None of us is getting any younger

You can probably tell from my lack of ecstatic social media posts that I didn’t get tickets to Desert Trip. *sigh.* I was on the website 15 minutes beforehand, waited in a virtual line for an hour, and finally got in only to find that all GA tickets were sold out and the few remaining reserved seats were being snatched up quicker than I could select them. I mean, it’s ok….it’s only all of my favorite people performing at a once-in-a-lifetime music festival within driving distance of where I live, no big deal. I’ll get over it……..

/pity party

Anyway! Yesterday I bought a first pressing of Beatles for Sale at Mixed Nuts (another cool funky place in the new ‘hood). It’s one of my very favorite albums, and one that seems to go unnoticed pretty often.


First of all, how perfect is this album cover? I love the positioning of the album name, the muted autumnal colors, the slightly messy moptops and scarves/popped collars. So much subtle attitude going on.

Then there’s the liner notes, written by Beatles PR wiz Derek Taylor. An excerpt:

It isn’t all currency or current though. There’s a priceless history between these covers. None of us is getting any younger. When, in a generation or so, a radio-active, cigar-smoking child, picnicking on Saturn, asks you what the Beatle affair was all about – ‘Did you actually know them?’ – don’t try to explain all about the long hair and the screams! Just play the child a few tracks from this album and he’ll probably understand what it was all about. The kids of AD 2000 will draw from the music much the same sense of well-being and warmth as we do today.

For the magic of the Beatles is, I suspect, timeless and ageless. It has broken all frontiers and barriers. It has cut through differences of race, age and class. It is adored by the world.

A little intense about the next generation living on Saturn, but besides that, I find it amazing that even then, there was a sense that the Beatles’ music was more than a passing fad. I was one of those kids of “AD 2000” whose first introduction to the Beatles was A Hard Day’s Night, and no one had to tell me beforehand that I should appreciate this band or that their music was going to change my life, it just happened. So even though Derek Taylor’s words may seem bold, he was, in fact, spot on.

I also find it interesting that, after mentioning a few “studio gimmicks,” Taylor has to reassure the reader that all this music can be reproduced live.

Beyond this, it is straightforward 1964 disc-making. Quite the best of its kind in the world. There is little or nothing on the album which cannot be reproduced on stage, which is, as students and critics of pop-music know, not always the case.

How ironic that in literally one year, the Beatles would be creating music specifically designed to be irreproducible on stage. And once again, popular music would be redefined by a quartet of 24-year-olds.


I have yet to own a Beatles record in mono, but listening to them in stereo is always interesting, especially because we have a finicky speaker that likes to cut out every once in a while, leaving an isolated vocal track or lone tambourine part sitting in the open, and suddenly you’ll hear something that you never noticed before (like the harmonies at the end of “Mr. Moonlight,” wow!). It also reveals a lot of the little imperfections (double-tracked voices and whatnot), which I love, because I’m a weirdo.

As I sit here trying to list out my favorite songs on Beatles for Sale, I realize I’ve ended up with half of the album. Typical. I’m a big fan of “No Reply” as the opening track…it’s already such a deviation from the straightforward pop from the Beatles’ first few albums. After listening to the first three songs, it’s pretty obvious that catchy tunes with moody, introspective lyrics is kind of this album’s whole deal. Two other favorites—”What You’re Doing” (that riff!) and “I Don’t Want to Spoil the Party”—fit the theme nicely. So does “I’ll Follow the Sun” (the loveliest one-and-a-half minute song ever). Ugh I just love them all. There are a lot of covers too, probably because it was the third album the Beatles released in 1964 and how are you supposed to write that many songs on top of making a movie and touring the world??

Despite the emo lyrics, every time I listen to Beatles for Sale, my heart is so happy. I think it’s because it was one of the first albums I bought after falling in love with this band, so hearing it always brings me back to my childhood bedroom, staring at the posters on my wall while the CD spins on top of my dresser. I will never get tired of it.

A nice little video with some good studio footage:

If you’re wondering where I’ll be in April…

…I’ll be right here, in this lovely city, at these awesome events:

April 3. San Francisco Civic Symphony Spring Concert. Featuring an arrangement by dear friend Yvette Holzwarth, who is coincidentally performing her MFA Grad Recital at CalArts this weekend!

April 7. Therianthrope @ Red Poppy Art House. Tabla aficionado Miles Shrewsbery is another old friend from the UCLA days. These guys are based out of San Diego, but just so happen to be bringing their mind-blowing sounds up to the Bay Area for an evening.

April 14-23. The Triplets of Belleville with Le Terrible Orchestre de Belleville. I’ve always wanted to see this film, PLUS, the soundtrack will be performed live (directed by composer Benoît Charest himself)! Fun/shameless fact: we performed a snippet of “Belleville Rendez-Vous” in our ’08 RCC show.

April 16. Record Store Day/Playland Music Festival. Record Store Day is one of my favorite days of the year, as long as I’m not at Amoeba (sooooo crowded). This time, I’m gonna check out the mini music festival going on in my hood, and pop into Noise while I’m there.

April 17. Spencer Owen Timeshare @ The Hemlock. My favorite dudes, at one of my favorite venues. Haven’t seen the other bands, but I listened to the featured track on Crown Larks’ Bandcamp, and I’m sold.

April 29. Contemporary Color @ Proxy. It’s happening, and it’s free!! David Byrne’s collab with WGI (along with St. Vincent, Tune-Yards, Ira Glass, and others) was made into a documentary, and it’s being shown at Proxy as part of the SF International Film Festival (also being shown at SFIFF: Soundbreaking and a 30th anniversary screening of Aliens). I cannot wait.

What else is going on this spring?? Please let me know about any other local events, musical or otherwise. I WANT TO GO TO ALL THE THINGS.


The Natch’l Blues

Interesting/relevant thing of the day: “natch” as a slang word has been around since at least the 40s (apparently if I read more comics I would know this). All this time I’ve been associating it with annoying modern abbreviations like “obvi” and “hilar”…I guess on some level that means there’s not much difference between awful internet slang and Harlem jive talk.


Anyway, here’s a supremely cool record I bought this past week: Taj Mahal’s 1968 album The Natch’l Blues.

(Actually, I got it for my dad’s birthday, but in between the purchase and the gift-exchange, I happened to get really attached to it. Oops.)

In fact, this album is so cool I decided to revive my short-lived ‘Album of the Week’ tag, because I’ve definitely been listening to it nonstop since Sunday.

The album cover is what first caught my eye, Taj’s moonish mask of a face staring back at me from the records section at Green Apple Books. It looks like it was meant to be framed (unlike the CD version, which scraps the border in favor of a darker cover, probably because the original layout didn’t look as good in a 5×5 inch plastic case). In any case, it’s super intriguing. As soon as I saw it, I immediately snatched it up…although I don’t think many people come to Green Apple with the intention of scouring the bottom-row blues music stack. Even if my dad already had this one, I would totally buy it for myself based on the album art alone.

I came home and put it on the record player to make sure it played ok, and proceeded to melt into a puddle of sweet, sweet blues. If you only listen to one (ok, make that two) songs from this album, let them be “Corinna” and the closing number “Ain’t That a Lot of Love.” While definitely rooted in blues, I love that the songs are infused with a healthy dose of soul and 60s pop, too. A lot of Taj Mahal’s stuff crosses over into various other genres (see Kulanjan), and this album is proof that he was doing it from the start.

Anyway, after listening to the whole thing, I was secretly kind of hoping my dad already had the album so I could keep it. Turns out he didn’t (shucks), and actually he’d been looking for it for a long time! So now he has one of his faves, and I have another record to keep an eye out for.


In other news, Happy George Day! Here’s a collection of photos from when George had a perm, because why not??

Reason #931205137 To Love Records


IMG_2353 princeposter

Just look at these gems! That Prince poster was unexpectedly discovered after buying Dirty Minds at Rasputin (oh my gosh, Prince records have the best inserts and posters). And the S&G poster was tucked into a copy of Bookends that I found at a little record store in Lausanne, Switzerland. It’s one of my favorite purchases of all time (is there no imagery that better embodies Simon & Garfunkel than the 59th Street Bridge and a sprig of flowers??). So you see, another reason to celebrate the existence of the LP: free life-sized pictures of musical legends, just waiting to get unfolded and put onto a wall.

Which leads me to…

This past weekend was Record Store Day, and also Rock ‘N Swap at USF (I know, I was overwhelmed). I spent most of Saturday making my way down Haight Street, browsing through one record store until the next opened. I found it weird that 4 out of the 5 stores were no busier than they would be on any normal day, and then Amoeba was so packed that the checkout line wrapped all the way around the store. It was madness. Made me confirm that I’m not into RSD for the re-releases and special deals, but rather the experience of digging through stacks and bonding with people over a mutual nerdy obsession. Take, for instance, the fancily-dressed guy looking through records next to me at Rock ‘N Swap, who told me that he saw me buying Remain in Light and was so excited for me. Thanks dude, I was excited too! Or the owner of Rooky Ricardo’s, who you can tell has been doing this for decades and always wants to make sure you know where to find what you’re looking for (at RR’s, I got this Taj Mahal album mostly because I liked the cover art, but the guy made sure to tell me it was a good choice and a great album).

Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.47.32 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.36.07 PM Screen Shot 2015-04-20 at 10.44.01 PM

My takeaway from RSD15: you don’t have to buy a ton of records to show your appreciation for record stores. Going there, and sharing the experience with friends or strangers, is half the fun.

…But it doesn’t hurt if you find some awesome albums along the way.

Record stores of Amsterdam (a new travel hobby)

What better way to combat jet lag than writing a blog post at 4am? I’m sure I’ll be coming back to edit this one once I “wake up”…

Anyway, I’m back from my trip and it would appear that I’ve fallen in love with Amsterdam.

The city is beautiful (even in cold weather), and the people are a wonderful, eclectic bunch. In addition to cruising canals, observing cat art, and partying with D’Angelo at the Paradiso, we spent a good amount of our trip doing what we do best: perusing rows of used records at hole-in-the-wall shops. I had no idea until we’d spent a few days there, but Amsterdam has A LOT of record stores. We went to eight(!) different places within walking distance from where we were staying, and there were still at least five more that we didn’t get to. With the limited space I had in my suitcase, I settled on four albums:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (Dutch pressing). After making this purchase, we went down the street to this bar (“brown cafe”). The bartender saw the bag and asked “Is that a long-playing record?” and then when we showed him, gleefully remarked, “Ooh, it’s a retro record!” I love the Dutch.
Rain Dogs – Tom Waits (German pressing). I couldn’t pass it up. My dad was awesome enough to give me a (his only?) copy of this album, after I’d searched for an original version for a year. Turns out I just needed to go to Amsterdam to find it! Dad, want a “made in West Germany” version of Rain Dogs?
Fear of Music – Talking Heads (Dutch pressing). My musical theme of this trip was definitely Talking Heads, so I was pretty excited to find a new album to add to the collection, made in Holland no less!
77 – Talking Heads (Japan pressing). I was just trying to get any old version of this record, and the one I happened to find was from Japan! Pretty awesome:

IMG_2182 copy

It was interesting to note the slight differences between US and foreign (in this case, Dutch) record stores. Like, Mike Nesmith has his own divider in several of these stores, even the tiny ones (is he a bigger deal in the Netherlands?) and Kraftwerk is everywhere.

So if you’re ever in the area and, you know, want to look for second hand vinyl, I can highly recommend the following:

– RecordFriend Elpees – Cool selection, good prices, plus I love the name. :) There were cute signs in the entrance saying things like “I’m a record friend.” RECORDFRIEND! This is where I got the two Talking Heads albums.
– Record Palace – Great place by Paradiso and Museumplein. I wish I knew more about “Nederbeat,” because there was a lot of it here. This is where we bought Astral Weeks.
– The others: Concerto (tons of new and used vinyl, plus CDs, books, DVDs), Distortion Records (tiny, cluttered, and awesome), City Records (really friendly owner, and also where I got Rain Dogs), Waxwell Records, Velvet Music, and Second Life Music (the three of which were about a 5-minute walk from each other).

Conclusion: besides the fact that Amsterdam has beautiful canals and lots of friendly cats, I would go back just for the record stores.

IMG_2087LP’s, ???, & more…

Record Store Day 2014 (The Vinyl Frontier)

Yesterday, April 19, was my favorite “holiday” of the year: Record Store Day!I don’t necessarily go for the special deals or releases, but rather just for a good excuse to go record-hunting. This weekend we were in the South Bay, so we visited about five different record stores in the Mountain View/San Jose area. Rasputin and Streetlight had lines out the door for deals, but we bypassed those for the regular LP stacks, and came away with these goodies:

Purple Rain, Prince | Live at Leeds (German press), The Who | Berlin, Lou Reed
GP, Gram Parsons | Harvest, Neil Young | Ram, Paul McCartney


My favorite stop was Big Al’s Record Barn in San Jose, which didn’t host any special deals for Record Store Day, because frankly it didn’t need to. It’s basically a big dark warehouse of vinyl owned by this old guy with a parrot, which is where I got Ram for $2. Awesome place!

In celebration of RSD14, here is a quick run-down of some of my favorite record stores in the places I’ve lived:

Spin Records – Carlsbad. This place will always have a special place in my heart because it was probably the first record store I ever went to. My dad would take me here before I could drive, and soon we were both building up our own collections. Thanks Dad, for encouraging my vinyl obsession, and thanks Spin for providing me with my first rock albums!
Record Surplus – Santa Monica. This was my main music resource in LA, before it moved from Pico Blvd. I even did a report on it for a music class (yep, those are the kinds of papers I wrote in college). When I met Alex, we realized we had a mutual respect for Record Surplus and spent many a weekend there (and bought a lot of Paul Simon albums).
Recycled Records – San Francisco. One of my favorite things about San Francisco is the chain of awesome record stores along Haight Street. Recycled Records is great because it doesn’t bother with brand new re-issues like Amoeba and Rasputin, just used stuff. I got into a conversation with the cashier about Tom Waits one day, and he told me he designed the booklet for Orphans and has hung out with Tom (who is a “super nice guy,” btw). One degree of separation!

Also, special shoutout to The Music Store in West Portal, which we recently discovered. Don’t be fooled by the ordinary name, it’s a super funky place:


I love the dedication of most record store owners (did you watch that video about Al’s Record Barn above? it’s a prime example). It’s also comforting to know that there are still plenty of people, young and old, who like to spend a day sifting through record bins with Exile on Main Street playing from the speakers above. People tend to lament the decline of vinyl, but as long as those folks are still around, I think we’ll be just fine.

Is this a freaky dream?

I know I’ve already shared this via Twitter, but it’s one of my favorite things of all things, so I have no shame in posting it everywhere:

Ahah, the booty shake at the end is the icing on the cake. Confirmed: Mick Jagger and David Bowie can literally do whatever they want. I like to imagine that one day Bowie was like “Hey Mick, let’s record this song!” and then they set up some cameras and made the video how we used to make ours in high school, with the song playing quietly from a CD player in the corner and absolutely no one else around. I’m just going to pretend that that’s how it happened…don’t try to convince me otherwise.

(Equally important is this version, with “Dancing In The Street” replaced with “Cotton Eye Joe.”)

On a related note, our most recent album was The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which I think wins for best album title and also best album ending (those strings!). I must admit that during the first listen we were in lousy moods (mostly owing to failed tabla re-heading attempts) and then didn’t listen to it again for a while. But then we did, and it instantly became 1000x better. It was also the soundtrack of our drive from SF to SLO last weekend…awesome for driving down 101 at night after a long day of work. Although “Five Years” got stuck in my head for about a week, “Starman” is my current favorite song to belt out at random times:

Anyway, this has been another classic case of “Why have I never listened to this before??” I mean seriously, who goes this far in life without listening to a full David Bowie album? We’re now on the hunt for more of his stuff, specifically Station to Station and Hunky Dory.

…it is quite freaky, isn’t it?

Angels wanna wear my red shoes

So, it would appear that our Album of the Week became more of an Album Every Two Weeks, which then turned into more of an Artist of the Week…which I am not opposed to.

To catch y’all up, last Saturday we took a trip to Rasputin in Berkeley and couldn’t decide between two Elvis Costello albums: My Aim Is True and This Year’s Model. So we chose both. We realized that the main reason most albums are on our list is because they are by artists we haven’t listened to. So why stop at one record?

We also found some other awesome albums over the weekend. In Berkeley we picked up Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust (etc.) and Kishi Bashi’s 151a (which I was SUPER excited to find). Then we stopped briefly at the Alemany Flea Market (more on that below) and then finally went to the Genco household and brought back Joni Mitchell’s Blue and Derek and the Dominoes: Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs.

But anyway, back to Elvis.

[Side note: I really love these album covers for some reason. There’s nothing too special about them…maybe it’s the old-timey, Buddy Holly look that I just think is so cool.]

Turns out Alex prefers the 50’s-flavored My Aim Is True, while I like This Year’s Model  better (*dat organ*). Either way, I realized after the first few listens that Elvis Costello is a lot more punk than I originally thought. A lot of those catchy upbeat songs are actually pretty dark and cynical. Plus, “Alison” sounds like a pretty love song but is quite bitter/sad (some people interpret the classic “my aim is true” line to mean the singer’s aim with a gun??). Tricky for someone like me who often doesn’t pay attention to lyrics, haha.

I think the best word to describe both of these albums is solid. Unlike Rumours, I wouldn’t call every song a hit. And unlike Dirty Mind, I didn’t immediately latch on to a lot of them. It took a few listens to get really into it. But each song, on each album, is just incredibly solid. We’ve listened to these albums every day this past week, and I just keep getting more and more fond of them.

A lesson learned this time around: just because it’s a classic/popular album does not mean you will be able to find it in record stores. It’s obvious that these are records people want to hold onto. So, of course they’ll be hard to find in used record bins. Buying reissues is all well and good, but I refuse to do it. I’m not going to pay $30 for a brand new record when there are used gems to be found in a dusty crate somewhere. That’s what makes the search fun! Case in point: when we went to the (rainy) Alemany Flea Market, we came across a whole bunch of 60s and 70s records that a talkative boomer was selling for $1 or $2 apiece. So in addition to an imported version of Janis Joplin’s Pearl and CSNY’s Deja Vu, we also got some free stories about the 60s.

So continues the search. We’ve now got a couple weeks’ worth of albums lined up, but I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of heading to Haight and seeing what I can find.

Next up…Bowie!

That falsetto though

Many of my favorite people (musical and otherwise) cite Prince as a huge inspiration. As in, “I based most of my songwriting career off of this artist” and “He changed the face of pop music forever.” Yet somehow, before this week, I had never listened to a full Prince album all the way through. Not acceptable. So obviously “a Prince album” was moved to the top of our Album of the Week queue. But which one? Purple Rain was a bit of an anomaly because it’s a soundtrack, and we wanted something relatively early in his career, and…let’s stop making excuses, it was the cover. It was the album cover all the way that made us pick Dirty Mind.

Unexpected bonus: when we picked up the record at Rasputin in Mountain View, we found this poster included:

It looks great in our living room.

The goal of these ‘Album of the Week’ (or Every Other Week, or whatever it turns out to be) posts are not so I can write album reviews. I actually really dislike the idea of doing album reviews, I guess that’s because I’m selfish and would rather make these posts more about my personal experiences than providing any sort of useful information.

So instead, I will focus on why we chose the album, how we obtained it, and what it was like listening to it for the first time. In this case, we popped on the record right after getting home from a weekend of beer-adventuring in Sacramento, and proceeded to boogie all the way through Side 1 while preparing a meal of Trader J’s tortellini and peas. Question: did Dirty Mind define the sound of the 80s? This album is from 1980 and while parts of it are distinctly disco-influenced, the rest is just SO SYNTHY AND FRESH. Makes you think about how much less fabulous the 80s would’ve been without Prince. Side 2 was spent eating the aforementioned tortellini and peas, punctuated by sudden, spastic head-bobbing and bouts of uncontrollable dancing.

A select few favorite parts:
Unfortunately there’s a severe lack of Prince songs on YouTube (copyrights and whatnot), so to listen to these I suggest just getting the album! It will be worth whatever you spend.
When You Were Mine. The backing vocals in this song are so OK Go (or should I say, OK Go backing vocals are so Prince). I’ve known for a long time that Damian Kulash is a major Prince fan (a relevant NPR article), so I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to listen to the man himself.
The transition between Uptown and Head. Uggghhhh, so SWAG.
Sister. This song reminds me of a Spencer Owen song, except it’s about incest. So there you go.

We’re off to find another album this weekend. Recommendations wholeheartedly welcomed.

No, that’s all true.

This past week, Alex and I developed an obsession with obtaining the album Rumours. For several reasons:

1. We both separately read the same Reddit thread, which was about albums you can listen to without skipping a single track. In addition to Graceland (I mean, duh), Rumours was at the top of the list. We realized we’d both never listened to it, despite knowing about half the songs for one reason or another.

2. One of my coworkers was raving about a Fleetwood Mac concert she’d gone to a couple years ago, and how Lindsey Buckingham was the sole reason for her wanting to learn guitar.

3. Fleetwood Mac also popped up in our trivia night (which we won, btw) and in a recent SNL skit in which Paul Rudd and Vanessa Bayer impulsively dance every time “I Don’t Want To Know” comes on.

How coincidental! After all this in less than a week, we decided we needed to own Rumours. And yes, I know it’s very easily done on YouTube or iTunes, but something about listening to an album for a first time on vinyl makes it so much more enjoyable. We’re not music snobs, I swear, it’s just that we happen to own a record player and live down the street from several record stores, so why not make the effort to listen to these albums in their original form?
Friday night we stopped at Amoeba and Rasputin, but neither had it on vinyl (weird, right?). We searched the new arrivals, the bargain sections, the new sections, and even the bins underneath where all the duplicates/hidden gems go. The next morning we went to Recycled Records and also had no luck, although Alex did get a Vangelis and a Donald Fagen album. After a short break of discouragement, we ventured into the Lower Haight to try out Groove Merchant (really cool place, but alas, still couldn’t find it) and Rooky Ricardo’s, where we finally had success. It was a fun adventure in record-hunting, and also just made it that much more rewarding to finally put the needle on the record.
And in case you also haven’t heard the album, it’s great. “Second Hand News” and “I Don’t Want to Know” make me want to dance every time I hear them. “Never Going Back Again” is my new favorite song to play on guitar. “You Make Loving Fun” is secretly my favorite. I read that Rumours was meant to be “no filler,” meaning every song could hold its own as a single. They definitely pulled it off.
Lesson learned: there are still so many classic albums out there that have gone unheard, by us and by plenty of other people. Our new goal is to unearth some of them, make good use of our record player, and share some of the results (via this blog). It’s also probably going to come in handy for trivia!
[Another lesson learned: if there’s a classic album from the 60s or 70s that you’re looking for, you will almost certainly find it at your parents’ house, which we discovered when we went to the Genco house today. We now have 2 copies of Rumours.]

A relevant clip to end this post: