The Hippo


Dec 15, 2019








Courtesy photo.

Be a music fan Santa
Records, books, gadgets and more make great gifts

By Michael Witthaus

 There are a number of ways to shop for the music fan in your life. Since most songs are a click away, the days of wrapping up a CD and putting it under the tree are a memory. But many local performers still offer them as keepsakes at gigs. You can help them out and make a giftee’s day. 

Conniption Fits, Say Darling, Cold Engines, Sensitive Men, Mark & Deb Bond and Harsh Armadillo all released fine new records in 2017, available for sale at their shows. Some offer vinyl versions — Donaher’s I Swear My Love Is True is a delicious slice of power pop available in black, two tone red/blue and splatter on the band’s website. 
Here’s a gift idea that supports local music and will blow your favorite fan’s mind. The Connection, a Portsmouth band that’s a favorite on SiriusXM station Little Steven’s Underground Garage, will record the cover song of your choice and deliver it as an MP3 for $40. A custom version of Dave Edmunds’s’ “JuJu Man” coupled with a diamond ring would be a cool marriage proposal, right?
Clothes make the rocker, and they don’t get more stylish than John Varvatos. Leather jackets and Chelsea boots run from hundreds to over a thousand dollars, but an Imagine Dragons T-shirt is a more reasonable $78, as are several others, adorned with Ramones, Beatles and other classic acts’ art.  Keeping it local is less expensive and helps the local music economy, of course, so why not grab a shirt at your next show? The new Pat & the Hats logoed tee is a reasonable $10.
2017 saw many great new books about music. New England critic Rob Sheffield’s Dreaming the Beatles delves into that influential band, while Sticky Fingers: The Life and Times of Jann Wenner and Rolling Stone Magazine tells the story of the magazine where Sheffield works. Other recently published biographies include Lou Reed: A Life, by Anthony DeCurtis and Dave Weigel’s The Show That Never Ends, probably the most comprehensive book about progressive rock ever written.
There are many good reads about women in music, among them Gold Dust Woman:The Biography of Stevie Nicks by Stephen Davis, Hit So Hard, a memoir of the Seattle grunge scene by Hole Drummer Patty Schemel, and the timely Under My Thumb: Songs That Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them, by Rhian Jones, Eli Davies and Tamar Shlaim, a study of misogyny in music.
The best of the lot is Reckless Daughter: A Portrait of Joni Mitchell, which benefits from the cooperation received from the book’s subject. Mitchell is an uncompromising artist, a poet to rival any in music, who traversed folk, rock and jazz with stunning vision on her way to becoming one of the most influential figures of the late 20th century. David Yaffe’s book is among the few that do her justice.
Or go straight to the source. Art Garfunkel’s What Is It All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man, Robbie Robertson’s Testimony, A Sick Life: TLC ‘n Me by Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins and Emily Zemler, John Oates’ Change of Seasons and the latest from Patti Smith, Devotion (Why I Write) are all worthy tomes.
When it comes to music in physical format, it’s best to go big or not go at all. That means box sets packed with goodies that can’t be downloaded, like Black Sabbath’s Ten Year War, which, in addition to vinyl includes a poster, book and a (just like Ozzy’s) crucifix necklace. Elton John’s Diamonds is a three-disc set with 34 Elton-curated tracks, a hardcover book and a set of five colorful postcards. 
A limited edition box set from Imagine Dragons contains the band’s three LPs on vinyl, along with Continued Silence, an EP only available in the slipcased collection. Stax Records commemorates its 60th anniversary with Stax 7s Box 7, a set of vinyl 45s from the label’s top artists. Bob Dylan’s Trouble No More is the latest Bootleg Series release, drawn from his  controversial “born again” phase. The eight-disc set includes a rare 1980 documentary on DVD, and a 120-page photo book.
Gadgets are always welcome presents. The Sonos One, with Amazon Alexa built in, offers access to Spotify, Pandora, SiriusXM and other music services. At $199, it’s a bargain compared to past Sonos offerings. The Mighty is a standalone Spotify-made mini player that can be clipped to a shirt. Holding 1,000 songs, it’s $99 — and great for workouts. 
Finally, Funko Pop! makes a line of giant headed action figures featuring a long list of stars. There’s a playfully boxed Tupac, Justin Bieber, all four members of the Ramones, and from the 27 Club, Amy Winehouse and Jimi Hendrix. Heck, there’s even a statue of YouTube star Psy, made before his 15 minutes of “Gangnam Style” fame were up. But the best of the bunch is a Metallica set, with band members in the clothes they wore during the days touring The Black Album
Have a rockin’ holiday!

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