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diskant rewind: Bargain Bin Culture #7

Posted: June 27th, 2008, by Wil Forbis

(Originally posted October 2002)

Bargain Bin Culture by Wil Forbis

Slowly, I lifted my third gin and tonic of the evening to my lips and took a deep sip.

It went down smooth, but couldn’t chase away the bitterness and resentment I was feeling. After three years as the chief record purchaser for McRainey’s Rock and Roll records, I’d been let go. I’d been replaced with a machine. The Xoltan 3000, a device that could give the blue book value of a record within three seconds, with an accompanying printout listing the musicians who played on the album cross referenced against their favorite groupies. It was a mechanical horror that didn’t take coffee
breaks, didn’t ask for raises and didn’t tell the customers they looked like a leftover squash that had been left to sit in the sun for three days and then sprinkled with acne. It had been with a swift boot that McRainey had shown me the door.

What was I to do? Records were my life. And truth be told, I had no other skills. I couldn’t mix an espresso, but I could tell you who played bass for the progressive blues band, Camel. (Dave Ferguson) I couldn’t deliver a pizza but I knew that Kansas guitarist Steve Morse had a career as an airline pilot. I was doomed!

Suddenly a strong hand gripped my shoulder. “Snap out of it, soldier!” a manly voice
commanded, and I turned to face a portly woman with a three o’ clock shadow,
dressed in the military greens. Several high ranking Army types stood behind her. “Your country needs you!”

“Holy Great Satan!” I exclaimed. “You want me to join the Army? I won’t do it, I won’t I won’t.”

“Don’t kid yourself, Forbis,” the woman sneered. “You wouldn’t last two seconds in the Armed Forces. With your lousy vision, bow legs, spindly frame, continually dripping nose, lack of chest strength and those weird eyebrows, the Army would spit out back in five seconds. You’re needed in an organization with almost no standards for physical ability or mental acuity. We need you in the CIA!”

“The CIA?” I repeated, a baffled tone in my voice.

“That’s right, Forbis,” the woman replied. Have you ever heard of General Zarcon?”

“Why, yes,” I replied. “He’s the crazed, middle eastern despot who details his fiendish plots by referencing the lyrics of obscure audio recordings. His genius has perennially baffled the squares in the United States Government who don’t know the difference between Neil Young and Neil Diamond.”

“Right you are,” the woman stated. “We need you to go undercover into Zarcon’s army and report back his evil machinations. Our computers have stated that you are the most perfectly suited individual in the country for this task.”

“No thanks,” I replied. “I’ve got another gin and tonic coming. After that, I should be drunk enough to start flirting with the three breasted barmaid.”

“But your country needs you,” the woman pleaded. “You’ll go down in history as its greatest savior!”

“Mmhmm. thanks but no,” I confirmed.

“There will be enough adventure to last a lifetime.”

“I get enough adventure listening to the first Ultimate Spinach album. I’m going to pass. ”

“You’ll receive millions of dollars in reward money, drawn from the newly created Department of Obscure Music Trivia.”

“Sorry, can’t help you.”

“There will be dozens of beautiful woman, eagerly awaiting your advanced lovemaking techniques.”

“Start me off at $7.50 and hour and we’ll discuss a pay raise in six months.”

“HOLD ON,” a new voice commanded. From the back of the military looking bunch, a steely looking man with a hawk nose appeared. “I’m Sgt. Lombard. Just because some
newfangled computer says you know your stuff, doesn’t mean you can carry a tune. I’m going to test your mettle myself, in the time honored tradition amongst music trivia fans. The Record Synopsis Face Off!”

Ahhh. the Record Synopsis Face Off. I was long familiar with this form of verbal jousting. Two music aficionados go head to head, challenging each other to provide a
paragraph synopsis of a music recording (not unlike the ones I have provided loyal diskant readers for many months), until one folded. It was perhaps the most deadly form of battle known to man!

“Clear the area,” the female general stated. “This could get ugly.”

As was tradition, I, the challenged, had first pick. The tips of my fingers quivered, as is I was about to make a quickdraw. “Jason and the Scorchers -Still Standing.”

“Ha!” Lombard laughed. “Starting out easy, eh?! Jason and the Scorchers came on the scene in the early eighties, offering an eclectic mix of punk, metal and country to the burgeoning college music crowd. They were critically acclaimed but had limited commercial success. When the heavy metal explosion of the mid eighties hit, they shiftedÊ styles for their major label debut and offered up ‘Still Standing.’ An enjoyable album, it was clearly more parts rock than country and the Scorcher’s frenetic sense of adventure was lost in their attempt to crossover to a larger audience. Nonetheless, Jason and the Scorchers are clearly the forefathers of the alterna-country movement that came out in the mid nineties.”

“Not bad,” I said. “But, you’re right. I was going easy on. Let’s see what you’ve got cowboy.”

“Sure thing, youngster,” Lombard said, cracking his knuckles. “Roger Waters – The Pros and Cons of Hitchhiking.”

“Don’t feel you need to go too easy on me, old man.” I rebutted. “While ‘Pros and Cons.’ is at first a rather tedious dirge from former Pink Floyd bassman and vocalist, Waters, it, grows on you, not unlike a fungus. Roger calls in some favors and arms himself with stellar musicians like Eric Clapton and Dave Sanborn. But most intriguing about the album is its consistency – the mood of dark but bluesy murk pervades the album from its first second to its last. Whether this sound is pleasing to the listener
is simply a matter of taste. It should also be noted that the cover features a chick’s naked ass!”

The gathering crowd nodded approvingly at my summation. And they waited me
for me to return my volley. I wasted no time. “Baby Animals – self titled.”

Lombard grinned. “At last. a challenge. The Australian act, Baby Animals, released their major label, self titled debut in 1992. A few years earlier and they could have played up the hard rock a bit more, a few years later later they could have played up the alternative side (ala Veruca Salt) but landing right in the transition was a bad move for the band. While it featured commendable songwriting and a strong vocalist in the form of frontwoman Suze DeMarchi, ultimately the band was preaching a style of AOR rock that was on it’s way out. DeMarchi went on to marry Extreme’s guitarist, Nuno Bettencourt.”

“Now let’s test really test your skills,” Lombard smiled. “Steve Vai – Flexible.”

“What?” I asked. “Flexible.?” my voice quavered. “Are you sure this is a real album?”

“Absolutely,” Lombard stated. “Give up so soon? I can hardly believe the computer picked you as.”

“Ohhhh, you said Steve Vai!” I said, breaking through my façade. “Well, of course, everybody knows this one. After playing the part of Frank Zappa’s right hand guitarist on tour, Steve Vai used a four track to record ‘Flexible’ in 1984. It’s a gem of guitar obscenity and the only solo Vai album that doesn’t make me want to kill him. ‘Flexible’ is a creative little collection of Martian guitar solos, lyrical absurdity and odd meter
whammy bar riffing. Is that the ‘Steve Vai – Flexible’ you were talking about?”

“Uhhnn. well yes.” Lombard replied. “All right, Forbis, make your move.”

“Sure, how about the debut album of Zenkya.”

“Certainly. Zenkya hailed from England in the late 1960’s and combined their retro folk sound with the more modern groves of psychedelia. Part of what made the band stand out was their inclusion of zitherist, Todd Alling. The debut album featured several pseudo-environmental songs such as ‘All the Tree-People’ and ‘When the Grass Bleeds.’ A year after the album’s release, the band’s singer, Felicity Munroe died of a heroin overdose and they broke up.”

“Wrong!” I yelled.

“What?” Lombard said? “What was wrong? Did I get her name wrong? Was it Felicity Monrue?”

“You got it all wrong. There is no band called Zenkya,” I said. “I made it all up.”

“Lombard, you fool!” said the female general. You’ve embarrassed us all!”

With that she pulled out a small caliber pistol and shot him in the chest. Then she turned to me. “Forbis, it looks like you’re our man. Report at 700 hours for briefing and you’ll begin your new mission.”

“Sure thing,” I said. “By the way, can you do me a favor?”

“Certainly,” replied the general. “What is it?”

“Can you blow up McRainey’s Rock and Roll records on 13th and L street.”

“No problem” she responded. “Morrison, Shebowticz, take care of it.”

And with that I was whisked away in a black helicopter to begin my training.

* * *


[If you can’t wait that long, why not purchase Wil’s excellent book Acid Logic: A Decade of Humorous Writing on Pop Culture, Trash Cinema and Rebel Music, and read the next two installments of this column!]

Wil Forbis

Wil writes for the delectable Acid Logic webzine, as well as for this crackin' outfit here. He's also an obvious habitual liar, going on how he describes himself in his other writings. Truth is, Wil is a two foot tall computerised metal monster who likes nothing better than to CRUSH, CRUSH and CRUSH humanity to within an ounce of its puny life. When he's not CRUSHING, he enjoys tennis and jogging.


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