451. Bon Jovi’s ‘Slippery When Wet’

When I worked at a pizza restaurant from junior year of high school through junior year of college, I worked with this guy Brian. Brian was an older guy—like mid-40s—working in a kitchen with no one over 25 (hell, most of us were under 18). I feel like working with a guy like Brian should be required for every teenager; you learn a lot about life from the weird older guys you work with in service economy jobs as a teen.

Brian taught us about buying weed: never buy shake, because it’s probably oregano (because Brian used to sell bags of oregano as weed as a teen). Brian taught us that if you’re ever locked up, fake like you have back pains, because they will give you an extra mattress, and penal system mattresses are thin, so if you have 2, you have a chance at sleeping well (he did time for using a checkbook that wasn’t his for a year. He thought he’d run out of money, but he never did, so he kept using it). Brian was the one who invented the warning system for if a hot woman was buying pizza—He’d say, loudly, “Can I get a slice count?” and all of the kitchen staff would come looking out the pass thru windows—and it was Brian who came up with the horrible nicknames for the people we didn’t like working with (I won’t reprint them here because I was horrible and said them too).

As a consequence of working with Brian, all of us have stories about him. Graham remembers working at the pool, and hearing Brian’s voice (a mix between comically high nasal and gravelly and ravaged) from the pool saying, “Hey Graham!” and looking over and seeing Brian bouncing in the pool eating an ice cream cone while wearing a Zeppelin T-shirt.

My story is from when the power transformer blew up near the restaurant from overheating, and we spent an afternoon sitting on the curb outside the restaurant as our owner paid us to hang out because he refused to believe the power wouldn’t come back on immediately. Me and Brian sat away from the group, him smoking a cigarette. Brian exhaled and let loose. 

“You know, you guys laugh at me and shit, and think I’m joking all the time, but the thing I’m most serious about is that Bon Jovi are the best band of all time. That band meant so much to me in the ‘80s. They were great. Bon Jovi, baby.”

I laugh.

Brian laughs too. “Bon Jovi, baby,” he said in his voice—the only voice I can hear to this day when someone says “Bon Jovi”—as he exhaled again. We end up going back to work an hour later, and Brian sings along to “Livin on a Prayer” when it comes on the classic rock station.

I haven’t seen Brian since I left Oshkosh in 2008. I imagine he’s out back at the pizza place, smoking a cig and telling a new 18-year-old about the redemptive powers of Jon Bon Jovi. This one goes out to Brian. Bon Jovi, baby. 

450. Bee Gees’ ‘Gold’

It never ceases to amaze me the power of the record gods. Last summer, I started a list in my phone of records to look for when I’m at the store so I could… browse smarter, I guess? Anyway, multiple times over the last year I’ve put stuff on the list the night before a trip, and walked into a store and found that exact record, in perfect condition, and reasonably priced. I read a sad sack profile of Barry Gibb in Rolling Stone the night before going to a thrift store, and thought, “Man, I should buy a Bee Gees greatest hits comp, because it seems like those dudes were deeper than disco.” And then I found this less than 12 hours later. And it turns out they are deeper than disco. Shouts to Barry Gibb and shouts to the record gods. 

448. ABBA’s ‘Greatest Hits’

 

1. It is sometime in 2011, and after months of trying to convince S that I am “boyfriend material,” she decides to quit the big box store we’re both killing time at as we struggle trying to find work that befits our degrees in the “arts.” She moves back to Milwaukee, and tells me she needs to start over, which means I am out of the picture for good. I haven’t been able to tell my friends what’s been going on with S, because I’m embarrassed that she’s kept me at arm’s length, and refused to think of me as anything other than a weird guy who had a crush on her and who she’d occasionally kiss when we were both lonely. 

So I’m at home the day after S moves, and I’ve decided to get drunk because that’s what you do when you’re 25 and heartbroken. I also decide, for some reason, to listen ABBA’s Greatest Hits because my roommate has it in her collection, and I’ve never listened to ABBA except for in a soundtrack capacity, and at middle school dances when they’d do disco medleys. It’s at this point I realize every ABBA song is about relationships; ones you wish you had, ones you used to have, the ones you have that cause you distress, the ones you have that make life seem worth living, and the ones that are falling apart. I “get in my feelings,” and mostly stare into the middle distance and drink Southern Comfort and 7Ups in my pajamas.

My roommate comes home, sees me, and starts laughing. She thinks I’m listening to ABBA ironically. “Why are you listening to this?” She asks. 

“Because this shit is so deep. These songs are beautiful. I never realized how great this is.”

She just laughs, goes into her room, and carries on with her day. I go back to drinking. I wonder if S has heard ABBA. I think about texting her. I don’t.

I vow to buy my own copy of the same greatest hits package she has. I finally did on vacation last month.  

2. I never feel entirely comfortable flogging things via this Tumblr—because this is supposed to be about MY FEELINGS and MY RECORDS and usually in that order. But anyways, fuck it: Last month, this kid Erik Sateren, who works for the Badger Herald, a student newspaper at UW-Madison, interviewed me and profiled this Tumblr for the incoming freshman issue of the Herald. He wrote a very beautiful story about me, and about this blog, and now I feel a lot of pressure to live up to what Erik wrote about me. I’m going to try hard to do so.   

3. I suppose this is a good time for one of those “State of the Blog” things I write every once in a while. Today is the two-year anniversary of when Eric and I were up late, him in Brooklyn, me in Madison, and decided to make this Tumblr. This last month was maybe the most productive of my “professional” writing career; I went to Country USA, saw Neutral Milk Hotel, talked to scene kids at P4K, and saw Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth play my hometown for Noisey. I had to take two weeks off from writing anything at all because I wrote more words than I maybe ever had in such a truncated time. I’m going to try to do that more than once a year. 

Meanwhile, this is the 448th record I’ve written about, and I’m looking at the stack of 30 other records I have piled up to listen to from my recent trip to the Yard Sale in Laurium, MI. I have some special things planned for this next batch, and I can’t wait to get back to writing about the music that makes up my life. It’s good to be back.     

4. It is mid July, 2014, and I am searching for records alone, at Yard Sale in Laurium, MI. A starts texting me, wondering what I’m buying, because she knows, already, only a couple weeks into our relationship, that searching for records is how I spend a lot of my time, on vacation or not. I tell her about the Michael McDonald, about the country records I’ve found, and about Elton John’s Honky Chateau. It’s one of her favorites. She says she has to go back to work, and I say goodbye. I find the ABBA record the moment I put my phone away.  

447. ZZ Top’s ‘Eliminator’

11 months, and 148 records ago, I considered closing up shop here at Vinyl in Alphabetical because I wasn’t sure if I should spend time writing stuff about the records I just bought at the record store. I had completely caught up with my record collection, but ultimately, I decided to keep going, and being that I have a job with a bigger disposable income, I have somehow accrued nearly 150 records since then. I obviously found that I had things I could write about those albums; some more than others, obviously. But still; I was able to keep going for 11 months and 148 records.

As of this ZZ Top album, I have now, again, caught up with my record collection. I have nothing left to write about. Except for a quip about how the one guy in ZZ Top sans beard is named Frank Beard, and how ZZ Top fucking shred, I am not sure I even have much to write about here.

But! I am not quitting. I have plans to hit this incredible pawn store in the U.P. next week, a place that boasts literally 30,000 records for sale, and plan to walk out with arms full of shit. I am just going to take some time off from this blog. Maybe the rest of this month; I’m not really sure. I just realized I’ve written—or gotten my friends to help write—about 447 records in 23 months. That’s 19 a month. That’s too many.

See you in a bit. 

446. Wham!’s ‘Make It Big’ (Short Story By Ian Charles Garner)

Hey y’all: I have something special lined up here today, which has been cooking since about January. As you may or may not know, I used to be a part of The Continuing Tales Of… a thing where music writers wrote short stories “inspired” by songs on classic albums. Since then, I’ve really wanted a writer to write some short fiction “inspired” by an album in my collection, and when I got to thinking about WHO I wanted to write it, I had only one answer: Ian Charles Garner, known to the Internet as the always ribald Sweatpants Papi.

If you’ve ever read Ian’s Twitter feed—which you should, now—you know it’s one of the snappiest, funniest, toughest, places on all of Twitter, and it’s full of little details about Ian’s life: the men he’s chasing via Grindr, the bulge in the pants of the cashier at Starbucks, and the lunacy of whatever new thing he’s gotten himself embroiled in on Twitter. I had a feeling that if I gave Ian free rein to turn this into an erotica—and assigned him an album as weird as Wham!’s Make It Big—that he’d deliver something risque and totally perfect. And he did. It’s below.   

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444. Soulja Boy’s ‘Souljaboytellem.com’ (Written By Drew Millard)

Happy Independence Day, y’all. I hope everyone is doing Stone Cold Steve Austin impersonations over a pit of read meat while rap music plays loudly in your immediate vicinity. To celebrate America in the most perfect, this Tumblr-centric way I possibly could, I had my friend Drew Millard do a track-by-track deep dive into Souljaboytellem.com, the first album by American Patriot Soulja Boy. Drew has been my Internet friend since he was a college graduate trying to break into #viral #content, and now he’s a grown ass dude who works at Noisey and who writes shit that can send the NY Rap Community into fucking convulsions. I guess I’m saying Drew rules and you should follow him on Twitter.  

On October 2nd, 2007, the world was irrevocably changed. On that day, the President of South Korea walk across the DMZ into North Korea as a gesture of goodwill towards Kim Jong Il. And, uh, because MOTHERFUCKING SOULJA BOY PUT OUT HIS FIRST RECORD.

It is called souljaboytellem.com. Because the world is full of miracles, if you type “www.souljaboytellem.com” into your web browser, you will automatically be redirected to Soulja Boy’s twitter account. Because Soulja Boy is the best, Andrew asked me to write about his first album. Though it’s not his best album (that’d be the criminally unheralded The DeAndre Way), it is definitely his first. And, in case you were wondering, Soulja Boy has been a motherfucking innovator since day one. Let’s take a trip down souljaboytellem.com lane.

Intro

Soulja Boy and Mr. Collipark, the guy who produced a gazillion Ying Yang Twinz songs plus “Ms. New Booty,” rehash the introduction of Pinky and the Brain. “FROM THE INTERNET TO MAINSTREAM,” Soulja yells. But Soulja—the internet is mainstream. Time is a flat circle, Kermit meme, etc.

Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)

This song is basically “Y.M.C.A.” for our generation, except awesome. Soulja Boy is the true example of disruption in the tech sphere.

Sidekick

I never had a sidekick, but Mr. Collipark cooks up a Marsian snap beat to make me really fucking jealous I never had one. This might be an early example of #Branded #Content, or maybe Soulja Boy was just super amped he suddenly had money after coming from nothing and decided it was easier to articulate that feeling of intense, unknowable relief through defining himself by the products he was now capable of owning. Either way, this song slaps.

Snap and Roll

Pales in comparison to “Party Like a Rockstar” by Shop Boyz, but at least Soulja Boy is super open about the fact that he’s trying to create both a snap-rock song, as well as a dance for said snap-rock song.

Bapes

AT LAST, THE TRAGIC FIGURE THAT IS ARAB REARS HIS HEAD. Arab was Soulja Boy’s best friend, but then Arab got tired of being his friend and stopped rapping with him. This song is dope because it sounds like DJ Mustard will eventually rip the beat off.

Let Me Get ‘Em

Seriously, the beats on this record are fucking out of this world. If this had come out right now, people would be freaking the fuck out.

Donk

This is a song about butts.

Yahhh!

So, we must confront the glaringly obvious. “Yahhh!” has not aged well. On the other hand, it’s still really fun to wave your hands in someone’s face while screaming “YAHHH!!!!”, so what the fuck do I know.

Pass It to Arab

I want to move inside of this beat. I seriously forgot how incredible the productions on this were. This one has this weird little flute-whistle thing, an 808 drumbeat, and then the sort of bass that sounds like you’re just beating a trash can against the side of a tin building. You could argue that Soulja Boy should have tried harder at rapping on this, but you’d be missing the point and I’d have to wave my hands in your face and yell “YAHHH!” at you.

Soulja Girl

Sadly, not all songs on your debut album can be fun bangers about new dances you’ve invented. Article 1, Clause 17.5 of the Music Industry Handbook clearly states that you’ve got to have at least one song on your debut album explicitly for the ladies. Fortunately, this one’s pretty dank, and it’s the only time on the album Soulja Boy shows you he’s just as adept at rapping at whatever lyrically ass lyrical rapper you like, nerd.

Booty Meat

This is basically a 2 Live Crew song, and that is decidedly a good thing. I actually just went on Pirate Bay and downloaded this, because I’m DJing a party tomorrow night and I’m gonna play like five songs from this during my set.

Report Card

The most martial, menacing soundscape to ever start with, “Man I just got my report card today, mane. I looked at it, it had all F’s on it. I took it back to the teacher, told her, ‘Throw some D’s on it!’”

She Thirsty

Yet again, Soulja Boy innovates, this time by using the term “thirsty” in a rap song years before hipsters could use it on Twitter.

Don’t Get Mad

All good things, including souljaboytellem.com, must come to an end. Fortunately, Soulja Boy drops some lyrical miracles to remind you of all he’s accomplished. Probably the most honest line he’s ever written is, “It’s amazing what I did with a mic and the internet.”

The end. I’m gonna go cry now.

443. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s ‘Watch the Throne’ (Written by Trey Smith)

Hey y’all, I’ve got another guest writer on the blog. This week it’s Trey Smith, better known to Twitter users with good taste as Slimi Hendrix, covering Jay and Kanye’s maligned-for-the-wrong-reasons Watch the Throne. Like I said, if you’re not following Trey, why are you even on Twitter. He’s the visionary behind this incredible Tumblr, and one half of the Poor Home empire. Anyways, here’s Trey:

There are two types of people in the world:

1) Those who see Watch The Throne as a disgusting display of gluttony and excess.

2) Those who see Watch The Throne as motivation.

I remember there being a segment of the population that was unhappy about the album when it dropped. I get not liking the music or thinking they could’ve done better, and those are arguments I’ll listen to (won’t agree though). I’m talking more about the ones who saw some deep moral problems with the project. “They’re assholes for releasing this during an economic crisis.” “Kanye and Jay are praising false idols and setting a bad example.” “There’s Illuminati subliminal messaging in every other track that will make your pets try to fellate you while you sleep.”

It’s cool to think that way and all, if that’s what you want to do, but chill out and consider some stuff for a minute. These are two guys who decided to get together and celebrate the hard work they’ve been putting in for a combined number of years that’s possibly longer than you’ve been alive. They bragged about their material goods and accomplishments and snorting drugs off of other human beings, but they also reflected on where they came from and dreamed of a better future for themselves and others. Not exactly what I would consider vile and revolting, but to each his or her own.

“But why are they so special that I should even care?” Well, these are guys who’ve kept themselves not just relevant, but on top of the most competitive genre of music for some time. They’ve gone to war with Nas, 50 Cent, George Bush, and Taylor Swift and come out with undefeated records. You can’t even beat Flappy Bird, fuckboy/girl. (fuckperson?) They earned the right to put this album out. So if you’re in that first group from the original point, maybe take a deep breath and think about what’s really going on with your life where you’d try to paint the successes of others in a negative light. Jay and Kanye are showing you what hard work, good taste, and the right vision can lead to on Watch The Throne. Do yourself a favor and pay attention.

Few other related thoughts:

- They should play “Niggas In Paris” during every graduation ceremony. Especially kindergarten graduations. 

- I wish The Neptunes would spend the next half decade or so only making beats like that “Gotta Have It” one.

- For some reason “Made In America” and “Murder To Excellence” make me think Frederick Douglass would’ve been a good rapper.

- “I Can’t Stop” is perfect standing on furniture music.

- Kind of amazing that anybody will still let Swizz speak a word on songs after he said “My beats go hard like fuck you dicks” on that Good Friday track.

 - “Racks on racks on racks/Maybachs on bachs on bachs on bachs on bachs/Who in that?/Oh shit, it’s just blacks on blacks on blacks” is arguably the best thing to happen in a rap song in the 21st century. “Your weed purple, my money purple.” is a close second.

- “New Day” is an even better song if you imagine Kanye is talking about Chief Keef in his verse.

Trey Smith’s plug lives in Eskilstuna. He’s on Twitter—@slimihendrix