This is a special one- two of our heroes, JD Twitch and DJ Rick have written some words for you (in the case of the latter you can find them gloriously splattered over the comments of a post a couple of days ago).
There’s not much to add, this is what we aspire to be. This is the world we want to build.
I miss record shops. Glasgow used to be full of them and it would take me the best part of a day to get round them all, something I would try to do at least once a week. Today there are two great record shops left in the city, which for a city so teeming with music and music fans seems a little sad to me. Sign of the times I guess. There is one decent second hand shop. There used to be so many in Glasgow that when I was a student I was able to partly fund my record habit by buying records cheaply in one shop and selling them for more in another. There were endless other scams, none of them strictly illegal for obtaining records without it actually costing anything. Fun days. These days, record shops are dying out all around the planet. I’ll go back to some city I’ve visited before and straight away head for a record shop I know and love only to find it is now a coffee shop or that the selection of vinyl has dwindled away to one little rack in the back corner. The virus is spreading and it breaks my heart to say this, but it feels like it is going to be terminal. I guess I am partly to blame as I buy most of my music online. The internet has opened up and democratised record buying, but something has been lost too : the chance encounter with something wonderful.
The undisputed mecca of record shopping is Japan. All over the country there are shops that can make a grown record fan weep. There are a few less than there used to be, but the long, slow death doesn’t appear to have fully kicked in yet. Tokyo alone has far more record shops than the whole of the UK combined and indeed there is quite a thick book (sadly all in Japanese) that lists them all. The shops there are ridiculous. If you look hard enough you can literally find anything. I spotted an immaculate copy of a DIY 7″ that was only sold at gigs in and around Stirling by a long forgotten central Scottish punk band. How the heck did that get there? There are shops that cater for micro niches such as the one I stumbled upon that only sold records that were known to have been played by Daniele Baldelli. Absurd!
Myself and my Optimo partner in crime were back in Japan a few months ago and had a day off to go record shopping in Tokyo. We were told there was an amazing shop called Eurasia in Shinjuku. All very well but that’s the only info we had to go on and it was literally like trying to find a needle in a haystack. Thankfully I seem to have some sixth sense for sniffing out record shops and before too long we walked along a non descript, deserted side street and there, on the second floor of an unimposing block, we found Eurasia. As we walked in we were hit by an slight sense of anti-climax. It seemed a tad on the small size and was scruffily basic to say the least. As we’d made so much effort to find it we decided to have a rummage and within seconds we had the same sensation a prospector must feel when he discovers an incredibly rich seam of gold. Though modest in quantity of stock, every single record was pure gold. There were records I had only dreamt I would ever see.
While we were browsing we were both struck by a hauntingly beautiful record the owner was playing. Almost simultaneously we asked what it was and could we buy it. Luckily for us he had two copies so a potential Optimo fight to the death to procure a copy was avoided. So, here for you ears, courtesy of a random encounter in a record shop is the wonderful Mariah and their beautiful song from 1983, 心臓の扉 or for the Kanji challenged, Shinzo No Tobira.
Karate Party only played eight or nine live shows in the late 90s. “Black Helicopter” was originally released on the S-S precursor label–Moo-La-La Records–with half as many songs on a 7” limited to 300 copies. It was a great little record tarnished a bit by the poor mastering of the tightly packed grooves. (The 12” version expands the same songs onto a side A and backs it with some choice unreleased cuts. And few costs if any were spared to make it sound great.)
John (who sings for the Mayyors and Sexy Prison) and I would really get up for these Karate Party shows. That was a drop-everything proposition for us.
One such show was at The Loft, which was the a little room behind the bookstore where the Moo-La-La man himself worked. The Loft was band practice space and a budget recording studio at night, the scene of weekly live shows especially on Mondays throughout the 90s, and by day, it was once a volunteer-run punk record store, zine library, and meeting room. There was even a bike-loan ‘library’ for a while in case you needed free wheels to get around Sacto’s downtown/Midtown grid area. Really cool sorta scene HQ kinda place. When shows happened there, you might be able to squeeze about 70-80 people in there, but it would be incredibly swampy.
There was a band from Seattle called Bend Sinister that came down on tour and played the Loft with Karate Party. The previous night, the Seattle boys got their first taste of Karate Party when they visited KDVS studios. S-S Records co-founder Sakura spun the 7” for them: ‘This is the band you’re playing with tomorrow.’ They dug it, but they were hardly prepared for what they witnessed the next night.
If memory serves, this was maybe the third or fourth Karate Party live show since the release of the 7”. The ‘hit song’ on the 7” was called ”Pressure”, and it was the one that everyone would request on the radio and call for at the shows, but Woodhouse never wanted to play it live because reportedly, the song was about some bad blood over a soured relationship. Still, as the beer continued to flow at the shows, people would try scratching harder and harder at that wound, yelling for ‘Pressure” louder and louder. On this particular night, Woodhouse caved to the pressure and unleashed the song on us.
Karate Party was already a band that played with a lotta ferocity, but this version of ‘Pressure’ was off-the-charts bonkers. Sped up almost 50%, guitar chords like daggers, vocal chords afire…and then the whole show ended abruptly with Woodhouse kicking over his drums and grabbing the hi-hat stand for some indiscriminate jousting. He poked the hi-hat stand forward and made a bee-line for the back of the room. The front rows scattered, but stupid me in the middle of the room didn’t register what was happening quickly enough. I thought that the hi-hat perforated my right pectoral muscle. There was some blood, but mostly just a horrible bruise that lingered for a few weeks. Woodhouse dropped the stand and continued to the back wall where he made a dent that’s still there today.
After the panic subsided, I looked over toward the door and saw the members of Bend Sinister looking totally flabbergasted, but intensely curious. Apparently, that moment was so impactful on them that they bought out the remainder of the pressing of the Karate Party 7” (probably 150 or so) and took them home to sell or give to friends, thus spreading Karate Party’s legend beyond this small incestuous scene in Sacramento. Bend Sinister also broke and rekindled as the A Frames, and the sight and sounds of Karate Party imparted heavily on their ideals. Hence, the first few A Frames records were recorded at The Loft with Woodhouse, and the next few were recorded up in Seattle with Woodhouse. And every limb of the A Frames family tree of bands also bears the touch of Woodhouse whether he was involved in the recording or not. Another highlight of this is the ‘Intelligence vs. Karate Party’ side of the Intelligence/Coachwhips split‘.