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Since moving to Washington D.C. in 1999 I bought countless records at Olsson’s Dupont Circle location. In tribute to the local chain, which went out of business last week, I’ve selected a few highlights from over the years.
Not my favorite Abba record, but my first. Arguably, Abba was a singles band, they didn’t have a lot of deep cuts, and apart from “Take a Chance on Me” (the song that I bought the record for) and “The Name of the Game” there isn’t a whole lot of love here. I suppose “Eagle”, Bjorn Ulvaeus’ take on Jonathan Livingston Seagull, is a cultural artifact of the ’70s, entertaining for the same reasons Brady Bunch re-runs remain watchable. Anyway, when my college job ended, I left this CD at the warehouse and never came back for it. But it was an important purchase for me at the time, mostly because I would have been too intimidated to buy it until I got to college. In Salt Lake City, Utah, where I grew up, you generally got the stink-eye if you bought anything that even remotely resembled a disco record (but somehow Mormons seem to love Elton John, go figure). I recall that when I brought home a copy of Blondie’s Parallel Lines my own mother asked me “Isn’t that a gay album?” Obviously, this was not an accusation being leveled with any frequency in Dupont Circle, so I took a, er, chance.
Various Artists—-Cold Blue: The Complete 10″ Series
After college I spent some time writing scores for a local choreographer. I’ll be honest, Phillip Glass I was not. Bang-On-A-Can runner-up, third class is a little closer to the truth. I spent a lot of time trying to figure out creative ways to skirt around my lack of formal technique and compositional training. There were many desperate times when I fled from my room—-at that time a comically unhappy place that contained only a single-size bed and a few giant boxes of burned CDs—- to rifle through the Olsson’s classical section in search of inspiration. Usually I found something that helped me mop up my anxiety a little bit. One of those purchases was this three CD set collected a series of 10″ records put out by the New Music label Cold Blue in the early/mid ’80s. Some of it’s pretty cheeseball—soothing tones from the Steve Lillywhite school of air pudding and yearning atmosphere. But the Chas Smith tracks are pretty chill. At the very least the music’s simplicity made me a little more confident that I could follow a similar trajectory and at least not get laughed off the face of the Earth.
The Fall—-“Perverted By Language”
My first Fall record. Like many other Fall records that I own, I listened to it exactly twice.
Typically, if I wanted something contemporary, I went to DCCD to buy it. But Olsson’s generally kept the indie bands that I liked in stock. Also, at the Dupont Circle store they kept a copy of Orthrelm’s Norildivoth Crallos-Lomrixth Urthiln on the staff favorites wall for nearly 10 years. Respect.
Elvis Costello—-“Armed Forces”
Another Rykodisc re-issue. Probably my favorite Costello record. I listened to this record constantly until one day when I found his biography in the City Paper promo bin, read it, and decided that his whole rage thing was kind of a sham. Regardless, “Green Shirt” is a tight song. The keyboard parts always remind me of the Dawn of the Dead soundtrack.