Happy Earth Day from Wherever I am.
Also Happy Record Store Day Also Happy Wedding Day which is another story.
Lately I haven’t lived near a record store which participates in Record Store Day (I do this year, but that’s new). I don’t travel often, due to life’s constraints, so going to attend RSD in Minneapolis or someplace is usually out of the question.
But throw me into a role at a wedding fur fur away from home and schedule me for photos at 3PM and I have a little time window from 10AM forward when I could locate whoever-it-is and attend their RSD fling and I’m going to find a way to do that. I didn’t review all this year’s releases well, but I know of a limited RSD release or two that I might buy if I went right past one.
I didn’t have a particularly good time. It was a skinny store right off of a pretty good-sized university, nicely organized, and it was clean, had the correct background music, there was nothing wrong with the place whatsoever except that it was busier than hell. And crowded, wall to wall people, gorging on records. Owner didn’t have time to talk about a Kingfish LP cover which was part of my personal shopping acid test. Record shopping should be conversational. Actually it HAS to be conversational or it’s obsolete.
I don’t know what I think I thought I should expect, being on a college campus, but I now know who the Millennials are. I have wondered that to this point in my life. There was no one in the store who WASN’T a Millennial.
I decide to scan the room because it’s difficult to navigate through the crowd and that’s when I notice there ARE no other guys of my classification. What classification is that, I hear you asking. Oh, there’s this kind of record shopper who starts at one point, and makes a complete circle throughout the field of records and pauses every once in a while to ask if something is a Ludwig master, or, like in my case, wondering why I once apparently owned the only Kingfish record album cover in the world that wasn’t cut-out.
Kind of a hard type to describe.
I decided to just freaking buy something and get out of there. I never did find out whether they actually HAD any RSD limited edition releases.
I opted for the Rolling Stones recent record, issue about last December or so. It was priced at about $38.00 or so, which is about right, and a French pressing (which I have to look into a little more about) and was sort of my version of buying a pack of gum at a gas station and then coincidentally needing to use the free bathroom. I don’t NEED another record-I’ve never listened to all of them that I have in the first place.
Blue And Lonesome. That’s the name of the album. I just call it That Blue Album and that’s incorrect, and record store guys kind of hate that, trust me. I was going to order it from Amazon, having missed it when it was originally released (it seemed kind of self-indulgent for me to pop for a $40 during the Season Of Giving, so I put it off). I asked for that Rolling Stones Blue album and the harried apparent owner of the store asked me “You mean their last one?”. Yes, please, they had it, and zap, sign this, you’re out of here. It wasn’t a Record Store Day special release and in fact it was about four months old, which always was kind of old for a new record.
Whatever, I digress. I understand that the Rolling Stones dashed off this little jewel in three days or so. They should always do that. Well, maybe not always, because then they’d never be anywhere but where they started. They started largely by listening to mail order blues records from Chicago. I don’t remember whether it was a Stones biography or some interview but one of them said that the wait between the time that they ordered records from the U.S. and finally getting them was about six weeks. So, you had plenty of time to study your new records before the next batch got there.
Early Stones stuff sounds like it does because of them listening to those records and many of us have always hoped they’d play more stuff like that again. This album is ALL stuff like that again. So I’m glad I bought it even if it was almost forty bucks.
Oh, yeah, and my daughter got married so there was that part. I did look over the DJ’s stuff and I didn’t see a turntable so I didn’t ask. Later that same evening it was the next day and my nice hotel room didn’t have a turntable either, so I had to wait another day or two depending upon how you keep score, and drive across a couple of states and do all the the stuff that you do to decompress from stuff like this. So I’m pretty committed to the album by the time I slapped it on the turntable, but I’m pretty sure it’s going to prove essential.
So I bought a nice non-record store day record, and I’m glad the store was doing so well at that moment, and I wish them a lot of luck, but Record Store Day doesn’t need me, if everybody is going to cram into them and buy a lot of records.
I got into that business in 1987. Records were already finished, although they were still pressing them for a few years beyond that. Neither of my stores did the number of transactions per hour that the store I was standing in was doing. We rang virtually non-stop only two times in memory and both of those were Guns ‘N’ Roses releases and those were primarily CD’s, though we sold our share of LPs of those two. Other than that, the record shopping experience at my joint was mainly one-on-one, and you can’t DO that in a store where you can’t even move.
I have this web site. I’m not spamming it, I just want to mutter about it. It’s an e-commerce web site that comes in three sections: the original core pages, which I wrote in HTML and a WordPress blog and a Zen Cart shopping cart. Those apparently are three different kinds of things if you want to make wholesale changes. One kind of wholesale changes a person might want to make is to convert the whole thing to SSL, or Secure Socket Layers, not only to make the little green lock in your address bar which tells you that the communication between you and the site is encrypted but also to appease Google, who is just about to insist upon it. I don’t really HAVE to offer SSL encryption, mostly because my shopping cart doesn’t process payments (it turns customers over to PayPal for that), and also it doesn’t ask you to imput any information, unless you register to post something or buy something. Then it does, and the little green lock is somehow reassuring. Anyway, obtaining this SSL Certificate is not just a matter of buying it, it turns out. That’s slightly painful as it is, but once you’re assured that all that’s done, it’s possible to sit around for a week waiting to see the little green thing. Oh well, we’re doing other stuff, we can wait, right?
Eventually we speak to our host (and by we I mean a version of me) and they tell us: oh no, you don’t just buy that, you have to configure it all over the place. What this now really means is that everywhere that we’ve said “http://” that now has to say “https://”. Swell. At the moment, we have over 6600 pages in that blog, most of which contain multiple images and each one of those things and more is an “http://”. The store (or shopping cart) is momentarily at some 1057 Things. Those and more are also “http:/”s.
The guy at the hosting company asks: um, do you work with a developer or a programmer who’s going to help you with this? He’s told no. He suggests getting someone like that. I don’t do it.
I change those suckers. It doesn’t work-the method I’ve devised forgets that maybe some of my code ALREADY says “https//” and if I tell some big text editor to change everything in the world it makes a bunch of “httpss”s in addition to “https”/ and everything is still broken. Both the WordPress blog and the Zen Cart shopping cart use PHP language and while I can see it going by I’m not particularly proficient at patching it, and if you have something goofed up PHP’s first intinct is to serve up thousands of snowy blank pages with no clue what went wrong.
Other crazy stuff happens. I’m breaking in another computer and all of a sudden both my machines aren’t set up the same and one has programs that the other doesn’t, and there’s an issue between my FTP program and Windows10 and there are thousands of images involved here.
The folks at Zan Cart push out a new version of that which fixes some stuff I want to keep fixed. That’s a pause for a couple of hours because you don’t want to goof those up. We get done, and 2 1/2 hours later they push out another minor version which fixes a little problem that’s been around for years and not even the hackers knew it but it needs fixing right away, now that somebody’s discovered it. Our file comparison tool isn’t on the new machine yet and so all THAT kind of updating is relegated to the upstairs computer which can still compare. We get all that taken care of.
My self-hosted photos are eBay are broken. I better do something. I get the code all fixed, and two days later everything should work, right? Nope.
If you use a service named Cloudflare, among whose clientelle I am an original beta tester, they need to be told that you’ve switched over to SSL too or some of the tricky stuff they do will crash your WordPress-archived photos when you try to use them at eBay because some infinite looping happens. Then, if you have a WordPress blog, you will need their plug-in to defy that looping. Fine, no problem, we’ve been installing plug-ins pertaining to the SSL, including the Pro version of one free one because OF COURSE the free version didn’t replace EVERY http: just quite a few of them. So we’ve installed the Cloudflare/WordPress plug-in and haven’t truly tested it yet because we temporarily have CloudFlare disables, but we’re pretty confident that their code will work-it usually does. We hope so because in the middle of all this, a couple of nights ago, we turned the entire blog into snowy white blank pages by putting that “s” behind two related “http”s in EXACTLY the only place where you DON’T want to do that.
Until I find some other little oddity, I think maybe it’s all running again. Now I can process credit cards, which I don’t anyway.
We make calendars to keep things straight and things go wherever they want to anyway. We have to know what day it is, what year it is. What they were once. And those days and those years go wherever they want to anyway. Why do we need to know what day it is? Isn’t the day the one we’re in? Is it something we AREN’T in? Why do we need to know what year it is? Is it the first one, is it the last one? Do those in the middle matter?
The calendars containing the days and the years turn on us, and they apply pressure. Time is money is how they put that.
We build math to keep the money straight. We keep track of our profits and losses. But by the minute they change. We need those minutes, yet things and money might be disappearing or accumulating every one of them and we can’t control that.
We think we can-I went to college to learn about soap and time and money and management, and got a strange transcript. I did learn the stuff, my professors should be assured of that if they care, but it’s like something my friend Rick McNeal told me one day when he was explaining how come he dropped out of being a brilliant nuclear physicist or something exactly close to that.
Rick wanted to know WHY there are colors. We were floating above the floor of my room on Dubuque Street and studying a chillum and McDonald’s Export A mixed 50/50 with ganja brought to us directly by little airplanes and stolen credit cards. I had already flunked everything important in my major at the College Of Business and I kind of wondered why there were colors too. They said I should not put rock and roll music in radio commercials and that my tapes didn’t play anyway.
The Super Bowl had become important enough in advertising world that we were compelled to study reels of Super Bowl commercials, and boy, were they ever optimized. They thought Super Bowl rates were high then.
But I digress. You know I like the band The Grateful Dead. We study them closely analyzing concert tapes from some 1800+ performances, except for when the tapes are missing. That takes a long time. They did over 500 songs. One of them though, “Black Peter”, takes a look at the calendar thing:
See here how everything
lead up to this day
and it’s just like
any other day
that’s ever been
Sun goin up
and then the
sun it goin down
Shine through my window and
my friends they come around
See anything in there about days, weeks, years, soap, profits, losses?
Courtesy of a friend of mine who probably doesn’t give me permission to mention her name, this is an original mix of The Grateful Dead’s third album, AOXOMOXOA, 1969, a longtime favorite of mine.
Unlike most of the stuff that is posted here, it’s not for sale, just a brag and a share.
It’s kind of hard to find.
The story is: when I sat at the Spencer Public Library in May of 1999, registering for eBay, which I had discovered the weekend before, I was prompted for a user name. Only took me a second: the song “St. Stephen” has a line it that goes “one man gathers what another man spills”. That sums up nicely what I intended to do at the time, and what I have been doing now for 16 years. I don’t remember if I tried to incorporate the correct spelling into my ID, but I probably didn’t, and chose Saintsteven instead. I’ve gone by that name on the Internet ever since.
The track St. Stephen, in its original mix, is below.
As originally defined (and coined) by Yours Truly
A Thingery is a type of business which turns stuff into Things through a process which is much like spinning straw into gold, mainly marketing their wares online.
Thingeries are entrepreneurial, independent and usually eco-responsible.
They are consumer-focused, often offering a variety of Things which at first glance seem unassociated with each other, but that is exactly their attraction. They are consumer-driven and consumers actually prefer a chaotic ever-changing collection of things when browsing on the Internet.
See here how everything leads up to this day? Yesterday us Deadheads mourned Jerry Garcia’s death, which has now been customary for 20 years. I sat that one out on the Internet because other people had it covered, and the date is more profound than that for me. The Internet, as we know it, as “consumers”, also started on August 9, 1995. I won’t retell that story either-it’s also been covered by others. I had snuck onto that highway several years before and operated a little-used BBS out of my store and didn’t actually acquire a personal computer (as we know them now) until 1999, but it was the beginning of The Revolution.
Another thing was happening at the same time. My retail music business, Rainy Day Music, was unraveling. That too took a while. I didn’t lose control of the rudder until September of ’95 and regained it in the summer of ’96 and the boat steered ME for another six years, but insiders know the story-it wasn’t the “same” after August.
Since I still feel a little murderous about that (yeah, I know, get over it), I’ll skip to the next track in that disc in just a minute here. That was an ugly time in something wonderful that almost worked and I’m thinking I’m the only person still cringing.
OK, skip to the next track: when my friend Brent Palm (and also the newspaper guy) interviewed me about the store closing early in 2002, I said “oh, I’m not really CLOSING, I’m moving to the Internet”. That itself was true, but I was also unintentionally morphing the business. Hipsters hadn’t come along yet and records had been proclaimed to be dead for a decade by the guys who made them. I damn near starved. A rare disease invaded my body and I’ll never forget the night I lay in my heatless house shivering in the dead of the winter wracked with pain and worrying that I didn’t have enough food in me to keep shivering.
That kind of thing can be a bit discouraging. I applied for a job as assistant manager at the Musicland mall store that had helped shoo me out of town and discovered that some ceilings aren’t glass-they’re sometimes hard and opaque like brick or stone. I was over 50. The 30-something manager who was interviewing me didn’t even try to hide her disdain for my age and hippieness.
Good thing that didn’t work out, the future as I now know it, which has been successful and happy, was right around the corner.
Yeah, a house slipped away from me during the process of investing in that future, some other stuff got away, but a marketplace that can be rather hard accepted me, and the bird flew. Today I’m surrounded by more opportunity than I can handle, my skills developed, and the plan worked: I moved to the Internet.
So, how come when the alarm clock buzzed this morning, I was dreaming of returning to brick and mortar life? I was right at the point where I was standing in the original room in Spencer, thinking, hmmm, the stock looks a little thin, I better go get some records someplace. I first thought that in 1987. I had just set up the stereo system and noticed dust was already settling on the cover of the turntable.
I hate those realistic dreams-it’s so easy to fool myself. When the clock made that noise I was trying to decide if Swiffers were the answer.
WHY would I have a dream like that? The way things worked out, I can redefine what I’m doing at any moment, work on my own time, even work from “wherever” and God knows I can even choose from many devices to accomplish that. I happen to be a little old-fashioned, and don’t use those devices-a laptop is radical enough for me, and it hasn’t been that long ago that I got a router so I don’t even have to stay in the bedroom on top of the house like some kind of hermit.
I think it has something to do with my attention span. I’ve been based at my own web site for ten years now and entrenched in my style for sixteen years (it took me four years from the original disaster to develop the business model). I don’t miss stuff like landlords, the commute to the store(s), certain nutcases and hangers-on, “regular” hours (even though I work more of them now) and I like the pretty colors of the Internet. But sixteen years at anything is a long run for me. I ended a more traditional run in 1995, at the same time the store blew up, and that career clocked in at almost exactly twenty years. THAT career set up the nice Social Security benefits I now enjoy and while it was probably actually more meaningful in terms of “real business” (the stuff you measure in millions of dollars), toward the end of that one, which ended in a sale that I had failed to anticipate to another company, I had burned out and was starting my present day ponytail, which was unacceptable in that industry.
So what about that dream? It was so disconcerting that I didn’t even go back to bed like I always do. I decided to get up and get started on either the forty model cars I have to write up for sale or the sixty Grateful Dead CDs I’m planning on transferring from digits to shiny round discs for fun, or more probably, both. The book I was always going to write is either way overdue or else (also more likely) just reaching critical mass and only needs “the author” to commit himself to a subject-the style has always been there.
Will THAT take sixteen or twenty years? Probably not-if I can slap together a thousand words in about an hour, that would be one long tome if it did. I used to be a little bit afraid of what I call running naked in the middle of the highway. Not so much anymore.
So thanks (I guess) to the loon who blew through the door about twenty years ago and tore the store apart, if I want to hand that guy all the credit.
Now, where’s that bull and how long are his horns?
How I spent my summer vacation 7/6/15 (after it’s over). Somebody scheduled the Grateful Dead Fare Thee Well Chicago #2 night at the same time as Aretha Franklin at Saturday In The Park at Sioux City. There were some notable moments in Sioux City (although not from Aretha as far as I’m concerned) but let’s just gloss over those. Try to catch the North Mississippi All Stars someplace sometime.
Now, about that Grateful Dead reunion at Soldier Field, which is where I personally saw them last, although that was in 1994, and I didn’t attend in 1995. Still, that’s where I left off. So did everybody. They came back because Bob in particular seemed to think it would be necessary due to the fact that it’s 50 years after the band pretty much started.
They played two nights in Santa Clara last weekend, and I wrote about those on my Facebook page and I’m pretty sure I felt enthusiastic about those two nights. If you were me, you sort of had to be. There was some noise on the Internet about Phil doing too much singing and some other stuff, most of which I also mentioned on my Facebook page. I don’t mind Phil’s singing-he’s been at it for a long time now and I think he’s getting better, but I am also extremely reluctant to criticize his style or delivery because he is, ah, A FOUNDING MEMBER OF THE BAND who always did do some singing. It is not up to me how they divide that up (the singing thing).
There are folks who wonder why they seem to do Drums/Space every night. It is probably somewhat politically incorrect of me to mention it, but there are probably other people who don’t like hearing that little extra track in every show when Phil does his Donor Rap either.
Sometimes they goof up some words or some little timing thing or maybe the keyboards are somehow mixed too low (they were in the YouTube video, but not-so-much in the audience recordings I have, and anyway, they seem to have fixed that for the last four shows). I thought sometimes it was funny that the cameras didn’t follow the guitar that was soloing. Surely, they didn’t have somebody in the production chain who wasn’t particularly familiar with who was playing what, did they?
Let’s slip over to Sioux City for a moment here. I met several interesting people and had several interesting conversations, but during the break between somebody and somebody, a kid accosted me with “hey, were you in the Sixties”? I told him I was familiar with the era. He then proceeded to ask me if I’d ever seen Janis Joplin. Well, no, but I did catch Big Brother & The Holding Co. at some surprise performance in Iowa City. Janis had become Kathi McDonald. The kid wanted to know if I’d ever heard the Jefferson Airplane. Well, heard, of course. Saw ’em once when they were Jefferson Starship but even they thought they sucked that night (Grace apologized, it was the last night of a tour which had been in Europe and her voice was shot).
Then the kid said it: “I hate the Grateful Dead”. That’s a funny thing to tell me on the Fourth Of July at a musical event while we’re talking about loving bands from San Francisco. I was unable to decipher whatever it was that the kid was trying to use as his explanation for that, but I countered with “did you notice that little Quicksilver Messenger Service” lick in that last band’s one song?”. The kid didn’t get it. It was a line from Who Do You Love that I was mentioning. The one that goes like “who do you love”?
The kid didn’t hear it. I’m not positive that I did either, but I’m pretty sure, although I’ve already forgotten the band’s name. I had already lost my patience with the kid. I knew the answer when I asked him “have you ever BEEN to a Grateful Dead show?”. He was clearly under 20 and the band stopped suddenly 20 years ago. Don’t do the math and you come up with the same answer. Of course he hadn’t, and he replied “oh you woulda had to have been there huh?”.
Oh, I don’t know. It certainly helps. I told him “don’t worry about it, not even THEY liked their records”. I wasn’t wearing any Dead related anything, by the way. I saw two t-shirts all day-one on the guitar player for the BB King tribute and one green shirt on a random guy that had a Steal Your Face on it. So the kid couldn’t have been sure whether *I* had ever been to a Dead show. He had no idea they were playing in Chicago, nor was he going to.
Eventually it gets to be time to see Aretha Franklin. I am skeptical. It gets to be PAST time. This event has a well-defined closing time and they’re on schedule. With 40 minutes to go (including encore time) it’s gonna be over and she’s not there. FINALLY her orchestra annoys guys like me with some stuff and they announce Aretha like she’s in Las Vegas someplace.
She came out and did some stuff until thirteen minutes after ten and seems to be done. The orchestra stretches out the time with another number or two and Aretha reappears for what has to be RESPECT and does one of those long gospel raps about whatever health scare she had recently. Other reviewers will no doubt say otherwise, but I believe that is all you need to know.
Back to Chicago. Thanks to the magic of Video On Demand I can watch the Saturday Night show (#4), but it takes me a little while because I have to crash and et. cetera. Of course I checked the setlist, but it was impossible NOT to guess at least the closer and the encore. A lot of the middle of the list was stuff that if I HAD to miss it, I was willing to miss it and watch this nice video later.
They rarely get it completely right of course and you learn that, if you put ’em too high on the pedestal.
Sunday filled up instantly here with that video followed by the Sunday (last) show. I had already been struck by this, but I have never heard five Grateful Dead shows in a row like these last ones in which I could understand all the words. It doesn’t hurt to take 40 years to study the lyrics, but none the less, both of the “new” singers-Trey and Bruce, enunciate quite well, and it’s unusual that I can’t understand Phil or Bob. So it sounds nice.
But it’s not just nice. It’s really really good, with no goofy technical stuff and a band that has had a while to think about the set list. No tuning, just a well-run set after set. The sound is almost perfect, the lights coordinate well, the band is REALLY professional. They nailed stuff they never got right in the first place. They updated stuff from the first album that they DIDN’T cook on the road for decades.
Since those seven guys had only technically played five shows for the world by the time they got done, it was good enough to be something that was just getting started.
Even Weir assures us now “more stuff will happen”.
I guess, for me, it provides a closure I’m not sure I was looking for. The Grateful Dead once drove their record label crazy by churning out weird stuff; they didn’t like playing in a studio in the first place. It used to be unheard-of for somebody to leak a set list like they’ve been doing lately, mostly because the band didn’t HAVE one unless they maybe called those from a huddle at the line of scrimmage. They never HAD a night that didn’t have some little delays for something-or-other (ok, maybe they have, but I never saw one). Or forgotten lyrics, not there weren’t a couple here, or trouble just playing together, or a surly crowd to please. But they just don’t turn in technically next-to-perfect shows like that, even if they think they’re “taping” (grin, they were always “taping”).
So as we go forward, my biggest realization is in that small point: was this just all a money grab?
Are you kidding? NOBODY delivers three nights like those last Chicago shows who is merely selling something. Those guys were still perfecting “The Golden Road (To Unlimited Devotion)”. No, it was not all a money grab. There were grabbers, no doubt about it, but they weren’t standing on the stage.
I hope they reconsider that “never again” part, but if they don’t, I saw a perfect show; we all did.