12 June 2008

Drive-by torture and recalling our favorite hippie

In response to my good bud Bolivar's "meme" about buying a copy of Thin Lizzy's 1974 LP Jailbreak, I offer the above.

I posed it with his blog because it's as close as Bolivar Shagnasty will ever get to this record.

Hee hee HEEEEEEE ! ! !

Best of all....
.....it still carries the Record Exchange price sticker, in Franklin's glorious handwriting. It's a momento of the day I met this character (Bolivar, not Franklin - HE's a character of an entirely different sort!). We both went for this album in the new arrivals bin on that nice October afternoon in 1986. I got it, and he didn't. Nyeah. But we both got something more priceless: a friendship spanning more than 20 years.

Like many, I removed the price stickers from much of what I bought at what we lovingly called "Franklin's" ... but some escaped this fate. And I'm so happy they did.

(btw, the letters in the upper left corner pertained to the condition of the record; Franklin used the standard record collectors' grading system: NM = Near Mint, VG = Very Good, G = Good, F = Fair ... and from there, he went on his own and gave birth to the infamous "Turkey bin" ... if you bought a couple of LPs, you could fish out a corresponding amount of 'turkeys'. Most of 'em weren't fit to be used as Edison Throwing Stars, but occasionally a treasure lurked within.)

I look at the albums I still have with Record Exchange stickers and those sweet days all come back.

Franklin C. was a consummate hippie -- ponytail, balding hair, small horn-rimmed glasses, looked like he stepped right out of Haight-Ashbury and into Jonesboro, Arkansas. When we walked in there, he was always in his little rocking chair. A stuffed Garfield plushie sat on a shelf in the back of the store, designated as his "security system."

Holy crap, to even begin to list the unforgettable "Franklin-isms" ... his word of acknowledgement, "neeeaw-HUMMM" (it rubbed off on me, and I've caught myself saying that quite often over the last 23 years). Another one, always said when we'd give him any amount of currency requiring change: "And thanks for the tip!" And my favorite of all, said if we coveted any record that was near his rocking chair and NOT in the new arrivals bin: "ummmm, that one goes home with Franklin." (*sigh*, the perks of owning a used record store)

That's just one more Franklin-ism I carry today. Whenever I see an album, book, etc., that interests me, especially if it's a rare find, I always say, "That one goes home with (Talmadge)."

One of the last great memories I have about Franklin was during my last semester at ASU (Fall 1987). I'd special-ordered a copy of Bob Dylan's 1975 album Blood on the Tracks -- begging the question of what took me so long to finally buy it! Anyway, several days later (did I mention how awesome it was going to college 70 miles away from Memphis, a major record distribution hub?), Franklin called my dorm and told me that album had arrived. I can remember the moment like it happened last week: "Your Blood on the Tracks album is in ... HURRY UP AND GET OVER HERE, THE BLOOD IS SPEWING ALL OVER THE WALLS!!!!"

The Record Exchange also sponsored "Dr. Demento" late Sunday nights on a local radio station. One leg of that deal is that Franklin got all the shows (on vinyl) after they aired. I have a couple of the commercials somewhere on an aircheck of Demento. One is pretty memorable, giving a nice tweak to Michael Jackson. If I find it, I'll upload the spots and link 'em here.

I lost count of all the political discussions taking place in that store. It was a nice respite from the long arm of Ronald Reagan. It was in that store that I was introduced to an amazing and diverse palette of music. It was Franklin who gave my ears their first listen to the awesome humor of Peter Schickele (a/k/a P.D.Q. Bach), and also to an aural concoction called The Shaggs.

Every college town should have a used record store like that. Sadly, most stores of that nature tend to be staffed either by those who don't appreciate music, or act like a disturbing number of hard-core record collectors: the arrogant standoffish snob akin to Jack Black's character in High Fidelity (the owner of an otherwise good used record store in North Little Rock, Ark. quickly comes to mind). Then you have the golddiggers, their nose always in a copy of Goldmine. Price is everything. What would sell for $5.00 everywhere else goes for $10 or more.

Franklin was nothing like that. He wouldn't cheat himself, to be sure, but he never overpriced an LP. The only used record place I know of that matches the old Record Exchange is Charlemagne in Birmingham's southside (coincidentally, its full name is "Charlemagne Record Exchange"). I love Charlemagne. It's in a run-down upstairs location, and the floor has some places where it gives (!). The owner's little dog Sonny runs loose all over the haphazard layout while zig-zagging around the customers' legs.

We have a used-CD place in Savannah (Silly Mad CDs - yes, that's what it's called), but it's nowhere close to Charlemagne or "Franklin's."

Damn you, Franklin, you set my standards too high!!

I miss that The Record Exchange. Today, a wonderful slice of heaven in 1980s southeast Jonesboro - a hole in the wall of Fountain Square on east Highland Avenue - is home to a New York Life office. "The company you keep."

I don't know about that. Mr. Franklin C. was the company Bolivar and I enjoyed keeping.

I wonder what Franklin's up to these days. Last I heard, he was "back home" in Russellville, Ark., working on a science fiction novel. Have you any other info, Bol?

Ciao for niao.

--Talmadge "Ohhhh, how sharper than a serpent's tooth" Gleck

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