Bands that Bang my Bongos

Let’s not be L-seven, come and learn to dance“,  from Wooly Bully by Domingo Samudio.

When I was very young, about 5, and  Sam the Sham and the Pharaohs came on TV singing Wooly Bully, I would get up and jump all over the place. I wasn’t dancing, the motions were probably more akin to epileptic fits than dance.  Just ask my parents.  Still, to this day that song makes me want to get up and jump around, although I never did learn to dance.  So, I guess, that makes me L-seven. I loved the early Beatles, too. I also watched and loved the Monkees on TV, especially Michael Nesmith. Those were the days, my friend.

Rock Band roadie

Image by jaymiek via Flickr

Some of my favorite bands before Audities:

Some additional favorite bands after Audities:

The Beatles are my all time favorite band. However, it wasn’t always that way. From “Please Please Me” right up to “Yesterday”, I loved every single they released. Of course, I was very young at the time, so I didn’t have any of their records. I just listened to them on the radio. I didn’t even have a record player and only had a few 45s that I could play on the family phonograph player. My records were stuff like “Puff the Magic Dragon” (that one still brings tears to my eyes) and “The Headless Horseman song” sung by Thurl Ravenscroft (I still like the guitar on that one) . I remember when “Michelle” came out, I was probably in fourth or fifth grade and I didn’t like it. By then I was more into the Monkees, I think. You could say I was stuck on the first LP of the Red Album, musically. It wasn’t until I went to college and began buying used records that I rediscovered the Beatles and fell in love with all of their albums. Yet, there is something special in the energy of those early hits. Something that I love and kept listening for over the years without really knowing what it was.

My first stereo system.

I remember my first LP, Del Shannon‘s “Total Commitment”, which I won from some local radio call-in contest. I didn’t get my first record player until my big sister went to college and left me hers. It had a single speaker and didn’t sound all that great but I thought it was cool. Around that time, my biggest exposure to music was to listen to the weekly Casey Kasem Top 40 countdown on my little transistor radio. That was a weekly ritual. I suppose all the kids were listening to Casey in the 70s with me. When I was sixteen I stopped into a audio shop and listened to Heart’s Dreamboat Annie album on a stereo record player. The sound blew me away and I worked hard and saved my money to buy my first stereo record player. I remember I bought a big combo stereo record player from Sears that had a radio and an eight track player built-in. That was so incredible to me and I started getting LP albums when I could. One of the first I bought was Heart’s “Dreamboat Annie”, of course.

Tuning fork (Diapason) on resonance box, by Ma...

Image via Wikipedia

In my teen years, my favorite bands were Badfinger and the Raspberries. Songs like “No Matter What”, “Baby Blue”, and “Day After Day” from Badfinger and “Go All The Way”, “Tonight”, and “Ecstasy” from the Raspberries were just what I wanted to hear, like they were perfectly tuned to match some tuning fork deep inside me. “Sub-Rosa Subway” by Klaatu also caught my ear and I began buying all the albums that band released. Klaatu’s science fiction lyrics also caught my attention, since reading science fiction was another of my favorite ways to pass the time.

At Purdue, I enjoyed listening to the college radio. I liked some of the new wave bands, likes the Knack, the Go-Go’s, the Romantics, and Blondie. I remember I went home to visit one weekend and went to my little sister to see if she could help me identify a band that I was crazy about but didn’t know the name of. I had heard part of a side of their album on college radio but missed the name of the band. It was driving me crazy. After coming up with some strange fragments of lyrics and sounds, my little sister said, “that sounds like the cars”. I don’t know how she did it, but she was right. I had heard part of one side of “Candy-O”. After The Cars, it seemed like popular music had really left me behind. There was nothing much I wanted to listen to. As I filled in my collection of albums with missing albums by the bands I liked, I began to think my record collection was complete.

Then in the 90s, I happened to pick up a CD in a cut-out bin of a record store called “come out and play: american power pop I (1975-78)” and I was blown away. What an amazing collection. How come I had never heard of any of these bands? There was an obvious failure of the American recording companies to properly market the kind of music that I loved. My music had fallen off the radio and was now in the cut-out bins. Also, for the first time, I could put a name to the kind of music that stirred me. Power Pop. Suddenly, I was out looking for music again and one of the next big things I found was Big Star. I remember getting the CD with “#1 Record/Radio City” on it. The first time I listened to it it brought shivers to my spine and tears to my eyes. The music, especially the guitars, were so beautiful. I couldn’t believe that I had never heard of them before.

I think sometime in the late 90s, I got my first internet access at home. Online, I happened upon a mailing list of like-minded lovers of power pop and other good music, called “Audities”. Joining that mailing list I discovered companies that specialized in power pop, like Not Lame Records (sadly, now out of business), Parasol, etc. This, in turn, led me to many more wonderful discoveries of other great “lost” bands, like The Grays and The Greenberry Woods and more recently, Cotton Mather. I began to divide my favorite music bands into before-Audities and after-Audities because it was like a whole new world of music had been discovered. I spent some time trading CDs with Audities friends in U.S, Canada, Europe and Australia. This got me into bands like Even, Ice Cream Hands, Sloan, the Flashing Lights, the Nines, Silver Sun and the Merrymakers. Nearly every weekend, I would go to various CD stores in the Bay Area and dive through the bins looking for overlooked nuggets like a determined prospector.

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  1. #1 by RKHouse on January 14, 2012 - 10:43 am

    One the one hand, it breaks my heart that I’ve bought much of my extensive CD collection from the cut-out bins and cheap used CDs that very few seem to be aware of and no one else seems to want. On the other hand, if I had to pay full price, I could never have accumulated my current collection. Most, but not all of my CD collection has been ripped to MP3s and the CDs are put away in tubs in the closet. A lot of tubs. Currently, my squeezebox server has some 3531 albums, 42282 songs, by 1535 artists. At work, I listen to music that I have on my 160GB Ipod Classic. It is full, of course. Filling up my Ipod, pretty much put the breaks on my record buying spree. For the last few years, I’ve only bought a few select CDs from my favorite bands.

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