Vanity Vinyl: Exploring the eclectic world of self-pressed records
Vinyl records are making a comeback.
To navigate the eclectic world of self-pressed vinyl records in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Morgan Rhodes moderated this event on September 5 in the KPCC Crawford Family Forum.
Joining us was Eothen "Egon" Alapatt, founder of Now-Again Records, co-founder of Sinecure Books and Geoffrey Weiss, record collector and contributor to the book, Enjoy the Experience.
Why vinyl records are making a comeback.
WEISS: I think people wanna feel like they're getting something for their money. It's very easy to download a digital song for free and I think more and more people think that CDs just feel like are not quite as convenient as a digital.
If you're going to spend $15 on something, you want something you can hold, something you can look at, something that has a tactile component to it. So I think a lot of people like to buy records just because it's something to represent the music. It can sound better. I certainly would argue that, at its best, vinyl is a fantastic experience.
First vinyl record purchased.
RHODES: Mine was in 1979. I bought Funkadelic's "(Not just) knee deep." I wanted to buy Prince, but my mother was religious and I knew I wasn't going to be able to get the record in the house because Prince didn't have a shirt on and the single was "I wanna be your lover." So my brother and i just made a political decision at the record store, he said," you have to go with knee deep." Even though the cover of the album is George Clinton sitting in a straw chair...
WEISS: …tripping his brains out.
RHODES: Right! But he's got a shirt on. So I was able to bring that home.
WEISS: My first record: I bought at a head shop in Georgetown, Maryland, in 1968. It was Bad Fingers, "Come and get it," 45.
ALAPATT: George Harrison, "Cloud nine."
Explaining Damon's "Song of a gypsy."
WEISS: If somebody said, "play me a record that shows why all this silly marginal music matters," this is the kind of record that I might pull out.
ALAPATT: To me personally when I first heard this record—and it was far after people like Geoffrey and Paul Major had done the legwork to establish this record as important as it is now—I heard it and immediately was like, 'oh my goodness,' this is a funky psychedelic record by a guy who obviously knew what he was doing.
He saw the whole thing through. From start to finish, there's not one bad song. And I can play it to a guy who's into funk music; I can play it to a guy who's into world music, whatever that means; I can play it go a guy who's into rock music; I can play it to a younger kid than me; I can play it to my parents, and there's going to be an equal appreciation. And it was made in 1968 and pressed in micro quantities of between 500 and 1,000 units. It's very personal it's very unique. You can hear some of the influences but you can't explain some of the parts.
Explaining Matreiya Kali (Craig Smith), also known as Apache Inca, "Salesman."
WEISS: This is a good example of one where the real truth will never be known. The guy was in a band that was a studio pop band in the '60s. He was probably a drug dealer. He probably moved to South American and was involved in some shady business and got injured. He came back to L.A. and was really scary, and spent years putting together this puzzling, abstract collage of all the work he'd done over the previous 10 years. Put it out, nobody noticed. Twenty years later a few people decided it was really cool. He's dead now, we know that. There's been a lot of research done on him.
He was a professional song writer who had some success including, I believe, "Salesman" for The Monkees, which bizarrely enough there's a version on the record. Apparently maybe sung maybe by Mike Love, or maybe by him, the writer.
ALAPATT: If I've heard the story correctly, and again this is something that's totally up to conjecture, but the version of "Salesman" which is on the record, which is infinitely funkier than The Monkees' version, and may or may not have Craig Wmith who's the guy that we're talking about, who was called Matreiya Kali by the time he made this double album and sold it on the streets. The demo version supposedly has him and Mike Love from The Beach Boys just talking about it.
No one knows who holds the rights to these songs.
Among the songs that were played in last night's event, the following three (which you can listen in the YouTube playlist below) are so mysterious that no one knows who holds the rights to each of the songs: Matreiya Kali (Craig Smith)’s “Salesman” & “Color Fantasy”; Arcesia’s “White Panther.”
Help us solve the mystery, and tell us in the comments: Do you know who holds the rights to those songs?
Check out all the songs played during the event:
Eothen Alapatt ("Egon") - Founder of Now-Again Records, co-founder of Sinecure Books; former General Manager of Stones Throw, columnist/curator of NPR’s “Funk Archaeology” series - @nowagain, @sinecurebooks
Geoffrey Weiss - Record collector, music business refugee (A&M, Warner Bros., Hollywood), and committed music fan; Enjoy the Experience contributor
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