The Second Step: Making Contact
Almost two years ago I wrote a piece about addiction, a slightly hyperbolic attempt to make light of the fact that I can't seem to stay out of CD stores. I'm slightly better now; I can usually walk past an open shop. However, I still know the fastest route to any CD store in town. Just in case I need that hit during the day and can manage to scamper out of the office during lunchtime.
But I keep it to an hour. That's step four: being honest with your shortcomings and facing them directly.
I'm skipping past most of the steps in the traditional 12-step program and I'm not doing it because they aren't important steps. Rather, those steps which call upon the intervention of a higher power into one's troubles aren't for me. This is my problem and I'm going to have to figure out how to fix it myself. Fighting back from a constant itch for new sounds is something that you have to on your own.
Well, it's not an entirely solo journey. You do bump into folk once in a while. Steps eight and nine require you to list those who you have harmed and make amends. Okay, I can do that.
It turns out I may have classified someone as being more dishonest and wrongly inclined than they actually were. In the "First Step," I railed against a certain unknown indidivual who had kept me from retrieving a certain CD. When I wrote the article, I never imagined that this person would actually step forward. Mea culpa.
I got this e-mail recently. The world is a very small place. Witness how one CD can reveal links that people never knew they had.
If it had been Shriekback's Big Night Music instead, well, I never would have sold that one.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Steven Brence" [brences@******]
Sent: Friday, September 20, 2002 3:17 AM
Subject: Saqqara Dogs
You don't know me but I just read your piece about your music acquisition addiction.
I had been, for some reason, gazing at my own substantially bloated cd collection and had once again taken brief note of a long neglected disc, Thirst by Saqqara Dogs. The thought occurred to me that enough time had passed that perhaps someone, somewhere in the world, had finally grown so incredibly bored that they resorted to posting something about this disc of little repute on the Internet. The last time I checked -- a few years back -- there had been nothing. This infrequent check is intended as much as an indicator of the status of the World Wide Web as of Saqqara Dogs. If the Saqqara Dogs were on the Web, I reasoned, the Web could then be considered the most complete reference source ever.
How far the Web has come; Google took me to your essay. I'm (lazily) reading it, and suddenly it occurs to me that I might just be the one, the "bastard" who bought your disc, that very audacious "cocksucker." I have, after all, lived in Eugene since arriving to go to college in the Fall term of 1984 (I recently completed a Ph. D.), and how many copies of that disc could have ever been in this town? I bought my copy years ago, used, I am sure, and have (quite audaciously) had it ever since. Could I be the Philistine to have caused all your distress and effort?
My memory is reliable but slow -- something like a small tractor. I recall that I acquired my very first record, in the mid 1970s, at that very same Tower Records in San Francisco where your quest sadly ended. I remember that occasion; I was about nine-years-old and wearing a 49ers coat long before the 49ers were any good at all. I had so impressed the manager of the store with what he perceived to be my steadfast loyalty to the maligned local team, that he allowed me to pick out any record I wanted and take it for free. I quickly decided upon Yellow Submarine as it was the only Beatles record my parents didn't have, and because the hippies in the headshop on NW 23rd St. in Portland would play "Hey Bulldog" for me while my two sisters and I jumped on their hippie-cool waterbed and deep inhaled their unusual incense. I had missed these minor but formative psychedelic moments since we had moved to San Francisco a couple of years earlier. I thought the cover was pretty cool too (a Philistine already, perhaps).
Of course none of this will help me with the effort to determine if I had your copy of Thirst so I press the little tractor forward to my time in Eugene. Initially, it occurs to me that I likely bought it at a small and short-lived cd only store called CD Revolution which had been located on Alder St. between Guidos and Sam's To Go, next to campus. It was a tiny little space (which now contains only half of a still tiny Korean restaurant) owned and run by the sort of guy who would be cast to play just this part in a movie. As I am afflicted in a way similar to you, he knew what I liked and would recommend obscure discs, either brought in to the shop, or collected on regular buying trips up and down the west coast.
Like I said, it was a tiny place with an equally tiny selection, so of course the good people at the House of Records also knew what I liked and would always have ready recommendations upon my frequent visits there. Before the last couple years took me regularly to Corvallis (and Uncle Hungry's), I rarely bought CDs anywhere else, allowing only for the occasional odd trip downtown to the Record Bin or to Ozone in Portland.
Scouring your essay for clues, the 1992 date you gave finally gets my attention. By 1992, CD Revolution was long closed, but it was way too small for anything that could be described as a "bin" anyway. That would leave The House of Records or the Record Bin as the remaining real possibilities. This was my first year of graduate school, so I rarely got downtown, thus leaving only the former for serious consideration. House of Records also always has the more reliably interesting supply of used discs, the sort of place one might both sell and buy a disc like Thirst. (They have a couple of Kevin Ayers discs which, if they are still in their used bin when I finally leave Eugene, I will buy. I am sure they will be.)
Thinking further, however, Thirst is a 1987 product, and frankly sounds more like 1986 (the Sisters of Mercy vocals give an otherwise fairly unique album a distinctly '80s goth feel). I suspect that I must have been turned on to "The Dogs" earlier than 1992, perhaps the reptilian theme of the cover reminding the local CD pushers of my fancy for imported Shriekback compilations.
In the end, I guess I can't say for sure, but I think I may have the copy which you sold. It's a decent album, but not great, and certainly not worth that kind of effort. If you need a new white whale, you might just try to track down a rare CD copy of Shriekback's album Care. It was only released in Australia, where the band was never very popular (as if they were anywhere else), and has proven quite hard to find. Just in case we end up on the same minor oddysey, you should be sure to look for it with your less efficient, but more secure, right hand.
In any case, I enjoyed your essay, so close to home (literally and figuratively).
Oregon State University
The First Step