Pour Some Shuggie On Me

On November 30th one of my new musical crushes turned 63… Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr., also known as Shuggie Otis.

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My introduction to Mr. Otis came in a box of musty unloved vinyl records at a thrift store in a small town in the North Idaho Panhandle. I’ve never heard the name Shuggie Otis before and I’m sure he had never heard of me either!

Once I got it home and cleaned up, I was startled at how funky and fresh this 1974 album, Inspiration Information, sounded. It’s laid-back without being lazy, inventive arrangements sometimes layered with lush strings, sometimes with electric organ or horns, one song calling you out on the dance floor the next inviting you back to the couch to chill.

Credits on the back cover show that Otis played every instrument that’s not a horn! He also produced and arranged all of these tracks.

I was sold! I needed more…

It turns out that this is an easy artist to collect! Shuggie only put out three studio albums, but, owing to the admiration of more recent success stories like Prince, David Byrne and Lenny Kravitz, they’ve all been reissued!

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So, happy birthday Shuggie Otis! I’ll be on the lookout for some of your other work with your father’s band and other collaborations that exist out there on vinyl. Until then, best wishes and thanks for these three great records!

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Buyer Beware

Last weekend I attended my first ever record fair (or record “show” as they call them here in the US).

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It was in a section of North Seattle known as Lake City, a four and a half hour drive from my home.

Not only did I attend this record show I participated as a seller!

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Rebound Records

I’ve always been interested in attending one of these events. And following some blogs here on WordPress got me more excited! Unfortunately there were none to be had in my area which is why we made the trip to the wet side of the state.

I had been gearing up for this event for months. Through summer and fall I dug up as many decent vinyl records as I could find. From The pedestrian to the exotic, I found around a thousand LPS and countless 7 inch singles to use as my inventory.

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Many of the more valuable or desirable albums I kept in my own collection. Some were listed for online sales and some turned out to be better copies of things that I already owned (upgrade!)

Last Saturday, inventory secured and plans made, we headed west to the big city to make our millions.

It all started off well enough. Meeting a friend for dinner and drinks in an area known as Ballard, we visited a record store called Bop Street Records. The friendly proprietor, named Dave, gave us the grand tour and some good conversation. When I told him that I was in town for this record show he was immediately interested in my inventory. I pulled the boxes of 45s out of the truck and let him have first dibs.

After a bit of negotiation we settled on a deal; $100 for all!

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My first sale, sweet!

Load-in for the record show itself was 8 a.m. Sunday morning. The event was scheduled from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., but there was a pesky football game in the early afternoon that I figured would cut into attendance.

What I wasn’t expecting was the feeding frenzy that took place minutes after we walked in the door!

Other dealers and sellers were picking through our crates of stuff before we even had a chance to set up. Vultures!

In fact, the busiest hours of the whole day were between 8 and 10 a.m.! After 10 a.m., members of the general public started filtering in to sample the already picked through remains.

We started off at a reasonable set price of $5 per record. After things started to slow down we begin decrease in the price to finally end up at $2 per record as the show came to a close.

Other sellers followed suit and we were able to score some bargains for ourselves as well!

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Just a sample 

All in all, we probably broke even. We sold enough records to pay for the trip and added a few records to the collection.

We made some good contacts and met some nice people along the way. Will we ever do this again? I learned a lot and would do some things differently next time, but it was a blast so yes!

Maybe it’s time for a Spokane record fair?

Cindrumella Story

On November 20th 1973, rock and roll fantasy became reality.

That was the day that the Who opened their US Quadrophenia tour at the Cow Palace in San Francisco.

From the “truth is stranger than fiction” archives, the story goes that Keith Moon, suffering from stage fright, took a handful of pills that turned out to be horse tranquilizers and washed them down with a bottle of brandy.

Somewhere during first set, Moon passed out face first on his drumset.

Revived after several minutes, but still shaky, Moon proceeded to pass out again during the next song!

Frustrated, Pete Townsend asked the crowd if anyone there knew how to play drums. Hands were raised and a lucky Cinderella was chosen from the masses to sit in with one of the most influential bands of all time.

This real life Cinderella’s name was Scot Halpin. Although the story has morphed over time, the fact remains that Halpin did sit in Keith Moon’s chair at that infamous concert and play drums with the Who for a couple of songs!

Sadly, Halpin died from a brain tumor in 2008. How this story has not been made into a movie is beyond me!

Here’s the proof:

Both Sides of the River

One of the most interesting aspects of collecting vintage vinyl records has been my introduction to new-to-me artists.

Some names I would recognize but realize I was unfamiliar with their music. People like Jesse Colin Young and Jerry Jeff Walker. Even Jethro Tull, who I had a “greatest hits” relationship with, has surprised me with the beauty of their lesser known material…

And, for a buck or less, why not take a chance on some new-to-you artist?

That’s how I came across the album River by Terry Reid… yard sale, $0.50 per album, decent shape, why not?

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Home, cleaned and spinning on the turntable, I was not expecting the voice that came out of the speakers… a fearless but yet intimate tenor vocal sounding more like a jazz saxophone than a male human.

The voice was imperfect, sometimes a sliding, sometimes soaring, sometimes slurring, jumping octaves with seemingly little regard for rules and regulations of pop songs. This dude was Billie Holiday reincarnate!

How had I missed knowing Terry Reid? It seems I’m not alone. His career arc has served to keep him just below the horizon of obscurity. A quick Google search later and fantastic story unfolded:

In a band as a teenager, Reid was selected to open a show for The Rolling Stones at Royal Albert Hall. Befriended there by Graham Nash, he was encouraged to sign on to Columbia Records.

Just 17 years old at the time, Reid caught the attention of veteran hitmaker Mickie Most, who signed on as manager and also produced Reid as a solo pop star.

A US tour with Cream followed and Reid became a critical, if not commercial, success. That’s when things really got good!

Reid was noticed by superstar Jimmy Page who was reforming a group after the breakup of The Yardbirds. Page asked Reid if he would consider becoming the frontman for his new band…

And Reid declined!

He was already committed to a second album and a world tour supporting the Rolling Stones. He did, however, recommend a singer and a drummer that he thought would fit in with Page quite well: Robert Plant and John Bonham.

Through the end of the 60s, Reid released a self-titled solo album and toured extensively with bands like Jethro Tull, Fleetwood Mac and Jimi Hendrix.

Things must have seemed pretty bright for Terry Reid during this time because lightning struck a second time: Reid was asked to join the band Deep Purple! Again he declined preferring to forge his own path.

He then had a falling-out with his management and basically dropped out of the music business for a couple of years while legal matters were sorted out.

A couple years into his legal hiatus, Atlantic Records bought Terry Reid’s contract from Columbia and work began on the album River.

This album really has a loose feel to it, with almost stream-of-consciousness like lyrics. The words in the song feel almost secondary to the delivery.

The band, a shifting lineup of musicians, is anchored by multi-instrumentalist David Lindley and bassist Lee Miles. Drumming and percussion was handled by Alan White (who went on to join Yes) and Willie Bobo on the title track.

Once again critically, if not commercially successful, River captures a moment in time shared by this then 23 year old creative genius.

For fans of River, there was always a rumor floating around that the recording sessions produced more songs that were not included. Perhaps even a whole albums worth it!

In 2016 these rumors became fact as with the release of Terry Reid – The Other Side Of The River.

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Beautifully produced and packaged, this album contains alternate takes and unreleased material from the River sessions. For a fan of Reid and his masterpiece,  it is a must own.

Today is Terry Reid’s 67th birthday. Ever a critical darling, Reid keeps up with a very active touring schedule. Live records, guest appearances on other people’s albums and opportunities keep coming his way. It was recently announced that a team of filmmakers is crowdfunding funds to make a documentary about Reid’s life and career. I donated and I can’t wait! Happy birthday Terry!

I wonder what would have happened if he would have joined Led Zeppelin or Deep Purple? Would those bands have been better? Worse? Would River exist?

I, for one, am glad things turned out the way they did.

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Running Down A Theme

I once dressed as Tom Petty for Halloween. The Tom Petty from the You Got Lucky music video to be exact:

Sure, I could’ve been mistaken for a hobo, or a chimney sweep, or just some dork in a trench-coat and a dumb hat… but in my mind, I was the leader of the dystopian gang the unearthed a boombox full of great tunes! I recalled this failed costume attempt recently while brainstorming dress-up ideas for Halloween 2016.

This memory seed took root and was nourished by news that all 16 of his studio albums will be re-issued in two enormous box sets of vinyl in December. Wow!

A post by Vinyl Stylus fueled the fire and the next I knew I committed four hours last Sunday to watching the Peter Bogdanovich documentary on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers called Runnin’ Down a Dream:

I then spent most of Monday with my Tom Petty/Traveling Wilbury record collection:

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From the 1976 self titled debut Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers through 1985’s Southern Accents, I don’t know that I can name another artist with as consistent multi-album run of great records.

Sure, You’re Gonna Get It suffered from a sophomore slump, but it still has Need Too Know and Listen To Her Heart on side two!

Anyway, the movie is great. It has a lot of insight into the band, personalities, and the recording industry of their heyday. It It also has great guest appearances from the usual suspects.

 

Happy Birthday Mr. Berry

I’ve been thinking a lot about Chuck Berry in the weeks leading up to his 90th birthday.

It started when I happened to see the documentary/concert film Hail! Hail! Rock ‘n’ Roll, recently. The all star concert (and contentious backstage interview segments) filmed in St.Louis just days before the subject’s 60th birthday.

I was reminded how, upon seeing the film when it was initially released, it felt like artists paying tribute to a legend by giving him a send-off into the golden age of retirement. It also felt like Chuck was having none of it!

Then they released a vinyl copy of the Voyager “golden record“, the Space Bound compilation to the cosmos, including Chuck’s Johnny B. Goode.

Then the articles started showing up in my newsfeed. Everyone from Rolling Stone to Esquire magazine paying tribute to one of the greatest pioneers of rock and roll music.

Today, my social media pages are full of well wishes for Mr. Berry from former students like Mick Jagger and little Steven Van Zandt.

For my part today I am going to break out my copy of The Great Twenty-eight, the phenomenal compilation of Chuck’s 1955 to 1965 recordings for Chess Records.

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So happy birthday Chuck Berry, we couldn’t have done it without you!

PS… today, on Chuck Berry’s website, he announced that he would be releasing a new album in the coming year… his first since 1979!

PSS… just heard the news that Phil Chess, one of those most instrumental in getting Chuck’s music out to the world, passed away Tuesday at the age of 95. RIP Mr. Chess!

Cirque du So-Love

I had previously written a post about the remixed remastered reimagined versions of Beatles songs that were the soundtrack to the Cirque du Soleil production of Love.

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My wife had seen the production on a previous trip to Las Vegas. She had never really been a Beatles fan, but came back singing the praises of both the show and the music.

We recently had occasion, owing to a family wedding, to visit Las Vegas and Love was on our to-do list.

The specialty theater was near capacity on the Thursday evening we visited the Mirage casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip. Sheer curtains trisected the stage and cables, ropes and ladders hung ominously over the black void just one row and one isle away.

Incidental music, while people were coming and going toward their seats, was familiar Beatles, but in instrumental form. The ushers expertly guided lost zombies to their proper rows, the lights dimmed and the fog machines started running full tilt. Characters emerged from somewhere off stage and hastened us all to welcome the production.

As the lights came down the experience begins with the familiar tones of the song Because. Actually it was just the familiar and lyrics, these were stripped bare of the music we’d all been accustomed to and really set the stage for the remainder of the production.

For the next 90 minutes dancers, acrobats, magicians and contortionists filled the stage, and the sky above, with one interpretation after another the 60s seen through the lens of this reimagined Beatles music.

As a Beatles fan, it was fun to try to pick out characters from their songs and other more obscure references about the band in the production. Of course Sergeant Pepper played a recurring role, as did Father McKenzie, the girl from She’s Leaving Home, Eleanor Rigby and Jude.

Many of the props reflected icons from the Beatle years, especially prominent items and characters from Yellow Submarine. Several Volkswagen Beetles were featured and at least one had a license plate that read LMW 28IF.

The show was fantastic and these little details made it especially thrilling for a Beatles fan. If I had it to do over again I think I would try to relax a little bit and not attempt to be a know-it-all… a Beatles who’s who scorekeeper as the thing was going on. There was a certain Wizard of Oz, pull the curtain back, attempt on my part, just trying to figure out how everything worked. It was a little like going to a magic show and trying to decipher the illusion rather than letting yourself get caught up in the moment.

In doing so I totally missed some of the more subtle experiences; the bubbles used in the Strawberry Fields segment smelled like strawberry for instance…

The bottom line is I would highly recommend this show to anyone who happens to find themselves in Las Vegas. Love has been presented in this theater twice a night for over 10 years now… who knows how much longer it will be in production?

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Ps… while in the Las Vegas area, armed with a car and some time on my hands, I hit up a few thrift stores looking for vintage vinyl. I managed to score a couple dozen mid fifties to early sixties Jazz records. I’ll likely blog about the cream-of-the-crop some other time but had an interesting experience with our TSA security trying to get them home. I got pulled out of security line and had to explain the odd image on the X-ray machine in my carry-on bag:

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Lucky for me the TSA agent was an old guy so he knew what a vinyl record actually was!