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January 15, 2006

Give me an F!

It was 1991 or so, and my old roommate Rick was visiting from Buffalo. I was at work on the day in question, but the Ecology Center, where I worked, was a sort of hangy-outy Berkeley kind of place, so Rick was sitting on the couch with Donna, another friend from Buffalo who'd moved to the Bay Area. I was running the Ecology Center Bookstore's cash register, which consisted of a plank under which we kept the money.

Rick and Donna went around the corner to the Westside Bakery Cafe on a coffee run, and promised to bring me a double espresso. Some minutes later one of the Ecology Center's semi-regular customers came in with a stack of unopened LPs, all by Country Joe McDonald. "The Fantasy warehouse is getting rid of these," he said, "and I'm hoping you can tell me where I can recycle them."

Recycling of materials other than paper, glass, and metals was rather uncommon then, and despite the blandishments of the plastics industry it still is today. In the old days one might have been able to persuade a record company to take a large number of unwanted LPs, as many pressing factories recycled the "vinyl" (actually PVC with carbon black pigment) into new records. But almost no one was pressing LPs in 1990, and most people trying to use scrap PVC didn't want to deal with the carbon black pigment, which altered the consistency of the plastic and would have been nearly impossible to isolate from the resin. Add to that the cost of removing the paper labels, and you had an item that was pretty much unrecyclable in economic terms.

Rick and Donna came back and handed me my coffee. "It's almost always better to re-use things rather than recycling them," I said. "Have you considered just donating them to people who'd want them?" He smirked, shook his head. "No one wants these anymore." I took two records off the stack, handed one each to Rick and Donna. "These guys will want them: they're fans, right guys?"

Rick and Donna chuckled nervously for a moment. They looked at the albums, turned them over, read the liner notes. Not knowing whether they were really invited to keep the albums, they politely set them back down on the cash register table and walked away.

"See?" said the semi-regular. "Even the fans don't want them anymore."

We chatted for a bit more, and I promised to see what sort of helpful information I could dig up. He left, and I walked over to the couch to visit with Rick and Donna.

"So who was that guy?" asked Rick.

"Country Joe McDonald," I replied.

Donna's jaw dropped. "You mean we..."

"Country Joe McDonald offered us some of his albums," said Rick, mortified, "and we just refused them. We put them down and walked away without even thanking him."

Posted by Chris Clarke at January 15, 2006 01:30 PM TrackBack URL for this entry:
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Comments

you coulda just been nudging your friends -- to take a gift, to recycle... but then again, country joe might well have been there and done that, too. he's still around, still performing. still has a message.

so, did you keep the albums?

Posted by: kathy a at January 15, 2006 09:58 PM
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I always wondered how it felt to see your own albums in the cut-out bin.

Posted by: craig at January 15, 2006 10:55 PM
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here's a link to "the fish."
http://www.counterculture.net/thefish/

Posted by: kathy a at January 15, 2006 11:00 PM
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coming down from a weekend of lofty LSD conversations and reading this little anecdote is just perfect. For all the joy that being a Deadhead has given me for the last 40 years, many of us knew that the greatest acid advertising band of the time (1966-67) was CJ and the Fish. So much so that they even put one on their second album because, well, just listen to Bass Strings, Masked Marauder, Section 43 etc., off the first one.

Let me guess what was in that pile? Rock and Roll Music? Paradise with an Ocean View (whoo ray up she rises)? Reunion... oh yes... one of the great moments for me was the song and performance he brought to the 30th anniversary of the Summer of Love of a new song (at the time) about being back in the summer of love. So many of us with tears streaming down our cheeks standing on the side of the stage, holding hands and remembering so many amazing and special moments.

Posted by: spyder at January 16, 2006 12:20 PM
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I know it wasn't the point of the (great) story but here is something you can do with old records: http://www.nyu.edu/classes/siva/archives/001225.html

Posted by: Ann Bartow at January 16, 2006 12:28 PM
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Country Joe played innumerable rallies put on by the California Nurses this past year during their campaign to shame the Governator. He is definitely still kicking.

Posted by: janinsanfran at January 16, 2006 07:46 PM
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