I need to state some things about Record Store Day (RSD) to appease some of you, Dear Readers, as well as to get things off my chest.
1. Record Store Day is a great event concept that has served its primary goal of attracting attention to the joys of collecting records. And, more importantly, it is helping to get people back in the habit of going to physical “brick and mortar” stores again to find things they can’t easily get online.
2. Many of the RSD offerings put out over the years by the artists and labels are indeed cool and usually worth picking up to enjoy.
3. Some of the items have become a little pricey, but I get it that the labels would want to make some money on the collectibles marketplace vs. some used record dealer jacking up prices on old stuff that has grown in popularity over the years and is thus “in demand.” In the end, this strategy is having a mixed effect: some items are too expensive for the audiences that would be interested in them, making people hesitate to buy simply because of the notion that if you are going to spend that much on a 45 RPM single, you might as well get an original at that price. Therein lies the rub, as they say….
4. Some of the offerings have been a little on the dumb side, not particularly fun or enticing, nor focused on the artists’ audience (I’m not going to finger point here!)
5. There is a grass roots sense of outrage at some of the distributors of this RSD stuff, which are seemingly not letting smaller retailers in on the fun. This is having a negative effect resulting in lots of “eBay flippers” — as they are known as — putting stuff out there online at higher prices right away. If more product was available to certain markets and outlets, maybe this wouldn’t be happening.
Ok, that said, on the last Record Store Day there were a number of cool singles and other oddities I was curious about… and not all are being flipped on eBay (but a bunch are!).
Here’s my run down:
Elvis Presley’s Debut – This may have been one of the most buzzed about titles this year due to its publisher, Jack White (of White Stripes fame). In case you hadn’t heard, Mr. White bought the only and original acetate disc of Elvis Presley’s first demos from before he was even signed to Sun Records. What is so cool is that White reproduced the 78 RPM disc exactingly, not only down to the label but also the laser etching of the scratches from the original onto the new pressings! I hadn’t expected to get this one, in all honestly, since it was supposed to be super duper limited and hard to find. Indeed, the folks at 1-2-3-4 Go Records in San Francisco only got a handful so I grabbed one with the songs “My Happiness” and “That’s When Your Heartaches” on either side.
I wasn’t planning on playing it thinking it was going to be one of those things I hold on to for my retirement someday. Well, a couple weeks after RSD I was in Amoeba Records in San Francisco and saw a whole stack of the buggers! And a quick check on eBay saw many many flippers trying to flip there. So, there goes my retirement. Instead, I decided to do something remarkable: I played the bloody thing! And you you know what? It sounded pretty great spinning at 78 RPM in glorious Monaural sound! As Jack White said in one of his many interviews, this record is sort of like the Big Bang of Rock ‘n Roll, since everything that blossomed in the genre happened once Elvis got signed to Sun Records. So its cool to participate in this and hear a piece of genuine rock ‘n roll history as closely as might be theoretically possible apart from Jack White actually playing the record for us personally.
Foo Fighters Birth – Another birthplace type release is the 10-inch four track EP called Songs From The Laundry Room featuring rough demos by Dave Grohl cut during his Nirvana days, songs which would not see the light of day until he started The Foo Fighters. It includes one previously unreleased new song (“Empty Handed”) and a cover of Kim Wilde’s “Kids In America.” Fun stuff.
Buzzcocks’ Renaissance — “The Way” is the first single off the fine fine new album of the same name on 1-2-3-4 Go Records. It includes a great B-side called “Generation Suicide” and comes on pretty quiet white vinyl. Only thing missing from the package is a download code but I’m not complaining!
Emitt Rhodes’ Resurrection — Emitt Rhodes’ first recording issued on vinyl since 1973 is an historic moment to be celebrated. That this first release is a cover of a Bee Gee’s tune is all the more curious and interesting since he is singing “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” which, if you know Emitt’s life story, is all the more poignant and heart rendering. Hope this is the start of a new period of activity for Emitt ala Brian Wilson. Fingers crossed.
Interpol’s Glory — One of my record collecting buddies recommended I pick up the Interpol single “Everything Is Wrong” since it was the first time they have put out a single in a long time. Its really a lovely package, coming with a nifty insert sticker and comes with a non-LP B-side called “What is What.”
Frank Zappa’s Travelogue — This single is probably the oddest of releases : a NEW recording of selections from a live concert of Zappa’s score to his 1970 big screen opus 200 Motels. The only sad thing for me is that it sounds real good and I want to hear the complete concert, as conducted by Esa-Pekka Solonen with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, recorded at Disney Hall in October of 2013. Frankly, I wish I had even known about this performance happening in the first place as I would have flown down to see it! Ah well, maybe someday we’ll get a full release of the concert on Blu-ray Audio in 5.1 surround sound. That would be the right way to honor this wonderful sounding music. Fingers crossed that this single release was a teaser for something bigger and better.