“the perfect book for the advanced record collector” (Ear Candy)

One of the great things about collecting rock and roll music is that there is always an undiscovered gem lacking from your collection just waiting for you to discover. This year (2005) celebrates the 30th year that I have been such a music junkie. LOST IN THE GROOVES is a book that celebrates albums that fell through the cracks in the “classics” description. Included are albums that: might have sold well initially but are now pretty much ignored (“McCartney II”), works by artists that were not taken seriously at the time (Herman’s Hermits, etc), obscure artists of merit, and generally lost gems that demand reevaluation.

I had quite a few of the discs mentioned such as: “Muswell Hillbillies”, “No Dice”, “Klaatu”, “L.A. (Light Album)”, “McCartney II”, “Subterranean Jungle”, “Face Dances”, “Pacific Ocean Blue”, “Hillbilly Deluxe” – just to name a few. But, I found many more that I now need to hear! I only take issue with one entry: Pink Floyds’ “The Final Cut”. I bought it when it first came out and 20+ years later still say its crap!

I’ve already given LOST IN THE GROOVES several readings and, armed with a yellow highlighter, have made note of which albums I need to add to my collection. This is the perfect book for the advanced record collector/music fan! (Ronnie, Ear Candy)

“rare vinyl-collecting bible” (East Bay Express)

Serious music dweebs may very well adopt Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed (Routledge) as their rare vinyl-collecting bible. The lisping indie obsessive who gets teary-eyed at Belle & Sebastian concerts … the thrift-store-foraging Napoleon Dynamite who smells of dust and rotting cardboard … Steve Buscemi’s character in Ghost World … the Kermit the Frog-voiced fellow who knows the whole discography of bands he doesn’t even like … they’re all guaranteed to bust a blood vessel over this one. It’s a guidebook written by geeks, for geeks, that makes rock ‘n’ roll seem almost not cool, grouping fans alongside other nerd cliques who fixate on comic books or Star Trek.

That said, the average music enthusiast will also find Grooves an informative and pleasurable read. The book, edited by Scram editor Kim Cooper and contributor David Smay (also the authors of Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears) contains a wealth of far-out performers who never got their due, forgotten albums by big-time artists, and impassioned defenses of maligned records even the Salvation Army can’t get rid of. The emphasis here is on vinyl, including many records that never even made it to CD. Writers here include Radio Birdman guitarist Deniz Tek, Angry Samoan Metal Mike Saunders, old-school rock critic Richard Meltzer, producer Jim O’Rourke, filmmaker Sean Carrillo, and a swap-meet-sized gang of freelance critics and music-zine whack-a-doos.

So what do they preach about? Kim Cooper tells the engaging story of the very obscure (and very short) musical career of Beverly Hills dental assistant and tripped-out songwriter Linda Perhacs, whose creative efforts didn’t bloom until she fell in with the laid-back Los Angeles hippie crowd. One of her patients was film composer Leonard Rosenman, who in 1970 helped Perhacs record her only album, Parallelograms, which Cooper describes as “delicately layered love poems to the natural world and the charged erotics of youth.”

Also forgotten in music history is the New Orleans piano-pummeling eccentric Esquerita, whom rockabilly singer Deke Dickerson hails as “the source for the bizarre/flamboyantly gay/mega-talented/hollerin’/screamin’/rhythm and blues archetype that Little Richard would take to the bank alone.” Though signed to Capitol, Esquerita was too much for the general music-buying public of the time, and original copies of his 1958 self-titled debut are extremely difficult to find.

Epidemiologist and former radio DJ Max Hechter writes about blue-collar punks Cock Sparrer, a ’70s act that almost hooked up with Malcolm McLaren, a deal that didn’t work out reportedly because he failed to buy the band a round of drinks. McLaren, of course, went on to manage the Sex Pistols, while Cock Sparrer’s catchy debut was released only in Spain after the band’s label, Decca, went bankrupt.

Too obscure? David J. Schwartz focuses on a somewhat forgotten aspect of Johnny Cash’s storied career. As a young ruffian, Cash wasn’t afraid to piss people off. When country radio ignored the song “The Ballad of Ira Hayes” from his 1964 album Bitter Tears: Ballads of the American Indian, Cash took out a full-page ad in Billboard indicting the music industry for its desire to “wallow in meaninglessness.”

Still, the unknowns rule the roost here — for hardcore record collecting freaks looking for new, obscure obsessions, Lost in the Grooves hails little-known acts such as voodoo shrieker Exuma, Wichita rock quartet the Embarrassment, the Italian wannabe Hawaiian act Nino Rejna and His Hawaiian Guitars, French ex-beatnik popster Michel Polnareff, ’60s singing duo Jackie Cain and Roy Kral, and the Yiddish-sung American standards of the Barry Sisters. The book also champions traditional rock-critic favorites such as the Brit-pop Housemartins, the always-adored Mekons, the hardworking Poster Children, New York post-punkers the Feelies, the deathless avant-garde crew Pere Ubu, the beloved duo Sparks, Elephant 6 deities Neutral Milk Hotel, and snappy Seattlite pop-punkers the Fastbacks.

Lost in the Grooves doesn’t have much to say about jazz or metal, and the few hip-hop write-ups appear to be penned by folks who hardly qualify as fanatics. Otherwise, most musical genres are well covered, though the writing is occasionally subpar and skippable. But most writers succeed at promoting their favorite obscurities, leaving you to wonder, “Should I really seek out a copy of Buckner & Garcia’s Pac-Man Fever or the Bee Gees’ Mr. Natural?” The answer, of course, is yes. (Adam Bregman, East Bay Express, 1/5/05)

“inspired” (Fufkin)

Geek Factor: Obscure Great Recordings: How many of you are unmitigated music geeks? A person for whom each obscure album that gets a glimmer of praise becomes a new holy grail, becomes an excuse (not that you need one, really) to go to every second hand shop within a 150 mile radius or endlessly surf the net, because you MUST have this slab of bliss? More importantly, you don’t just hoard your latest find. You then make the rounds stopping by friends’ flats or calling them to spread the news (and perhaps play the thang), and hopping on to e-mail lists and bulletin boards, to share this wonderful, new-to-you music that has made your life just a bit better.

If this description is in any way accurate, then let me recommend a book to you. Lost In The Grooves will keep you busy for a while. Let me also recommend buying some small Post-Its or some highlighter markers, because it’s possible you might destroy the book if you just dog ear the pages every time your interest is piqued.

This tome is the latest inspired creation from Kim Cooper and David Smay, the folks behind Scram magazine and the editors of the excellent book Bubblegum Music Is The Naked Truth. The premise of this book is quite simple

“a dusty-vinyl chain letter” (North Bay Bohemian)

Bushwhacking the Vinyl Jungle: ‘Lost in the Grooves’ a field guide to forgotten greats By Sara Bir

Record geeks cherish the moment when they encounter an al bum no one else knows about. This is less about one-upmanship than the thrill of discovery and the intimate connection between artist and listener, a lifeline that keeps neglected music vital and alive.

Kim Cooper and David Smay of Scram magazine, understand this thoroughly, as evidenced in their recently released Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed (Routledge; $19.95). The editors refer to the book as “your own portable geek,” meaning it can be a trusted friend to point obscurity-seekers in the right direction. And obscure in the context of this book is less about rarity in physical numbers than it is about rarity of appreciation.

The somewhat star-studded cast of contributors includes rock historian Ed Ward, novelist Rick Moody, cartoonist Peter Bagge and the formerly Santa Rosa-based Tim Hinley, who’s been producing Dagger zine for nearly two decades.

The entries vary widely in genre–Flo and Eddie’s The World of Strawberry Shortcake shares a page with the Flesh Eaters’ A Minute to Pray, a Second to Die–but most fall into two basic categories. First, there’s “Where the hell did this band come from?” These are artists whose releases will probably never cross the loading dock of a Virgin Records Megastore. Sharp-eyed readers will note the inclusion of John Trubee and the Ugly Janitors of America’s The Communists Are Coming to Kill Us, hailed by contributor Chas Glynn as “both annoying as hell and insanely captivating.” The album was released in 1984, before Trubee left Southern California for the calmer environs of Santa Rosa, where he continues to compose and record music.

The second category is “Hey, I never heard of that Who album!” These entries appear to compose roughly half the book, creating a great space for us to reconsider purportedly substandard issues by popular bands. Pink Floyd, Dolly Parton, the Ramones, Willie Nelson, Lou Reed and Jonathan Richman all rack up mentions. Considering these folks have collectively recorded a zillion albums, it’s not surprising that a few great ones have fallen through the cracks.

I was alternately bummed and smugly pleased to spot a few albums that I already own–for instance, Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane over the Sea. I bet at least half of the people who purchase this book not only own that album but count it among their all-time favorites. It’s a good reminder that we’re in emotional territory here.

Despite the obvious camp appeal of some recommendations, even a casual read of the reviews will indicate that the authors wrote about these records because they honestly like them and cherish their existence. Owning cool music does not make you cool; loving great–or, as the case may be, crummy–music does.

Studded throughout the book are reprints of vintage reviews from classic early music magazines like Creem, plus sidebars of well-selected lists for those who crave to know the “Top 10 Non-Goth Albums Goths Listen To.”

(Is Duran Duran’s Rio part of that list? Hell, yes!)

Lost in the Grooves is hardly encyclopedic. You could ask 75 other rock critics to divulge their favorite overlooked records and come up with a completely different list. It’s sort of implicit that Lost in the Grooves, Vol. II is to be carried out and added to by the hands of eager crate-diggers and attic-explorers that keep the story alive and make it their own. It’s a dusty-vinyl chain letter!

I’ll add three entries to get you started: Nino Ferrer’s Enregistrement Public, Scrawl’s He’s Drunk and Bert’s (yes, Bert the Muppet) Best of Bert. Now get going!(North Bay Bohemian, 2/16/05).

4 stars (Mojo)

True record-geekdom means championing music that no one else likes or even knows. It’s easy to pour on the irony in gushing about some chintzy garage-sale find, but what makes Lost in the Grooves a really groovy read is the honest passion its contributors exhibit for their lost-and-found faves. Doug Harvey tells of accidentally buying Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band thinking it was Lennon’s same-titled LP, and growing to love it. Others rave about deserving MIAs, from Harry ‘The Hipster’ Gibson and Buckner & Garcia to Sylvester and The Loud Family. Can we please draw the line at Aaron Carter though? (Jeff Tamarkin, Mojo, 4/5 Stars)

“Quirkily irresistable” (Uncut)

Quirkily irresistable guide to the best records you’ve never heard. 4/5 stars.

It’s a great idea. Somewhere in the overflowing cut out bin of a dusty store in Scuntthorpe, lies your favourite record – and you don’t even know it exists. To help you locate it, a bunch of American fanzine writers have nominated their own neglected ‘classics’ in a book designed to ‘nudge the cannon so that lost records tumble out’.

They’ve come up with a fascinating list, full of records too demented and generally out there to have round mass appeal. Not all of the 200 or so reclaimed masterpieces are in the same league as Nick Drake, and quite why the editors “want Mekon fans to check out Kylie Minogue” is never clear, but there’s enough unhinged zeal in the writing to make you want to track down most things here.

Uncut readers will take some convincing that they have unfairly overlooked David Cassidy Live! all these years. But it’s a resounding ‘yes’ to Joe E Covington’s Fat Fandango, Ron Nagle’s Bad Rice, John Phillips’ The Wolf King of LA and Bridget St. John’s Songs for the Gentle Man. The latter appeared on John Peel’s Dandelion label in 1971, and makes you wonder why the great man himself never wrote a book like this.

If your own lost classic isn’t included, don’t sit there fulminating. Get in touch via www.lostinthegrooves.com because they’re planning a follow up. (Nigel Williamson, Uncut)