Author Archives: Special to TVD

Skye Steele,
The TVD First Date

“When I was 19 I was a student at the New School and I was living and working at the Marlton Hotel, an old Greenwich Village SRO on 8th Street that was infamous for (among other things) having been the place where Valerie Solanas lived when she shot Warhol. The Village had already changed a lot when I got there, but still we had a few old-timers from the factory days hanging around at the Marlton, mostly decomposing on their feet. I lived on the second floor and had one window with a heavy-duty burglar gate on it that looked out onto a side alley with the next building six feet away. When I moved in, my girlfriend gave me a fern that I hung from the burglar bars. It was dead in a month. As fall wore down into winter and the days got shorter it felt like I was living at the bottom of a stagnant pond silting over from the top down.”

“We broke up that winter. I was in love with this girl–we’d known each other since high school and we both moved from California to NYC at the same time–but I fucked it up bad. She was uptown having an IVY league experience at Barnard while I was living very, very downtown. She was a genius scholar, a good writer, and MTV-gorgeous. I was new in town, zealous, looking for beatnik adventures. This 30-year-old Argentine fashion designer who lived across the hall took an interest in me and I got all wrapped up. I cheated on my hometown girl. I was just mannish enough to come clean, but in the most pitiful whimpering way you can imagine. That was the end of all that.

So a bad fall moldered into a bad winter, and I was digging way down into a self-flagellating depression that was amplified by everything about my living situation. The room was so small I put my mattress underneath the bed-frame and laid cardboard over the springs so I would have a space to work, prepare food, and for the beat-to-shit thrift-store turntable I dragged with me across the country. The only place to sit was a ramshackle leather office chair I found on the street that I leaned up in a corner beside the window cause it was missing a wheel and would tip over anywhere else. I would just sit there all night listening to Leonard Cohen Isle of Wight, smoking out the window in my dirty salvation-army coat, pretending to read, but really just staring.

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My Big Star Story
by John Fry

Word has made its way to our office today that legendary Ardent Studios founder and producer John Fry has passed away in Memphis. “The 69 year-old Fry died on Thursday afternoon at Methodist East hospital, where he was taken after suffering a cardiac arrest at his Germantown home,” the Commercial Appeal has reported.

Mr. Fry was an early and vigorous proponent of the website you’re reading at present and it’s with heavy hearts we remember him with his own recollections today, as published here on March 29, 2010.
—Ed.

One day in 1968, I walked into my office to find a young man still in his teens, seated in my chair, with his boots propped up on my desktop, smoking a cigarette. Once I relocated him, I learned that he was Chris Bell. I would soon meet Andy Hummel, as the two, along with Steve Rhea, were starting to join the after-hours recording crew at Ardent. I already knew Alex Chilton from his visits to Ardent for Box Tops overdub and mixing sessions. A bit later I would meet Jody Stephens as he joined Chris and Andy on drums when Steve left for college.

Of course, there would be no Big Star band until a few years later, but this day is as good as any to mark the start of a journey that Alex, Andy, Chris, Jody, and I would wind up taking together. That journey has been well described in several different formats. The life stories of the individuals involved would progress in ways that none of us could have envisioned.

For me, the experiences included getting to participate in the recording and release of music I loved then and still love now, the bitter feeling of total commercial failure in the Memphis ashes of 1975, an early morning phone call in 1978 with bad news, and the ultimate acceptance of the music by generations of fans and musicians, many unborn at the time it was recorded.

Recounting some recent events may express my feelings better than talking about the distant past. Fast forward to 2008. Jody Stephens shouts from his office across the hall from mine “Hey, we’ve got a show in London on August 28.” My response is, “I’m going.”

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Springh,
The TVD First Date

“I have always been a vinyl fan since I was a small child, except for a small act of wanton destruction when at the age of 4. I apparently drew all over my stepfather’s vintage Grateful Dead collection which makes me cringe thinking about it. I sincerely hope that my future children do not do the same to me. Happily, the surviving records acted as a soundtrack throughout my childhood and I was always intrigued by the colourful sleeves that I wasn’t allowed to touch.”

“Later in life I discovered the joy of vinyl myself. I love the ritual of removing the record from its sleeve and the smell, particularly when it is new. I like watching the deck spin up and enjoy the crackle before the music starts.

It feels so far removed from the modern-day accessibility of endless Spotify and Soundcloud playlists where music can be very much a background experience to be passively enjoyed whilst doing other things. Vinyl is an active experience where you have to stay involved in listening because, if you are lucky enough to keep control of the record deck, you have to be ready to change to the next record.

Though I do love the sound, I can’t chime in on the sound fidelity—vinyl vs CD issue—as my favourite format in this respect is the cassette tapes of my youth which are particularly suited to Nirvana albums. Vinyl for me is very much about the experience of listening, it forces the listener to engage physically with the music. It is also finite so it is not possible to jump between songs as much as is possible online which makes it more likely that you will listen to that pesky b-side.

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Sofia,
The TVD First Date

“My Dad has an enormous vinyl collection and I remember being old enough to understand what they were and realizing how cool it is that he still has them, and in pristine condition, I must say.”

“He’s got a really extensive collection including Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Woodstock Era records, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, Chick Corea, Keith Jarrett, and that’s to name a few. Before he left Lebanon after the war broke out, he also had his parents’ collection, which have been lost with all the Jazz greats like Etta James, Nat King Cole, and Louis Armstrong.

It’s a real shame that some of those were lost, but I know he remembers all of them fondly. He loves to tell me stories about how he would go to the local record shops when he was a teenager and spend hours deciding which record would be the latest addition to his collection, back then they would sometimes have as little as ten records to chose from! It’s a big difference to the infinite amount of music we can now access on the internet, with just a click of a button.

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Jameson,
The TVD First Date

“I didn’t listen to vinyl when I was growing up. I listened to the Beatles on cassette in my Dad’s car. I listened to Jimi Hendrix on CD in my room for hours trying to learn how to play guitar. Then when I was about 16 my friend showed up at my house with a copy of The Police, The Singles on vinyl that he had bought at a garage sale for a dollar. He knew I was a big fan of Sting and The Police, and he just handed it to me and said, ‘Check this out, it’s a REAL album!’ In my head I thought, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve heard about these.'”

“We took it over to my grandfather’s house (the only person we knew who had a record player) and cranked it up. His 1950s California ranch-style home had a speaker in every room; when the drums kicked in on “Roxanne” I felt like I got punched in the chest. The sound had this richness and texture I had never heard before…I fell in love right away.

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I got my own turntable and started buying vinyl of my own. I bought a fresh new copy of OK Computer (one my favourite albums of all time), but otherwise it was all thrift store finds: Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti, Pink Floyd The Wall, Tom Petty, some Bjork, some Tom Waits stuff.

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Walking Shapes,
The TVD First Date
and Vinyl Giveaway

“Vinyl to me is an event almost similar to cinema. You drop the needle and you’re in it, you sit down and stay for the whole show. Listening in a format that just draws you in.”

“My earliest memory of vinyl is sitting in a smoke-filled basement, at a local musician hangout, in my home town of Mifflintown, Pa. We were listening to Robert Johnson and Nat King Cole and I felt like I was transported back in time. The warmth and the scratching of the needle on an old record was so comforting and cool. These memories are fleeting, due to circumstances better left unsaid, but I will never forget that first, very vague, yet at the same time extremely specific moment in my life.

A few years later a friend loaned me a portable record player while out of town working on a film. I was living in a house on Kingsland Avenue in Brooklyn at the time, and lucky for me it was stocked with crate after crate after crate of records. Once I had my own personal turntable I locked myself in my room for a few weeks, and this is when I developed a true understanding and appreciation for these magical little grooved out disks.

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Olivia Jean,
The TVD First Date

“Growing up my dad would often play his vinyl collection while me and my siblings would run around like maniacs. I remember The B-52’s playing in the background when I was very small.”

“When I was a little older I became interested in vinyl itself. I was looking through our vinyl collection and came across The B-52’s self-titled LP. I had to ask my dad how to use our record player, and once the music started I yelled, “Why didn’t you tell me about this band! I love this music!” Obviously I had heard this album before when I was young, but finally could appreciate it. This album was my idea of musical perfection. To this day I listen to this album and get those same butterflies. Thank you dad, for being awesome.

As a teenager I became captivated by the Detroit art-punk scene. Bands of this scene included Whirlwind Heat, Jaime Easter, Adult., Tamion 12-Inch, and Genders. I became friends with Evan Johnson, who played in the two-peice avant-garde band Genders. Being a very shy girl it was difficult for me to discover new music. Evan introduced me to a lot of the bands I still call my favorites to this day. He introduced me to new music as well as the classics: The Slits, T.Rex, Throbbing Gristle, and Delta 5, to name a few.

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Paul McDonald,
The TVD First Date

“I was born in 1984 so by the time I was old enough to have my own taste in music, the vinyl record was long gone and the CD was in full force. These were the years that CD’ were still $17 -$20 and the golden age for musicians or labels to make any kind of money of record sales. I remember having my parents drive me to the music store in downtown Huntsville, Alabama in 4th grade to buy my first CDs (Green Day, Dookie and Oasis, What’s the Story Morning Glory?).”

“First off, I don’t know why my mother would even allow me to buy to an album called Dookie with a parental advisory sticker on it at the age of 9, but she must have trusted my musical taste. I went home and opened those CDs. I spent the entire night reading through the liner notes and listening to the music on repeat.I didn’t know what any of it meant, but I underlined my favorite lines and new every word of every song on those albums by the next day. I remember hanging out in my neighbors attic and we would listen to those CD’s on repeat.

Throughout my middle school years I always prided myself in having one of the best CD collections of all my friends—it was mostly what was popular at the time (311, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Beck, Blur) but I wanted to have it all. With any money I earned from the ages of 11-13, I would always buy new music.

Although, It wasn’t really until high school that my true love for music, vinyl, and exploring my parents record collection really started. My parents had very eclectic taste in music, but they also listened to all the classics—Beatles, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Crosby, Stills, & Nash, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, etc. I grew up listening to all of this stuff but never really appreciated it until my later years.

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Red Jacket Mine,
The TVD First Date

“I was raised in the Pentecostal church, and music is a huge part of their services. My great-grandparents had lots of weird records lying around their house, from traveling preachers and musical acts that had passed through town back in the ’50s and ’60s. The revival circuit used to be a big deal back then, and probably still is, if you know where to look.”

“As an adult, I’ve held onto limited-run oddities my grandma passed along, like Evelyn Evans’ Whistling Solos (wherein Ms. Evans—”the whistling lady of Western Michigan”—warbles her way through hymns atop schmaltzy church organ accompaniment) and the Four Galileans’ Gospel Fiesta (which was recorded at RCA in Nashville, and actually features Jerry Reed on guitar), and they’ll always remind me of the strange cast of characters I encountered in the church as a kid—some kind, some cruel, some downright bizarre…and some damn fine musicians among them.

While I’m no longer a believer, I’m still drawn to gospel sounds. Ry Cooder’s Chicken Skin Music and Paradise & Lunch albums (where he’s backed by those amazing vocal groups led by Bobby King) have been an inspiration since I was a teenager, and discovering the Staple Singers’ early albums on Vee-Jay (lovingly reissued by Portland’s Mississippi Records label) was a major epiphany. More recently, Marty Stuart’s Soul’s Chapel album knocked me out with its spine-tingling harmony singing and stellar guitar-pickin’.

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In-Flight Safety,
The TVD First Date

“I am sitting at home as I write this. In my childhood bedroom. I am digging through closets and finding hard evidence that these memories are real. Here we go…”

“Something primal happened when I first heard that song. It was something to do with the older skater kids in the neighborhood—some even went on to go pro. We followed them around like puppies. Their ’80s decks, oversized neon wheels, their quarter pipes, their ninja paraphernalia. We worshipped them.

The song was catchy as hell but the video terrifying. We sang along like tiny rockers: “We’re not gonna take it, no we ain’t gonna take it, we’re not gonna take it any more!” I had no idea what I was not going ‘to take’ but I love, love, loved that song. I begged my mom to buy the single. We went to the record store at the mall and bought the 45 on vinyl. I played that A-side over and over on one of those huge cabinet record players—the ones that every family had in their basement.

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