Sunday, November 6, 2016

Pearls Before Swine

Artist: Pearls Before Swine
LP: These Things Too
Song: "When I Was a Child"
[ listen ]

There's a magical record store in downtown Utica! It's called Off-Center Records, and once you step inside, all you have to do is imagine a record you want and then it suddenly appears before you. Unfortunately, the bargain prices I kept picturing on them never seemed to materialize. I guess you can't have everything. But seriously, this store has an incredible amount of gold in its bins. There's a rusty old spiral staircase that delivers shoppers either down to the basement room full of vinyl jazz, or up a level to...I think it was country and soundtracks filed away upstairs. The rock and soul/R&B LPs are stashed at the back of the excitingly-cluttered main level of the store. Most of the albums are in the $18-$30 range, which is pretty much out of my budget if I plan to buy more than just a single record. I'm not one of Seattle's new billionaires. I work in social services, for crying out loud. Still, I did manage to find a pair of lovely and alluring Pearls Before Swine LPs for just $12 and $15—"These Things Too" from 1969 was the pricier of the two. 

Off-Center Records has also got boxes upon boxes of 7" singles—and they recently separated out all the ones with picture sleeves! I was on my hands and knees lugging one box after another out from under some wooden shelving. When I first arrived, there was just one hour remaining before closing time, so I only made it to letter 'M' in the picture sleeve 45s when I had to up and leave. I hadn't planned to spend the night in Utica, but you can bet I wasn't leaving town until I'd gotten all the way through letter 'Z.' After enjoying a delicious dinner at the cozy Tramontane Cafe, taking in a Ryan Quinn show at the gorgeous Stanley Theater, and getting a restful night's sleep at the charming Pine Crest Motel, I was back at Off-Center Records the following day to pick up right where I'd left off.

I was super excited to find a picture sleeve (without a record inside) of Doris Day's "Pillow Talk," but it was $25—for just the sleeve! Even I, one of the biggest Doris Day fans still alive on planet Earth, could not bring myself to pay that crazy amount for an empty Doris Day picture sleeve. Not even "Pillow Talk." And I ask you: Who else in the world is going to get down on all fours in downtown Utica to go digging through those boxes of 45s and happen upon that "Pillow Talk" picture sleeve, and then be both wacky and starstruck enough to pay $25 for it? I guarantee you that empty sleeve will remain stashed away in that 'D' box of 45s until the end of time—or at least until the end of the record store. Unfortunately, because of the "Pillow" case and similar $$$ wonders tucked away in the darkest of its corners, I have to give Off-Center Records "Record Museum" status for most of what they've got there. 

Still, in the museum gift shop I did find a 7" by The Cure that I'd somehow never picked up in the '80s, I found a European import copy of the "Xanadu" 45 with a picture sleeve (as far as I can tell, "Xanadu" is the only single from the film's soundtrack that was released without a picture sleeve in the USA...just don't ask how much I paid for it), and the number of singles I dug outta' that place to help complete my collection of Prince 45s is simply astounding. If I ever win the lottery, I'll be headed back to downtown Utica, pronto.

[ Pearls Before Swine ]

[ Off-Center Records — Outside ]

[ Off-Center Records — Inside ]

[ Off-Center Records — The Spiral Staircase ]

 [ Off-Center Records — Utica, NY ]

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