The Olden Days, B.I. (Before Internet): Music Edition

by The Freelance Dilettante

ImageSo, This year I decided that I am finally going to listen to all my vinyl record albums on my record player, because otherwise, why have them? Well, at least that’s my husband’s opinion. (He doesn’t like all my books, either, but too bad. I reduced from fourteen bookshelves + piles down to three, well four…okay, five plus piles..for him, and the rest are nonnegotiable.)

So, I’m listening to music. This is especially true because I currently have laryngitis and since I can’t sing along, I can only listen and dance in my kitchen like a fool. (Seriously. I’m a good cook, a fantastic kisser, but a really lousy dancer. S’truth!) Sometimes I’m worried that the cute guy across the way can see me and is thinking, “What the hell is that crazy middle aged lady doing in there ?” But then I realized I don’t care, and continue.

One of the things I realized during this process is that I used to be a lot more spontaneous. When I was in high school, I would regularly go down to the record store to loiter, perusing the British and Japanese imports of Duran Duran albums and staring glassy-eyed at the posters on the walls, trying to look cool in the way only a ’80s rebellious Catholic High School girl could.

The best part, of course, was the used record section. My favorite record store was Dudley’s, which was located across the street from the public library in downtown Portland. Their “used” bins were always filled with promotional albums, which clearly bore this label:

Back then, you could buy a used record, mint condition, for a couple bucks. A lot of these records were not ones heard regularly on the top 40 radio, or played so often on MTV that they made it onto the Network TV booby prize, “Friday Night Videos.” Of course, this was before YouTube or any form of the interwebs was available to mere mortals, so basically (especially if one wasn’t cool or flush enough to have cable) we were going in blind.

I dove in. I liked to buy records where I liked one song, or based completely on the cover art, or the name of the band. Some of them were gems, others? eh, what’s a couple of bucks? This is how I discovered Suzanne Vega, who didn’t really hit it big with most people until her second album, “Solitude Standing.” I was amazed by her first album (self titled) and I have listened to it countless times. I forgot to take a picture of it, but she made a video in 1985 for her song, “Marlene on the Wall”  Her themes are tragic: isolation, loneliness, fragile love, abuse, but her voice is filled with tender, cool detachment, which pulls the listener into her stories without being overbearing. I have identified with these songs in so many ways at different times, it will always be one of my favorite albums.

Another one of my favorite albums is “Primitive Man” by Icehouse. Image

I  discovered this awesome Australian band completely by accident. Since then, I’ve heard the song “Great Southern Land” in the soundtrack of half a dozen movies, which I think is perfect, as it (along with the novels “A Town Like Alice” and “The Thorn Birds”) exemplifies my fantasy of what Australia is truly like. (In other words, ancient and filled with aboriginal mysteries, ranchers that look like Bryan Brown, and priests who look like Richard Chamberlain.) Still, the album is fantastic, yeah, a few of the songs are pretty typical ’80s fare, but the album was worth buying on CD, that’s all I gotta say.

I was going to post the video for “Great Southern Land,” but the video is stupid; just the lead singer walking around in the desert singing a magnificent song.  What I suggest is that you listen to the song while watching this documentary with the sound off (and then going back and watching the documentary afterwards, because it looks pretty good.)

I have a bunch of great finds: Lene Lovich, Propaganda, Prefab Sprout, Lords of the New Church… however, my best secret find was a duo who I just googled a few seconds ago, only to find out that one of them lives in San Francisco. Oh, I’m totally going to stalk him! (Just kidding, Jonathan Lemon, don’t put a restraining order on me.) This, of course, is the album to which I am referring:

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Jesus Couldn’t Drum: Errr…Something About Cows.
Did I mention that I love cows? Also, this record contains the following playlist of songs:

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Come on, any record with songs like “Tedium of Lettuce,” “Wooden Chicken,” and  “Freudian Nightmare” is going to be worth the risk. (Hint: you can still get a copy for a good price on e-bay, if you hurry. 🙂

I have at least one more, but I’ll save that for another post, because it’s a doozy.

These days, I’m nowhere near as spontaneous. I Google, and YouTube, and cherry pick songs, and rarely buy albums based on cover or song titles. Partially because the days of the cheap used record are long gone. I have bought albums on the strength of one song (The Killers, Roseanne Cash’s latest) and a couple because I heard a great interview or review on NPR. (Old, old, old, I’m getting old) I buy a lot of world (okay, Indian) music.
Honestly, after living for a long time with partners who don’t really like my music, I am just happy to be listening to it again, and to be dancing in my kitchen, like I don’t give a damn, for the entertainment and/or confusion of my neighbors.

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