Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Pink Floyd

Just holding an LP by Pink Floyd immediately takes me to a very special place. From my first experience with them, they have been the exemplars of what mysterious, art-rock looks like. In 1970 our local PBS station (now known as Rocky Mountain PBS) aired “An Hour with Pink Floyd,” which was recorded at KQED studios in San Francisco on April 30, 1970. Because it was on PBS it inherently had our parents blessing. Little did they know! The show featured the band playing six songs ripped from the beating heart of their super-psychedelic post-Barrett period. My 12-year old mind was blown. Atom Heart Mother confused, Grantchester Meadows and Green Is the Colour soothed and Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun and Careful with That Axe Eugene terrified me. Much of the music I hold dearest started out scaring me. It’s true, my first reaction to Bitches Brew, The Shape of Jazz to Come, Live Dead and Electric Ladyland was fear. These records pushed the limit of traditional song and imagery into more adult realms. This wasn’t verse, chorus, verse. This was staring at yourself in the mirror until you had to look away. Yeah-that’s for me! After seeing An Hour with Pink Floyd I went with my brother to Underground Records at 724 S. Pearl St. and purchased Ummagumma. 18 years later, I would buy Underground Records at a tax auction and turn it into Twist and Shout. I was again, thrilled and scared by this album. The cover was awesome, especially the back cover where two members of the band’s road crew stood in the middle of a country road surrounded by all the band’s gear artfully displayed in a giant V. I was so sold on this band!

My next major experience with the band came when the movie Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii was shown at midnight at The Vogue Theatre on South Pearl Street. Once again, I was both excited and terrified by the futuristic music the band was creating. Once again, I went to Underground Records and headed straight for the Pink Floyd section. This time, I was greeted by a strange album with minimal information. It just said Pink Floyd Fillmore West. My brother told me it was a bootleg and encouraged me to get it. I saved my allowance over the next few months, and when I finally had 15 bucks saved up, we went back and I got it. We breathlessly listened to it.  The album gave no clue what songs the band played at the concert, but we were excited when the program was very similar the PBS special. On the back of the album, you can see the home-made setlist I typed up on my father’s Royal typewriter. (the same one on which he wrote 10 novels). I was so psyched. This was going to be my band.

I continued to follow Pink Floyd, buying every one of their new albums the day it came out, and eventually finding all their older ones. I also got heavily into Syd Barrett and his two incredible solo albums. His descent into madness stuck with me throughout my young life and remains a poignant touchstone to the reality that art and madness often walk a parallel path. When Wish You Were Here came out I was 18 and the messages of alienation and societal oppression could not have been more timely for me. Again, the artwork was so memorable. Instead of covering the album in clear plastic shrink-wrap, this album had a custom blue shrink, so you had to buy the album to see all the artwork.

Animals promotional item. Last week I mentioned Corey over at Furthur Frames.
This piece might represent the apex of his work for me. It’s hard to see in the picture but the display is
3 dimensional and the pig in the bottom half is hanging in there and can swing freely.

And, ultimately, this is what is so great about Pink Floyd. Every move they made was intelligent, beautiful, calculated. They are the ultimate art-rock band.

Paul Epstein


Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Jimi Hendrix

Famous Flying Eyeball by Rick Griffin
Poster from the Denver Pop Festival June 1969
Final show by The Jimi Hendrix Experience

To my mind Jimi Hendrix is one of the three greatest rock stars. When I say that, I am putting a big emphasis on the “star” part of that phrase. I’m talking about people who are both extraordinary as musicians, but who also embody another quality which sets them apart from other mere mortals. Their behavior, dress, politics, etc. all become part of their fame, and very consciously so. Some get there and recoil or struggle with it. Leonard Cohen, Laura Nyro and Van Morrison spring right to mind as people who while unreal musicians, are not comfortable rock stars. For the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards and Jimi Hendrix though, they seemed to live it every second. They couldn’t not look cool, break rules and get away with it, or look great on stage come hell or high water. I have some interesting proof of that last one. Once, when pricing some Jimi records a Polaroid photo fell out. It was Jimi on stage. No information other than the date Oct. 68. It is a beautiful representation of any given moment of Jimi. Eyes closed, deep in a solo, he still looks entirely poised and in control. His clothes are great, his hair looks big and beautiful-it’s a perfect image of Jimi, but it is just one random second caught on a Polaroid in the fall of ’68. When you think about it -have you ever seen an image of Jimi where he doesn’t look great?

Mystery Polaroid

 The other two guys have ultimately managed to survive with much of their dignity and reputations intact, but Jimi Hendrix tragically died at 27 leaving nothing but a legendary reputation. His guitar playing is beyond compare-the best players still can’t figure out how he did what he did with the technology available to him. Hi sense of style, while very groovy, still looks incredibly cool. He played with gender, race and lifestyle like he owned them-which of course he did. The three albums (four if you count Band Of Gypsys”) he made during his lifetime are unimpeachable from both a musical and a cultural standpoint. They sound better with each year that passes, and their influence on successive generations of musicians is titanic. Other than a couple of the Buddy Miles-led songs on Band Of Gypsys it’s hard to find anything less than transcendent in his catalog. His music was both earthy and rootsy while being a million miles ahead of anyone else. “Are You Experienced” could be the greatest debut album in history, Axis: Bold As Love defines psychedelic hard rock and Electric Ladyland is perhaps the most ambitious two LP set of the 60’s (I know, I Know, White Album, Trout Mask Replica, etc.). Band Of Gypsys is simultaneously soulful and heavy pointing to two directions he might have pursued had he lived. He was scheduled to jam with Miles Davis shortly after he died-the mind reels.

Another good record store story is the time a guy named Daniel came in to the store on Alameda and told me he had gone to the Regis Field House concert on Valentines Day 1968. He told me he had just returned from Vietnam and he was at the concert the day after and had recorded it himself. He was a bit rattled in the details but I convinced him to bring the tape in and let me listen to it. I wasn’t getting my hopes up. About a week later he came back with a tape and after much assuring, let me take it home. It was incredible. A really good recording of the Denver show. At one point, Hendrix says, “Good to be in Denver-a mile high!” So clearly it is that show. He plays a totally unique jam that night I’ve never heard anywhere else. Daniel resurfaces every decade or so and has me make him another copy of the show. I hope he’s still doing well. The Regis show, and the posters that go with it, and the fact that Otis Taylor jammed with Hendrix late that night at the legendary Family Dog on Evans make this show an important part of Denver music history.

Poster and handbills from Jimi's Regis University show 
Denver 2/14/68

His records have really always been highly desirable since I’ve had the store. Most artists’ popularity waxes and wanes but Hendrix is evergreen in our racks. When I get a new piece of stereo equipment, the first song played is very important. It has to be something that I know inside out, that has great production dynamics, and that still gets me excited. For years, All Along The Watchtower from Electric Ladyland has been that test song for me. The minute that monster guitar part comes screaming out, I’m right there. Jimi’s the greatest!


Jimi in a record store 

Paul Epstein


Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Blue Note Records


Within my first two years of being in business I got two big introductions to Blue Note records. The first came when a guy named Bob came into the store. I immediately recognized him as a guy who used to work at Kingbee records on Evans near D.U. He then went on to work at Record Revival (later Jazz Record Revival) on Broadway. He was always a nice guy and had recommended a few albums to me over the years that I really liked. This day he was selling a handful of CDs. He pointed one out to me. “You ever heard this one?” He shook his hand like he was putting out a match. “Hot Stuff.” The CD was Cornbread by Lee Morgan. I took it home that night and played it. It was indeed a magnificent jazz album. Morgan had such a strong tone and melodic sense on trumpet, his band was red hot and the recording was really present and snapped with the tight arrangements.
The second event came when someone dropped a stack of free magazines at the store. It was a guide to independent record stores nationally. I thumbed through it and was surprised to see our store in there. I’ll never forget it. They said we were a good store with a lot of nice used stuff. Then the author explained how he had gotten a couple of rare Blue Note pressings for way less than they were worth out of our racks. I was stung. Not by the loss of revenue, but at the perceived lack of knowledge. It changed the way I approached my job. I thought, if I’m going to do this, I have to know at least as much as the average customer (a ridiculous thought-there is no average customer).  It gave me a kick in the ass to both really learn about label variations and to understand better what the mystique was with Blue Note.
It took a few years before we got to the point that we were buying large collections every day, but it did finally happen, and I started to see some Blue Notes come through the door. A regular character who bought a lot of jazz named Shelby passed away and his family sold his records and he had a handful of great titles. They were beat to shit, but I decided to take a couple home and try them out. I will never forget the sense of revelation I had when I put that first original Blue Note pressing on my turntable and the exciting sound recording mastery thundered out of the speakers. I had never heard a record sound so alive! And remember this record looked like hell. Once the needle fell into those grooves, the scuffs and grime disappeared and, like magic, it sounded like you were in the studio with a room full of great players. I would learn this was no fluke. Blue Note records were largely recorded by a man named Rudy Van Gelder in his home in New Jersey. A dentist by trade, he loved jazz and sound, and he combined those two passions to create an undying legacy. The first generation or two of Blue Note are unparalleled recordings. Van Gelder’s abilities, the musicians, the times, and the pressing technology-I’m not sure exactly what all the factors were, but nothing sounds like a Blue Note.

A number of Blue Note recordings became some of my favorite albums. One in particular blew my mind. Eddie Gale’s Ghetto Music is an incredible mix of jazz, funk, gospel and conscious soul unlike anything else. It is cosmic and earthy at the same time. It’s one of the records I’ve tried to turn people on to over the years. Finally, an original mono copy of Lee Morgan’s Cornbread came in to the store. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I took it home that night and breathlessly put it on the box. I wish I had the words to convey exactly how amazing that first listen was. From the opening notes of Larry Ridley’s bass and that first blast of horns from Lee, Jackie McLean and Hank Mobley I couldn’t believe how present the music was. You could literally feel the room the album was recorded in. You could see where each player was in your mind’s eye. This was why I was collecting records. This exact feeling of presence-like you were there. I have played that record, I’ll bet, a thousand times. When people come over and want me to show off my stereo or collection, the night will always include Cornbread, usually with me holding the record up and saying “this is why we are still in business!” And I believe that. The specific magic contained in a well-pressed piece of vinyl is something that can not be undervalued. It is the medium through which the magic of music can best be expressed (short of live performance). After the many, many playings, Cornbread has lost none of that magic. The record still sounds amazing-no surface noise, just the pulse-quickening greatness of the original session. It is my go-to audiophile recording. Nothing sounds better to me.
The magic and mystery of Blue Note is well known in the collecting world. They are rare as hen’s teeth and highly sought after. Thus, the prices have become very “dear” as it were. Even so, if you see a nice one, and if you are excited by the art and science of recording, as well as great jazz-there is no more rewarding investment to be had in the record collecting world.
Here are some of my favorites.


Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Autographed Records


I’ve never been motivated by autographs. Whenever I meet famous people it rarely occurs to me to ask them to autograph something. Not everyone feels this way. Over the years I’ve seen that there are people who ONLY care about getting autographs. The art is secondary, or actually irrelevant to the getting of the signature. Thus, in the course of buying millions of records I have come across a lot of autographs. I’ve kept a few over the years. Here’s some of the best.


The ultimate autograph story;
When Jill and I first got together I had an enormous record collection, and she had a sweet little collection of stuff she had mostly bought in the 60’s. I had many of the same records, so early in Twist and Shout’s history I sold her records in the store. She didn’t care, but I really regretted doing it, because they were a tangible part of her early life. At the time however, I felt they were essentially worthless because she hadn’t taken care of them, and she had written her maiden name on each of the covers. I now seek out exactly that type evidentiary artifact that illuminates an individual’s past. It is one of the most important and touching parts of this whole collecting thing. I could also go into the entire cyclical nature of records coming in to stores repeatedly. The same records surface over and over, and the only way we know this is people tend to personalize the possessions that mean the most to them. Fast forward 30 years. We have purchased a large collection of records from a young man who is selling his recently deceased father’s effects. His father, it seems, was one of those autograph guys. Hundreds of his records are autographed, but this guy took it to another level. For instance, if he found out say, Dave Mason was playing in town, he would find every record Dave Mason ever played on and get it signed. Thus, there were records by all kinds of other artists with Dave Mason’s signature on it. Funny. Anyway, as I’m getting to the end of the collection I look down and there is my wife’s maiden name staring back at me from the cover of a Donovan record. I recognize her handwriting immediately. Just below it is a beautiful Donovan autograph. Like a deck of cards flipped out into space the pieces of history suddenly formed a pattern. This guy’s father had bought the Donovan record from me (probably) years ago, gotten it autographed by Donovan, died, and now Jill’s record, which she bought (possibly at the first Tower Records in her home town of Sacramento, Ca.) in 1966 was back in my hands in 2018, enhanced by an autograph. Now there’s a great record store story!


- Paul Epstein

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Obscuro LP Finds


My dear friend and former employee Peter Fast used to say “You CAN tell a book by its cover.” When it came to records we both firmly believed that in many instances a weird, interesting or unexpected album cover could lead to the discovery of a lifetime. Anyone who has gone deep in the record collecting game has probably discovered some of their favorite albums just flipping through and having their eye caught by a strange image. How many times have I looked at a record, said to myself “what is this,” put it on the headphones and thought “wow, this needs further exploration.” Literally, some of my favorite albums have been discovered this way. Working in a record store obviously gives one the crash-course opportunity to explore anything that looks even slightly interesting. Sometimes it turns out to be crap, but sometimes it opens up an entirely new world of musical exploration. Let me share a few of my favorites with you.

Howard Roberts - Antelope Freeway - one of the all-time greats. Straight jazz session guitarist takes a completely weird and psychedelic trip with the help of super producer and onetime Colorado resident Bill Szymczyk.

Bobby Brown - The Enlightening Beam of Axonda - Gentle Hippy making strange music with homemade instruments. Cover sells itself.

Friends - One of John Abercrombie’s first albums from 1972 - a jazzy, funky, surprise.

Wilburn Burchette - Opens The Seven Gates Of Transcendental Consciousness - an impressive outsider guitarist with a lot on his mind.

Victor Brady - Brown Rain - Psych album led by a steel-drum player - sounds like a cross between Gentle Giant, Red Krayola and The Esso Steel Band.

Tripsichord Music Box - Gentle S.F. Psych with an absolutely haunting cover.

Médico Doctor Vibes - Liter Thru Dorker Vibes - Indescribable Calypso, Funk, Reggae, dark dub weirdness from 1979. Like walking through stoney molasses.

Harvey Averne Barrio Band - Another session guy makes his own statement with this great boogaloo, r&b masterpiece.

Ernest Hood – Neighborhoods - saved the best for last. An inexplicable album of great beauty and intimacy. Hood uses guitar, synths, zither and field recordings to make music that is simultaneously nostalgic and futuristic. One of the great finds of my life.

Paul Epstein

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Zappa




Iconoclast, auteur, philosopher, social commentator, genius. My relationship with Frank Zappa began, like it did for many, in 1969 with the release of Hot Rats. The cover of that landmark LP so captures the late 60’s mindset: beautiful, a little scary and just plain weird. Musically, it was a heady thrill ride of heavy guitar, big ideas and jazzy chops. It seemed miles ahead of most stuff on the radio. 1971’s Fillmore East-June 1971 was my next stop. Juvenile, hilarious, rude-it defined underground to me. It was the musical equivalent of an R. Crumb comic book. In ’73 and ’74 Zappa struck gold with Overnight Sensation and Apostrophe, which were loaded with FM hits that, again perfectly captured the gestalt of the era. You can see, at the time I was sort of drawn to those Zappa albums that rose to the commercial surface and actually got radio play. I was also lucky enough to see him in concert several times and was both blown away and mystified by these dense, instrument heavy bands slogging through labyrinthine compositions at breakneck speed.  Later, I started to recognize the artistic diamond mine that the Frank Zappa catalog was. It has been one of my greatest pleasures over the last 20 years to try to wrap my arms fully around the depth and breadth of this incredible artist’s output.

C.U. Events Center 1981
I have found every period of Zappa’s output to reward repeated listening. Few artists had as grand a vision that they held on to for an entire career and actualized to the level of Frank Zappa did. He had fearless determination in the face of stupid and corrupt labels, a largely indifferent public, money woes and a never-ending stream of amazing, but undependable musicians. The sheer number of world-class players who passed through his various bands is staggering. The best of the best appeared on his records and on stage. As for Zappa himself, his energy as a composer, arranger, performer, producer and promoter of his own (and others’) output is almost hard to believe. It seems, from his pre-teen years onward, Zappa never took a break - not until his untimely death from prostate cancer in 1993.
I enjoy it all, but the first 10 years (66-76) of his career represent the apex of his artistic growth. He did not stop innovating for a second in that period. The span of musical ideas from Freak Out (1966) to Grand Wazoo (1972) to Roxy And Elsewhere (1974) is hard to take in. From psychedelic parody, to orchestral rock ensembles to a science fiction soul review, Zappa seemed to be the master of all he surveyed. Starting with 1976’s Zoot Allures something seemed to change with Zappa. His musical ideas remain lofty, but his lyrical thrust took on a slightly darker tone. Always prone to social criticism, his observations accurately reflect the spirit of the post-Watergate, coke-fueled disco era. It ain’t pretty! But then, sometime in the mid-80’s when I had my first record store, I got a bootleg copy of Zappa’s unreleased masterpiece from the 70’s Lather which was a sprawling, confounding, multi-genre box set. I was completely inextricably driven to dive back in to the Zappa universe. 
Toward the end of his life, he shifted his focus back to the strictly musical with releases like Yellow Shark and Jazz From Hell. Since his death, his widow Gail and now his son Ahmet have taken his legacy into the future by releasing as many albums of his music as he did in his own lifetime. It has been a thrilling ride studying Frank Zappa’s life work. The dense, percussion-heavy, guitar lead ensemble sounds of his compositions are immediately recognizable and never fail to thrill me and bring a smile to my face. - Paul Epstein


Monday, June 29, 2020

Rick Griffin

Since my earliest days as a record collector, my obsession with the art form has extended to the artwork on the covers of the records I love. Early on this started extending to posters-and specifically the artwork of the psychedelic 60’s ballroom scene. Before I had Twist and Shout my poster collection was a thing of joy and pride for me. None of the artists grabbed my attention more than Rick Griffin. Griffin walked the line between trained draftsman and LSD pioneer just perfectly. His lettering, the ancient-looking iconography, the saturated colors and of course those bubbles, clouds and waves. Nobody captures the era like Griffin. From his early surfer/beatnik covers to the classic ballroom posters, to his final religiously themed work, Griffo is the guy for me. Here is some of the cream of my Griffin collection.

- Paul Epstein


Spiritualized

One of the very few modern psych bands of the 1980’s worthy of the title were English band Spacemen 3. In 1990 when they broke up, guitarist, singer, songwriter Jason Pierce (also known as J Spaceman) formed a band called Spiritualized. Over the course of the last 30 years they have released 8 albums, countless singles and have played some of the most mind-bending concerts I’ve ever seen. Pierce’s writing pays tribute to some of the best bands of the past - The Velvet Underground, The Beatles, Suicide - while forging an intense modern sound of his own. All of the albums are great, but Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (released in 1997) remains my favorite album in the world of modern rock. Not only is their music a swirling miasma of psychedelic greatness, but their album covers are always arty and awesome and best of all - Jason has been a good friend and supporter of Twist And Shout. At their last Bluebird Theatre show a few years ago Jason dedicated the evening to Twist And Shout. We all glowed with pride. Here are some of my best Spiritualized collectibles.

- Paul Epstein



Comics/R. Crumb

For me it started in the very early 1960s. A relative had a summer rental on Long Island, and we spent a couple of lazy weeks on the East Coast shore. I was 6 or 7. In a drawer in a night table I found a small stack of comic books. The two I remember were The Brave and The Bold #28 which featured The Justice League of America, and Showcase #4 which had the first appearance of the Silver Age (1956-1975) Flash. I was pretty new to reading, but these were just at my level and any words I didn’t know my brother would tell me, or I could just look at the pictures. During those couple of weeks comics opened up a secret, private world for me, that I would immerse myself in for much of my childhood and teenage years. The Brave and The Bold book had The Justice League fighting a villain named Starro, a giant starfish from outer space. Super heroes, giant starfish and my Mother didn’t approve-what could be better? Sadly, I had to leave those two books behind, but they set me off on a years long search for those them and hundreds more. There was something so comforting and empowering about letting myself “go there” for a whole rainy afternoon. Once The Beatles invaded and Rock music became part of the equation, my young life was set.

The Justice League Of America and their yearly team-up with the Golden Age (1938-1956) Justice Society of America became my reason to live. For me the magic was connected to the bridging of the mythical heroism of World War II, as endlessly described by my father, and the bright, colorful young world of the early 1960s that I was experiencing every day on the schoolyard, on TV and on the radio.


My next obsession with comic books came with artist Jack Kirby. A world War II vet, Kirby wrote in The Golden Age, but then in the 1960’s created heroes like The Fantastic Four, Hulk and Iron Man for Marvel Comics. In 1970 Kirby left Marvel and went to DC and created The Fourth World, a universe of futuristic adventure that fit beautifully into the youthful mindset of science fiction and social upheaval we were all living every day. It sprawled over a couple of years in the mid 70’s and fit me to a T.
The fourth world was sort of my swan song to super hero books because at around the same time I discovered underground comics.
R. Crumb and The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers became my thing at this point. I went from wanting to help Wonder Woman to wanting to sleep with her almost overnight. Underground comix opened my eyes to all sorts of “grown-up” stuff I didn’t really understand, but I sure wanted to be part of. Sex, Drugs and Rock and Roll replaced Truth, Justice and The American Way.

I still love comics. Just seeing those pages quickens my pulse. I ended up becoming a high school English teacher and a true lover of literature, but I understand clearly, that comic books got me started. That special connection I still enjoy with art began with those first two books I found in a drawer.

Here is a sample of my collection.

- Paul Epstein



Bob Dylan

Over 32 years of owning Twist And Shout, countless folks have asked me who my favorite artist is. In those years my answer has not changed. My first love might’ve been The Beatles, The Stones and The Who, and I’ve expended a lot of collecting energy on Neil Young, Bob Marley, Van Morrison, and Tom Waits among others, and I certainly saw The Grateful Dead live more than any other band, but, ultimately it’s Bob. Bob’s the one for me. No other artist has consistently thrilled, challenged and tested me like Bob. No other artist’s canon has continually reinvented itself for me as I age. There is no better writer of songs, and along with Hendrix and Keith Richards no other artist captures the mystique of “The Rock Star” the way Bob has. From my 3rd Grade teacher playing Blowin’ In The Wind for the class, to attending the incredible Rolling Thunder Review show in Ft. Collins in 1976 to meeting him at a show in Dallas, to his two newest “quarantine” songs, Murder Most Foul and I Contain Multitudes Bob Dylan is the guy for me. Here are a few of my favorite pieces of Dylanania.

- Paul Epstein



New and Old Stereo Equipment

What good are records if you don’t have something to play them on? I started with a 1960’s portable player. Almost immediately I recognized I could do better. For my 12th birthday I got my first stereo with components-separate speakers, amplifier and turntable. Over the next 50 years I have continually climbed the mountain-seeking louder, clearer, more refined…better sound. I feel like I’m there now. If I’m not, I’m pretty good. Here is a sample of my lifetime’s work. A two-channel system including VPI turntable, McIntosh power amp, Levenson Pre-amp JBL speakers and sub, a 5.1 surround sound system, various speakers, a 1946 Seeburg 78 RPM jukebox, and a bunch of old-timey turntables. I don’t love music any more than I used to, but I sure can hear it better.

- Paul Epstein





Beats and Hippies

I grew up in a literary household. My father was an author and a professor at D.U. He and my mother were both very well-read and expected the same of us kids. I ended up being an English teacher myself before Twist and Shout beckoned. The first literary discoveries I made without the prodding of my parents were The Beats and The Hippies. Somewhere in the early 70’s I discovered Kerouac’s “On The Road”, Tom Wolfe’s “The Electric Koo-Aid Acid Test”, Ken Kesey’s “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest” and Baba Ram Dass’ “Be Here Now”. I was off to the races! Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs and countless others followed. The literature ran parallel with the music, and it has never left me. I still feel Kerouac’s writing is the most vivid, Ginsberg’s poetry the most honest and Kesey one of the largest personalities in American letters. Here’s a small sampling of some of my favorite Beat and Hippie schwag.

- Paul Epstein


The Beatles


The most important band ever. No matter what kind of modern music you like, it just wouldn’t be the same without The Beatles. No band, set the bar higher musically, or influenced the world more profoundly. They tossed off generational anthems like it was nothing, and their mastery of recording technique has yet to be surpassed. Just saying the name of the band awakens all my senses with memory and happiness. The Beatles might be the best thing that happened in the 1960s. Here are a few of my favorite Beatles items.

- Paul Epstein


Friday, June 26, 2020

The Boss

In 1974 the son of one of my father’s friends stayed at our house in Denver on a drive from New York to California. He was a music student and only liked classical and jazz. Much of the weekend was spent with me saying “What about The Rolling Stones?” “What about Yes?” He would invariably reply “crap!” Exasperated, I finally asked him if he thought any rock and roll was good. He thought for a minute - then pronounced, “Springsteen.” He told me that he had seen Springsteen in a club in New York and that his band provided the greatest show our friend had ever seen. He said, “That band can do anything, and Springsteen is a true bandleader.” I had heard a handful of Springsteen’s songs on the radio - “Spirit in the Night,” “For You,” “Blinded by the Light,” etc. I liked him, but had not considered him one of the greats. Within a year that would all change.


          I remember walking into Budget Tapes and Records on Colorado Blvd. and seeing the cover. Born to Run changed my world. Starting with the image on the cover-that beautiful photo symbolizing both rock idealism and racial détente. It was a startling cover. Then when I got the record home, every song exploded out of the speakers with the kind of excitement that the big hits of the mid-60’s conveyed. Yearning, youthful enthusiasm, the restless belief that there was something special for me out there - if I could just break out. Born to Run tapped into my dreams in a big way. It provided a road map for emotional growth, and offered courage in the face of an uncaring adult world. Not only did I love every song, but it drove me back to his first two albums and I found those to be filled with a treasure chest of amazing songs. Bruce was quickly becoming one of my favorites.



          
Fast forward to 1978. It’s the end of my first year of college. Springsteen has released a follow-up to Born to Run called Darkness on the Edge of Town and it is just as good as the first three albums. This guy is on a roll! Then, The Denver Post includes the concert schedule for the summer, and there on June 20th was Bruce Springsteen and The E Street Band at Red Rocks - no opening act. Oh man was I excited. I had no idea how important this night would be to me going forward. It turned out to be one of the great concert experiences of my life. For three hours the band gave voice to every fear, desire and aspiration I had experienced in my 19 years. Total rock and roll abandon. Soaring anthems, street poetry, balzout rockers - Springsteen delivered it all, ending his show with joyous covers of "I Fought the Law" and “Quarter To Three.” It was one of those formative nights you never forget. I walked out of Red Rocks with my head swimming. The next day everything seemed more alive yet less exciting. I had been charged like a battery and wanted more.
I continued to see Springsteen every time he came to Colorado - more nights at Red Rocks, multiple shows at McNichols Arena, even the stadium. He never disappointed live, even though I felt like none of the following albums quite matched up to the first four. Life moved on.


          Then 9/11 happened and everybody in the sane world was wounded. I felt like I couldn’t get over it, or get in touch with my feelings. Finally, nine months later, Springsteen released The Rising which was one of the first major works of art to deal with the tragedy in a grown-up way. Bruce was back for me. It was exhilarating to rediscover him, to familiarize myself with all the albums he had released and to feast on all his great songs. And live - he had lost nothing. Now in his 40’s, Springsteen had matured into a thoughtful writer and parent, but on stage he was still a youthful tornado. His shows have remained, to this day, marathon forces of nature. There is no performer who gives more to his audience night after night than Springsteen.


           More highlights of my Springsteen career came a couple of years ago when The Boss came to The Tattered Cover to sign his autobiography. I stood in line for 4 hours like a real fan boy to shake his hand and get a signed book. Believe it or not, it was worth it. When I finally got to the front of the line and saw this guy I had loved for so long, and there he was, small, fragile, human, smiling, hand outstretched, it really meant something to me. A few months later, Jill and I went to New York to see Springsteen on Broadway. For a year, Springsteen took to the small stage and gave audiences a rare opportunity to spend an intimate evening with the man. He was again very human and fragile. It wasn’t the huge, stadium-sized fist-pumping fun of his regular concerts. This was being in the room with an introspective middle-aged man taking stock of his life. It was brilliant. I couldn’t imagine another artist of his stature opening himself up so honestly.


          Collecting Springsteen has also been fun. I’ve managed to get some really cool stuff over the years - no item bigger or better than the marquee from the Capitol Theatre for his 29th birthday shows in September of 1978. I got it from a customer and ultimate Springsteen fan named Elliott. It has garnered a lot of attention, and I look at it with pride every day when I’m in the store. Then there’s the autographed guitar that sits next to the marquee - it came from legendary promoter Barry Fey’s collection. Like Dylan, like The Beatles, like The Stones and a few others, Bruce Springsteen rises above for me. His songs have illustrated periods of my life, and his concerts have consistently thrilled beyond reasonable expectation. Last year’s Western Stars album just continued the streak - I thought it was his best album in years. Springsteen is a major chapter in my musical book.

- Paul Epstein