As Record Store Day and its accompanying vinyl avalanche nears, and as talk has turned to McCartney concerts and a reissue of "Wings Over America," I've found myself transported to the dawn of my vinyl obsession.
While my love of records dates to the early 1970s when I had a psychedelic red and white carrying box stuffed full of sleeveless 45s I'd spin on the "Dansette" style record player my grandmother gave me the Christmas before she died, my vinylmania really blossomed in the fourth grade, when I was deep into my Beatlemania phase, which was accompanied by monthly installments of Hit Parader, Circus and Rock Scene magazines, along with a slew of "Paul is Dead" and other special edition Fab Four mags.
It got a boost from my first job: watching the door after school at tiny Backstreet Records up the street from my house. The shop was so small – and poorly laid-out – that if two or more customers came in there was no way for the sole (teenaged) clerk to see if anyone was carrying unpaid merch out the door. For my admittedly low-effort work I earned two LPs a week.
The first record I remember actually buying at Backstreet was an original red Apple label cutout of "Let It Be" for $1.99. They had a huge stack of them. I wish I had those now. I could earn a nice income on Ebay from those still-sealed gems.
But I digress.
Today, I decided to Google "albums released in 1976" and seeing the results reminded me just how deep into music I already was the year I celebrated my 10th birthday. I owned more records released that year than most adults likely did.
Here are 15 – OK, 17 – of the records that I dug the most in 1976 (and that were released that year), along with their release dates. I suspect I got nearly all of them at Backstreet, though I distinctly remember buying one at a tiny record shop on Avenue U, across from Kings Plaza mall ("Rock and Roll Over").
What they tell me, too, is that while I didn't have the most refined tastes yet – I didn't discover Patti Smith's "Radio Ethiopia" or Bowie's "Station to Station" for another year or two, for example – my inclinations weren't half bad for a little kid, either.
- Bob Dylan – Desire (Jan. 5)
- Peter Frampton – Frampton Comes Alive! (Jan. 6)
- KISS – Destroyer (March 15)
- Wings – At the Speed of Sound (March 31)
- Rolling Stones – Black and Blue (April 23)
- Steve Miller Band – Fly Like An Eagle (May 29)
- The Beatles – Rock and Roll Music (June 7)
- Beach Boys – 15 Big Ones (June 28)
- Rod Stewart – A Night On the Town (June 28)
- Jefferson Starship – Spitfire (June 28)
- Ringo Starr – Ringo's Rotogravure (Sept. 17)
- Led Zeppelin – The Song Remains the Same (Sept. 28)
- Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life (Sept. 28)
- KISS – Rock and Roll Over (Nov. 11)
- George Harrison – Thirty-Three & A Third (Nov. 19)
- The Eagles – Hotel California (Dec. 8)
- Wings – Wings Over America (Dec. 10)
All these years later, I don't own many of these records any more, though, for the most part, I wouldn't be ashamed to. Some, like Dylan's "Desire" and Wonder's "Songs in the Key of Life," remain my favorite works by their makers.
1976, it seems, wasn't a bad time to be 10 and into rock and roll.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.