My dad has more records than your dad. Just about 4,000 of ‘em. He used to have more too, when he owned a record store in the late 1970s in a remote part of Eastern Washington called Chelan. It was aptly titled: “The Music Store”(my dad even got the whole titular minimalism thing before it was big!) He used to stock The Music Store with all the best in pop/rock, country, bluegrass, jazz, folk, blues, and countless sub-genres. He would peruse thrift stores for rare finds as well as record discount sections, then known as cutout bins due to the rectangular chunk punched out of the LP’s sleeve. He’d buy milk crates full of LPs for a few bucks.
To this day the cutout bin records are my dad’s scapegoat of choice when defending ownership of such releases as A Flock Of Seagulls’ Dream Come True from ’86, and a surprisingly large body of Huey Lewis And The News albums. Yet the thrift stores and cutout bins were also responsible for some of the more strange and obscure gems. Take for instance my dad’s album of whale songs, narrated by none other than Leonard Nimoy. Or perhaps Ambrosia’s 1982 release Road Island, which, although sonically horrible, boasts a Ralph Steadman illustration on the cover. He also has a rare copy of A Tribute To Uncle Ray, an album released by (Little) Stevie Wonder at age 11, that had him singing the songs of Ray Charles.
I must say giving the milk crates and cutout bins all the credit would be unfair. The truth is, the majority of my dad’s record collection, in all of its diverse awesomeness, is due to his shameless LOVE of music. It’s the reason he has everything from Todd Rundgren’s Runt to Marlene Dietrich Returns to Germany, an album of the starlet singing in her native tongue over Burt Bacharach’s orchestra. It’s the reason he has Tom Waits’ first seven albums, and T-Bone Burnett’s first two. He owns every album Harry Nilsson released, and as much of The Kinks discography he could locate. He even has an unopened copy of a speech by JFK, which could probably pay a few bills here and there if he could part with it.
These records were road signs for me all the way through childhood, and they’re still guiding my infatuation with music today. In the same way I rummage through my mother’s closet each year and find something previously overlooked, I spend hours in front of my dad’s massive library of records, eyeing each spine for a hidden pearl.
The last time I went home, I found that my dad had mixed my record collection with his in a recent move. I started plucking my copy of Wire’s And Here It Is Again…Wire from the W’s and he caught me. This immediately spawned an argument about whether the album was in fact mine, gifted to me by my mother, or his from before they were married. I was tempted to challenge my dad to name five Wire songs as proof that he even liked them, but I was smart enough not to do that (I love you dad!).
When my parents separated 16 years ago the retrieval of records was probably the most painful order of business. Was that copy of The Pretenders’ first LP mom’s or dad’s? What about The Specials, or Hunky Dory? These disputes still surface, but I like to look on the bright side: my parents have amazing taste in music.
What if they were bickering about who ended up with the Kenny G record?
Things could be worse.
Here are a few tracks inspired by my awesome dad, and his impeccable taste:
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