BY SHAUN McGANN | I never got a chance to talk to Ray Manzarek on the telephone, but I almost did. Sorta. I was sitting in on a friend’s radio show and he had Mr. Manzarek on the line, “Hello, Evan, how are you?” I heard him say. Then the call dropped. Not deterred my friend called back. “Sorry about that Mr. Manzarek.” This time I didn’t hear the other end of the conversation. The call dropped again. This time my friend didn’t call back. “He sounded a little annoyed,” he said. No point in pissing him off. Maybe he could call in on the next show. But he never did.
The Doors were big for me when I was a teenager. They’re still big with teenagers and it’s not difficult to figure out why—they sing about death and love and sex and the death of love and sex. They talk about little gateways to bliss, about politics, and Oedipal conflicts, and booze and drugs and the city and the night. When you’re young you feel the Doors music.
The Doors are still big for me. I’m prone to going on long listening jags as an elixir to boredom or depression, even writing rambling diatribes about such things. I still feel the Doors music, but that’s because I felt it when I was young. Some of it has been watered down from the pulverized horse-corpse of classic rock rotations and bar bands toasting at the altar of “I woke up this morning and I got myself a beer.” And whatever to that. It’s all part of the legacy. Morrison as the drunken buffoon is certainly a large asterisk in their history as are the two post-Jim records, Other Voices and Full Circle.
But as much as it was/is Morrison on the magazines and t-shirts and covers of endless re-packaged Greatest Hits releases, it was also very much Ray’s band. Hunched over his Vox Continental like a man quietly possessed while keeping the bass with his right hand on a Fender Rhodes, he was the steady line throughout the songs while the rest of the band smashed, and screamed, and screeched over his foundation.
As Record Store Day 2013 quickly fades into the distance and the spring/ summer garage sale season in the wild and wooly streets of New Jersey ignites, I’m reminded of the many wonderful records that are available out there that are not in record stores! Why, just two weeks ago, I jumped out of the car and snooped around a garage sale in northern, NJ. When I saw no records for sale, I took a chance, smiled and said, “any records?”
With that, the older woman with the young face and the bad back perked up and said, “vinyls?”
At that point, I grew very excited about what was going to come next. Buying records, for this author, is akin to fishing. Sure, anyone can go into a record store—or, to their local fishmonger—and buy whatever has been carefully and cleanly curated and pay top dollar for it, if that’s your wish.
But, I think it’s an adventure to flip through garage sale records—in a store everything is cataloged neatly and organized politely. At a garage sale, you don’t know what kind of mess you’re getting into! You’re thumbing through grandpa’s stuff which is mixed in with someone’s daughter’s batch of discs from grade school in 1986. Anything is possible—Tiffany to Herb Alpert, Dokken to the Boston Pops. That is what makes record collecting exciting for me. The fishing.
BY SHAUN McGANN | Asbury Park looks like a ghost town. It’s freezing out, snow is whipping around, not sticking, but not pleasant by any means. It’s a rotten Saturday night, the kind where you might veto any plans in favor of staying in and vegging out on basic cable and re-sorting your record collection. But Asbury Lanes is stuffed to the gills, packed in tight, and buzzing for local heroes Brick + Mortar. No one cares about the weather.
However, it’s hard not to notice a Flying-V bass, especially during a fuzz-drenched sound-check, but when you see two Flying-V basses one instinctively knows it’s time to stake out a spot near the stage. The basses—there were others, a lot of others—belonged to Kid Is Qual, what I guess you’d have to call a drum-and-bass band but it doesn’t feel right doing that.
Yes, they are two bass players and a drummer, but John Sullivan, formerly of Jack’s Mannequin, and a small robot army of pedals and processors at his feet (and a voice-box on his microphone) jumped into a set that bent industrial dance synth lines and stadium-rock guitar solos—except, you know, they were on bass. Playing most of the songs off their album Damn Son with Kevin Whilouby and James Seretis holding down thick, distorted grooves, Sullivan was free to sing and shriek solos. And all of this was before Schoolly-D showed up.
By SHAUN McGANN | “It’s the holiday season…and I’m really aggravated because Atomic just closed their doors forever…” Wait. That’s not how that one goes, is it?
I guess not, but that’s the song waiting for me when I get back to the car, though I’m certainly in no mood for any Andy Williams Christmastime drivel, not after unknowingly showing up an hour late for some holiday record shopping and instead finding the doors to one of the best mom and pop record shops on the Jersey Shore, or anywhere else for that matter, locked forever.
Apparently I need to start paying more attention to Facebook because when I get home I find the following farewell in my news feed: “Atomic will be shutting its doors for good on Sunday, 12/9/12 at 6PM. Thanks to all our customers and friends for an awesome 13 years. It’s been fun!”
The latest release from the New Jersey/New York based duo of Thom Soriano and David Nagler, collectively known as Nova Social, For any Inconvenience bleeds in with the pulse of a busy signal on the track “The Hard Part” before breaking into full goth-club drums and squiggly-synth lines, letting you know exactly what to expect for the next 40 minutes.
Perhaps it’s fitting that the band has released the album on a beautifully packaged, colored 12” via their website, because we’re going back to the 80s. Well, maybe that’s not fair. There’s more going on here than jagged dance-pop about seeing a girl at the club you hope to pluck from the floor and take home to make her your own.
“The Hard Part” sees Nagler aware that he’s had it easy up until now, and he’s resigned that the good old days are gone. Change and harsh memories of those days bubble up throughout the album: whether it’s taunting the namesake of “Martin” into giving him a beating or spitting venom at a floozy in “Drunk at the Prom.” Maybe the good old days weren’t that great after all.
Other tracks are less sunny. “The Delano” is a hypnotic track about a day’s long hotel fling down by the seaside that is rudely interrupted by management, prying the couple out of the room because they can’t afford the bill. “Company Car” has the panicked-fidgety feel of wondering what a girl is up to and hoping it’s not as bad as what is in your head.
Sometimes you latch on to things. If you’re here, reading this, you probably have a serious case of vinyl attachment, but there are all kinds of psychic warm blankets to pull over yourself: music, books, comedy, movies are just a few. People? Yeah sure, but that’s a whole other article for a different magazine.
After recently pulling myself out of a depression-induced couch jag, I realized that I had probably watched the film Almost Famous 248 times in about two weeks. For some reason I found it comforting: the relatable displacement of a confused geek thrust out of his bubble and behind the curtain of the soundtrack that defined his life. All the music that is so personal becomes demystified. Ever been to a concert and look around at some of the people there and wonder what the hell you could possibly have in common with them other than the music?
Then there’s Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Lester Bangs, dishing out venerable wisdom about the withering of rock music, rock magazines, rock stars, and some of the other bright and shiny mysteries of the universe like being cool, or more importantly, being uncool.
Michael J. Fox’s rendition of “Johnny B. Goode” in 1985’s Back to the Future hooked me; at that moment, I learned about the power and fury of seminal rock ‘n roll and I have never fully recovered. Of course, it was a gentrified, Hollywood version of what Chuck Berry continued doing in 1985: still on stage and at the top of his game.
For me, the film might as well have been Alan Freed on a crackly, Bakelite radio in 1955. The soundtrack album to Back to the Future, and Fox’s duck-walking, led me and countless other 1980s adolescents to conduct further research. Who was Chuck Berry? What did the original version of “Earth Angel” sound like? It marked my first hearing of “The Wallflower (Roll With Me Henry)” and “Night Train,” a virtual rock n’ roll 101 for anyone who was paying attention.
It also led to my first brand-new, vinyl album purchase: The Best of the Best of Chuck Berry. Searching with my mom for the “B” section in the Garden State Plaza’s Sam Goody is a vivid memory that I wouldn’t trade for anything and – yes – the beaten-up copy still lives in my collection.
Are there any Crimson Sweet records in your vinyl swag? If there are, you might be the owner of a bona fide collector’s item as the band broke-up nearly three years ago, leaving their devout cult of fans teary-eyed. Over a decade ago, I personally bonded with the band over a complimentary continental breakfast in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was constantly impressed at their ability to tour Europe and the States in glorious rock ‘n roll style. Even though they were always extremely busy, whenever I saw them, their hair was consistently awesome.
Where did they go from there? It was only a glorious, rocketing upward trajectory for the group, right? Well, no. After a few more years of performing and recording, they called it quits. However, a short time ago, the group morphed into something new: 1-800-Band.
That’s right, Al Huckabee, previously Crimson Sweet’s drummer, has traded in his sticks for a Gibson Les Paul, stepped up to the mic, and wholly embraced his new front man role with aplomb. Polly Watson, Crimson Sweet’s lead singer, now deftly handles keyboard and vocals. Robbie Kongress still maintains the low end and the group has seized upon the expert drumming talents of Aaron Carroll. As Al famously says, “A good band with a bad drummer is a bad band.”
The band’s first eponymous album on Slow Gold Zebra Records, features thoughtful production that keenly matches the band’s consistently aggressive, glam and new wave-tinged, power-pop writing. Their first video / single from the album explains it all. Have a look and listen to the joyous shouting on “Would You Believe It?”