Monday, September 27, 2010

We Called it an "Alternative Record Store" Back Then...

In 1986, I was recruited to leave my job at Sam Goody at the Park City Mall in Lancaster PA to work a couple of days a week at BBC Records, the cool indie record store downtown. Ironically, the owner who asked me to work there thought I was someone else. He always got me confused with another brown haired youngster who was in a local band and was likewise a fan of the New Wave. Alternative. Whatever.

To make a looooooong story short, two years later I was running the place. It was a job that I’d have for the next eight years until I left Lancaster to move to Hoboken. And I loved it. Oh, there were headaches, to be sure, but they’re almost all forgotten when I look back. My boss, Steve (not the guy who hired me) let me have almost anarchic reign over the store. He let me follow whatever vision I had for BBC, whether it was carrying Fantagraphics comics, building a jazz section or starting a cult video rental section.

I did almost every job that needed to be done at the store. I did 90% of the ordering (Rex, the comically titled “singles buyer” handled the rest), I stocked, I did the books, I put up displays, I hired and fired, I worked the counter, I swept the floor... and I did all the artwork for advertising and promotion.

I recently came across this collection of ads for BBC. And even though I did them all, I was a bit startled by them. I was struck by the whole DIY esthetic, the cut and paste (literally, this was pre-photoshop and scanner for this boy) feel, the hand lettering and the screw you attitude. I love these ads.

I used to hear that some people were afraid to buy things at my store because they thought I would make fun of them or judge them, which I never understood. I mean, I’ve always been an opinionated bastard, but it was MY STORE! If something was for sale at BBC, I ordered it, I thought it belonged there! And fer cryin’ out loud, we were a specialized little alternative music store, we NEEDED THE BIDNESS~!

Oh, well. It amazes me that eight years later, I still sometimes get people at the bar who recognize me from those days. Billboard magazine even called BBC a “Lancaster landmark.” The store isn’t there anymore. Zap & Co., the renowned vintage store that’s also owned by Steve has since moved into the space. But whenever I stop in, that black slat wall, angled fluorescent lighting and art deco counter always make me think of those bygone alternative rock days. They make me think of The Exorcist, cheesesteaks and cheese fries in the window with Rex, the FB list (how old are those JBFBs now?), wheat paste and posters, Mary Marcus, DIRT and the Warner Bros. Alternative Marketing Dept., six packs on Saturday afternoons with Rob, renovations with Ken, chasing down UPS, stolen used CDs, girls, Troy's jazz/rock bipolarism, Christmas Eve and cases of champagne... youth and freedom.

POSTSCRIPT, September 2010:

Nostalgia for those days remains as strong as ever in many ways, especially as the indie record store winds its way into extinction.

No comments: