Going to Lincoln
At some point in the mid-90s I actually thought it was a good idea for someone as clumsy and careless as me to collect 7" singles on vinyl. I'd bought records as a kid (which I'd managed to scratch, crack, break and melt with alarming alacrity). But cassettes and then CDs were what enabled me to become a music appreciater of any merit. Still, I couldn't resist the siren's call of cool packaging, limited availability and ooh, the sheer neatness of little records forever. (Incidentally, this is the same unreined impulse that got me into trouble with expensive makeup that rots in drawers as we speak.)
Recently, I had a bunch of these records transferred to CD (Summer, too nice of you...) so I can share. Which I'll probably do in future weeks and months.
Raja Vocative - The Mountain Goats and Alastair Galbraith
Hatha Hill - The Mountain Goats and Alastair Galbraith
[Orange Raja, Blood Royal, Walt Records, 1995]
I can't remember where I was when I heard most things for the first time. But I do recall the wheres and whens of The Mountain Goats. September, 1994, I-80, Lincoln, Nebraska. I'd been driving several days through Wyoming and Western Nebraska towards Chicago. If you've done the drive you know there's not a whole lot going on visually. Even less when it comes to radio signals. I'd been surviving on a diet of mix tapes for days, but as I approached the city limits, I decided to try my antenna and must have picked up the University of Nebraska's station. And I caught maybe the last minute of this weird, intense, laughably low-fi but insanely tuneful song sung by a guy who had no business imposing his nasal yelp on the world. But there it was in all its glory. And in less than a minute, I was infatuated. I pulled off the highway so I wouldn't lose the signal before the DJ returned to tell me what I wanted to hear. The Mountain Goats. Words I repeated many times over the remainder of my drive through the heat and boredom and that speeding ticket in Iowa so I wouldn't forget before I found a record store and could purchase Zopilote Machine (US, UK). I played that CD to death.
When Orange Raja was released in 1995 The Mountain Goats were John Darnielle and Rachel Ware. They were joined, so to speak, by Alastair Galbraith. The Mountain Goats taped their bits in the U.S. on the primitive equipment characteristic of those early recordings (often a boombox) and Galbraith recorded his violin parts in New Zealand, which were later overdubbed. Ineptly, of course. These tracks eventually found their way onto the Ghana (US, UK) compilation, but not without losing the gentle clicks and pops of the record. I'm posting the b-sides, which I think are better than the two songs on side one.