Thursday, July 4, 2013

#690: Odyssey

Boise's Odyssey Records was housed in a HUGE former-car-dealer's showroom along downtown's Capitol Blvd., a store big enough to play football in, complete with a cheering crowd.
The store briefly made a big noise for selling albums CHEAP in the summer of 1978. I scored a $3 copy of Gentle Giant's GIANT STEPS imported best-of there, & probably other stuff I can't even remember -- & first heard Ian Dury's "Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll" while browsing through Odyssey's endless stacks of albums & rare imports. My store, The Musicworks, briefly looked at Odyssey as a possible threat to MW's near-monopoly on Boise record sales.
By 1980 Odyssey was gone, leaving what was left of their huge store, almost all of its inventory, and an empty cavernous back-room/repair-shop/warehouse. The store was bought-out by my employers, & I got to work there a couple nights a week through the Summer of '80.
There was a HUGE cleaning & updating job first. We hung up huge SALE posters in the enormous windows to try & block some of the summer heat out. It was HOT in there, & for the first few days the air conditioner didn't work. I remember scrambling around with my co-workers, trying to hang signs, dust, throw out trash, rearrange a massive pile of albums into some easily-followable order, hand-writing plastic artist-header divider cards with markers, trying to get a handle on the haphazard wreckage that was left.
(This was during the period when I was still mostly starry-eyed in love with working for a record store -- My Dream Job -- & would easily have done all this work for free, just to BE THERE.)
At first we didn't even have a turntable. When we started playing music in the store, we began with the albums Odyssey had left over. That was very much a mixed bag -- the album selection had been dug through pretty thoroughly before closing. We pulled out Ian Dury's NEW BOOTS AND PANTIES!!!, & I remember other New Wave stuff being played (The Police's ZENYATTA MONDATTA; possibly Stewart Copeland's "Klark Kent" EP?), along with Blue Oyster Cult's then-current CULTOSAURUS ERECTUS. And later in the evenings when customers thinned-out I played stuff as uncool as Renaissance's A SONG FOR ALL SEASONS.
As the store slowly became more "professional," we started playing what was being "pushed" by record companies at the time -- things like the Rolling Stones' hideous EMOTIONAL RESCUE, & Jackson Browne's rather-average HOLD OUT. Our company even used Browne's "down on the boulevard" tagline from his "Boulevard" single in radio commercials to announce the location of their new store....
Of the group we had cleaning the store, there was one former Odyssey employee left over -- a real rock&roll groupie named Rikki, Nikki, Randi, Andi, something, I can't remember. She was fairly wild compared to some of our other seemingly rather strait-laced employees (especially the 4 other women who worked for the company), & there were rumors of wild partying & wild sex always following her around -- but nothing that was ever confirmed, as far as I remember.
My old buddy Thom West worked at Odyssey for awhile -- maybe as a summer fill-in -- even though his tastes back then ran to Frank Zappa & some of the "artier" stuff I preferred then over "that New Wave Punk-Rock crap." Ghod knows what we were thinking....
I remember those summer evenings on the boulevard as being quite hot -- and QUIET, unless we could drag in music fans from Julia Davis Park, right across the street. & when one of the albums we HAD to play over & over was EMOTIONAL RESCUE, one of the worst albums of all time, it didn't seem like we were going to drag in too many people. Most people didn't even seem to realize we were there. There was a LOT of traffic on Capitol Blvd., but not that much traffic into our store -- even after the official "Musicworks" sign finally went up.
Things were so quiet the cashiers/customer-service folks on shift actually took BREAKS -- hour-long breaks for lunch, 15-minute breaks to explore the vast inside of the old car-dealer's building, parts of which were decorated with psychedelic high-definition posters from the Odyssey days. You never knew when you'd run into one of those. The bathroom had a meditational poster right above the toilet. And there was a completely mirrored-in cubicle off of the sales floor where Odyssey used to sell stereo equipment or drug paraphernalia or something -- a great place to space-out, very trippy. We left it as it was, but started using it as a storage space for leftover furniture & fixtures....
I don't remember working there very long. I was eventually transferred to one of our other stores, while the boulevard location stayed open. It eventually worked out & did a decent business -- until The Musicworks overextended itself (4 stores in a city of less than 75,000) & went out of business early in 1982.
At some point I'll write about working at The Nickelodeon, a hole-in-the-wall store also bought-out by The Musicworks, with a whole different sort of atmosphere....

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