Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Storing your treasures

It isn't my favorite album. If I had to choose a favorite album, I'd have to choose either Layla and Assorted Love Songs by Derek and the Dominos or Hollywood Town Hall by the Jayhawks. But it is my most treasured album.

Program: Annihilator.

It's a sampler for SST Records. SST Records was the home of Black Flag. I heard of Black Flag the beginning of my freshman year of high school, as what seemed like a quarter of the student body was wearing new and red Slip It In t-shirts. But I didn't hear Black Flag until later.

Circus magazine was switching from covering punks to covering metalheads, I think, and there was an ad from SST advertising a free sampler. I was a driver, so this was at least 1986. Anyway, free is the right price for a teenager, and I sent away. And one day, it came in. I opened it up and right away, I was jazzed. It has the coolest liner notes ever, or at least what a 16-year-old would think of as the coolest liners ever.
A WARNING FROM THE PROGRAMMER: EXTREME CAUTION is mandatory with all use of this psychic program material, for while - with proper use - this program information will tune the listener to sufficient destructive capability to get any job - no matter how dirty - done. If mishandled, this psychic fuel program (Program: Annihilator) may overload the Subject's receptive capacity, which could result in indiscriminate violence of an intensity the Programmer can only assume the Subject will consider undisirable. THE PROGRAMMER THEREFORE HEREBY DISCLAIMS ANY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THE ACTIONS OF THOSE WHO WILLINGLY MAKE THE DECISION TO AVAIL THEMSELVES OF Program: Annihilator.
What red-blooded American teenager could resist that?

I put it in the cassette deck while driving with my friend Mason to the comic book shop.

And I immediately pulled it out.

"War Is Our Destiny" by Saint Vitus.


Imagine second-album Black Flag meeting Blue Cheer. Now make it suck 45% more. That's what Saint Vitus sounds like. Mason liked Rush. I liked Iron Maiden and Metallica. Neither of us liked Blue Cheer wannabes.

The first four tracks are Saint Vitus. I can only think of it like the beginning of 40-Year-Old Virgin, with Cal going on about the Tijuana donkey-sex show he saw. It's supposed to make you uncomfortable, so you appreciate it more when the good stuff comes.

Which it did eventually. I fast-forwarded past all the crap Saint Vitus to finally hear Black Flag. And I heard Black Flag. "Annihilate This Week". "Society's Disease". "You're Not Evil". "Beat My Head Against The Wall". "Thirsty and Miserable". This is crucial stuff. You think Metallica and Mötorhead are hard, then you hear this, your concept of hard transforms. Immediately.

And the rest! DC3! Overkill! "Ladies in leather! Submit or you'll only upset her!" SWA! "Baby, baby, now what you need is a little bit of my surgury! Let my love show you all that it could be!" Wurm! "There's a knife behind my smile!" I loved this thing. Except for the first four tracks. Which were Saint Vitus and are made of suck.

I went to college, and one of the first friends I made introduced me to Bad Religion and Big Black. In return, I let him borrow my treasure, my Program: Annihilator. He gave it to someone else, having her return it to me, but she put it down, and someone with sticky fingers picked it up.

It took me five years of hunting record stores to find it again. I found it in the Vegas Tower Records. It cost me $20 to replace the recording I had originally received for free, and I thought it was cheap.

What is your treasure? The irreplacable recording? The great thing that you have to dig out and play for friends?


Kenski said...

Damn, I think I just lost my original comment! If it turns up out of the ether then hey, you get this stuff twice!

Jayhawks. Good damn call. Their music has always really spoken to me and felt like it was describing my soul. "A Break In The Clouds" on Tomorrow The Green Grass. The 'cool, cool water' line just hits me every time.

Treasured album? Cowboy's "5'll Getcha 10". I was exploring all things Capricorn and found their stuff through the Duane Allman Anthology track "Please Be With Me" (one of most magical love songs ever, in my opinion)

For something more contemporary and off-the-wall, I love G.Love & Special Sauce's self-titled album. Bought it based on the cover art and on first listen ABSOLUTELY HATED IT!!!! I persevered, though, 'got it' and since then it's been a staple. It's rap-blues. It's odd. It's also nothing like any of their other stuff, which is a shame. On hot-hot-hot nights in Houston I'd open the windows of our loft, skip to "Cold Beverage" and fix martinis! Good times, good times!

Dave Jacoby said...

Tomorrow and after never touched me like Hollywood and before did. Even Bunkhouse, although I got that after the MP3 thing started, nearly a decade after I first started getting into it.

I keep wanting to get the Duane anthologies. Keep failing to. I suck. But Allmusic has nothing on 5'll Getcha 10. Color me shocked. Capricorn has never left me disappointed. I let a Aquarium Rescue Unit's first CD slip through my hands, for which I am forever regretful. So, tell me more about Cowboy.

I only have an Okeh sampler with G. Love. It also has Keb Mo and Popa Chubby. No hate for Chubby but also no love, and Keb Mo is the whitest black bluesman I ever heard. It's sad. But yeah, G. Love is rap blues, which brings it back down to Maxwell Street to me. Loved those tracks from the first. He's not a great guitarist like Duane or SRV are, but he does a great groove, and "Cold Beverages" and "Baby's Got Sauce" are stone cold rockers.

Kenski said...

Oh, and an album I really wish I had was a rare one just called "Duane & Gregg Allman". I don't remember the exact history but I think it was from around the Hourglass years. It's not great art, but it still speaks to me. I loved the opening track "Morning Dew". I used to love to listen to it and chill out.

Kenski said...

I think Cowboy has a best of which has about half the 5'll getcha 10 tracks, but somehow loses the spirit of the album. Just found an 'interesting' blog/site which has an entry!


Dave Jacoby said...

I will have to follow that link when I'm not on the corporate network.

Do a similar search and you'll find Program: Annihilator, along with a few tracks that didn't fit on the CD version. Rock!

Patrick said...

I have a vinyl copy of Lanny Ross singing "The Night is Young and You're So Beautiful" (see http://youtube.com/watch?v=1DJJHne6pgw) that I just love to inflict on unsuspecting victims when the subject of old recordings comes up. But that's more because I like to see them wince.

Dave Jacoby said...

Patrick, many of your recordings are there to inflict on unsuspecting victims.

Me, I have Metal Machine Music for that.

Patrick said...

When I start pulling out the vinyl, the gloves come off.

Kenski said...

I used to have some really loud, obnoxious Blackfoot on vinyl.

At the time I was a student and shared a house with 6 other kids. One night I had a really big exam the next day so I had to get some sleep. My housemates decided to have a party and kept me awake all night.

When I crawled out of bed I decided to crank the Blackfoot, set the record to repeat and locked my bedroom door behind me as I left.

When I came back a few hours later I ran into the guy in the room next to me, emerging from his room looking rather dishevelled. He peered at me through bloodshot eyes and said 'Hey, you were playing some really shitty records this morning, but what was the last one? It was really cool!'

I guess some artists need more than one listen :-)

Dave Jacoby said...

Yeah, I suppose that's true.

Considering where I was, mentally and physically, I'm sure I have heard Blackfoot in my life. I just don't remember it.

I'm listening to Cowboys now.