On April 19th, I was one of the music loving sinners, who for an unexplained reason, missed Record Store Day. But then again, I would argue that in my world, Record Store Day is everyday!
"Independent record stores are a vital source of the ever-changing cool. They respond to the street faster than the chains can. They help us telegraph to each other what's "now" and what's not, what we should be telling our friends and neighbors about, and what's about to take off, or, no longer hot. Musical trends are confirmed at the local independent record store, by you and me… Why would we want to do away with all that?" – Joe Satriani
You want inspiration? Read this post. It really hits it on the head, what it's like to be a music fan, and to be this kind of music fan, takes many words, because you've got so many memories to share. You've got so many experiences, let me tell you how I got into THIS artist… sit down, because this is going to take a while, etc. etc.etc.
For me, it started sometime in the early 80s, living in Odessa, TX, and as I like to tell people, it was the home of oil wells, Permian Panthers football, and not much else. Perhaps you saw the story of the Permian Panthers, as immortalized in the movie Friday Night Lights. My dad took me to the local mall, and there it was: Record Bar. I got my dad to let me go in and I spent some time, but not nearly enough. In that trip, and in the next several, I picked up the single for Duran Duran's "The Reflex," with the commemorative poster that did double duty as the 45 sleeve as well. I got "Hooked on Classics" with the entire album, and got sucked into "Pac-Man Fever" by Buckner and Garcia.
In 1985, our next stop was Cloudcroft, New Mexico, a village of 500 at the time. I was happy that 45 minutes down the mountain led me to Hastings Books and Music. It wasn't ideal, but it was a place that continued to feed my growing need for music.
1987 found us in Joliet, IL – fictional home of the Blues Brothers, and my first exposure to the true greatness of independent record stores. Crow's Nest Music was, and is still the coolest record store I've ever been to. Music in every format as far as the eye can see, and an incredibly knowledgeable staff. If you were looking for it, Crow's Nest had it, and if they didn't have it, they could get it, and it wasn't a problem. You know that feeling, of asking the record store clerk if they can order something, and getting that disgusted look, like you're wrecking their day. That never happened at Crow's Nest.
After I moved from the Chicagoland area, I would make trips back for concerts and to visit friends, and each trip included a necessary stop at Crow's Nest Music, often to introduce friends that were traveling with me, to a great record store, as if it was an old friend. Sadly, Crow's Nest closed a few years back, a victim of the same problems in the industry that have wiped out so many other great independent record stores. Events like this, make Record Store Day a powerful effort for awareness. These days, there's a store called Disc Replay which is part of a small chain of stores in Illinois and Indiana, but it's not the same.
Before we leave Illinois, let's give honorable mention to Toad Hall. My dad was working in Rockford, and while visiting, I found Toad Hall, which the link above describes as "a wonderful repository of books, comics, games, prints, old toys, memorabilia of all kinds, posters and most importantly, to me at least, records." It was Toad Hall where I found old issues of Rolling Stone from the 70s and 80s, a great stock of used CDs, and I believe, even old radio shows (Casey Kasem, Rick Dees, etc) on vinyl.
I was happy to hear recently that Toad Hall is still around, and I need to make a trip to Rockford to visit that musical haven again. I think now that I am older, I would appreciate it more.
1989 found me in Cleveland, home to many great record stores that have come and gone through the years, including two of my favorites, My Generation in Westlake (R.I.P), and for a brief period in the 90s, Repeat The Beat, which illustrates my view of dangerous record stores. Dangerous record stores are the ones that have SO much cool stuff, yet not much in the way of foot traffic. I've seen many a store like it with great inventory, but a small customer base, come and go in the past 20 years. And that sucks. You love it, and you get it… where are the rest of the music fans. Don't they know? That was my definition for Repeat The Beat – a great idea, but too much of a great idea. I bought some great music during the times that I was there though, for sure.
Time Traveler Music is one example of a great record store that is still in existence here in the Cleveland area. It requires a bit of travel, because it is located in Cuyahoga Falls (about 40 minutes away or so), but the selection and diversity remains unmatched, and it is still a great place for import and indie stuff. I started going there in the early 90's when Sarah Mclachlan was just beginning to break as an artist. Time Traveler was the only place that I could count on to have all of Sarah's Canadian stuff readily available, and the owner was a huge fan – another great record store person to have conversations with about music, and in the case of Sarah, I'd see him at shows for Sarah, and other artists that he was a big fan of. Time Traveler was also a great source to feed my laserdisc habit – they had a great selection, and lots of import music laserdiscs that you couldn't get here in the U.S. They're still going strong – grab an address here, and go visit.
I could spend a lot of time writing about the record stores that I've loved here in Cleveland. I worked at record stores throughout high school, and got both jobs because I spent so much time hanging out in the stores, that the managers said to me, "you come here so much, I'm going to give you a job." One of my best friends, is someone that I met while he was managing a CD Warehouse location. When My Generation closed, that was one of several store closings in a short period, and it was a bummer – My Generation was something to talk about.
These days, I remain on a quest to visit the next great record store. I haven't been to Amoeba Music in Los Angeles, but man, I want to. I would go to LA just to go there. I have a list of stores like that, that I would travel to the city, just to go there. That's the sickness of a music fan – we'll do stuff like that, and it's completely normal. It' s a must (or inevitable) that I will find my way into a record store at some point while I am in the city. My parents actually made sure to locate Cheapo Discs, prior to my visit a few years back to the St. Paul/Minneapolis area, and I visited that, and several other stores while I was in the area.
My favorite haunt at the moment, is to take a Saturday, and head up to Ann Arbor, MI to visit the record stores there, particularly Encore, which is a must for any music fan within driving distance. That's a perfect day in my book – drive to Ann Arbor, visit Encore, go see a show, perhaps at The Ark, and drive back to Cleveland. Awesome.
Even though I love my iPod, I still live and breathe for physical product. Albums get lost on my iPod, and there's no replacement to me for holding it in my hands, reading the liner notes, and sharing the overall experience with a friend. And if I believe Lars Ulrich from Metallica, perhaps we'll always have record stores. God, I hope so. But it's not going to happen without our support. Visit these great havens of music, even if you just need to buy that latest album from whoever, or perhaps you're like me, and looking for a few things to fill nagging holes in your collection. Your favorite record store has all of these things, for all people, come one, come all, let's rock!