OK… It took me only :40 minutes to plan and record this mix, and a month to write the blog entry and upload the damned thing.
Here’s the gist of this mix: I followed my standard “vinyl shuffle” format (i.e. skipping the creative/planning process and jumping straight into the recording while blindly picking one album after another, not knowing where the music will lead me). But, I changed it up a bit this time, as this mix features albums I found at two legendary record stores in California that you need to know about, if you don’t already. I haven’t been digging anywhere else this year… For good reason: Both stores are run by master musical story-tellers and it’s a treat to just be around them and trade stories while learning something new. So, this mix is dedicated to all the wonderful musical connections and knowledge I’ve acquired from both of them in 2010.
The second store is Los Angeles-based “Wanted-Records” and is primarily an online store, unless you happen to be fortunate enough to be pals with the guy… It’s run by another legend and Doo-Wop / Soul 45 collector, Robert Rodriguez). Follow the guy on Twitter @wanted_records. If you’re looking for it, Robert can hook you up. Just tweet him! Robert has deep historical roots and connections in the Los Angeles soul scene and is a beat-junkie’s best friend.
Interesting tidbits about Sound Spectrum / Jim Otto:
One time, as I was leaving the store, Jim asked, “Hey, do you like 60s psychedelic art?”. When I said, “Of course”, he went behind the counter and handed me a huge original print of the 1971 Sound Spectrum calendar. (Pic #1 [random flickr post; not mine] and Pic #2 [closeup]) Two cool things about that: 1) I was born in 1971! 2) It was designed by legendary surf artist Bill Ogden (look him up). And yes, I’m using the word “legendary” a lot in this post. Sound Spectrum released yearly calendars to promote the record store from 1969 to 1972, all designed by Bill.
If Jim’s not around in the store, you’re likely to run into another musical genius who goes by the name of “Wave”, an old Laguna surfer-type. Wave has been releasing mix-tapes since the 80s (at least?) and handed me one called “Music to be murdered by”… a collection of music and sound effects from various movies. “Wave” says (and it’s true) that he has a mix tape themed after every mood and circumstance you can imagine. Someone needs to do a documentary on this guy. You’re welcome.
Interesting tidbits about Wanted-Records / Robert Rodriguez:
Robert and I met at an ad agency we once worked at. He had several records and a fisher price turntable at his desk. Once I knew he was sitting on (at the time) over 15,000 rare 45s, it was all over. He gave me three for free, and handed me a shoebox full of everything I had been looking for for years. He let me name the price. That guy is like a crack-dealer of music!
Are you a music producer? Need a certain beat to sample to match a mood? Why waste time digging when you can just ask Robert? Try it. I won’t name those in the industry that do the same, but you’ll be glad you did.
Robert has a 100% success-rate in finding records for people who tweet him. If he doesn’t have it in stock, he’ll pretty much know where to get it.
On to the tracks. Below, you can see whether the album came from Jim or Robert.
Charles Kebbe / Joyce Gordon. “Introduction” (The Harper’s Bazaar Success Formula For a Beautiful Speaking Voice: How to Acquire Poise and Self-Assurance with Simple Exercises for Voice Improvement); Harmony/Columbia HL 7296, 1962 (Purchased from Wanted-Records) I can’t find any background info on the google-webs, but it’s self explanatory, like so many other instructional albums from the 40s to 70s. This was the first album I picked from the crate, and it’s a great way to start, I think. I like mixes that start with spoken-word. The whole album has quite a few lessons on how to speak like a beautiful lady. And trust me, it works… I tried it!
Marvin Gaye. “Life is for Learning” (In our Lifetime?); Tamla, 1981 (Purchased from Sound Spectrum) I already owned a copy of this, but I found it at Jim’s store and decided to pick up a backup. The lyrics are chilling and it’s my favorite song from the album, with the exception of “Love Party”. The whole thing is a very funky, underrated album. One of the last he released, and recorded at the height of his cocaine troubles. When released, the album was missing the question-mark at the end of the title, which Motown chose to remove. Marvin wanted the question mark in, as if to ask if “Armegeddon would come in our lifetime?”. Maybe, but not his.
Michael Jackson. “She’s Out Of My Life” (Off the Wall); Epic, 1979 (Purchased from Sound Spectrum) Another record I already owned but picked it up, since.. well, you know… records get more expensive after the artist dies. I decided to not play the obvious party tracks from this album, and play this one instead. It was written by Tom Bahler, about Karen Carpenter, after their breakup. Michael Jackson took several takes on this song, breaking down in the end… A testament to how great Quincy Jones is as a producer, he left it in.
Junior Wells’ Chicago Blues Band. “In the Wee Wee Hours”; Delmark DS-9612, 1965 (Purchased from Wanted-Records) What a great song. Nothing more to say, other than a wonderful snippit I found on the back of the album cover:
“I went to this pawnshop downtown and the man had a harmonica priced at $2.00. I got a job on a soda truck… played hookey from school … worked all week and on Saturday the man gave me a dollar and a half. A dollar and a half! For a whole week of work. I went to the pawnshop and the man said the price was two dollars. I told him I HAD to have that harp. He walked away from the counter — left the harp there. So I laid my dollar-and-a-half on the counter and picked up the harp. When my trial came up, the judge asked me why I did it. I told him I HAD to have that harp. The judge asked me to play it and when i did he gave the man the 50c and hollered “Case Dismissed!”
Bill Conti. “Reflections” (on 45); United Artists Records, 1977 (Purchased from Sound Spectrum) Not rare, but I found a dusty 45 version of this at Jim’s store. It’s from the soundtrack for “Rocky”. Sounds as modern as the day it was recorded.
Love. “A House is not a Motel” (Forever Changes); Sundazed Music, 1967 (Purchased from Sound Spectrum) Jim was playing this while Robert and I visited one afternoon. Rolling Stone (in 2003) ranked it as 40th in the top 500 albums of all time. Listening to this album in Sound Spectrum was like going back in time 40 years.
Barbara McNair. “Where Would I be Without You” (The Real Barbara McNair); Motown MS680, 1968 (Purchased from Wanted-Records)
Little Richard. “Introduction Tutti Frutti”, “Keep a knockin’”, “Saturday Night Rock”, Jenny Jenny” (Little Richard Sings His Greatest Hits * Recorded Live); Modern Records MM-100, 1967 (Purchased from Wanted-Records)
Artist Unknown. “Hot Wheels” (The Original Hot Wheels Soundtrack); Forward Records ST-F-1023, 1969 Vrrrroooooom!!!!! OK, I lied. I didn’t purchase this at either Sound Spectrum or Wanted-Records… but it happened to be in the same crate, so I used it… I used to work at Mattel as the Producer of HotWheels.com, and was fortunate enough to DJ a company Christmas party where I played this album. I found out about it’s existence at a Hot Wheels Collector convention, and purchased it online for $10 the day after. A Steal! It was from the original Hot Wheels saturday morning cartoon show from the late 60s. Recently, Hot Wheels put up an iTune mix of “Great Driving Songs” (This song didn’t make the cut and that is a shame!)
Idris Muhammed. “House of the Rising Sun” (House of the Rising Sun); Kudu KU-27-S1, 1976 (Purchased from Sound Spectrum) I’m a sucker for anything of the CTI or Kudu label. Speaking of Hot Wheels, one of my favorite designers Alton Takeyasu is a big CTI/Kudu / Idris Muhammed fan. This song is for him
Grant Green. “Mozart Symphony #40 In G Minor K550, 1st Movement” (Visions); Blue Note, 1971 (Purchased from Wanted-Records) So many great songs on this album, but while I’m in the dedicating mood, this one’s dedicated to Robert… Not only is the guy prolific with soul music, but he’s now taken it upon himself to learn the history of classical music as deeply as he knows soul. I can’t wait to go to the Disney Concert Hall with him. I love the structured approach this Mozart piece, with a funky-as-hell improv breakdown in the middle, returning back to structure before ending.
Charles Kebbe / Joyce Gordon. “Speaking with Music” (The Harper’s Bazaar Success Formula For a Beautiful Speaking Voice: How to Acquire Poise and Self-Assurance with Simple Exercises for Voice Improvement); Harmony/Columbia HL 7296, 1962? (Purchased from Wanted-Records) As Charles Kebbe concludes, “See how pleasant it is to talk along with music?” I know you’ll enjoy the experience.