Camper Van Beethoven – (I Was Born in a) Laundromat
I was just checking out the Radio Time Machine (thank you kottke.org) which has a slider you can move to check out what was popular on mainstream radio stations in the past. My fellow college radio DJs will remember that music played on mainstream radio at the time was awful. That’s why college radio was so important to us. Even if my college’s station was a weak AM station that you could pick up in about three dorms, we saw it as our mission to play music you were not going to hear anywhere else.
One of my fellow DJs was a big Camper Van Beethoven fan. It took me a while but eventually I came around and became a Camper fan myself. This came in handy when I graduated and moved back home to Maine without any plans for my future.
Luckily, an entrepreneurial college student had decided to open a record store that summer. This small town had a record store before but it trended more to classical and jazz and really wasn’t remotely close to the kind of record store I’d grown accustomed to in the Philadelphia area while in school. So I eagerly awaited the opening day of the new store. I think I was their first customer. Before summer had ended I had talked my way into being their first full-time employee. The owner and his two friends who had helped him get it off the ground hadn’t really worked out who was going to run things when they were in classes since none of them had graduated yet. There I was, ready to jump into the gap.
The owner was a huge Camper fan and their new album, Key Lime Pie, was coming out in September. He ordered lots of copies of it, imagining it would fly off the shelves. If you listen to the songs on the Radio Time Line from 1989, you’ll see two Milli Vanilli songs, two Phil Collins songs, three Paula Abdul songs, and so forth. While the new Camper album was the most mainstream thing they’d done to date, it was still well out of the ordinary. Needless to say we had several copies left.
Not long ago I got an e-mail from the owner of the record store. He has not only survived but grown a little chain of stores and one of those two friends who had helped him get that first store off the ground is the person who created Record Store Day. They are going to be profiled in a book about record stores and he wanted to include me as the first employee. I’m almost famous!