A reader reminded me that weeks ago I played that ghastly-but-oddly-wonderful “Music to Drive By,” and promised a link so you could assemble your own collection of soul-free 60s production music. Here you go, friends. If you like the first one, you’ll definitely like the last two; I can’t vouch for Sound Gallery vol. 2 yet, but it’s on order.

Sound Gallery Vol 1. is a mixed bag, but it contains some treasures. As another reader pointed out, these songs were often thinly-disguised retreads of popular songs; “Music to Drive By” was actually “Music to Watch Girls By,” upside down. So I expect that “Penthouse Suite” is a perversion of “Soul Bossa Nova,” the Quincy Jones tune made famous in the opening credits of the first Austin Powers movie. (It even has the same brutally tongued flute at the end.) Whatever: “Penthouse Suite” is uniquely synthetic in its own way. Here’s a snippet. When the strings come in it outswanks anything in its class, I think. It just gets better, and yes, that’s a threat.

Then there’s Alan Hackshaw’s deathless classic, “It’s all at the Co-Op Now.” Someone must have asked “can you somehow work ‘co-op’ into the music?’ As you’ll hear from this excerpt, Alan rose to the challenge, brilliantly. You’ll never think of your co-op the same way without turning your head to the side and squawking CO-OP? CO-OP? like a mod parrot. Warning: this one actually hurts to listen to. Physically hurts.

Speaking of mod: there’s also late 60s pseudo-pop like “Young Scene,” which sounds like music rejected for a “Love American Style” episode. Ruffled cuffs; velvet jackets; Henry Gibson; tilted camera angles. Would you like a taste? Here.

I do have limits. I like this stuff because you can still enjoy it, somehow; like Robocop, there remains a shred, a flicker, of humanity. In the right mood you can even enjoy it unironically, without making disclaimers. But I have limits. Some music is unendurable. Did you know that “Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes” is sung to the tune of “There is a Tavern in the Town”? And did you know that 20 men singing this song makes you want to saw your wrists with a credit card? You do now. While something about the lyrics makes me think this has fabulous camp value at a Fire Island Fourth of July party, I’m convinced that this is what hell sounds like. Except for the room where they keep Hitler. He’d actually like this one.

The garage still isn’t finished. The gypsum hanger is slow, but he's good. But slow. I prefer good to slow, but I think it took less time to do the Amber Room in the St. Petersburg palace. The tunnel has been sealed and painted, and it’s a blinding white; I expect to find the Architect sitting at the end, or perhaps a point of light that fills me with great peace and comfort. When they’ve finished the garage, they move on to the final scrap of Jasperwood that needs work: the Shame of the Storage Room. I’ve been tossing boxes and bins in there since we moved, and some of those bins hail from the last time I devoted myself to organizing little-needed detritus, back in 96 or 97. When he’s done, the room will be drywalled and painted, with three rows of shelves for the bins.

The color coded bins.

You read that right, friend. The Christmas stuff in the red bins. The Halloween stuff in the orange bins. Never-look-at-it-again stuff in the grey bins. And stacked neatly, with labels: my Warhol boxes. Apparently Andy W. threw everything into boxes, labeled them, and put them away in storage. He saved everything. Airplane vomit bags. Sugar packets. Ticket stubs. Stuff he picked up in flea markets and junk boutiques. I do the same thing on a smaller scale – I save small items that characterize certain periods of Gnat’s life, for example. Now and then I ease a disused item out of the daily stream, and if she doesn’t notice it, then it goes in a box. Likewise magazines – not the newsmags, but EW, fashion mags, a computer magazine now and then. Ephemera, as they call it in the antique business. Look, someone has to do this; my entire website is possible because someone else saved something a long time ago.

A lot of this stuff has sentimental value, but sentiment perishes. I have no idea why my great-grandfather hung on to a small package of Gillette razors, complete with King Gillette’s face looking blankly through a circular apeture in the tin. It’s a perfectly preserved example of early 20th century packaging. The only reason I have it, I think, is because someone couldn’t bear to throw it away after he died, because it reminded her of him. I never knew him. But my mother did, and either she or my grandmother kept it. Now it sits on the shelf with the other items in the closet. My collection of Zippos. My childhood microscope. A press pass from the 1892 Republican convention in Minneapolis, which I bought in Houston in 1992; my great-grandfather’s guest pass from the same event, which I found in Fargo. Various soda bottles from the 60s. Nothing valuable, but precious nonetheless. I just noticed that I liberated something from my childhood home last time I was up to Fargo: my dad’s stick of Shavex B-4 Shave Powder Stick, circa 1964. It sat in the basement bathroom cabinet for as long as I can remember, unused, untouched. That one small item sums up the room, the rough green wall, the old medicine cabinet that had a slot through which you could push discarded razor blades. (They just dropped to the floor of the adjacent closet, so I’m not sure what the point was, really.) In later years that bathroom was stamped indelibly wlth my father’s persona: golf-themed towels, and two kinds of magazines in the rack – VFW Magazine, and North Dakota Outdoors.

The latter always had a quail on the cover, or a deer, or something you shot. The former always had ads for pants with expandable waistlines, and a classified section called “Shop with The Old Sarge.” Everytime I used Dad’s can it was a reminder: I didn’t hunt and I never served. In my 20s I rejected most of what he stood for; in the end we came to agree on most of the issues that matter. I think of that when I look at Shavex B-4 Shave Powder Stick. It will sit on the shelf forever. Decades hence – I hope – it’ll sit on a shelf in an antique store in Stillwater, huddled with other remnants, each with a story, each story forgotten.

Ah, well.

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c. 1995-2004 j. lileks