R.I.P. Alex Chilton

18 03 2010

A couple hours after I got home from work tonight, I found out that Alex Chilton (Box Tops, Big Star) died a few hours prior, of what is believed to be a heart attack.  He was 59.

As I sat down to write this, I pulled out my ipod and made of playlist that started off with The Replacements’ “Alex Chilton”, and fleshed out the rest of the playlist with Big Star and Box Tops tracks (in case you’re thinking you have no idea who Alex is, you’ve undoubtedly heard “The Letter” by the Box Tops.)  I put the ipod on shuffle, but made sure the first song that played was the Replacements song.  Serendipitously, the very next song that was shuffled on next was Big Star’s “Thank You Friends” which features the lyrics, “Thank you friends…I’m so grateful for all the things you helped me do…I’m often a bead of light…without my friends I’d be swept up high by the wind.”

I remember the day I made a concerted effort to get into Alex Chilton.  It was about 13 ago now.  It seemed every time I opened Rolling Stone or SPIN, a band was citing Big Star as an influence.  I’d never heard of Big Star, but I knew I needed check this band out.  I went to Cheapo in St. Paul and picked up Big Star’s #1 Record, Radio City, & Third/Sister Lovers, as well as The Best of the Box Tops.  I was really taking a risk because I knew & heard nothing at all of Big Star and the Box Tops.  So, being an 18 year old making minimum wage at a restaurant, I was spending a good chunk of my money on 4 albums that I wasn’t entirely certain I’d like.  There was a moment of reassurance though when I went to pay for them and the clerk looked at my stack and said “Oooooh, Alex Chilton!  Someone’s gonna have some fun tonight!”

It did take a tiny bit of getting used to…but I’ve found that the best music out there takes time to grab hold.  That shows there’s substance.  Most of my favorite albums of all time didn’t really take the first few times.

I am saddened by Alex’s passing.  I find it very strange that just a few weeks ago, I felt the urge to grab the first three Big Star albums and listen to them all day long.  Then a couple weeks ago, I told a friend of mine that she should really check them out.  Maybe Alex will finally get the respect he justly deserves.  I do regret that I never picked up Big Star’s fourth studio album,  2005’s In Space.  I’ll definitely have to rectify that “oversight” this weekend.


R.I.P. Mark Linkous

7 03 2010

I hate to quote a song that I can not stand, but Joni Mitchell said it best.  “You don’t know whatcha got till it’s gone”

Just like with Elliott Smith.  I’ve owned a couple of Mark Linkous’ Sparklehorse albums, but never gave them the time and attention they deserved until after he died.  With Elliott, I ended up kicking myself for not spending more time with XO while he was alive.  It mostly just sat there in my collection, next to the Good Will Hunting soundtrack.  I now adore Elliott Smith so much that I even named one of my dogs after him and now own everything he recorded, including his albums with Heatmiser.

This morning I woke up and found that Sparklehorse leader Mark Linkous had committed suicide.  He fired a bullet into his heart…Elliott commited suicide by stabbing himself in the heart.  Does that mean that Mark Linkous will be my next musical love?  It’s possible.

I had purchased used copies of Sparklehorse’s Vivadixiesubmarinetransmissionplot and Good Morning Spider within the last couple years.  Gave a quick listen to the first couple tracks and thought “I’m definitely going to have to spend time with these.”  Unfortunately, having such a large album collection; I didn’t get around to giving them a good listen until today.  I went to three record stores today and was pretty surprised Sparklehorse wasn’t coming out of the speakers at any of them.

Anyway, after listening to both of the albums….I want more, and can definitely see Sparklehorse growing on me in a major way.  I just regret, as per usual, that it took the artist’s death to appreciate their work.


20 01 2010

I still believe in buying CDs…or just the tangible album.  If I had a turntable that worked, I’d still buy vinyl from time to time.  But I’m certainly not down with buying full albums from iTunes when for a buck or two more, I can have the physical copy with artwork.

With CDs slowly going out of style, I go to Cheapo Discs 2 or more times a week to scour their used discs because you can find a lot of albums for $2.95 lately.  So, I’ve been snatching up a lot of discs over the years that I want to eventually check out.  My collection of discs has swelled to almost 2,000, though that’s estimated because I don’t have the time to, nor desire to count them.  What you see in the picture above is probably just under 1/4 of the collection.  I have a lot of discs in my collection that I’ve never even heard, and tons more that I haven’t listened to in years and years.

Which brings me to my project, and the picture above.  I started the project sometime last year, but I don’t recall when, so I can’t really gague my progress.  Makes me wish I’d done it as a New Year’s Resolution.  I decided I was going to listen to every disc in my collection.  I tried this years ago, but I took the ill advised alphabetical route.  That’s boring, and you’re forced to listen to a disc you may not be in the mood for….and then in my case, you get through Alice In Chains and say screw it.  So, I’m listening to whichever discs I feel like listening to and then placing them on a shelf in alphabetical order.  The picture above is a couple months old now, so I’ve listened to almost twice as much as what you see sitting there.

This project has been helpful so far for three reasons:

  1. I’m able to weed out crap albums that I’d taken a chance and gotten burned on (although, paying .95 for an album that I don’t end up liking is hardly “getting burned”)
  2. It allows for me to “discover” albums that I forgot I had, or never got around to listening to
  3. It forces me to finally listen to albums that I purchased solely based on hearing great things about them, and or have achieved cult stauts…..and I have not yet listened to/spent much time with, because in my mind they remain great….and listening to them could potentially prove otherwise.  But on the otherhand, I could have been missing out on this total greatness this entire time.
  •   examples of this would be Skip Spence’s Oar album, Modern Lovers’ first album, David Crosby’s If I Could Only Remember My Name

I’m sure there are probably others hiding in my collection that I can’t think of right now, but those three came to mind first.

If you also have a massive collection, I would suggest trying this.  Maybe you’re not as crazy as I am with the whole “I haven’t listened to this supposedly great album yet because in my mind it remains great, and listening to it could destroy that image”….but if you have rare, random discs in your collection that you reccommend, let it blurt.  Leave them in the comments.  I’m ALWAYS looking for more music to check out, especially if they are rare, lost gems. 

The rarest of gems that everyone needs to check out is Dennis Wilson’s Pacific Ocean Blue.  Perfect from beginning to end and definitely in my top 5 all time favorite albums.

Solo Albums #10

27 07 2009


 I first heard Cameron McGill when I traveled to Chicago to see Butch Walker at the Abbey Pub.  One of the opening acts was a local (Chicago) artist named Cameron McGill who performed with an acoustic guitar and two other musicians who played strings.  I was quite impressed so I went down to the merch table and bought his first solo album Stories of the Knife and the Back.  It wasn’t the acoustic & cello/viola/violin type album that I was hoping for, but I really enjoyed the pop and acoustic tracks contained within.

The next time I saw him, he performed at a really small bar in Milwaukee for what I recall to be a battle of the bands.  I was in Milwaukee on business and took a really expensive cab ride there to see him.  I got to chat with him for a little bit and at one point I was a little bit embarassed to realize he looked at my jacket lapel….because I unintentionally and unknowingly had a small button with his face on it and the words “Who the Hell Is Cameron McGill?”  I purchased it at his show a few years prior in Chicago.  It had become so much a part of my jacket that I had forgotten it was there…….yet, I’m sure I looked like Mr. Superfan-Fanboy.  I digress.  After his performance I spoke to him some more and purchased a copy of his (then new) album Street Ballads & Murderesques, based on that nights performance of the gorgeous “When It Could Hurry.”  Street Ballads & Murderesques is an extremely stripped down affair that calls to mind Bob Dylan.

Which finally brings me to the new album, Warm Songs For Cold Shoulders.  2009’s most beautiful album you’ve never heard of.  I don’t really have words to describe this album.  It’s more of the same as we heard from Street Ballads.  I usually roll my eyes when I hear songs that protest the Iraq war, or George Bush or what have you…. inspiration likely strikes the songwriter, but the songs always seem to sound uninspired and contrived.  The exception to this rule is Cameron McGill’s “Lose Americans.”  “They’re kinda like a phantom limb on your family tree today/Hey America/How does it feel to lose Americans that way?”

R.I.P. Jeff Hanson

8 06 2009

This morning, I feel a bit betrayed that the universe had never presented Jeff Hanson to me before today.  I’m sitting in class on this drizzly day, enjoying my black coffee (which is all very fitting if you ask me.  The weather and my choice of beverage)…. I checked PFM this morning and saw a headline from the weekend that said “R.I.P Jeff Hanson.”  His name looked familiar, but after reading the brief write-up, I found that I didn’t know this particular singer/songwriter during his life time.  It’s possible I’d read it when checking the concert calendar for the Triple Rock, 7th St. Entry and Turf Club.

As stated in the Star Tribune article, Jeff was found dead in his apartment by his parents.  It appeared as if Jeff had died as a result of an accidental fall.

After reading about him on PFM, I checked him out at the Kill Rock Stars site where they have 4 MP3’s to download.  The music sounds nearly identical to Elliott Smith’s Either/Or and XO albums.  I’m getting that excited feeling I got when I first started getting into Elliott.  While Elliott was alive, I only owned XO and the Good Will Hunting soundtrack and didn’t really get into with a hardcore passion until after he died.

I think the same thing will happen with Jeff Hanson’s catalog for me now too.  The songs will grab hold and I’ll feel tremendous sorrow over the fact that this talent has been taken from us and we’ll never get to hear anything new from him…and I’ll regret that I never took the chance to see him live in concert.

As I’m sitting here in class, I’m listening to a small 8 song playlist on repeat, which consists of 4 Jeff Hanson songs from the KRS site…and 4 Nick Drake covers done by a young Elton John which I picked up this morning from Aquarium Drunkard.  I’m just sitting here….waiting for 12pm to roll around, so I can head to Cheapo and pick up my first Jeff Hanson album.  Based on the tracks I’ve been listening to, I think this may be a defining moment in my record collecting life.

Journal For Plague Lovers

3 06 2009


“A life spent making mistakes is not only more honorable, but more useful than a life spent doing nothing” — George Bernard Shaw

I love getting packages in the mail.  Who doesn’t?  The new Manic Street Preachers album, Journal For Plague Lovers was released in the UK on May 18th and does not currently have a domestic release date.  So, I ordered my copy on May 19th and it arrived in my hands today just in time for me to leave for class…where I enjoyed listening to the album during the second half of class.  I’ve been listening to the Manics a lot lately and have been looking forward to this ever since they announced they were recording their new album in the same style as The Holy Bible album…the last album featuring their missing guitarist, Richey Edwards.

Journal For Plague Lovers truly is a return to Holy Bible-era Manics.  The album is comrpised entirely of lyrics that Richey gave to bassist Nicky Wire on the day he, Richey, disappeared.

Like The Holy Bible, this album features several tracks of containing samples from movies.  Here is a list of the songs with samples and the movies the samples came from.

  • Peeled Apples: The Machinist
  • Me and Stephen Hawking: The Sun (English translation of dialogue: “turn the radio up”)
  • Marlon J.D.: Reflections In a Golden Eye (Marlon Brando film)
  • Doors Closing Slowly: The Virgin Suicides
  • Virginia State Epileptic Colony: there’s a sample in there. Can’t make it out, nor find info on it
  • I told a friend recently that the single “Peeled Apples” is filling a rock void for me right now.  I’ve grown a little tired of the hipster blips & bloops of certain “indie” bands lately and have started to gravitate back towards the rock & grunge that I cut my teeth on and Journal For Plague Lovers is definitely fitting right in.  I can already tell that this album will be one of my 3 most listened to albums of the year and will likely sit comfortably right near the top.

    Also, that album cover (!) which has been censored by record stores in the UK for some reason, is definitely one of my favorite album covers of the year.

    Richey James Edwards

    25 01 2009

    Unexplainable mysteries in music always intrigue the hell out of me.  As I compose this, I can’t think of any other music mystery that intrigues me more than the disappearance of Richey Edwards of the Manic Street Preachers.
    On January 31, 1995, The Manic Street Preachers checked into the London Embassy Hotel in preparation of leaving for their American tour the next day.  Richey speaks to his mother and states that he’s not looking forward to touring America.  The next day, Richey checks out of the hotel, stops by his apartment to drop off some things, and is never seen again.
    When Richey didn’t arrive in America by February 2nd, a missing person’s report was filed.
    During the month of February ’95, Richey is reportedly spotted several times.  During the two weeks following his leaving the Embassy Hotel in London, Richey is supposedly spotted at the passport office in Newport; at the Newport bus station; and picked up by a taxi driver.
    In May ’95, Manic Street Preachers met with Richey’s parents to discuss continuing on with the band.
    In November ’96, a college lecturer from South Wales, supposedly sees Richey at a market in Goa, India.
    In November ’98, a British-born barmaid on the island of Fuerteventura, supposedly sees Richey in the Underground Bar in the town of Corralejo. When a patron of the bar shouted “‘You’re Richey from the Manic Street Preachers!”, Richey turned around and ran out the door.
    In January 2002, almost 7 years after his disappearance, Richey’s parents state that they will never have him declared dead.
    In October 2004, Richey is supposedly spotted on Famara beach, Lanzarote.
    November 23, 2008… Richey’s missing person’s case is officially closed after, by court order, his status is changed to “presumed dead.”
    Manic Street Preachers are currently working on their next album which will comprise only of lyrics Richey had left behind.
    The Manics still put 1/4 of their album royalties into an account for Richey just in case he comes back.
    This picture was taken as Richey was walking off stage as a member of the Manic Street Preachers for the last time.

    This is the last known photograph ever taken of Richey James Edwards (possibly taken at the passport office in Newport?)

    I received all of my information from this website, where you can find a more detailed chronology which also details Richey’s self destruction a little bit more.