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Noteworthy Photography

  • Burning Flags Press
    The website of Glen E. Friedman. Renowned for both his work with musicians like Fugazi, Minor Threat, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys, Slayer (and many, many more) as well as his groundbreaking documentation of the burgeoning skateboard phenomenon in the late `70's, Glen has been privvy to (and has summarily captured on film) some of the coolest stuff ever. He's also an incredibly insightful and nice guy to boot.
  • SoHo Blues - Photography by Allan Tannenbaum
    Allan Tannenbaum is a local photographer who has been everywhere and shot everything, from members of Blondie hanging out at the Mudd Club through the collapsing towers of the World Trade Center on September 11th. You could spend hours on this site, and I have.
  • Robert Otter Photographs
    Amazing vintage photographs of New York City, specifically my own neighborhood, Greenwich Village.
  • oboylephoto
    Just some intensely cool photographs of abandoned places.
  • Rikki Ercoli's Legends of Punk
    Much like Glen E. Friedman (see above), Rikki Ercoli has managed to catch some amazing bands in their manic element.
  • Lost & Found Film
    A fascinating website devoted to undeveloped film found in vintage camers. A curious mixture of interesting and spooky.
  • Pinhole Photography by Veronica Saddler
    NYC landmarks shot through a pinhole lens. Neat-o.
  • Eugene Merinov
    Compelling shots of Punk, Post-Punk and New Wave band performing live in various long-lost venues in a pre-sanitized New York City. Great stuff!
  • Edward Colver

Big Laughs

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July 07, 2016


David George

Wow--this post speaks to me on so many levels. I also don't use any of the new forms out there for "consuming" music. I stick to CDs (which I rip to .wav for my iPod, which I only use for travel). I do have a functioning turntable and a subset of my records handy (the balance are in storage), which I admittedly don't use often enough. In terms of the "warmer" sound with vinyl, this is attributable not to the delivery on vinyl itself, but the origin of the original source. As a musician who starting recording in the early 80s, I can speak from experience that music recorded on 2 inch, 30 inches per second reel-to-reel tape definitely sounds warmer due to tape saturation (think of it as an overload of the tape). It Kanye F-head or any of these current cultural prostitutes recorded digitally and released on vinyl it would still sound like the shit that it is. This is not to say that everything digital is bad, but when it was introduced it was pretty sterile. It has gotten a lot better over the years, or at least engineers have learned to a certain extent how to overcome its inherent shortcomings.

And one point I'd like to make regarding music recorded "then" versus "now:: That 2" tape I mentioned (which I always bought at J&R) typically sold for $100 for 30 MINUTES. Think about it: That in and of itself would teach any band that wasn't comprised entirely of morons to develop their own bullshit detectors in terms of what you would record in a commercial studio because you couldn't afford to cut an unlimited number of songs (or versions of songs). Now any idiot with a laptop, some rudimentary software and a 2 TB external drive can produce several years' worth of utter garbage that will compete for attention with everything that is actually worthwhile. This has been the biggest drawback in my view of the digital age. There would be a whole lot less bullshit out there if there were still significant upfront costs to produce it.

When you talk about the tactile aspects of record collecting that really hits home. Nothing quite matched pulling the shrink wrap off an anticipated new release, plopping it on the turntable, and reading all the credits, memorizing song titles and who played on what. I was never one for reading lyrics: I much prefer to figure them out as I go along. This comes from an old Muddy Waters theory that was appropriated by the Stones. (And I'm still working on figuring out all the lyrics on "Exile on Main Street," which I've been listening to for more decades than I care to admit.)

I read in The Guardian a few years back that something like 90% of downloaders had NO IDEA what they had downloaded: no context (since they tend to go for individual songs) and no sense of what the artist intended in terms of album sequencing. This is a big reason I am not a fan of "Greatest Hits" collections because they deny the listener what I think is important: the artistic context.

I also question it when I see Urban Outfitter's coffee table collections. And the B&N on Union Square is not much better: I am pretty bemused when I see the odd assortment of LPs, all sold at high price for the "30 gram" (or whatever the hell it is) vinyl.

I am also alarmed by the devaluing of music and have engaged in lots of online battles over that issue, both as huge fan of lots of types of music as well as a musician who would like someday to collect a few shekels for his own work. The attitude that it should be free disgusts me.

I'm not particularly alarmed that I have NO IDEA about most current "pop" music. I recently joined a pretty low-rent but serviceable gym where I've heard actual radio for the first time in years. I sometimes have to note a few lyrics and Google them when I get home to figure out who I heard. Generally it's the same thing: "Oh, so THAT'S what that asshole sounds like."

I looked through the survey questions at the original source and read your responses, but I see no reason to bore your readers with my own answers (also, that thing is frigging long and some of the questions are highly annoying). But I'll cherry pick a few:

8. Music type you find yourself listening to the most?

For me it has always been seasonal. For example, I cannot imagine listening to Tom Waits in the sweltering heat: he seems more suitable for November. I love reggae and do tend to move in that direction when the summer comes, which makes sense, I think.

9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?

Not necessarily to hype me up, but I do have a habit related to travel. I travel extensively for business and see a lot of hotels. I always set up my music immediately (laptop running into the hotel's flat screen TV) and play the studio (single) version of "Honky Tonk Women" before I do anything else. It's sort of like a dog marking his turf, I guess. I have done this all over the world.

11. Last gig/concert you went to?

Ian Hunter at the City Winery.

David George

This post hits home in so many ways. I don’t partake in any of the ‘new’ ways to consume music either. I stick mostly with CDs, which I rip to .wav for my iPod , which I only use for travel. The only times I ever bought downloads was when physical media was not available. I have done that less than a dozen times. And I do have a functioning turntable and a subset of my LPs in my apartment, with the balance in storage. I truly miss the tactile aspects of consuming music: in my book nothing beat buying a long-awaited new release (or a hard to find obscurity) and tearing the shrink wrap off an actual LP. And sometimes the acquisition itself could be an adventure. I hitchhiked many miles over the years to visit small hole-in-the-wall record (in those days “head”) shops or cut school to take the A train down to J&R or Disc-O-Mat. That was all part of it.

If the procured LP was a ‘gatefold’ that was gravy. The acquisition process would be followed by delving into and memorizing the song titles, and who played what, when, and where. I was never big on reading lyrics, as I prefer the Muddy Waters school of thought (which was appropriated by the Stones, my long-time favorite), which dictates that lyrics are intended to be learned over time, gradually. I’ve been listening to ‘Exile on Main Street’ for more decades than I want to admit and am still learning bits and pieces here and there. I doubt I’ll ever “learn” all of it and I’m fine with that. The tactile aspects as well as the gradual “consuming” of music is a far cry from the world of downloaders. I read in The Guardian a few years back that something like 90% of downloaders have NO IDEA what they’re downloading: not the artist, not the actual song title, and especially not the album. I think one of the biggest aspects of “albums” that has been lost aside from the art is the concept of actual sequencing in terms of what the artist intended. I believe both ‘Exile” and The Clash’s “London Calling” set the standard in their respective eras for that sort of thing. Each side is a perfect “helping” and stands up on its own. This whole concept is completely lost in the era of shuffling on a device, which I abhor (and do not do). When one of my bands was releasing its first CD I lobbied to have the 10 songs split into only two tracks (sides A and B) to prevent shuffling. I was outvoted.

And speaking of vinyl and that warmer sound, it is legitimate, but has nothing to do with vinyl as the delivery mechanism. It has strictly to do with the recording medium. Pre-digital, the industry standard used in recording studios was 2” wide tape that ran at 30 inches per second. As a musician who started recording in the mid-80s, I can safely attest to the fact that music recorded on tape such as that does have an inherently warmer sound, largely due to ‘tape saturation.’ When CDs were introduced, audio engineers had a real tough time handling the analog to digital conversion, which is why so many of the first-generation CDs of older recordings truly sounded like shit. Compare any of the original London/ABKCO Stones releases on CD with remasters that came out 10 years later and this is very obvious. There is a sterility that took years for engineers to figure out how to beat—and many still don’t know how to do it. This inability has resulted in music that is overly compressed (made louder) so that the dynamics are basically destroyed. Google ‘loudness wars’ to read more. But in terms of vinyl versus digital CD/downloads, if someone like Messrs. West or Bieber recorded as they normally do (digitally) and then released on vinyl it would still sound like the shit that it is. Vinyl is and of itself isn’t the real issue.

Regarding that 2” 30 IPS tape, in the mid-80s reels of that (Ampex 456) cost $100 for THIRTY MINUTES, which is relevant to the predicament we find ourselves in today. From a practical standpoint this meant that bands/artists who were paying their own way had to develop finely tuned bullshit detectors for their own work (and write short songs). You simply couldn’t afford to record 15 versions of the same crappy song, or record 15 songs period (unless you were the Ramones). And keep in mind that the $100 only got you the original (one copy). If you were serious about distributing at all, in those days the cheapest and most widely used option for unsigned bands was the “EP cassette.” No matter how much you cut corners, these were going to run you a buck or two EACH. Compare that to today, when any moron with a laptop, a 2 TB hard drive, rudimentary music recording software, and a Wi-Fi connection can records years’ worth of truly horrible stuff, upload it overnight, and have untold thousands of ‘likes’ by dawn. I believe that if the upfront costs were still significant, there’d be a whole lot less garbage out there. It has gotten way too easy for cultural prostitutes and other non-artists to produce truly bad art.

I looked at the survey at the original source and aside from being a bit long (involves sharing more information than I care to share), I think some of the questions are pretty inane. I’ll cherry pick a few questions though...

8. Music type you find yourself listening to the most?

For me it’s definitely seasonal: I cannot imagine listening to Tom Waits (especially later period) during warm weather. He seems so November to me. I love reggae and I think understandably I listen to more of that during the summer.

9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?

I wouldn’t characterize it as intending to hype me up, but I travel a great deal for business and always set up my music (laptop + external drives plugged into the hotels’ flat screen TV) immediately. Invariably the first song I play is the studio version of “Honky Tonk Women.” This is sort of like a dog marking his turf. I’ve also tested every stereo or other music device I’ve ever bought (like the dozen or so Walkmans I had long ago) with that one song.

11. Last gig/concert you went to?

Ian Hunter at The City Winery.

38. Do you listen to the radio?

Other than NPR in my car, not willingly. I recently joined a pretty low-rent but serviceable gym and going there has included the first instances in which I’ve heard “music” radio in years. I often take note of a lyric and Google it when I get home. My reaction is usually the same: “Oh, so that’s what that jerk sounds like.”

48. Favorite movie soundtrack?

Just about any Scorsese.

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