Time Travel: Record Store Day circa the 1990s

First things first, a big thank you to the Palace Inn for hosting the 1990’s equivalent of record store day.

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My friends and I looked forward to spending our parent’s hard earned cash inside your walls on an annual basis. The record conventions you housed were our musical holiday, and conveniently presented us with one of the only opportunities to eat at a Taco Bell during the year. For this one day out of the year we excitedly left our cozy suburb north of Pittsburgh to make the 45-minute trek to Monroeville (a different, lesser known-to us-suburb) that had one of the few Taco Bells in the greater Pittsburgh area and was also home to you.

All praise and glory to The Palace Inn aside, let’s get bootleg. Real bootleg.

The Palace Inn was a hotel that appeared stuck in time (1960s/70s). It was as if it had been teleported from the “off off” strip in Las Vegas and landed in Pittsburgh missing a casino and most of the glitz and glamour. Despite having no casino, there was a lot of gambling that occurred during the record conventions we attended inside it’s unmemorable ballroom. At these events, music fans could purchase a wide array of items including, KISS picture discs, overpriced rock n’ roll memorabilia, and most importantly bootlegs. Straight. Up. Bootlegs.

These bootlegs came in an array of shapes and sizes. Some were on silver CDs and looked like semi-official releases as evidenced by being on “labels” such as Kiss the Stone (KTS) and Blind Pig. Before committing to a purchase you had no idea what the sound quality was going to be, or if they were even going to be “real” concert recordings. Sometimes you would drop $30 only to own a CD of studio recordings with fake crowd noise mixed in. I quickly learned that one way to reduce the odds of a big burn was to purchase bootlegs dubbed onto cassettes. This roll of the dice typically only cost $5 to $8 and came complete with hand-written labels. As a grungy and odd 14-15 year old, I had become fascinated and fixated with MTV and “alternative” radio’s newest misfit, Beck.

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I felt a strong connection to him as he appeared to embrace his low self-esteem and poor self-image all the while managing to run it through a drum machine, a casio keyboard, a broken guitar, and finally, into a tape machine to create powerful and otherworldly sounds. I bought everything I could find in the record stores of my local mall that had his name on it (Mellow Gold, Loser EP, Stereopathetic Soulmanure, One Foot in the Grave).

As a result, whenever I went to the convention I scoured each and every table with the sole mission of finding any and all Beck bootlegs. I bought the cassette Beck: 1st Ave Minneapolis 6.29.94.

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My late adolescent eyes opened wide as I saw song titles that I did not recognize (“Colour Coordinated,” “Asskizz Powergrudge,” “Takes one to know one,” etc.). You see, I have always had reoccurring dreams about seeing, hearing, or experiencing things that did not exist in real life, but wished that they did (e.g., different flavors of Kool-Aid, a proper sequel to Rocky IV). This seemed like one of those dreams, but it wasn’t. This was reality. I could take this cassette with me out of this dream!!!! I also purchased the I’m a Schmoozer Baby bootleg and the Melkweg, Amsterdam show on cassette all from the Mellow Gold tour (1994).

As I collected more shows I began to realize that an album of unreleased music was forming (e.g., “Casio (Good Stuff),” “Brother,” “Convalescent,” etc.). Could this be the follow-up to Mellow Gold? Beck fueled my excitement for the follow-up as he introduces “It’s All in Your Mind” from the Amsterdam Show. “It’s gonna be on the next record” he drawls before launching into the song. Readers need to remember that this was pre-(mass)internet, so information about upcoming releases was often limited to Kurt Loder reports on MTV and a few magazines. I took Beck at his word and my hope continued to grow…

Unfortunately, most of these songs have not been released or recorded/released with the same energy or feel as the Mellow Gold era tour or Beck’s previous records (e.g., “Convalescent” released as “Glut” and the version of “Minus” on Odelay (both bullshit in my opinion)).

And so, to celebrate the spirit of Record Store Day pre the actual formation of Record Store Day, I encourage you to walk around any corner in America and grab some Taco Bell. Here is my record store day gift to you passed down through the hands and ears of cassette dubbing peddlers and pseudo-record labels from Europe. Here is part of what the follow up to Mellow Gold might have sounded like before Beck leaped off the bold and prolific cliff of lo-fi noise rock and folked-up hip-hop and left us in a puff of polished and contrived dust.

Enjoy,
Matt

Casio (Good Stuff)

It’s All In Your Mind (Single Version)

It’s Not Easy

Sandman

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