The Albuquerque Record Convention is held twice yearly in a banquet room at the MCM Eleganté Hotel and Event Center. In front of the hotel, there is a large marble monolith that displays the Ten Commandments. With the exceptions of murder and adultery, I believe I have seen every one of the commandments violated at every record show I have ever attended. Stealing, bearing false witness, and coveting are especially popular. Now that I mention it, "Murder at the Record Convention" would be a great title for a mystery novel. However, a book titled "Adultery at the Record Convention" would have to be science fiction.
This is the second time I've sold at the ABQ Convention and I think I've figured it out, which only proves that I haven't. The major difference between this show and the other record shows I've sold at - in the Seattle area, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Southern California - is the customer flow. In the "big city" shows, there is usually a great deal of wheeling and dealing going on before the show even starts, not only among the fellow dealers but with "early bird" customers that pay extra to annoy the dealers trying to set up and try to get the best stuff before the riff and the raff are allowed in. The initial feeding frenzy is usually followed by hours of desolate doldrums. Probably ninety percent of all commerce happens by the first hour of the show.
That type of behavior doesn't even compute in Albuquerque - I guess it's too far inland for sharks. I was pleasantly surprised by the slow and steady stream of customers that lasted all day. I guess that most Burqueños would rather sleep in on a weekend morning, go out and have a nice breakfast or lunch, and then maybe decide to go to a record swap meet. I am still experiencing mild culture shock.
One thing that doesn't change with region is the mostly harmless and endearing eccentricities of collectors.
Many record geeks like to talk. Many of them wrongly assume that I am knowledgeable about or interested in the same recording artists they are. Just because I'm sitting on this side of the table doesn't mean I know anything.
If someone insists on enlightening me about the Tony Danza Tap-dance Extravaganza, Magma, or Up With People, I start thinking of sure-fire conversation-ending statements. I won't give away all my best stuff, but I'll share a few. Keep in mind that I may like some of these artists, but I really don't have anything new to say about them.
To offend artsy, bohemian, hipster types, I suggest:
"I don't like free jazz - it has too many notes," or
"The Velvet Underground was so much better with Doug Yule than with John Cale."
If you have a Captain Beefheart fanatic bending your ear, try
"Trout Mask Replica' is just a bunch of noise - 'Bluejeans and Moonbeams' is a much better album." They will be stunned into silence.
WARNING: Many Beefheart fans are older and may have heart conditions, so use with caution.
If you really want to see somebody storm off in a huff, I suggest:
"Jimi Hendrix was over rated - he couldn't even stay in tune."
Actually, I stole that one. The person I stole if from also said,
"Kenney Jones was the best drummer for the Who - Keith Moon couldn't even keep time."
I have a story to end conversations with Pink Floyd fans. Unlike most of my stories, it's actually true. A former co-worker was a big Pink Floyd fan. I told him that I never liked the band and I thought they were boring. His immediate and sincere response was "that's because you've never fried." I accept that answer.
I confess that I borrowed the "too many notes" punch line from "I Hate Music" by the Replacements. You didn't think I could come up with something that clever on my own, did you?
Sometimes I like to test the market and conduct experiments. A month or so ago, I bought a box filled with twenty-some identical still-sealed Sammy Hagar CD's at a yard sale. I asked how or why they acquired the box and they told me, but I didn't fully understand the answer. The details were fuzzy - somebody knew somebody who knew somebody and five bucks for the whole box.
Since the cost per unit averaged less than 25 cents, I figured I could charge 50 cents each and double my money. That part worked just fine. What I didn't count on was the "Sammy Factor." Most copies went to other dealers, who bought multiples with the intent of selling them for a buck each, which I expected and applauded. However, the Sammy Factor came into play when one enthusiastic fan of Mr. Hagar presented me with two shiny new quarters and felt entitled not only to a compact disc, but to a lengthy conversation on the life and many accomplishments of a certain "Sammy J. Effingham Hagar, born on such and such a date in the year blah-blah-blah, in the city of blah-blah-blah, who learned to play guitar at age blah-blah-blah, started his first band 'Sammy Effingham and the Sandwiches' in 1950-something and you get the idea."
I thought this would be an opportunity to create a new conversation-ending statement. What came out of my mouth was, "I think it's all been downhill for Sammy Hagar since the first Montrose album in 1973."
This silenced him for only a few seconds before he lit up and said, "Yeah, 'Rock the Nation,' 'Space Station No. 5!'"
"Bad Motor Scooter," I tried to mumble incoherently.
"Yeah, 'Bad Motor Scooter,' what a great record!"
Oh no! He agreed with me! I didn't expect that. Instead of ending the conversation, my comment backfired and brought it to a whole new realm.
Sammyfan eventually went on his way. He returned later to show me that he had found another Sammy Hagar album that he was looking for. I couldn't help but feel happy for him. I'm not made of stone, you know.
There is a fine line between collector and hoarder. Selling stuff is my way of not going over to the dark side. I've also grown to believe there's something creepy about a collection that's too extensive. Besides, it's always more fun to get stuff than to have stuff. As I get older and less sentimental, it's becoming more fun to get rid of stuff. Unfortunately, that leads to buying more stuff just to get rid of it.
Do you remember CD long boxes? Let me either remind or inform you. When CD's first came out, they were packaged in larger boxes, presumably to prevent shoplifting. I don't know if it worked or not, but long boxes didn't last long. I recently found a Guns n' Roses CD in a thrift store that was still sealed in the long box. I bought it with the sole purpose of re-selling it - I never liked Guns n' Roses. I had no idea why anybody would want a CD in the long box, so I put what I thought was a wildly inflated price on it and hoped it would sell. It sold quickly. I should have priced it higher, I kind of wanted to keep it.
If I accomplished nothing else at the show, I'd like to think that I enabled and helped facilitate the meeting of two kindred musicians. Two big biker-looking guys both showed up at my table looking for blues records. Hitherto unacquainted with each other, they started talking about the local blues scene and discovering they had mutual friends. One mentioned he played guitar in a blues band.
The other one said, "You guys need a harp player? I play harp."
"No," said the guitarist, "We have a guitar player."
"I play harp, do you guys need a harp player?"
"No, we already have a guitar player," replied the obviously-hard-of-hearing guitarist. I guess that's common.
I couldn't help but interrupt.
"Dude, he plays harmonica. He wants to jam with you." Understood.
They exchanged numbers and continued bonding while restricting access to my table for other potential customers. I noticed a shy collector that looked like he was trying to summon up the courage to ask them to move. He wanted to flip through my records, but these two bearded mountains of denim and leather blocked his path. I sensed his intimidation and said, loud enough for all to hear, "If these guys are in your way, just push 'em."
The big guys laughed, apologized, and went off to take the blues world by storm. I hope they kick ass and take names.
I also sold some vinyl - lots of it. I could write something about that, but this article is too long already.