Flamingo, Olympia in a French New Wave inspired shoot.
All About The Sound
Friday, 05 July 2019 15:38 Hrs
❝ The best investment I made in my youth? ...buying vinyl records.

Eighteen Bucks A Week

The biggest pay rise I can remember as a kid was making nine times the two bucks I got delivering newspapers. My first career switch from pushing a bike delivering papers, to packing bags at a local supermarket. So what did I do with the money I made? I could have saved up and bought some shares in technology companies. A new computer company named after a fruit listed on the US stock exchange around this time. I could have invested in IBM or Intel.

I bet on music instead.

A High School Teacher

I took music as a optional class at High School. The teachers name is long forgotten, but the lessons stuck. The music room was at the far end of the school, there were minimal instruments save for an old upright piano. The teacher had a flair for teaching music. Instead of telling he'd show. The limitation of the piano compared to the guitar sliding notes. What ragged time was by playing the theme from soundtrack of the movie, "The Sting."

Probably the most important lesson, take notice of the sound of the music. Don't let it wash over you, like taking a shower. Critically break apart the sounds one by one. Ask questions about tempo, the melody and percussion. For an exercise we had to bring in some vinyl music. Music that is, no singing. Then discuss. I cheated and bought along "Funeral For A Friend" the opening track for Yellow Brick Road. It runs for an epic eleven minutes. The lessons only went for fifty minutes, so we listened to one fifth of the lesson on this track alone.

I got more out that Art class, than Geography, History and English combined.

Elton John, 1979 live at Festival Hall, Melbourne.

I Hate Disco

I hated Disco, I still do. I appreciate the musicianship and the performance. The sound isn't to my taste. What I didn't realise at the time was the undertones of homophobia in the "Disco-Sucks" movement. Can you imagine taking a record, any record and burning it?

So they hated Elton as well? How stupid is that?

Neil Young, Rust Never Sleeps, 1979.

My First Record

My first record was named after an advertising jingle for "Rust-oleum" and released at a pivotal point in rock music history. [0] But to understand why it was important, you have to go back in time: Pre Internet and mp3; Before MTV and video; Even before compact discs and Triple RRR. A land of AM radio, cassettes and vinyl LP's. Music taste was heavily influenced by commerce. Good music somehow made it though this bland mixture of over-produced pop, rock and Disco.

Till this point my musical tastes where my Dads tastes. From progressive sounds of Rick Wakeman to the symphonic sounds of Supertramp, Queen and ELO. The pure pop of Elton, the stripped back rock of early Dire Straits. Being a bit of a HiFi nerd, Dad slowly built up a stereo system consisted of a Hafler DH-200 power-amp connected to a NAD 1020 pre-amp with speakers big enough to drive the sound.

School intervened. An assignment meant I had to find lyrics to a song of my choice and discuss it in class. Tuning to the radio of those days was a wasteland of sound. Rarely did you find new, good music. By chance I heard an acoustic tune on the radio. Sounded catchy and was by the same musician who released a Nashville inspired album released a year previously. I taped it off the radio, laboriously transcribed the lyrics. I wrote up a paper and discussed it in class.

Neil Young review 1985 concert in Melbourne.

Live Music Is Better

It took seven years for Neil to play in Melbourne. By that time I was head down at University. I'd scored another job. I traded packing grocery bags for the outdoors; planting trees; digging holes; slashing. I had money. I read an Ad for Neil and the International Harvesters one day and sighed. I really wanted to listen to Crazy Horse instead of Country. Little did I know Crazy Horse played that tour. Now, when I look back I realise I also missed some of the best session players from Nashville of that era. [1] If I'd read the advert better, I would have seen that Crazy Horse was also on the bill.

Live music is better.

NY/Crazy Horse, Psychedelic Pill, 2012.

Listening To Neil Spoiled My Ear

I don't stray much from the Barn. From my first album till now I have most of Neils albums, all the early releases on vinyl and from the late 80's through the 90's on CD. From 2005 I have everything on vinyl. I'm hopelessly behind the vinyl release schedule. What I didn't expect was my musical ear would be permanantly altered. I loved listening to RockWiz. One episode in particular made me think of this. Rebecca Barnard on an episode of RockWiz who made an astute observation along the lines of always being able to sing Neil songs and "rarely having to change key."

Keep this idea in mind reader.

Tracy McNeil, Thieves. Dinosaur Jr. Olympia, Self Talk Julia Jacklin, Don't let the Kids win. Cable Ties, first release, first press Jen Cloher, Milk records Lotta Sea lice, Kurt and Courtney Margo Price, Midwestern Farmers Daughter The Who, Face Dances. Tracy McNeil, Nobody Ever leaves JOAN AS POLICEWOMAN Olympia, Flamingo

An Experiment In Sound

As I'm sitting in a cafe writing, I'm listening to a new record, the cover with the Goddard inspired gatefold you can see above. [2] I have on some El-Chepo headphones. It's sounds nothing like sound pumping through a stereo turned up loud. As a listener you are short changed. Commodity electronics. Yes, I'm a music snob. There is definitely an order of listening to music. Live music is better, then vinyl on a stereo. Finally I'd settle for good radio before listening to digital music. In my youth the decision to buy vinyl wasn't really a conscious one. There really wasn't any other mediums aside from casettes. It has payed off though. I saved most of these albums.

I decided to conduct an experiment in listening to broaden what I listen too, nothing too extreme. As a child who grew up listening to analog sound, my ear is tuned to that era of instruments. It has been interesting. I've taken careful note of the last ten or so vinyl records I've chosen and one thing I've found, indeed listening to Neil has skewed my listening towards higher pictched musicians. Out of the last twelve records, ten are female artists.

Neil may have spoiled my ear for music. It's been worth it though, "'cause it's all about the sound."


[0] "The "Hey Hey My My" footage with Devo was recorded at Different Fur, San Francisco. Mark Mothersbaugh as "Booji Boy" during this performance inserted the Devo line, "rust never sleeps". The line would soon after become the inspiration for Young's works with the same name. Young showed the footage of this performance to his band Crazy Horse. Guitarist Frank Sampedro has said they played "Hey Hey My My" "harder" as a result"

Jimmy McDonough, Anchor Books, "Shakey", 2002, p.531-2.

[1] Including Ben Keith, Anthony Crawford, Rufus Thibodeaux and Larry Cragg. Yeah Larry Cragg, Neils' guitar tech. I think the bad review that I read was partly due to the fact half of the Internation Harvesters were missing.

[Last accessed: Friday 5th July, 2019.]

< http://www.sugarmtn.org/sm_getshows.php?artist_key=ihch >

[2] Jean-Luc Godard, "Pierrot le Fou", 1969 In particular a particular shot of Marianne holding scissors and clipping.

< https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierrot_le_Fou >


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