Old CDs, older stories

I spent last night putting my CD collection online. I’m at 273 CDs as of last night. My goal is to get at least 500. If I wouldn’t have sold or traded so many during college, I’d have at least a thousand, I think.

I also went CD shopping last night. The bounties: The Beatles – Past Masters Vol Two, ELP – Trilogy (gold disc), and Queensryche – Queensryche EP. I’m listening to Past Masters right now – it’s a great collection of the late sixties stuff, which is my favorite era of Beatles stuff. Observations about the Beatles that I made last night:

  • It’s annoying that so many commercials use their songs and ruin them for me
  • It’s amazing how many bits of children’s songs are mixed in there
  • The song Paperback Writer must’ve been like Motorhead when it first came out and knocked the shit out of all the American Bandstand, Monkees-looking idiots that were into the “fab four” before then.
  • The track “You Know My Name (Look Up the Number)” is pretty fucking weird.
  • I need to buy all of the Beatles CDs.

As for the ELP CD, it is probably the best sounding disc in my collection. That album was one of the first CDs I bought way back when I got my first player (in 1987). The original AAD pressing sounds way better than most remasters on the market these days. The gold disc sounds even more incredible than that. It even sounds good on the total piece of shit Koss computer speakers in my office. Of course, when I listened to it all the way through at home, it revealed a lot of the deficiencies in my current sound system. I really wish I could just rush out and drop the cash on a pair of Magnepan speakers and a good amp, but I guess I have to wait on that, probably until after I move.

As for the third CD – I’ve had that Queensryche EP probably since the summer of 1987, before the CD player, but on tape. The CD has one extra song on it, the Prophecy, which was also on the soundtrack for Decline of Western Civilization 2 – The Metal years. That addition means I now have the complete Queensryche discography, barring singles and imports, which will cost more than a fucking house to find.

Sorry if today’s post sounds like record collector’s anonymous or something, but I have another bitch, and that’s mass-produced “collectible” stuff. Here’s an example that I told Ray about and he completely agrees to the point of suicide: A lot of the Motorhead albums were remastered this year. Every single one of them had about 3 or 4 rare tracks also included, like B-sides or live stuff, and they all had the original artwork plus some more liner notes. That’s cool if you’re like me who doesn’t have any of their stuff on CD yet, but it is a mixed bag for someone like Ray who owns all of their stuff, and now has to buy all of it again to get the singles tracks, which he won’t really *own*, so he still needs to keep his eyes out for that stuff. Okay, so now Castle decides to put out this 4 or 5 CD boxed set of Motorhead stuff. Now, my question is: should I spend $50 to get this, which doesn’t include all of the albums, just to get the few odd extra tracks, and then should I, in addition, buy all of the reissues too, so I can have the whole albums? The purpose of a boxed set was probably originally so you could say “I don’t have any of their albums, now I can get all of them in one fell swoop, and maybe save a couple of bucks”. There’s a Beatles boxed set that contains all of their recordings, plus the singles, and nothing extra except this cool roll-top wooden box, but you probably save yourself some cash doing it. (I haven’t done the math yet, and I already own enough stuff to make it prohibitive to have doubles). Anyway, what’s a collector like Ray to do about a boxed set like the Motorhead one? He probably has all of the stuff in the set, albeit not remastered and in that order, and not with the package or booklet. But if he says fuck it to buying it, he doesn’t have the complete collection.

All of this makes me think about my collection, and how “complete” you can get. Like the Beatles thing – you can go to any big record store, buy the couple dozen studio albums, the two past masters albums, and you’re essentially “complete”. But you could spend the rest of your fucking life buying singles, 45s, reel to reels, bootlegs, live performances, solo albums, collector’s albums, UK pressings, German pressings, fan club records etc etc etc.

Another artist I’m closing in on with regard to completion is Peter Gabriel. I have all of his studio albums (solo – don’t fuck with me about his stuff with Genesis), but I’m missing the live albums, the compilations, and the singles. (actually, between paragraphs above, I got on line with and ordered 3 Peter Gabriel singles, and the German version of Security). Anyway, this will probably be unfulfilled for a while, because both of the live albums, although pretty good, cost more. And singles – the only singles stores ever carry are Mariah Carey or whatever. I don’t even know what singles Peter Gabriel released in his pre-Sledgehammer career, let alone where I can buy them. Oh, and he has a CD-ROM out too. Maybe he has two?

Nothing else is going on today – it’s slow, everyone is gone or leaving early. I imagine traffic will be pretty gnarly leaving work today. It’s actually nice out, though – the sky is blue and the sun is shining. Maybe I should leave early, too.


(I’m bored as hell, and there’s nothing to do, so it’s time for another weird game of thought association. Since I’ve been babbling all day about CDs, I’ll start there)

I bought my first CD player in the summer of 1987, with my first paycheck from my new “real” job at Taco Bell. Two weeks of stirring giant tubs of cold reconstituted bean paste bought me a Toshiba player that was somewhere between a portable and a full-sized model. It ran on AC power only, and was a top-loader with a tiny LCD display and the basic buttons for operation. I think it had some memory function, and you could see elapsed vs. remaining time. With a metal case and not that much plastic in its construction, it felt much sturdier than most el cheapo models on the market right now. At K-Mart, I paid maybe $99.99 for it, and then went over to Super Sounds in Concord Mall to spend the absolute last of my cash on a single CD. This was when they were half vinyl, half tape, and had maybe two bins with CDs in them. My first choice: Iron Maiden – Somewhere in Time. I rushed home on my bike, plugged into my Soundesign rig, and listened away. The beginning of an addiction.

A few months later, I was at World Records in Pierre Moran mall, right after school on a Tuesday. I picked up a copy of Metallica’s new EP, Garage Days Re-Revisited, and a RYKOdisc sampler called Steal This Disc. I bought it because it was only $8 or something, and every CD helped back then. I piled back into the Camaro, probably turned on Master of Puppets, and left for work. Now I drove, and I had a new job – I was a dishwasher at this Italian restaurant called Columbo’s. My friend Matt Wanke convinced me to bust suds over there, because he worked on the pizza line and it’d be cool to work together. I gave notice at Taco Bell, and they didn’t schedule me for my last two weeks.

The only thing noteworthy to come out of Columbo’s was that I met a guy named John that was even more insane than me, and I kept running into him for the next few years. While we were slamming through dishes from the dinner rush, he’d just stand up from his sink and say “I wonder what would happen if we put angel dust in the mozarella shakers” or “I’m going to go tell customers to leave their tip under the food on the dirty dishes, so we get a shot at the money”.

I also had to close the restaurant one school night a week. I learned how desolate Elkhart can be after 10PM. Sometimes I’d drive all the way to Goshen to get some food at the late night drive through Burger King.

Fuck – my mom called and threw off my whole train of thought. At least she didn’t mention the $450 rental car tab I put on her credit card

I walked out of Columbo’s on a Saturday night, without another job lined up or any money saved. (aside from CDs, I blew a bunch of cash putting a new exhaust on the Camaro). I got a job at Ward’s a few days later, and started a long tenure that took me through high school and beyond.

My first couple of Wards checks (which were my first non-$3.35 checks of my life) went to a new heater core in the Camaro. By that point in time (September? October?) the Indiana fall made driving to school in the morning pretty unbearable. My old heater core was full of holes, so I took the ‘in’ and ‘out’ hoses and connected it together with one hose. I didn’t lose any more of the precious green fluid on the driveway, but I also saw my breath when I drove anywhere in the AM.

The weekend of the heater core replacement also included some other repairs – I think I also installed a manual choke control (aside from freezing my ass off in the morning, the carb also had its problems) and a manual oil pressure gauge. That was actually on Halloween weekend, and I planned on going out with my friend Jia that night. It’s impossible to see the oil pressure sender on that engine (it’s sort of hidden back by the HEI distributor) and I didn’t tighten something enough. I started the engine with the hood open, and it shot oil all over the damn place for a dozen seconds, until I killed the engine. So we had to take Jia’s car.

I think our plan back then was similar to most – we’d drive around in downtown Elkhart or downtown Goshen and hope that some incredibly beautiful and loose women would be walking around and then they’d somehow end up in the car, and the magic would happen, so to speak. This, of course, NEVER HAPPENED. (Regardless, my friend Ray thinks this is 100% feasible and still wants to do this all the time.) The odds of this happening would probably be higher if we were in a crappy Camaro than in his car, a green, four door, Dodge Dart. We went out in his car anyway, listened to Master of Puppets on a crappy jambox, and went to some fairly hidden and now probably completely destroyed video game place, that had a shitload of games and a little cafeteria where you could get a hamburger or some nachos or something. Lots of people hung out there, and none of them were from our school. We played a bunch of Tron Deadly Disks or Spy Hunter or whatever I was into at that moment, and had some heavy discussions about how much stuff sucked in relation to our 16 year old worlds, which seemed infinitely wise at the time, and were infinitely stupid in retrospect.

On the way home (this was Halloween), we got egged and the Dart had no windshield washer solution, so we put on the wipers and drove for an hour, hoping they might scrape enough at the molecular level to remove the egg without any solvent. Then, while driving, swearing, and listening to Metallica, a black cat ran in front of the car, and Jia almost hit it. We both shit our pants and prayed to the reaper, knowing that we’d probably be killed in the next ten seconds.

We weren’t.

On the 4th of July in 1989, my parents found out that I had several thousand dollars in credit card debt hidden from them, and wanted to kill me, throw me out, and bitch for hours about how horrible I was. I decided to help them out by leaving and going to Jia’s to cool off, so I left the house without telling them where I was going. I found Jia at a tennis court at the high school (I didn’t really know he played tennis), and we hung out at his house that night. I called my parents back and they were crying and all upset over it. My mom expected them to find me dead and penniless under a bridge in Minnesota a few months later, and instead I was looking at porno and listening to Led Zeppelin in Jia’s bedroom a mile away. It was then that I learned I could win almost any campaign against my parents, and I was largely right.

I’m having a hard time remembering when I first started hanging out with Jia – we met in 7th grade algebra, along with Roger Eppich and Larry Falli and the rest of the braniacs. I guess it was at the end of the 9th grade school year. We were riding around on bikes, and to get to his house, we had to go into Ox-Bow park, and then scale some fence to cross the street. (you could’ve just not gone through the park, but it saved like maybe 4 seconds of time or something). Anyway, we went to his house, and he lost a joint that was hidden inside a ball-point pen, somewhere in his comic book pen. He had a cornoary while tearing through all of these old issues of Silver Surfer or whatever, and then found it. Aside from Health Studies class pictures, it was the first time I saw pot, ever. During the whole bike ride, Jia kept talking about all of these girls he was taking to the movies and then later messing around with. We were in a gym class before that and he’d come in with these insane and obviously false reports about his exploits, and always offered to get me a cut of the action. I figured it might be possible, because at this point in time, Jia and I looked almost like identical twins. In fact, Mr. Post, my junior high algebra teacher, signed my yearbook “To Jia..”.

About that gym class – it was made of 49% future pro atheletes – and not just the stupid ones who could run a mile in 10 seconds or shoot a million freethrows in a row – I’m talking about the ones that go to Stanford to be on their rowing team plus study corporate law. 49% of the class were the future license plate makers of America. And the other 5 of us – me, Jia, Jerome, Nathan, and maybe one or two others, were all like Silicon Valley hopefuls. The only reason we didn’t get the shit kicked out of us on a regular basis was because the other two groups were beating the fuck out of each other in basketball games. Most of the year was basketball – the coach was also the basketball coach, and this was when Shawn Kemp was shopping for a shoe contract or something, so he was always doing press conferences with ESPN and we were always playing the always-no-supervision basketball games. By the end of the year I got pretty good at it – all of us Apple II programmers played a 3 on 3 game, and would occasionally have to take in a loser, like this guy Ernie Friend, to round out the teams.

Other memorable gym class moments – we had to do some super-olympic event thing that involved running, jumping, gymnastics, climbing the rope, etc etc and you had to do all of this shit and beat certain goals and you’d get the A. Anyway, I didn’t pass ANY of the hundred-some events. Because I actually tried all of them, though, I still got a C.

About Jia, like a week later he was going to come over and spend the night, hang out, see my place, all of that. (this was at the age when it was still cool to go to someone’s house to see how many cool computer games they had, or whatever). My mom had to go pick up Jia, and when we got there, he was completely stoned. I guess my mom didn’t figure this out, but I knew he couldn’t stay in the house all night, because he was really fucked up, speaking in tongues, etc. So we went outside, and wandered around my subdivision and the once-vacant land to the east of the division. He spent a while laughing and making stupid observations, and then got really serious and started talking about a lot of the same issues that we shared, things that plagued both of us. Both of us were smart, poor, geeky, creative, and somewhat outside the loop within our rich and trendy high school. Jia’s outer shell was more defined than mine, and he had more confidence in many social situations. I never understood how he dealt with it, and it wasn’t until then that I realized that he didn’t deal with it, sort of like me.

Anyway, I got Jia back to my place many hours later. He ate a whole bunch of fairly rancid pizza like it was the best thing on earth, and I found, via note, that I was grounded for leaving the house for so long. After that, we were friends. And I found a secret that he hid from a lot of people – he collected Transformers. Once at his house, I had a strange “two worlds collide” experience when a fellow Transformers collector showed up to hang out for a while. He was Ray – known to me as the guy from my electronics class, but now known as one of my best friends.

Talking about high school is boring me, so I should get out of here…