Saturday, May 28, 2011

Finite Space Time

So I made a couple new additions to my music collection since the last post. I had to drive 3 hours back to the big city just to sign two pieces of paper. Seriously, a total of 6 hours of driving just to give my Herbie Hancock twice. The upside to such a trip is that I was back in the big city and had access to all my favorite records stores (the only place to buy CD's in the small town I currently live in is Wal-Mart. They don't tend to stock too many CD's that I want to own. Yes, I still buy things digitally, but I prefer hard copies. Also, I love picking through bins of vinyl and racks of cassettes. There's something very pleasing about shuffling through hundreds of records to find that elusive Berserkley comp you don't own yet, or that copy of Moondog Matinee complete with the wraparound poster. Anyway, this parenthetical statement is way longer than I intended. The point is this: I love actual brick and mortar record stores. Two of my absolute favorite bands of all-time were introduced to me by super smart record store employees who knew what I should be listening to). So I took advantage of the time before I turned my car right around to home and visited some of my favorite haunts.

One of the biggest problems for a collector like myself is the finite nature space and time as it relates to the size of the homes we inhabit and the time we have available to devote to music. There are only so many records I can fit in the house before my wife starts hinting that I own too many. I can only own so many discmen, walkmen, minidisc players, mp3 players, etc. before my wife indicates that I can't let any more of these things follow me home. Let me state emphatically that I'm not trapped in a Lockhorns sort of marriage. I love my wife very much and I am typing this statement without any sort of weapon against my head. My wife is generally very understanding, but seeing as how I own 5 computers, 13 video game consoles and hundreds of games for them, 600+ vinyl records, 500+ CD's, 100+ minidiscs, an innumerable cassette tape collection (unnumbered because about half of it is in my car), three bass guitars, two bass amps, two guitars, two guitar amps, and probably a few other collections I'm overlooking. I'm not bragging about my collections (I personally know people with much more impressive collections. These people also happen to be single), I just want you to understand that with all the crap that fills our house, 96.8% of it is mine and 87.6% of it is stuff my wife never uses. She is an absolute saint to let me keep this stuff. So adding another listening device may not have been the best choice I could have made, but as stated before, my wife is a saint. Without further discussion of my marriage, here is the addition:
This is the second Sony Sports walkman I own. When cassettes ruled the world, the sports walkman was the one everyone wanted. Not only was it bright yellow when all the competing products were black or silver, it had a clamshell-style snap shut case that was supposed to be at least water resistant if not waterproof. In its heyday, the walkman pictured above was the very knees of the bees.

I was listening to a Mitch Hedberg album once (I don't remember if it was an official release or a bootleg) but he tried one of those jags that he would occasionally cut where the audience didn't go with him on the little journey inside his head. Anyway, he was talking about a boombox and about how if he took the batteries out, it would feel significantly lighter and thus feel like a piece of junk. The weight added by the batteries gave the boombox legitimacy. Without them it was just a hollow piece of molded plastic. Even though he wasn't able to find the laughs on that jag, he addressed something that I have often pondered as it relates to electronic devices: weight matters.

As I mentioned before, the case on my discman is essentially a solid piece of metal. It's fairly hefty and thus feel much more real than the two plastic ones I keep in a drawer but won't throw away because I'm some sort of sicko hoarder who is lucky to have a woman in his life. The new walkman also has a significant heft, especially when compared with my other walkmen. This being the case, which walkman do you think I've been listening to my cassettes on? If you guessed the heavy one, move to the head of the class.

In addition to the unnecessary purchase of a hefty outdated listening device, I also picked up a new cassette. It just happens to be a cassette that I once owned in high school which took flight out the window of my car after very few listens. The cassette in question was Bringing Down the Horse by The Wallflowers.

I was intrigued by this album because it was the son of Bob Dylan hitting the big time. When I was in high school, I only knew Bob Dylan through the artists that covered his music (The Byrds, Peter Paul and Mary, Jimi Hendrix). My Dad couldn't stand Bob Dylan's voice (though, oddly enough, many consider Dylan to be the voice of my Dad's generation). My Dad was so emphatic that the only way to enjoy Dylan was through covers that I believed it without firsthand knowledge. So I basically avoided all original renditions by Dylan until I was in college and made a couple hippie friends. Anyway, the point is that I bought this album because the son of a man whose voice I'd never heard made it.

The first single and opening track of the album is "One Headlight" which got waaaay overplayed to the point that I decided that it was crap and chucked the tape out the window. Here's the thing: I was just as guilty as the dj's who overplayed the song. In the days when cassettes roamed the land and it was a hard thing to listen to the same track over and over, yet I still took the time to do it. You had two choices: either listen to your song, flip the tape over and listen to the other side until your side has rewound enough (this option resulted in less wear and tear on your cassette and the player) or you could just hit rewind at the end of your song and wait for the tape to cue up again. I always took the second option. Imagine my relief when I found out about CD's. When I bought Siamese Dream by The Smashing Pumpkins on cassette, I would rewind "Today" over and over. It wasn't until a friend put "Mayonaise" on a mix tape that I realized I was missing 12/13ths of a really great album. "One Headlight" by The Wallflowers was also a victim of my rewinding habits and because it's the first track on the album, I never heard so much as a snippet from any of the other songs before the cassette took a flying leap.

Here's what I learned from listening to the entire album on my trip back from the big city: I'm an idiot. I was so big on Counting Crows in high school, there was no legitimate reason that I should not have absolutely loved The Wallflowers. The two bands are definitely kindred spirits. They must both celebrate The Band's entire catalog. I can especially imagine that Jakob Dylan does because his old man played a big part in getting The Band off the ground. I can picture a Garth Hudson or Rick Danko hanging around the Dylan house when Jakob was in diapers.

So The Wallflowers are actually a pretty dang good band and Bringing Down the Horse has plenty of good songs other than the overplayed hit single (which I can dig now that it's been a dozen or so year since I heard it last). The song below is "God Don't Make Lonely Girls" which was hands down my favorite song on the album.

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