In January 2008 I put together an album of photographs and posted them on that very well known social network. Thinking about this group of pictures lead eventually to this blog…an edited version of one of them provided my ‘profile’ picture. Passing that particular site recently I noticed that the sign had gone and the shopfront had been stripped back. This prompted me to revisit the photographs and their sites. Some things have changed round here since 2008 and, luckily, others have not. Here is the first part of the two parallel albums.
So a couple of days ago I steeled myself and drove to Amoeba Records on Sunset and Cahuenga in Hollywood. I had been told that Amoeba would ‘blow my mind’ but I thought this was just a bit of Cailfornian hyperbole and I was sceptical. The underground car park below the store allowed for 1 hour free parking and I thought that would be plenty. In fact I have not seen so much vinyl in one place since the Oxford Street Virgin Megastore before the advent of the CD. There were two huge rooms on the ground floor full of new and second-hand CDs and records. Mostly pop and dance in the front with jazz and classical in the back. Faced with so much stuff I suffered the usual indecision and ended by buying what seems like a random selection of things:
‘Jazz Jam 4’ on vinyl for the beautiful cover by David Stone Martin. (With Count Basie, Benny Carter and many others)
‘The World of Harry Partch’ on vinyl to represent ‘weird’ America.
‘Heart Failed in the Back of a Taxi’ mixes CD single by Saint Etienne because I am a fan.
Three 7″ singles plus a CD as a package by the Nels Cline Trio called ‘Ground’ – for some local colour.
‘Imitation of Life/Double Indemnity’ on CD by Steve Beresford and Tristan Honsinger (with David Toop and Toshinori Kondo) because I thought it would be great.
Peter Brotzmann Clarinet Project, ‘Berlin Djungle’ for the same reason.
Heinner Goebbels and Heiner Muller, ‘Der Mann im Fahrstul’ because I thought ‘Stifters Dinge’ was wonderful.
Two Luciano Berio albums – ‘Epifanie/Folk Songs’ and ‘Laborintus 2’ because I love them both.
Then when I took everything to the counter I spotted a copy of Talikng Heads ‘Speaking in Tongues’ in the Robert Rauschenberg cover. On the plastic sleeve was written ‘Clean Sealed Orig! No yellowing!’ so I succumbed and bought that too.
My one hour time limit was probably useful as I might have just gone on and on juggling possibilities and ultimatley buying far too much. (There are still a couple of things that I wonder if I should have not put back.)
I thought that the perfect follow-up to this spree would be to go and look at the metaphorical stack of platters that is the Capitol Records Building on Vine. (‘Take me down to Vine Street. Stop when you hear that Bad Beat…’). Looks like just the number of records for a 12-stacker…this is Los Angeles after all.
I have been having some difficulty finding things to listen to on the radio in the car in LA. Mexican and Korean pop (the seemingly ubiquitous ‘Gagnam Style’) are ok for a while. I’ve bumped into very sober and patchy classical stations too but none have seemed to fit my driving in LA mood. I thought that on the way back from the record store I would play some of the new CDs I had bought. First I played the Saint Etienne single and that was fine…mixes of a song that I already knew well with some added bad beats. The Nels Cline CD was sealed into a bag with the 7 inches so that left the Beresford or the Brotzmann. I thought the latter might be a little too ‘full-on’ for driving so I put on ‘Imitation of Life’. It begins in quite polite mode with something like a chamber ensemble then slowly begins to fall apart. At some point as I was driving I realised I was probably breaking the law in the US by driving without carrying my license with me. I am fairly new to the roads of LA so these factors added together made me feel a bit anxious. As the music developed so did my anxiety and when there was a sudden crash followed by whistles I was momentarily confused only to discover that these were on the CD and not on the street. Soon after there was a man shouting his innocence (‘I didn’t do it!’) followed by the sound of sirens and my paranoia returned in spades but I made it home safe just as the music ended.
Then yesterday at LACMA I saw this image in a small exhibition on Expressionist cinema:
A perfect evocation of the urban sound field made in Berlin in the 1920s; just as relevant to the streets of Los Angeles in 2012.
On my first morning in Vegas I walked into the hinterland behind the Strip to visit Record City. It was a long, hot, dusty walk and because of the particular geography of Las Vegas Boulevard I ended up just a couple of blocks east of the Strip. While I was in the shop the owner talked on the phone to various people about new picture discs that had just come in – either this is how he makes a living from the shop or he just doesn’t really like old vinyl with which the shop is full. The music in the shop all comes through the computer. The second hand records were marked down by 25% and the floor was covered with $1 crates. Here are two finds from digging through these crates.
2. The Beat Cafe
Downtown on Fremont, east of the Fremont Experience, Las Vegas becomes kind of normal. The Beat is a coffee shop and record store with tiny art galleries attached. The music they play is all on vinyl – the record deck sits on the counter where you place your order. They play old Beatles and Hendrix records and they stick and jump. That’s ok…that’s what records do. I bought a Brian Auger and Julie Tippet record here.
In the Interzone between the southern half of the Strip and Downtown, old Vegas surfaces in dilapidated form. There are motels that have seen better days, strip joints, vacant lots and now some galleries. This area is a lot less ‘scripted’ than the controlled fantasy managed by MGM and Caesar Entertainment. At the hottest part of the day I stopped under a tree for shade and realised the tree was full of birds chattering in the same kind of repetitive weave of sound as the slot machines in the casino. But the birds were so deep within the foliage that they were invisible.
At the end of 2010 I started writing a log of musical encounters of a non-musical kind. This is the entry for one day in 2011…an early morning walk to the market then a longer walk to Stoke Newington in the afternoon.
Early morning, Ridley Road, Dalston, 9th January 2011.
1.148 TIM’S THE HOME OF GOOD GROOVE MUSIC 148
2. HARRY’S RECORD SHOP SOCA JOUK & REGGAE
3. ALPHA & OMEGA VARIETY STORE EVERY DAY VEGETABLE FROM AFRICA & ALL AFRICAN HERBS WE ALSO SELL AUDIO TAPES CDS VIDEO TAPES OF AFRICA MOVIES WHOLESALE & RETAIL 45A 45A
Walk on 9th January 2011.
1. At the corner of Crossway and Stoke Newington Road. 2 discarded CDs in the gutter:
‘Lovetouch. 5th birthday celebration. Saturday 24th of July 2010. CD mixed by DJ Supamaks, RNB, Hip Hop, Bashment, Funky @ Hidden Night Club…’
2. Stoke Newington Baptist Church sign:
‘Robinson Music Academy. “All we require is desire”…’
3. Net Music, Stoke Newington High Street:
‘Music lessons, Musical Instruments & Accessories, Music Books, Internet café’.
4. V.G. Foodstore, Stoke Newington High Street:
Indian cassettes displayed between the garlic and the yams.
[It occurs to me now that this route took me past the shopfront used in this photograph. When I moved to Hackney in 1984 it was still there on Stoke Newington High street.]
5. The Mind Shop, Stoke Newington Church Street:
CD – £2 – ‘The Mantle of Orpheus; Henry Purcell’s last songs and the songs of his fellow composers who survived him.’ The Consort of Musicke.
12” vinyl single – 50p. – Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. ‘Perfect Skin’.
6. Lucky Seven Records, Stoke Newington Church Street:
12” vinyl single – £3 – Cocteau Twins. ‘Aikea-Guinea, Kookaburra, Quisquose, Rococo’.
7” vinyl single – £2 – The Members. ‘The Sound of the Suburbs’. VS242. In biro, on the label, the name ‘Alan McGee’.