I mentioned Oz Records and Tapes in my post about the death of Ronnie Montrose. Since I made that post, memories of Eastwood Mall’s most interesting retailer have been running through my mind. It’s been awhile since I thought about that store, but once you start it is hard to stop. Just as it was hard to leave “Oz” once you were in the front door. And what a front door it was! You wound your way through a dark, curvy tunnel (supposedly reminiscent of the interior of the twister that took Dorothy to Oz) until you stepped out onto, you guessed it, a yellow brick road. That yellow road would lead you into a wonderful bit of marketing genius. Or hallucination depending on your perspective. The Wizard of Oz reminds me of a lot of things, but Gene Simmons lolling tongue on an album cover is not one of them.
Once you were inside the store, the yellow brick floor motif would guide you around to various full size and wonderfully detailed mannequins of the characters from the movie. Including, at the very back of the store, a pair of striped legs with ruby slippers protruding from underneath a section of Kansas farmhouse. When you made a purchase flying monkeys on a pulley system would wing their way to the cashier with your merchandise. I was alternately fascinated by the squished witch and vaguely uncomfortable with the creepy monkeys constantly winging their way overhead. Their lifeless eyes and far too realistic appearance could be the fuel of nightmares at that age.
All of those things added together made for a store I just had to visit every time my family went to Eastwood Mall. The thing I remember the most though is the scent of patchouli that permeated the head shop area of the store. To this day the smell of patchouli will immediately bring to mind flying monkeys on wires and yellow floor tiles without any expensive and illegal pharmaceuticals.
I convinced my parents to buy me many albums from there and later I bought things with my own money just to see the creepy monkeys do their job. I could have purchased “Emotional Rescue” from anywhere, but I waited till I could visit Oz to get it. I suppose that says a lot about the power of marketing. The one and only time I went to a Bass Pro Shop the first thing that I thought when I walked through the door was that yes, it was impressive but they didn’t have any flying monkeys!
From what information I can gather via Google it seems that Oz Records and Tapes eventually succumbed to poor management. I remember the last time I visited it with my then girlfriend Tara in July of 1984 and it had become a shadow of its former glory. The monkeys were forever stilled on their wires, the mannequins had been vandalized and not repaired and the once glorious yellow brick road was filthy. Not to mention the fact that the tornado tunnel had been shortened into more of a tornado archway than a proper tunnel. The whole store seemed to reek of sadness and not patchouli any longer.
© 2012, Connor MacLeod. All rights reserved.