Confessions of a Former Record Store Snob

July 5, 2011 at 7:47 pm (hipsters, independant music, Music, Record Stores) (, , , , )

Yes, once upon a time in a land far, far away, I sat from high atop the splintered stool behind the counter of the independent record store, and dismissively waved shoppers away like one would wave away fruit flies.  Where do we keep Cold Play?  Um… under C, you do know the alphabet, don’t you? Whatever [eye-roll].  The 22-year-old version of me felt little more than disdain for the empty sheep-ple content in their narrow Dave Mathew’s Band existence; or even worse, the stammering morons trying to impress me with their knowledge of Royal Trux B-sides.

I was a dick.  This is not a revelation, I realized it years ago, but I got a reminder last month when I came face to face with my 22-year-old self while record shopping in Cambridge with Mr. M.

I love record stores.  I love to visit them in new cities. I love the smell of them: like dust and vinyl and years of smoke and sweat and piss.  The smell of home.  In Your Ear in Cambridge smelled like home and the 20-something girl behind the counter was playing My Bloody Valentine—a little obvious, but a good start.  The place was a wreck though, crates and crates of unlabeled vinyl in random stacks, knocked over onto the floor, shoved in corners.  It looked like a giant record-eating beast had thrown-up in a basement somewhere and left a stoned Willie Nelson fan behind to tend the place.

Yet somehow, in all that mess, M managed to find an extremely rare Bauhaus single, just lying on a stack of random records.  Fucking score.  When he asked how much it was, the clerk rolled her eyes, stopped chewing her hair for a moment, and said he couldn’t buy it, it was only for sale online—like, that’s why it’s not marked (idiot. God why are you still talking…).  Okay, I get it, this is karma for all the people I made feel shitty about making me get up to unlock the cassette case for their piece-of-crap reggae tape.

The thing is, I know now that I was never that cool, and this girl isn’t either.  It took years, but I can now admit that I like Elton John, I like Def Leopard, and I hate Minor Threat.  There, I said it [thunder clap].  Cool is over-rated, not to mention unattainable.  But back then I was constantly trying to look cool in front my fellow employees who were all older, more knowledgeable, and male.  I’d say things like—Joy Division is good, but they were totally influenced by Wire, without ever hearing a Wire record.  Now I own Wire records, along with numerous other bands I didn’t know about back then.  The point is, I was a dumb insecure kid, and I tried to compensate for it by acting like a shit.

I wanted a time machine so I could go back and apologize to all the total strangers I made feel bad about their Brittany Spears purchase (sure it’s for your sister). Part of me sympathized with this girl, and part of me wanted to teach her some respect for her elders.  I wanted to tell her that when she grows up she’ll feel bad she was such a self-involved cliché (believe me, I should know).  But really I wanted to punch her in the face and tell her I was listening to that My Bloody Valentine record back when she was still eating paste.

But in the end I realized there was nothing my adult self could tell her that would have any effect.  So I reached deep down inside and found that 22-year-old girl still writing graffiti behind the counter at Wax Trax and I put her on one last time.  And as we left the store she leaned over to the clerk and said—My Bloody Valentine…a little obvious isn’t it?


~Kitty Vincent



  1. JR Tufo said,

    Looking back can be a mortifying experience. Back in the day (and my day pre-dates your day by about 30 years) I was a dj at an “album-oriented-rock” station. I was surrounded by the newest sound promoted by dope-smoking a-holes that sneered when you didn’t realize that the drummer for this group used to back on that group. Oh wait, that was me. Now I can freely admit, I don’t recognize half the musicians in RS. I don’t care, I’ve got other fish to fry. But I do like LeDivorce!

  2. Chris Kieft said,

    I bought the 1st Suicidal Tendencies and the 1st Smiths album on the same day. Bob said, “Wow… you’ve… pretty much got it covered there.” I think I listened to the ST once about 1/2 way thru, but became a Smiths/Moz fan for life. And the Suicidal album is still in the shrink wrap while The Smiths album is long gone.

  3. Kathie Izor said,

    Ms. Vincent, you are on your way to being an extremely entertaining and insightful novelist/journalist, or whatever the fates bring your way

  4. Michael Trundle said,

    I stil say I should have just stolen that single.

  5. Chimpo said,

    My best Jack Black record store a-hole moment was when I mocked a 12 year old shoplifter IN COURT, from the witness stand, about how he was stealing a “Fucking Limp Bizkit CD???! FOR REAL???” and I got yelled at by the judge for swearing. But the judge was still laughing.

    In retrospect, I should have let him steal it.

    I also had a secret playlist to intentionally make customers leave. The gangster kids got christian country. The suburbanites got Too $hort.

    • kittyvincent said,

      ha ha. if a customer was talking on their cell phone we would turn the music up so loud they had to leave. If we wanted to close and people wouldn’t leave we’d put on the most obnoxious band we could find, like Anal Cunt, and crank it.

  6. pennyhorse said,

    i think we’ve all been through that phase, whether we want to admit it or not. but you know what? i love Def Leppard too (and i also can’t stand Minor Threat!) know what else? i’ll fully admit that i like Kiss..and not just any Kiss, but full-on NON-MAKEUP UGLY MOTHERFUCKERS Kiss!

    why? hell if i know…but what i DO know is that i’d MUCH rather listen to “Heaven’s On Fire” or “War Machine” rather than most of the new stuff on radio today. i also absolutely LOVE Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and King Diamond (but at the same time, i constantly listen to Big Country, Killing Joke, My Bloody Valentine, the Damned, etc). i suppose i could write some dissertation on WHY i like them, but the simple fact is that i do, and i’ve grown to realise that i don’t have to justify it to anyone. hell, i’m a girl and one of my favorite bands is Rush…if that doesn’t alienate the hell out of me, i don’t know what does (but when i was 13 and getting into stuff like Daisy Chainsaw and Jesus & Mary Chain, while also loving Rush, that was awkward and i felt like i had to pick and choose and justify it to people).

    but at the same time, i’ve come to realise that IT’S OKAY to like what i like, without apology, and that’s it’s not cool to rag on someone for what they like. my little sister is all about Pink and Lady Gaga right now, and even if i personally can’t stand them, i remind myself that i felt like shit when people would give me a hard time for what i listened to and it’s not fair for me to do that to her. i mean, sure, i try to turn her on to stuff like Killing Joke and MBV (she actually bought me “Loveless” last Christmas cos i lost my copy years ago. that made me happy!) even if I don’t get off on the music she likes, that doesn’t give me a free pass to give her grief about it.

    i guess my point is that the best thing anyone can do is realise they’re a fan of “music”, and not artificially pigeon-hole themselves into a particular genre or whatever. i don’t think anyone should EVER have to apologise for liking the music they like, nor should they project that onto anyone else. i like Mercyful Fate, Twisted Sister and Iron Maiden, but i also like Big Country, Slowdive, The Damned, Death In June, etc.

    i’ve realised it’s a hell of a lot more fun to turn people on to bands they may not have heard, rather than giving them shit for whatever they might already like. besides, i have such a random-ass collection of music that it would hypocritical of me to give anyone shit for whatever they like. i might have done that 10 or 15 years ago, but now i think it’s a lot more fun to try to turn people on to stuff they might not have listened to before. as much as i hate to sound like a dirty hippy, i think turning people onto new music is way more productive than giving them shit for listening to stuff i don’t personally like (and all art is subjective, after all!)

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