Skip to main content

Two jobs I liked


I am very fortunate to have had a lot of jobs in the non-rock world that were great. A lot of people dread waking up and going to work, but I lucked out most of the time.

My record store jobs were like second families to me. I began working for Jean and Joe Reznick at their Thruway Shopping Center store when I was about fifteen years old. I'd already shopped there since I was a teeny lad, so getting a job there was a little like a dream come true, the proverbial "kid in the candy store". It was in the Reznicks' listening booth that I first heard Lick My Decals Off Baby and Sweet Baby James; I grabbed the first copy of Paris 1919 the day it came in (knowing full well that no one in Winston-Salem at that point would be beating down the doors to get it for themselves). I devoured the subscription copies of Billboard magazine and the Schwann catalog. I learned how to find replacement Pfansteihl phonograph needles from their illustrated catalog, a talent that would last long into the eighties. I learned about green stock to inventory singles and how to order the hits. Mr. Reznick sent me home with a couple of Maestro guitar pedals to try them out, including the magnificent Ring Modulator. It was a great place to work, I did the job well but I wish I'd saved some of the cash I made there which got spent on records from Reznick's ("Where It's Been Reznick's For Records For Years"). Years later, when I'd return to visit the store, Mrs. Reznick would look up over her half-frame glasses, behind her desk and declare that her bad pennies all came back to her. (There is now a Borders store where Reznick's sat at Thruway, with a small music selection.)

When I moved to New York in 1978, I tried a couple jobs that I hated (temping in banks and as a dogsbody for a decal printing operation in Soho) before I found the Musical Maze on 23rd Street and Third Avenue. It had the School of Visual Arts down the block, and the Gramercy Park Hotel a short walk away. Somehow I impressed Burt Goldstein, despite interrupting him with a customer, and he gave a naive emigre musician a job. He'd done it before with George Scott from the Contortions (and eventually John Cale, 8 Eyed Spy and the Raybeats), in whom I found a kindred spirit. The manager was Martin Rosen, who was also the cashier most of the time. He was like my big brother there (and, as it turned out, was friends with my own brother who lived in the West Village), gently chiding me for showing up out of sorts by blasting Ashford and Simpson records. Burt's girlfriend Jan DeGeer was also a big part of the store and my life there. Since Burt was busy elsewhere much of the time, running the store on a day-to-day basis fell to Jan. There were many hours after the store closed when Jan and I would be changing the displays on the walls. And it was at the Maze where I learned about boxing up returns (I'm not sure the Reznicks ever sent anything back.) Single City was a small alcove in the back that George stocked and ran. It was also a nice refuge from periodically crazy customers, although "I'm looking for a song, I don't know the name or who it's by, but it's got 'love' in it" was a frequent refrain. Down in the basement, our superintendent at one point painted the plaster cast that housed our horizontal water heater so that it resembled King Tut's sarcophagus. In the front window on 23rd Street hung a beautiful neon rendering of the logo which worked some of the time.

Every year, we would drag the old unreturnable stock from the boxes in the basement and set up shop for the Third Avenue Street Fair. You'd find me, clinging to a lamppost a couple feet up, haranguing passers-by to shop for records. That day would inevitably start with the ceremonial playing of the album by Danny Peck (Heart and Soul), for some mysterious reason lost to time. We had hellacious Christmas parties at Junior's Restaurant in Brooklyn. Garland Jeffreys, who was a neighbor, did an in-store there one Sunday and was able to complete the New York Times' crossword puzzle for all the traffic we drew for him. I got to help find records for Count Basie, Elliot Murphy and Joe Butler from the Lovin' Spoonful. I even got Lance Loud a job there that lasted about three days. I heard everything that came in the store, fell in love a hundred times with both girls and records, and learned that few things clear a store faster than the Shaggs or the Legendary Stardust Cowboy. I was on tour with The dB's when the Maze closed, but Jan sent me some memorabilia--and I recently found my silk Musical Maze embroidered tour jacket that my parents had had in safe keeping for thirty years! (Don't expect to see that on me anytime soon, it's still not really my style.) There is an upscale falafel restaurant on the site of the Maze presently.

What both stores had in common for me was the fact that the owners always seemed to understand that I was a musician first and that I would have commitments to my music that would periodically supersede my ability to perform my duties as a retailer. Sometimes that came in the form of a two-week tour and sometimes it just meant that I was too hungover from a late night to make it in on time, or at all. So consequently at these jobs, I gave freely of myself and my time and my creative energies. It was a good trade-off for both parties, I think, and I'm always grateful and mindful of having had such wonderful work to do and the bosses that took a chance on me.

Comments

hoover factory said…
Indeed, PH, you must've been on tour with the dB's each and every time I visited NYC in the early 80's and paid a visit to the Maze - thus escaping the attentions of a diehard (but respectful!) fan who had no idea you worked there.
Deaconlight said…
I have so many band t-shirts I bought at Reznicks. I wonder if you were working there February 26, 1974, when I bought Todd Rundgren's A Wizard/A True Star?
Anonymous said…
I worked for souless corporate chain record stores, and even those provided some good times, good co-workers, and lots of records in my collection. I sure envy you for those jobs!

Cheers, Tim
Anonymous said…
Wow! Such memories. I was 16-17 stopping in Musical Maze every Sunday before visiting my dad who lived on 1st Avenue. You recommended countless singles to me by unknown acts like the Pretenders, Slits, Specials, B-52s and the like, and helped to shape my musical taste. I owe you a world of thanks!

Stevie Nice

Popular posts from this blog

Back in the saddle again -- new shows and updates from Peter H

  Outside The Hit Shed, Durham NC Hi everyone, Getting ready to start back up again, after a year-plus out of action onstage. I have five shows opening up for  Tommy Prine (son of John) coming soon:     August 6 - Georgia Theater (Athens GA)     August 7 - Cat's Cradle Back Room (Chapel Hill NC)     August 8 - The Grey Eagle (Asheville NC)     September 3 - 118 North (Philadelphia PA)     September 4 - Rams Head (Annapolis MD) I'm also going to open for the Connells , whose new album Steadman's Wake is superb:     September 18 - The Eastern (Atlanta GA) You all probably already know about Our Back Pages  (by Peter Holsapple & Chris Stamey) being released on LP and CD via Omnivore Recordings, but if not, here's a link to the new video for "Today Could Be the Day." The songs on OBP are from the catalog of The dB's but given new and interesting treatments by Chris and me. I've been working in The Hit Shed, my home studio, over the months, writing a

CANCELLED - the new Bandcamp single by PETER HOLSAPPLE - released today, December 3, 2021

  Today, December 3, 2021, I have released a new single on Bandcamp entitled CANCELLED.  Just to be clear, the song is called CANCELLED. There was some question on social media whether the release had BEEN cancelled, which it had not, as it was just released.  Or dropped, if you can do that with ephemeral stuff like downloads. You can buy it here .  And you can watch my lyric video here . I hope you like it.  Remember I'm heading out on a house concert tour in March, so come to a show in your neck of the woods!

NY Times blog part three is up

I know, I know. You haven't heard from me lately, and I'm sorry. The future's looming large, and distractions have been keeping me away from DTBMMLF. Meanwhile, the Times songwriting blog is up so you can go read that for the moment. I'll be back soon, I promise. Thank you for your patience.