The CDs were always in alphabetical order, before that the tape collection – at one point I had about 500 or so – were arranged according to genre/flow, chronological within artist. But records, actual LPs, I’ve only ever liked having them in any order. I like to play a new game of Lost and Found every time I flip through them, it creates new joy with each new discovery.
One of the criticisms of the Mp3-world is that everything is just a click and drag away. (It’s one of the fairly obvious selling points too, obviously, even in a world were very few are – technically – ‘buying’). Well, I recently experienced something close to the Lost and Found game. I ‘found’ an old hard-drive and scrolled through to recover the first two albums by Grant Lee Buffalo. I have a new iPod. I believe the last time I looked for Grant Lee Buffalo was when I last had a new iPod.
The Storm Hymnal compilation (kinda) does the job, but there’s nothing like those first two albums. Oh, I like bits of Copperopolis and lots of Jubilee too – I’d say the band never made a bad album. It’s a nice, tidy discography – and I’ve kept up with most of Grant-Lee Phillips’ solo albums – found a few to really dig as well. But it has always been about Fuzzy and Mighty Joe Moon for me.
A wonderful one-two, 1993 and 1994 – perhaps for me they go together because I heard them together; I even made a tape, C-90, one album on each side – a little bit cut off on each side, so I copied them to separate C-60 cassette tapes too, repeating favourite tracks to fill up the space. But that C-90 did the rounds back when the car still had a tape-player. And then it was off to buy my own CD copies as well.
A new friend loaned me the two Grant Lee Buffalo albums back in the day. I didn’t see the gig when they played in Auckland with Crowded House and R.E.M. but I heard enough people talking about it. So my friend loaned me the albums and the cultural exchange was completed with me sharing my then-so-special, favourite Charles Bukowski anthology; that and William S. Burroughs’ The Cat Inside.
She lived in Christchurch, I was in Wellington. We wrote letters, traded tapes – I made a Suzanne Vega compilation, we travelled to Auckland for that ill-fated Sweetwaters reunion – saw Grant Lee Buffalo and Paul Kelly and Elvis Costello and the Melvins and so many other great things. We started emailing too, but the old-fashioned letters kept up for a while, as books and CDs and tapes were shared, returned. We took in a Sam Hunt reading here, a Warratahs performance there. When we were in the same island we’d drive around, windows down, cigarettes glowing, marvelling at how Fuzzy perfectly followed Jupiter and Teardrop, and how Wish You Well perfectly followed Fuzzy; but Lone Star Song was such a good opener on that other record! And how could you go past Mockingbirds.
She had introduced me to my new favourite band.
We shared a lot of memories around those two albums, around seeing that band perform. And we had our own. Maybe it was only me that was excited to spot Greg Leisz’s pedal steel on Mighty Joe Moon, and that Robyn Hitchcock and Michael Stipe contributed backing vocals on the Jubilee albums. And maybe she had stories around discovering that music first that I would never know.
But every few years I can dig out a Grant Lee Buffalo album – especially those first two – and play it right through, having both the best kind of nostalgia and feeling like I’m listening to one of the very best and underrated bands, well, is underrated even the right word? Probably not. They had fans, they even went down the eventual road to reunion, Grant-Lee Phillips has, presumably, carved out enough of a career and good as that rhythm section was – and they really were/are great, great players – it was always about Grant-Lee Phillips; the songs, his voice. There was a lot going on around it, sure. Particularly in the shaping and production ideas from bassist/producer Paul Kimble but I’m sure the real reason people listen to Grant Lee Buffalo is because of the main man. Maybe it’s in the almost-shared name. But it’s his band.
Anyway, the band had its fans.
It’s music that I always get a kick out of – and a kick from.
And it’s nice to be reminded. Great, great band.
I have it on good authority that my friend – the ‘She’ in this story – woke up today to hear Mockingbirds and declared she’d rather be in bed all day listening to that album, rather than traipsing off to work.
I know this because I was playing Mighty Joe Moon at 7am, having blasted Fuzzy late last night. And she heard it this morning because we have been together for over a decade now, married for most of it.
And then our son Oscar wasn’t quite so impressed with the music from what he heard incorrectly and excitedly, as “Grant Gruffalo”. Guess he was expecting a whole different story…some whole other beast…
He might not ever warm to it. But he’s got so many other things to discover in his own time. And he can build his own stories of attachment. Right now, while his mother has to do the real work in the family his father gets to spend the day with Grant Lee Buffalo. And the rest of his life with the love of it. The love of it all.