Thursday, May 26, 2005

"Stand Together..."

A Glimpse of 1992

It still amazes me that we got away with as much as we did. Like the time we embarrassed the hell out of some random customer because he didn’t like the Beastie Boys.

We’d received a promo copy of Check Your Head from Grand Royale earlier that day and could hardly wait for The Sav to leave so we could unearth the CD from its hiding place beneath the dusty t-shirts bearing the store logo and slap it into the Denon deck. We were fortunate that the shipment had arrived while The Sav was enroute to the local distributor to pick up Tuesday’s new releases, otherwise we’d have not been able to open the parcel and spirit it away. Had we not intercepted it, The Sav would have opened the package, stuck a yellow triangle on the jewel case, scrawled $8.99 in his distinct, highly stylized penmanship, and popped it into the used bin next to the counter.

We’d all been there long enough to know that all the good CDs wound up in the used bin, while the insipid crappy stuff usually found a fan in The Sav and was placed into our daily rotation. Stuff like Another Nonstop Sister from Swing Out Sister, which had been released three years prior, but which The Sav loved so much that it was STILL in rotation, even after we’d raked a steak knife over the damned disc. Twice. The Sav loved Another Nonstop Sister so much that he simply tossed the damaged disc into the trash and opened a new one each time we did irreparable damage. It was a losing battle.

So anyway, by the time The Sav had returned from the distributor we’d gone through all the promo boxes and hidden away anything cool, and anything that looked cool enough to warrant a listen later in the evening. The Sav unboxed and marked in the bi-weekly order at the front counter while Reynolds, TC and I endured The Essential Fabulous Thunderbirds on repeat as we restocked the bins.

We knew The Sav would be out of the shop before 7pm, due to his inability to miss an episode of Wheel of Fortune, followed by Jeopardy. The Wheel was our savior five nights of the week and we knew it. We respected The Wheel, for it gave us the freedom to play the music we wanted to play until closing time.

As The Sav left the store for the evening, TC followed him out on the pretext of emptying the trash barrel next to the front door. TC lit a smoke and busied himself with unfurling a bin liner, keeping a watchful eye on The Sav’s rusty brown minivan. When he was sure the coast was clear he stuck his head back inside the door and yelled “The fatman has left the building! Crank it!”

Reynolds couldn’t get the CD in the tray fast enough.

Six songs into the unbelievably excellent new one from the Beasties, the store started to fill up. TC had wasted no time ringing everyone he knew, telling them to cruise on over for a listen. Reynolds and I had also phoned a few friends, who in turn had phoned a few friends. It was getting to be a regular party, especially since several employees of the beer and wine emporium next door came in bearing a bottle of pilfered red wine, several two litre’s of Sprite and enough plastic cups for all in attendance. We liked the CD so much that we immediately put it on repeat, and I began singing alternate lyrics to “Funky Boss,” changing the song title to “Chunky Boss.” Merriment ensued.

But then some regular dude came in to peruse the jazz wall just as “Pass The Mic” began. He’d obviously just come from next door, as indicated by the brown paper bag he carried his wine bottles in. To his credit, he stuck it out until “So What’cha Want,” when I guess he just couldn’t stand it anymore. He stalked up to the front counter where I stood chatting with TC’s friend Jason.

“Excuse me, but could you take this off?”I just looked at him.
“C’mon, please take this off and put on something listenable,” he cocked his head to one side in a pleading type gesture.
“But this is the brand new Beastie Boys CD, and everyone wants to hear it,” I reasoned pointedly.
“But I don’t want to hear it. I want to shop in peace” he whined, and I caught the overpowering stench of cheap booze on his breath.

Jason had already made a beeline for the back of the store, where TC and Reynolds held court. Immediately the three of them were behind the counter, backing me up in the desire to blast Check Your Head.

The guy, a middle-aged dumpling with a bad haircut, pulled a sour face. Reynolds, ever the mediator, asked the guy what he would like to hear. Frumpity dumpling perked right up and requested to hear the newest Vanessa Williams, which was on full view in The Sav’s playstack at the front counter, and which Dumpling had unfortunately honed in on.

Reynolds punched his finger on the open/close tray button of the Denon and the music stopped. Every head in the store snapped to attention and turned toward the front of the store. Reynolds then announced loudly that the jackass at the front counter couldn’t stand hearing our beloved new Beastie album and had requested we remove it in favor of the new Vanessa Williams.

A chorus of “boos” arose. Names were called. Threats were made.

Dumpling turned beet red, threatened to inform "the manager" spun on his heel and stormed out of the store.

Although he had every reason to be appalled by our treatment, he never ratted us out. Maybe he thought it wouldn’t matter. Maybe he just decided to stop shopping at our store and go somewhere he could be treated with respect. Maybe he simply forgot all about the incident by the time he’d sobered up the next day.

I’d forgotten all about the incident too, until today, when “Stand Together” blared away on my iPod.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

"Beetlebum..."

As I was listening to Blur’s classic “Beetlebum” today I was suddenly reminded of a kid with that name when I was a youngster. I can’t remember his “real” name to save my life, nor can I remember what his surname was. All I remember was that everyone called him “Beetlebum” or “Beetle” for short.

Beetlebum was a couple of years ahead of me, and my memories of him are foggy at best. Mostly I remember that he looked a lot like Alfalfa from Our Gang, or rather what Alfalfa would look like as a twelve year old wearing a green army jacket.

Beetlebum got me thinking about other kid’s nicknames I knew as a child. There was this girl we all called Peanut, and like Beetle, I couldn’t tell you her real name if my life depended on it. Peanut was a lot of fun though, and I was sad when she moved away.

Another girl I was great mates with as a youngster was called Cricket. All her family called her Cricket, and until she passed away a few months ago of Crone’s Disease I never even knew her real name was Carol Ann. Cricket and I got into loads of mischief when we were kids, and almost every memory I have of her is of the two of us laughing--except when her family announced they were moving to Arizona. We cried and begged for her to be able to live with me and my family. Her mom and my mom were best friends, and we hoped they’d see reason and let her stay. But they didn’t, and we sobbed and wailed and carried on, and she tried to smuggle me into the car with her when they left.

I was also friends with a girl nicknamed Tater, but we were not allowed to call her that in front of her mother, who was very strict. Tater’s real name was Dawn, a name she hated. She called herself Tater, so we did too.

Then there was my cousin Chuckie. She was called Chuckie the moment she popped out of the womb and is still referred to by that name, although she likes to remind everyone that she DOES have a "proper" name.

I wish I’d had a nickname.