By: DJ Waves
Any time that multiple interests of mine intersect, I’m extremely happy. So what better record to spotlight for Vinyl Feature Friday than one of my favourite compilations? Take 1 part camp style, 1 part rock n' roll swagger, and a whole lotta sleaze. Wrap it up in comic book art design and you’ve got LAS VEGAS GRIND VOLUME FOUR.
Originally released on the aptly named Strip Records in 1988, this is the fourth installment in a long-running collection of music that essentially gave birth to the retro-burlesque movement. The album features songs from the ’50s and 60’s that were played by the house bands in Las Vegas strip clubs; think raunchy, hip-shakin', cocktail slingin’ tunes from bands with names like The Playboys, or Willie Wright & His Sparklers. The songs are sax(ophone) and sex laden with gritty guitars and Gene Krupa-style drum fills.
Visually, the Las Vegas Grind compilations are always titillating. Vintage photos of topless burlesque dancers often grace the jackets of these records. What’s special about Volume Four, however, is the artwork collaboration done with famous cartoonist, Daniel Clowes for the gatefold re-press. Clowes emerged in the late ’80s as a graphic novel cartoonist best known for Eightball and Ghost World; the latter of which he turned into the cult classic movie of the same name. Clowes’ work is known for being a little oddball so it’s a perfect match for the zany sound of the compilation.
The combination of cartoon artwork and song titles such as “Buzzsaw Twist” and “Sweet Little Pussycat” was a big part of what drew me to this record initially. Upon first glance, it’s captivating—you want to tear off the record sleeve and dive in, much as you would excitedly bury your nose in a fresh comic book. The musicians are long forgotten never-knowns, but that makes the compilation all that more intriguing.
The Strip Records label was a sub-label to CRYPT RECORDS, which was known for its popular garage and punk compilations Back From The Grave. As a record collector, I always love rounding out my collection by buying things on labels I love, even if I've never heard of the album/artist. Such was the case with the LAS VEGAS GRIND compilations; I trusted the CRYPT RECORDS releases so I figured I'd be a fan of these as well. The record ended up being a great way to get introduced to the sound of the vintage club scene. Some of the songs even have voice clips of club announcers introducing the dancers.
Preferably listening to music on vinyl is already an interactive experience, but when you play this record you really feel as though you’ve stepped back in time. You're lounging in the corner of a Las Vegas bar with a martini in hand, cigarette smoke billowing, red lights flanking the stage before you, and the rumble of raunchy rock n' roll infecting your eardrums as tassels and sequins dance before your eyes. That’s the magic of a good record.
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