Two days a week I work in a ‘High Fidelity’ kind of store, called Egg Records. Yesterday, while I’m tidying up the ‘soul’ section, I see, out of the corner of my eye, a little old man holding a Zappa album. It’s a copy of Absolutely Free, a first US pressing on the Verve label, and I'm pretty excited; we've got $50 (Australian) on it; that’s a nice one-off sale to make, and, more interestingly, although hardcore fans are willing to make such a purchase, such fans rarely happen to be little old men.
A little while later, the old man comes up to the counter holding a record in each hand. He brings the Zappa album forward and drawls, in an old man kind of drawl, “this one says ‘Absolutely Free’.”
“I'm sorry, Sir,” I reply, as straight-faced and polite as possible, “that is in fact the title of the album.” I point to the price tag, to show him as I tell him that it actually says ‘fifty dollars’.
So he hands the record to me. He doesn't want it at that price. He only wants it if it is absolutely free.
“What about this one?” he drawls, proffering the record in his other hand. It turns out to be a Tom Waits album… the one called… (wait for it)… Small Change!
Before he can whip out some pocket shrapnel, I let him know that once again, ‘Small Change’ is the album title, so rather than forty-five cents, or thrupence, or whatever jangly combination happens to reside his coin pocket, the price, as stated on the price tag, is seventeen dollars.
I guess I’m just glad he hadn’t tried to purchase a copy of that live charity album that the Oxbridge mafia comedians like the Pythons, the Goodies, Peter Cook and Alan Bennett recorded for Amnesty International in the mid-70s.
Its cover says ‘A Poke In The Eye (With A Sharp Stick)’!