This is all Josh Rouse’s fault.
In 2003, the stylistically restless singer-songwriter put out an album titled 1972, and as I did at the time with anything that was getting decent reviews, I downloaded it and listened to it at work. All the press about the album that I’d read talked about how Rouse had really nailed the musical styles of 1972, the year of his birth. But when I listened to it, I found myself dissatisfied. Sure, there were touches of California soft-rock production, one or two gestures towards Philly soul, and the eternal pensiveness of the singer-songwriter movement, but I wanted more. The songs themseves could only have existed in a post-indie world, and Rouse’s literate, thoughtful self was all over the place, getting in the way of the world of 1972 I craved. (This is not really a flaw, of course; I only ever listened to the one album the one time, but Josh Rouse is a perfectly great modern singer-songwriter. He just happened to trigger an obsession.)
I hopped on allmusic.com and started rooting through discographies, looking for artists, movements, songs, albums, genres representative of 1972. I started buying CDs, downloading songs, getting into post-60s soul music for the first time, checking dates very closely. Then one day I noticed that the independent music stores I visited had a lot of used vinyl — cheap. Within about three months, I’d bought a couple hundred records, rooted through thousands more, become intimately familiar with the discographies of acts I’ve still never heard, memorized the Roman numerals MCMLXXII, and gotten terrifyingly good at spotting a © in a large block of text. I found out that there were local stores that specialized in vinyl; I watched prices go up as other hipsters discovered the same thing. Most of what I bought was stuff that I’d never heard of before, or at least stuff that I hadn’t heard. On the other hand, I found a handful of killer deals on some quite famous records. They all went on the shelf together.
I listened to many of the records, at least at first. Then I kept finding more and more, and my turntable became less and less satisfactory (it was an old school player — no, literally, a model made for use in classrooms), even apart from the fact that its output was only mono, and I started just buying the records, sticking them on a closet shelf, and forgetting about them.
Well, tonight I bought an Ion USB turntable. An hour ago, I ripped a record I had grabbed at random from the pile: Dan Hicks & His Hot Licks’ Striking It Rich. Which brings me to my new project.
Over the next few months to a year (we’ll see how it goes), I’ll be ripping my vinyl albums to mp3s, listening to them, and letting you know what I think. (The idea, by the way, was shamelessly stolen from Noel Murray’s “Popless” feature on the Onion’s A.V. Club blog.) I still have only a fraction of the music that was released in 1972, and a good third of that collection is on CD or . . . otherwise obtained. But it’s the records that fascinate me. And anyway, it’s scratchy, clicky rips from the records that I’ll be posting as mp3s, so you’ll have an incentive to seek out your own pristine copies if you like what you hear.
Unlike with my 1920s list, I’m not doing a damn bit of research beyond what my ears and the record sleeve tell me, so this will be more of a lark than a history lesson, and a chance for us to collectively make up our minds about a bunch of music that has been largely overlooked. Except for the bits which haven’t.