“Make Everyday Your Record Store Day” Fade Into You – J. Mascis & Failure – The Posies

Recently I saw an article about Record Store Day and how very small independent labels aren’t seeing a benefit. One owner said that if every day was treated more like RSD than perhaps it would get better results. The other complaint is that big labels waiting to release on Record Store Day squeezes the smaller labels out in terms of printing the records to begin with.

From a record buyer point of view, I’m not sure I get the complaints about big vs. small labels, but I do get that treating all releases like they are part of Record Store Day may pay dividends. In this world where many people just don’t see the value in paying for something they can download or stream for free, music has the feeling of being as disposable as the toys you get   for free with the kids menu at the fast food chain. Play with it for a week than toss it, because if you didn’t pay for it, it just doesn’t mean shit anyway.

BUT…

Instead of offering some downloadable shit sounding garbage, you offer a unique product that plays on multiple formats of a listener’s choice.

OR

Musicians make a product that is collectible, so that fans don’t just want to hear your song, but also feel they must have what you’re selling. Give it colour, give it flash, and make it really damn cool.

On Black Friday/Record Store Day back in November 2014, I missed out on J. Mascis doing a cover of the 90’s cult classic “Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star. It is a phenomenal song that you have probably heard play in the background of some moving scene from a number of various movies and TV shows. Seriously, a quick internet search came up with 39 instances in which it was used.

fade into

Anyway, Mascis released a very limited amount as a 7” inch single and every record store in the city was sold out of their few copies by the following day. I was able to eventually find a copy, but that was after months of searching. Now yes, I could hear it on Spotify, or buy it from itunes, but I’m a fan. J. Mascis and his band Dinosaur Jr. They are not some disposable artists who I toss on a mix and forget about, they are legendary artists who continue to make relevant music and deserve to make a living from it. In turn, they have not only supplied great music and performances, but done events and created product that their fans believe in. Some of it is released on RSD and some not, but it is all very cool.

Hell, Mascis and fellow Dinosaur Jr. member Lou Barlow signed a poster for my 5 year old son after an acoustic show a few years back, which is the kind of gesture that can help to create lifelong fans who are vocal about purchasing the music of the bands they love. (It also had nothing to do with RSD.)

My point of course though, isn’t just about RSD. Earlier this year the Posies re-released their debut record Failure on vinyl for the first time. It was put out by Omnivore Records as a limited print on yellow 180 gram vinyl. Failure had been long out of print and highly sought after by fans. So now, a person can test drive this record on Spotify if they don’t know the music, but if like me, you are a fan, here is a very cool copy in your hands, and a download card so you can take your music on the road to play on your ‘whatever’ device. Again, it is very cool product that doesn’t wait for a special day to be released.

Posies_Failure_OV-93

http://omnivorerecordings.com/music/failure/

Each week I see new releases on vinyl being put out in cool new ways, and when an artist I love matches up with product I can hold in my hands for a great listening experience, then I drop some coin and pray they sell enough music to continue making a living off this crazy music biz. The only difficulty for people who like vinyl is finding all the cool things out there, but then again, that is also part of the fun.

Holding history in my hand – The Posies: “I Am The Cosmos”

Back in ’93 I was handed a copy of Big Star’s – Columbia: Live at the University of Missouri. It was my entrance into the world of Big Star. Previous to this I had heard the odd track on my campus radio station as well as seeing numerous references as influences by many of my favorite artists, but I had yet to hear a whole album. One song caught me right away.

columbia

Perhaps the greatest song the rock masses never heard is Chris Bell’s “I Am The Cosmos.” Even for those lucky enough to have heard Big Star back in the 70’s, “Cosmos” was a single that saw only limited release in Memphis in 1978 and certainly never attained (like Big Star itself) national attention. Bell himself would be killed in a car accident later the same year.

Still, like a few other legendary acts (The Velvet Underground, Flying Burrito Brothers) it seems that those that did listen became musicians themselves. By the early 90’s, power-pop was becoming ‘a thing’ and Big Star started showing up as influences for a plethora of alt-rock acts. So as “alternative-mania” was in full 1992 swing Fantasy Records released Big Star’s #1 Record and Radio City as a single CD, and Rycodisc released Third/Sister Lovers. In was at this point that the Posies covered “I Am The Cosmos” and “Feel.” Around the same time Rycodisc also released a compilation of Chris Bell solo material entitled I Am The Cosmos.

cosmos

Now, what makes this single of the Posies an important part of music history is what happened the following year. Two students at the University of Missouri asked Alex Chilton if he would be interested in performing some Big Star songs for a concert. With Chilton in Jody Stephens (drums, vocals) also agreed but Andy Hummell refused(bass), which left a hole to be filled on bass, and second guitar for this to be pulled off. Names got tossed out like Mike Mills (REM), Matthew Sweet, Teenage Fanclub and Paul Westerberg, but nothing really stuck until Ardent Records (where Big Star had recorded) founder John Fry pulled a translucent blue single he had tacked to the wall down and gave it another listen.

posiescosmos

That single led to the Posies being asked to fill in for Andy Hummell and the late Chris Bell. Not only was the concert a huge success, but it was also released as the live album already mentioned. Suddenly there was “new” music to be talked about with the old material, and word was getting out. A new generation were looking for Big Star records and finding them… something that didn’t happen when the band was originally together.

Of course this is total conjecture, but that single in combination with the re-release of Big Star’s three studio records, led us to todays Big Star revival. All three records have been re-released on audiophile vinyl with a great special edition of Third/Sisters Lovers being put out by Omnivore Records. Had Chilton not passed away in 2010 it is likely Big Star would have done an extensive tour.

“Cosmos” itself has been covered live by Big Star, the Posies, Beck, Wilco, This Mortal Coil and The Jayhawks to name but a very few. If only I could get my hands on that original single.

Of course that is one Chris Bell song. As for Alex Chilton and Big Star… well, it’ll take a few more posts to cover that.