Yeah, I’m showing off with all these signed record sleeves. And you’d do the same. Above: The Replacements (duh).
BY FRED MILLS
This weekend an old friend dropped by, and while looking through some of my records he spotted my copy of the first Replacements 45, which had been signed by all four of the original members, including the late Bob Stinson—I had gotten the single autographed in January of 1985 when the ‘mats played a punk rock club in Charlotte, NC, and subsequently wrote about the memorable night in a story for BLURT. This prompted my friend to ask me how many other records I had autographed. Well, you could say there are a few: 45s and LPs along with CDs, the stray cassette cover, and even a few napkins and scraps of paper I later inserted into sleeves. (There’s also a framed Patti Smith concert poster from ’79 that also houses the autograph she gave me at the concert.)
Some I’ve gotten rid of over the years, either selling them or giving them to friends who were super fans, like a copy of Jane’s Addiction Nothing Shocking. I actually wish I still had the signed GG Allin 45 and the signed copy of Screw Magazine (the one with the GG pictorial) from the early ‘90s, but I had eBayed them a number of years ago because at the time memorabilia of the late scum-rocker was fetching seriously good money. But I still have quite a few, and my friend encouraged me to scan some of them and share with a wider audience. Yeah, I’m bragging, sorta, but I’m also proud that I have these. In recent years I’ve started getting records inscribed to my young son. I’m not sure exactly why, since he hasn’t demonstrated the slightest interest in becoming a record collector; maybe there’s some weird paternal ego thing going on. He will inherit them some day and maybe he will figure out what my urge was all about if and when he becomes a father.
Anyhow, here’s a modest sampling of some of the signatures I’ve scored. Enjoy.
In the early ‘80s I had started a fanzine called U2/USA (yeah, I was a U2 geek, so sue me), and, taking notice of it, the band subsequently gave the staff pretty much blanket access when touring the States. I got the double-45 for “Pride” signed by the band when I went to a concert in Roanoke, VA. Shortly after I obtained the signatures I found myself sitting backstage with Bono, sharing a bottle of wine and interviewing him for the zine. Those were certainly far more innocent times.
Similarly, in the ‘80s I wrote frequently about R.E.M., even penning the liner notes for the sleeve of the “Femme Fatale” flexidisc they did for rock mag The Bob. I have copies of that signed as well as the original Hib-Tone 45, but the double-45 for “Wendell Gee” is my favorite.
Speaking of R.E.M., the Minutemen were guests on one of the band’s tours, and as I had backstage passes for a series of NC and VA shows I was able to strike up a friendship with the opening act as well. Rest in peace, D. Boon.
The Ramones—should I even comment? One of my greatest regrets is selling my signed copy of Road To Ruin, but at least I held on to a couple of singles that Joey, Johnny, Marky and Dee Dee inscribed. (Look closely.) The band was in Raleigh, NC, to do a show at the club The Pier and that afternoon they did an in-store at the nearby Record Bar. After the signing session they all fanned out, scouring the bins for music. Joey was particularly excited with some of his finds.
Raise your hand if you were a Mission Of Burma fan. Their initial incarnation was my favorite version of the band, and when they came to Chapel Hill around the time of their first album, I had the good luck to be the one chosen to show them around the UNC campus and take them for some post-soundcheck grub at a small Greek eatery. Their “Trem-Two” 45 is my favorite record by the Boston band.
Alex Chilton: you may have heard of him. Or possibly that little band from Memphis he was in. I got him to sign a few sleeves when he came to Charlotte with his solo band. He wasn’t the crabby guy I had heard him made out to be, but gracious and easy to talk to. Rest in peace, LX.
Joe Strummer: you may have heard of him or a band he was in as well. When Joe and The Mescaleros played the States in October of 2001, they appeared at Irving Plaza and I was assigned to do a profile for Magnet magazine. He signed my London Calling CD sleeve after the show and also asked if I had gotten enough material for my interview. I don’t think he was just being nice—he really seemed to care about treating journalists and fans (and, it should be said, opening bands) properly. Go here to read my interview.
Around the time that Arcade Fire’s Funeral album was starting to blow up they came to Asheville, NC, to honor a previously-made booking. The 2005 show was sold out, of course, and they could have played four nights in a row. I was doing a profile on the band for Magnet (you can read the story and interview here), so I got my copy of the CD signed by everyone in the band the next day when I took them all out for lunch.
I’ve seen Warren Haynes and Gov’t Mule numerous times, often at the annual Haynes Christmas Jam in Asheville. Interviewing Warren for Stereophile Magazine prior to one of the Jams, I got him to sign a couple of pieces, and for some reason I asked him to autograph one to my son, setting in motion a tradition on my part that I still indulge.
Ditto Jason Isbell, who I’ve also seen numerous times and of whom I have sung the praises frequently in these pages. He signed this one to my son when he came to the Grey Eagle in Asheville for a solo performance.
And ditto one of my favorite bands in the whole damn universe, garage demons The Ettes. I suspect my son might be embarrassed by all the scribbling on the sleeve dedicated to him, so Eli, if you are reading this—please don’t be. It’s all sincere (you were only six at the time anyway), and I know for a fact that the folks in the band dig you.
Alejandro Escovedo actually asked me what my son’s name was without prompting at a show one night in Asheville. Amazingly, he’d remembered I had a young kid from when I’d interviewed him several years earlier. After the concert he came out to the merch table and patiently stood for more than a half hour for autographs and photos with fans. A class act all around.
It’s fitting that the last one I share with you is of Rainer Ptacek, who passed away from a brain tumor in late 1997. I had gotten to know the Arizona guitar maestro (and sometime member of Giant Sand) while living in Tucson from 1992-2001, and I’m proud to have called him my friend. We would often talk music down at the record store where I worked, or at the music shop where he worked, and I also interviewed him a few times for different publications. Nocturnes is my eternal Rainer favorite, a gentle and luminous album that I played in the delivery room when my child was born. This is the proverbial record I would rescue first if a fire broke out at my house. God bless you, Rainer, I still miss you deeply.