Sunday, April 26, 2015

Go Where You Wanna Go

It was mid-afternoon when the invitation to the platter party was extended. Conveniently, I had no plans.

Tee-off time was 6:30. I arrived a bit early with a salad to contribute to dinner, three purchased desserts (chocolate truffle napoleon, German chocolate cupcake, chocolate napoleon; no really) and an armful of records to share with the group.

Mind you, I stopped buying records in 1984 when I got my first CD player, so my selection covered a very minute and youthful stage of my music devotion.

Not the point on a night meant to christen and celebrate Holmes' new (old) turntable. The man known to boast of the width and breadth of his vinyl stores - 45s, EPs and albums - was finally going to have to walk the walk about his superior collection.

The occasion began with Gerard Bertrand Cote de Roses and a selection of singles culled from his eclectic offerings. When one person saw a 45 of the theme to "Love Boat" by Jack Jones, she insisted on hearing it. It sounded nothing like how we remembered it, with a disco interlude that baffled us. Only then did our host realize he had the turntable set on 33 rpm rather than 45. Hilarious.

It wasn't hard to tell what a record geek he had been in his younger days. A bottle green vinyl copy of the Police's "Message in a Bottle," the trio looking like babies on the cover. There was pink vinyl of the Rolling Stones' "Miss You." Madonna's "True Blue" from '88 presaged half of pop music since.

What I hadn't realized was that this portion of the evening was merely the warm-up, the amuse bouche, so to speak, of what was to come.

We were soon herded upstairs for cocktail shrimp and Prosecco, a means of segueing to dinner prep in which everyone participated. Only downside? Upstairs, we were back to CDs.

Brilliantly, Holmes had conceived of a rainy day indoor picnic with a menu of SausageCraft pork belly sausage with onions, potato salad and pasta salad. My spinach, bacon and strawberry salad was the only dish not likely to send us into a food coma.

My job was first cooking the onions and then the sausage while the Beach Boys' "Pet Sounds" wound its exquisite harmonies through the many rooms in Holmes' house. Knowing pig pops, I requested an apron of my host and was given a Smithfield hams one his mother had crafted from the bag a ham came in.

It had a red sash and I wore it with pride. Holmes wanted to take a picture.

Musical desserts finished the meal as we took a few bites and passed the sweetie in front of us to the right. Turns out three chocolate desserts is too much for three people after a picnic, but we persevered on with our Prosecco aiding and abetting.

Back downstairs, Homes went back to mumbling, "So cool," every time he did something with the turntable He was particularly impressed with its "stop" button for how it made lifting the needle less brutal. It was obvious the man had been too long without the pleasures of a record player.

As with dessert, we went around in circles, each of us choosing a song (occasionally two if they were on the same album) and the others having no veto power. If we had, I'd have vetoed Ace's "How Long," and missed hearing a once-overplayed song that hasn't sounded so good to my ears since the '70s.

A lot of that was hearing it on vinyl, I have to admit. Even with occasional snap, crackle and pops or skips, the sound quality was everything my ear's memory recalled. Youth.

Out of hearing songs and records we hadn't heard in years or even decades came questions, attempts at remembering factoids and trivia. Frustrated at one point trying to recall who the other two guys in Traffic were, Holmes moves away from the records and says, "People got the Internet, I got my rock book," pulling a dog-eared over-sized paperback from a  dusty shelf near a wall of VHS tapes. No, really.

Minutes later the book was disappointing him, void of the names we sought.

Someone chose the '86 Stones single, "One Hit to the Body," a song several of us admitted we'd never even heard. "This is as close to disco as I get," Holmes observed, although the guitar was so distinctively Stones that disco was more of a fleeting impression.

Naturally with people drinking and listening, there were disagreements about tempo (his turntable didn't have settings for 33 and 45 rpm, it had a variable knob so you could change speed incrementally: a DJ's turntable) and pitch.

Several of us got a kick out of an old Charlie Byrd album called, "Let Go" full of '60s pop gems. Although I'd brought Badfinger's "Straight Up" to hear "Baby Blue," I hadn't known until tonight that one of the band members was Paul McCartney's step-brother.

That's a long time to have an album and not know a fact as central as that, don't you think?

One of my picks was Graham Parker's "I'm Just Your Man" and I shared that a guy I dated once told me that the songs' lyrics described exactly how every guy wanted his woman to feel about him. I asked Holmes to listen and opine.

Listening with his eyes closed, he said, "It's Percy Sledge." Well, except it's a skinny English guy and not an American black man, but sure.

I made use of his extensive collection and efficient organizing system by challenging him. When I got a hankering for Roxy Music, he slid sideways and within 10 seconds gave me a handful of Roxy singles.

Someone else wanted Eric Clapton every which way, so we heard Cream, Blind Faith and solo Clapton. On some of the earliest stuff, I barely recognized the guitarist with his Carnaby Street mod clothes.

The Beatles "Help" was significant for the childish notation on the back of the album: "The 1st album bought by Holmes with his own money. Oct. 30, 1965." Given the cover, a discussion of semaphores ensued ("Hey, I was a Boy Scout").

Everyone wanted to know who was doing the cover of "Don't Be Cruel" (Cheap Trick) and everyone could find a favorite on the Hollies' greatest hits record.

Pawing through the shelves of records revealed overlaps: two copies of "Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys" and three of "Rubber Soul" (mono, stereo, import). In the Association album I'd brought were two identical copies of their greatest hits.

I made a gift of the extra to the one who chose to hear "Along Comes Mary" twice in a row. What do I need two copies of it for?

"This is where it all started, ladies," Holmes announced, playing the Bee Gees' "1st" album and  "To Love Somebody." FYI, liner notes told me that the brothers were 14 and 12 when they first signed with a label. Fetuses.

Some people occasionally got loopy uppity about taking turns choosing and even Holmes would show his dissatisfaction with someone's selection by looking at them and asking disdainfully, "Really? That's your choice?"

In other words, the musical taste police were out in full force. Funniest summation: "This whole night's been "Let's Make a Deal." All seven hours of it. No, really.

How long could this go on? As long as record lovers are willing to take turns. Late to the party, but so cool.

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