Wrath of the Elder

There was this record store not far from where I lived, owned by this Paul Rieser-looking fella with drugstore reading glasses hung around his neck with one off those . . . lanyards? One of those things that old ladies use to hang their glasses from. He used to let me into the storage room so I could paw through the unsorted vinyl. I was in there every week.

And then he got hip to eBay. I’m in the store, drooling as I watch the guy sell a pristine copy of No New York over the internet while he tells me he’s closing the store. I offer him $20 for it. He shakes his head.

“$30? Please?”

“No,” he says. I empty out my pockets.

“How about $34.72?”

“Look pal, I’m running a business here!”

With those nasal words from Record Store Guy, I realize that dark days had descended upon us all.

It’s just no fun to buy things over the internets. It’s fun to search for them with your hands in a cardboard box. I guess it’s this weird drive that made me obsessed with finding this one Kiss album, Music From the Elder.

Now, I fucking can’t stand Kiss. I like the idea of Kiss, and the Kiss Army, and all that crap, but the band is no good. I mean, I eventually bought a copy of Destroyer for a buck, and even that sucks.

The storied Kiss concept album, Music From the Elder, was brought to my attention by a good pal of mine. He said that Kiss had this concept album, and it was so bad that it caused Peter Criss and Ace Frehley to leave the band (true). There was some speculation that Kiss recalled this album much like the Ford Pinto was recalled.

Resolved to own a copy of this glorious flaming fiasco, I start looking through used bins. I probably could have gotten a copy on eBay for $0.12, but I’d resolved never to deal with eBay. So it took a few years to actually score a copy, which I finally did in Woodstock, New York.

Woodstock is basically a big outdoor wind chime mart. It’s a good place to get, say, a sculpture of a duck made out of wire, an overpriced burrito, or a Jim Morrison tapestry. It’s not a very good place to go record shopping. I was in the area to visit my friend Greg, who is Woodstock Harley Davidson’s official Chrome Consultant. I’m not shitting you. He has his own desk and everything.

Greg is also the world’s last True Believer (under the age of 30) in the power of Hard Rock. He pays his rock'n'roll dues in a hard rock cover band made up of 40-something cops plus Greg, and a power trio cover band made up of two normal people plus Greg. We spent the weekend hanging out, listening to Greg’s hard rockin’ music collection, and shooting the shit. In particular, I lamented at how Music From the Elder had eluded me for months. With steely resolve, I swore an oath that I’d acquire that record if it was the last thing I did.

“You should get one from eBay,” Greg said.

“I don’t do business with eBay,” I said. It would later turn out that, with those words, I'd painted myself into a corner.

Anyway, Greg and I were in Woodstock’s one used record store, run by a quiet, elderly, asshole scumbag who way overcharged for his records. He sat in the corner, this skinny little shit with his sweaty hands, glaring at the customers and gently passing gas. I hated his guts. I remember once seeing this old, beat-up sleeve for the Velvet Underground’s White Light/White Heat in that store. I got all excited, it being my favorite Velvets album. How cool would it be to own an original pressing of White Light/White Heat, right? But my hopes were dashed when I saw the $50 price tag. That was a little out of my range. Fair enough, I thought, but what’s it doing sitting here in the same bin as the South Pacific Soundtrack and Herb Albert and the Tijuana Brass and all that? How curious.

I slid the record out for an examination. It was pristine . . . and pressed on 180 gram vinyl. It was a fucking reissue! That creep stuck a new record in a vintage sleeve! And charged $50 for it! Jesus, what a lousy trick. What did this guy do before he owned a record store? Snatch firstborn children and replace them with changelings?

So I was in that store, flipping through the records, muttering to myself. Then I saw it. Music From the Elder. My excitement was short-lived, though, because the goddamn thing cost $20. That was a good $19.75 more than I’d been hoping to pay for it, but after my steely oath I couldn’t back down.

It’s usually pretty hard to negotiate over the price of records. An overpriced record shop in Woodstock, NY is not a market in Istanbul, Turkey. And the Crypt Keeper manning the counter didn’t look like he was one for haggling. But I had to try.

“Is $20 the best price I can get for this?”

“That’s what the sticker says.”

“All right, but this is the worst Kiss record ever, if not the worst record of all time.”

The Crypt Keeper considered this for a moment.

“How much do you want to pay?” He said.

“I’ll give you five bucks.”

“Fifteen. I can do fifteen. It’s in good condition.”

“Every copy of this album is in good condition! No one listens to it more than once! Come on, man. Five bucks.”

“ . . . No. Nope.”

“Well, I’ll bet this record has sat in that bin for, like, five years. If it doesn’t go home with me today, it’s going to sit there for another five years. It’s not gonna go up in value, you know.”


So I began walking away.

“Ten!” He said, which was still way too much to pay, but I’d like to think I saved a little face.

On the way the Metro North station, we were talking about how bad the record would be.

“Greg, forget the fact that no one ever listens to this more than once. In fact, I’ll bet the needle never even got to the inner grooves!”

“Dude, you probably angered the Norse god of Rock buy purchasing that. I don’t think it’s meant to be heard by human ears anymore.”

“Look man, I’m just worried it’s going to make my other records bad simply by virtue of its proximity.”

Snow had begun to fall, and the roads were slick. By the time the train set off from the station I couldn’t see more than a few feet past the window. After about half an hour, the train came to a halt and the lights went out. It seems that pushing through the snow had drained the train’s batteries or some fucking thing, I don’t know, but it wasn’t moving.

Maybe I had angered some Norse god of Rock.

I regarded my recent purchase for the next three hours in the dark. It wasn’t clear if the titular Elder was a mystical being producing the music, or maybe an unfinished film that this was the soundtrack to.

Another train arrived and pushed our train very, very slowly to an Amtrak station. I waited another hour for an Amtrak train to come and take me, ever so slowly, back to the city, where the F train was shut down past Jay Street. It was still fucking snowing.

So I took a shuttle bus up 7th Avenue in Brooklyn and got off about two miles from my apartment. There was a foot of snow on the ground, and I was wearing polyester pants and canvas sneakers. A plastic shopping bag containing Music From the Elder dangled from the end of my arm, although I had to keep checking to see that it was still there. I couldn’t feel my fingers, or my toes. I remember reading that it wasn’t so bad if you lost toes to frostbite as long as you didn’t lose your big toe. That’s the one that helps you maintain your balance. Maybe this album was so bad that just by holding it in a plastic bag it was turning the rest of my life to shit.

Eight hours elapsed between my getting on the train and arriving, shivering and bedraggled, at the front door of my apartment. Sarah let me in. I kissed her and put the record on the turntable, made it through about three minutes, and then took it off. It wasn’t so bad it was good. It was just . . . tuneless and stupid.

“What the hell was that?” She asked.

“It's nothing,” I said. What else could I say? I guess I could have told her that it was the stuff that dreams are made of.

I took off my shoes and flopped down on the bed and put the pillows over my face. Jesus, I can’t believe I went through all that for a copy of Music From the Elder. It was like everything spun out of control, and reality got distorted. The same thing must have happened to Paul, Gene, and the boys. It’s funny how a silly idea can be buoyed up by absolutely no substance whatsoever.


Michael said...

I hate me some KISS, but I sure do love me some G.P. I admire your tenacity to track down obscure records that you don't even like.

plankface said...

FYI: that record store dude closed up his store without telling anyone and now works in a cheesy chain of some kind (i.e., FYE or some other corny store that sells CDs and videogames and DVDs and shit) at the Colonie Center Mall in Albany.

Seth said...

Rick, just wanted to make it official that I LOVE YOUR BLOG. It's even making me want to get my hands on some of this 'rock and roll' that I've heard so much about.

Margot said...

Dude. You are so fucking awesome.

Slobodan Burgher said...

HA HA HA! Brilliant. I have had Music from the elders since I was a wee lad (when it came out pretty much) and I have even downloaded it (well as part of Kiss discography) but so far i am pleased to say I have never listened to it!

I think possibly my friend (who shockhorror seems to like it, I think) happened to play it once when I came around but we quickly changed the record.


Rick said...

Never listening to Music From the Elder is a the best policy, Slobodon.

jessamynit said...

"Greg, who is Woodstock Harley Davidson’s official Chrome Consultant."

dude, this is so awesome!
Maybe the only dude from Bton who found his true, appropriate calling?

I hate Kiss. All of their shit sucks. Sorry, but I bet Sarah agrees. Plus once I smoked some BAD new york weed in manhattan with Fowzy and Rebekah and they were watching a weird Kiss cover band on local tv and I felt like all my bones were shattering and had to lie down in the dark. It was a bad time.


Anonymous said...

HA, ive heard terrible things about this record, i also did some re-search on the band a few years ago to see what kind of sales they were doing with records like this. What the hell were they thinking? A concept album...about...wizards? Or something like that, KISS fell on the same sword Twisted Sister did, they were so over-the-top that only children liked them. And when those kids actually listened to the record, their dicks fell off. Great post.