Thursday, September 04, 2003

My absolute favorite stranger in the world

In a used record store called Neurotica on Queen Street West works the consummate used record store guy. Last time I saw him, he was wearing a T-shirt that read "Nobody knows I'm a lesbian", which seems like consummate hipster apparel. There's always going to be something bizarre playing, because this guy is like the musical equivalent of a porn freak who's delved so far into the realm of perversion that he can't get turned on by straight porn anymore, but has to resort to some odd combination of midgets, livestock, and cigarette smoking fetishism to get off; indie rock won't do it for this guy anymore -- he has to listen to obscure German marching band music from the 1920s in order to get any sort of pleasure out of the listening experience.

I don't even know this guy's name -- though based on this article and an anecdote he told me last time I was there, I think I've just figured it out -- but every time I'm there, I end up talking to him quite a while. Why? Because he knows music like no one I've ever met before in my life. When I walk into the average HMV, I'm often a little distressed to find out I know more than the clerks do ("Sigur what?"). You can give them spiky hair, a pierced lower lip, and a cooler-than-thou attitude, but it seems you can't teach them that punk goes back further than Green Day. But this guy -- he's the Alan Cross of record store guys. If I went up against him in Rock & Roll Jeopardy, he'd murder me worse than the time Mark McGrath made Dave Mustaine look like an utter retard. (Actually, Dave Mustaine makes Dave Mustaine look like an utter retard; when he was once asked to explain the name of his band, Megadeth, he responded -- and I quote -- "It's like death, but, like, really mega!") Bottom line -- when this guy talks, I listen.

Last time I was there, we got talking about, his particular passion, 1960s jazz. "You know what '60s jazz I like," I said. The music from Spiderman. I found a bunch of it online and then found out that these guys from Winnipeg actually did a cool album of some of the music, and I only discovered that they even existed the very day they played NXNE, so I luckily managed to catch them. It's all based on the original music by ... what's-his-name...."

"Ray Ellis," said Record Store Guy.

"Holy shit!" I said. "That's the guy!" I was mightily impressed. We talked for a bit about the complex arrangements and avant-garde nature of a lot of the music used in cartoon scores. "That reminds me," I said. "I was just reading something about that that guy who did the music that you always hear in factory scenes in cartoons...."

"Ah. 'Powerhouse' by Raymond Scott," Record Store Guy said.

This is why Record Store Guy has to be my absolute favorite stranger in the world.


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