Here is the second part in my continuing series of remembrances of working at the Tower Records store in Greenwich Village.
When I first began as a rock floor clerk at Tower Records, one of the first things I had to learn was how to operate a cash register. I was terrified at the thought of it. I had worked in another retail store previously, but I had never run the register. On my first day, I was paired with another rock floor employee named Matt. He was a really nice guy, and he was one of the employees who was moving to the new store at Lincoln Center in a few weeks. I was part of a group of new employees who were taking their place.
I must have asked Matt a million questions about how to do it, but I got the hang of doing credit card purchases, selling gift certificates and such. Fortunately, I got pretty good at it, and I became one of the more reliable people to run one. In my years of being on the main floor registers, I rang up such celebrities as Karen Allen, Edward Herrmann, Martha Quinn (big MTV VJ at the time, and no relation to me) and Iggy Pop. And as soon as I started working at Tower, there always seemed like someone famous was in the store. The store was not just a magnet for tourists, but it was one for celebrities. It was definitely one of the "fringe benefits" of working there. Whenever someone of some note was in the store, the word would pass around among the employees like wildfire.
Most celebrities I encountered were actually fairly nice and accomodating. I remember what a nice guy Robert Plant was, how sweet Raquel Welch was, and Simon LeBon signed autographs and took pictures with some of the employees. The late Gregory Hines asked me to help find a number of CDs around the rock floor, and he seemed like a good guy. The legendary New York DJ "Cousin" Bruce Morrow came in a few times and I had some interesting discussions about music with him. But I remember when one guy who worked in the store went up to Sting and called him "Mr. Sumner" (his real name). Sting wouldn't look at him and just walked right by him and out of the store. I remember trying to help Paul Shaffer find an out-of-print Grateful Dead song, called "One Lost Lonely Eagle." (For some reason I never forgot that.) I remember telling him it was no longer in print and we didn't carry it, and how disappointed he was when I told him.
I began at Tower in late 1984, an interesting time in pop music. There were a lot of big LPs out at that time, including Madonna's "Like a Virgin," Dire Straits, "Brothers In Arms," Sade's debut album, Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The USA," and the two African relief compliation singles, "Do They Know Its Christmas" and "We Are The World." It was like a cavalry charge when they both came out, and we couldn't keep either single in stock long enough.
This was also the time that a new way to listen to music was slowly gaining a foothold in record stores. The CD had just been invented a few years earlier, and I remember on the day I started the section for CDs was just a couple of small racks amid the LP racks. I remember getting the tour of the floor by one of the supervisors and she asked me if I knew about CDs. I had never heard of them before.
But by the end of 1985, I knew all about them.
And they would even bring me 15 minutes of fame.