Today’s featured objet de clutter is less about the actual record and more about how it ended up in my stacks.
On my regular record store rounds one Saturday, I was surprised to see a bunch of vintage punk singles hanging behind the counter. We’re talking good stuff here: “Hey Joe,” Patti Smith’s first single, a Nuns 45, that kind of thing. “What’s up with these prices?” I asked.
“I’m selling them for somebody else, and that’s what she’s asking,” my buddy behind the counter asked.
“Great stuff, but really overpriced.”
“Yeah,” he said.
“What’s that one with ‘New Wave’ on the sleeve? Let me see that,” I asked. He pulled it down and handed it to me. I pulled it out of its plastic sleeve and opened the gatefold. “Whoa! This is sweet! A Sire Records sampler from ’77.”
“Yeah, I’ve never had one of these in the store before,” my buddy said.
“Check it out: Talking Heads, The Saints, Richard Hell, The Dead Boys. I love The Dead Boys.”
Another customer stepped to the counter beside me and grabbed the record that I was holding. “Can I take a look at that?” he asked.
“Yeah, if I don’t buy it,” I said.
“Well, are you going to buy it?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“When are you going to know?”
“I don’t know, man. I’m still looking at it.”
This was a cool little package–an eight song EP, two songs from each band, spread across two 7″ singles, with liner notes and photos on the inner gatefold–but more importantly, this dude really pissed me off. Who walks up and tries to grab something out of a total stranger’s hands? He was there before me, but he didn’t pay any attention to it. That little promo could’ve hung on the wall for a year without being noticed, but as soon as one person was interested in it, Mr. Grabby had to have it.
I walked around the store and thumbed through the bins, stopping occasionally to profess doubt whether I wanted to purchase the record I kept under my arm. “What do you think, should I pull the trigger?” I shouted toward the counter.
“Up to you. Like I said, I’ve never had one in the store before,” my buddy said.
“I don’t know. I can’t decide.”
Mr. Grabby grew more and more agitated. It was like walking around with a steak in front of a hungry dog. Eventually the game grew boring, so I paid for my new record and split.
Like the other singles hanging behind the counter, this one was overpriced. This promo isn’t terrible rare on the auction sites, where I could’ve picked it up for a third of what I paid, but there’s something about finding a record in the wild. It’s fun, and instead of paying some stranger I’m giving my hard-earned money to my pal who owns the local record store. Often I get a story out of in the wild purchases, too, whether they’re tales of Mr. Grabby or “I walked in, and there she was behind the counter — a Butcher cover in mint condition.”
For months after I picked this one up, every time I walked into that record store my buddy would laugh and say, “That guy is still talking about you stealing that new wave sampler from him.” Worth. Every. Penny.