Thursday, April 15, 2010

Guest VJ mini set Volume 2: the RCA years

20 years ago, I worked for RCA Records. First I was just a lowly intern, making copies and stuffing envelopes. But then, I became an Alternative Marketing Rep, which sounds awesomely important, but I was still basically making copies and stuffing envelopes.

At the time, RCA's biggest selling record was the Dirty Dancing soundtrack, which came out three years before I got there. Before that, the thing that kept them afloat was the Elvis catalogue.

When I first got there, I was wide-eyed and idealistic. I thought I would be working with lots of other people who were just as into music as I was. Within a month, I had no doubt that, with very few exceptions, most people there didn't know anything about music and certainly couldn't be bothered with the "weird" music in the Alternative Dept.

For me, it was a time of discovery. I came across so many bands that would shape my tastes for years to come. It was also, unfortunately, a pretty bad time for music videos.

My favorite album that I worked as an Alternative Marketing Rep (it sounded a lot less corndog 20 years ago) was Bizarro by the Wedding Present. I still come back to it a lot nowadays and the Weddoes just did one of those tours where they played the album in its entirety. It was the first time I heard the band and the first song on the album, "Brassneck" still pummels my head in the best possible way every time I hear it.

My second favorite album was A Gilded Eternity by Loop. Again, I'd never heard of them, but after hearing this, I quickly bought up their back catalogue which was then only available as imports. I listened to A Gilded Eternity recently and was forced to admit it hasn't aged well. But it still holds a special place in my heart.

My third favorite album is only my third because I was familiar with the band beforehand and it wasn't my favorite record of theirs. But by any measure, Sack Full of Silver by Thin White Rope is an above average record. These guys were actually weird. They were part of the "paisley underground" and blended '60s psychedelia with a peyote-induced mirage of the desert southwest. They were from Davis, CA and in my humble opinion, to this day have not received their due in the annals of indie rock history. They were awesomely powerful, rugged, funny, and didn't sound like anyone else. Their cover of "Yoo Doo Right" on this album introduced me to Can. So, for that alone, I think I owe them a rusty trombone. I can't find any official videos by them, but here's a clip of them live in Ghent, a concert which was recorded for their swan song, the supremely satisfying 2-disc set, The One That Got Away.

The early '90s was the time of Madchester and RCA had two of the best bands from the scene. The Charlatans UK got crapped on a lot as Johnny Come Latelies to the movement, but you can't look me in the eye and tell me Inspiral Carpets were better. I saw them live right after Some Friendly came out and they were shockingly good.

Last, but by no means least, there were the Stone Roses. Their debut album remains one of the most vital recordings of the time and is a touchstone of 20th century Brit-pop. There were so many brilliant songs on it, but I'm going to go with "Fool's Gold" because I'm a sucker for a well-played wah wah. The Roses took 300 years to record the followup record, called The Second Coming, and after its release, they immediately drown in a pool of their own urine, never to be heard from again.

Tomasz Stanko Live

I was fortunate enough to catch Tomasz Stanko live last week. I was interested to see how his new band featured on the album Dark Eyes came across without the ECM soundboard. To my delight and surprise, they were more aggressive, spacey and groovy live than on the CD. In fact, after listening to Dark Eyes again today, I have to say I much prefer the live versions of all the tunes. That's jazz, baby.

The Accidental Fungusarium

No, it's not a band you've never heard of so you can pull your knickers from your clenched bum cheeks. Inspired by a by a post on bOINGbOING a few months back, I made a mossarium. I thought it would be a lovely addition to the crib. And it was. For about a week. Then something started to happen.

I woke up one morning and there were what appeared to be spider webs running across the bottom. I turned to the trusty Internets to find that this was not at all uncommon and, depending on which random know-it-all you believed, it was one kind of fungus or another and I could easily remedy the situation by opening the lid and letting it dry out.

But since I'm all about science, I thought I'd just let nature take it's course and enjoy the mysteries of fungi. Sure enough the webs began to spread and soon there were little spores all over the sides of the bowl.

Then, something strange happened. From out of nowhere, little flies appeared inside. I had a lid on it, so I don't know how they would have gotten inside. I'm quite content to believe it was an isolated case of insta-genesis. Maybe one night, as I was sleeping, they just popped into existence, not unlike the spider webs or a mini-micro-scale big bang.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, my son and I caught some pollywogs at Griffith Park. They've been in a little aquarium for a while, but today, one of them looked more toad than pollywog, so I decided it was time to empty the Fungusarium and turn it back into a terrarium so the little toads can have a little slice of heaven before we release them back into Nature's maw. But before I did, I took some photos of my uninvited guests.

Before you ask, no, it didn't stink. It smelled like the woods after a rain. Like the song says, "Everything is beautiful in its own way."