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4-28-2022 - These are a few of my favorite things - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

Let’s talk about something fun today. I feel like I’ve been a bit preachy the last few days and I leave the preaching to a student of mine who is always saying, and quite loudly, “Jesus!” or “Oh my God!” I told her that I expect her to be my pastor some day so I will be saved, and she just looks at me with her big brown eyes like she understands. I will definitely need me some savin’ when it is all said and done.

Before that happens, though, I want to talk about two of my favorite things. There will probably not be a complete list, by any stretch of the imagination, in this blog but I can offer two of my favorite things for today, or something like that. Maybe I can squeeze in three, but I’m making zero promises.

I’m going to start by sharing one of my favorite records. Call Of The West by Wall of Voodoo is one of my all-time favorite records. I honestly can’t remember if it was their appearance on Urgh! A Music War or the video for “Mexican Radio” on MTV that won me over, but I was a fan from the get-go. I distinctly remember purchasing Call Of The West on cassette at a music store in Colorado Springs that was just off rectangular park near Colorado College. It must have been the fall of 1993 and I was there to visit my grandparents for Thanksgiving.

In the almost 40 years since, I have not been without a copy of this record, although I don’t know where the cassette is today. It’s probably in a box in the shed because I can’t throw things like this away. It is a record that got me through a lot of tough times. Stan Ridgway writes lyrics that seem like the speak directly to me and I typically love all his projects. Sadly, though, I have never seen him perform in person. I also once pitched a story to LA Weekly about him, and they wanted it, but he politely declined to be interviewed.

Call Of The West is a go to for me to this day. I would imagine that I listen to it in its entirety at least five times a year, if not more, and in those high school years, probably more like 50-60 times. In the 90s, Hillbilly Devilspeak did a pretty rad (if I say so myself) cover of “Mexican Radio” at a few shows. We played around a bit with the pace of the song, but it worked.

If I had to pick a favorite song off the record, I would probably go with “Spy World” or the title track, but it’s hard to pick just one. “Lost Weekend” is amazing, too. While not the happiest of subject matter, “Lost Weekend” is a great example of how Ridgway’s songs tend to come off like a screenplay. I’ve seen all these stories in my imagination for the better part of four decades and they are definitely film noir.

Might as well stick with this idea and talk about a second album. Another all-time favorite of mine is Ride The Lightning by Metallica. I bought this cassette during sophomore year. Well, I should say “I bought” it. My mom actually paid for it. We were at the Wherehouse Records (at least I think it was a Wherehouse) at Tower Plaza on a Sunday afternoon before she took me home.

It was a common thing for us to do a little shopping before I went home. There was a time when I thought this was because my mom liked to stick it to my dad a little bit, but I now realize it was a lot more than that. It was also as simple as my mom loves to shop and because there was a lot of guilt there, too, because she felt like she was not always there for me. Either way, though, I got a couple of cassettes on that fall afternoon.

During sophomore year, I sat next to a guy named Thom in Miss Fore’s English class who would often recommend music to me. One of these records was Ride The Lightning. I’m going to assume that I thanked Thom profusely for turning me onto the record, but if not, I hope he eventually reads this as we are still connected via social media.

On a side note, mom also got me The Smiths’ Meat Is Murder on the same day. I like to think I was, at very least, the only person who bought those cassettes together on the same day that month. I’m sure it has happened somewhere else, but probably not very often. They are both great records and have held up well, in my opinion, but I’m more likely to play Hatful of Hollow than Meat Is Murder if I’m going to listen to the Smiths.

Ride The Lightning is my go-to Metallica record, though, and it always has been. When I wrote my top-ten Thrash records list for New Times a few years ago, I added Ride The Lightning and got a little hate mail because of it. Oh well. It’s a great record from top to bottom and so what if others don’t think it is Metallica’s best.

Sadly, I had my original pressing stolen a few years ago when I was DJ-ing a Mighty Sphincter show at Rip’s. It’s a bummer to know that someone who I probably know helped themselves to my record while I was taking a leak. I have since bought a re-press, but it is a bummer when I think about it. I bought that copy a year or so after I got the cassette and had it a long time.

The way the album opens, with the acoustic guitar at the beginning of “Fight Fire With Fire” is pretty goddamn epic. When the song kicks in, it rips your head off. I remember sitting in my room in my dad’s house and putting the cassette into my RCA version of a Walkman and being blown away. When the first side got to “Fade To Black,” I was completely hooked. I still love those first four songs so much. Side two is also killer, but the first side….holy fuck!

More than anything, that record taught me that all genres were worth checking out. I was always open to metal, but in 1985, I wasn’t wanting to admit to anyone that one of my favorite records of the year was a metal record, if that makes sense. It wasn’t until I was talking to Bam Bam in 1986 about Ride The Lightning that I realized that a lot of “punks” loved Metallica, too.

Well, at least until And Justice For All came out.

See you tomorrow.

Happy birthday, Mr. Coats. Always a pleasure to see you. I'm usually not this weird.

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