In mid-1996, I was minding the store one sunny morning. It was a pleasant summer day. A quiet morning, I was at the counter inputting new stock. As I slaved over a hot keyboard, entering CD after CD into inventory, I saw an old lady in a slinky red dress enter the store. As was our custom, I said hello as she entered. She didn’t respond and I went back to entering CDs as she looked around the easy listening section of the store.
That is when I noticed something very unusual with the lady in red. (For the time.)
My boss noticed it too, as he emerged from his office in the back. She barely had any hair on her head. We both came to the realization at the same time: the lady in red was a man!
An old, skinny, bald man in a red dress!
It was not a pleasant sight, this skeletal frame accented by the loose silky red fabric. LGBTQ+ is A-OK by me but this was a sight from a horror movie. A living dead zombie in a dress. Shopping for CDs.
My boss and I exchanged glances. We looked back at the man, just to make sure our eyes were not deceiving us. No; that was most definitely an ancient man in that red dress, casually browsing the easy listening section. Perhaps he was looking for some old Chris de Burgh?
My boss said to me, “Mike, can you go over there and see if he needs help finding anything?”
We watched as the skeleton spent 10 or 20 minutes browsing, the only customer in the whole store. Then without a word, but with a flourish of his red dress, he left. I never saw him again.
I wonder if I would have made a customer if I had approached the walking cadaver in red for help? Too bad I didn’t have a copy of The Very Best of Chris de Burgh. I could have popped in his theme song and made a sale!
One of our best customers at the original store was Dancing Steve. I’ll get to why he’s named Dancing Steve in a minute, but I first met Steve when I started at the store. Steve would come in or call looking for various cassettes (never CDs), and put them on hold until he had $150 or $200 worth, and buy them all in one shot. That’s just how Steve rolled. Normally we would never stockpile so much inventory for a customer for so long, but Steve spent so much money and was so pleasant that it was a special arrangement just for him.
Steve would call looking for songs. I can remember putting a Gina Vannelli tape on hold for Steve, and I also remember him looking for Rod Stewart’s then-recent song “This”. I found that song on Rod’s latest, the excellent A Spanner in the Works. It was always so nice dealing with him, he was so friendly, and even if we didn’t see him for two months at a time, he was uber-reliable.
I knew Steve was a hockey fan as he would often wear a Kitchener Rangers hat or jacket. What I did not know was that Steve was legendary among Rangers fans! Steve often wrote (and I think he occasionally still does) long letters to the editor of the local newspaper, cheering on our Rangers and offering his strategic advice.
T-Rev and I found ourselves at a Rangers game one weekend. I don’t remember the circumstances. We may have got the tickets for free, but neither of us were particularly fans of the game back then. The Rangers scored, the crowd cheered! Then, T-Rev noticed some commotion in the seats of one corner of the auditorium. To our left and down was a man in a Rangers jacket and hat, dancing. It wasn’t a sophisticated dance, it was a bit of an awkward shuffle, in that big warm Rangers jacket. The crowd loved it, cheering him on! It was none other than Steve, our Steve. I found out his actual nickname in town was Dancing Steve, because he had seasons tickets and rarely missed a game. Steve would get up and dance any time something good happened: a goal, a power play, whatever!
To this day, I feel cool that a local legend like Dancing Steve was one of our earliest, most loyal customers. In fact we didn’t lose Steve until 1997, when we discontinued carrying cassettes. Steve didn’t make the transition over to CD. He was crushed when T-Rev had to tell him we weren’t going to be selling tapes anymore.
I have been to a couple Rangers game since, but not seen Steve. I know he still goes though, as I’ve heard tell that Dancing Steve dances on at the Aud. I would like to dedicate this chapter to Steve, an example of a jolly good fellow if there ever was one!
Sometimes, shopping in a music store can be a frustrating experience especially for those who don’t know a lot about music. They might not have a clue what section to find (for example) Linkin Park in. Are they rock? Metal? Alternative? Something else? Somebody who only knows a couple songs might spend a long time walking around aimlessly in a store trying to find Linkin Park.
Sometimes just the simple act of trying to find where Linkin Park is filed alphabetically can be frustrating to the uninitiated. Some people are confused. If Barry Manilow is filed under “M” instead of “B”, why is Linkin Park filed under “L” instead of “P”? This gets even more hard to understand when the band’s name sounds like a person’s name. Max Webster. Pink Floyd. The difficulty is tripled when you’re shopping in a store that has a loose grasp on the alphabet in the first place. Ever shopped at one of the local HMV stores?
Sometimes in order to find something, you might have to get the store employee’s attention. If he or she is busy with customers, please don’t yell across the store. “I can’t find anything in this damn store!” I’ve heard that too many times. Come up to the counter, wait until I’m done giving my full attention to my current customer, and ask. I know some people think they are more important than other customers, but that’s life. Sometimes you have to be patient. And please don’t yell, “Hey, buddy! Little help?”
Here’s a true story: One of my staff members, Matt, was once hailed by a 300 pound Jamaican man with, “YO! WHITE BOY!”
Be clear about what you want to know. For example, a lost customer once had this question for me:
Him: “Who designed your shelves?”
Me, slightly puzzled: “The owner’s dad built them. Why?”
Him: “Well is the owner’s dad dyslexic? Nothing makes any sense! You’ve got B coming after C, everything’s backwards, upside down, I can’t find anything!”
Hey, thanks for the feedback! Here’s how it works – it’s like reading the page of a book! Go across, then down. Across, then down. Across, then down. Then when you’re at the bottom, you go over to the next section! Across, down. Across, down. Across, down. No need to be a dick about it.
For those who get frustrated finding music in a record store, I offer you these three tips:
1.Before you get too frustrated and feel like blowing your lid, ask. Ask in a clear, reasonably polite manner.
2. If all the staff is otherwise busy with customers, wait your turn. Don’t yell, don’t interrupt, don’t get yourself all worked up over a CD.
3.If the store doesn’t have what you’re looking for, don’t tell the staff that they or their store sucks. Some kid making minimum wage doesn’t care what you think.
Following these three simple tips will make your shopping experience that much more efficient, stress-free, and pleasant. You might even want to say “thanks” for the staff’s help. Saying thanks will help ensure a better experience next time you come in.
BON JOVI – These Days (Special Edition, 2010, Universal Music)
Just as a general comment on the series of Bon Jovi “Special Edition” remasters from 2010: They’re crap. Sorry but they are. A couple unreleased live tracks? That’s it? Come on. They remastered these things 10 years ago and I bought them all then. I’ve bought almost every Bon Jovi album, in some cases multiple times. These Days? Three times now, just to get all the bonus tracks scattered hither and yon. For that reason these Bon Jovi remasters are in my $10 or less purchase range.
As for the album, These Days, I think it’s the best Bon Jovi album. It’s definitely more laid back than any previous Jovi platter, but it has a genuine quality to it that I like. You may like the cheesey 80’s keyboard sounds yourself, but in 1995 Bon Jovi couldn’t release an album like that. Keep the Faith was a great success, but These Days took the band to a new, darker, more soulful place. The production, once overly glossy, has been reduced to a purer, more live sonic clarity. This is a very organic album and many tracks sound live off the floor, such as “Diamond Ring”. Tico’s got a great drum sound on this album too, the snare has a great tonal quality.
Lyrically, Jon has never sounded more real and heartfelt. A song like “These Days” gets me right where it hurts every time. Unfortunately, the biggest hit from this album was the single “This Ain’t A Love Song”. Well, it may not be a love song, but it sure sounds a lot like others I’ve heard, like “Always”. Contrasting the generic ballad were some heavier rockers. “Hey God” is positively angry. “Damned” has swagger. Bon Jovi are always melodic, but the chorus in the infectious “Something For The Pain” is just awesome. “If That’s What It Takes” and “Hearts Breaking Even” are memorable and as strong as any previous Bon Jovi hit, but sadly remained overlooked. The quiet “(It’s Hard) Letting You Go” is one of Bon Jovi’s best ballads ever, because it’s so understated, with the actual vocal delivering the song.
The best song is the brilliant “Something To Believe In”. If I was going to pick one song as the absolute peak of Bon Jovi’s entire career, it could be this one (tied with “Dry County”). Driven by some sparse dark bass and piano, it soon picks up the pace. Richie’s backing vocals punctuate Jon’s powerful chorus beautifully, and you won’t be able to get that “Hey! hey! hey!” out of your head.
Yeah, I’m a sap. I love this album!
I like Eddie Vedder best.
What really sets These Days apart are the sweet harmonies of Jon and Richie. They’ve always done great work together vocally but These Days is a whole level beyond that. If you are a fan of Richie Sambora, I think you will enjoy These Days. In a very real sense I think this represents Sambora’s greatest contributions to Bon Jovi.
This new remastered edition has two live bonus tracks, which unfortunately are both ballads. “This Ain’t A Love Song” is one, I guess because it was the hit single. Shame they didn’t use “Hey God”. “Diamond Ring” is the other live ballad. This one was a bit of a cult song I guess. They wrote it back in the days of New Jersey and almost released it, a few times. It got bootlegged and became an underground favourite. This live version is recorded in Italy. It’s great to hear Jon and Richie singing together like this, but again, I wish they put on a rocker instead of a ballad. Richie’s guitar solo is awesome though.
My preferred edition, which I will cover in a separate future review, is the European 2 disc edition. In a beautiful magnetic digipack, it contained lots of bonus tracks: “All I Want Is Everything”, “Bitter Wine”, “Fields Of Fire” (Demo), “I Thank You”, “Mrs. Robinson”, “Let’s Make It Baby” (Demo), “I Don’t Like Mondays”, “Crazy” (live, lead vocals by Tico Torres), “Tumblin’ Dice” (live, lead vocals by David Bryan), “Heaven Help Us All” (live, lead vocals by Richie Sambora).
There are other editions with bonus tracks, including an Australian edition with a live CD (this is on my “want” list). There were plenty of singles, and I’ll cover each of those in future reviews as well, because they each contained notable bonus tracks. One was a track called “Lonely At The Top”, which to me sounds like it’s about Frances Bean Cobain. It has the lyric, “Tell Frannie I’m sorry she didn’t get to know her dad.” There was even a (great) cover of “Rockin’ In The Free World”, as well as a cover of “634-5789”, which featured Jon cracking up and laughing right in the middle of a verse!
So there you go. Get this album, but buy wisely. Choose an edition that suits your bonus track needs (or lack thereof).
5/5 stars for the album, -1 for this ripoff edition!
Below, pictures and tracklists for all the singles that I have from this album, as well as the Special Edition 2 CD set from 1996. It was a digipack with a neat magnetic clasp to keep it closed.