The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Sunday, March 25, 2007

70's / 60's Memories - Part 1

I spent more than half of the 1970’s as an underage, unemployed citizen. I got my first job (at a record store!) on July 2, 1976 (two days before the Bi-centennial!). This means for over 5 ½ years, I had to depend on my ingenuity…and my parents – in order to be able to get new music in the 70’s.

For someone who didn’t have regular employment, it seems to me now that I sure got a lot of records, about ’75 or so. I was given a meager allowance, and I could supplement this ‘income’ with doing “extra chores” (i.e. mopping floors or mowing the lawns) – and I could go looking for (used discarded) bottles to trade in to the liquor store – “CA Deposit”!

In 1971 – and my memory is fuzzy here – I think I may have been allowed “a record a week” or something like that. My dad was not adverse (well, he did it, whether or not he was adverse to it) to taking me downtown, so I could look in the handful of “hippie record stores”. I seem to remember looking for as long as I liked, but…knowing my dad, he may have been impatient with me at times (“C’mon, you’ve been in here forever!”) – I simply don’t remember all of the details.

In the 1960’s, the record departments that I remember clearly (before hippie record stores) are places like May Company, Wallach’s Music City, Cal Store, The Treasury, Gemco, White Front, Zody’s…and my mom was who took me those places – likely, she had some other motive of going there (it wasn’t just so I could look at records). If I asked “nicely”, I may have been favored with an LP purchase (I seem to remember getting my “Virgin Fugs” by The Fugs at a Gemco – I am not kidding).

But back to the 70’s – Thrifty Drug Store had a “Bargain Bin” – brand new records with holes punched in the covers, known as “Cut Outs” – as cheap as 59 cents, as high as $1.98. With a wagon full of bottles back to the liquor store, I might have enough money to buy an LP at Thrifty! Reality: two dozen coke bottles only netted you something like 72 cents – which was enough for a 45 at the Singer Seeing Machine Shop!

Did I hoard my elementary school / junior high (middle school) lunch money to buy records? It is possible – especially since discovering that a hardware store near my home (“Dooley’s”) had a record department, with 45’s for a dime (10 cents – “One thin dime, one tenth of a dollar!” to quote The Coasters in “Little Egypt”)! 10 cents could be had easily enough – that was a carton of milk and a bag of peanuts – or a 45 from a hardware store! If I still had any allowance left, or had collected and returned a load of coke bottles – I could’ve gone in there with, 45, 50 cents! Wow!

8-track tapes were “in”, 4 track tapes were “out” – seemed like people weren’t totally embracing cassettes – maybe it was just me. Between me, my brother and my father, we had reel-to-reels decks, a portable cassette and a cassette deck, two or three record players, and an 8-track “recorder” (a Panasonic, as I recall). My point in mentioning this stuff – sometimes, cassettes could be found for 49 cents or 99 cents – but 8-tracks tapes never seemed to hit the ‘bargain bin’. If I got to go to Muntz Stereo, it was nearly all 8-track tapes: “Get that great Muntz sound in your car!” – my mother’s car had an 8-track tape player in it! Was her first 8-track tape “Flowers” by The Rolling Stones?

I couldn’t really nail down the exact time I changed bicycles from a Schwinn Stingray to a 10-speed bike – but having a 10-speed bike meant I could go a little further from my home – in search of inexpensive music.

My sense of direction has always been fairly good – some would say it’s excellent. How hard it is to count the turns, when your mom or dad drives you someplace? From my home, to get to Wallach’s Music City – it was a mere 4 turns! OK, “that was easy” – despite having to carry a huge padlock to chain my bike up, so it would still be there when I came out of the record store.

If I was 12 going on 13 in 1971, I must’ve sounded pretty convincing to the clerks at Wallach’s Music City – I got them to give me the Phonolog New Release Sheets the week after they were current – they were just going to throw them away, “So, can I have them?” As an anonymous reader pointed out, something like that – or a three month old Melody Maker newspaper from England – was enough to keep me going, to fuel the fire. My brother taught me about Schwann Record Catalogs; they were in my home – going all the way back to 1965.

Along with comic books and Gibbon’s Stamp Albums – my preferred reading material of the late 60’s and early 70’s were Schwann Record Catalogs and Phonolog New Release Sheets. For those too young to remember, the “Phonolog” was the big yellow (goldenrod?) encyclopedia of music that was on the counter of any “fine record store” – one presumes that it was there so the staff could take customer’s “special orders”?

My first encounter with the Phonolog was likely in 1963 or 1964 – my dad had taped Side 1 of Spike Jones “Dinner Music For Those Who Aren’t Very Hungry” off of the FM radio, and played it for me. I wanted an LP of it, but when we went to Wallach’s – it wasn’t in the Phonolog. What was in the Phonolog was “Thank You, Music Lovers” – a ‘best of’ on RCA with Jack Davis cover art.

I don’t remember how I discovered the EP section in the Wallach’s – was it separate, or merely behind the 45’s? RCA kept many Elvis Presley EP’s in print, well into the 70’s (well, until they had the ubiquitous yellow RCA label!) – and they were a bargain! Something like $1.29 for 4 whole songs! The cheapest I could find 45’s was for 59 cents at the Singer Sewing Machine Shop, but…but…they didn’t have a giant selection, like Wallach’s Music City did.

My brother had taught me about “British Imports” – records from England – “Wash your hands before you touch this!” – fondly fondling a nice Parlophone copy of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”…it certainly looked nicer, and my brother said it “sounded better”, and that it was “a quality product” etc. I am not sure that I knew it was “more expensive” – well, not at first, anyway.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Nostalgia

You were lucky Ron, to have older siblings to point you in interesting directions. I was ALWAYS interested in records from the age of 6-7 onward and held records as my "best entertainment value!" I vividly remember aksing for records for my 7th birthday. I got 45s of "I Gotcha" by Joe Tex and "Yo-Yo" by The Osmonds. I remember hearing "Yo-Yo" on the radio and not knowing it was The Osmonds and when a nice teenaged "hippie" girl in my neighborhood [shout out to Karen Morrow - not the actress] asked what I wanted for my birthday, I told her those two records. I vivdly recalled my shock when I received the record and found out it was by the hated Osmonds! Seven years old and already I had a "secret shame!" I had already been buying 45s. My first bought with my "own money" was "Imagine" by John Lennon. I remember asking my parents to take me to a record store in the Valley on the way to somewhere else. The Beatles had recently broken up and I wondered what this Lennon guy was up to. I had not yet heard the record when I purchased the 45. Karen Morrow used to let me listen to her Beatles albums on her portable stereo, which was very cool for a teenager to let a 6-7 year old do! But I was never really into The Beatles. I preferred Creedence Clearwater Revival. When THEY broke up a year later from the Beatles, THEN I was sad! I remember watchiing a TV special on the making of "Cosmo's Factory" on Metromedia Channel 11 back in the day! I usually bought any records in the 70s at K-Mart or Eckerd Drugs. The first album I got was Three Dog Night's "Naturally." I really liked their hit cover of Russ Ballard's "Liar!" I also remember getting my first "cutout" at Miller's - Steppenwolf's "Rest In Peace." I always liked Steppenwolf and Three Dog Night. Any group with an organ player! More later!

6:43 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...

Now you're talkin' - Jim-san!

I recall not liking The Osmonds - we would've known who they were from "The Andy Williams Show", huh? Be My Little Baby Bumble Bee - yeech!

Apart from my family, there were - of course - other kids in the neighborhood...but it was my sisters who used to babysit me and play me "Freak Out" by Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention.

6:59 AM  
Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Nostalgia Part 2

By the mid-70s I would get the occasional cutout at Eckerds or I remember aking for a great WEA 4xLP set called "Superstars of the 70s" for my 8-9th birthday. Lotsa kool tunes and I still have it today! I pull it out when I need to hear "One Way Out" by the Allman Brothers every now and then! I should have mentioned that myfirst record player was an inherited RCA 45 only unit [tube sound natch, needed warmup] along with a stack of 45s dating from the dawn of the format through the mid-60s. Postwar pop like "Honeycomb" or "Alabama Jubilee" rubbing shoulders with "Satisfaction!" Having parents a generation older then my peers gave me a wide exposure to music from the 30s onward. My second record player was an x-mas gift from 1974, I think. I was 10. It was a portable unit with an AM radio. That was my record player until the summer of 1978. Around 1977, my dad bought me a portable Radio Shack AM/FM/Cassette unit. Monaural, but I grooved on it big time. I no longer had to fiddle with aux imput cables to record the radio and now I had FM! By 1978 I was entering high school and pestered the parents for a stereo to call my own. I got a Sears all in one unit that recorded cassettes and 8-tracks! This was my base stereo until 1986! In 1981 I modified it to record to a Akai CS-MO1A cassette deck which was 500 miles better then the junky cassette recorder in the unit. By 1983 I had also upgraded the turntable to a Sansui direct drive unit - jerry-rigged by a series of self-installed switches to override the installed turntable. It was 10 watts of power. In 1986 I got the Akai tuner that I use to this day. It had integrated video switching and allowed 2 VCRs AND a LD input! Important for my burgeoning video empire! By 1986 I had eyes on the LD format and had it by 1988. By the late 80s my dubbing empire relied on this big time. I still use it today, though I had to install an outboard A/B switch to jump between LD/DVD sources. My equipment has always been modest. i preferred to put my resources into software, not hardware. My resources were spartan indeed. By high school, I eschewed lunch to bank the $7.50 a week for records instead. At Record City, Orlando's best chain, that got you one full cost LP a week. Not shabby! By 1981 I discovered used record stores and imports simultaneously. Then my horizons really expanded. The first import LP I ever bought was The Tourists debut UK LP. I had dearly loved their US debut, a release of their 2nd LP, "Reality Effect" with the two weak tracks dropped and replaced with two singles from the debut. Now I had the full import debut with 7-8 songs I had not heard before! And it was produced by Conny "Autobahn" Plank - cool! Retro records was a primarily used record store where my slim resources could start to max out. And they had a new wave section in the store so I didn't have to root through Karla Bonoff albums - yess! Tons of great new music became available for 1/3 to 1/2 what I would have normally had to pay. By 1983 my friend Tom hipped me to a nasty little hole-in-the-wall used record store with a great name: Crunchy Armadillo records [shout out to Craig Michaels]. By this time I was halfway through college and had a little more money to spend. I was working at the university paper and pulling a modest stipend. It didn't hurt that Craig had the best music in Orlando priced incredibly low!

More later?

11:44 AM  

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