Monday, September 11, 2006

7 Inches of Black Plastic--45 Culture Erupts at the Allentown PA 45 and 78 Music Expo on September 23!

Though the music business and music itself continues evolving, or maybe even devolving, the quest to seek out, discover and recover lost treasures goes ever on. In less than 2 weeks collectors from around the globe will converge on Allentown PA for the 15th Semi-Annual 45 and 78 Record Expo where both 45 and 78 culture will explode into full bloom. Grown men (and ladies too) will be seen toting Fisher Price Big Bird record players as they dig into box after box of little records hoping to find that long sought after disc or discover yet another twisted tune that somehow got embedded in wax. Though the music market for the most part has abandonded the vinyl 45, die-hard music fans worldwide still embrace the format. The rush of listening to that 7 inch piece of vinyl delivering a 3 minute burst of whatever trips one's trigger as well as holding it in your hand and staring at the cool label is really like none other, and certainly 100% more aesthetically pleasing than a 99 cent digital download.

When Bob Bosak first started this convention over 10 years ago, the idea of a record show strictly devoted to 45s was a novel one, but now the show has eclipsed its humble beginnings to become an event in the truest sense of the word. Over the years the show has expanded to include 78s as well, and the demand for the ultra rare 45s and 78s continues to grow unabated. The unique thing about 45 culture is that it involves virtually all types of music from hillbilly, psychedelia, soul, reggae, and country to rock and roll as well as being in many cases the very first (and in many cases last!) step in a recording career. These first recordings usually show the artist in his rawest, purest form.(i.e. Elvis's Sun 45s) These primal, primitive and in many cases very scarce recordings are what fuels the collector market. Our photo highlights a few such examples, mostly from PA,of a wide variety of gems of various styles of music. Like Bosak, I, too, have a great interest in recordings from the PA area which you may have deduced from our very first release in 1982 a comp of 60s 45s called "The Return of the Young Pennsylvanians". Though there have been hundreds of 45 comps, the flood continues despite the oversaturation as new comps with yet even more incredible 45s are released almost weekly. Despite the industry's attempt to bury the 45, they remain an essential aspect of pop culture and for those diggers who trace an era or a sound they are a window into the past.

So in less than 2 weeks, 45 and 78 collectors will converge in Allentown for what has almost become a ritual now. Whether it be funk, garage, northern soul or that Robert Johnson 78 on Vocalion, chances are you may find it at this amazing show! You'll see many of us armed with our battery powered portables like my dependable Fisher Price pictured at the right. Got to hand it to those Fisher Price people for making sturdy players that held up and sound great! It's an essential tool for diggers as mine has both saved me money as well as hooked me up with great shit I may have left behind! There still remain those elusive 45s that are longed for and may never turn up, but miracles do happen and this 45 show just might make someone real happy! As always, I'm looking for a few myself. I'm documenting the Central PA heavy rock scene of the 70s for a Bona Fide comp and I need clean copies of the Mourning Sun "Make Me Day" on Arpeggio, Springhead Motorshark's "Papa's Schoolgirl" on Baldwin Sound Productions(pictured bottom right--Harrisburg PA, 1973) and Larry Byron's "Alone" 45 on Red Barn. If anyone out there is from those bands or the Ashley, and the Reflection or anyone from Dimension Five Studios, please get in touch! In the meantime, I hope to see some of you at the Allentown show, and just in case you are not a 45 geek, come to the show there the next day for the regular 45/lp/CD show which is great too! See you there!

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Welcome to America, Radio Birdman and Thank You Very Much!

As Radio Birdman enters the final leg of their first ever US tour more than a few words are in order. One of the coolest things about blogging is that with a few keyboard strokes you can create, deflate, or anoint. PR machines, spin artists and major corporations are powerless against bloggers. In other words, yes, I have a pulpit! What ticks me off today is tomorrow the magnificent Radio Birdman start the East Coast swing of their 1st US tour ever (DC, NYC, Cambridge, and Philly) and the shows in medium sized clubs aren't even sold out(yet) and their awesome new CD Zeno Beach isn't even on a major label!(actually that might be better for them, really!) Radio Birdman is truly a seminal band in the history of Rock and Roll and they are a national treasure for both Australia and the United States, and it is time to give them their due! Wake up, America!

You need go no further than Deniz Tek's hometown of Ann Arbor, Michigan to find the origin of Radio Birdman's high energy rock and roll. Imagine a wild-eyed youngster cutting his rock and roll teeth on bands like the MC5, Stooges, Dick Wagner and the Frosts, The Rationals, SRC(the Scott Richard Case), the Amboy Dukes and the Bob Seger System, and Third Power to name a few. In Tek's own words, "23 years of motor city madness." It all started with the MC5s "Lookin at You" 45 in 1966--a record so powerful it defined the genre "high energy rock and roll" and took a few years for its influence to be felt. From there a steady stream of rich guitar hungry desperate rock and roll emerged. And Deniz Tek soaked all this Detroit grease up like a sponge. Radio Birdmen took their name from a Stooges song, and years later in 1981 Tek along with vocalist Rob Younger, and bassist Warwick Gilbert joined with Dennis Thompson of the MC5 and the Stooges'Ron Asheton in the New Race--whose lone lp would not see a US release for 15 years! But thats jumpin' ahead. Somehow Deniz Tek found his way to Syndey, Australia where he formed Radio Birdman who not only helped create but also jump start the growing Aussie punk scene in 1977.

Though they were punk more in attitude than sound, the desperate vocals of Rob Younger augmented by a three guitar attack coupled with judicious use of piano and crazy lyrics about the sun, burning, crying, eskimo pies, Rolling Rock, guns and TV, created a dense, yet airy, rock and roll attack. The cryptic Radio Birdman symbol was no doubt a nod to Blue Oyster Cult whose heavy rock and roll sound and science fiction mumbo jumbo also provided some fodder for Radio Birdman to harvest. Needless to say, when Birdman's first LP came out in 1978, it was in no time relegated to the bargain bins--just like other Sire LPs--the Saints "I'm Stranded", the Dead Boys "Young Loud and Snotty" and Richard Hell's "Blank Generation". Radio Birdman's second LP "Living Eyes" a year later remains unreleased in the US. Its a quite unusual LP which rewards repeated listenings, yet it fails to capture the fury and sonic attack of their earlier recordings.

25 years later, everything has changed, still Radio Birdman seems to be merely a footnote here in the US.(a fact that Sub Pop helped change a few years ago with the release of the Essential Radio Birdman) Though they imploded as their second LP was released, Birdman's immediate influence in Australia was palpable. They inspired whole scenes as well as producing intriging offshoots like the Visitors, the New Race and the New Christs. Deniz Tek continued to record, though his best work was with vocalist Rob Younger, a fact reinforced by the incredible Deep Reduction 2 CD on Get Hip in the mid 90s. The second of two Deep Reduction releases, it betters the intial Deep Reduction(a collaboration of Tek and PA's Stump Wizards) with the addition of Younger and PA's Jonathan Sipes(ex-both the great Swag 45 and the Omega Men). The savage sound of that CD was a harbinger of things to come.

Finally, 28 years later the 3rd Radio Birdman studio LP has emerged and Zeno Beach was certainly worth the wait and they never sounded fiercer! Their guitar heavy Detroit rock and roll never went out of fashion with those in search of true rock and roll glory. The posers and trendhoppers will pass this by--indy rock it aint--but those who live and breathe for real high energy gutbucket rock and roll, their cup runneth over. Thanks to internet and the music industry the morass of faceless, talentless bands spreads across the land like a salt pancake. The real flavor of the month has been around for 28 years. Thank God, once again, for the cities on flame with the rock and roll of Radio Birdman!