Saturday, September 7, 2019

Savers [Las Vegas NV]

I was perfectly happy to check Nevada off my list with my visit to Record City.  But that night I wanted to have a few drinks and selected the Huntridge Tavern at my watering hole.  After a couple fairly wild bus rides I found my way and what do you know - there was a Savers in the same strip mall! It was a half hour before close so I'd be remiss not to stop inside and see what they had to offer.

They didn't have much in the way of LPs but they had a ton of 7", tons of picture sleeves.  Too many to go through so I just took a glance.

Two 80s classics here - of quite different genres.

File these under 'actors pretending to be singers'.

The one on the right (Bob Welch) I considered buying because I've always loved the song, but I didn't want to sit with it at the bar (which was dumb).  The second one I thought was interesting as it is clearly foreign - the kicker is that someone recently paid $80 for this!  Just the fact that this has been sold 8 times says a lot.  Looks like Anna-Frid Lyngstad is one of the four members of ABBA and everyone knows they have a devoted following.

So the next night - my last night in town - I rushed back again to grab it.  I already knew at that point I'd grab some others as well.

I could see immediately that someone had been meddling in the past 24 hours! My heart raced because I could not find this damn 7"! So I took a deep breath and figured I'd just go through every single in the bins because who knows what else I might find.  There must have been at least 150 of them, it was interesting because I even found a few doubles (or triples!).  So it must have been someone's collection.  It took a while but I did the deed and did eventually find what I was looking for - and then some!

Believe it or not I actually had even a few more than this but I did a catch and release on a handful.  Here is the breakdown:

Deniece Williams - Let's Hear It For The Boy

Couldn't pass on the picture sleeve.  I am a fan of Niecy, grabbed an LP a couple years ago in Grand Rapids.

Classic track.  I put a quick video on Vimeo a few years ago in tribute.

One of my favorite songs ever.  RIP Bob.  This will go well with the Mexican import I snagged in Kentucky a ways back.

I have the original (or at least earlier) issue of this single which I found in a Goodwill in Orlando, and the LP which I got in Canada.

Funny because I only know this song from Kai's cover on the same Canadian LP I just referenced.  I knew this was the original and it was too odd to find both of these singles together not to grab them both.

Came across a bunch of Stevie singles and kept hoping I'd find this one.  Then the song came on the radio in Savers.  A little while later, I found this.  Sounds unbelievable, but it is true, I promise.

Grabbed this strictly for the instrumental B-side.  What purpose was that supposed to serve?

What a classic track.  Reminds me of childhood.  Wish I found the picture sleeve, but alas I did not.

Novelty, couldn't resist the picture sleeve.

What a classic, looks like this is the original issue from 1959.

See my comments regarding the Don Johnson single above.  Fun fact: when this came out in grade school the video was on all the time.  Also my dad was a big fan of Moonlighting.  I always thought Bruce Willis smirk was cool (still do) and I used to try and imitate it when I was a kid.

Pretty played out song, but again, could not leave the picture sleeve behind.

Same motivation as the John Waite single.

What an atrocious piece of garbage.  Can't believe it is the promo.  The cover makes me want to vomit.  What does a dirty shirt and little sunglasses have to do with hip hop?

And of course Lars Berghagen & Anni-Frid Lyngstad - En Kväll Om Sommarn / Vi Vet Allt, Men Nästan Inget .  I just listed this for $40 OBO  I was able to peel the Savers sticker off no problem which I was worried about.  There is another sticker, so old and dry its ready to fall off.  It says 'Hirsch's Skivor' which means 'Hirsch's Records' and is/was a record store in Denmark.  This didn't come out until 1971 but the store had been around a while, here is a photo I found from the 1960s.  Wish my time machine had some fuel!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Record City [Las Vegas NV]

Been planning this trip for a long time.  A week long journey that starts in Phoenix, then ends here.  I was going to take a bus but that didn't work out, so I flew between cities.  Record City was very conveniently placed, as I am staying (and working) near the convention center.  I loved the look of the place from the outside, and knew it would be my bag.

This shack has a hell of a lot of records crammed inside! They had tons of autographed memorabilia also, all over the walls.  They had a ton of used DVDs for sale and they put some empty cases to good use.  I've never seen anyone do anything like this but I've thought about it many times.  People are stupid or lazy and they leaf through the vinyl with one hand and leave the stack leaning forward when they are done.  Or it might tip if they don't leave a gap at the back.  They jammed these in there so it is impossible.  Always drives me nuts when I see stacks leaning forward and I always try to fix them when I see it that way.

Didn't find much in the jazz bins.   At the end of the jazz bins were some unmarked but assorted additional jazz.  Found some interesting stuff in there.  The two below both are relevant to my interests.  The first for the addition of Kenny Burrell on guitar (looks like there have been many reissues of this); the second because it is live.  Decided to pass on both.

I kind of wandered around the store, couldn't find much of interest.  Did see a copy of Ascension (it was $80, don't know if it was Edition I or II) and Interstellar Space, don't know if I've ever held a copy in my hand before, for either.  A lot of Coltrane in general, but mostly live albums and compilations.  I was just about ready to go when I spotted something from a few racks away, in a section I wouldn't have bothered with.  I paid a whopping $3 (cover is kind of beat but vinyl looks mint) for an Italo-House classic I've loved for probably 20 years.  It was in the front of the stack or I wouldn't have seen it, and I certainly wouldn't have looked.  I first discovered this in a Bobby D mix many years ago - I sat down one day to figure out what it was, he only plays a minute or two in the mix.  No brainer on this one.  Glad I scooped it.


I can't believe I have come this far - 40 is a good round number, a hell of a milestone.  If I had been able to drive, I was all ready to go way the hell out of my way to St. George Utah and check that state off the list also.  I'll get there eventually!

Sunday, August 25, 2019


I have written about my love for barbershop music on this blog many times over the years.  As one could imagine, this is largely an 'underground' genre...while it has a large and devoted following, you don't hear of the relevant quartets in the mainstream media, ever.  So 99% of the releases out there are private press, they were paid for (studio time, pressing, etc) by the members of the quartet.  But there is one exception.

Chord was a record label out of San Antonio Texas in the early 60s.  The man behind the curtain was Mike McCord, who was a lifetime barbershopper himself, active in many quartets and choruses.  He selected some of the biggest and his most favorite quartets and released full length LPs for a number of years.  There are a total of 18 releases across two 'series', I discovered and researched these through countless eBay deep dives.  After a long period, I was finally able to acquire all 18 myself via that method.  It was rewarding to finally get them all, this huge piece of barbershop history.

I was contacted by none other than by his son (also named Mike) through discogs when he saw I was the person who added most of these releases to the database.  We had a likely conversation through a number of messages and he mentioned that he had access to some old releases that were part of his father's estate!

I didn't hear from him for a number of weeks and thought it was a dead end until one night (I was in a hotel in Louisana) when I got a discogs message with his phone number asking me to call him.  I didn't hesitate and we talked for quite a spell.  He apologized for the delay and said the box would soon be on it's way.  He told me mostly what I should expect, then he insisted on sending me the load for free and even refused to let me pay for shipping! A short time later, an expertly wrapped parcel arrived! 

As expected, I got a motherlode!

  • I got a number of Sweet Adelines competition albums I was missing: 1956, 1957, 1959, 1962, 1963, 1973, 1984.  I already had a couple but this was huge.  1963 I had never even seen before so that had to be added to the DB
  • Got a sealed copy of the Golden Staters album I had seen so many times before (but did not own)
  • Got a reissue/comp I had seen before but did not own, quite a rarity (I already own the original issues, on Chord, of course)
  • Got a spare copy of a Gaynotes album I already had, but never hurts to have two for something this rare! (Ironically I already owned two copies of the other album for the same reason!)
  • Speaking of the Gaynotes (Mike said he thought of Mo Rector as his uncle when he was growing up - wow!), I also got the original private press issue of their first album, this is a holy grail and probably the biggest score of the box.
  • Got a few more SPEBSQSA competition albums I didnt have ('56, '58, '59)
  • From the same era, got the Play Tonics album 
  • A previously unknown Saints LP!
  • Got duplicate copies for 14 of the 18 Chord releases (again, I already had the entire discography).  Why would I want duplicates? BECAUSE THESE WERE PERSONAL COPIES OF THE PERSON WHO OWNED THE LABEL!!!
But probably the greatest score of all was a previously unknown Chord release! It is unique in a few ways: it is a 10" (everything else was an LP) and it is actually a regional Sweet Adelines album! How many of these were ever pressed I do not know, but I'd bet pretty few.  What an unbelievable score!

Just goes to show you: networking is key! Discogs has netted me some cool stuff before but nothing like this.  However I almost treasure even more the chance to have a long telephone conversation with the son of the founder of a historic record label - I am very fortunate.  Thank you Mike!

Friday, August 9, 2019

Ghost of East Side Records/Double Nickels Collective [Tempe AZ]

After a week in Palm Desert I made the four hour drive back to Phoenix for one more night of fun before my flight the next morning.  This would be my opportunity to get out and about, see the city a bit, and of course check out some records.

I left Palm Desert by 7am.  Stopped to get gas and Starbucks then didn't touch the brake until around 11am.  Returned the rental car, took the rental car shuttle back to PHX.  Then I called the hotel, took the hotel shuttle and was able to check in early.  I dumped my bag and headed right back out the door.  I walked about 2.5 miles in the heat, stopped for lunch, just so I could get a bike.  Staying on the east side of the airport, Tempe was more accessible then Phoenix so that is where I searched the map.  

It was about a 4 mile ride south to Double Nickels.  I saw two Google Map places next to one another - I knew that it would be unlikely for two record stores to be so near one another and it turns out they are one in the same, just a shop with an identity problem that can't decide what it should be called.

I almost went to another shop in town but in the video description they immediately stated that they sell 'new vinyl'.  Hearing that as the first part of the description is disturbing and I am glad I listened to that, so I didn't go.  I only bring that up because Double Nickels is a mess - and this makes me feel very at home.  Not because my records are a mess (not even close) but this is the kind of record shop I have been to many times before, all over the country.  There were even not one - but two dogs in there! This cute little guy barked like a pitbull but then rubbed up against my hand like a cat.

When I walked in there was some atrocious noisy jazz playing and 4 different people were all chatting, I couldn't even tell who worked there and who was a customer....or maybe just hanging out! It was a good vibe.  I dug through all the jazz but didn't see anything interesting.  I dug around the shop and was more entertained by listening to the other conversations in there than anything else at that point.

They had some bins devoted to punk and hardcore, I leafed through them but nothing caught my eye. There were some boxes in the back marked 'private press' and would you believe I instantly found this thing - tones from home! (I think I am even more impressed that there are 17 releases for this 'artist' on discogs!)

I also spotted another vinyl of interest in the same box.  I started making a list on discogs a while ago for a particular stock cover.  Since then, I've ever had others contribute my messaging me to let me know about others they find in the database.  Well I found a new one in this box! The artist was in the DB but the release was not.  So I took photos and just added it myself.

I ended up walking away empty handed but that's OK.  When I arrived, I looked at the storefront on Southern Ave but realized I was actually looking at the back of the store (technically there is a door, but the shop wasn't using it, meaning I have to walk around back).  There was a fellow standing outside of the coffee shop next door and I asked how the hell I get inside.  He told me to go around back, but said I could cut through his shop, which I did, and thanked him.  When I left Double Nickels, I went back to make good on the favor he showed me.  I sat in the AC for a while, drank some water and also had a double macchiato and a scone.  After that, I made it up to 10 miles by spinning around Tempe in the heat.  It was hot - but not as hot as the desert further west which I already miss!


Wednesday, August 7, 2019

The Record Collector [Idllywild CA]

On vacation in Palm Desert, I finally had a chance to knock the great state of California off my list.  There were a couple candidates in the area but this place was too good to pass up.  Way up in the mountains, I'd need to drive an hour down treacherous winding roads.  The Google Maps place didn't even have a photo, the street view showed what looked like a shack.  Was this place even real? I called once to confirm and got no answer.  So I called again a bit later and the person that answered did confirm their hours so I planned to set out on a Tuesday afternoon.

The drive was as wild as anything I've ever attempted.  Once I drove through Big Horn National Park in Wyoming and it was similar to that but I daresay even more dangerous.  It required all my mental faculties and somehow I made it.  Oh, did I mention the heat (this is excessive for this area, up in the mountains, but something I've already become accustomed to out in the desert).

The same guy I spoke to on the phone was there.  He told me that this is the second location of a larger shop in LA.  He said he has known the owners for over 30 years and worked at both locations.  He said that he watches this shop about half the week and the owners daughter watches it the rest of the time.  He even told me that the owners aunt lived in town and recently died and he goes to check on the cat, presumably in an otherwise empty house.

He told me up front that the store was mostly classical but also had jazz.  And that's it! No other genres.  Luckily for me, jazz is the first section I go to in any store but alienating the vast majority of people who want to look at rock albums doesn't make sense.  The building was beautiful.  The wood work was masterful and the bins were clearly made by a craftsman, probably the nicest I've ever seen.

It was a bit odd because there were no other customers (actually, a couple did come in but upon being told that they only had classical and jazz, they bolted) so it was just me and this bearded old timer.  He sat in a chair in the 'front room' (which was all classical) and I was in the 'back room' where the jazz was.  So we couldn't see each other and he only spoke when spoken to.  Finally I commented that I found it odd that a record would not be playing with all this silence.  He had the best response ever: he wanted to save electricity! He did offer to put something on but I told him it was OK.

I looked through every single jazz album.  12 bins I think, probably 1200 records I'd guess, maybe more.  I pulled out four but only bought one, and of course I have some regrets there:

  1. I have a good selection of Kai Winding albums on Verve in the mid 60s.  This stuff isn't very high brow but is very listenable and a lot of fun.  I came across one I've long been aware of but decided to leave it behind.  
  2. I dont't buy just any CTI album I find (almost though) but I thought it would be a good idea to check out some Gabor Szabo.  I started to feel like some of his 60s work would be a better buy, so I did a catch and release on that one. (I do own his collaborative album with Paul Desmond which came out in the same era, regrettably I've not spent much time listening to it.)
  3. I knew of Lalo Schifrin as the man who wrote the score for Enter the Dragon long before I knew he was a jazz musician.  I picked up one of his older vinyls at a garage sale a long time ago and always enjoyed it.  This one caught my eye because it is on Verve but also of course for the lengthy and ridiculous title.  I carry some serious regret I left this one behind.
  4. I have a special affinity for Joe Farrell.  First of all, he is from the Chicago area.  He died young, what a shame.  But he worked with so many of my favorite artists, especially the landmark debut from Return to Forever.  Discogs says I have 14 albums he appears on and I think only one is an album he is actually credited as the main artist (joint credit, with George Benson).  There was no way I was going to let this one go: CTI 6000 series with an all-star cast of side men, of course including the Mahavishnu himself! Little did I know at the time this was also the original 1970 issue (it was reissued by CTI in 1976).

I decided to toss back the Lalo Schifrin and Kai Winding right off the bat.  I brought the remaining two CTI records up to be priced (the old man priced everything on sight, I had already asked).  He wanted $20 each which I knew was a bit bold, even for a place like this so I told him to kick the Gabor Szabo and I made off with the Joe Farrell album.  It is in mint condition with the original inner sleeve (same goes for the Gabor Szabo, though it did have a snipped corner).  So I'm happy that I made out with a souvenir from such a wild day.  I topped it off by attempting to do a 500' climb (over about 1.2 miles) on a really crappy rental bike I stuffed in my car.  I gave up about 75% of the way and took a wild ride which topped 30mph on the way down!

Arizona and Nevada are on deck in the next month.  In fact, I'll probably have two shots at Arizona, but the first will be only two days from now and I'll be taking advantage!

Monday, April 29, 2019

Uncle Rick

My Uncle Rick is the #1 influencer of my musical taste in my lifetime.  It is probable that the fact that I became a musician and pursued it was contributed to by his exposing me to music at a young age.  Along with the fact that I thought he was pretty cool so I'd probably have gotten into whatever he said he liked.  He always had a ton of vinyl around and he had a real nice hi-fi setup.  He was a very early adopter of CDs when I didn't know anyone else that had them.  He would make mix tapes for me with obscure stuff, and some of those tracks became bands that I continue to listen to now, 30 years later.  He leaned toward what I think of as cerebral music, like fusion jazz and progressive rock.  He liked standard rock and roll also, the kind where you didn't need to do deep thinking.  But I count the former styles as some of my favorites to current times.

So while visiting my parents last week, my mom mentioned that my aunt said they had some stuff they wanted to get rid of.  So I sent my aunt a text.

I remembered that my uncle had a Marantz turntable and I'd recognize that cabinet from a mile away. It has a flip top glass lid that acts as a dustcover and was clearly designed with a turntable in mind. This literally is my childhood, in a single photo.  Now, they had it down in the basement and the receiver long ago died or was taken for another project.  It didn't take much thinking to know I'd be over there as soon as possible to scoop all this up.  

So I made plans to go over there on Thursday night before Good Friday (which is a paid holiday for me).  I even snuck out of work a little early to drive over.  When I arrived, I was early and no one was home.  My aunt and uncle showed up a few minutes later with their grandkids in tow.  They had just picked them up and soon had to drop them off.  After showing me where everything was, they left me to my own devices to start packing things up, they said it would be about an hour.  My uncle mentioned there were a few beers in the fridge and recommended I partake.  I don't usually drink that early in the day but this was a very special occasion.  The fact that I was going through it all alone, in the house I remember so much as a kid made it even more special.

So I brought some boxes for the vinyl (based on what I saw in the bottom of the cabinet).  I also brought some corrugated cardboard, bubble wrap, tape and stretch wrap as I knew I'd need some serious packing skills to get that cabinet home in one piece.  I started with the vinyl.  My uncle had it in a bunch of stacks on a tables in the basement.  I refused to look at anything, I told myself that would be the reward at the end of the night, after I lugged this stuff home and dragged it all upstairs.  One that caught my eye was Chris Squire's solo album.  I knew my uncle liked Yes though he never really played it when I was a kid.  Later, I found a few more albums: Going For the One, Yessongs and even Rick Wakeman's first solo album.  But I have jumped ahead.

My uncle had showed me that he uncovered some more vinyl, in a dusty wooden crate he found under the stairs.  Luckily, the two boxes I bought did carry the stuff stacked on the table, and the rest stayed in the crate.  So I carried it all up to the kitchen.  I opened up a Two Hearted Ale and kind of just stopped and took my time.  I didn't want to get caught up in the moment, I didn't need time to tick any faster than it needed to.  The house was very quiet and I just stood and breathed, then headed back down.

I carefully carried up the turntable and the Yamaha dual tape deck and set them on the kitchen table.  My uncle had told me to leave the cabinet until he got back but they had only been gone probably 15 minutes and I was otherwise done.  So I decided to give it a go.  It is much heavier than it looks on account of the glass, but also just the wood isn't that Ikea garbage, it is very dense.  There is nowhere good to grab it so I just bear hugged it and took it one stair at a time, then rest for a moment.  It is on wheels so once I got it upstairs I rolled it to the backdoor.  

Then I had to carry it down about 5 stairs to the driveway, then carefully roll it to the truck and somehow tip it into the back.  I had brought a very large box (24x24x48) which I left flat and unfolded, then stuffed with corrugated cardboard and bubble wrap.  I figured I could lay the cabinet on it's back, like a mattress.  Somehow I got it in there and positioned it.  I taped the top shut and filled the space under the doors with bubble wrap and more cardboard.  Then I strapped the whole thing down with ratchet straps so it wouldn't slide around.  

After that I started hauling the rest out.  Three boxes of vinyl, one of which included a ton of cassette tapes.  The turntable and the tape deck I brought up front with me so they wouldn't bounce around.  After that I was done.  I cracked another beer (Two Brothers Cane and Ebel, been a long time since I had one and man are they good).  I sat on the porch and appreciated how quiet it was.  It was a little cold but I ignored it and just listened to the nothingness.  A few people walked dogs and such and I marveled at the neighborhood.  I always loved coming out there when I was a kid, not just because of the house but because the area always seemed so different and exotic.  As an adult I can appreciate it more.  What a nice place to live.

It was killing me to have time on my hands and not to be looking through that vinyl.  I knew it was filled with great stuff.  Finally I decided I would look through just one of them.  As expected it was stocked well with classics.  Then I started going through some of the tapes.  I found an old TDK tape holder but the zipper was corroded shut.  I went into the basement and found some WD-40 and squirted it on and gently tried to maneuver the thing but no dice.  I pulled a little harder and the zipper actually broke in half the thing is so old!

So I went back into the basement and found a pair of pliers to continue to manipulate the stub.  I had to get in there! I felt like I was in a time warp or something, it was just so quiet and no one was around but me at this crusty old tape holder.  I finally got it open just before I started to think about stabbing into it with my knife but alas it held nothing of value.  Shortly after that my aunt and uncle came back.  They were shocked that I found a way to get the cabinet out and then we went out to have a few beers and some pizza.  My uncle told me that he thinks he got the cabinet in 1981.  He said a friend bought it but didn't like the wood grain so the manufacturer gave him another one, and my uncle got the reject.

I got home and after many trips was able to drag everything upstairs.  I sort of staged the cabinet and got to task on the vinyl.  Three huge boxes - it was almost too intense to handle.  One after the other, so many classics!

I kept trying to decide how to even organize them.  I would try to pull out a pile of albums that were the best of the best, then another stack of 2nd place, but it would get fouled up right away.  After hours of tangling with this, I came up with three piles.  The first included some children's albums and other junk, this went to the thrift store.  The second pile was for me, no questions asked.  The third was stuff that was certainly very good, but I have to draw the line as I am always trying to stay under around 700 LPs and this would just be too much to take on.  That being said, there was no way it was going to the thrift store.  It didn't seem right to sell the stuff though surely I could.  I ended up just bringing it to work and stashing it in my office.  Somehow getting it off premise made me relax a bit.

I started going through the 'keepers' and ordered a bunch of extra inner and outer sleeves.  I had zero inner and about 10 outer on hand.  So I stocked up.  I always cringe at the price for a bunch of plastic bags and paper envelopes but I buy once a year if that.  This will last a good while.  Until they arrive (and ask of this writing) they are leaning against my desk on the floor.  I can't put them away until they are sealed up.

The next task was to make this system playable.  So I needed a receiver.  I went to ebay and pretty quickly found was I was looking for.  A Marantz SR340, asking for $175 OBO, and it was local so I could pick it up.  I offered $150, they accepted and I brought it home the next day.

I quickly found that the FM tuner did not work, just consistent static across the dial.  If you look closely you can see the green corrosion.

After a ton of research I found that this is due to the variable capacitor being dirty.  So I ran to Home Depot and bought the appropriate products to take care of that.  After about 36 hours of cleaning, listening and cleaning again, the problem seemed to be long gone and I had clear crisp reception.  So for that day and a half, I had it set up on a TV tray table in my dining room hooked up to some tiny portable speakers out of the head phone jack.

I was hesitant to button it up and put it away until I knew it worked.  But after much review, I did so and it still seems to be going strong.  I also cleaned the oxidation out of the sliders that control tone/volume/balance and any crackliness has gone away. [EDIT: a couple weeks later, I changed the station and now all FM is gone again.  I know I need to just keep cleaning the variable cap, there is some tiny bit of corrosion left.]

Onto the final chapter: speakers.  This time I went to Craigslist.  I have bought and sold a handful of items on this site over the years.  Speakers seemed like an especially shady business for such a site since it would be easy to try and pass off a blown set on an unsuspecting buyer.  I found a beautiful set of Marantz speakers and made an offer of $100 and the guy accepted!

I am ashamed to admit I do not remember the gentleman's name but I believe it was George.  What a great guy.  The blurb he wrote for the speakers on Craigslist is GOLD.

Marantz Vintage Speaker SP-2368 2 Way System Wood Black Front JHUp for auction is this beautiful set of Marantz SP2368 - 2 way bookshelf speakers. The grills are in pristine condition and there are no visible scratches or gouges in the veneer. The speakers look like they have come out of a time machine. The drivers and tweeters are in great shape, and they sound as good as any version of the popular bookshelf speakers I've heard. Each speaker has a long-excursion 6 1/2" woofer, to produce deep accurate bass and a 1" liquid cooled tweeter that delivers soaring highs. Passive crossover networks provide satin smooth response without artificial "peaks" Power handling capacity is 80 watts RMS and they loved to be pushed. Size: 15" H X 8 1/2" W X 13 1/2" D.

I drove out to his apartment and the place was stocked with high end gear.  He told me that he and his brother were long time collectors.  He had the speakers set up on his dining room table before I arrived hooked up to a basic Pioneer receiver to test with.  He cranked it up even louder than I would have asked for - these speakers were clearly NOT blown.  He showed me the rest of his collection and as strange as it sounds (considering we just met), I could have hung out with the guy looking at his gear for a few hours.  But I got out of there and headed to Walmart to grab speaker wire (they were the only place open on Easter Sunday).

So I finally got the whole thing hooked up and as expected it sounds great! I currently have my old bass amp being used as a speaker stand for the right channel.  But there is a handle on top which limits how I can place the speaker.  I can remove the handle but the screws also retain the head inside the cabinet.  But I noticed that it was also at least 6" lower than the left channel (which is on a shelf), so I built a quick box at work to elevate it, and I left the bottom of the box open so it goes over the handle.  Looks great and works perfectly!

My uncle replaced the cartridge in the head shell many years ago.  Inside now is a Shure VST III.  I even have the original case that the cartridge came in, and inside he put the original Marantz cartridge.  I've never seen one like this but there is even a tiny brush on the end, in front of the stylus, to pick up dust before it hits the needle.  Pretty cool.  I was able to set the counterweight, I set it to 1.5, I actually have the original instructions from Shure but it is confusing and I can't understand if they are saying to set it at 1.5 or 1.75.  I set the anti-skate to match and I've had no issues.  It is a weird turntable though.  When it is in 'manual' mode, the turntable always spins when it is powered up.  You can't freely drop the tone arm, you can only position it over the groove you want and there are cushion 'up' and 'down' buttons.  You can also use 'auto' mode: this will stop the turntable when the needle gets to the end of the run out groove.  And it doesn't start the turntable until you hit the 'down' button to drop the needle.  Really weird and took some getting used to.

My uncle also mentioned that the glass top dustcover used to have some kind of pads so the glass wouldn't come down against the wood cabinet if you pushed too hard.  But they fell apart and wore away.  I could see a tiny bit of adhesive left.  So I made my own pads.  I used this felt like material from work, backed a big piece with double stick tape, then used a punch to cut through both materials.  Makes perfect little discs.  Put one on each corner.

One of the last things I did was swap the new cassette deck my uncle gave me with the one I already had.  So now I have my uncles black Yamaha deck with my old Kenwood amp in my office; I moved my Technics silver tape deck into the living room to match my new silver Marantz amp!


I found PDF copies of the service manual for the turntable and the receiver.  I also purchased a legit copy of the owners manual for the receiver.  I put everything in a binder and printed some cool images for the cover and spine of the binder.  In the photo at the bottom of this post you can see the spine, it is sitting on top of the tape deck.  If either item ever croaks on me, I'll have half a chance to find the bad component and hopefully resurrect it!


  • Ebay: receiver 150 (wanted 175) paid cash
  • Craigslist: speakers 100 (wanted 120) paid cash
  • Walmart: speaker wire/RCA cable 26.93
  • Target: RCA cable 8.63
  • Ebay: 50 inner sleeves 24.99
  • Ebay: 100 outer sleeves 34.99
  • Ebay: receiver manual 5.50
  • Home Depot: supplies 19.18
  • TOTAL=$370.22
Here are the select records I have added to the collection.  I have so many more I don't even have room for them so they are currently in a crate in my office at work.  At the bottom is a mix I just did from these selected records.  I haven't listened to them all yet but here are some standouts:

1) The two Journey albums are pre-Steve Perry.  I always read that they were a semi-prog rock band in that era but I had never heard it.  So far both are really good.
2) My uncle recommended that I listen to Phil Manzenera 801 Live.  He did not have this on vinyl but I streamed it and loved it.  He also gave it to me on a (very old) cassette tape.  Here we have one of the 801 studio albums which I have not checked out yet.  I did listen to K-Scope a bit and dug it but it wasn't as good as the 801 Live.  I was always a bit weirded out by Phil Manzenera when I was a kid, I would look at the albums at my uncles and I never understood what genre of music it is exactly, and the covers were odd.
3) The same goes for Shadowfax.  I was going to kick this one to the curb then I looked at saw they were from Chicago.  This is really excellent and I've spun it and streamed it a few times.
4) The Fleetwood Mac 'Rumours' is a Dutch import on white vinyl! I have no idea why he has this!
5) Ummagumma is a vinyl I used to stare at when I was a kid.  Not just because of the cover (though I did think that was awesome), but the band photos and the rear jacket photo especially really weirded me out.  The studio half of this album is so noisy and experimental it isn't really that listenable. I need to give the live half a chance.
6) He put 'Don't Go' by Yaz on a mixtape he made me when I was young.  Song has a bad vibe and so does the cover.  Couldn't leave this one behind.
7) Same goes for 'Journey to Love', the title cut was on a mixtape.  I actually already own this LP, it is a promo (not a true promo, but does have a huge sticker) but it is kind of beat.  So now I have both.
8) The Billy Cobham was a no brainer and is excellent, very chaotic and like early Mahavishnu.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A record player for my office!

I have been with my current employer for almost 14 years.  About a year ago, I was lucky enough to move into an office of my own.  It is probably 12' x 12', very roomy by my standards.  When I got it, I did a ton of work: drywall, electrical, paint, carpet cleaning.  Did some work to the desk/credenza, made some modifications there.  Moved some other furniture in/out.  Got some cool diffusers for the florescent light fixtures.  I hooked up some LED lights around the perimeter of the room which required additional modifications, more parts, more electrical work.  I got stainless steel wall plates for the outlets, network jacks.  Got a USB outlet near my desk and an automatic light.  It was a long time coming.  Very, very proud of it all.

But early on, I am some ambitions.  I decided that if you have an office of your own, and you can MAKE it your own (as I have), there are three things that take you to the top of the list:

1) a couch
2) a refrigerator
3) a record player

Well the couch was first.  I went down to my local St. Vincent store where I have bought vinyl many times.  I had some measurements in mind but that was about it.  I knew I didn't want anything ratty or nasty looking.  Funny because I have been in many, many thrift stores but I don't look at couches, or furniture generally.  I was surprised to see that the couches at St. Vincent looked really nice for the most part! I ended up picking a green couch which seriously looks brand new.  I paid under $30 with tax because I was there on a sale day.  It is absolutely perfect and I love it.  I have taken a few naps after I punched out for the day on particularly stressful afternoons.

The fridge was next.  My dad long had one in his office.  His company moved and in the new building they don't allow any food or drinks outside the cafeteria so the fridge sat in his basement.  He offered it to me but early on I wasn't interested.  Why would I be? There was another small fridge in the shop just outside my door, so close to my old desk where I stored my lunch for years.  There is even another full size fridge in the office! Well one day the snobbishness kicked in and I decided that I could not possibly bear to let my food and drinks touch others.  So I did grab the fridge.  I shortened the cord and put a right angle plug on the end (I love these things) so I could push it really close to the wall.  I keep it filled to the brim with my favorite drinks which is pretty awesome.  I just dropped $40 at Whole Foods this weekend to refill it with La Croix, Steez and iced coffee.  I am a very lucky man.

Well the record player was last.  I thought it would be cool to leave some vinyl at work and listen to a few tracks now and then.  I knew I wanted something small, portable.  Maybe even with an internal speaker.  I wasn't really sure because I had never explored these kind of products though I had seen them around.  Initially I even looked at some of the old Fisher-Price record players on eBay.  They don't sound half bad! But I decided those are all so old some random part is bound to go out before long then I have to refurb the whole thing.  So I did a bunch of research on portable style players and came across a couple units that Numark makes.  I certainly like the brand due to my long time use of my TT1625s.  So I found they make the PT-01 USB and another called the PT-01 Scratch.  Apparentely you can actually scratch on the latter, which is a bit ridicolous as it is so small.I thought about buying the scratch brand new as it is under $150 but of course I am quite cheap so instead I went to ebay.  I ended up buying the USB version used for $35 (made an offer, asking price was $40).  Shipping was a ridicoolous $30.05 but even at $65.05 total, this was cheaper than anything else, and the seller said it was in great condition (the photos backed this up) and it worked great.  So he accepted my offer and I paid and started getting excited.

He first refunded $10 becasue he said the shipping was so high.  Yes it was, but I already paid - he was foolish to refund it, I wasn't about to ask.  But of course I was glad to have it.  So now I am down to an $55.05 investment.

In the meantime, I started looking at speakers.  The PT-01 USB has a small internal speaker but when I saw it actually has stereo RCA outputs, I knew I'd have to get some proper speakers.  My girlfriend has a set of Bose Companion II Series III computer speakers and man do these things sound great! So I started looking at Bose speakers and ended up on a set of Series II speakers.  The seller admitted they had some scratches etc but said they functioned great, I got them for $33.25 with shipping.  Not half bad.

So everything soon arrived and I could not wait to get it all hooked up.  Big problem: the turntable had no AC adapter! I went back to the auction page, wondering how I could be so stupid not to notice this in the description.  But it wasn't! So I sent a message to the seller, here is our full exchange:

If it’s my call, $10 so I can just get the part I need is way easier than a return. We already agreed to this. What am I not understanding?

Let's just do a return. You file it and I'll shoot you a label and refund all costs. Sorry for the inconvenience. I don't remember using anything buy the USB cord when transfering a bunch of '80s punkrock 7" records that can't be found anywhere anymore. That's why I got it mainly.
I know it's a hassle for you but I think a return would be best. Your call.
Your previous message

Btw I’m looking at the manual on Numarks website right now that clearly states “please note the turntable cannot be powered through the usb connection”. See attached.

If that's satisfactory with you then fair enough. Consider it done.
Your previous message

It was listed as ‘includes all accessories’ - it does not. I’ll take $10 refund (an adapter will cost me at least $15) and we will be done with it.

We honestly never had an AC cord with it. It powers via USB but does have an AC mains jack, again just never had that cord. If you'd like to return it you may wish to file an eBay return. But first: Were you wanting to use it as a standard turntable and not a USB turnatble? It's more suited to transfer vinyl to digital files--wave, mp3, etc. It is plug and play. If you were wanting to use it as a regular turntable you would not be impressed (as it is a USB turntable--the stylus and needle characteristics are better suited for transfering as opposed to listening pleasure play back).

If you have a USB outlet that will power it.Or, your phone charger's wall brick.

If you are the least bit unsatisfied we can walk you thru the returns process which you file thru ebay.

We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused you. We are here to help.
Your previous message

Just got the record player. It does not include the AC adapter. Auction states ‘all accessories included’ and ‘works great’, which I don’t understand as it cannot work at all without power.

What do you recommend we do next?
So he ended up giving me $10 off, but I immediately had to buy an adapter, which was $9.99 plus shipping.  So here is a full accounting:

$35 (record player)
+$30.05 (shipping)
-$10 (shipping refund)
+$18.30 (speakers)
+$14.95 (shipping)
-$10 (refund for missing AC adapter)
+9.99 (AC adapter)
+5.99 (shipping)

Out the door for under $100 - I can live with that. So I finally got it all hooked up and it sounds GREAT! But a few more modifications had to be made.

Power is at a premium in my office unfortunately.  I have a two-gang on one wall (this powers my fridge and the printer on top of my fridge).  I have another two-gang on another wall (this powers the surge protector that controls my PC, monitor, etc).  So I do have a free outlet on the latter.  But this doesn't help me much as it is 12" from the floor and I intended to put my new hi-fi up near the top of a bookshelf.

So the first thing I did was to take a hole saw and cut a 2 1/2" hole in the side of the steel shelf.  I have a variety of hole saws, I used this one because initially I was going to make a custom length extension cord with put a three way splitter on the end.  I couldn't fit the female end of the plug through the next smallest size hole saw so I had to go with the biggest one I have.  But soon after that I decided to go with a 4-way surge protector instead.  I set up that, the record player on the top shelf, and the speakers on the shelf below.  Initially I had it all up high but quickly noticed the sound was, well....up high.  And I am 6'3 but it was frustrating to have it up there, so I moved them down.

Because of the placement of my hole, I ended up building a wooden baseplate for the surge protector so it would sit flat.  I used two boards nailed together and sanded, and four screws to slide the surge protectors mounting bracket onto.  I notched out the corner of the second board to fit around the bracket that holds the shelf in place.  Works and looks great.

Next I had an issue with the bulky AC adapters for the speakers and surge protector interfering with each other so I grabbed a spare short cord from home.  I don't know what else to call these, but it basically is a 4" cord so your AC adapter can plug in with a standard plug.  Maybe call it a pig tail?

But that was no good, it was too short and the record player plug was suspended in air.  This is stressful to the cord so again I got a right angle plug and put it on.  Again - not enough, I had to put the end of it on a grinder so it wouldn't interfere with the speaker adapter.

I also went out and got some command hooks so the surge protector cord is neatly put away and not out in the open - very happy with the way this looks.

Lastly I built myself a quick crate for 45s.  While the turntable can play 12" I decided it would be fun to just bring a bunch of 45s to work.  For one thing, I never listen to these at home.  Also it is good for any vinyl fan to have to get up frequetly to change the record, it makes you active in the process and it is something I haven't done in many years.

So I grabbed a board and got to work.  I drew up a very quick plan, cut the boards, sanded them and Kreg'd it all together.  I ended up using a really light color stain and I'm very happy with it.