vrijdag 12 februari 2016

Collecting Music, My Golden Years: 1974-1977

                                                                                    Vinyl anno 1987, Concerto A'dam

It's time for my confession. To talk to you about my chronic addiction. Everyone's got one: well, mine is a my ongoing music collecting habit. These days I'm inclined to go back to my old favourites, so the urge to stay ahead of any new, hip trend is minimilized to a few listens of easy googling. The reason for this sudden come out, is the "sudden" deaths of idols, like David Bowie, Allen Toussaint, Maurice White and Dan Hicks that triggered me to go back to my Golden Years of that addiction. It's far from complete when I talk about specific albums though. They just represent a few precious and personal moments.
Feel free to respond. Why not leave your own anecdote? 

How did that start? It was the Summer of Love, this kid was about 4 years old and very curious. My first obsession with music was with my daddy's  turntable, (spinning all kind of records that could play different tempos, 33, 45, 78 rpm), by watching the grooves going round. My first auditory learning. My father had an enormous amount of different records, like classical, jazz, blues, pop, rock that kept my ears wide open. This curious kid was also fascinated by that needle...what did that do? And where did that sound come from? As I was forbidden to touch that thing in any way, I could not help myself thinking about it and doing what daddy was doing just by breaking that golden rule. Wrong. I wanted to be the DJ in da house! Wrong. So one night I sneaked downstairs. Wrong! In the darkness I nervously picked out a random record-wrong- and laid it down on the turntable. So wrong! It all went dramatically downhill when I tried to put the needle on the edge of the record. My not so steady fingers pushed it all the way to the center of the plate. Gggrriiiiechhh!! Oeps, did I offend someone? Maybe I was the first scratcher in the dark, before it became hip. Yeah, right. All you see now, is a scratch going right through the grooves where the once powerful voice of Maria Callas stopped in its tracks and instead turned into this upset and hurt witch, as my father would show me many years later. Shame on sneaky me.

I HAD to have one for myself! When I was about 11 years old, a turntable in a suitcase with one speaker (mono!) became my companion for the next few years. O my god, how many records did I spoil on that thing. The cheap needles did the destroying work. Fustrating when it was skipping or when it was repeating the same groove over and over. Almost made me hate the song! I still have those crippled records by the way. My first ambitious buy was a greatest hits double album of the Rolling Stones (Rolled Gold) with all of their sixties hits, like Satisfaction, Ruby Tuesday, Jumping Jack Flash and all their famous rest......excitement! I got lost track of this one somewhere, somehow though. Hey, it was a cheap pressing anyway. During these times I discovered the record stores. My mother took me along for an initiation to the obvious expensive ones, where you couldn't find anything special. But no tears, there were alternatives.       Ah yes, the secondhand stores.

Not a lot of money in my pocket restricted me to the "unknown" names of artists/ bands that didn't sell at the time. If a cover was appealing enough I would buy it. One time I thought I had bought the first solo album of John Lennon (Plastic Ono Band 1970) for a bargain. I found out why.... It was Yoko Ono's version. O no.
Sometimes I got lucky: I didn't know them well then, but arty, experimental albums of  Can (Soon of Babaluma 1975) and Roxy Music (For Your Pleasure 1973) were eyeopeners and I'm still glad I've encountered them. They helped the exploration further. An urge to find any rare item of my favourite artists/ bands become a growing obsession. My collection grew and grew the more I broadened my musical palette, searching certain byways. At the start of the seventies I was basically a Pop music fan. Especially appealing were the harmony vocals, singalong melodies, but I could not avoid those anyway as my parents kept the volume way up high. So many radio hits of the sixties had become part of my consciousness already as there was so much to explore. I saw a snowball and went after it.  

The influences I'm obviously talking about here, are the Beatles, Kinks stamp or the energetic side of pop in powerpop, the Who/ Stones stamp. All unmistakenly english, but basically influenced by americana. Sort of the heir to the Beatles and the answer for the seventies to my young ears were the infectious melodies of the first arty period (1973-1976) of 10cc. I still go back to these first three very fun and clever albums if I'm in need of some fresh inspiration. I bought them later on though, when I had more holes (=money in my hand). I liked Prog-Rock, but it tried to top the Fabfour in too may scales, often in vain as it would turn out. All and all, I'm more of an art-rock (ironic, sarcastic, sardonic) than a prog-rock (too serious) fan, if you ask me.

 "a fixated mindset on the snowball that kept on rolling"

No city was safe. You could find me searching for any secondhand recordstore. I often consulted the dutch pop-encyclopedies, studied them to prepare myself more thoroughly. Listened to the radio. Made lists of "wanna have" items. Read magazines. Followed hitparades. Exchanged news with other nerds. Went to concerts. Got lost at music fairs. A fixated mindset on the snowball that kept on rolling. I Searched for all the-so so- recommended albums and often got them for a nice price. Collector items? Too expensive. Zappa? Not available, only import. Too expensive. Later on, I had my digital revenge. Still I could find a few underrated albums as well before they were collector's items years later.
I was often so, so lucky.

Books to read and the place to be

As my turntables got better, so did the needles and so my records were safe from harm. One of my favourite recordstores at the end of the seventies up until the millennium, was "Concerto" in Amsterdam. The concept of four different stores (secondhand, new popular, jazz and classical) next to eachother under the same banner, was a pretty sight to see. The balance of the old and the new. With the smell of secondhand vinyl in my nose in the morning, I eagerlessly walked the long walk from central station right through the crowded centre to that long street near Rembrandsplein, just to get me some of those rare stuff. That was my only drug then. Didn't need a coffeshop man!


                                                                                     Sometimes I hesitated though
I remember watching David Bowie's "Golden Years" on television around 1976. I found it all too strange. A white man singing "Soul"? I was already familiar with his androgyne look witnessing "Jean Genie" and his haunting "Space Odessey". I even purchased his early work, (a compilation "Changes One"), but this was different altogether. Black music was spreading like oil in influence, as witnessed by his funky track "Fame" from 1975, which James Brown (!) ironically stole its guitar lick from (played by his ex-guitarist Carlos Alomar, then Bowie's) for his 1976 "Hot"song.

I was intrigued by this, rhythmically hypnotic, repeating wah-wah sound and its heavenly sung melody. It hit me in the gut. I didn't really know about funk or soul then. It was the time of high-heeled platform shoes, just after the Hustle dance craze as disco glitter balls and coloured floorlights were changing the view of the ballrooms. Well and here was that Thin White Duke crooning all over an infectious groove, slowly, slipping underneath my skin. I had to find out about it. Which album it was on. I had to have it! I soon found that B&W cover with the red title and artist letters looking like one word in the nearest recordshop, staring at it for a long time. I couldn't afford the full price yet. I almost wanted to steal it. No downloads possible then. In 1977 I had a few bucks more, by saving birthday gifts from generous uncles and aunts. There it was, just waiting for me to grab it. I clearly remember it was christmas and the albums had a special low-price sticker on them. Still.... I didn't buy it! What the F...?

Tastes develop and so was mine, restless and always evolving. Sort of. I couldn't help myself. For example, I had a soft spot for the softpop-progrock of  Supertramp ("Just A Little Bit" was their 1977 hit) and the very melodic album "Even In The Quietest Moments" had the right price.

Yes, I bought that one instead. O my.

I can't recall how, but eventually I even got my hands on "Station To Station" as well. My mother loved his version of "Wild Is The Wind", as she loved Nina Simone's, so I think she bought it and I usually had to hear her favourite song over and over and then again. Very loud. Maybe we eventually swapped albums. Wathever happened, when I finally listened to the whole record I was hOOked on David Bowie and the snowball rolled on to R&B, Soul and Funk. "Staaaaayyyyy....". When Bowie died, I had to go back to that album. Sure, this one is a favourite, but "Low" and "Heroes" are too. That whole period 1976-1978 was a magical one for me. Soon I was checking out other white guys that "did" black music, even more when I saw this on TV (Vid.): Boz Scaggs. The unavoidable hits "What Can I Say and "Lowdown". That smooth, slick and sophisticated sound and rhythm patterns got me hooked. The word was "crossover", before it became AOR. Melody and rhythm combined, that was the key! Blue-eyed soul it was called.
His old bandmate Steve Miller's "Fly Like An Eagle" crossovered me too. What Could I Say?
I was already aware of the irresistable, hypnotic rhythms though. Of course James Brown's "Sexmachine" comes to mind. It got a lot of spins on seventies radio, so one could not avoid it. No way. I still had to feel it in my gut.

It was the overdone and outragous image of black music that put me off at first. I couldn't take it all too seriously. Found out it was me who was too serious.

It was 1977
when I first heard     

         Outragous, hardhitting, intense, sultry, uplifting, hypnotic, chantfunk.  

It hit me like a rhythm stick, I loved it!
I couldn't find the studio version right away, but then
I saw this double live album by the Commodores.
Wow, why not  try out the "live" version, maybe there's more excitement! Got that right brother. And one of the reasons I wanted to play the drums I guess. Still I had to discover Sly and P-Funk. But this gave me some fresh, positive vibes. I was funked and ready for more.
Thanks to that one hell of a smart Mr. Bowie.

Speaking of live albums in 1976: it became a trend when Peter Frampton's "Comes Alive" came out and found its way in every household on any block of the world. Yes, the sensation of the big stadium tours.

Another successful double-well, half live- album was Santana's "Moonflower" that turned me on to the more adventurous and unexpected syncopated side of rhythm: Latin music (salsa, samba, bosa nova, jazz). 

And then BAM, "Punk" washed the bubbling and overblown progrockhipfest thing away.

And what do you think was my reaction....??
I moved on, still bought more, went digital, but kept my collection. I also save them on hardisks.

                                                                                   Here's my current situation:

                                                                                        Posing as the proud vinyl collector                                                   

                                                                                       The great wall of digital plastic                                            



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