For any collector, the story behind an acquisition is important, sometimes more so than the object itself. Many tales are only interesting to fellow collectors, the anal-retentive minutiae of where and for how much.
Vinyl records have so completely dominated my life, even when I swore NEVERMORE, they still found a way to connect with me. Friends, family, even complete strangers have shown up at my door bearing boxes of records “Saw these and thought of you”. An alcoholic determined to ride the straight and narrow is applauded and given the wide berth he asks to get sober- not ME!! Helping my Mother’s Church clear the unsold refuse from a rummage sale- a good deed that, instead of better karma, rewarded me with lugging 3 crates of country gospel box sets home.
My boss from the traveling promotion company tells my story to a delivery person at the far end of the province, and VOILA!. The next time I see him, he hands me a Bakker’s dozen of Jimmy Swaggart albums (on JIM Records no less).But then there are the times when you have a chance to score something worthwhile, and the universe is dragging you by your heels away from the pile that you just KNOW has to have at least ONE valuable album in there……
I was doing a D.i.v.o.r.c.e. move one hot summer day with Wild Willy. Movers hate these- everyone is super tense, and sooner or later the cops show up. Or worse, they don’t, and you have keep taking things off the truck while they argue.
On this day, we got the truck loaded alright, but just as we’re about to leave, our client discovers her car won’t start. Now she’s riding with us in the truck, which does NOT make Willy happy. He’s impatient at the best of times, with a very short fuse. When we arrive at her new place after a couple hour’s drive, Willy is even more upset to find out we’ve got a three story climb up a fire escape. Luckily, the washer and dryer are going in the basement- Will starts unpacking them and our customer takes me down to show where they go. Still not good, though; it’s a stinky damp mess with a tight fit for the appliances. She gestures at a door with a filthy window and says “Sorry, I’d rather put them in there but they can’t get the door open”. I walk up to the door and peer in (beam of angelic light with heavenly choirs singing “Holy Shiiiiiit!”) This room is FILLED with records. I’m talking THOUSANDS of records, piled up to the ceiling in huge leaning stacks everywhere! She’s still talking behind me, I catch something about a radio DJ getting evicted, but my attention (like any rabid vinyl freak) is on trying to see what the covers are. Willy has to literally pull me back up into the fresh air I’m so distracted.
We get down to the unload, slogging up and down the fire escape, eager to get this over with. I have mixed feelings about hurrying too much tho’- what if the landlord shows up and I can offer to “dispose” of the records for him? Every smoke break Willy takes, I’m back down in the basement with my nose against the dirty glass, and the knob turning futilely in my fist.
The last item, big ‘ole pig of a sofa bed, and now there’s that acrid ozone smell in the air of an approaching thunderstorm. Willy pretty much drags me up the fire escape with the couch in a superhuman effort – he wants to GO! But there’s one last pin in his voodoo doll today, our client has to walk several blocks away to get our money.
She walks off into the summer haze, Willy angrily puffs a cigarette at the back of the truck, and….you know where I am.
Perhaps inspired by my partner’s herculean sofabed stunt, this time my willpower actually succeeds in getting the knob to turn…… and the door shifts a pile of albums enough that I can get my…. head…. and…. shoulders into …….the room!!
Frantically I start rummaging at random through the piles nearest, looking for Something/Anything (already have THAT Rundgren album, but I’ll take another) I’m squeezing further into the room, and there’s a real danger of being trapped now, like a vinyl avalanche. All I’m finding is AM schlock, Olivia Newton John, Lionel Ritchie, Wham, Melanie, Barry Manilow, the deeper I dig, the worse it gets, and now I can hear Willy at the stairs. Ready to admit defeat, I give the top half of a pile a shove, maybe there’s something in the middle…… crap.
“Up, Up and Away”, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix”, “Wichita Lineman”, “Galveston”, and “MacArthur Park”, Jimmy Webb‘s music is universally known, even if he isn’t. His songs have been performed by; The 5th Dimension, Glen Campbell (first meeting at the studio, Ultra-Conservative Glen looked up from his guitar and told Jimmy “Get a haircut”), The Supremes, Richard Harris, Frank Sinatra, The Temptations, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Joe Cocker, Judy Collins, Donna Summer, Linda Ronstadt, America, Amy Grant, Dionne Warwick, John Denver, Johnny Cash, James Taylor, Billy Joel, Tom Jones, R.E.M., and Carly Simon……. and there’s two of his songs on that B.J. Thomas album!
This 1970 album is his first attempt at performing his own songs. Jimmy played piano, organ, vibes, and accordion (also Craftsman 6″ power saw, psaltry, and plumbing sound effects) Fred Tackett played drums, bass, all guitars, and trumpet. A very young Tom Scott played sax in a few places. Considering the year, and only two musicians, this record has some fairly impressive arrangements and sounds. To my modern ears though, it’s pretty dated, but it’s main drawback is Webb’s cliche religious lyrics.
It was one of six albums he released that drew much critical acclaim, but didn’t chart at all. Even George Martin producing 1977’s El Mirage which contained the song “The Highwayman” (later a number one hit for Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Kris Kristofferson, who also used the name for their supergroup) just couldn’t give Webb a hit in his own voice. Not that he ever gave up, his credits are faaaaar too long to detail here, check out his Wikipedia link.
In 2011, Webb was unanimously elected Chairman of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, replacing Hal David who retired after ten years in that position.
And I’ve obsessed about that basement room for over ten years now too….