Monthly Archives: November 2013

Exploring the ARC

The first thing you notice upon entering the ARChive of Contemporary Music (ARC) is the smell—that familiar, sweet, musty smell of aging LP sleeves. An aphrodisiac for collectors like me, and a scent that suggests somewhere in this ridiculously large collection lives every single record on my want list. You wonder what kind of support structure is needed to keep the building from sinking (you’d be surprised how many homes of record collectors have that very problem). Music ephemera of all sorts—an Alan Freed bag, snappy LP sleeves, sheet music, an original copy of Alan Betrock’s Girl Groups discography (!!!!)—are thumb-tacked to the walls, and every inch of free space is occupied by vinyl LPs, 45s, DVDs, CDs, music books, and boxes of new arrivals. You could spend hours just staring.  It’s a lofty goal—tracking down every single piece of popular music released since 1950, but the ARChive’s co-founder Bob George began with his own personal collection of 47,000 recordings and has since grown the ARChive into the largest collection of recorded music in the world. Considering the countless libraries worldwide dedicated to the preservation of the written word, it’s surprising that recorded … Read more

Yé-Yé Yeah Yeah

I must admit total bias when reviewing Bob Stanley’s Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop (Faber & Faber), as we’ve been friends for many years (20 years to be exact—jesus!) and it’s thanks to Bob that I dedicate such a huge part of my life to collecting records. I remember being completely riveted by his collection of France Gall EPs, and thus began seeking out girl-pop 45s with a vengeance. The extent of Bob’s musical knowledge is astounding, and his brain appears to house numerous volumes of pop encyclopedias, which he’s channelled into 742 pages of pop-music history—beginning in Britain in 1952 and ending in the mid-’90s. If that sounds dry, let me assure you that there are few music writers more dynamic and entertaining than Bob Stanley. I have read a ton of music writing, and I can say with utmost experience that Yeah Yeah Yeah: The Story Of Modern Pop is one of the few music books that is as captivating as the records it covers. Pop facts and chart positions are delivered with zest and passion, and his obvious adoration of pop of all shapes and sizes is infectious. Even … Read more

All Cried Out Mix

Minor chords and melodrama. Stories of heartache and loss. Sad songs require few ingredients to reach full effect, and often less is more (although sweeping string arrangements are always appreciated). I  like my sad songs devastating– the ones that REALLY floor you. Here are 25 of my most heart-wrenching favorites. Unsurprisingly the list leans heavily on the females, although a few men have been thrown in for good measure (couldn’t leave out the Cryin’ Shames “Please Stay,” possibly the saddest song on record). I’ve included Chicago’s “If You Leave Me Now” for its flawless, tear-inducing verse, but I’m always disappointed that it loses its sorrowful way soon after. I always keep a devastating mix handy, incase the mood turns blue and I really want to immerse myself in sadness. I often did this as a teenager. When I found myself alone at home, I’d grab all my saddest records (Kix “Don’t Close Your Eyes,” Skid Row “Quicksand Jesus,” Ozzy Osbourne “You’re No Different,” metal bands were masters of melodrama!), sit by the window sill and listen in the dark. A few weeks ago a bunch of friends rented a house near Woodstock, and … Read more