the luck of working the  ovens that shift, could hear the music. Since the Ramones were known for their spirit, their speedy, energetic short anthems, and their somewhat dark subject matter, it was perfect for that place.

Years later, Jen and I went on another one of our formally frequent record store shopping sprees. This one was Discount Records on 148th in Midlothian, near Jen and Carol’s house. (For the record, in case I haven’t mentioned her, Carol is Jen’s mom. Jen is my other best friend, and Carol was my godmother. She is no longer with us, unfortunately. Her and Jen are responsible for AC/DC. That’s another blog post.) We liked Discount Records because their specialty was hard rock, punk, and classic rock. I was just getting into some punk; through Jen, I had recently found and enjoyed the Sex Pistols and The Germs. I was having one of my days when nothing was really speaking to me, so I hit the other side of the albums and looked up. There was a Ramones shirt hanging from the ceiling, above what were a number of Ramones albums. I asked Jen which was their first, and I purchased it. It was a used album, but looked like new. Oddly enough, despite the fact that it’s in my possession now, it still looks pretty good. So we went back to her house and put it on Carol’s record player. We all loved it. I was in love. With the motherfuckin’ Ramones.

The reviews I had read of this were universal in their critiques that it did not match the brilliance of later Ramones records. Well, duh, it’s their debut. They’re not all going to be Off the Wall or Appetite For Destruction. If anything, for someone like myself, who was just venturing into the world known as “punk rock”, this was a perfect introduction.

“Blitzkrieg Bop” was a hoot to me to hear, likely because of how they sounded when they sang “Blitzkrieg Bop”. Admit it, it’s a funny song to begin with, but the delivery of those two words are pretty unique. “Beat On the Brat” is a song that my brother and I used to use when we were torturing my younger sister, calling her “Mushroomhead” and other juvenile taunts. “Judy Is A Punk” honestly lit no fires under me. “I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend” is a song by the Ramones that is still in my favorites queue. “Chain Saw” and “Now I Want To Sniff Some Glue” were songs that, due to their title alone, inspired many discussions. They also inspired me and Jen to write some of our crazier stories, like the Axl Rose Wrestling School and the Circus of Slash. “Loudmouth” is another of my all-time favorites, as are “Let’s Dance” and “I Don’t Want to Walk Around With You”Overall, it’s a pretty seamless album, if you take out the crappy ending of “Today Your Love, Tomorrow Your World”you have a pretty great little vinyl record. I loved it then, I love it now.

Cyndi, velour, and Captain Lou

Posted: August 18, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
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After Georgette’s post about Cyndi Lauper, I felt I wanted to contribute a little bit to She’s So Unusual. I was also raised on MTV and look where that got me. I was four when Cyndi Lauper started tearing up the charts. I remember seeing the video for “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” in the finished basement of our house in Westchester. That place was the shit. We played Atari down there, listened to records, and watched TV while sitting on my mom’s maroon velour and chrome-lined couch. I had to ask my mom what the couch was made of. When I told her why, she said “I thought you were just down there playing with He-Man figures”. Yes, mom, I was able, even then, to multitask in time wasting. The video being legendary, everyone knows what was in it. My impression at that age was, “Captain Lou Albano has a daughter”?

I was a huge wrestling fan as a young kid. Hard to believe, but I actually used to say my prayers and eat my vitamins because Hulk Hogan told me so. At the first Wrestlemania, Hogan was accompanied to the ring by Lou and “daughter” Lauper. If the Hulkster vouched for her, she was okay in my book. She was, well, unusual. She didn’t look like I thought women were supposed to look. I thought women were supposed to look like Madonna, bleach blonde and slutty (still kinda do). To be fair, I had no idea about the slutty bit at that time. It was the 80’s, man, nothing is what it was supposed to be. Cyndi had bright red hair and a feather ear ring like Mr. T, who was also there with Hogan. Surely, he of the twenty four inch pythons and B.A. Baracus would not steer me wrong. When “Time After Time” came out, I knew they hadn’t.

Even then, I remember thinking how sad this song was. Weirdly that now when I think of that video and wonder what the big deal is. Not about the song, no, the song is amazing. I just don’t get why Cyndi and that guy are breaking up or what their irreconcilable difference might be. I think she just hated in living in that shitty little trailer and wanted that doofus with the hat to get a real job. He was so douchey looking. But that wasn’t what the song was about, I hope. “Time After Time” has been one of my favorite songs for thirty years, maybe the longest tenured such piece of pop culture. It’s right up there with Batman. High regard but it is deserving.

After those first two singles, I admit that I didn’t hear anything from Cyndi until The Goonies. “The Goonies ‘r’ Good Enough”? No shit, they are, and that song was ridiculously good. At that point, she crossed over into a different realm of my childhood geekdom. Everywhere I looked now, there she was: MTV, WWF, MF’n Corey Feldman movies. But again, for some reason, she fell out of favor with me again until probably 1997.

My friend Steve and I used to go to the Downers Grove Public Library and snag a mess of CDs to listen to. In this area, the DG and Oak Lawn libraries have the best stuff. I don’t know why. Oak Lawn sucks balls. On one occasion, I grabbed She’s So Unusual (probably for comic value, outside of “Time After Time”). We listened to it and immediately “Money Changes Everything” changed, not everything but my stigma of the rest of the album. This song was fan-fucking-tastic. I skipped “Girls” to see if this was an anomaly, but no. Her Prince cover was even better than Prince’s original (I know G won’t agree).

After “Time After Time” after time after…huh? Track five is “She Bop”, more like “She Blip” as I still think of that song as the album’s one weak link despite its trying to be menacing synth riff. Following that was the unimpeachable “All Through the Night”. With five of the first six songs as strong as any first half of any album, it almost doesn’t matter what’s on side two. As it is, I usually skip right to the end with “Yeah Yeah”.

I don’t care if people think I’m weird for being a guy that loves this album. When I showed up to work one day with the blonde vulture was dropping me off in ’99, I remember listening to radio and we always blasted the thing to uncomfortable decibel level. As we pulled up to the door, “Girls” was on the radio and it was pouring out of the windows. I walk in and there are snide comments from the underlings and I just told them to shut the fuck up. I didn’t care what they thought. The album is great. I was lucky to find a copy of it on vinyl at Music Masters in Downers Grove a few years ago for $4. It still plays great. The album is totally of one particular era but there is something ultimately timeless about the way the songs hit you, or me at least. Sometimes, boys want to have fun too.

She’s So Unusual by Cyndi Lauper

Posted: August 17, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music
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She changed my life. Chances are, if you were a young girl growing up in the 1980’s, she may have changed yours. Or she may simply have just shown it was alright to be, well, unusual. Chances are, though, that Cyndi Lauper somehow touched your orbit (mind out of gutter, kids) in 1983 and continued to do so for many years. My second record purchase and hunt was for She’s So Unusual, her debut album.

Some background, of course, as those of us at the Hannibal Collector blog usually strive to do. Cyndi Lauper was really my mom’s discovery. I have spoken about my mom’s love of music in previous entries here, and no doubt she is the one I got the penchant for vinyl from. My mom spotted her on American Bandstand. It was March 17, 1984. I remember this because this 11-year old girl really wanted to go to her friend’s St. Patrick’s Day party. My mom said no. I was bad because I had somehow managed to convince my dad to give me extra money for allowance because I wanted to buy an entire plastic container of mint chocolate and milk chocolate Ice Cube candy from Spring Forest, the deli in Willow Springs.

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Ice Cubes? What are those? They are (pictured above).  And they are ungodly delicious. Instead of asking her mom to advance her allowance (which she never did, because she knew my brother and I were not above asking for it ahead of time, and then not doing the chores we had to do to receive that allowance. She was wise to our demonic ways.), I hit up my dad and buttered him up (how? I showed him my straight A’s on the report card. It never failed!). I won, but I lost. My mom wouldn’t let me go to the party. I was the only one who didn’t go. But in the end, it worked out great, because I saw Cyndi Lauper on American Bandstand. I was actually trying to rip my brother’s head off his shoulders in some epic battle for control of Skeletor in the He-Man war game we were playing, while my mom was watching the show. She called me in and told me to listen to and watch AB. I did, and the first thing I said was “That song rocks. Who is she?”. The second was “How did she get her hair so orange? Nick Rhodes should be asking for that hair dye tip.”. The third involved how great she was. The people at American Bandstand seemed to enjoy her. Dick Clark seemed entertained. She did “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” and “Time After Time” (one of the saddest and best songs ever – DM)The following Friday, I saw the video for “Girls” on Friday Night Videos and she became my newest musical passion. My mom was determined to hear if the hype that came into our systems was carried throughout the album. I am proud to say that was the case.

The album itself was a little bit of a challenge in obtaining. Mostly because nobody and their butter churner had it in stock. Sound Warehouse, JR’s Music, K-mart, Zayre, Venture, and Rose Records were all out of stock and had it on order. Seems the whole damn country lost their minds over Cyndi, as my mom and I had. I became determined that while we were waiting for it to come in, that I would try to convince my mom to let me dye my hair that color. That didn’t go well. I even tried the old “George and I will have matching hair colors” line (my brother was an orange-y ginger at the time), to no avail. I tried finding duds similar to those that she was sporting in the video. No store in their right mind had duds similar to what she’s wearing in the video (and they should have! It was the 80’s, after all).

Now we know I liked the song Girls Just Want To Have Fun“. “Time After Time” was next up on the single release charts, and I love that much, much more. There’s something so achingly beautiful about that song. The video didn’t help in washing out that wave of sentiment that came along with it. Even now, it still tears me up anytime I hear it; definitely one of her most powerful songs. The next song that I came into contact with was the infamous “She Bop. Now that is likely my favorite from the album. A song about masturbation and an awesomely odd video to match (not pornographic, you pervs!)? Count me in! “All Through the Night” and “Money Changes Everything” were the next songs to hit Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. I loved “All Through the Night” but was not stunned by the anything of “Money Changes Everything“. In fact, I downright despised that song; I’m still not a fan though I am way more tolerant of it in my old age. Perhaps the fact that my sister got obsessed with it years later and played the 45 to death had something to do with it. (Now I know how she feels about “Goodbye Is Forever” by Arcadia). There’s even a PRINCE song on here! “When You Were Mine” that was originally on his Dirty Mind album. The fact that Prince had no problem letting Cyndi Lauper do his song just sealed her awesomeness for me.  The other couple of songs were just poppy and filler, no great shakes. But overall? Overall it is excellent. A feel-good, pop masterpiece.

I finally did find the album at Sound Warehouse, which is not happily remembered in any vinyl collector’s blog. It was the King Of Suck In vinyl distribution or music distribution in general, but I had to grant them a stay of execution because they finally delivered the goods. My mom and I opened it up, cracked a few Pepsi’s, toasted to John Taylor (The King Of Pepsi), and listened. We both loved it. Thus began my fascination with Cyndi Lauper’s music. She has never let me down over the years. More importantly, she showed the world (and a 11-year old girl who liked to loudly mismatch her clothes and shoes at school, only to be made fun of incessantly) that it was okay to be different in your dress, videos, and overall presentation while still showing off superb vocal chops. You certainly cannot say that for that over-hyped, talentless windbag Sheena Easton or that Miami Chiquita of Lame, Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sucks It Machine.  Best yet? Another common musical denominator that my mom and I were able to discover and enjoy together. Those were good days.

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I have talked before here about my time at Crown Books and my misadventures with Jenny. While she was a full-on nutter, she did turn me on to My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult as well as the films of Dario Argento. If she hadn’t been crazy, maybe she wouldn’t have known about these things and, ergo, neither would I. The “Italian Hitchcock”, king of the giallo (term for a crime fiction story), master of gore. I’d like to think that I would have found him inevitably as I watched countless Troma movies and random bullshit horror rented from Family Video. But maybe I wouldn’t have and I would have missed out on more than just film.

Argento is certainly an acquired taste. I often find that his work is easier to admire than to enjoy. My first experience was with Tenebre. I took Jenny at her word that the film was phenomenal, so I bought the DVD. Amazingly enough, I found the Anchor Bay “Dario Argento Collection” version at my local Best Buy. The first thing I remember as being striking to me was the appearance of John Saxon. I have, in the past, been quite the horror movie guru so I was very familiar with him. You would know him as Nancy’s dad in A Nightmare On Elm Street – the original, you heretic. But Nightmare didn’t come out until two years after Tenebre (Unsane in America). Maybe this flick had some credibility after all.

The camera work was like nothing I had ever seen in that kind of a film. The camera was its own character. It served as the killer’s eyes and we got to view the murder scenes through his (spoilers?) point of view. The gore was a vibrant, unrealistic red. The style was so immense that it becomes difficult to acknowledge the lack of substance. At least equal to the visuals was the score by Italian prog rockers Goblin. From the opening tones of the main theme, I had no idea what in the hell I was hearing. Not since Peter Frampton had the talk box been used to such absolutely evil effect. Between that and the organ synth of main composer Claudio Simonetti, it was so different and so out there. The audio and visual elements come together that definitely adds up to more than the sum of its parts.

I eventually would go back to Music Warehouse to get as many compilations of Goblin’s soundtrack work as possible. When Argento’s Sleepless came out in 2001, it was the first time in a long while that Goblin had done a soundtrack. I actually went online and ordered the soundtrack from an Italian website. There, it was titled Non Ho Sonno. This was long before Google translate (or Google even?) so I went on the site and hoped for the best. I was already a savvy online shopper at that point, so I figured that I didn’t do something horribly wrong. The CD arrived and I was not disappointed.

After conceding to Jenny that she may have actually been right about a second thing, I went back to Best Buy and caused a ruckus when they didn’t have any other Argento flicks. I then proceeded to buy all of the ones in the “Argento Collection” as they had all been recently remastered and restored for the first time in the U.S. I bought good ones: the two disc limited edition of Opera, Phenomena (with Jennifer Connelly and Donald Muthafuckin’ Pleasance) and the not terribly good: Inferno. There were also some great like Cat O’ Nine Tails and Suspiria.

Suspiria was the first in a proposed trilogy called “the Three Mothers”. It was released in 1977 and is widely considered Argento’s masterpiece. My copy is the limited edition three disc version that includes the soundtrack by Goblin. Every death scene is a macabre work of art, many have been mimicked over and over. It stars American Jessica Harper as a ballerina whose new academy is run by witches. It’s creepy as fuck. Inferno came out three years later and was totally lackluster.

The third came out a few years ago, Mother of Tears, and I was fortunate enough to see it at the Music Box. It was a great ending to the trilogy and a sign that Argento hadn’t completely lost his chops. His last two movies might prove otherwise. The best part was that it starred his daughter, and the object of my ultimate fanboy affection, Asia.

Asia is just flat out fucking beautiful and though a lot of her work lends evidence that she may not be a great actress (as a lot of the movies she is in are total rubbish), you need only check out Traveling Companion to know that she has got some chops. It’s all in Italian but that’s why there are subtitles. I actually don’t watch it in subtitles myself. I believe that, like a silent movie, that you should be able to know what’s going on just based on performance. Hers is fantastic. She has also become an established director in her own right. But, honestly, she really is gorgeous. I would actually watch XXX with Vin Diesel again just for her and that movie is fucking unbearable.

Argento has given me so much. He introduced my world to his film, the music of Goblin, and his daughter. I have collected nearly all of his films available (including the ones above: The Bird With the Crystal Plumage, Four Flies On Grey Velvet, Trauma [with Asia], Two Evil Eyes [co-directed by George A. Romero], The Phantom Of the Opera [with Asia], Sleepless, The Card Player, Do You Like Hitchcock?) and even some on Blu-ray (Cat O’ Nine Tails, Deep Red, The Stendhal Syndrome [with Asia], and the awful digital transfer of the region free import of Tenebre). I have the four Goblin comps from DGA on CD but I would like to get some on vinyl but they be pricey. I also have procured a fair amount of Asia’s films (Demons 2, The Church, Traveling Companion, Scarlet Diva, and The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things). At the height of my madness, I spent $400 on a first edition of the book Art Of Darkness: the Cinema Of Dario Argento from the bastards at Alibris through my job at Books-A-Million. I shit you not. That’s about how much after my employee discount. After losing my job at BAM (the fucks), I had to sell it. Losing that book still burns more than losing that job, or any job. Hopefully, I can find it again (and cheaper).

My ultimate goal is to eventually get to Rome to go to Profondo Rosso, the Dario Argento store. As nice as it would be to see the mother country, I don’t know that I would need to see anything else. Insanity? Probably, but so goes the price of extreme fandom.

Out Of The Blue Comes The Electric Light Orchestra

Posted: August 14, 2013 by generationgbooks in Music

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The year was 1977. I was four at the time. The Electric Light Orchestra did not enter my awareness zone until much, much later.  I harbor an unconfirmed suspicion that my mom was a fan. There’s no way that I knew what the words to “Evil Woman” were right off the bat when I heard it played by Stanky Steven, unless it had been leaked into my subconscious at a young age by my mom.  I never saw any ELO albums or 8- tracks in her collection, but considering that she burned or gave away most of her possessions before she passed, there’s a possibility that there may have been some lodging in her collection. Another thing I will never know, unfortunately.

As I have said in several other blog postings, SS was good for a few things during our “relationship”. One of them was that he helped me find my inner classic rock child. Through him, I rediscovered the joys of Steve Winwood and Traffic, Eric Clapton, The Animals, Elton John (my obsession with Funeral For a Friend (Love Lies Bleeding) was his doing), among others. He had the cheap ELO greatest compilation with the gold epaulette on the cover. “Evil Woman” was the first song he played for me. “You made a fool out of me, but them broken dreams have got to end.” Oddly enough, not only did I immediately think to myself that it was a great opening lyric, but that it was also the universe delivering me another signal to run from the hell I had gotten myself into with SS. Anyway, that was the beginning of my love of The Electric Light Orchestra.

At this time, I was still stuck in grief, I was stuck in a job as a pizza place manager, and I was now stuck in a co-dependent abusive relationship. Certainly not the way anyone imagines their 24th year. As throughout my life, music was my salvation. I used to go browsing with Mark Serafin, my friend from LCP, for records at Beautiful Day in Lagrange. Many times, since neither Mark nor I drove (still the case!),  our mutual friend Bryon Czaja, got drafted to take us. There were many days where I grabbed handfuls of CD’s and albums, and took them over there and sold them. SS was not only an emotional tailspin, he was a financial fiscal downturn. The number of wonderful music that I had to let go, due to someone who loved me draining me out of what I had, sickens me to this day. Word to the wise; if they think nothing of your hard earned money paying for their good times, it won’t last.

Regardless, one day when Mark and I were there, he pulled out a vinyl copy of ELO’s Out of the Blue. Out of the Blue is 2 vinyls. Jeff Lynne & Co. put 4 songs on each side. The cover is the one with the ELO mothership featured prominently on the cover. It’s the same mothership from their previous record A New World Record. The vinyl came with a cardboard insert of the space station, and a poster of ELO. It was gatefold, so it also folded out. To say it is awesome in person is an understatement. It truly is an awesome vinyl presentation, especially as this was 1977, and the disco revolution was spinning its Rose Royce wheels in the gravel driveways of almost all. Mark was well familiar with ELO, and a huge fan. I would have to say that he seriously had more of an effect on me with ELO than SS did.  A fight did ensue over the album, but I had more dinero on me, so I got the album. Mark settled, not happily, with The Alan Parsons Project album Tales of Mystery and Imagination. 

This record doesn’t contain “Evil Woman”although it my favorite ELO song. It does, however, contain, “Night In The City”, which is easily my 2nd favorite ELO song.  Also, “Turn To Stone” and “Mr. Blue Sky”I wasn’t overly familiar with most of the rest of the material on the record sleeve, but it didn’t matter. I had to have it.

The album immediately got placement in my room. On top of the aforementioned nuclear record player. Mark, since he was practically also living in my house at the time, thought I was mocking him. It sat there for months. The first and last thing I saw was the ELO ship. Until SS took it down one day and packed it away in my record crate, and replaced it with a Britney Spears album. As you can guess, one more death knell to the relationship. NO ONE takes my motherfucking records down. NO ONE. Even now, no one takes my records, or touches my records. I am incredibly fierce with vinyl, and the Spaceship continues on with me to this day. SS does not.

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The above referenced book is one of the best music books I have ever read. Period. This one came to me courtesy of my friend Luke. Luke and I worked together for several years at Crown Books. Unhappily, then the rednecks moved in and took over the now defunct Crown Books. Change was imminent, and change was not pretty. Luke and I got along famously (understatement of the year) and bonded over music and books that we were both fans of. I think The Beatles may have been the first band that we had long talks at the bookstore about, and he knew I read like a banshee, so he recommended this book to me. He described it as the best Beatles book he had ever read. Luke read a lot of music books, and he hadn’t led me down a path of shitty books or music before this, so I took his recommendation to heart and set off trying to find the book. Little did I know that it would take a long while. Happily, I got a chance to find it, read it, and discuss with him before he moved onto rougher occupational waters at the H-dale Crooks-A-Zillion. I have been able to recommend it to fellow Beatle fanatics, and for a while over the years, had to attach a disclaimer that it might take the Ninth Gate to find the damn thing. I am pretty certain it’s now back in print, in trade, and with a spiffy new black and white cover. If you haven’t picked it up or read it, do so. I like to say that the Hunter S. Davies books on the Beatles are Beatles Lite. The Albert Goldman books are a little on the tabloid scandal sheet side, and light on the music. No thank you. This book bares the gold coins and the tarnished spikes on the crown that was the Beatles majestic musical ride. Read it!

I went through a lot of Long Island Iced Teas at Time-Out and watered down Southern Comfort and Cokes at Brixie’s before I found it. There was a trip to some out of print bookstore in the middle of a field in West Lafayette, Indiana. I believe it’s now called Von’s, but don’t think it was called that then. I ran across it years later on one of our many BAM trips through the cornfields for district manager meetings; Donna and Mary were always motoring in attempts to find off the beaten path shops in the middle of exciting, rural Indiana. This was way before that attempt. This time out was my best friend Jen, her mom Carol, and I in the middle of nowhere hunting down cheap cigarettes and whatever little thrift stores we could find. I think Jen was hunting for things to put her altar together; Carol just loved jumping in the Olds and going for a long drive. Indiana wasn’t far and it wasn’t expensive. West Lafayette was also close enough for our G N’R obsessed hearts to say it’s “near” Axl Rose’s birthplace. Von’s had a great selection of things. I found a lot of cool out of print books on the 80’s, a Gus Van Sant biography (why I was hunting that down at that time, no idea), and a hardcover copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Hell’s Angels book. I also found a vinyl copy of Culture Club’s 3rd album Waking Up With The House on Fire, which was useless, because once I returned to my hood, I found that Heidi’s sister Cherie had gotten a copy of it in plastic from Tip Tap Toe, where she was working at the time. The Holy Book of Beatle wasn’t at Von’s.

My next try was at what is now Earl Plaza Books, in Lafayette. After the three of us had a run-in with some hick over their attempt to sell  “Amish bread” which was just regular bread (for the record, there is a difference. Janine L. would attest to this) to us, we got the hell out of West Lafayette and head over to Lafayette. There’s jack shit there, I can see why Axl and Izzy both wanted out. But they had Earl Plaza! This place was cool even back then. They had comics, used books, and new books. Comics! I think that may have been my first exposure to comics in a bookstore setting, on the other side of a cornfield. I found a new thing to focus on. My 2nd idiot was obsessed with comics, and got me hooked. In quick fashion and typical of anything in five feet of his reach, he managed to ruin that for me, so I stopped giving a shit- at least until that met its merciful end. That fool was long gone, so I took my time and picked up some comics. Sandman by Neil Gaiman was among my purchases, influenced at that time, no doubt, by a Mr. Joe Vanis Flytrap, who got me into Sandman years back, at LCP in the mid-90’s. The comics were in perfect shape. No dice on the Beatles book, although the owner of the shop knew of it and warned it was going to be a bitch to procure. Indeed.

By this time, we rolled back into Illinois. Jen and I tried a few places in Illinois- the old bookstore in downtown Blue Island that the nice old lady owned (for the love of toast, I cannot remember the name. It was on 147th and Western ,not far from the Caesar’s). Borders on 95th and Western in Evergreen Park. SuperCrown on Lincoln Highway. I am pretty sure there were two other used bookstores near Jen that we tried; time has taken their names away. I was about to give up, when I found it in the unlikeliest of places- a fucking garage sale.

When I was a kid, garage sales were cool to go to. Especially in my family. However, I took myself out of the garage sale ring when I threw my cards down on the cool cats table. Jen dragged me to a huge garage sale out on Dixie Highway. By huge, I mean almost the entirety of Dixie Highway, alongside of it, was full of homes that were having a community wide garage sale. Massive was an understatement. It took Jen and I three whole days to navigate that bitch. Stacey was most understanding of my quest for trying to find this book, so I got that weekend off of Crown. I had never seen so much useless shit in my life than I did at this garage sale. However, as I was getting ready to leave and Jen was again telling me how the four Beatles are more talented in their solo careers than together, I saw the corner of something. I saw the words The Love YouI confess, some pessimistic little book ant said “Come on, get serious. You’ve seen every plaid shirt that Roseanne Barr likely had for wardrobe on her show, why would someone own a copy of this book?”. And with that utterance, I think I found the Holy Grail of Optimism. For there, underneath a bunch of tattered John Denver records, was a tattered copy of the book. It was yellowed, it was stinky from laying in an attic with Uncle Jack’s smelly denim overalls, the cover was creased, but it was there! I bought it for the princely sum of $2.50. I have no idea what, if any, value would be gained from selling it these days, but it matters not for it’s going nowhere. It is definitely in the higher echelon of books I will never part with, and it went with me on the cruise I took with Heidi, Dave, & Lady Samantha in 2002. Was I made fun of for having this on a cruise when most of the passengers were reading the newest jackie Collins? Yes. Did I care? Fuck no. Was I made fun of by Jen, who just couldn’t get over the huge scene I made? Oh yes. Did I care? No, I still reference it with her to see her wince. Totally worth the wait between the time it took me to find it from Luke telling me about it until it became mine.

Sonic Youth and never being too old for a Teen Age Riot

Posted: August 11, 2013 by The Social Retard in Music
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Daydream Nation

Daydream Nation

I was going through John’s garage today. This is not my normal “going out to the garage” euphemism I had recently been using when indulging in some herbal refreshment. When I moved a few years ago, I knew I would no longer have room for all of my stuff (both useful and superfluous). I took all of my essentials (blu-ray and vinyl) with me but kept all of my CD’s in my buddy John’s garage as he has been gracious enough to allow me to do that. Today, I required some quick cash so that meant digging through my treasure trove to find any less than desirables. Most were easy to give up: DVDs that I now have on blu-ray and all of my Led Zeppelin CDs. At the complete opposite end of that spectrum is this item of great personal and historical importance.

As we always do at Hannibal Collector, we start at the beginning. It would have been 1996 or 1997 when I rode to high school with my friend Tara. I would pretend to miss the bus that was right by her house despite the fact that my one of best friends at the time, Tony, was also at that bus stop. There are reasons I did so that had nothing to do with Tony, then anyway. I didn’t know then that Tony was such a colossal cocknoggin. Well, he is, and fuck him. My aforementioned buddy Sandeep (from way back at the beginning of this blog) named a game we play after him. It consists of two people taking turns name dropping the biggest freakazoids from our high school, trying not to laugh as we remember these turd raiders. Tony M—y, fill it in however you like. It looks quite potentially funny presented that way. Talk to a high school friend and play the game. It’s fun. You can even play over great distances via text. We do.

I would ride with Tara in her blue early nineties Mustang. Now, I didn’t like her like her but she was the coolest. She had unevenly bleached blonde hair and was so fucking punk rock. It was nice to have a girl friend without pervy subtext in my teens. It helped that I had already known her for nearly a decade as we went to elementary school together. I always wanted to be as cool as her. Part of me still does. Tara was the first girl I knew to get a tongue stud (which I will not do), and it freaked me the hell out. She got a kick out of that as she stuck out her tongue at any available moment during an otherwise interesting conversation. You’d just hear in the middle of English class a “Gah!” noise from our side of the room after she waggled it about. I liked riding with her for three reasons. She was cool, as mentioned, we got there later (as to not have to be in school any longer than necessary), and she had a lot of cool music to listen to. Tara turned me onto the Beastie Boys via Paul’s Boutique, Faith No More beyond “Epic”, and Sonic Youth through EVOL, Sister, and their magnum opus, Daydream Nation.

The opening track, “Teen Age Riot”, was fucking epic. Like most things I talk about on this blog, this was unlike anything I had ever heard before. It was a call to arms for outcasts like me. We had an anthem too, my own generation’s “Baba O’Riley”. It didn’t make any sense but that’s why it made perfect sense. “Silver Rocket” blazes by next and shakes your core. “Total Trash” could not have been a less apt song title for something so strange but so undeniably catchy. The song we listened to most, for some reason, was “Candle”. Not dissing the track, it is great, but I wonder why that specifically. Look, this is not me being misogynistic that I happened to choose the three main standouts as Thurston Moore songs. I think everyone realizes that mostly each album of SY’s is either a Thurston album or a Kim album. One of them tends to dominate each record. The nineties were mostly Kim’s. The eighties and Daydream are definitely Thurston’s. Not to discount the efforts of Lee Ranaldo as “Eric’s Trip” is a classic as well.

Fast forward another decade and Tara is long gone. Kinda sad, really. I would actually like to talk to her again. But alas, the story moves on without her. It was around this time that I finally started buying Sonic Youth CDs. My friend Lauren had gone to Bonnaroo in 2006 and was going to see SY. Don’t remember how but she ended up backstage. She ran into drummer Steve Shelley, who she likely described as “super nice”. Whether she felt bad that I didn’t go or just decided to do something really sweet, she purchased Daydream Nation for me (which I inexplicably had not yet bought myself despite it being what I refer to as “the alternative bible/blueprint”). Seeing Shelley, she asked if he would sign it. Not only did he, but he got the rest of the band to sign it as well. She called me right after this happened, which seemed like something she should have done as it happened so that I could say, “Hi. Your band changed my life” or something equally inane, but still, the sentiment was right. I choose to believe she wasn’t calling to say “Hey, I met Sonic Youth and all I got you was this lousy CD”. Because A) the CD is the furthest thing from lousy and B) she’s not that type. This was nothing to shake a stick at, if stick shaking happens to be something you have a predilection toward doing. In which case, weirdo.

The relationship I had with the album took a sharp turn south after the following year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. This event has made me hate (momentarily) bands I’ve loved for making them sound terrible at their stupid little concert. Namely, Pavement and Modest Mouse, but mostly, Sonic Youth…for a whole year. The band was to play Daydream in its entirety on the opening night of the fest. The sound quality was sludgy and distant. I can’t speak for Lauren but it was so bad that we left after “Candle” (interesting coincidence, no?). That experience left an equally sludgy taste in my mouth that lasted the next calendar year. I had even stopped reading the great 33 1/3 series book by Eric Weisbard about the album. I wanted nothing to do with the record, Pitchfork, and especially (and sadly) the band.

See and hear that? That was a true representation of how that sounded. Awful, yeah? After that year, I finally picked up the book again and finished it. I gradually allowed myself to become re-enveloped in the warmth of their noise tapestry. Lauren even made up for that experience for me when she got me a ticket to see Sonic Youth at the Vic in 2009 (with the awesome Entrance Band opening featuring A Perfect Circle‘s Paz Lenchantin on bass). They only played “The Sprawl”and “Hey Joni” from Daydream but maybe that was just as well. They sounded incredible. This was in support of their one and only album from Matador, The Eternal, which was also fantastic. It was the first night of the tour and the first of two nights in what would end up being the last time they played together in Chicago before Kim and Thurston and, subsequently, the band broke up.

Lauren didn’t let Pitchfork be the lasting live memory I have of the band that I not only love but have such a tremendous respect for. She has given me the two most giant pieces I can ever have of Sonic Youth. One jammed into my memory bank and one I will hold onto no matter how many times they remaster it and give it even more super deluxe packaging and extra tracks. That is one of her many actions that make her my favorite person in the world. Yes, even ahead of Glenn Danzig. Sorry, rest of the world, but you never gave me a signed Sonic Youth CD.