Tales From The Racks

A place to share stories experienced dealing with the freak-heavy world of record buyers and collectors whilst working at record stores or digging at charity shops, record stores and fairs etc.

It was inspired by this post I saw on Facebook today:

“One of my record collecting pals in California once told me a story he heard about another collector who frequented this one particular thrift store and considered it his own personal “honey hole.” Apparently the guy frequently found a lot of great vinyl in there. One day the guy goes into “his” thrift and there was another guy in there ahead of him, who he didn’t know, walking toward the register with a stack of records, and he actually walks over and grabs the guy’s stack out of his hands and tells the “intruder” that those are HIS records and that he couldn’t buy them!”


ha - i was actually thinking of starting a similar sort of thread, all about the notable/lovable oddballs i’ve dealt with in the record stores.

i’ll start with one - simply known as “the doctor”. he was a white, middle-aged guy who was an actual MD in the area, a specialist of some sort. he collected records with any sort of erotica/nudity art. being a doctor, he seemed to have a large disposable income, and was well known around all the other record stores as well. anything that had slight (or blatant) porn vibe, we’d just set it in a pile behind the counter and dude would show up and just buy the whole stack. he didn’t discriminate - he’d buy the somewhat tasteful stuff, he’d buy the stupid hardcore stuff and everything in between. as a totally classless test, someone once drew crude boobs on a white label promo with a black sharpie, and he bought it.

super nice guy though and never once gave off a creeper vibe. was cool to everyone and was always a pleasure to see and to talk to. i heard he moved to florida, maybe he retired. he must have one of the weirdest collection of music ever - style was irrelevant; there was only one thing that connected his collection together.


My one story was walking into the famous In Your Ear record store in Boston where one of the guys that worked there was loudly on the phone explaining how to dispose of a dead body so you don’t get caught by the cops. That was a fun one. I found my copy of Jack Bruce’s “Things We Like” that day because he was playing it over the stereo and I had to interrupt that conversation in order to see if the record was for sale.


record stores always seem to be a fairly safe resting space for people with… let’s say varying qualities of mental health. i’m much more respectful of people’s situations now than i was back then, and really try not to make any sort of judgement on how people are doing - i just want everyone to live comfortably in this world. but, boy do you see some interesting shit.

there was a young guy in the neighborhood who for whatever reason, would only expose his face, the rest of his head had to be covered - most of the time he pulled his hoodie strings really tight so he looked like kenny from south park. he’d come in a couple times a week, and listen to the same record over and over again at the listening station while making uncomfortable moaning sounds. i didn’t care, but sometimes there’d be a wait for the turntable so i’d try and get him to hurry up. he’d often be sucking his thumb. if he saw me coming near he’d put his hands over his head and say “shuuuuuuuut uuuuuup” just barely loud enough to hear. i finally lost it and 86’d him after i caught him sucking on the headphone cords.

what record was he listening to repeatedly?


this right here is why this thread exists. haha

In the late 90’s, I was working in a music store on Oxford St in Darlinghurst, Sydney, an area that at the times was a mecca for decadence, the gay community and drug addicts. A lot of junkies seemed to love wandering in and grabbing a pair of headphones from one of the listening stations and spending some quality time singing out loud, dancing badly and/or nodding off. We never really minded if it wasn’t busy and let them stay as long as they liked.

However, on one particular occasion, there were paying customers waiting to listen to discs they were interested in buying and my mate, who was also the manager at the time, was forced to politely ask an inebriated gentleman to wrap it up so others could use the station. This guy took great umbrage with this request and became combative. There was a face off and the junkie make a sound like he was gathering some phlegm from his gullet. My mate said “don’t you spit on me, you cunt”, but it was too late, and the guy let one fly in my mate’s direction. His response was to clock the junkie with a fist to the jaw which propelled him back into a wall of CD singles, all of which came crashing down onto the guy’s now prone form.

The same store shared a side door with an adult toy store which was situated above us. A very wasted gay guy in leather straps came in to us one day and whacked a huge vibrator on the counter and snarled “it doesn’t fucking work!”. We all had a smile and gestured around to point out that he was in a music store. Kudos to him, he maintained his attitude and acted like we were still in the wrong, as he angrily hoofed out to seek the correct entrance.


Sounds like he might have been autistic, or on the spectrum somehow. Strange, and I’d have probably dealt with him in a similar way, but I agree that record stores and book shops do tend to attract strange people. Strange is often interesting, but also often annoying.


Sounds like quite a long way into the middle of the spectrum to me, looking for some soothing stimulation & comfort.

Weird behaviour in record shops!? Never!

(not my pic)


absolutely spectrum-y behavior, though at the time i don’t know that it was generally recognized as such. i could probably talk for days about record store folks with similar deals.

one such classic was a younger kid who’d come by the record store, patiently wait in line if necessary, and then ask - always in just barely quieter than a shout “DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY NAME IS?”.

this was always a bit flummoxing for people who had no idea who he was, or why he was there. if you looked confused or didn’t answer with a yes/no response, he’d just say it louder and slower “DO - YOU - KNOW - WHAT - MY - NAAAAAME - IS?”

if it was your first time, he’d tell you. “MY NAME IS OL LIV ER. AND DO YOU KNOW WHO MY FAVORITE ARTIST IS?” well, again, if it was your first time, it seemed like an odd guessing game but one you stood a pretty good chance of getting right. he’d only give you one guess though, before telling you “MY FAVORITE ARTIST IS MICHAEL JACKSON”.

and he’d come in pretty regularly - regularly enough that we were probably part of an after-school routine or something like that. he learned our names too - but that didn’t matter, the conversation always started the same way. he’d come in, ask whoever was at the counter “DO YOU KNOW WHAT MY NAME IS?” and you could hear people in the back rooms or from the other side of the store shout “Oliver!”

he was a sweet kid. we’d usually set him up at a listening station with a michael jackson record and he’d listen and occasionally shout even louder (because of the headphones) THIS IS MY FAVORITE PART. once in a while we’d tease him and set him up with a prince record or something and he’d get a bit gassed and say THIS IS NOT MICHAEL JACKSON. oh, we’d say - you’re right, let me hook you up. he’d usually spend about 15 minutes and then be on his way. good dude, i hope he’s doing well now damn near 30 years later.

(i changed his name for the sake of the story, because his first name is slightly unusual and easily google-able.)


Love it. You were literally his happy place.