Spin On finds Nashville’s beloved independent record shop Grimey’s New and Preloved Music partnering with the Nashville Convention & Visitors Crop and Showfields to bring vinyl records made by artists who live in Nashville or were recorded in Music City to NYC. Grimey’s has been an important part of the fabric of Nashville’s music scene since opening its doors in 1999, offering an expansive archive of vinyl new and old, along with used books, magazines, cassettes, CDs, turntables and more. It also provides support for local talent, hosting performances and album release parties for the likes of Jason Isbell and The Black Keys. Metallica also recorded their 2008 live album, Live at Grimey’s, at The Basement, a popular nightclub housed below the shop’s previous location that’s run by Grimey’s co-owner Mike Grimes.
Meanwhile, Showfields is a modern, multi-purpose retail space that opened in Noho in December 2018. It’s easy to see why it’s branded as “the most interesting store in the world” with four innovative floors dedicated to multi-media products and a vast array of rotating clients ranging from holistic wellness company Almeda Labs to candy artist by robynblair and smart mattress manufacturer Eight Sleep, in addition to serving as a gallery and community space.
The idea for Spin On came after the Nashville Visitors Corp participated in a panel in Manhattan alongside a member of the Showfields team. Inspired by Showfields chic and slick business model that shines a spotlight on creativity and artistry, the Visitors Corp wanted to partner with the eclectic NYC store to create a retail shop that reflects a vital aspect of Nashville’s music culture – vinyl. “There’s something about vinyl that lends itself to a simpler, more authentic time. Couple that with the fact that the music sounds so much better on vinyl that it makes it important for cities that produce music to deliver the best possible product available,” Butch Spyridon, president and CEO of Nashville Convention & Visitors Corp, shares with Audiofemme.
More than 800 vinyl records have made the voyage from Nashville to New York for the collection curated by Grimey’s, featuring music icons like Jimi Hendrix and Elvis Presley to country legends Dolly Parton and Roy Orbison. Living alongside them are albums by Kings of Leon, The Milk Carton Kids and Jessy Wilson, the latter a Brooklyn native formerly of Nashville-based rock duo Muddy Magnolias who dropped her solo album Phase earlier this year.
The pop-up also features performances and signings by Nashville-based singer-songwriters Andrew Combs on November 5, Trent Dabbs of duo Sugar & The Hi Lows on November 10, The Cadillac Three on November 19 and Caitlyn Smith on December 4. Hootie & the Blowfish are scheduled to sign copies of their new album, Imperfect Circle, on November 1. Every Thursday, Spin On is serving up $2 beers from Tennessee Brew Works.
“Nashville’s music brand is as diverse as the day is long, but 90% of the time people want to gravitate to country only. This town is built on diverse music and it is well represented in the store. That’s the message we want to send through the pop up,” Spyridon says. “Nashville is a diverse, welcoming, creative community.”
Spin On: Nashville’s Vinyl Collection is open until January 15, 2020 at Showfields (11 Bond Street, NYC). Hours are Sunday and Monday from 11 a.m. – 7 p.m. and 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.
Repeat after me: Loser. Double loser. Whatever. Moron. If you were a certain age in the late 1990s, this insult – when paired with the correct hand motions – was the ultimate dis to peers, siblings, and losers of every stripe. The term “loser” in the nineties and early ‘00s was plastered all over the place, from Beck’s breakout hit, to anti-drug PSAs, and that movie starring Jason Biggs’ trapper hat. The identity of the “loser” in music, however, is a far more complex thing than a girl “with her finger and her thumb in the shape of an “L” on her forehead,” as Smash Mouth sang.
The loser is not simply a spinoff of Jay and Silent Bob, or Bill and Ted, or Beavis and Butthead (as you can see, losers often come in pairs). It seems that the loser of song tradition is more akin to a hero than a villain. A flawed bearer of mediocrity and wearer of slouchy clothes, the loser archetype is as quintessential to rock ‘n’ roll as the rambler and the romantic. Some losers are self-proclaimed, like Derrick Harriott as he sang his reggae hit “The Loser,” and Merle Haggard, who released the gorgeous but self-effacing song “I’m a Good Loser” on his 1971 record, Hag. “Yeah I’m a good loser/Born to be that way/This dog, he never had his day,” croons Haggard, no doubt lamenting a long-gone woman.
Though country stars were often self-critical in Haggard’s era, hearing him sing the words, “I’m a good loser” is still jarring to this day. Who could ever think of Merle Haggard, one of the coolest men in the history of country music, as a loser? Only he had the power to slander his name, illuminating the fact that loss plagues all of us – even rich and famous country singers.
In many ways, Haggard was a loser. He certainly didn’t have a winning relationship with cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol, the combination of which contributed to his many years of poor heath, and eventual death in 2016. The Hag was also known to lose in love, and to the law. He was married five times and served two and a half years at San Quentin prison in 1958 for burglary and attempted escape from county jail. Add all that up, and you might not call Merle Haggard a winner – but he sure lost with the best of ‘em.
The desperate nature of a country music persona made the genre natural loser territory. From Hank Williams singing “You Win Again” to Linda Ronstadt’s “Sometimes You Just Can’t Win,” to the real-life rise and fall of Townes Van Zandt – the songs wouldn’t have been as good if everybody was winning all the time. But music’s hopeless manifesto didn’t reside only in blues and country – pop is full of losers, too. Of course there’s “Three Time Loser” by ultimate sexyman Rod Stewart, “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus, “The Winner Takes It All” by ABBA, and countless others. Even The Beatles, the untouchable Fab Four, had a song about being a loser: “I’m A Loser” from 1964’s Beatles For Sale. “I’m a loser/And I lost someone who’s near to me,” sings John Lennon. It’s hard to imagine John, Paul, George or even Ringo identifying as losers while watching them perform this cut to a crowd of shrieking women, but then again, as the song warns, “I’m a Loser/And I’m not what I appear to be.”
Still, The Beatles don’t quite fit the loser archetype. I mean, look at those suits and those haircuts. Even when they got mustachioed and Sgt. Peppered it was hard to see them as anything but rock n’ roll all-stars. Folks like Roy Orbison, on the other hand, had a tougher time making it as a cool kid. “Roy was the coolest, uncool loser you’d ever seen,” Bruce Springsteen said of Orbison in a 2012 keynote address at SXSW. I doubt Orbison would deny such a claim had he been alive to hear it. The dark genius behind masterpieces like “Only The Lonely” and “Crying” knew much of loss and sorrow.
Orbison, aka, “The Big O” went through numerous catastrophes in his lifetime – in fact, there is even a section of his Wikipedia page entitled, “Career decline and tragedies” – and it’s lengthy. Orbison suffered heartbreak, infidelity on the part of his first wife Claudette (yes, that “Claudette”), and a lifetime of mourning. In June of 1966, Orbison and Claudette were riding motorcycles through Gallatin, Tennessee when Claudette struck the door of a pickup truck that had pulled out in front of her. She died instantly. Only two years later while touring England, Orbison received a call relaying that his home in Hendersonville, Tennessee had burned down, leaving his two eldest sons dead. If to be a loser you must suffer great loss, then perhaps Orbison was the biggest loser in rock ‘n’ roll history.
Where Haggard and Oribson’s losses were the stuff of tragic poems, the loser that rolled up in the ‘90s was cut from a different cloth. Take Beck’s “Loser” for instance – the lo-fi hit that put him on the map in 1994. Far more blasé than self-loathing, Beck traipsed through that music video like a shabby bon vivant rather than a hopeless burnout. He owned his loser-dom in secondhand duds and ill-fitting hats. Beck was the loser we’d never seen in music before: mildly defiant, nihilistic, and chic in his refusal to look to the future. Suddenly, the loser wasn’t tragic – it was cool.
But where have all the losers gone? We’ve seen plenty of pop stars in the past decade donning thick-rimmed glasses and identifying as “geek” (which, by the way, is not the same thing as a loser), but where are the deadbeat, worn-down, desperate stars of today? And please do not mention Ed Sheeran – he has a full torso of professional tattoos, and is therefore stripped of any potential loser accolades. Everyone keeps shouting that “the ‘90s are back!” but I don’t see rock ‘n’ roll losers anywhere. Who are kids supposed to look up to these days anyway, Adam Levine? That guy has far too many abs to be a loser. Mainstream music seems to be populated solely by shiny, auto-tuned sex symbols (and Ed Sheeran), and it’s just not enough. We need our poor, our weary, our roughened-up chumps, too. We need our losers. We are lost without them.
When Beyoncé so wisely instructed “All the single ladies” (ALL the single ladies) to “put your hands up,” it was a different time. It was 2008. A year of innocence. We had elected Obama. Beach House had released Devotion. And single ladies everywhere felt empowered by Queen B’s anthem for autonomy. I’d just moved to New York, 18 and wet behind the ears. I couldn’t wait to have my own fashion line, a loft in Soho, and to party with The Strokes – all of which happened in rapid succession. (#AlternativeFacts.)
Back then, 99% of my friends were single, and we relished in seasons of not giving a fuck about it. Our lives were spun of work, college, fun…and the impending recession. But still! Life was good. Lovers came and went like party guests. Some stayed longer than invited. Others left before even taking their coats off.
Nearly ten years on, paradigms have shifted, and rightly so. People met cute and moved in. People got married. Some got babied up. Hell, even Beyoncé, Ms. Single Lady herself, got married to Jay-Z – and I hear it’s going really well!
Naturally, my single friend percentage declined. It is in the single digits these days…like, in the 1-3% range. Which begs me to entreat: “All my single ladies (All my single ladies!) Now put your hands up!” All six of them. All six of your combined hands. Put them up, for the love of god. I guess with my hands we have eight. Strength in numbers.
Did anyone ever stop to ask: why are we putting our hands up?? Maybe Beyoncé wanted all the single ladies to put their hands up – because they were about to be shot by a firing squad? Maybe that’s what that song is about…elimination of the single ladies. She did marry Jay-Z that year after all. Perhaps it was meant as a kindness…to put us single ladies out of our perceived misery.
Ok, that’s a bit extreme, but I can’t help being wry. As we approach Valentine’s Day – the preferred holiday of single people everywhere – the commodity of coupling up can be oppressive. The polyester teddy bears lining shelves at Duane Reade. The lingerie ads. 50 Shades Darker.
Valentine’s Day is perhaps the most polarizing commercial holiday; the holiday that cruelly bisects the population into those with, and those without. Those who will dance together in the kitchen to Joni Mitchell’s “A Case Of You” – and those who will sob to it over a box of self-gifted Russel Stover’s. Those who shall feast upon prix-fixe dinners of lamb chops and heart-shape chocolate cakes – and those who SHAN’T!
Parks and Recreation may have given us stags “Galentine’s Day,” and I’m sure Pinterest is rife with “fun alternatives” to drinking an entire bottle of wine in front of the mirror while cry-singing Cat Power, but I say fuck that shit. We don’t need alternatives. The single ladies don’t need saving. I don’t wanna go to the club with “gloss on my lips/a man on my hips,” as per Bey’s example.
Instead, all my single ladies: let’s dwell. Let’s lament. Let’s feel the pain. Love does hurt after all, and so does its absence. But that’s all right. This shit makes the world go ‘round. This Valentine’s Day, I want you to imagine all of the songs that have ever been written. Yup, all of ‘em. How many of those do you reckon are love songs? A pretty big portion I’d say. Finally, think about how many of those love songs are happy love songs, versus the ones that spring from raw, unbridled agony.
You see my point.
Would Roy Orbison ever have written “Only the Lonely” if he were just peachy and happily married? Would Stephin Merritt have written any songs, ever? Would I have any sad bastard music to listen to at all?
Some of the best music comes from good old-fashioned anguish. So when you’re feeling unbearably lonely, remember that you’re in good company – albeit the miserable kind.
I admit: there is a time to “put your hands up” and feel emboldened by solitude. I do it every day, when I eat my lame yet efficient dinner of sandwich meats, mayo, and hot sauce wrapped in a plume of romaine lettuce. Standing up. By the sink. I celebrate the fact that I can make the decision to do so without the democratic process. Without having the “What are we doing for dinner?” conversation. I can eat my sad lettuce wrap in peace. Blaring Pulp and singing along, still chewing. There is always a time to champion sad salad wrap singing, and 2am laundry doing, and in-bed pizza eating. And there is also a time to pour yourself a carafe of merlot, put on a depressing record, and be alone with everyone who’s ever written a song.
This Valentine’s Day, let’s get dismal. Just for one night. No one will even notice! (Because they will be on a date!)
Let’s start with Morrissey’s “Please Help The Cause Against The Loneliness.” A bubblegum number to the uncaring ear; but listen closer: sweet, sweet isolation! Leave it to Moz to wax desolate – this bouncing tune scrutinizes the pity cast upon the unwed…and who better to scrutinize than the infamous asexual himself? “Please help the cause against the loneliness,” Moz croons, as if there is a charity handout for our kind (if only!).
Next turn up some Liz Phair, who knew that you could still be completely alone while lying right next to someone. Phair’s snarky “Fuck and Run” is the quintessential opus for bad decisions. A sloppy, pitchy, honest, pathetic, undeniably brave song. This is diary caliber realism – all about that forbidden bed you keep crawling back into. Phair really hits it home when she asks the simple questions, like:
“Whatever happened to a boyfriend/The kind of guy who tries to win you over?/And whatever happened to a boyfriend/The kind of guy who makes love ’cause he’s in it?/ And I want a boyfriend /I want a boyfriend/I want all that stupid old shit like letters and sodas.”
While we’re reveling in emotional immaturity, let’s listen to “I Don’t Want To Get Over You” by the barons of broken hearts – Magnetic Fields, the band that truly did “make a career of being blue.”
As we’re discovering, a bit of wallowing can be cathartic. Despite all of the song’s clever imagery, one line says it all for me:
“I could leave this agony behind/Which is just what I’d do/If I wanted to/But I don’t want to get over you.”
And haven’t we all been down that dark hallway?
If love’s impact on the history of music, film, art, literature, and war (I’m talking to you, Helen of Troy) isn’t making you feel at one with your solitude – may I throw but one last metaphor at you?
A friend of mine recently returned from a trip to Paris: the city of lights and love and innumerable sauces. She regaled me with tales of part-time lovers and fine meals. At the end of one such fine meal, she chose a dessert to cap off the perfect dinner. She chose framboise surprise. Raspberry surprise. Ooh la la! To append an American dish with “surprise” usually suggests catastrophe (tuna surprise), but the French weren’t gonna fuck this up! It would be exquisite; mountains of frothy pink mousse encasing shortbread and sorbet, the whole thing crowned with gold-dipped sugar lattices. Quelle surprise!
When the dessert was gently placed on the table, raspberries there were. The surprise however, was missing. It was 12 raspberries, up-ended on a plate. 12. Fucking. Raspberries. That’s it. C’est tout.
My point is: sometimes love is all that frothy pink mousse and more. Sometimes a relationship is a rich and mysterious and delicious dessert, worthy of all the pain, paintings, opuses and arias. And sometimes – it’s 12 fucking raspberries on a plate. That you just paid 10 Euros for.
Few musicians have effectively sidestepped the descent into mediocrity. Even fewer have remained truly great up until their deaths, and ascended into legends long after. Johnny Cash, Lee Hazelwood, and Lou Reed are among this musical elite. And then there’s Roy Orbison. Though most famous for recording “It’s Over” and “ Oh, Pretty Woman,” in 1964, Orbison has written, recorded and produced some of the most original and memorable ballads in pop music history. As part of the golden legacy of Sam Phillips’ Sun Records, Orbison has had a total of 22 songs placed on the Billboard Top 40, and boasted a phenomenal vocal range that stretched three or four octaves. This ability to transition between baritone and tenor popularized Orbison as “the Caruso of rock.”
Though Orbison’s most prolific years were the 1960s, his posthumously released final record Mystery Girl is one of the finest departing albums I’ve ever heard. Recorded in the Fall of 1988 three months before its release, Mystery Girl is a flawless pop-opus which touts production quality as slick as Orbison’s signature onyx pompadour.
The album is a sonic homage to mid-century American pop-rock-n’roll, a fitting soundscape considering the era’s cultural revival in the late 1980s. Mystery Girl includes songs written by giants of the industry: Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne (of ELO), and Elvis Costello to name a few. Its cast of producers is no less impressive. Mike Campbell (of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers), T-Bone Burnett, and Brian Eno highlight Orbison’s own distinct production style.
“You Got It,” the record’s opening track, is one of the most recognizable. This is in part due its use in advertising. It is an upbeat number that recalls a breezy summer romance in the 1960s-or at least what our lens of synthetic nostalgia renders that to seem like. It’s a great pop song, but the meat of this album lies in the sweet melancholy of its more orchestral tracks.
Chief among these is “In the Real World,” which ranks with Orbison’s great songs of heartache. The song is distinctly Orbison, beginning with the gentle strum of a Spanish guitar and a single thread of that signature quivering croon. With haunting backing vocals and the emotive use of strings, it possesses the same sweeping quality of his early work, leaving the listener in a somnolent limbo between misery and bliss. This is the Orbison condition: an ambivalence that results from a sound so beautiful, you’d rather die than go on listening (or die before listening to anything else).
This condition is perfected on the album’s near-title track “She’s a Mystery to Me” which was written for Orbison by U2 members Bono and The Edge. The song’s power is undeniable. Orbison’s voice is sorrowful and slips over you like opium molasses: slow, astringently sweet, and twice as addictive. Meanwhile the orchestral accompaniment concocts a warm-whiskey sound that dissipates outward from the sternum to the cuticles. It’s the perfect medicine for gluttons of sorrow. The all-star credits continue from there; Elvis Costello’s contribution to the album is the tragic “The Comedians” which delivers Costello’s patented contrast between audible joy and verbal dejection. That Costello had written the song makes perfect sense in retrospect, but when Orbison sings it, it becomes his instantly.
My favorite song on the record is undoubtedly “She’s a Mystery to Me,” but a neck-and-neck second is “The Only One,” written by Craig Wiseman and Orbison’s son Wesley. While “She’s a Mystery to Me” has a consistent sound throughout verse and chorus, “The Only One” is far more dramatic. Its verse eases us into a simple and downtrodden ballad, and then the chorus crescendos into a crooning reprimand. The Orbison condition is contracted yet again.
Though Roy Orbison was a permanent fixture in my musical rearing, I didn’t hear this album (as far as I can remember) until two and a half years ago at a friend’s apartment. I was dumbstruck immediately. Orbison’s voice is like butter – as in, you can put it on anything and it’s improved tenfold – but I was still shocked at how timeless the record sounded. It at once seemed old, new, and impossible to date. It’s sad that Mystery Girl had to be the last album Orbison would ever record, but man, what a way to go out.
Listen to “She’s a Mystery to Me” and “The Only One” below:
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