Record Weirdo - Albuquerque Rock City

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Before moving to Albuquerque, I had to do some research on the record stores. I was intrigued by the following online review of a place called Krazy Kat Records:

"this place should be more appropriately advertised as a needle exchange program. Who cares about music purchasing when you have to shovel your way through a maze of used diapers. I will never go here again."

I was disappointed but not too surprised to find that Krazy Kat was no longer in business. Apparently, there was some kind of trouble with the Feds.

In the end, I ended up throwing all of my research out of the window and finding record stores the old-fashioned way - by relying on instinct and my acute sense of smell. Here are my three favorites so far:

Charley's 33's and CD's has a great old-time used record store ambience with lots of new and used vinyl, CD's, promo swag, posters, cassettes (!), and even 8-tracks (!!). It smells of incense residue from the 70's, musty old records, squeaky wooden floorboards, with a slight hint of leather and suede from the attached vintage clothing store.

Nob Hill Music is a small, one-man, storefront shop with a well-organized, fairly priced inventory of used vinyl. The store has an overall vibe of comfort, safety, and friendliness but I like it anyway. It has a sunny oak and pine nose with suggestions of houseplant and Windex.

Natural Sound has kind of a hip and with-it vibe, but not enough to scare me away. It smells like sparkling new shrink-wrapped vinyl, but they also have a good selection of used stuff. They have some books too, which means they cater to the thinking crowd. The records can be pricey, but all of the used CD's are under six dollars (as they should be).

And there were some negatives:
I wanted to like Record Roundup because of the name, but I didn't. They had no records. It smelled of moldy goldenrod indoor-outdoor carpet and hip-hop.

I didn't know what to expect from the Albuquerque Record Convention. It didn't seem to be very well advertised. It has very little web presence. I get the feeling that the promoters want to keep it as a word-of-mouth, insider kind of event. I only heard of it from the guy at Nob Hill Music - the promoter of the record show had given him one (1) flyer as if it were a personal invitation.

The show looked, sounded, and smelled like every other record show I've ever attended. The patrons combined the scents of yesterday's black t-shirt and today's convenience-store coffee, with slight undercurrents of Hai Karate, tobacco, and basement hempfunk.

George Tomsco of the Fireballs was the special guest of the most recent Albuquerque Record Convention. The Fireballs were the biggest rock and roll band to ever come out of New Mexico. They are known primarily for their 1960's hits "Sugar Shack" and "Bottle of Wine." They are lesser known as the instrumental act responsible for the Tequila-ish "Torquay" and the proto-surf "Bulldog." In fact, "Bulldog" is the lead-off track on the great "Cowabunga" surf music box set that Rhino put out a while back.

Not being a fan of "Sugar Shack" or "Bottle of Wine," I was reluctant to approach the table. As George was unpacking a guitar and plugging it in, I stopped in passing and politely looked over the assortment of Fireballs flyers, gig posters, and "Sugar Shack" highlighted CD hits collections. He asked me if I was familiar with their music. All I could think of was "You did 'Bulldog' right?"

This seemed to meet with his approval. Since he was the guitarist in the original version of the band (and the composer of "Bulldog") he seemed more excited by the reference to something other than the Fireballs better-known vocal hits. I mentioned that I had a copy of "Bulldog" on 45 but it was too scratched up to play. He needed no further prompting. He cranked up his amp and launched into a fine, reverb-drenched version of "Bulldog" right there on the spot. It was pretty cool. While he played, he continued making small talk while his fingers went into auto-pilot mode. After fifty-some years, I'm sure he could play that song in his sleep and probably has.

George Tomsco - "Bulldog" unleashed

Among the CD's that George was hawking, I found the excellent Fireballs compilation "The Original Norman Petty Masters" on Ace Records. This is mostly instrumentals but also has a couple of really good obscure rockabilly style vocals. George was nice enough to sign it and throw in a bunch of Fireballs swag with the CD purchase.

In an obscure footnote in rock history, it was the Fireballs who were employed by producer Norman Petty to flesh out some unfinished demos by Buddy Holly that were posthumously released in the 1960's. This can be a sensitive topic to some Holly fans, but I think some of the songs that were tinkered with, like "Peggy Sue Got Married" sound pretty good.

I bought a few records at the record show. Besides the usual nickel and dime stuff, I upgraded my copies of "The Who Live at Leeds" (original folder cover with all the inserts) and The Velvet Underground's "Loaded" (1st pressing, blah blah blah...) for less than 10 bucks each. People in New Mexico don't seem to understand the concept of price gouging. I think I'm going to like it here.

P.S. My favorite reference to smell in a song would have to be "Down in the Tube Station at Midnight" by The Jam - "They smelt of pubs and Wormwood Scrubs." In my memory, the London tube stations smell like diesel fuel. The thugs described in the song would have to be pretty stinky to compete with that.

P.S.S. I found a copy of "Come All Ye Fair and Tender Ladies" by Pernell Roberts at a yard sale last week. It makes a fine addition to my collection of albums by "Bonanza" cast members. Lorne Greene records are a dime a dozen, but I'm always on the lookout for elusive LP's by Michael "Little Joe" Landon and Dan "Hoss" Blocker.

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