A View from the Record Shop

John James reflects on being one of Bogart's neighbors for 15 years

Jul 22, 2015 at 9:33 am
click to enlarge Bogart's ticket stubs through the years
Bogart's ticket stubs through the years

During my 15 years in three storefronts on Short Vine, Bogart’s was a terrific business ally and the local crossroads of “my people,” a perfect capacity house of worship where music nuts rubbed shoulders and dropped jaws, collecting a lifetime of “I saw them when…” moments. Public Enemy. Jane’s Addiction. Adrian Belew and The Bears. Tori Amos. Cowboy Junkies. Husker Du. Phish when they brought out the vacuum cleaner. U2, when I swear, Bono was wearing the same shirt he wore in the band’s first big video. Joe Walsh exhibiting “extra crispy” behavior.

Thumbing through handfuls of old ticket stubs, it’s the somewhat-forgotten bands of a certain age that were most magical to see as their stars were quickly rising: King Missile, Timbuk 3, Shriekback, The Golden Palominos. Lush, Urge Overkill, Fishbone, The Royal Crescent Mob and Urban Dance Squad.

In Wizard Records’ heyday, the music business was a completely different model, one where actual money flowed in vast quantities and lavish record label promotional budgets and relationships “on the street” exercised tremendous quid pro quo. Tours used to revolve around these crazy little things called albums, so poster displays in our front window were often timed with tour dates at Bogart’s. Heaven forbid if an artist or tour manager got off the bus to see that their local label support hadn’t done their job. Even in a city our size, the major record labels all had full-time employees who traveled from retailer to retailer, organizing promotions and sharing envelopes of concert tickets. Many of these label reps were larger-than-life personalities, and regardless of label-vs.-label competition, they all shared tickets between themselves, most nights huddled in their own little private party on Bogart’s mezzanine level before the doors opened to the public, sharing their gifts and bar tab with all the record store folk who made the scene. Backstage passes were for the asking. It was an amazing time.

Some of my fondest memories come from meeting so many of my heroes when they came over to shop Wizards after sound check. Some came incognito, with hats, sunglasses and big turned-up collars. Edie Brickell and her band hung out for hours, with all males within eyesight falling in love with her every smile. Within a few days of each other, it was exceptionally surreal when the sons of John Lennon (Sean) and Bob Dylan (Jacob) shopped the store. Or seeing Glenn Danzig talking with a fan, observing the tag on the lad’s Misfits T-shirt, declaring it to be an unlicensed copy and tearing it to shreds right from his body. Or Robyn Hitchcock buying a foot-tall stack of new and used Cure cassettes for his daughter. Marilyn Manson and Twiggy Martinez came over before their show, Manson dressed in full black-leather Nazi regalia and Twiggy in the same, only hunter orange. The pair sashayed throughout the store, never looking at anyone directly, pivoting and vogue-ing in the aisles with twin-pained expressions of “don’t look at me.”

In my best, and most sincere Mr. Rogers voice, thank you, Bogart’s, for being my neighbor.

JOHN JAMES is the former owner of onetime Short Vine staple Wizard Records, located at various locations near Bogart’s. Ticket stub pics courtesy of John James.