We are very sad to learn that Rock Records of 175 W. Washington Ave, CH ILL 60622, will soon be closing. Everything in the store is 40% off. We stopped in to pick up the new Lil' Wayne, and lo and behold almost all of the box sets, including the Albert Ayler Revenant number we have been eyeing for months, have been sold. Born to Run box, we missed our chance! So, we contented ourselves with some Nick Drake we were missing. Rock Records holds a special, weird place in our hearts. Our first job after moving to Chicago was there. A little over 3 years, in fact. Our last day was December 31, 1999. That was 2 years too long, but life back then was hard. We so were chronically not getting laid. We had not yet learned to dress indie rock. We looked like an immigrant with our short hair and bad sweaters. We were writing a novel, which we furiously burned one night in a rage. We threw quarter-sticks of dynamite at our neighbors one time. We saw one male bum trade another male bum a blow job for a 40.
We saw many amazing things over the years at Rock Records. We saw one of our co-workers get impregnated and sire children for not one, but two other co-workers, one of whom was such a bad alcoholic we couldn't believe his body could even go through the normal male sexual response, much less produce sperm. We saw Rich have a seizure, and we put a pen in his mouth, like our First Aid class at summer camp had taught us to do. Luckily he did not swallow his tounge that day. We helped Jasmine Guy shop for CDs one fine morn, right at 9 AM as the store was opening. She bought a lot of R&B and we carried the little hand cart for her. She was very beautiful. We told her so, just kind of blurting it out stupidly, and she smiled and touched our hand and thanked us. That moment means a lot to us for some reason, looking back on it.
Another day, we saw Noam Chomsky looking through the N.W.A. CDs. Totally not kidding. We wanted to have a mini-debate with him re: whether or not language is inherently known to all human babies, but refrained. Carol Marin and Ron Magers came in together one day, which if you live in Chicago, is really cool. Ramsey Lewis had a splendid 15 minute conversation with us about his 1969 album Another Voyage, among other topics. Total gentleman. The Mayor came in, twice, very red-faced. President Clinton drove down Washington in his motorcade and waved to us as we jumped up and down, totally hyped. We remember the weird official dudes who methodically took all the trash cans away and welded the manhole covers shut. We remember the Christmas party the day the House voted to impeach Clinton, and listening to the hearings on NPR in the basement over the next few months.
Once, when we were taking out the trash in the alley back behind 175, we saw a limo pull up and into the back door step, head as big as a TV-set, Luciano Pavarotti. "Holy shit", we said out loud to ourselves. "That is Luciano Pavarotti." He looked at us and audibly sniffed. Later, we snuck upstairs to listen to him rehearse with his orchestra in the Musician's Union. We remember him not singing much, but really putting the group through it's paces.
The best part about Rock Records, what we really treasure as far as memories go, is what we recall of Emil. Emil was the maintenance man for the entire building, record store and Union hall. Emil had been a string player in some of the best bands in the world (cello, we think?). Emil was in the Army, in France and in the actual real Glenn Miller band when Glenn Miller's plane was lost at sea. That was the most popular band in the world at that point in time. So Emil was in the Beatles, bascially. Emil could have joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, even auditioned for Sir Georg Solti. But he craved variety, so he did session work. Amazing. Emil toured with Sinatra's band, and was paid handsomely for it. Emil played on Motown Records that you have heard eighteen million times. Emil had met Stevie Wonder when he was a young man. Emil had played some sessions for Curtom. Curtis Mayfield! Damn! Emil knew who LeRoy Hutson was. "You bet. And the Natural Four. Those guys were great" (!!). Emil had gone to every Chicago Bears home game since 1947. He had met George Halas many times, and expounded often on the beauty of watching Gayle Sayers at Wrigley Field, and what a nice, gentle man Walter Payton was and how hard he played. Emila and his wife went to about 20 movies a week when we knew him. That flick where Master P sold cell phones? Emil saw it in the theatre. We haven't seen Emil in many years, but we hope he and his lovely wife are well.
Rock Records, RIP. You will be missed.