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LP Cover Cavalcade #1

I was thinking the other day about the first albums I owned by a number of acts that would become Fave Raves, one album purchase leading to another, and another, and another. Not counting records that belonged to my siblings (but which I played anyway), I can’t remember my first Beatles album; I suspect it was a second-hand acquisition of Rubber Soul, though it may have been a tie between Introducing The Beatles and Let It Be, both of which I received as gifts one Christmas morning in the ’70s. I inherited my brother’s copies of the first two Monkees LPs, and eventually supplemented them with a flea market purchase of Headquarters and The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees

Every love story begins with that very first kiss. I remember my first Velvet Underground (The Velvet Underground & Nico, used), my first Ramones (Ramones), Otis Redding (Live In Europe), KISS (Rock And Roll Over), Kinks (Kinks-Sized), Suzi Quatro (Suzi Quatro), Elvis Costello (My Aim Is True), Prince (1999), and best-of sets as introductions to The TroggsThe TurtlesThe RaspberriesThe Jackson 5The Ventures, and Little Richard. Here are some others I remember:

THE ANIMALS: Best Of The Animals
Well, talk about an ignominious start to my Animals collection. In the mid ’70s, my growing obsession with the music of the ’60s (especially of the British Invasion) retroactively made The Animals one of my favorite groups, albeit a decade after the fact. I borrowed my cousin Maryann’s copy of The Best Of The Animals, but I needed to officially add Eric Burdon and his comrades to my library. For Christmas of 1976, my parents directed me to pick out some LPs I’d want to receive as gifts. I spied this budget-priced Animals set on the racks at a department store in downtown Syracuse; even though I didn’t recognize any of the song titles, the cover photo grabbed me, so I figured it must be a collection of Animal tracks I didn’t know, but which might be on a par with my familiar favorites “It’s My Life” and “We Gotta Get Out Of This Place.” Wrong! The perfunctory blues covers were not my cuppa, and this LP did not remain in my collection for long. (As a happy ending here, let me add that the other albums Mom and Dad gave me that Christmas included a real Animals best-of–a two-record set on Abkco–as well as The Beatles Featuring Tony Sheridan and The History Of British Rock Volume 2. Christmas was saved!)

THE BEACH BOYS: Endless Summer
As a teenager, I had no real affinity for the music of The Beach Boys. Even speaking as an avid fan of The Monkees (an act the hipsters hated), I just thought The Beach Boys were square, uncool. Establishment. “Be True To Your School?” Come on…! But within that haze of smug dunderheadedness, I still had to concede that some of The Beach Boys’ hits transcended the four corners of what I perceived as their image. “Good Vibrations.” “Fun, Fun, Fun.” “Help Me, Rhonda.” “I Get Around.” My grudging awareness of the sheer quality of these tracks was sufficient motivation for me to add a record-club purchase of the 2-LP Endless Summer to my fledgling pop-rock stash, even though it didn’t incluse “Good Vibrations.” It didn’t immediately open my mind to the wonder of The Beach Boys, but I played it occasionally, and took it with me to college in the fall of ’77. My second Beach Boys album was Pet Sounds, which I purchased during the Spring ’78 semester because I’d become enthralled with “Sloop John B.” Even with an introduction to that true classic album, my acceptance and revelation would be deferred, and deferred by another freakin’ decade, fercryinoutloud. But it would come eventually. My teenage self would have been appalled to learn that his middle-aged incarnation loves The Beach Boys, but what did the younger me know anyway? He liked Kansas!

Pin Ups front.tif

DAVID BOWIE: Pinups
Man, what an odd place to start with Bowie. I had the “Changes” 45, but my first long-player by the former Mr. Jones was this collection of covers, purchased at a used record sale set up on campus, probably in 1978. My interest in Bowie was (at best) borderline at the time. Looking back, I’m sure I was drawn to Pinups by the presence of a cover of The Easybeats‘ “Friday On My Mind;” I’d been unable to score a copy of The Easybeats’ version, so I settled for Bowie as a substitute. Bowie’s rendition of “See Emily Play” was my second-hand introduction to Syd Barrett-era Pink Floyd, and I appreciated that Bowie seemed to share my burgeoning affection for early Kinks and Who. Within another year or so, I would be listening intently to The Rise And Fall Of Ziggy Stardust And The Spiders From Mars, and expand from there. Hadda start somewhere.

JOAN JETT: Joan Jett
One could argue that this shouldn’t count; I was already a fan of Joan Jett when she was in The Runaways, and I owned most of that group’s albums prior to their split and Jett’s subsequent solo career. But as much as I loved the best of The Runaways, I was really stoked by Jett’s first solo album, and snagged it at my first opportunity. Issued as an eponymous album in 1980 and reissued as Bad Reputation in 1981, this record was an immediate Top Ten album for me, an irresistible biff-bang-POP of bubbleglam. A Bo GentryJoey Levine song called “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” remains an undiscovered gem, and even the Gary Glitter covers are great. Opening track “Bad Reputation” sets the appropriate chip-on-the-shoulder/single-finger-in-the-air mise-en-scéne, and my daughter and I have an informal agreement to use that song as our father-daughter dance when she gets married. Because we don’t give a damn about our bad reputation.

TOM PETTY & THE HEARTBREAKERS: You’re Gonna Get It
Although I’d read about Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers in Phonograph Record Magazine, and adored hearing first-album track “American Girl” on the radio (all in 1977), it wasn’t until the summer of ’78 and the group’s second album that I felt compelled to participate in Pettymania. And I succumbed because Wolfman Jack told me to. Home from college for summer break, working part-time as a morning janitor at Sears, I had sufficient pocket change to buy records and see bands and buy more records. Win-win! Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers appeared on Midnight Special, the Friday night pop music TV showcase hosted by our gravel-voiced Wolfman Jack, and my jaw dropped at the sound of two new songs the group performed: “Listen To Her Heart” (which reminded me of The Searchers) and “I Need To Know” (which sounded like everything I ever wanted a rock ‘n’ roll song to sound like). I didn’t have my drivers license yet, so at the first opportunity, I asked my sister Denise to bring me to Penn Can Mall so I could buy the new Petty album, You’re Gonna Get It. Saying the album’s title out loud confused Denise, since she now thought I was hitting her up for a ride and demanding that she buy me a record. No, no–I’ve got pocket change, Denise! And I traded some of that pocket change for my first Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers album. There would be more to come. Get it? Got it. Good.

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Faces On The Wall

My first rock ‘n’ roll posters were hand-me-downs, but they were choice hand-me-downs. When my sister went off to college in 1970, I assumed possession of her Beatles posters. These painted portraits of your John, your Paul, your George, and your Ringo remained on my wall while I was in middle school and high school, and left North Syracuse with me when I commenced my own rock ‘n’ roll matriculatin’ in the fall of ’77. The posters served me well on one occasion in ’76 or so, when WOLF-AM‘s Beatles Weekend offered a free Beatles LP to the first caller who could correctly identify the color of George Harrison’s eyes. A glance at the poster, a sprint to the phone in the kitchen, a hastily-dialed call to The Big 15 so I could blurt out BROWN!, and a copy of the Help! album was mine.

I also remember my sister having a Dylan poster–my first conscious exposure to Bashful Bobby Dylan’s name–but I think she must have taken that one with her on her journey to higher education. ‘Sfunny, because I remember much later mentioning Mr. Dylan to one of the guys in my dorm suite in the Spring of ’78; my suitemate glanced up at my Beatles portraits, and asked me which one was Dylan.

Although I plastered my walls with graven images in high school and college, I had relatively few commercial posters. In college, my cherished Beatles posters shared wall space with LP inserts (from the White Album, from The Beach Boys‘ Endless Summer, from a collection of movie sound bites by The Marx Brothers, and from records by The HeartbreakersThe Runaways, etc.), promo materials, maybe some comics art, Flashcubes gig flyers, magazine pages (including a poster ripped from a Bay City Rollers fan mag), a Molson Golden Ale poster, and a few Playboy centerfolds. The promo items–posters and flats–mostly came from Brockport’s Main Street Records, which offered such bonus bounty in its handy-dandy Free With Purchase! bin. Decorating was easy!

And I did pick up a few commercial posters along the way. I believe I got my KISS poster from my college friend Fred, who had outgrown KISS and wanted nothing further to do with the group. I bought a couple of posters upstairs at Syracuse’s Economy Bookstore, one featuring my boys The Sex Pistols and one starring my presumed future spouse Suzi Quatro. There was an awesome Batman poster I wanted, but never quite got around to buying. I did get a Suzanne Somers poster at Gerber Music; that was sorta puzzling, because although she was certainly cute, I didn’t have any particular thing for her, nor for her sitcom Three’s Company. Why a Suzanne poster, instead of, say, a Farrah Fawcett? No idea.

After college, I don’t recall ever putting up many posters in my apartments. I really wanted to get a poster of The Monkees circa the time of resurgent Monkeemania in ’86, but never saw one I thought appropriate. Now, decades later, I have but a few posters on my wall. There’s a Frank Miller The Dark Knight Returns poster framed in my office, staring down a great framed Ramones poster I received as a gift. But that’s it, other than the framed two-page spread from my Goldmine interview with Joan Jett (autographed by Ms. Jett herself) and the framed artwork from Rhino Records‘ Poptopia! CDs, which Rhino gave me as a thank-you bonus for writing the liner notes to the ’90s Poptopia! disc, plus a few small items (a picture of Syracuse University basketball great Gerry McNamara, an autographed picture of Red Grammer, my Ramones wall clock, and a wall hanging my sister gave me decades ago, which reads A Creative Mind Is Rarely Tidy). That’s the sum total of wall decorations in my office at home.

I still have those same Beatles posters. They’re a bit tattered now, certainly worn, rolled up in a drawer because there’s no longer any point in even trying to flatten them or do a better job of preserving them. George Harrison’s eyes are still brown. The Pistols, KISS, and Suzanne Somers sheets are long gone; even Suzi Q has moved on. The Beatles remain. John. Paul. George. Ringo. Dylan must have been on holiday that day.

I still regret never buying this one for my dorm room wall.

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The Everlasting First: The Jam

Continuing a look back at my first exposure to a number of rock ‘n’ roll acts and superheroes (or other denizens of print or periodical publication), some of which were passing fancies, and some of which I went on to kinda like. They say you never forget your first time; that may be true, but it’s the subsequent visits–the second time, the fourth time, the twentieth time, the hundredth time–that define our relationships with the things we cherish. Ultimately, the first meeting is less important than what comes after that. But every love story still needs to begin with that first kiss.


Anyone who knows me also knows who my favorite bands are: The BeatlesThe Ramones,The FlashcubesThe Monkees, and The Kinks. There are dozens and dozens of worthy acts that I love almost as much–I am proud to be a pop music fanatic and obsessive–but I think I’ve made it clear that this fantastic five sits permanently up there as my Top, my Coliseum, my Louvre Museum, et al.
The Jam used to be right up there with those Beatles and Ramones, too. While I certainly never stopped loving The Jam, they’re not as ever-present in my mind as they were a few decades ago. But in the late ’70s and early ’80s, The Jam rivaled The Ramones for the coveted title of Carl’s favorite rock ‘n’ roll group.

My introduction to The Jam was inauspicious, to say the least. One afternoon in the Fall of 1977, I was lounging in my freshman dorm room, listening to Brockport’s campus radio station WBSU. I listened to WBSU, like, all of the time, constantly pestering the student jocks to play more of the new punk/new wave stuff I wanted to discover–BlondieThe DictatorsThe Runaways, and the above-mentioned Ramones brudders–and also more of the ’60s stuff I loved, from The Raiders (“Let Me!”) and The Dave Clark Five (“Any Way You Want It”) through The Monkees (the station owned the only copy of the group’s Changes LP I had ever seen, though some of the BSU jocks flatly refused to ever play anything by The Monkees).

But this particular afternoon was a singularly revelatory WBSU session, as I heard The Flamin’ Groovies (“Misery”), The Vogues (“Five O’Clock World”), and The Knickerbockers (“Lies”) for the first time. And the station also played a brand-new song by a punk group out of England, performing a cover of “The Batman Theme.” As I heard the song play, I wrote in my journal: “1977 and Batman’s a punk. Progress.”

And that was the first time I heard The Jam.

From small things mama, as Bossman Brucie would later say. If I seemed dismissive at the time, I think I was nonetheless intrigued. The Jam next crossed my consciousness in October, when TV’s The Tomorrow Show took a look at this punk rock thing that was driving some of these mixed-up kids crazy, with the pogo dancing and the safety pins and the anarchy and the use of impolite language. Tomorrow Show host Tom Snyder promised “a punk-rock jam,” but he was himself mixed-up; what he meant was that his guests would include The Jam’s Paul Weller, along with Joan Jett from The Runaways, and Kim Fowley, The Runaways’ former manager. I don’t remember much about this show, other than a sense of no love lost between Jett and Fowley, and the fact that I’d already developed a serious crush on our Joanie (“crush” in the sense that I wanted to hug her and squeeze her and call her Gorgeous; my girlfriend Sharon was neither impressed nor amused). I have a vague recollection that Weller was serious and focused, and that he knew what he was talking about, but the precise details are lost in the cluttered hallway of my memory. I really oughta at least try applying a feather duster to that place some time.

I’m not exactly sure of the sequence of events after that, of how I went from The Jam? to THE JAM!! I do know there were four specific songs involved: “In The City,” “I Need You (For Someone),” “The Modern World,” and “All Around The World.” I can’t tell you where or when I first heard any of these, but I can tell you that the first two were staples of The Flashcubes’ live set. I saw the ‘Cubes for the first time in January of ’78, and it was immediately clear that any songthey did was okay by me. I bought the U.S. Polydor 45 of “I Need You (For Someone)”/”In The City,” and played it often.  I picked up import singles of “The Modern World” (a track I think the ‘Cubes also used to cover) and “All Around The World” when I worked at Penn-Cann Mall in North Syracuse that summer. I was hooked. Guitarist Weller, bassist Bruce Foxton, and drummer Rick Buckler had created exactly the sort of modern world I wanted to inhabit.

I returned to Brockport for my sophomore year in the fall of 1978. By then, the previously-cited girlfriend Sharon was already three or four heartbreaks ago. In early October of that semester, I aced some test or paper or somesuch, and felt I deserved a reward; so it was down to The Record Grove, where I purchased a copy of The Jam’s second LP, This Is The Modern World. I went back to my dorm, and put it on my roommate’s stereo, the volume set somewhere north of lethal. God, I loved this record on first spin. Just about everyone considers it The Jam’s least-noteworthy effort, but it’s always gonna be special to me. “The Modern World.” “All Around The World.” “I Need You (For Someone).” Then on to the tracks I didn’t already know: “Standards.” “Life From A Window.” Wilson Pickett‘s “In The Midnight Hour.” I couldn’t play Side One loud enough.

My next-door neighbor, on the other hand, thought it was already a wee bit too noisy. I hadn’t even met this chick yet, but she pounded on our mutual bedroom wall, imploring me to turn that goddamned racket down already. I grumbled, cursed, but complied. Ever the gentleman, that’s me! I did eventually meet this girl next door later that month. Her name was Brenda. Wonder whatever became of her…?

(And yes, she still thinks I play that goddamned racket too loud.)

The Jam didn’t exactly fall beneath my radar after that, but I didn’t get their next album, All Mod Cons, until well after the fact. Someone–either my then-current roommate Tom or my future roommate Paul–played “Down In The Tube Station At Midnight” for me on his WBSU show in the spring of ’79; I liked it, I guess, though it didn’t have the exuberance, the immediacy of the Jam tunes I already loved. It was…mature. It would take some getting used to.

By the time I adjusted to the idea of a more grownup-sounding Jam, the group hit me with a new album, Setting Sons. What an amazing record this was! I rarely listen to whole albums nowadays, but I owe myself the pleasure of giving this another complete spin soon. Supposedly originally created as a concept album–a dirty phrase in the post-punk world of 1979-1980–Setting Sons succeeds as a stunning song cycle, simmering with the charred embers of shattered idealism, discarded friendships, wistful memory, and defiant hope. I regard Setting Sons as The Jam’s masterpiece.

The Jam’s follow-up album, Sound Affects, was nearly as good, highlighted by “That’s Entertainment,” an unforgettable number that Weller is said to have written following a pub crawl; the track would have been worthy of The Kinks. The “Going Underground” single was another winner, and The Jam were firmly ensconced near the Toppermost of my Poppermost.

And then they were gone. Another album (The Gift), and a pair of 1982 farewell singles, “The Bitterest Pill (I Ever Had To Swallow)” and “Beat Surrender,” and Weller pulled the plug. The Jam never caught on in the States at all, but they were huge stars in Great Britain, and they quit at the height of their success. I never had much interest in Weller’s next project, The Style Council, but I have to concede neither he nor the rest of The Jam owed me anything. They’d already shown me the modern world, and all around the world: in the city, down in the tube station at midnight, lost in a strange town, Eton rifles beneath a burning sky, gone underground to a town called Malice. That’s entertainment.