Track Marks is a weekly music questionnaire for people who make and or love music. The people change but the questions remain the same.
This week we check in with DJ and vinyl fiend extraordinaire Dave Monroe. You can find him spinning records at a number of regular DJ nights at venues around town including The Soul Hole at Burnhearts on Monday nights, 2X2 4 Tuesday nights at Blackbird, and Rave You in Bay View Wednesday nights at Burnhearts, and sporadic weekend nights at Tonic for Suit Up! This Monday is a very special Valentine's Day edition of the Soul Hole kind of disgustingly titled The Love Hole.
His music tastes are as varied as they are refined which made him an easy candidate for this week's Track Marks. Monroe was kind enough to tell us about getting Radiohead before he didn't get Radiohead, covering Madonna, and the shocking revelation that he doesn't even have a stereo set up in his house, which may explain the many DJ nights.
OnMilwaukee.com: What was the first tape/CD/record/8 track you ever owned?
Dave Monroe: Dr. Seuss's "If I Ran the Zoo" and "The Sleep Book" (LP). We had all the Sesame Street and Mister Rogers LPs as they came out, the Vince Guaraldi Peanuts records, The Royal Guardsmen's Snoopy records, Burl Ives LPs, and so forth, not to mention my mother's collection of classical LPs, musicals, Peter, Paul and Mary, The Kingston Trio, Harry Belafonte, Barbra Streisand, et al. But I'm guessing that the Dr. Seuss was the first record specifically purchased for me, given both its release date as well as its purpose (reading, sleeping).
Bought? "The Beatles 1967-1970"? Again, I'm going by release dates, I don't remember so well any more. A friend's brother later kindly gave me his copies of the actual Beatles LPs. I recall picking up Steve Martin's "King Tut" and The Blues Brothers' "Soul Man" 45s at Target ("Saturday Night Live" being a major conduit for contemporary music for me at the time; see also Devo, The Specials, Gary Numan, Blondie, Sparks, The Kinks, et al.), but that was 1978, and I'd already have been on to The Beatles' "Rarities" LP by then. But recalling having to make a choice, I'm pretty sure I opted for "1967-1970" rather than "1964-1966" first.
OMC: What was the first concert you attended?
DM: Devo, Freedom of Choice tour (first U.S. date) at The Oriental Theater, Milwaukee, July 7, 1980. Unless you count, say, Helen Reddy at Summerfest with my parents, July 4, 1976 ... why an Australian for the Bicentennial?
OMC: What was the last concert you attended?
DM: Billy Bragg at Turner Hall, Milwaukee, Sept. 9, 2010. It's so rare that anyone I really love actually comes to town, and I missed Camera Obscura to DJ a Kings Go Forth show Thanksgiving weekend before last, so ... . I thanked him personally.
OMC: Who is one popular musician or music act you just can't understand?
DM: Radiohead. Having picked up their first album as an import (I figured it'd take forever to come out here, if it did so at all), I saw them open for Belly at Marquette University way back when. They were a competent live rock and/or roll band, but "Creep" was already a bad sign. And suddenly they're the new Pink Floyd? I have no interest in the OLD Pink Floyd from "Dark Side of the Moon" on, and Radiohead certainly had nothing analogous to the Floyd's prelapsarian years, much less to Syd Barrett. Not-so-avant-garde music for unadventurous listeners.
But that being said, I do think Radiohead guitarist Jonny Greenwood deserved not only a nomination, but a straight up Oscar for his "There Will Be Blood" score (it was disqualified for the use of "pre-existing material").
And then there's Lady Gaga ...
OMC: Musically what are you into that you're embarrassed to admit to?
DM: I will no doubt some day be tried at The Hague for crimes against musical taste and/or decency. I'm an unrepentant bubblegum fan, for starters. I've gone on record stating that the "Fiddler on the Roof" OST was one of my biggest musical influences, that "That Happy Feeling" by Bert Kaempfert and His Orchestra is one of my 10 favorite albums of all time, and that "MMMBop" by Hanson was the single best single of the '90s. I've made a point of spinning, say, "Don't Talk, Just Kiss" by Right Said Fred, "Touch Me (All Night Long)" by Cathy Dennis and am awaiting the opportunity to spin stuff like "Speed" by Alpha Team and "Ebeneezer Goode" by The Shamen, and if 2010 Eurovision song contest winner "Satellite" by Lena Meyer-Landrut were available on vinyl, I'd inflict that as often as possible on others, as well.
I have not only the entire Strawberry Switchblade catalog (vinyl, CD), but solo projects, cover versions and a T-shirt. I finally picked up the Pebbles and Bamm Bamm "Open Up Your Heart" 45 on Hanna-Barbera Records the other weekend, and am anticipating the arrival of "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper" by Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip.
Meanwhile, I've been spinning a rare/obscure soul, funk and R&B night for eight years now, but only recently picked up my first Otis Redding 45.
And yet ultimately the most damning fact is perhaps that my last band covered not one but two songs apiece by both The Doors AND Madonna.
OMC: What are you listening to right now?
DM: NPR. The BBC World Service. Whatever's playing at The Hi-Fi, on WMSE, at various bars, or on the lines (e.g., Mr. Finewine's show on WFMU out of New Jersey; Pandora and/or Last FM, as at least there's no actual DJ for me to get annoyed with--you'll actually hear some pretty interesting stuff if you "seed" them properly. My dark musical secret (except for the fact that I'll tell anybody who'll listen) is that I haven't had a stereo set up at whatever has served as home at the time for years now, so I only hear the stuff I actually pay for when I spin it out. Saves wear and tear on the vinyl, but ...
Some of my current favorite spins are : "Stormy Weather" by The Four Casts (1964); "Sado Maso" by Georges de Giafferi (1968); "Kitty" by Racey (1979) ... But I should at least excavate a bunch of CDs and a portable player, or even a Walkman and some cassettes, if not a full-on stereo, from storage. I could really use an iPod or some such, though I'll never pop for one myself (money better spent on, say, a really good vintage 45).
OMC: What song do you want played at your funeral?
DM: "Amazing Grace" on a lone bagpipe, just like Spock. Although it'll be "Telstar" by The Tornadoes playing over the final credits in the biopic.
OMC: What artist changed your life and how?
DM: The Beatles. Then Devo, and, decisively, The Jam (from whom I reverse engineered mod). But it was The Beatles who got me buying the records, playing the instruments, mining out the '60s.
Though again, and despite a number of Fab Four Motown covers in particular, it was ultimately The Jam who pointed me in the direction of soul.
But, hey, if it took Vanilla Ice to get you into hip-hop, not to mention David Bowie and/or Queen, well, so be it. But I inevitably orbit back to The Beatles, even dropped good money on a clean mono copy of Sgt. Pepper in recent years so's I can spin "Good Morning, Good Morning" in good conscience.
OMC: If you could see anyone perform past or present who would it be?
DM: The Beatles, 3 Saville Row (rooftop), London, Jan. 30, 1969. I wish I were qualified to say the first performance of Beethoven's ninth (Vienna, May 7, 1824), but ...
OMC: If you could spend one day with any artist living or dead who would it be?
DM: John Lennon. It would of course be a complete waste of time for him, but given an otherwise tragically impossible opportunity ... George Martin, among the living.
OMC: If you were stranded on an island with one record for the rest of your life what would it be?
DM: Sir Georg Solti conducting the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D-Minor, op. 125 (London Records CD, 1986). My favorite recording of the greatest piece of music ever composed, Phillips made CDs 75 minutes long just so its chairman at the time could listen to the ninth straight through without having to flip over an LP or endure untimely fades-in and/or -out amidst movements of uneven length. Me, I put the "sewer" in "connoisseur."