It’s show and tell time!
I’m not a huge autograph seeker. I’ve spoken to a number of musicians at concerts I’ve attended, but never feel the urge to ask for an autograph. I haven’t used an autograph book since I was a kid when I would go to the Oldtimers charity hockey games featuring retired NHLers. I don’t carry an autograph book anymore, so what else could I get a musician to sign? It involves too much planning to bring CDs or whatever else with you to a show, considering that I usually go to a concert straight from work and want to take as little with me as possible.
I’ll start out with the one that should have the most mass appeal: Iron Maiden.
I didn’t even notice that this was autographed until after I purchased it. It was in the “final sale” bin at a favourite used music store of mine, Deja Vu Discs. It had a huge disclaimer sticker which was blocking a large chunk of the cover. Fear Of The Dark was missing from my Maiden collection, and all I considered was the reasonable price ($4).
It’s rather evident that black pen is not a wise choice for this album cover. The most prominent signatures here belong to drummer Nicko McBrain and either guitarist Dave Murray or singer Bruce Dickinson at the top-right corner. The remaining signatures are done with a thinner pen, and some are partially obscured by the left side of the cover. I count five signatures in total, and since I can’t make out the name of ex-vocalist Blaze Bayley anywhere here, I’m led to believe all these names are from those that actually appear on the album.
To me, that’s quite a relief. I find it weird when someone signs an album they had nothing to do with. An exception could be made if it was someone in the band that toured the album, but that’s about it. There’s a good anecdote in comedian Marc Maron’s book Attempting Normal where he expresses disappointment when getting his copy of Lou Reed’s Transformer album signed by musicians that were not in Reed’s band at the time. I actually happened to get Maron’s autograph after watching his stand-up act, and thankfully there was no way a similar screw up could be made unless his touring manager insisted on co-signing his posters.
These next two artists’ signatures share something in common. It appears that they will sign absolutely anything under the sun. And they both happen to be named Mike.
The first is Mike Vennart. He was the guitarist/vocalist of the (in my humble opinion) criminally underrated rock band Oceansize, and a touring guitarist with Biffy Clyro. He announced his first solo album in 2015 through a campaign on PledgeMusic, so I grabbed myself a copy of The Demon Joke in a neon green vinyl LP / CD bundle. I think it may have cost a bit more for him to sign it, but I bought it regardless.
The next year, he released an album with his project British Theatre through PledgeMusic. Not only did he sign the album, but so did fellow collaborator Richard “Gambler” Ingram, who also happened to play in Oceansize.
Earlier this year, he announced the release of a DVD/CD package Target ’15 featuring tour performances his projects had done over the course of 2015. Since Vennart never came to North America as a solo act, I jumped at the opportunity to obtain a copy. To my surprise, the package included a postcard featuring yet another autograph. This time, his personalized inscribing came gratis. I’ve included both the front and back to show his minimal but highly stylish logo, of which I almost bought the matching t-shirt.
Next up is Michael Gira, best known as the main man behind so-called “no wave” band Swans. You don’t even need to ask the man, and you’ll likely get his autograph if you make an order off his label, Young God Records. I pre-ordered The Glowing Man, knowing that his autograph would arrive as a neat bonus to an expansive 2-CD / DVD package.
The entire sleeve was paper bag brown, so much like the inner covers of a high school yearbook, there was plenty of space for Mr. Gira to choose to write. However, I’m not sure how I feel about signatures appearing on the inside of a package rather than on the cover. On one hand, the album isn’t as interesting as a display piece. On the other hand, leaving the front cover unmarked could be done out of respect for the occasionally overlooked contributions of the visual artist. Ideally, if I brought an album sleeve to get autographed, I’d aim to get each band member to sign above or next to their photo. That way, it leaves the guessing game aspect of identifying the signature out of the equation.
When catching Swans live on the tour supporting The Glowing Man, I gleefully raided the merch table to grab a t-shirt, and a large chunk of their discography that I was missing. I found it unusual that the copy of Children of God / World of Skin I just purchased was unsealed, but I should have known why.
Jarboe’s signature (the woman in the right of the photo) may be missing from the above photo, but this next one is also a woman of significant talent.
Nerina Pallot, a singer/songwriter from the UK, is currently the only female musician in my autograph collection. I was introduced to her through the BBC documentary When Albums Ruled The World, and she was playing a Carole King song off the massively popular Tapestry (it may have actually been the song “Tapestry”). Not only did this inspire me to get some Carole King into my collection, but also some of Nerina’s own work.
Yet again, she’s another musician that announced in partnership with PledgeMusic news of her latest album at the time, The Sound and the Fury, so I got a signed pre-order of her CD. And on top of her musical talents, I’ve got a bit of a crush on her. That being the case, her addition of “Love” before her name makes me smile a bit, and that is not at all pathetic.
Using the best for last cliché, here’s the latest addition to my autograph collection. It was difficult to get a photo while fighting the reflective frame, but it’s good enough for the purpose of this blog.
This poster has not one, not two, not three, but four signatures of rather big names in jazz circles. You have two undisputed living legends in guitarist John Scofield and drummer Jack DeJohnette, along with two comtemporary jazz players in keyboardist John Medeski and bassist Larry Grenadier. This poster was only available in limited supply during the pre-order of their collaborative Hudson album. The odds were long that I’d ever get a chance to meet each one of these men, so I leaped at the opportunity. I wanted the CD anyway, so why not get a little bit extra to go along with it?
I wish they hand-numbered the posters to give it more of a collector’s appeal, but since I’m not planning on reselling it, it’s a trivial thing to worry about.
Do I have any autograph-hunting regrets? Like I mentioned in an earlier entry, it would have been cool to have gotten Allan Holdsworth’s when I had the chance. I also could have affordably snatched up a few signed vinyl records at a local record store that would be welcome in my collection: Al Di Meola’s Tirami Su, and Marillion’s Script From A Jester’s Tear album signed by vocalist Fish. A friend of mine actually picked up the Marillion when the store closed it’s doors a few years ago, so I’m glad it has a good home.
Aside from that, I nearly obtained a Primus gig poster signed by the band on their Primus in 3D tour featuring their Green Naugahyde-era lineup. I can’t remember how much more it cost compared to a blank one, but I probably would have justified the purchase now. Not a huge deal, though, as it stands rather well on it’s own. In addition, it would have been a purchase, and not part of a meet-and-greet with the band. After all, the best way to get an autograph is in-person, if only to awkwardly tell them the first thing that springs to mind while they’ve little choice but to nod and smile politely.