“Records were the first thing I clearly remember loving, and I don’t think it started out having anything to do with music; I was so young, I’m not sure I completely understood that records were a vehicle for delivering music, initially, but I sure was instantly attracted to them for some reason. I think they seemed like ultra-modern, shiny, great smelling, non-flying saucers to me; I know I couldn’t get enough of ’em. I used to draw with pencils on my parents records much to their chagrin. And I used to call them ‘yecords.'”
“Back then, in the early fifties, records—especially kids’ records—really were pretty wild. Not only was there different colors of vinyl, there were also brilliantly illustrated records (the ones I always remember most were a collection of Winnie the Pooh records—78s, apparently, in baby blue with yellow at the edges, and fabulous, pre-Disney illustrations on the actual vinyl, it seemed, tho it was actually paper, covered by some kind of clear vinyl-ish thing—MAGIC!) Of course, all the art back then was amazing (“Sparky’s Magic Piano”, “Rusty in Orchestraville”—it seemed like the Capitol stuff always looked the best.)
They even had animated kids’ records (in this case made by a company called Red Robin), where you’d put a little carousel with mirrors on your spindle, and an image printed on the record itself would be animated in the mirrors.
The very first record I managed to purloin was a green, square, cardboard record I got free at a hardware store about how to lay linoleum floor tiles; no doubt a very proud moment.
If I was perhaps a little unsure at first about the music part of records. I don’t think it took me long to catch on, and I’d be surprised if my first allowance was spent on anything else. Certainly, I spent my first thirty years or so at least as a complete vinyl junkie, and to this day Christmas seems relatively dull without the presence of those square, flat packages that could only be—RECORD ALBUMS! Nothing thrilled me more.
First purchases I remember were usually novelty records (which I guess in retrospect kind of set the tone for me): David Seville’s “The Witch Doctor” (a pre-curser to the Chipmunks, which I also scooped up; was always very snotty about Chipmunks rip-offs like the Nutty Squirrels, even though many of my colleagues think they’re hip, and maybe they are, but fuck that jazz shit anyway!) And Sheb Wooley’s “Purple People Eater” and Betty Johnson’s “The Little Blue Man” and Johnny Horten’s “Battle of New Orleans” and the Buchanan and Goodman “Flying Saucer” records and and and… and then early rock ‘n’ roll records, which at the time seemed just as wild and other worldly as the novelty records—Elvis and the Big Bopper and Jerry Lee and the Everly Brothers and the Chordettes—all white guys of course because I lived in Wilton, CT., but still, crazy, eye-opening stuff. And then Gene Chandler’s “Duke of Earl” and the Platters and Little Richard and omigod Chuck Berry. Actually he made the first wave for me, “Reelin & Rockin” and “Johnny B. Goode” and all that stuff, whose One Dozen Berries was the first album I ever bought. Oh man, these were all EVENTS! That Sun label on those 45s: mecca!
And a babysitter I had a crush on who had boxes of 45s, omigod, and casually let me see her breasts once and took me and my sister Debbie to a drag race, which was scary and crazy and we didn’t know what to think! And then Skeeter Davis, who taught me I could love it when my heart broke. I used to have a large, brown wood record player / radio combo, no doubt a hand-me-down from my parents, that I actually slept on more than once, up in my room.
And all my folks’ records too—broadway shows and Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra and eventually all the great comedy albums, first Tom Lehrer and then Shelley Berman, Jonathan Winters, Bob Newhart, the First Family, Nichols & May, Allan Sherman, Beyond the Fringe…even the Temperance Seven, Noel Coward, and Blossom Dearie (which they would put on well after our bedtime, when they were toasted and had friends over, loud as hell, mishandling them terribly and forgetting about the extension speakers in the kids’ rooms…
Then I’d just be hanging around in record stores, no doubt bothering the shit out of people in New Canaan and the Darien. And then there was larceny: they used to sell bags of 45s at the Grand Union, a big grocery store at the Goodwive’s shopping mall in Darien, and some of those records were sound-alike recordings made by imposters, but they were really cheap, and they were RECORDS so what the hell? And then I lost my mind for about 6 months and stole the Grand Union blind with my friend Ned, to the point that I think the two of us actually put the little record section out of business—certainly—it disappeared promptly, and I always like to think that Ned and I had something to do with it.
And I became a fan of labels and producers and anything that had to do with records… and the vinyl was so good, in every size, shiny, smelled beautiful, the covers were great, they cost $2.99 for normal new ones. You’d go to the city and find even greater record stores, and eventually to England where you could still play the records in the stores in the little booths like you used to be able to early in my youth in the states. And then the Beach Boys and the Smothers Brothers and Ray Charles and stereos! Big, large stereos, wait-til’-you-hear-the-bass-
And then the Beatles, Stones, Motown, Stax, Who, Kinks, Aretha—y’know, the motherlode of the British Invasion and those struggling somehow to compete with it, during which I died and went to heaven and it’s all been downhill ever since. Broke my hear when they finally got me to switch to CDs, godammit, and I know they’re just toying with me about vinyl making a comeback. I mean, I guess it’s true, but my heart just can’t take it.
Made some records about records over the years, if you’re interested: the Incredible Casuals liked Men & Volts’ song “Records Go Round” so much we recorded it twice, on each of our first two albums, “That’s That” and “Your Sounds”; also a couple of songs for my friend Belinda’s series of records about records for Record Store Day, “Still Wanna Make a Record” from “The Petite Seven Inch Record” (credited to the Chandler Travis Philharmaniacs) and the Catbirds’ “Playin’ Records” from “Eponymously Entitled.”
Never loved any non-living creatures as much as records, and surely never will.”
Chandler Travis Philharmonic’s Waving Kissyhead Vol. 2 & 1 is in stores now.