Friday, January 7, 2011

The Story In Music

Y'all should check-out Rastro's history of "La Historia De La Musica Rock," the series of Spanish-import best-of albums that hit the cheapo cut-out album bins big-time early in the '80s. His post is informative & funny & a pretty solid piece of pop-culture history -- it's at
His writeup reminded me of my own little imported musical discovery a little later in the '80s....
The city: San Antonio, Texas. Time: Summer 1983. Looking as always 4 good music on a budget, during a browse thru a distinctly non-flashy-looking Target store (possibly 1 of their 1st?), I get distracted by a coupla big square bins fulla cheap cassette tapes, marked at $3.99 or less.
The wife & I laff over summa the junk that's Nded up here from the past few years, but then I manage 2 scoop up a copy of Pete Townshend's ALL THE BEST COWBOYS HAVE CHINESE EYES 4 $3.99 & figure it's worth it just 2 hear "Slit Skirts" again.
Then I stop laffing & start grabbing & piling-up tapes.
The tapes R in the bin spine-up, so all you see at 1st is the artist's name & the album title. Just B4 giving up, I spot some tapes with weirdly shaded-in artist's names, the lettering almost psychedelic in appearance: The Byrds, Bob Dylan, The Grateful Dead....
There's a bunch of them. I grab 1/2adozen or so that R closest 2 my musical intrest -- old hits & spacey stuff. They look cheap, almost like bootlegs, not much in the way of flashy art & graphics. But they seem 2 B legit. & you can't beat the prices....
Turns out these R parts of the "Storia E Musica" artists'-best-of series released by Gruppo Editoriale Fabbri out of Milan, Italy. 1nce you pop them open they seem pretty legit -- the Byrds & Dylan releases both have the CBS logo on them, others seemta have the appropriate record-co emblems. & they SOUND fine....
But these R pretty unlike any best-of's I'd seen released in the US.
The Dylan package I grabbed 2 hear "Like a Rolling Stone" & "I Want You" again, + the whole 1st side dated back 2 his pre-electric period, the classics from Side 1 of his American GREATEST HITS that I always refer-2 as SCREECH ALONG WITH BOB.
But this tape was where I 1st heard the great "Subterranean Homesick Blues" & the amazing "One of Us Must Know" -- why was this song never a hit? It's as forceful as "Like a Rolling Stone" & no way does it wear out as quickly as "Positively 4th Street"....
I grabbed the Byrds' best-of 4 the hits & so I could hear "Chestnut Mare" again 4 the 1st time in years -- but "I'll Feel a Whole Lot Better" was a great suprise & somehow I had never heard the beautiful "Ballad of Easy Rider."
At $3.99 per, I couldn't complain about the quality.
Others were cheaper. A best-of by The Strawbs made me a fan. Before grabbing the tape all I knew about them was they were a little folky & Yes keyboardist Rick Wakeman started out with them. Tho it wasn't all stunning, summa the Strawbs stuff knocked me out. It started with the jokey "Part of the Union," then went thru summa their more avg folky work w/ occasional high points like the great group-vocal choruses in "I'll Carry on Beside You," & the completely over-the-top melodrama of "Hero and Heroine."
But Side 2 got 2 the real good stuff -- a live recording of an intense folk-based # called "The Man Who Called Himself Jesus," followed by another live track -- a long, angry keyboard workout by Wakeman on "Where is This Dream of Your Youth?"
I decided I'd havta look in2 these Strawbs. & 2 this day I still can't find a vinyl or CD copy of the live "Man Who Called Himself Jesus," which is NOT included on their live album of the period, 1970's JUST A COLLECTION OF ANTIQUES AND CURIOS.
The tapes were pretty generous w/ the tunes -- most acts got 12 songs -- but the songs coulda been taken from anytime in the artist's career. The best-of package 4 Poco featured a cover photo of the "Crazy Love"-era band, but the trax inside were from the early '70s. Great stuff, 2 -- "A Good Feelin' to Know," "Here We Go Again," "And Settlin' Down".... Not sure what folks in Italy knew about country-rock, but still....
Inside the packages, if you were lucky you got song titles, composer's credits & timings. Sometimes there was even an indication of what year a song was released. But that was all. Sometimes you didn't get even that much.
Summa the other tapes I couldn't quite hear yet or eventually gave up on. Soft Machine's best-of had a lurid pinkish photo of organist Mike Ratledge on the front, & Xactly 3 trax inside: Robert Wyatt's 19-minute "Moon in June" offa THIRD, & the later "Teeth" & "Chloe and the Pirates."
The Grateful Dead's package had a leisurely 13-minute live version of "Truckin'" along with some other stuff, but I was disappointed. Not even "Uncle John's Band"? This was from a period when I still thot the Dead were sposta B "spacey." Or at least adventurous. Or at least something other than a psychedelic jugband. Not that there's anything wrong with that....
John McLaughlin's set hadda coupla trax offa each of the 1st 2 Mahavishnu Orchestra albums, then some later solo trax. It took me another 25 years 2 begin 2 B able 2 hear that stuff, but I gave it a try....
Weather Report's package I gave up on even sooner -- possibly immediately after I discovered that "Birdland" was basically easy-listening jazz & not even as intresting as Manhattan Transfer's vocal version. But now I'm bummed Bcos I'm positive that the original version of "Boogie Woogie Waltz" was included on the tape -- & I love the live version on their 8:30 album, so it would B cool 2 compare the 2 at this late date. Back then I likely asked myself how any jazz piece with such an uncool title could possibly B NE good?
There were lots more Storia E Musica tapes in that bin by artists I wasn't intrested in -- so disintrested that I can't remember who NE of them were, now. Nothing 2 suprising, I'm sure. Course it was a long time ago.
I've still got the best of the tapes, especially if they've got songs I can't find NEwhere else. Still hanging on2 the Dylan, Byrds, & the Strawbs of course.
& of course it's bn YEARS since I've seen any other tapes in the series on sale NEwhere. In fact, it's bn years since I've seen cheapo cassettes on sale, Xcept inna coupla drug stores or truck stops.
Anybody else out there ever stumble over these cassettes?

No comments: