Wednesday, April 03, 2013
"No, It's spelled 'Nosmo King'..."
As an increasing number of these entries seem to do, this one broadly kicks off “Of course, back in the day…” You could probably Google that phrase and find this blog coming up top of the list. I’m not going to though; I refuse to read any further than the first occurrence of the phrase “If you Google…” in any article ever, as that gives me a pretty good idea of where the research for it was done. Mind you, some people refuse to read beyond the first instance of a semi colon, especially in the opening paragraph.
Back in the day, when I toiled unceasingly behind a number of counters of an award-winning chain of record shops, there were label catalogues to check through in order to ensure that we had the right selection of top-selling platters (and a few staff favourites) available to the casual browser at any time. I used to love doing checklists as it meant I could spend an awful lot of time reading sleeve notes, memorising catalogue numbers - Kiss’s Love Gun was PRICE 69, as it happens – and at one point I could rattle off the entire Black Sabbath discography in order, including the NEMS stuff, and give you the Judie Tzuke back catalogue in ILPS number order as a result of my time delving through the racks. Not a great party trick, I’ll admit, and subsequently I spent a great deal of the early eighties single - principally, I suspect, because that was my party trick.
These were the times when coming back from the shop floor with a list of browser dividers which needed replacing with the legend “M’Head” scrawled carelessly upon it would garner you a withering look and the enquiry as to whether you were referring to Medicine Head, Motorhead or Murray Head? The sleeves in our TV advertised section bore the legend ‘625’ as that was the number of lines broadcast on an analogue television. It was that kind of atmosphere – look, you’ve seen ‘High Fidelity’, right? But then, if it hadn’t been for browser ordering and poor transcription, I would never have had the opportunity to live through the chucklesome but perfectly factually accurate receipt of the one intended for the jazz section headed “THE LONELIEST MONK”.
In order to locate those hard-to-find or even impossible-to-imagine customer requests however, one needed to employ a combination of low cunning, a genuine sleuthing instinct and to not be too proud to call on fellow staff members’ arcane knowledge of (say) the solo works of ex-members of Trip. You also needed a voluminous tome called The Music Master. Once you had identified the album being requested, the artist, or even the label you could refer to the listings within before attempting to track down a current distributor with whom you (a) had an account and (b) weren’t on stop with because their bill hadn’t been settled for a couple of months due to some administrative oversight. Even in the case of scenario (b) you’d probably still take payment and issue a receipt (basically an IOU if truth be told) as that might help bump up the outstanding balance to the point where they would accept an order from you since it would actually be worth sending out a box of stock by Securicor. Amazon, their one-click ordering and everyone’s opinion on their tax affairs was still some way off at this point, as you may have guessed.
The thing is, with so many independent labels having sprung up over the years, the publishers of the Music Master couldn’t possibly monitor every operation and their release schedules to ensure that they were genuine, let alone update deletion dates, which is why there is a cassette-only release by a band called gods kitchen on House of God Records, catalogue number GK29 in the 1991 version, and in all subsequent editions, called The Boy Who Loved Aeroplanes. Today, if you want, you can look it up on the worldwide web and have it downloaded to your computer like *clicks fingers* that. Of course, back in the day...