Our research for our newest project, a book about the retail record store in America, led us to Cleveland, OH, to interview the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s president and CEO, Greg Harris. Greg opened the Philadelphia Record Exchange in the 80’s and had some great insights into the retail side of the music business. Then we were given an all-access, behind-the-scenes tour of the museum. Later we went and visited the fabled house from A Christmas Story because, well…because we HAD to!!! We got to see some really cool stuff and we took a bunch of pictures.
We are very excited to finally get started on a new project! We’ve been kicking around the idea for this one for about a year now, and it’s time to roll up our sleeves and get down to work. If you haven’t caught any of our social media postings about this new venture, here it is: we plan to write an oral history of the retail record store in America. By gathering personal stories from veterans of the retail side of the music industry, we hope to tell a tale of the origin of the record store as well as its evolution throughout the 20th century into the new millennium. We are at the very outset of collecting interviews and still doing a TON of research, so you never know where the story might lead. We are very excited to see where it goes, though. We plan to cover retail giants like Tower Records (we have an interview scheduled with the legendary Russ Solomon!) as well as the rise, wane, and rebirth of the independent music store. There will be a lot of historical information paired with personal anecdotes of what it was like to work in these stores in various eras, regions and cultures.From Elvis to the big rock of the ’70s, to disco, punk, hip hop, R&B, and about a thousand other sub-genres, we hope to cover as much as we can!
Our first foray found us in the city of Cleveland, Ohio, where we were special guests at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum and given a behind-the-scenes tour by the head honcho himself, Mr. Greg Harris. In the 1980s Greg opened one of my personal favorite record stores in Philadelphia; The Record Exchange. Greg had a lot of insight into the world of indie record shops and gave us a fantastic interview. Greg was also very familiar with City Gardens, having (mis)spent many a night there, so we presented him with a “No Slam Dancing” sign from the club as a thank you for all of his hospitality. We also got to see some really fucking cool shit.
Most recently we took a trip to the Rutgers University campus in Camden, NJ, to visit an RCA Victor exhibit for some research. It was a free showing, open to the public, and it housed some very cool artifacts and antiquities like old Victrolas, early reel-to-reel tape machines, and some of the earliest television sets manufactured. It was a really cool set-up: Camden played a HUGE part in the early growth of the recording and manufacturing industry, and there is a lot of history there. Specifically with the RCA Victor company, which thrived in downtown Camden once upon a time.
Again, we are very excited to delve into this story and see where it takes us. So far it has been very interesting. Along the way we are looking to interview as many people as possible, so if you worked in or owned a record store of any kind, and have some stories to tell, please get in touch with us! Contact is: firstname.lastname@example.org and we look forward to hearing from you! Also check out our new Facebook page for our publishing company, DiWulf Publishing.
Here are some pictures from our Camden trip.
Drew Stone, Tristan Michael, Bopa King Carre cover the Fear classic at The Cake Shop during No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving, No Spikes book party.
Spent a drizzly cold Friday night in December at the wonderful Cake Shop in New York having a wonderful time with new friends and old as we celebrated our almost-dual birthdates (Amy is December the 3rd and I (Steve) am on the 5th) with an intimate gathering of friends and family. It was very cool, and we are extremely grateful to our friends who came out and supported us.
We had some very awesome music from our friend Drew Stone and the Drew Stone Hit Squad playing “the hits of yester-year” in a set that included covers from the likes of the Bad Brains, Sham 69, Warren Zevon and (*cough*) The Grateful Dead. Thanks to Tristan Michael and Bopa King Carre for sitting in and playing. We had a nice couple of sing alongs and talked about the good old days and raised more than a few glasses…
We also tried something that we’ve NEVER done before. We staged a live reading from an excerpt out of No Slam Dancing. Amy and I had no idea how it would go; but fuck it: we’re punk rock. Well, let me tell you, it was a blast. Some real funny shit. The cast (which included authors Howie Abrams and Tony Rettman, event coordinator Julie Turley; as well as the subject of Drew’s latest film: Michael Alago playing the part of hardcore legend Mike Judge) was amazing and really made the story come to life.
A huge thanks to our most gracious host, City Gardens alum Jon LeVine and the Jonathan LeVine Gallery for having us. Thanks to all our friends and family who come out to support us at these things, thanks to all the new friends we’ve met along the way! also, please notice the paintings in the background: we were lucky enough to be paired up with artist Dan Witz’s amazing “Moshpits” exhibit.
Hey folks! Steve here. Sorry I haven’t been able to update this here little blog, trying to stay on top of it as best as we can! Got lots to report, so here’s a quick rundown of what’s been going on with the No Slam Dancing crew.
Christ, I don’t even know where to begin. To say it’s been a hell of a few weeks would be grossly understating the immensity of all that has transpired since “No Slam Dancing” was released. I’ll skip the whirlwind clichés and get right to the meat of it.
The first, most obvious thing that needs to be expressed is the overwhelming gratitude we feel. The support we’ve garnered for this book is nothing short of amazing, and it’s something we never really expected. I mean, we knew all you City Gardens folk would be into the book, but in the last 19 days I’ve personally received so many nice words from people who never set foot in City Gardens, some who had never even heard of it! It really is incredible how intensely people are vibing on these stories; these memories. Just think: complete strangers from remote parts of the world are reading about our lives and connecting with our past on some deep, deep levels. Kids who’ve only known an internet existence are engrossed by old stories of booking tours on payphones and through writing actual letters! The thrill is beyond articulation and, personally, the lump of humility in my throat grows larger each time somebody takes the time to pass along a few kind words to us. The greatest thrill is knowing that Amy, me, all those who had stories in the book, all those who didn’t get their stories in the book but still keep City Gardens close to their heart… we are ALL responsible for getting people excited to read! That’s a pretty powerful thing when you think about it. So many people have posted through social media that they’ve read the book in a day or two; that they haven’t really sat and read a book since college. This is the highest praise I could ever think of, and hearing or reading stuff like that makes my toes tingle. Even the criticisms I’ve read have been constructive and fair. As authors, that’s the best we can ask for, and we are always grateful for the honesty.
So Amy and I have been on an amazing journey of meeting some of you wonderful people at our book signings. We’ve had tremendous turnouts and we are thankful for each and every person who takes the time to come out and see us. I’ve continually said that the best part about this whole experience has been the interestingly cool and unique people we’ve met along the way. Our book signings are like family reunions filled with warmth and hospitality and the sentimental syrup that makes us all feel good inside! We love hanging out and talking music biz and City Gardens memories and we love sharing this common bond with everyone.
The biggest stop on our journey was doing The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on March 25th. And I know you are all just DYING to hear the behind the scenes stuff from our day on TV. So here you go.
Our day started in Morrisville PA. Not leaving anything to chance or weather, we hit the road early. We rode up as a team: me, Amy, our spouses and a friend. The car was filled with an electric excitement that was fueled by caffeine and nervous energy. We knew were hitting “the big time” and none of us were trying to pretend we weren’t nervous as hell! Around 2pm we pulled over to the Joyce Kilmer rest stop on the Jersey Turnpike so Amy, Gibby and The Daily Show producer could do the pre-interview. It was short and sweet. Meanwhile, the show was on the phone with Riot on the Dance Floor director Steve Tozzi frantically trying to get clips from his documentary to go along with Amy and Gibby’s segment. And they needed a Salerno picture of the infamous Butthole Surfers show. They kept saying “something with fire in it.” Fire good.
This couldn’t have gone better: not only was “No Slam Dancing” getting a prominent feature on national TV, they were also going to include Riot! The entire world was now going to hear about two very powerful documents about the legend of Randy Now and City Gardens. More importantly we found a way to get our friends included in all the hoopla. Riot is getting ready to drop any minute now, and between the two projects City Gardens will be getting a very fitting tribute in the coming months. This was just the first shot in what will be an all-out attack!
We got to Manhattan early and met up with some wonderful friends for a little pre-game celebration. We toasted with something that was just like champagne but wasn’t champagne and smiled and laughed and again that warmth of love and friendship surrounded all of us and it was beautiful. It was a nice, quiet moment before all hell broke loose.
Time came for Amy to report to the green room.
We found Gibby and his lovely wife already settled into the green room. Both were cordial and super friendly. I had never met Gibby before. It was very cool. The first thing we noticed was that he had written “GWAR” on his arm in thick black marker and I knew right there that this was going to be one hell of a television appearance. We met the producers; everyone was so nice to us. We got some snapshots with Gibby and it was just a great vibe in that little room.
They called Amy into the makeup room, which was right next to the green room. I was hanging out in the long, narrow corridor, just taking in all the magic of TV, when Amy called me into the makeup room. The lady who was doing her makeup was a punker from back in the day. We’re talking the original CB’s and Max’s set. She showed us some amazing pictures. Amy told her to never mind the “natural look,” she (Amy) wanted CRAZY makeup: the lashes, the heavy eye makeup, the whole deal. As Amy said; “I’m from the ‘80s, when there was no such thing as too much makeup!” And they went to town on her!
There was a small commotion in the hallway and that’s when we were introduced to Dipper: Jon Stewart’s rescued pit bull. The poor guy only had three legs but he was just as happy as could be. They told us Jon always brought the dog to work. Dipper was great: friendly, playful, energetic. Everybody instantly fell in love with him. We tried to get pictures of him, but he just moved so darn fast you couldn’t get a good one!
And then I heard the voice. It was weird. I never met Jon and if he worked any of the hardcore shows I attended at City Gardens I never knew it. But there he was, right in front of me! And he was so gracious. Gave me a big old hello and a handshake and talked profusely about how much he had liked the book. Wow. I was floored. Soon the rest of the gang joined is in the hall. Amy and I presented him with a gift of two specially-made City Gardens pint glasses. We chatted for a long time about the club, about his fondness for it. He was just as funny and charming as you would expect! Sure, it was a bit disconcerting seeing the odd orange hue of television makeup caked on his face, but once you got past that you didn’t even notice. He made us laugh, put us at ease and told us over and over how great it was that we did this. Man, that was pretty heavy.
They started the show and we all went back into the green room. Amy was dressed and ready to go and she was gorgeous. If you’re wondering why yours truly wasn’t invited to sit with Amy and Gibby, well, think about what’s gonna’ sell more books: the rock star and the beautifully poised and radiantly gorgeous redhead or my dopey, bulbous head. It was an obvious choice, and we are talking about TV here, after all.
Well, you all saw what happened next: she absolutely KILLED it. I was so proud of her! We watched from the green room and were hooting and hollering the whole time. It was something else. Afterwards we had a brief moment with Jon to thank him profusely. And I even got him to sign the copy of “No Slam Dancing” I always carry with the intent of someday having every person who appeared on the book to etch their signature in it. Corny, yeah, but I sure don’t care.
After the taping we met with friends from City Gardens; people who were directly involved in helping this book come into being. My phone was already exploding with congratulatory texts from friends and family. I’ve never been successful at anything, and this was all very new to me. I was overwhelmed and I am not at all ashamed to admit that when I stood up and tried to toast Amy I completely lost it and broke down sobbing! It was a very emotional evening. And I am Italian, after all.
We raced back to Morrisville to catch the 11pm airing and made it just in time. I manned the social media and pumped it up into a frenzy. I could almost FEEL every single person I’ve ever known watching along with us. And by 11:30 pm our lives had changed drastically. By Wednesday noon Amazon was completely sold out of books. Our two distributors were calling for MORE BOOKS. Social media went NUTS and people were clamoring with questions on how to get the book. When all was said and done we hit #107 on some Amazon chart and we had pretty much sold out of ALL books. As of right now we are scrambling to get a second printing going and it’s a painfully slow process. Suddenly we had all kinds of friends we’d never knew we had before! Myself, I was getting notes from people who hadn’t had the inclination to speak to or even acknowledge me in 25 years. Strange…
But mostly everyone was just as excited as we were. This was a victory for ALL of us: for the generations of City Gardens folk this book represents and, really, for the glorious and beautiful music we’ve cherished all our lives.
So there you have it, our 15 minutes. Don’t worry; we’ll be here a LOT longer than 15 minutes. You can bet on that.
Hope to see you at our upcoming book signings.
April 5th Princeton Record Exchange Princeton NJ
Check our Facebook events for times and locations.