Tuesday, January 12, 2010

It's The Submarines' Vinyl District!

It's Day #2 of The Submarines' Vinyl District Takeover and Blake's rifling through her record collection with ya:

As I write, lines from our work-in-progress third album drift into the house through the open windows. John is messing around with some new software in the studio/garage, and something I sang the other day about lying and surprising each other is playing over and over.

We've been working on the album in bits and pieces through the Fall and now the Winter. I'm filling notebooks with lyrics, but haven't yet fit most of them to particular songs. John's been creating instrumental tracks, beats, anything he finds interesting and new for us, and we've sung melodies in "la's" over them. It sounds really exciting. (I suppose saying it sounds 'exciting,' is sort of like a menu which describes a sauce as 'delicious,' with no other distinguishing characteristics...but, you know what I mean.).

I just came inside from making this little mp3 with John from an old 78 of Billie Holiday's, "The Very Thought of You." John gave me a beautiful old phonograph, a Columbia Graphophone, for my birthday a couple of years ago. This is one of the nicest 78s we've collected.

Most of the others are cheapies from the flea markets—Tahitian recordings, Hawaiian guitar music, strange old jazz tunes with naughty lyrics. It's a little rough actually listening to them because they're quite harsh. The phrase 'put a sock in it,' comes from muffling the cone of the phonograph, which we usually do. But, it's fascinating to think you're hearing these recordings just as people did back when the records were pressed—there's a real connection to that time period, in the decades before the technology evolved to give the players a richer sound.

While we were mic'ing it up, Johnny got the idea to record us trying to play one of his old scratched-up 45's (The Beatles' "Rain") on the phonograph. Doing this is totally not recommended: it'll blow your eardrums and ruin your record - and possibly your phonograph - all at once. But it's kind of a funny experiment:

As it turns out, I've been wrecking vinyl for quite a long time. I grew up in an all-vinyl no-tv household, and dancing around to records was one of our favorite past-times—the needle skipped across the vinyl as we jumped, and there was no time to put the things back in the proper sleeves between song inspirations.

But, somehow my parent's collection survived this poor treatment, and I grew up listening to some amazing albums. Nearly all of the records were from the time before me and my brothers were born—great 60s and 70s classics. There was Antonio Carlos Jobim, Stan Getz with Astrud Gilberto, Rickie Lee Jones, Joni Mitchell, Zeppelin, Bob Marley—and some great musicals, like West Side Story (lots of needle-hopping jumping-around to that one). Among those classics was a particular favorite of both mine and my mom's, "Les Eaux de Mars," by Georges Moustaki. It's a cover of a beautiful Jobim song, translated into French by the French-Greek Moustaki. I played it over and over in my mom's painting studio, singing along in Franglais. I find it slightly shmaltzy now, but it's still genius.

This version of "Aguas de Marco," with Elis Regina and Tom Jobim, is so sweet and awesomely 70's:

I just stumbled upon a clip of Moustaki playing for a rapt Edith Piaf (who did a version of his 'Milord'). It's fascinating to watch one musician listening to another. She's sort of squirming, but into it:

As an unabashed Francophile, this French music discovery easily led me down the internet rabbit-hole to some interviews with one of my absolute favorite bands, Phoenix. They are very French, indeed, and I find them endlessly charming. What this last fact has to do with vinyl, I'm not entirely sure. But, I think they're brilliant, and their latest album looks very pretty in it's proper dimensions: a vinyl sleeve! Over and out.

Billie Holiday - The Very Thought Of You [78] (Mp3)
Georges Moustaki - Les Eaux de Mars (Mp3)
Elis Regina and Tom Jobim - Aguas de Marco (Mp3)
The Submarines - Beatles 45 Attempt (Mp3)
Phoenix - Lisztomania (Mp3)