Where’d the Time Machine go?

11-28-11

Where’d the Time Machine go?

For some now inexplicable reason, I did not get a Phonolog sheet for each and every week of 1971.  I wish that I had.  40 years ago, it could’ve been for any reason that I didn’t get a Phonolog sheet for that particular week – illness, lack of money etc.  But it was certainly never because of “Lack of interest”!

Clearly, by the end of 1971, my tiny little brain was being dominated by the LP’s in the “Imported LP” bin at the hippie record store.  New regular US records would’ve been $2.98 or $3.98 – and the LP’s in the “Imported LP” bin were $4.99 or $5.99 – but they looked better, cooler…more colorful…different…

By the end of 1971, I wasn’t leaning too heavily on the FM radio just yet.  That would come in the next year or so.  But I was really taking record collecting seriously, by then.  Through circumstance, I was becoming interested in music that came from beyond America and England – Focus, from Holland, Neu from Germany, Bo Hansson from Sweden…I think Focus was particularly influential to me then, having seen them perform “Hocus Pocus” live on the TV, it seemed to me that American bands were starting to “lose the plot”.

And once you cast your net a bit wider, it’s hard to go back to what you were doing previously.  I was also cultivating an interest in esoteric music, after a chance-finding of a John Cage 2LP boxed set, “Indeterminacy” (Folkways Records, 1959).  With my Groundhogs “Split” LP tucked under my arm, I ventured over (for the first time) to the Classical Music section – in search of the “20th Century Music” bin – where lurked Christian Wolff LP’s, Milton Babbitt, Harry Partch etc.  To paraphrase John Cage, “I was becoming excited about new music!”.

The fall of 1971, I was 13 years old.  I had already endured the disillusionment of the break-up of The Beatles.  Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had already died.  Jim Morrison had already vanished.  Which way to turn?  Towards cold and clinical “new music”?  Take a look back on American music?  Ahead to European music?

My directives began to clear up a bit in 1972.  A lot more German music became available.  I started hitting the FM radio quite a bit.  I was hearing more music.  I still wasn’t old enough to go to a rock concert by myself.  I was in junior high (now referred to as ‘middle school’).  Stuff hadn’t really began to happen yet.

But over the next few years, I was lucky enough to experience all the joys of nascent record collector behavior – I spent my food money on records, I lost my virginity, I found people to drive me to L.A. record stores (my brother, my cousin etc.), I was on my way towards my occupation (record store clerk, record distributor “associate”).

But, we have to get from 1972 to 1976, when my first record store job made itself apparent.

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