Collecting vinyl is, for me at any rate, often nothing more than an exercise in nostalgia. What was I listening to when I was younger, say junior high, and why don’t I have it in my collection. Why don’t I have Sam the Sham and the Pharoahs, or Gary Lewis and the Playboys, or the George Baker Selection singing “Little Green Bag?” Those were the days.
That’s a lie, of course, a self-deception, because my collection is ridiculously broader than what I was listening to in junior high, and my taste in music de-evolved when I was in high school and I’d never add most of that shit to my ever-expanding vinyl pile, but let’s just say nostalgia does shape what I seek for my record shelves.
A couple of records I’ve had on my Discogs wantlist for some time are Wheatfield Soul and Canned Wheat, by the wonders of Winnipeg, the Guess Who. Though they’d been around much longer in a variety of incarnations, their first big American hit, “These Eyes” appeared in 1968, when I was in the eighth grade. Eighth graders. I can’t even talk about it, though I spent five mostly happy years teaching them. For whatever reason, the band really stuck with me, and I relentlessly followed their string of hits into the early 1970’s when the band fragmented and they fell off the charts.
In the late ’70’s I picked up a re-pressing of American Woman, with its pounding title track, and “No Sugar/New Mother Nature” to continue the Guess Who hit parade. And that was pretty much it for 40 years. But every time I went into Boogie Records, or High Voltage, or Georgetown Records, I hoped to find the two earlier Wheat titles, but always came up empty. I could have ordered from Discogs, but really wanted VG+ vinyl and it always felt like it was more than I wanted to spend.
Last week I made my annual trek to Bellingham for the summer student journalism camp at Western Washington University. I was determined to stop in at Lost in the Groove, a record store in Mount Vernon. Mount Vernon is a nice little town that is rapidly being subsumed by Puget Sound suburban growth. I made a quick stop, with some definite items I was looking for and I began with The Guess Who.
Just a quick record store review here. Lost in the Groove is on 1st and Montgomery in old downtown Mount Vernon. It’s a great shop. Lots of well-organized, well cared-for records, at prices a little less than one expects to find in Seattle or Tacoma. Lots of classic rock, but not limited to the usual suspects. A nice R and B collection too. Scott, the owner, is knowledgeable and very nice to talk to. I eventually walked out with six albums with all arms and legs intact. Would return in a heartbeat.
When I walked in, I went right to the Guess Who. Bingo. Both of the desired records were there. When I brought them to the counter to pay, Scott engaged me in a long conversation about the band and recommended two more, So Long Bannatyne and Live At the Paramount. The latter album was recorded in Seattle at the venerable movie palace in 1971. It was clear from our conversation, that he was also quite a fan with some intimate knowledge of their history-and it didn’t hurt that he was wearing a Burton Cummings t-shirt. I made a mental note to stop again on the way back from Bellingham (after my allowance went into the credit union.) I did, followed his recommendations, and also picked up Lady Soul by Aretha Franklin and The Look of Love by Dusty Springfield (be still my heart.)
The Show That Never Ends
When one utters the term Progressive Rock, one either receives modest acknowledgement, or is chased out of the room with a pitchfork. The musical form that originated in the early 70’s and died with the advent of punk has largely fallen into disrepute.
Too bad. I’m a great believer that good prog rock is wonderful stuff. Think early Yes, or Trilogy by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, or Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. And of course there’s lots more. And then there is the wretched excess. ELP, Works Vol. 1 AND 2, anyone? Tales From Topographic Oceans, really? And so many more.
Was progressive rock inventive and creative, taking advantage of new technology to breathe life into stale rock forms? Or was it pompous, bombastic, and pretentious that simply put audiences to sleep, paving the way for disco and punk? (True confession, I actually did fall asleep at a Yes concert in 1979.)
Washington post political reporter David Weigel took a step away from his usual duties observing our 45th president and Congress to write The Show That Never Ends. Weigel examines progressive rock and the criticism it has received over the decades, much of it, in his view, unfairly.
I haven’t read it yet, but have received my copy this week. I’ll be taking it with me when I head to Astoria next Thursday. Review to follow.