Day: May 10, 2010

Sad-eyed lady with the snow hands.

The black box of CDs is empty. Again.

This is nuts.

What happens is, I put out a new album, it goes pretty quick and pretty regular for maybe a month or two, and when I’ve gone through maybe two hundred copies or less it starts to taper off until things stop moving altogether.

The last few times I’ve refilled the box, I’ve stocked it more or less equally with copies of the most recent five CDs. Within a week or two, the box is empty. I refill it, and the same thing happens again. And again. And again.

I don’t know what’s going on here, or where all these people who want Johnny West CDs are coming from. Like I said. Nuts. I’ll get around to rebuilding some stock and hopefully the box will be full again sometime this week.

The new store location is pretty snazzy. Lots more room to move around, and heat in the winter! And air in the summer! And a roof where the sitting and drinking of soft drinks can happen! I think that’s a great way to spend your break in the summer if you work there. There’s also an area upstairs where all the used vinyl records now live. Cool stuff, I say.

Here are a few pictures I found on Facebook that were taken by someone who is not me.

I hope Liam and the gang do really well at the new place.

An unrelated thought: you know how I used to waste a lot of time, money, paper, and plastic sending music to record labels who had no interest in me or anything I was doing? Well, now not only do I have several more recent albums that would potentially stand more of a chance of interesting someone than anything I sent out back in the day, but I have a documentary about myself I could send out as well (or i will have it in a send-out-able form, once it’s on DVD).

For a moment, I thought, “Hell…maybe that would get their attention. Labels get unsolicited CDs all the time. How often do they get a DVD from an artist who’s actually had a documentary made about them? Maybe this is the sort of thing that piques their fickle interest.”

I stewed on it for about ninety seconds, thinking maybe I had something here.

Then I said to myself, fuck record labels. I’m not going back on the deal I made with myself to never again waste my time sending anything to any label. Too many CDs have already been wasted on them to no effect at all. In the immortal words of John Lennon, “You don’t get me twice.”

It’s not that I carry a grudge because six years ago when I was sending CDs to every record label in the world no one was interested in what I was doing. That would be silly. You can’t hold a grudge against people you don’t even know. I just don’t see the point in wasting the time on a bunch of suits who still probably wouldn’t have any interest in me, and who are irrelevant to what I want to do anyway. Better to send CDs and DVDs to people who might actually check them out and enjoy them, instead of someone who will toss them behind a couch somewhere.

(Update: Josh never gave me any DVDs at all, though he said he would. So much for being able to share the film with anyone.)

But back to Dr. Disc. During a recent vinyl-hunting expedition I came across the 12″ single version of “Speed Your Love to Me” by Simple Minds. I will not win any cool points by admitting this, but I have a certain guilty pleasure fondness for those guys. Not all their stuff, mind you — while I can enjoy the catchiness of “Don’t You Forget About Me”, pretty much everything after that is way too typical of ’80s bombast for me to get into.

It was a different story back in 1997 when I was in grade nine. Back then, the more ’80s-sounding and bombastic something was, the more I loved it. For a while the “selective greatest hits” album Glittering Prize was in pretty heavy rotation in my DiscMan.

I did not enter high school with any cool music in my collection. At all. Luckily, redemption and re-education were right around the corner, and I would soon find myself throwing pretty much every CD I owned into the proverbial basement. The odd Simple Minds song still does something for me, though.

There’s some cool stuff on some of the early albums. And they were an entirely different band before they morphed into just another ’80s stadium rock monster — more quirky synth-pop than U2-lite. “The American”, for instance, is a great new wave/post-punk pop song, equal parts weird and catchy. It almost sounds like a jerky marriage between early INXS (before there even was INXS) and mid-late-period Japan (before Japan reached their mid-late-period).

Sparkle in the Rain (from whence “Speed Your Love to Me” hails) has one foot sinking into the stadium rock sound the band would soon mine for all it was worth, but there are enough atmospheric touches and moments of strangeness to keep things from getting generic. It’s an interesting balancing act between creative ambition and the desire for commercial success.

Unlike what happened on the monstrously successful followup album Once Upon a Time, here the bombast feels like it still kind of means something. To be sure, Jim Kerr’s lyrics for “Waterfront” might not mean much of anything, but it’s hard not to get swept up in the hypnotic thrum of it all. The production is very much of its time, with BIG DRUMS, BIG GATES, and BIG REVERB all over the place. But it doesn’t sound half as dated as some ’80s albums do, maybe because Steve Lillywhite was producing, and in the decade of cocaine and big hair he had a way of keeping things in your face even when they were in your ears.

I picked up the 12″ on a lark. It was cheap, and “Speed Your Love to Me” is one of those songs (unlike the overplayed “Don’t You Forget About Me”) I can still enjoy listening to. Could be because I didn’t hear it a million times on the radio. Actually, I don’t remember ever hearing it on the radio at all. On the B-side is the single edit of the song, which was all I’d ever heard, along with an instrumental called “Bass Line”. On the A-side is a seven-minute extended mix of “Speed Your Love to Me”.

Most extended mixes I’ve heard from this era are pretty lame, limp, and amateurish-sounding. Nothing like the remixes you hear today, where once in a while someone creative will rework a song from the ground up and completely alter its personality and meaning. This is one is different. It doesn’t rewire the song, but it gives it some different clothes to wear and makes it a hell of a lot more interesting in the process. A great guitar riff that was either buried in the mix or absent altogether on the album version is very upfront here, and there’s a lot more going on.

I first put the record on the turntable at 33 RPM without thinking, only to realize it even sounds good slowed down. It’s just a much more interesting mix that improves the song in every way without watering it down, and I already liked it the way it was. This should have been on the album instead of the much shorter, less adventurous mix they ended up using. I mean, getting rid of a surprise backwards-sounding ambient instrumental coda? What were they thinking?!

While listening to the song for the first time in a decade or more, I came to the conclusion that “Speed Your Love to Me” is maybe the best song U2 never wrote. There. I said it.

Elsewhere, I just cracked forty thousand blog hits. That’s pretty nuts too.