Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Young Woundup's rap about the last job he had before his current one. I'll probably go into this gig a little more someday. The store had a great history and attracted a lot of famous underground musicians. But the police were always lurking, and they did eventually catch my old boss. The operation lives on out of his apartment because Long Island businessmen need their Brian Wilson bootlegs. 

2003-01-13 - 12:06 p.m.

a few weeks before sept. 11, the f.b.i. busted two shops in the village for making and selling bootleg cd's. midnight records (where i worked*) carried many of the same titles. the feds shut down those other stores for a time, but the shit-hammer had yet to fall on midnight. my boss, j.d. (a paranoid frenchman), readied my friend and co-worker b.j. and me for any questions we might get from undercover fuzz. "eef anyone ask you about bootlegz," j.d. said. "just start talkeen about 'ow 'ard eet ees to be a young man and leev een new york seetee."

i thought j.d. had picked up some subconscious vibes from b.j. and me. both of us were having a hard time as young men living in new york city. we made meager hourly wages. we worked on saturdays. we worked for a sour, middle-aged garage rocker. we would have a lot to say to any undercover spook poking around midnight.

the day after the bust in the village, a grizzled, 40ish guy with stringy blonde hair showed up and started pumping j.d. for his thoughts about bootlegs. our boss was characteristically guarded. the guy said the feds had also zapped some record stores in cleveland. j.d. shrugged, "zat's too bad, man."

a week later a beefy guy with a mustache came into the store looking for bootlegs. normally, i would've shown him where they were in our display racks, but this guy seemed inexperienced or nervous. he was a new york everyman type: dark complected; short haircut; quick, toothy smile -- he could've been a super's handyman, a subway driver, or a cop. he asked for U2 bootlegs. he was definitely a cop. no one ever asked for U2 bootlegs at midnight records, even though we had a few. i stuttered, "no, uh... no we don't sell any." he smiled the quick, toothy smile and left.

a week after that, the world trade center collapsed, and the f.b.i. had more important people to chase after than j.d. martignon at midnight records.

that wasn't the only run-in midnight had had with cops. but, at least in the other cases we weren't the ones being scrutinized.

my post at midnight was that of shipper. i boxed up all the hundreds of mail orders and took them to the old chelsea station post office every saturday. i sat to the right of the store's entrance on a small platform. it gave me a vantage point from which i could see anyone entering the store -- including cops -- before they saw me.

every once in a while -- maybe once every couple of months -- the police would conduct an undercover bust of someone out on 23rd street. midnight was on 23rd off the corner of 8th ave., down the block from the chelsea hotel. the cops liked to duck into our dimly lit shop to sychronize their watches or check their walkie-talkies. midnight also has a recessed entrance, so you can stand right outside the door and not be seen easily.

the cop would leave the store, and a few minutes later the blue and white nypd cars would swarm the suspect -- usually in a car, himself. yes, they were always male, and often wearing big, gold chains. i would wonder what they had done to command such an orchestrated arrest: drug kingpin? child porn pusher? n.y. islanders ticket scalper?

after all those busts, i got good at identifying undercover new york cops. they all looked the same: burly, mustachioed, usually with a mets hat or jersey, and headphones -- little speakers that went up thru the shirt and fit right in the ears. those were for the walkie-talkies. i could spot them at the subway platform at bedford ave. where they would ticket young people for smoking or riding their bikes off the train.

now that terror hysteria has cooled a bit, i wonder if the feds will go looking again for j.d. at midnight. in a way, he would deserve getting pinched for the overpriced bootlegs he pushes (Mott the Hoople-Wild Side Of Life-(Ltd.Jap.CD'70 Fillmore W.+Bonus)27.99 ). but i'm sure he would tell you that's how he survives. it's hard to be a middle-aged, french garage rocker and live in new york city.

* I was more than a little tickled when we got that 2001 Best Of nod in the Village Voice and it mentioned the "supernice staff." BJ and I always took customer service very seriously.

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