RECORD CRACK: Kamehameha Drive-In and bootleg records

Kam Drive-In
On my website, I have referred to the Kamehameha Drive-In a number of times as a hot spot for me in my pre-teen years, as a young music loving vinyl junkie. I will now explain why with the help of this aerial shot.

The photo you see is the remains of what was the Kamehameha Drive-In (or Kam Drive-In for short) out in a part of Honolulu called Aiea. I have itemized sections of the photo by numbering them, and I highlight it for a specific reason.

1) This is Pearlridge Shopping Center, which remains to be the only place on Oahu to catch any level of a monorail system, at least for now. I was a kid who was raised “in town”, which meant Honolulu proper, which meant “closer to downtown”. Going to Aiea meant driving west in what felt like 15 to 20 miles, when in truth it’s eight to ten (then again, I was a kid with no car, any time in a car seemed like “forever” if it wasn’t a visit to the beach). According to Wikipedia, Pearlridge is the second biggest shopping center in Hawai’i, the first being Ala Moana.

2) Kam Drive-In used to be a single screen drive-in for years, and this is where it was positioned.

3) When the second screen opened in the late 70’s/early 80’s. I definitely remember seeing Clash Of The Titans (1981) on screen #2.

4) This is where the snack bar and concession stand was. Burgers, grease ass fries full of ketchup, extra buttery popcorn, and ice cream malts were mandadory in our visits to Kam, and oh did that cheese smell so good. Even in 1981, it seemed incredibly dated but cool. If that food was made today, I might not find a liking to it but who knows, I might like it a bit too much. Then again, maybe those ingredients don’t exist anymore, so it’s a mixture of nostalgia and longing for what was.

This leads me to the section in the photo that is:

5) This was a wall, a border that separated the Kam-1 and Kam-2 sections. Anyone could walk around it or drive on the sides, there were no chains or police blocking anyone from walking back and forth if needed, but sometime in 1980, I witnessed something I hadn’t seen before nor have I seen since. As a kid getting into The Beatles for the first time, I had discovered a type of a record called a “bootleg”. This was a bit new to me, and the idea of someone random pressing up records of live recordings or studio outtakes seemed cool to me. One day in 1980, there was a dealer who was selling records by the truckload, and I mean a literal truck. Boxes and boxes of records in white covers with covers with pieces of paper that served as their covers, with weird colors although you could still see the photos and song titles. Oh, those song titles. I may not have known the Rolling Stones catalog deeply, but I knew that some of those song titles were incorrect on those sheets. It featured photos of the band I had never seen before, and it wasn’t just one or two Stones bootlegs, but at least 20. It seemed a good amount of them consisted of recording sessions from Some Girls and Black And Blue, as that would have been considered “current” for the time. I don’t remember if there were any boots in support of Emotional Rescue, but there were also albums for live concerts. I had never held a bootleg in my life, but I decided to browse through. As I did, I also saw Beatles titles I had never seen, along with one or two Bruce Springsteen records, an artist of which I knew little of but knew he was the “it” man at the time.

My parents were frequent visitors of the Kam Swap Meet, my dad looking for car parts and magazines, and my mom looking for some bargain involving dresses or nick-nacks. As a young kid with my own record player, the swap meet was my first sense of finding great music at prices much cheaper than I would find at Woolworthy’s, Sears, or GEM’s, although as was the case, I didn’t get a record with each visit. When I did, I’m sure I promised that I’d never want another record for a long time, or I didn’t need a present for Christmas, anything to “get my way”. As I was looking in the bootleg section, I noticed the price: 10 to 15 dollars for each record. WHAT?!? These were much more than the album I could get at a regular store for $5.99 to $7.99, and these were singles. I was exp… well, my mom was expected to give me $15 for a single record? I dare not even ask for one, but I was blown away at the site of these illegal records of unknown origin. “Do they make them here in Hawai’i?” I’m sure I asked myself. Did someone from Asia ship them here? Are the sellers the bootleggers? I’ve never found an answer, nor did I see the bootleg dealers at the swap meet again.

However, at record stores like Froggy’s (when it was next to Cinerama movie theaters), they sold bootleg albums like crazy. Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and of course Bruce and The Beatles. They also sold counterfeit pressings of albums, and that’s when I had obtained a copy of The Beatles’ Christmas Album. Again, I’m a young Beatles fan who wanted to hear as much music as possible, and here was the album, THE ALBUM, sitting at Froggy’s. I remember telling my mom “I must have this, I must have this.” How much? $15. WHAT?!? There was no way she was buying it. I waited a few more weeks. I pleaded, asked her about it and said she wouldn’t have to buy me anything for the rest of the year. I had good grades and thus my mom bowed down and allowed me to have The Beatles Christmas Album. When I got it home, the first thing I noticed was that the label was a bit blurry. I found out later that that was definitely a counterfeit pressing, as no used record store would sell an original for under $100. I had the songs though, and I was very grateful.

The bootlegs in the used record bins lasted for about two years or so before they were removed, although I would eventually purchased Beatles bootlegs like Sweet Apple Tracks I & II, Yellow Matter Custard and Indian Rope Trick, and Jimi Hendrix’s Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window, many from a great record store that used to be on King Street called Strawberry Fields Forever.

To my eyes, seeing a swap meet dealer with boxes of bootlegs felt like I was looking at someone who worked at the bootleg factory, and while seeing boots at used record stores became part of the norm for me, it never topped the vision of those white covers in 1980.

REVIEW: Bruce Springsteen’s “Wrecking Ball”

Photobucket Let’s be honest: no matter what I say, Bruce Springsteen is guaranteed to sell a lot of albums, and his shows will continue to be the equivalent of church masses. We know this, and we also know that Springsteen is one of many examples of the great music of the United States, he is very much a part of the fabric of America.

Wrecking Ball (Columbia) represents the lyrics and music of a man who is 62 years old, has seen the world many times over but continues to honor the definition of home and being home grown. The songs range from solid rockers and odes to 60’s soul to a bit of folk and healthy journeys into country music. When they are blended together as they are in “Easy Money” (complete with a nice drum break that should be of interest to hip-hop and electronic music producers), you also tend to see the good in the people of a country that has been hit hard economically, but also socially. Springsteen adds rich gospel vocals with a bit of country guitar with a Hammond B-3 organ that digs rich into the blues, and you’re hearing a very descriptive map of the U.S.A that pushed Springsteen into a mainstream light that hasn’t stopped. Lyrically, he sings about determined people hard at work, people struggling to live and made ends meet, and with “Death To My Hometown”, it’s not just about the hometown he once spoke of 28 years ago but the innocence destroyed by the plight of outside forces, specifically terrorists from other countries. What people outside of the U.S. will also hear are the opinions and emotions of those who are dealing with the consequences of the world we live in today. Blame it on lack of jobs, lack of ambition, lack of confidence, but that lack of something is what helps to drive “This Depression” home. By the end, you realize how emotional and melancholy this album is, but as is the case with Springsteen’s discography, you have to go through the bad times in order to benefit from eventual good. In other words, when things are down, there’s nowhere to go but up.

It’s hard to say what defines “classic Springsteen”, because there are fans who will say that they’ll take The River and nothing but, or they’ll pledge allegiance to Born To Run or Human Touch. Wrecking Ball is a bit like Neil Young‘s “The Needle And The Damage Done”, in that we can use tons of metaphors to describe how we’ve been hit socially and economically. While Springsteen remains distinctively American in his passion, these are words that go through all borders, and should be appreciated by anyone who wishes to find a way above and beyond the muck. It’s about survival, and while it might be too easy to say “every man for himself”, the power of being in survival mode is about uniting and helping out one another. What affects you will effect the next man or woman, and in this time in world history, everyone is affected somehow. Now that we’ve been hit by a wrecking ball, it’s time to clean up and with passion, start all over again.

Outside of the meaning of these songs, it’s just a damn good rock’n’roll album, which as of late has been hard to come by. Take the messages and stories as your own, or simply salute the spirit of good music in 2012.

COVERED: Eventual prosecution?

The Covered section of is a look at album cover homage and parody, and sometimes a bit more humor than the norm. Album cover homage has been an unspoken tradition for years, where other artists will do it on albums, picture sleeves, or in music videos. In the last year, there have been issues of Lady Gaga doing homage to a film with a dance scene, which left some people feeling it’s a violation of one’s copyright. In the last few weeks, there has been talk about photographic copyrights, and how more photographers want to be better protected in this day of digital and social media. In other words, if someone recreates a famous image with their own picture, there may be penalties. In the last week, I noticed two possibilities of potential punishment. The first is the forthcoming episode of Andrew Zimmern‘s show Bizarre Foods, where this season will keep him exploring the foods of the United States. Perhaps this was a budget concert and it would make it easier for producers to just shoot around our own country and see what weirdness lurks in our backyards. This is key, because he is going to explore the United States, so the image Zimmern and the Travel Channel are using is a tribute and parody of not only Bruce Springsteen‘s 1984 album Born In The U.S.A., but also the last 15 seconds of the video. We all know the famous ass shot of Springsteen with a baseball cap in his back pocket, but Zimmern chooses to show hos culinary vibe by carrying a napkin. Zimmern looks at the camera, which is not on the album cover, but in the last 15 seconds of the music video.

I combined the shots from the video so you can get a sense of what I’m talking about, but you can also watch the video below.

I’m a huge fan of the show Portlandia, and in last week’s episode (called Grover), Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein and two friends were on a scavenger hunt and sported Sgt. Pepper outfits. Now even THAT might be a violation one day, but in the scene they also did this, complete with someone walking across the street barefoot (or “caucasian flesh-colored socks”)

Could something as simple as this screenshot be considered a violation of someone’s copyright? This is not new, and it has even affected parts of the foodie community, where people say that there is a need to copyright recipes.

From the outside, it seems you can’t even do homage to something, to pay tribute for the love of something you grew up with. What’s next, hairstyles? Hair color/dye? Shoelace techniques? Everyone is broke except for the precious 1 percent, and everyone wants to make money from something that in the past had not been a concern, so why not place a price on everything from seeds to intellectual property, brick tones, to keys, melodies, and octaves? My shoe size is an 11, but because I have wide feet. Does that mean I may not be able to wear a size 11 because my feet are too wide? Explain this.

Then again, maybe it’s a minor blip of things but it’s sad to think that these mere glimpses of pop culture and photographic appreciation could one day do more harm than good.