When you first step inside the Times Square Guitar Center, perhaps you hear the opening arpeggios of "Stairway to Heaven," floating across the sales floor like a spring breeze. Then, the "Crazy Train" solo adds a dissonant but not altogether unpleasant counterpoint, followed closely by the "Layla" chorus riff, as if in fugue. By the time "Enter Sandman" starts, slow and lumbering, things are starting to sound ugly.

The cowbell starts quietly, over your left shoulder, a sinister accompaniment to the drunken rendition of "Don't Fear the Reaper" on your right. Behind you, a middle-aged shredder gallops through "Barracuda" like a crazed mare, fire in his eyes and tremble in his picking hand. The opening strains of "Smoke on the Water" beckon you further still into the chaos that lies ahead.

There's no turning back.

Ch-Chunk. My eyes feel like they're gonna bleed. Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk. Dried up and bulging out my skull. Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk. My mouth is dry, Ch-Chunk. My face is numb, Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk, Ch-Chunk.

By the time you begin clawing your way toward the DJ section, "sound," "music," "your own sense of self"—these have all become nebulous concepts, vague recollections of a life you once lived. You won't ever be leaving this place, you realize, and maybe that's for the better. A strange sticklike object catches your eye on the wall, and you take it, running your left hand along its neck. With your right, you delicately finger its strings. How does "Back in Black" go again?