Every generation throws a hero a box of Pop-Tarts

Posted: April 10, 2013 in music, Record reviews
Tags: , , , , , ,

Graceland
Paul Simon
1986

I sold all my records. In 2011 I realized that I hadn’t played one since 2005. Did this cause me to drop a record on my turntable? No, because by then all I had left was a turntable. I’d already sold the rest of my stereo components. I’d never felt the need to replace them.

After turning this over in my mind for another year, I packed up everything (only a dozen LPs but about 250 45s, now called “sevens”) and took it all to a local store, Music Millennium. I hate having anything around that I never use, but many of these discs I bought when they were released, and this was an emotional moment. The store clerk was very kind. You’d think she’d been through this before with other men my age.

I sold the turntable on Craigslist. That left a portable phonograph we occasionally deployed at backyard parties. I sold that on Craigslist, too, to a guy named Adam, who was celebrating the start of his first real job after college. (At Music Millennium, they told me that people 35 and younger were the ones who were keeping vinyl culture alive.) Adam was all smiles when he saw what was waiting for him. He’d brought an album along to test the unit’s sound quality. When he slipped it out of the paper bag and I saw the starkly lit faces of Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, both of them dressed in black, I yelled to Special D, “Get in here!”

Bookends,” she breathed.

Bookends

We put Adam’s record on and pulled the trigger. Special D and I were transported back to teenhood by the half-minute of lonely guitar, the Bookends theme, that preceeds “Save the Life of My Child.” At that point we were ready to either adopt Adam or just give him the damn thing, but common sense won out and Adam went home with his new phonograph and I put his money in my wallet.

This brings me to what I consider the best album of 1986, Paul Simon’s Graceland. (The critics at Rolling Stone agree with me, but the readers go with Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band Live/1975-85. Stupid readers.)

Graceland is remarkable in so many ways that I’m just going to mention four: That the guy who wrote Bookends was still writing like a fiend 20 years later; that it revitalized a career that was already pretty damn vitalized; that the first two cuts, “The Boy in the Bubble” and “Graceland,” as awesome as they are, are just the beginning of the record; and that Graceland is filled with as many quotable lines as a Star Trek episode, as well as lines you can misquote, including the title of this post and a gem thought up by Special D as she walked through the Florida surf at sunrise: “I’ve got diatoms on the soles of my shoes!”

Paul Simon is not on my Top 10 list of favorite artists, but even I can appreciate the achievement that is Graceland.

So what did I do with the money from the sale of my records? What do you think? I bought CDs!

Random 1986 Sexually Ambiguous Danceable Doofuses of the Day
Book of Love, Book of Love
LA might’ve been Ground Zero for big fluffy danceable-and-forgettable faux-New Wave zero-calorie pop confections. Exhibit A: Book of Love, a group that scored in 1986 with three songs off their debut: “I Touch Roses,” “Modigliani (Lost in Your Eyes”), and “Boy” (where the crucial lyric reads, “Boy, uh huh, boy, uh huh/Boy, uh huh, boy, uh huh”). Actually I kinda like that one.

I can only describe them by comparing them with their big fluffy contemporaries. Book of Love is a poor man’s Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark, or a funky version of The Spoons. They pick up where Missing Persons left off, though I can’t say what they found that Missing Persons was missing. They borrowed Erasure’s grooves but dropped the histrionics. Bonus: When all three of the women in Book of Love sing together, they come close to Joan Jett!

Random 1986 Pan of the Day
Depeche Mode, Black Celebration (1986)
Yes, I enjoy these guys, but come on. Every song on this disc could’ve been done better by someone else. Depeche Mode bounced back in 1987 with Music for the Masses (featuring “Behind the Wheel” and “Strangelove”).

Comments
  1. Laurel says:

    I can’t believe you only owned about a dozen LPs. Of course, you didn’t admit to the number of cassette tapes containing dubs of other people’s LPs you might have owned. (In ethno., in the 80s, everyone I knew had hundreds of cassette copies of Bismilah Khan, the Bauls of Bengal, panpipes of the Ari Ari, Inuit throat singers, etc.)

    • Run-DMSteve says:

      I don’t have any cassettes anymore either, though I see they’re making a comeback — several trendy coffee shops here in PDX have racks of ’em. But I did have cassette comps at one time, including two made by you.

      Whatever happened to Bismilah Khan? I saw him at the Showbox in ’81 right before he broke up with Chaka. The Bauls of Bengal were not really my thing, but then I don’t like family acts so I’m not an objective observer. Looking back, and without listening to them again, I’d guess that the Bauls were better than the Carpenters and the Cowsills but not as good as the Jackson 5. I’d put them about on the level of the Osmonds, or maybe early Menudo.

      Panpipes turn me on and I don’t care who knows it. Ari Ari’s best album was Jackie Oh Oh Oh. Underrated! As for the Inuit throat singers, I brushed them off for years as just another Arctic chamber-punk crossover. But then in 1995 they went on tour with Mudhoney and I saw them at Shea Stadium. My ears are still ringing. Their last album, Strep, was the only one I had on vinyl and one of the dozen I sold to Music Millennium. I kept the poster, though.

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