3-28-12 The Hippie Record Store – Part 1
Plasmatics’ singer Wendy O. Williams born 1949, Lady Gaga born 1986; I doubt I own music by either, but I met Wendy O., once!
As an 17-year-old in early summer 1976, I got my first job in a hippie record store. I was fresh out of high school, with no qualifications apart from liking phonograph records a lot. I worked the register, tidied up the shelving and record bins, took out the trash and emptied ash trays – yes, you were allowed to smoke cigarettes in the hippie record store!
Very quickly, I got asked to “Inventory the hit sheets” – a list of about 200 or so titles that you were more likely to have sold over the last few days – this let the store’s buyer know what was selling rapidly. Everything else got marked in a 3-ring-binder – “The Order Book”, which was written by and sent in to the distributor (that owned the store), maybe several times a week – supposedly this book contained everything they actually carried (in about 4 years, I was put in charge of writing the “Order Book”, but that’s about 4 years down the line!)
I also quickly learned about filling out “Special Order” slips – for titles not in the “Order Book” – I rammed about 25 of them in almost as soon as I started working there – with the help of my manager – “Go ahead and get 25 copies, if you think we can sell them!” – the title in question might’ve been Can “I Want More”, as a British 7” single.
In addition to LP’s and 45’s, our store also carried 8-track tapes and cassettes. Almost everything else was referred to as “Accessories” – 8-track tape / cassette carrying cases, LP inner sleeves, 45 outer sleeves…and stuff that hippies used to consume illegal drugs: rolling papers, screens (for pipes), water pipes, small mirrors etc.
The employees of the store were encouraged to make descriptive signs to help sell the products. If it was an LP, you cut a piece of chipboard to about 12” x 3” and you taped it to the front of the wall hanging bin where the record was being displayed: “Goblin – Profondo Rosso – excellent horror film soundtrack played by jazz musicians, but it ain’t jazz! It’s evil!” or thereabouts.
Of course, we could play records in the store all day, while we worked. Typically, 3 (or more) employees were working at the same time, so you got to hear a variety of music. The manager would play Steve Hillage, Mott would play Kiss, I would play Frank Zappa (“Zoot Allures” was the new album) – the “buyer” was a guy from somewhere down south, so I got to hear a lot of Marshall Tucker Band, too.
I was fond of making cassettes at home of records that we would never have been able to sell, and playing those cassettes in the record store, while I worked. I remember that the 45 version of “In-a-gadda-da-vida” by Iron Butterfly always used to go over well; people would groan when it came on, with everybody thinking that a punishing 17 minute drum solo was on the horizon – all over in 2:52!