GETTING MORE TALE #783: Take A Look at this Photograph
One day in mid ’95, Tom Morwood brought a camera to work at ye olde Record Store. It was the earliest of days, and I was still working at the original mall store. “What are you taking pictures in this place for?” He snapped one of me flashing the devil horns behind the counter. “Just for the memories man,” he answered. I’m glad he did it.
He dug up that very same old photo recently, and a like a rush of blood, suddenly memories flooded my brain. I barely recognised myself, but the store? I’ll never forget it. Let’s have a look at the anatomy of this picture and dissect it for details!
Before we went corporate, most of the signage was hand made. Most was done by T-Rev, though “DJ Donny D” helped. “NOW PLAYING”, “CD CASES”, “RAP/DANCE”. It looks totally ghetto, like a real record store. None of this professionally printed generic signage like today. Now all the stores have to look exactly the same, like a chain. Back then we could be artistic and do what we wanted. The boss didn’t think I was very good at making signs so he let T-Rev do the majority. He was probably right, though it wasn’t for lack of effort, just ability. And it looks like an actual cool record store. Not a video arcade or whatever they’re trying to be today.
There’s one sign that isn’t hand made, and that’s the “no smoking” sticker at the cash register! Can you imagine needing that sticker in a store today? Also: cash register! The first and last one I ever used. Everything was done on computers after this store closed.
It looks black. It was not black. I dyed my hair dark once in 2000, but this picture is not from 2000 (as we’ll get to). It must just be the lighting. That’s definitely me though. You can just make out my mullet. I loved that Laurier sweatshirt! I’m guessing it’s not summer; it must be a colder month or I wouldn’t be wearing a sweatshirt. I’m assuming here, but I look really goofy and totally uncool.
On the top left of the photo you can clearly make out CD and cassette copies of REM’s Monster. That dates this photo to sometime in 1995. The album came out in ’94 but Tom wasn’t hired until ’95. There’s no way it was still front racked all the way into 1996, so it has to be ’95. I can’t make out the other titles on the front rack. You can see the plastic security cases that we kept the CDs and tapes in. Anti-theft devices were not cheap, by the way, but a future chapter called “A Case For Security” will get into this in more detail.
We used to sell Rolling Stone and Spin. Funny enough, here we have them displayed in a rack for Vibe magazine! We stopped carrying Vibe in 1994 but kept using the rack.
If you glance over to the far right, you can see a vertical line in the wall slats. That’s actually a corner; the back wall was a mirror. As told in Getting More Tale #409, it fooled some people. One day an elderly gentleman asked me if “that section back there is closed to cripples and old men?” Nope, it’s just a mirror, not a secret room! We must have kept it pretty clean if we fooled him!
Notice there are no clear CD cases there? Just the ones with the black spines? We didn’t carry clear cases. If memory serves, our supplier didn’t carry them until a year or two later. That meant clear cases were a rare treasured commodity to us. I have a few memories of needing clear trays to replace broken ones, but not having any lying around. We had to conserve them.
See all those CDs behind me? Those are overstock – additional copies of stuff that was already on display on the racks. Generally these were titles that were not moving, and I can absolutely guarantee that there are multiple copies Motley Crue ’94 and David Lee Roth’s Your Filthy Little Mouth in this picture.
Detail #8: Happiness.
Don’t let the metal faced scowl fool you. This was my happy place. I don’t care what ex-bosses and regional managers thought. That store was special. One of the bosses used to tell me that my nostalgia for the old store was warped by rose-coloured glasses. I disagree. Look at this picture. It’s one guy working in a cramped little music store. There is nobody looking over my shoulder, no “suits” wheeling and dealing. We were free to make that store as cool as possible. We could listen to music of our choosing with few but sensible limits. Nothing like the spiteful “No Kiss” rule of later years. (Although you can see here I didn’t display anything under the “Now Playing” sign. I didn’t like the way the alligator clip could scuff up a case.) We were responsible for cashing out, doing the bank deposit, and closing up.
Sure, it was a little like working in caveman times to a certain degree. We had no computer, just a gnarly old cash register. If you look behind me, under the overstock shelves you can see boxes full of clear plastic baggies. Each one had a CD inside. If somebody wanted to know if we had a used CD in stock, we’d flip through the baggies which were in alphabetical order. Not an exact science but we got the job done.
As the store got bigger, we became more sophisticated, had more buying power, and better stock as a result. Yet it’s the original store that I’m nostalgic for, not the second or third one with the larger floor space and computerized inventory. Those stores had their own perks and problems, but they didn’t have as much personality. Some may disagree. This isn’t a critique on the owner, either. He had to do what he had to do in order to grow, put bread on his table, and follow his own dreams. We understand. He had a vision and it led him to success. Together as a tight team, we ran a pretty cool music store. We all contributed ideas and our talents, and did the best with what we had. The fact that so many people tell me they have fond memories of that store means it couldn’t have been all that bad.
When I look at this photograph all I see are good memories. Thanks for the foresight, Tom.