Des Moines is where recorded music goes to die. (is it better grammar to say, Recorded music goes to Des Moines to die?) or maybe not die, but rather to sit in an unexplained sideways world where it waits with other musical companions before it moves into the golden light. They should put it on the signposts when you are entering the city:
Des Moines: CD, Vinyl, Cassette and 8 track Landfill.
Not good, not bad. Just is. All formats die, kiddo.
Hectic and stressful month. I needed to get out of Dodge (but ended up almost going to (Fort) Dodge). So I decided to do what any other self-respecting moderately middle class individual looking at a long weekend of good weather and free time would do. Road trip!
I rented a car (the AC on my car kinda blows…….tepid air) and headed out on a grand rounds kinda thing, with the intent of picking some out of print music. Mapped it all out (even called ahead to some stores to make sure they were still there). Des Moines, Omaha (somewhere in the middle America), Sioux Falls (laugh if you like, but I found cool stuff there last year when I went to the badlands and black hills) and anywhere in between that looked appealing.
I won’t bore you with too many travel details. Suffice to say 6’o clock comes early (even for me) and surprisingly bright. Tracey Thorn (Love and Its Opposite) started the journey (best lyric writing of her career? Discuss……) Mostly unremarkable travel except for a gas stop in Hampton Iowa. Corn fed looks good. And friendly. Or friendly? Dunno, but nice. (and for those keeping count, only one dew on the way and one on the way back)
Arrived in Des Moines around 10.30. first stop was Jay’s CD and Hobby and a CD Warehouse on the southeast side of DSM. Except the CD Warehouse was closed (economy? Medium? Bad business sense?). Luckily, Jay’s CD shop was next block up. Got harassed by a couple kids out in front of the store. “Hey man, can you sell our video games for us? They guy won’t buy our stuff. Whaddya mean ‘no’, why not? Can’t you help us out? CREEP!” nice kids. Way too early for this kind of crap. I guess this is what happens when Iowegians lose their pig. So I escape inside. Kinda grungey, but 2 walls of cds. Let’s see what they got. Hmmmmmm. Lots of guns and roses. Lots of bon jovi, lots of belly. As a matter of fact, lots of couldn’t get a dollar for this crap at a thrift sale kind of stuff. Big name artists, but super common and lots of it, all priced a little high (in rough shape). Store is pretty much clearly a bust, but I look through all of it. Maybe no flipping, but I might find something cool for me. I keep the faith through the last of the cut out compilation stuff, but alas, empty on all counts. Not that I’m drawing any conclusions on the make up of Des Moines folk on the basis of one cd store, but sheesh. Monster truck rally city. I can smell the aerosmith from here (and it’s mostly Geffen era) This collection will out live cockroaches.
Ok. No worries. Onto the next store. And did I mention homo don’t need no map. One look on mapquest the day before is enough. (ok, I lie, I wrote down rudimentary directions on my travel itinerary, but they were sucky directions)
Now approaching, ZZZ records (after a minor overshoot, and by the way, the capitol dome looks lovely in the morning sunlight). A bunch of bins of cds greeted me upon arrival, with huge racks of vinyl to the back of the (barely) one room store. And are they running a day care in there too? Dunno, but definitely has character. Some interesting finds on the cd side. Picked up the first Christians cd. Not really worth anything, but I love “Ideal World”. An import Flock of Seagulls (with bonus tracks) tempted me, but I refrained, especially as the system (which is totally one sided in my favor I know) broke down (get out of the meeting already!). Missed out on a pretty rare (but probably crappy) import, but there are remedies for that. And I’d have passed on the Marshall Crenshaw anyway (although I love his live version of “I Fought the Law.”
But whilst I am waiting for someone to confirm a pick, I start looking through the vinyl. And yes, I laugh at the folks who fondly remember vinyl….i like the bigger artwork and there are still records not on cd, but warmer sound? Really? And I hated the nicks and pops and skips at the time for as much as I fondly reminisce about them now. It’s a fad, a way for the backpack kids to have something tangible to hold onto while they are listening to their ipods. They don’t REALLY love the vinyl. That’s marketing and status.
BUT Ohmigod….Charlie Dore? Lipps Inc (Pucker Up), Alan O’Day? Gino Vanelli (Vanilli...hahaha) Benny Mardones? Has someone been collecting vinyl since they were a sperm? I’ll admit, I spent an hour riffling through this stuff. Not really looking to buy (although there are lots that aren’t on cd) but just retracing memory lane. I won’t bore you with details (poco) but very fun and I can pretty much say that had at least one copy from each of the artists entrenched in my youthful (70’s) memories. No idea where all the vinyl came from, but damn fun collection of stuff. And a couple coolish purchases, the PLAYING FOR KEEPS soundtrack (love that pete townshend song) and MARRIED TO THE MOB (which I have on pretty good authority, is quite desirable, mostly for that awesome “Goodbye Horses” tune from THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Great store and the clerks (babysitters) were great, even giving me addresses of a couple other stores that weren’t on my radar.
Next up was another CD Warehouse, but damn if that one isn’t there either (I did research, but that consisted of calling on local cd warehouse store….i figured if one was open, they all were….ya ya…I’m an LED bulb, long lasting but not particularly bright). Not saying I exactly got lost, but I did end up at a half price books. Now I’m not a huge fan of HPB (even though I found a sheena Easton remaster at one of them for $4), mostly, they know what they have and price accordingly. But I figured, what the heck, when in Des Moines…..(and they were having a 20% off sale)
Too bad, I wasn’t there 6 months ago…they had a lot of beach boys remasters, which would have fed my late winter BB mania. But I’m over that now. There were a couple decent finds E’s BROKEN TOY SHOP (for 8 minus 20%) and the fame monster by lady gaga (this is, I am almost ashamed to say it, entirely for me…) but that’s it. Slim pickings (probably more akin to very picked) E was good though. I didn’t look at vinyl. It was already 1pm (I’m suddenly skeptical of my Omaha destination later in the day, this is already taking longer than I had allotted)
So next is another Jay’s CD and Hobby. Very skeptical, but this is in the Merle Hay Mall and if anywhere……besides, they have a taco johns in the mall and I’m getting hungry. Quite a few less cds here that SE DSM store. But not quite as vanhalen-esque either. Lots of near misses here. A couple Jennifer warnes from the 70’s (but not THE WELL), an early steve winwood, but scratch beyond buffable belief. Not as GnR, BJ, Aero centric as the one is SE DSM, but still a lot of very common stuff, scattered among some serious cut out crap. They don’t seem to serious about the cd, or they pick the gems out and ebay them. Except for…what do I see here? Andy Taylor’s THUNDER? Oooh, nice one that. Taco Johns and a good pick. That’ll do, pig, that’ll do. (beef meat and potato burrito, btw)
Ok, now I have two CD warehouses left to rummage through (and don’t even ask me why I’m going through CD warehouses….it’s the no stone left unturned deal, even though I 99% know that they aren’t going to produce) There’s probably another entry on the history (as I know it) of CD warehouse. At this point, the chain has got to be on its last legs. To further mix my metaphors, the meat has been pretty much picked off the bones, the bloom is off the rose, the blank is blank blank. But they still lumber on in places (I expect better in some than others) Quite frankly, I was kinda counting on this last days of the century dynamic when I was planning my trip. Nothing like a forgotten pool of water to hide surprises.
And to be honest, both stores (merle hay and valley view) had tons and tons of cds in the racks. They even had a rack of closeout cassette tapes and 8 tracks (styx, journey, Kansas, michael omartian, oh my) But man…..we are really talking landfill material across the board. If they are washed up and forgotten, cut out or super overstock, either of these two stores had it. I bet I looked at 1000 titles in each store at least, and bought three. And none of the three were flappable (although I could have probably flipped the Donnie iris King Cool cd, but it just didn’t seem worth it), all of the cds I found were just for fun stuff (the clean, human league and one other one that only a real music fan would ever have even heard of).
Oh the musical humanity! These stores really were the graveyards for cds. There were copies of cds that probably haven’t been played since 1988 (yes, that would be you Lloyd cole) and some that were probably never even played (was not was….who would even buy that?) if it was cut out, it was here, if it was boring 80’s/90’s light metal (warrant, ratt, white lion, etc) it was here. Over there is your light alternative rock (basically your 90’s cities 97 music), over there your little girl power, your debbie gibsons, your tiffanies, plus your alternas, your soul coughings, your lionel ritchies, your spears. Ok, so there was a grizzly bear too, but that was clearly an anomaly not likely to be repeated. Mostly it was the past, the forgotten ignored, barely remembered it when it was there past all out in display of row upon row of useless cds.
And it was there, going through the grimy greasy spines (my back aching, my eyes watering) that I i'm wondering about the future of the compact disc. I felt i was looking at cd carcasses (carcassi?) the way I used to look at vinyl after the advent of the cd. There’s no hope here. This is what the end of the world looks like. A dark record store filled with racks of cds that you can mark down all you like, and music hounds can spend hours scouring the heaps and find almost nothing of interest.
I dug through the racks until 4pm. 3 cds. I bought 3 cds. All used was super cheap and I only could find 3 cds (I should have gotten the Lloyd cole debut….guess I forgot about that one) I guess it discouraged me some, so instead of heading off to Omaha (I was already way behind schedule and I’ll need another reason to go to Omaha, cos I’m not too optimistic about the music picking.) I turned around and headed home again.
The drive home was nice and as uneventful as the ride down. It was fun to crank the tunes if nothing else and I got tons of stuff re-listened to:
Tracey thorn love and its opposite
Avett brothers I and love and you
Charlotte gainsbourg IRM
Shearwater golden archipelago
National high violet
Broken Social Scene Forgiveness Rock Record(meet me in the basement has become my favorite off this album)
Minus the bear omni
Some random play, john cale, Madonna, lady gaga, nick lowe, grizzly bear, mgmt (oracular tracks not congratulations for those keeping count)
Human league hysteria
Frightened rabbit winter of mixed drinks
Black keys brothers