GETTING MORE TALE #697: Kiss My Ass
An unemployed 21 year old student not-yet-named LeBrain was having a particularly lazy summer. In a year I would graduate. I didn’t have a lot of spending money.
There was a CD store at the mall. The owner was a friend of my dad’s. It was within walking distance. I wandered in once or twice a week. but their prices were too high. They had a “buy 10 get 1 free card”, and I’d redeemed one of those (for cassettes) already, but in general I couldn’t afford to buy things there. Most of my music was coming from Columbia House.
July rolled around, but I hadn’t been to the mall in a while. There was a bunch of new stuff I was curious about. David Lee Roth had an album out, and the new Soundgarden was supposed to be incredible. Kim Mitchell had something new, and there were a bunch of 1993 albums I still wanted. I took a walk to the mall.
Something was different at the CD store. Where there were once these red wire clearance bins, there was now a display of…used CDs!? Quality guaranteed?! Woah! I could afford these!
I saw it immediately: a brand new release sitting there used for $11.99. Kiss My Ass. It was only out for about two weeks! I didn’t care why it was there, it was MINE! I hated spending full CD prices on a “various artists” album. In general I’d only get three tracks per album that I wanted. I preferred to buy stuff like that on cassette, just so I wasn’t paying 20 bucks or more for three songs. Twelve bucks for Kiss My Ass? Stop twisting my arm!
I remarked to the owner how excited I was to get this brand new album at such a great price! He told me they just started selling used CDs. I learned later the now-legendary story: it started with about 10 CDs that he brought in from home to sell. People wanted more, and so he began buying and selling. So far, it was working well. He had a few hundred on display, and there were already some great titles in there!
I ran home excited about my score. The three tracks I was interested in were Lenny Kravitz, Extreme, and Shandi’s Addiction. I got my required three songs. Over time, the rest began to appeal more, but I mostly played those three. When I learned that Kiss themselves played on the Garth Brooks song, I upped it to four.
About a week later, my dad came home from work and instructed me to go to the mall the following morning. The owner of the CD store wanted to talk to me.
“He’s interested in hiring you,” said my mom.
“Nah,” I answered. “I ordered a Japanese version of Kiss Alive III. I bet that came in.”
“Just go to the mall and talk to him,” they both said, and so I put on some nice(r) clothes for what was in effect an interview. I wore cowboy boots because I didn’t have anything else but sneakers. He already knew me as a customer, and trusted my dad as well. We just chatted for a bit. He told me that his employee Craig would be leaving for school at the end of the summer, and he needed a replacement. There were only the two of them, so it was actually a bigger deal than just “working at a CD store”. Craig opened, closed, did bank deposits, and everything else that needed doing, and eventually so would I!
He told me the job was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. Sure, sure, stop twisting my arm!
Therefore, the CD copy of Kiss My Ass (that I still own today) is the very first used CD I bought at the store I would eventually work, and also the last one that I bought before actually being hired! And he was right about the job. It was hard work, and it was fun. When I began working there, I used to show up about 30 minutes early just to flip through all the new arrivals. If something jumped out at me, I’d put it in the front row. If something was priced too low, I’d tell him. “This is really rare”. I impressed him by knowing the details of who was in what bands, and their different side projects. I told him I learned this stuff by reading the Columbia House catalogue every month.
What an awesome time to work! The used CDs were on the ground floor. Soon they’d be 99% of what we did. I was there for many releases of what are now classic albums. I’m really proud to have been there for those times, even if not everybody gets that. It was work and it was fun. Not everybody gets to have a job they can be passionate about. When I was there at the beginning, putting in 200% every day, it was simply an amazing time to be alive.