Discovering foolishness – minute by minute
So I’m watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony a couple weeks ago on HBO, like all awards shows this year being a largely virtual event, and the Doobie Brothers kick it off with some terrific archival footage and heartfelt acceptance speeches. Yeah, I think, I really need to give the Minute By Minute album a spin on my newish USB turntable.
So I go to my media cabinet, slide open the door and look through my small collection of vinyl that I preserved after culling so many of my possessions in 2014 when preparing for my big move from Sydney to Los Angeles. But… huh? Where is Minute By Minute? Why aren’t any of my Doobie Brothers records there? WTF? Surely not, surely I didn’t send those off to the dealer with the other discarded items of my precious vinyl collection?
This was actually a deeply depressing discovery and a second whammy. The first was in 2015 when I saw the Doobies at the Greek Theatre and late that night, as soon as I got back to my apartment, I went in search of my Doobies CDs to look something up only to realise I had disposed of all of them. Sure, I’d ripped them on to my iTunes so I can play the music any time I like – the supposed allure of digital music nowadays, no clutter from antiquated plastic, all at my fingertips on my computer and my phone – but not having the physical evidence of my many years of collecting music, presenting a radio program, doing research, not actually having the booklets and artwork, made me cringe at my idiocy. Now more than five years later, discovering the vinyl had also been discarded made me feel sick.
I dug up the Word document on my hard drive that was my inventory of all my music, which I’d compiled back in the nineties for insurance purposes and regularly updated, a document that was helpful when programming a radio show. I’d thought that I had only disposed of the vinyl that was from the eighties and beyond, irrelevant promos that record companies sent me, or stuff I was never going play, especially given I didn’t believe I would own a turntable again. What a fool believes. Once I moved here to LA I started seeing turntables everywhere, in Barnes & Noble, and online on Amazon, and finally a few months ago I snapped up a cheapie, because I wanted to listen to my old Sherbet albums in their original, glorious, recordings.
Anyway, I was aghast as I looked down the list on the inventory, proving that I had in fact disposed of a lot of vinyl that I’d carried with me since the seventies and should never, ever have let go. Frampton Comes Alive. What??? How could I have sold that off to a dealer? I’m reading Peter Frampton’s memoir now. I saw his farewell show a year ago and still need to write about that. But the album… sheesh… even if I was never going to actually play it again, how could I not keep it? It’s a monumental artefact, something I bought back then when it mattered that I bought it. I contributed to it being the biggest selling live album of its time, one of the biggest of all time. Sure, I can buy some re-issued deluxe version now at a high price, but I let go of the original Australian pressing that I bought from my favourite record shop, Sound Advice in Chatswood, Sydney, in 1976. How could I have done that? What was I thinking? (Yes, I got rid of the CD version also. Ugh.)
I’d listened to well meaning friends who advised me to be “ruthless” when I was preparing for my move. I gave away my piano. The piano my parents bought for me in 1974 because I so desperately wanted a piano. An old second-hand upright, I loved it. I did pianoforte for a few years, was pretty bad at sight-reading so didn’t progress, but I can still play a bit of this and that, and I held on to some of my music piano books – Eagles, Chicago, Linda Ronstadt, Heart, Bee Gees. I had painstakingly taught myself to play “Desperado” and “Wasted Time”. I put the piano in my Byron Bay house after my mother sold the family home in Lindfield. It needed a major overhaul. I never had that done but it was my piano and I loved it, and then I gave it away. And sold most of my music collection for a pittance. You know that emoji of someone hitting herself on the forehead? That’s me thinking about my vinyl albums, my CDs, my piano, my parents’ artworks, my house and pool. My life before I made a bunch of fucked up decisions.
So back to Minute By Minute for a minute. I included it in my Top 10 Albums of the Seventies. And it’s the only one on that list that I don’t still own on vinyl. It’s crushing that I did that to myself.
In January 1981 I drove with my girlfriend Clare, our high school friend Mark and my new boyfriend John from Sydney to Melbourne in my little Toyota Corolla. I drove them mad playing the song “Minute By Minute” and hitting the brake pedal with every utterance of the word “minute”. I always thought of that in the years and decades after when I listened to the song. Always. Still now. Minute. By. Minute. By. Minute. By. Minute. Probably not great for the brake pads. But it’s what I did.
Later in 1981 the Doobie Brothers came to Australia and it was the first time I saw them live. I’ve seen the Doobies multiple times in concert over the years since. I have a ticket to the Los Angeles concert of their 50th Anniversary Tour, the big reunion with Michael McDonald, currently postponed to October 2021 by which time it will be their 51st anniversary. Maybe we will all be vaccinated and I can go. I’d like to hear Mike sing “Minute By Minute” and “What A Fool Believes” with the band that recorded them, as well as “Takin’ It To The Streets” and several others from his soul-tinged Doobies era.
I probably will track down a new vinyl copy of Minute By Minute to add to my media cabinet and try to pretend I was never without it. But I’ll know it’s not my original. I’ll know that I was a fool.
I didn’t have a massive vinyl collection, around 300 albums. I decided to keep 80. Why 80 and not 100, I don’t know. Maybe 80 could fit into one packing box. I was ruthless. In addition to my Doobies and Frampton albums, I culled some that I am horrified I no longer have. I was going to reference a few but it hurts too much to even write it down. I committed great crimes against myself.
I had thousands of CDs and only kept 400. But I did spend three weeks copying them on to iTunes. And they are backed up in multiple locations. But I think plastic is more durable than computers and clouds and I would rather still have them, even if they had remained in boxes that were used as a makeshift coffee table here in LA because I wasn’t going to have room for them all.
My friend Gerry, a serious music aficionado I’ve known for around 27 years, retired some years back and kept putting off overseas travel because he couldn’t bear to leave his huge record collection. It wasn’t even that he was worried it would get stolen; he just said he would miss playing his records. Eventually he started taking trips away and seeing the world, but he is always happiest at home with his stuff.
We’re encouraged in these times of working towards enlightenment, and lightening our load, to have no attachments to material possessions, but I have always argued against that, because our things carry our stories, our history, our people, places and memories. My stuff weighs me down but I love it and I want to take it all with me to my final days, wherever they might play out. So to have so much of my music gone, because I thought I could live without it, is a hard thing to bear. I’ve actually broken my own heart as I’ve realised, six years on, the extent of my losses. And I can’t even start discussing the wonderful analogue stereo system my Dad bought me for my 21st birthday that I passed on to a friend, sold for a nominal amount to ensure it went to a good home. I don’t hear from that friend any more so I hope he still has it and cares for it. After I sold it, Gerry said he would have happily stored it for me up at his place, in case I ever wanted it again. And now I do, and I want to go home, and the saddest thing is, we can hang on to our stuff but as much as our imaginations and hearts and ears remind of us of where we came from, we can never actually go back, because even if we do, we really don’t.
Oh what the heck. I just bought an original vinyl Minute By Minute on eBay. It’s not the one I bought in Sydney at the beginning of 1979, but it’s an album that needs to be in my collection again. So in a week or so it will be. This could be my penance, re-buying records I already owned.
You think I’m your fool
Well, you may just be right
A selection of the vinyl I kept and why, in no particular order:
Bowie Pinups – Because it was the first album I bought by an artist, rather than a K-Tel compilation.
Between The Lines – I loved Janis Ian’s “At Seventeen”, what young girl didn’t, even if I was only 13. I had won a gift certificate for a local music store so I used it to buy this album, which I still love to this day. “In The Winter” – oh my god, crushing.
KC & the Sunshine Band – Another early vinyl acquisition because I really liked “That’s the way aha aha I like it aha aha”.
Boston – The debut album, loved “More Than A Feeling”. Kept this because of the album cover, but unlikely to ever play it.
Goodbye Yellow Brick Road – Because how could I not keep that? Quintessential seventies brilliance.
A New World Record – Because it is so extraordinary from start to finish, a landmark album. I didn’t keep Out Of The Blue although I did get the re-issue on CD with the fold-out spaceship and I was actually smart enough to keep it. Meeting Jeff Lynne a few years ago was one of the most exciting moments of my six years here in LA.
Silk Degrees – I knew Boz was the Buzz before any of my school friends did and I drove them mad telling them so. So I could never part with that record.
Skinny Boy – Robert Lamm’s first solo album, found it in a used record store in Sydney in 1989 but it was released in 1974 and I never knew about it until then. Curious bunch of songs, historically precious.
Bigger Than Both Of Us – The very best thing Hall & Oates ever made, so soulful, much more to it than its hit single “Rich Girl”. And a great album cover.
Shiloh and Longbranch Pennywhistle – Because, duh!
Judee Sill and Heart Food – Rare brilliance, and I didn’t have the CDs yet, which I do now.
Breakfast At Sweethearts – Stunning album cover, but I got rid of my other Cold Chisel vinyl including my favourite of theirs, Twentieth Century. Hitting my forehead hard.
Spirits Having Flown – My favourite Bee Gees music of all time. Too much heaven.
Guilty – My favourite Barbra Streisand music of all time. More Gibb heaven.
Fleetwood Mac and Rumours – Meh. I do love the 1975 eponymous album but I’m ambivalent about Rumours. If numbers were important, I should have kept my Doobies and Frampton albums instead.
2SM Concert of The Decade – I actually had two copies of this monumental live double album from 1979 and gave one away to a 2SM fan through the 1270 2SM Facebook group I run, which I consider one of the more generous things I have ever done.
My entire collections of Chicago, Eagles, Linda Ronstadt and Sherbet, but cut down collections of Heart, Little River Band and Queen, just the seventies releases. I’m mortified I pruned like that but I did keep the best. I would never relinquish A Night At The Opera as it is in my top three albums of all time. I could write a thesis on how important Dreamboat Annie is to me, or the first four Heart albums, or the entire Heart catalogue. And the exquisiteness of Sleeper Catcher warrants some prose. Actually, stay tuned for a piece about Sleeper Catcher soon.