The Schramms,
The TVD First Date

“It all started with Mitch Miller. That’s my best guess.”

“My parents had this massive, hulking hi-fi console in the living room. More sideboard than record player. Lift the top to discover turntable. Stash of long players tucked beside. Many of them Sing Along With Mitch albums, that Columbia A&R man turned TV host. I was fascinated by the mechanism of the phonograph, and probably less so by those sounds, though a seven-year old is less discriminating. There were also records produced by the Longines Symphonette Society, and a box set of big band sides. I liked Artie Shaw. Still do. Nightmare!! I was also fascinated by this cutting edge technology—the turntable had one of those stacking spindles. Load up four or five LPs at a time. Whirr, click, drop, slide like a worn clutch plate onto the disc below.

This machine could also spin at the accelerated speed of 78 rpm, and there were some of those discs as well, most notably two by my grandfather, Dmitri Potochak. He played clarinet and had a polka band, just successful enough to record two discs, one on Okeh and one on Columbia. Wish I knew where they were today.

Then there were my big sister’s 45s. Beatles, Lesley Gore, Petula Clark. Played those on her big spindle changer. Instant playlist. Later, when I got around to my first LP purchase at the local department store, it was Revolver. This was something like a graduation. Soon Revolver was followed by Aftermath, and Fifth Dimension (Byrds album, not the group) and oh yeah, Freak Out! Eventually there were more Stones records, and Safe as Milk, Strictly Personal, and We’re Only In It For The Money, an album whose cover particularly horrified my mother. Most of the earnings from my paper route went to records. One exception was a used $35 Univox hollow body.

In college I bought a second-hand AR turntable and kept going through Exile on Main St. (an album which provoked hours and hours of intense headphone listening) to My Aim is True and The Blank Generation and McCoy Tyner, and then the 45 rpm became a thing all over again. “Little Johnny Jewel” and “Jail Guitar Doors.” “Uptown Top Ranking” and “What Do I Get?” Suddenly singles were flooding into brand new shabby little record shops from all directions, a lot of them with that little hole rather than the big one. And now I knew people who were making records. If not long players, at least 45s and EPs.

Back in New York after college my vinyl immersion went into overdrive. I started working at a store on Broadway and Waverly Place called Record City, owned by eccentric music lover (and one time ESP-disk artist—see Godzundheit) Rob Friedman. Rob taught me much about R&B and Country and “World Music” and Gospel. But the records taught me even more. His store carried just about every little independent label you could think of and many you could not. So Fela and George Jones and Ras Michael and Jerry Byrd and Alvin Robinson and Bert Berns revealed themselves.

Used to be you could find out so much essential info just by reading the album cover or the 45 label, all without having to squint. Who wrote the song. Who produced it. Who recorded it. Many of the same names kept popping up, so that was educational. Eventually I ended up managing the massive singles department in the basement, where we had acres of 45 rpms going back into the fifties. Seems like I spent half my salary on records back then. But I still have all those singles. And all the long players. Bought a Technics SLD-1, which was, I guess, somewhat of an upgrade from the AR.

For a while I manned the used record department where I evaluated the condition and value of people’s unwanted LPs and 45s. One day David Byrne approached my desk, stack of crisp looking vinyl under his arm. As it happened they were mostly Brian Eno records. He was wistfully disappointed in the figure I quoted, but took the cash. I expect they were extra copies, right?

When Record City closed, that was a sad day. There was a dumpster parked out front, filled with Josie singles. Seemed like every Meters record ever made. Hundreds of Cissy Struts sliding around under the feet of the determined, disbelieving record-geeks-turned-dumpster-divers. I think my record collecting took a nosedive too. It at least slowed to a crawl.

And then I travelled over to the other side of the records. The flip side. I recorded some singles and then an LP with Yo La Tengo. That first one, Ride the Tiger. Discovered I was on a Human Switchboard bootleg, and then found myself recording and releasing the first Schramms record on Rough Trade/Okra. I agonized over my first test pressings without really understanding what I was agonizing about. Then suddenly there were compact discs. We still released vinyl for a few years, but eventually that faded away. Most of the recordings I played on never made it to vinyl, but some did. I started to neglect the long players and singles. My shelves full of records were still there, but I started living more and more in the digital world.

Now we have this new record, and while it comes in all those digital forms, we are also back on vinyl. Once again I agonized over the test pressings. I dusted off the old Technics, treated myself to a new cartridge and phono preamp. This time I sort of knew what to agonize about. Evaluations completed, I suddenly realized I had all the tools I needed to get reaquainted with all those shelves full of records. Nice.”
David Schramm

The Schramms’ brand new release Omnidirectional is in stores now via Bar/None Records—on vinyl.

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  • Ken C

    The image of hundreds of Meters records tossed into a dumpster is painful!

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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