Email Specials from May 2011

Friday 5/6/2011 ~ Collections


At 3AM last night I read a long article about a band from the 1960s.

At 4AM I went to the basement to look over the 1,000 45RPM records stored there.

This morning I have questions for folks thirty years younger than me.

I'll explain the records first. Well, for starters, I personally bought `em all... mostly when they were originally released. So, sentimentality factors in. And they're neatly alphabetically stored in labeled boxes, so they don't take up too much room. And they do sound markedly different than digital recordings, so someday I may want to listen to them all. But mostly I've kept them for reference. For example, every year I produce a Halloween show called "Night Of The Singing Dead" (Now in it's 19th great year!) featuring musicians who've recently passed away. So, if someone new dies, I can run to the basement, find their song, teach it to the band, and add it to the show.

But, last night at 4AM, it was sentimentality that took me to the basement.

That brings me back to 3AM. While randomly reading a music site (I'm trying to keep up with the internet... apparently there's a lot of stuff on there!) I found a link to an article about Paul Revere & The Raiders. Keyboardist Paul Revere (actual first name: Paul; actual middle name: Revere), and singer Mark Lindsay (actual name: Mark Lindsay), started working together back in 1958; founded Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1960; and in 1966, hit the national charts with several hit records. The article featured interviews with both guys... as they outlined the history of the band, their recording career, and the band's numerous personnel changes.

At one point Lindsay talked about the 1966 recording session for their first big hit, "Just Like Me." He said that guitarist Drake Levin played a great solo, but wanted to try it one more time. So, on a different track he recorded a second solo. During play-back, the engineer put both solos on, and everyone loved the unintentional semi-double-tracked guitar solo.

Now, if I had read that years ago, I would have run to the basement, dug out the record and listened to it! But last night, I merely opened another window, called up youtube, and in less than 30 seconds I was listening to it. (Well, the solo doesn't start until 56 seconds into the song, so it was a little longer than 30...) And yep, it was a rockin' solo!

Since "Just Like Me" was a hit, I knew it would be on youtube. But later in the article, Lindsay mentioned a song from 1968 that he did the mix on... one that I had never heard of, called "Don't Take It So Hard." The record was not successful and he feels it was his fault. "The vocal is mixed down a little too far, background vocals are down a little too far, the organ’s down a little too far. I didn’t really push," he said. He continued, "I think it’s a great song, it’s one of the great lost records, but unfortunately, it was lost because the mix wasn’t as good as the record was, and I take full responsibility and blame for that, and I’m sorry."

After reading that, I had to hear that record! But even if I went to the basement, that 45 was never for sale at my local G.C.Murphy Record Department, so I don't have it! But... youtube... 10 seconds... (faster, since the window was already open)... and there it was. And yes... it's a bad mix.

The bottom line: In the basement I have 1,000 records for reference, but it's faster and easier to reference 1,000,000 songs on youtube.

Now, I still don't want to part with my records... But, even if I'm going to spend the rest of my life learning new songs from old recordings, do I really need these physical, hard copies? Probably not.

And that brings me to this morning's questions. If you wanted to describe the records in the basement, an appropriate term would be a "collection." And in my case, it doesn't stop at records. As you have seen during these last ten years of Pittsburgh Guitars Email Specials, here at the store we have a guitar "collection." Next to my desk, I have a books-about-the-Beatles "collection." And if I look around, I'm sure there are other items nearby that would fall into the "collection" category.

And it's not just me. I think my entire generation of Americans has a tendency toward collection-itis. One of the reasons is that when we were young, "things" were tangible. If you found some "thing" that appealed to you, you could touch it, and hold it... possess it. And you were reasonably certain that it would last for a while... long enough that you would run across another of those "things."

But do younger generations feel the same way? With regard to music, CD sales have significantly dropped, as downloads have taken over. So "music" (e.g. the method that it is distributed) is no longer tangible. The same trend is happening with books. Information is constantly available out there in internet space. Movies can be downloaded. And even potentially-sentimental important physical items, like computers or smart-phones, rapidly become obsolete. For that matter, even cash... good old physical money... is showing up less and less. Here in the store, debit cards are used more than cash.

My conjecture is that the current "younger generation" may have a very different sensibility concerning "collections." I suspect that so much of contemporary daily life involves digital items, online or on miniature flash drives, etc, that the act of "collecting" anything may be a thing of the past. I wonder if years from now, they will look back on my generation as "the folks who collected stuff."

What do you think?


See you soon,


PS: Here are Paul Revere & The Raiders in 1966, when they hit it big!

PPS: Since they were gigging before The Beatles hit in 1964, they once had short hair. Here's a rare old picture!

PPPS: "Just Like Me"

PPPPS: "Kicks"

PPPPPS: The non-hit: "Don't Take It So Hard."

PPPPPPS: After thinking about these 45s all night, I went out and bought a battery-powered turntable so we could listen in the store! Here's me spinning a disc.

PPPPPPPS: The big article that inspired the thoughts above.

PPPPPPPPS: Customer of the Week: STP


Friday 5/13/2011 ~ More on Collections


Last week I suggested that folks from my generation were/are in a unique historical position, with regard to "collecting." Our grandparents struggled to make it through the depression of 1929, and our parents struggled to make it through World War II. We, on the other hand, could buy as many things as our money would allow us. And thus was born: collections.

The other side of the coin has occurred in recent decades, as more and more aspects of life are being digitized. There is now less and less need to have physical copies of most anything.

Here are some of the responses I received:


Collecting is a big thing for me, the list is long.

I find it fascinating, all of my friends used to say "I've got that record!", and we had 'cache' or 'status' if we owned something rare or special. We would gather round the console stereo and listen to some new LP...

Now, the kids say "I've got that on my ipod" but there is nothing special about having it, `cause everything is a click away! And everyone has the same thing!

But they still say it.

And... I can still tell stories about "seeking" things - like the paperback copy of "Man with the Golden Gun" I needed to complete my James Bond collection in Junior High - going from store to store for at least a year. Or finding a 45 of "Blues Theme" in a broken jukebox.

So, when they're our age the kids won't have the same stories... they will gather around the fire and say "I couldn't get that song until I got an itunes card in my Easter Basket..."


My daughters (aged 8 to 15) have each amassed quite a collection of dolls, stuffed animals and other toys. And I am sure, much to my chagrin, that before too long they will have each amassed quite a collection of ex-boyfriends, as well.

Of course, they could have inherited the penchant from me. (Not the ex-boyfriend part...)


Interesting, I never thought about the decline of collecting, since I'm not a collector per se... perhaps because I equate it with clutter (though I suspect most true collectors, like you, carefully document and store their treasured objects).

Having said that, there are certainly items from my youth I wish I still had, like my Corgi Aston Martin DB5.

I would collect movies if they weren't so easy to get from Netflix. The other day I purchased "Goldfinger" on Blu-ray online. I was excited about it because-- well, because it's "Goldfinger."

Me: Honey, I got "Goldfinger" on Blu-Ray!
Wife: Didn't we just watch that like 5 years ago?
Me: But... it's "Goldfinger"! It's on Blu-Ray!

Being a Blu-Ray the disc was chock full of extras, such as the documentary on the greatest movie car ever, JB's Aston Martin DB5.

I wish I still had my Corgi version of that car. (And the box it came in.) I mean, even though I could sell it for $250 on E-bay (I checked) and buy that cute little 5-Watt Vox amp or quite a bit of the Ephiphone Sheraton from you, I wouldn't. I'd cherish the damn thing.

I love to read and when I was younger it was important to own the books and display them (and my erudition). I've unloaded a few over time, but with a few exceptions (the "Flashman" series-- now there's another thing you'd love; "The Great Gatsby;" "Catch-22;" anything by George Orwell; my cookbooks) I don't really need the ones I've kept. They're all in the library, which I use frequently. And, of course, like music, TV, movies, they're all available online and easily accessible (though I don't own an ipod or one of those book things.)

Albums are a different matter, as I have a fantasy that one day I'll hook up the turntable and enjoy them all again, blasting "School's Out" or anything by the Clash.

Curious thought, the decline of collecting. Thanks for bringing it up, I shall ponder it too.


I think about this subject all the time. I was born in 1976. Albums were a big part of my childhood even though by my high school years it was all about cassettes or CDs. My brother and I would walk to Whitehall records all the time and buy albums and 45s. And occasionally we were granted permission to buy an album off of the TV! I think they were "C.O.D." haha! My parents moved to South Carolina a few years ago and the whole "collection," including dozens of my grandma's 78s, had to be disposed of. Who had the space? I certainly didn't. I lived in 500sq ft apartment in NYC at the time. But I couldn't even watch and begged my sister to reconsider. Being that I had absolutely no logical reason, the records ended up in the dumpster. It hurt.

Today I am fully digital. Only buy on itunes. Even have a Kindle for books now. And I love the space savings, the ease, the streamlining. But it still makes me sad. When I was the neighborhood babysitter, my favorite part was sifting through the parent's record collection. My husband and I uploaded our entire, combined CD collection onto itunes a few years ago. The actual CDs are in a huge binder without their cases. The binder is in the attic. I actually said to him "But what if our babysitter wants to look through our collection?" Sigh. She'll never know how cool we are- ha!

When we get a bigger house my plan is to buy an old fashioned Victrola and it will have its own room with a comfy chair- and a table for my wine glass. Then I'll have to re-buy my old collection.

So to answer your question- Yes, yours will be known as the generation who collected stuff. And mine will be known as the generation who had to throw it all out!

Thanks for the emails, always a pleasure to read!


My experience is that young people have a very different sensibility concerning things. And reality. I don't mean this as a criticism; they are different. I heard someone complaining recently that he heard two young guys talking, and one said something funny, and the other one said "Lol!" He didn't even bother to Laugh Out Loud, he had to say it in text!

These kids today...


I may not be able to speak for my entire generation, but personally I love collections. I'm 17, but I have a very extensive CD and record collection. I've only been collecting for about two years but I have around 250 CDs and dozens of my own records (plus dozens and dozens of LPs and 45s inherited from my mom). I don't know what makes me love collecting physical music, but it's gotta have something to do with the idea of tangibility. I could download any number of the albums that I have, but it feels so much more grand and impressive to be able to look at a shelf filled to the brim with CDs than to scroll down a page of mp3 files. Maybe the fact that I'm in a band has something to do with it too-- personally, I'd much rather have people buy our CDs than download the files (even if they do pay for the download). Being able to turn over a CD case in your hands and look at the album art is so much more satisfying.

That's just my two cents.


A great article. I think the day of collectibles will return. Even though one can find all manner of thing on the internet, I feel that humans need tactile interchange. This new world of technology is mind-boggling but we are only able to absorb a portion of it all and eventually it all disappears as quickly as it came. I think there will be a resurgence of tangibles...people will seek the old once again. Just as old crafts have made a comeback, I do believe that records, CDs, books and other tangibles will be sought out and prized. Throughout history, we have gone into new worlds for awhile but always sought out the past to comfort us. I feel that is more needed now than ever before.


Lester Bangs, the best rock critic ever, said he “wanted to live in a basement that contained every record ever recorded.” That’s what we have today with the Internet. Virtually every record ever recorded is available thru one source or another--- I-tunes, youtube or fan-based file sharing through the anonymous ftps. I grew up as a massive record collector. We’d search record stores on a weekly basis to find those hard to find records we had to have. Just this morning I googled and downloaded the entire out-of-print recorded output of a band I wanted to check out in 45 minutes. Today, I have more music on my hard drive than I ever had on vinyl or cd’s. But the fun of the hunt is kind of gone. I actually get kind of angry if I can’t find the music I want to hear immediately. If my external drive crashed, I probably wouldn’t bum out much. I’d buy a new one and download the music I wanted to put on my ipod. In a way digital music has no value. That’s why I think there been such resurgence in vinyl. Although digital is more convenient, vinyl sounds better. It also has a value because it is a tangible product. It’s something you can hold and touch and read the liner notes. Try doing that with an mp3.


I enjoy your stories about the past, Grandpa.



Thanks to everyone who wrote this week. And a special thanks to the folks I've quoted above. (I enjoyed the last one the most! And, no, I'm not a grandpa!)

I guess all we can do now is sit back and see what the future brings. I wonder where will it take us?

Perhaps the most logical approach is to imagine something that we can't imagine. (Technologically speaking, that seems to be the pattern. Let's face it, how many of us saw this internet thing coming?) So, what are some wild options? We can be sure that we'll have more memory and greater computing power in smaller and smaller packages. So my prediction: in the future, when we download music, it will come with 3D visuals... like holograms, only better. We'll be able to see the band playing in front of us. How will this work? I don't know. Will it distract us when we're listening to music while driving? Yeah, we'll have to work that out. But that's my prediction.

And with options like that, I don't think we'll go back to a 12" x12" cardboard folder holding 14 songs. Don't get me wrong, I think albums are super cool. But music distribution is a technology, and technology doesn't go backwards.

So, remember, I predicted it. 3D visuals with music. Maybe it won't be the band playing. Maybe it will be artsy nature shots, or exotic graphics. But someday kids will say, "You mean you used to only get audio with your music?"


See you soon,


PS: Remember vintage science-fiction movies with space ship equipment running on tubes...("valves," to our foreign readers)... or huge futuristic computers with blinking lights and reel-to-reel tape?? Even the "communicators" on Star Trek, futuristic as they were, didn't take pictures, surf the internet, or warn you when it was Captain Kirk's birthday. Yeah, it's hard to predict the technological advances that are ahead.PPS: Speaking of the future... and the past... next week is Pittsburgh Guitars' 32nd Anniversary. We'll be celebrating in the store on Saturday, May 21st! Cookies, candy, store sale specials and more!

PPPS: Customer of the week: Zac Brown Band


Friday 5/20/2011 ~ Sam's Back! (And it's our anniversary!)


We're happy to have Sam back!

He spent the last two weeks touring Japan with the band M.O.T.O., and a good time was had by all!

Here's Sam on his first day in Tokyo.

Sam was thrilled to be performing in Japan, but the audiences were even happier. The recent earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear issues caused many bands to cancel their tours. In some towns Sam's band was the first live entertainment the kids had seen since the earthquake. He was touched by how grateful the audiences were. Here's Sam on Day Two.

M.O.T.O. toured with several Japanese pop-punk bands, and Sam was impressed with how organized everyone was. For example, each venue had its own backline. (A set of amps and drums used by all of the bands.) And prior to each show every band did a sound check. During these sound checks, the soundmen placed long rows of tape on top of each amp, carefully marking the volume and tone settings of the player. Between sets, as the bands were switching, the soundmen would rush to the stage, remove the previous band's tape, and using the next row of tape as a guide they re-set the controls for the upcoming act.

And these soundmen... were all women. Even the D.J.s who spun discs between the sets were women.

Here's Sam on Day Four in Kyoto.

Sam says 50% of the bands he saw sang in English. Since he's returned, we've done an extensive survey of our customers to determine what percentage of them can sing a song in Japanese. After entering the responses into a highly complex computer algorithm, the answer is: 0%.

Sam was a hit in Japan. And when word got `round that he had actually seen many of the quintessential punk bands, he was deluged with questions. Like "How many times did you see the Ramones?" and "What were The Clash like in person?" and "Since you're from Pittsburgh, did you ever see The Swamp Rats?" (The answers, by the way, are: "7," "Fantastic!," and, "No, they were before my time.")

Like any tourist, Sam took lots of pictures of local sights! Here's a shot from Mito.

And here's Sam backstage before a show.

We're glad the tour went well. He says he had a blast, everyone was super friendly, and he's anxious to go back. After hearing his stories and seeing his pictures, I wanna go, too!


See you soon,


PS: Yesterday I visited a friend in a strange, distant land, called Zelienople. Along the way, I saw an antique shop. As I looked through their collection of hundred-year-old items... an early 1900s Victrola; a pre-indoor-plumbing chamber pot; a vintage fountain pen with matching inkwell... I thought, "Wow, technology sure has come a long way in the last century..."

That thought rattled in my head a little later in the day, as I bought cookies and Pepsi for tomorrow's Pittsburgh Guitars 32nd Anniversary. Because, from a technological standpoint, it's amazing how far we've come just since the day Pittsburgh Guitars opened in May, 1979...

- In May 1979, there were no cell phones... so there was no way to call someone once they left their house.

- There were no personal computers... so all of our store records were written by hand and kept in notebooks.

- With no computer, there was no Turbo Tax, so I computed the store taxes in pencil on legal paper.

- With no computer, there was no internet, so there were no web sites. The only way to hear about music stores in other cities was through word-of-mouth from traveling folks. And if you wanted to contact a distant music store, you'd have to call long-distance information to get their phone number.

- And with no internet, there was no email, so letters had to be written out, stamped, and taken to the Post Office. And if you were writing to, for example, a music store in a different city, you'd have to call them first to get their address! (see above)

- Cable Television was in its infancy... MTV didn't start until 1981. (When MTV debuted they played non-stop music. We used to have it on continuously in the store, just to see the guitars.)

- Video Tape Recorders (VCRs) were just becoming affordable for home use, though still priced in the $700-$800 range. And there were two formats to choose from, Betamax or VHS.

- And, of course, there were no CDs... or DVDs.

As I was typing this, my iPhone rang... As I picked it up, it occurred to me that I use it as a pocket watch, an alarm clock, a calendar, a calculator, an address book, a camera, a photo library, a music library, for internet access both for reference and emailing, and (with the built-in GPS) a real-time map. Oh, yeah... and a phone. This truly is a different world than 1979!

And yet... when it comes time to sit on the couch and play guitar... or jam in the basement with my friends... the guitars I turn to are generally over 50 years old. Some, like this 1917 Gibson, are almost as old as the Victrola I saw in the antique shop.


So, I couldn't live without the technological inventions of the past few decades... But when it comes down the the basic product we've been selling here at Pittsburgh Guitars for the last 32 years, no amount of new musical technology has surpassed the original vintage design of a guitar.

Wow. Considering I didn't anticipate any of this, I kinda lucked out. I could have opened a shop in `79 specializing in the new Betamax VCR.

Well, you can't predict how life is gonna turn out. I'm glad that both the guitar, and Pittsburgh Guitars, have lasted this long!

PPS: Stop in tomorrow, Saturday, May 21, for cookies and drinks. We'll be celebrating the 32nd year of celebrating guitars! (We'll have some special one-day-only sales, too.)

PPPS: Customer of the week: The Smithereens


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