February 1, 2012

The Drunken Frenchman once told me that “if you’re good with your barkeep, you’re good.”

Earl was our barkeep and, with him, we couldn’t have been better.

And The Iguana, a local bar with a quasi-cantina vibe where he plied his trade, was a reliable place to find grist for my imagination

From one night’s worth of notes…

Dave sits nearby, a sodden sort who perpetually attempts to engage me in conversation. He’s not good with his barkeep, nursing his drink as though he intends to still be drinking it when The Rapture arrives.

Elizabeth Shue is sitting alone, sipping a Bud Light.

(it’s not really Elizabeth Shue but, rather, a reasonable facsimile)

Would Elizabeth Shue drink Bud Light?

There are snatches of conversation everywhere.

“I keep a place in the city, but I’m building a townhouse.”

“I think I’m a nympho.”

“Five grand and they’re all mine.”

Gina Zinnia is several seats down, perched at the corner of the bar; devouring a burrito as though she is performing origami with knives. I know her name because she has announced it in a shrill voice that has surely awakened the dead for George Romero’s next movie.

She has been babbling without pause for forty-five minutes about her opera singer father, a bad flight to Seattle, the time she was lost as a girl scout (I suspect she was abandoned), and numerous other traumas both small and smaller.

Her date sits slack-jawed and inert, certainly wishing for death or a stronger drink.

“To make a long story short…” says Gina.

I now know better. Gina Zinnia has never made a long story short. She has, however, made short stories into excruciatingly painful, long epics.

A blonde nearby – a model she claims – is lamenting for all to hear that she’s not in New York and nothing compares to New York and she should know because she just got back from Paris.

I want to write a bad country song and call it This Imperfect World Doesn’t Suit My Perfect Ass.

A smartly dressed young fellow is leaning against the bar, waiting for his drink and reeking of cologne. He waves to someone he obviously knows on the other side of the watering hole.

“I’ll be right back,” he tells his companion as she makes no effort to hold back a yawn.

“No,” she says. “Take your time.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me?”

He asks the question flirtatiously, but, in the most honest moment, in this particular bar, on this particular night, the girl replies, “Yeah.”

Here are the first four songs to catch my fancy on the iPod…

Phantom, Rocker & Slick – My Mistake
from Phantom, Rocker & Slick (1985)

Take two Stray Cats (Slim Jim Phantom and Lee Rocker) and add journeyman guitarist Earl Slick and you have the short-lived trio Phantom, Rocker & Slick.

The ferocious Men Without Shame got a lot of airplay when the self-titled debut arrived in late ’85 and though My Mistake apparently got some attention, too, I don’t ever recall hearing it.

The threesome hardly reinvents fire, but My Mistake is a loose, bluesy rocker that recalls The Stones.

Porno For Pyros – Pets
from Porno For Pyros (1993)

Perry Farrell’s post-Jane’s Addiction venture failed to capture the imagination or interest of his previous band, but there are some pretty cool tunes on both of Porno For Pyros’ albums.

On the atmospheric Pets, Farrell considers a world where humans have been supplanted as rulers of the planet, noting that “We’ll make great pets.”

(personally, I’d opt for a dog, cat, or howler monkey)

Lone Justice – Ways To Be Wicked
from Lone Justice (1985)

Lone Justice had quite a buzz surrounding them when they were burning down the clubs on the Sunset Strip of Hollywood.

(or so I was reading at the time in Rolling Stone)

Everything would have seemed to be in place for the band’s success, including a lead single written by Tom Petty in Ways To Be Wicked. Instead, Lone Justice remained a cult band and critical darling favored for their ramshankle country rock and the sultry vocals of lead singer Maria McKee.

Duran Duran – Rio
from Rio (1982)

Duran Duran hooked me the first time I heard Hungry Like The Wolf. The song seemed to be always on the radio during the first few months of 1983 (and the song’s video a staple on the fledgling MTV – though our small town wouldn’t get the channel ’til the following summer).

Q102, the station of choice for me and my friends, was playing Rio well before Hungry Like The Wolf had worn out its welcome. Though I much preferred the latter, Rio‘s manic charm proved to be irresistible as well and made its parent album one that most of us owned.

Out Of Print

July 23, 2009

I’m not sure when I first heard those words – out of print. It might have been leafing through a Phonolog.

It’s strange to think that there is an entire generation that has never seen a Phonolog. This means there’s an entire generation of record store employees who have never had the tedious task of updating the Phonolog.

The tedium was the packet of loose leaf pages that would need to be snapped into the book. As the Phonolog was invariably at the front counter, this placed one precariously in the sightline of every bumfoozled customer.

(I cannot speak for all record stores, but, in the ones in which I worked, customer service was far down the list of concerns, well behind things like smoke breaks and hormonal pursuits)

(as an exception to the above declaration, Paloma was admirably, unfailingly, and most exceptionally patient with the people)

Anyhow, as I first discovered music and was spending time and (allowance) money in record stores, the Phonolog was the source. And sometimes the source would reveal that the item you sought was out of print.

(I can’t recall if it was denoted with a square next to the title or if the title simply didn’t appear in the act’s discography)

It was a disappointment.

As a record store employee, telling a customer that something a customer wanted was out of print was opening a Pandora’s Box of problems.

“Well can I special order it?” and “Would another store have it?” were two of the most popular responses for those who didn’t simply shrug and walk away.

One well-known, local club DJ reacted to “out of print” as though I had shuffled up to him in bloodied surgical garb and told him that a loved one was dead. He was inconsolable.

(it was quite melodramatic)

Explaining the concept of out of print to older customers could often go off the rails and quickly. It was often taken as a criticism of the music that they were seeking.

One old fellow (who had mistakenly called me “ma’am” from behind) eyed me suspiciously as I told him the album he wanted was out of print. He angrily interrogated me for twenty in an impromptu kangaroo court.

Finally, I simply told him that there were albums that I wanted which were out of print. It’s economics, man.

His clenched fists quivered with rage in the most genuine “you kids get off of my lawn” moment I’ve ever experienced.

I’m not sure if anything is truly unavailable these days. I do know that I’ve owned a lot of music that had gone out of print at one time or another.

Here are some tracks that I’ve read mentioned recently as being unavailable…

The Motels- Shame
from Shock

The Motels had a sizeable following in the late ’70s/early ’80s – first as an underground band; then, with the hits Only The Lonely and Suddenly Last Summer (see the video for the latter at The Hits Just Keep On Comin’).

They were a good band and worth checking out beyond the hits. Martha Davis was one of the sultriest, most dramatic singers of the period and reminded me of a female Jim Morrison. Shame was their last hit song in ’85 and, unfortunately, seems to be forgotten.

Paul Hyde & the Payola$ – You’re The Only Love
from Here’s The World For Ya

This song was (apparently) a small hit in 1985, but I don’t think I ever heard it on the radio. It was in the movie Real Genius, though, and my friends and I were quite familar with Real Genius as it was always on cable. (fortunately, it’s a fun flick)

I knew The Payola$ from another ’80s soundtrack – their song Eyes Of A Stranger was in Valley Girl. That song was chilly New Wave not unlike The Cars. You’re The Only Love was a mid-tempo ballad but bright and shiny.

Not a bad song, but it’s nothing to get excited about either.

Real Life – Send Me An Angel
from Heartland

All-Music Guide describes Real Life’s debut as Duran Duran-inspired and I wouldn’t disagree. It’s very much an album of the times with a serious dose of New Wave synthesizers.

Of course, Send Me An Angel hasn’t been forgotten and most folks would recognize the ethereal song upon hearing it.

Phantom, Rocker & Slick – Men Without Shame
from Phantom, Rocker & Slick

Phantom, Rocker & Slick was two Stray Cats – Slim Jim and Lee – and guitarist Earl Slick, who had been a member of David Bowie’s band in the ’70s. The union lasted for two records, their self-titled debut arriving in autumn of 1985.

For some reason I recall hearing this song during the fall of my senior year in high school. Several friends and I had trekked up to Butler University in Indianapolis to hang out.

I do know that the first time I heard Men Without Shame, the song had my attention. It rumbled and howled, welding glam rock to the rockabilly revivalism of Stray Cats. I was quite pleased to find Phantom, Rocker & Slick on vinyl recently and it still sounds as good.