Ready for a rambling and long-winded introductory post? You are? Great! Here we go!
My name is David Allen Jones, and my main gig for over five years has been my (mostly) comics blog, The Johnny Bacardi Show, although I’ve had other outlets for my restless fingers along the way such as the Johnny Bacardi LiveJournal Show (for stuff I didn’t want to put on the main blog- memes, etc.), a short-lived sketch blog, and one in particular which is most germane to this one- my classic-Elton John-themed Solar Prestige A Gammon, in which I took a entirely subjective look at the individual songs that made up what I considered to be the peak years of Mr. Dwight’s career. It was kinda fun, and I got a lot of swell feedback, but by its very nature it was destined to come to an end…and that end came quicker than I expected. I was inspired to do that blog by a handful of other writers that had been doing similar work at about that time, screenwriter Todd Alcott’s looks at the solo work of Paul McCartney as well as his series (still in progress) on David Bowie, Matthew Perpetua’s excellent R.E.M. blog PopSong 08, and Curt Holman’s R.E.M. posts also, and while I don’t think SPaG held a candle to theirs, I am kinda proud of it nonetheless.
Here’s the thing- while I still like writing about comics, I also like to write about music. And since I decided to focus on comics on the JBS, my music writing (outside of the SPaG blog, of course) has kinda fallen by the wayside. I occasionally make music-related posts at the LJ, but I don’t seem to get half the readership there as I do the other (not that I would know- I have yet to figure out a way to track hits on an LJ)…so I do want to continue to do some sort of regular (or semi-regular) music-dedicated blog. Now, for a couple of years there I did a semi-regular feature on the JBS that I called Johnny B’s Mondo Vinyl-O, inspired by the purchase of a new turntable about five years ago (still working, knock wood!). I would write a paragraph of varying length about whatever long-playing 33-13 RPM vinyl record album that I would reacquaint myself with in the wake of the purchase. I’m proud of many of those, about six all total I think, but they were often a bear to write- and I think it was because I was trying to do ten at a time or so. What I want to do here, then, I think, is continue the spirit of the Vinyl-O’s, but not limit myself to vinyl from my collection- which means I’ll be writing about albums that I have on all media: vinyl, CD, Mp3, hell, maybe even cassette and 8-track if I can find any. Rather than do individual tracks a la SPaG, or multiple albums in one long post, I’ll do one album at a time, and try to run down each track on the album with what I hope will be interesting commentary on each. This will not be something I think that I can just dash out, so chances are I won’t be posting something every day- and I hope this doesn’t put anybody off visiting anyway. Just add me to your feed reader and that way when I DO post, you’ll know.
I suppose at some point I should establish my bona fides, such as they are, and this is as good a point as any. I was born in 1960, January of same to be exact(er), and I know this makes me (probably) a great deal older than many of you reading this. To some, I suppose this matters when dealing with popular music, which is, after all, best appreciated and served by youth- or so some think. Myself, I have never subscribed to this theory. But anyway, more on that later. While neither of my parents were musicians, they both loved music and had no problem with buying me 45s to listen to on my little plastic record player I got when I was a toddler. Probably the first record I ever owned was a 45 of “Apples, Apples, Apples” (“Winesap and Jonathan and by gosh, Golden Delicious and Macintosh”) b/w “When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again” by one Dennis O’Day, so obscure that I can’t find anything via Google Search about him. as well as a 45 of Louis Armstrong’s hit version of “Hello Dolly”…but it was not long after that two absolutely seminal pieces of plastic crossed my path, and I was never the same- my Aunt Lavana’s (more on her later) copy of Meet the Beatles, and the 45 of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire”. The influence these records had on me was immense. In fact, I got a lot of my self-taught musical education from dear Lavana, still with us to this day- she came of age in the 1950s, loved music, and had a great deal of the classic singles of the era such as “Wake Up Little Susie” by the Everly Bros., “To Know Him is to Love Him” by the Phil Spector-produced Teddy Bears, Dion’s “The Wanderer” (still a favorite), “Poison Ivy” by the Coasters, and many others, which I would play on her single-speaker (but bigger than my little one at home) record player when I stayed with my grandparents while my parents were at work. They all, god bless ‘em, saw how much I loved the music so they let me listen as much as I wanted. Upping the ante a bit was the jukebox at the bowling alley where my Dad was a league bowler- there were tons of great songs on that thing, and Cash’s “Ring” was one that grabbed me and didn’t let go. I was probably 4 or 5 at the time, and for all I knew it was about a house on fire or somesuch (in fact, that may be one way of looking at it, sorta)…but all I knew was that I couldn’t get enough. My Dad got tired of me bumming dimes off him to play it so he bought it for me, and I wore that thing out, along with the Beatles album that my Aunt (who wasn’t as crazy about it as I) had broken down and given to me. And that’s how it went for the next 3 or 4 years, in which I’d hear something on the radio perhaps, or my folks would bring it home, and once in a while I’d get a 45 if I really liked it. Of course, I kept up with the exploits of the Beatles, who were #1 in my heart…I had the bubblegum cards, saw the movies on TV, would make it a point to see them when they’d appear on this or that show (in fact, one of my earliest childhood memories is of seeing the Fabs on the Ed Sullivan Show, first or second appearance- I forget- and being all “wow” and my Mom saying “…so THAT’S the Beatles.”). Of course, other musicians popped up in my radar as well but being 7 years old during the Summer of Love, other than the paper I just didn’t really have any way to get info about them. I mean, I knew who Dylan, the Kinks, the Stones, and the Byrds were, but I did not really go out of my way to try and coerce my folks to buy their records for me. Fortunately, my parents (while somewhat conservative, as small town Kentucky parents tended to be) were at least open minded, and (I think) knew I had a restless, spongelike mind so they didn’t discourage me from reading and listening to what I could, and eventually I started getting an allowance of sorts…and that’s when things got under way.
Another early influence on me and my listening habits was my next door neighbor, Russ Butler. Now, he was several years older than me, and was listening to early 70’s juggernauts like Alice Cooper, Grand Funk Railroad and Led Zeppelin, and he was nice enough to loan them to me so I could listen too. I also joined the Columbia Music Club in early 1972, obtaining many excellent 8-tracks and LPs through them for at least 10 years. Other friends had other records, that they had gotten from older brothers or whatever- first heard Jethro Tull that way, via classmate Mark Branstetter, or Rod Stewart via my friend Teri. It was catch as catch can for a few years. At about this same time, I made another major discovery: music magazines. Now HERE was a way that I could combine my love of reading and my love of music, and find out about new albums and the artists that made them to boot! CREEM, Crawdaddy, Canadian music mag Beetle, Circus, Hit Parader, eventually Rolling Stone,Musician and much, much later MOJO…all fed the fire. My parents would drive north to Louisville to visit friends for several years when I was a teen, and gave me money to shop. I’d buy a paperback book and an album, and this went on for a good 4-5 years. Also, I discovered the used record and tape stores on the Bardstown Road up there, in particular one called Rivertown Records which was STUFFED with fantastic albums of recent late 60’s-early 70’s vintage, and I made many excellent purchases there because they were dirt cheap. Oh, if only I had a time machine. Anyway, that’s the way it went for many years- buying LPs, 8-tracks, and getting tipped off to interesting artists by reading. I also had developed a fascination with the output of one label in particular, Warner Bros./Reprise- they had many fascinating acts on their label, as well as a package design that grabbed the eye as well as the mind of this young creatively-inclined boy. To this day I seek out late 60’s-early 70’s albums by acts that appeared on those labels. Then, as I became mobile, I started driving myself to record shops in Bowling Green (30 miles south), Nashville, Tennessee, and Louisville, and meeting people like Jeff Sweeney, who’s managed most of the decent record stores in Bowling Green, and Bill Lloyd, who recommended many, many excellent late 70’s-early 80’s albums to this impressionable young man when I’d see him working at Tunetown aka the Emporium aka I’m sure many other names in BG back then. And that’s been pretty much the way I’ve kept up with and discovered new and old music, on through cassettes, CDs, and now the not-as-fulfilling-from-a-creative-standpoint (no packaging!) digital Mp3 format, which compensates with its convenience, when paired with iPods and iTunes and other devices. I can honestly say that my tastes have not calcified over the decades; while I remain devoted to the music of my formative years, especially that from 1970-1975, I have discovered and come to love music from the Eighties, Nineties, and on into the current decade. It’s not as easy now as it once was, though, due to the fractured and fractious, not to mention segregated and segmented, music business today…it seems like there are more and more new bands popping up every day, none of which last very long and a good 3/4 or more of them, when I hear them, remind me of other groups that I’m well familiar with and are better by comparison. Whatever this blog becomes, I don’t want it to be an exercise in nostalgia, so there will be looks at releases from current musicians.
Whew! I know, that was long and winding but take heart- we’re near the end. Anyway, despite my lifelong preoccupation, I never really went anywhere with it- I took only the minimum college English and music courses, and only one Journalism class. I remained a listener only- until I started blogging. I started my first blog to write about stuff I liked, be it film, music, TV, sports or comic books…and indeed spent a lot of time writing about all of them until the birth of the Comics Blogosphere led me to narrow the focus a bit in favor of comics above the others. I have never really considered myself a music critic per se, just an amateur who has absorbed enough Robert Christgau (the Dean, and probably my biggest influence), Dave Marsh, Greil Marcus, Billy Altman, Lester Bangs and others to be able to regurgitate a reasonably coherent simalcrum. And that’s what I’m going to do here. This is going to be the music blog that I never thought I had the sand to write. I don’t plan on doing a lot of current events-type posts, or interviews, or anything like that- it’s just going to be my opinions and observations on albums picked at random from my collection. I’m not saying that I will provide anything you can’t get in far more polished and thorough places on the Web, but hopefully I’ll be able to at least hold your attention and get across what I think about the subject at hand.