News

Record Stores- my story

Posted by Alan Kovan on September 15, 2019 (0 Comments)

 

For those open minded and into music Record Stores can be the center of their universe and social life. They open up all sorts of possibilities. To many music is what defines them. They were very much like a corner bar sans alcohol. A gathering place for people to hang out and learn about music and life. 

If you bonded with a record store staff they often guided your musical journey. Or you found your own path. Since I have lived in the Detroit area most of my life that was my experience. Helpful were the UK music magazines that started being imported to the US around the Punk era and continued after that. Those were a fantastic way to find out about new bands on a weekly basis. Problem was try finding a store who stocked all those records and magazines.

My journey started at Korvettes on Southfield Rd. The lowest price on records in town. I used to drool over some of the Rolling Stones imports. Then across the street Record Market opened behind Farrell's. They were more adventurous. End caps fully stocked with Stooges & MC5 records. It was like Creem Magazine opened that shop. I bought my first Rolling Stones ticket there. For a show in Cleveland. 

Closer to home there was Record Outlet on Orchard Lake Rd. where a bearded red haired guy (I cant remember his name) carefully curated their New Wave wall. He was the first person to tell me about the Talking Heads, Television, The Ramones etc. It really opened my eyes.

Then I went away to college at Michigan State where I had Flat Black & Circular to continue my education. I think I spent more time in there than in the class room. There was also Wherehouse Records for new major label releases. Good staff there too.

Then in my post college life I started to travel. The first thing I would do in the early 80's (pre internet & GPS) after checking into my hotel room was bust out the Yellow Pages and turn to Record Stores and map out my free time. Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, all of Michigan. On weekends I would drive to Off The Record in Dearborn and load up on records and magazines. While they wound up being my main competitor and I wound up moving my shop a block away from theirs and we (the owners) developed a dislike for each other, they were an integral part of my musical journey. 

After some lay offs, including me, in just over a year things changed. My Dad took me to a football game at MSU. He asked me what I really wanted him to do with my life. So I took him to Flat Black & Circular. We talked about the concept on the way home and the seeds of my shop were planted.

At the time I was a massive Rolling Stones fan and collector. But I was also very much into punk, post punk, new wave. Simple Minds, U2, Echo & The Bunnymen, The Clash, Elvis Costello and much more. I knew I wanted to stock cool imports and cool records as well as used vinyl. I made a connection with Bleecker Bob's in NYC to get these really cool French gig posters. Not sure how I managed this. Bob Plotnick aka Bleecker Bob (RIP) was not easy to deal with. 

The early days were tough. Everyone wanted a job but there was no money. I had one employee  A high school student who knew his music. My Mom filled in occasionally if I needed to go to New York to get posters. I still laugh when I think about this. She insisted on listening to reggae when she was behind the counter. I must have gotten my passion from her.

My employee went off to college and I needed to hire a new employee. We used to advertise on local cable on the IRS Records 120 Minutes on MTV. All over the Detroit area. Thankfully John Huston was watching in Northville and I am not sure if I asked him or if he asked me but I hired him. John knew way more about music than I did. This was a definite turning point. The Segal brothers, Michael and Dave, were regulars and took to John. All three scoured the UK music papers asking me to order all sorts of obscure UK independent releases which they all bought. Michael was hired and the whole idea of the shop changed. This bond resulted in what I feel is the best music writing I have ever read in the four issue run of the You Can't Hide Your Love Forever fanzine.

I want to mention all my employees Milly, Craig, Kristin, Todd, Holly, Jennifer, M Blake Johnson aka Scoob, Andy, Randall, Jill and Ann Arbor- Mike, Glen, Rob & Amy.

It was difficult to stock these records and it was a miracle we were able to get them. Part of it was buying used records who's value I knew was much more in the UK than here and stashing them until I had enough to fly to London and trade to get all the Creation, Factory, Rough Trade, 4AD and all other independent UK records. I had a great trading partner in Mark Hayward at Vinyl Experience. Later on it was Runcible Records whom I loaded up on all things Spacemen 3 and Spiritualized among other uber limited UK indie records.

All these parts of the puzzle made up Play It Again. It allowed me to travel and build business relationships, get all the hard to find UK indie records and have the first rare record wall in town. 

Another stroke of luck (for us) was when the head of alternative marketing at Warner Brothers, came to town. She was at Harmony House on Orchard Lake Rd working a Smiths record when the staff their asked why she hadn't come to my shop. She did. She also locked her keys in the car which made her visit the better part of the afternoon. This was the start of a great relationship between my shop and Warner Brothers. We were really taken care of by several labels but the Warner Brothers bond was the closest. I am sure they helped get me on New Music Seminar and CMJ panels. I am sure they also helped us be chosen as the record shop by the second stage for the four day run at the 1994 Lollapalooza at Pine Knob/DTE.

This brings me to the "golden era" of Play It Again. The buying/trading trips to the UK, the in store signings Throwing Muses, The Lucy Show, The Chameleons, Spiritualized, Mercury Rev to name a few. Stereolab, Poster Children, LaBradford and Comet playing in the shop. Also the forging of relationships with several bands and record labels as well as Jason Spacemen of Spiritualized which continues to this day.

What really made the shop was the customers without whom we would never have stayed open. It isn't lost on me how long the drive was for folks from the East Side in the pre I-696 days. Lets face it you had to walk in to an intimidating environment as far as music was concerned. I understood that and tried hard to create a welcoming atmosphere. That didn't always work out because when it comes to music, especially in shops like Play It Again, that defined whomever it was walking through the doors. We did run the gamut of everything from US & UK indie to experimental noise and goth. I can only guess what a lot of the Current 93/Nurse with Wound/United Dairies records I used to pick up on trips to the UK are worth now. Some of those were so limited I had to be one of the only shops in the US that had them.

Many people just wanted to hear what we were in to. What great new records needed to be a part of their collection. 20+ years after moving on from Play It Again I hear from people who tell me how much they appreciate my store. How important it was in their musical journey. Those stories never get old. Just last week I was in Rustbelt Market speaking to one of my very early customers Dan and someone stopped and noticed me and had such nice things to say. In fact I could go through my facebook friend list and probably 30 to 40% are former customers and employees. In fact some of my closest friends were made through buying/selling/trading records. Canadians, English, Australians. 

This note from one of my very good friends upon his first visit to PIA:

Upon my very first visit to your shop we walked in and Bardo Pond's Amanita was playing. I remember saying "what is this?" and the rest is history. On the same morning you said you had shit to do and you handed me a pile of 7" singles and said play these. The first one was Brian Jonestown Massacre's- Anemone. It blew my mind. The 2nd single was Flowchart's Acoustic Ambience. This also had a massive effect on me. That all took place in the first 45 minutes I spent in your shop. That was a very important 3/4 of hour of musical impact.

This from a Detroit Free Press article celebrating Record Store Day 2016. The quote was from Ben Blackwell of The Dirtbombs and Third Man Records.

"There was a moment in 1995 when I discovered Play It Again Records in Ferndale, where literally every record I was looking for at that point was on the wall," Blackwell says "I had just started collecting Sub Pop and Seattle Grunge stuff, and the wall there was littered with all of it. I don't think I will ever have be able that experience again in my life. The guy running the counter saw me put a single back (I didn't have enough money), and when he was ringing up my purchases, he told me to go back and grab whatever single it was (I believe it was a Mudhoney 7 inch). Something so insignificant, so fleeting, I will never forget and always keep in mind whenever meeting someone else who's excited and motivated out in the record world".

My story is just a Detroit area story. I know there are others. In other cities like Buffalo with Home Of The Hits, Chicago- The Quaker Goes Deaf, Milwaukee- Atomic, Minneapolis- Let It Be, Toronto- Record Peddler. There are also great shops currently open that are vitally important. Here we have Street Corner in Oak Park, Stormy in Dearborn, Flat Black & Circular in East Lansing, Dr. Disc in Windsor, Sonic Boom and Rotate This in Toronto, Stinkweeds in Phoenix, Amoeba in Los Angeles & Berkeley, Jumbo in Leeds, King Bee in Chorlton (Manchester), Dig Vinyl in  Liverpool. These are just shops I know of and have been to in the past 20 years.

Things these days like Spotify and iTunes take the joy of the record shop away. People don't feel they need the physical product. Not sure if that makes me old school but I don't care. I love supporting bands by buying their releases directly from them or their label. Chicos De Nazca, Kikagaku Moyo, Moon Duo/Rose City Band. Just some of the bands I have recently bought directly from.

The moral of the story here. Find a record shop. Make friends with them. You may learn something. You may make a new friend. It will open up a whole new world.

Continue...

The Screaming Trees Appreciation Society

Posted by Alan Kovan on June 01, 2019 (0 Comments)

It started with Buzz Factory.

The Screaming Trees were the first SST band I listened to who were drenched in psychedelia. Majestic swirling songs. With hooks. And heavy. Not a combination I was used to. It spoke to me.

Sure there were other heavy hitters on the SST roster. Sonic Youth, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr, The Minutemen, Meat Puppets etc. No SST band floored me like the Screaming Trees.

One night they played the Bling Pig in Ann Arbor on the Buzz Factory tour and we arrived early. We saw Gary Lee Conner walking around and we approached him. He said he was looking for a decent place to eat. We were headed to Full Moon for beer and dinner and invited him along. He accepted. I guessing this was 1989-ish. Not one for much conversation but it was nice to take him out to dinner. He appreciated the gesture when we picked up his tab. They were fantastic that night. 

I was already a pretty big fan by the time Uncle Anesthesia came out in 1990. Their major label debut did not disappoint. The production was better for one. Every song on Uncle Anesthesia is fantastic. And that voice! It helped that we were friendly with Dave Gottlieb at Epic Records. He was also a fan. We were gifted loads of promo items and really sold thru a ton of Uncle Anesthesia. 

The follow up Sweet Oblivion in 1992 was even better. Better songs. Even better production. Nearly Lost You was the featured single from the semi hit movie Singles. And that voice! I was in NYC for the New Music Seminar and remember seeing the Trees at The Academy in the Broadway district one night and a few days later sitting with them at the screening of Singles. Bizarre but true. I was sent an advance tape of Sweet Oblivion which I took with me on a trip to Israel and Amsterdam in 1992. That tape was played every day in our hotel room at least twice with a Sony Walkman and speakers.

Why it took five years for Dust to be released I have no idea? My guess is that is what stopped their momentum as a band. Not all bands were made to last 20 years. The body of work the Screaming Trees left behind is truly breathtaking. Particularly the last four official records they released; Buzz Factory, Uncle Anesthesia, Sweet Oblivion and Dust. Even the b-sides that are on the deluxe expanded reissues of Sweet Oblivion and Dust are amazing.

My music obsessed friends and I often have these discussions about bands and eras. One that crops up is name a band who released three great albums in a row. The Beatles, Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, The Who, Dylan, Velvet Underground always come up. Out of the 80's/90's though it is much harder. I have the Screaming Trees at the top of my list in that era. Up there with Echo & The Bunnymen. Three albums is hard enough. Four is even harder.

The Conner brothers with Mark Lanegan just worked so well together. Gary Lee Conner, the psychedelic brother and Van, the Black Sabbath brother and Mark Lanegan. All three influences worked some magic and while I don't hold out any hope of a reunion I am eternally grateful for the music they created.

Every time I pull out a Screaming Trees record it starts me on a binge that ends up with me playing everything. Well at least all four records mentioned in this blog.

I am not sure how many people will actually read this blog. I know a lot of my old record shop customers will. I know a lot of them feel the exact same way I do. I just wanted the band to know how appreciated they were then and still are now.

 

Continue...

Welcome Home Stevie Y!

Posted by Alan Kovan on April 19, 2019 (0 Comments)

He may not have been born in Detroit but he definitely "grew up" in Detroit. He gave sports fans in this town one of the greatest careers this generation has ever witnessed. I remember Steve Yzerman being named Captain at such a young age. He didn't flinch. He led by example. He led with dignity. He led with class.

All I have read are second hand accounts by those who shared a locker room with him are how quiet he was but when he chose to speak it made a major impact.

His toughness on and off the ice are unmatched by any Captain I know of. His mental toughness with the hiring of Scotty Bowman and him changing his game to suit Bowman's more defensive style is yet another example. Hearing his name mentioned in trade rumors with Ottawa in 1995 could not have been easy. I hate to think what would have happened had the Red Wings pulled the trigger on that trade. We would probably still be waiting for a Stanley Cup. Let alone four.

I was fortunate to be a Red Wings season ticket holder for much of Steve Yzerman's career. I saw so much great hockey. A team always on the ascent. Making the playoffs year after year and competing with the like of the Wayne Gretzky led Edmonton Oilers that was more a team of all stars and Hall Of Famers than just another hockey team.

The Yzerman led Red Wings gave me the greatest night I have ever had as a sports fan in Detroit attending Game 4 of the 1997 Stanley Cup Finals. A 2-1 win and a sweep of Philadelphia giving Detroit their first Stanley Cup in 42 years. It was like an out of body experience. I was also at Tiger Stadium in 1984 when the Tigers won the World Series as well as Magglio's home run in 2006 to send the Tigers to the World Series at Comerica Park. 

Another, on a personal note, was the game 5 win over Carolina in 2002 which I was able to share with my father who is no longer alive. To watch the Steve Yzerman led Red Wings to hoist another Stanley Cup at home at The Joe with my father by my side is an experience I will never forget and will cherish forever. 

A few years ago a client wanted to buy me a gift to thank me for an extraordinarily tough job that went off without a hitch. He asked someone who my favorite athlete is and I had to stop and think. I never looked at athletes like that. I am not an autograph collector. I am just a sports fan and product of 1960's thru present baseball, 1960's thru the early 2000's NHL, 1970's thru 1990's NBA, Michigan State sports, and Premier League and World Cup soccer. The upshot here was my answer. I said the athlete I respect the most is Steve Yzerman for all the reasons mentioned above and more. 

Steve Yzerman's homecoming could not happen at a more crucial time in Red Wings history. I admit I only watched a handful of games the past few years as they have become a tough watch. I have total faith, given time, he will make a monumental difference in the trajectory of the franchise.

With all the negative news in the world at the moment I am so happy to wake up with a giant smile on my face today.

Thank you Detroit Red Wings.

Welcome home Stevie Y!

Continue...

Simple Minds

Posted by Alan Kovan on January 19, 2019 (0 Comments)

 

It started when I bought the UK import of Promised You A Miracle in 1982. I used to read the NME and Melody Maker religiously back then. That is what brought Simple Minds to my attention. Then I read the review of the New Gold Dream LP.

The next landmark was being invited to the Michigan vs UCLA football game in 1982. Being a Michigan State graduate I was less than enthusiastic but realized Schoolkids Records may have the UK import of New Gold Dream. I reluctantly said yes and made it to Ann Arbor early enough to go to Schoolkids and lo and behold there was a fresh copy of the New Gold Dream UK lp in the front of the import section. I bought the LP and just wanted to go home and listen to this record. Unfortunately I still had a football game to attend. 

Well, I rooted loudly for UCLA. They won 31-27. I made zero friends in the Michigan student section where I was seated. 

I went home and listened to NGD. It wasn't immediate. Over the next few months I grew to love this record. Most of my all time favorite records happened like this. Rolling Stones- Exile On Main St and Spiritualized-  Lazer Guided Melodies etc. 

My fandom continued with an ill fated drive from Detroit to London Ontario in 1982. It was a torrential downpour and we hydroplaned for two hours to the University of Western Ontario student venue only to find out the show was canceled. Another two hours hydroplaning home with nothing to show for it. No show. Nothing.

Finally Simple Minds were playing in Detroit in 1983 at St. Andrews Hall on the New Gold Dream tour. I had a friend hand paint the Japanese OBI strip from New Gold Dream on a sweatshirt (I know) but that sweatshirt got me invited on the tour bus by their manager Bruce Findlay. From then on I was treated incredibly well by the band.

I have been all over seeing them and never once having to put my hand in my pocket for tickets. This includes two shows at the Edinburgh Playhouse, several Toronto shows including four Massey Hall shows and Maple Leaf Gardens(sold out!), The Beacon Theater in NYC, the Tower Theater in Philadelphia even a few days in Poughkeepsie New York watching the band rehearse for and then open the Once Upon A Time tour as well as several Detroit and Ann Arbor shows. 

So many memorable moments. Jim shouting my name from the stage at The Michigan Theater in 1984 as well as Jim giving me a dozen after show passes at the Hill Auditorium in 1985 show so he could meet many of my most ardent Simple Minds fans who shopped at my store. My brother and I also drove Jim to my shop which was a 45 minute drive after the Hill Auditorium show. Waiting there were some good customers and my parents. They wanted to meet one of the band responsible for my fandom. It was so nice watching Jim take such an interest in my parents.

In 1995 I saw them at Royal Oak Theater. It had been 10 years since I had last seen them. It was nice to catch up. 

23 years later Simple Minds were playing at the Fillmore in Detroit on their 2018 tour. At this point I had totally lost touch with Jim, their management or anyone to do with Simple Minds. I posted a note on their facebook page asking if it was possible for on old friend to come and say hello. I was immediately messaged asking for my email address. I sent it and Jim emailed me inviting me to their Meet & Greet prior to the show. I had never been to one of these so I had no idea what to expect. When the band walked out and lined up to take photos with the fans who bought this package Jim says "Ok, Where is Alan?". I then got a great big bear hug and we caught up. It was so nice. To be honest it was one of the highlights of 2018 for me. 

The show that followed just blew me away. I have always had the utmost respect for bands that change along the way. Simple Minds are band that have embraced change several times throughout their 40+ year career. I wasn't prepared for what I was about to witness. The band was having so much fun as was the crowd. Many of whom have been waiting over two decades to see them. 

Yes. This isn't the same band I was so into back in the 80's. Only Jim and Charlie remain. However the way they reworked the songs just worked incredibly well. Sarah Brown's backing, and sometimes lead, vocals were perfect. It was also difficult to takes your eyes of drummer Cherisse Osei. Rarely have I ever seen a drummer play with such unbridled joy and ferocity all while in heels. Ged Grimes and Gordy Goudie fleshed out the rest of the band and it all fit so well. 

Over the years my music taste changed quite a bit. This because my shop specialized in more indie music. Mainly the hard to find UK indie music on labels like Creation. More into the Space Rock and Shoegaze music of the era. But also much of the US indie rock a la Sub Pop, SST, and similar labels. But you never forget those bands who mean so much. My touchstones are Simple Minds and the Rolling Stones. Perhaps that is why my catching up with Jim prior to the 2018 show meant so much. He could have blown it off but he didn't. He isn't that type of person.

For that I am grateful.

 

 

Continue...

1968

Posted by Alan Kovan on July 29, 2018 (0 Comments)

This was our home until September 1968. 21001 Gardner in Oak Park, Michigan. I decided to take a detour as construction had me take 9 Mile Road today. It seemed so big when I was 9 years old. Not so much today. 

So many memories. Walking down the street to watch Batman in color. Only a few neighbors had color TV's back then. Dirtbomb fights. Playing baseball every single day in the summer only to be interrupted when our Mom's called us in for lunch and then again at dinner time. Waiting for Morrie The Ice Cream man. He was an independent ice cream man in a whitewashed old Good Humor truck. Those watermelon and blueberry popsicles tasted the best. Also the Mr. Softee van with all the best candy and trading cards and that soft serve ice cream. 

I remember blizzards in the winter that seemed insane compared to todays snowstorms.

This street had such an impact that some of our oldest friends came from this street. The old adage you cant make new old friends comes to mind. 

Watching the Beatles on Ed Sullivan at this house. Going to Hammerstein's Drugs after taking the garbage out with my Dad on Sundays and him buying me a few packs of Beatle cards.

Watching the Monkees TV show every week at this house and then going with my Dad to pick up Sunday brunch and him buying me a pack of Monkees cards with the banana gum..

Some memories etched into my memory were Spring/Summer nights in 1968. Falling asleep to Ernie Harwell calling Detroit Tigers baseball games on a transistor radio under my pillow. Magically my brothers and I would wake up in the morning with a few packs of 1968 Topps Baseball cards under our pillows where the transistor radios were when we went to sleep. Optimistically I thought the Tigers would win the World Series every year.

This summed up my Dad. He was a huge sports fan and I realize now how happy he was that we followed his lead. I can only imagine the  pleasure he had in this ritual.

I also vividly remember the 1967 riots. My Mom and a few of the other Moms on the street would bake for the National Guard and take the baked goods over to the Armory on 8 Mile Road.

These are just some of the memories unleashed by this detour this morning.

Thanks Mom & Dad.

Continue...

Disclaimer- The Rolling Stones- Exile On Main Street is my absolute favorite album of all time.

I have an obsession. Every time I see an original copy of Exile in nice shape I pick it up. Especially if it has the set of postcards. Also if it is an original Artisan stamped pressing. I give these as gifts to those who would appreciate it. These gifts are all over the world. Leeds, Stonehaven Scotland, Denver, Australia, Israel, South Africa, Brooklyn, West Bloomfield.

I have several copies of original US Artisan pressings in various condition, an original Japanese pressing lp, a box set, several reissues and even a print of the original billboard on Sunset Strip in Los Angeles signed by the person who did it Jan Van Hammersveld. The title is Exile On Sunset.

The copy that eluded me was the original UK version. I used to go to London 2-3 times a year to buy/sell/trade for my record shop and in those close to 30 visits I never saw a copy. I finally found one a few years ago in Harrogate U.K. at a small record shop called Evil Eye. Not in amazing shape and no postcards but at the right price (20 UK pounds) I plugged that hole finally. I was pretty pleased.

Fast forward to last weekend(February 18, 2018). For whatever reason I punched in a search online and saw an auction for one graded Near Mint condition and it had the original postcard set intact. It was only at $15.50 with under 2 hours to go. So I watched it. For 2 hours. Of course in the last minute bids started coming in and with 8 seconds left I punched in $57.68. I wound up the high bidder for $44. This is a steal. So much so when I received the tracking number and it just showed the label was purchased with no tracking I just assumed the seller bought a label and didn't ship the LP because it sold for way less than it's value and he was just going to let me file a claim because there was no reserve on this auction. I was furious because as of one week later the package was still not tracking. 

I need to back up to last Friday (February 23, 2018). I was in one of my favorite local record shops and purchased an LP and noticed a wallet sitting on the counter. It was full of cash, credit cards, drivers license etc. I handed over to the shop. They called out the persons name. No answer. Turns out this customer had placed a special order and they had his phone number. I joked I hope I get a nice dose of record karma for this.

Yesterday when I got home I was going to send this auction seller a nasty message. Telling him I know what he is up to and wish he would have just told me the truth and not taken my $50. Before this I clicked on the tracking number one more time and lo and behold it tracked to my PO Box. I picked the LP up today and not only is the condition of the vinyl Near Mint so is the cover, inner sleeves and postcard set. It is also true UK first pressing. COC 69100 and stamped A1/B1/C1/D1. The perfect first UK pressing. 

I am now sitting here while I blog this and am on side 4. I have never heard this Lp sound better. 

Moral of the story..... Do something nice for someone. You never know. I have to believe this has something to do with this whole story. Was I being tested by someone or something when I found the wallet? What made me click on the tracking number one more time before sending a nasty email?

Just another one of life's strange mysteries.

Continue...

Top Records Of 2017

Posted by Alan Kovan on December 19, 2017 (1 Comment)

First time ever a tie for #1!

Here goes!

1. Australian Testing Labs- Music For Aircooled Motoring LP on Polytechnic Youth PY 40. This one dropped in out of nowhere and blew me away. Cinematic Krautrock if I have to label it.. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrKy7YMq04M

1. Free Slope- Daydream Melodies on Deep Distance DD 54.

Another amazing record. Think Spacemen 3 meet Krautrock/Manuel Gottsching/Ash Ra Temple and then some. This is tied for #1. A great record.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9j58uF91xxM

3. Moon Duo- Occult Architectures Vol.2 on Sacred Bones SBR 169.

Admittedly I was didn't get into Vol.1 but Vol.2 of the Occult Architecture series is a winner!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7rP-9axxbO4

4. Kelley Stoltz- Que Aura on Castle Face CF 094.

One of my oldest record shop customers done good. Absolutely love this LP.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RjY0vt0iVJg

5. Sula Bassana- Organ Accumulator LP on Deep Distance DD 37

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D9Q3i3n1WTM

6. Alien Stadium EP (Steve Mason & Martin Duffy)- Livin' In Elizabethan Times on Domino DD 128TX.I am a sucker for anthing Steve Mason related and this does not disappoint.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uJPudZxrbqs

7. Eat Lights Become Lights- Nature Reserve LP on Deep Distance DD50

Another driving Krautrock-esque episode in the ELBL canon.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xddTYT6IHPU.

8. Mark Lanegan- Gargoyle LP on Heavenly HVNLP137. Lanegan. 'Nuff said. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I7JCndWHBRg

9. Michael Head & The Red Elastic Band- Adios Senor Pussycat Lp on Violette VIO 025. 

Top Liverpudlian songwriter releases his first new record in eons. And it exceeds expectations.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XqYLztpLw3k

 

10. Luna- A Sentimental Education LP on Double Feature 0013.

You would think an Lp of covers would just be another addition to your Luna collection but nuh uh. This is a great lp.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DqHWi7tmpK0.

I need to include this clip from Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile as it was the best song I saw live all year. Courtney shines.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Bbe0oVyKcc

 

Not a fantastic year but some uber great records. Dig around for some of these LPs.

Some are really hard to find now. Some not.

Dock Ellis Records has some of the Deep Distance and Polytechnic Youth LPs left.

From London, Germany, Leeds & Detroit with love....

http://dockellisrecords.bigcartel.com/

 

 

 

 

 

Continue...

Always rooting for the underdog- A Tom Petty tribute

Posted by Alan Kovan on October 03, 2017 (0 Comments)

 

 

I know saying someone who has sold millions of records is an underdog is a bit contradictory however that is how I thought of myself when becoming a massive Tom Petty fan in the late 1970's. As far as American bands went anyway. It was all about Bruce Springsteen pretty much.

Being the underdog is more a sports thing. I am a huge sports fan but my passion lies in music. Sports is entertaining but fleeting. Music always gives back. Always.

Much of my musical taste was shaped this way. The Beatles vs The Stones? I chose the Stones. Elvis Costello vs Graham Parker I hitched my wagon to Graham Parker. Ditto when it came to Bruce Springsteen vs Tom Petty. I liked Bruce but I loved Tom Petty.

My first introduction to him was in the movie FM and track Breakdown. He was wrongly hyped as some new wave up and comer. Wrong. With that stoned look and those sneering vocals and ringing Rickenbacker guitars he was more like a punky Byrdsy breath of fresh air.

Those first two LP's, both released in 1978, are just about as perfect as you could ask for. Rooted in Americana yet something very forward thinking and fresh sounding.

The debut. Breakdown, The Wild One Forever, Fooled Again and American Girl. The rest of the album is frighteningly great too.

Next up You're Gonna Get It which is a stone cold classic! The title track, I Need To Know, Listen To Her Heart and Baby's A Rock N' Roller. All great as is the rest of the album.

Damn The Torpedoes is the record the rest of the world caught up with Tom Petty. Refugee, Here Comes My Girl, Even The Losers, Don't Do Me Like That? C'mon. I think this record sold a zillion copies. Good for him and the band.

Hard Promises followed up Damn The Torpedoes. He seems to stretch out a little on this LP and it worked a charm. The Waiting, A Woman In Love,  A Thing About You and You Can Still Change Your Mind. Another great record.

This completed a run of four amazing records that started Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers career. Find me many bands who's first four records are this strong. Not a very easy task.

After this point I lost a bit of interest. My focus was on punk and new wave. I also lost interest when Jeff Lynne got involved. Everything he touches sounds the same. Horrifically synthetic which was the opposite of how I look at Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. Their ease of sounding so natural, authentic,energetic and well American was why I loved them so much.

So many of my friends who are music obsessives swear some of the best records Tom Petty released were after this I need to go and rediscover records like Wildflowers etc. I did love Echo when I heard it especially once I heard Swingin'. I need to go back and play some of those later records.

His passing has had a huge effect on me. He was gracious after a show in June of 1980 when I turned up at his hotel after a show at Pine Knob in Detroit on the Damn The Torpedoes tour. A friend of mine and I hung out in the hotel bar and waited. One by one the members of Jefferson Starship, who were playing Pine Knob the next night, came in. They were puzzled why we just kept to ourselves and they approached us. After sarcastically going back and forth with them we just admitted we really weren't fans. We were waiting for someone else. Then Tom Petty turned up in a kind of grizzly mood. However he did pose for this photo. Stalking before stalking was cool.

Perhaps I am missing out on some more great records. This is something I plan on rectifying. Even if I didn't those first four records have given me so much pleasure over the past 40 years I owe Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers an eternal debt of gratitude.

Thank you.

Rest In Peace.

Continue...

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out

Posted by Alan Kovan on May 26, 2017 (1 Comment)

Those of you who know me know I am not very religious. Spiritual yes. Culturally Jewish yes. Religious not so much.

I go to Temple once a year to honor my parents who both passed away on Memorial Day weekend. I go with my sister. I usually say this is because I don't want her sitting by herself. Truth is I like to be there when my parents names are read on the anniversary of their passing. I feel my parents deserve that. They were great parents who always put their kids first.

I am comforted knowing my parents names will always be read together because they passed away 5 years and 5 days apart both on Memorial Day weekend. Regardless of what the Hebrew calendar says I choose to remember them on this weekend. I hear their names mentioned at Temple and I light their memorial candles together. Milly & Denny together. Forever.

Tonight the sermon was about the chaos in the world this week. Much of it was about the horrendous suicide bomb in Manchester England. The rabbi also touched on the other atrocities this week: Coptic Christians in Egypt etc. In her sermon she mentioned that somehow the group targeted in Manchester made it personal. Young kids who have been looking forward to this night for months. Also parents killed for the crime of picking up their kids up after the show. It is more personal to me because I love Manchester. I visit there once a year. I have very close friends in Manchester and nearby. Tough working class people with a soft inside. Also very proud people.

I went to sleep Monday night hoping no one I know was affected by this mass murder. I woke up the next morning to a WhatsApp thread and saw one of my closest friend's niece was close enough to the bomb to feel the heat from it. She also had to escape through the carnage the suicide bomber caused. This is way too much for a 15 year to have to deal with for the rest of her life. Or anyone for that matter. Then I thought about those lives lost and the shattered pieces their families now have to live with. It is almost too much to think about.

What made my heart melt was how the people of Manchester aka Mancunians chose to handle this. With an outpouring of love. Sikh taxi drivers shuttling around people with a sign that said "Free Taxi". So many turned out to donate blood they had to be turned away. Cafe's owned by Muslims offering free food and tea for emergency workers. A woman on her honeymoon sheltering 50 kids in her hotel room. Domino's Pizza delivered free pizza non stop to hospitals treating the victims. A Rabbi showed up to the Police station with a large box of cuppas(cups of tea). Knowing Manchester I wasn't surprised.

The end of the sermon tonight the rabbi mentioned the words scrawled on a balloon at the makeshift shrine in St Anne's Square which had the words "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out". She thought this sentiment summed it all up. What she didn't know(or maybe she did) was this is the title to a Smiths song. One of the most influential music groups ever to come out of Manchester.

This also served as a metaphor for why I was at Temple in the first place. To honor my parents for whom the words "There Is A Light That Never Goes Out" never seemed more apt.

 

Continue...

The Beta Band family tree

Posted by Alan Kovan on October 26, 2016 (0 Comments)

Having recently returned from the UK with a trip based around two Steve Mason dates, Hebden Bridge Trades Club October 8th and Wakefield Unity Works October 14th, I cant seem to get these shows out of my mind.

Stripped down from a five piece band to a three piece band for this tour the songs played took on a much different feel(or so I am told). I was happy either way since the chance of Steve Mason playing the US are pretty slim. I do hope to eat those words.

I thought this would be as good a time as any to appreciate the Beta Band and their family tree: The Aliens, King Biscuit Time and the Steve Mason solo albums. All worthy of being in any fans collection.

We can start with the Beta Band- The Three EPs with monsters tunes like Dry The Rain, Dogs Got A Bone, Inner Meet Me, Dr Baker to name a few. It is a compilation of the first three eps put out by them. So good in fact is makes an appearance in the film High Fidelity.

Next up the 1999 self titled debut album. The band went on record saying they hated it but I didn't. Even sub par Beta Band(their view not mine) is pretty damn good. It's Not Too Beautiful and Smiling spring to mind.

2001's Hot Shots ll was an improvement over the debut with a more song oriented album. Squares, Human Being and Quiet stand out.

2004 saw Heroes To Zeroes released. Sadly this would be the last Beta Band studio album. Assessment, Simple, and Easy stand out among others. This was a great way to end this part of the Beta Band story if it had to end. Which apparently it did.

If this blog piques your interest this 2005 release The Regal Years 1997-2004 is a must. 6 CDs of studio tracks, live versions, radio sessions, demos and other material.

This is where the fork in the road happens. Well maybe it happened a bit before. 1999 saw the release of King Biscuit Time's (basically just Steve Mason) No Style EP in the US which compiles two UK CD singles. For starters I Walk The Earth is worth owning this for. There is more. I Love You and Time To Get Up also fantastic.

There is also this 2007 release which isn't that easy to find. A little searching would pay off with some amazing tracks: Kwangchow, All Over You and Rising Son. There is even an uber limited version with an instrumental CD included.

Also a 2007 release is this awesome slice of whimsical psychedelia. The Aliens- John McLean, Robin Jones & Gordon Anderson. Setting Sun, I Am The Unknown & She Dont Love Me No More stand out. This is a light hearted fun record from start to finish.

One year later this masterpiece was released. 2008's Luna is fantastic from start to finish. I am not going to pick out any stand out tracks. It is just superb from the first song to the last. Not difficult to find unless you are a vinyl die hard. Then not an easy one. I may be able to help you there.

There was 4 track EP released n 2006 Alienoid Starmonica as well as other singles.

This is where Steve Mason went off on his own in 2010. Under his own name this time. This was the first sign of more amazing music to come. The All Come Down video. More amazing tracks: Boys Outside, a very personal song about depression and Hound On My Heel. There is also a bonus CD with a Dub reworking of this album with Dennis Bovell.

This is a heavy album. Very political. Very angry and cynical. Also right on point. 2013 Monkeys Mind In The Devils Time is another Steve Mason classic. There are elements of psychedelia, hip hop and everything else in this record. Tracks I would point out: A Lot Of Love, Lonely, Oh My Lord, Fight Them Back & Come To Me. Unforgettable listening.

Here we are in 2016. Meet The Humans is a pop record. I read in an interview Steve Mason wanted/needed to lighten things up on this record. This is my #1 record of 2016 by some distance. Several songs stand out on this album. Buy it. Cd, LP, download. You wont regret it.

I am so happy to have seen those two UK shows earlier this month. Steve Mason is quite an entertainer. Witty, funny, self deprecating, and quite a performer. It feels good when you walk out of a gig and just smile. Especially the encores Hardly Go Through and Dry The Rain.

Maybe this little blog will turn someone on to Steve Mason. I hope so. What would really be great is if anyone used this blog as a road map to some of the best music released in the last 18 years.

Others not covered in this blog but related are:
Lone Pigeon, Black Affair, Django Django, Brothers In Sound. Just depends how deep you want to get into this Beta Band family tree.

 

 

Continue...

1 2 3 Next »