This article was originally published in JUICE Singapore April 2017, Issue #223.
There’s nothing like the first time; nothing that foundational experience that keeps you endlessly thirsting for more after. We’re talking about vinyl records, of course. In honour of Record Store Day 2017, here are eight of the local scene’s head-turners on their first time.
Aretha Franklin – Amazing Grace (1972)
The first record I ever bought was Aretha Franklin’s Amazing Grace album. I had bought a Crosley Cruiser portable turntable in Los Angeles and went vinyl shopping at this spot in Atwater Village called Jacknife Records & Tapes. I loved the cover and Aretha Franklin has always been a singer I admired for her gospel background and powerful voice. When I was a DJ on 98.7FM years ago, I sang my show trailer to the tune of “Respect”, an earlier single of Franklin’s.
Thomas Schumacher – When I Rock (Johannes Heil Remix) (1998)
I’m a sucker for unexpected genre fusion. When I discovered the flip-side of “When I Rock”, it threw my expectations out of whack. The melding of its gritty, heavy bass-line, hip-hop vocals and techno beats was a misfit’s wet dream. Physically, I was in Singapore, but the music teleported me to a weird place – I felt like a Compton hood kid in the Berlin warehouse scene. Although it took me about a month to save up my meagre weekly allowance to buy the vinyl at HMV’s Heeren branch, it did provide a lot of motivation to practice beat-matching on my turntables. Also, its yellow-coded surface was so easy on the eyes!
David Bowie – The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars (1972)
I was lucky to grow up with an older sister and brother who were into lots of good music, so I ‘borrowed’ most of their stuff. But one of the first secondhand vinyl albums I remember buying at a jumble sale was David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust. I loved this album so completely when I was 14 and, till today, songs like “Moonage Daydream” still pop into my head. It just speaks to every kid who feels like a freak and an outsider. Having grown up in Scotland, and looking back, that era –the late ’60s and early ’70s – represents, to me, the epitome of underground cool.
Black Machine – How Gee (1991)
After paying up to the $20 it cost, I rushed home and quickly unwrapped my first vinyl, Black Machine’s How Gee. I heard How Gee play on the radio and I was drawn to the track due to its famous saxophone intro. That day, I played that track repeatedly and admired the sleeve’s artwork, all the while handling it as if it was a Picasso original. That was the day a vinyl addict was born. Gone were my shady days of borrowing vinyl records from my brother with the intention of never giving them back.
Emjay – Make Some Noise (2005)
I picked up my first record when I was 13 and didn’t have the slightest clue on how to choose the right one. So, I got a trance record that I attempted to figure out how to scratch with. It took me close to a week to learn that scratch DJs usually start off with hip-hop records. It was only then I realised that I had totally ruined my first vinyl record experience. Good times.
Guns N’ Roses – Appetite For Destruction (1987)
The first piece of vinyl I purchased was GnR’s Appetite for Destruction. I was 15 and I got the LP from a music shop in Toa Payoh after I spent months saving up for it. I didn’t have a record player, but I got the LP solely because it had a lyric sheet and I needed to get the words right so I could channel Axl Rose. I only revisited vinyl much later when I was in my wannabe-DJ phase and would spend all my meal money on dance and rock EPs and albums. I amassed a decent record collection that I loved dearly, and at the same time, kept a skinny figure by not having any money left for food. So, it was pretty much a win-win!
Agoraphobic Nosebleed – PCP Torpedo (2006)
The first vinyl I got came all the way from my hardcore days, when it was pretty normal for bands to put out EP releases only on vinyl. Back in those days, the only way to get hardcore or punk vinyl records in Singapore was either through Straits Distro – which Wan Vegan would run, pop-up style, at hardcore and punk shows – or by making an order via Roxy Records, or by mail-order via a few American distributors. I remember two records: Agoraphobic Nosebleed’s PCP Torpedo 6″ and Judas Iscariot’s Harrison Bergeron Bound? 7″, which were in the first batch of records I ordered from Lumberjack Distro, which has since shut down.
The Turntablist – Super Duck Breaks: The Saga Begins (1996)
“Yo! Stop frontin’ and use your head…” – if you’re a turntablist from back in the day, you’ll know exactly what beat drops right after. You’ve also probably memorised very scratch sentence on the record. Super Duck Breaks is the seminal DJ scratch record. It’s one of the most important releases from the legendary Stones Throw Records label. And it jut so happened to be the very two vinyl records I bought when I started DJing in 2004. Almost every scratch DJ I know has a pair of these breaks and, at some point, has pretended to be DJ Qbert, scratching all night long to a great range of tempos of stripped-down beats. A must-have for all turntablists.