Fine, let’s discuss those Atomic Glass shirts everyone is pissed about
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One of my favorite horror movies of all time is the original A Nightmare On Elm Street. It has everything I love about good ’80s slasher flicks: genuine scares, a fair amount of gore, a fair amount of brains, and a pace that seems positively glacial by today’s standards. It also has Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger, long before the character became nothing more than a badly scarred stand-up comedian.
In 2010, Michael Bay’s disreputable production company, Platinum Dunes, remade Elm Street. The remake (or reboot/reimagining if you’re a jerk) has everything I hate about modern horror films: zero scares, zero brains, and headache-inducing cinematography better suited to a video game. (It also has Jackie Earle Haley as Rorscha... um, Freddy.) As with any remake, it was met with plenty of pissing and moaning from fans of the original film. How could they do this to the beloved Elm Street franchise? Where was Robert Englund? Platinum Dunes? Really? Barf. Out of obligation, I saw the film on opening night. It sucked, I shook my head, and I forgot about it forever.
All of this is a long way of getting to those Atomic Glass T-shirts everyone is bitching about. If you haven’t checked your Facebook in the past few days, let me get you up to speed: On Tuesday afternoon, a local T-shirt company called Milwaukee Shirt Guys posted a picture of a fresh batch of shirts it had printed for an East Side head shop, Atomic Glass. Of course, Atomic Glass currently stands in the same building that formerly housed Milwaukee’s much-beloved, much-missed Atomic Records, which closed in 2009. (R.I.P.) The image on the Atomic Glass shirts was a straight lift of the record store’s iconic “falling bomb” logo, and as the picture of those shirts began to circulate online, many Milwaukeeans cried foul. It was bad enough that Atomic Glass had long since appropriated the name of the iconic indie record store, but now it was swiping the logo? That kind of blasphemy couldn’t stand.
As of today, more than 60 comments have been left on the Milwaukee Shirt Guys picture, nearly all of them negative. Really negative. Here’s a small sampling:
“This is total sacrilege.”
“You guys on Yelp yet? If not, you should be! (Create your business listing at biz.yelp.com!)” —Yelp Milwaukee
The history of Atomic Records and Atomic Glass has been similarly heated. Former Atomic Records owner Rich Menning has never been happy with the head shop trading on the good name of his record store. Atomic Glass owner David Kelly, meanwhile, has always claimed the name was simply meant as a tribute.
When the T-shirt shit began hitting the fan Tuesday afternoon, I contacted Menning and Kelly to get their reactions. Both seemed only mildly interested in talking about the new controversy, and more or less stood their original ground: Menning was irritated; Kelly was dismissive. Menning pointed out that although the logo wasn’t copyrighted (it’s actually a lift from an old Atomic Insecticides logo), he still wasn’t pleased. Kelly noted that despite the new uproar, Atomic Glass had been using the bomb image for two years. Why the big deal now?
That’s a good question. But this piece isn’t about the two owners—it’s about whether you, me, and other fans of Atomic Records should get worked up about this. The folks who left comments on the Milwaukee Shirt Guys picture seem to think so. (“What a crock of shit. I hope your 6-footer gets knocked over and spills bong water all over these lame ass shirts.”) The Shepherd Express’ Evan Rytlewski even wrote about the dustup, in a piece entitled “Atomic Glass Continues To Play On The Atomic Records Legacy.”
I’ll toss in my two cents: I loved Atomic Records. It played a huge role in making me who am I today, and I’ll always cherish the music, people, and ideas I discovered there. (Not to mention all of the incredible in-stores I witnessed there.) I have zero feelings—negative or positive—for Atomic Glass. When I visited there in 2010, I found it to be a perfectly normal head shop. It certainly wasn’t my cup of tea, but so what? (I did liken a head shop replacing a beloved record store to “turning New York’s recently closed Tavern On The Green into an all-night Fuddruckers.”) Is trading on the Atomic name a dick move? Maybe, but it doesn’t change the warm feelings I still have for the record store. Ditto for the logo.
So let me answer my own question: No, we shouldn’t get worked up about this. Though it’s technically been replaced, the original will always be there. (You can still order Atomic Records T-shirts here.) And if you decide that the replacement sucks, I’d recommend doing what I do: Take a deep breath, shake your head, and forget about it forever.
(Caught in the middle of all this are Milwaukee Shirt Guys, who seemed to be oblivious to the stormy Atomic Records/Glass history before posting their photo. The company has now issued a lengthy response on its Facebook page.)