Friday, March 16, 2007

Heavy Metal Thunder

It sounds odd today, but for a brief moment in the 1990s I was very fond of heavy metal music. More specifically, a variant of metal called N.W.O.B.H.M. (pronounced as a word, new-WOBE-um) which stands for New Wave Of British Heavy Metal. This has a somewhat sparser, cleaner sound. Still aggressive and definitely guitar-based, N.W.O.B.H.M. had a slight overlap with psychedelic record collectors who were drawn by the omni-present guitar riffs and the promise of a new set of impossible objects. There were some of the very early N.W.O.B.H.M. titles that were issued privately in small pressings, and the better bands recorded for small indie labels which, and these are pre-internet days, were often difficult to track down.

At this point there is literally only one record I still keep in my vinyl collection, a 3-track 10-inch e.p. by the UK band Fireclown on which the side-long track is just kind of perfect (for what it is).

But I bring this up because I went on a sudden cleaning jag in one upstairs closet that still holds a few thousand LPs or more. I hadn't been more than halfway back for a few years and, on a quest for some things to throw up on eBay, I dove in. I came up with about 2 boxes of the last of the heavy metal, records I'd forgotten were still there.

About three or four years ago, maybe longer, I took the bulk of the N.W.O.B.H.M. I'd collected and put together an auction that I ran in Goldmine Magazine, the record collector magazine that was on top before the arrival of eBay. I remember that one metal dealer contacted me and bought the whole listing, every single record. I gave him a nice price recognizing that, mixed in with the really good titles, were some very common records I'd never find buyers for.

Anyway, I thought that was the last of it until I found those crates. The best thing about eBay is that, as long as you know how to word a description, you never have to know what a record is "worth" before you list it. I'd been out of this scene for a long time and had no idea if anything was worth much, so I started all the auctions at .99 cents which turned out to work pretty well. I sold all but 2 or 3 of the 100+ titles with some going for $20-$30.

But not only that - I also found a crate full of records that I forgot I still owned. Records that, if I found them for a couple bucks, I would have bought today. So there's now a crate full of "new records" by the turntable.

This reminds me of a Christmas years and years ago when I knew someone with a shrink wrap machine and for one Christmas, when I was too broke to buy any new records, I took out about 50-75 albums I hadn't ever listened to - just stuff I'd found in thrift shops or got from radio stations when the program director wasn't looking - and resealed them all in new shrink wrap and wrapped them all up as presents to myself.

I know. Look back at the 3rd or 4th post in March for the entry in which I explain in some depth how pathetic record collectors can be.

Anyway, I hope these people will pay for the things they won; so far they have been and about half of the crate has been hauled away.

I was thinking about these things for a number of reasons. One is that I'm hung up at the moment trying to finish the post I thought would be here by now - a review of David Bromberg's new album. Two is that I'm almost finished a very nice little book about Led Zeppelin, specifically about their untitled fourth album, though it really covers everything leading up to that record. It's a refreshing book as well because it has nothing to say about their legendary debauchery or anything that smacks of the narration for a Behind the Music episode. Just the music, and some nice observations on how some songs are constructed. The book is Led Zeppelin IV by Barney Hoskyns (US, Rodale 2006).

It sent me to my Led Zep box set and had me wishing I had copies of the individual albums (something I just may break down and get). During the day I can just BLAST this stuff and it was fun to sit and listen to "Black Dog" and read about its origins.

A good part of the 3rd and 4th albums were written in rural Wales and reading about it reminded me of a trip Cheryl and I took in 1999, renting a car in Oxford and driving all the way to the northern tip of Wales. We stayed at roadside Inns and spent the days exploring old castles and warming ourselves in local pubs.

But I digress.

One pretty strong argument put forth in the book is that it is, in the end, a misnomer to describe Led Zeppelin as heavy metal or "proto-heavy metal" because they swung too much and their sound is too complicated and diverse. What's odd is that, when I think about the band, what I hear in my memory are Page's monster riffs, Bonham's enormous drums and Plant's screeching vocals. But, when I actually listen and pay closer attention, I hear a thousand other elements as well.

To recap: * A box of "new" records to listen to. * A crate of metal LPs sold on eBay. * Led Zeppelin isn't a heavy metal band.

OK then.

1 comment:

Laura said...

Please finish the review of the Bromberg CD. I just heard it (courtesy of Steve) this past weekend and am interested in what you have to say.

I'm going to like it no matter what you say; I'm just interested in what you have to say.