This is the second installment of an ongoing series about my years as a white rocker dude who became a player in the Northwest hip-hop game during the eighties and nineties. You can read the first installment, about my recent reunion with Sir Mix-A-Lot, by going here.
Everything has to have a beginning. For me it came in 1980, in the town of Lakewood, Washington, working at a record store called Penny Lane.
This was not only my introduction to hip-hop, but also where my real journey in the music industry began. It would eventually take a long-haired, 20-something-year-old white rocker dude — whose own musical tastes ran much more to Alice Cooper than to Afrika Bambaataa — all the way to Hollywood working in the big time with the likes of Rick Rubin and Sir-Mix-A-Lot. That story will unfold in due course over the life cycle of this series, but for now our main focus remains those same humble beginnings back in 1980.
I had previously worked for Penny Lane Records right out of high school in the 1970s, and for an 18-year-old rockaholic like me, it was a great gig. A dream gig actually.
I mean, what was there not to like about getting paid for listening to records all day, and turning all my buddies in the neighborhood on to my favorite bands and artists of the time like Uriah Heep, Bowie, Mott The Hoople, and a little later down the line, people like Elvis Costello, The Ramones, Springsteen, and Patti Smith? The free records, the concert tickets, and the occasional backstage passes were also a damn nice little perk, thank you very much.
In retrospect, the pay probably wasn't all that great. At the time, though, I probably would've done it for free. Alas, in 1978, I quit Penny Lane for a year to manage a competing record store across town — which turned out to be an experience that is best left forgotten. In other words, it sucked.
So when Penny Lane owner Willie MacKay asked me back to manage his brand new store in Lakewood, I jumped at the chance.
With Lakewood being a town located 40 miles outside of Seattle, and just outside of Tacoma, I knew this would represent a change of geography — which for me was fine. What I wasn't quite as prepared for was the change in clientele.