m y s t e r e :
i originally came upon the departmentstore santas at the medieval castle nineteen 100-year lifetimes since record when i found it in a stack of otherwise nondescript lps sent to the college radio station (widr-fm in kalamazoo, michigan) in 1984. i had not been eager to review this sad assortment, so they "aged" a few weeks in a pile near my stereo.
finally, i began to wend my way thru the drek. when the needle hit the vinyl on the departmentstore santas record, it was a near-instant transfix.
"babys and cats, teetering on ledges, ledges..."
"mean little kids, in their mean little haircuts..."
joseph d'angelo's lyrics repeatedly nailed scenester after scenester, resonating with my own disconnection from the "rock" or "punk" or "hardcore" scenes. i then made a decision which haunted me for years afterwards.
i quickly scrawled a raving positive review, comparing the recording to the television personalities meeting the red crayola, with a southern california multi-ethnic flavor. why didn't i just conveniently incorporate that lp into my own collection? it was obviously a lost, castaway remnant of some disaffected, unlikely combo...who would have missed it? but i returned the lp to the station, where it was played during my shifts regularly, and otherwise ignored.
there was even a review in the first issue of my cut & paste 'zine the volunteer, which i mailed off to top shelf records, at what i believed was the zip code listed on the sleeve, 92041 (la mesa, california), and it came back as insufficiently addressed.
then, about a year and a half later, i began hearing it on other shifts. in late 1985 and early 1986, the departmentstore santas were in some kind of alternate-universe vogue among the infected college-radio drones. i continued to enjoy my cassette-tape copy, and felt one small vindication of my personal aesthetic judgement.
my time on radio had come and gone, however, and as the years went by, other sightings of the lp were rare and elusive. johnny "bopstop" shephard found a copy in california for a quarter at a rhino records parking lot sale. we were not able to come to terms, due to my cheapness, and his insistence on getting more than ten bucks plus my making him a cassette copy of the lp. richard bowser, another dj at widr (i believe he still is performing that ritual) eventually picked it up. for several years after that, he enjoyed needling me about his possession of this record, when i had yet to find my own copy.
i did sight the name and title occasionally. damp magazine, in their end of the decade captain beefheart special issue, included it in several of the contributors lists of top records and songs of the 80's. i believe i remember seeing it mentioned in some reviews in magazines like forced exposure as well. it was clear that there was a scattered core of people who had been touched by this record.
greg baise, (a local writer/artist here in the detroit area) found his copy at car city records, misfiled under "t" for top shelf records, in the compilations section. i finally found mine on ebay, from a guy in italy, for $50.
i have never heard of anything more from joseph d'angelo. greg baise reports that he heard of d'angelo's involvement in a project called friend of ghost. i have also heard rumors that there were other releases on top shelf records.
i wrote this article as a way of hopefully getting some of you readers and search engine junkies to email me with any more information you may have on the departmentstore santas or joseph d'angelo. i will then add this to this web page. so far all of the confirmed information i have is the contents of the inner sleeve of the record itself.
it seems amazing to me that joe d'angelo could record and release such a great record, then never do anything else. perhaps, like greg baise said to me earlier today, he did jandek one better, by not allowing anything to be known about him, and totally dropping out of sight.
[ed. note added 13 january 2oo2]- last month, i was contacted by mr. joe d'angelo, who has generously shared additional information, which i have compiled into an unofficial departmentstore santas website...
b . w i l d e r e d
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