Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale – [Rockaway Records] [part 6]

Mr. Ware regards Rockaway Records

[continued from last post]

Rockaway Records

This Zappa ephemera was almost certainly from Ron’s collection

We started our Saturday by meeting the rest of the Ron-Kon II crowd at Rockaway Records at 11:00 a.m. A parking lot was welcomed, and we hit the store and saw evidence of Ron immediately upon entering. Frank Zappa memorabilia was up on the wall at the door. The medium sized store was cozy with stock [but not overcrowded]  and was brightly lit, air conditioned, and well organized. In short a best-of-breed store that made perfect sense to house Ron’s immortal remains; his record collection. We were there as well as everyone from the rehearsal just eleven hours earlier. I recognized other people who were not playing in the concert from the first Ron-Kon event in 2008 on the occasion of Ron’s 50th birthday.  Then there were more people who were new to me. As well as a few “normal” customers who might not have known Mr. Kane.

The Rockaway interior, complete with signed guitars on the walls

Looking up, I was delighted by the Bowie-mobile® hanging by the checkout counter from the ceiling. Today was the shopping trip. Tomorrow the in-store concert. The glass case by the counter held the albums by The Decayes which I had never seen with my own eyes before. I made sure to buy copy #75/300 of the last [excellent] Decayes album, “Aquarium.”A must-have! Especially since Ron said that the CD [which I have] and the LP were different. After getting our bearings, we began going through the stock.

A JPN H17 album? Surely Ron’s copy!

I started with the 12″ vinyl and it was soon apparent that there was a reason why Ron wanted his collection sold here. It was the most tightly curated selection of record store stock I’d ever seen. There was nothing here to waste your time. Everything was “interesting” and material of the sort which my East Coast eyes rarely saw. There was no “chaff.” No mildewed records in the dollar bin. No copies of “Saturday Night Fever.” Even “ironic” ones. Which was not to say that the store was “pricey.” I’ve been in stores that had infuriatingly overpriced stock. Many records here were bargains. “high end” merch was priced accordingly. Tellingly, a framed photo on the wall showed a copy of “Revolver” signed by all four Beatles that the store had sold for $100,000.00. But it was still a store where cheapskate me could get a lot of mileage out of the $125 I spent there – 20 titles.

Ganggajang is a group no one I know of would know without knowing Ron

The bins had an insane preponderance of Australia/New Zealand bands in evidence. Ron’s NZ collection was probably the biggest in North America. He practically lived there in the 80s and if you ever bought a Australasian pressing of anything in the northern hemisphere, in the eighties, chances were that Ron was the guy who imported it! One of Ron’s [relatively few] American passions was the great Wayne Cochran. I saw two albums there which had Ron writ across them in large, neon letters.

Autographed to Ron from Wayne, natch.

Mr. Ware had acted as the go-between when Wayne was doing a rare in-store appearance in Orlando’s Rock + Roll Heaven. Ron actually shipped his albums to Mr. Ware, so that he could get them duly autographed. Cochran’s “Alive & Well & Living….In A Bitch Of A World” [King 1970] is not a record commonly found, much less the autographed copy here. Coincidentally, Ron died just nine days after Wayne did on November 21st, 2017.

I’ve never seen one of these in the wild!

I picked up an inexpensive copy of Ken Lockie’s “The Impossible” solo album from Virgin ca. 1981. I had one of these, but it was a cheaply sourced $4.00 copy  that was VG at best. This was Ron’s personal copy [the sticker insured that] for only $4.99. It would surely digitize cleaner than the one I had managed to snag!  I also got the one Intaferon 12″ that had eluded me for 30+ years: “Steamhammer Sam.” As i recall Ron was a fan, so this might have been one of his. Gloryoski! A rare sighting of The Revillos withdrawn second UK album “Attack!” was surely another Ron disc. At $29.99 I’d call it a bargain, but I was grateful I’ve had a copy for decades in the Record Cell. I could save my shekels for something even more rare looming ahead. I saw a 12″ of “Quiet Men” from Ultravox, but that was another one I’ve had since about 2001; thankfully.  Then I caught something which I’d never seen before that was Ultravox related.

The sole Helden single is now a bucket list item for collectors of soundtrack king Hans Zimmer

I had heard of Helden, the side project of Warren Cann and Hans Zimmer in 1985, when I bought a copy of “In The City” UK fanzine with a bonus Helden 7″ single. Helden was a 1983 project that had resulted in a stillborn album and one released single on 7″/12″ and here was the 12″ of “Holding On.” Of course, Ultravox fans want this but they are outnumbered by the fans of Hans Zimmer, who from 1988-uh, yesterday, has become one of the preeminent scorers of films in the last 30 years. Those soundtrack guys are among the most obsessive record collectors out there! This baby was a hefty $34.99… too rich for my blood. But before I finished raking through the 12″ vinyl, I would find one high-ticket item that I could not say no to.

Next: …The Shiny Silver Discs

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Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale [part 5]

The Decayes 1980 album “Not Yet” featured Dana Madore on bass

[continued from last post]

After several hours at Amoeba, we were ready for some fuel. It was lunchtime and we meandered around the area until spotting a parking area that looked likely to have many dining choices nearby. Parking there was a hefty $20! Finally, the L.A. parking rates I had heard so much about had manifested. We were in a tourist trap zone in hollywood and we ended up at a little hole-in-the-wall pizzeria, which was adequate for our needs. Lunch was less than the cost of parking! Fortified, we decided to make our way to Long Beach, where our next destination awaited.

Dana Madore was a gent I had been in contact with via email for several years now. I first came to know him through Ron, who had introduced us via email. That was an unusual thing for Ron to have done, in retrospect. Dana had not been able to make it to the first Ron-Kon in Portland on Ron’s 50th birthday in 2008. The first time that I had visited Ron in 2014, we were scheduled to have dinner with Dana and to finally meet him but his health took a turn for the worse, with him hospitalized and losing a leg to diabetes. When I was trying to find out just what was happening with Ron last year as he mysteriously broke off communications Dana was my main point of inquiry, because Dana had known Ron since he was a tween hopping the bus downtown after school and learning about which import records to buy at the Licorice Pizza record store Dana worked at. While Dana was living in the rehab center, Ron took care of his home and brought him his mail.

The trek from Hollywood to Long Beach was about 30 or so miles, and on a Friday afternoon this was a journey that took well over two hours. It was a good thing that we had Mr. Ware’s complete Icehouse boxed set in the car with us! We listened to the recent ‘Icehouse Live” 2xCD that none of us had heard and had some fun singing along to the tracks we knew and loved for so long. It was around five when we pulled into the rehab center parking lot. We asked at the front desk where Dana was a made our way there.

We found his room and introduced ourselves to a gent who had known Ron since he was a boy. Dana had a long and storied existence centered around music. he had worked as a young man in record stores like Licorice Pizza, and eventually owned his own store; Moby Disc. The store was much beloved by Ron, who was a frequent customer. He played in a few bands and dabbled in management and guested on bass guitar on “Not Yet,” the 1980 album by Ron’s band The Decayes. As much as many folks that I had met had long histories with Ron, Dana scooped them all. He was practically Ron’s older brother from another mother.

Dana shared what was basically a hospital room with another person, but on his side of the curtain there were many small boxes. I had wondered about these until Dana revealed that since he had been in the rehab center he couldn’t abstain from the hunt and had begun buying CDs soon after he was moved in there. He revealed that he had about 1000 CDs in the stacks of small boxes around his bed and in the closet. With his trusty laptop being his main connection to the world, he was all set up.

We stayed there for 90 minutes to two hours listening to Dana talk about the old days with Ron, the difficulties that Ron had near the end of his life, and just his history of music retail and fandom. We could have stayed all night long. Dana was a treasure trove of stories that resonated with us even when they were not necessarily about Ron Kane. As the clock edged past 7:00 p.m., we reluctantly bid Dana adieu as we had a 9:00 rehearsal in Culver City to reach, and dinner had to be fit in there somewhere to boot. Chasinvictoria and Mr. Ware had not known Dana prior to this visit, but they were so grateful that I had wanted to pencil this in to our tight schedule since the value in knowing Dana was considerable.

L-R: Rick Snyder on bass and Mr. Ware on keys

Fortunately, the traffic on the return was twice as fast as it had been outward bound. we arrived in Culver city around eight and found a Lebanese restaurant close to the studios where we had a tasty dinner. Shortly after nine we were once again in the largest Studio B where the band once again collected. This night we had another guest sitting in; Rick Snyder. Another of Ron’s old friends. Rick was a known quantity to me since he co-starred with Ron in the [semi-legendary] short comedy video Ron had written and acted in called “Swinger’s Load.”  The one I had made DVDs of to pass out to all and sundry at Ron-Kon II. Oh yeah… and he had also been in the last lineup of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band.

The second night I was really tired, so I told chasinvictoria to perform “Today’s List” instead of me

The trip was wearing me down at that point. Yesterday had been 25 hours long and I had been the driver for this trip. The second night of rehearsal I was content to zone out and just try not to nod off. Which was difficult. As excited as I was to finally meet Rick, apart from introducing myself as I pressed a DVD into his hands of his youthful thesping, I just sat there. The songs were worming their way into my mind and staying there; always a good sign. Even though I was hearing them for the first time in rehearsal. The actual CD of “The Record Man” would be purchased during our trip to Rockaway Records the next day but these songs already had a high standard to live up to. It was near eleven when Mark Moerman arrived from the airport and his trip from the Pacific Northwest. Mark was the first of Ron’s friends to whom I’d been introduced remotely 20+years ago by Mr. Ware. Mark was there long enough to get just enough rehearsal time down for the songs that he was singing with the Record Man Orchestra. Then as we hit midnight curfew, we broke instruments down and loaded up the cars and made our way to the home base as bed beckoned even harder this night for me. For another 5-6 hours of valuable sleep.

Next: …We Can Hitch A Ride To Rockaway Records

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Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale [More Amoeba] [part 4]

Amoeba After Dark ©2014 chasinvictoria

[continued from last post]

The CD selection here actually had things I wanted – badly – to buy! The feeling was something that gets more and more rare over the last 30 years as I no longer occupy the “hip music buyer” demographic. I first hit the “electronica” section since the last time I was in this store, I picked up Wrangler’s “LA Spark” CD and still needed “White Glue.” No dice, but I thought I’d ask the workers stationed at the search station, just to make certain. No dice! But the section did manage to yield the Ursula 1000 album “Here Comes Tomorrow.” Vitally necessary for the only Cristina song released after 1984! I then moved onto the “rock.”

For once, when I looked in the ABC section I saw their latest CD which I had needed for a couple of years now! One would think that “The Lexicon Of Love II,” being a sequel to their highly regarded and very successful debut album that people has been desiring for decades might have been a little easier to source in the all of the bins out there in the world I paw through… but you’d be wrong. This was the only time I’d ever seen a copy. $13.98 or not, it was leaving there with me! I moved down the alphabet. It was astounding to see all of the Associates recent DLX RMs ready for purchase. I didn’t bite though. I felt I should get those online later. The discs here, if new, were a typical $11.98-13.98 retail. And those only had a scant handful of tracks new to me. And I think they still muffed the mixes on “Sulk!” The UK LP has never made it to the shiny disc intact.

first room, first floor overview – brain…shutting…down…

I had written about the 2012 re-emergence of faves B Movie before, and their “Age of Illusion” album from 2012. You could imagine my surprise when I saw a further new album dating from 2016! Enough said. All bets were off as I saw all of the China Crisis DLX RMs! These I didn’t have earlier (I had the 2000 series V2 Associates SLX RMs already) and they had all three. Paradoxically, I only bought 2/3 and skipped my favorite album of the series in the process! I went for “Difficult Shapes” since they had a used copy there (!) and sprang for a full price ($19.98) copy of “Flaunt The Imperfection” since my PDO copy had severely bronzed from day one. I had initially bought the ’85 Nimbus pressing but a friend needed a copy and I gave her my old one and bought the new 1990 pressing since it had better cover printing. The 1990 pressing was the only CD copy that came close to the beauty of the LP. I decided to wait on the 3xCD version of “Working With Fore + Steel” since that one was a hefty $24.99. 

I lingered in the DEVO section and I finally made my move after coming close in these last couple of years. Heck, I even had it in my hands the day prior at Soundsations Records. Yes, the “Something For Everybody” album was finally coming home with me. The John Foxx section didn’t have any of the scant few I still need but hey – John Foxx section! How often to I type those words without invoking my Record Cell? I had to call chasinvictoria over when I reached the Kraftwerk section. They had the Katalog and 3-D Katalog boxes but what caught my eye was the limited “laptop edition” of the “Minimum-Maximum” live set which came in a case designed to look like a laptop. 2xCDs and 2xDVDs inside an amazing case. Wow – talk about form following function! It can be yours if you want to drop the $150 necessary. I already had the CDs and separate DVD sets purchased separately.

The cluster of Kraftwerk boxes

The last OMD CD I needed…

Spying an OMD section, I looked. I always look. Boy Howdy! They had two copies of the “Access All Areas” CD/DVD of early ITV live performance from the time of the debut album. At $11.98 it was a no-brainer. Andy McCluskey was not happy about it appearing on the Edsel label, but there was naught he could do about it. “Enola Gay” in its early arrangement shows up in the set list so having it on DVD was a must see type of event.

This being L.A. I was happy to see the “Befour Three O’Clock” CD of “Happen Happened.” I have been making moves on the band and my only CD made this year was Three O’Clock material evading the shiny disc. I got a couple of Robert Palmer albums I still needed. I’ve been working that action for several years now and some are really difficult to find. As were the titles by Warren Zevon and Graham Parker that I still lacked.  There are huge chunks of Parker’s oeuvre that are hard to source, but here I found “The Real McCaw” and “Songs of No Consequence,” which hardly litter the bins. With Zevon I got the last two albums from his late period Artemis run. Now I only needed one CD for a complete set.

From the Video section, over the LPs

When I got to the traditionally rich “S” section, there was a used copy of the DLX RM of “Suicide” I would no longer live without hearing this seminal disc and its fine complement of live bonus material, including the infamous “23 Minutes Over Brussels.” Finally, I got the two recent Ultravox DLX RMs I needed. The “Lament” 2xCD was the only one of the 2004 DLX RM wave that I still needed, but the 2017 edition was the only CD of this title that came in a matte black, thermographically printed digipak which replicated the original limited edition UK LP [which I have – rest assured].  The “Return To Eden” had been issued in a different package in 2010, but had been OOP for many years, so I took the effort.

With that, I met up with my compadres and we looked over the heavy bin of music and put just a few things back. Unlike the last time when I hit the store at the end of my trip, instead of the beginning. The budget was still young this time, and I wasn’t so carefree. After all, this was Amoeba Hollywood! One didn’t shop here every day and goodness knows, I was not planning on returning to L.A. again. This was one last hurrah for Ron Kane. And it was going to get much more interesting than even supafine record shopping.

Next: …Our Heroes Quest

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Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale [Amoeba] [part 3]

Wrecka Mecca

Amoeba Hollywood

Mr. Ware [L] is stunned by the enormity of what you can see upon entering while chasinvictoria is blasé – he shops here all of the time

We had decided earlier that since at one point two hours had been set aside on Saturday for Ron-Kon 2 revelers to hit Amoeba Hollywood, that we three would go on our own on Friday. For a quality experience. The one time I had shopped there with Ron in 2015 my wife was offsite so I got through there in 90-120 minutes. I had to skip over many things. Chasinvictoria usually went there, but this was Mr. Ware’s first visit. He wanted to have some quality time. We parked in the garage onsite [!] and made our way up the stairs. The entry corridor was covered in music stickers and album covers plastered over all surfaces save for the floor, indicating our transition from normal ready into the Amoebaspace. Then we were in the entryway and Mr. Ware stood there, stunned. Talking it all in as one does. [see photo] I was shocked at the sign proclaiming “no public restrooms” as any serious music buyer would need at least two or three bathroom breaks to sweep the store properly for desirable goods! Either that or they would need adult diapers to sufficiently shop through it all! Little did I know that this was to be a trend for this journey.

You don’t see this every day!

I made certain to take sufficient photos for this post and did a quick recon on the floor to make the video embedded below to give those who have never been a good idea of the enormity of it all. We then split up and proceeded to dig deep into the store. It’s so Brobdingnagian, I can’t imagine “doing it” any other way! If we went through together, searching and quipping, we would be there a full day! I peeled off and went upstairs to the video area first. The last time I was there I had found a [bootleg] CD-video of Japan’s “Oil On Canvas.” I scoped out the import DVDs but could not find any music video to save my life. But oh, I did find the laserdiscs. And this was a pretty good selection of the antique analog optical video format. By jingo, they even had some import Japanese music videos. Would there be anything of interest? Survey says…YES! Great Googly Moogly – Level 42’s “Fait Accompli” was one of their live videos and one of the L42 LDs that I never got back in the day! At $14.99 I opted not to since I wagered that it might be available on the more modern, obsolete digital video format [i.e. DVD]. I went downstairs and immediately set off for the used 12″ single vinyl. 

We like organized 12″ singles, yes we do

I had gotten some fabbo items there on my last visit, so I started there. I saw a Razormaid with a fine Claudia Brücken mix which I already had. Good stuff that I already had was always a good sign. Howard Devoto’s sumptuous “Rainy Season” single always delights. As does “The Nine Lives Of Dr. Mabuse” by Propaganda. Of course, this copy had seen better days; unlike my Propaganda vinyl. Lately, I have been in contact with Mr. Ross Stapleton via this blog and he had mentioned many of my favorite acts which he had either signed or worked with while at Virgin Records during their indisputable Imperial Phase… with the exception of The Ward Brothers, whom I’d never ever heard of. If Ross Stapleton was a fan, then I’d definitely grab the WLP 12” of “Cross That Bridge,” which was a Don Was production to boot!

Ooooh yeah. I’ve been waiting for this one for 37 years!

My major score here in the 12″ singles was something I used to hear on WPRK-FM in 1981 and it’s haunted me ever since: Defunkt’s “The Razor’s Edge/Strangling Me With Your Love” UK 12″ single! And it was the UK copy in the beautiful Neville Brody sleeve with a painting of Joe Bowie on the cover. I also saw an Icehouse UK 12″ of “Taking The Town,” but that one’s been in the Record Cell for a long time.

This visit I managed to get a look at the 7″ single action available in this store. Good gravy, there are many boxes of them all tucked away [as these things usually are] but the boxes were all helpfully organized in a highly visual way that I’d seen before.

sorting for newly arriving 80s stock …even the Apple label of The Beatles

I spent about 10-12 minutes in the 7″ zone. it wasn’t easy to browse them since we were supposed to take the boxes out and put them on a nearby counter to flip through the. I was not the only person there that day with a taste for the 45. I had to wait until I had a berth to view these singles. Most of the stock seemed to be US singles, so I was flicking through pretty quickly. Had they been UK imports, I might have gone through the boxes I pulled with a fine-toothed comb.

Sorting for 70s female, 80s female, or even bands like The Pretenders

The most amazing box of singles was one marked “New Romantics” with a Duran Duran pic on it! I find that a pretty obscure nomenclature for America, but I respond to it like a bear to honey. Alas, I looked through and it had lots of US releases from, yes, Duran Duran but also post-sell-by period Thompson twins. A damp squib, as the British might say.

The most amazing box of 7″ singles – New Romantics

While I was there Mr. Ware came to ask me a question. He was toting an item that I had never seen before… an Icehouse BSOG entitled “Complete Works,” which seemed to contain all of the amazing DLX RMs that the band have issued in the last eight years! He asked if I wanted to buy it. I had sprung for the “Flowers: Icehouse” 2xCD+DVD straight from the Icehouse website back in 2010. That and the “White Heat” 7″ edit collection with all of the Icehouse videos in 5.1 surround mix. The pre-release sales were signed by Iva Davies. But I had not gotten any of the others that had filtered out over time. There was less money as I entered into a period of more active traveling. I had lived this long without them, so I told him that he should go for it. He had not upgraded form any of the original OZ CDs from the late 80s. I had saved a lot of money for this trip and the thought of spending a huge chunk of it on one item, even one as perfect as this, seemed a bit limiting to me. So that was his sole purchase at Amoeba. $90 of the best dollars spent ever!

It’s always cold inside the icebox…

Three of these CDs come with a DVD packed with amazing live shows/TV appearances. Four of them are multi CD sets. If we wanted the recent “In Concert” CD it’s hard to grab for less than $40 with postage. This was an insane deal that none of us had ever heard of. Apparently, the box was issued in April of 2017 on the instance of the band’s 40th anniversary. I should probably think about getting one of these sooner than later. This, plus the 12″ remix CDs and the US remixed “Icehouse” and I’d say you would have 95% of everything. After that break, I moved into the CD zone, where my story really began.

On another note, this day marks what would have been Ron Kane’s 60th birthday… and my eighth year blogging on the WordPress platform.

Next: …Finally – Lexicon of Love 2!

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Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale [Soundsations Records] [part 2]

The entry to Soundsations looks like many other stores

Flying To L.A.

My wife suggested that I should stay overnight after work in Greenville, SC, where I was flying out of in the pre-dawn hours instead of from my local (tiny) Asheville airport. Flying out of Greenville instead of Asheville would save me hundreds of dollars in ticket costs, but I would need to drive the sixty or seventy miles to Greenville from home in the dead of night to have sufficient time before my 6:00 am flight. Harsh. She then had an even better idea: she would also take vacation on Thursday and Friday and come with me to Greenville. Okay then! She left for Greenville after work and I already work at least a third of the distance to that city so she met me there. We had a nice Airbnb five minutes away from Greenville-Spartanburg airport, and we ate dinner at The Mad Cuban in nearby Simpsonville, which we had discovered near Greenville last January. I rose at 3:45 to prepare for my flight. If I had left from home I would have been up at 1:30.

My flight out to L. A. was as pleasant as air travel can be in the hellscape we now inhabit. I had a two hour layover in Atlanta where I ate breakfast and got my connecting flight. The lady and her daughter I sat next to was good company on the flight as we actually chatted with one another. I arrived at LAX by 11:30 EST with chasinvictoria having gotten there just 30 minutes earlier. Since Mr. Ware would not arrive for another four hours, we had decided to investigate a store we had never been to before. Mark Moerman had provided a list of his favorite stores and he mentioned that Soundsations Records near LAX was worth the trip. We could go there and while away a few hours while waiting for Mr. Ware’s flight. We picked up our rental and got down to the dirty business of really experiencing L.A. – from behind the wheel of a car!

Soundsations Records

Americanus Recordus Vendtoritum

Ozzy vs Kraftwerk?

We easily found the store after parking right in front of it… for free [!] we looked around for eats. Nearby was a good coffee house where a nice sandwich could be found. Fortified, we hit the store on the other end of the block. As soon as we walked in my heart was gladdened by the Kraftwerk “Man Machine” poster in the flip rack. A great sign! We hit the CD bins and at first, I was not seeing too much of interest. Chasinvictoria hit the Bowie section first and then was all over some Doctor Who seasons on DVD a that were selling for chump change compared to what he was used to. I was simply shocked that he didn’t already own them! 

Sweet promo swag!

I did not buy this on sight – am I ill in the head?

I appreciated the decor more than the contents, at first. You don’t find the die-cut energy dome poster for DEVO‘s “Live” EP every day! Speaking of DEVO …Gott Im Himmel!!! Up in the t-shirt area hanging from the ceiling was the finest possible black DEVO tee with the “Duty Now For The Future” cover art on it. Stunning!! And at only $20 it was undoubtedly bootleg merchandise. I have indulged a few times on such shirts in the past, like my Bowie ”Heroes” tee which has enhanced my life for 25 years. Particularly most of those years when a legit shirt of that design simply didn’t exist. But for some stupid reason, I didn’t act on my impulse. Why, momma, why?

chasinvictoria poses with 45 RPM Man

Once I moved to the hip hop and r+b bins, I finally found pay dirt. Even though I am the Post-Punk Monk, man does not live by [white] bread alone. I was gladdened by the appearance of one of the two early Bootsy Collins solo CDs I did not have. “Player Of The Year” was perhaps his finest solo hour, and I only had that on LP for years. I could now hear the amazing “Roto-Rooter” any time I wished. A CD would be far more advantageous! I next looked in hip hop for any CDs by The Coup. My wife and I were very impressed by the movie “Sorry To Bother You” and I thought that Boots Riley had made the film I had been waiting 30 years to see. As I began to look into this guy, I could not believe that I had never even heard of The Coup. My wife had been sampling their music and it needed to enter the Record Cell in all due haste. She is currently stuck on “The Magic Clap” from the “Sorry To Bother You” album, but the only CD on the place was “Steal This Disc,” so I bought that any way.

Not Post-Punk but… YOW! We NEED this!

Then the Prince motherlode was struck! Cheap and vital copies of “For You,” “Controversy,” “Around The World In A Day,” “Parade,” ” Sign O’The Times,” and “The Love Symbol” were duly acquired; going a long way towards completing my Warner Brothers run of the purple one’s reign. I used to have the USP 12” from “Controversy” [and wish that I still did…] but have waited a staggering [and pathetic] 38 years to buy a copy of this album!!!! Additionally, I found a promo copy of Bowie’s recent stand-alone “Thin White Duke” show from Nassau Coliseum. I was glad to see that decoupled from the insanely priced “stationtostation” DLX RM box. Nine CDs for about $50. A small, but appreciated splash. We next decamped back to LAX to pick up our good friend Mr. Ware.

We drove to LAX and collected him, then we went to home base. It was in the Santa Monica area in a nice neighborhood. Pretty much where I was hatched. The accommodations were spacious and well appointed with three beds in a good space. We had decided to buy food for breakfast to save time as much as money. Driving anywhere in the city was time-consuming. Our place was waking distance to a Trader Joes, so we looked and found a poke restaurant nearby. I had not had this cuisine before [I opted for vegetarian style], but it was delicious and easy on the budget.  A not inconsiderable factor when doing an L.A. record crawl! Afterward we got breakfast food and walked back to the guest house. The twilight air was cool and refreshing.

Musicians Choice Rehearsal Studios – Night 1

It was then time to take Mr. Ware to rehearsal. The studios were not far away in Culver City, and we arrived at the appointed time. This was a new wrinkle for yours truly. As I only enjoy and do not make music, I had never visited such a place. We entered and met the rest of the fine folks who would be playing the songs from the tribute album live. Bob Gaulke was there with his partner Peri Mason. Bob played guitar and Peri was a singer. Warren Bowman I had previously met. He was vocals and ukulele. Ken Heaton was another familiar face from Ron-Kon I. He was on guitar. The bass player was a new guy: Cary Berger. He was the guy who coordinated the accoutrements such as booking the show and the rehearsal studio. The drummer was tall gent named Jim  McGrath who had drummed with Berger before. He was the only one there [besides Peri] who had not been friends with Ron. Mark Moerman was flying in the next night, so he would not be there this evening. 

L-R: Peri Mason, Ken Heaton, Warren Bowman, Cary Berger

By now, I had been awake for nearly 24 hours, so I struggled to stay alert in the close quartered room. It was pretty warm with ten people in there. Fortunately, Cary had booked the large studio, which was not at all dingy, as I’d imagined a typical rehearsal studio to be. The musicians would be playing six of the songs from the tribute album, with an additional tune getting an airing. Ron had told anyone who would listen over the years which song he specifically wanted played at any wake he might have have. It was a Cream deep cut I had never heard of. As a white boy listening to FM Rock for the ’78-80 period, there were only three Cream songs played on such stations in ’78-’79: “Tales Of Brave Ulysses,” “White Room,” and “Sunshine Of My Love.” Thankfully, there was a video performance of the best Cream song, “I Feel Free,” so I saw it on MTV years after my dalliance with what would quickly become called Classic Rock radio. The song Ron had specifically requested in this situation was called “Doing That Scrapyard Thing.”

Drummer Jim McGrath and prime mover Bob Gaulke

Since I had not yet gotten a copy of the CD which got released after the DL of “The Record Man,” I was hearing the tribute songs for the first time as the musicians were hashing out the arrangements. They moved pretty quickly and the material was all pretty much quirky, pop shot through with enough unexpected arrangement ideas to reflect Ron’s left-of-center bearing. The songs were gelling very quickly. Well, they had to! There was only five hours to lock these bad boys down. I was impressed at the wonderful vocal harmonies that Peri and Warren were singing. They dovetailed beautifully.

Mr. Ware in his natural environment

As chasinvictoria and I were there to accompany Mr. Ware, we just sat there listening until someone [Peri?] got the bright idea of enlisting one of us to perform the song “Today’s List.” Ken Heaton had written perhaps the song most directly redolent of Ron in that he made a simple groove for the album and had a recitation over the top consisting of one of Ron’s many hundreds of emails that we all received on a weekly basis; outlining the almost maddeningly diverse musical acquisitions of that weekend. For the first time ever I was at a mic with a band behind me. Do not get used to this! As I had never heard the backing track before, it was extremely improvisational and I used my “announcer voice.” Yessss! Finally a legitimate reason for me to do so! 

After midnight, we helped break down and said our goodbyes for the evening. Ron may have been kind of odd, but he surrounded himself with really great people. Bob Gaulke was a few years younger than I was and Ron had truly mentored him from afar by the sound of it. He remarked that meeting all of us was like children learning about dad’s “other family” after he died. Ron liked to compartmentalize, it’s true. We all had pretty much a one-on-one relationship with Ron, whereas I like to mix my friends up and see what results. Bob had financed the CD himself because he felt that he had to do it. At least it was on the Dutch charts due to many of the musicians participating. If Ron had been alive to know this, he would have been [quietly, subtly] eating this all up with a ladle. We got back to the garden house and following a very long day, showered up before bed. This took us into Hour 25 before we finally hit the sack. For about five hours.

Next: …Absorbed Into The Amoeba

Posted in Bowie, Live Music, Record Shopping Road Trip | Tagged , , , , | 9 Comments

Ron-Kon II: A Memorial Tale [With Lots Of Record Stores…] [part 1]

Artwork for the DVD I would make to distribute to Ron’s friends at Ron-Kon II p.s. – Ron didn’t smoke

Planning Ron-Kon II

I had written at length about my friend Ron Kane and his death last November 30th. I had been ready to fly out to see him on December 1st of last year as his decline was such that he was unable to be moved from his rehab hospital to a hospice facility due to the fragility of his health. I had to cancel my flight and use the cost of the ticket within a year. There were rumblings earlier this year about the notion of a get together for all of his friends to celebrate his life, since there had been no funeral or indeed, any sort of closure to his death. 

I had kept in contact with his friend Mark Moerman and in April he had discussed a meeting of Ron’s friends, but details were slow to filter out. Much of this activity had worked out on the Ron Kane “Arcane Mysteries” private Facebook page, which I do not participate in [I’m violently allergic to Facebook or other social media]. Finally, it was decided that an event called Ron-Kon 2 would be happening this summer. The first Ron-Kon has been held in one of Ron’s favorite cities, Portland, Oregon, on the event of his fiftieth birthday in 2008. Strangely enough, that had marked the first time I had actually met with Ron after 23 years of long distance friendship and regular correspondence. The second Ron-Kon would be happening the last weekend in July; more or less at the time of what would have been his sixtieth birthday. 

As I had already spent the cash [that I didn’t have] for my ticket the previous year, I was definitely going. I had thought last winter that I might use the flight money for a trip to Chicago to see Shriekback in June, but we all know how that turned out. My friend chasinvictoria had known Ron through me almost as long as I had since I was quick to hip him to the legend that was Ron. Since he regularly visited Los Angeles to attend Doctor Who conventions over the last 20 years, he had many opportunities to meet up with Ron, in addition to the first Ron-Kon – which he and his wife attended along with us as well as Mr. Ware’s family. It was Mr. Ware who told me shortly after we met in 1985 that I “had to meet this Ron Kane.”

When chasinvictoria celebrated his 50th birthday in 2012 in Atlanta, my wife quickly coordinated the guest list and lodgings for many in a home we had rented near the crucial Little Five Points district. That was where we had seen Ron for the second time in addition to Mr. Ware and his family, who again made the trek. By that time Mr. Ware’s son had developed into a serious crate digger himself to our mutual delight. With Ron-Kon II looming, I confirmed that chasinvictoria would be attending and Mr. Ware quickly followed suit. This was crucial to me since he had been my entrée to the World of Kane. My wife found us a great guest home in Santa Monica and we were set for the event.

But this wouldn’t just be a bunch of people getting together and shopping for records, though that would have to happen for us to honor Ron’s memory in any significant way. The linchpin of the event would be a concert given in Ron’s honor with his many friends playing music from the recently released Ron Kane tribute album, “The Record Man.” This was first proposed as a song originally posited as a cheer-him-up for a convalescing Ron by his friend Bob Gaulke; a New York based musician and producer. As these things do, it expanded into an album with many of the musician friends of Ron adding their songs inspired by him to the mix. As 2017 moved forward, this activity was underway for many months and then when Ron died before it was finished, it became a tribute album.

As we approached zero hour, the details finally firmed up and there would be a concert with several bands and musicians performing Saturday the 28th at Brennan’s; a pub in Marina Del Rey. Then, on the next day, Rockaway Records; the L.A. record store that had been selling off Ron’s substantial collection of 30,000 items (many of which were staggeringly valuable) would host a similar show with Bob Gaulke talking about the project beforehand. There would be trips to record stores proposed on a tight schedule, but given the need for disparate musicians to rehearse 6-7 songs that they had never played together before – with musicians whom they had never played with, these too, scaled back with the final schedule being a trip to Rockaway for shopping on Saturday at 11:00 followed by a trip to his friend Warren Bowman’s home. Anything else we’d have to do on our own. 

As Warren lived in L.A., he had been able to contact Ron’s closest relatives, who were dealing with his estate. Ron’s house was filled to bursting not only with records and CDs, but also books, videotapes, audio tapes of every stripe, Sony minidiscs, DVD-Rs, CD-Rs, and eclectic ephemera. We had all wondered what would happen to Ron’s many belongings that were not going to be re-sold at Rockaway. Mr. Ware was aghast at the thought of all of this material ending up curbside since only a trained eye would see the value of a Split Enz promotional mirror! Warren finally told us that he would be hosting a “Ron Swap Meet” at his home on Saturday afternoon where his friends could take any mementos away with them.

Apart from that, the musicians performing at both shows needed to rehearse and a studio had been rented for Thursday and Friday nights to facilitate this. I set up a rental car which the three of us would share. Since Mr. Ware is a keyboard man, he was conscripted into the Record Man Orchestra. We would need to get him to the nearby rehearsal studio for 10:00 pm – 12:00 am on Thursday and from 9:00 pm – 12:00 am in Friday. 

I am not a musician but I had dozens of videos that Ron had sent me over the years. There were a couple of videos that I needed to share with the Ron-Kon 2 participants. First and foremost of these was the 12 minute short “Swingers Load.” Ron had written and starred in that with his friend Rick Snyder. Rick has an artistic pedigree of his own. Captain Beefheart fans would know him as “Midnight Hatsize;” the bassist on “Ice Cream For Crow.” In the short, the two played hopeless losers trying to link up with a pair of ladies; played by Ron’s then-wife and her friend. It had been made by Warren, who is an editor of film and television. As Ron succinctly put it, “Swinger’s Load” was “… a porn movie with no sex or nudity!” If you ever laughed at the two “wild and crazy guys” in the early days of Saturday Night Live, then you would sort of get the picture.

Ron had also sent me another unfinished video called “Pompadour Hell.” He only wrote the script for this one; a tale of a white trash California youth whose lifestyle of auto parts, bowling, and hair salons came to a bad end when his pompadour was cut off – much like Samson’s fate. This one had the feel of an early John Waters movie filled with obnoxious characters and had been made as a student effort. 

Better yet, I had found two short documentaries on Ron that Warren had shot in the ’87- ’90 period on this tape in question. One of these was concerned when Ron had lost his job of over 6 years and was unemployed for the first time in his adult life during 1987-1988. Warren had shot lots of amazing footage of Ron in his natural environment [work, rest, and play] and this was an invaluable peek into the 30 year old Ron at a happier time in his life. 

The second one detailed the day-to-day life of Ron and his then-wife as they had moved to Bath, England to run a CD/Record/Book/VHS import business for a year. If only all of us had friends in the entertainment industry to create and leave behind such videos when we were gone. Only in L.A., folks! I digitized can these and burned them to DVD and brought along a stack for distribution to one and all at Ron-Kon 2. Here is the tale of this most fascinating trip.

Next: …Walkin’ In l.A.

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Record Review: Jan Linton – I Actually Come Back DLX ED

Jansongs/Entropy Records | Hong Kong | CD + CD-3 | 011/EM 007 | 2017

Jan Linton With Leo Abrahams: I Actually Come Back/Buddha Machine Music – Hong Kong – CD + CD-3 [2017]

Disc 1: I Actually Come Back [Jansongs 011]

  1. Kindness [overture]
  2. I actually Come Back [remix]
  3. Joy [radio version]
  4. The Kindness of Strangers
  5. Emancipate Your Heart [Leo guitar]
  6. Anemone
  7. Kindness [reprise]
  8. I Actually Come Back [Matthew’s edit]
  9. Cocteau Sublime
  10. Birds In The Dream Forest/Route 2
  11. Anemone [macau reprise]
  12. I Actually Come Back [piano reprise]

Disc 2 | Buddha Machine Music [Entropy Music EM007]

  1. Mao Zhongruan
  2. Maoduihuan Bla
  3. B2 Dance [Wu Song]
  4. Shengxiaozhong
  5. Zhongruan Ceng Yu
  6. Yang [infinite delay]

Sometimes an album catches your eye with the pedigree it brings to the party. I’d not heard of Jan Linton, who is the primary artist here, but I certainly knew guest guitarist Leo Abrahms from this album and anyone reading this should know all about Matthew Seligman. His CV is legendary. These three players form the foundation of “I Actually Come Back,” which serves as an art rock [with side trips into pop] coming out party for Linton, who has existed under my radar but travels in very interesting circles. This was probably due to his move to Japan where his guitar prowess has languished under the radar of most people in the Western Hemisphere. But that should change.

“I Actually Come Back” is an album of deep technique layers taking a deliberately light approach to the music. While it’s true that the earlier version of this album was sold on Burning Shed, don’t assume that it’s just bloodless prog technique on parade here. If anything, the vocal material here predominates and showcases a subtle, elegant pop sensibility on the part of Mr. Linton. That said, it’s also an album with plenty of EBow action and if you’re as much of a fan of that luxurious and otherworldly  sustain as I am, you will also find plenty to love here. Oh, and it’s also only the second album out of thousands in my Record Cell that features fretless guitar, so know that Linton means business!

The album opens up with “Kindness [overture]” which sets the tone for the album with a brief instrumental of healing grace with Leo Abrahams supplying guitars while Linton mans the synths. The vibe is not unlike that of the Cocteau Twins with Abrahams’ shimmering guitar textures striking close to the Robin Guthrie target. Way before it ceases to amaze the concise number steps aside for the first of the three versions of the title song on the album. The vocals of Linton appear here and he sounds similar in voice to Thomas Leer, but his phrasing owes more to that of David Sylvian. The gentle, pastoral sound proffered would be less jazz-derived than Sylvian’s solo career, but the EBow of Abrahams and the fretless bass of Matthew Seligman, still give an art rock undercurrent to what is a delicate love song. If anything, it recalls first album China Crisis, who managed to straddle a similar line.

My favorite song here was definitely “Joy” which never comes close to feeling like as much as half of its six plus minute running time. It began with a heartbeat rhythm before the beatbox kicked in after the introduction. I could listen to this track all night as Linton comes closer to Sylvian territory and then takes it deep in the art rock zone with his use of fretless guitar. If you’ve not heard it, there’s little else quite like it. The distant, dreamlike guitar tone typifies this album; as if the guitars were being played in a large building several rooms away from where you were listening. This makes for perfect listening in the wee, small hours but could also serve in the morning in a pinch.

Abrahams and Linton trade off memorably on “The Kindness of Strangers” over a “Five Years” martial beat with Abrahams offering Guthrie-like peals of sky guitar with Linton playing a harmonica melody to complement him. “Anemone” was an earlier Abrahams’ solo track from the “Scene Memory” album that Linton wrote lyrics for and it became an ethereal song here, though it sported a surprisingly motorik hi-hat rhythm. The album also offered a gorgeous instrumental in “Cocteau Sublime” with a deeply still ambience featuring phased rhythms and nearly subliminal vocals from Linton.

Also offered in this package is a CD-3 of the earlier [2011] “Buddha Machine Music” of more abstract ambient work. It provides a contemplative coda to the Occidental near-pop of the first disc in this set. This set, even more than the main disc, hews closely to the ambient post-rock tributaries that one can find in the Burning Shed stable of artists, though this one was initially released by Entropy Records. What is fascinating is that all of the music here has its genesis in the Buddha Machine; a small piece of generative music hardware developed by  Christiaan Virant and Zhang Jian but manipulated and composed by Linton.

Mr. Linton shows himself to be a potential peer to Monastic favorites like Bill Nelson, Brian Eno, and David Sylvian with this work as be blended guitar, synths, and drum machine, while hitting closer to the pop mark on the vocal material here as typified by early China Crisis. Locally, Continuum Fingerboard synthesist Sally Sparks, hosts world class musicians in her Streamside Studios for intimate home concerts I’ve attended in the past. I daresay that Jan Linton would fit the bill at such a show like a fine kidskin glove. Now, if I could only get him the 8,000 or so miles from Hong Kong to Asheville, it would be just perfect. Until then, “I Actually Come Back” can be purchased here.

– 30 –

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