I GOT OUT OF THAT BUSINESS
Record reviewer. Oh sure, it helped me accumulate more than 7,000 LPs. A wonderful thing if you were a music fanatic in the Dark Ages before all music was just a click away. So much to choose from, to suit exactly the mood I was in, the artist and the particular album I wanted to hear.
Of course with that many you had to alphabetize them. By genre. And there came the rub.
Is the Reggae Philharmonic Orchestra really reggae, just with additional classical instruments? Nah. How about Matthew Paul Miller, Matisyahu, the white White Plains reggae pretender? No problem, file his discs in the round file.
FLO & EDDIE
On the other hand, of the Turtles, the Mothers, Bruce and many, many other bizarre mutations, recorded a real reggae album in ‘81, “Rock Steady with Flo & Eddie”, singing in their distinctive surfer dudes SoCal harmonies, no fake JA accents, and it is a damn fine album.
Why? They were hip enough to record in Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, chose classic old rock steady hits (but threw in, at the end, a precious reggae treatment of “Happy Together” — you gotta hear it), and brought in some of the best hired guns on the island: star producers Errol Brown and Earl “Chinna” Smith (also on guitar), “Family Man” Barrett and “Santa” Davis from the Wailers, legendary melodica master Augusto Pablo, horn meister Dean Fraser, and one of my favorite percussionists anywhere, “Sticky” Thompson.
“We paid respect, never said ‘yes I’ once while we were there,” they proudly told me in their cluttered office in Hollywood a couple years later, by far the most interesting and fun interview I’ve ever done.
“SWEETHEART OF THE RODEO”
Another problem child. Does it belong in Rock with all the other Byrds albums, or under Country, because it is a country album, a shocking thing from a star rock group in 1968. Credit Gram Parsons, who joined the Byrds for just the few months of recording it, pretty much giving birth to country rock.
He then went to swinging London to hang with the Stones, who were recording “Let It Bleed” (their best album, IMNSHO), and the single “Country Honk” was part of that; Keith Richards claims that was the way they wrote “Honky Tonk Women,” then added the better-know rock version. Pretty persuasive, that Parsons. Star country fiddler Byron Berline was brought in and he made it country as hell.
This was the album that sealed original Stones leader Brian Jones’ fate, musically and mortally. He had sunk so far into drug abuse that he barely contributed to “Let It Bleed,” only on two songs. They hired bluesman Mick Taylor, barely out of his teens, a transcendent guitarist (first live gig was in Hyde Park, nearly half a million people), but he only played on two “Bleed” songs, including slide on “Country Honk.” The Stones fired Jones, and a few months later he was found dead at the bottom of his swimming pool. (There is controversy over whether or not that was accidental.)
To add my personal Stones note, I had Mick Taylor on my cable TV show, “Not Just Another LA Music Show,” in the ‘90s. twice. First with a local musician he was working with, Jim Lacey-Baker, then solo.
The solo appearance was a tribulation. Mick was being temperamental, claiming at the last minute that he couldn’t make it because his leg hurt, or some damn silly thing. I secretly conspired with his wife to get him out the door, where I picked him up. I wasn’t about to let him promise he’d be there on his own, which he did. (I’d been through it once before. I did pick up the late Wild Man Fischer to drive him to the studio, but halfway there he took offense at something I said, gave me a wild look and jumped out of the car at a stoplight. But that’s a story for another time.)
TOO MUCH MUSIC?
There is a downside to having that many albums. Moving. A square 12 x 12 box of LPs weighs about 700 pounds, if I remember correctly, and there were maybe 3,000 boxes. And I did it more than once.
You can solve that problem by not moving. That’s what Barry Hansen did. AKA Dr. Demento. I interviewed him in the early ‘80s in his Valley home and there may have been a million records, not kidding. Records everywhere — closets, basement, bathrooms, kitchen cabinets, hallways. He probably has twice as many now, maybe 10 times. He has to have a small army of elves scuttling around opening boxes, marking, filing. Hansen isn’t just an accumulator, he’s a genuine collector. Loves blues. Certainly, he has more novelty records than anyone on the planet.
I’ve been in the same small condo in Ocean Park for 34 years. After making a place for the 7K vinyl, I wound up with 5,000 CDs, then multiple hard drives with terabytes of music. Much duplication. Something had to go. So I combed through the seven thousand one by one, using too many criteria to explain here, and whittled it down to… the 1800 I couldn’t live without. That’s the collection now.
At one point I had three different professionals give me an estimate of value, for insurance purposes. They were all right around $60,000. Ha. Years later, where were all those fanatic Japanese collectors with their bags of gold, when I finally reached the point where I had to sell or be swamped? Making the rounds of all the record stores this side of the mountains, by that time I was begging for a quarter and occasionally scoring a buck or two. An exhausting process, physically and emotionally. I’m glad I held onto that many, but every once in a while I’ll be browsing the shelves and think, hey! What happened to that Captain Beefheart?! Quite a few of the keepers survived because their covers were so good. 12 x 12 offers a good canvas for art. And liner notes, musician credits — that’s where I learned most of what I know.
The reason I started off noting that I had retired as a record reviewer, was that I had half a mind to report on the new Dylan double album, “Rough and Rowdy.” The album is seductive and wonderful, depending on what you bring to it. Maybe next week. No promises. I’m semi-retired, you know. I might just go to the mountains.
Taking some time off from all these months of working at home staring at a screen and not having anywhere to go to hear live music — and so she did. Mountains, forests, streams, blue skies, breezes, and a few good friends.
She’ll be back next week, she tells me. Unless — she builds a cabin and never comes back.
Charles Andrews has listened to a lot of music of all kinds, including more than 2,000 live shows. He has lived in Santa Monica for 34 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org