mott the hoople

Part 109: The Summer From Hell!

RECORD STORE TALES Part 109:  The Summer From Hell

Summer, 2004.

I had one really, really awful summer at the store.  My full-time backup had quit, and head office made the decision not to hire a replacement until the Christmas gear-up season.  Instead, they decided to spread out the part-timers to cover the hours.  They were always eager for hours, but not necessarily weekend hours!

I was required to work two Saturdays a month anyway.  That summer, I had to pull a lot more than that.  Saturdays, Sundays, the odd 12 hour shifts…I didn’t get to the cottage very much that summer.  Allegedly, one head office staffer was overheard saying to another, “It’s going to be funny watching Mike try to work all summer without a full-timer.”  Good to know they had my back. 

I was furious.  But I was also defeated.

I had one weekend booked off in July.  I couldn’t miss that weekend.  My grandma’s 80th birthday party was that weekend.  There was no way in hell that I was going to miss my grandma’s 80th birthday party.  It was a 2 hour drive away, in Kincardine Ontario.  I only have one grandma (88 this year!), but wouldn’t you know it?  Nothing ever went smooth for me….

I had a date the previous night (Friday), with this girl who was originally from Thunder Bay.  We went out and we had a nice meal followed by a night of drinks.  I woke up slightly hungover, but eager to hit the lake, and say hi to grandma.  Then, my phone rang.  Not a good sign.

My least reliable employee, Wiseman, was calling in sick.  The truth was more likely that he was calling in wasted.  Somebody had to get the hell over there and cover him.  And that someone was me.

I pulled in, unshowered, unshaven, and pissed off.  I had never been so mad at Wiseman in my life.  It was becoming a far, far too regular occurrence that he was always “sick”, and someone had to cover for him.  You can’t expect every part time employee to give up their Saturday plans and work on no notice, but a manager had to.  

To her credit, there was one head office person on duty that weekend, and she came in to take over.  I will always be grateful to that person for covering me on my grandma’s 80th birthday weekend.  If memory serves, my great aunt Marie, her sister, made it that weekend too.  I think that was the last time I ever saw her, she passed away not too long after. 

My relationship with head office people was rocky to say the least, especially after that “It’s going to be funny watching Mike try to work all summer…” crack.  But she did cover me when I needed it.  I won’t forget that, and I’ll always be grateful.

The rest of the summer was what it was, weekend after weekend of working, the same grind and drudgery.  The musical light in the tunnel that summer was the release of Marillion’s double Marbles CD.  It is my favourite Hogarth-era Marillion to this day, and when I received it that summer, it got me through.  We didn’t carry it in stock in our store, but it was in my car, and on my home player, all summer.  It brightened the mood, it kept me going, waking me up in the morning and getting me out the door.  The Summer of Hell’s bright spot was Marillion, and my grandma.

I would like to dedicate this installment of the Record Store Tales to that one head office person who stepped up and covered for me that day.  We had many knock-down-drag-out arguments over the years, and I’m sure that her side of many events differ from mine.  Regardless, if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t have been present for my grandma’s 80th, and for that I owe her a debt of gratitude.

Thank you.  It meant a lot to me.

Below:  the soundtrack to that summer


Part 64: Niagara Falls

RECORD STORE TALES Part 64:  Niagara Falls

I never was the traveling kind, so when I had to spend a weekend working Niagara Falls, I wasn’t too thrilled at the prospect.  I warmed up to the idea after I met Mike and Greg, the new owners of our latest franchise.

I packed the Deep Purple box set in the car, a box of pepperettes, and hit the highway.  I arrived at the store on a bitter cold Saturday morning, and we worked the day away.  It was a tiring day, as we bought and shelved a lot of merchandise that day.  We were constantly pricing discs.

The best thing about Niagara was the co-owner Mike.  He was a funny guy.  Great stories.  Massive Kiss fan.  Great stories about meeting Gene and being promised all sorts of things on the forthcoming Kiss box set.  Mike also played bass.  He was a long, long time Record Store Guy.

Mike was in this insane punk band called The Legendary Klopeks.  He wore a blonde pigtail wig and went by the name of Lemon Kurri Klopek.  The lead singer, Josh, was Sweet Pepper Klopek.  He is quite legendary today as an extreme…well I dunno what you call it but he bleeds a lot and he wrestles and he is a Guiness’ Book record holder for something that nobody should really do.

Their lyrics were hilarious.  Take, for example, “Ric Flair”:

I wanna (something something?)

I wanna do a “woo” (“WOOO!”)

I wanna be like Ric

’cause he’s so fucking cool

I want a son

who doesn’t suck

That’s the only thing that’s wrong with Ric

So who gives a fuck?

He’s the king, the king of the ring,

He’ll fuck you up just like it ain’t no thing.

Every song on the sophomore album Straight To Hell ends with the words, “Fuck you!”  Even the short ones, like “Where’s My Soup?”  The lyrics to “Where’s My Soup?” are as follows:

Where’s my soup?

Fuck you!

The other owner, Greg, did merch for Blue Rodeo and in fact when he said this, I realized I’d seen him at the last Blue Rodeo gig that I attended.  I bought a shirt from him!

Because of the Legendary Klopeks, Niagara had a bit of, I don’t know how to put this…an entourage, maybe?  All interesting characters.  The most interesting was Gary James Dean. Otherwise known as The Deaner.

The less said about the Deaner, the better.  But I will say this.   He liked to tell people that he masturbated with his Justin Timberlake doll.  And he phoned about 25 times a day.  Not even exaggerating about that.

Anyway, Niagara was a fun store to work in.  They always played good music, and they had great stories.  Today Mike tours with Steve Earle, doing his merch, and I am insanely happy for him and jealous at the same time.  He’ll post a picture on Facebook like, “Me and Steve eating sushi.”  Stuff like that.

The best score that I got from that store was actually a gift from Mike.  It was the Bruce Dickinson CD single for “All The Young Dudes”, the Mott the Hoople cover.  (B-sides:  the acoustic “Darkness Be My Friend”, and the AC/DC cover “Sin City”.)

I’ll always remember good times in the Falls:  Rock n’ Roll, the Klopeks, sushi, and the Deaner!