Guns n’ Roses fans expecting to be met with pyro, a giant inflatable Axl Rose — or at least Chinese Democracy blaring from the sound system — were in for a surprise when the anxiously awaited album hit Best Buy stores yesterday. At all the Manhattan outlets Rock Daily visited Sunday, you’d be hard-pressed to know it was one of the most hyped release days of the century.
Best Buy has released its share of exclusive music (notably live DVDs from the Rolling Stones and the Police), but serving as the sole distributor of Guns n’ Roses Chinese Democracy, which the retailer dubbed “the most anticipated album of all time” in its promotional materials, was a coup. Yet there were no midnight sales, and therefore no opportunities to nab video like the 1991 footage of fans lining up to buy both of the Use Your Illusion long boxes. When the doors of one downtown New York City store opened at 9 a.m., there were two customers waiting outside. Once in, it took a few minutes of searching to actually find the discs, and the promised vinyl was nowhere to be found — and neither was a cashier, for that matter.
The Chelsea location fared better with a full stand-up display, but the kids in the store were more interested in playing “Santeria” on Guitar Hero. That is, except for the one longhair who stared at the disc in his hands on his way out the door, as if it would disappear if he neglected it. As he left the store, he held it up to a passerby, laughed and said, “Crazy.”
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The Midtown Manhattan store had the most purchases during Rock Daily’s visit of any of the locations, including one uniformed police officer who must have gotten over Axl’s diss on “One in a Million.” One customer flipped through every copy on the rack, either on an OCD quest for the most pristine packaging or finally coming to the conclusion of his 14-year internal struggle over whether he should buy it. He did.
With what must have been a precisely negotiated deal, it’s curious how minimally Chinese Democracy was emphasized in the Best Buy stores. In none of the four locations visited Sunday was the record playing on the house music system, and only one had any sort of stand-alone display. This isn’t to say that Chinese Democracy won’t do big numbers, especially with customers descending on the retailer en masse this week for Black Friday sales, but after a decade and a half of anticipation, Best Buy’s release of Chinese Democracy began in New York with a shrug.