It can’t be stated enough, but for me, an album reaches pinnacle status once pressed on clear vinyl. My entire collection would be clear vinyl if at all possible, so when Hellcat Records released Operation Ivy’s only full-length on clear wax, I knew it was time to retire this monumental release. Already owning it on black, red, and picture disc, clear is the perfect shade to round out not only a perfect album, but a formidable chapter in my ears’ career.
Label: Unofficial Release (AKA bootleg, duh)
Bands: Neurosis, Operation Ivy, Green Day, Rancid, Crimpshrine, Stikky, Isocracy
Style: Stop Wasting My Time
Operation Ivy’s Hectic E.P. was a bit of a golden idol to track down. Thankfully, I didn’t have to run from a giant rock-ball, nor did I lose my greedy counterpart to a lightbeam-triggered spike wall in the process. Like most of the “need to have, gotta’ save up for” treasures in my archeological collection, I unearthed this 1988 7″ from the bowels of the illustrious eBay. eBay that as it may, I’ve never seen this, the original version of this fireball of a band debut, in any record store in all my collecting days. The winning bidder: my ears.
I’ve heard convincing arguments coming from both sides of the strong divide that is “purchasing records online vs. purchasing records at record stores.” On one hand, as a record collector, it’s our sworn duty, albeit unspoken, to support our local brick and mortars so that they may continue to flourish for future record collecting generations. On the other hand, should I really pay $10 for a G+ re-issue of Harry Nilsson’s Nilsson Schmilsson when I can get the same version in the same condition online for $1.50? Should the “support tax” really be 6.6x the price of the record in question? I suppose we all walk this “do the right thing vs. gimme a deal” line, so in the attempts of easing my conscience, some 10 years later, I finally find myself at peace with my online purchase of Op Ivy’s first record, and yes… I handed over a 10 spot for said Nilsson re-issue. So, my conscience is clear… for now.
Short lived but monumentally influential, Operation Ivy delivers furious fits of melodic rage with six piercing tracks in under 11 minutes, and includes the personal cornerstones, Hoboken, Junkie’s Runnin’ Dry and Sleep Long. Yet another soundtrack to my high school years, Op Ivy is one of those bands that, not unlike a fine wine or salted cheese, has gotten better with age, and the Hectic E.P. is the perfect start to this brief, yet unmistakably essential band.
If you were stranded on a remote island (that conveniently harbored electricity, speakers and a bomb-ass turntable), and you were only allowed to pick three albums with which to spin for your remaining, ocean-gazing days, what three albums would they be?
For me, the first two albums were no-brainers. Paul’s Boutique by the Beastie Boys, and The Kinks Are the Village Green Preservation Society by The Kinks. Choosing the proper versions, both albums are double LPs (1998’s Grand Royal reissue and 2011’s mono/stereo split), so you’re already a leg up on the island dwelling competition. The third and final album requires much more, overanalyzed thought. Do you play it safe and pick Abbey Road? What about The Beatles, also known as the White Album? Or, do you skip the 12” format altogether and grab your favorite song, which just happens to be a post-hardcore thrasher by the obscure Wisconsin band, Defacto Oppression? Certainly NOT an easy decision to make (in this overly voluptuous hypothetical), second-guessing is sure to follow after the inevitably dreadful decision is (finally) made.
Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska garnishes some thought, but would probably be far too depressing… after all, these three albums will help feed, or deter the fact that you are, after all, stranded on a remote island. Emergency & I by the Dismemberment Plan is a considerably strong candidate, but would immediately be my number four pick. Bizarre Ride II (The Pharcyde), In Case You Didn’t Feel Like Showing Up (Live) (Ministry), This is Tim Hardin (Tim Hardin… duh), and Circa: Now! (Rocket from the Crypt) are all, exceptional lily pads on this thought pond, but none of them make the distinct cut.
London Calling (The Clash), Double Nickels on the Dime (Minutemen), Singles – 45’s and Under (Squeeze), Energy (Operation Ivy), Appetite for Destruction (Guns N’ Roses), which would easily be my number five pick, Black Monk Time (The Monks), and Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables (Dead Kennedys) all lay floating in the salted sea of “never to enjoy again.” Damn, this post is depressing.
And the winner goes to… The Shape of Punk to Come… the quintessential soundtrack to my evasive youth wins the number three spot, and with little hesitation, I might add. Refused’s best, and another double LP, this top three has quickly turned into the top six, and would respectfully demonstrate, and/or adequately demolish my headspace for the rest of my delusional life. To pick three out of 2,800 is certainly NOT an easy gesture… if asked again tomorrow, I’d have a completely different roster. Oh, the joy, and immediate pleasure of viable options.
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.
I’ll be up in SF for a few days, but still wanted to submit my daily post. While up here, I thought I’d comment on SF bands that I find interesting (idea by Jason Hardwick). So, here is a list of a few SF area bands that I dig, with a youtube vid link to accompany them. Enjoy!
Their version of Summertime Blues is considered, by some, to be the first “Heavy Metal” track ever recorded. Blue Cheer formed in 1967.
Riddled with legal battles throughout their tenure (mainly 1985’s obscenity trial over the artwork from their Frankenchrist release), the Dead Kennedys were among the first US based Hardcore bands to gain discernible popularity in England. They formed in 1978.
Starting in 1981 under the name, Faith No Man, Faith No More saw a revolving door of lead vocalists until landing Mr. Bungle’s Mike Patton in 1988. 1992’s Angel Dust was considered to be highly influential throughout the 90’s and early 2000’s. Their recent reunion notwithstanding, they parted ways in 1998.
Gaining popularity at almost galactic proportions, HL&N were a personal favorite of mine throughout my childhood. Huey’s cameo in Back to the Future still makes me chuckle. Huey’s real name is Hugh Anthony Cregg.
The first from the SF area to gain mainstream success during the psychedelic rock boom, Jefferson Airplane would morph into Jefferson Starship, then regrettably, just Starship. They formed in 1965 and ended their initial run in 1972.
CCR was a band that I thoroughly enjoyed listening to when riding in my Dad’s truck as a youngin’. Thinking they were a Southern band until I got wise, CCR, since the early days of my youth, has never been far out of reach. That can’t be said for many bands I’ve come across. I think the majority of my childhood musical favorites were deemed “not worthy” during my first years as a teenager. I blame Lords of the Underground and Onyx. CCR began as Tom Fogerty & the Blue Velvets, then changed their name to The Golliwogs before settling on Creedence Clearwater Revival. CCR disbanded in 1972.
Oh, NOFX. There was a point in my life where I could simply not get enough NOFX. Those years have been put to sleep, but I still reminisce from time to time. Although they formed in Los Angeles in 1983, they currently create crass melodies up in the bay area, hence the inclusion on this list.
Active from only 1987-1989, and releasing only 1 studio album, Op Ivy went on to become underground cult Gods. Influencing such notable bands as Green Day, the majority of the Fat Wreck Chords cast, Sublime, and eventually turning into Rancid, the band of 4 energetic punk (ska-core to be specific) got their name from a series of American operated nuclear tests conducted on the Marshall Islands (in the northern Pacific Ocean) in 1952.
Avant-Garde Metal sensations, Primus launched into the public’s conscious back in 1984. Since then they’ve experienced several lineup changes, but never lost their original voice, bass player and lead singer Les Claypool. Claypool’s label, Prawn Song Records is a parody of the Led Zeppelin owned, Swan Song Records.
Another one of “those bands” that my father frequently played, the diggity Doobie Brothers are the subject of comedic utterance by Michael Douglas in the 1984 classic, Romancing the Stone. Don’t remember the line? Here it is. They also created some pretty bad-ass music. I’ve never met someone who’s admitting NOT liking the D. Bros. (They formed in San Jose, I know, but it’s close to SF. Give me a break.)