Replica for a Heavyweight

Will EMI's remastering of 11 classic albums with the original packaging on CD and 180-gram vinyl make you buy your favorite records one more (last?) time?

In case you dispute that the "classic rock" demographic cared way more about the music of their youth than any generation before or since, consider this:

No one ever replicated 78s.

C'mon, if you dug Bing Crosby that much, wouldn't you demand reissues of those clunky albums with the lousy three-color artwork that housed a half-dozen easily breakable 10-inch records? Wouldn't you want to get up out of your easy chair a dozen times to crank up the Victrola for a half-hour's worth of Dinah Shore? Isn't a little minor back pain worth it, just to get that ol'-time feeling? Of course not, ya rhubarb!

Between the buttons, behind the zipper: EMI's reissue of the Stones' Sticky Fingers offers a brief encounter with Andy Warhol's legendary cover art.
Between the buttons, behind the zipper: EMI's reissue of the Stones' Sticky Fingers offers a brief encounter with Andy Warhol's legendary cover art.

People from the distant past weren't anywhere near as nostalgic as we are now. That's why they cultivated long-term memories -- so they could regale us with agonizing stories about how they suffered so much when they were young. Punctuated, of course, with this favorite turn o' phrase -- "You little shits, you have it too good!"

I don't know about your ongoing prosperity, but thanks to the generous Catalog Marketing Group at EMI and classic rock fans' predilection for buying multiple configurations of the same damned music, I'm now on my third and fourth copies of Sticky Fingers, the first Stones record I ever owned, and my second copy of Avalon, the last Roxy Music album I ever bought. I've even acquired a vinyl replica of R.E.M.'s Documentin the bargain. Even so, I'm positively spooked by EMI's choices. Short of spying on me like an extraterrestrial for the past 25 years and taking tissue samples from my butt cheek, they've managed to come up with 11 albums I once owned, but which have long since vanished from my shelves.

If you believe you can tell a person's whole life story by perusing his music collection, then the holes in that collection will tell an equally compelling story, one about the secrets he keeps, the wild nights he can't quite remember and the people who were once a part of his life. Since part of the love of music involves sharing it with people you cherish, you have to figure losing about five to 10 records every time love fades to nothing and friendships go south. The records are a snap to replace, but the reasons for owning them aren't so easy to replicate.

So let's rifle through all these reissues in an effort to divine where our original copies wound up. We'll spill some personal beans, you and I, so there'll never be any secrets between us ever again.

The Rolling Stones
Sticky Fingers (1971)

Truly the most universally acknowledged classics in this series belong to the Rolling Stones, whose early '70s output will always remind me of my first girlfriend. Her name was Josie. I called her my girlfriend, but actually she just let me hang around her like fuzzy dice around a rearview mirror. She was an older woman (10th grade) and usually never went anywhere without her ersatz Glimmer Twin, a girl named Stephanie. Both girls were way too worldly for high school, having once allegedly hung out with Ron Wood and Keith Richards at the Carlyle Hotel during the Stones' 1975 Tour of the Americas. They were especially thorough Keith emulators who'd come to school wearing Moroccan scarves, purple velvet pants and snakeskin boots just like the kind Keith's sporting on Sticky Fingers' inner sleeve (further proof of the important iconography that is lost when you reduce album art to the size of a beer coaster). Josie and Stephanie even cultivated terrible dental hygiene in an effort to look more like their then-toothless hero.

We struck up a friendship one day when Josie noticed I was wearing orange corduroys and a black sweater like Brian Jones on the cover of High Tide and Green Grass. Although I regret it now, I used to stay up late at night watching Twilight Zone reruns to get bags under my eyes in a pathetic effort to create that Jonesian optical sag. That's the trouble with emulating rock stars with destructive lifestyles, you either fail miserably or succeed all too well.

The last time I saw Josie, I lent her my copy of Sticky Fingers with the fully functioning zipper and she lent me her copy of Between the Buttons, appropriately enough. By the end of 10th grade, she and Stephanie dropped out and no one at our school ever saw them again. Years later, I got the courage to call her house, and when I asked for her, her mother just went silent for about 10 seconds and cryptically hung up the phone. Guess that demon life got Josie in its sway.

The Rolling Stones
Exile on Main Street (1972)

I avoided buying this album for years on account of a grade school Beatles vs. Stones debate I got into with a hairy-knuckled brute named Joseph Navotney, who took the position that the Stones were the superior musical combo. A crowd quickly gathered around us, and I scored some early points with an informed "Sgt. Pepper rules over Satanic Majesties" salvo. Eventually, our debate just degenerated into name-calling and shoving when Navotney got in my face and said, "What's better, Exile on Main Street or 'Mary Had a Little Lamb?'" -- Wings' current single. Ouch! Although it was a cheap shot, comparing a Stones double album to one sucky Wings single, he was right. At that time, none of the Beatles' solo careers was anything to brag about. I got laughed at pretty hard that day and as a result didn't buy Exile until the mid-'80s, after Rolling Stone magazine named it the third-greatest album of all time and Joseph Navotney was doing time at Rikers Island.

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