Home Alone

Apparently I now like “world music.”

I’ve spent a lifetime avoiding it — mainly because its fans. You know the type. They talk in hushed tones and sip vintage cabs. Only slightly more adventurous than the average blues aficionado. My tastes, on the other hand, range from pop and punk to classic rock and soul to krautrock and experimental droning. My go-to music is usually loud and guitar- and bass-driven.


 

But it’s true. I am one of them now. I found this out when I heard Fela Kuti’s “Zombie” on the radio this morning. With my better half out of town for a business trip, I was able to listen to it at the appropriate volume.

The one thing you realize when you are home alone is how infrequently you are in control of the volume knob. That and all my cats expect me to do everything for them. Tell me that song does not rock.

I’ve been thinking lately about how much I don’t like modern music. I’m not a nostalgist. I do believe brilliant music is still being created today. But I’ll spare you the rant about what I don’t like and focus on the positive.

Anyway, I finally made it out of my bunker Monday and took a walk to the record store. It’s nice to live in a neighborhood where there is still a record store within walking distance, and Laurie’s Planet of Sound usually has a decent selection of vinyl. While there are a number of advantages to buying vinyl, I think its main appeal these days is the cover is large enough for me to still read.

Having thumbed through the racks of new records and some of the used, I settled on the three LPs I would buy (strangely, I usually buy in threes), before stumbling upon Les Paul & Mary Ford record for $4. “The World Is Still Waiting for the Sunrise” was a 1974 collection on Capital Records that was also released on 8-track. I don’t know how this could not be great.

 

   

 

The first record I grabbed was Flipper Psychout, a 2010 compilation of ’60s and ’70s Italian psychedelic instrumentals. I have no idea why I bought it other than I was hoping for a bit more Ennio Morricone and got more garage porn. Some of it is pretty ordinary, but there are a couple gems.

Often, when I don’t have a clue about what I am looking for, I wind up buying a compilation record; which is how I took home Where Birdmen Flew, a 1987 collection of Australian punk rock that had me at “marsupial” in the subhead. Going semi-old school. The Radio Birdman song “Burned My Eye” may have been the deciding factor in my purchase, but “I Don’t wanna Go Out” by X (not the Los Angeles band and not to be confused with The Ex from Amsterdam) made it worth the cash.

Catching up on things I missed in the last century, I picked up the 2008 reissue of the 1968 record Contact by Silver Apples. This was the oscillator- and drum-driven sophomore record that led to the original demise of Silver Apples. The cover featured Simeon Coxe and Danny Taylor in the cockpit of a Pan Am jet and the two on the back amongst the wreckage of a plane crash, with Simeon playing banjo (Pan Am didn’t take kindly to this and filed a series of lawsuits that bankrupted the band and label Kapp Records). There’s irony for you.

Contact laid the groundwork for bands like Stereolab and Portishead. It still sounds ahead of its time and is going back on the turntable just as soon as I finish writing this.

 

Tom Long is one-third of the seldom heard Chicago band The Ethyl Mermen. The name Tom Long can be found in the dictionary, Baseball Encyclopedia and a pub in Ireland. Tom Long is not affiliated with any other Tom Long; he won the rights to use his own name after prevailing in a three-way game of Jan-ken-pon by choosing "dynamite!" No Toms were harmed in the making of this blog.

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