Tag Archives: Vinyl

I Am Trying to Break Your Heart

Paul sat in his darkened room, alone, but not lonely, with his favorite blue sheets pulled up over his head, enwrapping him in sky. Two large, cushioned cans hugged his ears like clouds, billowing as he in turn wrapped his arms along those sleek vinyl curves. This was the way that Paul preferred to listen to his music. It was an absolute immersion, one that enabled him to get lost between the thuds of the deepest rhythms and drown in seas of reverb, stripping his essence bare until that warm, familiar Telecaster twang reached out its hand to save him -— a solace that smothered him in ecstasy.

But Paul forgot to close the door. A trapezoid of white light from the open crack bisected the room, its radiance the white heat of a candle in a dripping black cavern. It was enough to expose his sweaty body as it rustled between the sheets.

“Paul?” a voice spoke from the shelves, interrupting the throes of his atmospheric passion. “Paul, is that you?”

Paul pulled the sheets down just enough so could see, while still covering the rest of his exposed being. “Wilco? Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Oh God. Listen, I — it’s not what you think, I —”

“Is that —,” Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot swallowed hard, afraid to speak the truth that it already knew. “Is that the new The National album?”

“No! Well, yes, it is. But — I can explain!”

It was too late. The trapezoid of light from the door fell precisely on his bed, theatrically illuminating Paul’s infidelity. Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot could clearly see his right hand rubbing and caressing the grooves of The National: High Violet‘s coarse plastic flesh.

“After all we’ve been through, Paul. After all these years together, this is how you treat me?” cried Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot with a shrill of a turntable needle scratching its soul. “You just…throw it all away when some other hyped-up indie band’s follow-up album comes along? Is that it?”

Paul looked over at The National: High Violet, trembling, hoping to find support. But all he saw was black.

“Where was The National when Chloe dumped you, huh?” continued Wilco: Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. “Or when you had to move back to your parents’ house for that year. Do you even remember what I told you? I said I’ll love you, baby.”

“Look, it’s…it’s not you, okay? It’s me. I’ll always love you — I am the man who loves you — but The National just connects to a different part of me, and…I wanted to feel that part come alive.”

There was a pause, as the two lovers stood in gridlock, both unsure of what to do next. Finally, Paul broke the silence:

“If I could, you know I would —”

But Wilco cut him off. “No, Paul,” it said. “I’m sorry. It’s too late. But who knows? Maybe distance has a way of making love understandable.”

And that’s when the record stopped spinning.

Rock On-Humble Pie

This album was a stab in the dark. I chose Rock On by Humble Pie for three reasons. 1) My father owned two copies on vinyl and copy on CD. 2) This record was released in 1971, the same time my father was stationed in Germany while serving in the army (draft, not volunteer) and 3) Humble Pie features the lead guitar and vocal styling of one Peter Frampton, who left the band a year after Rock On was released to pursue a much more lucrative solo career (i.e. play guitar with the annoying “talk-box” and write songs like “Oo, Baby I Love Your Way) Needless to say once I heard about Frampton’s involvement I began to have second thoughts, maybe I’d turn to something with a little more meaning behind it, something we shared, something we both liked…but no. That’s not why I got into this. At the least, I needed to listen, to try and find out why my father had so many copies of this album (and why he had so many other Humble Pie records.)

Wow.

Steve Marriott was the leader of the band and it is apparent on this album that he took artistic control. “79th and Sunset” features lyrics that would pink the cheeks of most mid-seventies Frampton fans. Most of the songs have a deep Zepplin-esque blues-metal feel to them, while they lacked the thunderous drumming of John Bonham they were able to deliver a powerful sound because of the two guitarists, one who switched to keys intermediately. Sure, they were a good band who would tour in the 70’s with the heavy hitters people of Generation Y still idolize, but you’d be hard pressed to find a trace of them in today’s popular culture. I can understand why Humble Pie didn’t quite stand the test of time; they fit in, but didn’t stand out.

Why does this album have such a large presence in my Father’s collection? I think it has a lot to do with where he was at that moment in time. It was 1971, he was drafted into the army and spent a lot of time hanging out with the various other recruits who had the unfortunate luck to have their numbers drawn. They weren’t army material and they spent the majority of their time listening to records, altering their minds, and trying to avoid the shell shocked and mildly insane Vietnam transfers. I can tell which records he took overseas with him and which ones he bought there by the initials on the inside of the sleeve (GWC written in marker) or by the language in the liner notes (German). These records were different then what he usually listened to. My father preferred Blues, Funk, Indie Rock and Soul, but through his army years he had Led Zepplin, Black Sabbath, Steppenwolf, a lot of heavy music. While most of us have music that defines a period of our lives, in this I feel that my father had a time in his life that defined the music he enjoyed.

Two side notes.
1) Humble Pie is mentioned as a touring band alongside Stillwater, Bad Company and Led Zepplin in the movie Almost Famous.
2) Peter Frampton wrote the 2 most radio friendly, pop-oriented songs on this album. Although it pains me to say this; he is actually a damn good rock guitarist.

Turning to the Turntable

Hendrix would sit his girlfriend down and have her — almost make her — listen to Dylan songs. Pointing out the poetic phrasings of the lyrics, begging her to feel what he felt whenever he heard it. It was never hard to see where his inspiration came from. Give any musician a few drinks and access to his music collection and the truth will come out. You watch the eyes close, fist clench, eyes widen, the desperate struggle to find the right pitch, note, strain, grunt, etcetera. To this person, at this moment in time, even God cannot match that which mere mortals have created. What is life without pain metastasized through the psyche via flowing poetry over 2 octaves of fingers and hammers on wound strings, dressed in reverb and delivered through overdriven tube amps? Not everyone relates to music this way; the select few, the people who equate living life not only to feeling joy and love, but to feeling pain and torment can say that music touches them to their very core. Only in this sense can sorrow cure sorrow, madness cure madness. This runs against anything we are taught. You can’t fix a fracture with stress, you can’t treat a burn with fire, but in music, sometimes the cure can be more of the disease.

I decided to write for 5×500 after the acquisition of my father’s record collection. My fondest memories of him all involve music in some shape or form. Whether he was behind his drums, cigarette with a steady 2 inches of ash hanging out of his mouth, a bobbing head creating some of the oddest faces known to man, or sitting on the couch with headphones on listening to Frank Zappa. This man loved music, plain and simple.

I will choose an album from this collection to listen to and write about each week. They won’t necessarily be albums I’ve listened to before, but ones I know he particularly enjoyed. I have a pair of studio headphones, a record player complete with a brand new needle, close to 200 pounds of grooved vinyl tucked between colorful cardboard sleeves and a bottle of whiskey to aid me in this journey each week. I should be able to gain some inspiration to write, or at the very least perhaps some insight into how my father went about living his daily life. Although I am not a writer in the purest sense of the word, I am a reader. I equate that to the mantra of a rock journalist whom spends his life writing of what he cannot do. While perhaps I don’t have the skills to produce a piece of work like the kind that Kerouac or Vonnegut would sit and write, I know what sounds good and what sounds terrible. I look forward to writing again and find it quite exhilarating to have my work read by three or four people a week. See you in a bit for album one.