Retrospective Foresight

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Location: Roxbury, Massachusetts, United States

Trying to bring some light to the past while igniting the future one album and artist at a time. This was previously attempted as EXODUS IN STEREO, but this time, baby, it's for real. ;-)

Friday, July 28, 2006

Welcome To Retrospective Foresight!

Hello, greetings, and welcome to RETROSPECTIVE FORESIGHT!

This completes the manifestation of an idea that I've had bouncing around my head for several years now. I have proposed this concept as a column twice to The Boston Phoenix (May of 2005 and April of 2006, passed over the first time, no response the second when it reached its second stage), once to The Weekly Dig (it still has yet to be proposed to their online site, so we shall see), and as a reoccurring feature to EQ (where it was accepted in slightly altered format by my then editor, Mr. Eugene Robinson, who then left the magazine several weeks later). Though I oftentimes feel as if online "blogs" are the equivalent of a room full of mirrors (or in my less eloquent moments, of which there are many, as I said to The Weekly Dig's Michael Brodeur "I might as well set up a web cam and jack off"), I have finally broken down and discovered that this will be the only way in which I can get this out there. So thus, here you are, here I am, and we are all together...well, at least I'd like to think so.

So, what is RETROSPECTIVE FORESIGHT? Besides being the title of a bootleg album by Todd Rundgren's awesome late 1960's band Nazz (a huge influence on Cheap Trick, among others), this will be a weekly reoccurring feature on albums from the past that have slipped through the cracks. By both known and not so well known artists. I suppose, in a way, this will have me acting in sort of the role of the nearly extinct record store clerk, but in a more "hey you should really check this out" way rather than a too-cool-for-you approach.

The used or specialty record store as we know it is rapidly becoming extinct, though my feelings on this have changed from a feeling of dred and loss to one of acceptance. Some of this is due to rapidly changing technology and such, but some of this also has to do with, if you will, enough is enough. You can only be ripped off or underwhelmed for so long before things finally come around and bite you on, or kick you in, the ass. One antiquated used record store in nearby Cambridge, MA, full of dust, overpriced records in less than great shape, a "we don't play requests policy", and a genuine Boston rock relic behind the counter certainly does have some cool stuff from time to time, but the approach is one of something now quickly becoming a memory and sadly it shows in the tiredness of both clerk and the stock, not to mention the lighting. Though I am sure folks also got tired of going through a middleman to sell their precious pieces of vinyl and CD, only to be told they weren't worth shit and then find them pinned to the wall the following week with an enormous price tag. Business is business for sure, but you can only fool some of the people some of the time. While eBay has certainly improved matters in terms of finding out what your stuff might really be worth and certainly eliminating the middleman, it has also caused the value of other things to become grossly inflated, namely anything related to The Beatles.

One of the first downfalls of some used record stores in this area for sure was applying eBay prices to items in stock. Just because a collector in Japan is willing to pay $100 for a certain obscure 45 does not mean that someone from Somerville will go that same route. These shops also seemed to forget that once that collector slaps down his or her $100 for said 45, the next person on the list might only be willing to go as high as $75. Where does that leave the shop then? Severely out of touch and with a lot of items gathering dust. But let's move on...

As for the music itself, I won't be discussing a lot of horribly rare and obscure psych and garage bands, one shot albums by power pop bands that were only pressed in an edition of 23 and sold at one small shop in Schenectady, NY, etc., but albums such as Gene Clark's No Other, John Cale's Vintage Violence, the self-titled DMZ album on Sire produced by Flo & Eddie, the entire catalogues of Thin White Rope and Swell, Bummed by The Happy Mondays, Law of Ruins by Six Finger Satellite, and Starsailor by Tim Buckley, amongst many others to come.

I've wanted to pursue this idea for awhile now, and while I know not all of these albums are still in print, with the advent of such on-line sites as netsounds, GEMM,, Amazon, Yahoo! Shopping, and, of course, eBay, amongst many others, these albums and CD's can be found fairly easily most of the time. No trends, just good music that may have passed a few folks up.

My decision to go live with this idea came two weeks ago when I walked into our local thrift shop (Boomerangs, still one of the best places to find CD's and vinyl, especially by long gone and forgotten local Boston bands of the most forgotten kind) and realized that the circa 20 year semi-hipster behind the counter was blasting not the pathetic thieved bleats (no, that "l" is supposed to be there kiddies) of Erase Errata or trendy only because they used to play with Gang of Four danceable grind of Delta 5 but none other than Linder Sterling's much-underheard Ludus. Linder Sterling is best known in some circles as doing much of the Buzzcocks' early cover art, and in others for being Howard Devoto's (original singer of Buzzcocks and then frontman of the very late, very great Magazine, of whom we will certainly cover at a later date) then girlfriend. How a young kid, obviously in the know, would shun certain modern bands who endlessly ape (and rape) such odd, older stuff while claiming it to be of the here and now, and listen to the real thing only convinced me that I had to start writing about this stuff NOW and not wait a second longer. At the counter I asked him if he had ever heard or heard of Delta 5 (no), Kleenex (yes), or Lilliput (no), to which I encouraged him to seek them out and then rushed home to put some action to my threats.

You (and especially the local music press, of which now there isn't much) cannot tell me that people do not want to know about this stuff. You cannot tell me that kids don't want to know what came before and does influence what comes now and what is still to come.

You cannot tell me that if this younger generation, who know more about and care more about folks such as Howard Devoto and Linder Sterling than my generation really ever did (because we had grunge, man, and Candlebox and Gruntruck rule!) You cannot tell me that there is not a need to discuss where and from whom groups such as !!!, Radio 4, and Erase Errata stole their chops from verbatim (explored a little further by me previously in the Chunklet "Overrated Records" issues and the just released Overrated Book) and let the kids in on the secret.

You cannot tell me that any modern Juan MacLean fan does not want to know what Juan when he was known as John was doing for over ten years as main axe grinder for Six Finger Satellite. You cannot tell me that folks want to know if the Rolling Stones or Queen did any other songs besides the rotating six they play on the radio.

If this all sounds credible to you, and you agree, then welcome to RETROSPECTIVE FORESIGHT. I will be breaking the fourth wall from time to time and talking about my own experiences in relation to things being discussed (kudos and a tip of the hat to Gina Arnold, still not given credit where credit is due), as well as some of the bands I used to play in before "retiring" in 2002 (ha ha), but hey, this is the new frontier, where anything is possible, right? Right! ;-)

Stay tuned...