Today marks the start of a new “feature” on Life in the Vinyl Lane called “Sh*t I Play On My Crosley.”
Some friends of ours recently moved from Seattle to Texas, and before they left they not only dropped off a box of assorted records for me, but also a brand new Crosley portable turntable. You know the type – built into a traveling case with it’s own amp and speakers, an all-in-one kind of unit. Now, Crosley’s aren’t exactly known as being the ultimate in record players. In fact lots of people insist that the tracking weight and stylus quality are such that they’ll destroy your records over time. Be that as it may (or may not), it does serve a pretty specific role in the Life in the Vinyl Lane house. For one thing, I don’t always want to play dollar bin stuff or records in rough condition on my Rega – don’t want them messing up what is a relatively expensive stylus. So the Crosley is perfect for those well-loved records. It’s also perfect for taking out to the back deck on a summer night so we can listen to records while having cocktails. Which is awesome. Sure, my rare and expensive records will never grace the Crosley’s platter. But sometimes you just want to listen to Culture Club while drinking a mojito. And for that the Crosley is perfect.
So the other day I went to my local used record shop Vortex and perused the cheap records, and I came home with a few. One of these was Heart’s self-titled 1985 release, an album that was HUGE here in Seattle since Ann and Nancy Wilson are from here and grunge still hadn’t broken, making Heart Seattle’s only real impact on the national rock scene other than Jimi Hendrix (who had been dead for some time). Heart reached #1 on the Billboard album charts and launched four singles that cracked the Top 10 in the Billboard Hot 100 – “What About Love” (#10), “Nothin’ At All” (#10), “Never” (#4), and “These Dreams,” which made it all the way to #1 (a fifth single, “If Looks Could Kill,” only made it to #54). It was a big album. Plus I thought Ann and Nancy were hot as hell (I still have a thing for big hair…).
I know I had this album back when it came out, and I’m 99% sure it was on cassette. I also went to see the band live, catching them at the end of their tour in either 1985 or 1986 – my second ever “big boy” concert that I went to without my parents (the first being Huey Lewis & The News, with Stevie Ray Vaughan opening, as part of the Sports tour). It was also the first time I got a contact high, since we were pretty close to the front of the general admission section at the Coliseum, and the tall dude standing next to me kept intentionally blowing weed smoke in my face. Rock ‘n’ Roll! It was, needless to say, a killer show.
You know what? Time has been pretty good to Heart. Sure, it’s a little dated, and probably doesn’t sound as “rock” as it used to. I distinctly remember the song “Nobody Home” as well, and recalling six of the album’s ten songs this many years later speaks to how big it was. Now, Heart had some hits before with songs like “Dog and Butterfly,” “Straight On,” “Magic Man,” and “Barracuda,” but things had been pretty stale for them since the end of the 1970s. In that respect Heart kind of came out of the blue – they’d put a few singles into the middle of the charts in the early 1980s, but nothing notable. For whatever reason it came together on Heart and re-invigorated their careers.
Maybe Heart is just light rock today, but it still sounds great to my ears, and the tinny sound of the Crosley is a perfect fit. Man, I think I need a cocktail now…