Record Store Day!

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Saturday July 17th, 2021 is the second drop of vinyl goodies at independent shops.

From watching store owners and people who are passionate about Vinyl on YouTube there is a vast spectrum of opinions.

The consistency of this special day are the expectations people have for certain titles to appear on the release list.

As many people are disappointed as thrilled by the discovery each time out.

This is exactly the reason why going to record stores had always been a source of pure joy for me.

The record store is where I found my first Queen album! It’s where many now classic artists are found when they were new.

This Saturday I have the deep pleasure of going to one of the largest independent stores in the USA—Princeton Record Exchange in New Jersey with my best friend from high school.

Picture Vinyl, First time on Vinyl live albums from legendary artists, special singles, special color vinyl, box sets, and records being pressed for the first time since their original release sometimes decades ago.

This year Box sets feature a studio album set from Randy Newman; War has a 5 album set of color vinyl of their core catalog not seen on vinyl since the mid seventies!

Two E.P. titles are Queen+Adam Lambert Live Around The World including 2 tracks not found on the #1 album plus a 7″ Freddie Mercury song, Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow on pink vinyl packaged with the e.p.

A late addition to the release list, Foo Fighters Dee Gees features their covers of iconic Bee Gees hits and a side of their own.

Soundtracks are always big. This time out Aliens The Matrix, and Harold & Maude are being featured.

There are three volumes of rarities from The Monkees. Each title comes on color vinyl. You won’t know the color until you open it!

Live albums from Ramones, Suzi Quatro, Aretha Franklin and John Prine are limited editions.

Click this link for the list of releases:

https://recordstoreday.com/NewsItem/9578

Record Stores in NJ and NY:

Princeton Record Exchange Info:

https://www.prex.com/phone/

For info on NYC’s newest record store, Rough Trade, next door to Radio City Music Hall click below:

https://www.roughtrade.com/us

Happy Record Store Day!

I Wanna Rock/ Essay

At the end of the 1960’s there was much turmoil from politics. Music experienced psychedelia, folk, and lots of drugs. What came next was quite a turn…

Young men started bands. Influenced by artists who put out their first records in the 1970’s they continued a style and mantra critics saw as a flash in the pan.

Top: Mott The Hoople
Bottom: The New York Dolls.

Glam. Fancy dress. Machismo. Electric guitars. Rock players who had worn t-shirts and jeans now displayed leather and satin. Studded belts and wristbands accessorized the look.

KISS released their debut in 1973. The band’s name was set in glitter. Paul Stanley saw the New York Dolls dress up in satins. He took this style into a much heavier rock music.

Alice Cooper went solo in 1975 unleashing his version of this heavier rock music on the masses. He became one of the leaders in hard rock wearing satin outfits onstage as well as leather.

Slade from England and T-Rex also led the glam charge. The next wave of music would take this even further to create glam metal.

Top: Slade
Bottom: Marc Bolan

The guys who looked like girls in the 1970s like David Bowie or Marc Bolan would evolve into bands that looked fem but played hard with macho looks.

Motley Crue, Poison, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi, Hanoi Rocks, and Guns n Roses come to fame during this era.

Big hair, leather, spandex nd make-up are it. Labels sign bands like Twisted Sister, Ratt, Winger, Bullet Boys, Warrant and many others in their wake.

Funny enough that KISS retired their trademark makeup at a time when their progeny put it on.

KISS unmasked. (L) Founding members Gene Simmons & Paul Stanley; (R) Bruce Kulick & Eric Carr transformed the band into a hard rock glam act.

I came of age at this time. My first hard rock record was “Blizzard of Ozz” by Ozzy Osbourne, the former lead vocalist of Black Sabbath. Iron Maiden’s “The Number of the Beast ” was my first metal record.

While glam metal started up many bands from the previous era developed into heavy metal—Judas Priest and Iron Maiden. Both bands to this day are regarded as the top two acts in all of metal.

Scorpions from Germany also became one of the biggest metal acts in the world. “Rock You Like A Hurricane” was fierce; “Winds Of Change” was a ballad that appealed across the globe.

Scorpions in full leather.

During these years, Rob Halford of Judas Priest wore leather outfits head to toe with studded jewelry. Paul DiAnno, the singer on the first two Iron Maiden albums wore leather pants as did the entire group on their early tours.

Every fan wanted to dress like their heroes. The black leather motorcycle jacket became synonymous with the art form. Guys wore band tee shirts too. The truly passionate wore leather pants as well.

Iron Maiden in 1981.

I attended many concerts during this era. The concerts were KISS shows from the 1970’s brought up to date with new effects and sound equipment. Lighting rigs were state of the art.

When you went to the record shop you could easily pick out the hard rock/metal groups because of their image. A band’s logo was another tell tale sign.

Jagged type with dripping letters highlighted in primary colors were a big part of the logo.

Logos become band identity to the glam metal form.

The albums of these groups sold millions upon millions. There were several records released in the Glam era that are all-time best sellers including Bon Jovi’s “Slippery When Wet” and Def Leppard’s “Hysteria”.

Debut albums from Skid Row, Cinderella, Motley Crue, and Poison also sold millions.

Glam’s influence would impact other groups too. From Cheap Trick’s “One On One” to Judas Priest’s “Turbo” the sound of glam metal appealed across the spectrum of sounds.

Billy Squire would have his biggest records, “Don’t Say No”, “Emotions In Motion”, and “Signs Of Life” during the glam metal years.

I went to live shows to see Ratt perform their hits like ‘Round and Round’ and ‘You Think You’re Tough’ but also to be a part of the metal community.

Fans showed up to the Meadowlands arena in New Jersey in full leather outfits! Guys had long hair too. It was amazing.

Metal fans in the 1980’s.

The music happened to be great. The bands that got play on MTV had videos that matched their looks. Twisted Sister’s videos are among the most memorable ever produced.

The outfits, the logos, the hair, and the music made it all possible. Two of the components on every record were anthems and ballads.

KISS had anthems like ‘Rock N Roll All Nite’ and ballads like ‘Beth’. Every 80’s glam metal act would follow suit.

Skid Row had ‘Youth Gone Wild’ and ’18 and Life’; Twisted Sister had ‘We’re Not Gonna Take It’ and ‘The Price’. Quiet Riot would score with cover songs by Slade: ‘Cum On Feel The Noize’ and ‘Mama, We’re All Crazee Now’ catapulted them to the top.

Glam metal fans continue to be devoted to their favorites. Today we are drowned by commercial mainstream pop. While not all of it is bad we yearn for heavy guitar chords to return us to former glam glories. There are new listeners today discovering these sounds for the first time.

Having begun to re-listen I have found how much I still love this type of music too. I do not have long hair anymore, but I do love the look and sound of glam.

A couple of bands making great music today are Blind Guardian and Dragonforce. Considered Power Metal I think they use some glam elements in their productions.

Their lyrics are akin to reading a fantasy epic by Tolkien along with guitar instrumentation that updates that glam metal sound from the eighties.

This art form is a form of escapist entertainment that has had its share of adversity.

During the 1980’s there were attempts to censor lyrics which led to labeling records ‘explicit’.

Organized religion especially Catholicism has often been at odds with metal music. What they view as satanic others see as rebellion.

Many metallers are just devil-may-care in their attitude. And sure, some do worship the dark lord, not that there is anything wrong with it.

Ghost are a perfect example of a current group that took all of its former influences from The Doors and Queen to Priest & Maiden producing a fresh blast of glam metal on the dark side. If you love music check them out.

In fact the opposition to all metal music enables it to continue to thrive.

There are now a multitude of radio stations that play it and magazines publish articles everyday updating a listener following that spans the entire world.

Loudwire, Rock N Roll Garage, Metal Voice are a few of the websites that publish every day.

Sirius XM has Ozzy’s Boneyard that plays classic metal.

I think it’s time for glam and metal to make a return. Perhaps 2020 will see it rise again. Tool topped the charts with “Fear Inoculum ” this year. A good sign for metal.

To Stream Or Not To Stream

During my childhood the long-playing record or L.P. played back on machines called Victrolas or Phonographs. These platters were the format for pre-recorded music.

You could own records for $5.99 a piece back in those days. The culture was different too. Our parents for the most part grew up in the big band era. Rock n Roll was not music for their generation. Music is directly woven into the fabric of the times in which it is recorded.

When I was a kid rock n roll was in its 3rd decade. The be-bop-a-lula of the 50s gave way to the psychedelic haze of the 60s which gave way to the glam of the 70s. Then the 80s smashed all the genres into niches. Heavy metal, New Wave, Dance, Pop, Jazz, Country, Rap, and many other musical forms energized different groups of listeners.

In the 1970s records were sold in department stores like Sears and Korvettes. Where I lived in The Bronx you could walk down to your local record shop. Broadway Records existed for many years as a provider of LP’s and a provider of concert tickets.

My first record was the soundtrack to the Star Wars sequel The Empire Strikes Back. On the RSO label, a double album with a gatefold sleeve that meant it opened up like a book to reveal an inner sleeve that contained a full color souvenir booklet of the movie! This record was $12.99. There were very few double albums for this reason during this era. I will never forget that recording.

Then I discovered Tower Records in Greenwich Village on W.4th Street. There were thousands of records. I only cared about Rock. The radio was the transmitter of music. Every kid had one. In New York City WPLJ 95.5 (which just signed off forever) was our station.

Not realizing at the time that we were not drowning in entertainment choices yet or franchises. Rock n Roll disappeared; Rock Music arrived. Rock radio promoted concerts by giving away tickets with contests. Bands appeared on radio to give interviews with local DJ’s.

I heard The Beatles, Rolling Stones, The Who, Led Zep, and Queen for the first time this way. The Disc Jockey (DJ) decided what to play. Every new artist had their respective record labels issue a promotional only single to radio across the country. If the song was received well by listeners it became a hit.

The singles issued on miniature vinyl platters with a giant hole in the center were played at 45 r.p.m. (rotations per minute) and required an adapter to play. They cost $1 per unit. The A side was the potential hit; the B side was another track from the album being promoted.

In the record stores The Billboard Chart Hot 100 songs were displayed in order. This was how music listeners bought songs they liked. If they were really into an artist the album would be bought too.

Much pleasure came from physically going out to purchase music from a variety of chains that developed to meet the demand. Record World, Sam Goody, Disc-O-Mat, Tower, and others were fun stores to experience. The internet killed most of it. Independent record shops are still around. You can search for your local shops online.

The music we collect changes throughout our lives. I loved a multitude of artists all my life. I built a strong foundation as a kid. Although Rock was my focus I was exposed to Classical, Jazz, Opera, Folk, and Broadway show tunes thanks to my parents who had records from the 50s and 60s.

Today streaming services have become popular. At the click of a button and a reasonable monthly price the entire ocean of recordings is available to our ears. More listeners today have headphones than at any other time in history!

I have access to every record published over the last 50 years. My mistakes have led me to a musical epiphany. At first I added hundreds of titles all at once. The novelty overwhelmed me. I could have any album.

Now I only keep about 20 titles at a time. Live with them. Then decide if they are worth having on vinyl. Following 3 listens I decide if the selection will be returned to the ether or placed on a wish list for vinyl.

A subscription to Amazon Music Unlimited is $12.99 a month. A vinyl record now costs $19.95 on the low end to upwards of $35 on the high end. The new records are pressed on heavier 180 gram vinyl.

In the USA after the compact disc became the dominant format the recording industry closed many record pressing plants. Only a few exist today. Many of the vinyl records in American stores today are pressed in Europe.

To Stream or not to stream? I have adapted to every change that has developed during my life. I missed having records. The packaging is part of the experience of having music. Like my first record purchase being so memorable because of its physical contents. Digital cannot provide this satisfaction.

A stream cannot include a poster, liner notes (despite some inclusion of digital notes), images made by professional photographers, and gatefolds, pop-up or die-cut covers. There are inserts in physical copies of records.

However, because of the digital revolution I was able to learn directly from other vinyl collectors how to appreciate the contents of records. I never realized in my youth that vinyl should be kept in poly-lined sleeves. This protects them from dust. Outer jackets should be placed in protective plastic too.

Without album cover art music is dropped sometimes by surprise so artists can make an impression. Nowadays, recording artists spend years developing a new record. The streaming option makes it harder to stand out from the constant availability online.

Every rock group now considered classic has at least 3 or 4 memorable album covers. Some commissioned painters or photographers to create a defining image for their recorded works.

Roger Dean’s Yes album covers, Hipgnosis’ Pink Floyd covers, Mick Rock’s photographic covers for Queen, Blondie, and David Bowie are part of the complete package. Digital obscures these contributions.

The comments people leave online are sometimes really long. Everyone has an opinion. I write here for this reason. I feel that this format is good for expressing opinions.

I used iTunes first when it started. Artwork was not always available for each album. The liner notes were absent. After years of usage I was depressed. Music was no longer the fun it had been when the culture existed for record stores. People would share with each other their love for music.

Streaming allows for constant listening. You do not get up to flip a side or pull a record out of its sleeve. You never learn how to take care of your music except creating back up files.

The cloud is the new data storage system. Thousands upon thousands of files can be filed away in this virtual closet. In my opinion, I do not need this much capacity. Streaming has made me question just how much I can ever listen to in my lifetime.

Physical records last a lifetime. If you clean them before each use or after a hundred plays the quality will not diminish. You are forced to decide on a finite range of ownership. Then perhaps you may enjoy what you have more without constant adding.

Flea markets, record shows, and independent shops sell records cheaply. I found 2 Broadway musical film scores at a flea market for a total of $10. Both recordings were from the 50s and 60s. They still played beautifully.

Princeton Record Exchange is one of the largest on the East Coast. They have thousands of records for $1—$3. I spent $30 for 7 records this past Memorial Day. They also buy used records and collections.

The files in your computer’s cloud take up space too. I do not have the same joy from them. They are not tangible things. Who knows where these files will be in the years to come. My physical records have a place on their shelf beneath my stereo.

Discovery is streaming’s strength as a format. Each Friday new music gets released. Scroll through the selections. There is an option to sample the album or any specific song. You don’t have to download anything.

I have developed a taste for alternative artists because of streaming. Record shops have listening stations too. I think it’s much more convenient to find new music on a streaming platform.

Spotify, Pandora, Apple, and Amazon are popular today. This does not mean records are extinct. The LP is now back in vogue with young people. Their parents grew up on rock. They know classic rock. Sales of vinyl albums are way up now. Streaming is dominant but people are collecting records too.

Go on YouTube and search Vinyl Community (VC). You will find many people posting videos about records they own and those discovered at thrift shops and record stores all over the US.

I learned you do not have to choose streaming over records. I use the streaming to find records of new artists. This process leads to more ideas for my blog. I thought a lot about the pleasures of streaming and its drawbacks too.

The music business learned difficult lessons during our cultural upheavals. As a result there is less of an industry today. People seem to want things fast and cheap now. The loss in experience is hard to measure. Streaming is on the go with you everywhere. Records demand your care, attention, and effort.

I think back to 1984 when I saw those orange foam headphones of the Walkman for the first time. It was on the subway. The beginning of people using music on the go to shut out everything and everyone around them.

Today those wireless ear buds are it. Those using them look like aliens to me. I mostly listen to music at home. Sometimes I will listen on the go. Time management is much harder now.

Advanced technology is great but I feel we must strive for some type of balance. Streaming is here to stay. I feel the rise of physical fitness from the 1980s onward made it possible to sell people on portable devices for music. People use music for workouts. Runners love wireless ear buds too.

Alternative or independently made music is great on vinyl. Finding artists has never been easier to do. One of the best things about streaming is access has expanded around the world.

Because of this global reach more artists new and classic are making music using a wider variety of styles. The new Santana record, Africa Speaks, adds African rhythms to his salsa/jazz/rock combo.

Funny how new inventions make us wonder how we ever lived without them. As a person who remembers life without the internet I can attest to the fact you cannot miss what does not yet exist.

Most of us cannot live without our devices. It’s a creature comfort to know we can still rely on our past methods of playback.

Whatever new technology may lay on the horizon we should keep our love of music alive.

For the love of music keep listening whether you stream, collect vinyl or do both. I recognize it’s just a matter of preference for some. May music always be in the air for everyone. I will do a little bit of both.

More blogs to come!
Thank you for reading.