This is sort of an extension of last week’s column about Homer’s and buying CDs, etc. The shopping spree took place after I was notified that Homer’s got those Feelies reissues in stock that I was looking for last week. Of course once you step into a record store for one thing, you rarely leave without a few others, which is why record stores will continue to be viable businesses, as long as they can keep what we’re looking for in stock…
Column 238: Daydream Notion
It’s never too late to play catch-up…
You’ve been writing about indie music for how long and you still have never heard Daydream Nation? How does that happen?
It’s a good question, received this past weekend at a record store. And it wasn’t the only time during that shopping trip that I was met with stunned indignation. I also received blank stares when I asked a couple fellow shoppers whether I should pick up copies of Johnny Cash’s At Folsom Prison, The Smiths’ The Queen Is Dead and Rolling Stones’ Some Girls, all albums that I’ve never heard, at least not in their entirety.
There is this perception that anyone who considers him/herself a music fan, let alone a rock critic, has heard every seminal album from beginning to end. But it’s just not true. The only thing more disturbing and mystifying is that any rock critic would admit to it.
The reasons behind these blatant oversights (or over-heards?) on my part are logical if not flimsy. Let’s take the obvious ones first.
You would have to have been raised in a Tibetan cave temple with earmuffs glued to your head to have never heard “Shattered,” “Miss You,” or god forbid, “Beast of Burden.” All are — and have been — staples on FM rock radio stations since that classic Stones album was released in 1978. In fact, they’ve been played so often that it seemed like a waste of money to buy that album when I could hear its best songs (or so I thought) for free on Z-92. A similar logic holds for the recent Beatles reissues. I like Sgt. Peppers…, but I don’t feel like paying money to listen to it again even if it has been remastered.
Then there’s the case of The Smiths, and the biggest problem with my past record-buying habits. When it came time to replace my vinyl with CDs, I made the mistake of not re-buying the original individual albums where songs first appeared, but instead bought collections — or “greatest hits” compilations. This has proven to be a costly mistake.
Now whenever I listen to “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” off Early Days: The Best of Led Zeppelin Vol. 1, I immediately expect — and want — to hear “You Shook Me” because it was the track that followed “Babe…” on the band’s self-titled debut, where the songs first appeared. Instead, I get “Dazed and Confused.” Wrong. When I listen to “Magic” off The Cars’ Complete Greatest Hits I expect to hear “Stranger Eyes” right afterward — the tune that followed it on Heartbeat City. Instead I get “Hello Again.” Mistake.
For any true music-lover, Greatest Hits packages are a waste of time and money, especially if you grew up with the original albums. Don’t try to nickel and dime your way through your memories, just buy the complete catalog.
The same holds true for bands you think you may like. My first Smiths album was The Best of the Smiths, Vol. 1. I am only now going back and buying the original Smiths catalog and discovering that every song is among their best.
The Johnny Cash oversight is also easy to explain. I’ve never been a huge Cash fan mainly because my father forced us to listen to KFAB when I was a child working at our family store in Fremont, back when KFAB was a “music station.” I got plenty of Cash back then, along with Crystal Gayle, Bobby Vinton and the New Vaudeville Band’s rendition of “Winchester Cathedral.” That music brings back stale, dusty memories of long Saturday afternoons dealing with stupid, smelly customers.
And then there’s Daydream Nation. I didn’t start buying Sonic Youth records until Dirty in 1992. I knew of DN‘s status in underground music, but it was a double album and expensive and hard to find and, quite frankly, there just didn’t seem to be a driving reason to buy it back then. When I waved a copy at a local musician and asked, he said, “Sure, you should buy it. You should have bought it 20 years ago.”
Maybe. Probably. But if I had, well, I wouldn’t have had the experience of listening to it this weekend for the first time, along with the rest of those albums. What I discovered is what I already knew, that the most interesting songs are the ones they never played on the radio, like The Stones “Imagination” or Cash’s “25 Minutes to Go,” or, really, that entire Smiths album.
Daydream Nation isn’t so much a collection of songs as a jangling, nerve-twisting hour-plus of textured noises and gritty college-rock released in 1988, and whose echoes can still be heard today in bands like Los Campesinos, Times New Viking and all of the bands in Omaha’s own brutal noise-rock scene.
Daydream Nation is seminal, it is important, and it is also a difficult album to listen to from beginning to end in one sitting. But I did, and I will again and I’ll be better off for it. And if you haven’t, so would you.
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There are a couple good shows going on tonight, which I’m going to miss because I’m in Chicago for the next couple of days (which is also why you probably won’t be getting a blog entry tomorrow).
A bevy of singer/songwriters will be taking over The Barley St. tonight starting at 9 — Brad Hoshaw, Alex McManus, Kyle Harvey and Chad Wallin. It’s like some sort of crazy singer/songwriter summit! $5, 9 p.m.
Meanwhile, up the street at The Waiting Room, ’90s indie rock band New Radiant Storm Kings is playing with At Land (reviewed here). $8, 9 p.m.
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