Wood Burning

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Songs Of The Week 7.0: 5/16-5/23

Oh! Baby (We Got A Good Thing Goin')- Barbara Lynn
Cheating On You- Jon Cleary & the Absolute Monster Gentlemen
Big Unknown- Sons Of Bill
Goodbye Holly- The Left Banke
The Night We Called It A Day- Bob Dylan
Fearless- Pink Floyd
Down River- Spooky Tooth


Friday, May 22, 2015

The Holiday Weekend Mix

Woke up. Got out of bed. Another good day.

The sun is looking mighty fine this morning, coming through the slats of the blinds, reminding me how badly I need to dust. But first, for the unofficial start of summer, here's a collection of tunes that I would not mind listening to if I was either firing up a grill, hanging on a beach playing volleyball with some college kids like in those wine cooler commercials, or simply opening my windows and breathing in some fresh air.

I think you'll like it, especially those of you who are less than savvy and still have a hard time grabbing these mixes for your listening pleasure. (Get someone in your office to help you. It's a good one today!)

Have a good weekend. Remember the true meaning of Memorial Day. Enjoy the music.


Hawaii Five-o- The Ventures
Dirty Water- The Standells
Treat Her Like A Lady- Cornelius Bros. & Sister Rose
Wot- Captain Sensible
Springtime- Donald Fagen
Bassanova- DJ Smash
I Want You Back- David Ruffin
The New Pollution-Beck
Jungle Jazz- Kool & The Gang
WPLJ- Four Deuces
Holiday- Nazareth
Bad Time- Grand Funk
I'm My Own Doctor- Debbie Dovale
Summer Can't Come Too Soon- A.J. Croce
On A Sunday Afternoon- A Lighter Shade Of Brown
A Stroke Of Genius- Freelance Hellraiser
Bust A Move (Instrumental)- Young MC
Stoney End- Beth Nielsen Chapman


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Bob Belden, 1956-2015

I have been reminiscing of late about the ups and downs of music retail, sharing the challenges associated with the quirky and difficult patron, and yesterday I included a very short list of what makes what I do worthwhile. Bob Belden belongs on that list.

I was shocked to hear of his passing.

I saw Bob just about everyday at my shop. Sometimes he'd pop in for a quick hello. Occasionally, he'd used the counter as his stage, venting his frustration at the music industry to anyone who would listen. Once in a while he'd bring bagels. But most of the time, it was to share his bottomless well of knowledge about jazz.

This was a man who never failed to include me, whether he was working on a new Miles Davis box (for which he won a Grammy) or just excited to play me some outtakes of Keith Jarrett's early vocal album.  He never condescended to me and was always interested in what I had to say. He gifted me with hours and hours of jazz music, from the complete works of Wayne Shorter, Elvin Jones and Grant Green on Blue Note to tapes of Betty Mabry, years before her records were reissued and she became a funk cult figure as Betty Davis.

Bob would walk into the store and hear 3 seconds of a jazz CD I'd be playing and immnediately recite, "Book's Bossa" from Donald Byrd's "Slow Drag" release, 1967, Cedar Walton on piano, Walter Booker on bass. This was Take 3."  It blew my mind everytime.

Something else that blows my mind everytime is this version of The Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows," produced and arranged by Bob Belden and featuring Dianne Reeves. The man was brave and adventurous. One of a kind.

Long after NYCD closed, I'd see Bob on the street and he'd always stop and we'd always chat and it was never just about himself.  He seemed just as interested in what I was doing, as I was in his current project.

I enjoyed and respected Bob Belden tremendously.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Thank You, ASWAN

"So you have recently posted engagements with customers/lookers that are a little challenging. What about the encounters with customers/lookers who make your day! I have been in retail (now Big Box, used to be music) and I could always give examples of challenging customers because they are the ones who make your "blood boil" but what about the customer who "loves" that you have something and snatches it right up? Or the conversation with the "looker" who leads you to another band that you never knew existed? Easy to be hard on people, Hard to be easy on people..."

ASWAN left this comment on Part 3 of my Record Fair posts. I want to thank ASWAN. Sincerely.

Yes, it is easy to be hard on people, for a million reasons. But my sole reason, for the purposes of this blog, is that it is more entertaining.

I have been in retail my whole working life. On more than one occasion, these "challenging" customers who make your "blood boil" have been more than just your harmless record collecting stereotypes that we all love to mock. A lot of the time, these "people," are cheap and rude and condescending. I mean, I know I'm a pill, but I can still be gracious while recognizing a few quirks and foibles. I certainly wouldn't exploit a weakness of a kindhearted human being just for a laugh. I mean, it would have to be a big laugh.

Some memories:

I have had a half full can of Sprite thrown at me because I refused to return a deposit on something I did not carry but specifically ordered for this "challenging" customer who decided he no longer wanted it. I lost my cool, but of course, looked bad for losing my cool. That was a fun day.

When I explained that I could not play a CD for a customer because it was still sealed, the "challenging" customer replied "Fuck you, little man!"

Joel, a guy I thought was a friend of the shop, returned three CDs in a row because they wouldn't play in his car. I suggested that maybe the CD player in his car was wonky since the CDs he purchased from me were "pristine." He said, "Well then maybe I'll shop elsewhere. I don't need this."

Yes Joel. It's YOU who doesn't need this.

The last days of my shop were very exciting. We were doing anything to drum up business in that low income NYC neighborhood called the Upper West Side. We decided to buy an ad in a local newspaper. My partner and I were reluctant because we simply didn't have any cash. But the reps of the paper convinced us. As we were signing the contract, one rep noticed a CD on the wall. "OH! I want to buy this!' The other rep replied...in front of us...while we were signing a contract for an ad that was supposed to help business..."Oh. I have that. I'll burn it for you." My partner and I dropped our pens like the opening scene of Ben Casey and the rep ran out of the shop, with her face turning a deep shade of scarlet. Oops.

The last days of NYCD were tough, having to compete with Baby Gap, sushi restaurants and nail salons for the last few disposable dollars of the neighborhoodies in their Central Park West duplexes. I could sympathize with those who had to walk 12 blocks south to buy the soundtrack to "The Commitments" at Tower Records, on their way to Shun Lee Palace for $18 egg rolls because they just didn't have the extra dollar to spend at my shop.


But enough.

Aswan, I am here to thank the good people from the bottom of my heart. I never thought of it then and obviously not as recently as a few days ago. The bad stuff was just too much fun to relay and it made for good blogging and great therapy.

Here are some examples of why it's all worth what I do.

Just a few weeks ago, a woman wearing a Thin Lizzy t-shirt asked if I had any Thin Lizzy records. I did not. But I did have a Thin Lizzy key chain that originally belonged to Phil Lynott. I showed her and explained how I was a fan and how I cherished this little gem in my pocket. She clearly held back tears as she gushed at break neck speed, all that she loved about the band. We made each other's day. I'm sure of it.

I want to thank Peter Bogdanovich for spending an hour telling me some back stories about River Phoenix and Sandra Bullock after I told him how much I loved "The Thing Called Love." I would have spent more time with him but Jonathan Demme came in and he always loved when I suggested new music for his kids.

I want to thank Allen V. and John D., who to this day, offer me more than I charge them because they think I don't charge them enough.

Leo, for simply checking in.

Rich N. and Stu B. for trusting me with a whole lot of their past.

Peter R. for being there in ways a few words in a blog post would not do justice.

Everybody from Sheepshead Bay for getting my back more times than I deserve.

Oh...and another great customer was this guy, I don't recall his name, who would come in every Tuesday and ask me for ten new things. I'd pick out ten and he'd buy eight. No question. (He eventually ended up on my shit list because when I moved my location to a spot across the street, he stopped coming in because "it was no longer on my way home." Lazy bastard.)

And those great, great Saturdays, when all my friends would come in over the course of 6 hours and make my counter the biggest party on the planet. Sometimes alcohol would actually be served.

Yeah, I know it's not all bad. So thank you Aswan, whoever you are, for that reminder.

And thanks to all of you who continue to support me.

I'll try to say it more often...when I'm not obsessing over the asshole who offered me $60 for a $300 Chet Baker record.

Monday, May 18, 2015

This Is Not About Todd Rundgren

Maybe you've seen it. It's been all over social media this week. But maybe you haven't, and that's where I come in.

David Letterman is down to three more shows before he hangs up his white socks and tie and retires to Montana. The last few weeks of shows have been stellar, with names big and not so big, making scheduled and unscheduled appearances to offer up love and farewells, many shedding tears in the process. Now, that's entertainment.

Tom Waits stopped by last week, and in one of television's more surreal moments, did five minutes of hilarity, while George Clooney sat behind his shoulder, handcuffed to Dave. That would have been enough. But then he performed a new song, just for Dave, and it was my turn to shed some tears.

I've been having a conversation with myself since that episode.  Part of the conversation dates back to a chat-turned-ugly with one of my oldest and very best friends. This was in the wake of Bruce & The E Street Band performing an impromptu version of AC/DC's "Highway To Hell" on the opening night of their Australian run a couple of years ago.  I, along with thousands of others including those in the arena, loved it. But my friend couldn't appreciate it, citing the many things he found wrong with it-wrong key, flubbed lyrics, altered melody. When I explained that this was probably just cooked up backstage as a tribute to the Australian fans, he just laughed and offered up the fact that "Highway To Hell" isn't a very difficult song to learn. I think he missed the point completely, but more importantly, I was made to feel foolish for loving something so imperfect.

The other part of the conversation was imaginary, one that I was predicting might happen. It was between me and those friends of mine who don't like Tom Waits. I thought about how much I was moved by Tom Waits new song, how I hoped it was written specifically for Dave Letterman and how the lyrics could also apply to all of us. I was excited by the prospect of seeing people I know and love and those I only know of, revel in the beauty and sincerity of "Take One Last Look." Then, the chat turned ugly, with me fending off those who will mock Waits' voice, hair and guitar-playing ability. Those who might miss the point again.

The last of my imaginary conversations with myself took place yesterday after an e-mail exchange with a bass player friend of mine. He intimated that he might be interested in jamming with me and some of the guys. I launched into the talk that might take place if I were to make the suggestion to my band members, how we have to loosen up, not be locked into note for note recreations of songs. I foresaw an argument over the definition of the word "jam," and how we don't. Of course, none of this took place and there's a good chance it won't. But this is what I do. I create the beginning, middle and outcome of things before they are played out. This can't be healthy, but it is sometimes useful.

When I finally stopped talking to myself, I decided, at least for a few hours, that I should stop allowing unavoidable events to diminish my emotion regarding the things I love. But that is no small task for a man of my personality. If you're still reading, you will have most likely experienced first hand my sarcasm, my excitement and my dismay and loss of composure, sometimes all regarding the same artist or song. And if you know me personally, you have definitely been on the receiving end of what can occasionally seem like endless attempts at trying to make you see me way. I won't apologize for that. As another dear friend likes to say, "There's nothing worse than indifference."

Things don't need to be perfect. Not in music, not in life. They just need to be sincere. You can fuck up along the way, just mean it and have a soul while doing it.

Here's Tom.

"All we ever need, we can get anywhere."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Songs Of The Week 7.0: 5/9-5/15

Diamond Claw- Wilco
I Live On A Battlefield- Nick Lowe
I Lost Everything- Sam Cooke
Sea And Sand- The Who
Session Man- The Kinks
Ellis Unit One- Steve Earle
Bouncin' Back (Bumpin Me Against The Wall)- Mystikal


Friday, May 15, 2015