VINYL SOLUTION: Jerry Weber of Jerry’s Records, Pittsburgh, PA — the man who taught a generation of yinzers to love records
BY MICHAEL FICHMAN Every summer, I troll around the streets of Philadelphia on sunny Saturdays and Sundays, looking for records. Behind mattresses and shitty table lamps, there are stacks of moldy gems waiting to see the light of a crisp diamond stylus. There are Al Greens who have gone decades without singing sweet romance, Bohannons who haven’t put their lifts on since the Carter Administration, Dwight Yoakam’s dry and desiccated like roadkill ten miles outside of Bakersfied. A typical exchange goes something like this:
“What do you want for those records?”
“Just get ’em out of here, I haven’t listened to those in years.”
Here are just some of my favorite “take those off my hands” gems from last summer- perhaps a harbinger of dusty grooves to come in ’07:
The Isley Brothers “Givin’ it Back”
Good Fucking Lord. This is a mind-blower of the first order is it not? Before Ron Isley set off on a course where he became an exponentially larger caricature of a street pimp each year, he was ripping off nylon-string versions of Lay Lady Lay and mashing up Buffalo Springfield with Band of Gypsies. And (no offense Warren Zevon), his hair was perfect.
Little Willie John “All 15 of His Chart Hits (1953-1962)”
Don’t get it twisted, before there was Peggy Lee, Little Willie John was crooning Fever, a tune he penned in 1956. But Little Willie John, who died in prison at age 31 exactly 15 years to the day before my birth, wrote a verse that was burned into my mind in my childhood. Hanging in a frame in my parents kitchen were the words to All Around the World:
If I don’t love you baby
Grits ain’t groceries
Eggs ain’t poultry
And Mona Lisa was a man
Sade “Diamond Life”
Granted, I already owned a copy of this when I found a nice, clean, sealed pressing at a porch sale near 63rd and Girard, but every copy of this record deserves a loving home, so for a dollar, I gave it one. Everybody knows Smooth Operator, but Hang on to Your Love is my absolute favorite track off this album. By the way, Sade, if you’re reading this, I have a table for two on Friday, email Valania for my info.
Jelly Roll Morton “1924-1926”
I wish I could tell you that I bought this from a wind-bitten old man who told me a story about the time he saw Jelly Roll Morton play, but I can’t. But wow, if there isn’t something transcendent about an old-time rag. Even though the recordings are poor to begin with, the energy just jumps out of the speakers and almost demands a sip of bathtub gin.
I know I’m gonna catch some heat for calling this a “find,” even at a dollar, but tell me you don’t think the Fugees combination of Boadicea with the Delfonics Ready or Not was absolutely genius? Thought so.
MFSB “Love is the Message b/w TSOP
This is a 45 with two distinct, equally excellent sides- there’s Love is the Message, the uptempo disco track that’s almost proto-house in a way. It still moves a dance floor while making old-timey Philly heads wistful for the days when Dexter Wansel and others graced the Huff and Gamble roster. The B-side is TSOP, The Sound of Philadelphia- memorable to new jacks for it’s hook, sampled on Jay-Z’s The Black Album. The Sound of Philadelphia indeed.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Fich is the first ordained rabbi in the musical church of Robot James Brown. He owns a lot of records and people pay him to play them. He writes for Just Sayin?.