Sunday Morning: The Rock 'N' Roll Memories Archive

A record store can be a time machine set for rock 'n' roll's past.

I could see the Modern Lovers as if they were actually before me. They were performing at a club that has long since been torn down. I had snuck a camera into the club, even though the group's management had banned cameras. Something about wanting to control their image, I figured. But the music. So whimsical. "Hey There Little Insect."...

But The Modern Lovers weren't performing. That was just a memory, a memory from the late '70s triggered by the cover of their first album, The Modern Lovers, which I happened to see as I worked my way through the immense, supermarket size Amoeba Records store, that opened recently at one end of Haight Street in San Francisco, and which has quickly become a destination for serious music fans.

Down another aisle, and it was the early '70s and The New York Dolls were delivering a pre-punk set at another club. David Johansen, before he turned into Buster Poindexter, and the others (including Johnny Thunders) making the Rolling Stones seem like a suburban sewing club. "Personality Crisis," "Looking For a Kiss."...

I was just passing CD covers. This was just a record store. And yet as I wandered around, I felt like I was in a rock 'n' roll memories archive, a kind of time machine taking me back to the past. Flashes of a personal rock 'n' roll history.

Some of the memories triggered weren't so pleasant. When I came across a recent (1996) CD by the overlooked power pop singer Marti Jones, it just reminded me that Jones had never scored the hit she needed to connect with an audience that would surely love her heartbreaking voice and moving songs. Why hadn't the great Unsophisticated Time and Match Game -- both from the mid-'80s -- made Jones a star?

The cover of Still, a collection of Joy Division material released after Ian Curtis hung himself not only brought back the pain felt when news of Curtis' death reached me in America, but also New Order's first visit to San Francisco. Though band members and their manager were friendly enough, they refused to consent to an interview. They were still trying to keep the mystique going...

Lou Reed's Rock & Roll Animal. Oh my god! The first time I put a used copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico on my parents' turntable and listened to "Heroin." All those Lester Bangs/ Lou Reed confrontations in Creem magazine. My first year at college, playing The Velvet Underground and Lou Reed (with the breathtaking "Lisa Says") over and over. The first time I saw Reed perform (late '70s at the Old Waldorf, a San Francisco club). Much later: a theater show where Reed played the entire New York album. And, of course, interviewing Reed in his New York office for an Addicted To Noise cover story...

The Meat Puppets opening for Black Flag at an impermanent Las Vegas punk club that I was told was normally used for shooting porno flicks. Driving in the van with Black Flag to Vegas. Greg Ginn telling me he wanted his group to open for the Grateful Dead. Black Flag devastating the entire packed audience at an L. A. auditorium in 1986. Interviewing Henry Rollins at a burger joint down the street from SST's Lawndale office...

Another aisle and I ran head-on into a Sex Pistols CD. The last show. At Winterland in San Francisco on January 14, 1978. The greatest live rock 'n' roll show I've ever seen. Goons from the suburbs there for the spectacle crashing through the audience, knocking people aside. The entire San Francisco punk community there to see the band that had helped start a revolution. Pure, loud, evil, dark, raw, noisy rock 'n' roll that sounded like it should level the building -- deadly as an atom bomb.

Then I went over to The Verve section and picked up the two CDs that comprise their latest UK single, "Lucky Man." And I bought them. And I left the store.

Memories are OK once in a while, on a lazy Saturday afternoon. But I'd rather live in the present. [Sun., Jan. 18, 1998, 9 a.m. PST]