Sunday, August 31, 2014

Peaches Records & Tapes

There was a number of places where Dad bought his albums. One was the Sears store that was downtown, and then the Woolworth's store (which was just a couple of blocks away from that) had a good one. But there was one more that he liked to go to, and I got to go with him there a couple of times.
It was Peaches Records & Tapes, on the corner of 56th and Pacific Avenue, across the corner from Hoagy's Corner, where the bus dropped us off. The first thing you came upon when heading toward the entrance was a square of cement, where some famous recording stars had placed their hands into wet cement (writing their names above them) while making an appearance in town at the store. I remember seeing Billy Joel's name and hand-prints, and some of the guys from the band Boston, among a few others. This was a couple-few years before the Tacoma Dome had been built, and so the major concert action took place in Seattle for the time being, but they managed to stop here in Tacoma along the way.

It was great to go in and see rows and rows of racks of brand-new albums, wrapped in shiny cellophane. Dad would be off, looking for something, and I would be on my tip-toes, flipping through certain sections, seeing albums by the Beatles and Pink Floyd that we didn't have at home, or seeing new ones, like McCartney II. I got to go with him there before, and Dad ended up getting the Rolling Stones' album Emotional Rescue.

On our last visit to the store, just as you came into the entrance, was a pinball game featuring the Rolling Stones. Dad gave me some quarters so I could play this. I was into them at the time, and I thought it was the greatest thing I had ever seen. I liked it when, at the end of a game, it would play the riff to "Jumpin' Jack Flash". If you watch the Stones' 1984 video compilation Video Rewind, there's a quick scene with Mick playing this very pinball game in it.
Dad was looking for a single called "Another One Rides The Bus" by some guy called "Weird Al" Yankovic, whom he'd heard on the Dr. Demento radio show. They didn't have that, but they did have another song he'd heard on the show by a guy named Jef Jaisun, by the name of "Friendly Neighborhood Narco Agent", in a picture sleeve, featuring an uproarious take-off of the Wheaties box, renamed "Weedies", and featuring the Zig-Zag man.

The other thing he bought was by a German electronic band called Kraftwerk, with something called Autobahn. I wasn't sure what this was going to sound like, but I was very impressed with it once we got it home and on the turntable.

Peaches Records wasn't around much longer after that last visit. It closed down and became an auto-parts store (first Schucks, and then O'Reilly). The square that once held the hand-prints of famous recording stars is still there, but has long since been smoothed over with cement. The Hoagy's Corner is also gone, replaced by a small Walgreens store. But I still fondly remember the old place whenever I'm waiting for the bus just outside of it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Blues Brothers

It had been a hot summer in 1981. One late evening in the backyard found all four of us together in the small swimming pool that Angie and I had, just to beat the heat. Angie also came up with the idea of sleeping outside in the backyard in a makeshift tent (a rather large blanket held up by a clothesline across the backyard), and no-one objected to that. We all crammed into it and slept the night away. One of the last things that occurred during that summer was a camping trip to Alder Lake, way east, toward Mount Rainier. We went there with a family friend, Fred, and we were only there for a couple of days. Nothing exciting or notable happened, but it was a fun and interesting trip, if only to get away from the house for a little while.

When we came back home and unlocked the house, it was hot and stuffy inside. Even after throwing open all the windows, it wasn't that much better. Angie and I were playing around in the front yard when Dad rolled the TV stand out onto the front porch, with the TV on it. He'd never done that before. Something interesting was going to be on, at least for the TV being set up like this!
It was the Showtime premiere of The Blues Brothers, but I had absolutely no idea what this movie was about, who was in it, or what was going to happen. I didn't even know about Saturday Night Live, and the cast of players who had been on the show, and were now making the big leap to the movie screen, although we'd seen The Jerk recently, and loved it. But this was not like anything I'd ever seen before. It was about two guys cruising around in an old cop car, getting into misadventures and high-speed chases with the cops throughout it. And they seemed to be on a mission of some sort of getting the old band of their back together.
I was very impressed with the music and songs that came up, although I was not familiar with the likes of Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, or James Brown, and we took an instant liking to Cab Calloway as we tried scat-singing along to "Minnie The Moocher". I especially liked the part where they somehow won over a rowdy bar full of loud, truck-driving rednecks who threw beer bottles at the stage the entire time.
I sat there and watched the entire movie on the front lawn of the house, completely forgetting the fact that we were still sitting outside, while the TV was on the front porch, and it was completely dark by the time the movie was over. I was impressed, and although we had never done anything like that before, we never did that again so that memory of seeing it the first time that way will always be attached to whenever I see it now. Geoffrey's seen it in parts, and his favorite parts are of Bob's Country Bunker, and "Minnie The Moocher".

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Mothers

Dad put this one on the turntable one evening, when it was just him and me there. I don't think I had ever seen this one lurking around in the collection, and I had certainly never heard it before. I liked the blue-green Bizarre/Reprise label that it was on. I looked at the white cover with the hand-written titles, and I thought that Dad had done the hand-writing himself, but he told me that that's how it was printed. All I could say that it was a weird but funny-sounding live album with a couple of guys with shrill, high-pitched voices, singing weird songs about groupies, motels, and impossibly perverted musicians. I was in hysterics at a particular cut called "Bwana Dik", which was about...well, the title said it all, really!
Next thing we know, the band swings into a rendition of the song "Happy Together", which I had recognized from an album by The Turtles. It was hard to believe that the two lead singers of this rather tame-sounding band were the same two guys cutting up and getting gross onstage on this album.
Although we would later go on to different and better things masterminded by Frank Zappa, this was my first introduction to his wild world of music and composition.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Screensaver about a memory flogger! I remember this one very well from the days when not all of the channels on the cable box were filled up (out of 27 channels). This is one that beamed from the Teleprompter Cable company, soon to be Group W Cable. It was on channel 8, and not much was on there, except for The Rock Show on Friday nights, and maybe some scattered local information. Otherwise, this was on there the remainder of the time. Actually it was rather handy for the time and temperature, especially in the mornings, like before heading out to school.

The shot above shows what it was like in the earlier days. A little later on, they added plugs for local businesses along the bottom part of the screen. Bouquets made from mylar balloons became very popular at this time, so there were plugs for those from one of the local shops in town, and there were plugs from the local TV repair shop, known as Mr. TV. The audio feed for the channel came from KISW-FM, a Seattle rock station, so sometimes there was even more reason to just let it play on its own if nothing was on!

Short Takes

We began exploring the new neighborhood and finding some interesting things to do, not long after we moved there. One place we discovered that was only a stone's throw down the hill was the Tacoma Public Library. I don't know who thought of doing it, but either Dad or Red Fred got the idea of renting a 16mm film projector from there, with a few films to go with it.
Only just a few years later, VHS tapes would be commonplace to check out, superseded by DVD's by twenty years, but in the early summer of 1981, that's all there was for checking out films. I remember the group of us walking up the incline of 11th Street, some of them taking turns carrying this heavy projector up the hill. We finally got it to the house, and Dad began setting up in the living room. A poster was taken down off one of the walls, creating an "instant screen" right there on the wall. One of the films was taken from its canister and threaded into the projector. I didn't catch what they picked out, but I was excited as the light was turned out and the film started.
It was Hardware Wars, the now-legendary takeoff of the original Star Wars film, but done in the style of an upcoming film trailer. My knowledge of Star Wars was pretty threadbare, but I was able to enjoy and get a good laugh out of what was going on. I especially liked Chewchilla the Wookie Monster, as he looked and sounded like Cookie Monster, going after Princess Android's hair "buns". This was also the first time I had ever seen a parody of something, and the utter cheesiness of everything in this short movie was unreal. After it was over, they didn't rewind the film, but played it backwards, just for a laugh.
I seem to remember a Pink Panther cartoon as the other film that they rented, one where he was a rancher with a little sheep, battling a nearby rancher who sort of looked like Yosemite Sam. Angie was pleased with that one, as she really liked Pink Panther.
Oddly enough, this was the only time we ever rented a projector from there. I think we began seeing so much good stuff on cable that we sort of forgot about doing that again. One thing we noticed on Showtime was that they would show short films if there was a ten-minute gap to fill before the next film came on. I remember being impressed with one called Vicious Cycles, showing a bunch of bikers tearing down the highway on invisible motorcycles. They also showed the followup, Stop, Look & Listen.
One that was disturbing as it was fascinating was one called Recorded Live, about a guy going to an empty building for a job interview, only to be stalked and chased by two reels' worth of brown videotape. He wards them off with a big magnet he manages to find, but the tape outsmarts him in a locked room he's hiding in, covers him in the blink of an eye, and eats him on the floor. Not quite the kind of thing to show to an impressionable 5-year-old, but I managed to see it a few times, and although I'd forgotten the title for years, I never forgot seeing it.