Fourteen years ago, I was at a resort in Australia when the most amazing instrumental piece came over the lobby speakers. I thought it too odd to ask the concierge what the song was, and I've always regretted that decision, as now I'll never know.
Since then, I've not been shy about asking store clerks unexpected questions. That includes a recent visit to Bourbon Coffee in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in which I encountered an unusual tune. The underlying jazz piano sounded like Vince Guaraldi, who's best known for the soundtrack to the Peanuts animated specials — but the lyrics, being more spoken than sung, were reminiscent of Willie Nelson. I asked the barista what we were listening to. She grabbed her co-worker's iPod Shuffle and slowly read the scrolling title: "Thank You Mario But Our Princess Is In Another Castle", by the the Mountain Goats and Kaki King, from their Black Pear Tree EP. It tells the perspective of Toad the Mushroom Retainer waiting for rescue in the original Super Mario Bros.
I immediately took to the song and had no trouble finding an MP3 to download from Stereogum. But, as a believer in supporting artists and respecting copyright, I prefer to purchase my music legitimately whenever possible. Unfortunately, no music vendor I investigated — iTunes, Amazon, CD Baby — listed this particular song. I left a comment on the above video asking for help and guidance.
Good samaritan Zoot Sax went out of his way to send me an email, which I quote here with his permission: "Unfortunately, the EP was only released on limited vinyl, so it is not easily obtained. I found one for sale on this website, secondhand."
My experience is that musicians who purposely make their songs difficult to purchase are doing so for collectors' benefits, giving them a rare, physical product to obtain and cherish, while expecting fans themselves to make the songs available in more accessible formats. I don't pretend to know the intention of either the Mountain Goats or Kaki King, but I do dig listening to this song, even if my turntable is on the fritz.
Thanks for the insight, Zoot Sax!