Tag Archives: Smithereens

It was anything but nirvana

Seen today on Twitter.

After “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the radio in the fall of 1991, I vividly remember the first time I heard it.

It came on the radio while I was sitting in the car, parked outside Osco Drug and the old Port Plaza Mall in downtown Green Bay.

My immediate reaction, for better or worse: “What the f*ck is this?”

It was the first time that I felt disconnected from what was on the radio. I was no kid anymore, but I wasn’t middle-aged, either. I was 34, just 10 years old than Kurt Cobain.

It was a time during which everything I loved about music seemed to be unraveling.

The radio, my close friend for more than 20 years, no longer spoke to me.

MTV, a joy to watch just 10 years earlier, was evolving into just another conventionally programmed TV channel.

Vinyl records were going away, replaced by CDs. I was going along with it, buying CDs.

This epic disruption in the force is evident by the massive gap in my record collection.

The last vinyl record I — or perhaps we — bought before The Great Disconnection was the Smithereens’ “11,” which came out in October 1989. I didn’t buy another new vinyl record for 18 years, until I picked up Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings’ “100 Days, 100 Nights,” which came out in October 2007. We’d seen her earlier that year while visiting New York.

I think back to the time of The Great Disconnection, probably sometime in the early ’00s. I remember the sparks from the flint, trying to rekindle a once-roaring fire.

One day, I walked through Amazing Records, a used record store here in Green Bay. How much fun all this once was, I thought. It doesn’t seem that it will ever be that great again, I thought. I didn’t buy anything.

One day, I went to a record show in a college gym. I looked at a lot of records, but felt much the same emptiness. At the end of the day, I bought a record to replace one of the records that went out in The Great Vinyl Purge of 1989. CDs were the future in 1989, so I got rid of dozens of records at a friend’s garage sale. “Hey, there are a lot of good records in here,” one garage sale shopper said. Yes, there were.

But that day at the college gym was a new day. I bought a replacement copy of Bob and Doug McKenzie’s “Great White North.”

In 2006, I discovered music blogs, as did the mainstream media. A story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tipped me to the first few “audioblogs” I followed. Record diggers ran some of those blogs.

A year later, in 2007, I followed their lead. I started this blog and I started record digging. It’s been great to have it all back.

It’s nice to be past The Great Disconnection ushered in by “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” That time was indeed a …

“Blue Period,” the Smithereens, from “11,” 1989. The last new vinyl record I — or perhaps we — bought for 18 years.

 

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Filed under September 2019, Sounds

Dad, where are your tapes?

My old stereo went off to college last weekend.

Our son moved into his new dorm at UW-Green Bay, and Evan asked for the old stereo from the basement. Old to him, at least. To me, that’s the new stereo, the one put together in the early ’90s. My original stereo dated to the mid-’70s.

So he took the receiver and the CD player and the tape deck and the speakers — “those speakers WERE Bose,” he gleefully reminded me — and, yes, the turntable. Now if he could only find his Queen records. Still looking for those.

Evan needed something else from the basement. His new car, a 1988 Toyota Tercel, has a cassette deck. So he needed to dig through the cassette boxes, too. One shoe box looked like this.

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I see these, and they immediately take me back to an odd time. As the ’80s turned to the ’90s, I’d pretty much stopped buying vinyl but hadn’t started buying CDs. But the cars we drove at that time had tape decks, so for a short time, I bought cassettes when I bought new music.

(All that Stevie Ray Vaughan and the John Mayall tape are relics from my Blues Period, a story for another time.)

I’d never bought prerecorded cassettes before that. During the ’80s, I made plenty of tapes. (I was a TDK man, as you can see.) Evan found those, too. Lots of them are in this case, which I’ve had forever. He passed on them.

cassette case 053114

Yep, I still have most of my tapes, even the mix tapes I recorded for our wedding more than 25 years ago. I thought that would be better than having a band. Wish I could have a do-over on that.

Most of what’s on this side of the case are just vinyl LPs put to tape so I could listen in the car. The mix tapes are on the other side of the box, all with allegedly clever titles like “It Shall Remain Nameless,” “Loose As A Goose” and “Take Two (And Don’t Call Me).” You get the idea.

Looking at what’s on those mix tapes can be a little scary almost 30 years on. Not sure what I was thinking when I put some of those together way back when.

The 12 cuts on one side of a tape called “No Witnesses” include songs from James Bond films, Bananarama, John Hiatt, INXS, the Monkees, the Beatles and Jay Ferguson. That’s right. “Thunder Island.”

The 12 cuts on one side of a tape called “Dreaming of Jamaica” include songs by Prince, the Temptations, the Talking Heads, Don Henley, more Bananarama, Dave Edmunds, Flash and the Pan, Kiss and Alice Cooper, and the “Ghostbusters” theme.

I’d better quit while I’m behind.

Looking over that shoe box full of prerecorded cassettes from the turn of that decade, there aren’t many that we’ve had on cassette, CD and vinyl. This is one, though the vinyl came last.

smithereens 11 lp

“Baby Be Good,” the Smithereens, from “11,” 1989. Apparently out of print, but available digitally.

I hear the Smithereens, and I’m taken right back to that time. Quite possibly my favorite band from that time.

Please visit our companion blog, The Midnight Tracker, for more vintage vinyl, one side at a time.

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Filed under May 2014, Sounds

Winter Dance Party

Once a year for the past decade, our town — Green Bay, Wisconsin — has stepped forward to reclaim its place in rock ‘n’ roll history. This year, that night was Friday night. The place, as always, the historic Riverside Ballroom.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Winter Dance Party. That was the early rock ‘n’ roll tour that became legend when a small plane crashed in a corn field northwest of Clear Lake, Iowa, killing Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) and their pilot, Roger Peterson.

The tour’s second-to-last stop was at the Riverside in Green Bay, on Sunday night, Feb. 1, 1959.

riversideballroom

For the past 10 years, they’ve revived the Winter Dance Party at the Riverside. A musician named John Mueller plays Holly. A musician named Ray Anthony plays Valens. The Big Bopper is played by his son, Jay Richardson, who was born two months after his father’s death. They’re backed by a four-piece band. It’s the best tribute show I’ve seen.

The revival plays some of the other original venues, but its stars say there is no place like Green Bay.

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The Riverside was sold out well in advance, with more than 1,000 people — many of them getting up there in years — packing the place.

Twice as many people were there in 1959, but back then, everyone was younger, and everyone stood. These days, not everyone can stand for a show that runs three hours plus. So they set up long banquet tables at the back of the big room. Only the young, and the young at heart, stood at the front of the stage.

There usually are special guests. This year, one was Bob Morales, the older half-brother of Ritchie Valens. Bob Morales is in his 70s, but he’s still a badass. He wore biker leathers and boots and was rocking a white Fu Manchu mustache. When he took off his black cowboy hat, he was rocking a wispy white Mohawk with a ponytail.

During the first intermission, they introduced some more special guests — 40 or so people who were at the Riverside for the original Winter Dance Party show 50 years ago.

A local gent, improbably named Jim Morrison, also was there 50 years ago. He was back at the Riverside on Friday night as one of the emcees. As he introduced the show, he mentioned “American Pie,” the 1971 song in which Don McLean recalled Feb. 3, 1959 — the day of the crash — as “the day the music died.”

“He was wrong,” Morrison said. “Three gentlemen died, but the music will never die.”

Not as long as Green Bay remembers its place in rock ‘n’ roll history.

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“Come On Let’s Go,” Ritchie Valens, from “Ritchie Valens,” 1959. (Re-released on Rhino Records in 1987. This is what I have.)

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“Maybe Baby,” Buddy Holly, 1958 …

“Chantilly Lace,” the Big Bopper, 1958 …

Both from the “American Graffiti” original soundtrack, 1973.

And one more …

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“Maria Elena,” the Smithereens, 1990, from “Attack of the Smithereens,” 1995. It’s out of print.

This tune is the B side to the cassette single of “Blues Before and After,” released 19 years ago today, Jan. 24, 1990.

From Pat DiNizio’s liner notes: “The full band version appears on the third album ‘Smithereens Eleven,’ but this version is how I heard the song in my head originally, just acoustic guitar, accordion and vocal. Lyrically about Buddy Holly’s widow Maria Elena Diaz.”

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Filed under January 2009, Sounds