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Music, Memories for Record Store Day

Marc Sanchez

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Flash Records Store circa 1955
(Michael Ochs Archive/Getty Images)
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This is a weekend of Earth Day events and Passover seders. But let's not forget that Saturday is also Record Store Day. Independent record stores all over the world are celebrating. And in a world where the number-one music retailer doesn't even have a storefront (it's iTunes), record stores might be considered a precious resource.

Last week, we asked you for your record store memories -- here's a sampling of the many responses:

Heather McCorkle

I have always loved shopping in record stores until about three years ago. I had just turned 33 and was feeling much less than hip. My girlfriend and I had stopped in to a record store during a long day of shopping just to nose around a bit. As we're digging through the stacks of vinyl, she starts gushing "Oh, remember the Go-Go's? I loved the Go-Go's! I wonder if they have the Go-Go's!" Before the full extent of the un-hipness of the Go-Go's could really sink in to either of us, she had grabbed a clerk dressed in full goth regalia and asked. He stared at us in our best "J.Crew Saturday shopping outfits" and yelled to another clerk at the front of the store. Through the multiple piercings on her face she screamed back "The Go-Go's?" Again yelling through a crowd of supremely hip and musically elitist college students -- all with black-frame glasses and holding their dusty vinyl copies of John Coltrane's "A Love Supreme" and Television's "Marquee Moon," he replied: "Uh... Yeah. The Go-Go's." Looking at us straight-faced and bored, she panned: "Yeah... That's a no-go on the Go-Go's." Sighing, he turned back to my girlfriend and simply stated: "No."

John Janeri

When I attended Ohio University in the early '80s, CDs hadn't been invented yet. Unlike many of my friends, I was a very poor student -- that is to say, I didn't have a lot of money -- but what little money I did have, I spent on beer and on records. I can remember how my buddies and I would head uptown to spend hours at the record stores, especially on rainy Saturdays, just looking through 45s, LPs and cassettes. And college record stores back then would even sell a bunch of other rock 'n' roll paraphernalia. I can remember how much fun it was when we would discover something new like finding out that one of our favorite artists had just released a new album, or even finding an older release that we needed to fill our collection. For me, it was sometimes a very eye-opening experience listening to whatever record the guy behind the counter was playing in the store. This was how I was first introduced to reggae music. There were two record stores in Athens, one at either end of Court Street. One of the stores was called School Kids Records and it had the most amazing collection of bootleg, extended play and European import records. This is where you could find some really rare and unique remixed music from popular bands of the time. The really rare albums were often placed in their jackets and then slipped in these clear protective plastic sleeves. I remember buying just about every hard-to-get imported Peter Gabriel album or dance remix EP that was ever made.

Tom Teague

The year Elvis died, I worked at a record store in Knoxville, Tenn. One of our clerks enjoyed playing avant-garde orchestral music during business hours. He was the only one of the crew who liked it, and it annoyed the customers, but he played it anyway. Just before Halloween, a man with slick hair, tight jeans and work boots walked in wanting to buy a recording of noises to scare trick-or-treaters. He said he wanted "bones a rattlin' and people a screamin.'" We told him we didn't carry sound effects records, and just as he turned to leave, his ears pricked up when he heard some deeply esoteric 12-tone stuff on the stereo. "How about that?" he asked. And, $9.95 later, he left carrying a Deutsche Grammophone recording of Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Mickrophonie II" to frighten kids in rural Knox County.

Teresa Sabol Spezio

My mother, who never listened to music that came out after 1959, was sent every year to the National Record Mart in downtown Pittsburgh, Penn. One year my sister wanted Dan Fogelberg's second album. My mother walked into the record store and asked the friendly man who sold albums for "Don Togelburg." He was stumped. After about 10 minutes, he figured out she was talking about Dan Fogelberg. The story was told at every reunion for years. When Dan Fogelberg died, my entire family wrote to my mother to remind her of that story. I still remember the store and how we would go into the store at the end of the day to wait for the bus when it was cold outside. I was very sad when it closed in the 1980s. Now my mother gets us gift cards.

Dale Young

Back in the early '40s, my high school in Indianapolis was quite large -- a student body of about 3,000 -- so it was fairly easy to cut school, which my buddies and I did, I regret to say, quite often. One of our favorite things to do was take a trolley downtown and go to Pearson's Music Store. Besides selling sheet music, pianos and other instruments, there was a record department on the second floor, where one could ask for records to take into a glassed-in private booth to play for "approval" before buying. Of course, we never bought anything. We couldn't afford it. Now, looking back, I don't know why the clerk didn't think it was just a tiny bit strange that a couple of three 14 and 15-year-old boys were "browsing" records at 11 AM on a weekday. They must have had trial discs set aside for this purpose. Those old 78 rpm "shellac" surfaces wore out a little with each playing, and I can't imagine the clerk could slip them back into the sleeves and sell them as new. Toward the beginning of my junior year I got caught and began paying a stiff academic price for my truancies. But all in all, I considered the cost well worth it, since after graduation I went on to a career in show business. And there's no doubt part of my education to that end happened during those halcyon hours in Pearson's record store.

Chad Stocker

The record store was a Mecca for me, and still is. Sure, all the "High Fidelity" stereotypes were present, but that's what I wanted out of my record-going experience. I wanted the record store snob to tell me I was nothing in the indie rock world without this 7-inch, and that the album I picked out wasn't their best stuff (the old stuff inevitably better than the one that looked good to me, of course). But I knew that I was learning the ropes. I was getting an education, not only in music to listen to, but how to talk about music -- the descriptive words I heard the scrawny guy with the same pair of Converse Chuck Taylors I had on use to describe why this album was a must-hear, or how the tones were different with this new producer. I gained a vocabulary with those experiences, and experiences that went well into my college years. These days, I'm more about filtering through old vinyl, and finding interesting pieces to hear. I like talking about records with other customers, which is how half my high school friends were made, and picking out a stack of records to buy, and then slowly put things back after I figure out how my budget will compromise with my compulsive searching for new music. The bottom line is, going to a store front and having real conversations, and hunting around for the record I am looking for -- sometimes with the clerk -- will never be old to me, and will never be replaced by the new world of virtual music collecting. Being at the record store as a high school kid basically set me up for my life -- I've worked at three in the last 15 years.

  • Music Bridge:
    Three MCs and One DJ
    Artist: Beastie Boys
    CD: Hello Nasty (Capitol)

Comments

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  • By Lorraine Chambers

    From Costa Mesa, CA, 04/16/2009

    For ten months I was radio host of a show I created called Record Store Memories at KUCI 88.9FM at www.kuci.org at the University of California, Irvine. Each week I explored a guest's music soundtrack of their life. The stories were great. The guests ranged from music fans, musicians and music buyers. I remember my first record was a Rod Stewart album, Smiler, which I brought at a Music Plus store in Rosemead where I grew up. I had listened to my parents' music of Irish bands, Dean Martin, Mammas & the Pappas, plus my brother, Dermot's collection of Yardbirds, Neil Young, Eric Clapton. So finally I was starting my own collection which has varied in size (just like myself!) over the years. My early days was collecting vinyl, cassettes even 8 track tapes for my then boyfriend's hot rod (where is Eammon Foley?) Later I married a professional rock bassist so we share our album collection. When kids arrived into our family, our vinyl was sold off to pay for diapers! The cost of parenthood. Years later as a divorced single mom with two elementary school age children, I worked days at various school jobs, yet my nights were working in record shops! Heaven on earth! So I have many fond memories of record stores. I worked at Wherehouse Music then Tower Records in Costa Mesa for over three years till they closed the chain in 2006. What a sad day for rock'n'roll! The only Tower Records left is in Dublin, my home away from home where all my relatives are. Remember the annual Record Store Day on April 18th, 2009 is a reminder that actually everyday is Record Store Day!

    By Clara Alexander

    04/30/2008

    Fabulous stories and memories. I wish I'd had time to write a more coherent response but I was running late and wanted to respond, anyway. No time to edit. I loved what you used.

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