Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Amy & The Art of the Steal

Killer Queen of the Thrift Store Score

Amy Linthicum's shopping bag is always full of goodies
Life is a never-ending treasure hunt, and if you like what you dig up and it's cheap enough, buy it. - Al Hoff's ThriftSCORE Philosophy

My girlfriend Amy Linthicum and I were off recently for vacation and, since Amy likes to shop and is a bargain hunter of mythic prowess, that means we tended to shop at bargain bins, consigment shops, and used goods stores like Goodwill and Value Village. Now whereas my judgement is inherently flawed and everything I touch (except Amy) tends to turn to shite or garbage, Amy is the polar opposite. She knows shite from shinola and has the Midas Touch when it comes to the art of thrift store scores. This is a gal who can rummage through the women's racks at Rugged Wearhouse and find such curios as an "I Heart Vaginas" t-shirt - for her ever-grateful boyfriend!

Take her recent trip to the Perry Hall Goodwill, where she scored an out-of-print 2-disc Ultimate Ventures CD (and booklet!) for $3! Looking it up later on Amazon, she discovered to her delight that used copies of said disc were going for $69.99 dollars and up. When I went back the next day to glom some leftover scores from her discoveries: nada. Some Christian Mother Goose records and Kenny G.

Then a few days later up in Rehoboth Beach, DE during the seaside town's annual Sidewalk Sale, Amy scored again when she found a bunch of $1 CDs that included a shrink-wrapped Bjork CD she didn't own, plus one by her newfound loves, the Buzzcocks-loving US band The Adored (who not only love Buzzcocks but have recorded a song with founding 'cock Pete Shelley). Earlier, she found a complete Chinese Commie Workers Outfit - y'know, the drab green peasant jacket with matching Chairman Mao cap - at the Buddhas and Beads boutique for the marked-down price of $20. Oh, and later at the Tangiers Square Old Navy outlet, she scored a $40 hipster jacket for (drumroll please) $10! Naturally, both outfits fit like they were custom-made for her.

Then, on an excursion to Towson's Ukazoo Books to see her college friend's artwork, and armed with two Free Used Book coupons, Amy scored Yet Another Elvis Costello Biography - Tony Clayton-Lea's out-of-print Elvis Costello: A Biography (amazingly one that had escaped her 24/7 Costello Media Watch!) AND Speaking With the Angel, a short story collection edited by Nick Hornby that included the Patrick Marber short story "Peter Shelley" (which Amy had been obsessing over ever since she heard about it on the Buzzcocks fan site, Secret Public.) By the way, Patrick Marber also penned the screenplay for Sam Taylor-Wood (Nowhere Boy)'s Buzzcocks-themed short film Love You More (2007), which I'm sure Amy will also score some day, some way.

But Amy's greatest score of late has to be spotting a used copy of the ultra-rare 1980 XTC live recording, the BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (Windsong International, 1992), for $5.99 in the used bins of Sound Garden in Fell's Point.

Set list:
Life Begins At The Hop (Moulding)
Burning With Optimism's Flame
Love At First Sight (Moulding)
Respectable Street
No Language In Our Lungs
This Is Pop
Scissor Man
Towers Of London
Battery Brides
Living Through Another Cuba
Generals and Majors (Moulding)
Making Plans For Nigel (Moulding)
Are You Receiving Me?

Sure, this masterfully recorded show featuring Messrs Chambers, Gregory, Moulding and Partridge performing at London's Hammersmith Palais on December 22, 1980 is also available on the four-CD Transistor Blast: The Best of the BBC Sessions (Cooking Vinyl, 1998), but that box set is rather pricey at $25 (at least that's the price it was going for used at Towson's Record & Tape Trader store - where Amy also just scored a hitherto unheard of Buzzcocks live double-CD called Small Songs with Big Hearts/Beating Hearts containing two separate shows recorded at Manchester's Apollo in 1978 and London's Rainbow in 1979) - even more so new. No, what makes the single XTC live CD so wonderful is it's a time capsule capturing what is arguably XTC's peak period, the songs from around the tip-top form of Black Sea (1980). I was particularly struck by how similar-sounding Moulding and Partridge's singing voices were (I have trouble telling them apart - guess they speak the same Swindon patois).

On the XTC fan site Chalkhills.org, Partridge recalled the night of the Hammersmith recording, thusly:
"It was a few days before Christmas and I was laden with a cold/flu virus that made me feel like death warmed over (with chestnut stuffing!). One of Santa's jolly little helpers in the shape of photographer Herbie Yamaguchi instructed me to take my shoes and socks off, and preceded, in the midst of the gladatorial gloom that was our pre-gig dressing room, to give me an unbelievable foot massage.

In ten minutes I went from that four day old glass of cider and cigarette ash sensation to feeling on top of the world (North Pole up my arse and all!). There were thousands of baying punters out there, and we were the band who were going to cure them of leprosy tonight!

It's an interesting cocktail, that mixture of fear, defiance, Casanova cockiness and decibels that washes over you up there on stage. Guitar/Gun/Penis in hand, you simultaneously struggle to kiss and kill everyone in that room. Not an easy task . . ."

Looking back at these spirited live versions, Colin Moulding has opined that a few even surpass the studio album originals, while Andy Partridge reflected that "Hearing these sessions made me guffaw out loud at early XTC's friendly fire. The epileptic kick boxer bursts of Colin and Terry's rhythm section. Barry's gothic Liberace piano style, or his truly dangerous organ playing. Electrician from Edwards' funfair attempts to mend damaged saturnian dishwasher motor."

In a word: XTC!

Just another notch on Amy's thrift scorecard. No wonder she reads Consumer Reports and Shop Smart. She's one discerning consumer!

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