Of the many things about my wife I struggle to understand, a principal topic I find confounding is her ability to justify an expense by telling me it’s actually saving me money.
But then, in Mammoth, the marketing folks tell us that every dollar spent on marketing generates something like $270 in visitor spend, so I suppose I should be accustomed to exaggeronomics.
About five years ago, my wife came home from another victorious trip to one of our local thrift stores here in Bishop, telling me she’d bought a piece of furniture right off the truck.
That’s right. It never even made it to the sales floor.
And what’s better: the item in question came with about 300 LP records at no additional charge.
Fast-forward four years and ten months. The so-awesome-it-had-to-be-bought-off-the-truck record cabinet and associated LP records are still in the garage, gathering dust, when my wife comes home victorious once again!
This time she’s bought the final pieces to the puzzle – a record player and a receiver. She’d acquired speakers at an earlier date but that had somehow eluded me.
A month goes by.
I take the record cabinet and the boxes of records and place them squarely in the living room. I tell her the furniture and the records will proceed through the living room, into my pickup and toward an undisclosed thrift store unless she finishes her project.
Which she does. And then she says to me, “But it’s your job to sort through the records to see if there’s anything in there worth listening to.”
The collection we inherited pretty much covers a time period spanning 1955-1975. The top artist: Chet Atkins. We must have fifty Chet Atkins albums. Second most popular: Sinatra. Then a three-way tie for third between country and jazz and female vocalists.
So for the past month, I’ve been immersed in this time capsule. And you know what? My wife’s a damn genius. I used to have a few hundred albums at my home in Swall, but after the Round Fire, I just kind of … let it go. But it’s been great fun sorting through a lot of artists I didn’t know much about. I could even see becoming a bit obsessive. Endless discovery. And Lou Rawls kicks serious ass. So does Ray Price.
I spoke to Bruce Licher of Independent Project Press in Bishop last week about this new hobby, a hobby Bruce can identify with. At one point, Bruce had a record collection numbering about 8,000.
He has since begun the thinning process.
He says, “I bring in crates of records to my shop [on Willow Street in Bishop] and play ‘em. If I listen all the way through, I keep it. If not, it either gets sold or goes to the thrift store.”
He initially started selling used records at Range and River books, and after that shop tragically closed, he approached Lynne Almeida at Spellbinder Books.
He’s got a whole little section at Spellbinder (see below).
Licher is a musician who achieved some renown in the day as the frontman for the L.A. based post-punk band Savage Republic.
When he was an undergrad at UCLA, he would plow through the 99-cent bins at Rhino Records in Westwood. And they had listening booths. He’d take 6” handfuls into the booths and go through them. “I could set the needle on the record for just a few seconds and know if I wanted to hear more,” he says.
When I asked him if he had any favorite record stores that still exist, he said, “All my favorite record stores have closed. I tend to look for records at thrift stores, estate sales, yard sales … I like them because I’m willing to take risks [on artists or albums he doesn’t know much about] for fifty cents or a buck.”
One store he did later mention: Rockaway Records in L.A.’s Silverlake neighborhood, where Hollywood-types bring in their excess. It’s a high-end shop, trafficking in the rare and hard-to-find.
Part of the reason I approached Bruce was because I knew he was such an aficionado that I wanted to get his top ten desert island disc list.
Funny thing is, he’d already created one. A French publication asked him the same question back in 2006 (There we go again here at The Sheet. Completely derivative). And he gave me the list, but I’m gonna save it for an upcoming issue. Because no conversation with Bruce can ever really be confined to a single theme.
I will tease it by saying I’d only heard of two of the ten bands on his list, and you won’t find any Beatles or Stones on it. As Bruce says, “Their music is so much a part of the [cultural background] I wouldn’t need it on a desert island. I could just sing it to myself.”
Predictably, Licher’s favorite Stones album is generally panned by critics as the band’s worst: Their Satanic Majesties Request. “It’s a cool artifact,” says Bruce. “I love the sitars and the spaciness.”
Sheet (and I have no idea why I asked this): Are you a Zappa fan?
Licher: I tried to get into him. There are a couple of instrumentals I like, but he’s a little wacky and wanky for me.
I did meet him once. He and his wife. In the Hollywood Hills. He discovered the letterpress stamps I was doing and wanted to do a “tax the churches” series but … it never went anywhere.
Licher also has no classical music on his desert island list. “My Dad listened to exclusively classical so I got my fill of that growing up,” he says.
But tbis is how much Bruce loves music. His latest project: He’s relaunching his Independent Project Press record label, partnering with Jeff Clark, a guy he knew in the ‘80s who was the lead singer of Shiva Burlesque. They’ll be releasing reissues and previously unavailable archival recordings.
Before I left the shop, however, Bruce suggested I call another local, next generation collector.
Bryan Mack has lived in the Sierra since 1998 (excluding his time as an undergrad at UCLA and as a law student at Loyola Marymount).
His mother Brenda taught 2nd and 3rd grade at the Round Valley school.
And while he is now practicing as a lawyer in Bishop (he opened his practice last year and primarily focuses on estate planning), he spent several years post-law school teaching high school math in Independence for Owens Valley Unified School District.
Mack says his collection stands at about 3,000 these days. And while he has a little bit of everything, his focus is on metal and hard-core punk.
He says moving to Bishop in the first place is what inspired his collection, since records were cheaper than CDs. He’d always go to Laws Museum’s Choo Choo swap meet because there was a guy who’d always have a table there selling LPs for fifty cents apiece.
“I’d buy random stuff for fifty cents if it had a cool cover,” says Mack.
“I go to the IMAH (Inyo Mono Association for the Handicapped) thrift store quite a bit,” he says. “They’ve got a solid selection.”
When I mentioned that Licher was trying to thin his collection, Mack offered up a bit of a sigh on the other end of the line.
“I still buy more than I sell,” he admits.
So if you’re looking for something to do this weekend, you can cruise more than a few places in the Sierra in search of vinyl. Also look for Mark McClean’s sign (at right). He sells vinyl at his consignment store located on Main Street in Bishop. Another absolute gem of a place if you’re heading north to the Carson Valley: Try the High Desert Trading Post in Gardnerville. It’s located in the Meadowdale Shopping Center (where the
Gardnerville post office is located).