This is one of a series of first-person accounts of how COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders around Monterey Bay are affecting us all. If you would like to share your thoughts about living under the sheltering sky send your essay to us at email@example.com.
By Clark Coleman
I had just hit my stride and adjusted to living with the threat of COVID by masking up and following all safe distancing protocols. But then this news struck prior to Thanksgiving: On Nov. 20, Gov. Gavin Newsom announced a curfew beginning 10 p.m. for all counties in the purple tier due to rising cases of coronavirus.
The limited stay at home order will run through 5 a.m. Dec. 21, provided cases don’t spike any higher. That may now change as of this writing; certain counties in the state are now going into a more restrictive lockdown.
On the first day of the curfew I thought I needed to do something during the 30-day social restriction to share on social media. My spirits have been repeatedly crushed; no more lectures, no more live music, no nothing.
I needed something to buoy my spirits. And thus Clark Coleman’s Curated California COVID Curfew Collection was born. I vowed I would play a track from a different album each night of the curfew and post it on Twitter (@cineclark). It would be a pandemic playlist where I would only play records — either an LP or a single.
In the beginning I limited myself to find tracks that fit within the 2-minute 20-second video parameter for Twitter but that became too restricting. Playing a 2-minute track is now more of a guideline than the rule.
I came up with the idea for my nightly record posting because there was a void that needed filling. Back in March, prior to the first shutdown, I had been participating in Vinyl Night every Sunday evening for four years at a popular watering hole in Carmel. I missed being able to share my eclectic tastes with others and to introduce people to music they might not have heard before.
Vinyl Night was an informal gathering of record collectors and it gave us a chance to play obscure oddities as Sunday was a slow night for the bar. I was part of a core group of three that attended every Sunday: DJ Action Jackson (Jackson Dowd), DJ Skalar (myself) and DJ F-Stop (Jeff Robinson). Jackson has a rule; you can only acquire your DJ name from another DJ. He gave me my DJ moniker as he knows I enjoy ska music and have bouncing in my brain obscure facts about music he was unaware of. For instance, he was stunned when I told him “Tainted Love” by Soft Cell was a cover and the original was done in 1964 by Gloria Jones.
The informal rule of Vinyl Night was that anyone who brought a record to share was allowed to play one side of the album. This rule was occasionally broken on the off chance a wedding party would arrive. (Wedding facilities rentals and receptions are much cheaper on Sundays). When gregarious groomsmen and boisterous bridesmaids descended on the bar, we had “failsafe” records that would appease the unruly newlyweds and their wedding party: Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall” and “Thriller,” Earth Wind and Fire’s Greatest Hits, Madonna’s debut album, The Beastie Boys “License to Ill” and James Brown’s backing band, The J.B.s with their pure funk instrumental album “Pass the Peas.”
One night a bachelorette party came in and a woman paid us $100 to not play our “weird” records. She wanted to plug into her phone’s playlist. She did not appreciate Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention doing “Billy The Mountain” and, with eyes rolling behind faint margarita fumes, she bemoaned the fact that she couldn’t dance to it. That was the easiest $33 I ever made.
So, in a sense, this ever-evolving nightly playlist has now become my personal version of Vinyl Night.
On Nov. 21, the first night of the curfew, I opened with Dionne Warwick’s “Anyone Who had a Heart.” I couldn’t resist the haunting background strings.
On night 2 I followed up with Dusty Springfield covering the Bobby Hebb classic “Sunny.” I try to stay away from Dusty’s dusty hits as most of us have heard them over and over. Still, her voice is amazing and is a benchmark for 1960s music.
For night 3 I played Booker T. and The M.G.s’ album “McLemore Ave.,” a soulful cover of The Beatles’ Abbey Road album. The featured song “Something” has Steve Cropper’s amazing guitar work.
One night I played an obscure band, a trio of women called Moulin Rouge doing disco versions of Bee Gees songs. Not the “Saturday Night Fever” Bee Gees staple disco songs like “Staying Alive,” “Tragedy,” or “Night Fever” when they went to No. 1 in the charts using falsetto voices that shattered mirrored disco balls from coast to coast. No, It was the early 1960s Bee Gees hits like “Holiday” and “To Love Somebody” and “Lonely Days” that were given a disco treatment. Odd, perhaps. But entertaining.
Of course, it is the season for Christmas music so I will pepper a few of those in along the way.
My playlist isn’t always about music. I have also included spoken word from albums of recorded poetry. I posted Langston Hughes reading an excerpt from his book “Simple Speaks His Mind” and more recently I played Dylan Thomas reading his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good night.” I try to find albums where the reading is done by the poet reading his or her own work and not an actor or other voice celebrity.
As of this writing, COVID cases are spiking and more restrictive lockdowns are on the horizon throughout various California counties. My curfew playlist was to originally end on Dec. 21 but it looks like it might continue longer. Since we are so close to this nightmare of a year being over, I might just continue my nightly playlist through New Year’s Eve.
So if you want to take a wild ride down an aural obstacle course of my wide variety of tastes in music, be sure to follow me on Twitter at @cineclark. You can see what I have already posted and stay tuned for upcoming posts. You will never know what I will put on the turntable. Each night will be a surprise. And who knows, maybe you will discover a song or hear some spoken word poetry that speaks to you.
Have something to say about this story? Send us a letter.