This story has to do with buying music in a strange land, far away from home. For the song I’ll choose one from one of the two albums I bought that day – Pantera’s The Great Southern Trendkill was one of my pickups at a mall in France at some point in 1996.
War Nerve was one of the album’s signature songs. Like much of the record it is harsh, abrasive and even more heavy and savage than anything from their 1994 offering Far Beyond Driven, which was (and likely still is) the heaviest album in history to hit number one on the Billboard charts. …Trendkill would hit number four on the same charts and also slot in during Pantera’s time at the top of the metal heap in the mid-1990’s.
War Nerve is a song that sees frontman Phil Anselmo lashing out at how the media portrays him. While he had some room for argument there, he has also historically given the media more than enough material to work with. Whatever the circumstances, the song is a savage onslaught and is one of my favorite tracks from the album.
Now for the story. As I said, I was in France at some point in 1996. I honestly don’t remember which city we were even in – I am over 90% certain it was Marseilles but it possibly was Cannes. This is when I was in the US Navy and was in Europe for most of the late 90’s. Memories are a bit fuzzy after all these years but we were definitely in France and one of the cities on the Riviera, that much is certain.
A handful of us music die-hards went to the shopping mall to hunt for albums. Of course CDs were the format of the day and also a very easy to use format when living on a Navy ship. And the mall wasn’t much different from an American mall – maybe a bit less garish and more along the lines of a sterile department store, but it had a bunch of stores selling a bunch of shit so there we go.
I was in the mall and found a few CDs I wanted. I went to check out at the register. A quite lovely woman was behind the register and she rang up my purchase. She told me the total in French, a language I don’t speak. Thankfully the register was like one over here that displays the total so I could read how much money I was supposed to hand her. This was a few years before the Euro became the currency of the continent so I was using francs and wasn’t radically familiar with how many francs a dollar was worth and all of that.
I gave her the money and she handed me my change, then in the snottiest, rudest voice possible told me “merci.” And the look on her face matched the utter contempt in her voice. This woman did everything in her power to murder me with her eyes and her voice. I quickly gathered my CDs and got the hell out of there.
I obviously have no actual explanation for her attack upon my person. Most likely she was offended that I did not speak French. It was (and I guess still is, I don’t know) a thing that many French people were not into Americans who couldn’t communicate over there. It has always been my assumption about the episode. Maybe she was just having a bad day, but she seemed pleasant enough when I first got to the counter. Or maybe she found Pantera distasteful, I don’t know.
I find it a little odd, since it was probably common news that several hundred Americans were running around the city. I wasn’t even the only US Navy person there at the time I was in the store, and I know for sure that other non-French speaking US sailors went to the same store. Maybe she just got fed up with communication barriers and I was the one she took it out on, I don’t know.
And I don’t mean to type this as some customer service complaint from 26 years ago or anything. I’m just filling space in a post and recalling an amusing story from buying music overseas. It was more funny than anything and I hope the woman had a better day after I left her death gaze. I got my CDs in the end and all was well for me.
That’s essentially the story, nothing more to note. No one else that I talked to on the ship had any kind of run-in at that store, though many more seasoned vets did recount similar incidents with the French in their travels.
I guess there is one other bit of information – what is the other CD I bought? Like how The Great Southern Trendkill was a new release at the time, so was the Scorpions’ Pure Instinct. And anyone who has heard that album can easily figure out why I chose to feature Pantera.