First off, RIP Jam Master Jay. Secondly, back covers, or as I like to call them, album ass, can be just as enticing and worthy of discussion and attention as their popular fronts (in my humble opinion). Case in point, this lovely, squared-off, rear-end of Run-DMC’s 1986 Raising Hell. Bold, yes. Informative, sure. Track listing is a huge plus. Credits, both artistically and manufactoringly (sure, a bit of a stretch, but we’re going with it), are all present and accounted for. This is a monster album, worthy of ownership by just about anyone with good sense, and if you don’t already own it (which I’m sure you do), it’s certainly worth seeking out.
Raising Hell… Raising Hell, that was all the rage on the elementary schoolyards back… way back in the day. Oh, how some things never change. If you’ve been living with your head in the ground for the past, oh, 30+ years, and you’re unfamiliar with this commercially successful and monumentally influential hip-hop group, I envy you, because that means you’re ripe to experience this other-worldly concoction of rap and rock for the very first time. That Raising Hell is Run-DMC’s third studio album shouldn’t scare you (come to think of it, why would it?), it should comfort and free you, if only for the fact that this collection of 12 tracks was chosen for preservation by none other than the damn Library of Congress in the National Recording Registry for being, and I quote (thanks, Carla Hayden, Librarian of Congress), “The unique trinity of historic, cultural and aesthetic significance reflected in the National Recording Registry each year is an opportunity for reflection on landmark moments, diverse cultures and shared memories—all reflected in our recorded soundscape.” Those kids on the school yards in rural Wisconsin knew their shit, am I right?!
Preceding 1986’s Blood & Chocolate by only seven months is this T-Bone Burnett-produced icon, King of America. Billed as The Costello Show featuring the Attractions and Confederates in the UK and simply The Costello Show featuring Elvis Costello in the US, this 15-tracker clocks in at just under an hour (57:36) and features Costello’s fixation with Americana (at some points sounding almost completely country… but in a good way). The cover photo is emblematic and was my only visual recollection of Mr. Costello for much of my budding years… so much so that I thought it was a cover to a Greatest Hits or catch-all double or triple CD box, but alas, just a groovy cover to a groovy album, his 10th studio effort.
I heard Elvis Costello’s I Want You on Spotify a few weeks ago and immediately fell in love with it. A maturing Declan MacManus is not for the faint of heart (at least, not for those heavily into his first two albums: 1977’s My Aim is True and 1978’s This Year’s Model), but respect should be given to the delightful evolution of his songwriting ability. Blood & Chocolate is the King’s eleventh studio album (recorded between March and May of ’86, released that September), and would prove to be the last with The Attractions for nearly a decade (eight years until the release of 1994’s Brutal Youth). I Want You, the obvious standout, is a near seven minute emotional roller coaster that finishes up the first side. Listen with caution, but listen with frequent urgency.
Like countless labels before it, and many after, SST Records (owned by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn) offered specially priced compilations showcasing their label’s talent, aiming at nothing more than to spread their goods, and take your money. With a special list price of only $3.39 ($7.99 today after the inflation adjustment), cheapskaters could further explore the likes of Saccharine Trust, the Meat Puppets, the Minutemen, and even Tom Troccolil’s Dog for next to nothing. The comp series was called The Blasting Concept, and you’re looking at the back of Volume II.
Debut albums by glam rock bands often go overlooked when you’re not necessarily a fan of glam rock bands. Not the case with Poison’s 1986 offering, Look What the Cat Dragged In. Housing four singles, and listed at the coveted #2 spot on Rolling Stone’s 50 Greatest Hair Metal Albums of All Time, Look was produced for a total of only $23,000, an insanely low amount, even adjusted for inflation. No, Look doesn’t include Every Rose Has its Thorn, Your Mama Don’t Dance (a Loggins and Messina cover, and a personal, youth-fueled favorite), or even Fallen Angel (all would come with their sophomore offering with 1988’s Open Up and Say… Ahh!), but Look is still a sweaty, slutty, heavy metal classic worth its weight in L.A. Looks mega hold hair gel . Listen with caution, listen with hair.
The best damn (unintentional) soundtrack(s) to the best damn (dimensional) board game of all time. Indiana Jones, via means of the legendary John Williams, and the Milton Bradley classic, Fireball Island, are the perfect marriage for lazy, beer-swiggling weekends. There will never be a better board game / soundtrack pairing. You. Have. My. Word.
Another one of those records filed so deeply away into collection that I didn’t know I owned. There are more records in this category than I’m willing to admit. The Mighty Lemon Drops and their 1986 debut, Happy Head, must have been an early (verrrrrry early) thrift store find… that or from the $1 bin at Amoeba… before their prices skyrocket. Anyway, Happy Head is very 1986 indie-rock. It’s melodic, structurally sound, and certainly worthy of a spin… I just need to remember I own it.
Not exactly sure why we need to own The Young Gods’ 1986 EP, Envoy! multiple times, but this is our reality. Is it good, yup. Wax Trax! Records #21 (wax021), but double copies?! Somebody dropped the ball (me).
Oh, man. The BoDeans. I distinctly remember hearing them blasting from top 40 radio in the mid 80s, likely from the portable Walkman I’d borrow from my father on bicycle trips across town. Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams (featured here) is the band’s debut album, and although not their most successful, is considered by many critics to be their greatest achievement. I fall somewhere in the middle, taking a fancy to 1987’s Outside Looking In, but they’re both solid pieces of 80s pop.
Over the weekend I paid $8 for this SST Records comp, The Blasting Concept Volume II, which, adjusted for inflation is only $0.30 more than the original $3.49 suggested retail price, or in this case, the special list price. So, that’s something. Also, as a proud owner of The Blasting Concept Volume I, I can’t wait to spin this Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, Black Flag, Husker Du, Meat Puppets, comp as soon as the day job allows. This minimalist cover is hilarious, when compared to the mildly disturbing Raymond Pettibon cover for Volume 1. I’ll just leave it at that.
This recent tape obsession seems not to be going away, especially since a fully functional Walkman entered the home. At the very least, cassettes offer an interesting perspective on album art, if and when done well, like with 1986’s License to Ill. Check Your Head uses the same landscape layout, as I’m sure several other legendary albums I’ve yet to acquire also incorporate. Heavy static and bass-y hum offer a nostalgic glimpse into the media of yesteryear, and we’re slowly grabbing up the essentials.
Record on the right, the 1986 black vinyl (vs yellow or blue… le sigh) Super Seven Records release, So What if We’re on Mystic! EP. The record on the left, one of the 126 Inches of NOFX box set from 2012 of the same name. The original was one of the first records sought after in my early collecting days. You see, Bob Turkee, the dick that he may be, was my favorite song for a good year or so, and I needed to own a copy of its origin. NOFX, or No F-X as it were, have come a long way, but they’ve (arguably) never exceeded their crowning achievement, Bob Turkee.
For their third album, Milwaukee natives Violent Femmes veered toward a more pop-influenced and mainstream radio-focused offering with their 1986 release, The Blind Leading the Naked. The first of their albums produced by someone other than Mark Van Hecke, TBLTN featured the production skills of Talking Heads’ keyboardist, and fellow Milwaukee native, Jerry Harrison. Featuring the mild hit Children of the Revolution, and the fan(tastic) fav, Old Mother Reagan, TBLTN was the first album by the band to chart on Billboard, followed by 1989’s 3, 1991’s Why Do Birds Sing?, and 1994’s New Times. Nothing beats 1983’s self titled debut in my opinion, but decent Violent Femmes is better than no Violent Femmes at all.
Insert hunting is often times an all or nothing affair. After a while you begin to notice consistencies that are more exceptions than they are rules. I mean, there can’t be “rules” when second hand record shopping, so I guess that wasn’t really worth mentioning. Anyway, it seems that more and more these days, the unknown hidden art printed and housed within the album sleeve is pulling towards my decision to fork over $3 for a used record than the actual music itself. It wasn’t always this way, but when one’s eyes get a taste for these mysterious little gems, one begins to understand why, now doesn’t one? (Yes, that was a Benson reference from Soap, and no, I am in no way ashamed.)
The lovely SO gifted me this stunning SST insert for my xx birthday. I’m the first consumer to excavate this four-page order form booklet from within the bowels of a sealed Beyond Barbecue album by Lawndale. This album’s release, and the albums featured within date this specimen in the 1986 – 1986 range. Whatever you dig, get into it, kids. Happy Friday!
You know, when a bootleg soundtrack to one of your favorite films majestically shows up on the wall of a Philadelphia record shop you happen to stumble into (mainly because of all the good craft beer… stumbling, that is), you know it’s going to be an “interesting” day. Said day happened, with great joy, until yours truly discovered a blue vinyl version of the same bootleg… $30 down the pipes, but the music is still stellar.
RIP John Hughes.
Please, Mr. Postman, don’t drop, throw, toss, pitch, hurl, thrust, flip, heave, fire, or fling any of my precious records upon delivery. My copy of Lawndale’s 1986 debut LP, Beyond Barbecue, was a birthday gift (my loving SO), and now it’s little more than unplayable garbage and a sour subject. Government-infused laziness should not, nor ever, equal subpar workmanship.