Friday, July 4, 2008

Adventures in Hi-Fi to Lo-Fi and back again.

The obsession. Followed, sought. Anticipated. Agonized over. Written in Sharpie® over bathroom walls, notebooks, mix-tape covers, endless amounts of paper, and knuckles, as is all too often the case with "OZZY."

Molly Ringwald wrote The Rave-Ups all over her Sixteen Candles notebooks. Oklahoma punk rockers wrote bullshit all over their jeans. Some made really stupid jackets. There was a girl in the documentary The Complete Beatles who almost cried displaying her groovy painting of McCartney as a tree. People used to wait in line for days for concert tickets. Allen Doss once pulled Elvis Costello's King of America out of his bag and waved it at me in the street shouting, "It just came out today!" He looked like his teeth were going to bite him.

The crush is a love either unspoken or something that you're so fucking into that you tell everyone about it. You scream it. You measure everything against it. Nothing stands in its way. And a central element of the crush is anticipation.

I was talking to a girl about life, the sound, and anticipation. Today, people have to really struggle to avoid spoilers. If a record's going to come out in August, there are dozens of ways to hear it and decide if it's going to be shit or shinola. I did that with Wilco's Sky Blue Sky and even though I love the record, it took me over a year to buy the thing. In today's cool economic climate it only makes sense that people either download an album off a blog or rip it from a friend whose already done just that. It's rare that I hear of anyone spending months waiting for an album. I don't even know if there are many bands today that warrant that kind of fervent dedication. What was once months of waiting turns into years. Years between projects until no one cares (Elastica, Stone Roses, Guns n' Roses) or years that really can make a difference (Mission of Burma, Portishead). But what about the crush that continues year after year and pays off each time? Well, for five years at least.

The summers between 1984 and 1989 were heady times for me. Every spring or summer meant a new R.E.M. album which meant every fall had a tour. I picked up Murmur in 1983, the same day I bought The Pretenders' Learning to Crawl. I had never heard Chronic Town but I read a blurb about Murmur in Trouser Press and immediately went out and bought it. Murmur stunned me with its subtlety, harmony, and openness. Radio Free Europe was a brand new sound to me. Resonant, spooky, and with so much Rickenbacker salt that I picked the needle up five times to repeat it before I just let the record play out.Talk About the Passion, Shaking Through, and Perfect Circle became staples. I really wanted to see the band.

Next spring, Reckoning was released.

Seven Chinese Brothers and Little America
. A Summer's worth of listening, videos seen, tour dates announced and then a drive with friends to an old church turned nightclub in OKC to see Romeo Void, The DB's and R.E.M. Deborah Iyall churned Romeo Void. The DB's were spot fucking on and the headliners were the most amazing thing I'd ever seen. I sat just above the band. Entranced. Deer eyed. Michael Stipe had been bitten by a jellyfish in California. He sang with his foot on a stool. All long hair and shy. He had a drawing of a bear on the back of a long jacket with an arrow pointing towards Peter Buck that said "Bear." Peter Buck doesn't look like a fucking bear but he may when he's 70.

Then came the year of FFA jackets, growing my hair like Mike Mills, buying a Rickenbacker 620/6 with a hot check and sitting with my friend Sondra learning songs. We waited for Fables of the Reconstruction to come out, bought it, jumped around, hung out, listened and pined for the tour. Driver 8, Life and How to Live It, Green Grow the Rushes. Damn. I hit OKC and Dallas. Saw them at an outdoor stage under the full moon and the Cotton Bowl. Life would repeat the same circle with Life's Rich Pageant. I sucked the album dry. It was everything I imagined it would be. Begin the Begin, Cuyahoga, Just a Touch on the heavy loop. At the time, I couldn't imagine playing anything else but Life's Rich Pageant. Yesterday, it's all I listened too.

Another year another album. Document. Absorbed and released. More shows seen. Lightin' Hopkins played over and over. Sam Lines took the Stipe photo attached to this story at Memorial Hall. A great show with lots of sleep lost. Then what? For the next eight years I would move in and out of Green, Out of Time, and Automatic for the People. I dug Monster, some, enjoyed the show with Sonic Youth. But the first five records, plus Chronic Town, and Dead Letter Office (that wonderful album of outtakes and live material that served as toast and biscuits between album releases) got taped, archived, given to girls, and raved about. New Adventures in Hi-Fi, released in the fall of 1996, is still a work of art to me, and their best album of the 90s. Binky the Doormat, Be Mine, New Test Leper. Bill Berry's swan song. An album conceived and recorded on the road. Soundchecks, studios, dressing rooms, and with Patti Smith to add sauce and touch. The press keeps hounding me to get the new album, Accelerate. Perhaps it's time to get obsessed.

ap - 2008


Anonymous said...

What an amazing blog! I'm going to have to share this one with musical comrades!
Nice job!

Martin Sansom said...

"I had never heard Chronic Town but I read a blurb about Murmur in Trouser Press and immediately went out and bought it." Amazing. My story as well, word for word.