This summer, Neill Jameson wrote an article for us that more or less took over part of the Internet for a day and even got some love from the late Roger Ebert's website. Neill -- also the creator of one of our 100 best black metal records (for Krieg's The Black House) has an open Deciblog invitation to post more record store tales as the spirit moves him. We're happy to have him return with the latest installment of Low Fidelity. Neill is working on a book of stories on record store life with Create And Destroy Press -- we'll share more details as we know them.
The holidays -- every year this shit comes sooner. On November 1st, while children are giving themselves diabetes or pulling razors out of their candy, noble men and women in shopping establishments put up ornaments and decorations. The desperation gets more animalistic and inhumane the closer you get to whatever holiday it is you celebrate. The record store is not immune to this holiday cheer.
Your family may have some holiday traditions: the drunken uncle who shits himself during grace, the Mom that wears a slutty Santa suit for your father. The record store, too, has things that have become traditions. Let’s take a look at these, shall we?
Crap – even more of it: The other day, a woman came in with a stack of atrocious records that, had they not looked like an ice rink, wouldn’t have been worth bus fare. While I was trying to inform her that, no, these are not worth money, she started praying out loud: “Lord Jesus, let this man buy my records. Lord knows I need the help,” over and over.
Customers who need money for operations triples between mid November and late December. It’s the time when compassion dissolves because you already have 73 copies of the same Dan Fogelberg record in the backroom. There is serious misinformation being spread through “reality” shows which cause some people to hang their entire family’s holiday on selling unplayable records because they saw Honey Boo Boo get a new trailer from Santa doing the same thing.
Fossil soldiers: The elderly shopping for their younger family members provide the most frustrating and memorable conversations outside of a psych ward. They almost never have any idea what they want to buy. The lion’s share of random merchandise with a band’s logo on it is a direct reaction to the baffled octogenarian who knows their grandson likes KISS. Or was it Katy Perry?
Look, it doesn’t matter. This is where you will get the most grandiose speeches about how current music is shit. The fossil soldiers are grouchy, demanding, arrogant and somewhat odd smelling. And they are legion. My most recent experience yielded a (timely) conversation: “Do I have to go through every record myself to see if a song I want is on it? That’s a lot of work. Do you have ‘I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus’? It’s a Christmas song. I can’t believe you are going to make me look through every record.”
In other retail jobs, I was encouraged to work these people into overspending through encouraging the up sell and add on. I understand why our elders are like this: they’re targets of money hungry businesses and they fought in World War I. When you don’t have much time left every second is valuable.
I hope to one day spend it causing strangers to contemplate suicide as well.
Packages: Throughout the six weeks before Christmas, stores that utilize the wonders of Internet commerce fire out packages full of Christmas records that at any other time would be dirt cheap. Online transactions are quiet and uneventful until you get that one stamp collector. But also you get a lot of gratitude, people who want to make sure you are aware that what you’re sending is important and are courteous about it. It’s a constant dance.
Our greatest ally in this is the postal service, the reindeer to our Santa. The comparison is apt because we treat this government service like beasts of burden. At least it seems that way according to our mailman, who has outbursts when he sees the stack of boxes he has to haul. Considering it is the season of giving it’s good to remind him he makes three times your salary and that many gift exchanges end with “fuck you” or some other pleasantry.
Find out what your carrier’s preferred drink is and get them a bottle. Carrying a hundred packages sucks regardless of your pay scale.
Nostalgia and sentimentality are the biggest driving forces during the holiday season. The judges will also accept “guilt” and “materialism” but that’s cynical for a holiday piece. There are moments that make you remember that people have lives and souls, like watching a parent look for records for their child or someone hunting for a specific record that they know their significant other is dying to own.
People grab music that makes memories and traditions, the real reason the end of the year should be celebrated. Brick and mortar establishments have always been a part of this ritual. I often hope it still matters as much to others, not only because I’d need to find an adult job, but because there is still potential for these kinds of experiences. I’m told I come off negative but I do enjoy this time of year more than any other. My deep love for music and record store culture causes my Grinch sized heart to grow a few sizes. Until the next person who asks if I buy records comes in…