Sunday, July 11, 2010
a tale of a record collector's redemption
i've lived in champaign-urbana, illinois for a long time now. wasn't born & raised here, but it's home. i've lived here longer than anywhere else in my life--just about twenty years, all said and done. if you're a record collector living in this town--particularly a collector of psychedelic music--the album "everlasting tributes" by the finchley boys is, well, not the holiest of C-U holy grails--that honor might fall toward this album--but a pretty damn coveted grail no matter how you deify it (while a wonderful slice of acid-infected blues rock, it's certainly not perfection--for a hometown boy, though, hell...might as well be). in short, it's a must have, especially for a townie.
about nine years ago i was dating a woman for several weeks before i met her parents. i had seen a CDR in her car of her stepfather's band from the '80s; i can't remember their exact name, but it was something uninspiring-sounding. "the rave", maybe. i just imagined he "jammed" every weekend or so in pickup bands, playing to drunk central illinoisians, and that was about that. when i finally went to her parents' house in a neighboring town for dinner one night, in the course of a conversation with her stepdad, i mentioned sky saxon's name, and he remarked, "oh, my band played with the seeds back in the day". very intrigued, i asked, "what band were you in??"--well, you can possibly guess what's coming. he replied, "it was this little band called the finchley boys". my eyes bulged out of my head like a bugs bunny cartoon. i immediately looked at my girlfriend incredulously--she knew i was a record collector...how could this have not come up before now? seriously; how??!! sensing my obvious excitement (an understatement), and knowing his stepdaughter's affection for me, he walked into the next room, and came back out, handing me a sealed copy of their LP, free. okay, it's not a mortgage-a-house-with kind of rarity (goes for around 80-200 bucks on ebay) , but i still don't ever spend more than about 40 bucks on one LP--and even that's a lot. i'm not rich. this was valuable to me, and in more ways than just monetary. anyway, point is, i was so amazingly thrilled, and, in light of this coincidental occurrence, my relationship with the girl had an amazing afterglow.
in fact, many have conjectured since then (rightfully so), i was only with this woman because her stepdad was in the finchley boys. for, despite the aforementioned brilliant afterglow, and some other genuinely good times, we were not a good match. in fact, on the surface, a pretty terrible match. she was quite religious; i am quite not. caused a lot of conflict (amongst our other differences). and by a lot, i mean, a lot. we lasted, overall, a few months, and the break up was bad. very, very bitter. lots of fighting. on the evening we finally broke it off, in about december of '01, after an extremely unpleasant argument, i went back to my house and started hastily picking up a bunch of her things left there, and on a small stand in my living room that displays some of my favorite LPs, was that finchley boys staring out at me. it was a symbol of the happiness that we had briefly shared, swimming in the glow of serendipity. she knew how much it meant to me. and in my anger over our break up, at that particular moment, staring at the LP, i knew i couldn't have a constant reminder of my perceived failure to maintain that happiness around the house (or so i thought). i picked it up, threw it on top of the bag with her stuff, had a friend drive me over to her place, said a giant (childish) "fuck you", and just dumped it all in her room, with the record in plain view--i wanted it to sting, to make her really know the hurt i was feeling. "THIS is what you made me do!"; that sort of hooey. and so, as quickly as the LP had entered my life, it was gone.
man oh man, if only i'd slept on it. if only i'd waited--sheesh, an hour?--before making that boneheaded decision, i would've--of course--kept it. because very shortly after dumping it at her place, i was banging my head against the wall for doing something so, so idiotic. to appease myself, i bought a bootleg LP to fill that huge gaping void on my display shelf. but, of course, it wasn't the same. not even close. i would've done anything to reverse that action/reaction, to get the LP back. but i couldn't.
well, last night, as part of champaign's 150th anniversary celebration, the finchley boys surprisingly got back together to play their first concert in about forty years. it was an okay show--a step above classic rock "state fair" type bands, and all involved were clearly having fun being on stage again for their hometown crowd. at one point the singer pulled out a copy of "everlasting tributes", and described its present rarity and value, then announced "and now you can buy one at our merch table for 20 bucks!" before throwing the LP in his hand out to a lucky member of the audience. my friends attending with me (one of them Record Fiend himself; another a local record store owner) were very doubtful these were original LPs they're selling, as, official reissues (on CD and LP) are due this year. it must be an advance pressing of the reissue? *must* be. well, someone walked over and bought one nonetheless--and we still weren't convinced it was the original. perhaps the reissue label was disguising itself, keeping a mystery alive, and not mentioning their name *anywhere* on the LP? maybe? it had to be unsealed (which is a bummer, as the band name is only on a blue sticker affixed to the outside of the shrinkwrap) to be sure--the paper sleeve housing the vinyl had a yellow-ish, old-ish overall stain, and, it sure did smell old. not a single hint anywhere on it of being a reissue. all of us standing there realized at about the same moment--this really is an original LP they're selling for about 1/10th of its value. i borrowed ten dollars from an extraordinarily kind friend of a friend, as i never carry cash anymore, and just hoped that my buddy who went to the merch table came back with LPs before they were gone. and, well, it wouldn't be a tale of redemption if he came back empty-handed now, would it?
i came home, and just about nine years after the fact, was able to put an original finchley boys LP back up on my display stand, sealed, as it will stay--and i will never, ever take it down again. whatever cosmic force out there looked down and smiled on a formerly-regretful record collector, thank you.
and, elizabeth, wherever you are, i hope you're doing well.
--the north star grassman