Vinyl Friday #1: The Three O’Clock “Sixteen Tambourines”

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Yesterday I looked through my record collection for the first time since I left home for London. That’s nearly two years ago now. Not to brag (too much), but I really had some great selections. Unfortunately, the records and their player have been essentially moved to storage since records are surprisingly heavy in bulk and terribly difficult to transport 4,000 miles.

Some of my favourite music journalism isn’t even about the music specifically, it’s about how it makes the listener feel or what it makes us remember. Every single record I own has a story. Every vinyl pressed has a life that began somewhere.

So here’s to the new Vinyl Fridays. A (hopefully weekly) segment to celebrate the life of music and how it travels in its physical form. Mostly these will be my personal stories, but I do love other stories too, if you’re so willing to share – that’s what the contact page is for.

First is Sixteen Tambourines from the LA band The Three O’Clock.

I can’t imagine a world in which the Paisley Underground scene coexisted with 1980s LA (or any time in LA for that matter). This period, for me, usually stirs up imagery of spandex and gross indulgence. While the hardcore scene is one thing, picturing a group of boys wearing Morrissey’s wardrobe in sunny California just seems… weird. 

But 1983 was a good year for music. Power, Corruption & Lies was released, Echo & the Bunnymen hit their stride with Procupine and there where a whole string of fantastic debuts from The Violent Femmes, Aztec Camera and, even Wham! Can’t forget Wham! … But it was also the year The Three O’Clock’s Sixteen Tambourines was released on Frontier Records.

While compared to some of the other releases the album might seem a little weak, but it makes up plenty with their best-known single “Jet Fighter”. It’s a punchy pop song that does exactly as it should – crawl into your brain and stay there for a long while.

For the most part, I like to behave and buy my records from independent shops – which really isn’t difficult in London or, surprisingly, Wisconsin. 95% of my record collection comes from either these stores or antique malls/resale shops (no purchases from Urban Outfitters here). Occasionally I fold. Ebay is often my saving grace when I get impatient looking for something in particular. This album would be the prime example.

Although, I did buy a Permanent Green Light 7″ single at a resale shop once. It is sadly no longer with me, but it was possibly one of the strangest buys I ever did. I bought it on mere whim not making the Michael Quericio connection.

I don’t really understand why people are so quick to shun this album. While there are many better albums that came out of this scene (I’ll get to those later), there is absolutely nothing terrible about this release. The lead vocals are definitely an acquired taste, but I’ve always preferred something that was difficult than choosing the smooth option. It’s a twinkling bit of music that feels like a 1980s medieval synth sing-along.

But love it or hate it, I’m really glad it’s here and it was, to me, worth hunting down, even if it was a bit of a cheat with Ebay.

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