An old UK music business associate of mine named Graham Jones produced a book and accompanying documentary called "Last Shop Standing." Graham's latest book is "Strange Requests and Comic Tales from Record Shops," the content of which is self-explanatory. It's extremely funny but, as someone who has worked in music stores for a good portion of my life, I regret not having the opportunity to contribute to it.
I've had some hilarious requests, like George Thoroughbred & the Disasters, and bizarre encounters like, in my current employ at Fascinating Rhythm, a guy wanting to exchange some of our stock for 20lb of ground beef and a rusty showerhead. True story. "Sorry sir," I said, "but if I agreed to this transaction I'm not sure my boss would be too delighted upon returning to work tomorrow to find a bunch of meat and a plumbing accessory in the till." Oh, how I laughed. Particularly side-splitting was how, after rummaging around in his tatty backpack in search of it for an eternity, this madman considered the rusty showerhead the irresistible deal clincher. Awesome. In truth I could write an entire chapter of a very long book on the ongoing insane antics of this loony customer, yet he represents just a tiny fraction of the comic tales I could call upon.
One story I'm fond of telling concerns a classic music snob I had the great misfortune to have an exchange with many years ago when I was working at Rounder Records in Brighton. A guy I would guess was in his early-60s came in, nose elevated with an air of superiority about him. He was wearing a long-sleeved tie-dye granddad shirt, purple flares and flip-flops, with his lank grey hair in a ponytail. He didn't so much walk as slowly waft around the store, as if floating on air. He came up to the counter and in a plummy voice asked me, "Where's your Norwegian Jazz?" Answering truthfully, I responded that we did not subdivide genres to such an extent, but that he would find the general jazz section over yonder. Seemingly aghast, he screwed up his face in disgust, looked me up and down as if I was a leper or bad smell, flashed one final "how very dare you" sneer at me, then turned on his heel to waft out of the store, never to reappear. The experience with this tool goes a long way to explain why I can't be arsed with much jazz.
Beau, a regular Fascinating Rhythm customer, loves this story so much that he likes to re-enact it whenever he pays a visit to the store. He'll wander in, look me up and down with an expression like he's sucking a lemon, and ask something like, "Hey, you, where's your Portuguese Blues?" and I'll answer, "It's over there, next to the Fijian Psychobilly, sir," or some other such nonsense. It's fun and helps pass the day, you know? Particular enjoyment can be gleaned from making up ever more ridiculous geographical variants on standard musical genres. They may even actually exist, but it still makes us laugh.
So, last Monday, this young man comes in. He's a fairly new customer and highly irritating DJ type who walks even more stupidly than Mr. Norwegian Jazz Fool. He kind of lurches around like a gibbon, with arms swinging, speaking in an infuriating, overly slow and deliberate manner. In he came and, no word of a lie, asked my boss Steve, "Where's your Italian Funk?"
It could be that Italian Funk is the music of now in the dance world. I've no fucking idea. Having toiled for many years in a store (Rounder) that sold a lot of dance vinyl, it always seemed that a) there was an offshoot or new variant of an existing dance sub-genre appearing every single week, and b) that most everyone who bought this stuff was an utter twat. So whether Italian Funk, Peruvian House, Turkish Speed-Ragga or Kazakhstani Tech-Dub is the big thing in dance music right now, I neither know nor care.
Steve, obviously amused, answered, "Er, we don't have an Italian Funk section," whereupon the gibbon recoiled as if he'd just received a cannonball to the guts. "Really? You don't? Wow!" Steve and I exchanged what-a-dick glances and I piped in, "No, sorry man, but we don't get quite that specific." He looked at me, shaking his head, muttering more wows as he ventured into the back of the store, where the majority of the vinyl is housed.
Who should walk in moments later? No, not the jazz idiot! Got you there! It was just Beau, but the timing was precious. With discretion I slid up to Beau to relate the incident of the minute before, and it was all he could do to stop himself exploding with laughter. With childish mischief we immediately launched into a frenzy of whispered "Where's your (insert preposterous national music genre here)?" for a minute or so, until it wore thin and the realization dawned on me that I was actually at the store to work.
It is interesting what we all expect stores to stock, don't you think? The two customers I mercilessly ripped the piss out of here are obviously passionate about particular, though extremely niche kinds of music, perhaps to the exclusion of any other kind. I guess it's perfectly reasonable for them to fully expect stores like Rounder or Fascinating Rhythm to cater to their tastes. To them the music they enjoy is normal, everyday entertainment, just as indie rock or alt. country might be to me, so in one respect I get it. Nonetheless, that they evidently don't stop and think about the impossibility of our merchandising the product we sell in such an individualized way truly boggles my mind. Did the one guy consider that if we did have a Norwegian Jazz section we would also devote space within the jazz area to every other single nation that produces jazz music? No, of course not, and the truth is that if Rounder had indeed created a Norwegian Jazz section, he would probably have been disappointed that we had pre-empted his visit by being one step ahead of him! He was just one of those guys that likes to go into music stores and try to act as if he knows more than the staff. We get them all the time, and I've discussed it briefly in this blog before.
Oh well, all in a day's work. Speaking of which, I'd better skedaddle as there's plenty to be done. Let's see what's on my list of tasks for today:
- Dust tops of racks
- Process new deliveries
- File CDs
- Remerchandise new release rack
- Set up new Estonian Bluegrass section
- Lark about when Beau comes in