Thursday, April 22, 2010

Did I Need to Know That?

Have you ever met any of your heroes? I have, many times. It's an odd experience, these demi-gods reduced to mere mortals. I've spent time with two of the greats in my musical pantheon, Dave Frishberg and Roger McGuinn.

Frishberg and I had dinner together twice, drove from Albany to Cooperstown and back, visited the Hall of Fame together. It was all cool, he being a bit more anxious than I would have thought, but a good guy. I got to drive McGuinn and his wife around, Roger sitting in the middle row of my Land Cruiser. There was one of the legends of rock, the inventor of The Byrds sound, peering his head between the two front seats like a kid.

Both men were different than what I'd expected, although I couldn't put a finger on what I actually expected. Meeting them didn't take away from them musically. It wasn't like they were assholes or anything.

Which leads me to Chet Baker. I've always liked Chet, but to a point. I found him limited as a trumpet player, affected and bland as a singer. Yet, there are times I crave listening to him. Not often, but sometimes.

Having recently finished James Gavin's bio of Baker, Deep in a Dream, I find it impossible to separate the evil person and the musician. I had seen Bruce Weber's documentary Let's Get Lost back when it came out in '88, and knew Baker was a fiend, but reading it over hundreds of pages made me detest him.

It's a relentless tale of deceit, physical and verbal abuse of his friends, wives and lovers, squandered talent, and drugs drugs drugs! One vignette of shooting up into his scrotum is enough. More than that, well, eewwww! He was a bad, bad man.

When I write my Maybe Baby (or, You Know That It Would Be Untrue) blog, I surround myself with the music of my subject. Same happens when I read a bio, if appropriate. (I haven't found the right soundtrack for Caro's LBJ series). Yet, every time I instinctively went to press play for a bit of Baker, I couldn't pull the trigger.

Perhaps that's the sign of a great work of non-fiction, although Gavin and Baker's hangers-on all try to promote the good side of him, especially he played the few notes he could muster. Bullshit. He was a bastard, 100% through and through. And now, I'm not sure if I can ever listen to him again.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Working My Way Through Bergman

Often I tell my kids what life was like for a movie fan in the 1970's. They can't even believe that once a movie left the theater, there was a pretty good possibility that you'd never see it again. I remember scouring TV Guide or the Newsday equivalent, to make sure I caught an old movie late at night. The VHS revolution was a godsend, but, even so, it was a frustrating experience. For every 20 copies of Tango & Cash, there might be one of Yojimbo. Seen it.

I don't recall when I discovered Home Film Festival, but I think it was in the early '90's. They were a video rental service with a monster catalog of silent, foreign and cult films. It wasn't cheap, 21 bucks for three movies, but it was worth it. With HFF, I finally tore through all Kurosawa, Fellini and Truffaut, and caught up on a mess of pre-talkies. I still remember N. and I watching Buster Keaton's Spite Marriage. N. still talks about the scene where Buster is putting on a false beard and almost cuts his ear off with a pair of scissors.
Then came Netflix and the three movie a week schedule I've kept up for seven years. Now, finally, I'm making my way through Bergman. Unlike Truffaut or Fellini, thoughtful directors who made enjoyable movies that I could watch every week. Bergman is a a hammer blow and it takes a long time for me to process his work. I saw Persona months ago (maybe it was last year) and I'm still thinking about it.

Last night I watched The Virgin Spring. I won't get into too many plot details, but I can tell you that it was very disturbing, in a way 1960 films were not. The ending threw me into a state of emotion I haven't felt since von Trier's Breaking the Waves.

It's interesting to note that The Virgin Spring was sorta remade into Wes Craven's Last House on the Left. Never saw it. I have a real fear of 1970's horror classics. There, I said it. They always feel too real. I'm not sure I could handle it.

So, until I'm mentally ready for the next Bergman opus, it's a strict diet of Erik the Viking and Iron Man 2.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Keepin' v. Sellin' - The Eternal Battle Continues

Back in the SPX options pit, we would always have this discussion, usually started by me.

"I just got this baseball card (or book, or record) for $1. It's worth $100."

"Well, if you don't sell it, then it really cost you $100," said another trader, usually Rob S., the devil himself.

"Nah, I don't see it that way. I got the card (or book, or record) and I want it. I only paid $1." Now I knew what he meant about opportunity cost and market value, but that can't always be the barometer, can it? Not everything needs to be reduced to potential profit. Isn't there a value to be placed on owning something you like? Maybe that attitude is why I never reached greater heights in trading.

"You're wrong," Rob responded and turned around, probably to squirt water at someone, or put pretzel salt in their coat pocket.

Before I got a Facebook post from the Bruce Springsteen page a couple of days ago, I had no idea that today was National Record Store Day. I also didn't know that there is a vinyl shoppe in Utica called Off-Center Records. With most of the family off to Italy, N. and I went up to beautiful downtown Utica. Rome v. Utica, well, you know where I sit on that decision, especially if there are albums involved.

On The Boss' post was mention of a special limited record for today's quasi-holiday. I headed to the official site for Record Day and saw all the special releases, but none gave me that "I MUST HAVE IT" vibe.

There was a little line, maybe 7 or 8 people, at 10:55, five minutes before the opening. The owner (or someone who worked there, I couldn't tell) was pleasantly surprised as he cut his way through the mini-crowd and unlocked the door. "Let's rock," he exclaimed, and we were in.

I asked where the rare, serial-numbered releases for the day were, and I was pointed to a couple of racks right behind me. The LPs didn't look like much, so I turned to the 7"'s. The top shelf had a Neil Young Harvest item, but I didn't care. Then the guy next to me reached in front of me to the lower shelf and pulled out a John Lennon Singles Bag.

I grabbed the other. Three 45's, a poster, and more goodies, for $22. That whet my appetite, I can tell you. I grabbed the new/old Stones 45 of "Plundered My Soul," an Exile on Main St. era release. An Elvis P. 45 of "That's All Right" followed, then an Elvis C. EP of a live show at Hollywood High. Returning to the long-player rack, a Hendrix live found its way into my stack. Anything with "Red House" is a must have.

N. was in the back of the store in old VHS heaven. I looked around a bit. Good store, nice inventory, way too high prices. I did get the soundtrack of Hatari for a buck though.

While checking out, I asked the owner/cashier how the small amounts of records were divvied up between all the stores in the land. He said it was hit and miss, and he didn't get all he wanted. A Parlophone 45 of "Paperback Writer/Rain" in a reissued sleeve sounded nice. A colored vinyl Moby Grape had me drooling, but I was satisfied by my haul.

Then I got to thinking, "Do I really want these 45's, or was it the impulse of finding things that were new, hard to come by and very cool?" As soon as I got home I went on ebay. The Lennon piece is already $50 or more. The Stones song, which cost $7, is also at $50. Elvis P. looks like it's in the $20-30 range.

What to do? Do I really want the Stones single if I can sell it for 50 smackers and then download it for a buck? How much is a reproduction of "Imagine/It's So Hard" really worth to me? I really don't know.

I can tell you this: all records will remain unopened for the next week as I watch the auctions unfold. Sellin' may win this battle, a rare victory.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hey Norton!

Life in Cooperstown has taken me to odd places. The lack of a 9 to 5 job has freed me up to pursue other interests. My involvement in local concerts has led to encounters with Paul Simon and Roger McGuinn. The burgeoning writing career (hopefully some developments on that in the near future) resulted in a gig as music editor for ragazine ( and, in 1 1/2 hours, a phone interview with Graham Parker.

A few months ago, I had lunch with Jon Weiss, formerly of The Vipers, creator of Cavestomp, sax dude for The Fleshtones. As we reminisced (I was a big fan of the '80's garage rock revival), he asked if I knew Norton Records. I didn't then; I do now.

I headed over to their site ( as soon as I got home. Paradise! I was home. Esquerita, Gene Vincent, monster mags, boss descriptions and the coolest vibe this side of Piscataway. As is always my lot, I percolated on my first order for weeks, trying to decide what to get first, balancing volume and cost.

Here's what I chose:
2 Esquerita LPs, one a Capitol reissue that Jeff G., my old Binghamton roommate had and I taped (and still listen to). Another, Vintage Voola, a compilation created by Billy Miller and Miriam Linna, the brains behind Norton. Miriam was the original drummer for The Cramps and has the largest vintage paperback collection around (the kind of hoard one would expect). Billy is singer for The A-Bones and started Kicks magazine and Norton with Miriam.

2 Gene Vincent reissues, Bluejean Bop and Gene Vincent and The Blue Caps.

1 Johnny Burnette and the Rock 'n Roll Trio
1 At Home with Screamin' Jay Hawkins

How are they? I don't know because my turntable is awaiting a new cartridge. So, as I sit typing, Gene Vincent's happy face beckoning from the floor to my left. Yet, I can't stop poring through the print catalog. There's so much to get: 45 split-sided covers of old Stones songs, Bo Diddley reissues, and on and on. I should wait until I can actually play the records before I order more, but that should be in a week or two, I hope. It's pretty lonely without vinyl.

Thanks Jon for the tip. Thanks Billy and Miriam for existing. So sorry it's taken me this long to get on board.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Get The Nodzzz

Saw Nodzzz. From San Francisco. Opened for The Soft Pack. At Mercury Lounge. Tiny club. Lower East Side. Near Katz’ Deli. Had pastrami. And a knish. And a hot dog.

At club. Long narrow bar space. Too tight. Lots of kids. Could be their father. A little uncomfortable.

Awesome show. Geeky trio. Double lead singers. Cool guitar interplay. Quirky pop tunes. Kinda like The Feelies. Or The Voidoids. Lots of fun.

Bought CD. From singer with Clark Kent glasses. Ten bucks. Ten songs, fifteen minutes total. Haven’t stopped listening. For days. Very catchy.

I’m hooked. You should be too. Go here:

(From ragazine,