Carl Bookstein is one of my fellow Pennyblackmusic contributors, part of the site’s American contingent. Carl is originally from Detroit and went to college in neighbouring Ann Arbor, Michigan. If you think that you have heard the name before, that may be because, during the 1960s and 70s, the city gained a reputation as a focal point for political activism and the anti-Vietnam War movement, as well as other student movements.

There are several annual events in the area each year, many of them centred on performing and visual arts: the Ann Arbor Art Fairs, four fairs held on downtown streets that attract over half a million visitors, and the Ann Arbor Film Festival which receives more than 2,500 submissions annually. Ann Arbor also has a history of openness to marijuana, hosting an annual Hash Bash.

This is the place from which acts such as Iggy Pop and the Stooges and the MC5 come. Carl says: “Detroit is a city of true grit. People there can have a real edge to them. Detroit is always about up from devastation, up from the rubble. It's also the home of Motown and from the sixties so much great music has come out of Detroit. It is as though there is something in the water there.”

Carl’s vinyl collecting has spiralled over the years - he is now up to about 400 plus albums. It is pretty much intact from the original collection and he has lost only one or two albums along the way.

He admits: “I have never been willing to sell off any of it, but i admit i haven't bought new vinyl in quite a while. I am thrilled by the recent boom in vinyl sales, but am personally still a CD addict. I know they now say the audio quality of vinyl is better, but my CD collection is much larger. I also review CDs for Pennyblackmusic, which helps make CDs still seem very relevant. But these great vinyl memories go on forever, and I do contemplate going back to buying vinyl again.” It's a point that I hadn’t thought about, to be honest, because I do the same thing. My CD collection has also grown and is now probably on the same scale as my vinyl collection. The CD I think will always be relevant, as Carl says, and he is also right about the fact that vinyl will now stay for ever.

The first album Carl ever got was the Beatles’ ‘Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ from his parents - and the first vinyl album he bought with his own money was The Jackson Five's album ‘ABC’, on the Motown label.

He reflects, “This was around 1970 or 1971 and I was about eight or nine years old at the time. I don’t remember where I purchased it, but it was a very big deal for me. My mother even took my two younger sisters and me to see the Jackson 5 live at the Michigan State Fairgrounds in Detroit. This was about 1971 or 1972 - my first concert.”

Carl started collecting vinyl in earnest a couple of years later. At about the age of 11, a friend introduced him to Elton John’s “Honky Chateau” which he really took to, and around that time he got a taste for Stevie Wonder. From here he went to high school and his musical taste broadened with the introduction of other artists. “The sounds that became my lifeblood then were Bob Dylan, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, the Who and Neil Young. and then toward my senior years in High School, I discovered the Clash and they absolutely knocked me out.”

However, for Carl, the bands he listened to during his High School years didn’t end up becoming the most important. “The Grateful Dead, who I began listening to during my first year of college, would become the most important band of my life. I was an English major in college and I earned a JD law degree in Chicago. I didn’t really like the law much so I gravitated to freelance writing over the years, from creative to journalistic. I have adored writing for Pennyblackmusic for the past seven plus years, and also had a super rewarding gig writing for the popular Detroit alternative weekly newspaper, the Metro Times, in 2013, among another dozen writing gigs.”

As part of his working background he has also worked in record stores for 11 years. His selling prowess included selling for the great but now defunct Michigan chain Harmony House and also in Barnes & Noble’s music department.

“Rock and Roll is everything to me, but reggae music too came into my radar in senior year of high school. A friend turned me on to Jimmy Cliff’s ‘The Harder They Come’ soundtrack but the song that hit me the deepest was Toots and the Maytals’ ‘Pressure Drop’, an album that I’d specially ordered by mail from somewhere. I found it mesmerising and went out the next day and bought ‘Funky Kingston’, their greatest hits album. The record was a knockout from start to finish. Towards the end of senior year, Toots and the Maytals came around to the Pine Knob amphitheatre, opening for Third World. Somehow I ended up singing the song ‘Funky Kingston’ into the microphone with Toots Hibbert, when he came out into the audience.

“I discovered REM in early 1984. They had already come heralded. A young woman I met from Athens, Georgia, was on this New England Literature course with me in New Hampshire, out of my college. This was 1982 and she was raving about this up-and-coming Athens band.”

Another friend from the course, who lived with Carl in 1984 in Ann Arbor, had a vinyl copy of REM's ‘Murmur’ which came out in 1983. The album blew him away and he thought the whole thing was absolutely hypnotic. “I bought a vinyl copy right away soon after graduating college and the cassette I taped of it almost never left the tape deck. It was still in the deck during my whole road trip way out west to California.

“I bought a vinyl copy of the double live album by Bob Dylan and The Band, ‘Before The Flood’, in my first year of college. I had been big into Dylan’s ‘Highway 61 Revisited’ during high school and had around this time fallen in love with a copy of ‘Best of The Band’. ‘Before The Flood’ married these artists and was an absolute knockout. But for the life of me I can’t remember where I bought these albums from.”

The summer after that first year, Carl was living in the small Michigan town of Charlevoix, a four-and-a-half hour drive from Detroit. He had heard on the grapevine that Dylan was playing live in a place called Pine Knob which actually neighboured Detroit so he hitchhiked all the way home to Detroit to see Dylan, a journey that included catching a 100-mile ride in a big, impressive 16-wheeler truck. He’d envisioned hearing the ’Before the Flood’ quality Dylan at the show, but this was 1981 and so what he got was a Gospel tour - music that he would later come to appreciate, but at that time he admits he did not yet fully get.

“The next of my purchases is still clear in my mind. The shop I got it from was called Schookids Records in Ann Arbor, a prime store in a prime location, somewhat iconic at the time (now closed), on the corner of bustling State and Liberty streets. It was a medium-sized space, magnetic and happening with a tasteful collection. The album was Bruce Springsteen’s ‘The River’ and there was a special late-night opening when the album was released. I waited in a line that wrapped around the block.

“Buying the double album the day of release was a big deal, made even bigger by the fact that Springsteen was opening his tour that same week live at the Chrysler Arena in Ann Arbor and we had tickets. I also attended the next Springsteen show a few nights later in Detroit.”

Enthusiastically reminiscing about the shops he frequented at that time, he goes on: “I bought Traffic's ‘Low Spark of High Heeled Boys’ at Sam’s Jam’s on Woodward Avenue in Ferndale, another place neighbouring Detroit. It was a small store, but one I went to quite a lot and is still strong for me in memory. I was about 13 at the time, and the two records that most artistically and visually caught my eye in the stacks were Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ with its dramatic cover art and this Traffic album. The album has cut corners and is shaped something like a parallelogram. The art vision is blue skies with light clouds and a black-and-white checkerboard base. The music is also artful: extended jazz rock numbers, highly innovative. Steve Winwood’s voice cool and calming. The band’s musicianship is technically masterful. Really just out of sight.”

It’s not often we get a glimpse into the life of someone from overseas, especially their compulsive record buying habits of youth. My habits and Carl’s, although miles apart, are pretty much the same wherever we are, it seems. We can still remember the places we frequented as a consequence of our vinyl addictions even when we were in our teens and even younger.

Carl has brought this to life along with a different aspect, that of someone thousands of miles away. They might be different records that we have bought and we might have differing tastes in our music but it just goes to show that if you have the addiction for collecting vinyl records our habits and actions are very much the same wherever you are.











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