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

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.


12 Responses to “Record Store Day: What’s Your Record Story?”

  1. I first ventured into Sam’s in the fall of 1996, when it had already started its decline. It instantly became — and probably remains — my favorite record store of all time even in its lowered state. My now-wife told me stories of when she first started going there in the mid-’80s, when it was REALLY good: the mind boggles at what it must have been like in the all-vinyl era.

    Living in Boston, I’m ridiculously spoiled by local record stores: oddball specialist shops like Twisted Village, Weirdo Records and Stereo Jack’s, more mainstream used shops like In Your Ear and Planet Records, and the legendary Newbury Comics, which has somehow grown into a 30-store chain while retaining all the effortless cool it had when it was literally a comic-book store with a bin of import punk singles by the register.

    But my shout-outs have to go to the late Rocky Mountain Records And Tapes (remember “And Tapes”?) on Pearl Street Mall in Boulder, which was my junior-high new wave mecca, and Ralph’s Records in Lubbock, where my high-school self was extensively schooled in pre-1977 45s and LPs. Blame them.

  2. Great Blog.

    Star Records on Eglinton in Scarberia.
    Where I could find treasures of the forbidden
    And where I snuck away from class at U of T and later between patients.

    Ed’s record world at Yonge and Eglinton.

    Sonic Temple at Yonge and Sheppard.

    And I would go to Sams at opening and stay all day starting at one end on the first floor till I got to every last corner on the top floor.
    And stare at all the memorabilia and photos of Sam presenting gold records to all my favourites.

    Peaches in Hollywood Florida where I’d discover artists we didn’t know about yet north of the 49th parallel. The rest of the family looked at clothing or golf clubs or sunned on the beach. I had a record bin tan.

    Can’t think of who’s album I might have purchased cause they were playin it but I know it happened at Sonic Temple. But I remember buying three albums one day in 1987 at Sams by three new artists I hadn’t heard of on the strength of their album covers, song titles and Vibe. Got m home on a hunch and loved all three; Bruce Hornsby’s Western Skyline, Dwight Yoakum’s Hillbilly Deluxe and Steve Earle’s Guitar Town.

  3. Ahh surly record store guys. I miss them. I remember returning “Argy Bargy” by Squeeze back to Records on Wheels in Toronto because it was extremely warped. Doug was behind the cash that day. The sound system was pounding with the sounds of Neu. When he finally acknowledged my presence with a-what tha fuck do you want glare-I said “hey Doug I’m returning this” and before I could say “because it’s warped” he grabbed it out of my hand, dropped it on the floor and pointed to the rack for me to get another one. God bless that guy along with Randy and Alan who worked at that store during my formative years as a serious music fan. That little store introduced me to so much stuff that I will forever be grateful. Wheels sadly drifted away like so many others. These days I buy vinyl from stores like Rotate This and a crazy little Mall basement flea market that I won’t divulge here (because I’m selfish).

  4. Andrew Wreakes Says:

    I too spent a lot of time in Sam’s in the late 70s and early 80s. While I probably bought all of my Beatles, Stones and Zeppelin there, it was sometime in 1981 when I wandered up to the second floor and heard John Prine being played, I was hooked. What a great songwriter, then on to Steve Goodman, David Bromberg. The Jazz and Blues room beckoned to me shortly after that. Music can alter your mood, bring back memories, it is truly universal. I miss Sam’s, it was comfortable, like the Jean Jacket you have in your closet, you refuse to throw out, but can no longer wear.

    Thanks Paul.

    p.s., There was a little gem of a store on Leslie St in the Pickle Barrel Plaza (at least that’s what we called it), just north of Finch, I believe it was called “Rotate This”, found a copy of Mendelson Mckenna Mainline Stink there, if you don’t have it, go out and get it.

  5. Alan Zweig Says:

    Here comes another comment from Toronto. I’ve spent a lot of time in a lot of used record stores. Not just in Toronto. I think Jerry’s in Pittsburgh may be the best store I was ever in. And not to drop names but Harvey Pekar took me to this place in Cleveland that was literally just a shack with the word “Records” painted on a sign. But my strongest memories of hanging out in record stores was Vortex on Dundas East, when either the owner Bert Myers or Gord Cummings were working there. I loved going to Sam’s and A&A’s when I was a teenager. To me they were like two parts of the same store. But I don’t think I ever talked to one of the clerks there. Vortex was the place I got to hear things I never would have heard and talk about music with guys that really knew their stuff. I think Gord may have been the most knowledgeable and friendly record store clerk I ever knew. I also have fond memories of Driftwood when Nav and Chris Harper worked there. And I think enough time has passed that I can laugh about all the attitude you’d get from the clerks at the Record Peddler.

  6. Scott Dobson Says:

    A wonderful post Paul. I remember spending some time with you in those stores too. Often you were postering for one of your shows. I still remember the unique brand of service that only Brian Taylor of Youth Youth Youth could deliver at the RP. Those neon signs from Sams are in storage and will re-emerge when Ryerson University (who bought the Sams building) is finished renovations.

  7. I worked at London’s flagship Tower Records on Piccadilly Circus in the early 90’s, fresh out of high school. I’d gotten the job after being first in line at a Joe Satriani signing session….I’d arrived early in the morning and impressed the manager with my dedication. By the end of the day she offered me a job. I was responsible for the CDs from Abba to Bowie on the main rock floor…a long four racks crammed with CDs. I spent most of my paycheque on CDs. I could put on an obscure album in the store and sell ten copies of it before it was done playing. Those were the days.

    A lot of famous musicians would come shopping in Tower. I met Flava Flav, The Black Crowes, Neil Tennant. We closed early one night so Michael Jackson could shop alone – I showed him around the store. The other departments were like other worlds….the jazz guys were like aliens we didn’t understand. We had the best imports section anywhere. I had the first Pearl Jam album months before it came out in the UK and I saw their London debut at the tiny Borderline club around the corner in front of 150 gobsmacked punters.

    I get really miserable when I think about the all the great London record stores that are no more. It’s a whole way of life that is now over. I appreciate the sentiment behind Record Store Day, but this is now a niche area servicing the dedicated few.


    Best question I was ever asked at Tower: “Do you have Bon Jovi: The Wall”?

  8. Diane Sharkey Says:

    I used to work at Record World in Hamilton from 1986-1989. My boss owned that store and Cheapies right next door. They were on King Street , downtown Hamilton so you can imagine the characters that came in there. I was in my early 20’s and it was such a great experience. I considered it my musical “college”. I thought I was educated on various modes of music but working there really opened my eyes.
    Ironically enough,after seeing the above posts, that is where I first heard and heard of Robyn Hitchcock (The Soft Boys and the Egyptians) amongst other musicians.
    I went on to goto “rea” college and am now a law clerk but part of me misses the days of all the great record stores that I was familiar with, Sam The Record Man, the Vinyl Museum, The Record Peddlar to name a few. In Niagara Falls where I originally grew up, there was Poptones ,a great great store that managed to be one of the last bastions of the era. It did close down but now Frank, the owner has a smaller place called Apes Ma and he does still have some records. There are still a few rebels left 🙂

  9. […] edition (VERY limited edition) vinyl only releases to be sold today and today only. My friend Paul Myers wrote an entry in his blog about the event and asked people to post their record store stories in his comment section. Of course, knowing how […]

  10. Sports…

    Thanks for the great information really enjoyed the read !…

  11. A little late, I know, but I would say that my favourite indie record store of all time was the Vortex on Dundas Street East in Toronto. I don’t think there was any other store that had quite an effect on me (besides my own, of course). I’m pretty sure that I bought most of my Elvis Costello collection from them, as well as quite a few Bobby Womack and Squeeze records. Of course, I could also say The Vinyl Museum, as well (also in Toronto), but only because I worked there from age 16 to 23 and most likely got the rest of my collection from them (in lieu of actual pay, for the most part). Now that I think of it, this post could probably end up filling volumes, so I’ll stop there. Thanks for asking, Paul.

  12. dog bad breath…

    […]Record Store Day: What’s Your Record Story? « The Pulmyears Music Blog[…]…

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