Diggin’ In: My Favorite 45s

Recently, I began going through my small (130 count) box of 45s and writing about them. Then, the other day, I read a short transcript of an interview with Frank Zappa, who was a great fan of 1950s era vocal groups.

From Songfacts:

“I didn’t start listening to music until I was about 15 years old because my parents weren’t too fond of it, and we didn’t have a radio or a record player or anything,” he said. “I heard a song called ‘I’ by the Velvets on the Red Robin label and ‘Gee’ [The Crows] and ‘Sh-boom,’ [The Chords] ‘Riot in Cell Block #9,’ [The Robins] and ‘Annie Had a Baby.’ [The Midniters] By accident I heard those things and they knocked me out.”

With that in mind, what follows are my blurbs about nine of my favorite records from that time period. My sources vary: info is either from Joel Whitburn’s Top 40 Hits, Wikipedia or as noted.

The 1950s

Get a Job, The Silhouettes, #1, 1958

Talk about go-to favorites! This vocal group tour de force gives listeners an infectious dose of what some might call despairingly doo-wop. In the 1950s, the term carried negative connotations, but remained in use and part of the language. In a way, the slur aspect probably reflects a musical divide. It could be interpreted as both put-down and a form of begrudging admiration. Our language and our music reflect this cultural struggle.

Ultimately, there’s no way to take anything away from the singers, many of whom worked the songs out on street corners. What’s more American (and universal) than that?   

In any case, to my ears, these types of songs—introduced, or, reintroduced to me via American Graffiti, one of my favorite records and movies, took rock ‘n’ roll by storm. Go ahead. Just try to sing like that. It ain’t easy.

Sh-Boom, The Chords, #2 (R&B), #9 (Pop), 1954

According to Wikipedia, this song was “the first doo-wop or rock ‘n’ roll record to reach the top ten on the pop charts (as opposed to the R&B charts).” Another group, The Crew Cuts also had a hit with it, performing the song on Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town. Sh-Boom was written and performed first by The Chords. It was their only hit.

My copy, on Cat Records (a subsidiary of Atlantic Records) is another song list request filled by record store owner Allen Day at Cheapo Records in Cambridge, Massachusetts. This is an original pressing, with it’s maroon label and silver graphics. The lettering features two silhouettes of hip looking dancers. The guy has what looks like a zoot suit on and a pork-pie hat. The gal has a large twirling dress. Both dancers have outstretched hands, as in “swingin!’’’

Yakety Yak, The Coasters, #1, 1958

Written by the influential and legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, this song is a classic—and a clever snapshot of teenage life. Leiber and Stoller fully revealed how that life looked during that time through a series of hits too numerous to mention. The collaborations of Leiber and Stoller helped define the 1950s.

“Take out the papers and the trash/or you don’t get no spending cash…”

I mean, what else is there to say?

School Day, Chuck Berry, #3, 1957

Answer? Plenty. Chuck Berry.

Here’s another astute summation of teen life, written by one of rock’s original founders. At first maligned and misunderstood, Berry dared to rock. In addition to a driving and infectious rhythm—check Johnnie Johnson’s rollicking piano–School Day catalogues its subject with humor and pathos. Decades on, the song holds up and will likely always resonate.

Little Darlin’, The Diamonds, #2, 1958   

Another favorite from American Graffiti, the percussive intro on this song is a real attention grabber.

Listening, I always wonder how everyone worked out their parts. And, with its unusually structured rollicking rhythm underneath the vocal harmonies, the spectacular vocal interplay always gets me smiling. Within the same year, the group had another hit with The Stroll.

One day, when I was going through the bins at Top Five in Lake Worth, I saw this one. The title was familiar as was the Old Town label. Although showing signs of wear, the grooves looked pretty clean, so I took a chance.

I had read about Weiss and/or Old Town in a music history book somewhere. Wikipedia mentions that Weiss operated the label out of Brooklyn from 1953 until 1966.

As the story goes, Weiss discovered The Fiestas (who hailed from Newark, N.J.) after he “overheard [them] singing in a bathroom adjacent to his office in Harlem.” According to Wikipedia, bandleader Johnny Otis (1921-2012) wrote So Fine. Otis, (1921-2012) discovered many important music artists. His significant influence and impact on American popular music is difficult to measure.

16 Candles, The Crests, #2, 1958   

This reissued recording, on the Trip label, was another addition to my haul on Record Store Day 2019. Although I have this on LP, I like to compare between formats. To use a phrase from the ‘50s, the song is a solid sender.

Like many other vocal group songs, this one features soaring lead vocals. Formed in 1954, the group was discovered two years later while singing in the New York City subway.

16 Candles spent fourteen weeks in the Top Ten, propelled by the soaring lead vocals of Johnny Mastangelo (later changed to Maestro). The Crests were (according to Wiki) the first “interracially mixed doo wop group” consisting of three African-Americans (one female, Patricia Van Dross, older sister of Luther Vandross), one Puerto Rican and one Italian-American.

One night around dinnertime, I played this record for my wife. It’s a love letter intended for a young girl who has just come of age. In 2019, my wife said, this song would probably be banned. She wasn’t suggesting that it should be, only that the PC types nowadays would find it offensive. I can understand that. It’s both a celebration of innocence and overtly suggestive, in a 1950s kind of way–and it is impassioned. Different time, different sensibilities. That’s the thing about art.

Come Go With Me, The Del Vikings, #4, 1957

Originally issued on the Dot record label, I found a reissued version at Radio-Active Records for $2.95.

The group formed in Pittsburgh in 1955 at an Air Force Serviceman’s Club. Innocence is again in evidence here in this somewhat saccharine love song. There’s a fun, cut loose middle section featuring a lilting saxophone solo, buoyed along with handclaps. Kids on the hit show American Bandstand probably enjoyed this one, which, for me, holds up pretty well more than fifty years on.

Sixty Minute Man, The Dominoes, #17 (Pop), #1 (R&B), 1951

I’m not sure where or when I first heard this song. For 1951, it must’ve been an earful. Talk about overtly sexual. It’s downright subversive. Listening to songs like this, it’s no wonder parents were upset. Or that moms and dads across the country were horrified. We come for your daughters. Indeed.

On the flip side (so to speak), the song’s playfulness is infectious. What bottled up housewife or guy in a gray flannel suit wouldn’t be able to relate? It’s two minutes and twenty-nine seconds of dime store novel. It’s also a good example of a form of braggadocio commonly known as the dozens. How many wild and possibly naughty words—or scenes–can you string together, man?

Formally known as Billy Ward and the Dominoes, the group spun-off two phenomenal talents: Clyde McPhatter and Jackie Wilson. “It was an important record in several respects—it crossed the boundaries between gospel singing and blues, it’s lyrics pushed the limits of what was deemed acceptable, and it appealed to many white as well as black listeners. In later years, it became a contender for the first rock ‘n’ roll record.”–Wiki. (Note: Many vote Jackie Brenston’s 1951 hit, Rocket 88 as the first rock ‘n’ roll record. It’s an open question. Interestingly, Brenston’s song was a reworked version of Cadillac Boogie (1947), performed by Jimmy Liggins.)

Devoted to You, The Everly Brothers, #10, 1957

The 1950s would not be complete without including the enormous contributions to music by the Everly’s, Don and Phil. With more than twenty-five entries in the Top 100, the brothers (Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees in 1986) influence was felt by countless musicians. With their unique blend of country style instrumentation and harmonies, every Everly song is readily identifiable.

A plaintive ballad, Devoted to You is deceptively simple and a good example of what sets the Everly’s apart from many of their contemporaries. Combining folk, country, pop (and probably a few other elements), the two voices heard together have a transformative, spiritual quality. It’s a very good example of what makes a great love song.

The tune and the flip side, Bird Dog, were written by Boudreaux Bryant, of the popular duo and songwriting team Felice and Boudreaux Bryant. Felice, explaining how she met her husband, said she first saw him in a dream and had been looking for him for years.

Published in: on February 27, 2021 at 1:38 pm  Leave a Comment  

Vinyl Hypotheses

As someone who is a long-time fan of vinyl records, I have often looked at one of my records spinning on my turntable and wondered how it fits in to the grand scheme of things.

That may sound strange, but one of the reasons the thought occurs to me is likely due to some of my reading about our recent discoveries in astrophysics.

For instance, I recently learned—in the book Visual Galaxy: A Guide to the Milky Way and Beyond, by National Geographic–that our home galaxy, the Milky Way, spins clockwise.

Is it coincidence that a vinyl record spinning on a turntable also spins clockwise?  

For a record collector like me, reading another factoid in Visual Galaxy was the kicker:

The Milky Way is “shaped rather like a warped vinyl record exposed to high temperatures.”

Imagine that. But from there, the analogy diverges a bit: rather than resembling my scratched and warped copy of Meet the Beatles, the image in the book looks more like a Fedora hat, with its brim folded up in the back and down in the front.

Warped, but not unplayable.

Unlike my beat-up record—which is still playable–a record shaped like a Fedora probably wouldn’t be.

But I take comfort in the notion that a record spins in the same direction as the Milky Way; and that our galaxy is warped. To me, that says a lot.

Furthering the analogy, the spindle on my turntable looks like a shrunken version of the bulbous gamma ray shapes scientists have found projecting out of each side of our galaxy’s center–a massive black hole. And, the grooves and spaces between songs on most records could be said to suggest the Milky Way’s spiral arms; or, more obviously the rings of Saturn.

A few fun facts about our home galaxy:

Disc Diameter: Approximately 100,000 light-years

Disc Width: Approximately 1,000 and 10,000 light-years

Distance from sun to center of galaxy: between 24,700 and 26,700 light-years

Orbit of sun around center of galaxy: between 225 and 250 million years

On a turntable, a long-playing vinyl record revolves at 33 and 1/3 rpm. That’s pretty slow compared to our sun and solar system, rotating at approximately 515,000 mph around the center of the Milky Way.

The next time I play one of my vinyl records, I’ll be thinking about that.

Published in: on March 6, 2021 at 3:43 pm  Leave a Comment  

Music Collage

Last year, I put this collage together using a bunch of different photos, many copied from different books or clipped out of magazines. I always like to add sheet music and–if possible–other photos that provide texture. A partial list of performers included (going clockwise from the top left and circling around once): Buddy Holly, Sonny Boy Williamson, Neil Young, Bob Wills, Dave Brubeck, Ella Fitzgerald, Pink Floyd, Buddy Rich, Buck Owens, King Tubby, Gerry Mulligan, Bob Marley with the I Threes, Horace Silver, Hank Williams, Lester Young, George Harrison, Paul Butterfield, Joni Mitchell…see anybody else you recognize?

For this collage, I randomly arranged the photos on a piece of plywood. Then, I took a couple of photos. To update the Vinyl Lives blog, I selected the photo for background, which provides a bit of my own attempt at customized visual interest. But, since most of the collage gets obscured as blog background, I wanted to include it by itself. I always did like a good music collage. They’re fun and as a statement, they say a lot.

Published in: on March 3, 2021 at 3:27 pm  Leave a Comment  

Yesterday, I threw myself a Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen-a-thon

One of the great album covers created for the Cody band by artist Chris Frayne.

In the early-to-mid 1970s, the band led by Commander Cody (George Frayne) was a versatile, fun-loving powerhouse. Cody and his Lost Planet Airmen could rock, do country, truck drivin’ songs, western swing, Elvis, pop, croon ballads…while Cody, with his boogie-woogie piano and creative spoken asides, provided booster rocket torque. The band did tons of cover songs–I’ll bet they could play just about anything–and they also wrote, produced and performed and popularized some of their own material.

So, to revisit all those good times, yesterday, I threw myself a Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen-a-thon.

Due to my changing tastes in music over the years, I have parted company with a Cody record or two. But on my recent trips to one of my favorite record stores (Record Rack in Pompano Beach, Florida), while searching through the (used) New Arrivals bins, I’ve had the urge to replace as much of Cody’s material as I could find. Priced at around eight dollars per album, there hasn’t been much to argue with myself about.

My current Cody count for yesterday’s one-man music festival was six albums. And, a recent purchase added to the bonanza: CC and the LPA’s We’ve Got a Live One Here—two live LPs recorded when the band toured Europe.

One of the manufacturing goofs in this bunch of vinyl is my copy of Hot Licks, Cold Steel and Truckers Favorites with a very photogenic semi-truck with the word JET painted on the door (another great cover by artist Chris Frayne, Cody’s brother); and truck graphics framing the band on the back. That says it all. I found this disk on a trip to Confusion Records in Lake Worth. The songs on Side Two are labeled correctly, while Side One features songs including “The City” by the British band Mark-Almond. I remember hearing “The City” and liking it way back when, but Mark-Almond’s jazzy, bossa nova grooves have no chance of approaching warp speed. So, I’m down a side—forced to go without “Truck Stop Rock”, “It Should’ve been Me” and “Watch My .38”, among others. (I’ve since found a copy of Trucker’s Favorites and righted the situation.)

Throughout the day, while doing early dinner prep and other chores around the house, I kept flipping sides on the turntable in the living room. After a while, I asked myself: How is Commander Cody’s music holding up? Answer: Great! First, the band is super tight–everybody’s musicianship is second to none.

Then as now, there just aren’t that many bands that can cover so much musical ground. Cody and company just rip it up. For me, the best thing about the band is hearing all the fun they’re having. Everybody sure does know how to have a good time.

Snooty critics might dismiss Cody and his pals as just a bunch of stoners. But I challenge anybody to find a better all-round band playing all those different styles of music. 

Another criticism might be that the band recorded numerous songs and re-released different versions of the same songs on many of their albums. But that’s not unusual. Lots of musical artists do that.

Cody recrafted a whole bunch of American originals–and the band put their own unique stamp on such enduring classics as “Smoke, Smoke, Smoke (That Cigarette)”–originally written by Merle Travis and Tex Williams and first recorded in 1947. In 1972, the band broke through the ozone barrier and held a top ten slot with “Hot Rod Lincoln,”–written by Charley Ryan and first recorded in 1955; a hit in 1960 for Johnny Bond. These great songs—and many others in Cody’s repertoire–have timeless appeal. Cody’s own classics include: “Mama Hated Diesels,” “Lost in the Ozone” and the perennial favorite “Seeds and Stems (Again).”

Until another outstanding band comes along that can hold a candle to Cody, I guess I’ll just have to keep on playing my old (but in very good condition) Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen records—and smilin’ and laughin’ and dancin’ and singin’ along.

Published in: on March 1, 2021 at 3:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

Great Halls: Renowned for Sound

Please note:  It was originally my hope to have the following article published in a music magazine. With apologies to those interviewed, I present it here.

What separates good performance spaces from great ones, mediocre venues from superior places? We’re not talking about where you parked the car or how convenient and clean the bathrooms were. We’re talking about acoustics, a word Webster’s says has been in use since 1683. Acoustics is “a science that deals with the production, control, transmission, reception and effects of sound.”

The physical world’s musical and architectural heritage is still intact—and in use. There are all types of new and old places to hear music. Well loved by musicians, audiences and production staff members alike, these venues truly shine.

Nashville, Tennessee is home to one of those standouts. For many years, The Ryman Auditorium—known to audiences the world over as the longtime home of the Grand Ole Opry—began its life as a church. Designed by Hugh Cathcart Thompson and named for riverboat Captain Thomas Ryman, the hall was completed in 1892. Designed for preaching in-the-round, the interior delivered maximum sound reception to the assembled faithful, presided over by the famed evangelical orator Sam Bush.

“Pews originally sat where the stage exists today,” Museum Supervisor John Dowell explained via email. “Between that section and the current “Gold Circle” seating area rested a platform from where Reverend Sam Jones and other keynote speakers, stood to make presentations. Off of the platform sat a pump organ on one side and a grand piano on the other.”

Nashville's Ryman Auditorium

Back then, there was no stage. One was added in 1901 to accommodate the touring company from the Metropolitan Opera. Cost: $750.  Thus, the in-the-round features of the room changed. Later, the over-the-stage section of balcony was removed and a proscenium, curtain system and three floors of backstage dressing rooms were added. “With the baffling from ceiling to wall, the rounded balcony, the curve of the pews on both levels, and the curvature of the crows’ nest at both ends of the balcony, the auditorium appears to be a rounded room,” Dowell continues, “Yet the building itself is rectangular.” These various renovations have reportedly not compromised the sound—once second only to Salt Lake City’s Mormon Tabernacle.

The room is “live”—smooth wall surfaces and hardwood pews and flooring distribute soft sounds from the stage easily to every seat in the house. If anything, visiting acts and crew don’t need to crank the volume like they’re playing a basketball arena, or any other notoriously bad-for-acoustics space.

Resident Sound Engineer Les Banks sometimes explains to crew and talent: “You could actually turn down [the amplification] a bit and the room will sound just as friendly.” And he really enjoys the moments during shows when the room can truly show it’s best acoustic attributes.

“When Tony Bennett or Elvis Costello plays, there’s a moment in the show,” Les says, “when they make their sound guy turn off the P.A. completely and they step to the foot of the stage and just sing a cappella [without accompaniment], and it’s heard.”

Three of the world’s best known halls –revered by acoustics professionals and audiences for their superior acoustic qualities– are: Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw, Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal and Boston’s Symphony Hall.

Amsterdam's Concertgebouw

Vienna's Musikvereinsaal

Symphony Hall, Boston

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor Alex Case, Assistant Professor of Sound Recording Technology at the University of Massachusetts and Acoustic Society of America Fellow explained via email that beyond those three, many of the world’s halls are no match. In addition, halls that are designed for specific uses  –“purpose built” for symphonies, for instance– perform differently for other uses.

Our collective group of older halls cannot truly deliver all things acoustically to all people –and neither can new ones. Professor Case explains that both “purpose-built” and “multi-purpose” imply specific limitations. Either way, there is no such thing as perfect sound.

Many older halls  (usually built for a specific use or purpose) might be promoted as having “perfect acoustics,” Professor Case says, but what the people doing the talking mean is: “the acoustic signature of the space is noticeable and they don’t mind it”; and, “the hall is very quiet.”

And truly “multi-purpose” halls require exhaustive amounts of cash. For many communities, this type of building can prove to be extraordinarily expensive. Case explains that what is called “Variable acoustics” offer a less expensive alternative. Curtains and “elaborate systems for moving walls and ceilings and changing the acoustic size of the hall become necessary. Bass Hall, in Ft. Worth, Texas is a rare success on this front.”

That having been said, one of the notable examples of a successful “multi-purpose” room is the 7,100 seat Nokia Theatre L.A. Live, which first opened in October, 2007. Rooms like the Nokia are designed to be sonically efficient—in every way possible. The Nokia was also designed for production efficiencies too: crews can set up and tear down quickly and easily navigate throughout. Designed by the Berkeley, California firm of ELS Architecture and Urban Design, Kurt Schindler, one of the principal architects, explains that new buildings like the Nokia are really “flexible machines.”

The Nokia, part of The Staples Center, Los Angeles

Admittedly, Schindler notes, in many of the performance spaces built from the end of the 19th century through the first two-thirds of the 20th century, “there’s an architectural presence —many of the presenters have to fight that! Places like the Nokia, they can really do anything they want.” In addition to music, the Nokia is used for many televised award shows, among them, the Emmys, The American Music Awards and the ever-popular American Idol.

Ultimate acoustic perfection may be impossible, but that doesn‘t stop architects, musicians, production staffers and audiences from appreciating a wide variety of venues for what they have to offer. But, strictly speaking, –in life and in acoustics–what we all experience and usually accept is often the result of some  form of compromise. “The acoustic expectations for any space depends directly on the type of sound that occurs within,” Case observes. “The acoustics appropriate for amplified music [are] not the same as what would be appropriate for opera, chamber music [or] a jazz trio.”

Does that mean that places to hear live music are obsolete? No. But it does mean that no matter where in the world you go–with about three exceptions– no one space is close to perfect. Any place that we likely enjoy, we do so partly due to it’s imperfections. Audiences still love seeing shows in old movie houses, among them the Fox Theatre, in Atlanta and Detroit; and, The Paramount’s, one in Oakland, California and the other in Seattle, Washington.

Like Nashville’s Ryman, San Francisco’s Fillmore Auditorium was originally built as a church. Yet, under the auspices of rock impresario Bill Graham and others, The Fillmore became one the world’s finest rooms to hear music. The Fillmore possesses a truly unique sound– one that can’t be easily described, but one that can be heard on numerous recordings.

Chips Davis, acoustics consultant for the Nokia project, likes a lot of different venues –including The Fillmore and Oakland’s Paramount. For him, a successful show owes a lot to what the people in the Sound Department do. “Good [sound] mixers and sound people that are able to set up the way they should set up and mix the show the way it should be mixed can get some great sounds with just about any type of show.”

Davis cut his teeth in Las Vegas at venues like Caesar’s Palace, running sound for Frank Sinatra and many others. “It takes a lot of design and a lot of [acoustics] modeling to get this stuff right,” he says. Different venues present different challenges.

“Acoustics doesn’t just happen,” Davis emphasizes, “It’s a lot of physics behind this.”

The challenges posed at outdoor venues add another dimension to the work of sound engineers and production staff. Again, there’s no perfect outdoor venue, but there are a few that, for many, come close. The Gibson Amphitheatre, located in Universal City, California is one.

Another excellent example of an outdoor venue for great sound is Red Rocks, a spectacular and acoustically notable place to hear music. The 9,450 seat amphitheatre, designed by Burnham Hoyt, was officially dedicated in 1941. Carved out of ancient sea-bed sandstone, today Red Rocks sits in the hills near Denver at 7,000 feet above sea level. A show at Red Rocks is pretty hard to forget. The scenery is gorgeous  –and the acoustics, for anyone who’s seen a show there– can easily be called second to none.

John Dowlen has been running sound at Red Rocks since 1984. “Red Rocks is truly a unique place because it wasn’t built for anything other than natural acoustics. It’ll work just fine without an amplified system.”

“A lot of concert halls,” Dowlen continues, “especially orchestra places that are ‘purpose-built’ for symphonies—completely disintegrate as soon as you put a sound system in it. If you have the symphony on stage—that’s fine. A sound system just completely overwhelms the room and the sonics go to pieces.”

For Dowlen, Red Rocks does not suffer from the addition of a sound system –in any way. The two most challenging aspects of his job are pitching the sound system up steeply enough to get to the back row; and, making sure that production crews are aware of what it takes to navigate the approach to and from the stage’s loading dock.

Dowlen’s first gig at Red Rocks was in 1984, running sound for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.  For that show, he simply placed three AKG 14’s  –microphones that are ultra sensitive across a full dynamic range–  on the stage.

Back then, “There were no grids or overhead frameworks to suspend or ‘fly’ speakers from.” Dowlen says. “Before [we had] the ability to fly we had to stack.  We’d stack…and pitch it back and aim it up the hill. I had an old stacking rig that we could put a 4×4 under the front edge of the subs [subwoofers] and then we’d stack it into the bays—that worked real good.”

For the Run-DMC and Beastie Boys shows in 1987, Dowlen’s system was awesome. “That thing crushed,” he says. “In ’84, we proved [sound] could go up the hill. In ’87, we proved [sound] could go up the hill loud,” he laughs.

The awe-inspiring Red Rocks Amphitheater, near Denver.

Dowlen did the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s sound when they were on top. During a Dirt Band show, he had the good fortune to meet balladeer John Denver, who showed up one day as a guest, and Dowlen, already with a good rep growing the business, later ran sound for Denver’s summer shows. “Those stick out ‘cuz they really had a Colorado connection.”

One other acoustical challenge at Red Rocks is adjusting for atmospheric and temperature changes. Weather can be tricky. The first show of the season at Red Rocks is usually Easter Sunrise service, a tradition first started in 1947. The venue continues to host shows into the first week of October. After that, acts are taking their chances. By Halloween, in the Rockies, it’s usually snowing.

Engineering the shows, Dowlen says, “You have to pay attention to how things are behaving. A typical summer evening, the temperature changes about 20-25 degrees. But in the fall, you can actually see it go from 80 degrees during the day to the 50s by the end of the show.” Thinning air means “You need a lot more P.A.” he explains, “And I’ve had to come up with different tunings than I would at sea level, because the time alignments [sound arrival times throughout the venue] sometimes shift at this altitude.”

In his college days, Dowlen studied electrical engineering at the University of Denver. His many years of experience mastering both the electronics and mechanics of his job have given him a unique perspective. “It all has to be one cohesive piece,” he says.

“As far as Red Rocks goes, it’s perfect. It’s a beautiful place to see a show. Everybody who’s played there has enjoyed it.” He’s appreciative of the opportunity to work in this special place, in a setting once known as one of the seven natural wonders of the world. “Everyday I get to work there is a great day.”

Another popular and well respected venue for music is back east, in Boston. Established in 1630, the Bay State city is renowned for its many fine educational institutions, among them Berklee College of Music. The Berklee Performance Center, one of five performance halls on campus, seats 1,200.

Housed in what was once known as the Fenway Theatre, the 37,500 square foot building was originally designed by architect Thomas Lamb. Purchased by Berklee in 1972, extensive renovations were completed in 1975. The interior was gutted—down to the brick walls—and converted to an auditorium, with Cavanaugh Tocci Associates handling the acoustics.

A view from the stage, Berklee Perfomance Center

Production Manager and Berklee professor Brad Berger began teaching Sound Reinforcement classes at Berklee in 1982. At that time, he recalls, “There was really no sound system. There was a little central cluster that was installed in ’75, just for voice. We installed the first real sound system in ’86, ’87.”  That system was unchanged until 2008, when Berklee installed a Meyer M’elodie line array system coupled with Galileo, “a system controller,” Berger explains. “It’s designed to go with the Meyer speakers. It’s basically a crossover, equalization and dynamics control.” For all things related to amplified sound, different venues employ different systems.

At Berklee and other venues,  another popular devise is used by sound crews to adjust or ‘tune’ the room. The “Tablet” as it is known, is a wireless, portable PC, that may be used to monitor, adjust or “tweak” the system while an engineer or an assistant walks the room.

At Berklee, “Horn” shaped walls project sound effortlessly from the stage outward. “You can whisper on stage and hear it in every seat of the theatre,” Brad says.  Parallel walls begin at about 25 feet from the stage. Surprisingly, all the auditorium’s wall surfaces are covered in hardwoods. Acoustical panels and “clouds” reflect sound from the ceiling; and angled walls in the back of the hall eliminate standing waves. Since the room is covered with sound absorbing materials, Berger terms it “pretty dead.”

Two other examples of well-loved performance spaces call New York City,  home: Carnegie Hall and Avery Fisher Hall. Among the multitude of places to hear music, Carnegie Hall is an unrivaled beacon of international cultural excellence. Unlike Carnegie  –occasionally noted for it’s ‘dry’ (also known as ‘dead’ sound, particularly once an audience has been added)– Avery Fisher Hall has been plagued with many acoustic problems from the start.

While specific designs and ‘variable acoustics’-type features help, Avery Fisher Hall remains an acoustics albatross. Ironically, this acoustically-challenged performance space bears the name of one of the world’s preeminent high-fidelity electronics manufacturers.

A graduate of N.Y.U., Avery Fisher began his career first in advertising and later publishing. From a musical family, violin was his chosen instrument. Though he never turned professional, he counted numerous musicians as his friends and devoted much of his more than generous philanthropic efforts toward furthering their careers, notably, pianist Emmanuel Ax and cellist Yo-Yo Ma, among many others.

The rise of the Fisher companies in the late-1930’s paralleled improvements in sound reproduction technologies. Beginning with his own refinements to existing radios, Fisher’s attentions soon included speakers, tuners and other components –custom crafted at the request of many of his friends. In 1969, Fisher sold his pioneering electronics company, returning to his alma mater to repay “old debts.” There, Fisher underwrote the Avery Fisher Listening Room within the Bobst Library.

At Lincoln Center, Fisher devoted much of his resources to the Avery Fisher Artist Program, something he was especially fond of. Later, the performance space then known as Philharmonic Hall, built in 1962, was named in his honor. With continued investments in musical artists, Fisher also agreed to direct funds toward improving the acoustics in the hall named for him, originally designed by architect Max Abramovitz. The firm of Bolt, Beranek and Newman handled the acoustics, with the end result including another irony: Beranek and company modeled much of their design on one of the world’s top performance spaces, Boston’s Symphony Hall.

The acoustically-challenged Avery Fisher Hall

The acoustics team was pressured to make allowances for additional seating, which was feared to have unknown acoustical consequences. Excessive cost overruns were also a factor. The modified design complicated matters  –the intervening years resulting in various plans to straighten out the acoustics.

Four different teams have attempted to revise the space for the better, to no avail. Noted acoustician Cyril Harris tried, as did venerated architect Philip Johnson –of glass house fame– with mixed results. Seating, sidewalls and ceiling panels continued to negatively impact sound.

A proposed merger of Carnegie Hall and Fisher Hall failed to gain traction in 2003. Discussions continue regarding what to do with the hall. Currently, there are plans in place to try another re-design, scheduled to begin in 2010.

By contrast, one of the acoustical highlights contributing to Carnegie’s hallowed sound include this significant fact: the building was constructed utilizing the Guastavino process, a structural masonry design featuring walls more than five feet thick. The principal architect was William Burnet Tuthill, an accomplished cellist, with consultants Dankmar Adler, Louis Sullivan and Richard Morris Hunt. Adler specialized in acoustics and had closely studied the Mormon Tabernacle design, shaped like an upturned boat –also called a “turtle back form.”

Carnegie Hall was initially envisioned as a home for both the Symphony Society and the Oratorio Society. Prior to Carnegie being constructed, these organizations vied for time and space in the Metropolitan Opera House, one of the only available venues in town –usually reserved for the Met’s resident company. Waiting in second position, The Philharmonic Society took precedence over other takers. The Oratorio Society was usually left out and resorted to giving performances within neighboring piano manufacturer showrooms, among them Chickering and Steinway, located on 14th Street.

Prior to its opening in the spring of 1891, streets adjacent to Carnegie’s site on  Seventh Avenue were as yet unpaved. The location, at the edge of Goat Hill, near Central Park, was so far uptown it was considered suburban.

Carnegie Hall in New York City

The hall’s storied past encompasses a wide range of musical performances and includes artists from the classical world as well as folk, jazz and rock. Rachmaninoff, Horowitz, Rubenstein and Van Cliburn have graced the stage, as have Pavarotti, Leontyne Price, Beverly Sills and Marion Anderson. Also, jazz icons Fats Waller, Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Miles Davis, John Coltrane have been heard here, as have folk legends Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Joan Baez. Rockers The Doors, The Rolling Stones and The Beatles too. Carnegie was their third tour stop in February, 1964.

In 1938 and ‘39, promoter John Hammond brought his “Spirituals to Swing” program to Carnegie. Originally, bluesman Robert Johnson was scheduled to appear along with Benny Goodman, Count Basie, Sonny Terry and Mitchell’s Christian Singers–the all-star line up illustrating the many different influences fueling swing. Robert Johnson died in August of 1938,  and promoter Hammond found a suitable replacement: Big Bill Broonzy.

Recordings of the concert were not originally issued. The liner notes to a 1970’s era re-issue (on the Vanguard label), written by Charles Edward Smith, state that: “The original disc acetates from which this recording was made were privately recorded for Mr. John Hammond as a memento of the concerts. They were played and replayed many times at his home. Then with the passage of time it became apparent that these recordings were of great historical and musical significance, making it imperative that they be preserved for posterity.”

Posterity, preserving what is important for future generations, is a noble goal. The cold facts surrounding acoustic perfection will likely never dampen our enthusiasm for music, enjoyed in some of our favorite places.

Even if a few tolerable compromises may be required, the world’s performance spaces retain their power to captivate us and transport us. Through the synergies of architecture, acoustic design and sound technology, great rooms can deliver great sounds. Paraphrasing Chips Davis: “It all comes down to who’s mixing the show.”

Published in: on June 16, 2011 at 4:01 pm  Leave a Comment  

Here’s to Russ Solomon

(Note: This piece was originally posted in June, 2010.)

Well, word is in: longtime retail record pioneer Russ Solomon has officially retired from the retail music store business.

Solomon began his career in music retail at age 16, working the aisles and counter of his fathers drug store, Tower Drug, in downtown Sacramento, California. The year was 1941.

Following World War II, Solomon returned home to find that his father had expanded the music section of the store devoted to records.

In 1960, Tower Records was formally established. With added stores in Sacramento, San Francisco’s North Beach, the famed Sunset Strip in L.A. and beyond, the Tower brand and “deep catalog” concept swept the globe. If there was anything you were looking for in music, chances were good Tower had it.

Those were exciting times, Solomon explained with a laugh during one of several telephone interviews in 2007 and 2008. Of the early Tower Records–particularly the North Beach store–he said: “Those were the great years, man. That joint jumped!”

(During my various telephone interviews with him–for articles in Elmore Magazine,The Audiophile Voice, and my book Vinyl Lives–Solomon’s relaxed candor and comprehensive knowledge of the inner workings of the music business always impressed me. His ability to retain this avuncular nature, combined with a hands-on management style, endeared him to many associates, employees and a number of his fellow record store owners. Like many leaders, his stature within the record retail community includes the respect of  many of his competitors–and enemies–within the larger music industry).

To his detractors, Solomon gets flak for not staying ahead of the curve–and for not being able to prolong the relevancy (and solvency) of  Tower Records.

The formula for the store stayed the same, they said. Also, when digital came along, he missed the trend. In fact, Tower embraced the idea of (in-store) digital storefronts early on. But, by his own admission, Solomon never warmed to digitals’ purported benefits. The rise of file sharing didn’t help.

The solvency facet of the Tower story reads like an all-too-familiar-nowadays corporate yarn. The record store chain over-expanded globally, borrowed too much money and over-leveraged its assets. Eventually, banker/managers seized the reigns and–literally–drove Tower into the ground.

In my book Vinyl Lives, Solomon explains: “The new management that came in and forced us out–we were there physically, but we had no say in it–mismanaged it rather badly, and it just fell apart. They forced us to sell Japan, which was the only overseas market that was making any money. The American company all by itself, isolated and without debt, was making good money, but it couldn’t sustain the debt that was left over. The people that were managing it simply didn’t know what they were doing. And they wouldn’t listen to anybody. I mean, they’re bankers. Bankers can’t run businesses.”

To those who lost money, who feel that Tower stiffed them, Solomon responds:  “Tower didn’t do anything. When the management was running Tower, and allowed it to go into bankruptcy, people lost money. There’s no question about that. In fact, even today, it still hasn’t been settled out. And it’s going to be settled out for pennies on the dollar. Yes, Tower did stick people. But it wasn’t my fault, I can tell you that.”

Following the re-structuring, several Tower (franchise) stores remained open in Japan. The Tower website also continued.

In 2006, Solomon returned to Sacramento to open a variation on the Tower theme: R5 Records. With that event, his path in the music business had come full circle.

In May 2010, I learned that Solomon had recently remarried and planned to close R5, possibly by the end of the end of the month. Dimple Records (also based in Sacramento) would take over the R5 location, situated across the street from the current Tower Cafe. Housed in the original Tower Building, the Cafe resides in what was once the home of Tower Drug.

At age 85, Solomon closes the music retail sales chapter of his life with almost (rounding up only slightly) 70 years in the music business.

For those who experienced the presence and powers of Tower Records–their extensive and rich catalog of music, the ambience of a bustling and caring store that meant so much to so many–there’s an emptiness in knowing that Tower–and now Tower and R5’s founder–have been consigned to history.

Friday, June 11, 2010, was R5 Records last day.

Notwithstanding the negative feelings of many of those people adversely affected by the Tower failure–and the sizable drag of leftover debt on us taxpayers–Solomon’s many positive contributions to the music world remain.

Perhaps history will reflect this more positive side of Solomon’s story: Pioneer, visionary and gentle giant, Solomon’s legacy left an indelible imprint on the hearts and souls of music lovers everywhere. When the music industry surf was up, Russ Solomon was there, riding the biggest wave and making good things happen.

Published in: on June 13, 2010 at 12:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

Rare Finds at Top Five Records

I’ve been looking for this one record. Not that this search consumes every fiber of my being or anything. It’s just that I saw it once, made a partial recording of five tracks and returned it to its owner.

That was in 1974. The owner was a guy named Leonce (Leon) Picot, owner of The DownUnder, a great restaurant (recently razed) located on the Intracoastal Waterway in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

What happened was, one night while visiting the restaurant with my parents, I was smitten by the music being played over the house sound system. So, I asked who was picking out the music.

Meeting Mr. Picot–who, it turned out was an ex-jazz DJ–I asked him about the records that he was spinning.

In the early 1970s, cassette tape technology had improved, particularly with the addition of noise reduction technologies like Dolby. Around 1974, I had invested in my first tape recorder (a Yamaha) and for several months had been busy creating mix tapes of my records, which I liked to play in the car.

What I was after were records I didn’t have–rare jazz, swing, vocal groups, big band stuff–music that was slightly foreign, but worthwhile exploring. When I asked if I could take home some records to tape, Mr. Picot was open to the idea, suggesting  that we schedule a more convenient time during the next several days to come back and pick out the records.

Heading back a few days later,  I selected a bunch of 45s, 78s, several 10-inch records and numerous LPs to bring home. These were records by all sorts of great players, like saxophonist Flip Phillips–someone my Dad knew a lot about. Other artists included Nat “King” Cole, Woody Herman, Illinois Jacquet, Mildred Bailey, Jelly Roll Morton, Earl “Fatha” Hines, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie and Miles Davis.

Over the years, I’ve listened repeatedly to a lot of the music that I taped during that period. But there were five particular tracks that I often marveled over: “Bird’s Blues”, “Get Happy”, “Moose Mooch”, “Yardbird Suite” and “Ornithology”.(On my mix tape, I had followed those five tracks from that as-yet-unrecognised-and-unnamed record with Miles’s Steamin’ and Thelonius Monks’ Monk’s  Dream, among others).

About a year ago, I started playing that tape in the car again–wondering all the while what record the first five “lost” tracks appeared on.

In December of 2009, I heard about a new record store–Top Five Records–opening up in downtown Lake Worth, about a half an hours drive north and went to check it out. Owner John O’Keefe hadn’t officially opened yet, but I knocked on the front door and he motioned for me to come in.

It was quickly apparent that Top Five’s owner was that special combination of astute record collector and small business owner. The interior of the shop looked clean and modern, although most of the bins were only partially full. Some of the face-out display racks featured early rockabilly, soul and rock LPs. O’Keefe explained that his product mix would soon include 45s, and 78s, as well as posters and different types of memorabilia (signed guitars, antique radios, even a prized leather jacket) on display.

On a couple of my return trips to Top Five, I picked up some great early psychedelic rock (a copy of Ten Year After’s first album) and a bunch of great 45s: The Diamonds, Sam the Sham and The Pharoahs, Lowell Fulson, Joe Turner; and a Hank Williams 78–something that I’ve been trying to locate a reasonably priced copy of for a long, long time–his 1948 smash, “Move it on Over”.

A couple of months ago, I visited again and headed for the jazz bins.

Picking up an unfamiliar album, I looked past the cover and was instantly glued to the personnel listed on the back: Dizzy, Bird, Miles, Flip Phillips, Teddy Wilson, Al Hague, J.J. Johnson, Milt Jackson, Slam Stewart, Ray Brown, Max Roach…I recognised that lineup. But for some reason, I completely overlooked the track listings!

Low on funds, I asked John to hold the record for awhile. Then on Memorial Day weekend, I headed back to Top Five to retrieve the album: A Handful of Modern Jazz.

The odd thing was, I had brought along my old cassette with my handwritten listings of personnel and songs, explaining that I was still trying to find the album that contained those five tracks. Here I was with the album right in front of me! (To preserve the covers, many albums at the store are packaged with the disc and paper sleeve outside the actual cover, placed over the liner notes and inside another clear plastic sleeve).

It wasn’t until I got home and actually dropped the needle on “Bird’s Blues” that it finally hit me: I had, at long last, found the mystery record–a complete classic, featuring a who’s who of early bop stylists in their prime!

Top Five  rules!!!–it’s a heckuva store.  O’Keefe is there 5 days a week, Wednesday through Saturday, from 12noon to 8pm; Sundays from 12noon to 6pm. But don’t try to find the store on the web–Top Five doesn’t have a website, or an Ebay store either.

For owner John O’Keefe, business is “perfect”–he is completely content to have a locally based record store, with business driven by word of mouth. He enjoys marketing his well curated merchandise to young people and to serious (and also laid back) collectors and music lovers. Visit Top Five Records at 10 “J” Street, in Lake Worth, Florida; or, you can reach John O’Keefe on his cell phone: (561) 313-9387.

Published in: on May 30, 2010 at 2:02 pm  Leave a Comment  

My Somewhat Brief and Meandering Record Store Memoir

The Formative Years

The Formative Years

Worden’s
Pompano Beach, Florida

In 1964 or so, aged 10, I used to ride my bike to the nearby Beacon Light Shopping Center. There, Worden’s “5 cents to One Dollar” sat at one end of the shopping center, a few doors down from the Dairy Queen (demolished in 2009) and Rexall Drugs (now a real estate office), where they had a good magazine rack and a lunch counter.

Worden’s (now Worden’s Art and Framing) had a couple of bins of records, a small part of the store offerings which included toys and clothes. By today’s standards, Worden’s seemed small. But, to me at age 10 (like other impressions that only kids seem to have) it looked huge. (I recently called founder Bill Worden, who kindly verified that the circa 1964 store was actually fairly large indeed –5,000 square feet!). Worden’s was the only nearby place that stocked “Meet The Beatles.” So, after asking my Dad for a $3.00 loan, that’s where I went to buy my first LP.

When I was eight, my parents bought me my first set of drums –used Slingerlands– with pearl shells. The bass drum was massive! I located some bongos too. By age ten, I was trying to figure out ways to meet girls. My friend Bill and I had the idea to put on a concert in my backyard. We invited all the girls in the neighborhood (4 or 5) and I lip-synced to Peter and Gordon’s “World Without Love” while standing on top of the pool filtering box. My friend Bill played the bongos.

Prior to that time, I had the benefit of having two older brothers who liked music. I remember borrowing some of their records, notably a ‘45’ of Neil Sedaka’s “Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen.” That got a fair amount of play. And, someone (maybe my Dad) had an Ahmad Jamal album (Live at The Pershing). I loved the textures and atmosphere of the song “Moonlight in Vermont.”

Of course I owe a musical-as-well-as-everything-else debt to my parents, who really had some great records around the house. My Dad liked Gershwin, my Mom loved Benny Goodman. My Mom used to tell me about all those 78’s of Goodman’s she lugged around for years, until one day getting rid of them. Both my parents loved jazz and the popular songs of the great lyricists like Johnny Mercer and Cole Porter, as well as musicals like “Porgy and Bess”, “My Fair Lady” and “The Music Man”.

By the early 1960s, we had a decent stereo housed in a small living room cabinet. I don’t recall that it looked particularly complicated or fancy. The amplifier may’ve been something like an early Kenwood or Harmon/Kardon. We had a big beige Garrard turntable. There were two speakers, but I’m not sure what brand.

Around that time, we bought our first ‘window’ air-conditioning unit. This was a large box shaped unit with a big electric plug. We only had this one machine installed, just to cool off the living room, so we had to keep the doors to other rooms closed to enjoy the full effects.

My parents were OK with my using the stereo and I enjoyed turning that thing up! To me, the sound was just fine and it wouldn’t distort! My next big record buys were soundtacks from the movies “Exodus” and “Goldfinger”. I played the “Exodus” movie theme a lot and really liked the way it sounded. Shirley Bassey’s vocal on “Goldfinger” knocked me out and the orchestras on both records really sounded great.

Vincent’s Music
Boca Raton, Florida

In 1966, my family relocated two towns north. I left behind my first group of good friends. We built a new house on a golf course. My parents were only two years away from getting divorced. I was slow to make new friends and the new and improved lifestyle was a difficult adjustment.

In our new family room, we had built-in bookcases and cabinets. I think our old stereo made the move with us, but it sounded even better because now the speakers were up around ‘ear level.’ We had a big table and chairs where we would eat meals or entertain and usually the stereo was buzzing with different music.

My parents, along with (it seems now) every other parent in America, made the move to Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, while my brothers picked up on Simon and Garfunkel and The Mamas and the Papas. I carried on with my Beatles, meanwhile catching earfuls of different music (Wilson Pickett, The Who, Rolling Stones, The Doors, Cream and Jimi Hendrix) from my new friends, Steve and Jimmy.

Their parents had stereos too. Jimmy’s  father was a doctor. Their house had a whole room devoted to the ‘hi-fi’. With two built-in speakers –each about twice the size of our first air conditioner– the thing was truly a monster! I’ll always remember hearing Hendrix‘s “Third Stone from the Sun” and The Yardbirds’ “Over, Under, Sideways, Down” on that system.

The End  --my first band.

The End –my first band.

We enjoyed visiting Vincent’s Music, a short bike ride up Federal Highway. Sam Vincent, the owner, had lots of records, some of which he featured with small countertop displays. One of those covers made an immediate and lasting impression: “Absolutely Free”, by The Mothers of Invention (1967). Several years later, while living in San Francisco, I traded my copy of Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” for a copy of Zappa’s record. My friend Chris said I was crazy. I told him emphatically that Zappa would forever outrank Tull.

Vincent’s was great. We could go there, spend some time, see what was going on and buy some of our favorite music. Mr. Vincent was very nice. He seemed to like us and had a warm and easygoing manner. He too made a vivid impression on me, mostly because he was selling records, but also because he was a good person.

In early 2005 or so, I found out that Mr. Vincent had long since retired from retail but was still around. So one day, I called him and thanked him for being such a positive influence on us kids and for his great store.

Recently, I was researching some early town history and looking for newspaper clippings with photos of Vincent’s Music. There weren’t any pictures, but there was an artist’s rendering of his second location. In the description of the new store, there was a brief mention about Mr. Vincent. Prior to moving to Florida, he lived in Pittsfield, Massachusetts where he’d been a big bandleader.

Discount Records
Menlo Park, California

A year after my parents divorce, and partly at the suggestion of my cousin Steve, I moved to California to attend boarding school. That year –academically– was a total disaster. But the California music scene was a totally different world from what I had grown up with. It was (and still is) incredible.

My school was located near a retail district within an easy walk of campus. At the time, Stewart Brand, of “Whole Earth Catalog” fame, had opened a Whole Earth Truck Store in Menlo Park (no, they didn’t sell any trucks, mostly books); and there was a great–and highly respected bookstore (which re-opened a couple of years ago), Kepler’s Books, also nearby.

In my time off from school, I had the good fortune of having those two stores nearby–and Discount Records.

Discount, though a ‘chain’, was small, with staffers and clerks who knew the music. They had a good sound system and would usually have something interesting on when I went in. It was at Discount that I first heard “Swiss Movement”, the Les McCann and Eddie Harris collaboration that seemed beyond cool to me. In particular, I was astounded to see Harris’s picture with all the electronics he used. That alone, at that time, was a sizable indicator of the sonic revolution ahead.

Tower Records,
San Francisco, California

The mother lode!

I can never really convey the impact of Tower. That location, at the corner of Columbus and Bay –on the edge of North Beach and across the street from Fisherman’s Wharf– was a short walk for where I lived downtown. Proximity meant visiting often. No problem! On my rounds, Tower became a regular stop, which might include other great shops like the legendary City Lights Books (on Columbus) and Caffé Trieste (on Upper Grant Street).

Tower was a favorite of many Bay Area musicians of every stripe. The aisles were clogged with stacked boxes, the ones on top cut open to reveal the hot albums of the moment. I bought a lot of records at Tower just because of the covers staring back at me, the minute I’d walk through the front door. One, Pink Floyd’s “Ummagumma” had a picture of one of the bands trucks on an open field, strewn with every piece of equipment that the band used in performances. Others, groups –like Blodwyn Pig– also made a vivid impression, even though I somehow resisted their great covers.

Russ Solomon, the man who started Tower in nearby Sacramento in 1960, was also a bit of a legend himself by then. There’s no doubt that without him, the Age of the LP would not have been quite as spectacular and memorable. Tower became famed for really understanding the music; and for pioneering various product display methods (‘Browser’ Bins, ‘Face Out’ Displays, pictures of artists on the walls and their huge renderings of album covers–used to great effect outside their stores–the equivalent of album cover billboards. Though Tower didn’t invent every new way to display and amplify the meaning of 12’x12′ records (some of their techniques were borrowed from traditional retail) they sure did make every possible effort to promote it as art.

San Francisco basement montage, by C. and B., 1972

San Francisco basement collage, by C. and B., 1972

The collage below was one that I put together in the 1980s. It’s still in use, but shows signs of water damage, thanks to Hurricane Wilma.

One of my early attempts at a music collage for my friend RPM.

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 1:13 pm  Comments (1)  

About Me

In 2008,  after becoming concerned about the plight of record stores, I put together a book called Vinyl Lives: The Rise and Fall and Resurgence of the American Independent Record Store, now available in paperback.  Click here to find out more. Two more books followed, Vinyl Lives II in 2013, and Vinyl Lives On, in 2014.

For my third book, I wanted to include interviews with notable musicians who were also big time record collectors.

Vinyl Lives On spotlights several well known musician/collectors and includes in-depth interviews with sixteen U.S. music retailers. Featured musicians: • Theo Dasbach – singer/songwriter/pianist; Founder, Rock and Blues Museum, Clarksdale, Mississippi • Ray Benson – singer/songwriter/guitarist/producer; Co-Founder, Asleep at the Wheel • Henry Rollins – singer/songwriter/actor/radio show host; Black Flag, Rollins Band • Bill Frisell – guitarist/composer/arranger • Ursula 1000 (Alex Gimeno) – multi-instrumentalist/DJ • Joe Travers – drummer, Zappa Plays Zappa; Vaultmeister for the Frank Zappa Family Trust • Billy Vera – singer/songwriter/music historian/producer; Founder, Billy Vera and The Beaters.

As of 2017, the vinyl format has been mainstreamed. New vinyl is everywhere! Best Buy, Barnes and Noble, Whole Foods ?!…the format has become quite the darling of a young hipsters and wannabe hipster/oldsters. Record Store Day is now in its second decade. The cornucopia of records that are brought out for that event is mind boggling.

 

Published in: on June 14, 2009 at 10:47 am  Leave a Comment