The Shams: Only A Dream / 3 a.m.

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Format: 7″

Label: SOL

Country: US

Year: 1990

Price paid: $2.50

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

Folksy New York girl group active during the late eighties and into the early nineties, The Shams were Amy McMahon Rigby, Sue Garner, and Amanda Uprichard. Their sound and ethos (proto-No Depression) may only tangentially warrant their inclusion on this blog, but they serve as an interesting stylistic juxtaposition to contemporaries such as the Riot Grrrls.

‘Only a Dream’ was their first and only single, released on Bob Mould’s ‘Singles Only’ Label. The band would go on to release an EP and full album on the Matador label before they split to pursue solo ventures.

Member Amy McMahon Rigby has released five studio albums between 1996 and 2005, but appears to have gone dormant musically for the last decade. She is currently married to former Stiff Records’ artist Wreckless Eric. They live in upstate New York.

Sue Garner was also active during the late nineties into the early 21st century, releasing three studio albums. The last- ‘Shadyside’- came out in 2002.

Amanda Uprichard’s whereabouts are unknown, no relation to the fashion designer/clothing line of the same name.

 

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Cha-Cha soundtrack

chachaFormat: LP

Label: Ariola

Country: Holland

Year: 1979

Price paid: $5

Purchased at: Angry Mom Records, Ithaca NY

 

I have never seen the movie ‘Cha Cha’ and despite it being basically a documentary centered around two of my favorite artists (Nina Hagen and Lene Lovich) I’d barely heard of it. Enter Youtube and suddenly this obscure thirty-six year old Dutch indie film is right there with no effort on my part. Call me old fashioned, but I find that a little magical.

chacha4Anyway, I have yet to sit down and spend the full 90 minutes watching it, but a quick flip through reveals it to be a precious slice into a bygone age. Lene and Nina are at the top of their game here, at the peak of their popularity, and (Sexist Mode engaged) debatably at their most lovely, vibrant, and optimistic.

chacha3Ultimately though ‘Cha-Cha’ is Herman Brood’s baby. Brood was a complex and fascinating character, a true renaissance man with occupations ranging from painter to musician to poet. During the period this film was made he was romantically involved with Hagen; her song ‘Herrmann Hiess Er’ from the 1979 album ‘Unbehagen’ is supposedly about Brood and his very public drug use. Sadly Herman died of suicide performed by jumping off the roof of the Amsterdam Hilton in 2001 at age 54. His cover of Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ (covered by Hagen since 1979 as well) posthumously rose to #1 on the Dutch singles charts.

Track listing:

  • Herman Brood, Nina, Lene, Less and Wild Romance- I Love You Like I Love Myself
  • Lene Lovich & Less Chappell- Home
  • Phoney & The Hardcore- Pick Up Floor
  • Van Zutphen- Sweet Memories
  • Hugo Sinszheimer & the Meteors- Take It All In
  • Inside Nipples- (You Don’t) Fit
  • Nina Hagen and the Wild Romance- Herman’s Door
  • Monica Tjen A Kwoei and the Houseband- Two Together
  • Sonny and the Dulfergang- Blues
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- Doin’ It
  • Hugo and the Meteors- It’s You (Smersz)
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- Beat
  • Streetbeats- (No More) Conversation
  • Dulfergang- Bop
  • Nina and the Wild Romance- Herman Ist High
  • Herman Brood and the Dulfergang- Jilted
  • Hanneke and White Honey- I Don’t Wanna Loose You
  • Phoney and the Hardcore- (Can’t Stop) Foolin’ Myself
  • Herman Brood & His Wild Romance- (For Elvis) Never Be Clever
  • Sonny & Dulfergang- The Blues

The sleeve art- although most probably just a scaled-down version of the movie poster- is colorful and evocative, a blazing neon affair with crudely executed yet nonetheless evocative portraits of Brood, Lovich, and Hagen painted by Dick Van Der Meijden.

chacha6Confusingly ‘Cha Cha’ was is the name of a live 1978 album by Brood, released about a year prior to the soundtrack. It has little if anything to do with this soundtrack. The sleeve art, again designed by artist Dick Van Der Meijden, sports a (coincidentally?) similar palette dominated by vibrant reds, blues and peaches. The microphone shoved into a sweaty armpit motif certainly ranks up their as one of the most unattractive images ever created by man…

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Berlin: Take My Breath Away

berlin_takemybreathFormat: 7″

Label: Columbia

Country: US

Year: 1986

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Watching every motion in my foolish lover’s game

On this endless ocean finally lovers know no shame

 

‘Take My Breath Away (Love Theme from “Top Gun”)’ or as it’s more commonly known ‘Take My Breath Away’ appears on the band’s fourth album ‘Count 3 & Pray’ (1986) and- not too surprisingly- on the ‘Top Gun’ soundtrack.

It went all the way to number one in the US, UK, and Belgium (#2 in Canada and the Netherlands, #4 in New Zealand) and is by far the band’s highest-charting single; its nearest competitor was ‘No More Words’ which went to #23 in the US in 1984 and ‘The Metro’ at #58 in 1981.

The song was written by Giovanni Giorgio Moroder (with Tom Whitlock), a musical artist with a long an impressive history. Some of the notches in his belt include co-writing credits on Donna Summer’s ‘I Feel Love’, worked with the Human League to compose ‘Forever in Electric Dreams’ for the film ‘Electric Dreams, and more recently contributed to Daft Punk’s 2013 album ‘Random Access Memories.’ The B-side of this single is his composition ‘Radar Radio’ (featuring Joe Pizzulo.) Mr. Pizzulo also makes appearances on the soundtracks to ‘Scarface’ (1983), ‘Little Shop of Horrors’ (1986), and ‘Scooby-Doo and the Alien Invaders’ (2000.)

‘Take My Breath Away’ won the 1986 Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. It’s been covered many times by everyone from Diana Ross to Jessica Simpson.

Typical of US 7″ sleeves of the period (and soundtrack singles in particular) the artwork is serviceable, but unremarkable. At least the band makes an appearance on the cover, so that’s something I guess.

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Picture Discs of the World

picturediscsoftheworld
Format: book
Publisher: BIOdisc
Country: US
Dimensions: 8.5 X 11″
Year: 1990
Purchased at: Knuckleheads, Syracuse NY

 

Picture discs often get a bad rap, usually due to their purported inferior sound quality. But if you’re buying a picture disc primarily for the listening experience then you’re kind of missing the point…

I love picture discs. There’s just something about those vivid image-infused objects that, when sent spinning on a turntable, fill the soul with hypnotic joy. You’ll be seeing a lot of blog posts on them in the future as I slowly unearth them from my collection.

Although dated, ‘Picture Discs of the World’ is still an invaluable resource for information on this niche vinyl, exhaustively covering just about every disc known to man up until the book’s publication in 1990. Purely by chance I’m sure, the 1990 date is a perfect termination point for the first edition (there was never a second) as it documents the last fading moments of vinyl in the popular consciousness.

Picture discs were really prevalent in the late eighties, garish baroque expressions of a collapsing industry desperate to squeeze out a few more dollars from those loyal enough to still cling to the vinyl format. Although not the book’s primary focus, it’s immediately apparent that good portion of this flavor of vinyl hails from the decade where style often eclipsed substance. I have no problem with that.

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sample page

The book appears to be a ‘vanity’ publication, that is, it has all the earmarks of a publication that was put together and then farmed out for printing by a press that would print anything as long as you paid them in advance for the honor. What’s often lacking with books of this sort are the hand of a good editor and layout artist. The book idea may have been shopped around to the ‘legit’ publishers of the day, but being such a niche title, going the self-publication route was probably the only way this thing was going to see the light of day.

Evaluating the book from this perspective it’s clear that it’s a labor of love. Naive in many ways, such as the odd font choices and sizes, it nonetheless is a well-organized and extremely thorough. I find its dense presentation, littered with many photos (most black and white, but a few color plates thrown in), a very satisfying experience. It’s a tome you take your time with and explore.

Rather rare and pricey today (going for $50 and up on AbeBooks) it’s a must-have if you’re into pre-nineties record collecting

The table of contents are worth sharing:

  • Picture Discs, By Definition and Scope
  • A Goal toward Completeness
  • Laser-etched and Other Pseudo Picture Discs
  • Picture Discs Included
  • A Word on Record Numbers #
  • Conflicting Release Dates
  • How to Use and Misuse This Book
  • What about the Prices?
  • The Dollar versus the Yen versus the Pound
  • Condition & Value
  • Grading
  • The Value of Cut-Outs
  • The Pre-shaped, Pre-cut 12 Inch Record
  • Interview Picture discs
  • About Plinths, the Stand-up Displays
  • Bootlegs
  • One-of-a-Kind Oddities, Private Pressings
  • Alphabetical Listings
  • Chronological History of Picture Discs
  • List of Discographies
  • Coming in the Second Edition
  • General Listings (Microgroove)
  • Various Artists Section
  • Radio Station Promo (Compilations)
  • 78 RPM Section
  • Index (For General Listings)
  • Index (78 RPM for Section)
  • Photo Identification
  • Directory of Buyers/Sellers

 

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Stray Cats: Stray Cat Strut / You Don’t Believe Me

straycats_straycatstrut

Format: 7″

Label: EMI

Country: US

Year: 1982

Price paid: $1

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Get a shoe thrown at me from a mean old man

Get my dinner from a garbage can

‘Stray Cat Strut’ originally appeared on the band’s debut album ‘Stray Cats’, released in the UK in 1981. A year later it would again appear on their third album  ‘Built For Speed’, which was their first LP to be released in the US.

It was the band’s second most successful single in the US, reaching #3 on the charts, only topped by ‘(She’s) Sexy + 17’ (which came in at #2) in 1983. It reached #11 in the UK and the B-side ‘You Don’t Believe Me’ (which was released as its own single in Britain) got to #57.

The sleeve art is pedestrian, paling in comparison to the earlier UK release. Typical of a US mass-produced 7″ single of the period, the package is made with flimsy easily tearable paper and the overall layout has a cheap ‘it’s good enough’ feel to it. I didn’t bother to scan the backside as it’s identical to the front with minor text variations.

Trio: Anna Letmein Letmeout / Kummer Live Im Fruhjahr 82

trio_dadada

Format: 12″

Label: Mercury

Country: UK (made in West Germany)

Year: 1982

Price paid: $3

Purchased at: Books and Melodies, Syracuse NY

 

Laß mich rein laß mich rauß.

The German group Trio are probably best known today for their smash hit and cult classic ‘Da Da Da, Ich Lieb Dich Nicht, Du Liebst Mich Nicht, Aha Aha Aha” (aka ‘Da Da Da’.) They released four studio albums between 1981 and 1985 and no fewer than ten singles.

‘Anna Letmein Letmeout’- aka ‘Anna (Let Me In, Let Me Out)’- was their third single released, immediately following ‘Da Da Da.’ It failed to have an impact in the US or UK, but undoubtedly charted handsomely in their homeland (citation needed.) Stylistically and lyrically it’s very similar to ‘Da Da Da’ with its simple deadpan tongue-in-cheek delivery.

The sleeve is rather unattractive, to my sensibilities anyway. It’s a scaled-up version of the 7″ art (or the 7″ art is a scaled-down version of this 12″); I don’t own the 7″ so I can’t tell you which size works better aesthetically. The grainy (probably copyright free) image is a dull grey field graffitied up with greenish felt tip marker scribbles. Whatever potency/serenity the original design might have had is marred by a large yellow circle (not sticker) proclaiming that this is a ‘MAXI LONG VERSION 45.’ The original 7″ version runs about 2:40 while this extended mix stretches out an expansive 4:45, prolonging your enjoyment of this slow plodding tune considerably…

 

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