Friday, April 22, 2011

Six Degrees of Martin Atkins

I turned into a completist music collector when Rykodisc released their incredible expanded David Bowie catalogue in the early '90s. Having been addicted to Bauhaus' BBC cover of "Ziggy Stardust," I picked up a copy of ChangesBowie and was instantly hooked. Ryko was releasing these in batches, maybe three or four titles at a time, and after slowly building a foundation on everything they reissued (covering the period through Scary Monsters), I searched secondhand shops high and low for the then out-of-print EMI records (Let's Dance through Never Let Me Down) and, when I finally got it all, I was more than ready for a new studio record, which dropped in 1993.  This was Black Tie White Noise, far from his finest moment (hell, it made Never Let Me Down sound good by comparison). Suddenly, this completist trend got painful.

But it never stopped. It branched instead. On Bowie's Tonight, his last great album up to that point, I traced a couple tracks, "Neighborhood Threat" and the title number, back to Iggy Pop, specifically the Lust for Life album. I got hooked on Iggy quick and a buddy filled me in that Iggy was the voice of Angry Bob, a lively radio DJ in a great film he had discovered, Hardware. I rented it as quickly as I could. "Great" is debatable, but Hardware's soundtrack made a massive, immediate impression, particularly "The Order of Death" by Public Image Limited. My next purchase was their own This is What You Want...This is What You Get and, again, I was thrilled. I followed this purchase with Album (aka Compact Disc). Album had a huge cast of supporting musicians, among them Ginger Baker on drums.
Cream, right? Wrong (funny to note now how Bowie's Black Tie White Noise included "I Feel Free," another jump to Cream I missed at the time).  Somehow, early to mid '90s, pre-internet and in the haze of college, my mention of Ginger Baker on the record to a friend brought not a recommendation for Disraeli Gears but instead an album called Sunrise on the Sufferbus by Masters of Reality. Masters of Reality, headed up by Chris Goss, was more or less that era's Them Crooked Vultures, though at the time I had no idea what a cool collision of talent the record was. I asked a record clerk at Looney T-Bird's if they had anything else by the band and he replied that they did not but instead handed me a copy of an album by Goss' "better project," Kyuss, Blues for the Red Sun. My world melted.
In under a year I went from Bowie's dance pop-pinnacle to the heart and soul of stoner rock (and explored the fringes of punk and new wave's finest along the way). And this is just one particular lineage I recall. I spent everything I had to acquire records. If I had a job, I spent the money on CDs. If I could sell anything, including my textbooks, I did so to get more music. I used my university student account on records at the bookstore and went the last two weeks of the first quarter with no food. It was worth it.

I'm more or less still doing it.

It's still worth it.

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