Recalling A Long-Delayed Transaction

Originally posted September 4, 2007

I bought a record thirty-four years ago today. It was defective.

But didn’t get to return it for almost nine months.

One of the first shops that sold used records in St. Cloud was a place called Axis, on St. Germain near the western edge of downtown. It opened, I would guess, around 1970, just about the time I was starting to buy pop and rock albums – mostly the Beatles to start – and I guess it stayed in business for about seven or eight years. I seem to recall buying records there in 1977, when I was finishing up my college work. Soon after that, I left town. And somewhere along the line, when I came back for a visit, Axis was gone.

Actually, in its last few years, the shop had focused more on leather goods – coats, boots, belts and some very cool hats – than it had music. From, oh, 1975 on, the records were still there, but were relegated to a portion of the display space that decreased regularly, and the selection of new records in particular seemed to dwindle.

But for a few years, as I finished high school and went through my first couple years of college, Axis was the place to go downtown for a good selection of music, both new and used. During my first two years of college, I’d pop in regularly and flip through the used racks, looking for something I’d not tried before, as the financial risk was minimal – prices were more than reasonable. One evening in April 1972, I found a copy of the Rolling Stones’ live album, Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! I paid $1.99 for it. (The price tag is still on it.)

I think, without checking the log, the only Stones’ album I had at the time was Sticky Fingers, which I loved. And when I took Ya-Ya’s home and dropped the needle, I loved it, too. It went to the top of the rotation list of my rapidly growing but still relatively small collection. I shared it frequently with friends, bringing it along when I visited. One evening in the spring of 1973, I visited a married couple a few years older than I, friends I’d met through church who were still adjusting to the result of an accident that left him in a wheelchair. We had a nice dinner and good conversation, but by the end of the evening, we realized that we hadn’t listened to any of the music I’d brought along. The one record they were very interested in hearing was Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out! So I left it with them.

I didn’t see them frequently. I knew they were dealing with a lot of stress, so I didn’t get in touch with them too often as the spring and summer of 1973 moved on. But I did miss my Stones’ album. One Saturday near the end of summer – a couple weeks before I was to leave St. Cloud for my nine-month stay in Denmark – I ran into them downtown. We chatted for a while, and before we parted, I asked about my record. They said they’d find it and give me a call.

The day before I was to leave town, she stopped by our house. They were sorry, but they couldn’t find my record, she said. She apologized and gave me six bucks to buy a replacement. The next day, September 4, 1973, with our group’s plane scheduled to leave at 9 p.m., I had time to run a number of final errands downtown. I added to the errands a stop at Axis, where I picked up a new copy of Get Your Ya-Ya’s Out! I had a few quiet moments late that afternoon, maybe two hours before my parents and I were going to head to the Twin Cities and the airport, so I dropped the record on the turntable. And it skipped. And skipped. And skipped.

I put the record back into the jacket. I didn’t have time to return it. So I left it there in the box with my other records. If I could return it when I got home, on the other side of the great unknown that was my time away, I would.

I got home the following May. And along with running around town to reconnect with friends, I took some time in those first busy days to sit in the rec room downstairs and get caught up on some reading. It would be nice to hear some of the music I’d missed over the time I was gone, I thought, so I went to the box where I kept my records. And there, in the front of the box, was the copy of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! that my friends had lost, with the price tag still on it. Behind it, still in the shrink-wrap, was the copy of the same record I’d bought the day I left, the one that skipped.

Confused, I asked my mom about the record, and she said that during the time I’d been gone, my friends had moved, and while they were packing, they’d found my record and had brought it back. Okay, I said, I’ll have to go give them six bucks. No, Mom said. They’d told her that I shouldn’t worry about the money. Well, okay. But what I needed to do now was return a defective record that I’d bought almost nine months ago and try to exchange it for a different title. That might be tricky.

Later that afternoon, I walked into Axis carrying the defective copy of Ya-Ya’s and was greeted by the shop’s owner. “What can I do for you?” he asked, eyeing the record.

“Well, I’ve got a story to tell you,” I said. He nodded, and I told my tale. He told me to find whatever I wanted for the same price as I’d paid almost nine months earlier, and I walked out a few minutes later with the Allman Brothers Band’s Brothers and Sisters, one of those albums I’d heard day after day in the lounge at the hostel in Denmark.

My $1.99 copy of Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! still plays well, as does the Allman Brothers Band record. For today’s Tuesday Cover, in commemoration of that purchase thirty-four years ago today, I’ve selected one of the three cover versions the Rolling Stones released in 1970* on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! Here’s “Love In Vain,” written and originally recorded by Robert Johnson in Dallas in 1937.

*The performances on Get Yer Ya-Ya’s Out! were recorded in 1969, with the album being released the next year. [Note added May 6, 2011.]

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