March 2009


Full disclosure: I've known Mr. Soto for more years than I have fingers and toes to count them on. If you're looking for a hatchet job, you won't find it here. You might have to hang out in an alley behind a lumberjack bar for that.

Now let's get this other part over with. Steve Soto has been in a bunch of bands. To list them would not only take all day, but it wouldn't give any indication of what's he currently doing with The Twisted Hearts. To get the whole story and hear some of his new songs, check out their page at:

He can sing. He can sing pretty and he can sing tough. Not many people can do that. Elvis could and John Doe can, but other than that I'm drawing a blank

As you should have heard by now, the songs posted are fully loaded with pianos, organs, steel guitars, horns, strings, harmonicas, banjos, bongos, glockenspiels, castanets, barking dogs, cannons, musical saws, spoons, fire-trucks, etc....
So how can they be delivered with just the basic two guitars, bass, and drums thing (along with keyboards and an occasional accordion)? The songs go down pretty good, since the band is amazing. They manage to combine great chops with a relaxed, informal and fun atmosphere. They've all been in a bunch of bands too. Check the web page again for details.

There is a 10-song CD that, so far, is only being sold at shows. The song "Best Mistake You Ever Made" is the standout track for me, both live and on the CD.

Most likely, they'll soon be playing the big rooms with full orchestras and will be able to afford belly dancers, jugglers, fire-eaters, and trained tigers. They might even put them in the show. But don't wait - see them now while they're still affordable.

Steve Soto and the Twisted Hearts will be playing some shows around the country in the next couple of weeks with Frank Turner and then will be doing a couple of tours with X.

So the John Doe comparison is not too far off the mark, but the Elvis thing is not quite right. Steve Soto may be a better songwriter than the King, but Elvis made better movies.


Once again, I decided that I had too many records and needed to sell some off. I've sung this song a few hundred times before - different verse, same as the first.

Since I haven't sold at a record show for a couple years, I did two shows in two consecutive months. Since the January and February shows are now blurred together in my memory I will, for the sake of clarity, not bother mentioning which of the shows these anecdotes occurred, if they actually did.

I will try not to let the truth stand in the way of a good story or a cheap joke.

I started with eleven boxes full of stuff and ended up with five boxes and a pocketful of dirty cabbage. Success.

MC5 "Looking at You/Borderline". This a very rare and collectible record that I found in a thrift store last year. The price guides list it at 500 or so in mint condition. I also found out that one had sold online for 800, which was ridiculous. My copy was nowhere near mint - the picture sleeve was slightly cracked and yellowed with age and someone had written their name on the record - but it was far from thrashed. Mint condition means that it has never been played, exposed to natural air, or even looked at. How boring is that? How can someone enjoy a record without listening to it?


Rather than ponder such meaningless questions, I decided to sell it. I didn't put it out on the table for display, but I told a few other dealers at the first show about it and the word got around. A few people came and asked about it, but there were no serious offers. When I came back for the second show, I didn't tell any more people about it but I didn't have to. I got quite a few guys asking to see it, but they just hemmed and hawed over the price. Finally, one guy came over and asked to have it authenticated by another dealer who is an expert with stuff like that. It got the big thumbs-up, so the guy made a reasonable offer and gave me some cash to hold the record while he ran to the ATM. He came back in about twelve seconds and slapped the rest down on the barrelhead. Everyone was happy.

I might have made more money by trying to sell it online, but it seemed like a lot more trouble and a lot less fun. If there is someone out there nuts enough to pay 800 dollars for a stupid record, I'm not sure I want anything to do with them. For all I know, the guy who bought it from me will turn around and ebay it for a tidy little profit. Maybe someone will buy it from him and do the same thing. Maybe the process will repeat itself until someone eventually pays a zillion dollars for the thing only to realize that it's just a flat, round piece of plastic in a paper sleeve that will not bring any much needed happiness into their otherwise empty life.

That's too many maybes for me to care about. I know that neither owning this record or trading it for a larger pile of money will make me a better person, but not worrying about it and having fun with it will.
Did I mention that I paid 50 cents for it?

I sold my Sonny Bono solo album. The album is called "Inner Views" and it's full of twelve-minute sitar-laden ragas with titles like "Pammie's On A Bummer." I purposely over-priced it because I really didn't want to sell it, but it sold anyway. The person who bought it said "I like albums where straight people go psychedelic."

No such luck on records featuring John Wayne, Telly Savalas, Anthony Perkins, Jerry Lewis, or Billy Barty.

Another lesson learned - CD's are officially on the way out. I had to mark them down to a buck each before anyone would even sneeze at them.

I had a box of 8-track tapes. I priced them at $1.00 for the whole lot and it sold. The buyer said he needed the box.

I like to have a Free Bin. With every lot of records I acquire, there are some that are absolutely worthless. I cannot throw them away so I give them away. To me, throwing records in the trashcan is tantamount to censorship and I can't go for that. Can I hear a "No Can Do?" Thank you Hall and Oates.

The Free Bin is an experiment in abnormal human behavior. If I could somehow connect the two separate hemispheres of my brain, I could write a thesis about it.

The Free Bin has different effects on different kinds of people. Some will have to make an excuse for everything they take. Some are too shy or embarrassed to take anything at first. Then they come back later, take one thing and make a hasty retreat without making eye contact. Most dealers only look for stuff that they can sell and leave empty handed, unless they are optimistic or delusional.
Some people like to pick out every single record one at a time, hold it up and use it to start a conversation. The only thing to do about it is to smile and nod while thinking to myself
"Self, why did you put me in this situation?"

Eventually, someone with no shame will take the whole lot - box and all. Sometimes they make up some lie like "my friend might like some of this stuff" and sometimes they don't.

I like it when someone finds something they like in the free bin and then feel obligated to buy something, anything, out of gratitude. There are nice record collectors, but they just don't like to draw a lot of attention to themselves.

That being said, I will now contradict myself. The nicest customer I had all day, and maybe ever, was like a lightning rod for attention. He practically jumped for joy when he saw my free bin. His barely contained enthusiasm was loudly apparent every time he found something he liked. He kept looking up and asking me "This is really free? FREE free?

I didn't take him long to find something in my regular inventory either. He couldn't throw two bucks at me fast enough when he found a particularly ugly copy of "Swing in Beatlemania" by the Bearcuts.
He wasn't at all bothered by the water-damaged cover, or by the overall scuzzy condition of the record. In fact, he seemed pleased with the shape it was in. He thanked me for letting him buy it. And he thanked me for the free records. This is unheard of.
Caught off guard, I did my best "do you want fries with that" and pulled out my copy of "Beatle Beat" by The Buggs in an embarrassing attempt to up the sale. He stopped thanking me long enough to say he already had it, then thanked me again and walked away. I didn't see everything that he pulled out of the free bin, but I believe one of them was "The Gospel Sounds of Christmas."

Soon afterward, I was told that the Bearcuts fan was Russell Quan of the legendary garage-rock band The Mummies.


I have long admired The Mummies and appreciate their work. It was encouraging to see that the band members remain true to the low-budget rock philosophy that they so strongly espoused, but I was also saddened to find out that members of The Mummies don't walk around everyday wrapped up in the torn and tattered bandages that they wore onstage. Don't tell me that The Mummies were just an act - I don't want to hear it.
That's like finding out that Flipper was more than one dolphin.

At every show there are collectors that stand out, some good and some bad. On the negative side was a German collector who was interested in an album by the Champs. He wanted to haggle about the price and I was okay with that. I had put prices on all the records but I didn't memorize them so, in order to establish a starting point for the negotiations, I asked him what I wrote on the price tag.
"Too much," he quickly shot back with steel-eyed Teutonic humorlessness.

There is one guy from European parts unknown that is developing quite a reputation among the dealers for haggling about everything. If he sees something priced at five dollars, he will offer thirty-eight cents. If he sees something for three dollars, he will offer four and half cents. As a rule, most record show haggling is done in a friendly and light-hearted manner but this man appears to be venting his anger at the world by making ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary offers. He is very intense and very serious. What makes it funny is that he only wants the cheap stuff that nobody else wants. In a way, he functions as a barometer or a litmus test for a record's true worth.

He (almost) keeps the dealers honest. For example, if I have a semi-clean copy of "Emotional Rescue" by the Rolling Stones I will price it at a dollar and throw it in with the other Stones albums. I don't really expect it to go anywhere, but it will serve as filler between the good Stones albums and pad out the box a little. Also, you never know if there is some kid out there that just discovered the Stones, thinks they're great, and needs to hear "Emotional Rescue" or "Dirty Work" to bring him back to reality. But before this kid has a chance to find out that his new heroes are fallible, our friend the chiseler comes along and takes the record away for the three or four cents that it's really worth. You really can't argue with him because he only buys crap.

A couple of dealers next to me were joking about this guy under their breath and I chimed in with "It's a good thing my free bin is empty or he would haggle about something in there" before they pointed out that he was within earshot. I looked over and I thought I saw him smile.