garage days re-revisited

#942: My Brushes With Metallica

RECORD STORE TALES #942: My Brushes With Metallica

I don’t mind admitting that my first Metallica was Load.  Yeah, I was one of them.  Hate on if you gotta.

Like many my age, the first exposure came in 1988 via their first music video:  “One”.  To say the visuals were disturbing would be accurate.  Although I did enjoy the song, I didn’t feel the need to hit “record” on my VCR when it come on.  Other kids at school sure liked it, and copies of Johnny Got His Gun were claimed to have been read by some of them.  I figured I could continue to live without Metallica.

The Black album was released in 1991.  I was watching live when Lars Ulrich called in to the Pepsi Power Hour to debut the new music video for “Enter Sandman”.  The new, streamlined and uber-produced Metallica looked and sounded good to me.  I loved when James said “BOOM!” and thought that hooking up with Bob Rock had worked out brilliantly.  The sonics were outstanding.  While I enjoyed the singles Metallica released through the next couple years, I never took a dive and bought the album.  Why?

Three main reasons.  The key one was that I knew, even before I knew I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, that I would feel compelled to collect all the Metallica singles that I had missed over the years.  That was, as yet, a bridge too far.  Second reason was that I satisfied my craving for that style of Metallica in 1992 when Testament came out with The Ritual.  It had a track like “Sandman” called “Electric Crown”.  It had a song like “Sad But True” called “So Many Lies”.  It was perfect for my needs.  Thirdly, for whatever reason I didn’t think I was going to enjoy “old” Metallica, which again, I would feel compelled to collect.

When I started working at the Record Store in 1994, I had the night shifts alone.  I could play whatever I wanted and sometimes I gave Metallica a spin.  I can remember “Enter Sandman” coming on while I was cleaning, and saying to a customer, “Man I love this song!”  He nodded awkwardly and wondered why I was telling him.

A bit later I was hanging out with this guy Chris.  He was extolling the virtues of thrash metal, and put on Kill ‘Em All.  I was astonished when “Blitzkrieg” came on.  “I know this song!  I love this song!”  I exclaimed as I jumped up.  Air guitar in hand, I started bangin’ to the riff.  “This is a song by Blitzkrieg,” I explained to Chris.  “It’s on the New Wave of British Heavy Metal CD that Lars Ulrich produced.  I didn’t know he covered it.”

This is the point at which I like to say I became a Metallica fan.  Collecting the older stuff was still daunting, and a lot of it was expensive because it was out of print.  Which is really why it took Load for me to finally buy a Metallica CD.

1996 was a glorious but so stressing summer!  I was managing my own Record Store for the first time.  The weather was gorgeous.  The stock we had was incredible.  The stress came from staff, which turned over faster than a dog begging for belly rubs!  There was “Sally” who was caught paying herself excessive amounts of cash for the used CDs she was selling to the store.  There was The Boy Who Killed Pink Floyd who came to work hungover and worse.  And, most trying of all, music sucked for people like me who missed the great rock of the 70s and 80s.

On June 4, Metallica released Load to great anticipation.  Their new short-haired look (a Lars and Kirk innovation) turned heads and it was said that Metallica had abandoned metal and gone alternative.  Of course this was stretching the truth a tad.  Metallica had certainly abandoned thrash metal on Load, and arguably earlier.  Alternative?  Only in appearance (particularly Kirk Hammett with eye makeup and new labret piercing).

Load was the kind of rock I liked.  The kind of rock I missed through the recent alterna-years.  I had been buying Oasis CDs just to get some kind of new rock in my ears.  Finally here comes Metallica, with the exact kind of music that I liked, and at the exact time I needed it.

And yes, I did immediately start collecting the rarities and back catalogue.  Garage Days and Kill ‘Em All (with “Blitzkrieg” and “Am I Evil?”) were both out of print at that time.  I snapped up the first copies I could get my hands on, when they came in used inventory.  We were selling them for $25 each, no discount.  I later found a copy of a “Sad But True” single featuring the coveted “So What” at Encore Records for $20.  The new Load singles were added to my collection upon release.  The truth is, I picked the best possible time to get into Metallica collecting:  when I was managing my own used CD store!  I soon had the “Creeping Death” / “Jump In the Fire” CD.  A Japanese import “One” CD single only cemented what a lucky bastard I was to be working there.

Because Metallica came to me relatively later in life, today they never provoke the kind of golden memories that Kiss or Iron Maiden do.  However the summer of ’96 was defined by Metallica.  Driving the car, buddy T-Rev next to me, playing drums on his lap.  His hands and thighs got sore from playing car-drums so hard.  Load was our album of the summer and it sounded brilliant in the car.  Hate if you hafta, but that’s the way it went down for this guy in the dreary 90s.

 

Part 156: Value

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RECORD STORE TALES Part 156:  Value

The art of buying and selling used music mainly hinges on two factors:  condition, and re-sell value.

Condition can be subjective.  Is it slightly scratched?  Heavily scratched?  Do those minor marks from wiping the CD count as scratches?  Our upper management tried to give us consistent guidelines to follow on condition.  The customers didn’t always agree, but we tried to be consistent – not an easy task when you have dozens of buyers!

Value, on the other hand, could get very subjective.  For example, let’s say the year is 1996.  You went out and bought yourself a brand-spankin’ new copy of Live Through This, by Hole.  You paid $23.99 for it at your local store.  You played it a couple of times and didn’t like it, and they won’t take it back without the receipt.  So, you come to see me with a mint condition copy, only played twice.  You’re hoping for good money.  You paid $23.99, maybe you’d like to cut your losses and get $10 back?

Well, it never worked that way.  We’d never pay that much for a single regularly priced CD for many reasons:

  1. If you paid $23.99 for Live Through This by Hole, you still paid way too much, even in 1996. You could have got it cheaper elsewhere.
  2. We have to make a profit on it too.  Whatever we pay, we’d generally have to double it to make a profit, after the overhead of running a store are considered.
  3. What if we already had a couple copies, that have been sitting here for a month or two?  Do I really need a third to sit there?

These are all factors that came into play.

The next thing the customer would often say was this:

“I’m not looking for my money back, just another CD.  Can I just trade this to you, one for one?”

Well, again, no.  There’s no profit in that either.  I’m just swapping your disc for my disc and not making a dime on the transaction.  Essentially, I’d be doing you a favour and that’s all.  And chances are, you’d want to trade it for something better than Live Through This!

One time, while having this very same discussion, I explained to a customer why I couldn’t pay him $10 for his CD.  “Because that’s what we sell it for, I wouldn’t be making any money on it.”  He shrugged and said, “That’s your problem, not mine.”  No, it’s your problem, since I won’t be paying you $10 for your disc.

Another reason that people expected more money for a disc was rarity.  If something was considered rare, yes, we would generally pay more.  But who decides if something is rare?

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I remember a guy holding up a copy of Big Game by White Lion, saying, “This CD is worth over $50!”  Well, maybe somebody was asking $50 for it somewhere, and maybe somebody was willing to pay that.  So yes, to those two people, it’s worth $50.  But if you look, you could definitely find it for under $10, guaranteed.  Even in 1996.  All you had to do is hunt a little.  I did, and I got my copy for under $8.  It’s a title that was not in demand.

Some things that WERE considered rare:

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The Traveling Wilburys – Volume I.  We asked $50 for that one.  It was out of print for many years.  Out of print Bob Dylan is worth a lot more than out of print White Lion!

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Metallica – Garage Days Re-Revisited.  Also out of print.  We asked $50 for that one too, until it was reissued as a part of Garage Inc.  Reissues would usually kill the value of an our of print disc.

Some things that were NOT considered rare:

A lot of old soundtracks.  Soundtracks were a tricky thing.  You might be the only person in town that gives a crap about the Operation Dumbo Drop soundtrack for example.  Maybe it’s out of print, and maybe you collect soundtracks, but maybe I already have a copy priced at $5 that has been sitting there half a decade!

We tried to be as fair as possible, but it’s not always easy to see when I’m giving you $4 for a CD that you paid $24 for.  You can’t please all the people all the time.  Still, it was better than a garage sale!

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