Sunday, May 26, 2019

Rainbow Records structure damage via tornado(?)

Something I've missed...a short jaunt to Oklahoma City with my two best friends, circa 1980, a semi-regular pilgrimage to make our presence known, as we obviously believed such a blessing needed to be bestowed upon the two greatest storefronts we knew existed there...

I've written before about the awesome nature of Sound Warehouse, in particular the flagship store location on May Avenue. SW was the Oklahoma version of Tower Records (with all the positive and negative attributes of what that entails). They had an unbelievable inventory of vinyl record albums displayed in rows of shelves that seemed never-ending. I'm sure I wrote of how much joy we took in perusing as many of these records we could take in during the time we allotted to it. We would marvel at all the new album art displayed in the aisles and on the walls (a rotating selection of staff picks and new releases which collectively made up a brand new "theme" each week). It was very easy to waste a lot more time in a store like this than money...especially when the allotment of cash I might have luckily acquired was not sufficient enough for me to pay Sound Warehouse's prices...

...not that they were ridiculously high or not worth what they demanded. They were actually decent and the trip to OKC would have been justified had I any intention of giving them what little money I had saved up for the trip. Steve likely bought something for his burgeoning cassette tape collection. Chet probably bought something from SW, too, probably on the strength of a Rolling Stone record review, but he too preferred to save the bulk of his LP allowance for the same thing I hoarded ALL of my money for.

Rainbow Records.

Rainbow was the first "used record store" to attempt and succeed with the concept of buying customer's records (albeit with a markdown that seemed incredulous to the "seller" but was actually a necessity if any workable profit margin was to be worked out). It was like a kick in the groin when you'd hand over your copy of The Velvet Underground with Nico for the measly couple of bucks they'd offer. But you understood how the whole thing worked so it didn't exactly "feel" like you were maybe getting ripped off...even if reality was on the side of the dude handing you a couple of bucks for your treasured copy of The White you would no doubt turn around and spend on one of the countless bootlegs they'd accrued via the business model.

Had Rainbow records succeeded on the strength of buying and selling product in this manner can and must remain a matter of speculation; the main draw of Rainbow Records was always the otherworldly import vinyl selection. Import copies of songs and albums by bands you could only read about in the music rags, the radio sure weren't playing their stuff...terrestrial radio, the FM band in particular, had their own universe of music canonized and for the most part it just didn't always live up to the standards we expected from all the groups whose music we knew we'd like before ever hearing a note; a record review in Creem magazine, or maybe Trouser Press, Circus, Crawdaddy, Rolling Stone and whatever else we could find was probably going to appeal, as we all three had a knack for music critique of our own. Between the three of us we had this in common, we loved to read about music, we understood the mind of a Lester Bangs and enjoyed thinking that such an individual might lead us to something better than the friendly Sound Warehouse guy asking "can I help you find something?"

The answer to that question was always, "no", as our superior music snob personalities had already summed up the extent of their inventory for what it was and collectively dismissed it in favor of a lo-fi bootleg copy of a Talking Heads show from last year. A transaction such as this could only ever be performed at Rainbow.

In it's first conception, Rainbow Records was located in Norman, Oklahoma, and it was there that the "used record store" model came into being. Apparently it was a successful one, as they sold the smaller lot (which became Shadowplay Records in it's absence) and moved to a MUCH larger building on the corner of Classen and NW 23rd street, just across 23rd street from a historical landmark, a dome shaped building which was at the time a bank. At some point it became associated with a church denomination and remains, at least for now, protected from a large group of people who wish to see it razed to the ground in anticipation of big dollars and bigger parking accessibility.

Rainbow seemed to thrive all the way up until the Compact Disc revolution and a tad bit beyond but all too soon they had to shut the doors and close up shop, leaving the store with only the sign to remember it's past glories (and the resting place of many a record collector's prized possessions). A shot of good memories every time I drive by, to see the sign and all it entails...

...and all that apparently survived last nights high winds (tornado?) are the brick frame and that sign... No, I never entertained the possibility of a Rainbow resurrection, but somehow the gloom is magnified by the busted out window fronts and the young lady taking pictures of the insides, through a broken window pane. The structure itself has been utilized as a warehouse for a Hoover vacuum cleaner chain, there hasn't been a record (or a CD, for that matter) pass through it's doors since they were first locked so it's really only the sign that's left and though I'd like to think that it's destiny is to remain for those of us, this dwindling few who helped make it what it became.

Thursday, April 11, 2019

A Gospel for Dogs

My dog.

I love him so much that I make sure he's fed, watered, gets his shots and I shower him with attention and affection. I tell him I love him and find myself hoping that he knows.

He's skittish. He's a rescue.

It's obvious that he must have experienced a huge scare when he was young or maybe he was born with a weak constitution for he will not come to me when called (I had ascribed this to stubbornness but now I suspect otherwise). So when I want to love on him, give him pets and bask in his otherworldly cuteness I have to go to him, put him on my lap and rub my fingers through his fur to assure him and maybe remind him that I'm the good guy. I'm not the one who would ever hurt him. He's been abandoned once, I would that he knew he'll never be abandoned again, especially not by the one who cares about him the most. He's not always an obedient dog but that's the nature of dogs, isn't it? Being a human, of a higher nature, I can perceive this and I don't count it against him because he could never comprehend my perspective.

He doesn't have that chip.

For there isn't a gospel for dogs.

...or is there? Sometimes I think I see in his eyes the desire, bordering on need, to accept my love and return it in kind. But such heavenly things are far beyond the scope of his canine mind. So he snuggles up against me, comfortable and secure, and does the thing he does best.

He sleeps.

As I watch him dream, wishing my divine-to-dogs human mind could know what he was dreaming about.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Sara Romweber, Rest in Peace

What can I say? In 1984 I was smitten with Sara Romweber.

Don't recognize the name? No problem. She was never a rock star or alternative music iconoclast. She wasn't a swimsuit model or a good looking talking head on the television. Not an actress.

She was a drummer. Not a Bill Bruford or a Neal Peart technique show-off. Not the next Ringo Starr, pioneering a brand new beat. Maybe not even the guy at the local music store who teaches high school kids how to hold the sticks properly and such. But a good, solid drummer. Good enough to find herself behind a trap set in Mitch Easter's Drive-In studio, recording the debut EP for his band Let's Active, Afoot. Her style and talent were on full display on that records 6 tracks, especially "Make Up With Me" and "Every Word Means No".

When Easter produced R.E.M.s legendary Murmur album he became the darling of that band's fans and consequently Let's Active gained a lot of exposure. Sara, as a female drummer, was already a rarity in pop/rock music. As the original drummer of Let's Active she added a distinct dimension, not only musically but in the energy she brought as well as her distinctive look, a shuffling, frazzle-haired pixie. If you were into that whole early 80s Chapel Hill, NC/Athens, GA music scene you were probably even more smitten with Sara Romweber than I was.

Romweber left Let's Active after recording the Cypress LP and hooked up with another trio, Snatches of Pink. SoP was a raucous affair whose debut Send in the Clowns was bursting with rockabilly energy and Keith Richards swagger. Her second album with the band, Dead Men, found the group even more focused, if every bit as gloriously sloppy as their first. Sara left them as well, allowing Michael Rank the opportunity to take the creative reigns, driving Snatches of Pink through at least a couple more albums.

Sara Romweber sort of disappeared from whatever scenes she was in that I'd followed. I know there was a Let's Active reunion show planned but only because I was googling for info on her passing. Apparently she always remained a fixture with the Chapel Hill lot. She'd played several shows with her legendary brother and was currently half of his artistic outlet, the Dex Romweber Duo.

A brain tumor took Sara Romweber away from us at the ridiculously young age of 55. Though her role in the musical universe was small she will be fondly remembered by many. Rest in peace, Ms. Romweber.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Pinterest Project: an exercise in creatively random juxtaposition

TO FLEET OR NOT TO FLEET or Season of the Witch Redux

The jury is still out among vintage rock lovers concerning Greta Van Fleet. Respected by some as carrying the torch for early 70's blues-based hard rock bands, one in particular. Reviled by others as a blatant rip-off guilty of cultural misappropriation, "who do these punk kids think they are messing with the Zoso formula?"

So how exactly does Mr. Dad Rock himself (or Mrs. Mom Rock herself, likewise) come to terms with this phenomenon of Greta Van Fleet? Well, first, if you have teenagers and they love Greta Van Fleet take a moment, find an empty closet, step inside and close the door behind you. Drop down to your knees, close your eyes and thank the good Lord in heaven they've inherited their musical taste from you and not the internet.

On the other hand, let's say you're one of those people who snarl their nose at the Kiszka brothers and their outlier drummer. What exactly is it about this quartet that refuses to allow you to accept it all at face value? Yeah, it's kind of awkward the way vocalist Josh Kiszka just sort of stands like a statue while belting out a castrato that indeed bears a passing resemblance to the high pitched horn-dog moaning of Robert Plant. Just enough, I suppose, to have pushed him over the line with critics who say he's consciously mimicking the style. Maybe he is, I don't know. I don't mind so much. It is an interesting, almost pleasant sound. Kid knows how to use it.

Yes, this is not news to anyone, they sound a lot like Led Zeppelin minus the added bonus of Plant's sexuality and lyrical brilliance, Page's virtuosity and air of mystery, Jones' flexibility and "the thunder of John Bonham's drums" (thanks, Mr. Kozelek). That's a pretty tall order to fill, though, and luckily I don't think it's what Greta Van Fleet are all about.

There is, however, one thing Greta Van Fleet have in common with Led Zeppelin which this gif snatched from an SNL performance proves beyond the shadow of a doubt, Greta Van Fleet have been influenced by Jimmy Page's interest in the occult, black magic and all things dark 'n' spooky. Pay close attention to the gif provided and behold that GVF singer Josh Kiszka has taken Page's curiosity into a full-blown obsession with necromancy, surpassing even Page in the ability to actually pull the shit off.

Of course there were no such things as gifs in the early 70s so there's no way to know if Jimmy Page was capable of similar mind and time bending feats that Kiszka has very obviously mastered. Once again, take a good long gander at all you see taking place in this gif. If it helps feel free to open it in another window on your PC so you can glance at it periodically to get a feel for what I'm about to explain to you. Those Zoso boys may have gone down in history for their Stairway to Heaven, the perceptive will note Greta Van Fleet's equally impressive dalliance with the deeds of demons and da debbil.

In the video we see Greta Van Fleet standing in the center of what appears to be a soundstage. His hair is a bit too long considering the natural curl. On a side note, my own hair was naturally curly, though nothing as impossibly unmanageable as young Josh's. I can tell you he most likely hates his hair. Perhaps this is why he attempts to distract the viewer from his pate to the ribbon-hanging travesty that is his shirt. I'm surprised this shirt has not become an internet meme yet. Anyway, he's saying something, albeit not into his microphone. This is because his words are not meant for the audience but to an invisible spirit dancing on front stage left. Some people believe he is shouting "Shout!" and this is a very good possibility. I am not willing to dial up the video on Hulu to verify so I'll concede that he may as well have been shouting "Shout!" but oh my god the redundancy. What I have learned from trusted sources and a couple who may not be quite as trusted as the others but generally give good information when plied with liquor and drugs is that Occultists, long since having grown bored with placing backwards masked subliminalisms into rock songs, have turned to the making of gifs for the purpose of manipulating language via pixel scrambling and other features that will not be available on consumer models for at least another 40 years. Which all boils down to how they've warped reality as we know it with this gif:


What Josh is spitting is actually "SIT DOWN!", accentuated by the sharp movement of his arm, a universally accepted semaphore signal for "sit-the-fuck-down". Those who have bought into the Greta Van Fleet occult obsession theory tell me that these words are directed to a small yet firey demon that was dancing in the corner of upper stage left. The demon, if sources can be believed, had materialized out of thin air and it's herky jerky dancing movements were distracting to the young Kiszka brother. Not only were he and his band debuting on Saturday Night Live, Josh was under a lot of pressure. This small but annoying dancing demon was threatening not only to ruin all of that but even more importantly the distraction was stealing too much thunder from the warping of time and space which was going on behind him.

Here is the key. Or the philosopher's stone if you prefer. Josh Kiszka stands in the center not only of a soundstage, but at the portal between two worlds. Notice the cymbal is magically crashed every time Kiszka's hand bats down his invisible gremlin. Without fail. Every time. Doomed in a gif to define eternity, or so he would have you believe. With the sound of the Zildjian crash a rollicking bass player, doing his best Chuck Berry duck walk, motivates himself right out of one world and into another. Another world that exists forever and yet the very same world that ceased to exist only a second ago.

It's only magic, you say. In response to which another of you rises with vitriol in his eyes and says, "It's only technology". And you are both right.

But Greta Van Fleet. I think even the haters, were they forced to listen to GVF's album Anthem of the Peaceful with blindfolds on their eyes, ignorant of who it is they're listening to...well, they're probably going to figure out it's Greta Van Fleet. There is a strong Led Zeppelin vibe throughout but I almost hear more Geddy Lee in Josh Kiszka's voice than Robert Plant's, albeit not quite so shrill and ear-damaging. There are a few blatant Zeppelin rip-offs, so obvious I could cite the references if I weren't so lazy. Listen and you won't need me to. There's no way you won't notice them.

On the other hand, it's true, Greta Van Fleet can get away with that because their audience is not the typical vintage rock lover who has heard every Zeppelin album so many times he can recite track listings, in order, with numerous other trivial tidbits. They are a group of young guys, I'm guessing just out of high school. They were doing this in high school so they come by it honestly. They adore Led Zeppelin and are infinitely more respectful of their legacy than the bulk of Zeppelin tribute bands playing tired covers on the circuit.

Plus, they're amazing necromancers. At least Josh is.