Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part ten: Guided by Voices


One afternoon as I was perusing the middle island at Used Kids, which was filled with hundreds of $1 LP’s, I found a bright yellow record with blunted Times New Roman type-face and what appeared to be a smudge of  a thumb print. It looked fairly interesting enough, well enough for me to pick it up and flip it over. It was pressed in Dayton and had been just been released although the sparse cover art and the thickness of the cardboard sleeve made an impression that it was actually pressed in the late 70’s or early 80’s.  At that point in time, pre-blog, pre-online anything, pre-instant satisfaction and instant opinion one had to be a bit more curious about records.  Anything you bought may have an unknown quality to it, on one hand it could possibly change your life (like the first time I heard “Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney) or it may prove that you wasted anywhere from $1 to $9 depending on the errant purchase, such as a vast majority of the dollar records.  At this time I relied heavily on Ron House and Dan Dow, who ran and owned Used Kids and who to this day have the most impeccable tastes and judgment in music that I have ever met. The name of the record was “Self Inflicted Arial Nostalgia” and it was by Guided by Voices.

Used Kids was started by Dan and Ron, as they shedded the shackles of Moles records and started their own store underneath the newly opened School Kids Records run by Curt Schieber. Kurt owned School Kids and his shop had once dwelled in the subterranean basement. Anyway, in 1989 I was still working at Discount Records, wearing a poly-cotton blend pant that chaffed my legs as I yearned to be free to not sell New Kids on the Block or the newly invented cas-single. I usually headed to Used Kids on my lunch break or if it were later in the day, I would stop in there as I headed to Larry’s to get a drink to tied me over the last few hours at Discount.  I was at that age, more knowledgeable in music than any sane twenty year old should be, where I could tell you how mastered every Elvis Costello or Randy Newman record but could barely handle long division. I had been living and breathing records for as long as I could recall.  I remember in 1977, pleading with my father in Kroger’s that I would be happy to eat eggs and cereal all week if he just spent the grocery money on three records.  Mostly likely Kiss or Stevie Wonder records.  When I was going to middle school in Athens I spent my afternoons behind the counter of a hole-in-the wall shop called “Side One Records”, I wasn’t allowed to work but the two guys who ran it let me hang out.  I can still remember them playing the hell out of a Herman Brood and His Wild Romance record. It was basically all I ever wanted to do besides maybe be a college professor. I never became a college professor but I did marry one. So one and a half of my dreams have been realized, anyway it’s probably funner to fuck a college professor than to actually be one.

After a short while, the two men at Used Kids gleaned that I knew my stuff musically, especially when it came to classical and most rock. I was soon doing short afternoon stints when I got off at Discount. Even though I was the manager of Discount, I felt a kinship and admired Ron and Dan a great deal.  I felt immediately invited into a small community that I had somehow already been born into. All I had to do was find it. I think the fact that Dan had noticed me at two very sparsely attended shows a Bogart’s in Cincinnati helped seal the deal (they were respectively the Proclaimers and Lucinda Williams circa 1988).

I suppose Jerry felt the same way, there was something about finding a community when you are in young adulthood, for most of us who were/are part of this small but vital scene in Columbus this meant a realization that for many of us only existed through the music and the books we listened to in high school. By submerging myself in the music I listened to growing up I was awakened to the possibility that there was a world that existed outside of Springfield, Ohio. We didn’t necessarily believe in the myth of rock and roll per se, in fact I believe we embraced the everyday possibilities that the type of music we listened to promised.  There was something bloated, sickening and skeptical about most of the force fed music of the late 70’s and 80’s.  Our idea of escape did not exist through a can of hair spray and the glorification of hookers but of the grimy world of the Velvet Underground, the subliminal humor of the Ramones, the geeky romance of Elvis Costello, the anger of the clash and the mumbling beauty of R.E.M.. Plus we wanted to dance, to feel the abandonment that punk rock promised and we wanted to be able to touch it and for most of us we wanted to help create that avenue of deliverance. For Jerry and I that meant having heroes, for both of us our heroes were not so much the kinds propagated on MTV or through Hollywood movies but the kind of people who you could sit down and have a beer with.  Ron, Dan and others along High Street had made music that was not just manufactured by companies out of town but were in fact very, very good. It meant the idea that the fellow selling you a quart of beer or serving you food could also be the one writing songs about your loneliness or the crush you had on that barmaid down the street. He may be actually be writing his songs about her.

We were not the kind to be blessed with beauty, we were not the captains of the football team or the cheerleaders but the ones who made wise-ass remarks and knew that high school wasn’t the best time of our lives, nor was it the worst, it was simply a time in our lives that had to exist. We had our defects whether they be physical, emotional or financial, we didn’t hide from them in fact we would grow to accent some of these whether it would be wearing outsized cheap glasses or writing songs with our hearts on our sleeves. Jerry would flat out say that he wouldn’t take his shirt off because his chest was concave, it was like “well big deal now that you told us just take the fucker off.”  We drank cheap beer because we had to, and we wore thrift store clothing not because it was fashionable but because we were broke, from shitty paying jobs and life choices that made our worlds a little less complicated and funnier than it really appeared to be.

I admired a man named Craig Regala who worked alongside his longtime girlfriend at Magnolia Thuderpussy records, I had an undying crush on her but with her being with him and at least twenty-six years old was way out of my league. When the north location of Magnolia’s closed, I hired Craig at Discount where we laughed at the insanity of a corporate record store. We would sometimes crouch below the counter as the other one rang up a pain-in-the-ass customer and pull our penises out and wiggle them around, just out of eye shot of the customer. Craig had about seventy-seven ear piercings in his ears and tattoos that didn’t consist of roses or naked ladies on his arms, he was funny as hell and insightful. He turned me onto Galaxie 500 and the fact that Mo Tucker of the Velvet Underground was playing Staches up the street. Craig would later start Datapanik, the direct inspiration for Anyway. He served as a bridge to the other side, when I was young and living with Jenny. He took interest in the classic country music I had been listening to for several years.  He didn’t laugh when I tried in vain to grow a well sculpted mutton chops like George Jones, in early 1988. I was living with Jenny and much of the life we knew consisted of drinking twelve packs, and prank phone calling pizza joints and eating at the Wendy’s salad bar was a night out.  We were introduced to a world where everybody made an impact, where the genius really did live next door. It opened up the world as if we were toddlers discovering the magnificence of the back yard.

When I asked Ron about the yellow $1 record I was holding in my hand, he said it was decent and that a customer from Dayton sold it.  The customer was the singer in the band. I took the record home and was impressed, not blown away, it lacked the sonic wonderment of their next few records but it was especially catchy, especially “Navigating Flood Regions”. In a few years Bob Pollard would make a bi-weekly journey to Used Kids to work with Mike “Rep” Hummel on his next couple of records and I would get to know him pretty well. He was like the rest of us, with a bit of the manic frenzy Jerry had but with a slight hint of some sort of autistic brilliance about him, he was funny, gentle and extremely eager. Gaunt would be the first band I knew to realize the talent of GBV when they recorded an excellent cover of “Quality of Armor” for a label called Bag of Hammers. Jerry and I loved it when Bob and some of the other Guided by Voices crew came up; they were always polite and deferential to us about music. We drank with them and Kevin Fennell didn’t drink, I was blown away by this because the others ones drank like we did, which meant a vast amount. The drinking didn’t appear to impair their lives as nurses, teachers and artists as it didn’t appear to adversely affect our lives as record-store dudes.


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5 Responses to “Jerry Wick and Jenny Mae part ten: Guided by Voices”

  1. beyondtheendoftheroad Says:

    Incredible how we can be such small shits in a large world, only to figure out later we are all floating in a toilet bowl.
    Your walk back down 1989 to Magnolia and Used Kids brings back memories of a few nights (that I remember) at Apollo’s listening to not so much the REM”s of Columbus but the Bleed Evil’s and Exxtractor’s.
    I really enjoyed your writes, but I enjoy you more as a human being.
    Take Care.

  2. Andy Whitman Says:

    Good stuff, Bela. As someone who frequented the places you worked, and who followed the people you followed, I appreciate the funny, sad, and true memories. I probably dropped more money in those record stores and bars on High St. than I’ve spent anywhere else in my life. And I’ve never figured out that I’m supposed to grow up and stop caring passionately about music, so I haven’t. Some of that, I would like to think, comes from the people I encountered in those places, who cared passionately too.

  3. quityning Says:

    Yo, B. This is good stuff! I mean really good. Shared your wrtiings with some others who I tried to explain the whole music scene to but did not get it until they read your blog. They’re hooked now! Your words, and wry sense of humor which serves as a varnish on the rough patches, are inspiring.
    Good stuff!

  4. Ted Kane Says:

    Hi Bela,

    I’ve been enjoying your blog since it was called to my attention but in regards to this:

    “Our idea of escape did not exist through a can of hair spray and the glorification of hookers but of the grimy world of the Velvet Underground, the subliminal humor of the Ramones….”

    May I suggest that there may also be some glorification of hookers going on in the music of the VU & Ramones?

    Keep it up,

  5. david michael schooff Says:

    Used kids records was like a heaven to me in college. I felt like a kid on christmas eve going down into the basement of vinyl to discover lo-fi gems that bela, jerry, ron and dan would recommend. Ron recommended a gbv record to me, (vampire on titus) I took it back to the old patterson ave. house and gave it a spin. I didn’t get it at first and brought it back to use kids. Ron refused to buy it back and told me to give it another chance, sure enough it grew on me as well as all the other lo-fi stuff of that era in columbus. I even attended bela’s birthday party that spawned the classic gbv live album. Jerry and bela’s sarcasm was quite funny especially when people had shitty taste in music. I was also in the osu marching band with jenny mae however i didn’t put her together with the stache’s scene until later. With used kids, goldmine records, singing dog, magnolia thunderpussy, stache’s and dick’s den i had a blast and suffer from vinyl addiction and hearing loss to this day. Thanks for the blog bela and keep writing, you could publish a book with this stuff.

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