Sunday, October 10, 2010

Jaybeephrenia: A Rock Opera

Subtitled "or, How to Not Buy CDs", sub-subtitled "the tragedy resulting from the conflict between one man's inner music lover and his even further-inner, inner cheapskate".

Or something like that.


Let me set the scene for you. It’s eighty degrees out. It’s sunny and there’s a slight breeze. In other words, it’s a beautiful late summer’s day - the kind of day that makes you feel happy to be alive.

So where was I? Playing basketball in the park? Fishing? Family picnic? Not quite.


I was out for a leisurely walk, fantasizing about punching slow-walking tourists in the back of the head, when I happened upon my favorite record store. A complete coincidence, I swear. But there I was, and well, it just wouldn’t have been right for me to not go in. They owners might think I was mad at them.

Even I knew that it would be crazy to spend my usual average two hours in there on such a nice day, so I negotiated a settlement with myself, limiting him to the bargain rack. And in this store it’s a pretty good one – it’s got CDs for $5.99, so although young downloaders may scoff, old geezer habits die hard, and I find it’s always worth a “quick” look. And of course, I wasn’t expecting to find anything…


Alas, there’s the Grateful Dead’s first album. I was very pleased with "Anthem of the Sun" – their second album – which I finally got around to earlier this year. By now, I’d gotten pretty much all the worthwhile studio albums, except this one, so I thought that maybe this was the time. First I had to check if the Dead filled up the CD version of the original forty minute album with there usual additional 30 minutes of extras, like they had done with the other reissues? Why, yes! Put that one in the basket!

Then I see Los Lobos’s “Colossal Head”, one of their lesser known but still highly regarded records. I loved their first, admired their third, and liked their offshoot Latin Playboys. That settles it. Two.

Then there was “Safe as Milk” the first album by Captain Beefheart (and his Magic Band, of course). It’s been about thirty years since I got anything from the Captain, and over forty since this record came out. And it takes about that long to recover, so it was about time for another plunge. I'm sure it's what I’d call a summer record - light, melodic and cheerful, something that's enjoyable to offset the oppressive heat, or to complement today’s gorgeous weather. And so what if all the other records I've gotten by him are heavy, jarring and really, really strange? I'm sure this one's fine. After all, no one was doing anything weird in the sixties, right? That makes three!

And what’s this? Jeff Buckley’s “Grace” – one of those records that I keep hearing great things about, but I just don’t believe them yet. But at $5.99, maybe it's time. Four!


But four is a bit much for what was supposed to be a quick drop in. I should really put something back.

But then I look up and see the sign that says “2 for $10” and think, oh my. Or a variation thereof. Now, getting four is practically my duty. Otherwise I will have wasted the time of the security guard who checked my bag. It would all have been for nothing.

But my conscience says do the drill  anyway. So I begin my world famous winnowing process.


Now all four CDs pass manage to get through the official rules without too much damage. But there turn out to be a number of rules I didn’t even know I had (a good thing – otherwise I’d have even more CDs and probably at least one less kid) and they kick in about now.

And the first thing I notice is that Jeff Buckley does a version of Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah" - a song that I love. But it’s just so damned intense that I'm now doubtful. I’d been feeling kind of down at the time, probably because of my 53rd birthday, that I realize that I’m just not up for it. Later, Jeff, when I’ve rested. Three.

Then I think, do I really need another Los Lobos album? I know it will be good, but how good? Enough to take up that precious and dwindling space on my CD shelf? Space that should be reserved for a world masterpiece like Handel's Messiah, or the Ramones third album? For now, I have to say no. Two.

Then there’s the Dead. It breaks my rule number three and there’s an unofficial semi-rule that says if you bought something by a band this year already, if you buy another, you’ll be sorry. It’s not really borne out by the facts – the music is usually just as good, but if you’re me, you’ll feel bad anyway. (But if you’re like me, you feel bad about the whole Garden of Eden thing.) So back you go, Dead. See you in 2011. One

And then there’s Captain Beefheart. Well, if I'm not quite up for Jeff Buckley, I'm nowhere near ready for the Captain. So it goes back in the rack, and then there were none.

That's right. I put 'em all back. AND WALKED OUT OF THE STORE! Aren’t you proud of me?

Denoument/Epilogue/Coda, or Other Fancy Term for Later:

In a completely unrelated incident, I got two CDs for my birthday.

And, well, there were those two I ordered from the record club the week before.

Hey, I practically had to!  My son Mikey wanted one, and, well, they were on sale and that would have been a missed opportunity, and …

To be Continued….For the Rest of My Freaking Life

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