Sunday, June 03, 2012

Throwing Neil Young out of the store

Here's another excerpt from my new book, THE ME GENERATION... BY ME (GROWING UP IN THE '60s), available for Kindle users.  Just go here or click on book cover on the right.  My sincere thanks to those of you who have downloaded it.  The paperback version will be released very soon.  Did I mention I do this blog for free and a great way to support this site AND receive literally hours of literary enjoyment is to buy this book?   (Hey, at least I'm not saying buy this book or I shoot this dog.   Yet.) 

This is from 1966.  I just got a job in the mall at Wallich's Music City Records.  

Considering that my classmates were all boxing groceries or changing the grease traps at McDonald’s, I considered myself extremely lucky to be hawking 45’s.

I manned the singles counter. That meant I helped customers, restocked the bins, and let people into the listening booths. Just like in the Hollywood store, you could sample albums for free. A lot of rock bands lived in nearby Topanga Canyon and less-nearby Laurel Canyon and would slither down the hill to check out the competition. The great Captain Beefheart was a Wallichs regular!

We had one rule: no smoking pot. We didn’t want the 70-year-old grandmother to get a contact high following Captain Beefheart in the booth, not to mention those glass cubicles served as the store window. Public displays of illegal behavior were bad for the store’s image.

The biggest transgressor was the Buffalo Springfield’s Neil Young. And he was a shithead. I used to throw him out once a week. Plus, he slept with and dumped a girl I had a crush on so I took every opportunity to kick his raggedy ass to the curb.

Two notable co-workers: Steve Hall, who went on to become a world-renowned pianist/ recording artist and died way too young. And Skip, who frequently brought his pet ocelot to work. I pleaded with Skip to lock it in a listening booth with Neil Young.

Night managers would come and go. These were usually alcoholics who owned decent suits. They’d generally last about three months. One night manager we had for awhile, who was not on the sauce was Nik Sullivan. I once asked him what he did before this and he modestly confessed he played guitar in a group. I said, “Really? Which group? Any one I’ve heard of?” He said, “Yeah, Buddy Holly and the Crickets.” “Oh bullshit!” I said. He shrugged, meandered over to the Buddy Holly section, pulled out an album, and son of a bitch, there he was.
Nik is on the left
Talk about being extremely lucky. He escaped death twice. First when he decided not to board that doomed flight that took Holly’s life, and second when I let a robber into his office who had a gun.

In fairness, I didn’t know he was a robber. Hey, he didn’t wear a mask. I was thrown. Instead, he wore a tailored suit and said he was the manager of the Hollywood branch. He had done his homework. He knew Nik’s name. So when he asked if Nik was in the office I said, “Sure, go on back.” He walked out five minutes later with a week’s receipts after pointing a loaded pistol at Nik’s head. Where is an ocelot when you need one?

Nik didn’t blame me, said anyone in my place would have done the same thing; still it’s always nagged at me that I almost got a Cricket killed.

For more samples and to order, here's where you go.  Thanks!

23 comments:

Richard Y said...

Oh the listening booths - where you can listen to dozens of 45s and not buy any.

q1605 said...

I met Neil back stage at the 84 ...can't remember if it was a farm aid or Willie's picnic but he was cool to me.

Anonymous said...

I always wondered how a Ken Levine escaped any kind of military service, when the working class kids were going to Viet Name.

iain said...

Oh, Anonymous, your ignorance is only matched by your cowardice in not leaving your name.

Ken, hopefully your book will also be available to us dirty Nook users as well?

selection7 said...

I wonder if Anonymous has also always wondered how Ken met his writing partner in the reserves if Ken never participated in any kind of military service.

Great Big Radio Guy said...

Read the book, Anonymous, before you make an ass of yourself again.

RJ Battles said...

Anonymous, You don't have to leave your name- we all know who you are. Anyone who reads your comment can see that you've had no success in your life and you're bitter and jealous of all the people that you think had an unfair advantage over you.

edprof said...

you shoulda thrown his voice out

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I have got to use your Neil Young story as trivia on our 60s page...

Rock Golf said...

Neil Young ended up writing a song about accidentally damaging 45's at that store by dragging the tonearm across the record without lifting it.
The song was "The Needle and the Damage Done".

Jim Dawson said...

Niki Sullivan left the Crickets fairly early, right after their grueling late 1957 tour I think, so he was long gone by the time Holly went on that Dance Party tour in '59. In Hollywood Niki recorded briefly for Dot Records right up the street from Wallichs.

Cap'n Bob said...

I finished your book last night, Ken, and it was a true joy. But knowing how you love notes on your writing, I have some.
1. Staff Sgt Barry Sadler was in the Army, not Marines.
2. The "grizzly" accident photos didn't include Smokey the Bear, so they should have been grisly, which you used correctly later on.
3. You're a fine writer but you need severe woodshedding in your punctuation, especially commas. Your editor really let you down there.
But it has a good beat and I can dance to it. I'd rate it a 95.

Richard Y said...

As one who has written articles for trade journals, many newspaper articles, and written three books it always astounds me how many errors I have left in my wake. One can proof, proof, and proof (as well as the obvious research errors) but somehow these annoying items get over looked by the author (too close to the work), copyeditor and proof reader(s). Yes most of them should have been caught and corrected, especially the so-called obvious ones, stupid ones, but unfortunately they too often fall through the cracks. You can’t read any book without finding errors no matter the ranking of the author and publishing company. That of course does not make it right, just a fact of life. (I have probably made an error or two here.)

Anonymous said...

Ken,

I bought "The Me Generation" for my Kindle last night, and I'm somewhere around 50% finished. Enjoying the fuck out of it, seriously. I highly recommend it for anyone who's not easily offended by naughty words like "fuck" and "vagina".

On the other hand, anybody who is that offended, probably should be. And I mean often.

Sincerely,

Geno in Overland Park KS

tb said...

There was a song around that time that I vividly remember singing all the time as a kid, and I have not been able to figure out what it was. Maybe you can help. It was kind of like a Frankie Valle thing but someone else? Something like "Cod-a-mia(?) why / must I say goodbye / I'll be your love till the end..of....(falsetto part) TIIIIME eyieyiiiime....."
Yes, I know, but, someone may recognize this bit? Been bugging me for decades. Never hear it on oldies stations. Obviously easier if I sing it to ya, but, I figured if anyone could help, it'd be you

Ken Levine said...

tb

The song is Cara Mia by Jay & the Americans.

Cap'n Bob said...

I agree that errors happen, but some are correctable and that's why I mentioned them. Except the commas. I consider that a lost cause.

jbryant said...

A pet ocelot? Was he a HONEY WEST fan?

volklfan said...

MyDad who passed away several years ago loved to tell a story of how he and his friend had gotten a job as security for a Rolling Stones concert at the Hollywood Bowl.
According to him there was a group of hippies trying to get back stage, he asked who they were and they said that they were the opening band. This was back when the Stones were still wearing suits on stage so My dad new that these unwashed hippies were not a band and they threw them out. He later learned that those hippies were Buffalo Springfield I believe that they were allowed to play that night... thanks for reminding me of my Dad.

tb said...

Jay & the Americans! Thank You Ken!!

Larry said...

Rock Golf, that's one of the funniest f---in things I read this year. Back when... when sitcoms had, uh, wuddayacall, scripts, Ken Levine could've used you.

Anonymous said...

Nikki Sullivan had left the group long before the plane crash that killed Buddy. Another guitarist by the name of Tommy Allsup was the other candidate for a seat on the plane, but he lost out on a coin flip with Ritchie. Of course everyone knows Waylon gave up his seat to The Bopper earlier that night. There have been many people who have claimed they were supposed to be on that plane. As someone once said, "if everyone who claims they were supposed to be on that plane were true, it would have taken a 747 to fly them all"....or something like that.

G Rodon said...

LOL, Ken ... great page. I found it interesting that you called it the mall. Back then it was the Plaza. Did Wallichs still exist when the TP did that major renovation and then call it a mall? Just asking. I lived across the street on Glade Avenue, second floor, and had a birds eye view of the plaza back then. No stranger to Wallichs,I have a VERY interesting story to tell. I'll tell it on another thread. - H.G. ROSS