A Birthday Like No Other!

I’ve been saving up for this mega-post of audiophilic treasures.  I’m back from a week’s vacation to my old home town where I spent my birthday visiting friends, family and my life-long favorite record shop.

Entering the shop I walked past a NM Beatles butcher cover, straight to the back where 3,000 LPs had just been traded in. Tom, the owner told me it was the best collection he’d ever seen (other than his own.)

All of the discs were alphabetical by artist, and all dead mint. Tom said, “I could easily shrink wrap the whole lot and sell ’em in Japan if I wanted to. The owner played these discs once to rip them and then filed them away.”

I passed up 20 mint Miles Davis LPs knowing I couldn’t afford to bring them all home, but my eyes went wide when I reached the Tom Waits collection. I pulled every disc I didn’t already own and walked up to the counter.

I said to Tom, “hold these – I’m going to pace around for 3 minutes… and then I’m going to come back and buy them.”

I had already ordered two other Waits’ LPs for my birthday – Bone Machine and Bad As Me.  They’re in the mail now.

But getting so many Waits LPs all at once in unplayed condition and not spending a cent on shipping… totally made my birthday!


Next during a routine visit to my local antique mall I found a copy of the Rutles’ self-titled 12″ promo on yellow vinyl with the hilarious banana label from 1978.


(To anyone who isn’t familiar with the Beatles parody band – please go to Youtube and watch their uproariously funny mockumentary, All You Need Is Cash.  It stars Eric Idle, George Harrison Mick Jagger, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray and many others!)

Hold My Hand

Let’s Be Natural

Another birthday order arrived by mail this week – the limited edition Flaming Lips’ Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots pressed on red vinyl.  This is a perfect compliment to my other limited edition Lips’ disc – their award winning masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin + bonus CD.


On the grounds outside the antique mall I found three more Sesame Street records which I didn’t already have in my collection, along with four Muppet and four Sesame Pez dispensers.


The vendor also had the 1984 Sesame Street Fisher Price playhouse (without the figures) and a rare 1978 9-disc box set titled “My First Sesame Street Record Collection,” the later of which I could not pass up taking home.

The set is complete with original box, printed bag, nine 45 RPM singles and their respective colorful cardboard sleeves.  Little is known about these sets and various versions were sold in the late 70s.  Only two photos are posted in the Muppet Wiki and my copy is far more complete than those pictured!

That weekend I went garage saling and found two more Jim Henson treasures – a Red Fraggle plush at the Super Flea and a 1986 30th Birthday poster of the Muppets and Henson, himself!  The poster turned up at a garage sale for $1.  Not bad.

Two more Parliament Funkadelic LPs also came by mail.  Unfortunately the “original pressing” Maggot Brain I ordered turned out to be a cheap repress from the 90s so I sold it and cut my losses.  The other disc was good – a sealed original copy of Funkadelic’s debut self-titled LP.  (It’s breaking my heart trying to decide whether or not to open it!)

I came real close to ordering the new limited edition green vinyl re-release of White Zombie’s Astro-Creep 2000, but after contacting the label I learned that the glorious lyric art that came with the CD is not included with the vinyl, so I passed.

…which brings me to what was going to be my most celebrated find of the year.

I thought myself incredibly fortunate to finally have my dream turntable AND a new pre-amp to drastically upgrade my set up.

I was using a linear direct drive Optimus LAB-2250 turntable, a $20 economy phono stage and NAD L40 integrated amp.  Sure, the NAD is nothing to turn your nose up at, but the table and cheap phono stage crippled what little quality I had.

Close friends may recall that I had a gorgeous vintage 70s McIntosh receiver, but that it had intermittent crackling which the folks at MAC headquarters could not eliminate after 2 years of servicing the unit.

Well the replacement is in transit now, but the same sadly cannot be said about the turntable.

This is the Denon DP-60L.  It is what many call the finest machine ever manufactured by Denon.  It has a no-contact end sensor auto-lift mechanism, back-lit controls and a rosewood plinth.   As an added bonus, this specific table was fitted with a Signet cartridge which you often see paired with turntables double the value of the 60L.  I thought I had finally found my dream table – until it arrived at my doorstep… broken and non-functional.  It was apparently destroyed in the mail, but despite my paying for insurance on the $600 purchase, the post office chose not to accept responsibility and denied my claim.  I turned to Paypal hoping they would protect my funds, but the terms of my purchase fell though a fine-print loophole and the funds were denied.

Two months later, I am appealing the USPS’s denial.  WISH ME ALL THE LUCK IN THE WORLD.  This was the biggest equipment purchase of my life.

On the positive side there is still the McIntosh amp waiting for me, thanks to the immeasurable generosity of a dear friend.

The new MAC eliminates the problem of the cheap phono stage.  This beast (with a shipping weight of 69 pounds!) was manufactured in the early 90s.  It’s the McIntosh C39 pre-amplifier.  I’m working on picking up a power amp to pair it with.

The heartbreaking thing about the Denon is that I had a conversation with Tom (the record store owner mentioned at the beginning of this post) and it turns out that he’s using the exact same model at home!

This is a man with 30,000 LPs in his personal collection.  If it’s good enough for him, then it’s most certainly good enough for me!  One day, it will be mine.

Wish me luck with the claim.  Still, it was one hell of a birthday.

Vinyl Heaven

Sunday, May 1st was an absolute thrill.  Both Buffalo and Rochester held their annual record shows the same day.  I attended both, (nearly 120 eight foot tables!) and was amazed by what I found.

Standing in line for the Buffalo show to open it’s doors I was complemented by the four men in front of me for my resemblance to Captain Beefheart.  From our chat I learned of Frank Zappa’s Lost Episodes album which contains a number of collaborations with the Captain from as early as 1958.  Later when I researched that album I discovered a similar collection titled An Evening With FZ & CB. That’s what I love about music – there is always more to learn.

The Lost Episodes

An Evening With...

Within the first 10 minutes I found The Flaming Lips’ masterpiece, The Soft Bulletin.  Yoshimi may be their most popular LP but nothing compares to The Soft Bulletin’s masterful compositions, sonic bliss, and brilliant production value.  It was album-of-the-year on nearly every major list in 1999, and was selected by Pitchfork as the third greatest album of the decade.  Several critics have called The Soft Bulletin “the Pet Sounds of the 1990s.”  I’d been tracking copies online all month, so I bought it without a moment’s hesitation.  The disc also comes with a bonus CD featuring “The Captain,” “Satellite Of You,” and “1000 Ft. Hands.”  The same vendor had a red vinyl sealed copy of Yoshimi that I’d also been tracking online, but his price was a bit steep.

The Flaming Lips - The Soft Bulletin

Next I hit up a booth with a ton of original 70s funk LPs.  I purchased a near mint original German pressing of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain.  The album is an absolute classic.  Rolling Stone ranked the disc among the top 500 records of all time and the title track as #60 in the greatest guitar songs of all time.  It has also earned the reputation of the #1 guitar solo in the history of rock.  For those who aren’t familiar with the legendary solo, George Clinton allegedly told Eddie Hazel to play “like his mother just died.”  The result was a ten minute opus, the conclusion of which just might have resurected Hazel’s mother from her funky grave.  Beside the album was an equally rare near mint copy of Funkadelic’s self-titled album, but I didn’t have an extra $40 to spare.

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

The last table I stopped at was better still.  The vendor asked me where I acquired my Beefheart tee.  When I told him that I made it, he replied, “Me too!  Hey – I’ve got that album right here if you want it!”  And he promptly produced a 1970 (second pressing) copy of Safe As Milk!  The first issue of that album, along with the baby Jesus bumper sticker is often considered the holy grail of record collecting.  Tom Kohn, owner of Rochester’s Bop Shop once said that he’ll retire the day he finds that LP.

Captain Beefheart - Safe As Milk
Just as I got ready to leave the table I saw a Jim Henson album which I snatched as quickly as I could.  For $3 I took home the soundtrack to The Dark Crystal, which sells for between $50-$60 online.  After looking up the album I saw photos of a fold-out poster that originally came with the LP.  I hesitated for a moment, reached into the sleeve… and pulled out the mint poster from inside!  Of my twenty five Jim Henson related albums, this might be my new favorite.

Dark Crystal Soundtrack

Dark Crystal Soundtrack Poster
At the Rochester show I met up with two wonderful friends and received hugs and handshakes from several vendors I hadn’t seen in as many as fourteen years, (namely Mark of the Compact Disc Exchange.)  One vendor had a mint original copy of the Meters’ Fiyo on the Bayou, but like the aforementioned Funkadelic LP I didn’t have an extra $40.  I was completely surprised, however to find at the very last minute Soul Coughing’s Irresistible Bliss!  I wish their debut album, Ruby Vroom had been released on vinyl, but alas it was not.  Still Bliss spent years in my CD player so it’ll be great to hear it on my turntable.

Soul Coughing - Irresistible Bliss

I finished the day with a massive garbage plate in the company of good friends and made a few more stops around town before heading home.

All in all probably the best day of crate digging in my entire life, and in the company of people I miss dearly.  Just for fun, below are the other albums I found but didn’t have the $400 extra dollars to pay for…

The Flaming Lips – Oh My Gawd! (2005 clear vinyl reissue) $20
The Flaming Lips – Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots (red) $28
The Meters – Fiyo On The Bayou (mint original pressing) $40
Leon Redbone – Champagne (78RPM 10″ single) $4
Funkadelic – Funkadelic (original German pressing) $40
Funkadelic – America Eats Its Young $20
Funkadelic – Uncle Jam Wants You $10
Fuzzy Haskins – Radio Active $20
Bootsy’s Rubber Band – This Boot Is Made For Fonk-n $5
Tom Waits – Mule Variations $20
Tom Waits – Romeo Is Bleeding – Live From Austin $20
Tom Waits – Swordfishtrombones $20
Tom Waits – Glitter And Doom Live $20
Captain Beefheart – Mirrorman $20
Captain Beefheart – Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) $15
Captain Beefheart – Bluejeans And Moonbeams $15
Captain Beefheart – Unconditionally Guaranteed $20
Captain Beefheart – Spotlight Kid $20
Captain Beefheart – It Comes… In A Plain Brown Wrapper $30
Captain Beefheart – Strictly Personal $20

Along with the two Zappa albums mentioned above, I’ve got a lot of new music to take in before my birthday this June!  Special thanks to all my friends in Rochester who made the day memorable.