We were all up on the first floor looking out the window marveling at the line forming down Newbury Street in anticipation for the midnight sale. I had my 5 CD’s all bound with a rubberband just waiting to cop them all after the smoke cleared. It finally hit midnight and we rolled the release cart out to our customers on the video floor so they could include them in their final purchases of the night. I can’t even remember what came out and I remember damn near everything. The phone rang and my supervisor Betsy picked up. She looked at me, smiled then hung up the phone. Betsy walked over to me and said “You’ve been called up to The Big Show, kid!”. My dumb ass stood there for about 5 seconds in silence before she said “Get your ass upstairs!”. Guess who then ran up the escalator to the second floor in less time than it takes for Max & Nev to discover you’re not who you claim you are online on an episode of “Catfish”?
The store’s key supervisor Gardner & the 2nd floor’s senior supervisor Sean were having an intense discussion near the registers when I arrived. It’s almost impossible to stress enough how many scars that damb “Titanic” sale had on our collective psyche. It was like surviving 36 hours under continuous fire in the jungles of Vietnam. They turned to me and said “Good, you’re here. Emily needs to go home at 12:30 so we’re pulling her drawer & putting you on for the rest of the sale on her register because we need the fastest people possible up here”. This statement prompted me to look at Sean because there were at least two other people in the store who were as fast as or faster than me. Gardner interjected “Abe & Quirk are gonna be helping us count drawers. That leaves YOU, Adams”. OH. That explains it. “Until your shift you can make sure to assist Em until she leaves. If the drawer gets full, bundle the cash & stick it into the safe”. “Big bills too? Face everything?” I asked. Sean nodded his head then looked at Gardner and said “I’m glad you called down for him!”.
Behind the counter we all waited as they finally let the crowd in enough where the line went all the way down the first floor’s escalator, out the door & halfway down the 300 block of Newbury Street. Everyone on the registers began to arrange everything, crack open change & place open boxes of CD’s within arms reach (or tell me where everything was). The announcement was finally made and the midnight sale was on. Customers flooded the sales floor as we had a few employees out to help direct them to product & expedite the process. CD’s were flying off racks and out of bins at a furious pace. On average people were buying at least 3 different albums at once. I’m behind the counter bundling 20’s up, dropping 100’s in the safe and facing bills the whole 30 minutes with the speed it takes for a dude to curve a chick he found out is really overweight after Nev & Max showed him his Internet girlfriend’s real pictures on an episode of “Catfish”.
Once Em’s 30 minutes were up Gardner showed up and asked Em to log out, swapped out her drawer with a fresh one, snatched all of the cash out of the safe then told me to log in. “Kill it!” Gardner said as he took the drawer up to the 2nd floor countout room. I looked up at the seemingly neverending line of excited customers with their hands full of CD’s, took a breath then yelled “NEXT!”. It was on like a condom in a Bangkok brothel. Your boy scanned, demagnetized, gave back exact change, flirted with cute girls and even convinced some people to buy MORE CD’s at the counter. Alicia Keys would’ve sang that I was on fire. The kid was ringing people up faster than it takes for someone to change the channel from MTV when “Nikki & Sara Live” comes on right after the end of an episode of “Catfish”.
Everyone came out. Adults, college students, teenagers, kids with their parents, casual fans, diehards and backpackers alike all came out to buy CD’s and participate in this event. It was almost as if each of them had come out to vote with their individual choices.
We’d already decided an hour into the midnight sale that we’d be playing all five of the albums the next day in the store as it was the only way to wash away the shame of when corporate ordered that we show nothing but Titanic for 48 hours straight on every video screen in the Boston Tower Records. It’s been 15 years now and I still haven’t watched Titanic since. After 90 minutes the crowd thinned out enough that we could close the store doors. Now it was time to swap out the last two drawers of the night to sell to all of the Tower employees.
This was such a huge day that the line of Tower employees stretched from the register into Hip-Hop/Rap section. Employees that weren’t even working that day showed up to cop their albums of choice. The top sellers were Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life, The Love Movement, Aquemini, Mos Def & Talib Kweli Are Black Star followed by Foundation. I believe that was also the order we played them in the store the next day. It was probably the first time after the separation between the mainstream Rap industry and the indie Rap industry that I saw underground Rap fans really come out in force and rally behind an album. It was imperative that they did it given it was going against Jay-Z and OutKast but they bought at least 3 of the 5 available projects that night on average. It was all Hip-Hop and there were no wrong choices. I don’t think we’ll ever experience a day like that ever again.
By the next Summer, that very same Boston Tower Records would realize that it was at Ground Zero of a new digital revolution as Napster spread from Northeastern University to Emerson College, Berklee College Of Music, Boston University, Harvard University and onto the campuses of over 50 colleges and universities in the Metro Boston Area. Boston had a thriving independent Hip-Hop scene so shows at The Middle East, The Western Front, Harper’s Ferry & Bill’s Bar always gave underground Rap fans a refuge from the mainstream Rap on TV and the radio.
CONTINUED ON NEXT PAGE