Duran Duran – “Seven and the Ragged Tiger” (Sh*t I Play On My Crosley #5) (1983)

My musical awakening happened in 1983, the same year that Seven and the Ragged Tiger came out. Back then as an insecure middle schooler the kind of music you liked seemed like some incredibly serious business, something along the level of being a Trotskyist versus a Stalinist, or preferring the cop in the Village People to the construction worker. What you listened to defined who you were as a person and what you were about. Kind of like being part of a cult. Even though, of course, that was all bullshit. But it seemed real at the time, and I chose to define myself as a “rocker” by listening to Ratt and Quiet Riot and Van Halen (including wearing a Van Halen painters hat with VH buttons on it, which just oozed cool at the mall). There were certain tweener bands an aspiring rocker could still confess to liking, like maybe Big Country or Dexy’s Midnight Runners or Toto. One of the bands you could not confess to liking was Duran Duran.

I secretly liked Duran Duran. A lot.


I could never admit this, of course, because that would have invited ridicule and wedgies. But to see the “Rio” video on MTV was captivating, and when “The Reflex” came out I just about lost my mind. Fortunately my mom worked at the mall, so during the summers I’d sometimes go to work with her and hang out there all day by myself, much of which was spent in whatever mall chain record store we had in Columbia, South Carolina at the time. Which gave me the opportunity to secretly buy a copy of Seven and the Ragged Tiger on cassette, a format that was much easier to hide in my room without the risk not of my parents finding it, but one of my friends. Such things seemed very important back then.

A year or so later we moved from South Carolina to Seattle, which of course could mean only one thing to my parents – road trip. We drove. In a van. With a dog. It took a few weeks as we made some visits to friends and family along the way. We went to Canton, Ohio to visit friends and see the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and then made a stop off in St. Louis to visit some other family friends. Their son Tommy and I had been quite close as little kids when our families both moved to Seattle (my first stint here) at the same time and both families were living in the same hotel for what seemed like forever. Tommy and I would run up and down the halls between our rooms and trade football cards – he wanted the Cardinals, I wanted the Eagles, and we both agreed that Kenny Stabler was cool. These are the things upon which friendships are based.

Tommy also had a sister who was a couple of years older, and though I’m not sure how it came up during our visit to St. Louis, she learned I had a copy of Seven and the Ragged Tiger. She also thought she was pretty good at Intellivision baseball, which led to a bet – she put up a dollar against my Duran Duran tape. I was even more entrenched in my rockism to the point I couldn’t even allow myself the guilty pleasure of “Union of the Snake” any longer. As I recall I won the game pretty handily, but gave her the tape anyway. I wonder if she still has it…

This was a no-brainer for a Crosley record – an album so popular that it sold a ba-jillion copies, yet is dated enough to have landed in lots of dollar bins, making it supremely un-rare. I found a playable copy the other day at Half Price Books and figured “why not” since I had some store credit. And I’m glad I did. Because at my age I can admit to liking whatever I want, and as the Beastie Boys said, “and if you don’t like it then hey fuck you.”

Purrkur Pillnikk – “Tilf” 7″ (1981) (Sh*t I Play On My Crosley #4)

purkurrtilfPurrkur Pillnikk‘s Tilf may seem like an odd choice for me to play on my Crosley. After all, it’s a desirable early 1980s Icelandic punk 7″, and while far from being one of the most valuable ones, it still sells in the $50+ range. This copy, however, isn’t worth anywhere near that due to some very unfortunate and heavy warping.

My friend Ingvar of Lucky Records fame gave this to me for free a few years ago, figuring maybe I could somehow flatten it out enough to play. So for nearly two full years it’s sat in the middle of a nearly foot-high stack of large format music books on top of my record shelf. I did try using a hairdryer on it at one point without success, and while I considered the old sandwiching it between two panes of glass and putting it in the oven trick, that seemed like a lot of work and almost certain to destroy it completely. It turned out the books worked, sort of. I think it flattened out a bit, though it’s still a mess, and while I wouldn’t want to put it on my Rega, I figured I’d give it a try on the Crosley since one of the knocks on that player is the heavy weight/pressure the tonearm applies to the records. Maybe that weight would keep the stylus in the groove, and even if it puts way more wear on it than a better record player would, it’s not like Tilf is something I’ll be playing a lot, nor do I need to worry about its condition since its already pretty atrocious.

And I’ll be damned if it didn’t play fairly well. The opening song of side B was a bit warbly, but all-in-all it played OK and didn’t sound half bad, even out of the little tiny speakers built into the Crosley. The Crosley doesn’t seem to like how close the grooves run to the inner label, as it’s auto-stop function kicks in prior to the end of the last song on each side, but that can be turned off, so not a problem.

Purrkur Pillnikk cram 10 songs onto the Tilf 7″, which ain’t easy to do. All the tracks appear on the two CD band compilation called Í Augum Úti that came out back in 2001 (a 44-song monster that you can buy via iTunes for $19.99), so none of these songs are “new” to me, but it was cool to see this record find a new life long after it appeared it had given up the ghost. I certainly wish it was a nicer copy, but it was a gift and I was able to make something out of nothing, which is exactly what Ingvar was hoping would happen.

So a big “Takk” to you if you’re reading this Ingvar, and we’ll be seeing you in Reykjavik in a few weeks for Iceland Airwaves ’15. I’m bringing a pocket full of kronur and an empty record bag…

Winger – “Seventeen” b/w “Poison Angel” (1988) (Sh*t I Play On My Crosley #3)

She said,
“I’m only seventeen,
I’ll show you love,
Like you’ve never seen.”

She’s only seventeen,
Daddy says she’s too young,
But she’s old enough for me.
— Winger – “Seventeen”

I’ve heard a lot of music in my 40+ years. Some of it good, some of it bad. Some of it that can bring you to tears, some of it that makes you feel like you could charge head first into a brick wall and blow right through it without a scratch. I’ve heard lyrics that are funny and sad, poignant and stupid, classy and gross and juvenile. I’ve heard songs that are flat out disgusting and even a few that are downright offensive.

But god damn man, Winger’s “Seventeen” takes the cake for the creepiest lyrics of all time.

Now look, I bought a copy of Winger’s self-titled debut when it came out in 1988. And frankly I don’t apologize for it – while “Seventeen” may be beyond creepy, it’s a catchy tune that was all over the radio, and I was awfully close to being 17 years old myself at the time. Kip Winger, however, was something like 27 when that song blew up and made his band a household name. And a 27-year-old dude singing about naughty 17-year-old girls… that’s a bit much. Daddy says she’s too young / But she’s old enough for me. C’mon bro, that’s just creepy as hell.

Now to be fair to poor Kip, who will never live down that his biggest hit was about statutory rape, KISS actually beat him to the punch about 11 years earlier with absurd “Christine Sixteen,” a song that is about EXACTLY what you think it is. BUT. In the KISS song it’s basically a guy who is a perv talking about a 16-year-old girl he’s desperate for – I’ve got to have her / Can’t live without her. It’s creepy, but not next-level creepy. In the Winger song, though, the girl is aware of the whole age thing and playing on it, and even though the dude in the song knows she’s 17 and that that’s too young, he’s going to do what he’s going to do anyway (or at least try to).

A buddy of mine dropped off a big box of old tapes and singles the other day, and this 7″ was part of that material. We actually laughed about the absurdity of this song, since we both had the album back in the day and “Seventeen” is the only Winger song each of us could even remember. I knew as soon as I saw it that I had to play this as part of my Crosley series.

The B side is a song called “Poison Angel” that, shockingly, is also about a chick. Fortunately this time we’re spared any mention of the woman’s age.

I just wish the song wasn’t so damn catchy…

Culture Club – “Colour By Numbers” (1983) (Sh*t I Play On My Crosley #2)

Karma karma karma karma chameleon…

Colour By Numbers was released in 1983, right when I started getting into music and when MTV was replacing radio as the way you experienced music. But it wasn’t cool for a boy to like Culture Club, at least not in my circle, so like many of my male classmates I pretended not to like them or Duran Duran or Wham!, when secretly I’d turn up the sound on the TV when their videos came on.

This slightly warped copy came to us courtesy of the $3 bin at Easy Street Records. It seems like in many paces the “dollar bin” has become the “three dollar bin,” or at the very least the “two-for-five bin,” but that’s OK, because it means we can still sit on the back patio and listen to “Karma Chameleon” and “It’s a Miracle” while we sip cocktails on a warm summer night. And I suspect Boy George himself would be perfectly fine with that.

Heart – “Heart” (1985) (Sh*t I Play On My Crosley #1)

Today marks the start of a new “feature” on Life in the Vinyl Lane called “Sh*t I Play On My Crosley.”

Some friends of ours recently moved from Seattle to Texas, and before they left they not only dropped off a box of assorted records for me, but also a brand new Crosley portable turntable. You know the type – built into a traveling case with it’s own amp and speakers, an all-in-one kind of unit. Now, Crosley’s aren’t exactly known as being the ultimate in record players. In fact lots of people insist that the tracking weight and stylus quality are such that they’ll destroy your records over time. Be that as it may (or may not), it does serve a pretty specific role in the Life in the Vinyl Lane house. For one thing, I don’t always want to play dollar bin stuff or records in rough condition on my Rega – don’t want them messing up what is a relatively expensive stylus. So the Crosley is perfect for those well-loved records. It’s also perfect for taking out to the back deck on a summer night so we can listen to records while having cocktails. Which is awesome. Sure, my rare and expensive records will never grace the Crosley’s platter. But sometimes you just want to listen to Culture Club while drinking a mojito. And for that the Crosley is perfect.

So the other day I went to my local used record shop Vortex and perused the cheap records, and I came home with a few. One of these was Heart’s self-titled 1985 release, an album that was HUGE here in Seattle since Ann and Nancy Wilson are from here and grunge still hadn’t broken, making Heart Seattle’s only real impact on the national rock scene other than Jimi Hendrix (who had been dead for some time). Heart reached #1 on the Billboard album charts and launched four singles that cracked the Top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 – “What About Love” (#10), “Nothin’ At All” (#10), “Never” (#4), and “These Dreams,” which made it all the way to #1 (a fifth single, “If Looks Could Kill,” only made it to #54). It was a big album. Plus I thought Ann and Nancy were hot as hell (I still have a thing for big hair…).

I know I had this album back when it came out, and I’m 99% sure it was on cassette. I also went to see the band live, catching them at the end of their tour in either 1985 or 1986 – my second ever “big boy” concert that I went to without my parents (the first being Huey Lewis & The News, with Stevie Ray Vaughan opening, as part of the Sports tour). It was also the first time I got a contact high, since we were pretty close to the front of the general admission section at the Coliseum, and the tall dude standing next to me kept intentionally blowing weed smoke in my face. Rock ‘n’ Roll! It was, needless to say, a killer show.

You know what? Time has been pretty good to Heart. Sure, it’s a little dated, and probably doesn’t sound as “rock” as it used to. I distinctly remember the song “Nobody Home” as well, and recalling six of the album’s ten songs this many years later speaks to how big it was. Now, Heart had some hits before with songs like “Dog and Butterfly,” “Straight On,” “Magic Man,” and “Barracuda,” but things had been pretty stale for them since the end of the 1970s. In that respect Heart kind of came out of the blue – they’d put a few singles into the middle of the charts in the early 1980s, but nothing notable. For whatever reason it came together on Heart and re-invigorated their careers.

Maybe Heart is just light rock today, but it still sounds great to my ears, and the tinny sound of the Crosley is a perfect fit. Man, I think I need a cocktail now…