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Posts tagged ‘The Goods’

Vinyl Vagabond: Something Old, Something New, Something Southern, Something Blues

Yesterday I was enjoying walking aimlessly through the streets of London.  I hopped trains and hoofed sidewalk (“footpaths” if you are in London) for the entire morning and most of the afternoon. My vagabond-like wandering ways led me to East London’s, Brick Lane.  Brick Lane? That sounded familiar.  Why? That is where Rough Trade Records (East) is. Perfect.

This was one of prime stops on my London record shop search.  I had already been to the Notting Hill Rough Trade shop and liked what I bought: a classic, out of print (vinyl), Neil Young album. My music-mate, Kip, gifted me 50 quid worth of Rough Trade vouchers and I used some of them to get the Neil vinyl. I used up the rest of the credit yesterday in glorious fashion. 

This was my first trip to this particular Rough Trade location. I needed to survey the scene before I started flipping through the vinyl for buried treasure. Right when you walk in there is an espresso cafe on the left. To the right is a lazy lounge setting where you can caffeinate, chat or check out your recent booty. The walls are littered with playbills, “drummer wanted” notices and other images and adverts. It is a hodge-podge of knick-knacks and paper scraps that I find entertaining if not curious. 

They have a lot of stuff there. Books, CDs, T-shirts, Logo’ed bags, pins, posters and, ah, oh yeah…music. There are vinyl bins, CD racks and DVD shelves. In my opinion, there was too much stuff. The store is a big space and they may be trying to fill it. I think it could have had more of a music focus in its layout.  If you have ever visited Newburry Comics located in greater Boston (USA)…that is what this Rough Trade shop felt like to me. A bit (too much) of everything, with the music standing the shadows. That being said…I loved the place.

They did have a great listening station up at the counter.  You can sample anything you want and take all the time needed to do so.

The vinyl section was decent; to be honest I expected more. The shop in Notting Hill had more vintage vinyl, which is what I am after mostly. Fine. that may the way they have the shops differentiated. Nonetheless, I was here for vinyl and vinyl I would get.

I went straight for the blues section. There were twenty or so records there to flip through. I found a few I really liked by Blind Lemon Jefferson, and Charley Patton (my fave prewar  Delta Blues man). These are not original pressings, mind you, but they are well crafted vinyl reproductions. The Blind Lemon album was a collection of songs called, “I want to be like Jesus in My Heart”, released in 2009 on the Monk label. The Patton album was also from Monk; for my taste it packed much more of a wallop than the Blind Lemon set. 

Something Old, Something Blues

The Patton album I ended up buying is called, “Electrically Recorded: Prayer of Death“. Actually, this is one album in a four album set that Monk has put together called, “Charley Patton: You’re Gonna Need Somebody When you Die – The recorded works of Charley Patton”. It covers Patton’s work from 1929 – 1934 and is presented in simple and straight forward packaging. I already own all Patton’s recordings…and then some. I own the extremely well done and unabashedly over-the-top box set called, “Screamin’ and Hollerin’ The Blues”.  Allmusic calls it, “perhaps the most lavish, nay incredible, box set ever devised for a blues artist…”. Click the link below to check this out. It is one my cherished possessions (a gift from my wife last xmas along with my turntable…she’s so cool).

p.s “I’m Going Home” was just covered by the Derek Trucks band on their recent album, Already Free.

Something Southern, Something New

The other two pieces of vinyl I bought are by the Drive-By Truckers. This is one of the new bands I like. I say new only because so much of what I listen to on a daily basis is considered old (I prefer lasting). These guys flat out rock. They are born of a southern tradition that draws on memphis routes and southern rock stalwarts like Lynyrd Skynyrd. 

The Truckers tell dark stories with vibrant imagery. They can rev up rockers and lay down ragged and southern-soulful ballads. I love their albums, especially the two I found on vinly: “Decoration Day” and “The Dirty South”. If you aren’t familiar with them, please go and find them out. They put on one hell of a live show, too. You leave feeling exhausted and exhilarated.

The Goods

The music you hear in this clip is definitely not Charley Patton…it was what was playing in the store (I was wearing headphones).  But, it is Ol’d Charley spinning round and round.

Watch on Posterous

“So Russell… what do you love about music?” Share Your Almost Famous “Everything” Moments

William Miller: “So Russell … what do you love about music?”
Russell Hammond: “To begin with … everything.”

Exactly! This is the last bit of dialogue we hear before the end of the movie, “Almost Famous”. It is the scene where William finally gets his interview with Russell. It is a moment that induces head nods and knowing grins from all serious music fans. I (we) know exactly what Russell means. Everything means, well, everything

It is not any thing about the music; it is everything about the music: the songs, the vocal and musical nuances, the inspiration for the song, the actual recording of it, where they recorded, the band, the guest musicians, the album cover, the naysayers, the promoters, the stories and all of the tall tales associated with the music…everything.

Here is a bit of  “everything”: 

On Bob Dylan’s 2001 release, “Love and Theft”, drummer David Kemper tells a revealing tale about the “training” Bob put them through initially. Rehearsals for the new album started nearly a year before recording it. Kemper said that one time, for a period of three days straight, Dylan had the band play only Dean Martin songs(?!). Dylan would have them do this with many other early legendary and unheralded American recording artists. The band would rehearse these songs over and over and then never play them again once Dylan had heard what he wanted to hear. 

A year later when they began the recording process, Dylan would introduce a new song such as, “Summer Days”.  He would instruct the band to play it in the style of Dean Martin or one of the other artists they had practiced. Dylan had been training the band (a year in advance!) for the sound he wanted the album to have.  Kemper said it was like going to the “School of Americana, as taught by Bob”.  That gives me a whole new perspective on the album each time I put it on. You can’t go back and have a listen and not think about this. 

Everything does not have to be a legendary tall tale either. There is a scene in the director’s cut of “Almost Famous” where Russell give us a hint at what he means by everything. Right before Stillwater plays their first gig, Russell is talking to William about the significance of the “littlest details in songs”.  Russell said that these little details are the ones that people “remember the most”.  Russell uses the “first whooo” in Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s Happening Brother” as an example (I included that in the Tune Tags playlist below. The “whooo” shows up at 2:15 … and the first one is the memorable one).

Russell (Cameron) is right. These are the unplanned, down to the bone, in the groove moments that can make bad songs good and great songs legendary. They are real moments of inspiration and emotion that collide and combust from within the musicians…because they are feeling it. That is what makes the songs special. That is why we like these little moments.

You must have a few of these yourselves. I know I do. In the spirit of Russell’s “everything” and “littlest details”, I am offering up ten songs that strike sparks for me.  I have included a bit of twitter’esque detail on each “little moment”.  Feel free suggest some of your favourites and I will add them to the playlist for others to put their ears to. 

  • Neil Young – “Cinnamon Girl“:  Here is another “whooo” for you and it happens at 2:09.  The “whooo” coincides with this guitar solo that launchs out of the heavy-duty muck n’ mire rhythm that Crazy Horse is laying down. 
  • Derek and the Dominoes – “Little Wing“: Clapton and Duane Allman trading licks on a Jimi Hendrix song.  I’d shout out “whooo” too if I was Clapton (1:55)
  • The band (w/The Staple Singers) – “The Weight“:  This is from The Last Waltz and it is all about Mavis Staples.  There are two bits in here that make this a bow-down track for me. This is such a “breath-y” performance.  You get the feeling she is stirring something up inside and getting ready for the pay-off (an example at 1:03). That pay-off comes at 1:26.  It is a this from the gut “unh-huh” that brings me to my knees each time I hear it. 
  • Rod Stewart – “Every Picture Tells a Story“: I love this song. It always make me feel like traveling…on a whim. I think it is Rod’s best penned song (with help from Ronnie Wood). At 2:35, Rod lets off a rather rowdy Whooo! (another “whooo”!). It might have something to do with Kenny Jones thundering away, Ronnie starting in with this galloping acoustic and the female back singer firing off an inspired backing vocal. Whoo indeed. (by the way, this one is on the Almost Famous soundtrack)
  • The Rolling Stones – “Prodigal Son“: A two for one! One of my “little moment” here comes at the end…but the entire song is needed to make it happen. Keef is strumming the hell out of his acoustic. You think he was enjoying himself? If the abrupt and ramshackle “heeyaay” is any indication…yes. The other one is a Mick moment. At 1:55, Mick drawls off a “mercy” that almost makes you feel like he means it. 
  • Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers – “Shadow of a Doubt“: Another two for one. At 2:03, Tom puts this inflection on the end of “kid” that starts to rev me up…and himself, too.  The tension starts there and builds up until Tom shouts out “aaaaiy” at 2:42. The song doesn’t slow down from there. 
  • Drive-By Truckers – “Sink Hole“: One of my favourite “new” bands.  The Truckers tell a good story and this one by Patterson Hood is no exception. There is passion here, because it is most likely a true story.  The song moves like a stock car driver frantically trying to come up from the back of the pack. By the time Patterson gets to 3:12 and delivers that “eeeoouuuaaagh” you know he damn well means it. 
  • The Animals – “The Story of Bo Diddley“: Eric Burden spends five minutes and fifteen seconds telling us Bo’s story. By 5:16 he has worked himself into a tizzy and squelches off a “eeehaaaaayy Bo Diddley” that came from the soles of his feet. This is a long song, but I always find the payoff worth it. 
  • Warren Zevon – “The French Inhaler”:  What a GENIUS song.  The lyrics are truly a gift to the listener.  Apparently this was about his wife (word is she was “ending up with someone different every night“). At 3:28, Zevon makes a kissing sound into the mic (the great kiss-off, perhaps). I have listened to numerous other studio takes of this track and have not heard that anywhere else. My guess is that this was a timely improve…and it works. 
  • The Rolling Stones – “Casino Boogie“: Ah, Keith. The master of the perfect anti-harmony vocal. On “Exile on Main St.” he was in rare vocal form. There are so many Keef moments on this album that it is hard to choose. This one always makes me smile: check out Keef’s squealing of “understaaaand” at 00:46.

OK, your turn. I’ll add them to the playlist…



I am a bonafide nut over Almost Famous. I love the story and the romantic notions of a life as an outsider on the inside of this cool scene that was/is Rock and Roll.  Cameron Crowe did a brilliant job recreating the times and telling his own story. Here is a funny story of my own: 

Circa 2003 I was living in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. My wife had gone to the Florida Keys with some girlfriends for the weekend. I came home on Saturday after a night of drinking and carousing with my buddies. I decided I was going to watch Almost Famous in its entirety…which I surprisingly did considering my state of being at the time. 

About three weeks after this night I got a package in the mail…from Cameron Crowe?! Well, it wasn’t Cameron himself, but someone on his behalf. This is where things get fuzzy. Apparently, after I finished watching the movie, I went on Crowe’s website. At the time they were selling screenplays from the movie with a handwritten, personally addressed note from Cameron…complete with coffee stain on the cover. I bought one. I didn’t even remember that I did it. But, there it was, at my doorstep. It was nicely bound and was printed on heavy stock paper…complete with the note from Cameron.

Wow.  My wife was just shaking her head and laughing at me. I think it cost thirty or forty bucks. The funny thing is, I probably would have bought it sober. I still have it, but it is on the open sea on the way over from Sydney, Australia along with the rest of our belongings. When it gets here, I will post a picture of it and the handwritten note. 

I found a free copy online and have attached it here for reading or downloading.

Cameron Crowe’s
Download this file

Tune Tags

The Goods

  • Cameron Crowe’s website
  • Almost Famous Wikipedia Page (lots of great insights and factoids here)
  • Almost Famous IMBD page 
  • Check out Bill Simmons’, The ESPN Sports Guy, use of Almost Famous in one of his recent columns about the offseason for the NBA (well worth the read just for the AF reference alone) 
  • Podcast that talks about the recording of “Love & Theft”
  • Untitled“: director’s but/bootleg of Almost Famous (this is suberb…better than the original theatre cut)