Sunday, March 20, 2011

RECORD STORE MEMORIES Part ONE by Stephen SPAZ Schnee



As everyone now knows, I'm a music geek.  I live and breathe music.  Those who are brave (or stupid) enough to hang around me know more about music than your average listener because they have to put up with my constant chatter about the latest new sounds I've been grooving to, the latest reissues or my most recent re-discoveries.  You see, some 35 years after I started buying my own music, I still have that fever.  And I do all I can to pass that excitement on to anyone that I know... I even want to inspire or excite folks I don't know, although that seems to be more of a pipe dream than a reality.....

I grew up loving The Beatles, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell (my first concert in 1970 or so), the Osmonds, The Jackson Five, Badfinger, Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly and whoever else suited my fancy.  My whole world changed in 1977 when I was introduced to Punk via THE JAM.  I thought it was totally cool that there was a Punk band that wore suits (like the Beatles), played Rickenbackers (like the Beatles) and had catchy tunes (like the Beatles).  Of course, The Jam sounded NOTHING like the Beatles back then, but that didn't matter: I was hooked...

So, where did I spend my early record shopping days?  Well, since I had no idea what a mom and pop indie record store was at the age of 14, I spent my hard earned allowance at......LICORICE PIZZA!  A truly great indie chain with one of the greatest logos ever....


While older guys may have thought the Licorice Pizza lady was fine, I did not care one bit.  I wanted to know what record she had just taken out of the oven!  Boy, it looked (and looks) delicious!

So, anyway, I started spending all of my allowance at Licorice Pizza.  I remember when they got their oldies 45 section and bought up every Beatles and solo Macca, Lennon, Harrison and Starr singles I could afford.  I remember getting Harrison's "Give Me Love" single the same day I bought my first pack of  the then-brand new Freshen Up gum ("the gum that goes squirt!"). Since then, every time I hear "Give Me Love", I can almost smell and taste mint! No joke! 

But once I discovered Punk and New Wave, my love for music turned into desire and passion...

Here are a few of those albums that I bought from Licorice Pizza that have made a difference in my life....



The Jam's This Is The Modern World was the album that really kicked me in the gut and made me realize that there was more to life than the radio!  While it may not be The Jam's finest, it is the album that changed my life...



So, while my other friends in junior high were listening to the latest Top 40 and FM hits, I was buying albums from The Jam, The Clash, XTC, The Fabulous Poodles and bands like that. Sometimes, my tastes would collide with those of my friends (such as The Cars) but that didn't occur to often...

Around this same time (1977), I also met my first girlfriend.  Yes, music geeks can have girlfriends, too!  And guess what?  She was wonderful. For those few years we were together, music came second.  Can you believe that?  A music geek putting a girl first?  Perhaps I'm not full blooded music geek after all?  Anyway, she was so patient and tolerant of my love of music, especially since she knew I put all the money I earned towards her and NOT the music....well, 90% of it anyway!  :)

It was great to share my latest purchases/gifts with her and my friends.  Oddly enough, my brother wouldn't give this stuff the time of day... at least for a few years.  Now, he is one of my favorite musicians and songwriters, but back then he was just my big brother who picked on me all the time and hated my music.  Boy, he would mock the albums I played incessantly! But you know what?  I hated CSN, Springsteen, Neil Young and all of the crap he loved.  But in time, we both came around and now I love to share my latest discoveries with him via a series of mix tapes I've been making him for years and years. And I do love CSN, Springsteen, Neil Young and all that crap now. Kinda.

While I had been buying import 7" singles from labels like Stiff, I never really understood the concept of an 'indie' label.  I always thought that bands who released albums on indie labels weren't good enough for major labels!  But then, I saw an album by THE LAST called L.A. Explosion on Bomp Records.  On a whim, I bought it based on the album cover alone (and that all the lyrics were printed on the back).  This album changed the way I looked at indie labels and remains one of my top 25 albums of all time.  From Power Pop to Punk to New Wave to '60s influenced Rock, The Last were (and are) the most under-rated band of the late '70s and early '80s.  And they still rock today!

An old girlfriend surprised me in 1979 by buying me THE RECORDS' self-titled debut album for my 16th birthday.  I was so excited. 


That Records album kicked ass, to be honest.  It was Power Pop.  It was New Wave.  It was amazing.  It was known as Shades In Bed in the UK and can now be purchased on CD in its entirety (including tracks from both the UK and U.S. versions).


Unfortunately, after a great 2 and 1/2 year relationship, she and I parted ways.  It broke my heart.  To pieces.  After awhile, it was music that began to help me through the sorrow I felt.  One album in particular really SPOKE to me: SHOES' Present Tense.  This was an album about love (mostly love lost and breaking up) and it felt like my life being put to music.  Corny as it sounds, this album helped me through those first few months.  



But you know what?  Life moves in strange and mysterious ways. And often times, those ways are magical and magnificent.  The long and winding road, indeed....

STAY TUNED FOR MORE RECORD STORE MEMORIES FROM SPAZ AND CO-HORTS!

1 comment:

carol said...

Ah Spaz, I love the music geek that you are! "What kind of fool do you think I am, to think I know nothin' bout the modern world". The Jam, along with the Clash and XTC were also very influential in the music that I listened to.
Looking forward to reading more about your Record Store Memories...