Three Imaginary Girls

Seattle's Indie-Pop Press – Music Reviews, Film Reviews, and Big Fun

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{Sasquatch Books}

Peter Blecha is a native of Seattle and is primarily responsible for collecting the "artifacts" for the museum portion of the controversial and certainly underappreciated Experience Music Project. I don't think he would ever call them "artifacts", though; he would call them all "treasure." Treasure he's sold and still helps archive.

Sure, yes, the EMP's an unfortunate thing to behold from the outside and stuffed into the angular architecture with doughy bedazzled tourists with no etiquette, but it serves many useful purposes (my favorite being the yearly Pop Conference). Blecha is one of us, a mad collector of sounds and secret histories, and his personal obsession has led the EMP to have a superb sampling of rare and noteworthy popular music culture. And Saint Kurdt's Strat.

Like any passionate rock fan, Blecha started out as a regionalist, often getting his 45s directly from bands he saw perform in the early 60s. His collecting mania grew so intense he rejected the academic life and spent all his time playing, selling, and investigating rock music. In "Rock & Roll Archaeologist" Blecha gives some bizarre accounts of the government's persecution of the performers of "Louie, Louie," confidently negotiates with big record company bosses to acquire bargaining power, sniffs out the most obscure memorabilia, converses with Jimi Hendrix's dad, finds the first bass guitar, and goes toe to toe with Courtney Love to nail the Cobain action (that last challenge in itself could warrant its own book probably).

Admittedly, much of this is somewhat dry and confusing to someone like me, whose own collecting bug is fairly cheap and eclectic. I'm usually more interested in the idiosyncratic cravings of nerdier specialists like blues 78s collector and underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, whose tastes seem kinkier. Blecha loves the big picture, and so things like Clapton's "Layla" guitar is going to do more for him than it would for me (okay, it's kind of cool to imagine him playing that coda on it).

I may not have any revelatory insights into why he and others strive to own so much, but he does convince us that his own affliction has reaped rewards for his community. Without guys like Blecha, I wouldn't have the rock anthology the EMP put out that has great and quickly forgotten New Wave band X-15's amazing "I Want To Be Vaporized" on it, sparing me the fifty bucks for the original Seattle Syndrome compilation. Now if only Paul Allen would sink his big bucks into a nice re-issues label for other great songs still unreleased… Long may the hoarders hoard and trade amongst us mortals with less severe appetites.