I’m in the Washington Journalism Education Association, a state-wide organization of student newspaper advisers. I am a co-director of the WJEA summer journalism camp. The last three years that’s been held in Bellingham, WA at Western Washington University. Bellingham is this wonderful college town that is quite lovely, right on north Puget Sound. I wouldn’t say the town has the last vestiges of hippiedom (an overused and misunderstood term) as the Seattle area is transformed by 21st century hipsterdom, but there is still a bit of a counter-culture edge to Bellingham.
It’s also the home of three used record stores. Yesterday I had to travel to the university to finalize details for J-camp, coming up in two weeks. I made myself a promise to visit a list one of the shops, and I made it to two. I visited Aladdin’s Antiques and Records on Holly St., a delightful melange of a wide variety of antiques with a collection of vinyl for sale in the back. I walked in to the sounds of Howlin’ Wolf’s Evil and, in the limited time, began poking around. I always have records in mind, but try to keep my eye out for interesting targets of opportunity while keeping to a budget.
I made two purchases. The first was Vincebus Erputum by Blue Cheer. Blue Cheer was a short-lived San Francisco band whose claim to fame was a cover of Eddie Cochran’s Summertime Blues. However, their style was new and marked the beginning of an evolution in the San Francisco sound to something harder edged, a kind of proto-metal. This band is LOUD. Blue Cheer went through a series of lineup changes and was pretty much gone by 1971.
The other album I picked up is Dixie Chicken by Little Feat. I’ve written a little bit about my love of this band before. I’ve committed myself to buying all their records through the Lowell George era. That ended in 1979 when Lowell George left the band and two years later suffered a fatal heart attack. I need three more LP’s to finish this out including their elusive, interesting, and often expensive self-titled debut. Dixie Chicken is the epitome of the band’s R & B based southern funk, with title track, the funny “Fat Man in the Bathtub”, the anthemic “Willin'” and a great Alan Toussaint song, “On Your Way Down.”
I also made my way to Everyday Music on Magnolia St. It was a music only shop, and a bit less inviting than Aladdin’s. Packed with CD’s and vinyl, I had to be in and out quickly because my metered parking gave me about ten minutes. Meter’s in B-ham still only take coins, how unhandy. I did overstay my time, and went through as much as I could. Honestly, their vinyl is mostly new or repressings on high grain vinyl. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but not what I was interested in yesterday. Their used stuff carries a nice rating of fair, good, and fine and their prices seemed pretty good. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the time to dig deeper, but made it back to my car before I was ticketed.
There are a few more shops I’d like to visit in Anacortes, Mt. Vernon, Bellingham and Olympia, maybe before school starts, we’ll see.
I always need something to focus my buying (as opposed to my thrifting) lest my collection spin out of control as cash flies out of my wallet. I completed my Jefferson Airplane collection, sort of, almost, and I’m pretty happy with the results. But in the vein of sticking with San Francisco music from the ’60’s I’m going to move on the Steve Miller Band. Though Miller was originally from Wisconsin, he moved to the Bay Area in the middle 60’s and had a bunch of critically acclaimed psychedelic-influenced records before a 1973 car accident and bout of hepatitis left him pondering a change in musical direction. That led to his evolution into commercially successful rock artist of the ’70’s and the rest is history. Miller has ties to Seattle, where he recorded Fly Like an Eagle, Book of Dreams and other albums and has continued to record, tour, and release archival material. I would be remiss to ignore the vocalist on his first two records, Boz Scaggs. Scaggs went a different direction than Miller and focused more on a blue-eyed soul sound. Boz has taken some long breaks in his recording career, but has a remarkable collection of music going back to 1965. So my mark is set.
Off to an estate sale today to look at a thousand $1.00 records. No I won’t come home with all of them.