Saturday, April 20, 2013

Dedicated to Scratch Records (R.I.P. sorta)

The year was 1980-something. 1988? Okay. '87 maybe. We heard about this little tiny record store in downtown Vancouver. We were from the odious 'burbs against our wills. We were used to heading out every week to Odyssey Imports, to Track Records, to Collector's RPM and A&B Sound and Sam the Record Man, all on one strip (after Odyssey moved over from Granville St). So here we had yet another record store to go to, on Cambie, near Hastings (apologies to non-locals - I know that reading about "familiar" street names is totally irritating).
It wasn't on street-level, it was just off the sidewalk and down some hazardous steps into a narrow pit that also housed three other shops - as far as I know, the only place in Van where such a thing exists - and second from the end before you popped back up the opposing staircase. Of the two, I preferred that other-end-staircase, but I can't say why.

Creak open the door and shit, this place is small. Sort of triangular too. Nine out of ten times heading in and to your immediate left on the sofa behind the till was Keith Parry, owner-proprietor, music-lover of any genre and all-around swell fellow (as well as member of Superconducter, among others), with a How-dy! and we were like, "Uh - hey.", and hit the racks. We weren't used to benevolent - or non-paranoid, or anxiety-free - music-shop owners, but time went on and we eventually got on famously.  

Tons of vinyl we'd never seen before. A small table full of used 7"'s (I refused to pay $8 for a worn copy of the DK's first single "California Uber Alles" and now kinda sorta totally wish I'd bought it, since I think brand new 7"s go for the same amount these days) and weird stuff all over the walls and ceiling, including a giant homemade Residents eyeball-with-top-hat made out of macrame. No, paper-mache. Whatever. And rail-thin Keith with the hair down almost to the waist, perpetual smile and infinite (okay almost) knowledge on the local scene and anything vaguely underground. Tape cassette shelves on the walls, a small zine-display, some rarities and a GG Allin voodoo doll in the front-counter display, tiny video cabinet with obscure VHS tapes, and cheap dollar-boxes under the used bins filled with unexpected treasures, like when I found that 1982 12" version of BAD RELIGION's first 7" (when the initial 1981 7" sold out, BR repressed it the next year in a bigger size), and my buddy said, "Hey, cool - let me see that...". 
Yeeeeeah. Next moment I looked up and the fucker was at the register buying the thing.
(I eventually got it back 22 years later.)

Carl (The New Pornographers) Newman behind the cash machine when Keith was out, malevolently staring down potential customers through a ton of red hair just daring them to buy anything that didn't meet his approval. Small surprises, like candy added to your purchase or doodled artwork on the other side of the printed plastic store bags. I actually still have my record bag with a big Scratch logo on one side and a life-size, multi-colored va-jay-jay adorning the back.
Mr. Parry giving me an original 11x17 gig flyer for the Dead Kennedys/D.O.A./Toxic Reasons show at the Commodore Ballroom from 1982 after he saw me eyeing it with insane lust.
It was just a warm, neat place. 

Then he moved shop.
Like half a block away, across from the ass-side of the ancient Woodward's building and permanently shadowed by the parking garage next door. I helped move a bit of stuff along with Claudio (where's he at?), but my S.A.D. was spiking and it was a little weird. The new place was way bigger and had an awesome secret: a stairway somewhat in the middle of the floor-space led down to a series of rooms (used for storage, parties and - I believe - photo-shoots) that, as you traveled along, became smaller and smaller until you ended up in a tiny dank-ish concrete area with a manhole over your head that popped you up into the middle of Hastings. The rear of the place opened to a tight alley that threw you out onto the edge of Gastown.
Only a few years later and Keith pulled up stakes and took a smaller location on Richards, a non-descript building with only a doorway and sandwich-board to let you know where you were. Head down the long hall and there ya go. At this point I had pretty much stopped hitting the place for stuff, maybe once every three months or so: all the record shops previously mentioned had bit the dust, and Granville - once a main punk-hangout - was in the first stages of personality-suicide and getting downtown was less and less of a fun pastime and more and more of a depressing punch of reality we only fully feel in retrospect that things move forward and change has to happen. Other reasons being that old-school punk LP's in the used bins were on the decline, and all the new music I was getting introduced to wasn't really available at the shop. 
It was also a weird feeling being in Scratch without Keith ever in sight anymore (he retreated to the office for the distro work and other office-y business), and 2-3 new staff members busy doing figures or shuffling product away and not knowing you, or that you had been buying stuff from the previous incarnations of the place for like ten years. 
The laid-back relaxed vibe we felt had gotten necessarily replaced, and there we are being moved forward. 

Jump ahead to sometime last year and Scratch moves to a spot on Hastings. Like, almost literally a spot, something matching 50 square feet almost right across from Pigeon Park. Incredibly cramped but also kinda cozy, and I guess far too small to accommodate the both old and new stock needed for a venture to hold out for very long. Also, the two times I was in there, the clerk seemed to have ADHD and a nervous anxiety usually reserved for startled squirrels. 

After 25 years, the physical store is dead, fully survived, however, by their online services, so go there instead and order away. (Edit: the site hasn't been updated since '14)

As something of a tribute, I serve up "The Sensuous Black Woman",  by "The Madam".  
The Madam was actually Lady Reed, a familiar face around Rudy Ray Moore (of many a Blaxploitation flick such as Dolomite and Petey Wheatstraw). You can hear Lady Reed in outtakes - tho' not from this LP - on N.W.A.'s "Straight Outta Compton" on the track 'Gangsta Gangsta', if you're at all familiar with that release (and damn, you should be). 
But here she lays down the simple rules for sexually attracting, seducing, and keeping your man, and keeping him interested and horny for your beautiful Black pussy. 
And, if you're prone to discomfort around words such as pussy and cock, please, please do not bring these downloads onto your computer, because it's pretty much nothing BUT those words and better. Or worse, I guess. As the jacket says, "Rated for Mature Adults Only". Not the immature ones who are gonna start heckling their monitor drunkenly half-way through.  
And the album is produced by R.R. Moore as well, put out on Kent Records which had a roster including bluesman Guitar Slim Green and a group called Snatch and the Poontangs. The year? Sources say 1977, but it sounds like something from '70-'72.

Side one is her monologue on the subject, while side two is her giving a smaller version with a Q&A session, and it's hilarious. The audience of a seeming few is completely awesome. 

Caveat on the sound quality: my copy seems to have been played several hundred times by someone using a rusty axe as a stylus, and I've run it through a 'click & hiss' eliminator, so that odd aural activity in the background is not the tides of the ocean or elevator noises, but the dubious fixings of Adobe Audition.

(photo credit: me)

Download here:
 Sensuous Black Woman

Monday, April 15, 2013

Superstar From the Far East

Antony Villa - Superstar From the Far East Sings a Special Tribute to Elvis

Quick recap: Bad neighbors are out, new neighbors are pretty much up there like ghosts, have a new roommate. All of which equals less stress mentally and monetarily, so maybe I'll buy another record sooner or later. Everything's go.

So, here's another gold hit of vinyl that has had a fair run through the "bad LP" sites and has apparently also pleased/spiritually-benumbed many an unsuspecting listener over the many years since it's unleashment into this world: "Anto..." well just look at the title above again. 

Okay. Perhaps a year after E.Presley's ungainly death one might have had one's eye unceremoniously mugged with the 12x12" vibrant hues of blue/green jacketry offset by the familiar Bejewelry-implanted white jumpsuit now adorned by a fellow of seemingly Asian heritage while strolling past your favorite record-parlour.
I really don't know how an adult human brain functioned in 1978, but would an adult who was a fan of EP grab something like this product, maybe in a fit of grief or "dear-god-Elvis-will-never-release-another-album-again-because-of-all-the-deadness-so-THIS-will-help-deal-with-the-loss"-thinking? 
See, I simply don't know. Why the tribute album at all? If you like music and saw the mid-90's you also saw AT LEAST nine hundred 'tribute' albums dedicated to everyone from Nirvana to that guy busking outside of your local Safeway and how many of those survived any mental replay? Tribute albums have always been a higher form of novelty item, so why do people still throw their talent at the things like crumpled foil Teen-burger wrappers at a dustbin? For many it's the only way to showcase what they have if what they have isn't uhhh, say, history-making. In that, they went and wrote their own history anyway.

Antony Villa AKA Antony Starluck AKA Antony Starluck Villa-Real AKA "The Singing Inventor" recorded this LP here in Vancouver in '78 at Total Sounds West studios - a studio owned by Vancouver jazz player Dale Jacobs who also poked around some piano & synth on some tracks (and also had his own couple of bands, "The Dale Jacobs Group", and simply "Dale Jacobs" who a year later would release "Cobra" - something you've most likely come across in the thrifts, the cover featuring a very large snake let loose in a very fine apartment) and put it out on the ubiquitous (no, not really) "Golden Constellation International Records Ltd" label located at what is now Al Halal Meats up on Victoria Drive near the Dairy Queen. Tiny shop. 

Anyways, Let's look at the back of the LP cover.

READ all of that and decide not to hear it, I dare you.

The music is balanced out between soft rock-ish balladeering and disco, but a kind of disco that that group of older teens in the neighborhood worked for years at engineering, felt it was the high point of their lives and then later they all just went different ways and landed jobs managing lube-shop franchises in placed like Franklinville or something.
The mystery as to why this Ernie Manuel gets his own photo-box and blurb may never be resolved, since he only gets co-writing creds on one track along with back-up vocals. Other than this the internets reveal nothing on the man.
As for Antony himself, the man holds several patents - mostly on medical items - and still does musical work, although you can judge for yourself  if his talents have been honed to perfection in the years since. And then there's his own Facebook profile. A man of varied talents, to be sure.
You can preview what this thing will sound like here, just to see if it's worth downloading the whole album HERE.
Then we can all do the Moon Cat Dance!