Friday, February 24, 2017

Interview with Lloyd Miller

It was over six years ago that I first learned of Lloyd Miller’s work.  I was introduced to him - like many others - by ‘Egon’ Alpatt of Stones Throw Records.  I was puzzled by his opinions on western music’s state of affairs and his hardline stance against all that it represented.  But what of his own music? Surely for one to make such statements they ought to have substantial works of their own to offer in rebuttal.  While I could not afford his records (if I could even find them), I was growing more intrigued with this man’s work.  He seemed to have spent his life as an outsider in terms of art and culture.  Why had he chosen such a path? Does one wantonly fall into it? What precipitated a lifetime studying and embracing cultures so far from his own upbringing and early life? How does a man from Utah (by way of California) end up in Iran?

It was just over one year ago that I found his contact information and went out on a limb. Thinking one of his handlers would respond to my message, after which perhaps I could try to score some old vinyl on the cheap.  I was shocked when I got a response promptly from the Maestro himself.  We began a correspondence that has gone on with some regularity for the past year, the last couple months which were mutually understood to be a casual interview for publication.  What you see below is culled from those many, many emails.  There were endless moments where the Dr. Miller I first learned of from Stones Throw was revealed but I hesitate to share those moments. Out of context, I fear I do not have the powers to assure that it would be taken in the light it was presented to me, no matter how I edit.  So here we have a more straightforward (as much as the two of our wandering thoughts can provide) essay, just a back and forth between a fan and a Doctor.

Always opinionated, articulate and with no shortage of substantial responses to any of my questions or even fleeting comments, Dr. Miller provided me with enough material for two or three interviews, regular entertainment (always intentional) and above all a grounds for thought between two artists, however far detached they may be.

Spirituality is an important part of your life.  Living in Afghanistan and Iran in the 1970s, you were essentially a practicing Muslim, living in countries where Islam is by far the predominant religion.  How - if at all - is that at odds with your Mormon faith, which was part of your life before you departed for the east? How has your spirituality worked as a muse in your music? You reference Horace Silver throughout your book; besides similarities in style, he also held his spirituality as deeply important.  I'm curious about your view of the connection between spirituality and jazz, outside of your own experience.

In my book it appears that I fully accepted Islam - which I did - but that doesn’t mean that I disavowed Mormonism at all. I just put Mormonism in an Islamic picture frame. There are so many similarities.  Both faiths may view the same historical occurrences differently - but that does not mean that those occurrences were not the same.
I went around in Iran, Afghanistan and beyond mostly living according to Islam (and going beyond Islam in other ways by not only shunning alcohol but tobacco, coffee and tea as well). Not only did I shun pork but I refused all meat and most all junk food items. But while I went beyond Islam in certain lifestyle practices, I  fell far below Islamic practice by not being able to keep up with the official 5 prayers a day at exactly the right times and the physically demanding methods of prayer.
To me Islam is the most true and correct large world religion while Mormonism, being very similar, offers more unknown inner-circle mystic information much as Sufism did (as seen in the writings of Rumi (Molavi) Hafez, Sa’di and hundreds of other literary saints of Medieval Persia).  For me authentic and valuable music cannot exist without total spirituality and full dedication to the divine by sharing beauty through sound. My guru Dr. Daryush Safvat said that music does not exist except in the musician and that a musician must polish the mirror of their soul to become a reflector of the divine light before ever attempting to touch an instrument - especially in public.  Master Safvat believed that a true artist should never accept applause, play to the audience or perform for money but should be a receptacle of divine light and transfer that light to others without expecting any secular appreciation. So spirituality is the only reason for playing music even if nearly no one appreciates it.  It shouldn’t really matter, although it can be discouraging that the majority of the world clamors after the worst form of noise and shuns anything with real beauty or of spiritual value (in all fields, not only music).

It could be argued that your devotion to your art allows you to be able to see spirituality from two sides, or perhaps one informs the other, and your insight allows you to create your art.  The larger question looms: what predicated this insight? What drove your interest in the Middle East and Islam?

My interest in the Middle East and Islam started full force when I was about eight, when my parents took me with them to Mecca, California. They stopped at a roadside stand where they were buying dates and I was drawn to wander up the road towards a flat historic stone marker or something set in the ground on the roadside. Immediately I felt that the strange, artistic curved letters were a language I knew but couldn’t remember. I almost could understand that it said something about the city of Mecca and I can see it now, a style of Arabic writing used for Qur'anic quotes and important documents. When my unsympathetic and critical parents saw me staring at the writing they were angry and told me to get in the car. I pointed to the stone and declared “someday I will read and write that language and live with those people”. They became furious and I was fiercely scolded all the drive back to Glendale and for weeks after.
Later I found a book in the public library that was in Ottoman Turkish which used the Arabic alphabet. I would hide under the covers at night and read the pages with a flashlight. One night my dad burst into my room, tore off the covers and grabbed the book ready to tear it up until I screeched “it’s a library book!” I was  jailed in my room for a week where they would push a plate of punishment food through the door on the floor and then quickly lock it with no contact or any words. I liked being punished like that because I didn’t have to put up with their non-stop prodding and pushing to change and their social whirl insanity of constant parties with the dregs of middle class social climbers. Finally, they told me to learn whatever language I was interested in because most kids just wanted to do sports and be delinquents. Meanwhile I was writing myself messages on molding clay in Old Persian cuneiform I found in some book. I kept my cuneiform writings above the salmon in the freezer and hoped they would never find them and reinstate further banishment.
So when in 1958 my parents ended up in Iran, I knew I was home and never wanted to see the US again for any reason. People were so kind, respectful and intelligent, just the opposite of the trash rats in school and all over the Los Angeles area; and Californians were way nicer than the brute thugs in Chicago or the heartless, inhuman nasty New Yorkers. So I adopted Iranian culture long before I finally found Mormonism as a path away from secular materialism and towards spirituality. I guess my acceptance of Islamic beliefs and philosophy paved the way for me to accept a fundamental old time religion with prophets, revelation and their own holy scriptures. Then after attending BYU, learning from Dr. Nibley and more deeply studying Islam and Sufi philosophy, I felt that Islam was the same religion as Mormonism with a different approach. Religious sermons at the semi-annual LDS conferences were often the exact same messages as the talks on the radio in Iran during the holy month of Muharram although in a different language. So music didn’t have much to do with my quest for spiritual enlightenment except for maybe the ‘soul factor’, but it was a means to share that light once I realized that spirituality had to be the main part of any music I was to perform.  Otherwise I should not play music at all.
When you met Preston Kies, you pitched the idea of a collaboration based on the success of having a jazz trio play side by side (not combining) with your own eastern instrumentation, as you did with Jef Gilson's group.  Why do you think that in the 60s Jef Gilson would have been open to such a thing? What informed his interest in eastern music and culture?  What was it in him that fostered his interest in working with a musician such as yourself?

As for Preston Kies, the only reason we ‘collaborated’ was to avoid a hardcore confrontation between two pianists which would have been detrimental to both of us. I saw the pending problem of both of us entering the Intercollegiate Jazz Festival with our piano trios, so I went to his rehearsal and pitched the concept of  joining forces and of course we won. I did this various times in my life, working in consort with potential or perceived opponents to engender the greater good. So Pres Kies played his Bill Evans style modal cool jazz which was a perfect platform for Eastern music.  I paid little attention to the jazz trio and just performed the exact notes of a Persian mode (dastgah) unrelated to what the jazz trio was doing. It was merely a tasteful placing of two traditions side by side in a manner that did not affect either. There are many ways in which traditional authentic far or Middle Eastern or Central Asian music and instruments can share the sound space with cool modal chordless jazz in pieces with no chord changes only changes in spiritual moods. Jumping from chord to chord is a disease of the Western world caused by insecurity causing a race to grovel to the top of the miserable, materialistic rat pile.
So the multitrack recordings which Jef Gilson merely helped me to achieve technically, those were attempts to mutually display jazz and Eastern music, similar to arrangements I wrote for quintet in Tehran in 1958 which Don Ellis and Eddie Harris later performed.  And the things I did with Jef on the 10” and in many concerts around France were just my continuation of that same effort. Jef was on another kick from my Oriental Jazz quest, although Jef’s jazz concepts occasionally paralleled some of my ideas. He needed a wild and unusual soloist to play strange instruments which helped gain attention for his jazz innovations.  I never really was able to play any of my jazz with Jef, just a few solos on unusual instruments.  We were friends, he gave me a chance to play for big audiences, I helped bring curious audiences to his concerts and we liked some of the same types of jazz. But he was more avant garde than I was, I still am very old fashioned and traditional.
Remember that Abdul Malik and others had been working a bit with Middle Eastern or Far Eastern concepts in the late 50s and early 60s, so the Oriental Jazz idea was very timely. I used to listen to Abdul Malik’s band with ud and qanun almost every night in 1961 at the Cameleon jazz club across from the Hotel Saint Andre where I was living in Paris, so east-west jazz was already simmering. But I had a lot of training in various Eastern instruments and theory so I was the logical person to push the concept to the max. Unfortunately jazz of all types, oriental included, was soon to be purposely wiped from the face of the earth by the four apostles of the devil who replaced any sense of intelligent melody, chord change and rhythm with infantile stupid noise straight out of hell. That disgusting dimwittery has since dictatorially dominated music globally thus setting in motion a horrid plot to destroy the national ethnic musical traditions of all countries and peoples to be replaced by the most ugly stupidity ever devised by man under the careful tutelage of Lucifer himself.


You mention that you feel your parents did not approve of your interest in Arabic script because it did not fit in with their own lifestyle, that they would have preferred a different kind of child who did not have such varied interests.  How much of your pursuit of your art around the world was born of that disapproval? As the years wore on and you found yourself in different places, and often living in less than ideal circumstances you were obviously very driven to pursue something that you were drawn to. Can you now with the benefit of time credit your parents for disapproving of your choices and interests? Did that help repel you from their world, their lifestyle, and further force you into your own?

My parents were secular, materialist and socially groveling people who had very little real care about me and my sister, sending us off to boarding schools and camps. So I realized at a very early age that everything they said or wanted from me was the exact opposite of what I should do. Whatever they tried to make me do or not do, I made sure to do the opposite of whatever they said. I am thankful for them for that because they demonstrated how horrible secular, materialist social climbing is and what a horrible place the US is because of that. But my drive to Middle Eastern languages and culture was embedded in me at birth with or without my so-called parents approval or disapproval. Did my parents help repel me from their world, their lifestyle, and further force me to find the truth? For that I have to thank them although I don’t long to ever see them again.
Western music is based on ego, greed, pomp, self-glorification of European royalty and secular materialism of the Church of Rome with their gory crusades. The insecurity of Americans is due to their relying on materialism rather than spirituality and God and pushes us toward a capitalistic society which then pursues material happiness and not a spiritual calm. This results in psychotic complexes and all the sins and crimes we have adopted.
Do you disagree that jazz is a western style of music? It is without question an American creation.  I understand that your disdain for Western culture largely references pop and rock music. But that same Western culture (albeit decades before) also birthed other genres which I know you do respect.

Jazz was basically totally a West African based version of the Perso-Arab music system that originated in ancient Persia. Blues, although more African than anything else, is based on the Persian Segah modal scale with two semi-flats.
I never disputed what the blues may have been derived from, I don't think that dissociates it from the Westerners you detest so much.  My point is that you condemn all western culture and I don't think you fairly apply your discrimination as I know you would not lump traditional American blues music in with American pop music.

There has been a very ugly effort by the world masters to replace all ethnic, traditional and valuable inherited culture in every square foot of our globe with the horrid inhuman non-art, non-music, non-dance, non-food, non-clothing, non-religion, nonsensical and non-everything puppet zombie nightmarishness sewage puddle that THEY have bundled in a hellish mechanical/electronic concoction. I know it sounds negative, but compared to the wonderful 1940s and 50s with the traditional jazz revival and George Lewis playing his happy spiritual music and great East Coast and West Coast intellectual jazz, today’s music and everything else seems like a hell beyond hell to me. I was there for the excitement of the 40s and 50s and I am sure that aspects of the 1800s or 1700s were also more respectable than today.  Sure, a couple of things in this decade are better, finally smoking has been nationally condemned and hopefully finally booze will follow a similar fate.
Speaking of materialism and western culture, you are already aware of the prices your records fetch.  I know you produced them without profits in mind, what do you have to say about the irony of your original intent and its current state of affairs?

As for materialism, the thousands of dollars that sneaky ‘collectors’ and slick shysters have gleaned on my LPs on the internet is horrible. The only reason I jumped in after that whole scam was being perpetrated worldwide was to try to stop it by devaluing my old LPs. As revenge for all those creeps making a killing on MY LPs, I have mostly been giving them away for free. How does that happen? Well I just sell from 15 to 20 CDs and DVDs of my best recordings from over the decades for a reasonable price per CD and include the Oriental Jazz LP for free in the package. They are only buying the CDs and DVDs NOT the LP. I hope by this manner to devalue the LP to $0, that way no thieving pirates can make money on my hard work by reselling my LPs at a profit. I think that recently the Oriental Jazz LP has not been selling for the $500 each it used to fetch for some slimy sneaky shark somewhere. I am also offering most of the best music on that LP on a flash drive which is given away for only $20 or whatever.  Of the half dozen that have been set out, some were never paid for. I am working on getting a version of my ‘Music and Song in Persia’ book digitized to include in my flash drive, which is merely a way to get the stuff out there and could never make any money. I live on a stupid $400 a month retirement since I didn’t work much in the US, mostly volunteer or semi-volunteer projects. I have been trying to help initiate the future policy of the coming Millennium where there will be no money, wages and cheating, just helpfulness and caring.

What do you say to the musicians and artists of today? If you don't approve of any music of the past 50 years or more, what sense do you see in them continuing their struggles? What advice would you offer, educated from your own decades of struggle as a musician? Can the global non-music movement be undone or is it too late?

Actually with all my griping and grumbling, what has happened in the world and the music scene is actually all for the best. God has a plan and is the master planner, and is calmly and lovingly in charge of everything. Our perceived opponent and detractor Mr. Satan is actually a great teacher in the long run. Who else could spend every moment showing us how ugly and bad most stuff can be? It would be out of character for God or Jesus or anyone on that side to put on skits and through bad examples demonstrate how bad badness is? So the whole theater piece of life and this world is for our benefit even if it is mostly for our misery. We learn the difference between beautiful and ugly which is the best thing we can learn for our eternal progress.
So today’s musicians often are or can be the celestial light of the future by just realizing that what is placed before us, actually forced on us, is not that cool.  And there is something out there which has real value. Probably something back there in history or ‘over there’ geographically, from the traditional East to Japan to Eastern Europe. So let’s learn from the thumping inhuman techno noise of today and be inspired to seek beyond the material world. So it’s all good, in a crazy way. Now that we have heard the most inhuman music and seen the most inhuman way of life pushed on us in the last decades, we might be willing and ready to seek something better.

When it is all said and done and the whole thing is history, the most important thing that we might conclude is the importance of total love, understanding and caring for every person or spirit who partakes in the whole drama whether wonderful, unnoticed, unimportant or horrible. Because God stated in scripture “I create good and I create evil” so both must be for our benefit and our spiritual development. I gripe, maybe more than most and more than necessary, about all the bad stuff in life and in the world, but a true saintly Sufi should just be thankful for everything.  As the Buddhists would suggest, try to welcome good and evil with equal joy. I have to keep working on that one and may never really get it right. Rumi and other Persian poets discussed it but one wonders if even they could fully live by their own words every single moment.


One thing I would like to ask about now is your 'Jazz at the Anjoman' album.  You recorded this soon after returning to Iran in the early 70s due to your involvement at the Iran-American Society.  This is easily your least known work.  First of all, it must have been very interesting to find such an array of capable musicians in that organization but I'm a bit surprised you did not take advantage to feature some eastern instruments on the recording.  What can you tell me about your association with the IAS at that time and the jazz recording you did with your group of diplomats?

As for ‘Jazz at the Anjoman’, that was one of my least known and the least skilled efforts because of the dearth of jazz performance virtuosity in Tehran. I suggested it to the director of the Iran-American Society as a nice souvenir of the weekly jam sessions I had been directing during those years in Iran. So we did it but it doesn’t represent my concept of great performing, just a few informal jazz sessions.
So it would have been really a strange stretch to expect a bunch of amateur yet enthusiastic almost garage band level jazz enthusiasts who just liked to hang out and jam a little jazz for fun to try something as crazy as Oriental jazz.  They hadn’t really mastered cool jazz or their instruments to the extent of the Don Ellis musicians or Pres Keys and the top BYU or U of U jazzmen. Even for those cats it was a very strange experience to try to feel comfortable with the juxtaposing two somewhat different concepts without having completely absorbed both traditions. Oriental jazz cannot be really correctly achieved by musicians who are not near virtuoso and fully comfortable in both traditions. I had to really work to get a couple of the Armenian jazzmen on my National Iranian TV series to accept trying to back up one Dr. Safvat’s master santur students.
Too bad you couldn't have had the others learn some simple Persian melodies to back Parisa who you were also working with at that time via the IAS.  You have never hesitated to affirm her excellent skills as a vocalist, her traditional interpretation of Persian and Iranian music or her physical beauty.  

So Parisa was in a realm way beyond any of us; I wouldn’t have dared be on the same stage with her other than to meekly announce her concert at the IAS and scamper away. Not that she was superhuman or vastly superior other than vocally, but that she was sort of in a Sufi cloud, something like Safvat was and I sometimes appear to be. I remember once Safvat walked into a wall when leaving the stage after a concert.  I kidded him that he hadn’t yet learned the walking through walls skill as part of his spiritual path.  Parisa was only permitted by her vocal master Karimi to do a concert at IAS after much wheeling and dealing that even Trump would have thrown up his hands in discouragement trying to arrange. Karimi was preparing her to be the next top vocalist for the whole country (which I felt she already had become but yet lacking a few final touches in technique and repertoire). Karimi was really upset that I had dared to use the political clout of the US Embassy, worming my way through the Iranian Ministry of Culture with the correct written invitations, etc. just to even engender the idea that Parisa have her artistic debut at the American cultural center, rather than in some Iranian venue which would have caused all kinds of intrigues and potential efforts of sabotage between the Ministry of Culture, the National Television and other elements of the music milieu.
Later my effort to fully rescue her as a semi-pop music slave at the Ministry of Culture had to be supplemented by my landmark meeting with the Rudaki Hall director.  He asked me to stop my incessant negative critique of all the Ministry of Culture’s bad concerts of fake traditional music in the media. When I offered to curtail my poison pen somewhat if they let Parisa go work for their bitter competitor (Safvat’s Center for Preservation and Propagation of Iranian Music), Parisa was home free. Then after some time perfecting Safvat’s music ensemble and Parisa’s collaboration with them, I found a way to get CBS Iran to release three landmark cassettes of Parisa which became national hits against the popular trend of silly pop music that had taken over the whole music industry in Iran.

More recently when I met with Parisa at two of her big US concerts, I was lucky to be able to momentarily bow and mumble humble praise as a crazed fan. But I was never positioned to ever be on a stage with Parisa. It would be like pianist Bill Evans or even someone less virtuoso than him backing up opera star Joan Sutherland - different genres and too strange to contrive. Maybe in America something like that could be possible and maybe cool, but in Iran there was a caste system in the music world and I was never fully accepted to perform with the main masters of the country.  
So believe it or not, I have over the years requested Parisa for a concert at the 2,000 seat plush Kingsbury Hall here at the University of Utah, but she apparently just shuns me as if I was non-existent and mostly does performances on the East Coast or in California. So go figure; what did I do wrong in my years of working to help Parisa get the appreciation she deserves?  

Master Karimi knew that I wanted to be part of the Iranian music scene as more than just a promoter and supporter, so one evening after class when I asked him if I dared invite Parisa to the Inter-Continental Hotel to jam a bit on the Isfahan mode. Karimi advised taking Parisa’s best friend Hurshid, a Rashti also from the Caspian area.  So with Karimi’s permission off we went, not a date or anything super taboo like that, just a harmless ride with a mostly spiritual Sufi aspirant.
During a break, band leader Roger Hererra invited me to jam out on piano with Hurshid who I introduced as a Persian singer. We did a couple of sections in Isfahan as best we could and the audience appreciated the placid beauty even if it was piano not santur. But even then trying to get her to just sing the things she had been working on with a jazz combo back-up would have terrified her into a coma. Usually I am the only one insane enough to just do it because to me both traditions are almost the same in different ways. That was the only jazzman backing up a Persian vocalist effort I was able to conjure up during my 7 years in Iran or after.

Even now for several thousand dollars I bet Parisa in her old age and less perfect voice would never sing a note with me on any instrument. It is a class factor. Surprisingly both Dr. Safvat and vocal master Karimi actually commanded me to dance with Parisa at Karimi’s wedding party which was like dancing with Audrey Hepburn for an accused CIA wannabe ‘scholar’ foreign clown studying in Tehran.

The cover of 'Near and Far East' with you standing in front of the glass cases full of rebabs, sitars, etc... is such a great photo.  The darkened room, the fact that you are wearing a suit and the way you are glancing at the is a black and white photo which works so well because so much of the photo is naturally monochrome, like the looming staircase in the back.  It looks like some kind of secret agent or eccentric millionaire who has a mansion full of rare instruments (I presume this was actually taken at BYU or U of U).

That photo of my instrument collection at BYU was taken in the 60s. After that, there was a period when some total jerk took over the musicology program and had all my instruments removed and thrown in some empty room where they were ready to be burned as trash.  Two professor friends of mine tried to rescue them. The jerk professor was soon fired or left because everyone hated him and luckily that happened before the actual bonfire. The instruments were finally put back in the display but then eventually they were removed and buried in storage in the library where only a few can be seen by staff members.


Can you take me through some of your everyday activities presently? What do you occupy yourself with daily, specifically in terms of your involvement with music and the arts? What can the world expect from you in the coming weeks/months?

I often never eat anything until late afternoon and sometimes not until dark. As a strict mostly vegan, I am not usually hungry which is a problem people face when they eat junk food that screams out for repeat abuse. If I am involved with editing an intense music, video or publication project, I may  forget to eat all day until bedtime. So meals are just mostly fresh fruit or vegetables, fruit before noon and vegetables the rest of the day, usually grazing or a couple of official light meals.
My daily activities are mostly involved with music. I have almost completed most of the projects I wanted to do during my life with just a couple of more to go. So I spend much of my time editing YouTube videos, setting up CDs and DVDs and occasionally practicing a couple of the several instruments I play when I have an upcoming concert. I am preparing for two lectures on Persian poetry and culture coming up soon. In November we are putting on a gamelan concert at a major venue at the University and we have some school assembly concerts of Eastern music. So there is always something to do, whether it ever reaches many people or not, or whether there is any interest in our efforts or not. This weekend my jazz trio is playing for a dinner at a classy venue at the U and we have music visits to senior centers coming up. So I don’t have any huge plans for the future, I just take the events as they come or work on other things when the performance opportunities slow down.

I recently completed ‘Bright Blue Beads’, a book your mother wrote in the early 60s after your family returned from your first trip to Iran.  In one of the final chapters of the book, your mother begs a local friend to take her to Fatima's Shrine in Qum.  With much difficulty and stress to all parties involved (including the reader), she does complete her visit.  

My question is: have you ever considered the allegory of that journey, in reference to your own throughout the middle east? That of an American, intrigued with a culture they can never truly be embraced by, but one at which the foreigner feels so comfortable and at home in.  Of course you had different reasons for visiting (and ultimately living in) the area than your mother.  But perhaps in your own way, you too were 'sneaking around in Fatima's tomb' in the years you spent living, performing and interacting in Iran?

My mom was trying to represent what she partially understood of Iran in a positive and sort of correct light (more than other travelogues by less fair authors). She did the best she could and in a way which was fair enough for the Shah to give her a medal of honor in the arts for her effort.
As for me, I never snuck into the sacred shrines in Mashhad or Qom but went there as an fully absorbed Iranian and also as a fully confident Mormon who had been given a special blessing by the second most important leader in the Church, a blessing that promised me success in all my activities and friendship from everyone. I felt that I would be welcome at any religious shrine which was built to honor the one true God, wherever it was. That is why when I went to Mashhad and even told the mullahs about Mormonism, instead of stoning me they invited me to stay for dinner and to discuss religion in more detail. Since I emphasized the many similarities of my native beliefs with Islam, they were excited to see the truth reiterated way over here in the deserts of Utah.
When vocal master Karimi drove me to Shabdelazim by Qom where the faithful did nazr (personal prayer) by grasping the silver grate around the shrine and quietly expressing their desires, I just did what all other Iranians we doing with the same, maybe even greater, belief that my wish for the benefit of another would become reality. Prayer or nasr plus lots of positive efforts can result in success, at least it did for me there in Iran. Although after returning to America, I find that neither prayer or 24/7 struggle or anything else can do a thing for my so-called ‘career’ in music. I sometimes feel that even God could not, or more likely would not, ever help or allow me to succeed in music. But since it’s His world, he knows best and we should be thankful for whatever we experience as a blessing and a lesson, whatever it is.  Since I never sought fame or fortune I definitely never got that outside of Iran and probably never will.

I went to Iran as an Iranian returning to my homeland where I was accepted and welcomed after years of torment and being trashed in the good old USA.  I guess I did follow in my mom’s footsteps in a weird way, but not on purpose or even knowingly. And definitely without the Yankee superiority complex that most Yanks have inherited but soon will lose when the US comes crashing to the dirt financially and in every other way. It is only a repeat of history: Greece, Rome, etc., they all collapsed and should have. We have really stretched our luck here in the US, we should have crumbled a decade or two ago and probably did but we haven’t realized it yet. When one day out of the blue we are told that the dollar is worthless, then the fun will begin. Rome would not even have imagined how bad a fall could be when it happens here. So everyone fasten your seatbelt and get ready to be real hungry, unhappy and bored unless you care about something other than secular materialism and silly little electronic gizmos.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Merle's Record Rack [Orange CT] - RECORD #700!

I spent the first part of my afternoon in New Haven looking for records in all the wrong places.  Unlike my normal modus operandi, I visited the St. Raphael’s thrift store without calling first and struck out – no records. (They said that they did have some recently, but that ‘someone bought them’).  So I took a look at the map and determined I’d have to take a cab out to Orange CT so I could do some shopping and perusing at a legit record store as there were zero thrift store options in the area.

I got to Merle’s a short time later and got down to work.  I slowly started to realize that the place was a bit cluttered and disorganized and the longer I stayed the worse I realized the situation was.  I got my usual anxiety attack from being outside of my normal, comforting thrift store environment….I headed over to jazz and found something I wanted for awhile almost instantly.  Keeping in step with the mess that this place was, it was categorized under ‘B’, presumably for the featured artist (should have been under ‘W’). 

So I wandered around with that for a while and tried to find the Tom Jones, in search of the handful of mono releases I still need.  I couldn’t find anything, which is ridiculous for any place that has records.  So I did as the clerk (owner?) for help and he brought me a stack, which was unfortunately largely post-Parrot and held nothing I needed.  I asked for polka and he replied with ‘you mean like Happy Louie and Jimmy Sturr?’ and I got really excited! He led me from place to place around the room, always a random box and not part of any legitimate rack, none of which held any polka from any artist, much less then two he named.  I ended up looking through the 7” stuff and passed on a picture sleeve that wasn’t even in a box, it was laying there, just for me…I let it go.  Major remorse on this one.

I noticed earlier that my record did not have a price on it.  Wasn’t sure how the clerk would want to play that but figured he would be fair.  I was wrong – he charged me $12 for it! It had no inner sleeve and he did go out of his way to mention that he would grab me one.  He did, but it’s for a Chrysalis album.  I’ll have to check my Huey Lewis albums and see if I can sub one there (it’s in mint condition). [note: none of the four HL&N albums I had needed a sleeve – they all already had company sleeves! Two had the horrible plastic Chrysalis sleeves.  So I checked my two Robin Trower albums (the only other Chrysalis albums I think I have, without checking.  One of them needed it].

$12 was not fair market price by any mean, though the vinyl looks really clean, the jacket is a little beat.  The lower corner has a weird imprint in it, like perhaps some kind of promo stamp, without actually cutting the jacket.  Never seen that before.  Looks like there is also an alternate cover/title for this one, perhaps clever Creed had thoughts of both exploiting the infamous movie AND distancing himself from it at the same time…pretty slick! This gives me 5 records between 1963-1965 for Kai on Verve, still have a couple more I’d grab if I come across them.  Funny that this all started with ‘Rainy Day’.  These are the last Verve albums he did (I count 11) before he made the move to CTI, still need one of the alternate cover template 3000 series, I’ll get it one day.  Unfortunately, I beat it up a little bit by cramming it in my bag for the couple days until I got home.  The corners of the jacket got a bit warped, I need to start bringing a cardboard mailer with me on my trips, not to mail with, but just to use as a ‘brace’ for the vinyl so it doesn’t get so beat.  The seams are so old on here that they started to crack under the pressure (or maybe they already were).  Tonight it will finally get home, get it’s inner sleeve swapped and put in plastic and onto the shelf.  Whew!

This is also record #700 which is worthy of some kind of celebration. #600 wasn't long ago.  I wasn't offered a receipt and I forgot to ask for one and I'm pretty mad about that.  When you achieve these milestones so slowly it kind of diminishes their value.  I don’t collect for pure quantity anyway, I don’t suppose anyone does (at least not openly) and I know I’ve culled quite a few in the past year or two as well which brought the numbers down a bit.  Still, New Haven (or Orange, sorry) was a really cool place to get #700, even in this messy old place.

Nothing like eating some leftover world class pizza and staring at your new vinyl as you crank a few beers in your hotel room.

State #26 - FATALIZED!!!

Savers [Providence RI]

Knocking Rhode Island off my list feels like a legitimate accomplishment.  Perhaps it is irrational, while strangely logical in my warped brain, that the smallest state would be the last state I would visit.  I got into town in the afternoon with plans to leave the next day via train for New Haven.  I only had a couple hours to get out there and find something before it was time for dinner and then bed time.  Of course, I had done my homework well ahead of time and knew I had a Savers within walking distance.

The east coast had gotten hammered with a blizzard the weekend before.  It had warmed a bit so the roads were clear but I found my path totally obstructed with heaps of snow on the last stretch of Branch Ave as it crosses route 95.  So I alternated between running in the road (which is basically a highway at that point) and tromping through the snow, which was not quite hard enough to support me most of the time so I’d fall through.

I finally arrived and darted inside and found the records immediately.  I grabbed a couple platters for my knees as the ground was wet and I only had one pair of pants for my 4 day trip.  I found absolutely nothing of value and got the hell out of there.  Onward and upward, to raw clams and local beer.

State #25 - COMPLETED! 

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Goodwill [Dayton OH]

Winding up a very long 10 days on the road that took me through West Virginia and Virginia, my colleague and I had the very long drive from Greensboro North Carolina all the way back to Chicago.  We opted to stop in Dayton Ohio for the night and take that evening to reflect on the time we spent out here; what we had done and what we learned.  And eating pizza.  And drinking beer.  And looking for records at the Goodwill literally across the street from the hotel.

They had a monster amount of records, not the usual Goodwill 2-tier bin.  So of course, I got down on my knees and looked through every single one.  I had a mate with me, a local townie no doubt.  He seemed to be mostly looking at DVDs and VHS tapes but he did sneak a peek at some LPs in between the phrases he mumbled quietly to himself.

I ended up finding an oh-so-fitting polka record brewed locally, just west in Pennsylvania but originally in Younstown.  I have been researching WAM Records for a while now and trying to find the tie that binds to Cleveland's WRS.

Some damn fool went to work with a key on a Verve classic.  I just knew before I pulled the record out of the jacket it was too good to be true.  But I never would have visualized this mess.

The end of a trip, the longest I've ever spent away from my place of origin.  I was lucky to find a handful of new vinyls but more exciting were the people and places.  Just like my friend above with his armload of scores.  I hope his visit was as fruitful as mine.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Goodwill [Wytheville VA]

Headed southbound out of Charleston, route 64 gives way to 77 which in turn leads to you to route 74.  For just about 100 miles, you cruise through the tip of Virginia.  And on this very route is the very pleasant town of Wytheville, one of two towns on the way I identified as having a Goodwill, and thus an opportunity to look at records and check state #24 off my list.

I found the records hiding at the bottom of some magazine racks.  I first came across a BEAUTIFUL copy of an early 60s classic - which I already own (in mono).  It was tough to leave it behind, but I did.  More inticing - and one which I could not resist - was an even earlier 60s jazz comp, of which I seem to have purchased a unique version (different center labels) so I added it to the database just for the occasion.  That is, after I purchased it for a whopping 50 cents.  It has a really cool booklet as part of the inner sleeve (though the spine of mine has seperated) with some great photos and info.  Just your standard jazz classics here though it has introduced me to a couple new (to me) artists that I will have an eye out for now.

And you better believe it kids - that is NUMBER TWENTY FOUR! And it is safe to announce at this juncture that in 4 days I will be on a quick vacation with my dad to Connecticut and Rhode Island.  I already have a couple spots checked off in those places which leaves very little up NE.  After that I've got the 5 states between Texas and Alabama and I'll effectively have half of the nation covered, physically.  The rest of the states out west will be tougher, but I'll find a way.