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The Employee Interview Pt XXIII: Tom Lynch

Posted by Miss Ess, November 6, 2009 02:30pm | Post a Comment
Tom Lynch
12 Years Employment
Buyer Extraordinaire

rocket 455

Miss Ess: How did you end up at Amoeba?


Tom Lynch: I was working at Car City Records in Detroit, my co-worker, Geoff Walker, had just come back from his vacation to the Bay Area and told me about Amoeba opening in SF and looking for used LP buyers. Geoff had applied on a whim, got interviewed, and offered the job. Geoff came back , decided to go to grad school, declined the offer, and told me that I should give it a go. I was up for a change, not to mention Ireplacements had just been in a  wreck and had no more van and had no money to buy another one. So fate really forced my hand. I've always felt that they never really got over Geoff turning them down.  

ME: What is the best live show you have ever seen?

TL: Being one of three people in the audience as The Replacements ripped through their set at St. Andrews Hall in Detroit, July 1983. Everyone else was in the bar below the club watching Siouxsie & the Banshees videos. My pal John Maxwell & I and this weird short guy were the only people watching them -- they were opening for R.E.M. -- and this short guy was wearing a cowboy hat and cowboy boots, doing these sliding dance moves and was yelling at the 'Mat's to get off the stage. They were blazing hot; when nobody was looking they would crush you with their ferocity. They just laughed at him, threw lit cigarettes at him.

Tommy was fifteen and had this blonde Sid Vicious sort of hair style, baggy black pants and a grubby white t-shirt; he was jumping higher then the mike stand, he looked terrific. When the sawed off cowboy walked up to the edge of the stage and said, "Look, nobody wants to see you guys, get off the stage," Paul leaned forward and chuck berryyelled, "Well, we hope you like this one!" and then blew out "God Damn Job." It was brutal!

They finished, and the 'Mats slunked across the floor to the dressing room and John & I stopped Paul and said they were great... "Aw, thanks, wanna come back and a have some beers?" So, we walked past the guy who let me in on the condition that I don't drink (I wasn't eighteen yet. This was back when you could still blag your way in to shows) to have beers with the mighty Replacements. R.E.M. was back there, but they weren't talking to the 'Mats, it was kind of tense. It was toward the end of the tour they did together, and I think the 'Mats may have been more than what the boys from Athens, GA had bargained for.

That whole summer was the best, 1983 -- knowing I was never going back to public education, a vague commitment to junior college, and descending into a world of record stores, punk rock shows, writing fanzines, buying a second hand bass, thrift stores, midnight movies, and meeting crazy people.

I've been lucky to have seen some great performers live. Seeing Chuck Berry the night before the first day of high school was classic: my pal Kirby Cobb and I snuck into the venue across the boulevard from his house, and Chuck had invited everybody to dance on stage with him, which is all we needed.

First time I saw The Clash was hair raising; it was like watching an atom being split, they were just going off in every direction! The Ramones and X were like getting flattened by a locomotive, incredible. First time seeing Dylan, from the third row, was memorable. Opening for The Wipers on their last tour in 1989 in Ann Arbor was a fun job. Greg Sage told us we were one of the better bands opening for the Wipers and I thought, "Jeepers, poor guy, he's been paired with real crap, because WE stink!" The Jacobites, never thought I'd get to see them, Patti Smith, Johnny [& June] Cash, Alice Coltrane w/ son Ravi, Royravi and anoushka shankar Haynes & Charlie Haden.

I saw Ravi Shankar & daughter Anoushka last Thursday and it was fantastic. First shows I ever saw in San Francisco, before I moved here, two bands from Japan, Muddy Frankenstein and Seagull Screaming Kiss Her Kiss Her, were at the Purple Onion for two nights and it was a lot of fun. Pre-sold me on the possibilities of living here. And there's all the great bands in Detroit I saw over a fifteen year period... too much, too many to go on about in this space. The all night jazz jam sessions at Bert's Place in Eastern market on Russell Street were just five bucks to get in at eleven PM, and these young guys would play until way past dawn! And the fried catfish with corn bread and beans was dynamite!  

ME: If you could go back in time and see an artist or band who is now gone perform live, who would it be and why?
harlan leonard and his rockets
TL: Just one?!

Harlan Leonard & His Rockets were the band everybody in Kansas City was running off to see when they had a break in their set or had the night off. This was in the late thirties through the mid forties. If everyone in the Basie band was hauling ass to see Harlan Leonard & His Rockets, it must have been a pretty good show. I have most of Harlan's recordings, and there's not that many unlike Mr.'s Basie or Ellington, but they're great. For a "swing orchestra" Leonard's group was, maybe, a little bit ahead of the curve. Fast, slick arrangements, paired down, but losing none of the feel. Almost pointing the way to bop. Hey, I'm not Orin Keepnews, I ain't got it to explain the technicalities, but I would have loved to have seen Harlan Leonard & His Rockets.. 
  
ME: What has been your best personal encounter with a band or artist?

TL: [I was] eating a sandwich off Screamin' Jay Hawkins' deli tray in his dressing room while he signed thescreamin jay hawkins back of my denim jacket and I heard my pal Tracy Fogle shout out, "Screamin' Jay, what was the greatest moment of your life?," and Screamin' Jay replied, "The greatest moment of my life was when I discovered the fur burger!"

That was a great night. My friend Laura Lee got us fantastically high and my pal Steve Stimmell and I tried to start up the bulldozer across the way from the club Screamin' Jay had played at, The Soup Kitchen Saloon on Orleans Street in Detroit. The Soup Kitchen was the oldest bar in Detroit, a rambling place that had a bar and dining area (the Creole smothered chicken was my favorite, but just about everything was good there) and a performance room with a low stage. Sunday nights [they had] an open mike night, and the rest of the week live shows. Regional and national players all the time. We used to go see Lazy Lester there (he split his time in Detroit & down south), Nappy Brown, Rufus Thomas, H-Bomb Ferguson. There were some great blues clubs in Detroit, but The Soup Kitchen really was the home for the blues in Detroit. The Soup Kitchen got bought up by some fly by night developer in 1999, who was gonna put a casino on the spot. So they knocked down The Soup Kitchen, and the big plans fell through, and now there's just another vacant lot in a city that has plenty of vacant lots. I was able to go and visit one last time, just for drinks with a friend, Liz Copeland. A crying shame.     

ME: What initially got you into music when you were a kid?   

TL: I liked how music made me feel. I didn't start walking, I started off running. According to my mother, whenever the Kent cigarette commercial came on television, I just ran to the set to dance along with the jingle because I loved the tune so much. Sixties television: there was far more music on TV then there is now, and a wide variety. I loved the country music programs that were on at the time as well as the variety shows where you would see everyone from Pearl Bailey to Paul Revere & the Raiders. Ed Sullivan was great for that, and I recall the "Hello Goodbye" video the Beatles had done for Ed. The Johnny Cash Show was my personal favorite.


When The Monkees went into syndication in '70, I flipped! That's when I knew I would have to be in a monkeesband. I still listen to them and whenever I hear certain songs, it's 1970 again. The Monkees still do not get enough credit for being a great pop group. Then, there was A Hard Day's Night and Help on the afternoon movie show.

AM radio was also so amazing, and I was fortunate to grow up with the Mighty CKLW AM 80 across the river in Windsor, Ontario. They were known as the Blackest White station and the Whitest Black Station. They broke Kiss & Elton John to the black audience and Parliament and Isaac Hayes to the white audience. Bob Seger wrote the song "Rosa Lee" in tribute to CKLW's program director, Rosa Lee Trombley, a single mom who went from switch board operator to picking the songs that would build careers and blow your mind! WKNR 13 AM was also a huge influence, similar format, but leaned a little more on the bubble gum/teen sound, and it was bliss. WJR 76 AM had great morning shows, [but] was more for grown ups; the hosts were polished, but hilarious. The legendary JP McCarthy had the main drive time hours, then Jimmy Launce who, once a year celebrated "Hortence Waffle Day," a day where Jimmy's entire show was him reading strange names from the phone book and other public records, all the while playing "Pomp & Circumstance" in the background! Late at night was The Mike Worf Show, a mix of instrumental selections and spoken word done by Mr. Worf. Imagine if Rod Serling had a music show and you get the picture. After that was the Gene Elsey Show, his theme being "Flight Time" by trumpeter Donald Byrd, which sounded great with the headphones on. Radio was a huge influence on taking in music; it was always a surprise and there was real magic to it.   

ME: What kind of music did your parents play around the house when you were growing up? What impact did this have on you?

TL: Mom listened to classical music and Joan Baez. Mozart, Bach, and all the big composers. I liked most all of it, especially Porkofieff's Peter and the Wolf, but I never gained a strong affinity for classical until recently. It didn't help that I was stuck for years in concert band and hated it.

My dad was far more influential. His sound was Sinatra, Nat Cole, and all the big bands of his teenagelouis jordan years in the forties. He was crazy about the clarinet and Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. My dad worked in the rail yards in Omaha, Nebraska during the early to mid forties when he was in high school, living in a boarding house on his own. So he was eating in diners & lunch rooms that had 78 juke boxes that were filled with lots of proto R&B records and they became ingrained in his psyche. Wynonie Harris was from Omaha, so that jump blues sound was all over the area. When I was a lad, he used to sing all these nutty songs I thought he had made up: "Ain't Nobody Here But Us Chickens," "Open The Door Richard," "Cement Mixer," "If You So Smart How Come You Ain't Rich"-- this was my dad's patois with us kids, and it confused the hell out of me! Then, when I discovered Louis Jordan, Jack McVea, Slim Gaillard and more, I had a greater admiration for the old man, pretty good taste in jump blues!      

I have to say, no one in my family had or has any appreciation for country music -- no one except me. I heard my paternal grandmother had a fondness for the honky tonk sound, but I never met her. Maybe I got it from her? outrageous cherry

ME: I know music from Detroit and Michigan is particularly special to you. What are your favorite artists from your hometown area?

TL: Matt Smith writes some of the best pop in the world. His band Outrageous Cherry have a new recording out that I love so very, very much, called Universal Malcontents. I've plugged it in Amoeba's Music We Like, and it's just the most addictive album I've heard in a while. Matt is such a serious student of music, and has such an uncanny ear for writing the most upbeat, catchy pop classics and sings them with such exuberance and then turns on a dime for the aching, sad song sung with wistful longing. I don't know how he does it.

His other project, The Volebeats, were Y'alternative before there was a name for it, and those guys can sing the weepers like nobody's bizness, I declare. I don't know how often The Volebeats get together, but they've been at it twenty years. Matt Smith & I had worked at Car City Records and Outrageous Cherry played a mess of shows with my old band, Rocket 455. Matt produced the first single by Rocket 455, "Bum Ticker"/"Scabby." Ah, that Matt Smith kid has got something on the ball.

ME: What blues artists are the most important to you?howlin wolf

TL: Howlin' Wolf is my favorite blues artist, after him, Muddy Waters. But there are so many folks that just slay me. Slim Harpo was so cool, and Jimmy Reed had such a lushy style; they are similar in their laid back styles, but both so different from the other.

Hound Dog Taylor
was the King of the Gut Bucket Slop! It ain't pretty, it ain't technical, but when it's three AM and the guests are wanting more, you must release the Hound Dog Taylor! Hound Dog's solos are like the first snow fall of the year and everyone's forgotten how to drive in the crap: you hit the breaks, and it's a fast sickening slide with no control and no idea how it's gonna end! I think that's the best! Hop Wilson is kind of like that, too.


It's almost heresy to admit this, but as time has gone on, the post WW2 blues boom is more for me. I don't hold the original country blues lower, I got that scene on the same mantle, but, from forty six to sixty six jimmy mccracklinare my favorite years. The urban blues. What the hell, I was born in Chicago in '65, the sound was in the air! It had to have permeated the womb. That sound has always been a deep attraction for myself. Little Walter, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Billy Boy Arnold, the sound of Chicago!  

There's so many from so many other cities, down south, here on the west coast, and Detroit, of course: Pee Wee Crayton, Guitar Slim, Earl King, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Bobo Jenkins, Baby Boy Warren, John Lee Hooker. And One String Sam doing "I Need A Hundred Dollars," whom no less then Captain Beefheart described as "warm pie!" I'll have me a slice, thank you!  
 
ME: How does the San Francisco scene compare to the Michigan scene? I guess it's hard to say since it's two different eras, but maybe give it a shot?

TL: I can't really answer that because as I've never been an active member of the scene [here in SF]. I know it's tough to sustain an audience for a lot of deserving musicians, which is discouraging. All I can say is in San Francisco the day job rules the scene, it's expensive, few places to play, and the flake factor is high. Yet I've seen some fantastic local bands and musicians IN SPITE of it all. As far as Detroit goes, when I had my run there, I couldn't have asked for more. I feel very fortunate to have been where I was, to know the folks I knew, and to have had the experience I had. It was really, really fun. 
gories
ME: Since you are friends with Mick Collins, you have an in and I need to know: Will The Gories ever play SF now that they've reformed for a few shows?!

TL: I wouldn't hold your breath! I regret I was not able to attend the Big Show in Detroit. It would be a dream come true to see them again. Maybe Dan, Mick, & Peg will find it agreeable to do an annual Gories gig once a year in Detroit because people love them so much, and all of my friends can meet once a year and have a ball!

ME: What Dylan album had the greatest impact on you and why?

TL: Nashville Skyline. I would listen to that every night for a year, alternating with Hank Williams' Forty Greatest Hits. Nashville Skyline -- It's a late night record, a driving at night record, a listening in the dark record, a make out record. It's an album to hold her to, miss her to, and ask her to. It's perfect in the summer, fall, winter, and spring. And Bob's trying to sing like Lefty Frizzell. Blonde On Blonde is second after that for all the same reasons, except he ain't singing like Lefty on that one.    

ME: What Michael Hurley song is your favorite?
marvin gaye tammi terrell
TL: "Nobody Ever Sits Next to Mr. Wiskerwitz."

ME: What song best describes your life right now?

TL: "You're All I Need" by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell.

ME: What are some artists that you particularly love that more people should know about?

TL: Gene Clark, Wynn Stewart, Ronnie Lane, Doug Sahm, Bob Martin, Toussaint McCall, McGuinness Flint, Darrell Banks, Garnett Mims, PP Arnold, Freddie Keppard, there are far too many! 

ME: It's well known that good music comes out of particular "scenes" and times. What scene do you wish you could go back in time to? What about it is so appealing to you?

TL: Hastings Street in Detroit, from the twenties to the early fifties. It was the main vein for the black community, all the clubs, all the action was there. Public radio in Detroit had this spectacular moment when one of the DJ's had on his show an older gent talking about Hastings Street in its prime and it was riveting! A fellow by the name of The Detroit Count recorded a 78 for Joe Von Battle's JVB label in the late forties called "Hasting Street Opera Parts 1 & 2" that was a hilarious account of the locations and goings on on Hastings along the bus line and intersections: "...that's a bad joint that's the onliest bar in Detroit where bartender run's everybody out with a pistol..." John Lee Hooker became a star performing there, Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie cut the first be-bop 78 there (with my old customer JC Heard on drums!) -- or so some would say. I used to ask older customers of mine about Hastings Street all the time and it just fed my imagination. In the mid fifties, the city bought it all up, kicked everybody out, tore it down, and put it the I-75 freeway. Three cheers for progress.concert for bangladesh

ME: What music-related movie do you watch over and over again the most? 

TL: The Concert For Bangladesh, [X's] The Unheard Music, The American Folk Blues Tours Volumes 1,2 & 3, Rude Boy [featuring The Clash], The Kinks in Concert 1973, MC5: A True Testimonial. 

ME: Since film noir is also one of your passions, can you recommend some films that are on the top of your list?

TL: Out of The Past, Night & The City, A Force of Evil, Detour, Brute Force, Ace In The Hole, Thieves' Highway, Asphalt Jungle, Black Angel, Le Trou, Killer's Kiss, Le Circle Rouge, Farewell My Lovely, Shoot The Piano Player, The Killers, Scarlet Street -- too many! See them all, you won't be sorry!

ME: What is your favorite thing about working at Amoeba?
sounds of the junk yard
TL: Buying used records that are clean, sweet, and the kind folks want to buy! The people you meet shopping in the store, having all kinds of old friends pop in from all the place and saying hello. Amoeba is a destination and I can't tell you how many times I've had a surprise visit from an old friend on the shop floor.

ME: What has been your best find at Amoeba?

TL: The Sounds of a Junk Yard LP. You get to hear a car engine cut in half with some kind of huge saw. It's a really great record. And finding my sweet Elizabeth at the coffee shop next door, on July the fourth, 1998, at ten minutes after ten that foggy morning.

ME: That's so lovely. Thank you so much for your time!

Relevant Tags

Outrageous Cherry (1), Replacements (4), Interview (251), Employee Interview (25), Rocket 455 (1), Screamin Jay Hawkins (1)