From The Archives:Used with Dave Schools
[Editor’s Note: This feature originally ran in November 2003]
A walk through the used record bins of some of the country’s finest music stores with musicians, both famous and infamous.
At first, all anyone felt was a slight tremor. Californians, by nature, assumed the shake was the latest hiccup from the San Andreas Fault line and casually continued about their business on another listless sunny summer day on San Francisco’s Haight Street. The next tremor followed a few seconds later, lasting a little longer and shaking a little harder, bringing faces to apartment windows. Traffic stopped. It was then that I heard the loud, earth-shaking footsteps in the distance, west towards the Pacific Ocean.
Sirens began to blare in the Sunset District, bringing people out of the stores that line Haight Street, curious to see what was causing all the commotion. As the noise became deafening and the footsteps drew closer, people frantically asked each other what was happening, searching for answers – Was this Judgment Day? Had we reached Armageddon?
From under the old-time movie marquee at Amoeba Music, my first glimpse of the beast came as it lowered its front right foot in a thunderous crash on top of a Volkswagen van racing to outrun him on Stanyan. The claw – green with long black nails appeared to be more than 50 feet long, easily crushing the VW beneath it. The scream, the sound of a thousand deaths, pierced the air and was followed by a blast of fire that sent the dread-headed, weed-hocking gatekeepers to Golden Gate Park scurrying for cover.
The monster turned down Haight towards the store as its tail swept around and leveled the McDonald’s on the corner. Another shot of fire rained down on the crumbling remains. BOOM...BOOM...The monster stepped over the destruction and turned towards the record store, lowering its head for the first time to reveal its bright yellow eyes and enormous white fangs. Blood oozed from its mouth.
As the lizard entered Amoeba Music to the blood-curling screams of the Saturday shoppers, I felt certain I was about to witness an afternoon of twisted metal and total carnage. My thoughts were instantly confirmed as the monster turned to me and…
"I’ve been holding off all tour," says Dave Schools as he rubs his hands together while a huge grin spreads across his bearded face. "There are only a couple of music stores that are better than Amoeba, but you know when you come here that you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for. And it’s most likely going to be used, which is good."
We don’t make it past the used DVD section in the very front of the store before Schools has found his first victim Ravenous, a film about a group of soldiers who hear stories of cannibalism and head out in search of the truth, only to meet their demise.
"It’s a post-Civil War cannibal comedy," he says, flipping the DVD over to look over the credits. "I forget who all’s in it. Anything that mixes horror and humor is good in my book."
We make our way down into the used CD section, stopping to look for a copy of the ever elusive Traveling Wilburys, Vol. I for Widespread Panic’s tour manager, Trey Allen. No luck. Schools turns down the aisle, flips through a couple of discs and pulls out Pete Townsend’s 1982 solo album Even the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes.
"I love Pete Townsend’s solo albums from the 80s," he says. "Even the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes is probably the best of them, though Empty Glass is also pretty good. The Who were pretty big for me. They keep putting Live at Leeds out again and again, each time with a few new tracks, and I keep buying it over and over."
Just down the row from Townsend, Schools comes across TurboNegro’s Apocalypse Dudes.
"Have you ever listened to these guys?" he says, pointing to the leather-clad group pictured on the album cover. "It’s pretty weird stuff, man. It’s basically gay, Norwegian hard rock. Very obscure, definitely strange."
Walking up to the front of the used rock section, we come across one of the finest songwriters on the planet and a close friend of Schools, Vic Chesnutt.
"I always check out for Vic’s old albums because I’ve lost a few of the years and some of them are out of print," Schools said. "I love Is the Actor Happy?, it’s probably my favorite of his discs. I really like his new album, Silver Lake. Vic’s an amazing talent. I hope to play with him again real soon."
Schools ambles off to look through Julian Cope records while I continue my search through Vic Chesnutt’s catalogue, debating between purchasing About to Choke or Drunk. When I track him down, Schools is flipping through Cope’s used section, commenting on each album he comes across.
"Do you know Julian Cope?" Schools asks as I wander up behind him. "20 Mothers is a great record. Another one of those records I used to listen to that I’ve lost. He has some really great names for his albums – Autogeddon…Jehovahkill…Leper Skin. Julian’s got a pretty twisted sense of humor.
Heading over to the reggae section across the store, we run into a solid wall of shoppers searching through Used Electronica.
"It looks like we have some arterial plaque clogging the artery," Schools announces, pointing down the aisle. "Luckily, we’re stuck here in electronica. DJ Shadow’s Entroducing is a really great album. If you don’t have it, get it. If you get it and don’t like it, send it to me, and I’ll send you your money back. Same with Hallucination Engine I’m buying a couple of these used ones for five bucks to just hand out to friends."
I pick up the DJ Shadow disc and add it to the armload of recommendations I’ve accumulated, an occupational hazard that regularly leaves my wallet dry. As I turn to see if the plaque has cleared, Schools points to a Tosco disc and laughs.
"It’s good, but be careful," he warns with an authoritative nod. "That stuff’s music to watch fish sleeping."
Arriving in the reggae section, Schools checks out some King Tubby dub records before moving down the aisle to look in on some compilation albums.
"Now this isn’t a plug for the record company, but these box sets are great," Schools says as he hands me one of the three-disc Trojan Records box sets recently re-issued by Sanctuary Records. "They do them thematically, with a whole three-disc box set devoted to dub, dance hall, Rastafarianism. Here’s one called "Too Rude." There are a bunch of different musicians on here, so you can give this a listen and then figure out who you like. And it’s only $15, which is the price of one disc most of the time. Here’s one from Studio One…The Scorchers…Reggae Instrumentals, huh? I like reggae instrumentals."
As we make our way to the cash register, I spot a copy of Jerry Joseph’s Conscious Contact, an album Schools produced for his friend in 2002, in the infamous "Less Than $10" discount bins that line the check out area at Amoeba. Offering classics like Blue Trane and The Very Best of the Meters all the way down to Milli Vanilli’s Girl You Know It’s True and the entire Laurie Anderson collection, the discount bins are always a source of last-minute temptation. I pick up the Jerry Joseph disc – $1.95.
"Shows you what a great producer I am," Schools says with a loud laugh, picking up a copy of Laurie Anderson’s Big Science. "And man, don’t ever make the mistake of listening to Laurie Anderson while you’re tripping."
Dave’s Picks of the Day Material, Halluncination Engine (used) Ravenous, DVD (used) Los Lobos, Colossal Head (used) Love Tractor, This Ain’t No Outer Spaceship ("happily used") Julian Cope, 20 Mothers (used) Studio One, Scorchers: Reggae Instrumentals (new)