Aquarium Drunkard :: Mailbag, Vol. II
Long time reader, first time caller? Welcome to Mailbag, our new monthly column in which we dig in and respond to your questions. Got a query? Hit us up at email@example.com. In this month’s bag: The importance (?) of hi-fi. Local LA surf breaks. On-U Sound dub stylings. European copyright and live recordings. And lastly, nagging earworms.
I have a question about European copyright law and live recordings. I have noticed many older acts are releasing recordings from their archive. Sometimes only digitally or in limited quantities. Sometimes these recordings are imports from Europe. Check out this article from the NY Times 2013. It appears to have to do with the different copyright laws in Europe. What does this mean for listeners and collectors? What should we look out for and what is bad quality and not worth our money? – Rich
The whole European copyright situation when it comes to archival recordings is a tangled web — and understanding/explaining it all is a little above my pay grade, I’m afraid. But there is cool stuff out there if you know where to look! I haven’t heard that particular Beatles recording, I’m guessing it’s not going to blow your mind, exactly. Personally, I wouldn’t pay for it, I’d just dial it up on YouTube. Die Beatles! The Dylan copyright releases have some interesting things that you can’t find elsewhere, like this 1964 jam session with Eric Von Schmidt. It’s got the earliest known version of “Mr. Tambourine Man,” plus a delicious, previously unknown tune called “Dr. Strangelove Blues.” Maybe the most amazing thing of this ilk was the Van Morrison copyright release of a crucial 1968 gig in Boston — Astral Weeks, live! Again, I wouldn’t go out and pay silly eBay prices for these releases (if there are even physical releases out there), but it’s an area worth exploring if you’re willing to put your Googling skills to work. | t wilcox
I see a lot of love for On-U Sound in your instagram stories. Love the dub, but not super familiar with the label outside of that Adrian Sherwood compilation (Sherwood At The Controls vol. 1 1979-1984) from a few years back. Any titles you would recommend picking up? – Courtney
The various tendrils of On-U Sound stretch far and wide, but here are a few favorites to check out if you’re into the aesthetic found on that initial Sherwood round-up (most of which have been reissued fairly recently). Creation Rebel: Starship Africa (1980), Creation Rebel & New Age Steppers: Threat To Creation (1981), African Head Charge – Off The Beaten Track (1986), Singers And Players – Revenge of the Underdog (1982). The New Age Steppers 1981 s/t debut is an essential listen, and we just recently picked up Avant Gardening, a 2021 collection of rare dubs, versions and unreleased tracks spanning 1980-83. Very much worth it. | j gage
Longboarder here, and recent transplant to the LA area. Big fan of your Dawn Patrol column. Question: what breaks are you hitting up on the regular? And, as I don’t mind a drive, any reccs on surf not to miss that’s a bit further away? – Thomas
Thanks for reading and welcome to LA — where the sea meets debris (I kid). As a resident of the Mar Vista neighborhood of LA, my morning local is Venice Breakwater… a punchy, flavorful beach break that caters to all shades of surf. I typically ride a longboard or mid-length here but, most days, you’ll find a peak to whatever suits your style. Only a few postcard worthy days here a year but it gets the job done and has been my homebase for over a decade.
You couldn’t go wrong taking PCH due north to Topanga (that’s where I usually pullover when chasing swells outside of my ‘hood), and despite its penchant for all manner of kooks, snakes, crooks, pros, and grumps alike — Malibu might be the finest wave in all of Southern California. My pop surfed it in the ’60s and according to him, its magic and classic touch feels the same to this very day. I believe it. For a daytrip… pile it all in for a daybreaking romp down to San Onofre. Clean rollers abound; a longboarders paradise. After the first sesh, pop a top and watch the scenes unfold. A trip back in time and a very special place. | t hale
How do we feel about hi-fi? How much should the delivery mechanism for enjoying music matter for heads? As someone who was doomed from the start to end up fussing too much with stereo equipment (it’s genetic), I’m curious how y’all feel about the relationship between music and the stuff we listen to it on. – Kyle
I think you’re right on the money, Kyle. I’ve always made sure to outfit myself with a quality receiver and substantial speakers, but I’m sure dedicated audiophiles would be quick to offer me many recommendations for how I could—and should, or even must—level up my gear. I’ve heard music played through gorgeous tube-powered systems and perfectly balanced speakers and on playback in world class recording studios. The experience can be moving, even awe-inspiring, revealing unknown details and depth. Music is created with care and intention. Assembling a sound system to honor that is a noble calling, and I love anyone who’s dedicated enough to geek out about cool gear. But I’ve also been introduced to some of my favorite songs via crappy Bluetooth speakers or a staticky AM signal. I connect to music primarily on an emotional level, and even the worst audio system can’t dim the light of a powerful song. | j woodbury
Any favorite lyrics that get stuck in your head? I won’t hear “Jokerman” by Bob Dylan for months and then be walking down the street and think to myself: “Freedom, just around the corner for you / With truth so far off, what good will it do?” – Jacob
So much lives in my head rent free and, especially when it comes to lyrics, it feels like it’s those exact kinds of succinct and sobering sentiments that take root. For me, it’s very often this lyric from Neil Young’s “On The Beach”: “Though my problems are meaningless / That don’t make them go away / I need a crowd of people / But I can’t face them day to day.” Can it get anymore relatable? I think, considering what we’ve all been through the past few years and the strange, disconnected ways we’re coming out of it, it actually somehow did. Such is the power of Neil, but so many other lyricists. Another that immediately comes to mind is The Roches’ “Hammond Song.” The line, “If you go down to Hammond, you’ll never come back.” While largely interpreted as a concerned familial warning about following a potential suitor, our realities are relative, and so, too, our own interpretations. Sometimes, to me, Hammond feels to me like a much larger, universal, and frightening place. One that we might be headed down to without even being aware of it. These types of lyrics are my favorite, because they keep the imagination unraveling forever. Magical stuff. | c depasquale