Monday, October 4, 2021

Near MInt, fiction by James Hadley Griffin


Artist: Street Drugs
Album: Dead Snitches
Format: 12-inch, Limited Edition, Numbered, Black vinyl, Promotional Only
Year: 1985
Label: Plume Records
Genre: Punk/Hardcore Punk
Notes: Only 50 copies printed. 49 accounted for, in the hands of collectors or the original band members. Record Collector magazine named this the number-two rarest record in punk.

FROM A REVIEW OF DEAD SNITCHES. Published in the Benson Sentinel. By Derek Olson, 19 yrs. old.

Mark it in your calendars, people. Music was finally invented in 1985. Its creators? A band called Street Drugs. The album? “Dead Snitches.” Twenty-six minutes of identity-altering, tectonic mayhem designed to make you want to set your school on fire, kiss the girl of your dreams, and pick up a guitar and start your own band. The songs are loud, fast, smart and catchy as the flu.

FROM “THE CASE OF THE MISSING ALBUM”. Published in HeadCase. By Derek Olson, 46 yrs. old.

As you all probably know, for most of my life, I’ve lived and breathed vinyl. The ceiling above my garage sags with the weight of records in boxes in my attic that I have yet to even properly catalog. My basement walls are lined with custom-made, floor-to-ceiling shelving that wraps around every corner. My collection is organized by genre, then alphabetical by artist, then chronologically. I am serious> about records.

I go through obsessions, sometimes fixating on a certain musician or band or label. I systematically track down not only every record they released but often multiple versions of every release. Hell, I own thirteen copies of Fun House by The Stooges. I live for rare color-vinyl editions, misprinted sleeves, subscription-only releases, and Japanese bonus tracks. But there has always been an empty spot on my shelves, one I have been unable to fill for twenty-seven years. I have scoured the earth in search of it, to no avail.

I like to think that what draws one (your humble writer included) to heavier music — music that makes your mom pray for your soul a little extra hard at night — is not that it serves as an outlet for the pent-up anger and frustration of your local loser burnout, but that it translates into sound waves the feeling of what it means to be free. Punk is about freedom. Rock is about freedom. Metal is about freedom. And when are you freer but when you’re nineteen years old? For me, Dead Snitches by Street Drugs is the sound of what it meant to be a dumb, free nineteen-year-old.

I was working at my college newspaper, the Benson Sentinel, doing some record reviews and probably skipping class, when this mystery item showed up on my desk. The sleeve was plain white cardstock with a yellow-and-black hype sticker that read: “For Promotional Use Only. Street Drugs. Dead Snitches. Coming This October.” At the bottom, in pen, someone had numbered this particular copy 19/50. That was all I had to go on.

When I finished listening to it for the first time, I was trembling. I had to steady my hand before I placed the needle back down on track one to experience it again. It was a perfect record. I couldn’t wait to see this band live, to meet the people who made it, to write my review so I could tell everyone I could about it. In fact, that review got me my first professional gig reviewing for the local alt-weekly rag.

Well, I never heard anything ever again about Street Drugs. The album was never officially released in stores. The band never toured. The label never released anything else. Except for the fact that I once owned a copy of the record, I’d be hard-pressed to even say that it ever existed. So it haunts me, like a beautiful dream or the vague memory of a stolen kiss.

Maybe this longing is just the sad bluster of a pudgy rock critic who is losing his eyesight and his hair and wants to regain a shard of his youth. Or maybe it’s about tracking down one of the rarest rock records in the world. Everyone likes a treasure hunt, right? Or maybe it’s just about celebrating the feeling of freedom music can bring. Whatever the reason: if you have any information on the location of this album, please reach out. I will make it worth your while<.

I’ll end on a memory.

It’s Spring Break 1986, and I’m driving my ’79 Buick Electra with the driver’s door that rattles above 55 mph. My cassette-dubbed copy of Dead Snitches is in the tape deck, and the first track, “Here’s to All Us Bastards,” is playing. My girlfriend Jessica and I are headed to go camping in the mountains for the week. The sun is just setting below the peaks, the air smells like spruce, and Jessica looks at me and smiles, her lips shiny from that cherry lip gloss she always wore. Even in the moment, I somehow knew my life couldn’t get much better.

I will never forgive myself for giving that record to Jessica (the other love who got away) in a grand romantic gesture, just before she dumped me and changed schools. I had even written, “I love you more than this record” on the sleeve. God, I was an idiot.

But what can I say? I was nineteen.


We’ve only got today.
So let’s make our mark and have our say.
Who cares that we’re not on the news?
Who cares whose fuckin’ shampoo we use?
Who cares that we were born to lose?
Here’s to all us bastards! (repeat x4)


• Hey, Jessica! It’s Derek Olson. Can you believe it?! I just randomly spotted your profile and thought, My God, is that really Jess the Mess? What’s it been? Like twenty-five years or something? How ya been?

• {No response}

• I know you probably don’t really check this thing very regularly. It’s just, I’ve been thinking a lot about those days back at Benson. I guess because I like being a middle-aged cliche. You’ve cropped up in those memories more than once. Remember that camping trip we took?

• {No response}

• I see you’re “Jessica Butler” now. You’ve got a really good-looking family. Things have been kinda rocky in my life lately. I’d love to try to meet up and just, you know, reminisce.

• {User Derek Olson Blocked}


Subject: Street Drugs LP

Derek, First off, man, I just want to say that I love, love, love your column. No one writes about rock-n-fucking-roll like you. You get it. So, for that, thanks.

Anyway, I read your column last month about your search for the long-lost Street Drugs LP of your youth. About how you would do anything to get it back.

Well, I think I might just have a line on where that particular piece of wax wound up. It belongs to my roommate. We call him Shake Rag. I don’t know his actual name. He’s a friend of a not-very-good friend, and he needed a place to crash for a few weeks. That was five months ago. Sketchy as all hell. Once, he claimed he played bass for Aus-Rotten back in the day. I called bullshit on that, and he flipped out. Threw a fucking ashtray at my head. A genuine crazy-ass lunatic. But he is a pretty good cook, so we’re not kicking him out just yet.

But, yeah, this is the record. Definitely. It even has “I love you more than this record” written on the back and 19/50 on the front. Just like you said. How Shake wound up with it, I’ll never know. He’s currently out getting some Chinese food, and if he knew I was going through his stuff, he’d beat the shit out of me.

The other thing is, I’m absolutely certain Shake Rag would never sell it to you. Money doesn’t mean anything to this guy. Fucker’s as crust as they come. If you gave the guy a million bucks, he’d run it through a paper shredder and laugh while he did it. Anarcho-socialist in the extreme. I mean, I consider myself a pinko commie leftist or whatever, but this guy...he’s the Bill Gates of whatever the opposite of Bill Gates is. It makes it real hard to get rent money out of him.

But I’ll go ahead and ask him if he wants to sell, and if he does, I’ll send you our address, and you can come ask him yourself. You’ll have to see him in person. He doesn’t have a phone or use the internet. Of course.

• Poison Pig

Subject: Re: Street Drugs LP

Poison Pig,
Oh. My. God. When I submitted that column, I literally aspirated a little prayer to Whoever Is In Charge In The Cosmos that it would find its way in front of the eyeballs of someone who knows something. Lord, I hope you’re right. Yes, please, see if Shake Rag will sell and tell him that I will pay whatever it costs.

With bated breath,


Crime: Homicide
Officer: Sgt. Jerome Campbell

Victim Name: Malcolm Howard Agee
Alias: Shake Rag

White male. 33. Thinning brown hair matted into dreadlocks, tied together with multi-colored rubber bands. Large spacers in his ears. Track marks up and down his legs and arms.

Identifying Marks: Numerous tattoos, most of them homemade. The most prominent tattoos are the word “Crass” above his navel and large spiderwebs on both elbows.

When the body was discovered, he was wearing black jeans bearing numerous patches, a studded faux-leather belt, a black t-shirt featuring a skull above the word “Discharge,” a black denim cut-off jacket also featuring numerous patches, and a new pair of black Doc Marten boots.

Cause of Death: Exsanguination. The victim’s jugular vein had been severed by a puncture from a crude blade of some kind. An analysis of the victim’s blood revealed the presence of heroin and hepatitis C.

    The murder weapon has not yet been recovered.


Subject: Henry Lester Powell

Alias: Poison Pig

Q: How do you know the deceased?

A: He was my roommate.

Q: Can you repeat what you told me earlier about the day of the murder?

A: Look, man, I don’t want to get Derek in trouble. He seems like a good dude. I love his writing.

Q: Please just repeat what you told me earlier.

A: All right. Well, I told Shake Rag about him wanting —

Q: Him?

A: Derek. I had emailed Derek about this record he’d been hunting for. He wrote an article about it for Headcase magazine. I wrote to Derek that I knew where it was. Shake Rag had it. Hey, can I get some water?

[tape paused]

Q: Continue.

A: Well, I told Shake Rag about Derek wanting to buy the record, and Shake got this big weird grin on his face and said he wanted to meet up with him. This seemed really weird ‘cause I was certain he wouldn’t be interested in selling it. So I asked why he wanted to meet, and Shake said when Derek got here, he was planning on snapping the record in half in front of him, you know, as a cruel joke or something, a statement on capitalism or some bullshit. I told him he shouldn’t fuck with people like that, but he just laughed. I’m pretty sure he’d shot up just before. He sadistic when he was on junk, so I chalked it up to that. Anyway, I emailed Derek back and told him Shake would see him, though I had a totally bad feeling about the whole thing. When Derek was supposed to come by, my girlfriend and me were out. And when we got back, we found Shake just lying there, you know? Facedown. Giant cut on his throat. Blood everywhere. You saw it.

Q: And the record?

A: Yeah, I checked. The record was gone. I mean, when I sent Derek that email, I never thought... (subject trails off).


Dispatcher: 911. What’s your emergency? Caller: I’m not sure if I should even be calling ‘cause I don’t know if it’s technically an emergency.

Dispatcher: Can you tell me what’s happening, sir?

Caller: Well, I just saw my neighbor get out of his car and go walk inside his house, and well, it looked like he had blood all over the front of his shirt.

Dispatcher: Was he injured?

Caller: He seemed okay. I called out to him, and he waved at me.

Dispatcher: What’s his name?

Caller: Derek Olson.

Dispatcher: Where does he live?

Caller: 4093 Kennison Drive.

Dispatch: We’re sending a car. Can you tell me anything more?

Caller: Well, He’s been acting really strange lately. His wife just left him. Took the kids. I saw him crying in his driveway a couple of weeks ago. Just sitting there crying. I went up and asked him if I could help, and he said — I’ll never forget it because it was so weird — he said, “Who cares whose shampoo I use? Who cares that I was born to lose?” That was it. So strange.


Description: One 12-inch vinyl record entitled “Dead Snitches” by Street Drugs.

Location: Discovered by Sgt. Campbell in a box labeled “Memories” in Derek Olson’s master bedroom, on top of a stack of college yearbooks and letters from someone named Jessica Albrecht.

Condition: Broken into two large, jagged pieces.

Relevance: One of the pieces tested positive for the presence of Malcolm Howard Agee’s blood.

James Hadley Griffin
is a teacher who has lived, at one time or another, in most of the Southern capitals. Currently, he's in Alabama where he lives with his wife and two hounds. He has been published by Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, Pulp Modern Flash, and Popcorn Fiction. Connect with him on Twitter @JHadleyGriffin.