The Pandemic Blues: July 15, 2020

 

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One of my few remaining LPs. RIP Country Dick Montana and Buddy Blue.

 

We are living in dog years.  Every day feels like seven.  137,000 dead and rising.  The positive cases keep stacking up.  What a horrible mess we are in.  No national leadership and no plan. God help us.

Elective surgeries recently opened up, so on June 17th Amelia had a bunionectomy and surgery on two hammer toes on her left foot.  It was originally scheduled for April, but the Covid kiboshed it. “A summer to remember” is the mantra I keep repeating everyday, much to my wife’s chagrin 😉. Six weeks on crutches and in a cast, then four weeks in a boot.  So we are definitely staying home and hopefully safe this summer while she recovers.  The Airstream is sitting in storage.  I go over once a week to visit her and reminisce. My other repetitive line, is a catch all for the Covid era: “People are stupid.” Every day the news confirms and reiterates it.

Music has always been a passion of mine. There have been times when it’s only smoldering, but the Covid has fanned the flames. Staying at home equals not spending as much money as usual and listening to a lot more music.  I’ve been taking that extra money that we used to spend on god knows what and investing in the joy of music. I’ve bought more CDs in the last four weeks than the last two years.  Music is powerful.  It stirs up emotions and memories.  I’ve never been a guy that wanted to be in a band or a rock star.  Instead, I’ve always wanted to be a songwriter.  To be able to craft a short story into lyrics…that’s magical.

In the late 70s and throughout most of the 80s every payday signaled a trip to Tower Records on Sports Arena Blvd.  All of us would load into someone’s VW Bug, super excited to go buy more music.  The vibe in the store was amazing. You could spend hours leafing through all the vinyl, listening to what they had spinning, chatting up the employees, and people watching.  You had your favorite artists, and always knew when they had a new release coming out.  You also mined the store for unheard gems, looking to be the first guy on the block to discover the hot new artist.  Bragging rights!  I like to take credit for discovering Lucinda Williams, but truth be told, it was my friend, Suzie. I will take credit for Green on Red, Jason and the Scorchers, The Plimsouls, Scruffy the Cat, Steve Earle, and Wire Train.

I currently do not have a turntable, but still rue the day I sold hundreds of albums and a handful of 45s before our move to Mammoth Lakes.  I actually thought I sold everything, but I had so much vinyl that there was a stash I forgot about!  So I still have about a 50 LPs.  There’s just nothing like holding an album sleeve in your hand.

 

Scruffy the Cat, Boom Boom Boom Bingo LP with the Tower price tag! 1987 release on Relativity Records.

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I wore this one out, especially side one, song one; “Time Ain’t Nothing.”  What a terrific song.   1985 release on Mercury Records.

 

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OMG!  Who didn’t have this album?  “baby i’m-a want you”

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Rod Stewart & Ronnie Wood’s band, featuring the classic “Stay with Me.”

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I want to make it perfectly clear: THIS IS NOT MINE!  It’s Amelia’s.

Valley Girl, what a great movie. The Plimsouls playing, “The Oldest Story in the World” in the bar scene. And Nicolas Cage with one of the best lines ever in a movie. “That chick Julie is truly dazzling.”  Need I say more.

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The X album with the great Dave Alvin song, “4th of July.”

 

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Stephen Stills & Neil Young’s 1976 release. I guess they were getting along that year.

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Buddy Blue’s 1987 post Beat Farmers release on Rounder Records.

 

All of us screwed up at least once and accidently left an LP in a hot car. It’s crazy how bad the vinyl would warp. The record would be ruined.  One time the Tower Records lot was full so I had to park on a side street.  When I came back to my car, someone had stolen my Pioneer AM/FM Cassette player.  They yanked it right out of the dash.  I was so bummed.  If you had a VW, shit like that happened too often because it was so easy to break in through the wing vents.

With all your albums you could then spend time crafting mix tapes. It was a real art form and a great way to impress a chick.  The movie High Fidelity, starring John Cusack, does a terrific job of nailing that era.  The Hulu series remake of the movie with the smoking hot Zoe Kravitz is also worth viewing.

 

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This crate is three layers deep and full of mix tapes. Many of them were given to me. Some of you might even recognize your own writing.

One of my favorite mix tapes.

The last mix tape my brother made before passing away on April 5, 1994.

 

Then one day, vinyl was out and compact discs were in.  There was great hype surrounding CDs, but the bottom line was vinyl sounded better, a lot better.  And then the world famous Tower Records was gone daddy gone, shuttered, out of business. Now CDs are on their way out and everyone is streaming music, but the bottom line is CD sound quality is a lot better than streamed music.

When my two friends and I opened Fins in 1989, music was a big part of our concept.  At first we played cassette tapes, but there was always the issue of having to flip the tape!  We quickly got smart and bought a five CD player and brought in our own existing CDs and started buying a bunch more.  Each store had a couple hundred CDs and we encouraged managers to bring in music. The opening manager would select the day’s music trying to create a theme that could be titled, if not the Fins logo sufficed.  I won’t name names, but a couple of managers always seemed to have their one go to CD that they always played, so eventually we just hid A Decade of Steely Dan and Honk, Five Summer Stories Soundtrack! Each store had a space on the wall for Today’s Music Mix, a plexi-glass holder that held the sleeve of each CD that was playing.  Every Friday was Jimmy Buffett Day (Fins, get it?). CD Trader on Miramar Rd was the place to go, but it was nowhere as cool as Tower in their heyday.  From 1989-1997, when we were in the stores all the time, with great managers, it was music magic. We had some brilliant mixes and customers loved it.  But as often happens, growing pains and lack of control doomed the great idea.  You can read the article below from an old Fins newsletter.

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January 24, 1995, grand opening party for Fins, La Jolla. Take a look at the Today’s Music Mix on the wall! Jimmy Buffett, Fruit Cakes, Lucinda Williams, Sweet Old World, Counting Crows, August and Everything After, Frank Sinatra, A Swingin’ Affair and The Jayhawks, Hollywood Town Hall.

 

I’ve already said as much, but I’m not a streaming music guy.  I really enjoy laying down a five CD mix. I’ve been working remotely since 2012. Music keeps me company and makes me smile. Three years ago my last five CD player crapped out on me.  I was in a panic.  Good Ol’ Craig’s List saved me! I found a guy in Vista that has a garage full of receivers and CD players he has repaired and sells. If I were smart I’d contact him tomorrow, don a mask, and go buy two more players, because sooner or later this one is going to crap out too. Now, during the Covid, I’ve started naming the mixes again, just like back in the day at Fins.  And texting the pic of CD inserts to my music loving buddies.  It’s great fun, a nice way to stay connected, and gives me a little daily creative outlet.

 

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Over seven hundred CDs and counting!

 

Here’s a few of my recent mixes:

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“Short Stories From Larry’s Kid”

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“Toiling Away in Obscurity”

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“This is what the cool kids are listening to today.”

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“Mark Knopfler Thread”

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Johnny’s daughter, “Cash Only”

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“Easy Listening Sunday”

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“Trying to Stay Upbeat”

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“Black, Bold, and Beautiful”

 

Shelby Lynne & Allison Moorer’s, Not Dark Yet, is a real stand out for these times. I can’t rave about it enough. Another real gem that I recently knocked the dust off of and now can’t stop working into mixes is Kathleen Edwards’ 2003 release, Failer. I hope someone doesn’t hide it from me 😳.

 

Please stay safe! 😷

17 thoughts on “The Pandemic Blues: July 15, 2020

  1. Tower Records right next to Froggy’s Scrotum, ooops I mean Foggy’s Notion. Oh the memories. Can’t imagine being able to linger and browse in a store these days. Thanks for the trip down memory lane. It’s the only trip we all have right now.

  2. Such great times. The music mix selection was a super important part of the day as opening manager. Mostly, I remember picking a mix that – when you would invariably pop in after a run – you’d scan it quickly on your way to the kitchen, and quickly nod in acceptance. The pride I would feel! Thank you for introducing me to so much great music, much of which I still appreciate today. In a lot of cases can remember the first time I heard a given track, usually after close, when it was quiet enough and we could crank the music while cleaning, and only then really hear the lyrics. Damn what I wouldn’t give to go back, just for a few days.

  3. This post is so rich for so many of us. Your voice in this blog is strong and true.

    What a special thing, that mixed tape from EJ.

    Thanks to you, I saw more live music in the four years I lived in San Diego than I have my whole life. Even Country Dick, RIP, embarrassing as that is.

    My fifteen year old Jasmine just got a tape player from Craig’s list. She gets tapes at the used bookstore, and when she starts driving next summer, she’ll be cranking them in my old, her new, 2002 Jetta.

    • Those were some good times! I think about your old roommate Tim a lot. He was a huge music guy. So many songs remind me of him. I have a big smile on my face about Jasmine, Jetta, and tapes.

  4. The Shaun Cassidy album brought back so many memories….Do you believe in magic???? Funny thing about timing and your post….just yesterday a client gave me a Sony record player. Mint condition and only used a couple times….now I just have to figure out where that old amp/speaker is in my storage unit so I can hook it up! I know there are albums in there also if they have not warped in the heat of the Bakersfield storage unit.

    • Lucky! Mint condition record player. I hope that storage unit Bakersfield is climate controlled! If not, you’re correct, you could see some warping. If you ever get down to SD let us know we will loan you the Shaun Cassidy album 🙂

  5. Fuck Bill. This almost made me cry. Listening to ‘Million Miles Away’ right this very fucking minute. And David Lindley always makes me think of Fralia. Quarter of a Man.

    But my anthem for these times…….Worldwide Brotherhood.

    BIG HEAD TODD!

  6. I love EVERYTHING about this post!❤️🎶
    Thanks much for sharing Greg, and I hope Amy’s full recovery is quick & pain-free!🍷🍷

  7. Hi Greg!
    This is a Kristen Broomfield! Your old neighbor…Jeff and I are happy (as happy as one can be during a pandemic) here in Loveland, CO. We’d love for you and Amy to come visit sometime after this fiasco is over. We could go sightseeing in the Rockies not far from here.
    What have you been up to?! Jeff retired in January. He goes motorcycle riding with his brother every once in a while. We’d love to hear from you!
    Fondly,
    Kristen
    PS Jeff loved your book! I haven’t been reading much, need new glasses 🤓…

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