Kurt Baker Combo,
The TVD First Date

“Hi, nice to see you, you are looking wonderful! Thanks for meeting here, I really enjoy this spot. There is a good ambiance here, and oh… shit, my friend Todd is working tonight! He’s gonna take care of us.”

“Well, listen, I guess I should get this out of the way first… vinyl records have followed me throughout my entire life. Each chapter of my life has its corresponding LPs. From the very beginning, I grew up with LPs around, even though I was born in the heyday of CDs. I was pretty late when it came to the CD in terms of my peers. Growing up my parents had a turntable and tape decks in their cars. My Dad used to take me up to Enterprise Records in the early ’90s on Congress Street. They had a plastic bag tacked to the wall with a bunch of broken compact discs next to a sign that read “Our CD Selection.”

Back then vinyl was so outta style that you could find original Beatles LPs in near mint condition for under $10 bucks. I still have all those LPs that my Dad bought for me—the foundation to a still growing record collection. I’d wake up at the crack of dawn and put on the White Album and listen to it on headphones. It was a true musical experience. Heck, even in high school I’d drive around in my Mom’s ’90s Chevy. No CD player, but the tape deck sounded so nice, warm, and punchy.

Especially, “Talking In Your Sleep” by the Romantics. Their album In Heat got a lot of mileage in the car, and later when we’d have parties, the LP would stay on the turntable with everybody dancin’ non-stop. Man, the record would be skippin’ all the time, but we didn’t care. It wasn’t ‘84, but ‘09. Go figure.

I guess all I’m getting at is that CDs are the worst, and I ain’t gonna miss ’em! I’ve always preferred that analog sound that came with vinyl. It’s the real thing. Yeah, I realize that people still listen to CDs, that’s why we still press them and sell them at shows, but personally, I’m a vinyl guy. Well, anyway—would you fancy a drink?

Mmmm, that’s a nice drink. Yeah, I know—Todd makes them pretty strong. Anyway, what I was I getting at? I hope I’m not boring you. I really wanna hear about your trip to Ossipee Lake with your crazy Uncle Franklin. Never met him, but judging by the Facebook photos you are tagged with him, he sounds nuts. Sorry, I mean, I don’t, like, look at your Facebook really. Not to sound a like creep, I know this is our first date. I just was bored earlier.

Anyway—what was I saying? Oh yeah, there was a time that I wasn’t buying LPs, but it was a short one. Around the time I was 14 I discovered a little hole in the wall shop called Strange Maine. The turntable at my parents’ house was still working. It was one of those old Realistic turntables, not an expensive one, a Radio Shack brand, but man, it worked like a charm. It still friggin’ works today.

By that time I had gotten into punk rock. I was playing in a band called The Leftovers. We started in high school and had a nice run. Very Ramones, Lookout Records kinda vibe. The thing I always loved about punk rock is that it never abandoned the vinyl medium. Having a 45 or a split 7-inch was always the first thing a band would release before ever putting out a full album. So when I discovered this huge stack of 7-inch records at Strange Maine for dirt cheap, I felt like I had hit a goldmine. There was a lot of rare stuff there, and it was pretty cheap. I found lots of bootleg releases from Rancid and Green Day, stuff I’d never seen before—also some pretty gnarly thrash metal records too.

It was at Strange Maine that I also discovered a record that would change everything for me. In the 25 cent bin there was this kinda beat up copy of The Vapors’ New Clear Days. I obviously recognized the tune “Turning Japanese” from binging on Pop Up Video episodes from VH1. I took that record home and I totally flipped. I eventually started getting heavily into new wave and power pop records. It was at that store, Strange Maine, that I picked up amazing records by Paul Collins Beat, The Plimsouls, Elvis Costello, The Smithereens, Cheap Trick, The Knack, The Cars… the list goes on. All for so cheap that even a teenager in high school who worked at the public library 8 hours a week could afford it. Well, from there I gravitated as a songwriter in that direction, what I’ve been doing for the last 8 years, from my solo stuff in the States to my band in Spain. The Kurt Baker Combo is steeped in those influences whether I can escape them or not.

I’m sorry—are you hungry? Do you wanna order something? This place does really good small plates. Todd, I mean, Jesus Christ this guy just kills it. He’s a mixologist, but he’s also traveled the world doing yoga and freerunning, and he’s got a lot of input on the menu. I know 12 bucks is a bit much, but the marinated eggplant essence capers with a touch of truffle here are incredible. They give you four capers. We can split it?

So, shit ok. True story, I was down at Harpoon Willy’s in Portsmouth this one time having some beers and my friend Clint and we were talking about how great it would be to start a DJ night, Sundays at the Press Room. We would only play vinyl and 45s. Since it was Sundays, we’d call it “Soul Church.” I had been touring in Europe and had been to many rock ‘n’ roll bars where the bartenders and DJs would always spin vinyl records, and I was thinking the nightlife scene around here is really lacking a fun DJ Dance night with good music. So we started Soul Church and it was so much fun.

I’d bring down a few crates of records, Clint would bring his, and we would spin some of our favorite Motown, Stax, Northern Soul, and ’60s garage songs. I always loved listening to Oldies 100.9 on the radio, and it was usually pretty easy to find singles by The Turtles, Dave Clark Five, and The Who at second-hand shops. I really wanted to recreate the feeling of being at a rock ‘n’ roll club in Spain at 3AM in the morning with everybody dancing to songs by The Kinks or Martha Reeves or Smokey Robinson.

It was so fun doing those DJ nights, and at some point we had the Press Room packed full of people on Sunday nights, enjoying, singing, and dancing to the vinyl records that we played. I even had this one record, a compilation called Sensational Soul Vol. 3, which was all Spanish soul music—chock full of dance room ravers. We actually would put that record on, the full Side A or B, whenever it was time to take a smoke or bathroom break because every song would be full of energy and keep the party going.

The feeling of DJing with vinyl is unlike anything else. It’s just so organic. It’s almost the same feeling as playing a concert because you are so involved in the process—cueing the record up, then getting the next one on deck—totally involved in the music and the party. I miss those nights. So much fun. In fact, there’s a song on the new album, Let’s Go Wild! I just released, called “Yesterday Today”—it’s got a northern soul vibe to it. Well, if you’re interested, I’ll play it for you sometime.

See, I told you these marinated eggplant essence capers with a touch of truffle are the fucking shit! Oh, yeah, it reminds you of spanish 0lives from Whole Foods? Haha, yeah I can see that. Well, actually, I finally made the move to Spain about five years ago. I’m back here in the States just for a couple of days, but I mean if you like where this date is going, we can always have the next one in Madrid? Oh… I see, I see. Ok, well… Do you want me to ask for the check? Hey, Todd! He looks busy anyway.

The vinyl shops in Spain are a bit expensive, much more so than the States. That’s why I love coming back home. Whenever the KB Combo are on tour I always try to buy as many LPs as I can. When I moved to Spain though, the first thing I did was try to find an electrical adaptor to plug in this Crosley portable turntable that I had packed in my suitcase. Man, those things don’t sound good at all, but I was couch surfing back then so it was the least I could have.

When I first arrived, I immersed myself in Spanish music from the ’80s, “La Movida,” as they call it. Great records from Tequila, Nacha Pop, Rubi y Los Casinos, even some metal bands like Baron Rojo and Obus. The sound and vibe of that music was so fitting for an exciting new start. There are a ton of great record shops in Madrid. I guess I just really love record shops. You can hang out in those places for hours, and if the owner is cool you might even be able to take a beer with him.

There is this one shop in Madrid, my favorite—Escridiscos. Sometimes we even do acoustic shows there. I guess you could say that record shops keep the heart of rock ‘n’ roll beating. If it weren’t for them, we wouldn’t have anything. I’m getting kinda misty eyed… and you are looking so bored. I guess, you probably wanna know what the last record I bought was. Well, it’s called Piano by Benny Andersson. Yeah, that guy from ABBA. It’s actually a really nice and calm record. I love jazz and classical stuff. Been listening to a lot of those records lately…

Oh, you have to go meet your friend now? Ok! So, can I see you again? I really wanna hear about Uncle Franklin’s fishing trip. Oh? No? Okay, I totally understand. Well, nice to meet you. Bye.

Hey, Todd!”
Kurt Baker

Kurt Baker Combo’s Let’s Go Wild is in stores now via Wicked Cool Records—on vinyl.

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