Lost-And Found: As countless new CDs continue to push existing music out of the racks and into the cutout bins, used stores and (gasp) even the trash, plenty of worthy albums get unjustly overlooked. In fact, pop-music history is littered with artists both famous and obscure whose work stands defiantly alone—too quirky, too unorthodox or just too demented to appeal to either a mainstream audience or even so-called fans. Lost in the Grooves: Scram’s Capricious Guide to the Music You Missed (Routledge), edited by Kim Cooper and David Smay, sets out to right those wrongs by spotlighting more than 100 musicians whose art—and in some cases, careers—simply don’t slot neatly into any one category. With pithy, smartly written essays by contributors to Scram magazine, a self-acclaimed quarterly “journal of unpopular culture,” Lost in the Grooves is structured alphabetically in an encyclopedic format. That makes finding the Dream Lake Ukulele Band’s self-titled 1976 album just as easy as locating Terence Trent D’Arby’s 1993 Symphony or Damn. The Beach Boys, John Cale, Glen Campbell, Marvin Gaye, the Hollies, Jefferson Airplane, King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Prince and Dwight Yoakam all get nods here; and fans of lo-fi garage rock, French avant-garde, roots rock, psycho folk, proto-punk, ’80s soul and bubblegum pop will all find something to discover within these 304 pages. Readers won’t, however, find many recent releases. Rather, Scram’s writers seem particularly partial to vintage children’s music (Flo & Eddie’s The World of Strawberry Shortcake and The Alvin Show by Alvin and the Chipmunks) and novelty records (Rock Fantasy, a concept album from K-Tel that explores animals’ psychological character traits; Chevrolet Sings of Safe Driving and You, a circa-1965 musical set of rules for new drivers performed by an outfit called the First Team; and The Wozard of Iz: An Electronic Odyssey by Mort Garson & Jacques Wilson). Many featured titles are only available on vinyl; indeed, part of this collection’s charm is the way writers call these albums “records,” not CDs, and make references to Side One and Side Two. Still, it would have been helpful for editors Cooper (who also edits Scram) and Smay (co-author of Bubblegum Music Is the Naked Truth: The Dark History of Prepubescent Pop from the Banana Splits to Britney Spears) to indicate which titles eventually did make it to disc—even if they’re currently out of print. Interspersed throughout the book are intriguing sidebars that excerpt original record reviews from the likes of Creem and Flash, and compile such lists as the “Top 10 Non-Goth Albums Goths Listen To” (topped by Johnny Cash’s American IV: The Man Comes Around) and the “6 Greatest Midget Rock & Roll Records” (with Bushwick Bill’s Little Big Man topping the list). The book’s contributors, although keen on putting any given album and its artist into some sort of context, have a tendency to knock well-known critics who panned these records upon their initial release or to go over the top with their effusive praise. That said, this book does what any good music journalism should do: It makes readers want to seek out—or maybe, at least in a few cases, rediscover— some of the records that people who love records truly care about. As contributor Brian Doherty writes in his assessment of Loudon Wainwright III’s 2001 album, Last Man on Earth: “Discovering it … makes you wonder what else everyone is missing.” (Michael Popke, Shepherd Express)
"To point out that the staff at your local indie record store are about as tightly wound and implacable as the Taliban has already become a cliché. In contrast to that stalwart stance, Scram Magazine has become known for a distinct lack of smugness while digging through the dollar bins of history. Most pop-storians are obsessed with the failed, marginal and forgotten. Scram understands that the successful, populist and forgotten can be just as mysterious, and in this collection of reviews and essays, you’ll never be scorned by a pale, weedy boy for liking Terence Trent D’arby. In fact, its writers (including star nerds Jim O’Rourke and Rick Moody) will encourage you on in your bold and (un)original taste. If hipsterism is a temple built on Big Star and Stooges box sets, then Lost in the Grooves aims to tear down the walls with the clarion call of Kylie Minogue. Pop, after all, is about being popular, and if you want to understand popular culture, why waste time with Captain Beefheart when you can reassess Poco? Yes, the forgotten sons of California rock get multiple mentions here. But calling for a Poco revival isn’t the boldest thing in this book by far. Moody will have you reconsidering The Tubes, and Kris Kendall rights the wrongs dealt to the Dream Warriors by both industry and history. Unlike some music writing, these reviews are carefully written — as opposed to sounding like rewritten press releases — and recall Creem Magazine at its most prickly and acid. Should the comparison not be apparent to the reader, excerpts from Creem are reprinted, wink-and-nod-like, throughout its pages. Walk away right now and go back to your mid-period Sonic Youth records if you think this is irony. Lost in the Grooves is as sincere as disco and just as satisfying, providing a final home for music — from The Auteurs to Aaron Carter — that only wanted to be loved. Maybe that’s the pop difference; music that isn’t too cool to say "I love you." Do you have the balls to say it back? (Brian Joseph Davis, Eye Weekly, 12/02/04)
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).