I’m not the greatest of fans of Record Store Day; any day is a good day to go and buy records; and an awful lot of the contrived collectibles that get people queuing are totally unnecessary, or could simply be released at any time during the year rather than creating months of havoc and worry at the pressing plants. That said there’s usually something that takes my eye, and does carry real value, and this year it’s something that echoes back to my earliest of listening days.
It was the late summer of 1970; a bright early evening; and I’m sitting in the garden in St. Albans listening to Bob Harris’ Sound Of The 70s show. He plays this song ‘The Jeweler’ by Pearls Before Swine, and I’m struck by the name and struck by the song but for whatever reason I never come across them again; never see the record in a shop or even hear of them again. Until the autumn of 1975 when I’m living in Bristol and preparing to move to London. One weekend I hitch up the M4 with a pal and we stay with some folk in South Kensington, and among their albums are a cluster of Pearls Before Swine records. All massively expensive imports in the thick covers that American albums used to have.
I then spot them in London shops but can’t remotely afford to purchase. However the seed is sown, and curiously the following summer when I’m spending a few weeks in Chicago I do finally pick up two of the records – The Use Of Ashes – the title’s a line from ‘The Jeweler’ – and These Things Too – in a cut-out shop. So in my first winter in London as punk surfaces I’m sitting in a Tufnell Park bedsit listening to Pearls Before Swine, amused to discover the only other person at all aware of them is Kris Needs who regularly name-checks them in ZigZag.
Punk changes a lot of things and those expensive imports turn into cut-outs; I pick up another three or four Pearls Before Swine or Tom Rapp titles – Rapp is their singer, songwriter, and main-mover – very cheaply on mail-order , and they stay in the collection. Every so often someone will cover them; notably This Mortal Coil and Psychic TV; but a lot of time has passed before I notice Tom plays at the first Terrastock festival in Providence in 1997. By now I’m editing Bucketfull Of Brains so I’m straight on to our American correspondent Jud Cost to get an interview; he duly does and it runs in #51. If that isn’t weird enough Tom turns up at the London Terrastock 3 in 1999 and I get to meet him and see him perform.
Now the Record Store Day link: sadly Tom died in early 2018 but it transpires that his estate has now connected with Fire Records and they are releasing a vinyl compilation – The Exaltation Of Tom Rapp – of previously unreleased recordings, seemingly rescued from a box of old tapes. Beyond that the provenance is so far vague; I recognise most but not all of the titles, listed below; but on brief listening they sound very worthwhile. Interestingly I also hear tell of an upcoming vinyl reissue for Tom’s 1999 solo album A Journal Of The Plague Year – more news on that as we get it.
1. State U
2. Translucent Carriages
3. Ring Thing (Three Rings)
4. The Jeweler
5. Harding Street
6. New Man
7. I Saw The World
8. For The Dead In Space
9. From The Movie Of The Same Name
10. Rocket Man
11. Teacup Kingdom
12. Images Of April
13. If You Don’t Want To (I Don’t Mind)
14. Sin Of Jesus
This is the tip of a RSD iceberg for Fire Records this year. Best check their website for all the details but highlights include a double Mary Lou Lord collection, Trevor Lucas’ 1966 solo album (on orange vinyl), Maria McKee’s Peddlin’ Dreams, and The Groundhogs’ Hogwash.