Record Store Day: What’s Your Record Story?
Over more years than I’m happy to admit, I’ve worked and gotten paid (and not gotten paid) in almost every avenue of the music industry and, throughout my travels, I’ve met several hundreds of people.
Of these people, there are the ones who care about the music and the ones who don’t.
I’m with the ones who do.
Among the ones who do, there’s been a lot of buzz about the upcoming fourth annual Independent Record Store Day, which falls this year on Saturday, April 17th.
If you go to the official Record Store Day website, here’s how they explain the history of the event:
The original idea for Record Store Day was conceived by Chris Brown, and was founded in 2007 by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Carrie Colliton, Amy Dorfman, Don Van Cleave and Brian Poehner as a celebration of the unique culture surrounding over 700 independently owned record stores in the USA, and hundreds of similar stores internationally.
This is the one day that all of the independently owned record stores come together with artists to celebrate the art of music. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April.
Record Store Day is currently managed by Eric Levin, Michael Kurtz, Scott Register, and Carrie Colliton. Folks wanting to contact Record Store Day are encouraged to email us at email@example.com
A Record Store Day participating store is defined as a physical retailer whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation. (In other words, we’re dealing with real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).
The Record Store Day site also features a lot of celebrity endorsements espousing the value of the independent record store in our society. Among these are:
Tom Waits: “Folks who work here are professors. Don’t replace all the knowers with guessors keep’em open they’re the ears of the town”
Shelby Lynne: “You can’t roll a joint on an iPod – buy vinyl!”
Jack White: “I think it’s high time the mentors, big brothers, big sisters, parents, Guardians, and neighborhood ne’er do wells, start taking younger people That look up to them To a real record store and show them what an important part of life music really is. I trust no one who hasn’t time for music.”
Robyn Hitchcock: “Scott McCaughey, Peter Buck and Bill Rieflin, who comprise the Venus 3, my American band, all heard my songs for the first time in the record stores where they worked. It’s probable they also first heard each other’s music like that, too. I have fond memories of hanging out in US record shops, particularly the Used Record Shoppe in the Sunset district of San Francisco. Shops like Let It Be in Minneapolis, Bill’s in Dallas, Tower on 4th & Broadway, Easy Street in Seattle, Criminal in Atlanta, Amoeba in LA and many others gave us a platform to perform live on tour and unfailingly stocked our records (Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians, my solo work, The Soft Boys and now me & the Venus 3) where the larger chains found us unprofitable. Independent record stores gave my career a solid base > from which to withstand the air currents of hipdom – people who got into your stuff that way really got into it.”
As always, Cameron Crowe says it best: “The record store. Where true fandom begins. It’s the soul of discovery, and the place where you can always return for that mighty buzz. The posters. The imports. The magazines. The discerning clerks, paid in vinyl, professors of the groove. Long live that first step inside, when the music envelopes you and you can’t help it. You walk up to the counter and ask the question that begins the journey — “what is that you’re playing?” Long live the record store, and the guys and girls who turn the key, and unlock those dreams, every day.”
For me, Paul Myers, record stores were very important watering holes for me and my pals, Dan Derbridge and Michael Wojewoda. Living in the suburbs of Toronto, we’d all pile into Michael’s copper ‘n’ rust toned Dart Swinger and make for Yonge Street in Toronto, where we’d spend our lonely, girlfriendless Friday nights together at places like Records On Wheels, chatting with our store clerk pal Randy who rarely liked what we liked but didn’t mind talking about it. Then, we’d go back to Dan’s place and listen to the vinyl and pore over liner notes. Then, next day, we’d spend our Saturday afternoons at Sam the Record Man, at Yonge and Dundas, then over to The Record Peddler on Queen Street East.
That Sam’s was actually my very first record store, they were indie at first (later they grew into a mall chain and then into oblivion) but that first mega store on Yonge was a shrine to me. I still get a thrill when I see pictures of the neon storefront.
I bought (and here’s where I date myself) The Beatles Abbey Road and Let It Be here. I bought my Guess Who records here, I bought Rush and Max Webster albums here. Later in life, I would have amazing music discussions with Garwood Wallace here, and I’ll never forget the wonderful feeling when my own record, Bowl Of Globes by The Gravelberrys, was in the Top Ten Indie Release racks at Sam’s.
We all have a good laugh when we think about the snobbish dudes in High Fidelity but some of us also get a tear in our eye because some of those assholes changed our lives with their boundary pushing “suggestions” of new music, or old music. I think I heard my first Captain Beefheart album in an indie store, the guy behind the counter probably couldn’t have cared less if anyone bought it or even liked it, but it made me hear something good that I hadn’t heard before. Music aside, the mere business of browsing the album cover art in the shops, especially post-punk and new wave albums, where the artwork was almost as important as the music and designers like Peter Saville were tearing it up with their post-industrial graphics for New Order and other Factory acts. I made a lot of friends in record stores. I got very emotionally attached to Flip City Records on Queen West in Toronto and would have long discussions and listening sessions with the owner David Aaron who, besides playing a mean saxophone, knew the inherent value in spinning the 33 1/3 album cut of Foreigner’s “Juke Box Hero” at 45 RPM, in the store, for maximum new wave disco effect. Later there were places like Around Again Records, Driftwood, Cheapies, Rotate This, She Said Boom, Kops, Penguin Music and others.
Then, when I moved to San Francisco, I would frequently get lost in Aquarius Records on Valencia, Streetlight Records on 24th, Amoeba in the Haight (and in Berkeley) as well as Rasputin on Telegraph (Berkeley).
My Vancouver, BC time was marked by less frequent but no less valuable visits to Zulu Records on Fourth Ave. but by then I’d gotten married or old or something and just didn’t feel the need to hang out for three to four hours in a record store anymore.
The world has seen some great record stores, celebrate them.
Conor Oberst loved his Omaha indie record store, growing up…
Jon Brion likes the Hollywood Amoeba store…
There aren’t as many record stores these days, and the internet has taken up a lot of the slack as far as the “bitchy snob” discussion and dissection of new sounds, but record stores, when you find them, are still hallowed ground.
Happy Record Store Day everyone!
ASSIGNMENT: Tell me, in the COMMENTS section of this page, your favourite record stores of all time, the city or town where they are and one or two memorable recordings you wouldn’t have heard if you hadn’t gone in.