Richard Edwards: 5 Vinyl Albums That Changed My Life
In celebration of Record Store Day 2018, TIDAL enlisted a group of artists to tell us about some records, the vinyl kind, that changed their lives. Richard Edwards of Margot & the Nuclear So and So’s break down his picks below.
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Red Red Meat, Bunny Gets Paid
At the same time that the Smashing Pumpkins were bloodletting on every radio station in the Midwest, a group of smarter, kinder, less Alex Jones-y, wildly more creative Chicagoans were releasing their masterpiece. An album of fractured, bleary-eyed blues songs that didn’t come close to penetrating the noise we were getting in Indiana at the time, this is an album I wouldn’t come across until I moved to Chicago at 22 or 23, but, when I did, it avalanched me.
By turns as beautiful as anything on Big Star’s Third, and brutal as any of the meatheads who were gobbling up all their rightful airwaves. Then again, while I will contend to this day that ‘Rosewood, Wax, Voltz + Glitter’ is maybe the most incredible piece of music ever recorded, I can’t imagine hearing it on X103 on the east side of Indianapolis. It certainly would’ve changed some kids’ lives had it been. Maybe it would’ve even spared us some of the more… unfortunate music we had to endure over the subsequent decade.
The band’s drummer, now producer, Brian Deck adopted me and my wife at the time when we lived in Chicago. We spent a lot of holidays at his family’s house. One Thanksgiving, after a friend of their’s got me entirely too stoned on some hippie commune pot, I confessed to Brian that I couldn’t find a physical copy of Bunny Gets Paid. I don’t think I cried. Brian had been drinking wine. He disappeared for a few moments, reappearing with his personal copy. I have kept it very close ever since.
Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, Trio
The three most beautiful voices in the world. I can still remember the first time I put it on and ‘The Pain of Loving You’ came tumbling out. It was life-changing in the same way ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ must’ve been for the kids who were into that whole thing.
Every song on the album is heartbreaking and perfect, but their rendition of ‘I’ve Had Enough’ by the foremost chroniclers of female romantic exhaustion, the McGarrigle sisters, is enough to jackhammer even the most hardened catalyst of that exhaustion into dust. Like ‘Mildred Pierce’ or something, it overwhelmed me with empathy.
Martin Scorsese wanted to direct Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Bad. Badly enough to essentially audition for the job, at the height of his ego, with Ellen Burstyn, who owned the property.
‘I love your films, Mr. Scorsese, but I can’t tell from watching them whether you know anything about women,’ she said.
Scorsese replied, ‘I don’t think so, but I’d like to learn.’
Trio would be a great place to start. And let me tell you something else. Spending two years singing along to it using falsetto to replicate their range is the best masterclass in singing money can buy. I guarantee it.
Abner Jay, The True Story of Abner Jay
While I am now a fancy pants who owns several original Abner Jay records, including one on which he scrawled his patented ‘May God bless you all,’ my introduction to the world of Abner was through this album released by the saints at Mississippi Records, my gateway to so much great stuff while I lived in Chicago.
Abner Jay was a weirdo and boy, oh, boy do I go for weirdos. Weirdos whose personalities can’t help but strain against the conventions of their genre until, by the end, they’re so twisted and warped as to be scarcely recognizable. I could watch Westerns all day and night, but I reeeally go for Anthony Mann’s Freudian stuff. I’m a noir nut, but would much rather extoll the virtues of Ride the Pink Horse and Edge of Doom than Out of the Past or Force of Evil. It’s not that these things changed the form, or are even better than their more straight and celebrated brethren. They were just made by people who couldn’t keep their weird tucked in for very long.
Abner Jay scratches that itch of mine more than any other bluesman. On some records he crooned. Sounded white on others. Some, he stretched the phrasing of gospel songs so much that it almost sounded like he was taking the piss out of them. Some kind of performance art. On others, he is the greatest unsung pop star of his era. ‘I’m So Depressed,’ ‘The Reason Young People Use Drugs.’ These are fucking catchy songs. They’re hits.
His stage banter was so protracted and bug-fuck nutty that the length of an LP record has dictated they mostly be omitted altogether from his live albums. Thankfully we have YouTube now.
He performed outside of flea markets in a sort of homemade trailer. He sold cassettes out of it. He had a daughter he adored named Brandy. He named his ‘record label’ after her. He was a one-man band shoulda-been superstar. He seems to me to have been a weirdo. Too weird for the blues. Man, it’s hard to be too weird for the blues. I love Abner Jay so much. I wish I could’ve seen him perform.
Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks/Bootleg series/Biograph
Blood on the Tracks came to me exactly when I needed it. I knew those songs, of course, but I didn’t know them really. At a particularly rough time in my life, I got to know them. I climbed completely inside them. I felt everything about them. The way you feel a movie differently in the glow of some gentle weed eating.
I’ve included some supplemental releases because I, like so many in the ‘I know better than Dylan’ camp, prefer a lot of the New York versions to the subsequent Minnesota re-recordings. I like the New York versions because he sounds exhausted with sadness. One of the many things they don’t tell you about divorce: the beginning is exhaustion. A sadness that depletes everything. A kind of hunger strike exhaustion. Later comes the rejuvenation of rage.
You can feel that starting to peek out from behind the clouds on the Minnesota recordings. You can hear a faint glimmer of the man who spit out ‘Idiot Wind’ with such bile (with Sara Dylan in attendance no less) only a year later (‘Hard Rain,’ live 1976) that it’s hard to imagine they could’ve ever spoken again afterwards.
I love prophet of rage Bobby, but there is something particularly beautiful about the god-like dude alone in his room, wrecked by the tsunami of love, same as us mortals. I was blown all apart when I truly discovered Blood on the Tracks. It was an incredibly painful hand on my shoulder when I needed one. Truth be told, I still call upon it some nights.
Merle Haggard, Mama Tried
I’m tired of typing and want to go outside and play. This is a perfect record. I listened to it almost every day for years. Open your windows and put on ‘Little Ole Wine Drinker Me’ as loud as you can. Later, when the sun goes down, pour something stiff and put on ‘I’ll Always Know.’ Merle’s sole writing credit on the album.
“Revenge must be the reason/why forgiveness was something I never knew/and someday soon I know you plan to hurt me/but don’t plan on getting by with the things you do.”
Here’s to you, Merle. 1976 Dylan would be proud.
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