Don DiLego,
The TVD First Date

“Western Massachusetts in the late ’70s and ’80s was not exactly the center of the musical universe. I grew up in the mountains of the Berkshires, and getting your hands on a new release took some serious planning.”

“Step 1 – Figure out the release date of the album in question. Now today, this may seem ridiculous considering the ubiquitous nature of information and your almost INABILITY to avoid it. But “way back then,” you had to earn it. Somehow, usually via the radio, you’d hear mention of a new record from your favorite band. The mission would grow from there.

Step 2 – Build your alliances and acquisition network. That’s right. If you wanted that copy of the new album on the day it came in, you’d need to have a couple of alliances at local music stores. You definitely needed to know them by name! There was often a “list” that they would keep of people looking for the first copies that came in, so you’d want to plant the seed early. Having a small army of like-minded passionate music pals helped immensely because they may know someone you don’t.

Step 3 – Ditch school early and get to the record shop on release day. Man, I feel so old saying that, seeing as though there is ZERO reason for this anymore! All things being digital, and pre-order, etc. You don’t need to go ANYWHERE! But back then, like I said, you had to earn that record. It took some serious and methodical planning.

Ok, so I’m applying a bit of a grandiose license to this recollection, but the main point here, is that the records meant more because you were truly and physically invested in their acquisition. Looking back, they are some of my fondest memories. My vinyl collection grew at an early age, not because it was cool, but because that’s what the format was…until cassette.

Cassettes are a much maligned format, and deservedly so. Noisy, and eventually with the god-forsaken Dolby feature. BUT…some of my greatest musical memories exist from the mix tapes I made on them from those vinyl records. Again, today, your entire musical collection is on your phone, with you at all times. But as a kid, you had to make careful consideration when going on a family vacation or trip. Which albums would make the cut? Because, and this was important, your carrying case could ONLY take 10 cassettes. That’s right. You’re looking at about 10-15 records, less if you are bringing mix tapes in the bunch. So again, you were deeply invested in those albums you were buying and choosing to PHYSICALLY drag with you. You put real thought into which ones would carry you through the day.

So as I’m writing this I’m trying to think what records best represent themselves in my collection, and somehow make a statement about me. This is dodgy territory. Music always is in that way. We all want to be “cool” and accepted as purveyors of good if not great taste. This is why, 10 out of 10 people will say “I love Radiohead” to anyone who asks. Somehow that establishes a bulk head to which their “lesser” choices are inoculated. Now, I happen to like Radiohead myself (see below), but EVERYone universally likes non-melodic songs in odd time signatures?? Does Donald Trump like Radiohead?

With that, here are the records that I think best represent my own personal passion for albums and their wayward effect on my own music. There are always going to be revolving favorites and those that burn bright for a short time but somehow disappear into the netherworld of your collection. But these 5 albums (and one 45) have pestered me always, and I am confident they will end up one day, in the hands of whoever is responsible for the junk I’ve left behind on this earth when I’m gone. Hopefully, they will get from them at least a quarter of what I have. I should say that I desperately wanted to limit this to like 2 or 3 records, but nope. Not possible. Sorry TVD and those that may be still reading. (Do people read anymore??)

Album Zero: “Rhinestone Cowboy” 45 by Glenn Campbell – There are 2 irrefutable facts concerning this record. One, that it is the first one I ever owned. Two – that it was given to me by my dad from the jukebox in his bar. You can imagine the emotional attachment I have from either one of those elements, let alone both. Receiving that 45 as a kid was mythical. I mean, it was IN the jukebox! I still get choked up hearing this song.

Album One: Wilco, Being There – Changed my life. Obviously, these guys have made many stellar records, and I go back and forth between what is my favorite at any given time. But Being There was, quite simply, a game-changer for me. It halted any musical direction I was moving in and put a bright spotlight on where I wanted to go. I’m sure I would not be the only one. But for the first time in that lifelong struggle of “who am I” as a musician, this record represented my “aha!” moment. Now, I’m not silly enough to make any claims that I’ve managed to approach what I consider the simple and perfect brilliance of this album, but I can claim that is represented a beacon that I’ve been chasing ever since. The only reason that Harvest Moon bests it as my singular desert island album (for now), is that being left alone with this record might just very well depress the hell out of me competitively. I don’t need to be reminded that someone already perfected a genre! I just recently got the re-issued 180gram version of this. Oooooh, so good!

Album Two: Neil Young, Harvest Moon – To be clear, NOT Harvest, which is of course a fine album unto itself. But Harvest Moon may very well be my top singular desert island album. I cannot even remotely imagine the total number of times I have listened to this record, or my life without having heard it. If I am not mistaken, I think that I literally start off every record I am making or producing by at some point uttering the sweeping statement, “we should do something like Harvest Moon.” The title track is one of the most gorgeous rock recordings ever in this humble musician’s estimation. The influence of this record on me cannot be overstated.

Album Three: Talk Talk, Spirit of Eden – Upon it’s release, it was reviewed at the time as “”the kind of record which encourages marketing men to commit suicide.” (Yes, I researched this). This perfectly represents, I imagine, the EXACT reaction the band’s leader Mark Hollis had in mind when making the record, which was no less than a 180 degree turn from their previous work. Honestly, I cannot point to a band of their ilk, essentially a new wave British band, that so re-imagined their sound as to basically become an unrecognizable shell of themselves. And it’s magical. If you take away ONE thing from this over-bloated column of mine, it’s that your record collection NEEDS this album…badly. Part improvised jazz, part rock, part noise experiment, it has become many a record collector’s cult favorite (along with its’ successor Laughing Stock), and pretty much imploded their career. Time, however, has proved kind to how this record is viewed. It’s a vinyl must.

Album Four: Radiohead, OK Computer – Perhaps the best album ever to most successfully straddle the line between art and commercial accessibility. I was already a Radiohead fan at the time, but was just beginning to really discover my identity as a musician. This record, quite simply, BLEW MY MIND. Still does today. Every single song on it feels like a lifetime achievement. Honestly, these guys get enough praise, I will leave it at that.

Album Five: Duran Duran, Duran Duran – Their pre-MTV fame first album. Certainly, this is my unabashed anti-Radiohead selection. Say what you will about them, but they’ve somehow managed to be a successful touring band for almost 40 years now. It’s insane for a band of this type I think, especially coming out of the glamour and pop of the ’80s. But that first record was raw, progressive, and represented something we weren’t hearing on American radio. They also introduced me to the “imported vinyl” world, as many of their releases early on were not available in the US. I think the record store guys actually liked me because they liked the challenge of tracking these down and getting them in. The vinyl hunt. I can confidently say they definitely did NOT like the band! But they appreciated my passion and due diligence. Honestly, this record holds up today, and is the one I’ll always point to when they come up.”
Don DiLego

Don DiLego’s Magnificent Ram A is in stores now—on vinyl.
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