I was recently remind of one of the great pleasures of my bygone days: sitting around with friends and listening to records. When I showed up at the campus radio station way back in the late nineteen-eighties, CDs were fast emerging as the preferred format, in part because of cleaner sound quality but also because the execs in the music business figured out that could sell them at a far greater profit than records, perpetrating yet fleecing of their devoted consumers that stands as the defining quality of the industry as a whole. For most of staffing the radio station at the time, we still preferred the big black discs that needed a turntable to play. I know there’s nothing inherently better about a night of listening to music that involves records instead of CDs, but I definitely romanticize sitting around in a room, pulling vinyl out of paper and cardboard sleeves, and struggling to drop the needle on the exact right spot when the song you really wanted to share was the fourth track on side one.
I came back early from my first college winter break to pitch in at the radio station. Since the dorms wouldn’t open back up for me, even though I was helping out with an official college entity, I wound up shuttling around to crash at the off-campus places of fellow students who could spare a couch or bed for a day or two. That included a few nights staying at the typically ramshackle rental house where the station’s Program Director stayed. As might be imagined, he had a handsome record collection, and I remember one night in particular when we sat around while he pulled out a bunch of the rarest albums he owned. (There was likely Point Beer involved, but we won’t get into that now.) One of those releases that made it to the record player that night was the sole release from an L.A. band called Rainy Day.
As I recall the story, my friend bought the self-titled release note unheard when he stumbled upon it in a record store and was struck enough by the childlike cover art that he flipped it over and was amazed by the personnel he saw credited with playing on the record, among them Steve Wynn of the Dream Syndicate and Susanna Hoffs of the Bangles. He’d never heard of the album when I bought it, I’d never heard of it when he pulled it off the shelf, and I’d wager most folks, even highly devoted music fans, still haven’t heard of it by now. This one of those exceedingly obscure releases, one that has been out of print almost from the day it was first issued. I swear there was a CD release at some point, but I can’t even verify that. It’s one of the few albums of any small level of notoriety that causes even allmusic, one of the more comprehensive sites out there, to just throw up their hands and shrug. I’m not sure how much of the album we listened to that night, but I remember sitting and hearing — really hearing — “Sloop John B,” the band’s sweetly jaunty and tenderly psychedelia-tinged version of the Beach Boys’ song (itself, of course, a mild reworking of an old folk standard). Maybe more than any other song I know, I associate it with nights like the one described above: hanging out with friends, discovering music, and bring driven by that true fan’s instinct to share that which is loved, to find that moment when “You’ve got to hear this!” is the most vital statement that can made or heard.
Listen or download –> Rainy Day, “Sloop John B”
(Disclaimer: As I noted, I believe this album to be out of print in a way that practically defines the word “unavailable.” Thus, I also believe that sharing this track here causes no undue fiscal harm to the performers, the label, or anyone really. It’s fair use, friends. It’s a real thing. Regardless, I will gladly remove this track from my little corner of the digital landscape if asked to do so by any individual or entity with due authority to make such a request.)