Around The World Via Record Shop: New Hampshire to Virginia

On August 9, 2016

Evan Fleischer is a writer for a variety of publications, including New Yorker, Esquire, and others. His travels writing for these outlets often take him around the world, so we’re having him file dispatches from the record stores he goes to along the way. This edition covers his trips to New Hampshire and Virginia. 

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It was an evening of American Summer Vinyl after an afternoon at Bull Moose in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The flutter of white placards stood out into the aisle, baseball cards conquering the bicycle wheel. The label “Halloween Collections” stood alongside “Grammy’s.” Geometric shapes filled the spaces between the antlers on an album for the band Pyramids. I thought back to the rally I’d just come from. Someone droned on at the counter about Nintendo DS. I made my way to the shelves.

Sebastian Cabot’s spoken-word rendition of Bob Dylan was met with incredulity. The multicolored Felix clock cats that adorned the cover of Tacocat’s “Lost Time” was met with delight. John Angaiak’s radical missive to the world was filed away for future reference.

And, in a broader sense, amongst all this, I was ‘home.’ And though I could have gone to Liverpool Street Station to go visit the old airbase my grandfather flew missions from and tried to find a local music shop (Google suggested there was none) to compare and contrast the music of today with the Vera Wang-esque, sail-away music of then soaring over Murrow’s radio reports and the musical he put on with other prisoners in a POW camp as a bit of a PR stunt the Germans wanted to pull, I didn’t. The notion was shelved.

Clyde “Kingfish” Smith, a street vendor, improvised a song on vinyl as the air conditioning buzzed its basso profundo in the background and the blinds stood drawn. A hoo-lawd made a sharp turn around the corner of a chord. A banjo on side B seemed to enter a stormy, metallic tunnel. Beyond the blinds, I imagined the heat acting out its idea of a wasteland.

The highway wind elevated car conversation to a shout. The sun blazed down. And, here, I read the liner notes on the back of the vinyl in my hand, Lost Train Blues. “Strange things are happening in this land,” Buster Ezell would later sing. YouTube, mentioned the notes. “Sloppy, sublime, democratizing glory.” Wind, roared the windows. And, later, I would open up my backpack and read a Navajo poem from a freshly purchased copy of In The Trail Of The Wind, which said -- 

It was the wind that gave them life. It is the wind that comes out of our mouths now that gives us life … In the skin at the tips of our fingers we see the trail of the wind; it shows us where the wind blew when our ancestors were created.

So, with the wind, we passed through the Zakim Bridge with “Chimes of Freedom flashing.” Back again: Peggy-O. Early morning Beethoven’s 8th over early highway light. I started to imagine True Detective Season 95 when I look out over the chest-high green cattails by the Hackensack River. New Jersey gave way to Delaware gave way to Maryland. With C-SPAN radio on, Virginia itself and subsequent Virginian sunsets arrived.

Love and Mercy, one tie-dye Brian Wilson LP declared in Steady Sounds in Richmond in ‘Why are you even outside?’ heat. “Get back here,” a voice shouted on the way there to who knows whom, “and tell me what you’re wearing!

Inside was a collection of vinyl with lightly colored used clothing arcing alongside the bins.  Should I get King Tubby vs. Channel? And what gave the album its ‘versus,’ anyway, if Tubby was doing dub and Channel One was a studio for reggae musicians?

The Music From Marlboro Country surprised, as did the continuous photos of cowboys lightning a cigarette in one posture or another on the cover. I looked at the back and wonder if this is the kind of song lingering on the track.

4 Freshman and 5 Trumpets, read the title of another vinyl. “Where does the fifth one go?” F. joked.

The heat crackled on. It’s a wonder Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and others simply didn’t just melt all that time ago.

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