The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Guest Blog - Part 2

Part 2

by correspondent Jim Donato:

By the late 70s K-Mart was pretty much it for me and records. I could easily ride my bike there and that settled it. The closest actual record stores to me growing up were East-West Records & Tapes on Orange Avenue and a Record Mart on Oak Ridge Road. Each 3-4 miles away. I could not ride my bikes there – Orlando traffic was far too scary for cyclists back then [and I don’t think much has changed].

In junior high I wanted a cassette deck [mono] so I could record songs off of the radio... acoustically! If only I had someone then to tell me what the Aux. jack was for! Recording sessions were closed door where I held the condenser mic up to the radio speaker! One side effect of this was being able to keep my pesky cousins out of my face when they visited. When my door was closed I was “recording” and my room was off limits. I didn’t bother explaining Aux input to my family later! In 9th grade, my dad got me the musical equivalent of the neutron bomb – a Radio Shack portable am/fm cassette recorder that allowed me to tape music AND monitor it -while taping- [by now I had figured out the Aux. In. jack]! I had some cheap bookshelf speakers that I had gotten at garage sales and I filled the room with 4-5 of these and plugged this unit into them for the best possible mono sound.

In junior high school I remember when “hip” teacher Robin Shurtz started teaching English at my school. I was in 9th grade and he came to my English class and gave a presentation on music and I was the only kid there who recognized Alan Parson’s Project. At the time, “I Robot” was out and the lame “Pyramid” was still a year or so out. I was a pre-teen record geek.

The summer between junior high and high school was pivotal – I acquired my first stereo from Sears and it was an all-in-one with cassette and 8-track recording capability! Now I would never need anything else! By this time, getting dad to drive me to the two nearby record stores had to happen. After buying me a stereo, my first album purchased was the excellent “Black Noise” by Canadian progmeisters FM. It says a lot that I can still dearly LOVE this album 29 years later! When most of the progrock I was listening to at this time has fallen by the wayside [particularly the Moody Blues – ech!] this album still gets the juices flowing and I consider it the last, great progressive rock album. Sure the sci-fi lyrics are potential howlers, but the playing has all of the meat and little of the fat that doomed prog! Nash The Slash managed a very credible New Wave career after ditching the band following this debut. The only later album I heard by these guys [“City Of Fear” with future k.d. lang accompanist Ben Mink replacing Nash on strings] just didn’t come close to cutting it!

I suppose I should also mention that my high school had a 10 watt FM station WGAG, [Green And Gold – school colors] and of course I was a DJ there! My befuddled physics teacher, Mr. Howard, was in charge of the program and had to submit at least 5 sets of call letters to the FCC when he began the station a year earlier and of course the FCC in their wisdom.

As a teenager, my parents finally let me ride my bike to at least the Oak Ridge Record Mart and by this time [79] New Wave was it! I remember buying The Boomtown Rats “Fine Art Of Surfacing” there, among others. After graduating high school, I upgraded the cassette in my stereo with my graduation present – a nice Akai stand alone cassette deck I rigged into my system, which didn’t have aux inputs since it could do everything.

While in college I shared a ride with a friend and once a week, I’d have enough lunch money to ask him to stop by Record Mart Warehouse on the way home,. It was a large store with decent imports and by now I had discovered the glory of cutouts! 3-5 records for $10!!! This large store was managed by Don Gilliland, the guy who always worked at the best record store in town. Since it was actually a warehouse, it was the point of origin for all stock in the local Record Mart chain. I first saw import 12” singles here but did not yet fathom them! I didn’t know that they featured different material to the 7” singles that I was more used to seeing. Extended versions?! Not yet in my life.

I also discovered USED record stores around this time [1981] and Retro records had a great New Wave section that made shopping hideously easy! Lots of great stuff from this store, run by Bob Ponder. Now my lunch money could travel further! Let’s see, 1981 brought: cutouts – 12” singles – and used records! All helping my mania extend itself. While a college freshman I met a friend - Jayne and she lived north of Orlando and told me about the wonders of Record City in Fern Park. It was behind the Jai-Alai fronton and she took me there between classes one day. By now I was hooked on the stuff bad and this was a mind-blowing record store – my first. It was Fall of 1981 and John Foxx and Ultravox had brand new singles out in the most extensive import section I’d ever seen! Not just 3-4 feet of goods but a whole long row in the large store! I had enough cash to buy 2 7”ers or 1 12” so I went with “Miles Away” and the just out “Europe, After The Rain” by Foxx instead of Ultravox’s “Thin Wall” 12.” The cutout section at Record City was unbelievably excellent – as large as a typical record store in itself!

1983 saw a new record store appear on the Orlando horizon: Don Gilliland started up Murmur Records. Yes, Orlando was a flashpoint of REM fandom from the Hib-Tone days. By the time they were signed to IRS there were already a few clone bands locally! But Murmur would be Orlando’s premiere record store [new and used] from ’83 to when it closed, following the arrival of Lollapalooza in 95 to our fair city.

By this time, I have fond memories of record buying sorties with my friends like Tom or Charles. There was an element of risk since we often were gunning for exactly the same records and whoever found them first might be the only ones to get them that day.

By 1985 I had graduated college and met my friend Brian who introduced me to the next step in my record buying development: mail order! Brian was an inveterate mail order buyer and between his Goldmine subscription and various catalogs arriving weekly, I managed to piggyback on some of his orders before I went to ordering outright myself. Naturally, Brian knew Ron [the writer of this blog] and it was then when I made my first connection with Citizen Kane.


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