Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Stepdad Songs: An Introduction

This past December, I was having a fairly typical family dinner when something extraordinary happened. My stepdad looked at me and uttered the five most beautiful words I have ever heard:

"Do you want my records?" 

"Why yes. Yes I would," I replied.

For music nerds such as myself, it is not everyday that one has an opportunity to dive into someone's record collection. Hell, just perusing someone's records is entertaining enough for me, but to get to pick out albums I wanted for my own collection? Yes. I was pleased. 

It turns out my stepdad was looking to cut down on the physical possessions in his life, and evidently after decades of disuse whatever sentimental attachment he had towards his records had eroded (me, on the other hand? You can pry my records from my cold, dead hands). I quickly scheduled a trip up to the far north suburb of Gurnee, IL where the records resided. While trekking up I-94 several weeks later I recall trying to guess what treasures might be comprised within his collection. I had already inherited my dad's records, which contained many awesome classic rock albums but also essentially stopped with his purchase of The Police's Synchronicity in 1983 (coincidentally, my sister was born five months later. Way to set back dad's music taste two decades, Katharine!) Anyway, I knew my stepdad's collection would be different. Unlike my dad, he actively consumed new music throughout the '80s. Moreover, armed with the knowledge that his favorite musician is Kate Bush, I was fairly certain he was into some weird, underground stuff (side note: my dad is now going to Mikal Cronin shows totally of his own volition so I'd say he came around eventually.) I knew my stepdad lived in Minneapolis for a period, so I had my fingers crossed for some Hüsker Dü or Replacements. Beyond that, I really wasn't sure what to expect.

The reality was even more glorious than I could have hoped. There were approximately 600 records, most in excellent shape. As I began to peruse the large pile snaking along the living room wall, I repeatedly found myself uttering "holy shit" as I pulled out album after fantastic album. He did indeed have several Kate Bush, Hüsker Dü, and 'Mats records, but that was just the tip of the iceberg. Brian Eno. The Clash. Big Black. The Waterboys. Prefab Sprout. All three Nick Drake records (including a copy of Pink Moon purchased in 1972). The Jesus and Mary Chain. Nick Lowe. Sonic Youth. Captain Beefheart. I could go on and on. But what surprised me most about the collection was how many records were completely obscure to me, despite my self-perceived rather solid handle on rock history. Utilizing a combination of Googling and good old fashioned "huh that's a bizarre album cover, I want that one" thinking, I selected about 70 additional records to add to my pile of familiar favorites. 

And thus, a blog feature was born. At an entirely arbitrary and probably infrequent interval, I will be listening to and reviewing these weird, unfamiliar records obtained from my stepdad under the title "Stepdad Songs." First up will be a review of Boston new wave band Human Sexual Response's debut 1980 album Fig. 14, whose wacky album cover-band name combination inspired "Stepdad Songs." Stay tuned, loyal blog readers (once again, hi mom and dad!).

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