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How I lost my record store virginity at Northern Lights

I don't know that I had ever been more self-conscious than I was at that moment. I felt like I had an invisible sign connected to my studded dog collar from Spencer's Gifts that said "kid from the suburbs." In retrospect that's exactly what it said. In the store, looking at every piece of vinyl that they had twice, it dawned on me if I bought a record like something by the Dead Kennedys or Black Flag -- things that were noticeably missing from the racks of Northtown -- I might "flag" myself as being incredibly uncool, like I should have owned it already. This set pure panic in my desperate-for-acceptance adolescent brain. Surely the clerks would notice and in turn ban me for life, forcing me into some sort of hell where one was only allowed to listen to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours on infinite repeat.

I decided that I would buy something that I had never heard of. Nothing that was on MTV, and nothing with lots of copies. By that logic, it must be obscure, and that had to earn you points. The album also had to have cool artwork, but should be different then anything I had seen prior. So essentially it had to be unheard of, be unpopular and look weird. Again, hindsight being 20/20, not the best criteria.

Enter What's This For...! by Killing Joke. It fit all the bills, and the clerk didn't scream out "Poseur!" so I figured I did okay.

Putting the platter on when I got home I was in shock. This wasn't hardcore, it was dark, drone-y, dance-y, and it was intoxicating. I wanted a crap hardcore record, and instead got a record that busted up the genre. It's a glorious bit of masterpiece that's as messed up today as it was then.

It's always a chicken or egg question to me whether these were the records that created my musical DNA, or whether it was already imprinted on me and left to the universe to deliver them. This record opened up a different universe and a relationship that lasts to this day. As for the girl I actually lost my virginity to, we lasted a month before she called me by someone else's name. I guess sometimes the cover is better than the record.


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5 comments
jezebeljones
jezebeljones

Loved this story...made me laugh so many times. Nicely done, Chris!

Brian Oake
Brian Oake

My 'first time' I put my full trust in the guy behind the counter. Risky, but I walked away with Zen Arcade.

Chris Truesdell
Chris Truesdell

Northern Lights was so great and I still miss it. Luckily Killing Joke is still putting out great stuff to this day!

Keith Morioka
Keith Morioka

I miss Northern Lights, and I was just thinking about that store today, and how I discovered so much music through their awesome staff...

hooligan2
hooligan2

Nice piece. I lived a mirror life along with my suburb friends. Taking the bus downtown and freaking out in Northern Lights the same way. My first Misfits and Bad Brains albums were from NL. Still miss that place.

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