Part 234: Wild in the Streets

For Aaron.

RECORD STORE TALES Part 234:  Wild in the Streets

1987’s Wild in the Streets was one of the harder Helix albums to acquire on CD. Cassette and LP were no problem at all, but relatively few CDs were produced in comparison. In 1992 I found a used cassette, (at a filthy music store in Port Elgin, Ontario) which came in a neat glow-in-the-dark cassette shell. It was the only glow-in-the-dark cassette I’ve ever seen or owned. Cassettes being what they are, I later desired a more permanent copy, CD being my preferred medium. This proved frustratingly difficult to find, even after being hired at the record store in July 1994.

This was important to me, because Helix were my first rock concert, on the Wild in the Streets tour. Johnny Cash was my first concert, but I saw Helix in October of 1987 in the Center in the Square, with Haywire opening, and they were awesome. The album wasn’t one of their best, but it did have classics such as “Dream On”, “Kiss It Goodbye”, “She’s Too Tough” and the title track. That old cassette wasn’t going to last very many plays.

Once starting at the record store, I discovered that Capitol/EMI had long since deleted the album. Brian Vollmer was still years away from reprinting and selling the albums himself, so my only option was to find a used copy. Since we sold used CDs, I hoped that one would eventually float my way. In the meantime I checked the “H” section of every record store I could find. No luck. Years, I looked. Like a woe begotten sailor searching for Cthulhu and the lost city of R’lyeh, I sailed the seas of music, searching.

Our first store didn’t have a computer, just pens and paper. We worked without a computer for years. All of our CD orders and reservations were done manually, in binders and note books. We had several pages of used CD reservations: many people looking for copies of the Beatles’ Red and Blue albums, T-Rev looking for Saga and Steve Earle rarities, and my hunt for the elusive Helix CD. This system wasn’t very efficient, as you basically had to remember what albums people were looking for, and go and check the book for the person’s information. If you saw, for example, a Traveling Wilburys CD in stock, you’d check the book because you knew someone was waiting for it.  It wasn’t an exact science but we did the best we could.

In 1996, when I was given my own store to manage, we finally got a computer!  The software had a computerized reservation list.  When you were entering new arrivals, you’d manually type in a title.  So, “MOTLEY CRUE” – “DR. FEELGOOD”.  A little note would pop up saying “reservation found”. You would then go to a different screen, find the person looking for the CD, write down their contact info, and delete the reservation.  This system was extremely vulnerable to human error.  They later refined it, making it smoother and more automated.

I entered my name in for Helix – Wild In the Streets right from the very beginning. With this new computerized system, I figured my chances of finding the CD had improved.  Not so.

The months went by, the seasons changed, still no Helix. My friend Len, who was a customer I met via the store, put himself in reserve for the Helix CD as well. I would have had first dibs on it if it came in, but as time went on two or three more people added their names to the waiting list. The likelihood of everybody getting a copy was nil, considering the years that I had been working there and never seeing one.  (In good enough condition, anyway.)  There was always a hope that one day, a copy or two would float our way. Len eventually found a copy at another store and removed his name from our reservation list. I congratulated him on his excellent discovery. He refused to sell it to me, however, even though I offered him $15 which was more than he paid.

A few months later, Len stopped in for one of his regular shopping visits. A pawn shop named Cash Converters had opened up in our plaza, causing us a little bit of unwanted competition. They too bought and sold used CDs. Usually they took whatever crap we didn’t, but occasionally people brought their good stuff to Cash Converters first.

This time, Len had an exciting piece of news for me.  “Do you still need Wild in the Streets?” he asked with a smile. “Because they have one at Cash Converters right now. 12 bucks.”

My eyes popped!  Excitedly, I handed Len some cash and asked him to pick it up for me. He returned a couple minutes later, with my own personal copy of Wild in the Streets. Mission accomplished! Finally! It was in like-new condition. All it needed was a fresh jewel case, which I provided as soon as possible. That night I finally had the chance to hear the album, in CD quality sound.

That original CD was in my collection for a long time.  In fact only recently did I find the Rock Candy remastered edition with expanded artwork and liner notes, used at Encore Records. I then handed my original to (former customer now friend) Aaron, which he received at Record Store Excursion 2013!

The lessons from this are two-fold:

1) When Record Store Guys befriend their customers, they get CDs out of the deal!

2) When customers befriend their Record Store Guys, they get CDs out of the deal!

Glad tidings for all around.