Record stores of Amsterdam (a new travel hobby)

What better way to combat jet lag than writing a blog post at 4am? I’m sure I’ll be coming back to edit this one once I “wake up”…

Anyway, I’m back from my trip and it would appear that I’ve fallen in love with Amsterdam.

The city is beautiful (even in cold weather), and the people are a wonderful, eclectic bunch. In addition to cruising canals, observing cat art, and partying with D’Angelo at the Paradiso, we spent a good amount of our trip doing what we do best: perusing rows of used records at hole-in-the-wall shops. I had no idea until we’d spent a few days there, but Amsterdam has A LOT of record stores. We went to eight(!) different places within walking distance from where we were staying, and there were still at least five more that we didn’t get to. With the limited space I had in my suitcase, I settled on four albums:

Astral Weeks – Van Morrison (Dutch pressing). After making this purchase, we went down the street to this bar (“brown cafe”). The bartender saw the bag and asked “Is that a long-playing record?” and then when we showed him, gleefully remarked, “Ooh, it’s a retro record!” I love the Dutch.
Rain Dogs – Tom Waits (German pressing). I couldn’t pass it up. My dad was awesome enough to give me a (his only?) copy of this album, after I’d searched for an original version for a year. Turns out I just needed to go to Amsterdam to find it! Dad, want a “made in West Germany” version of Rain Dogs?
Fear of Music – Talking Heads (Dutch pressing). My musical theme of this trip was definitely Talking Heads, so I was pretty excited to find a new album to add to the collection, made in Holland no less!
77 – Talking Heads (Japan pressing). I was just trying to get any old version of this record, and the one I happened to find was from Japan! Pretty awesome:

IMG_2182 copy

It was interesting to note the slight differences between US and foreign (in this case, Dutch) record stores. Like, Mike Nesmith has his own divider in several of these stores, even the tiny ones (is he a bigger deal in the Netherlands?) and Kraftwerk is everywhere.

So if you’re ever in the area and, you know, want to look for second hand vinyl, I can highly recommend the following:

– RecordFriend Elpees – Cool selection, good prices, plus I love the name. :) There were cute signs in the entrance saying things like “I’m a record friend.” RECORDFRIEND! This is where I got the two Talking Heads albums.
– Record Palace – Great place by Paradiso and Museumplein. I wish I knew more about “Nederbeat,” because there was a lot of it here. This is where we bought Astral Weeks.
– The others: Concerto (tons of new and used vinyl, plus CDs, books, DVDs), Distortion Records (tiny, cluttered, and awesome), City Records (really friendly owner, and also where I got Rain Dogs), Waxwell Records, Velvet Music, and Second Life Music (the three of which were about a 5-minute walk from each other).

Conclusion: besides the fact that Amsterdam has beautiful canals and lots of friendly cats, I would go back just for the record stores.

IMG_2087LP’s, ???, & more…

Champagne for my real friends, real pain for my sham friends

In celebration of Tom Waits’ birthday today, here is a good song, and a good interview:

How does one become the marimba player for Tom Waits, I wonder? What a sweet gig.

On a side note, I’m sad that our friends no longer live in Sebastopol, where we could go visit them and every time I would pay a little bit closer attention to my surroundings in hopes of seeing the elusive T. Waits. Alas, no luck.

Ok, one more song before I go, maybe my favorite marimba song. hbd, Tom!

Whistlin’ Past The Graveyard

Oh hello, I’m just going to drop this here for my obligatory Halloween post:

I made a mix of my favorite artists and their most Halloween-ish songs for your listening pleasure!

For the record, it was really difficult to not just make a list of 10 Tom Waits songs (WHAT’S HE BUILDING IN THERE??), but I had a fun time digging through my iTunes library trying to find relevant songs somewhere in between “Monster Mash” and “Careful With That Axe, Eugene” (I mean, I want to be able to enjoy listening to it myself).

The other person who I figured would dominate this mix is John Entwistle, featured above in his skin-tight skeleton suit. The man is obsessed with the macabre. I mean, just look at each album cover of his solo career:

albums2(I left out Too Late the Hero and The Rock because those are actually pretty normal, but let’s not forget that he also did an album called Music from Van-Pires). However, while re-listening to these albums, I realized that John Entwistle has a way of making songs with really dark content in the style of, say, 50’s doo wop (which is essentially all of Rigor Mortis and Mad Dog). Since I wanted this mix to actually sound like it could be in a classic rock haunted house of sorts, I ended up using some of his Who-era songs instead. For the rest of the mix I got kind of lazy and just opted for spacey psychedelic 60s songs.

Anyway, all of this was way more explanation than necessary. Happy Halloween, I guess. Anyone else have any good spooky songs to share?

"I like beautiful melodies telling me terrible things"

Ok, in case you saw my last post and watched the videos and are still wondering why I’m obsessed with a musician whose voice sounds like Satchmo-meets-Cookie Monster and whose songs resemble spooky pirate anthems, I will now follow up with Tom Waits Part 2: The Ballads.

I challenge you to not be affected by these songs.

Tom Traubert’s Blues a.k.a. AHHHH MY HEARTSTRINGS:

and it’s a battered old suitcase 
to a hotel someplace
and a wound that will never heal
no prima donna, the perfume is on
an old shirt that is stained with blood and whiskey
and goodnight to the street sweepers 
the night watchman flame keepers
and goodnight Matilda, too

San Diego Serenade:
[Tom Waits grew up in San Diego, then lived in LA, and now lives in Northern California. I love when songwriters write about places, even better when they’re about all the places I’ve lived!]

I never saw the morning ’til I stayed up all night
I never saw the sunshine ’til you turned out the light
I never saw my hometown until I stayed away too long
I never heard the melody until I needed the song

Hold On:
[Apparently this was on a Walking Dead episode…wonder how many new fans he gained from that?]

So, she left Monte Rio, son
just like a bullet leaves a gun
With charcoal eyes and Monroe hips
she went and took that California trip

And here are a couple more that sadly I can’t find live performances of, but are just as worthy:
Blind LoveJGL did a cover of this, which is admirable but just can’t compare to the original.
Martha. This song is from his first album, when his voice was relatively tame! Love that chorus. <3

I know I’ve said this before, but I’m a sucker for hard people who are softies at heart (Keith Richards, Pete Townshend, et al.). And this definitely applies. Maybe Tom Waits is mostly known for his scraggly voice and the weird characters he plays in movies, but let it be known that he writes beautiful songs, too.

We’re all as mad as hatters here

In my past three days of fervent Tom Waits research, I’ve come across several sources, including Tom himself, describing some of his repertoire as “Halloween music”…so what better time for an introductory post than All Hallows’ Eve, eh?

I mean, seriously…..

How is his voice even possible??

I am fascinated by Mr. Waits. He seems like a cartoon character come to life (the coolest cartoon character ever, that is), with his crumpled fedora and distinctive swagger and a constant cigarette hanging from his mouth.

He is, at the same time, an old-fashioned kind of cool –

 – and a little bit crazy.

In other words, my favorite kind of artist.

I think this video is a perfect example of the classic Waits “character,” and also a pretty great piece of songwriting. These last few days I’ve become hopelessly obsessed (which is one of the best feelings: when you know you’re just touching the surface of a vast catalog of inspiration), so I’m sure there are more of these posts to come.

In the meantime, have some more Halloween music (sorry, couldn’t find a more interesting video to accompany the song).

edit: Found a way better video to end with (god, everything about this is just so weird and awesome):

A night with Neil and the gang

So, here we are again with another Bridge School “not-quite-review”(I correctly predicted last year that I’d be back for more) and let me first get this out of the way: HOW HAVE I GONE THIS LONG WITHOUT BEING A TOM WAITS FAN? I’m so disappointed in myself! He was there in my dad’s record collection all along, but somehow I never ventured down that path. That said, I think seeing him perform live was the best possible way to get introduced to this guy…and watching from backstage wasn’t too shabby either!


A pretty sweet view.

[Backstory:] I was totally going to buy lawn tickets to the Bridge School concert this year, but before I could, it turns out that my work was giving out free tickets (in prime seating, no less) to employees. Win #1.

The lineup for the Sunday concert included CSNY(!), Fun., Elvis Costello & Diana Krall, Tom Waits, and Heart. Win #2.

Aaaaand, without going into too much detail, Alex and I happened upon two VIP passes thanks to an awesome friend, and got to spend all of Tom Waits’ set backstage brushing shoulders with the artists. MAJOR WIN #3.

So, with that out of the way, here’s a quick rundown of this year’s concert, from what I saw:

So freakin’ good! I was unfamiliar with most of the songs they played, but WOW, Ann Wilson’s voice sounds better than ever. “Crazy On You” was the crowd (and my) favorite. 10/10 would see again.

I applaud fun. for doing a super exposed, bare-bones set (seriously, setup took like <5 minutes). And I guess I can forgive Nate Ruess for calling Mountain View the East Bay, haha. Their set was super short and they kept it to the hits, but ALSO, they played Queen’s “Somebody to Love” which was amaaazing.

Fun.! Throughout their set I kept getting distracted by what was unmistakably David Crosby watching from the side of the stage (can you spot him?). 


Diana Krall / Elvis Costello.
We missed part of Diana Krall’s set, but came back in time for a couple duets with Elvis. Wasn’t aware that they were married, how cute! Elvis Costello got the crowd really hyped up – it was a great set and made me realize I need to start listening to more of his stuff! 

My Morning Jacket.
Had never heard much of these guys before last night, but really enjoyed their music. Neil joined them for “Harvest Moon,” and at the end, they did a wonderful tribute to Lou Reed (R.I.P.!) by bringing everyone out for “Oh! Sweet Nuthin.”

Tom Waits.
Oh my goodness, what can I say. Tom absolutely stole the show. Everything was so entertaining: the band, the music, the rambling anecdotes (there was a story about borrowing a bunch of money from Neil Young in the 70s to start a restaurant, which was planned to serve gluten-free eel, donuts, and fish scales…what.). What a character! I couldn’t name a single Tom Waits song before this show, but I became an instant fan of the vaudeville style rockers (e.g. “Singapore”) and unexpectedly genuine ballads (see “Tom Traubert’s Blues,” complete with pre-song banter). And I got to watch it all from backstage, which was a trip. Without a doubt the best part of the night.

Queens of the Stone Age.
Sorry guys, I was still reeling from the previous performance to hone in on your set. Kudos on the vibes-work, though!

and lastly…

First of all, I’m SO GLAD I got to see this. I saw Crosby Stills & Nash at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Concert in New York, which was great, but there’s something about that 4th voice that just makes it so much better. Legendary. Their set was pretty short, and I’m still a n00b so I didn’t recognize them all. I thought the a cappella version of “What Are Their Names” was cool. And loved the added harmonies on “Long May You Run,” as well as the “Within You Without You” homage in “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes”! But maybe my favorite part of the whole thing was the image of David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Graham Nash standing at their stationary microphones with their black suits, and Neil Young stomping around in the background with his hoodie and ripped jeans, looking like a bona fide hobo. Love it.

So, I’ve decided. As long as I’m living in the bay area, I’ll be going to this concert every year. I feel like a jerk for waiting until the end of the post to mention it, but the Bridge School is really what this concert is all about. By attending, you’re supporting the school, its teachers, and most importantly, its students. That’s reason enough to go, but of course, experiencing an awesome night of music doesn’t hurt either! I’m grateful to Neil Young for putting together the show, and also grateful to Salesforce for supporting the organization!
Now… to listen to more Tom Waits.