Steve Barton,
The TVD First Date

“It is nearly impossible for me to pinpoint just one particular vinyl album that got the ball rolling for me.”

“My parents, although artists in their own rights (both were actors), were not deeply into music. That said, I do remember original cast recordings for Broadway musicals being played quite a lot at home on the turntable. Oliver, Flower Drum Song, Sound Of Music, and more. I loved those! Even as a child I can vividly recall loving the sound of the production on those albums. Of course, I had no idea what “production” meant in terms of records, but there was something about the 3-D aspect of the listening experience with those soundtrack albums that really got to me.

I also have a deep recollection of holding the Frank Sinatra Songs For Swinging Lovers album cover in my little hands while standing in the den, the room where the hi-fi system was kept. I totally dug the size and vibe of the cover. There were several 78 rpm records around as well, remnants from my parents’ younger days. The weird tinny, scratchy sound from those discs was really cool to my childhood ears.

However, I will try to nail it down to one album. The Beatles were a new band, at least, a new band to kids in America. Hell, before they came to New York for the Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964, they had already played the Royal Command Performance in London. They were absolutely huge in the UK and Europe.

One day, I was standing in the dining room in the front of the house I grew up in. My dad came through the front door (I swear that I can still see this scene in my mind). He had a surprise for his 9-year old son. I held out my hands and he gave me a brand new copy of the Vee-Jay Records release called Introducing The Beatles. The red/brown/sepia toned cover, a full-bleed photo of the band wearing fab brown suits with black collars and black around the sleeves, was stunning to me.

I’d never really seen anything like it before. Their hair was impossibly long. They looked like they came from Mars—and they looked undeniably fucking cool. Of course, I didn’t realize that it was really the songs from their first UK Parlophone album, Please, Please Me or that Capital wasn’t sure about releasing their records in the US at all, hence the Vee-Jay release. I took the album in my hands and asked my dad, “Does it have ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’?” That was their current Number One single. We turned it over and saw that the song was NOT on the album. I was dejected and pouted—hey, I was 9!

I could immediately see that he felt wounded by my reaction. His expression of hurt feelings stayed with me for many many years. My own feelings of disappointment over that song’s omission were short-lived, however. Putting the needle down on side one provided the visceral mono life changing shout of Paul McCartney’s “1, 2, 3, 4!!” to start off “I Saw Her Standing There.” And a song called “Misery”?!? This was just all too much. Even as a kid, “There’s A Place” was such a mind-blowing song. I wasn’t the only person who had a place in my mind where I could go! I suddenly wasn’t alone. These guys spoke to me. Lennon’s vocal on “Twist And Shout,” the final song on the LP, sealed the deal.

I had loved music up until that day for sure. I used to entertain the other kids on the playground in elementary school with parodies of hit songs of the day. And I remember one of my jokes at the time: “You know how Elvis is called ‘Elvis The Pelvis?’ Well, have you heard of his brother Enis?” My audience on the benches by the handball court in the hot outdoor sunshine would howl with laughter. But once The Beatles arrived in my life, and not to sound like a cliché, but especially after the Ed Sullivan Show, everything was different. The next day in school it was like we had gone through the looking-glass. Or at least like I had. I think that something happened to me on a molecular level—something that fundamentaly altered me forever more.

To this day, I still love albums. I still love staring at album covers and digging into the music. Once The Beatles were no more, David Bowie splashed into my teenage brain/soul. I was consumed by the Hunky Dory album cover, looking at it for hours on end as the other-worldly music washed over me. P.J. Harvey’s To Bring You My Love album and cover took me away to another place. So did Love From London by Robyn Hitchcock—another fabulous album cover to get lost in as tremendous music floats from the speakers (how this wasn’t Album Of The Year when it came out is beyond me).

The painting that Brandi Carlile had commissioned for the cover of her latest, By The Way, I Forgive You, has the haunting quality that I saw when I was 9 years old in that dining room all those years ago. It makes me want to listen to the music. See, that feeling of joy and discovery that comes from records is still alive and well as far as I’m concerned. Maybe I was thinking about all of this when I wrote the line “sometimes I wish that I was 9 years old again” in my Translator song, “Necessary Spinning”—and I always thought that the “spinning” in that song was about the game of Statues that children play where they spin around and around and then freeze in place as statues!

Maybe it was actually about Introducing The Beatles spinning around and around on a turntable. Yeah, I’m going with that. Necessary. Spinning. Forever.”
Steve Barton

Translator frontman, Steve Barton’s seventh solo release Tall Tales And Alibis arrives in stores March 2, 2018.

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PHOTO: JOHN HALLEY

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