Witnessing Jello Biafra’s spoken word performance at Madison, Wisconsin’s Barrymore Theatre was something of a marathon… to say the very least. I’m happy to have experienced this entertaining sprint, though the unexpected 4+ hours eclipsed the rest of our evening’s planned activities. All of this is irrelevant, of course, because we were told, firsthand, about the brutal and legal-laden break-up of the Dead Kennedys. If invited to do it all again, I’d probably say yes, which is what you should say if you see Jello’s name pop up on one of your local theater fliers. The man is a legend, a pissed off legend, but certainly worthy of the nominal cover charge.
Oh, man. I can say, with an honest tongue, that the Dead Kennedys were my favorite band for about six months one year back in the early 2000’s. This copy was purchased at a little book store in Madison, WI (I believe it was Frugal Muse) while on my way back to the pizza shop on a delivery. One takes luxuries now and again, and for only $10 which, at the time was high, but seems like tip money now. I think my move to California and my new found love for James Booker knocked me out of my DK cloud, but their first two albums are still in my top 20 of all time (1980’s Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables and this, 1982’s Plastic Surgery Disasters). Cheers.
Arguably Madison, Wisconsin’s most prolific achievement, punkers Naked Aggression barked socialist ideals over light speed rhythms for audiences of couch protesters and pro-choice supporters alike. Though their idea of state smashing and organized religion bashing weren’t new as of the early 1990s, their collective voice has withstood the test of time (a rigged, almost impossible test to pass), and are greatly deserving of a solid, and focused listen.
This Telegraph, Skolars split is something of legend in my personal circle (of two). Ever since seeing Telegraph opened for Less Than Jake at my buddy’s 18th birthday (way back in 1997), I’ve been a (wherewithal) loyal Telegraph fan. I saw The Skolars here, and then their reincarnation at said 18th bday, LTJ show. I’m ecstatic to own Quit Your Band (97 Demo) and Open 24 Hours on vinyl. It’s a good day when these tracks get spun, and I encourage all quasi-ska-punk lovers to consider both The Skolars and Telegraph to justify your next swing-filled fix.
Message in a Bottle was one of the catchy, radio-tastic songs I’d heard as a kid that really kind of stuck with me over the ensuing years. At the time, I had no idea who the hell The Police were, but that track and Wrapped Around My Finger seemed to “mean” something, although I couldn’t quite comprehend why. Images of leafing through G.I. Joe figures at the East Town Mall with the lampooning lyrics of Sting pummeling through the speakers is an experience I’ll never forego. That may be why I now own their entire catalog.
I never knew Ike, but as an adolescent fan of 80s pop radio (Madison, Wisconsin’s Z-104), I knew Tina Turner. I knew her for asking the simple, yet tough questions in life, like, what’s love got to do with it, and what’s love but second hand emotion? I still haven’t 100% figured that out, but I’m forced to humbly accept that fact.
Released in the Orwellian year of our lord, 1984, Private Dancer was hugely successful for this pop dragon, and proved to be one of Tina’s best selling albums (selling over 5 million copies). Four Grammy wins for Private Dancer, and this majestic beast would be forever cemented into the sponge-like minds of rural Wisconsin’s youth.
EBM… a former roommate introduced me to Nitzer Ebb, and I thank you explicitly, Tricia. This $3 necessity was had from a little hallway of a record shop across the street from Nick Nice’s shop in Madison, WI. This is the humble shop where I acquired my first Revolting Cocks record… where I snatched the Hot Snakes debut, the Lenny Soundtrack, the O Brother, Where Art Thou? Soundtrack, and Johnny Cash’s American IV… needless to say, $3 for Ebb’s debut, however mangled, was a bargain, given the circumstances. Covers be damned, until the time in which they be praised.
Telegraph was the opening act… a few bright-eyed months after they’d manifested themselves from their previous moniker, The Skolars. Same band, new name. I’m going to say it was a Friday night. Cold. Wisconsin winter cold. There was a line. And a $5 cover.
It may have been the bullhorn glued between the microphone and lead singer Billy Spunke’s face, but the invitation from a now deceased friend to attend this particular show seems to strike a chord much louder now, than it did then… and at the time, I could hardly hear myself breathe.
The Blue Meanies, the ska-revivalist-post-hardcore bastions of late nineties yesteryear are no more, but the flame that fuels their legend will forever shine, if only within the pages of nostalgia. I miss my friend, and if he were here today, I’d thank him for introducing me to this astonishing band.
2002, and the 365 days inhabiting its sultry innards showcased, for me, a laughable “everyday” but, managed to offer an extraordinary, and fulfilling foundation for, what’s turned out to be, a lifelong appreciation for Rocket from the Crypt. Why was 2002, some seven years after having seen them live, a turning point for me and this prolific band? Well, as a Wisconsinite, lamenting over a San Diegan band, 2002’s Live from Camp X-Ray, represented a short, but welcomed, fresh breath.
The inevitable soundtrack to that Fall’s pizza delivering extravaganza, Live from Camp X-Ray scarred me with the maturity I didn’t necessarily know I was ready, but eagerly waiting for.
This jobber is a reissue on “Ltd. Edition Colored Splatter Vinyl.” I can’t sing the endless RFTC praises enough… if they can help me through my questionable adolescence… they can help you through anything.
Bob Dylan, for me, has never been the pedestal-placing monarch that many people view him as. I’ve always respected Robert Zimmerman, the Minnesota native, and have conveniently dodged his raspy snarls when hand-selecting my life’s playlist. I certainly have nothing against his revolutionary impact on pop music, or his distinctive brand of folk-rock, I guess I just never really got around to it. With the (more than) understood philosophy of “too little music, not enough time,” the bellowing observations of Mr. Dylan never made the cut. He’d been Chopped before ever entering my personal music kitchen, for those of you who are fans of The Food Network.
An opportunity presented itself back in (date) that would have been unbelievably stupid to pass up. My mom scored free tickets to a Bob Dylan performance in Madison, WI, and kindly offered them to me. Using the term scored as a drug reference when referring to my mother is humorous to me, and kind of appropriate for ol’ Bob’s transcendent vibe. Anyway, to make a short story even longer, my show-going companion and I got the time of the show mixed up (by a good couple hours) and we arrived just as ol’ Times They Are A Changin’ had started his 2nd encore. He played All Along the Watchtower, something else I didn’t recognize, and then he was gone.
Perhaps if I’d been more of a fan (or one at all), I’d have made sure of the correct time, but never the less, I can truthfully say, I’ve seen Bob Dylan.
The Best of Wayne Newton Live was one of the first 20 or so records I’ve ever owned (somewhat mystifying now, if you think about it), and it opened the door for many other exceedingly entertaining records released by Mr. Las Vegas to join the collection.
Acquired for roughly $3.98 from a Madison, WI Half Price Books back in 1997, this album got frequent spins during my first semester of college, and remains a critical part of those early collecting days. I distinctly remember listening mainly to the b-side, which consists of three medleys. This is only notable since the a-side contains Newton-ized versions of Live and Let Die, Hard to Handle, You’ve Got a Friend, and (Take Me Home) Country Roads. But the b-side included 45 seconds of Danke Schone, so there you go. For reasons that escape me, the track that stands out the most, some 17 years later, is Daddy Don’t You Walk So Fast. I have no idea why this song hit me at the tender age of 18, but, I suppose, some mysteries are better left unsolved.
Is it taboo to listen to one band while writing about another? Do the streams get crossed in sort of a 2/4, 4/4 sense? I think the big, cloud-like question looming above this otherwise sunny Tuesday morning is, why must man put restrictions on himself when creating something even as trivial and nonsensical as this? Philosophers and offspring to those much smarter than The Prudent Groove have pondered these elusive questions for decades, so I’ll leave the answers to those best suited for the job. Instead, let’s talk about Philip Glass’ Einstein on the Beach while listening to James Gang, shall we?
Let me first say this about James Gang Rides Again. Back in the early 90s when CD’s were the jam, my father acquired this album at a Sam Goody from the East Town Mall in Madison, Wisconsin. I remember, even at that age being underwhelmed by the simplistic yet strikingly bold cover. The only song I remember from that CD, while riding, then eventually driving in the 1989 Ford Ranger, was the opening track, Funk #49. I’ve spent the bulk of my nervous days scouring the earth for Funk #1 – Funk #48 but have yet to yield any sort of fruitful result. But hey, the search for the elusively extinct survives whether or not the desire is fueled, am I right? No, well, ok then. Now for something completely different…
On second thought, diving off Glass Beach without my big boy swimmies is a bit too overwhelming at the moment, so let’s save that for another time. Ok? Ok. (Raises coffee mug) Here’s hoping your Tuesday does or does not include someone named James, a gang, Einstein and / or a beach.
As a wide-eyed and furrow-browed youngster, I was a huge fan of Swing Music. While attending the local tech college, certain courses were required that involved physical movement (you see, it was Wisconsin, and in the winter we’d have to constantly move around to keep from freezing to death), i.e. racquetball, swimming, and the newly added Swing dance class.
It was 1997, and every 18 year old worth his weight in overzealous ambitions was an enormous fan of the 1996 classic, Swingers… and I was certainly no different. I owned the soundtrack, the DVD, and of course, several quote spilled posters that littered the walls of my shared 3 bedroom apartment on Madison’s west side. I wanted to be a Swinger (in the film’s sense, not the 1970’s shag carpet sense), and my semester learning the lively and energetic basics of Swing was arguably one of my best months of post high school education, regardless if I’ve forgotten all the moves.
Fast-forward a good 6 or 7 years to a little record shop in Ventura, CA (no need to move around there, the temperature seldom drops below 55). I became friends with the owner and I was given a quality deal on 13, 3 LP box sets celebrating the Swing era. The series is titled, quiet appropriately, The Swing Era, with each set focusing on 3 to 5 year chunks. Currently on the platter is 1930-1936 and features a lot of Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey and Casa Loma. This, as well as every other set includes a 64-page hard cover book focusing on the intricacies throughout the era during that set’s well, set of years.
I may never again do the Lindy Hop, but with 78 sides of quality Swing spanning the genre’s entire history (13 sets of 3 LPs each x 2 sides), I’ll certainly have the material handy if the jittery bug should ever bite again.
311 catches a ton of flack. I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve thrown my fair share of insulting tongues towards this Omaha band… but before I wrote off this relax-happy, genre-bending five-piece musical act (for reasons I’m not willing to explain at the moment), they acted as a brief, three year favorite for me and a few of my close, rural Wisconsin friends.
1995 seems like a dream being quietly suffocated by a nightmare these days. I guess I was a sophomore in high school, but I really can’t remember. All I can remember from this show is 1) Gwen Stefani was nearly booed off the stage (what the hell was No Doubt doing opening for 311 in the first place?), 2) an avid fan attempted to pass a jay past a security guard to frontman Nick Hexum. Nick dropped it, then politely ordered the security guard to fetch the fallen, illegal substance, which the portly guard did. Nick took a deep drag, and then gave the doob back to the ecstatic fan. Oh, and I also remember catching 37 types of hell from a judgmental girlfriend for attending a concert where such “barbaric” things took place.
Rural Wisconsin can be a bit of a drag sometimes, know what I mean?
My fondness for the summer of 1998 stands unmatched (as far as late 90s summers are concerned). I’d spent the bulk of my high school years blasting Beastie beats (much to my parents’ dismay), and that summer’s theme song, Intergalactic, would prove to be the first Beastie Boys single in nearly four years (a streak of lifetimes when you’re between the ages of 15 and 19).
I distinctly remember listening to the radio (an extremely rare thing at the time, and a practice exclusively unheard of today), waiting to hit play + record on my cassette player in the hopes of capturing this new, legendary song. The single was released in mid-May, but in Madison, Wisconsin, if you weren’t present when ANY Beasties single was displayed, your chances of obtaining one were next to nil. This was 1998, before the internet as we now know it, and a full year before Napster. Back then, if you wanted music, you had to hunt, and often times, you came home empty handed.
It’s sad to admit, but I’ve all but disowned Intergalactic now, along with its album, Hello Nasty. However, I’ll never forget the perpetual excitement that stuck to my early adulthood (not unlike Midwestern humidity), and this cover, above all others, transforms a weary man in his mid 30s back into a wide-eyed, overly vocal, and optimistic young man. Oh, the summer of 1998.
Save for the compilation, Let’s Talk About Leftovers, 1998’s Let’s Talk About Feelings was the last studio album by the Goleta, CA pop-punk rockers… the illustrious Lagwagon… that demanded my immediate, consistent, dumbfounded, and adolescent attention. I believe, shortly after the release of this album, the wings of my music evolution stretched into the dark, disheveled world of industrial music, so needless to say, Let’s Talk About Feelings left a lasting impression.
To fly over the specifics of this album, allow me to ramble off a few key (irrelevant) facts. Let’s Talk About Feelings was released, as I stated, in 1998 by Fat Wreck Chords. It was offered on compact disc and via wax by means of a 10”. Lagwagon released a box set of their major albums back in 2011, and Let’s Talk About Feelings was finally given a proper 12” format. Ok… back to the lamenting.
Let’s Talk About Feelings was one of those albums that never left the car. You know those albums, those discs of the compact nature. This particular disc postulated my attention for what seemed like SEVERAL years (I was 19 then, so a day felt like a week, and a week felt like, well, two weeks). Let’s Talk About Feelings, or LTAF, marked something of an uncomfortable maturity from the band that, at the time, I was both not prepared for, and unwilling to accept. Again, I was 19… daft, irrelevant, thick, and extremely pissed off.
With only 25 minutes dispersed throughout 12 emotionally weighing tracks, LTAF feeds that driving need for fast-paced, melodically moving, and hook-tastic pop-punk, that, for me, acted as a perfect half-hour soundtrack to the inevitable, adolescent-abandoning struggles of my late teen years. Let’s Talk About Feelings is a difficult album… not by what it presents, but by the nostalgia it unearths. My experience with this album is certainly only isolated to me, my actions, and the immediate concerns of a 19 year old pizza delivery driver facing the woes of the budding responsibility that erupts from the inevitable mountain of mastered maturity.
Let’s Talk About Feelings… I just did.
Editor’s note: This post was by request, and marks the first of (hopefully only a few more… just kidding) many friendly, reader-based requests to come. Do you have a specific request? Email me or drop me a line in the comments. I can’t promise you’ll enjoy what you read, but your requests certainly will not go overlooked.
1993 was an interesting year. I was 14, and back then, New Jack Swing was alive and violently flowing from the radio waves like a raging river of hip hop and dance-pop fusion, but you know, with tight-rolled Z Cavaricci’s and LA Gear footwear.
Shifting away from spoon-fed radio, for me, was a slow burn. We only had two radio stations that played anything other than Western or Country, and the closest record store was something like 40 miles away. A bit too far for me and my trusty BMX, as it turned out.
If I Had No Loot was a recent purchase, a $1 thrift store find actually, and serves as one of those “throwback” records that I’ll frequent when the thoughts of my younger years slowly begin to seep through the thin layer of 2013 reality. Other bands that fit this category include Animotion, Tone-Lōc, Paula Abdul, R.E.M., Prince, Jane’s Addiction, Faith No More and Pet Shop Boys (I was a confused kid).
For all its amazing shortcomings, If I Had No Loot still manages to stand its ground, and is as catchy and enjoyable as when I heard it for the first time screaming from Z-104 (104 FM) out of Madison, WI. People say music is timeless. I say, music is a time casket, emerging from yesteryear like a Pepe jean, Hypercolor shirt wearing zombie.
Five days after the conclusion of a decade filled with orange, brown, swagger and abundance (the 1970s), the United States saw a paramount release that that would transcend every other album released throughout the rest of the decade. On January 5th, 1980, Americans received a message from across the pond. It was a message of conflict, disdain and unforgettable beauty. This message… the uncompromising London Calling.
Five days into the 80s, and the decade saw its best work… crazy. Released a few weeks earlier in its native land (December 14, 1979 in the UK), London Calling became the owner of the #8 spot on Rolling Stone’s list of 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. #8… all time. 8… out of 500! This isn’t news to the majority of you as you probably already own this treasured album, and if you don’t, I’ll pretend not to know you in public next time I see you… seriously… GET this album!
Bridging the weathered gap between Hard Rock, Punk, Reggae, Lounge Jazz, Rockabilly and Ska (to name a few of the many genres defining this “epic” album… it was actually released on Epic Records in the states, so HA!), The Clash were able to showcase their angst towards authority, their cry for better paying jobs, their thoughts on civil war, love, and the church, and they were able to do it by staying within the confines of the social attention span. The Clash found that the message of insolence, distrust, hope and liberation could reach more ears if the music was more accessible to a broader audience.
Everyone who has ever learned to type has written about this album, so anything I say here won’t be groundbreaking. I will however express my personal affection towards this gem, and try to offer its beauty onto others. I’m a London Calling pusher, essentially… and I’ve got a quota to meet, so shoot up!
Really quickly, I’ll get into this then I’ll leave you the hell alone. It was July 1997 and I’d just turned 18. I was sharing a room with my best friend and we were both in our infant stage of record collecting. He with his Jimmy Durante, Glenn Miller and Dean Martin, and I with my Beastie Boys, NOFX and Doobie Brothers. There is a little store in Madison, Wisconsin called Half Price Books. If you’re from the Midwest you’ve undoubtedly been there. It was at the East Side location where I found my calling of the London variety. I’d already owned 1982’s Combat Rock, and was eager for more from the almighty Clash. Anyway, to make a long, drawn-out story short, the first side to the first record (London Calling is a double LP, btw) instantly became the soundtrack to our summer, with Rudie Can’t Fail becoming our favorite, miss-quotable song (substituting “chicken-boo for breakfast” instead of the proper “drinking brew…” something I still do to this day).
Maybe it was because that summer saw us living on our own for the first time, but for us, London Calling equaled liberation. Few albums attach themselves to such monumentally important moments in an individual’s life. The acute notice these moments, and they never forget them. London Calling, for all its global importance, still manages to satisfy my local, nostalgic needs.
Understanding that a groove is relevant only to a record and does not, in any case pertain to the spools of a cassette tape, I, via ways of inadvertent and very magic-like slight of hand, attempt to fool your senses in discussing a nostalgically important glimmer of rural mid-western indie-pop music… before the term indie was, well, indie. (How’s that for the recommended number of commas for those comma-touting liberals? #sniff) Cassettes need love too, so today The Prudent Groove will temporarily change its name to The Prudent Spool.
Illinois to Wisconsin is like Republicans to Democrats… or Democrats to Republicans, depending on where you align your morals. (The Prudent Spool doesn’t, as of yet, publicize its political alliances.) There was a batch of amazing music emerging from both states during the early 1990’s. The Smashing Pumpkins; remember them? They recorded their debut album, Gish (produced by Butch Vig), at Madison, Wisconsin’s Smart Studios. The mid-90’s brought Milwaukee’s The Promise Ring and their absolutely perfect debut, 30° Everywhere.
While south of the line that divides the cheese heads from the FISH, bands like Braid, Lard, Slapstick and the alternative (again, before the term was branded and incorporated) and very groove-heavy 7-track cassette (the name of which I’ve never known) by the locally infamous cats, Vacuum Scam. The Scam sounded like an amped-up, pop-punk version of early Pearl Jam if you know, Pearl Jam were ever any good. To say they were crunchy guitar driven is to ignore their brilliant ability to create melodies so painfully catchy, yet with the ability to sound fresh with each new listen. They were a SOLID unit, and to this day I’m scouring the earth, emailing the band, convincing my High School friends to search their junk drawers for the original 7-track cassette. It’s been 17 years and my search has turned up nothing.
Adrian, or DJ Mr. Brown as he is internationally known, introduced me to these 7, anxiety-ridden-jam tracks. You see, back in the day, cassettes were the thing. You could, well, I guess what 2013 would call the loathingly media-heavy adjective, “pirate,” tracks onto a “mix tape” that personally represented the “recent break-up mood” mix, the “my folks don’t let me go out on Friday nights and I’m fuggin’ pissed about it” mix, or even your “big bro says this is necessary listening material” mix. A mixed CD before mp3s, for those of you who remember what it was like before the internet. I dubbed these 7 tracked from someone who dubbed them from someone else who had the original tape. I’ve always been thankful that Adrian introduced me to the Scam (and endless other essential music). I managed to burn the cassette to CD before returning his dubbed copy, so I’m still able to enjoy the memories of my Senior year of high school anytime I choose.
The affection I have towards my addiction (of collecting records) is not unlike a relationship. A relationship filled with ecstasy and hopeless bleak despair. Looking back at my nearly 20-year relationship (fugg I’m old!), certain milestones come to mind that mark my progression/devolution. Like for instance, my first record store.
One never forgets their first time.
It was, and is still called Mad City Music Exchange and was, and is still located on Willy St. (Williamson St.) a few blocks from the State Capitol in Madison, WI. It was here where I began to build my (nearing completion) Beastie Boys discography, where I obtained my Big Rig 7” (Jesse from Op Ivy’s band after Op Ivy), and whose owner agreed to be interviewed by a High School Senior version of me for a fictitious record store I was to own and operate for a Marketing project. I’ll never forget his response after I gleefully informed him that I too wanted to own and operate an independent record store. His reply, “Why would you want to do a thing like that?”
As with many relationships, things just don’t work out. There is the whole “growing apart” thing, the “I dig your store but not your prices, so, you know, let’s just be friends” thing, and the “common necessity for relocation” thing. (THAT’S IT! THOSE ARE THE ONLY THINGS THAT DOOM A RELATIONSHIP! I kid.) So when opportunity (and my parents) moved me to Milwaukee, I was in desperate need of finding a new lover; a pusher for my audio starved addiction.
Enter Atomic Records.
Atomic Records was then, what Hollywood’s legendary Amoeba Music is now. If you’ve been to Amoeba in Hollywood, you get an idea of what I’m talking (writing) about. Atomic was my one-stop-shop for just about everything! Sleeves, Rocket from the Crypt stickers, tickets to BS 2000 shows, rare UK Zines, Christmas gifts for my father (who also collects records), my Har Mar Superstar picture disc, t-shirts, and sometimes live acoustic shows by nearby Chicago bands.
I’d stop in at Atomic 3-4 times a week while attending UW Milwaukee. There was something romantic about that shop in the dark winter months. With warm, inviting lights and the childlike anticipation of finding a coveted gem, Atomic almost acted like a temporary dose of sanity while helping me to forget about the death that is winter in Wisconsin. It was a safe haven, if only at 30-minute increments.
After leaving Milwaukee and moving to the much more mentally sustainable environment of Southern California, I found other record shop relationships and all but forgot about my brief, but prodigious admiration towards Atomic Records.
She’s gone now; closed her doors in 2009, and with it a chapter of my life that is just as important as the current chapter I’m attempting to write with The Prudent Groove.
Atomic may not have been my first, but she was arguably the best and, one I will certainly never forget.
RIP Atomic Records.