Tuesday, June 30, 2020


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


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

Tuesday, June 23, 2020


My main things in terms of collecting live concerts and endless variations of the same song are improv and soloing. When it comes to studio albums it’s songwriting, performance and recording. However, there is no end to the number of versions of a given song I can listen to if the band involved can improvise meaningfully and the individuals can solo interestingly. In Jazz, the king daddy for me is John Coltrane. He proved himself a great player, arranger and soloist early in his career-especially during his time with Miles Davis’ groundbreaking band, but in the mid-60’s, his LPs on Impulse records contain THE most incendiary soloing and the headiest improvisation in modern jazz. I remember the first time I brought 1966’s Ascension home, it scared me to death. Trane’s ferocious soloing, able to drill down to hell or scream heavenward in 2 bars while his incredible band-including Archie Shepp, Pharoah Sanders, McCoy Tyner, Jimmy Garrison and Elvin Jones on this album was right with him, the blood pressure to his heartbeat-many of them equally impressive soloists. I was terrified and thrilled to hear someone screaming through their instrument this way. I had heard Hendrix and other rockers do it, but it was often in a pretty conventional setting. Trane was reaching new space-finding music that had never been heard or even thought of before. The only way I can describe it, is when Coltrane is in full blow mode, I feel the need to be alone with the music-loud. It’s not music you can easily share with others. Like really dirty comedy records, you feel the need to close the door, roll up the windows and listen without judgement. Trane has plenty of more easily digested music, but the string of albums from about 62 until his death in 67 are unparalleled in their cosmic intensity. The search for original copies of most of Trane’s albums obsessed me for many years. I’ve got a bunch now, and they are some of my most prized LPs. Dig!

-Paul Epstein


Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Robert Nesta Marley

Bob Marley transcends. He transcended his background, he transcended the boundaries of Reggae music and he ultimately transcended the constricts of a typical mortal to become something more to history. Bob is possibly the first and the greatest “world star.” Bob is beloved in every corner of the world, and for reasons that are not just musical. Bob Marley has become a symbol of the good that resides in us all, which we can tap into by channeling our shared humanity. Unlike any other celebrity I can think of Bob Marley’s fame only has a passing relationship to the wonderful music he made. He has become an historical humanitarian.
But it is the music that brings us here. Beginning with his earliest Jamaican recordings, there is something that sets it apart. The keening voice, those unforgettable melodies, and always a message. I got turned on to him in 1975 when Bob Marley Live came out. I was drawn to the colorful cover depicting Bob in trance mode on stage at the Lyceum Theatre in London. I only knew Eric Clapton’s version of “I Shot the Sheriff” which had risen to the top of the charts the year before, riding high on its revolutionary message and the drum work that partially defines Reggae. Immediately upon putting on Bob Marley Live I was transported to another world. Everything about this music was exotic and meaningful to me. I went back to the record store (King Bee Records on Evans) and got more. I got Natty Dread (1974) and Burnin’ (1973) and devoured them like a starving dog. I literally could not believe how great this guy was. His songs resonated with me politically, socially, and intellectually. Like Dylan, Marley seemed to be able to put the basic human struggles into 4/4 time tossing off anthems like it was nothing.

In 1976 when Bob Marley and The Wailers released Rastaman Vibration his trajectory was set and he started to be recognized by the mainstream. With Bunny Wailer and Peter Tosh now both out of The Wailers the focus was entirely on Bob, and he rose to the situation like few in music history. Taking his music to new, commercial heights without relinquishing any of its inherent depth and meaning, Bob vaulted to the world stage, touring the continents, rubbing elbows with international leaders, and locking himself in as a spokesman for the downtrodden of the world.
My own obsession continued. Bob’s outspoken advocacy for marijuana as a religious sacrament didn’t hurt. As his fame grew, and his dreadlocks became mighty, he just seemed to become more and more profound. His albums sold in greater numbers and again he was transcending. His songs were all over the radio, he appeared on Time Magazine. My mother read about him in the New York Times. He was as cool to the underground as he was acceptable to the mainstream - a very rare achievement.
December 5,1979, Bob Marley and The Wailers play at D.U. Arena. I couldn’t be more excited. We got there early and my friend Dan Gamble who I knew from my year at D.U. comes over to me. He’s working security backstage and he has a huge grin on his face. He hands me a gigantic joint - “It’s what they’re smokin’ backstage man - dig it!” It was indeed strong, in a way most American stoners were not used to in the 70’s. When the Wailers hit the stage it was non-stop top rankin’ and skankin’ the whole evening. Performers and audience merged into a cloud of rhythm heavy good vibes. One of the great concerts of my life! A little more than a year later Bob would be gone.
Bob Marley has held a very special place in my heart and my collecting for a long time. I now recognize that the moment he became super-famous was the moment his music changed to a slightly more commercial sound - yet that does not affect my appreciation for him in the least. Like The Beatles, commercial success for Bob Marley just meant a bigger platform for his message, it did nothing to water it down.
A couple of years ago, legendary Boulder Reggae DJ and Twist and Shout customer Roger Gillies (Postman Roger Dread) sadly passed away and I got the call to come look at his collection for purchase. I knew Roger well, thus I knew his collection of Reggae, and particularly Bob Marley, was going to be large. I didn’t realize how large. Probably the largest collection I’ve ever bought, it was the World Book Encyclopedia of Reggae. He had it all! Our customers were the beneficiaries as literally thousands of Reggae CDs, LPs, and memorabilia flooded the store over the next 6 months. It was mind-blowing. However, the most incredible piece was a photo, not a record. For several months after he died, I kept getting calls from former friends, lovers, and associates of Roger’s asking about his collection. Invariably, the conversations would go something like this. “Well before I get off the phone, I wanted to ask you about one specific picture….” After two or three of these conversations I would head them off at the pass - “Just so you know, I’m keeping the lion picture.” The lion picture was taken by photographer Bruce W. Talamon who Postman befriended after purchasing some photos from him. Beautiful black and white portraits of Marley onstage and backstage - he had tons of them. His house was filled with framed photos of Bob. One really stood out though. In this photo, Bob is on stage - the photo in the middle of an intense performance. Now I’m not a big believer in the supernatural, or conspiracy theories, but I’ll be Jah-damned if in this photo Bob Marley isn’t transmogrifying into the Lion of Judah. Think I’m crazy? Look for yourself. Look at his hands turning into claws. Look at his face. This is not photoshopped - this is one of the most amazing photos ever. It’s such a powerful photo I hesitate to share it - but here it is. It’s the jewel of my Marley collection! Thank you Postman! Here it is with some other great Marley items. Today, decades later, if I’m feeling blue, there are few quicker fixes than putting on some of those original Trojan recordings.
- Paul Epstein

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Neil Young

Of all the rock stars I’ve admired, I think Neil Young is the most approachable, relatable and just plain human. I’ve always seen him as a regular guy who had the courage to follow his muse. It turned out he was an artist of rare sensitivity and profound performance skills. When I first moved to Denver in 1968, one of the first places my brother took me was Underground Records on 724 So. Pearl Street. Twenty years later, I would buy that store at a tax auction and turn it into Twist and Shout, but back in the day I bought my first bootleg LP there. It was called Young Man’s Fancy Live On Sugar Mountain. I still have it; in fact - I'm listening to it as I write this. It still sounds great. I was already a fan of Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and Déjà vu, but hearing him speak in that same quavery voice he sang with was extraordinary. And the unreleased songs like “See The Sky About To Rain” and “Love In Mind” blew my mind. It’s been a long affair. I’ve never lost interest in Neil and have excitedly awaited every new release over the years. He’s had so many peaks in his career. After the initial run of classics there was the Ditch Trilogy, Rust Never Sleeps, Ragged Glory, Harvest Moon, Sleeps With Angels, Psychedelic Pill. Just like Dylan, Neil has defied expectations and surpassed my hopes so many times. During the recent pandemic madness, the kaleidoscopic depth of his website (https://neilyoungarchives.com/) has provided a daily balm to the negativity all around. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen him in concert, but many of them have been highlights. 

Some of the best:

-C.U. Fieldhouse, November ’76 w/ Crazy Horse - blistering through material from his mid-period masterpiece Zuma, the energy just poured off the stage.

-McNichols Arena, 1978, Rust Never Sleeps tour - entire audience is handed 3-D glasses so they can see the band rust in real time. With oversized props and everyone wearing the glasses it was surreal.

-Cheyenne Frontier Days, 1984, International Harvesters tour - pouring rain, Neil and his band played a total hoedown.

-Red Rocks, Freedom Tour - A fog-shrouded stage revealed Neil by himself opening and closing with "Rockin’ In The Free World."

-Red Rocks, Alchemy Tour - Neil’s manager Elliot Roberts (one of the coolest guys ever- may he rest in peace) arranged for a few record store owners to meet Neil in Elliot’s tour bus after an incendiary 2 1/2 hour guitar-fest. We sat on the bust admiring Elliot’s orange plastic bong, when Neil came bounding in full of energy and enthusiasm. He looked amazing and was totally friendly and excited to talk about his new Pono device. After a couple of questions from me he realized I had concerns about the Pono cutting traditional retail out of his music. Instead of being taken aback, you could see the wheels turning in his head and he said, “Well, we’ll still make you records and Blu-Rays - nothing sounds better than that.” He was so gracious and open. My party walked off that bus two feet off the ground. We knew we had been in the presence of not only a great artist but a truly kind human soul.

Through each new album, every tour, the books and movies, even the technology projects Neil has been an artistic and spiritual companion to me since the 1960’s and he means more to me each year. I hope he never stops!

- Paul Epstein