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Tasty Collection

Monday, March 20, 2006

Pizza man's love of classic rock has customers climbing the walls

Eating in at Honey Kissed Pizza in Storm Lake can be a journey into the past for area residents in their 40s and 50s, and it can spark curiosity from their children.

So far, the restaurant's owner and manager, Randy Harrington, hasn't had to break up any

heated arguments between parents and children.

When Harrington and his co-owner wife Ronda added a dining area in their business, Randy came up with a unique idea for decorating the place.

"I had all these (vinyl) record albums that I bought as a kid and I always kept them in good shape," Randy said. "They were all sitting in boxes, and that seemed like a waste; all these great albums just sitting there."

He came up with the idea to take out the vinyl records and decorate the store with the album covers.

Of course, back in the day, the art on album covers was nearly as important as the recording within.

The tops of the restaurants walls are graced with some popular bands and singer-songwriters of the 1970s like Fleetwood Mac ("Rumours," "Tusk,"), the Who ("Who's Next") and Ten Years After ("A Space in Time', "Stonehenge').

A 1970 graduate of Independence High in eastern Iowa, Harrington also has some late 1960s gems, including a few rare Beatles album covers ('Meet the Beatles,' "Something New') that would have an experienced e-Bayer drooling at the mouth.

"A lot of people come in and ask me 'how much do you think that one is worth?' Randy said.

"Others come in and say, 'I remember that one; I had it years ago,' Randy said with a chuckle.

He added that when high-school-aged kids come in, they'll say, "I think my parents have that one; how old is it?"

Most fans of rock in their 40s and 50s would recognize more than a few of the album covers. But along with that era's best sellers are some relatively obscure offerings.

Alongside the 1972 Jethro Tull album 'Thick as a Brick,' the band's fourth album but the first that was cruelly trashed by the critics of the day, sits next to the landmark metal album by Deep Purple, 'Machine Head.'

There are a few old Black Sabbath albums from the band's first lineup, and then there are a few that make you feel like you're in a record store store circa 1972 or 1973.

Some of those include the band 'Jo Jo Gunne's' first album, two albums by the British Blues band 'Savoy Brown,' and an offering by early southern rockers 'Black Oak Arkansas.' Today, mint condition copies of those records would be tough to come by, even on e-Bay, the burgeoning web auction site.

"A few of the older people who stop in see the album covers on the wall, then walk around the whole dining area to look at all of them," Harrington said.

He added that he bought most of his record collection after he graduated from high school.

"But I do remember the first one I bought; it was a Herman's Hermit's album which came out in 1964 or 1965," Harrington said.

"I really didn't get into a lot of bands like Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd until I was in my 20's," he said.

Harrington does remember the first rock concert he saw. As a sophomore in high school in 1968, he and some friends went to visit some relatives in Houston.

He said one of his friends' uncles worked for NASA during the latter days of the Cold War's 'Space Race' and just a year before Neil Armstrong set foot on the Moon.

Somehow, Randy and his friends nabbed fourth-row tickets for a double bill show featuring Jefferson Airplane, with Iron Butterfly as the backup band.

"The whole auditorium was filled with long-haired, peace-loving people that we used to call hippies," Harrington said with a chuckle.

"Back in 1968," he added, "we'd only seen a handful of those in Iowa."

As for the show, Harrington remembers a searing rendition of Iron Butterfly's only hit,"In A Gadda-Da-Vida," a 20-minute jam that included a ten-minute drum solo.

When Jefferson Airplane hit the stage, he said, security guards were having a tough time keeping people from rushing the stage to get to the Airplane's singer and reigning siren of rock, Grace Slick.

"I think one person actually did make it on the stage," Harrington said. "He was taken away by security within a few seconds."

It turned out that Randy's friend's aunt had picked up a poster made to promote the show they saw in Houston.

Randy kept it and it now adorns the wall in back of the restaurant's main counter. He says it's one of his prize possessions.

Like other posters of California-based bands in the late 60s, it's multicolored in a singular way that was pure counterculture.

"I saw a lot of other bands after that, including Deep Purple," Randy said. "But I think you always remember the first concert you get to see."

Randy added that his favorite albums growing up were Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon," and the 1971 Who album "Who's Next."

"I think 'Dark Side of the Moon' was in the top 100 albums for 25 or 30 years," he said. "That's probably my all-time favorite, but there isn't a bad song on 'Who's Next,' either."

The Harringtons, meanwhile, have two daughters, 16-year-old Ryanne and 14-year-old Rylee.

What do they think about their parents' albums adorning the walls of the restaurant?

"They think it's pretty neat, but they don't listen too much to the old stuff," Randy said. "They listen to some rap, and a lot of pop stuff that's on the radio.

"They do think the Beatles' stuff is pretty neat," he added. "But then, not liking the Beatles is like not liking the sun."

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