December 31

So here it is, post number 365.

I suppose it is expected that I write some profound words about what I’ve learned from this experience or how I’ve been affected?

I mean, spending some part of each day with vinyl records and the music contained on them every day for a year has to have taught me something, right?

The funny thing is I don’t feel any different. I guess in the same way that you don’t feel any different the day after your birthday as you did the day before… It just seems to flow from the one to the next.

I can say for sure that there has been a change… and one I would consider positive! I have wasted way less time in front of a TV screen or on Facebook or the like and way more time listening to new music.

I’ve also spent way more time on my hands and knees in thrift stores and junk shops and way more time in front of a computer screen than and I am used to.

House projects, yard work… many of the normal tasks in life have gone undone while I’ve been searching for that holy grail or listening to the new find.

And I got fat. Seems beer and blogging go together really well!

In any case, I don’t feel that I have changed too much… my love of music and records has always been strong. My music muscles had just become atrophied over time unused.

But I do see a change in those around me… the new music my wife is now interested in, the turntables friends and neighbors have set up, friends and family also looking for vinyl records for The Collection

I’ve learned what I always knew; music is for sharing! If I have a record that I really love and share it with someone who also digs it, the world is a better place. If I come across a great record and play it for someone or someone brings a record to me that I listen to and am inspired by, that world gets even bigger.

I also reacquainted myself with the act of truly listening to music. Carving out some time to just sit and contemplate what is coming out of the loudspeakers. Not passively listening, while performing life’s tasks, but opening my ears and concentrating on the music!

I’ve also been asked, when people find out that I am listening to more music on vinyl, if it sounds “better”. I can answer here and now with a definitive – sometimes?

It really depends! Some records I have sound fantastic… some don’t sound as good as their CD counterparts. But I can guarantee you my vintage tube amplified stereo sounds better than your crappy earbuds listening to a compressed digital file on your iPhone!

The bottom line is that I listen better… not that any one format sounds better than another.

Now to round out my 50 Greatest For My 50th Year list… is the category The Big Ten!

When I first started thrifting for records, and had people keeping eyes out for records for me as record store trade ins… I had a rough list of what I was looking for. I just told people to look for the Big Ten; the Beatles, the Stones, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, the Doors… anything else from the British Invasion, any blues, any jazz or any alternative or punk records.

This worked fine for a while… but I found that it left some things that I was really interested in out and other things were kind of redundant.

What about awesome record covers? What about albums or album covers that were art? What about just some great labels that put out reliably awesome music? What about outlaw country?

I refined The Big Ten overtime and came up with a list of reliably valuable records that would trade for great value and also be awesome to listen to.

The Big Ten now consists of anything British Invasion, anything Classic Rock, anything psychedelica, any blues, any jazz, any alternative or punk records, awesome labels such as VerveBlue Note and Janus, any kitschy cool albums, classic cover art and anything that fills a hole in The Collection for instance:

10-01

London Calling/Sandinista! – The Clash

These records still sound purposeful and have an immediacy that is lacking in much of the contemporary music of today. Subtle introduction to ska and reggae beats are an added bonus.

Kitschy Covers – Various

Because she covers section of the collection has grown exponentially in the last year. I just love the Madison Avenue “sex sells” aspect of exotica. I can only imagine many of these covers on the rack at Woolworths with prudish grandmothers dragging their drooling grandbabies away from this smut!

Rumors – Fleetwood Mac

A classic rock masterpiece. Still one of my all time favorite records and destined to be on any top 10 list I ever come up with. The memories of twirling sundresses on lazy summer afternoons still inspire.

Dark Side Of The Moon – Pink Floyd

Is it British Invasion? Is it classic rock? Is it psychedelica? This album still defies classification. It’s a true masterpiece in every sense of the word. I have had so many great experiences while listening to this music… this year’s supermoon spend with loved ones was the icing on the cake!

Presence – Led Zeppelin

My favorite rock record from my favorite rock guitar player.

Jimi Hendrix Box Set

Jimi is holding down the blues mantle here in The Big Ten. Blues records are few and far between in this neck of the woods and all that I’ve had have either inspired or been inspired by Jimi Hendrix. Adding a box set to the top 10 is a little unorthodox, I know. But some of these covers are fantastic… especially the cover of Electric Ladyland! To boot song Little Wing is probably the most perfectly concise rock song I’ve ever heard.

Getz/Gilberto – Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto

I found a stereo and a mono copy of this 50 year old classic in the same thrift store on the same day. The deep groove Verve label records all sound amazing! Here even after 50 years, this record is my go-to demo for vinyl on my stereo to the uninitiated.

Kind Of Blue – Miles Davis

My all time favorite jazz record! I found a sleeveless, coverless, scratchy, dirty original in the bottom of a thrift store bin 20 years ago and have played it on nearly every August 17th since. This year I finally upgraded to 180 gram remaster reissue and could not be happier.

Siamese Dream – Smashing Pumpkins

Records from this era rarely surface on the used market. Sure, you can get represses like this one on Amazon or eBay, but the originals? You just never see them. This era, when CDs became king and vinyl was relegated to the dustbin of history, it took a strange person to continue to buy original vinyl. Thank goodness someone in this area bought this repressing and decided to part with it on Craigslist. This experimental hard art rock album snuck into the mainstream under the guise of grunge back in the day and has held up better than most of its contemporaries.

Abraxas – Santana

I remember heading to preview an estate sale that had many vinyl records included. I had seen a partial list with this album on it. I told my wife that I was really excited about this one because this was a great example of why you wanted to own vinyl records! The album cover was so deep, so detailed that you can spend hours combing over it while listening to the music over and over again. The estate sale record had a modesty sticker plastered right on the good parts of this record cover! I passed, but found an exceedingly clean copy a few weeks later at the local record store.

So there you have it! My 50 Greatest For My 50th Year list and my 365th blog post in Mark’s 365 Days Of Vinyl… all wrapped up with a nice bow.

I guess I’ll leave you with one final top of the top, best the best, favorite of the favorite pick:

abbey

In celebration of completion of #365, I’m going to listen to my all time favorite record… actually my all time favorite album side; side two of Abbey Road is an absolute masterpiece and, in my opinion, the high water mark of popular music. I never tire of this album and I especially never tire of the sweet side.

I’m off now to celebrate New Years Eve with my wife. As my 50th year comes to a close, her 40th year begins… she’s a new years baby and we’re going to celebrate tonight just as we did a year ago, at a casino concert! I want to thank you all for listening, caring and sharing.

…and the circle of life continues, round, just like a vinyl record, but spinning way more than 33 1/3 RPM.

 

December 30

The 10 records I’m going to nominate today for my 50 Greatest For My 50th Year list is the route the overwhelming majority of new records have come into the collection… thrifts!

Now it’s no secret that I have been haunting the thrift stores within about a 50 mile radius of Spokane regularly for the past year, but I don’t think you know exactly how out of hand this obsession was (is?)!

My record collection has gone from somewhere south of 300 records to 1500 records in the last 12 months… and that is just the stuff I kept! That doesn’t count the hundreds and hundreds of records that I have turned in for record store credit, given away, shitcanned or still have for sale!

I had to buy furniture to hold my records.

On a good day it was not uncommon for me to come home with 20 or 30 records from thrift stores in one direction or another. On a bad day it was not uncommon for me to come home with a hundred!

I’ve gone through almost every vinyl hunter-gatherer category (as laid out by Mr. Vinyl Connection) that there is in the span of 12 months… hopefully, here at the end, I’ve backed down to between a B. Enthusiast and a C. Explorer and I’m headed towards the A. category Collector!

Along the way I have purchased albums that were worth tens (even hundreds?) of dollars as well as those that were worth tens of cents… all for a dollar or less!

At first, I was keeping track of what I bought and what I traded those records for in record store credit… and what I kept. The volume got out of hand and I lost count! As close as I can tell by looking at known lots of scores and trade ins, I ended up spending $25 for every $100 of record store credit that I obtained.

This allowed me to complete my first goal of the year, obtaining the first five Led Zeppelin reissues using just record store credit.

It then carried on fast and furious and allowed me to upgrade some of my stereo equipment… and even refurbish some other vintage equipment that I had laying around… once again using just record store credit.

Finally, I was able to trade records that I found at thrift stores, yard sales and the like, to other record collectors for things that I really wanted for The Collection.

So without further ado here is my top 10 thrifted records of the year… in no particular order:

20-11

At Folsom Prison – Johnny Cash

I just don’t believe that the societal impact of this record (and its follow-up) I can be overstated… a near washed up superstar makes a desperate pitch to a maverick record producer, gets the green light, no one gives it any chance or any support… and the next thing you know this soon to be washed up superstar is one of the world’s most influential entertainers.

Shotgun Willie – Willie Nelson

In my opinion this was the first true Outlaw Country record. I have been collecting Willie Nelson records for as long as I can remember but this one is my favorite!

From Here To Eternity – Giorgio

Probably my most well spent $0.50! I found this thing at the South Hill goodwill in Spokane and brought it home with nothing more expected than a good laugh. My wife has since told me that this is her favorite record I’ve ever brought home.

Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Elton John

Elton John records are plentiful in thrift stores. He sold a million of them and there’s not a bad one in the bunch in my humble opinion. This is my favorite. Some people have called it Elton’s White Album but I’m not so sure about that.

Tommy – The Who

All of my Tommy records have come from thrift stores. The DVD, not so much.

Nine Symphonies – Beethoven

If you were spending less than $1 a piece on any of Beethoven’s symphonies… you’re doing pretty good!

Layla – Derrick And The Dominoes 

An off the beaten path thrift store netted me this copy of Layla. Its spontaneous brilliance still resonates.

Buckingham Nicks – Buckingham/Nicks

I got this gem, a favorite of my teen years due to my sensei of music Brent, for five bucks in a local thrift store strip mall.

All Things Must Pass – George Harrison

Paul McCartney was my first favorite Beatle, and then John Lennon took his place in my rebellious years. Here, as I become a solidly middle aged man, George Harrison has come to the forefront. Maybe when I’m 80 Ringo will get his shot. The hidden genius of George Harrison during the Beatles sessions was exposed for all to see here with this fantastic box set.

Boomerang – Shoes

The one that started it all this year. I came across this record in a thrift store and wondered what I might be able to turn it around for, profit wise. It gave me hope that I was on the right path and I’ve kept it for the story that it provides as well as the music in the grooves.

December 29

Today is 10 disc category for my 50 Greatest For My 50th Year list is gifts.

Actually, looking back at this blog, many more than 10 of the records highlighted would fit into the gifts category… these 10 for, one reason or another, really stand out:

30-21

Sitin’ In – Loggins and Messina

This the record that, more than about any other, spawned this whole blog thing. It was a 49th birthday gift from my lovely wife and was a brand new 180 gram remaster of this fantastic album. I had been hearing some of the more extended Loggins and Messina jams on satellite radio which renewed my interest in this group. Because of this record I got serious about reassembling the stereo and setting up a listening room just to enjoy vinyl records again.

Operation Mindcrime/Empire – Queensryche

My wife’s favorite band! Looking back for the blog for the one about how we sat together and listened to her favorite Queensryche album, Operation Mindcrime, fireplace roaring, drinks in hand, volume on 11… I came up with nothing! It seems that I had purchased this album for her prior to the blog. Even so, I believe we now have collected all of the classic Queensryche albums on vinyl and all were gifts to her. (PS… Empire is better than Mindcrime)

Down Where the Spirit Meets the Bone – Lucinda Williams

Another one from my wife. Lucinda Williams is one of my favorite singer songwriters and I have most of her albums on CD. This relatively new release came to me as a Valentimes gift, once again from my thoughtful wife. It was a two-fer because Lucinda was playing a concert in town on Valentime’s Day last year. We had a great night out… dinner, drinks and a show.

Arrival -Rail 

Boy honey, you really knocked it out of the park with this one! My wife and cat got me this for Father’s Day a few years back. It came with a vintage set of JBL Lancer l77 speakers, which my original Rail – Arrival cassette did not include. Even with my favorite high school band album in hand and a new set of speakers I was still lazy about getting things set up.

St. Dominic’s Preview – Van Morrison

In case I haven’t then crystal clear, my buddy Rich lent me this album to listen to and I have since made it a gift for myself! Thank you!

A Love Supreme – John Coltrane

After Kind Of Blue, A Love Supreme is probably my favorite jazz record. It is just so stripped down and primal, you feel it more than think about it. This was another 180 gram brand new reissue from my wife.

Breakfast In America – Supertramp

From the better to give than receive department, with a very young friend at this year’s Record Store Day she mentioned a couple of the records that her mother had and played and she really wanted to find. This was tops on the list and I was fortunate enough to find a super clean copy at Groove Merchants. The look on her face when I gave it to her was priceless and I plan on continuing to give away records just to help spread the joy around a little bit.

Mose Allison 

These came to me by way of my buddy Chris back in Great Falls. They were his father’s and he generously turned them over to The Collection. These were not all though! I’ve literally added dozens and dozens of fantastic jazz titles to the collection… all due to the generosity of Chris and the care his father Bill showed to these treasures.

Kiss Alive! – Kiss

My childhood musical Christmas present that sparked my interest in music more than any other thing I can remember.

Fathers And Sons – Muddy Waters

Passed from a stranger to a cousin to me. Played by two sons who miss their dads.

December 28

Today’s category for my 50 Greatest For My 50th Year list is used.

Actually most of my records are used! I mean what is the point of having an unused record? I guess I understand if record collectors or other types of dealers want have that stuff around, but for me I would rather have a nice playing copy of one of my favorite albums than a still sealed copy that just sits on a shelf somewhere.

That being said, these next 10 records are things that I have bought from other people or dealers that have been previously used but weren’t tossed away to a thrift shop:

40-31

Saturate Before Using – Jackson Browne

I bought most of my Jackson Browne albums used. The first day we went out record hunting this year I found a slug of good ones at 4000 Holes. I finally bought a new Jackson Browne album this year at one of my take a record to a concert dates.

Ghost In The Machine – The Police

The Police were probably my favorite big name commercial band towards the end of high school. I had a cassette of Zenyatta Mondatta that I must have listened to a thousand times. I kind of wrote off Ghost In The Machine, I didn’t really understand it. With older ears and a different perspective this is become my favorite Police record.

Goucho/Aja – Steely Dan

These two albums are a staple. Although I did buy Aja new back in the day, & it was also a gift when that copy went missing, my most recent version is a MFSL half-speed Master picked up at Groove Merchants. It sounds fantastic! My copy of Gaucho I’ve had for several months and it is a go to when trying to impress people with the stereo setup.

Joshua Tree – U2

Who knew a bunch of Irish guys would introduce me to Americana music? My super clean copy came from third record store in town, Recorded Memories. By all rights this album should be up in the Big 10 list. It actually was for most of the existence of the list… but I needed to fill a spot down here in used.

The Monkees – all

These were among the first records I started buying at use record stores back in the mid eighties. I’ve always wanted to find clean copies of the Monkees albums because they bring back so many childhood memories.

Mermaid Avenue – Billy Bragg and Wilco

This came used from the original owner. I was so happy to find this album on vinyl as it is one of my favorites. This album was another that nearly made the overall Big 10 list!

Blind Faith – Blind Faith

I learned about blind faith from a Kevin Costner movie. I was on a seek and destroy mission until I was able to find this thing on CD. When I came across a near mint copy of a reissue I had no qualms in laying down the exorbitant asking price.

Ziggy Stardust – David Bowie

My copy came from an antique store. It was the store owners private collection.

Marquee Moon – Television

Came from a collection in Coeur d’Alene that was just unbelievable! I bought it purely to trade in for record store credit I’m so glad I listened to it beforehand because it has really opened my eyes to the mid-seventies American proto punk.

The Velvet Underground & Nico – VU&N

I didn’t care for this record the first time I listened to it. I could hear many of the influences that my alternative and grunge idol’s cited back in the day, but I just didn’t care for this record. Then it started to eat at me… all the songs were earworms and I have finally become a fan. I can’t imagine punk rock or grunge without the Velvet Underground.

 

December 27

So here I am… the last five blogs of Marks 365 Days Of Vinyl. If you remember, this was all about a New Years resolution (and also a bit of a midlife crisis).

The idea was to reconnect with the music, and format of music delivery, that I loved so much in my younger years… but had gotten away from.

I figured I could go through my existing record collection, cull out the things that didn’t make any sense or the things that were no longer interesting to me and build this base into a respectable record collection.

I also had intentions of taking some of the excellent pieces of musical equipment I had laying around and build these into a respectable stereo system.

I believe I have succeeded in both of these goals!

But now comes the hard part, looking back, reminiscing, and trying to figure out what I’ve learned. Has this path taken me someplace new? Am I stuck in the same old rut as my 49 year old self? Or… am I back in the groove?

Let’s find out.

I promised myself I would make a 50 Greatest for my 50th year list… sort of like a top 10 list, but I knew there was no way I was going to be able to collect my 50 favorite piece of music on vinyl this year. I also didn’t want to load up on Beatles and Led Zeppelin records so heavily in that the list would be meaningless.

I decided to do my 50 favorite records that I blogged about in this year. They’re not in any particular order (for the most part) but I have categorized them into five different categories of 10 records each; new, used, gifts, thrifts, Big Ten.

Let’s start with new:

These records were either purchased new this year or purchased new in the past and are new to me vinyl:

50-41

What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye

Fantastic album, one of the all time greats. Great on Sunday mornings and on road trips. A truly special album that still resonates today. We hear but we don’t listen I guess.

Highway To Hell/Back in Black – AC/DC

To me, this music sounds like one thing and one thing only… youth! Being a no problems kid with the freedom to rock out to AC/DC at will. OK, two things; youth and freedom. We need to dispatch AC/DC to the middle east post haste!

Buddy Holly/Crickets 20 Golden Greats/Chuck Berry’s Greatest Hits

This is where it all began. If you listen at all to BH or CB, or if you read about classic rock and roll, these guys were the flood wave that carried the Beatles up to my musical high water mark. John Lennon said that if they ever had to find a new name for rock and roll, it’d be Chuck Berry. Enough said. My BH is new but my CB is a Taiwanese knock off… I just like to think back on what joy it gave some service member when he bought it new.

Songs In The Key Of Life – Stevie Wonder

I had this new on 8 track as a kid. I stupidly tried to listen to it on a rafting trip. It was my introduction to soul and funk music.

Oh Mercy – Bob Dylan

I’ve always been a fan of Bob, The great American poet. I learned to play guitar by figuring out his sixties protest songs. This period of his music, No Mercy, Under A Red Sky and onward has become my favorite.

Graceland – Paul Simon

Bought brand new on CD at an Air Force Base Exchange, this record really opened up my ears to the different kinds of music that were out in the world. I’m so glad I found it on vinyl!

Making Movies – Dire Straits

My go to record for testing new audio equipment. My foreign copy came out of a discount bin brand new sealed in cellophane from a grocery store in Tacoma.

Nebraska – Bruce Springsteen

I backed into the CD hearing other people do these songs. More than almost any other record, this sounds like America to me.

Kiss Alive! – Kiss

A Christmas present well after initial release. My Kiss Army membership was I filled out and mailed almost immediately.

American Fool – John Cougar Melencamp

John Cougar Mellencamp is my Bruce Springsteen. His earnest and yet soulful music and lyrics really struck home with me… more so than the East Coast-centric Boss’ early records did. I bought my copy (on cassette) while playing hookey from high school on a warm spring afternoon. I still feel those feelings whenever I hear Jack And Dianne!

 

December 26

My first experience with the Clash was an MTV video of Rock The Casbah from the album Combat Rock:

I knew some kids that had that record and loved that band but, although I thought it was okay, it didn’t really do too much for me.

And older cousin reminded me that The Clash didn’t just form out of thin air and record Combat Rock… they’d been a band for years and maybe I should not be a dope and listen to some of the earlier stuff already.

Thank goodness I took his advice!

IMG_20151227_202109691.jpg

It started with a cassette of London Calling. The world music thing had not been invented yet as far as I knew. London Calling was probably the first taste of rockabilly, reggae and many other musical styles that I had heard.

Their next record, the monster three record Sandinista! was even more of a taste!

Together with all these new sounds and the overt political content containing lyrics it really opened up my eyes to the larger world that was outside of my rural American bubble.

December 25

During this 365 Days Of Vinyl I’ve been trying to make use of notable points in history to determine which record to listen to for the day.

Birthdays, album release dates, dates when people have passed away… all these have help me pick what record to listen to.

For Christmas I thought it would be a no brainer. I have a big box-o-Christmas records to choose from. I have a near mint Ventures Christmas album, a Johnny Cash Christmas album, Ray Charles Christmas album, even the aforementioned Charlie Brown Christmas record to choose from. They’d have all been contenders for today’s blog.

But I settled on something different. One of the all-time greatest backing vocals in rock and roll history…

The back story is this; The Rolling Stones were working on their 1969 album Let It Bleed. While working on the opening track, the overall introduction of the world to this new record, at a late night recording session in Los Angeles, the band decided they needed a female vocal.

The producer said he knew a great girl singer and rang her up. Of course it was almost midnight and the singer had curlers in her hair and pajamas on and was getting ready for bed. Oh, and did I mention she was 9 months pregnant?

She answered the phone and turned down the offer from the producer. She didn’t know who the Rolling Stones were and it was late she was getting ready for bed! Her husband took the phone from her hand and also denied the offer because of the hour and his wife’s reluctance.

After the phone call the singer and her husband discussed the matter further and reconsidered. Maybe it would be good for her career? It was going to be a good pay day regardless.

The studio sent a car for the singer. She draped a mink coat over her pajamas covered her curlers with headscarf and proceeded to the recording studio.

At the studio she was given her lines to sing and taught the song. At first she was asked to just harmonize with the lead singer on the verses. Then she was asked to perform some of the lyrics solo and she decided that she would give it all she had and really knock the socks off of these guys!

While she was singing her solo, she put so much feeling and emotion into the track that her voice, climbing up an octave, cracked! Luckily it cracked in tune and she continued on… giving it everything she had. She could see the band in the control room eyes open wide hooting and hollering because of what they were hearing… even this ruckus in the contro;; room can be heard in the final recordings.

The next day the band came back into the studio to listen to the tracks the singer had put down and were amazed just how good they were. This led to the band completing the track… the opening number from the Let It Bleed album, Gimme Shelter:

The singer’s name was Merry Clayton, that’s M-e-r-r-y, as in Merry Christmas, because her birthday is December 25th of 1948.

If the name sounds familiar to you it’s because she was one of the performers documented in the fantastic 1993  documentary 20 Feet From Stardom.

Here’s an excerpt in which she and Mick Jagger recount that infamous recording session:

As an unfortunate footnote to the story, sometime after this recording session Merry miscarried her pregnancy. Apparently she was unable to listen to the song Gimme Shelter for years after initial recording because of the memory of the miscarriage but she eventually embraced the song and performed it often.

Another unfortunate footnote that I just learned about while researching this blog is that last year Merry was in a horrible car accident and had both legs amputated. After the amputations she is in rehabilitation and is scheduled to perform on several other recordings in the near future.

Happy birthday Merry Clayton, and thank you for this fantastic performance on Gimme Shelter!