Talk Normal:
The TVD First Date

“If you don’t have this on vinyl, you should get it.”

“Lou Reed’s “Street Hassle” (the song) is a game-changer. Hearing it led me to the killer album of the same name… but there’s such enormous magic in this song. I’ve felt that almost every time I’ve heard it (in all of its 11 minute glory), only occasionally dulled by the presence of (unworthy?) company.

Maybe 5 songs have stopped me in my tracks upon first hearing, and I’ll rank this #2. I was in the process of restoring the original analog tape from the late ’70s, and I hit play… and could hardly move. And this was during a busy workday, though I was alone in the room.

There’s that mental break, where you hear/see/read something that’s right, and has been missing – but you didn’t know it till then, and you’re unbelievably lifted, filled, grounded, and incredibly sobered simultaneously.

And it wasn’t just the shocking story, with heavily weighted language used casually yet seriously. The music, oh the music. My heart aches just thinking about it. I can hardly say more without diminishing it.

And, Bruce (Springsteen) ain’t bad either! It gives me a special thrill to hear him join in (not in comparison to Lou’s voice, just in addition). What a moment in time, what a recording. And Lou always means stuff when he sings it, but here you’re so deeply lost in him. His nuances are your nuances, his pain is all of our pain – it shivers through every part of your body. To me this song is untouchable. It deserves to be listened to from start to finish without being tempted to fast forward or skip around – and what better way to make the listening experience hands-off and intimate than vinyl.”

“It’s funny, cause I was more a part of the CD generation than vinyl. My early musical experiences came forth more often from busted up cassettes, burnt CDs, a lot of MTV and some radio. BUT despite my multiple formats, vinyl was very present in my formative years although it was unusual that i purchase it myself.”

“In fact, I had four specific collections from which to chose. There was my older brother of 8 years who left his collection at home when he went off to college (and only recently did he make me give them back), my father, my mother, and my grandfather. There were multiple turntables in my house considering all the three kids got some sort of stereo system for their 14th birthday. I knew I needed playing options so I got one with dual cassettes, a cheap turntable and a sold separate CD player. I spent a lot of time in my room, half the time of my own volition and the other my parents’. So there was a lot of listening. Here are four records from each of the aforementioned collections to which I took a great liking:

Roberta Flack – First Take (My Mother) | This album may be one of my favorites. The thing is my mom was way into the folkies, ala Joan Baez and Judy Collins (not my thing). Now I had vaguely heard of Roberta but truly knew nothing. And then I listened. I was shocked and so proud that my mother owned it. Everybody knows “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.” A stunning classic for a reason. Those lyrics were so good. I don’t think I ever understood this until recently when a Colin Langenus covered it at an acoustic barbecue.

But it was more “I Told Jesus” and “Angelitos Negros” that got me. Both were totally haunting in different ways. I think these songs may be the first time I was given complete pause (and goose bumps) when listening. And then there was “Compared to What”—great bass line. Plus, “Our Ages or Our Hearts,” which magically brought me to Donny Hathaway. I love Donny Hathaway.

The Great Band Era 1936-1945 (My Grandfather) | This was a box set, vinyl compilation of jazz big bands. Lots of Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and so many more. My grandfather had a bunch of big band records but this box set contained most of the memorable hits and came with nine vinyl in the set. This may have been the precipice for my attempt to have a “jazz phase.”

Not sure if it was the nostalgia, or the woodwinds, or maybe the coy scripted conversations mid song between the big band leader and the featured front woman. Very amusing. And it was all just so charming. Record #2 was my favorite. “These Foolish Things” done by Benny Goodman with Helen Ward on vocals was one track to which I played over and over again. I’ve heard many other versions since although this remains a very special one.

Pixies, Surfer Rosa (My Brother) | My brother played a huge role in my musical tastes (Dinasaur. Jr, Sonic Youth, The Clash, David Bowie, Fugazi, Burning Spear to name a few). Huge. This is just one of the many albums he left under my and my sister’s watch. I picked this one because it was actually in his vinyl collection. Plus the topless flamenco lady poster was on our bathroom door for at least a decade.

I’m not sure I even feel like I want to explain why it’s so good. Or rather, fantastic. This album was fucking fantastic (especially to a 14/15 year old). It seems bigger than my articulation skills can handle at this minute. I never gravitated towards playing the bass, but I did ask my brother to teach me the bass line to “Gigantic.”

Aretha Franklin, Aretha’s Gold (My Dad) | Now this album, unlike the Roberta Flack in my mom’s collection, wasn’t as shocking of a find in my Dad’s collection. Keep in mind he owned like, every Beatles album and danced around the house to the Stones at the most random hours of the day. And of course Bob Dylan. I liked that stuff. Or rather I tried to like that stuff. The Stones are at my core but the Beatles were always a little too bubblegum. Dylan I respected but could never truly enter his world.

Back to Aretha… obviously I had heard of her and knew the hits. But this album made me realize the bitch had balls. And the lyrics were rather brassy. Like uhm, “I got me a man named Doctor Feelgood… That man takes care of all my pains and ills…The man sure makes me feel real……..GOOOOD.” Total racy implications whether about drugs or sex or whatever. Plus this is the first time I may have paid attention to the backing vocals. So beautiful.

The chorus riff on “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” kills me. Again, I was 14 and not looking for love but “I Ain’t Never Loved A Man (The Way I Loved You)” was probably the first song that made me want to have a boyfriend, just so I could listen to this song when we broke up.”

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