January 29, 2003

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***The Litter Box***

Jacking off
By John O'Neill

CALL ME & quot;jackass." It's a little term I've been getting accustomed to lately. Unfortunately, there are those around me convinced "jackass" is less an insult than a hard fact based on a personal bedrock of questionable behavior. Just ask my wife.

It all started with the DVD player – a wonderful Christmas gift to be sure, especially when attached to components known for their ability to enhance the product. Like, say, the stereo receiver. Player is attached to receiver, noise comes out of speakers, CD and/or DVD shakes the walls like nobody's business. Music critic soaks in every nuance, then savages disc in print. Simple stuff really, unless you can't be bothered with the idiotic $30 wire that acts as the fulcrum for the proceedings. I have the device but got scared while reading the instructions and misplaced it. Consequently, I listen to discs through a 12-year-old Zenith with speakers the size of an Oreo. Which is no big deal; I was always a vinyl man.

There's nothing like the 331/3-revolutions-per-minute spin of a record for a warm, intimate sound. In fact, I am a proud member of the Overpaying Wax Zealots Club currently eBaying my way into the poorhouse because of Arthur Alexander 45s. It is a purist stance I adopted in the mid '80s, when records were being phased out by the original axis of evil: Colombia, BMG, Geffen, and Warner Bros. I am not embarrassed to be considered a record geek, or a pigeon, or whatever you might call someone willing to pony up 30 clams for a scratchy single that can generally be found on a compilation disc at Amoeba Music for less than 15 bucks.

I am chagrined, however, to admit my turntable has been off-line since it took a header in the back of a U-Haul a couple of years ago. I still set it up and, as far as the visitor can tell, I'm good to go. Occasionally, I'll fiddle with it the same way a monkey might inspect a bright red rubber ball. Beyond that I'm helpless. According to the wife (who actually did some leg work on my behalf), it would be cheaper to replace it, but I can't afford to if I want to keep the vinyl collection current.

Jackass? Only if you consider just the surface of the events that have left me in this position. In fact, it is now apparent that my instincts have taken me to the precipice of riches. I am about to cash in, and cash in big time. How? It all comes down to this: liner notes!

As a Big Deal local journalist I am occasionally asked to crib a few lines on a band's impending release. Take, for example, the Rock and Roll Adventure Kids, who are moments away from loosing their soon-to-be-epic full-length on the unsuspecting masses. Of course I immediately signed on to blather at length about the gang, as it would be an honor to be part of such a retarded piece of music. Hell, I get a free album out of the deal, even if I can't exactly tell you what it sounds like. And here's the thing. If you're reading this column, you are most likely either in a band or know someone who is. And there is no reason that, for a small price, I wouldn't be honored to pen some favorable words on your group's upcoming release. After all, I'm a big, big fan of your work!

The concept is simple, really. For a well-concealed $20 donation to the turntable stylus replacement fund, I can't imagine not finding something nice to say about the guitarist's hot licks. For an original copy of the Lipstick Killers' Hindu Gods of Love (Dionysus Records), I'd say your band very well could be "a welcome blast of fresh air in this otherwise fetid cesspool we call contemporary music." Get the picture? You e-mail me for my wish list, fill out a very basic questionnaire detailing the group, we negotiate a gift exchange, and you're off and running with glowing praise from a name player in the music biz.

So maybe I am a jackass. Only now it's Mister Jackass to you.

E-mail John O'Neill at litterbox@sfbg.com.