Diary of a Record Collector, Vol. 2

Radio was my first conduit for experiencing music.

But it wasn’t the only one.

My parents had record albums.

And people gave records to me when they grew out of them.

I am not sure how that came about.

I was young so I have no memories of how I came to possess these records that were older than me.

Mostly they were pop albums and singles from the 60s.

One of them was Every Mother’s Son’s Back.

This is the only ‘song’ that I remember from it, which just missed the Billboard top 40 but did go Top 10 in Canada.

It’s not quite psych, it’s not quite rock, and not quite sunshine pop, but it seems to sit at the crossroads of those styles.

The other thing I remember about it is this – a ‘birthday party’ for band member Larry Larden:

I also had a copy of this soundtrack given to me on the United Artists label:

I also recall having the first two Stones albums on London Records:

And I remember having Something Special! The Best of Tommy James & the Shondells:

It’s odd, but I don’t much remember playing or getting into The Beatles and the Stones.

It was the Sons and, more specifically, James and the Shondells that resonated most from those handoffs, and I think I know why.

It wasn’t the hooks or more agreeable nature of those albums.

It was a sense of wistfulness I was hearing in songs like Mirage.

(Okay, the novelty of a birthday party on vinyl explains why Every Mother’s Sons remains a strong memory).

I also recovered a memory of having this album given to me, which is funny, because years later I ‘discovered’ Scott Walker through a second-hand copy of It’s Raining Today, a compilation pulled together by, uh, Marshall Crenshaw:

All of those albums are long gone.

I cannot imagine they were in the best shape when they were handed off to me.

And I am pretty certain I removed any musical value they had left.

If I wasn’t accidentally spilling beverages on them, I was scratching them or breaking them.

I remember someone giving me a bunch of 78s, which is pretty much like giving a kid a box of broken glass because I reduced a lot of them to jagged pieces by grace of being a child.

One of them was a XMas song my mom tried gluing back together and never fails to remind me I ruined, even if she cannot remember what the song was.

But most times, I’d just press the needle down into the groove to try and fix skips or scrape the needle heavily all about the groove if I didn’t like a song.

That drove my father crazy because I am sure there were weeks that he was going to buy new needles almost daily for the monster stereo cabinet I somehow came into owning.

So the memory of those records was about all I retained.

And it would be my parents’ LPs I would have to content myself with if I wanted to listen to music on demand.

Keep or Cull – Jonah Jones’ Along Came Jonah

Born in 1909, Jonah was nearly sixty when he landed at Motown for a couple of LPs in the late 60s, starting with this one.

IMG_20200318_130341You might think, based on that title, that he does Along Comes Mary, a top ten hit for The Association.

He does not.

Instead, the jazz trumpeter does a mix of then-contemporary pop hits, jazz standards, and a couple of Motown songs.

And the results are… well, pleasant enough.

For example, here’s his take on My Girl.

 

Nice, but not revelatory.

The same is true for the rest of the songs.

IMG_20200318_130405On For Once in My Life, Jonah (who sings it) and the backing musicians slow the tempo down a bit, leaning more into the reflective nature of the lyric, and thus giving it more of a lounge sound.

On Love is Blue, Jonah does his best impersonation of Herb Alpert’s Tijuana Brass.

On I Say a Little Prayer, the band starts with a little allusion to Walk on By before he comes in for a measured take on the Bacharach classic.

And on The End of Our Road, he and the backing musicians, likely the Funk Brothers, very nearly veer into the kind of funk that Jr. Walker traded in, although the results here are cleaner and brighter.

In many ways, it is the epitome of a sixties album in that it gives you a survey of the current scene in a way that is clearly meant to appeal to nearly anyone.

But despite the sweetness of Jones’ tone, which does hearken back to the swing era, and the 60s arrangements, not much really stands out.

And what does is more for novelty sake, such as the string laden stroll through the Beatles Michelle, which closes out the set.

You get the sense that someone wanted Jones to be hip, but not too hip, and faithful to his legacy, but not really draw on it to his benefit.

So it never really comes on.

And that makes it a cull for me.

 

Scott Walker – The Plague

The plague Walker is referencing is the plague of desire.

Of wanting and needing.

But in these times, it is hard not to hear ‘every day I’ve got to fight the plague’ as summarizing our lives now.

Oddly relegated to a b-side back in the day, the song is a stunning what if, suggesting Walker could have pursued a heavier, almost rock, sound slightly in keeping with his contemporaries.

And yet, it does point the way to something like Cue, which appears to be about a pandemic, and is far, far more bleak, and bleakly funny, than The Plague.

If you are ever sourcing music for a horror film, you could do worse than to incorporate this at a key moment…