Once in a while, I feel like something’s going on that I’m not getting. In the words of Elvis’s second greatest hits package, “50 million fans can’t be wrong.”
Avalon, Roxy Music.
The wife and I are obsessed with the TV show Doc Martin. Can’t get enough of it. We’re on the 6th season, and it just keeps getting better and better. And that more or less goes for just about anything we’ve seen recently from the BBC. Don’t know much about how they function, but it seems like there’s some kind of stipulation in project contracts stating characters must look, sound, and act like real people. Doc, played by Martin Clunes, is best described as homely and doesn’t suffer fools; his wife is pleasantly attractive and talented, definitely not a Barbie bimbo; Bert, who can’t cook to save his life, weighs more than Haystacks Calhoun; and Bert’s son and business partner is the twin of one my most beloved grade partners (yet another reason why I’m hooked, I miss the guy). In short, they’re real.
Furry Murray, also known as the Murray Man, nicknames courtesy Kevin Luhpotto, because he most probably didn’t have the equipment upstairs to come up with anything better (just for the record, at age 8, Kevin introduced me to the whole concept of junking via a visit to a car graveyard where we found unopened flat top cans of Budweiser underneath the seats of an early ’60s Ford Falcon. Nice! After that find, we went back to his house where his mother served us pancakes drenched with Ms. Butterworth’s syrup. Being a Log Cabin man, I couldn’t take that, so I called my mom to pick me up asap. I mention all this to let you know that my picky dick credentials were already formed and firmly established)/age 17/plays varsity baseball/musical equipment: Cortez Strat copy/major influences: the Beach Boys, Bruce Springsteen, and Elvis Costello.
Jo, also known as Jojo, nicknames courtesy me for no specific reasons whatsoever/age 17/plays varsity basketball/known for his good looks and strut/musical equipment: kick drum, kick pedal, snare, floor tom, and a 16-inch crash cymbal, manufacturer unknown/major influences: the Gap Band and Styx.
E. Pluribus Gergely, also known as Weed, sarcastic nickname courtesy Furry Murray (Why? Call me the cautious Paul McCartney of the power trio. I didn’t want to waste my entry into the world of ganja via a keg party with a bunch of rednecks in a cornfield. I was looking forward to some arty kind of thing I thought might happen when I got to college)/age 17/ class clown/musical equipment: Fender Duo Sonic guitar and Peavey Classic amplifier/major influences: Beatles, Stones, and thanks to the Murray Man, Elvis Costello.
And let it be said that there would be no Vandals if there was no Elvis Costello.
Allow me to illustrate.
Setting: Junior year at Boiling Spring High School, Boiling Springs PA, spring 1982.
While making a pit stop at my locker where the stench is ungodly (within the locker are uneaten paper bag lunches piled under damp gym towels, books, papers, half assed completed projects for art, home economics, industrial arts, etc.), Murray comes up to me with two albums in his hand: Elvis Costello’s My Aim is True and This Year’s Model. Very unsettling. First off, Murray’s a sports guy. Sports guys don’t listen to that stuff. The Cars, Petty, the Greg Kihn Band…that was all fine and dandy, but not Elvis Costello. Elvis Costello was punk rock. Second, Murray doesn’t seem to care one whit about showing the albums to me, even though he’s surrounded by his sports posse. “Weed, ya gotta listen to …”
No way in hell was that going to happen. On the album covers, Costello looked not unlike one of the Sex Pistols, a group I heard about on late night news, who continually threatened the livelihoods of just about everyone in England. “That’s really not for me.”
“Hey man, I always listen to the stuff you give me to…”
He had a point. “Alright, alright, just give me the albums. I’ll call you later tonight.”
Up in my bedroom, around 9 at night or so, after a glass of wine and a chapter of The Case of the Drowning Duck, by Erle Stanley Gardner (my taste for Perry Mason and booze happened around the same time), I give in, flop This Year’s Model on my Dual turntable, crank up the volume on my Pioneer receiver, and get walloped by the sound blasting out of my JBLs. (Money well spent from my first job washing dishes at Rillo’s.) Jesus Christ Almighty! All it took was about 30 seconds of “No Action” and I was ready to begin my new life as Costello’s most devoted apostle.
During these difficult times, it’s always a pleasure to know that relief is right around the corner via a back porch dinner with those you love, namely, the “I promise to love you no matter how much of an asshole you are now or will become in the not so distant future” wife; my sister, whose saved my ass on countless occasions; and her husband, one of those Survivor types who can do and get through anything and still have a sense of humor. Last Saturday night’s dinner was especially noteworthy because Supertramp Syndrome was finally fine tuned. It all began when Supertramp’s “Logical Song” reared its ugly head in the middle of a fairly pleasant playlist that featured a lot of surprisingly good ’70s stuff. Tem seconds into the thing was all it took to bring on a plethora of horrible feelings: physical discomfort, embarrassment, shame, etc. Hence, Supertramp Syndrome.
One of my great joys in life is the poker game and all that it entails: spending time with wickedly funny friends, getting polluted, gorging myself with delicious unhealthy food (kielbasa sandwiches; stiff, salty potato chips), listening to choice music (London Calling, The Harder They Come, 12 x 5, etc.), and most importantly, if everything goes just right, experiencing the Blue Velvet-like thrill of having everyone’s money in my pocket at the end of the night.
It was one during one of these poker sessions that our severely stoned ring leader (who has chosen to remain nameless because he’s a wuss) brought this up after landing a Jack between a deuce and a King during a lengthy Acey Deucy round that netted him a pot of about 50 bucks: “You know what? I’d give all this away right now and everything in the bank if I could go back in time to see one of those early Ramones CBGBs shows, where they played with Television, Suicide, that early version of Blondie…Can you imagine seeing something like that? Jesus!”
The actual music that came out of the CBGBs scene was really not my cup of tea, but the stories surrounding it were a whole ‘nother matter. I too would have loved to have been there. Would it have been worth emptying my bank account? In that state of mind during the poker game? Maybe. Seeing the Preludin-fueled Beatles at the Star Club in Hamburg in 1962 with a recently added Ringo? Absolutely and positively. To be at the front of the stage, guzzling that elixir like German lager with Lady Gergely in tow, in our late teens (with a guarantee that we would somehow or another be able to return to the present in one piece), watching them tear through “I’m Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry,” “Red Sails in the Sunset,” “Too Much Monkey Business,” etc, marveling at Lennon’s ability to insult the Germans continually, not caring one whit about any kind of consequences, and just plain being in the thick of that “anything goes” magic environment of locals, sailors, exis, mobsters, prostitutes, transvestites, etc, would without a doubt be worth the trip to the bank. With all that in mind, I now ask you: If the opportunity presented itself, which big music event would be worth seeing at the expense of a secure job, marriage, retirement fund, you name it?
In second grade, I discovered 12 X 5 in the attic of a friend’s house during a not-so-interesting sleepover. While my buddy and his parents slept (they were heavy drinkers and always passed out early), I wandered around their museum-like house. Anyone’s good stuff was always in the basements and attics. Unfortunately, the basement was off limits because about a fourth of it was flooded, so I headed for the attic. It was teeming with hippie stuff that his older sisters left behind when they moved out: black-light posters, games like “Kerplunk” and “Shenanigans,” ripped up copies of Creem magazine, and best of all, LOTS of records, the highlight being one with a cover featuring the band members’ faces semi-buried in dark lighting. They looked like well-dressed thugs. Printed in the corner of the cover was the word “London.” Man, this was a real find. This thing came all the way from London! Somehow or another, I managed to get it out of the house and home to my white and orange General Electric record player. One spin, and that’s all it took. Each and every visit to the turntable delivered like a roller-coaster ride. From that day on, it was Rolling Stones 24/7, including dreams, night after night, in which I hung out with them, knowing they were probably up to a lot of stuff that was really, really bad, but disregarding all that because just being in their company was such a thrill. Simply put, they were sooooooo cool!
Ever have one of those days when just about everything sucks from sun up to sun down? I had one of ’em about a month ago.
It all began at around 8:00 in the morning, on a day when my adorable little brats were staying overnight at my mother-in-law’s condo. I was reading an e-mail from one of my eBay customers, who purchased and recently received a Frank Sinatra Reprise reel to reel tape of the LP That’s Life. When I listed the auction, I test-played the tape, and it sounded superb. It was purchased in a lot of still-sealed reel to reel tapes. That said, the tape was not to his liking. Take a look at this shit:
When I went to play this tape, I found that it suffers from severe edge curl that results in excessive wow/flutter and dropouts. Even my Teac X-2000, which can compensate for a lot of tape issues, has troubling playing it. I know you played these tapes and found that they played well on your R2R deck, but I experienced some problems playing them on my deck. I notice that the tape suffers from edge curl on one side of the tape and, even though the dual capstan drive mechanism on my deck can compensate for some of that, it could not completely overcome it on the first tape. I can also see that there is visible tape wear on both tapes which may be responsible for the high level of hiss and static noises I hear in the left channel.