Category Archives: Music

“This song is old, this song is new / This song is me, this song you”

 I was sitting on my bed, working on a blog post that never came to fruition and listening to Minnie Riperton’s Greatest Hits album, when a live interlude started playing. The interlude, “Another Moment With Minnie,” is one of the two or three live clips that pepper the album. It follows “You Take My Breath Away”, a duet with  George Benson. (I can’t describe how hard it is to describe why I love this song, but I’ve never heard anything like it. More on Minnie’s amazing-ness later).

Still, when the live interlude started playing, I ignored it and continued working on the blog post that never came to fruition. I am a staunch opposer of live recordings of things; in fact, if I’d noticed there were any live bits in the album at all I would have given pause to buying it. I don’t believe in live recordings unless they are absolutely necessary (“Benny and the Jets”, “Baby, I Love Your Way”, and the live Woodstock version of “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” come to mind. And, of course, the Simon and Garfunkel live in Central Park album…okay, so maybe I make a lot of exceptions.). Time and time again, live recordings that sporadically play on my Pandora stations cause me to Google a way to prevent them from coming up again, because it disturbs the flow. People singing or shouting or whistling in audiences drives me bananas if I’m not actually in said audience. The magic of live music is that it’s happening in a particular moment in time. Who wants to listen to canned improvisation?

Sorry–end rant. I’ve never actually sat down and thought about why live recordings of things irk me. But I suppose that is why–the canned spontaneity of it all.

Anyway, I’m listening to Minnie Riperton and subconsciously eye-rolling at the thought of being made to think I’m at a concert that happened 30+ years ago when in reality I’m sitting on a tiny bed in a tiny room, working on a blog post that never came to fruition, and suddenly I hear Minnie say something about reincarnation. All the blood rushes to my brain. I stop what I’m doing, reach over, pick up the needle, and do my best to rewind it the old-fashioned way: by studying the grooves in the vinyl and gingerly placing the needle back down.

This is what she says:

Thank you very much. I’m glad you enjoyed that. People do talk about reincarnation…that sounds pretty good. But, I don’t recollect anything prior to this, and I don’t know about you, I haven’t gotten a message yet saying I’m coming back…so i intend to have a great time while I’m here, and I think you should too.

I’m not exactly sure what year she said this. The way that she says it makes me believe it must have been after January 1976, which is when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, had a double mastectomy, and was given six months to live because the cancer had spread. She surpassed this, of course, going on to live for another three years, perform, and make music. She died in the summer of 1979, only 31 years old.

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“Man, can’t they see the world’s on fire?”

Reactions to my desire for a record player have brought about a variety of responses.

My parents are thrilled, but no, I can’t get Mom’s first U.S.-released Beatles album just yet. I’ll have to wait.

Many are curious: “You can find records still nowadays? Where?”

Most are ecstatic, are even intent on helping me build my collection.

And some have commented on how “Brooklyn hipster” it is of me to want a record player in the first place. These are the people who know me the least.

I can’t listen to top 40 painlessly unless I’m driving or drinking (not at the same time, of course, because that’s illegal and dangerous). And even those rare moments while I do belt out “Call Me Maybe” while flying down Dixwell Avenue are  rife with small shreds of guilt. I blame those brilliant marketing people.

I’ve been an oldies gal since I graduated from high school (this.). My heart belongs to ’50s, ’60s and ’70s music. Oh, there have been brief love affairs with current artists–Lady Gaga, pre-1989-Taylor Swift, HAIM, Michael Bublé. But I always find a way to justify these infatuations. Some of Lady Gaga’s songs remind me of early Madonna (because yes, ’80s music is now considered “oldies”). Taylor Swift’s music, particularly on Fearless and Speak Now, tell stories the same way many great old songs used to do. HAIM sounds like a revamp of Fleetwood Mac, and Michael Bublé…I don’t even have to explain that one.

I can’t listen to most current music again and again the way I do with oldies. I could listen to Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors every day if I wanted to. Same goes for the Temptations and Diana and Curtis and Otis. When I listen to Isaac Hayes’s “Walk on By” I find myself wagging a 23 year-old fist at the cosmos and asking, “Why don’t you create music like you used to? As though the cosmos decide that kind of stuff. I mean, they might as well.

What will I do when I’m my parents’ age and I’m mourning  music that’s 100 years old? I pity the thought.

Anyway, since this is going down a dark path, I will continue.

So far I’ve acquired six records from two different stores. The first two purchases happened somewhat on a whim. On my way home from work, I decided that I would get off my lazy butt a stop earlier and walk the twelve minutes or so from the G-train, rather than transfer from the G to the L (which requires an extra leg of travel but then leaves me with only a sixty second walk home). It wasn’t too cold, and I needed to get some produce from the grocery store that sits right off the G anyway. Why not stop at that vintage store, Olly Oxen Free, that I’d seen a few times and gone into maybe once?

So I did. Clutching my plastic bag filled with an onion, a pepper, garlic, and asparagus tips, I made my way down Montrose Avenue, heart beating ever so slightly, hoping that Olly Oxen Free still had that copy of Isaac Hayes’s Hot Buttered Soul I’d seen last summer.

I know I haven’t written this in awhile, but I feel like 90% of my posts on this blog revolve around my anxiety about going into new social situations–going up on stage to introduce a poet at a reading or frequenting a new and scary library, for instance. You’d think that with all of my experience behind a counter greeting hundreds and hundreds of strangers at the pie shop and, before that, an ice cream shop would render me confident in the role of “patron.” Yet for some reason I am always worried I am going to say something awkward. Because I usually do. But then it usually ends up being endearing.

My worries manifested themselves into my actual physical coordination when I marched up to what I believed to be the door of Olly Oxen Free. Twasn’t. The door I’d chosen, which obviously led down an entryway, obviously belonged to an apartment building. I backtracked and then fumbled for the right door and entered. Mind you, I’ve been to Olly Oxen Free before.

My worries immediately vanished I was greeted warmly by a completely empty store and a tall guy with a Crest-white smile. A few more steps in and a few lines of admittance from each party (“I just got a record player for Christmas and I’m building a record collection,” I said; “I’m just babysitting this store until my friend comes back,” he said), I was at ease.1

The vintage store, which is mostly really expensive clothing, had about four boxes of records. Many of them were around the range of $5, and many of them were Barbara Streisand. “Why would anyone give any of these away?” I remarked as I sifted through them. I said it half-sarcastically but I kind of meant it. Barbra Streisand is pretty darn awesome.

Then, I stumbled across this:

Yes, that is Liza Minnelli. But that is also Robert De Niro. Pre-Oscar-win for Raging Bull, post-Oscar-win for The Godfather, Pt. II…playing the saxophone. Now, I’m no film connoisseur, but I had no idea they did a film together. Neither did the dude behind the counter.

What’s more, it has a 6.7 rating on IMDb, which in my book puts it right up there with Gone With the Wind and The Godfather, Pt. I.

So we gave it a spin. Continue reading