Tattoo You

I went to my local record store on two occasions last week to enquire about Cat Power’s latest album and whether a sampler CD of this year’s Mercury Music Prize contenders had been released. The store’s range of CDs only made up a tiny percentage of its floor space and was easily dwarfed by the massive amount of DVDs that make up most of the product sold in the shop. The CDs were arranged vertically in alphabetical order rather than the usual horizontal fashion that used to be the norm when record stores actually sold music. I couldn’t find Cat Power under either “C” or “P”, so I asked one of the well-groomed floor staff if she could help me. She hadn’t a clue who I was talking about, but returned from her computer to inform me that there should be a few copies of it in stock. She pointed out that new artists are often hard to find and she eventually located it somewhere between The Carpenters and Cat Stevens. Despite the sales assistant’s lack of musical knowledge, I still picked up Chan Marshall’s ninth studio album as Cat Power. My other enquiry to a different staff member about the Mercury Music Prize CD led to me giving her a brief history of the musical equivalent of literature’s Booker Prize. This staff member came back from her computer to tell me that it was two years since they had one of those albums in stock

The store in question was the British music chain called HMV, who’ve got two branches in my city. In fact, they’re the only record shops remaining in Limerick, though it would be more correct to call them DVD stores. HMV was in the news recently when it was announced that they had sent out a directive to their staff urging them to cover up any prominent tattoos and body piercings in case they caused offence to HMV’s customers. Some commentators criticised the company’s action for not being very rock & roll, while others more correctly pointed out that HMV’s clientele were now older and more conservative and would be more likely to be offended by staff covered in tattoos and nose rings. I casually mentioned this to yet another HMV worker and she felt that the media had blown the whole thing out of proportion. She told me that the circular merely asked staff to be well-groomed and to dress properly. My unkempt head of hair and prominent goatee would probably make it difficult for me to work at HMV, but the personal grooming amongst their Limerick staff is of the highest standard

Perhaps one of the reasons that HMV issued this directive in recent weeks is that the month of Movember is now upon us. The word is a combination of moustache and November and it’s become a time when some normally clean-shaven men decide to grow the hair on their upper lip until December arrives. Its purpose is to raise awareness of prostrate cancer and to raise money for male cancer charities. Participants are encouraged to only grow moustaches, so it shouldn’t interfere too much with HMV’s current stance. Here are a few songs that may offer some encouragement to HMV staff (even if they’ve never heard of any of them)

The Monochrome Set are a London post-punk band that formed in the seventies. The Man with the Black Moustache is from 1983 and features a typically eighties indie sound. Men with black moustaches were quite prominent at that time and he would surely not be out of place during the month of Movember or even behind the counter at HMV. Sideburns would surely be frowned upon in the current regime, though their heyday was most likely the seventies. Country singer Tom Leach sings about them on his 1998 live album. Irish guitarist and songwriter Rory Gallager was know to wear sideburns and you should be just about able to make them out in the photo below. Rory was always clean shaven in his photos, but his long hair would surely have got him the sack at HMV. My favourite song by him is about running away to join the circus, an occupation more suited to its titualar tattooed lady than selling DVDs in HMV

A young scumbag who I once threw out of my place of employ tried to insult me by calling me a hippy. He may as well have sung Pavement‘s Cut Your Hair at me. The version below comes from a 2010 tribute called Show Me a Word That Rhymes with Pavement that you can download for free from here. Eric Goulden went by the name of Wreckless Eric and the English pub-rocker offers some personal hygiene tips on his 1978 debut record. Lazyboy is the brainchild of Denmark’s Søren Nystrøm Rasted. Underwear Goes Inside the Pants is basically a very funny comedy standup routine set to a hip-hop beat. It should also serve as a wonderful piece of advice for anyone who wants to work at HMV

The Man With The Black Moustache – The Monochrome Set

Sideburns – Tom Leach

Tattoo’d Lady – Rory Gallagher

Cut Your Hair (Pavement cover) – Cats & Cats & Cats

Personal Hygiene – Wreckless Eric

Underwear Goes Inside the Pants – Lazyboy