Twenty Dollars in Hand: Uncle Jam and Record Store Bylaws

Aug 10, 2012 by


It’s 11:30 PM on a Monday and I am about to enlist the George Clinton’s army.

On an overcast Saturday in July, Alan and I headed to Greensboro, NC.  We had a short agenda for this road trip:

  1. Visit a record store
  2. Drink beers and shots with Spider McQueen.

Alan arrived at the house late morning and handed me a 24 oz. Icehouse as we set off to Greensboro.  We thought it might be best to venture to the record store prior to partaking in any heavy drinking.  The record store we chose was Remember When Records located on High Point Road in Greensboro.  The store has a similar look and feel to Rob Gordon’s record store in the film High Fidelity.  Bins upon bins of used vinyl greet you as soon as you set foot into the store.  Immaculately filed by artist and separated by genre, the vinyl is secured in a plastic record sleeve with handwritten notes stating the condition and year it was pressed.  I found it odd each record also had a small piece of scotch tape inhibiting your ability to pull out the record.  No need to check the vinyl, we have a notes!

The owner, an older gentleman, was seated behind the checkout counter, which is elevated giving the counter a throne like feel.   I believe this elevation was by design to keep a watchful eye on the customers.  Another employee, I assume the owners wife, was located in the back of the store meticulously examining a batch of VHS tapes to prepare to stock on the shelves.

 

Alan made his way to the “B” section of the rock vinyl to see what Beach Boy gems he could discover.  Since we were short on time before we had to meet up with Spider, I proceeded towards the counter to ask the owner if he carried a few certain albums.  I was really just too lazy to conduct a search through what seemed like ten to fifteen thousand records.  I figured I’d cut to the chase and have him do all the work for me.

As I approached the counter, and before I uttered a single album title, the following conversation ensued:

Owner: Young man, is this your first time visiting my store?

Me: Yes it is and what a great selection of vinyl you have.

Owner:  Do you know that for every ten records people come in and try to sell me I typically purchase just one?  For every ten records only one makes it to the bin for my customers.

Me: (saying nothing, just listening intently.)

Owner: There are a few things you should know and the rules you must follow when looking through the bins of vinyl.

Me: Ok

Owner: First, everything you need to know about the record itself is written in the top right hand corner.  All my records for sale are in top condition.  Second, after you finish with a record please place back in the exact location and order of how you found it. 

At this point I realize Alan is loose in the store, unaware of the rules.   I looked back at him to see he was trying to get my attention by joyously holding up a rare Beach Boys Good Vibrations record.  I had a sudden feeling of guilt, or maybe respect, it was difficult to decipher between the two but I immediately left the counter to tell Alan about the rules and regulations.  I abandoned asking the owner any question I had regarding his inventory.  I was more or less in survival mode at this point trying to ensure both Alan and I did not cause any disruption that could lead to expulsion from the store.  I wanted to make sure Alan was well aware of the rules and more importantly obliged to follow.  He assured me he placed everything back properly in its exact location.  By this time, the owner had made his way from the counter to the section of the store where Alan and I were perusing through the Beatles section.  He proceeded to tell the both of us the store rules.  We both gave him our utmost attention.

As a collector of vinyl I understand the passion that goes along with collecting records.   I am also willing to follow the owner’s authoritative ways about his store.  Come to think about it, my family must follow similar rules regarding my own collection of vinyl.  If I had any snarky comments about my experience at Remember When Records, I made sure I was miles away from the store before any criticisms were levied.  You can be damn sure I have no intentions to add any customer feedback on the stores Yelp page as well.  However, some people who visited the store felt otherwise.

Here a few recent comments I read on-line from customers:

I have to agree the store has a great selection, however as a DJ, I was insulted when I brought in my headphones in order to sample tracks. The owner was rude, overbearing and insulting. I asked him if he knew anyone who repaired old turntables and he told me my childhood love was trash. He then tried to explain how he is the best and I suck.

The guy has a great collection. If someone ran this store that had a personality or any kind of business sense it would have potential to be the best record store around.

Staff was extremely rude and constantly following us around the store. Whenever my friend and I picked up movies and records to look at the apparent owner would come to us and say that we were not handling the items appropriately, even though we were simply looking at them

DO NOT WASTE YOUR TIME VISITING OR CALLING THIS PLACE…STAFF IS BEYOND RUDE EVEN THE MANAGER

Oh, and one more thing. I read a lot of feedback online from people who thought the owner was very rude. He was helpful and respectful of me, so I have no problem with him from my experience. He cares about his records. Respect them, and you’ll find him to be nice.

I can’t say for certain what made me head towards the Funk/Soul section.  It’s located up against the wall on the far right of the store and has a healthy selection of various soul and funk artists from mostly the 60’s and 70’s.  My curiosity for potentially landing a gem first transported me over the bins, however I think some other factors played a part in my current appetite for funk filled offerings.

Maybe I needed a soundtrack for my time in the store.  The location in Greensboro is located amongst strip clubs, dive bars, local restaurants of Mexican and Chinese cuisine, a Hooters and a host of warehouses I assume have some sort of business dealings going on, legal or otherwise.  I quickly sifted through bins A-E, and stopped at F.  There was a vast selection of vinyl from Funkadelic.  Uncle Jam Wants You immediately caught my eye.  There staring back at me on the album’s cover was George Clinton seated in what appeared to be wicker furniture you would see on someone’s porch.  He has a red beret placed upon his head slightly titled to the left along with white Kiss Destroyer-like moon boots with black stars prominently featured on them.  He sports a military uniform with his right arm raised signaling number one.  There are some other objects featured on the cover but their symbolism is lost on me.

I purchased the 1979 pressing in VG condition, the cover alone sold me.

I thought for $12.50 who wouldn’t want to place some Funkadelic on the turntable.

A few days passed before I had some time to listen to my latest purchase.  It was the following Monday night when everyone else had drifted to sleep that I made my way downstairs.  I pulled the album from the shelf. I removed the vinyl from its sleeve and placed the record on my turntable.  Within seconds of hearing the initial sounds, my cue to enter a party hosted by George Clinton was upon me.

This is a cocaine album.  Once I entered the party it became quite apparent that George, Bootsy, Billy, Tiki, and the Funkadelic Rescue Dance Band were under the influence of something totally different than me.

Uncle Jam Wants You is cocaine confident.  Need proof?  Check out the strangest of songs “Holly Wants to Go to California” and “Foot Soldiers”.  You know they finished up recording those two songs, followed by lines of blow (I speculate) and decided those two songs would conclude the album just fine.  I am sure some producer in the studio might have questioned this decision but it was met with a comment such as “Fuck ‘em, throw it on the album, that shits too good not to.”  That’s my definition of cocaine confident.  I mean if someone told me a coked-up manic Sly Stone originally wrote Holly, I would not be inclined to ask for evidence.

 

 

The album highlights for me are the 15 minute funk jam of “(Not Just) Knee Deep and the albums opening song, Freak of the Week, which are the two songs making up side one.  Side two’s first two tracks Uncle Jam and Field Maneuvers are classic Funkadelic.

Uncle Jam was released between albums One Nation Under One Groove and Connections & Disconnections during the bands late 70’s influential run.   Uncle Jam is certainly not their best effort and by no means does it stand up next to Maggot Brain or Free Your Mind.  Uncle Jam Wants You is a party album filled with the spacious grooves, ridiculous lyrics, and a hint of madness.  It’s not surprising in the least bit that this album was a large influence on West Coast Hip Hop artists.

I had fun listening along and when the mood strikes I plan to listen again.  How could I not with lyrics such as these from the song (Not Just) Knee Deep.

She did the jerk.
It didn’t work, no.
She did the monkey.
It wasn’t funky, no more.
Chicken wasn’t pickin’.
Not just knee deep, she was totally deep
When she did the freak with me.

Indeed.

 

 

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