Monday, January 21, 2013

Vinyl Geekdom and A Song I Never Knew Was Actually A Cover

My fellow record collector geeks out there will attest to the fact that each of us who while away hours thumbing through threadbare copies of Glen Campbell LPs, faded Firestone Christmas compilations, and the assorted other wretchedness that inhabit milk crates in dusty corners of thrift shops or fill the dollar bin tables at record shows, or who relentlessly scan auction site postings and mail-order lists, all in the hope of finding that unexpected gem or long-sought piece of vinyl - especially at can-you-believe-it prices - feels the same abundant joy on those rare occasions when such a search pays off.  Sure, nowadays you can easily shell out the big bucks online for a copy of just about anything, or find it ripped to mp3 on some obscure shareblog, but it isn't the same, man, it's just not the same.

There's an unparalleled exuberance in bringing that amazing find home and giving it that first spin on your own turntable that defies description for those born without the vinyl geek gene.  Sure, even in the most extreme cases of finding "holy grail" records after sometimes literally years of searching, we pretty much already know what the records sound like. It's the having of it, the owning the physical product, the wondering about the life story of the copy now in our hands ( many people have owned and loved it before us? what records did it share shelf space with? why would anyone have ever parted with it to begin with but boy am I glad they did...).  We instantly become Daffy Duck awash in treasure: "Mine, mine, mine!"

On truly wonderful occasions, though, the vinyl grooves of our new-found treasure reveal stunning new things to us, as happened to me with my first vinyl find of the new year.  Finally found a surprisingly cheap copy of a 1977 UK punk compilation called Streets, which I've been looking for for some time for two reasons: first, it's one of only a few vinyl appearances of The Doll, a great unheralded band I have written about here before; second, its catalog number is BEGA 1 - the first album released on the Beggars Banquet label, which was very important in the independent record scene of the first punk era.  It's a decent encapsulation of the second-tier scene in early UK punk, and many of it's tracks already exist elsewhere in my collection: "Cranked Up Really High" by Slaughter and the Dogs, "Ain't Bin To No Music School" by The Nosebleeds, John Cooper Clarke's "Innocents," heck, even The Doll's cut, "Trash," has been in my singles box for quite awhile.   But among the tracks I was not familiar with was what I have since learned is the only vinyl release of a song here titled "Talk Talk Talk Talk" by virtual unknowns The Reaction.

When The Reaction's track started, my ears perked up immediately. Opening with a fantastically skittish riff that settles into a choppy mod jam (pun intended), this is the kind of song I love. But then the vocals hit and...hey wait a minute...I know these lyrics!
"Well yeah I told you before when I was up, society was bringing me down..."
One of my favorite songs of the MTV synth-pop era was "Talk Talk" by a group called Talk Talk. Talk Talk would later have a big worldwide pop hit with "It's My Life," later made a hit again by No Doubt, but in 1982 they were skinny-tie New Wavers with this incredible song.  But I had no idea - no freaking idea! - that it was actually a cover of an old punk tune!  A bit of Googling taught me that Talk Talk's lead singer Mark Hollis had been, in earlier years, the singer for a little-known punk group.  Yeah, that's Mark on The Reaction cut alright!

The Reaction's total vinyl output seems to have been this track on the Streets compilation and two other tracks on a one-off single (now added to my "holy grail" list, natch), which is a damn shame because oh man does this original version of this killer track sizzle!  I am happily stunned!

For your listening pleasure, here is the MTV classic as most people know the song, "Talk Talk" by Talk Talk, followed by the original, "Talk Talk Talk Talk" by The Reaction. Compare and decide. Me, I've got some crate digging to do!