Sunday, November 26, 2006

End of Yet Another Era

I Have Way Over 500 CDs

This morning’s Repugnican-worshipping white trash television (ethnic babes but mostly white men as kings of that hill of beans) was rather excitedly, I thought, reporting the death of the CD—a blaring headline over the story of Tower Records here in NYC going out of business. An American institution, the talking dumbheads said as though reading off Tower Record's tombstone. I didn’t know that Tower Records was an American institution; I know the British counterpart, HMV (Her Majesty’s Voice), in my neighborhood went out of business many moons back now; it has since become a huge Victoria's Secret store (don’t I remember Victoria's Secret when they were a used underwear boutique in SOHO in Lower Manhattan?)--women's underwear outselling CDs!! Seems like I knew when women's underwear put a huge record store out of business that the CD was dead.

Speaking of Victoria's Secret and SOHO, mainly SOHO, SOHO is an interesting area in that it evolved out of an artist colony and into a Rodeo-Drive-like, ritzy-glitzy chic, outrageously commercialized Zona Rosa now.

SOHO is an acronym designating the area it covers as being “South of Houston Street." North of SOHO is NOHO, which stands for “North of Houston Street,” and then over southwest of SOHO is movie-star-controlled-now TRIBECA, which stands for “Triangle Below Canal.” These three areas of NYC were developed by artist squatters back in the late sixties and early seventies when those formerly factory areas--full of fabulous old tin-facade buildings--and when these buildings were abandoned by the factory owners they became available for whatever use anyone renting their floors could come up with—especially those beautiful old buildings along West Broadway, Greene Street, Mercer Street, Prince Street, Spring Street—this artist-inspired community actually running below Houston and then on below Canal from Chinatown all the way over to the North River (you know it as the Hudson River).

Artists would simply takeover these abandoned factories minus their huge machines and equipment (printing plants, textile manufacturers, fixture and appliance manufacturers, etc.), fix them up (the beginning of “fixture fees”) using their own money, time, and labor and turn them into artists lofts, each unique according to the interests of the artists who constructed them--artists and dreamers loving them because of their many windows, those huge casement windows that let in sunlight from all around or those huge floor-to-ceiling bay windows of some of the especially 19th-century buildings--wonderful windows and wonderful light--great spaces for artist studios and living quarters and then with space on some of the lower floors for galleries in which to show their art. These artist lofts eventually became legal places to live under city housing laws with the Artist-in-Residence designation, becoming known as "A.I.R. buildings." If you saw that acronym on a building, you knew it had been taken over by a bunch of artists.

During the guts of the seventies, I lived in a loft on Greenwich Street and Spring Street in an area that wasn’t SOHO, or NOHO, or TRIBECA, but which we called BLOHO, for "Below Houston Street."

When I moved into my loft in 1977, I still had over 2,000 long-playing record albums; no cassettes; and certainly no CDs. Sam Goody's was still the leading record store in NYC, originating here, but by then gone chain nationally. It was almost over for the LP record; the cassette tape and cassette players and recorders already having become the cat’s meow in home recording and in commercial music production. At the end of the LP era, you could go down into the basement of the Sam Goody's on Lexington Avenue, in the Chrysler Building, and pick up great LPs, both stereo and monaurals, for 99 cents each. I bought hundreds and hundreds of them; I still had a turntable and a stereo amp and receiver and 2 huge Altec stereo speakers--I was a true LP man; I had been around when LPs replaced 78 rpm records; I had played Edison shellacks on an Edison phonograph my family kept up in the attic, so I was totally raised to just naturally expect the end of eras.

The cassette began it’s reign by the mid-seventies, arriving in our culture at about the time Billy Gates and the Steves at Apple were experiment with desktop computers, and that cassette reign lasted until the nineties when in came the Compact Disc in all its glory--the CD and the music video came in together. Oh hell, nothing will top this CD for recording, the touters sung—it’s the super-ultimate force in recording! Nothing will ever replace it. Yeah, sure, I said.

By then I had chickened out and bought a Walkman, not a Sony but an Aiwa--remember that brand? It was a damn good Walkman, too, and I just threw it out just about 9 months ago--it was still working after 20 years--it had a FM/AM radio in it, too, as well as a digital clock. During the 2003 black out here in NYC, that old worn Aiwa Walkman's radio still worked and saved my ass when I was able to take my mind off the pain and discomfort of in the hottest middle of a gruesomely hot summer with no electricity, no nothing but stale darkness--with no cooling air, only hot spoiled settled air by listening to a Yankees game from the West Coast, which kept my mind busy with baseball until 1 in the morning when I finally passed out from exhaustion and ended up sleeping in my own boiled out sweat--and then that Walkman radio kept on broadcasting all the next 24 hours at least keeping me posted on the progress being made at getting those lights back on [a very suspicious blackout if you remember; caused by a power grid failure in that great red state of Ohio--now a blue state, isn't it?

But then the CD kicked cassettes right square in their butts and sent 'em flyin' out the backdoor of the record stores and soon Sam Goody's owners were under indictment for bootlegging records in their stores, or somesuch typical businessman tactic of stealing money--they all do it; you can't run any kind of successful business without finding a source of off-the-books money--bar owners do it by watering down drinks or putting tons of ice in your glass--you understand.

It was in the 1980s when I remember the first Tower Record Store I ever saw. It was on Lafayette and East 6th, just west of where I used to hang out at Phoebe's Bar and Restaurant on 6th and the Bowery. Then Tower opened another huge store on Broadway up around Houston Street that became a white rockers hangout--huge crowds always packed around that Tower Records. The one back on Lafayette was more for sophisticates who still listened to classical and jazz and blues and old rock and roll--I mean the Rolling Stones were old jaded bastards by then but they were still putting out their lousy copycat American music albums--even good ole Natalie Cole after drugs had wrecked her r and b career found a way to have a big comeback hit by dubbing her father Nat into a music video where she sang along with her father--and then there was MTV coming onto the scene then, too.

Wow. It was good times in those pre-9/11 NYC days back in the 70s on up through the 90s. Damn, the rich hadn't eaten us all for their afternoon snacks yet. We artists, writers, musicians, dancers, still had SOHO and Tribeca, which were our safe havens, our own place where we could live communally and create such wonderful art and in doing so gathering around us the greatest bars and good-food restaurants, and merchants and old Italian bakeries--our own lumber yard on Spring Street, though, yep, before you knew it, here came the Capitalists, like Tower Records--yep, here they came like rats after spoiled cheese--the artists had made all this area vital and interesting but the Capitalist handwriting was all over the beautiful old walls of SOHO and TRIBECA, walls that got filled with art, though where is it now? And the galleries were only on West Broadway and not in London and Paris and up on 57th Street--and it became like the Village was at one time--with small theaters, the Film Forum movie house on Van Dam, the Spring Street Natural Restaurant, the New Morning Bookstore, the Broome Street Bar, Nick's, The Prince Street Bar, Fanellis, the WPA, Puffy's, McGoo's, the Ear Inn (and Ear Magazine and R.I.P. Heyman and Charlie Morrow and Phil Glass and Werner Herzog), and it wasn't to last long. It was the cassette era. And when the CD took over the cassette era, so went SOHO, NOHO, TRIBECA, BLOHO, The Lower East Side; they were taken over by the Capitalist Pigs who always ruin what's unique about Americans and the culture we create only to have it commercialized and cheapened and then sold to some foreign company--like all our Hollywood movies were sold to Japanese companies like Sony and all our old record masters were sold to Sony, even our beloved Leo Fender the master behind the Fender guitars and basses sold out to CBS, which later became a Japanese company--it happened to our music, our film industry, our art, our civilization! (Freud liked to use the phrase "evolution of culture" instead of the word "civilization." Evolution of culture is so much more free than civilization--more felt than catagorized; more experienced than labelled.)

I remember the first recording device I ever got my mitts on. It belonged to my brother’s nextdoor neighbor and it was a Webcor wire recorder. You heard me. It was a coiled wire and you wound it around a magnetic spool, turned it on record, and a green light came on and then you recorded through its tiny microphone and it recorded your sound on that piece of wire. Only a week or so later another man loaned me his reel-to-reel TAPE recorder on which you could actually split tracks and have a tape wide enough to record two separate tracks at once or by dubbing in as many as two other tracks by using what we called "ping-ponging" in order to get two separate channels of sounds coming split out a right speaker and out a left speaker. It meant you could record a piano track on one channel and then add a vocal with it on the second channel, or then you could dub in by ping-ponging say another vocal track or put in a guitar track. Amazing. Hi-fi was born. Not stereo. Stereo LPs didn’t come out until the late fifties; the first stereo record I owned was Ray Charles’s Atlantic album simply called “Genius.” I didn't get a stereo recorder until I bought a professional Harmon-Karmon cassette recorder in the early eighties.

In the late sixties my wife bought me for my birthday a portable reel-to-reel tape recorder that used spools of tape called "cassettes"--the original cassetted tapes--the cassette being the plastic reel on which the magnetic tape was wound--later the containment case itself would be called a cassette.

The Capitalists call this era-ending thing progress. They have been convinced by their sales forces that people demand a new design of something every 6 months. By the use of obsolescence, the Capitalists keep the profits rolling in--meaning, you, the consumer, are forced to stay up-to-date (they used to call it staying "state of the art," but I haven't heard that used in many years now) in terms of your teevee, your telephone, your entertainment habits, your music, your eating, your everything--even the mattress you're sleeping on is obsolete after you've owned it six months. Look at computers how they redesign so often. Why, I remember my first Apple computer, a Mac SE, black and white; and then came the color SEs, then the Quadras, then the Centras, then OS 9, then 9.1, then 9.2, then the iMacs, G3s, G4s, G5s, and OSX--and now, suddenly, those Macs are all obsolete--and I'm left holding an iMac G3 running Panther X, and my wonderful G4, also running Panther--and they are now so out-of-date. I still run a Classic 9.1 system simply because I liked it--and it has better speed than Panther, I swear; but try and find software compatible to it anymore--there is none--try and buy a new printer that is compatible to 9.1--there aren't any--the techies horselaugh right in your face when you ask them if they have a printer that is compatible with 9.1. The techy you're dealing with probably was only a baby when 9.1 rocked the Mac world.

I'm on a rant already; been around Robin's damn barn 50 times--simply to report to you the end of the CD era. Hello, digital time and space--hello, iPods--though I'll predict in six months, they'll have something even more spectacular than an iPod to sell ya.

I think I'll make a movie using my cell phone. Hey, why not? Look, Ma, I'm a moviemaker.

My fear is, where are original musicmakers gonna end up in this new iPod era of recording music. Are bands and singers going to become virtual? Robotic rock bands--breaker boys--Disco Stus? Doesn't look too bright for a guy who just sits down at a piano and entertains you for 3 hours over a few drinks and some good food.

for The Daily Growler

The Daily Growler "Freedom on the March" Baghdad Report: "They're still 'bringin' 'em on,' Mr. Phony President--Ya think a few more of us have to die before anybody impeaches you?"

From Yahoo News:

During Saturday's fighting in Baqouba, police killed at least 36 insurgents and wounded dozens after scores of militants armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades attacked government buildings in the city center, police said. The fighting raged for hours in the city, about 35 miles northeast of Baghdad.

Also Saturday, a U.S. soldier was killed and two were wounded when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle in Diyala province, the military said.

Officials including Defense Minister Abdul-Qader al-Obaidi and Gen. George Casey, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, decided Saturday to fire Diyala's police commander, saying he was unable to stop infiltration of the force by Sunni insurgents, two Iraqi officials said on condition of anonymity as is often the case in areas subjected to widespread fighting and revenge killings.

One of the main challenges for U.S.-led forces in recruiting and training Iraqi military and police forces is that they are often infiltrated by insurgents who kill and kidnap in disguise.

Enjoy your $2000-a-month hi-rise luxury apartment; enjoy your plasma-screen giant teevee; enjoy your Humvee or your overpriced Beamer; enjoy your lattes at Star-Mostly-Bucks--but BEWARE, there is more terrorism in the world today than there was before the War on Terrer started! How foolish wars are. How stupid. How unintellectual; therefore, according to Ezra Pound, how CRIMINAL wars are--criminals fighting each other over criminal causes--like stealing the oil from under a country! "Bring 'em on," he bravely said. And by God they were brought on. Holy Shiite!

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