Bay Area Vinyl Hop: Open Mind Music (Part 1, 2)

Mika Anami

Bay Area Vinyl Hop:Open Mind Music (Part 2)
Music Love Champions The Tides of Change

Continuing on from the previous interview where we asked Henry Wimmer, shop owner of Open Mind Music, to share with us his love of music and his story of owning a record shop: the triumphs and great losses along the way. In this segment, Henry shares with us four albums that resonate with Open Mind Music’s concept, and his personal connections to them.

――Why is vinyl still so special to you?
Vinyl sounds better than compressed files and the digital domain. When records are well cared for, they last well. It is a great medium. I love 12” art and it’s the authentic document as it was originally intended.

What are your opinions on different formats: CDs and online streaming.
When the CD came onto the market it was marketed as an indestructible superior medium, but true record collectors understood it as just 1s and 0s. It may be a clean sound but it was kind of a soulless, clinical approximation of the music. As people were dumping records I was buying them. Before I opened my store in '93 and '94, I was seeking out shops that were discontinuing records and making room for CDs. I understood that the records will outlast CDs. And then, when file sharing came about at the end of the century, in tandem with the first tech bubble bursting, there was a decrease in record sales, and lots of record stores around the world closed due to people deciding to just download and share files. But as you well know, record appreciation has grown significantly in the last five years, the last year and a half even. It is still a small part of the overall music business. The record collector is a knowledgeable music lover who knows what he/she likes, and wants to hear more, and is often more serious about music than the casual listener who may just want streaming in the background. So, I found that our business is growing stronger and though we had some setbacks with file sharing and with the big fire, the health of the store is improving, and the patient is smiling.

Henry’s Top Picks!

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band by The Beatles
The first one I selected is The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, which was, a year ago, reissued for its 50th anniversary of its release, with some remixes and some bonus materials. This was the first record I bought when I was a child, so this was the record for me that started my record collecting and is very important to me. I knew a little bit about The Beatles, but I didn't know just how great they were until I played this record from start to finish. It was a great entry point for me; with the fanfare of the first song, the title song, and into Ringo singing With a Little Help from My Friends, and all the story songs: Fixing A Hole, Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite!, and it really spanned the variety that The Beatles offered with some rock ‘n’ roll and even Indian music with George Harrison's Within You Without You, the lyricism and all the dynamic production that George Martin helped John and Paul create. It has the colors of 1967, which here in San Francisco was the summer of love, and this came in the beginning of the summer of love. I understand, that every turntable was playing it and you could hear it up and down Haight Street coming out of the windows. The cover art itself is vibrant, and it has a great pop art feel and all of the different people in the background, including a young Bob Dylan, a little sign that says "Welcome the Rolling Stones" showing their brothership with the Stones; there was sort of a made up rivalry with the Rolling Stones, but they were mates, they were tight. John and Paul sang backup on the Stone's song We Love You and wrote the Stone's first single: I Wanna Be Your Man. John and Keith Richard played in the Rock and Roll Circus together so The Beatles are the foundation of American and English rock ‘n' roll, certainly they were British, but they dynamically impacted all of America and around the world, of course. So that's the foundation of my love of music and I would be foolish not to select Sgt. Pepper as one of my most important records.

This one is a new stereo mix by George Martin's son Giles Martin. And the second record is all sessions, also mixed by Giles, so it's going back to the original tapes and they are trying to use some element to bring out some of the sounds in the background that may not have been heard as distinctly, but the second disc has different takes, instrumentals; it is definitely for the serious fan. It goes deeper than the original record. Of course our customers often look for the originals; the first pressing sometimes is the special pressing. The mono original is quite sought after because mono is the way John and Paul originally mixed it and they left the stereo mixing to others and the stereo mixing didn't have the same care and intent as originally planned, so a lot of Beatles fans like the mono, since it's such a rich and direct sound with all of the information coming out of both speakers. The original sounds bright and brilliant and it's the way the artists originally conceived it, so this is an excellent artifact in that it takes The Beatles fan a little further on the great release Sgt. Pepper

Live At The Village Vanguard Again! by John Coltrane
Next one is John Coltrane, one of my heroes, this is Live At The Village Vanguard Again! This is an original Impulse with gatefolds, like Sgt. Pepper, which opens up into a gatefold so you have more pictures and so forth, this Village Vanguard, a great jazz club in New York, represents the heart of New York jazz, East Coast jazz in America. John Coltrane, here pictured with Pharoah Sanders, his wife Alice, and I believe Rashied Ali on drums. He went through various periods, he had a time of course with Miles Davis, Miles’s first classic quintet. Then after he cleaned up his act - he had some addiction issues - he went forward into his classic quartet with Elvin Jones, Jimmy Garrison and MCcoy Tyner, and then he worked with his wife Alice and the young Pharoah Sanders. I chose this to represent our jazz - we love jazz at Open Mind Music. John Coltrane is one of the most important players and creators of the great American art form; a really fantastic saxophonist and writer and explorer of the richness of improvisation, and searching for bliss and awakening through the saxophone. This album represents great live jazz. Live music is really important to experience and sometimes a great document like a record, if well recorded, can represent that great live show, of course, so we celebrate that and the beautiful blue background, very basic Impulse representation. Each song on each side: Naima, the name of his first wife and then My Favorite Things, the standard John Coltrane reinterpreted and originally from the Sound of Music musical or movie, and he really took that standard pop song, if you will, and made it into a jazz standard that people play to this day. Sometimes musicians will quote a passage from My Favorite Things as a nod to Coltrane and to Coltrane's influence. They recently unearthed a great project, unreleased Coltrane that I believe his wife Naima had in storage. Thankfully, she had a copy of some classic Coltrane with his original quartet with Elvin, Mccoy and Jimmy Garrison and that just came out recently. I am sold out on that one, but this represents our love for Coltrane.

This record is an original: released in 1966. Jazz collectors love records that are 50, 60, 70 years-old that are in perfect condition. There is something special about holding an original record and putting the needle down on it. Sometimes the sound is superior, and there is an aura, it has a special feeling that you are holding the original document that came out in 1966. 50 years ago... So that is another old classic. I like new music, too. I know we are looking backwards but I am thinking about more foundations for all the music that we love here at Open Mind Music, and Coltrane, like The Beatles, is essential listening and foundational music.

Forever Changes by LOVE
Forever Changes, one of the masterpieces of the mid-’60s that Arthur Lee, the leader and visionary behind Love, created; a song cycle that incorporates horns and some strings and its fantastic lyrics and driving rock ‘n’ roll with a psychedelic undertone. He has made a lasting document that will last forever because it is such an excellent record. It originally came out in 1967 and this is a 2001 reissue, so another beautiful document of a fantastic work of art. The reverse shows the picture of the band, there is Arthur Lee, the leader here. They were also noteworthy because they had a couple of African Americans in the band and that influenced Jimi Hendrix: a lot of his ideas can be traced back to the genius of Arthur Lee.

This one came out on Electra, which was the label that The Doors were on and whereas The Doors traveled and made fame in a wide range, Love was more local and they didn't tour outside of California. I think one of the primary reasons was that a couple of members of the band were addicted to some substances and didn't want to be away from their dealer, and that cost them greater fame because they weren't able to tour more widely... and maybe they were a little bit not as pop as some of The Doors singles, so The Doors were the more successful band, but I will argue that Love was every bit an equal of The Doors, and if you were to say five of the most important L.A. mid ‘60s bands, you will have to include Love with The Byrds and Beach Boys and perhaps The Doors, perhaps Buffalo Springfield with Neil Young and Steve Stills, and there are so many, but without a doubt, Love has to be considered right at the top for the beautiful baroque and flowery expression of the genius of Arthur Lee.

Alone Again Or is a song that you may want to take a little sample from; it is a very good entry point. That's the first song and it really sets the album off, and every song has merit and it takes you through an L.A. journey, a trip, if you will , and they do a song called Live And Let Live, which Paul McCartney switched to Live And Let Die for his James Bond release. There is a song called The Good Humor Man: the ice cream man. The idea of candy visions and sugar dreams expand possibilities along with the limitations, there is just beautiful searching elements to Forever Changes. A timeless document, and a beautiful building block again like Sgt. Pepper, a very important 1967 record that still speaks strongly today.

Side Trips by Kaleidoscope
The fourth one is a very important record, it’s lesser known, but it is by a band called Kaleidoscope. This is their first record called Side Trips, and I selected this record because it really represents the variety and the depth of quality that we champion here at Open Mind Music at 5517 College Avenue in Oakland. [Smiles.] David Lindley, pictured here, went on to have a very successful career supporting the likes of Jackson Brown and other L.A. rockers, because he is a multi-instrumentalist that can play the mandolin, the oud, middle eastern instruments -  anything strings David Lindley could play well. Chris Darrow was another primary member of the band. This reissue is a sealed new Sundazed release. It is representative of that period in the ‘60s where anything was possible. The backside has great liner notes (which are hard to read). There is a great song called Keep Your Mind Open and that I think is very representative of the idea of being open to hearing different music you don't know, and that is what we really want our customers to do when they come here: to find music that they don't know that's excellent; that is where I come in and I want to recommend and show our customers good music that is great quality.
This record includes Hesitation Blues, it also has psychedelic tracks Egyptian Gardens and Pulsating Dream. O Death is an old country folk song that Ralph Stanley sang as well in O Brother, Where Art Thou? It brought that song back into prominence. This record even has a Cab Calloway song, Minnie the Moocher. So Side Trips is a beautiful record and it represents well what we try to do here: looking backwards as we look forwards.

Again, we love all sorts of music at Open Mind and as the name will attest, we are open to all genres and styles. The great Duke Ellington said: "There are two kinds of music. Good music, and the other kind." So we want to have the good music here.

Open Mind Music

Open Mind Music
5517 College Ave, Oakland CA 94618
Hours: 2pm-8pm everyday
Tel: (415) 864-7526 USA

Listen to Henry every Wednesdays from 10am-2pm PST, San Francisco time! or 102.5 FM (Bay Area) LISTEN HERE

Interview and article by Mika Anami
Photographs by Rieko Fujii

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