Have you worked retail, or anything like that? Did you ever have regulars? People you’d see on a regular basis that you either loved or loathed.
Example: One I liked was this guy named Aaron. I’m still in touch with him today. He was a good guy. One time he went down to the ‘States, picked up the US exclusive Sho ‘Nuff box set by the Black Crowes for me, and delivered it. Awesome dude. Another time he bought me (as in gifted) the first single for the new Crowes album By Your Side. Later on, he burned me a CD of all their B-sides that he had. A disc I still own by the way.
Aaron was a regular that I loved. In the bro’ sense.
Then we have the ones I loathed. There was this one guy who obviously played guitar because he was a total guitar snob. He always wore black fingerless gloves too, that is one detail I’ll never forget. He was an older guy, probably approaching 50, but a total guitar snob.
Whatever I was playing in store, he picked it apart. The first time I ever encountered him, I was playing the new Deep Purple record, the excellent Purpendicular.
The guy snorts at me from the other side of the room. “These guys are nothing without Blackmore. Nothing. Biggest mistake they ever made was getting Steve Morse.”
“Really?” I said. “I like this album.”
“You really like this crap?” he said. “What do you like about it?”
Now remember way back in chapter something-something, my boss taught me that valuable lesson about not getting into conversations with customers? Well, that went out the window this time. I mean, I’m passionate about music. I just am. It’s in my DNA. (That’s actually a fact. My sister and I have traced our lineage to many musicians.)
“I think it’s a strong album,” I began, “better than Battle Rages On which I thought had too much filler. I like this one because it’s a little more dark, it’s progressive…”
“Progressive?!? You call this progressive? All it does is repeat!”
He was referring to the central guitar part in a song called “Sometimes I Feel Like Screaming”. He’s right — the guitar part does repeat through the song. It is also a classic song that is still in Deep Purple’s set today.
Anyway I let it go, but he kept going.
“Blackmore’s a superior guitar player to Morse. Have you heard the new Rainbow? Incredible album. Incredible guitar playing on that one. That’s real guitar playing, not this…”
Anyway, I’d see this guy periodically. We called him Guitar Snob Man, or later on Pompous Ass. Sometimes one person has a nickname for a regular that they made up on their own. Meanwhile, another person has encountered the same regular, and has their own name they use. Later on, when you’re working together, you realize you’ve been talking about the same guy all along, just you had different names for him.
I’d see Guitar Snob Man several times that year, and he almost never had anything good to say about the music in store. Except this one time.
I was playing Yngwie J. Malmsteen. (Pretty much also not allowed for store play either.) Guitar Snob Man turns around to me, points to the CD case with his black-gloved hand and says, “Did you pick this?”
“Yup, that’s me.” I said.
“Good pick. Great guitar player. Absolutely amazing what this guy does. Good choice.”
And I don’t even like Yngwie that much. Too much Yngwie is like razor blades coming at your ears after a while.
But anyways, I shut up. I said nothing.
Another regular was this guy named Shane. Shane is a great guy, great guitar player, great singer too. I met Shane during my first year as manager of my own store. He was one of my first customers. He immediately liked the store, because the guy behind the counter was playing rock music, and know what he was talking about. In fact that first year I sold him Purpendicular by Deep Purple.
Shane came in for a whole year, trusting my musical taste. I hadn’t led him astray once. He liked good guitar players. I sold him Maiden, Purple, Satriani, anything that just smoked. He trusted me implicitly. Until 1997.
In 1997 I sold him an album called Schitzophonic, by Nuno Bettencourt. Shane did not like Schitzophonic.
The funny this is, even though I solidly praised the album to him then, I probably haven’t listened to it in 10 years myself. In 1997 there wasn’t much to choose from in terms of new rock albums. Bruce Dickinson made one of the few worthwhile albums that year. Everybody else, from Jon Bon Jovi to Metallica, where making rock albums infused with alternative influences. As a result a lot of those albums don’t sound that great today. Nuno’s album was melodic and simplistic and fit in with what was going on in 1997. That’s my excuse.
Shane came in, and just said, “Mike, I’m a little disappointed in you.”
To this day, Shane will remind me that I sold him the worst album he ever bought, Schitzophonic. To this day, I hang my head in shame. I’m sorry, Shane.
I let him exchange the CD which was even against company policy at the time. I mean, fuck! It was my fault, he could have saved his $12 if I’d used my bloody head. Shane didn’t care that Nuno was in Extreme, one of the most guitar shredding bands of all time. He wouldn’t want it based on that alone. The album itself had to shred. Duh. I should have got that.
Years later, Shane and I recontacted each other via Brent Doerner from Helix. Shane was playing in Brent’s band My Wicked Twin. That’s Shane singing lead on “Never Turn Your Back” from the first album, Decibel. Brent only plays with other guys who can play well, so that should tell you something about Shane’s capablity.
Great guy. Glad to have met him. All because of the record store.