Where there is more than enough of everything (episode three)
for the Study of
Slightly Varying Circumstances
HEY, LOOK AT THE RECORDS I GOT!with the President and Founder .
.Hello, and welcome to, ‘Hey, look at the records I got!’, I’m your host the President and Founder, and in this episode I am going to show, and give you a listen to three records I purchased while in the city of San Francisco on my recent California sojourn.
San Francisco, according to the SF Weekly, has “a ton of awesome record stores” which I will have take their word on as I visited only three, one of which I am not even going to mention because, to be honest, it stank, and not in the good way that record stores stink, but in the too big, filled with a lot of crap way I’m sure you’re all familiar with. Personally I like the small stores, with one or two guys behind the counter acting like it’s their living room, either oblivious to your presence, or looking at you like you showed up to their party uninvited, but that’s neither here nor there, I’ve got records to show you!
The period of time preceding
THaving decided to spend a good deal of the day hunting for records I left the apartment, generously lent to me for my stay, early, but knowing that no record store would be open until the sun was at least midway across the sky I headed for Golden Gate Park. My reason for going to the park was solely to visit the cenotaph1 honoring James A. Garfield, the 20th President of the United States who was shot twice and killed in 1881 after having been President for only 10 months2. After standing there as solemnly as I could for anywhere between 5 and 10 minutes, ruminating on the nature of existence, and checking the Sun’s position in the sky, I, feeling that was sufficient, pulled out my conveniently small, but powerful Canon Powershot S95 and got down to the business of snapping some pics of the cenotaph. What interested me most about the cenotaph was not the statue of Garfield standing up top with his hands in front of him and looking over the park like he was surveying his kingdom, but the statue below him of a seated woman who it turns out was a representation of Columbia the female symbol for the United States. In her right hand Columbia is holding a broken sword symbolizing the President’s assassination, and in her left what I think is a laurel wreath whose meaning I can only guess at, and so will refrain from doing so.
Having taken probably 30 pictures (a few of which turned out alright and are presented above for your enjoyment) from various angles, and with a multitude of different camera settings I, seeing that the Sun was at its zenith decided it was time to commence with my record safari, but, as it was so very close, and quite lovely to look at, I first made a short detour over to the Conservatory of Flowers3. This Victorian era greenhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the California Register of Historical Places, is a California Historical Landmark, and a San Francisco Designated Landmark, all of which should not be surprising once you take a gander at the snap I got of it. Beautiful, just beautiful, and filled with over 1700 plant species, too!
The expedition begins
The first record store which I was to visit, and the one I said I wouldn’t mention1, is located right on the edge of the park making it a convenient, if unfortunately horribly depressing place to start. Emerging from the building, a onetime bowling alley, which explains the greasy grimy feeling I acquired while within it, after what seemed an eternity trapped amongst its monstrous collection of records, DVDs, CDs, as well as a large amount of Rock and Roll lifestyle products, I set forth deep into what the locals call “The Upper Haight”2. This area of the city is by no means an easy one to navigate for all along the street, and within and without of the shops which line it lurk dangers; not physical dangers mind you, though they may be present and of concern to those of a less formidable aspect than myself, but instead dangers to one’s state of mind, no matter their size or shape, which can and do cause those attacked to suffer a wide variety of personal misfortunes from a simple emotional breakdown to a full blown case of insanity. Luckily I made it through relatively unscathed, as I am quite adept at averting my eyes and refusing to listen, arriving at ‘Recycled Records’ near the corner of Masonic and Haight where unbeknownst to me was waiting an album I had been in search of for a long time.
.There is a way I go about looking, an order to my searching; it is the same every time I step into a record store, except this time. This time as I entered the sight of a wall covered with record jackets1 greeted me, which I admit is not unusual to this store, but what was unusual, horrifyingly so, was that among those jackets were more than a few that featured the musical stylings of John Travolta. Now, I have no recollection of his musical career which I guess must have been in the mid 1970s, and I did not take the opportunity then to listen to any of them, though I could have, but didn’t, for the reason that the images of John Travolta’s face on the jackets so disturbed me that I could do nothing but stand in slack jawed and wide eyed amazement. Eventually, I snapped out of it having caught a glimpse of Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers on the cover of a copy of ‘Islands in the stream’2 threatening at first to send me spiraling into madness, but which actually allowed me the precious few moments needed to break what I now call “The Travolta Trance”3. Released from the spell I began going through the bins with a general idea of what I wanted, but not thinking of any one album in particular. Then, after reviewing the order of the alphabet in my head I found the ‘C’ section where I came across an album I have been pursuing partly for sentimental reasons but mostly because it’s really good, even with the specter of groove cramming4 that surrounds it, which, by the way is addressed by no other than Nick Lowe himself on the jacket where he assures the listener that he and Elvis had discussed the issue and decided it was cool. But don’t take my word for it, here’s Nick’s:
You’ll have noticed that there are ten (?) tracks on each side of this, Elvis’ new L.P. making it a real “long player”!
Elvis and I talked long and hard about the wisdom of taking this unusual step and are proud that we can now reassure you hi-fi enthusiasts and/or people who never bought a record made before 1967 that with the inclusion of this extra music time they will find no loss of sound quality due to “groove cramming” as the record nears the end of each face (i.e. the hole in the middle)
Now get happy.
The album ‘Get Happy!!” by Elvis Costello and the Attractions was released in 19805 and contains 20 songs, not one of which I wouldn’t have been proud to write myself, as well as play for you, but unfortunately because of limited time I can choose only one. The track I decided to play is called, ‘King Horse’, a perennial favorite of mine. Give it a listen.
Toward a point ahead
Having gotten quite happy with the acquisition of a long sought after album I, feeling hungry, but also desiring to celebrate decided upon having a bite to eat. Not far from Recycled Records exactly on the corner was a restaurant that seemed, from its outward appearance, and that it was pretty busy, to be as good a place as any, so I entered. Once seated I immediately inquired as to the whereabouts of the restroom1, and being pointed in the right direction I proceeded to it for the use of its intended purpose. On the way I noticed upon a blackboard a list of the wide variety of beers which were not only offered there, but also brewed on the premises. This I normally would have paid little attention to if it were not for the name of one of the beers stopping me in my tracks.
Happy as I was already, the reading of the name “Stout of Circumstance” caused me to be seized with such a paroxysm of laughter2 that the other patrons became nervous and trying to pretend not to notice me, situated themselves in their chairs in such a way as to allow easy escape in the case of my proving to be dangerous3. Of course, being that I am the Founder and President of The Institute for the Study of Slightly Varying Circumstances I had no choice but to sample the beverage which, after taking care of my personal business, I did.
Full to bursting I was once again ready to resume my hunt which would now require a walk of some distance4 to the next record store I wished to visit, called, ‘Grooves’. Yes, I was thinking the same thing, “Grooves”?, oh, this could be awful, possibly the worst, scarring me so deeply that I would be in need of not venturing out of the apartment for up to a day and a half, but I was resolved to go to the place no matter my fears.
‘Grooves’ is on Market right across the street from what used to be the home to the Anarchist Bookstore, and fortunately for me right next door to ‘It’s Tops’ restaurant. I say fortunately because although the day was half over ‘Grooves’ had yet to open, so while I waited I stepped into ‘It’s Tops’ for a cup of coffee (made, no doubt, with Hetch hetchy water5), which was practically begging to be drowned with creme and that never seemed to empty. Filled up with enough coffee to keep me sharp while on safari I paid the lady and after stepping outside was disappointed to find the record store still unopened. So, making the best of it I took to watching a giant crane being used on a nearby construction site imagining the horror of it crashing to the ground and wondering about the chances of my survival5 if it did until finally the guy working at the store showed up, and I must say, it was well worth the wait.
.Undulations in the groove
You may remember earlier how I was telling you that I had a preference for small record stores with one or two guys working there who seemed to be completely unaware of your presence, well, that’s what ‘Grooves’ is. When you’re in there you also won’t be in danger of any emotional damage caused by having to wade through Poco album, after Loggins and Messina album, after Elton John album; sure, they have plenty of records I have no interest in, but they don’t stock every damn album ever made1. Another thing I enjoyed about ‘Grooves’ is that if there was music playing in the store I have no memory of it. There is, for me, nothing as maddening as being assaulted by some awful music, or any music for that matter, played at a high volume while I am attempting to sift through a thousand records. I know, “it’s a music store”, but it is still irritating, and at least in the case of one record store I visit regularly, I believe they do it in order to chase people off. Every time I go into the store they are playing what I call “Satan and his guitar music” you know the kind, deep vocals over screeching noise, all about evil nonsense2.
Anyway, while in ‘Grooves’ I went about my usual method of looking, starting in the Rock and Roll section until completely positive it had nothing to offer, and then on to the Jazz records just to read the highly entertaining liner notes, and then finally, over to the Soundtracks hoping to find some Nino Rota for using in some film or another I may make one day. Nothing, I found nothing, but then, as I made my way to leave I caught sight of the Sound Effects bin. Why I don’t ever think of it I have no idea, but I don’t, not even after only a week or so before finding an album I had as a child called ‘Chilling, Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House’3 that I immediately purchased and have listened to quite a lot for as awful as it is. So, with high hopes I began looking and was instantly rewarded with a collection of train sounds called ’Rail dynamics’. However, as much as I do enjoy the sound of trains I wasn’t completely sure that I would buy it, that is until, while reading the explanation of what was on the record and why, I came across the following:
““SIDE A” tells a story of the open rail, often with the microphone aboard a moving train. Material for this side was collected under a variety of circumstances with the co-operation and assistance of the New York Central.”
“Under a variety of circumstances”! If this wasn’t a sign then I’m not the President and Founder of The Institute for the Study of Slightly Varying Circumstances, which I am, and so it must be a sign, actually I am quite certain of it4. Needless to say I tucked the record under my arm convinced that I had no choice but to buy it, and continued my looking. Just a few records later I came across another collection of train sounds, this one called “Sounds of Shunting”5. Quickly going over it for any mention of ‘circumstances’ I found none, but because of the photograph on the cover and the description of it as “Locomotive Shunting at Royton Junction in May 1954, I had to have it.
‘Rail dynamics’, as it says on the sleeve, was “Recorded on rainy nights during the fall of 1950 near the Peekskill, N. Y. station, #1070 holds the sounds of most types of engines used by the great New York Central.” Let’s listen!
Record No. 5038-9 ‘Sounds of Shunting’ was recorded in 1956 and 57 at various locations within the United Kingdom. The track we’ll listen to is from September 1957 recorded through the Portland dockyard towards the junction with the Weymouth-Portland line. Wow! I have no idea what that means, but it makes me want to listen, doesn’t it you? I thought so, let’s do.
Well, that’s it, thanks for joining me on my record safari, and for having a listen to the acquisitions I made, I really enjoyed it. There is something though that I do feel I should tell you, and I hope you’ll understand, but we’ve shared so much already it just wouldn’t be right to keep it from you. Here goes. I’m no hi fi enthusiast, I don’t collect rare or valuable records or have any opinion on which albums you should have in your collection; I know next to nothing about Jazz, or Classical music, or any other musical genre for that matter, and my feelings about Rock and Roll can be, for the most part, summed up by the following quote:
“Of all the curses to have befallen mankind, that Rock and Roll will never die is most assuredly the worst”
-Mr. Jack Olson
So, you may then ask, “Why do you even bother going to record stores then”?, which is a good question and one I have no intention of answering directly, but I can tell you that I enjoy the activity, and if you were to ask, would definitely recommend it as a wholesome pastime for everyone regardless of age, race, creed, color, sex, or sexual orientation.
Until next time,
The President and Founder
Hey, everybody it’s me, the President and Founder, back at you with a very special Bonus Feature. As most of you are aware it was just recently Christmas and as part of the celebrations of this splendid day I like to receive presents from my admirers. This year, I got three excellent records,but unfortunately due to restrictions on how much time can be spent on a bonus feature I can only share one of them with you. Deciding which one turned into a real bummer so I wrote down each of their titles on separate pieces of paper and put them all in a bowl in order to have a completely impartial drawing. As chance would have it I picked the album ‘The language and music of the wolves – narrated by Robert Redford’
The album, ‘The language and music of the wolves – narrated by Robert Redford’ was released in 1971 by the American Museum of Natural History, and if I would have found it myself (and what are the chances of that – slim at best) I probably would have hemmed and hawed about purchasing it (even if it was in the dollar records), and so I am very pleased to have received it as a gift. What I will play for you is track 5 ‘Series of 3 adjacent single howls’ which is described in the following way:
“There’s a great difference in pitch, length, and other features of wolf howls, and the patterns in their harmonics are distinct. We can’t completely distinguish the pattern of harmonics, but a wolf can.”
I love that! “but a wolf can”! Alright, quiet now, close your eyes, and listen to the language and music of the wolves.
The period of time preceding1. A cenotaph is an ‘empty tomb’ honoring someone who is buried elsewhere. The cornerstone of Garfield’s cenotaph contains a box filled with coins, photos, a Bible and the names of the men who built it. The statues were cast in Nuremberg, Germany, and the entire monument cost 28,000 dollars. It was unveiled July 4, 1885. 2. Charles Guiteau is the man who shot and killed President Garfield. He was, I think the term is, a nut. Believing he was instrumental in Garfield’s election to the Presidency, Guiteau began to first hang around the Republican headquarters in New York looking for an award of a diplomatic post, when this didn’t work he went down to Washington. Once there he made himself known at both the White House and the State Department pestering the people there so much that he was banned from the White House waiting room and was told by the secretary of state “Never speak to me again…as long as you live.” Of course after this God started speaking to him, telling him, as God does tell people from time to time, to kill the President. To do as God asked Guiteau realized he’d need a gun and so went right out and bought himself an ivory handled .44 Webley British Bulldog revolver instead of a wooden handled one of the same kind because he thought it would look better in a museum display after he killed Garfield. After this he sent some vaguely threatening letters to the White House (all of which were ignored) and practiced shooting his new gun. Guiteau also wrote a letter to the commanding General of the Army asking for protection from the mob that was sure to form after the assassination as well as other letters justifying his upcoming actions. If this was not enough he then tried to get a tour of the District of Columbia jail in order to see the place he thought they’d send him after he was arrested. And finally, stalking Garfield to a train station where he was seeing his wife off to a resort, Guiteau had the opportunity to shoot him then but chose not to because Mrs. Garfield was sick and he was afraid of upsetting her in that condition. On July 2, 1881 at the sixth street train station in Washington D.C. Guiteau shot Garfield in the back twice, Garfield died just over two months later. At this same time Alexander Graham Bell was hurrying to make improvements on his Graphophone, which itself was an improvement on Thomas Edison’s 1877 invention of the Phonograph, in order to file patents and claim the improvements before Edison could. However, when President Garfield was shot Bell joined with other scientists in attempting to invent an instrument that could locate and dislodge the bullet that still remained inside Garfield. Eventually it was neither Edison nor Bell whose efforts proved successful, but instead it was Emile Berliner in 1887 who, using Lateral-cut disc records, named his system, the Gramophone. Emile Berliner 3. Construction on the Conservatory of Flowers was completed in 1878. The San Francisco Directory for the Year Commencing April 1879 had this to say about it, “The whole building required in its construction twenty-six thousand square feet of glass weighing twenty-five tons, and two tones of putty. It is a marvel of architectural beauty, surpassing in this respect any similar construction in the United States, and is only equaled in size by the Government Conservatory of in the Horticultural Gardens at Washington” It is thought to house the largest and most comprehensive collection of plants in the world including more than 700 of the 1000 known species of Orchids. .
The expedition begins1. Alright, it’s Amoeba Music “The world’s largest independent record store” I am talking about. 2. The Upper Haight is basically where Haight and Ashbury streets intersect which most will recognize as having something to do with stinky hippies, which in turn led directly to the song, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” which is, I’m sure you’ll agree, an unforgivable offense.
Well pleased1. A ‘record jacket’ is the cardboard outer covering of a vinyl LP, usually decorated in some manner, while the ‘record sleeve’ or ‘dust sleeve’ or ‘album liner’ is the (usually) paper covering inside closest to the record itself, all of which you may have already known and what I mention only in order to confess that technically what was on the wall were 45s which normally come in only a paper sleeve, and are used as a format for releasing ‘singles’, as opposed to an LP which contains a whole album, etcetera, etcetera,…………………………. 2. The song ‘Islands in the stream’ written by the Bee Gees in my memory is a most irritating song, but recently, after listening closely, I was surprised at how haunting of a song it really is. I got chills! Islands in the stream That is what we are No one in-between How can we be wrong Sail away with me to another world And we rely on each other, ah-ah From one lover to another, ah-ah 3. ‘The Travolta Trance’ while debilitating and commonly found today among people waiting in line at supermarket check out stands is nothing compared to ‘Travolta Fever’ which, while rarely encountered since the 70s, is a malady for which there is no cure.
Toward a point ahead1. This is the second time in the three episodes of this series that I have made mention of using the restroom, however I do not do this to shock, but only to reinforce the fact that needing to urinate while on the streets of San Francisco can be very troublesome, but as happened the last time as well as this time also lead to a discovery of immense importance 2. I borrowed “with such a paroxysm of laughter” from Charles Dickens. I just thought I should tell you 3. If any of the other patrons had the ability to read another person’s thoughts they may very well have run from there screaming after reading mine because immediately upon reading “Stout of Circumstance” I was seized not only with laughter, but also with a very deep feeling of paranoia. Realizing that the restaurant was located on the corner of Haight and Masonic and that Henry Haight, an exchange banker who the street was named after, was himself a Mason and that Masons are involved in all sorts of nefarious activities which could definitely include an attempt to lure the Institute, through deception (which the “coincidence” of there being a ‘Stout of Circumstance’ in the very restaurant I chose to eat at playing a part), into its vast web of organizations bent on world domination, knowing full well that if they were to ask me outright to join them I would respond without hesitation, “No, way”!. According to ‘Secrets In Plain Sight – Patterns in Art, Architecture, Urban Design, & the Cosmos’, “San Francisco is brimming with secrets in plain sight.” And goes on to quote Stephen O’Rourke who wrote in the article, ‘The San Francisco Pyramid Saga’, that “Many of the state’s pioneers, Fremont, Stevenson, O’Farrell and Montgomery were Masons. The first Masonic meeting in fact took place only two years after the US took control of San Francisco, on October 17, 1849, at 728 Montgomery Street…[in the adjacent block to where the Transamerica Pyramid now stands]” And I thought I was paranoid! Hah! Don’t even get me started on the Transamerica Pyramid or the Masonic Memorial Temple the address of which is 1111 California street and as everyone knows, and is expressed in ‘Secrets In Plain Sight’, “11 is all about integrating our bicameral minds into a state of balanced consciousness. Schooling emphasizes the left brain at the expense of the right. Advancement in society is almost entirely a left brained affair. The feminine right side of our consciousness is being systematically suppressed.” Isn’t that the truth. The relief sculpture on the building represents the battle between good and evil, the question is, what side are they on! Looming over the city 4. The actual distance is only about three miles, but after sampling the ‘Stout of Circumstance’ as well as having to very carefully transport my recent acquisition of ‘Get Happy!!’, it seemed like at least four or five miles, all up hill with only one good leg, and a head wind. 5. Hetch Hetchy water comes from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir which is where San Francisco gets its water. Some say it’s the best water ever, but that is only because they have never had a glass of ice cold water from the Institute’s private well. 6. I did determine that, in fact, I would not only survive, but also rush to the aid of those who needed it and then later be awarded the key to the city and get to meet Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge who would quite enjoy my company.
Undulations in the groove1. It would be of course impossible for this store or any other to actually stock every record ever made, but can you imagine if it were possible?! I have every now and again wondered if maybe Satan, when not playing his guitar, is in a special room of gigantic proportions forcing people to listen to every album ever made as punishment for their sins. I have not reached any conclusions about what those sins would be, but I may in the near future, I’ll get back to you when I do. 2. Despite my condemnation of this musical genre I know absolutely nothing about it, or even what to call it, so, in order to be well informed, I consulted Wikipedia ’Your friend in the know’ and found both ‘Death Metal’ and ‘Black Metal’ to be likely candidates defined as follows: “Death metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. It typically employs heavily distorted guitars, tremolo picking, deep growling vocals, blast beat drumming, minor keys or atonality, and complex song structures with multiple tempo changes.” “Black metal is an extreme subgenre of heavy metal music. Common traits include fast tempos, shrieked vocals, highly distorted guitars played with tremolo picking, blast beat drumming, raw recording and unconventional song structures.” I now believe that the music I call “Satan and his guitar music” is probably, between the two genres I found, Death Metal. I like “Satan and his guitar music” better. 3. This album deeply frightened me as a child, but nowhere near to the extent that it does today. 4. Remember, this was the second occurrence of circumstance in one day, the last one leading to me getting a little tipsy, and this one to me excitedly pointing it out to someone who neither knew or cared about it and let me know with one of those “I have no idea what you’re talking about, you lunatic, get any closer to me and I’ll break your arms” looks I often get. 5. I had no idea what ‘shunting’ was and wasn’t sure I wanted to. Later I found out, from my ‘knowledgeable acquaintance’, Wikipedia, what is was. “Shunting, in railway operations, involves the process of sorting items of rolling stock into complete train sets or consists, or the reverse. The United States terminology is “switching”. The occupation of shunter is particularly dangerous as there is a risk of being run over, and on some rail systems, the shunters have to get between the wagons/carriages to complete the coupling process, especially where hook-and-chain coupling systems are in use. This was particularly so in the past (e.g. the Midland Railway used to have an ambulance wagon used at Toton Yard for injured shunters). In the past the main tool was a shunting pole, which allowed the shunter to reach between wagons to fasten couplings, without having to physically go between the vehicles.”