The Library – Old School Pandora

The library has always been a good resource for me. I have used it to discover new music, fill in gaps in my collections and to steer me away from spending my too precious dollars on albums that I believed the hype on.

In the old old days of high school in Illinois, I first discovered that the library had music. There was a 2 sided rack of LP’s that I would peruse while my mother was ravaging the mysteries shelves. This rack held about 100 or so LP’s. It was here that I discovered some of the bands that have stuck with me until this day, by luck sometimes.

There was a lot of uninteresting, horrible albums that were clearly some type of prerequisite or “suggested” library fodder. You know, soundtracks from movies that barely were recorded in stereo, pulp pop singers of the day, and collections of Top Ten Hits that were questionable. These were obviously requested by the librarians and were only ever checked out once. They did fill the shelves though until reasonable LP’s requested by more hip patrons filled the spots.

In those days, the albums were covered in thick plastic sleeves that folded in the middle. The album cover was often split so that the front could be displayed in the front sleeve and the back in the back. That way when you pulled it from the rack you could flip it over and read the song listings on the back if there were any. Inside these plastic landfill horrors (pre-recycling) was the poor excuse for an album sleeve. Often it made me wince, even then, at the likely damage that the protective sleeve itself was doing to the LP. Scrape on the way out, scrape on the way in… atrocious. Come to think of it, I wonder what playing these scratched and worn LP’s did to my needle. Sigh…

Despite the packaging, there were some amazing gems in that rack.

Purely by picking it up for the cool mod style cover I checked out “The Jam – In The City”.  This band blew my mind. Where had these guys been all my life?! I think this was the first time that I realized that the library might be more than originally met the eye. This was incredible stuff. Not so many years ago I turned Abbey on to The Jam because of this library find. On my return trip later I scoured the racks for more stuff by The Jam. To my delighted surprise they also had the EP “The Bitterest Pill”. Also amazing! I think I rechecked out that EP about 5 times in a row. I was always vigilant for additional The Jam LP’s, but sadly, none ever surfaced. There was no inter-library loan in those days or easy to use library lookup to see what your branch had onsite. You just dug through the bins.

I discovered that I absolutely loved the song “Hair of the Dog” by Nazareth, but otherwise can’t stand Nazareth. Man I love that song. Hell, I even like the Guns and Roses version of it off “The Spaghetti Incident”. Gasp. Anyone pick up the Day Tripper nugget at the end? Nice segue…

The library also had some undeniable classics… for instance, the first time I heard “The Beatles – Revolver” in its entirety was from a harshly plastic coated library checkout. It single-handedly was responsible for my own personal Beatles revival. I had had “The Beatles – Abbey Road” for a long time, (though I’m not sure how I got it) but I had never really had any others. I had heard plenty of Beatles before (thanks Jeff !) but this was the first time I had given another of their albums a serious listen. I eventually checked out all that the library had by them. It was a substantial amount. From this I concluded that I was into the non-psychedelic, non sport-coated Beatles most of all. That was good info. When CD’s came out and I wanted a Beatles CD I knew to prioritize and put off Sgt. Peppers or Something New and go straight for Let It Be, or Help, or yep, Revolver.

Of course I now have them all. Digital of course, as well as plenty of “rare” stuff.

Another awesome find from those days was Blackfoot. This was before they started opening for Def Leppard, which was a strange lineup in my opinion anyway. It looked like it had been around a few years in the racks. The plastic corners were broken and dented and the LP sleeve inside was barely useable. Somehow the pictures of the band on the back called to me. This album “Blackfoot – Tomcattin’” was on my turntable nonstop for many many weeks. Somehow, at that time and point in my life every single song on that LP was attuned to me personally. Then, on the last song to hear the “Fox Chase” harmonica bit with Shorty Medlocke…  incredible.  I also checked out the “BlackFoot – Strikes” album. “Highway Song”… say no more. I do recall that I even bought a copy of “Blackfoot – No Reservations” an earlier Blackfoot release based on the sampled rocking library albums. I was not disappointed.

Years later, when I visited the Madison library downtown I was in a huge Blues phase. I remember checking out all I could carry. Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf and Buddy Guy. There were CD’s too! That was something new. You could check out a pile and have new music all week long. I had a special tape case for all my blues tapes and it filled up fast with the help of the Madison Public Library. I will always be thankful Madison.

When I moved to Waunakee, they had a fledgling CD collection at their library (no LP’s) but I had picked through the collection in a matter of weeks. Taped all I needed and stopped going. But then an amazing thing happened years later: Inter-Library loan and Link-Cat.

Inter-Library loan gave me access to the Madison Public library’s huge collection, and all the others too. I started with Bruce Springsteen (formerly shunned by me, but was in current “revival” mode) and requested ever CD he had from any library that had it. In a week’s time I had checked out and copied about 12 Bruce CD’s. I was ripping by then. It was glorious. No more drives downtown. The CD’s came to Waunakee for me. The librarians got to know me by name in those days and they would check the shelf when they saw me come in. When Bruce was done, I went on to Bob Dylan and Elvis Costello and Pearl Jam.

There was, I discovered, a 100 item reserve limit.

I still every now and then drop in to the library and peruse the CD’s for new stuff. I pick up CD’s from groups I have heard of but never heard any of. Yeah I know… I use Pandora and will often create a station to check out a new artist. Sometimes though, you spot something and grab it on a whim.  I grabbed a few Red Hot Chili Peppers CD’s the other day. “RHCP – “By The Way” is utterly amazing.

Arcade Fire, checked out recently, is definitely not for me.

Thanks Library!

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