pearl jam

#874: Impossible to Display

A sequel to Getting More Tale #795:  A Case for Security

GETTING MORE TALE #874: Impossible to Display

Shoplifting accounts for over a third of inventory shrinkage in retail.*  At the Record Store we had numerous strategies to combat this, as discussed in prior chapters.  An alert staff can stop a staggering amount of theft, but the last line of defence for us was a magnetic security tag system.  Trying to lift a de-tagged item would set off alarms at the store.

Cassettes, one of of our lower-cost items compared with CDs and box sets, were protected with a single magnetic strip hidden on the seam on the shrink wrap.  These had to be de-tagged magnetically with a device — they were single use only and the tag left the store with the product after being disarmed.  Each tag cost five cents, and that added up.  Higher-cost box sets were protected with multiple tags hidden on the edges of the packaging.  CDs, which also carried significant cost but were the majority of our store, were protected by a double-edged sword.  They were housed in an unbreakable and re-usable plastic longbox, with the magnetic tag stuck to an inner edge.  These tags never had to be disarmed.  You just removed the security case with a special key and set it aside for re-use on fresh inventory.

Cassettes were checked weekly to re-secure loose tags.  We kept a close eye on everything and everyone.  Combined with good practices, the security gate at the front of the store prevented a lot of theft.  Still, there were certain items that were unfortunately hard to both a) protect properly and b) display properly at the same time.  Unusual packaging made some albums difficult to stock on the shelves with the rest of the catalogue.

December 6, 1994:  Pearl Jam – Vitalogy compact disc

Although we weren’t equipped to display records, we had no problems when Vitalogy was released on vinyl November 22, 1994.  We sold the five copies we stocked on the first day.  It was the CD release two weeks later that caused us grief because we ordered those en masse.

The CD release of Vitalogy came ensconced in a miniature cardboard book-shaped package.  It had the same dimensions as a normal CD case, just flipped upright on its short side.  You could put them in a CD security box no problem, but T-Rev discovered a weakness in its design.  Because it was thinner and more flexible than a standcard CD case, you could with a little effort force it out of the security box without unlocking it.  This meant we couldn’t safely stock it out on the shelves.

Instead, the boss man set up a small box under close watchful eye at the front counter.  He placed the Vitalogy CDs in it, with every fifth copy turned 45 degrees so he could easily count how many were in there at any given time.  If he knew that he had 20 copies in the box, but suddenly only counted 19, then he would see if anyone in the store was carrying one around to purchase it.  Eventually we just put it back in the security cases, assuming nobody would be as inventive as T-Rev in trying to get one out.

May 29, 1995:  Pink Floyd – p·u·l·s·e compact disc with flashing light diode.

The original CD release of Pink Floyd’s p·u·l·s·e had a unique gimmick.  The oversized cardboard shell contained the 2 CD album in a book-style case, plus a flashing light gimmick powered by two AA batteries in a hidden compartment.  When the CD was reissued without the light and space-consuming batteries, it could fit in a standard size CD security box.  However the full-on, limited edition original was too large to be stored in our shelving.  Once again we had to put them at the front counter, this time stacked in a pile.

What I remember most about the “pile of p·u·l·s·e” is that flashing light.  However many copies were in that heap at the front counter, the lights flashed incessantly.  You could not turn them off.  Once you purchased the CD, you could remove the batteries from the inside.  Safe in their shrinkwrap on our countertop, they just flashed and flashed away.  Never in synch.  No two copies were ever in synch.  I guess it might have depended on how much juice was still in those batteries.  Copies of p·u·l·s·e flashed for years without a battery change.

June 20, 1995:  Michael Jackson – HIStory double cassette in cardboard sleeve

Although cassettes were being slowly phased out, we still had to carry certain big releases on the format.  In 1995, Michael Jackson still sold impressive numbers.  Enough that we carried one cassette copy, which once again, was packaged in such a way that we couldn’t display it on our cassette shelves.  Unlike other doubles, which sometimes came in a “fat” double cassette case (like Phantom of the Opera) or two normal cases packed together (like The Song Remains the Same), Michael Jackson’s HIStory came with the two tapes face up, side by side, in a cardboard box.  It was dimensioned like no tape shelving system known to man.

Too cumbersome to take up valuable front counter space, HIStory was deigned be displayed without fanfare on a shelf behind the desk.  To buy a copy of HIStory on cassette from us, there were only two paths to a sale:

  1. The customer would have to notice it behind the counter when purchasing other items, and ask for it.
  2. The customer would have to ask if we carried it, and not everyone asks.

My solution was clever.  I had just acquired a computer program that enabled me to create perfectly formatted cassette J-cards for my tape collection.  I used it to print a sleeve that said “MICHAEL JACKSON – HISTORY – 2 CASSETTE SET – ASK AT COUNTER”.  I put that in an empty tape case, and filed it with the rest of the Michael Jackson cassettes.  It took forever but it must have sold eventually!  I don’t know if I was responsible because it didn’t happen on my shift.

We had a cramped little space and we made the best of it.  Given that we were constantly battling for every square inch, any time an artist came out with something that was impossible to display, it created a unique little headache for us!

 

* The other 2/3rds are largely staff theft and errors.

#820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Two)

GETTING MORE TALE #820: 1991 Was the End and 1991 Was the Beginning (Part Two)

Part One:  The Last Note of Freedom

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.

And highschool had come to an end.  The very last locker posters had come down.  I said goodbye to my friends as we all went our separate ways.  We moved onto different universities and our little group was broken up forever.

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.

 

#393: Format of Choice

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#393: Format of Choice

What is your audio format of choice?  Which is the one that makes up the majority of your collection?

In addition to occasionally speaking in the third person, LeBrain has specific wants and needs in his music collection.  I have a fast and loose set of rules when it comes to choosing the format on which I buy new music.  Some, like Deke from Arena Rock – Thunder Bay and Beyond, prefer the ease and speed of downloading from iTunes.  Others, like 1537, prefer vinyl.  How do you decide what formats to buy your music on?

Here are my collection priorities:

#1.  Compact Disc

99% of my collection is on CD.  I have many reasons for this.  One is the superior sound quality:  a CD just sounds better than an mp3.  A CD won’t crash like a hard drive.  The oldest CDs in my collection are over 25 years old, and still look and play perfect.  They have always been stored in their CD cases after use, in a cool dry place.  They do not suffer from CD rot, which is a deterioration of the aluminum layer inside a CD due to oxidation.  The discs may not last 100 years, but I am confident that most if not all will be enjoyed through my lifetime.  CD rot can be minimized or prevented just by handling your CDs correctly.

I have chosen CD as my #1 format for other reasons other than longevity.  They are easily transferred to mp3 for better portability (they are already easily portable).  Playing mp3 files in a mobile environment like my car can only extend the life of the source CD.  Also, compact discs are easy to store and just look cool when all lined up in my collection!

I buy almost all my CDs online now, and they ship fast and easy.  Most of the time the packages will even fit in my mailbox, saving me a trip to the post office!  For these simple reasons, CDs are the lion’s share of the LeBrain Library.

#2. Vinyl

IMG_20150420_174459Today’s vinyl LP has been around since 1948, and even then the technology wasn’t new.  It merely updated and standardized something that had been playing on gramophones for a couple decades.  They used to be made out of substances such as hard rubber and shellac, but vinyl proved to be versatile and enduring.

Since vinyl has been around so long, and couldn’t even be killed off by the cassette or compact disc, it is safe to say you should always be able to buy something to play an LP.  However, an LP doesn’t have the longevity of a CD in terms of a long playing life.  Your CD laser never makes contact with the plastic, but your stylus does contact the surface of the vinyl.  The force of friction means that every play will wear down your LP, even if it’s only microscopically.  The key is to use good clean equipment and records.  If you do, a record will outlast a temporary format such as VHS or cassette tape.  Minimizing friction-causing dust particles extends the life of both LP and needle.

For all these reasons, vinyl is my second priority in format collecting.  They are bigger and take up more room, but when I want the warmth of an LP or just bigger cover art, there is only one way to go.  180 gram vinyl is especially nice to hold and listen to.  For buying old albums affordably, vinyl is a great alternative to CD.  Some old metal albums have had limited CD releases in other territories, making them expensive and hard to get once they go out of print.  Vinyl can be a cheaper alternative for your collection.

Vinyl bonus tracks are a slam-dunk reason to buy an LP.  Alice Cooper’s Welcome 2 My Nightmare is a great example of an LP that has a track unavailable on any other format (“Flatline”).  And of course Jack White took the idea of LP bonuses to the ultimate level with his “Ultra LP” version of Lazaretto.

#3.  Digital download (mp3)

I hate paying money for something that does not physically exist.  If I have to, I will, but I only “have to” when there are bonus tracks unavailable on any physical format.  Given the choice and the money, I will always buy the physical version, not just 1’s and 0’s floating around on a magnetic hard drive.  I hate that you (usually) don’t get any info or liner notes with an mp3.  I hate that your hard drive just needs to have a nice crash for you to lose this music that you paid for.  I understand the convenience, but digital downloads do not service my needs.

I know there are high quality download formats such as FLAC, but that still doesn’t solve the problem of not being on a physical format that won’t crash, and my issue of paying for a non-physical entity. I also know that a lot of people don’t care about these things, and I wanted to understand why. I asked Deke over at Arena Rock why he loves his iTunes:

“Here’s my deal: At the time when iTunes first came out, I had three young daughters. Getting to the record store (when there were record stores) was tuff to say the least, let alone the cost as well! I just couldn’t drop $20 all the time. Sure, I made exceptions and I bought actual product like Maiden and Rush, but iTunes became my way of music buying. Especially re-buying albums I had owned on cassette or vinyl. I just re-buy them on iTunes and download straight to my iPod! Now that my daughters are teens, I have just stayed the course with iTunes. I pre-order product from them, like the latest Priest, and the Van Halen live album. Convenience is just the way of life for me now! Don’t get me wrong though, I would still enjoy buying the actual product, but man it does boil down to affordability! iTunes delivers that and I can stay current with adding to my dinosaur rock collection! Ha!”

#4.  Cassette

IMG_20150420_174810Once the mighty majority of my collection, cassettes have been reduced to a mere novelty.  I treasured them for portability and convenience, but now I loathe them.  I debated putting mp3 last on my formats of choice, but the truth is, cassette is far worse.

Cassettes have several things going against them.  The first is moving parts.  A CD or LP requires no moving parts, but a cassette has spindles and rollers that rub against and wear the magnetic tape.  Sometimes a cassette’s parts can be too tight inside, causing it to warble when you play it.  But it’s the analog tape itself that is the real problem.  Even brand new, a cassette will not sound as rich as an LP because it’s not capable of reproducing the same range of frequencies.  A cassette has a built-in high level of static noise.  Then once you start playing it, magnetic particles begin to wear off.  In fact over time, tapes will degrade to be unlistenable, no matter how well you take care of them.  Even worse, record companies used the worst quality tape for their releases.  If you bought a cheap blank Sony tape, you would have better quality than a store-bought record label’s cassette.

The poor sound and lack of longevity are the two main reasons I’m still replacing all of my old tapes with CDs and LPs.  Anybody got a copy of Bonham’s Mat Hatter on CD for me to upgrade to?  How about Wolfsbane’s first?  Still looking for those!

#5. Miscellaneous

Not really ranked last, I just wanted to mention other formats that I own music on.

5.1 surround sound can’t be encoded on a standard CD, so DVD and Blu-ray have to step up to the plate.  I have several Rush, Queen, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple albums (among many others) that have been given official Quadrophonic or 5.1 surround mixes.  Often, these mixes include bits of music that are not in the stereo versions, such as guitar solos and fills.

The problem with DVD and Blu-ray is that I only have one home theater system.  I only have one place, one room in the house, where I can listen to these special albums.  I can’t play them in the car, on a walk, or at the cottage.  As such, a Quad or 5.1 release gets limited listens at Chez LeBrain.

How many people are there like me?  Let me know your favourite formats in the comments section!

#370: “I use that bucket for everything now!”

IMG_20140913_105822

RECORD STORE TALES MkII: Getting More Tale
#370: “I use that bucket for everything now!”

Am I ever glad that I started journaling 10 or 15 years ago. Most of what I recorded is nonsense that I can barely relate to, but every once in a while I stumble across relevant entries from the Record Store. Just a glimpse of Record Store life — the bad times, the good times, and a laugh or two!

Date: 2004/06/01 16:57

God I’m tired. I slept well but work has been non-stop since I got here. I hate that kind of day, you need to breathe some times! And Matt is late, so I can’t eat my lunch. I am having a Bad Retail Day. Everything and everybody is making things worse.

Date: 2004/07/30 12:47

BENAROYAI am expecting the new Pearl Jam to arrive today (late).  [That would have been Live at Benaroya Hall, released officially on July 27.]  I can’t wait to hear it.  Two discs of unplugged Pearl Jam?  Count me in.   The best “grunge” bands weren’t “grunge” at all.  What’s so grungy about Pearl Jam?  Nothing.  They are just good rock rooted in the 70’s and in the willingness to try anything once.  Hence, Eddie Vedder doing drunken covers of ridiculous stuff onstage.  I love it.

Date: 2004/07/30 16:15

An actual conversation at work today between myself and the accountant Jonathan.  We were talking about staying in hotels on the road:

Me:  I like to steal bars of soap and shampoos from hotels.  I mean, I’m paying like $120 for my room, I want some goddamn soap!

J:  I hear ya, man.

Me:  Last time I even stole the little tea packets.  Like, fuck, I want tea!  Coffee, too.

J:  I stole the bucket that you put the ice in.

Me:  Really?

J:  Shit yeah.  I use that bucket for everything now!

Date: 2004/09/30 21:32

Doing a bank run to get change for the register and do deposits.  On the way to the bank, this one kid asked me to buy a candy bar today.  I told him I had no money.  Then he asked me again on the way back from the bank.  I told him I still had no money.  Then he went into my store and asked me to buy a candy bar.  I told him I still had no money!

Just one more drop in the bucket.

Top Five(s) of 2013 – Part 1

No bullshit, let’s just get to the lists!  Yes, lists!  This year I asked some past contributors & readers to give me their Top Five Albums of 2013.  Some have left comments with their lists.  So let’s get to the lists — I also threw my hat into the ring!

Lemon Kurri Klopek

5. OST- Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa.
Mostly for the Alan Partridge banter between tracks. Insanely funny stuff from Steve Coogan. Some decent music too. Featuring an eclectic playlist featuring the likes of; The Human League, Glen Campbell, Carly Simon, Sting and OMD.
STEVE4. TravisWhere You Stand
Quietly released in August. Solid record from the Glasgow quartet.
3. David BowieThe Next Day
I’m one of the people who like all eras of Bowie. That’s it.
2. Sigur RósKveikur
Love this band. Everything they’ve done.
1. Steve Earle and The DukesThe Low Highway
Some of the best songs Steve has written. This record is up there for me with I Feel Alright and El Corazon.

Seb

Black_Sabbath_13Sebastien, whom I first met at Sausagefest is a talented guy and you will be hearing from him in the future!  He’s a musician/ producer/ filmmaker/ Star Trek fan and we’ll be collaborating on something in 2014 for sure.   Consider this Seb’s first guest shot.

5. Killswitch Engage –  Disarm the Descent
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Philip H. Anselmo & The IllegalsWalk Through Exits Only
2. Avenged SevenfoldHail to the King
1. Protest the HeroVolition

Tom

Tom is our host at Sausagefest, and one of the Jedi Masters who helped instruct me in the ways of Rock.  Top Five was simply not possible for this rock warrior.

GHOST11. Vista Chino Peace
10. MotorheadAftershock
9. Deep PurpleNOW What?!
8. Charles BradleyVictim of Love
7. AnthraxAnthems
6. VoivodTarget Earth
5. Steve EarleThe Low Highway
4. Black Sabbath13
3. Orange GoblinA Eulogy For The Fans
2. Clutch Earth Rocker
1. Ghost Infestissumam

Meat


You guys already know Uncle Meat from his numerous lists in the past.  Please welcome back the one, the only, the man the myth the legend, Uncle Meat.  He’s submitted a Top 8 this year.  That’s cool with me.

8. MotorheadAftershock
7. EminemThe Marshall Mathers LP 2MEAT
6. Vista ChinoPeace
5. GhostInfestissumam
4. The SadiesInternal Sounds
3. Black Sabbath13
2. Sound City PlayersReal to Reel
1. Steve EarleThe Low Highway

LeBrain

NOW WHAT_0003I thought I had my Top Five nailed down weeks ago.  Then, Aaron threw a spanner in the works by giving me the new Pearl Jam for Christmas.  Instantly enamored with this sure-to-be classic, I had to re-think my Top Five.

Then, just two days ago I realized that one of my albums is a 2012 release.  But I felt so strongly about it, that I can’t take it out.  So here’s a Top Six.


6. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
5. Pearl JamLightning Bolt
4. Alice In ChainsThe Devil Put Dinosaurs Here
3. Flying ColorsFlying Colors 2012 release
2. Black Sabbath13
1. Deep PurpleNOW What?!

I would also like to give credit to the new self-titled Dream Theater for putting out an album that caused me to rethink this list over and over and over again!

2013 was an interesting and exciting enough year that I’ve decided to do another buncha lists tomorrow!  We’ll be looking at movies, television and more.  Come back then for some bonus Top 5’s of 2013.

Oh…and HAPPY NEW YEAR!  See you in 2014!

FURTHER READING:  Check out Aaron’s 2013 lists at the KeepsMeAlive.

 

Gallery: Christmas Haul 2013

Music, movies, and books! I’ve been very occupied these last couple days.

I get the Guiness’ Book of World Records, and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books every year. I imagine my surprise when I discovered a friend of ours in both books! Apparently, Sweet Pepper Klopek holds the world record for “Most Baking Sheets Buckled Over the Head for One Minute.” This is a guy who has been on my living room couch!  Lemon Kurri says:

“He’s in there a couple times. Most mouse traps sprung on a tongue in 1 min too.”

 

Gallery: Christmas Comes Early

IMG_00001667_edit

The “A” is for Aaron!  Thanks man!  This parcel wasn’t a total surprise but the contents inside sure were!  I’m really excited about many of these items.  (The Olivia Munn film looks great…)  I’m so overwhelmed I don’t even know where to begin.

Ahh hell.  Yes I do.  Let’s start with Pearl Jam!

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Part 222: Mr. Self Destruct

RECORD STORE TALES Part 222:  Mr. Self Destruct

In a previous chapter, I mentioned that in 1994, I had created our store’s very first online ads.  They were in colour, made in full glorious ANSI, and eye-catching.  We even had a flashing logo on screen!  I did this for free, because I was so passionate about the store.  And it was fun!  (Tip: One thing I had to learn was that if you do something for free once, it becomes expected later.)

The reactions were mostly positive.  One guy, a 14 year old kid who went by the online handle “Mr. Self Destruct” (I think his real name was Justin), posted a message that was a bit of a wake up call.

“The kind of things I look for,” he said, “like imported Nine Inch Nails and Pop Will Eat Itself singles, you can’t get at a mall store like the one that Mike works at.  You can only get those downtown, at the good stores.”

That burned!  So I decided to do something about it.

The boss had always told T-Rev and I to order stock that we thought the store needed.  We both took this to heart.  T-Rev for example made sure we stocked things like the new Guns N’ Roses single (“Sympathy for the Devil”) and several other up and coming titles.  Later on, Trevor made sure we stocked all the Oasis singles.  I took care of the Nine Inch Nails side.

GNRNIN_0001I ordered in “Sin”, Pretty Hate Machine, “Head Like A Hole”, Fixed, and Broken.  Fixed had just been deleted, we missed that one.  I ended up buying copies of “Sin” and Pretty Hate Machine for myself (we ordered 3 copies of each).  Unfortunately, it wasn’t like having a few of these titles in stock changed the fortunes of our store.  They sold all but immediately, but there was no sudden and dramatic jump in numbers.  Yet, by summer 1995 we had a much cooler selection.  I like to think we made a difference, albeit a small one, to music lovers.  We sure did try anyway.  It was more about just loving the job and store, and wanting to give 200%.

By that summer, we were even carrying live bootlegs.  The boss picked them up in Toronto, and he’d walk in with a box full of 20 or 30.  I remember T-Rev and I drooling all over them and the boss warning us that there would be no discount on these puppies!  (I didn’t need a discount to want them!)

This period circa 1995-1996, was probably my personal peak at the record store.  It was my peak time for happiness, for motivation, input, pride, and satisfaction.  It was a time of mutual respect, fellowship, and hard work.  I loved every day of it.

Our inventory now had some stuff that you couldn’t get at the cool downtown stores.  I still have some of the bootlegs that I bought:  bands like Guns N’ Roses (Covering ‘Em) and Nine Inch Nails (Woodstock 94).  There were lots more titles (such as the Pearl Jam edition of Covering ‘Em), and our boss would try to get multiple copies of the good ones, like Nine Inch Nails. We even started getting in Japanese imports!  I remember when we carried Hormoaning, by Nirvana, it was like $60 with taxes.  The one guy who bought it had to trade in most of the rest of his collection to buy it.  My buddy Aaron got the other copy.

I spread the word online, and a few of those people became customers.  Guess who was among them?  Mr. Self Destruct!

Gallery: T-Rev’s Tapes Part Deux – Ruckin’ Fockin’

Last year for Record Store Tales Part 145, I dug up some of T-Rev’s old mix tapes, complete with custom artwork.  T-Rev always put such work into his tapes (sequencing and art included, he even numbered them as a series!), so it is a pleasure to give you this gallery of three more of T-Rev’s Tapes!

Rockers love to discuss “mix tapes”, so I invite you to comment on your own personal picks.  Led Zeppelin?  Metal Tunage?  What would you do?

Part 187: A Day in the Life at a Record Store (VIDEO)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 187:  A Day in the Life at a Record Store

Re-enactments of actual in-store events

DAY IN THE LIFE