GETTING MORE TALE #672: “The”
In the spring of 1996, the Record Store chain expanded to its third location. This was a life-changer for me, as it was my store — the store that I had been assigned to manage. I spent eight years at that location, and that’s where most of Record Store Tales came from. Myself and a young employee who was obsessed with Pink Floyd stocked the place. It took weeks to manually clean, input and price thousands of used CDs. We had fun working in a closed store away from the public, but the used CD stock we opened with was very monotonous. It was just overflow crap from the other stores; a lot of the same-old-same-old.
When training the new young Floyd fanboy, the Boss told him, “When you enter a band’s name that starts with ‘The’, skip the word ‘The’.” This makes sense for three reasons:
- Speed of data entry.
- Saving on the cost of expensive Dymo tape for the labeling gun (for the header cards).
- Alphabetical listings becoming much more tedious and cumbersome when scrolling through hundreds of “The” bands.
It’s pretty logical.
- BLACK CROWES = The Black Crowes
- FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS = The Fabulous Thunderbirds
- FUGEES = The Fugees
- KINKS = The Kinks
- SEX PISTOLS = The Sex Pistols
This worked especially well with Fugees and the young guy’s favourite band, Pink Floyd. Both artists had a “The” in their name in the past. You don’t call them “The Pink Floyd” but it was certainly possible you’d see something when they still had the “The”. Dropping the “The” on our header cards kept things simple.
The young fella got it, but followed it a little too closely.
One of his header cards said simply:
“What is this one?” I asked and he showed me a CD by The The.
I told him to change it to The The, but he didn’t get it. The Boss told him to drop the “The” on every header card. But the header card didn’t make sense without it. He wouldn’t change it, so I did it myself.
It seemed pretty clear to me then, and still does now. The name “The The” just doesn’t make sense on a header card when it’s just “The”. Tell me I’m wrong.
I was at Sunrise Records the other day, where I found The Best of Sword on CD.* I eagerly put it under my arm, since I was missing the three previously unreleased bonus tracks. (In case you didn’t know, Sword recently reunited and are recording a brand new studio album.) But guess where I found the CD? Or, rather, guess what two bands were filed together under the same name?
Sword is from near Montreal, Quebec. The Sword is another band altogether, from Austin Texas. They both play heavy metal but are nothing alike. In this case, there need to be two header cards, and one needs the word “The”. It’s another rare exception. The Sunrise store should have made these two header cards:
- THE SWORD
- SWORD (Montreal band)
- THE SWORD (Texas band)
But clearly nobody who worked there knows enough about either band to see this.
A customer who enjoys The Sword could be very disappointed by picking up The Best of Sword. Likewise, a fan of Sword might have thought the live Greetings From… CD was a reunion CD by the French Canadian metalers.
This is why it is critical to have staff who know music. It’s the kind of proficiency that in our insta-knowledge internet era, most people don’t maintain anymore. Proper header cards were a problem when I was managing the old Record Store too, and it was the same root cause: It’s hard to find staff who know and care about this stuff. And it’s not impossible to learn it. The truth is, if I were a young The Sword fan today I would already know there was another band called Sword, because I would have stumbled upon their albums and looked them up on Wikipedia.
You could take this header card business too far, of course. Just as you don’t need both “Pink Floyd” and “The Pink Floyd”, a record store doesn’t need two Queensryches or two L.A. Guns. But you do need two Swords…with “The” and without.
* Here I am nitpicking about proper filing of header cards, when I should be complaining about the mistakes on this Sword CD. Right there, on the back and inside covers, is a massive typo: “Get It Whole You Can”. Inside, the liner notes make the classic “there/their” screw-up. Can’t believe nobody caught these before they went to print, but there it is.