Rhinofy-Modern Music

I used to buy my records at Granny ‘N Grammy.

I know, I know, the hipsters went to Rhino, on Westwood Boulevard. I shopped there too, and met Harold and got insulted by Jeff Gold, but I found the promos better at Granny ‘N Grammy.

Actually, NARAS made them change the name, to DiscConnection, as if somebody would really confuse a hole in the wall record store with the lame awards show known as the Grammys.

Not that I never saw stars in Granny ‘N Grammy. Ken Russell was there on a regular basis. Because they had one of the best soundtrack departments in Los Angeles.

But I didn’t care about obscure soundtracks, except maybe for "Rancho Deluxe", which contained "Livingston Saturday Night", which you could find on no other Jimmy Buffett album. No, I was into the promos.

That was a feature of living in the big city. Everybody on the mailing list, the writers, the industry people, sold all their unwanted albums to these indie record stores, despite there being embossed warnings not to. If you were willing to drive further east, right past Fairfax, you found Aron’s and Rene’s…

But I liked Granny ‘N Grammy. Where they held the most desirable product just for me. The Eagles’ "Long Run", the Cars’ debut… They had those on promo and they knew I’d buy ’em, so they put them under the counter and waited for me, I came in every Friday, after enduring another week of law school.

But I loved going through the bin, taking a chance on that which I was aware of but would not pay full price for. Promos were either $1.99 or $2.49 when new records were $3.69, you could take a risk.

That’s how I discovered Karla Bonoff’s debut, the initial Alan Parsons Project album, "Tales Of Mystery And Imagination"…and Be Bop Deluxe’s "Modern Music".

Oh, I knew who Be Bop Deluxe was. I’d hear "Ships In The Night" on the radio. And I eventually went back and bought "Sunburst Finish", the album that contained it, but one Friday in Granny ‘N Grammy they had the band’s brand new album, "Modern Music" in the promo bin. I bought it.

Start with the second, side, with the title track.

"Modern Music"

It begins with a collage of radio sounds, even a reference to Olympic runner Lasse Viren, and then the guitar starts to twinkle, the band locks into a groove and it’s some of the sweetest music you’ve ever heard…

"Modern music on my radio…"

Bill Nelson was a guitar hero, but "Modern Music" was not over the top and in your face, it was an aural ride, that you just didn’t want to jump off of. Sure, his guitar sound makes the cut, but the changes are so endearing…I can never burn out on this track.

"Dancing In The Moonlight (All Alone)"

Would I have liked this as much if it didn’t come after "Modern Music"? I don’t know, but with vinyl records that’s how you got into an album… You dropped the needle and after hearing your favorite you experienced what came next, not having the energy to get up and move the needle back!

"Honeymoon On Mars"

The second side was a suite, this track was not even a minute and a half long, it had the futuristic feel of riding in your flying car in between nightclubs.

"Lost In The Neon World"

It’s the picking that makes this so endearing. Bill could play fast and great.

"Dance Of The Uncle Sam Humanoids"

This segues from what came before into a spacy journey. This is the kind of music Todd Rundgren made with Utopia, only better.

"Forbidden Lovers"

This is mislabeled this is really "Modern Music (Reprise)". The echo of the title cut is like running into your summer camp girlfriend in the middle of winter, it’s delicious.

"Modern Music (Reprise)"

This is really "Forbidden Lovers".

"Down On Terminal Street"

This is kind of like "Rock ‘N’ Roll Suicide" from "Ziggy Stardust", a classic seventies English album closer. Slow, a summing-up, majestic! It’s like the final credits of a great movie, you stand up and conduct the band with your baton.

"Make The Music Magic"

This is like "Her Majesty" at the end of "Abbey Road", an unexpected coda that sounds nothing quite like what came before but functions as the cherry on top, a little something extra when what came before is quite enough.

I know the first side of "Modern Music" nowhere near as well. And despite becoming a huge fan, going to see the band at the Shrine, the commercial peak came before, with the aforementioned "Sunburst Finish". Bill kept changing direction, broke up the band, transformed the sound, he was always one step ahead, but not having secured a huge core audience to begin with, over time what he had left dwindled down to almost nothing. Which is an utter shame, because he was so damn talented.

P.S. Due to the magic of Spotify, of the modern Internet world, albums have been unearthed that we had no idea existed. I’m going to add to the playlist two live versions of the "Modern Music" suite, one from an October 2, 1976 live concert on the BBC and another from an album entitled "Futurist Manifesto – 1974 – 1978".

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