On multiple occasions I’ve said the best years working at the Record Store were the early years. 1994, 1995, into 1996…I’d never been happier working hard, and maybe never will be again. There was no corporate head office, no regional managers, and minimal pre-fab signage that all looked the same. It was just a few of us, die hard music fans, and a Record Store. We were in the process of building empires!
The boss was always looking to expand our CD inventory. Rarities of any kind were hard to find in Kitchener. Be they singles, Japanese imports, or live bootlegs, they were hard to come by. Periodically, let’s say once every couple months, the boss would drive to Toronto to pick up our weekly inventory orders from Records on Wheels. R.O.W. didn’t carry anything particularly rare, just the major label hits that we needed. Occasionally the boss would stop at other retailers in Toronto to pick up live bootlegs. Nirvana, R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Guns N’ Roses, whatever was popular. There were a couple stores in Toronto that had massive amounts of bootleg CDs. He’d bring them back here and sell them for around $40. Nobody in Kitchener had access to that kind of stock. They weren’t cheap and we didn’t make any profit off them, but they sure made us look better. A lot better. It gave us a chance to catch up a little bit with Sam’s and Encore in the “cool” stakes.
We also tried some more obscure distributors. One of them carried UK, US and Japanese imports. But again they were expensive and we had to hope they’d sell. These distributors were really unreliable. Long backorders were a problem, and there was no guarantee we’d get what we ordered. We sometimes got lucky. Nirvana’s Hormoaning was in demand, and we did get a few of those.
I’ll never forget this one Nirvana kid who wanted Hormoaning so bad. He didn’t have enough cash so he kept trading in discs until he had enough credit to cover it. You had to trade in a lot of CDs to cover $40 plus tax. But he got his Hormoaning. Until he had to trade that one in, too. And he did.
There was another guy (he kind of looked like a little troll doll), and he worked up at Carry On Comics in Waterloo. I think his brother was friends with the owner, and that’s why he started coming in. He had his eyes set on an R.E.M. bootleg, specifically because it had a song called “Where’s Captain Kirk?”. It was one of R.E.M.’s non-album singles, a cover of a band called Spizzenergi.
I was beamed aboard the Starship Enterprise, What I felt what I saw was a total surprise, I looked around and wondered can this be, Or is this the start of my insanity. Oh but its true, As we went warp factor 2, And I met all of the crew, Where’s Captain Kirk?
The comic book guy salivated over that CD until he finally had enough cash to buy it. I didn’t think he was serious. He used to talk about buying this vintage Millenium Falcon toy and hanging it from his ceiling. He was serious this time!
I managed to snag a couple live bootlegs. No discounts on these! Nine Inch Nails – Woodstock ’94, and Guns N’ Roses Covering ‘Em were both favourites of mine. Money well spent and still in the collection today. The boss hated that we took some of his good Toronto stock. He was selling them virtually at cost, so that’s why we had to pay full price. But he really, really did not appreciate when T-Rev and I bought stuff like that. Here he was, stocking them to make our store look cooler…but in swoops T-Rev and metal Mike! Maybe he should have charged more for them, across the board. Where else in town were you going to find them?
On one of those early Toronto runs, the boss was one of the first victims of the Ontario NDP government’s photo radar project. In order to curb speeding, the NDP launched the 400-series highway photo radar. The boss was caught speeding on the 401 and found a nice photo and fine in his mailbox. It was from one of the trips back from R.O.W. The project was only semi-successful. Drivers experimented with methods of covering up their license plates from photo radar cameras, and over 5000 photos were deemed useless. The incoming Mike Harris government campaigned on getting rid of photo radar, and they did immediately after taking office. The great experiment was over, but the boss was one of the drivers dinged. All he was trying to do was bring us some rock and roll! But it was the first and only photo radar picture I saw back then.
Damn government always cutting into our profits!
Behind the scenes, he was building empires. He announced that he wanted us to buy even more stock from the public. Trade-in CDs were big business but we were now going to be buying for two stores. Or more.
In the annals of rock, the year 1991 is one of the most significant in the entire history of the genre. No year since 1969 had been so singularly important. 1991 featured the newfound domination of (for argument’s sake) a brand new sub-genre. Countless influential bands released their breakthrough records that year. The overturning of an old order had begun.
1991 was a shock to the system, both personally and musically.
A year before, my Jon Bon Jovi Blaze of Glory T-shirt was cool as hell. In 1991 it was stuffed in a drawer. What the hell was going on? I couldn’t relate to these new bands. Kurt Cobain was baffling to me. What was appealing about not washing your hair? Say what you will about the merits of Bon Jovi, at least when you saw a photo of him, he had bathed and was wearing clean clothes. I also couldn’t appreciate the musicianship of these grunge bands; not when the groups that were breaking up boasted such virtuosos as Steve Vai and Vito Bratta. After studying serious players through the 80s, there was nothing about Cobain that I could get behind.
Even my access to mainstream hard rock was becoming limited. The final episode of the Pepsi Power Hour aired in 1991. The very last host was veteran Michael Williams. It was filmed at a welding shop in Calgary, Alberta. Williams played Metallica’s “One”, and “Hunger Strike” by Temple of the Dog. The shape of things to come. The very last band ever played on the Pepsi Power Hour was Van Halen, and the the very last song was “Runaround”. The Power Hour was then replaced by the inferior Power 30. It was a significant change for me. I rarely missed a Power Hour. The Power 30 was often not worth catching at all.
The sea change in music paralleled a similarly massive shift in my life. Out with the old, in with the new. I didn’t know anyone in my classes. There I sat in the World War II history classroom (really a huge auditorium) by myself. I overheard a conversation behind me.
“Have you heard of Pearl Jam? They sound like Black Sabbath.”
What? What the — no they don’t! But Seattle was being compared to early 70s Sabbath quite readily, probably due to Soundgarden and the multitude of new riffs that were emerging from the city. The bands didn’t sound like Sabbath, per se, but the riffs and heavy doomy gloom vibes were reminiscent of the band from Birmingham. Who were in the midst of a reunion with Ronnie James Dio, but would ultimately fail to overthrow the new grunge kingpins.
I really wanted to turn around and tell the two guys behind me what Black Sabbath were actually about, but that probably wasn’t a good way to make new friends. University was a lonely time. Not until second year did I meet new people to hang around. My love of hard rock was not something I shared with my classmates. I remember sitting in one of my history classes writing down lyrics for a song I was working on called “Clones”. One of the lines was “Ball cap, turned back, you’re all clones.” I couldn’t find a pathway to bonding with any of these people. Not until I met some fellow Trekkies.*
1991 was significant for me in another way. It was the year I became obsessed with Star Trek. I had always watched and even had a lil’ “red shirt” when I was a toddler, but The Next Generation was hitting peak popularity. It was always good, but five seasons in, it was becoming quite great. This sadly coincided with the death of Gene Roddenberry in October of that year, but that only served to make Trek even more popular. In November, The Next Generation pulled in its biggest viewership numbers since the 1986 series premier: the two-parter “Unification” featuring Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock himself. Pardon me — Ambassador Spock. And if that wasn’t enough, in December Trek returned to theatres with The Undiscovered Country, the sixth and final movie with the original crew. All of this coincided with the 25th anniversary of the original show. It was a bittersweet but absolutely massive time to be a Trekkie.
And it just so happened that Wilfrid Laurier University was a hotbed of Trekkies.
The years that followed were all Trek-heavy in my life. I was began buying individual episodes on VHS. (My first tape was “Balance of Terror” featuring Mark Lenard in the debut appearance of the Romulans.) I built model kits, I collected the books, and I pieced together a full set of Star Trek stickers from Hostess potato chips. There was a Trekkie girl in history class named Lee that I really liked. Lee Ditchfield. A group of us would get together after class on Fridays to watch Monty Python and Star Trek. (Or even study sometimes!) The nucleus of the group was Tim Solie, a guy I knew from highschool and reconnected with in second year. That guy could (and would) talk to anyone! Ice broken, we formed a small little group of friends, including Lee. But she had a boyfriend back home in Woodstock and I just didn’t even try. I blew it.
My precious metal was not cool at Laurier, not anymore, but Trek was. I had at least two professors that used Star Trek references in class (Anthropology 101 and European History). I had a psychology professor whose personal philosophies mirrored the optimistic future that Gene Roddenberry instilled in his work.
After the successful Leonard Nimoy episodes of The Next Generation (“Unification” parts I and II), they were bound to try something like that again. The following season, in an episode called “Relics”, James Doohan reprised his role as Scotty. I overheard two professors discussing it in a stairwell. “They did it without time travel,” said one to the other. “And they did it reasonably well”. He was right!
I collected a full set of these.
As time (and Trek) went on, I felt more and more comfortable at University. By ’93, my sister Kathryn was getting ready to choose post-secondary schools. I invited her to come to class one Friday morning to sit in and see what it was like. I chose my Ancient Roman history class as I knew she’d find it interesting. She was already getting nervous about starting university. “I bet it’s nothing but Star Trek geeks and losers there!” she said.
“No, no.” I assured her. “Nothing like that.”
So we walked in, headed down a corridor, turned a corner and walked right past a skinny Trek geek, standing there in the middle of a hallway, digging a Trek sticker out of a bag of Hostess chips.
“I knew it!” she said.
The unfortunate thing about University is that friendships are even more temporary than highschool, and it soon it’s all over. I didn’t have any classes with Lee or Tim Solie ever again. In fact I only saw Lee once in passing after that year. In my third and final years, it was all new faces in every class. And just as quickly as it started, school was all over…and so was Grunge. Kurt died during my third year and the best work of most of those new bands was now behind them (Pearl Jam being an exemption). In hindsight it seems unfair that this massive musical change had to coincide with these critical school years. Like a cruel joke, metal peaked and crashed when I needed it most! If it wasn’t for Star Trek, it would have been a far more lonely time.
*I am a Trekkie; I’ve been a Trekkie since my date of birth. I think “Trekker” is a silly term and people look at you funny when you use it. But if you identify as a Trekker and want me to address you as such, I’m happy to oblige.
Mike:Holen, I’m glad you agreed to sit down and chat. I realize that you want to retain your anonymity. How would you like us to address you?
Holen: I shall be addressed as Sir Guybrush Threepmorningwood. Always address me as sir. I have a very fragile ego on account of my infamous pretension, and need consistent approval from my fellow human beings to function.
Mike: OK, Sir Guybrush…it won’t be hard to remember at all, thanks for that. Now there has been reader speculation that you are from Australia. Care to comment?
Sir Guybrush Threepmorningwood: Harrison needs to step up his deductive game if he ever wants to make it as a detective. I’m proudly a heartland American. Unfortunately I’m also in the Bible Belt though, so there’s a lot of evangelical bungholes here. My practicing religion is Transcendental Nihilism.
M: You’ve written some great reviews for us, but also some of the most bizarre. The Shining comes to mind. If I may be so blunt…what the hell, man?
SGT: I hope that greatness and bizarre intertwine. I’m not sure I quite understand what you mean, but I’ll put it this way. If you were a Blue Jay during a full moon on the last day of a leap year and you broke a bottle of water, what color would the sound make? You see? Now it is all clear, isn’t it?
M: Clear as mud. One of my favourite lyrics by the Canadian group Sloan goes, “It’s not the band I hate, it’s their fans.” Name that band for you.
SGT: That would probably be Nirvana. I don’t hate their music. I hated what they did by saying all the bands before them sucked, and Kurt’s “I’m so scared of fame that I signed to a major label and wrote a pop album” bullshit seemed so transparent to me. Nirvana does have quite a few tunes I enjoy. But their fans are a different story, especially back then. Any time a rock band reaches a mainstream level of success, they’re going to attract some crazy people. Nirvana certainly did, and Kurt decided to eat lead when they were still huge. So we’ll never see how their audiences would behave once all the fair-weather crazies just at the show for “Smells like Liquid Ass” had left them for the latest trendy group. It was those simpleton fans that ruined good music by deeming all rock that wasn’t hair metal at that point “grunge”. Seriously, any new band that didn’t have gang background vocals was grunge in the magazines. So a fantastically underrated band like Blind Melon gets written out of history because they’re seen as just a grunge band. Most people thought a grunge band meant a lesser clone of Pearl Jam or Nirvana. That’s why that scene burned out in a few years. The music was either a bad Nirvana copy, or it was being buried by bad Nirvana copies because everything was considered grunge now. Blind Melon put out two classic albums in their debut and Soup, and not many people have ever heard them because they’ll only ever be known for that single “No Rain”, which couldn’t sound less like them if it tried. It doesn’t sound like anything else they did. They’re not grunge at all! People categorizing things and forming groups ruins everything. I don’t hate Nirvana though, just the fair-weather fans that jumped on the rock bandwagon only to jump ship immediately after Kurt checked out of Hotel California.
I will have to add that people who worship Mike Patton piss me off too, they’re such fan boys. The whole “Patton is God” doesn’t mesh well with the fact that Patton is a total contrarian and the antithesis of a rock god. I love Faith No More and Mr. Bungle (Angel Dust is probably my favorite album of the ‘90s), but I don’t feel the need to suck Patton off for all of his zany projects of screaming and nasal whining. I just hate this whole worship culture. Worshipping stuff is creepy. Religious or not, having so much blind devotion for something just rubs me the wrong way. If you worship some dude, it’s like you’re trying to give the guy an oversized ego and elevating him to a status greater than a man. You can respect a guy’s work without spooning him. If I see a celebrity on the street I really don’t feel an urge to bug them. It just seems artificial.
M:As a huge Faith No More for most of my life, I totally get it. Do you have the gift of music? Can you rock an instrument?
SGT:I played the trumpet in middle school, but I quit because our band director wasn’t a character whose company I enjoyed. I can rock the drums okay, mediocre at bass, and I can come up with some decent song structures. I’m working on a single that will see the light of day hopefully by this Christmas.
M: I’ll look forward to hearing that!
I often talk of a moment of clarity. A moment when rock and roll suddenly “clicks” with a person for the first time. I wrote about mine in the first chapter of Record Store Tales. It was Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” and life was never the same again. Do you have a similar story?
SGT: I was into the rock in a casual kind of way for a while, just the singles and crap like that. I listened to the first few Van Halen albums quite a lot, but I didn’t feel like I was getting any kind of deep connection. It was enjoyable, but not much more. Then I got Permanent Waves by Rush and it all started to click. That’s still my favorite Rush album, every song is fucking spectacular. That’s when the album format revealed itself to me, and I truly took on the Kids in the Hall mantra of “greatest hits albums are for housewives and little girls” from their record store skit on The Doors.
I had a narrow mind of what I thought rock could be until I listened to Rush. They really opened my head because the next album I got after Permanent Waves was Signals. Signals happened to be way different than Permanent Waves. It had many more keyboard orientated songs and it didn’t rock quite as hard. Not nearly as guitar orientated, but I grew to love it because the songs were great. It opened my mind wide to diversity in rock music, and how it could incorporate influences from other genres and contemporary sources. It was also the first of many times I’ve pooped my pants listening to music. It was that good.
M: Changing gears for a moment. Farts: proud of ’em?
SGT: That depends on the situation and your relationship status. If you’re single and really looking to establish a connection with a nice girl, then it’s probably best to blame it on the dog. But if the two of you have been dating for a while, I say loud and proud, or as Pantera would say, “Hot and Heavy”.
Stand up and squeeze. That will single-handedly gain you the favor of her dad, more than anything else you could possibly do for her. If it turns out that it’s more than gas coming out, make sure to aim for the wall and do a terrible job cleaning it up. This will anger your girlfriend and she’ll ultimately just clean it for you. That way when you’re married you can shit all over the place and never have to pick it up, and you can still blame it on the dog for poops and giggles. Take extra care to miss the toilet when you’re in the bathroom. The more time she spends cleaning is less time she spends nagging. Just don’t get it on any of her things or you will feel the wrath.
M: Who’s the coolest person you’ve ever interviewed? How about the worst?
SGT: I don’t know about coolest, but I once contacted a dead guy using an Ouija board. He was pretty rude. But I guess when you’re dead you’re entitled to be rude. I don’t think I should tell you what he said because it’s pretty heinous. Actually, the body part of mine he wanted to use rhymes with heinous. Let’s just leave it at that.
M: What bands, still alive and kicking, do you still want to scratch off your concert bucket list?
SGT: I want Racer X to do another tour so Paul Gilbert can blow my mind with Street Lethal in person. That album slays, the riff to the title track is one of the coolest I’ve ever heard. So complicated and yet still pretty catchy.
M: What’s the last great band you discovered?
SGT: There’s this band that started up in the 1960s that I’m not sure how many people have heard of. I only found out about them because I read an article about them getting sued for this song they wrote called “Stairway to Heaven”. The band is called Led Zeppelin, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of them? I don’t know if they were ever that big, but they had quite a few albums and a weird concert movie. It’s a fun time; you should check them out if you’ve never heard of them. You’re LeBrain so you might know them.
M: You ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight?
SGT: No, but have you ever rubbed another man’s rhubarb? Do you wanna get nuts? Come on, let’s get nuts! Honey-roasted preferably, those are the best kind. You’re buying, right?
M: I’ll play the nut allergy card. Thanks for doing this interview with us. In the last Reader Spotlight, Harrison listed the members of his “dream super group”. Care to take up the gauntlet and try your own?
SGT: Yeah, I can manage that.
Roger Waters – Bass, backing vocals
Geddy Lee – Bass, backing vocals
Billy Sheehan – Bass
Tony Levin – Bass
Geezer Butler – Bass
Bob Daisley – Bass
Sting – Bass, backing vocals
David Ellefson – Bass, backing vocals
Jason Newsted – Bass, backing vocals
Steve Harris – Bass
Eddie Jackson – Bass, backing vocals
Derek Smalls – Bass, backing vocals
Ben Shepherd – Bass, backing vocals
John Paul Jones (he’s from that Led Zeppelin band) – Bass
James Lomenzo – Bass
Paul McCartney – Bass, backing vocals
Gene Simmons – Bass, backing vocals
Eric Avery – Bass
John Deacon – Bass
Jack Blades – Bass, backing vocals
Rob Grange – Bass
Billy Gould – Bass
Gary Karr – Bass
Flea – Trumpet
Glenn Danzig – Lead Vocals
Stewart Copeland – Hi-hat
Rick Wakeman – Keyboards
Bill Brufford – Drums
Phil Collins – Drums, backing vocals
Stephen Perkins – Steel Drums
Phil Rudd – Drums
They would ideally get up on stage and tour playing “Big Bottom” by Spinal Tap. They would immediately leave the building after playing this one song. Hopefully one of the bass players would hit the infamous brown note and the entire audience would shit their pants. If Chris Squire was still alive he’d be on the list too.
Thanks Sir Guybrush Threepmorningwood also known as Holen MaGroin!
GETTING MORE TALE #644: On the Road with Peter and Ozzy
Peter started coming up to the cottage with us in the summer of 1991, after we both finished highschool. Peter didn’t pack light. On any given trip, Peter would pack the following items:
Baseball gloves & ball
At least a dozen movies
Food, food and more food
Several tapes for the car
Peter’s favourite artist for cottage road trips was Ozzy Osbourne. During the summer of 1992, No More Tears was in the deck. Peter skipped the ballads. No “Mama I’m Coming Home” for him! We also enjoyed Billy Idol. Peter made a special mission to pick up Whiplash Smile before a road trip. I can recall going to Fairview Mall, and opening the tape in the car. We were also into a band called Transvision Vamp who had a couple great car tunes – “Baby I Don’t Care” was one.
When he had a car CD changer, we played a fun guessing game. We’d throw in Nirvana’s Nevermind, and Weird Al Yankovic’s Off the Deep End. Peter hit shuffle. When we heard the classic chords to “Smells Like Teen Spirit”/”Smells Like Nirvana”, we had to guess who it actually was before the vocals began. It took a while to hear the difference. Eventually I could tell. Weird Al tends to do spot-on covers, instrumentally speaking.
Ozzy was good for passing other cars. Nothing like passing people going 150 kph on the highway, with Ozzy cackling “Crazy Train” out the windows. Black Sabbath was also handy. While visiting Frankenmuth Michigan, Peter scored a three CD Sabbath box set called The Ozzy Osbourne Years. It had virtually every song from the first six Sabbath albums, only missing instrumentals. I can distinctly remember passing cars to “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”. Peter tried to synch up passing the cars to Ozzy shouting “You bastards!”
When we weren’t rocking, we were laughing. Peter had an extensive collection of comedy tapes and CDs. Andrew Dice Clay was a favourite. We liked his “Christmas song”:
“Suck his dick, til the veins are blue… Suck his dick, til you take his goo… Merry, merry Christmas….”
Dana Carvey also had a hilarious rock opera spoof song about choppin’ broccoli.
But the food! My God. Peter did not skimp on the food. He liked to treat the whole family to a chicken stir fry. He brought all the food and equipment. Once he even made his own chicken balls from scratch, with his mom’s special recipe. Noodles, bean sprouts, chopped veggies, and all the fixings: nothing was missing. Sometimes he’d bring a dessert, and always a bottle of wine. Choppin’ broccoli indeed.
We were never hungry nor bored. When available, we would run into town to buy fireworks. When we ran out, if Peter hadn’t got his fill, we’d go back in town to buy more. My mother used to joke that there was no downtime with Peter. When done one activity, he’d move right on into the next one. And if we had a building project on the go, he’d be there with his tools, in the fray helping out.
Car trips with Peter were unforgettable. Try passing a car while Ozzy shouts “You bastards!” out the window and you’ll have an idea what it was like to hang out with us.
GETTING MORE TALE #586.5: More Adventures with Aaron Guest shot by Aaron Lebold BMR
My old friend Aaron Lebold has been writing fast and furious! He has now hit the point in his own story when we met in 1994. I’d like to share with you a few of his stories that I featured in. 1994 was an interesting period in both our lives. I had just started at the Record Store, which was the beginning of something incredible. At the same time, I was very lonely. I was in my last year of school but I didn’t know anybody in any of my classes. Meanwhile Aaron’s dad left. We became good friends. He was like a little brother to me, and I never had a brother. Both of us were in some kind of pain, but I really enjoyed having someone around who was into music, and eager to listen to my stories.
As Aaron will explain, he called me Geddy. Here are some excerpts and links to the full stories. They brought back of lot of memories, musical and otherwise! I hope you’ll give them a read.
Thanks Aaron for friendship and writing these stories!
It was the summer of my Grade Eight year, and my sister and I were both discovering a new world on the computer. In a fashion similar to the internet, we were both going on the computer, and starting to interact with people in a new way, with new identities.
After spending some time in this reality, it didn’t take long to establish who was popular, who was considered “cool” and who was also frequenting each individual site. Geddy was a name I was familiar with, he showed a lot of confidence, and seemed to really know what he was talking about. One of the things that really stood out to me was his love, and knowledge of music.
At this time in my life music was turning into a bit of a fascination for me, I had a few bands I really liked, but didn’t really have much in the way of knowledge. Back then, it still cost upwards of thirty dollars if you were to purchase a new CD, I didn’t have a radio, and there was no music available to listen to online like there is today.
I spoke with Geddy about music fairly often, I felt a sense of excitement knowing that I was talking to one of the popular people from this new environment. I’m pretty sure I pretended like I knew more than I did about music to try to relate, but I was definitely listening to what Geddy had to say.
Mike was a product of the 80’s, so a lot of what he listened to was in that genre, but he also kept up to date with new music. Mike showed me Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, and of course his favorite band Rush. The first time we hung out he let me tape some of his CD’s, and showed me how to make photocopies of the album art to make it seem more authentic.
Over the course of that summer Mike and I began hanging out fairly often, sometimes with other people we had met on the computer. Mike lived in the city, about twenty minutes from the small town I had grown up in. I didn’t get to the city much as a kid because my mother refused to drive there, and my father was never home.
Mike and I would basically just go out and have fun. I remember I had always wanted to steal a pylon from the side of the road and put it in my room, and one night Mike helped me turn that into a reality. I still had that pylon up until a few years ago.
My world with Mike began to expand, the people on the computer would periodically have get together’s where we would all meet in person. Mike and I would frequent these together as much as we could. Mike and I were at the point that we were both popular in this community, and people would look forward to our presence. I felt that Mike was the reason I was in this position, so I was always weary of jeopardizing this relationship by exposing the side of me that felt like a twisted mess.
During this process I began to get to know some of the girls my age that were also involved in the computer world. I began to set my sights on trying to get to know a girl named Kim, even though she lived in a city that was long distance from my town. Initially I hadn’t told Mike about my interest in Kim, as I wasn’t sure I had any kind of chance.
Mike and I were at a pretty large gathering at a restaurant called “Zeke’s” in his hometown. The night went well, I began getting comfortable expressing myself, and Mike and I developed a reputation for being somewhat of the life of the party. I fed a lot off Mike’s confidence, and in doing so really started to feel better about myself.
One thing that surprised me about these stories was that Aaron found me “confident” in a social way. I remember feeling anything but confident. But Aaron was my wingman, and maybe he’s the one who helped boost my confidence.
Food for thought. Rock and roll! Thanks Aaron for writing these stories.
People screw up! It’s in our nature as human beings.
The human brain has its own “autocorrect”. Have you ever seen something like this?
The quick brown fox jumped over the
the lazy dog.
I cdn’uolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg.
See how you read both sentences easily regardless of the mistakes within? The brain makes little corrections to our perceptions on a second by second basis. Think about the human eye, how it darts around, but what you perceive is a clear static picture.
Given that the human brain makes its own “corrections” every second of every day, it’s bound to also make mistakes in doing so, either by missing a correction, or making one where it wasn’t necessary. Either way – we fuck up! Add in a fast-paced environment, and mistakes are not a question of if, but when and how many.
In customer service, a screw up can be a critical moment. Mistakes can make or break the decision for a customer coming back or not. Whether you ring in something wrong, give the customer the wrong item, mis-charge a credit card, or give the customer incorrect information, sometimes you owe them an apology. So why not turn lemons into lemonade?
Since money speaks louder than words, the owner at the Record Store had a cool method of keeping the customer, even after a screw up that might have them fuming. It was actually a genius idea. We used something we called “apology letters”.
Let’s say we screwed something up, unambiguously. The best example of this would be forgetting to put the CD in the case, or putting the wrong disc inside. This was a lot easier to screw up than you might assume. Maybe the CD was supposed to be in slot #132, but you grabbed the disc in #123. Sometimes you don’t even notice it’s the wrong CD because after a while, they do all look the same. I had myself convinced that I was actually dyslexic. That’s how bad it got on some days.
Sometimes you’d catch the mistake before the customer left, and all would be well. The rest of the time, there was a chance they’d be pissed off that they had to make a return trip to get the right CD. Returning something that is defective doesn’t count towards an apology letter; that’s not necessarily down to staff mistakes. An apology letter was only issued when it was clear that we screwed up and in doing so, inconvenienced the customer. We didn’t use them to blame staff, or tally up numbers of them, but damn, I sure issued plenty over the years.
When a mistake such as this was discovered, we would prepare an apology letter. Staff would sign the letter and give it to the customer with their apologies, and the correct CD! The letter entitled the customer to $3 off their next purchase. We discovered that this small token often defused situations quickly and easily. Very few customers refused to return after receiving an apology letter worth $3. Many in fact were impressed to the point that we started seeing them more often.
It was a smart idea: one of many that I learned during my years in retail.
RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale #371: The Birth of Grunge
The pendulum of rock music was swinging back to heavy. The world had tired of Poison, Warrant, and even the once mighty David Lee Roth. His latest album (A Lil’ Ain’t Enough) had tanked and the tour poorly attended. On the other hand, Metallica were transforming from the little thrash band that could into a worldwide juggernaut. Change was in the air, but what we didn’t expect were the dark clouds blowing in from Seattle.
I had been aware of a few newer bands. Soundgarden for example had some airplay with “Loud Love”, but I wasn’t impressed. There was another new group called Temple of the Dog that had a music video with two singers. “What’s up with this new band, Temple of the Dog?” I asked my highschool friends. They shrugged. “Haven’t heard of ‘em.” Highschool ended and I began a new adventure at Wilfrid Laurier University, majoring in History. And that’s when I saw “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. Because the schism of grunge and metal had yet to occur, it was played on the Pepsi Power Hour, where Temple of the Dog had also debuted. I had even read a Nirvana concert review in an early issue of M.E.A.T Magazine, but they weren’t really on my radar. I thought the singer had a great voice even though his ratty old sweater was pretty lame. I thought he kind of looked like a dirty Sting. The singer’s voice and the drummer’s chops were the best part of this band that otherwise didn’t click for me.
Some other singles and videos trickled onto the airwaves: “Jesus Christ Pose”, “Alive”, and more. It all happened so quickly. In a matter of months, a new crop of darker, detuned bands had replaced the likes of Van Halen on the charts. These new bands didn’t concentrate on an image, which in itself became their image. Shaggy beards, unkept hair, shorter do’s – these new rock bands didn’t look much like the old. Even their onstage personas were different. Where bands used to try to entertain and give bang for the buck, these new ones seemed to take a page out of shoegazer bands’ books. Layne Stayley from Alice in Chains was noted for standing still in one place on stage much of the time. Pearl Jam replaced lights and flashbombs with jams and crowd surfing. Worst of all to me was the disrespect this new crop had for the old, just like in the punk days of old. Krist Novoselic of Nirvana said on television that he hated heavy metal because it all sounded like with was spat out of a computer. The fact that heavy metal fans were buying his albums by the hundreds of thousands didn’t seem to click with him. Mudhoney were talking about beating up Sebastian Bach. It was getting crazy and a huge split happened within heavy rock music.
It was hard to keep up with the rapid changes. What was in a few months ago was deader than dead. What never would have had a chance of charting in 1990 was now #1. Artists that once looked cool suddenly looked ridiculous. But most importantly, the fun was disappearing from rock and roll. It was no longer enough to sing about cars or girls. Now you had to have something from your soul to confess, or a social issue to address. It was a lot less fun to sing, “Even flow, thoughts arrive like butterflies, oh he don’t know so he chases them away,” than it was to sing, “I got it bad, got it bad, got it bad, I’m hot for teacher.”
I resisted the change. I owned no grunge albums until late ’92, when I was finally drawn in by the song “Would” by Alice in Chains. The Dirt album took some getting used to, but it was at least built upon metal riffs. Pearl Jam and Nirvana remained all but incomprehensible to me. A couple years later, Soundgarden managed to suck me in with “Spoonman”. I had to admit that these bands had a lot of talented players: guys like Matt Cameron and Jerry Cantrell were earning mainstream respect among musicians. As these bands grew in popularity, I would always advise kids to keep an eye on the rearview mirror. “Yeah, Soundgarden are great. But have you ever heard original Black Sabbath? They were the original Soundgarden.” I didn’t want the roots (and my roots!) to be forgotten.
Grunge and I had an uneasy relationship for a few years, but soon it no longer mattered. Other types of music were coming to the forefront now, even more heinous and evil: pop punk, boy bands, and the post-grunge onslaught. I slowly grew to enjoy Pearl Jam and some Nirvana. I even own a Stone Temple Pilots CD or two. But my heart will always remain with the music that grunge nearly destroyed forever – hard rock!
Hard rock went into a sort of hibernation for a while, but it could never be killed. Not even by something as all-consuming as grunge was. Today, hard rock is back in business again.
The Four Horsemen: “Back in Business Again”
You never met a man like me You wouldn’t understand I’m in the rock’n’roll business honey I’m in a rock’n’roll band And we were headed for the top babe Way back in ’91 Some record business scumbags took it from us Well they forgot my gun Well now we’re back in business folks I’ve come to claim what’s mine See we’re the Four fucking Horsemen Back for a second time
I’m a fast talkin’, woman lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star In a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band I make my dirty little fortune In this rock n roll band We’re here to entertain you We’re back in business again Hahahaha
Moron after moron at the meet and greet They’d do just about anything for a front row seat When you see me on the stage one thing you’ll understand It’s what I do, it’s what I am, I’m just a rock n roll man And you don’t hear me whining about my fame and fortune
I’m a hell raisin’, trouble lovin’, fast talkin’, good for nothin’ rock n roll star In a trail blazin’, skin lovin’, whiskey drinkin’, mother f***in’ rock n roll band I make my dirty little fortune In this rock n roll band We’re here to rock n roll you We’re back in business again
Now pay attention I got a little story here to tell ya It kinda goes like this You know I had a couple years off there babe To kinda take some time And I heard a bunch of whining, little wussy rock n rollers Complaining about how fame and fortune’s got them down I say we gather up all these little bastards Shove them back to their lil’ nowhere town See I was born on this stage And I plan to stick around!
At the conclusion of Record Store Tales, I told the story of how I earned the nickname LeBrain. It’s a fairly common question. It all came down to a contest on the Craig Fee Show (on 107.5 Dave FM) called the 4 O’Clock 4-Play…which I dominated. I was the undisputed champion. I had more wins under my belt than anyone, including two wins on the very first song. I also sent Craig numerous 4-Plays of my own creation, some of which still haven’t been used yet. I thought it would be fun to post one or two that I especially liked. Here’s my favourite.
The challenge is to figure out the common thread that ties all four songs together. I had to choose songs that Dave FM would be willing to play. This one isn’t overly difficult (although I may have thrown a curveball in there), but I did enjoy constructing it. So put yourselves in the shoes of a listener, and trying to figure out the theme one song at a time. Also keep in mind that Craig would not tell you what song he is about to play. A casual listener could easily mistake the Freddie Mercury track for Queen, or the David Lee Roth song for Van Halen. This could potentially affect your guess. But the theme could be anything: lyrical, musical, background trivia, artist…and I liked to come up with unique themes.
Play the tracks in order as a listener would, and make a guess in the comments section!
1. Iron Maiden – “Flight of Icarus”
2. Nirvana – “Lithium”
3. Freddie Mercury – “Mr. Bad Guy”
4. David Lee Roth – “Just Like Paradise”
I’ll post the answer right here later today, so check back. Good luck! Take a swing at the piñata and post a guess!