It’s Record Store Day tomorrow - Share your music shop memories

On Saturday, April 19 -- that’s tomorrow! -- music retailers across the country will celebrate Record Store Day, a concerted effort to remind the public of “the culture and unique place” record stores provide to our communities.

Participating stores will provide incentives to break away would-be consumers from their peer-to-peer file sharing and experience the truly great things that brick and mortar record stores can offer -- like live performances, freebies, and exclusive releases!

In Seattle, Sonic Boom Records will host live performances by Vinnie Blackshadow, John Roderick (DJ Set), and The Dutchess and The Duke at the Capitol Hill location, and Aqueduct, Mono in VCF, and The Moondoggies in Ballard. Over at Easy Street Records in Queen Anne, Mark Pickerel and Jesse Sykes & the Sweet Hereafter will provide the free entertainment. Silver Platters and Everyday Music are also participating with discounts and give-aways.

In Portland, Menomena are challenging record shoppers to foosball at Jackpot Records, located downtown.

More than these great events -- and the discounts many of these stores are offering -- it is worth reminding people of how formatively important these stores have been to those of us who love music. The people who work for, volunteer or intern at, or otherwise contribute to KEXP wouldn’t be doing what they do if it weren’t for the record stores that they patronized, frequented, or otherwise lived at. We’ve gathered a few stories here (in no particular order), and we encourage you to share yours. Leave a comment at the end of this post and share with us a record store memory of your own:

In the early ’90s, shortly before I fled New York City, I worked part time at Rebel Rebel in Greenwich Village. Dark, narrow, and incredibly claustrophobic (CDs were stacked literally floor-to-ceiling in the tiny storeroom), the store was regarded among collectors for its deep inventory of imports, and customer service; the proprietor made it a point to know all his regulars, and their likes and dislikes. One Saturday afternoon, as I walked in the door from my lunch break, a co-worker asked me to describe some new, third-tier Britpop band to a curious shopper. I gave the act a so-so rating, and noted that, in my opinion, the lead singer sounded like he had listened to an awful lot of Lloyd Cole. In the back of the tiny shop, someone coughed loudly. I looked around, and, sure enough, there he was. The man responsible for “Perfect Skin,” “Rattlesnakes,” “Lost Weekend,” “No Blues Skies,” and a slew of other customer favorites. Lloyd Cole himself. To paraphrase Morrissey, I can laugh about it now, but at the time it was terrible. Mercifully, Cole recognized that my comment wasn’t meant as a dig at him, and continued to patronize Rebel Rebel regularly until I left NYC. Not that I ever mustered the nerve to wait on him after that.

-- El Toro (DJ)

My favorite record store is in London -- I was living there when it opened in 1983 -- it’s called Stern’s, and specializes in African music. It was after buying a lot of vinyl at that store, that I moved back from London to Seattle, and started “The Best Ambiance.” There would be no Best Ambiance without Stern’s -- and it is still open, and now has a café there as well. Right next to the Warren Street tube station, off of Tottenham Court Road- still one of the best places in the world to find African music!

-- Jon Kertzer (DJ)

I’ve worked at two staunchly independent record stores in my day... the now defunct Love Music in Redmond, and Archives in Bellingham (owned by the son of the couple that started Cellophane Square back in the seventies). I also lived in Gothenburg, Sweden for 4 months studying record store marketability, as Gothenburg has the highest record store per capita ration in the world, and Sweden has the highest consumption of music per capita than anywhere in the world. My independent studies program at Fairhaven College at Western Washington University was a unique degree focused on the business of running an independent record store, and the creating a community through the shared passion of music. As someone who still harbors the hope that one day I will run my own record store, it is impossible to sum up any one particular experience. We’ve all had those random conversations as we turned over an album in our hands, poring over LP artwork while listening to a perfect stranger passionately introduce us to our soon-to-be new favorite band. I am 26 years old, and with the exception of KEXP podcasts, I still don’t know how to download music or burn a CD. Why? Because I believe that in the age of technology, there has come to be a disconnect between the products we buy, the people we buy them from, and the value of a “third place” (outside of home or work) where people gather to smile at one another and discuss their shared love of music. When I want to find new music, I don’t go to iTunes, I go to my favorite record store, and I am absolutely positive my life is better for it.

-- Brynn Utela (Programming intern, former Marketing & Development Intern, all around music nerd)

In trying to single out one record store memory, nothing sticks like B-Side Records in Madison, WI. In a space not much bigger than a dorm room, the proprietors of that little Neverland somehow made it work. And even though I personally worked at a rival Record shop up the street, I blew tons of money at B-Side, sometimes closing up early so I could hit them up before their doors closed. Not only was it the greatest record shopping experience I’ve had, but it’s the only record store that’s ever made me consider someday buying my own. Thank you B-Side Records!

-- Eric Mahollitz (Blog contributor)

As Seattle’s music scene was blossoming in the late 80′s, I wandered into Peaches in Ballard looking for a new local 45 or maybe another Mudhoney-style band (my absolute fave at the time and still geniuses). Asking the kindly store clerk what was new, he suggested a band I hadn’t heard of that he recommended for all Mudhoney fans. That album was Funhouse by The Stooges (Iggy Pop’s early group). It was an epiphany. I was soon knee deep in psychedelic sloppy blues of the 60′s and 70′s, playing the hell out of Funhouse and other “new-to-me” groups like Blue Cheer and The MC5. Thanks, Peaches guy!!

-- Abe Beeson (DJ)

I grew up in Renton, and the big deal for me was heading out to the Mercer Street Tower Records at night with friends. When my brother got home from work I would beg him to drive us out there. We’d pack ourselves in his beat up fiat and spend hours pouring through records/cassettes until the store closed at midnight. I remember one night back in 1987 barely making it to the store in time to enter a contest to win tickets to the Chameleons and the Mighty Lemon Drops show at the Moore Theater. My friend and I stuffed the box with our names and walked away with writer’s cramp. We won contest and saw an awesome and unforgettable show.

-- Tilly Rodina (former Annual Giving & Events Coordinator)

My first experience in a record store was amazement at the sheer amount of music available. I thought, “I’ve never heard of these guys…” over and over again. It made me feel small and uneducated about how much music was really out there. Coupled with that humility was a strong curiosity in the types of music that were for sale…I had never heard of most of there, and recognized the “pop” section was only a small quadrant of the entire store. Do that many people really listen to classical, like the boring orchestra station my dad always listens to in his car? Seeing the rows and rows of albums, being able to look at each cover art and get a visual sense of the music inside really gave the music searching and discovery process much more personal. However, it also created a roadblock in that I didn’t pay attention to music that was associated with cover artwork that I didn’t like. So, as much as the visuals of a record helped me learn and expand my horizons, it also potentially blocked me for hearing some of the most amazing, compelling music ever, just because the cover art was a picture of something I didn’t like. Strange, isn’t it?

-- Dan Moore (Kilgore Trout drummer)

There are so many! In Boston I discovered a whole world of music by hanging out with the acid casualties at Nuggets Records who turned me on to Free Jazz, World, and Rock in ways I couldn’t have ever experienced before. Record stores represented each neighborhood. You had the punk rock stores such as Newbury Comics on Mass Ave and Harvard Sq. This is where the punk rock scene gathered and bands formed. The stores were a magnet for community. Whatever scene you were into, you could mix and match with whomever and bond over music. My crew were the freaks, we tried to outdo each other with strange music, weird record covers, whatever stood out from the mainstream. We trolled the used shops to find those gems. The owners were so supportive and offered advice whenever they could. In Seattle, I swear one of the reasons I stayed in the city in 1992 was Wall Of Sound Records in Belltown. Mark Sullo, the owner, was so good at getting nothing but good amazing music in there. I spent hours going through tracks. It made Seattle so much cooler for me than any commercial shop.

-- Darek Mazzone (DJ)

The first time I clearly remember going to an independent record store was around the age of 13. I was on vacation in Lake Tahoe with my family and was determined to buy the new Beck Odelay album. Now, usually, I more or less sat around and absorbed everyone else’s music preferences. But this was my first clear act of musical independence. I was on a mission. There was a little record shop off the side of the street one day, and I asked my dad to pull over so I could get the album. We walked in, quickly located the record, and headed for the cash register. I took all my hard-earned money and put it on the counter. The clerk rung me up, and said to my dad, “Your daughter has very good taste in music; you should be proud.” And I was. To this day, I feel like a trip into a record store is an active way to take control of your environment and how you choose to build a soundtrack for that environment. It’s almost self-affirming - you walk through the doors of a record store and are confronted with limitless ways to engage, entertain, and learn more about yourself. You can learn about artists you don’t even know you love yet. Their music is just sitting there waiting to be heard. And you get to choose it. Plus, you’re surrounded by people who are doing the exact same thing as you! You can learn to connect with those people over a shared love for a certain artist - total strangers who then become allies. It’s a crazy community that independent record stores support; they lovingly put up with us music nerds and help feed our incessant need to hear more, learn more, discover more. I think that deserves a little support.

-- Kim Ervin (Communications and Grants Coordinator)

A record store saved my life: Growing up in Spokane I didn’t have much in the way of options when it came to discovering new music... or so I thought. After being sent a mixed tape from my brother who was living in Phoenix (and soon to be living in Seattle sending me mixed tapes) I discovered an alternative to the shit being poured down my throat on commercial radio and tv. This awakening makes someone want to find more. It’s like a drug! I had that first hit and needed to keep feeding the addiction. I started to explore and what I found out was that Spokane DID have a place to find music. It was this little store out a guy’s house called 4000 Holes. I got in my car. I found the store. I found heaven. Nothing but racks of music I’d never heard of...bootleg live cds under the counter...a giant dog walking around the store and even better, others like myself. I was NOT alone! There are others! I’m not a freak. Okay, I am but there are other freaks here in my hometown. I’m alive. It was there I bought everything that said “Sub Pop,” “Wax Trax,” “4AD” and on and on. Didn’t matter. I’d buy stuff on album art alone. I brought my friends. We would go there every week. We’d spend any money we had on music. We bought CDs before we even owned CD players. Bob (the owner) would hook us up with imports and live bootlegs. We then found out Gonzaga had a small alt-rock format station. We tuned in where we could. We’d park our car where we could get reception and just sit and listen... and think... and discover. All because of this record store. I have no doubt Bob doesn’t make much of a living there. I’m sure now more then ever he doesn’t. But if it weren’t for him, I might not be on the air. My friends, they may have never left town to find themselves, these bands may never have been heard. Its not just about discovery at record stores, its about community and its about art and its about touching and tasting music. Glorious music.

-- John Richards (DJ)

Being that I was too young to experience the joy of vinyl in all of its glory, I came from a generation of tapes and eventually compact discs. As much as I enjoyed Sound-A-Rama, when I got a little older, my parents would keep a keen eye on me when I was younger so that I would not wander back and look at the Samantha Fox posters. My most memorable moment though was saving up enough money to go and buy the Fat Boys’ Crushin’. It was 1987 and I was 8 years old and that is the first tape that I purchased with my own money (I don’t remember how I earned money at 8 years old, but I know it took what seemed like years to save enough to get the tape). When the clerk came over and opened up that case with the little key it felt amazing. My older cousin and I listened to the Fat Boys Crushin’ and Run DMC’s Raising Hell constantly that year. Sometimes I still feel like an 8 year old buying his first tape when I purchase a record or cd. It unfortunately doesn’t come when I download a new album. I’m psyched that most vinyl is now coming with mp3 download coupons. It’s kind of the best of both worlds for me because I get the experience of going to the record store, the album art, the vinyl and the portability of putting it on my iPod (because I need music on the subway to keep sane). I’m glad the record store is being recognized because that feeling of buying an album is one of a kind!

-- Jonathan Ambjor (Account Executive in Underwriting & Business Support)

Growing up in L.A., I had many great record stores to choose from, most of which are now, sadly, gone. In high school in the late 1970′s, I made weekly trips to Rhino Records (before they got gobbled up by Warner’s, they were just a small, indie retail store). Not a week went by when I wasn’t there. I can remember flipping thru all of the used vinyl, checking out the cut-out’s, and of course, looking at the wall of new releases. The new stuff often had staff reviews and comments posted, and I would always read each one. I was totally intimidated by the staff (including a pre-Dream Syndicate Steve Wynn), through no fault of their own. I was a shy, geeky, awkward kid, and was intimidated by just about everything. Looking back, they were a smart, cool bunch of folks who loved music as much as I did. For me, Rhino was an oasis in the miserable desert that was my High School years. Through a series of events, I later became friends with most of the Rhino employees and was even offered a job there (which I had to turn down).

-- Rob Bender (Account Executive in Underwriting & Business Support)

In high school, a close friend and I would frequent a small record store in the next town over from where we lived. The place was called Johnny’s Records and I believe it still stands. My friend and I had an extremely impressive collection of original Led Zeppelin bootlegs. We were hardcore. We researched all the different shows and releases, made orders from all over the world, and spent many a summer afternoon driving around listening to those shows. Johnny would carry a serious inventory of original Zeppelin boots. Picture Johnny’s as our home base for collecting. Not the greatest selection, but quality, and close to home. Johnny tended to get shipments regularly (from god knows where) and there was a definite possibility that something new would show up in those racks, at any time. Short side note -- some artists/labels were notorious for sending people to raid Johnny’s store and confiscate the boots, when they were in town. No joke. Dave Matthews’ people were notorious for this, according to Johnny. Whenever he was doing a show in New York or Connecticut, Johnny would take the boots off the shelf and stick them in the back. I suppose we could have just called Johnny’s and check on the shipment status, but no sir... I can’t tell you how many times we would see each other in the halls or at lunch, catch each other’s eye and sprint for the car. “Quick trip to Johnny’s before next period?!?!” “Hell, yeah! We can make it back.” Same was true for after school. There was nothing like finding a total rarity during a quick trip to Johnny’s! Man, that was awesome. Of course, it was never easy to figure out who would buy what, but things usually worked out. Hey! I ever mention the time when Jimmy Page and Robert Plant gave me a bow and clapped their hands at me in appreciation? True story. Madison Square Garden. 1998. 10th row. There were poster-size signs involved. Greatest day of my life.

-- Andrew Corey (Programming Manager)

It’s no coincidence that all my favorite places in the world also have amazing record locally-owned stores. Each one has always offered a a vinyl gem I’ve discovered hidden deep in the bins. One of my favorite record store stories takes place at Big Shot Records (know School Kids Records) in Athens, GA. I was a poor college student visiting the town for the first time. I was filling up my arms with REM bootlegs (on vinyl!) and I was probably on my second run through of the cd racks when the guy running the check out counter (the only employee there) said he was going to go get some coffee and have a cigarette outside, but to just come get him if I needed anything. Having grown up with only highly neon-signed saturated mall record stores where I was always followed by security guards because I spent so much time ‘suspiciously’ studying the tape jackets and tracklistings in the racks, how amazing that he would leave me alone in the store with tons of my favorite albums! I know that’s probably not the best way to run a record store (you know, leaving shoppers alone in the store so they could get a little discount of their own) but that kind of friendliness has always stuck out as a favorite memory epitomizing why indie record stores rule: their selection is the best (based on filling out the racks with important releases, not just what’s on the charts) and their employees are the coolest.

-- Imaginary Liz (Three Imaginary Girls)

Growing up on Queen Anne in Seattle, I used to walk down the hill to Tower Records on Mercer. Back in the day it was split into 3 separate shops -- Tower Records, Posters and Tapes. Posters was a glorified head shop. Tapes carried cassingles -- one of the all-time great formats. I had no money so used to just hang out in Tower Records and read music magazines and band biographies. At one point store security busted me -- not for lifting anything, but for spending too much time reading! But it set up a lifetime habit of spending hours and hours at a time in record stores. Great place to get lost and learn a lot about music.

-- Jack Walters (DJ,

I have a fuzzy recollection of my first 45 purchase in 1974 -- “Rock The Boat” by The Hues Corporation -- probably bought in Woolworth’s or some such cheesy discount retail shop. But there is amazing clarity surrounding my first album purchase the following year: Soap Opera by The Kinks. An older cousin had been spinning that, and it obviously made quite an impression on this then-10 year old. My mom took me to the mall in Wayne, NJ, so I could make the purchase at Harmony Hut, which was a chain of records shops. I remember it took a quite a while to figure out that the albums were organized by genre and then alphabetically by artist. But I didn’t want to risk looking uncool by asking for help. I think I paid $4.99 for the vinyl, and the cashier complimented me on my purchase. I walked out of the store feeling pretty supreme. That was the first of many trips to Harmony Hut. Most times I didn’t have enough money to buy anything, but I spent countless hours checking out the awesome album art and the psychedelic posters.

-- Rob Blackwell (Volunteer)

One of my favorite Seattle record store memories is from a few years ago. I used to be a nanny for a two year-old boy, and one of our fun things to do was to go to the Ballard Sonic Boom. He absolutely loved the listening stations. I’d take him up on my hip and put the headphones on him, which were almost as big as his head, and he’d point to the CD he wanted to listen to (at a reasonable volume, of course). Some music he’d want to change right away but other songs could catch his attention for some time. It was great to watch someone form their own early music memories!

-- Gina Eggleston (Intern)

As a really young kid, I spent hours rifling through my mom’s albums, mostly just looking at the album covers and art, waiting for the day I was allowed to play them and not just play with them...they made great walls for the houses I built for my dolls. I always giggled at Herb Alperts Whipped Cream & Other Delights, thinking I found something I wasn’t supposed to see. The Beach Boys, Jan & Dean, Crystal Gayle, The Muppet Movie Soundtrack, tons of jazz and classical, it was a cornucopia. I knew the names Mozart, Wagner and Bach long before I knew Michael Jackson and Madonna. One Christmas when I was probably 9 or 10 years old, my brother gave me Def Leppard Pyromania on vinyl. My very own record. I immediately found out where he bought it, a store right up the street called Licorice Pizza. It was on Brookhurst in Huntington Beach, CA, just a bike ride away and was a great motivation to do my chores for that allowance. That was my first real record store, one that I called “My record store” (and what a great name). Albums in my collection from Licorice Pizza (keep in mind I was 10): Billy Idol, Madonna, Def Leppard, Stephen Tintin Duffy (you know you remember that one), Culture Club, Olivia Newton-John, Duran Duran and Morris Day & The Time, just to name a few. I’m so thankful for Licorice Pizza, it helped make me the music junkie I am today.

-- Lisa Wood (DJ)

I was never really a snob for format. I bought music on vinyl, cassettes (including crates of Maxell dub tapes), and eventually CDs. I remember the day I bought my first CD, along with my first CD player. Normally, I would have been shopping at the independent store just two miles from my house for music, but my father had done all this research on CD players and drove me out to one of those electronics stores that always seem to line the business districts of state highways. This was 1985 and believe it or not, you could buy a “portable” CD player even then. (Too bad you had to bring along 6 C batteries to charge it.) Of course, I couldn’t buy a CD player without buying a CD to play in it, and somehow this electronics store had Love & Rockets’ Seventh Dream of Teenage Heaven, which officially became the first CD I ever bought. I remember thinking how great it sounded on the CD player -- its clarity was a revelation. After that, I bought only CDs, even if they were a few dollars more than the cassette versions, and waited for the promised time when CD prices would drop. They never did, but to this day, that CD player, now 23 years old, still works.

-- Jim Beckmann (Online Content Coordinator)

Once licensed to drive, my friends and I would often cram into my beat up VW and drive an hour and half north to Street Light Records, in San Francisco. One particular journey sticks out in my head (from 1983): I had just gotten an equalizer put into my car so naturally I felt compelled to test out the overall stereo system by taking a road trip up to “the city” to visit Street Light Records. Not like I needed an excuse since I was dying to get my hands on the latest Clash album, London Calling. On our way north to San Francisco, my friend, Steve, pulled out his new cassette find: Never Mind the Bollocks: Here’s the Sex Pistols so for the next hour and half drive we blasted God Save the Queen and Holidays in the Sun and ended up blowing out my front speakers. Made for a quiet drive home, but Street Light sold me my first Clash album, London Calling, so all was fine.

-- Carol DuPuis (Account Executive in Underwriting & Business Support)

I got my first bong at the old Tower Records on Mercer. My, how times have changed!

-- Don Yates (Music Director)

Three anecdotes: 1. buying my first Uncle Tupelo record from Quilty3000 in Springfield, Illinois, at Appletree records during the late 80′s... not knowing that I would later meet Quilty 20 years later at KEXP. 2. At my small crappy state school in central il we had Mother Murphy’s. It was the typical college town headshop/record/guitar store that sold used vinyl as well as all of the usual cd bootlegs of Zeppelin and the Doors and Zappa (who really buys Zappa bootlegs?) What was great though, at least for me, at that age and time, was that they’d let you listen to as many records (and for as long) as you wanted... and boy howdy did I take advantage of that. Hours upon hours of picking stuff from their 1000′s and 1000′s of used vinyl. Back in the early 90′s records didn’t quite have the fetishized aura about them that they do today. One could still go to the goodwill and find a Charlie Parker record or Bitches Brew in perfect shape for only a quarter and thankfully the headshop wasn’t to far removed from that in regards to price point or depth of catalog. Quite a bit of my student loan money went to buying those records that “I just had to have” after listening to them when I should have been in class. Two records that represent this time: Serve You Right To Suffer by John Lee Hooker and Marquee Moon by Television. In 1990, though I had no context for either of these artists other that the covers looked rad, they blew my mind. 3. In the same crappy college town but later on, once my friends were all “cool” enough to have the record store jobs (I of course worked at Sears...), I would cut class again, but this time to hang out in the record store and play chess and beg off the cutout and promo cd’s. In the course of an afternoon you could pretty much count on seeing all of your friends wander through to see what was going on, what bands were playing that night at the bar (and if they sucked...or not. see: The Poster Children and Hum and Uncle Tupelo for bands that didn’t suck in central IL in the 90′s), or sell a few cd’s for cash to buy beer that night. it was kinda the heart of a little ecosystem of social spaces within the college town. The bar, the coffee shop, the burrito place and the record store. A day wouldn’t be complete with out a stop at all four.

--Aaron Starkey (Manager of Online Services)

I think if I mentioned the many hours spent flipping through the 8-tracks at the old Music Menu on Rainier Ave, it would really date me... Or how about the big hunks of paycheck dropped at Peaches on 45th after rifling through the bargain bins looking for rockabilly records? Thank god for those apple crates they sold -- I still have records with Peaches “Sale” stickers on them. But nothing is better than the smell of old vinyl and record covers when you walk into Bop Street Records in Ballard -- it even smell better when you walk out with a “Big Stack” of new-old music to play the next Friday night.

-- Dr. Leon Berman (The Proctologist of Rock ‘N’ Roll)

All the record stores in my hometown in Maine were chainstores, with the exception of one small one. It was run by a record collecting Anglophile who opened the shop as a way to feed his own habit at a discount. Most of the sales were used lps, and one day I brought in a pile of classic rock albums for credit, and asked him to recommend something totally different. He handed me an import copy of “Heaven Up Here” by Echo & the Bunnymen, and said “if you don’t like it, you can bring it back for a full refund -- but you have to promise me you’ll listen to it three times before deciding.” I never brought it back. In fact, I wore it out.

-- Spike (Blog contributor, DJ assistant)

It’s not just about the CDs, records or even tapes. I remember seeing Carrie Akre in a record store promoting her first solo album which I listened to over and over and over again. I also remember seeing The Blakes nearly destroy their gear after a particularly raucous performance at Easy Street in West Seattle. But my favorite memory in a record store has to be from my birthday this year. My boyfriend and I enjoyed a simple meal then took a walk around Ballard. We ended up stopping in at Bop Street Records where we perused the shelves for hours, lost in memories, sharing stories about the bands, and picking out albums we wanted to buy. In this digital age of music, I’m glad we still have some place to go where we can pick up and hold albums and talk about them with others whether it’s the clerk or the people you came in with.

-- Leigh Bezezekoff (Blog contributor, DJ assistant)

My first job after college was at The Candyman record store in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I started out as the classical music buyer, but ended up ordering all of our records through several distributors. I’ve got a lot of stories, some printable and some not, including getting punched in the face by a thief (it was the wild west, after all). One day, Alan Parsons walked in wanting to know if we had any of his records in stock. We did, but they weren’t selling like the disco hits of the day (Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Abba -- can you guess what year?). I acquired over a thousand LPs while working there, including lots of traditional African and (Asian) Indian classical music.

-- Andy Boyd (Production wizard)

Get this -- it was the opening of the Lower Queen Anne Easy Street Records; Elvis Costello was set to play a free concert there to kick off the store. It was a beautiful night and lots of my friends downtown were really excited. I’m sure it was great. However, in Belltown, the previous and original location of experimental record store Wall of Sound hosted Camden Joy, a performance artist-rock writer who had published a book on Liz Phair, and was now doing spoken word to back up his three volume set on a Mark E. Smith and The Fall’s disastrous NYC gig, the visionary and mad lead singer of Red Red Meat, and David Geffen’s erotic obsession with Jackson Browne and The Eagles. He was actually brought in by Brad Beshaw, the owner of the bookstore shared by the Wall of Sound space, Confounded Books, but it took place in the section with the albums, and Joy was able to use the stereo to play music during the exquisite performance of his latest work. Wall of Sound/Confounded had many more “shows” there and on Cap Hill -- Al Burian (zine genius and Milemarker bassist), writers from Punk Planet, Jim Goad, and even the staff of my old magazine, Bandoppler -- but Camden gave startling excerpts of each of the three bios on a hot night, and hung out and talked for over an hour. Then promptly seemed to disappear off the face of the earth.

-- Chris Estey (Blog contributor)

My first memory of an actual record store was of the Wherehouse in the mall when I was six years old. My Tia Kathy told me I could choose any album I wanted. Instead of choosing from the children’s music section, I marched over to the wall where they displayed the albums on the top twenty of the charts for that week. I chose the Flashdance Original Soundtrack. Despite trying to steer me to another selection, I was adamant and my Tia was kind enough to indulge me. I can only imagine her dismay that I would be listening to “Maniac” on my Fisher Price record player as opposed to the “Mickey Mouse Club” theme song. Thus began my love and obsession with acquiring as much music as possible, which is a quest that lives on to this day.

-- Melissa Trejo (Programming & Morning Show Maven)

Here’s my favorite record store story: This occurred in 2003 or 2004 at Easy Street Records on Queen Anne. They had an in-store record signing by Lou Reed, who was in town to play a show at the Moore later that night and was promoting his album The Raven at the time. I had found a copy of one of lesser-selling solo albums, probably at Easy Street as well, and was really excited to get him to sign my record. When I decided to be a music snob in my early twenties (a bad idea I have long since rescinded), the Velvet Underground was one of the bands I really wanted to become an expert on. I listened to White Light/White Heat over and over again and was obsessed with that record for a bit. Sure, I thought Metal Machine Music was pretentious noise (and still do), but no one’s perfect. After Reed read his take on Edgar Allen Poe’s most famous poem he started signing records. While I was in line I was arguing with myself as to what I would say to THE LOU REED. Would it be something witty or kiss-ass? I finally decided I was going to ask him if he was planning on performing “The Gift” (from White Light/White Heat) at his show at the Moore. “The Gift”, if you are unfamiliar, is a pretty fucked-up story about a college kid who desperately misses his girlfriend while he is away from her for the summer. I’ve heard all kinds of stories about how Reed is difficult or unapproachable and always unpleasant. But not this day. The line was moving slow because he was chatting with everyone in line and was laughing and joking with people. He really seemed to be having a great time. Finally, I was getting close to the front of the line and there was now only a teenage girl, probably not any older than 15 or 16 in front of me. She brought a copy of Victor Bockris’s biography of Reed called, I believe, Transformer: The Lou Reed Story. When she presented it to him to autograph, his mood entirely changed. He started asking her if she bought the book and she said she did, but used, then he demanded to know if she read it and she meekly said that she hadn’t yet. He said that he was glad she hadn’t because every word in the book was a lie but he still signed it for her. After she left, I decided to try to be a kiss-ass and say I was a huge fan and thought he was a genius. He grabbed my record from me and signed his name in about two seconds and just said “yeah” to me. When I left the record store I didn’t think, “Boy, Lou Reed sure is an asshole” -- what I thought was, “I got to meet THE LOU REED at (and because of) Easy Street Records. How cool is that?”

-- Chris Burlingame (Three Imaginary Girls contributor)

It was 1974 and I was living in Detroit. My musical likes and dislikes were just taking shape. My source for music came from the local rock station. At that time I didn’t have a record collection and my stereo system consisted of a small clock radio. There was record store in my neighbor called Jake’s. Once a week I would go into Jake’s to look at albums; however, I never bought anything because I was intimidated by the stacks and stacks of records (I actually still feel this way), plus I had a hard time remembering bands names and I was afraid to ask for help because I didn’t’ want to show my ignorance. One day after numerous trips to the Jake’s, and each time walking out empty handed, Jake walked up to me handed me two albums and said buy these. The albums were Led Zeppelin One and Truth by Jeff Beck. When I explained to him that didn’t have a stereo system he told me if I buy the albums and I’ll get the stereo. He was right. My first stereo system consisted of a Marantz receiver, Utah speakers, and a Pioneer turntable. I still have the albums but the receiver, speakers, and turntable are long gone (I really miss them). Just goes to show you that albums are forever, but stereos come and go.

-- Tom (Front Desk volunteer)

I will never forget Beat Street records in Brooklyn. Downtown in the Fulton Mall, it was two stories and stretched back the whole length of the block. When you walked in, the first floor was electronics and jewelry, with high ceilings that used every inch of space for display or storage. Go downstairs, check your coat and start drooling over records. There would be a wicked mix or a dj playing towards the middle of the room, and as you pass by the cds, martial arts flicks and other dvds, you felt like Maxwell Smart because the room just kept going- a city block long. Toward the back was another dj, and each section (all wax) was amazing- any oldschool or disco cut you needed, bootlegs that would group 4 hot party songs on one loud-pressed 12″, and all the current reggae, hiphop and r&b. I have a hilarious memory of one visit to Beat Street with Soul One -- He was struggling to bring a ridiculously huge stack of vinyl to the cashier and a few pieces were falling off the stack as he was walking across that huge room!

-- Johnny Horn (DJ)

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11 Comments

  1. Posted April 18, 2008 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Where are the stories from Kevin Cole re: Norther Lights!!!! Don’t keep us in suspense ;0) Minnesota Über Alles!

  2. D.R. Marconi
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    For someone still living in Spokane un-like (John in the Morning) there is still some glimmer of hope. Besides 4000 hole’s like John mentioned we have Unified Groove Merchant on Monroe. I have been a fan of this shop for a few years. In fact It was the first real music store I found after moving up from the Colville Indian Reservaton. Follow this link to check out some background of the owner. http://www.spokane7.com/music/stories/?ID=806

    If you venture downtown there is Boo-Radleys, they carry a small selection of Indie Music. Small in selection big in heart.

    I can’t believe John, sounding so cyncial about the music he left behind in poor ol’ pittyful Spokane. Do your research and you will find that music is thriving in our little town.

  3. Posted April 18, 2008 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

    Wow! It’s great to read these memories. For a lonely music geek like me, the record store was my oasis. I was fortunate to work at Budget Tapes and Records, possibly the only cool place in Marysville WA with a great collection of people-- there was Astrid, Steve Pitstick our fab artist and merchandising guy and Joe the boss--who liked to play the new age music at 11. Trust me, Andreas Vollenweider takes on a whole new dimension at high volume. Moving to the U District in college I found another record store job at Peaches. I made friends with Mike and Rick of the Posies and became an early fan of the band, agonized over my top picks each year for our big best of the year wall, expertly designed by the lovely and talented David Day, discussed the finer points of Eleventh Dream Day with fellow music geeks, shocked my colleagues by admitting I liked Madonna and Michael Jackson, worked in-stores like Nirvana and the Ramones, made sure the racks were tidy, the cassettes were alphabetized, the sale stickers were properly applied, crates had labels glued, singles were ordered... oh and I met my husband of soon to be 15 years there. Yep, the record store played a huge part of my life and I’m happy to say that it still does. Bravo to places like Sonic Boom, Easy Street and Silver Platters where you can still find a reasonable selection of styles, actual back catalog, a music fan to talk to and the atmosphere that makes records stores feel so much like home to me. You know where I’ll be shopping on Saturday!

  4. Posted April 18, 2008 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

    I worked at a record store in Chicago for years (kudos to Rolling Stone Records, “Chicagoland’s Superstore”), a job I hadn’t really applied for so much as fell into. See…I was trying to get a job for a friend of mine from Ireland who was visiting Chicago for the summer. Since she sported punked-out blue hair at the time, I thought…well, they’d probably hire her at the record store, where piercings and dyed/spiked hair were all the rage. While there, we both filled out applications…and they called ME back for the job! (My friend…get this…got hired at a bank! Ha!)

    Much to my mother’s dismay in my taking the job, she was correct in stating that I’d “never save a dime” working there. But…did she not realize what incredible discounts I would receive? How I was able to order any import that I wanted? How I could get my friends steep discounts? And how this was WAAAAAAAAAY more important than saving money for college tuition (that’s what my other two jobs were for)?

    The first time I ever entered this record store was with my brother, who, at a young age, was already totally into vintage jazz and musicians I had never heard of. We used to skip out on church and go to what we dubbed the “10am Sunday Mass at Rolling Stones Records”. My brother would hide our purchases in the trunk of the car, while I ran into the “real” church to grab that Sunday’s pamphlet (proof enough for my parents that we had been to church). The hour time line was perfect. Thus, music became my religion…the record store my church. AMEN!

    Some highlights of my time at Rolling Stones:

    * The Rocky Horror Picture Show performers who came in every Saturday night, dressed like the characters, and singing/acting out to the soundtrack that we’d put on for them

    * Michael Jordan coming into the store and delivering new Nike Airs to all the guys who worked there

    * Watching my boss kick out then-unknown musician Billy Corgan from Smashing Pumpkins for sneakily putting his band’s flyers throughout the store

    * Hanging out after closing time at our favorite haunt, the Smart Bar, where we never had to pay a cover, and hung out with the likes of Al Jorgensen of Ministry and Skinny Puppy

    * Meeting ‘Til Tuesday singer Aimee Mann at my first-ever “in-store” performance

    * Meeting Carlos Santana just hanging out before one of his shows

    * The staff throwing me a Going Away party when I left to study in Ireland for a year…complete with renting out an entire nightclub just for my friends and setting me up with Lemmy’s from Motorhead phone number in London to call “if I needed anything while I was in the U.K.” (Yeah, right!)

    * I cannot even count how many free concert tickets I received…

    Ah…those were the good ol’ days! A record store was a real DESTINATION. A place to hang out with fellow music lovers, and to feel at home. A place to be inspired and to learn something new. Don’t get me wrong…uploading an album from iTunes is fine. But don’t forget to support your local independent record store.

  5. Kat Metrovich
    Posted April 18, 2008 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    The first time I ever heard of an “In-Store” Nick Lowe (circa 1979) was coming to the Record Factory where my best friend worked. It was out in the ‘burbs, Pleasant Hill, CA, where I grew up. It wasn’t packed ( like when AC/DC showed up) so we got to meet him and hang out. My friend Toni and I told him we were going to London next month, AND HE GAVE US HIS NUMBER AND SAID TO CALL WHEN WE WERE THERE!!!! Holy smoke! So we did, and went to his house in Shepherds Bush, and then pub crawling w/ Nick and Billy Bremner.
    My first indie record store was a great place called “Rather Ripped Records” in Berkeley. Lenny Kaye (Patti Smith guitarist) was doing an in store, and my BF told me “You gotta go, LENNY KAYE IS GOD!!” So I did, but my real discovery was a world of music outside the chains.
    I ‘d never seen colored vinyl, japanese imports, 10 inch ep’s, 3-D record covers, etc. before! I told Mr. Kaye I was going to NYC and he said I had to check out Manny’s in the Village
    Later while living in S.F., I’d go to Aquarius (home of 415 Records)in the Castro and Rough Trade on Grant and later 6th Ave. Rough Trade turned me onto Joy Division,Birthday Party, Cocteau Twins and all those 4AD bands. Although Tower Records was technically a chain, the original store on Columbus Ave. was VAST!! It operated like and indie on steroids. Just about every touring musician who came thru town made a stop there, and you’d run into those who lived in the Bay Area as well.
    When I got to Seattle, Tower on Mercer was my place to buy all the music I discovered on KCMU. Now I go to Easy Street and Silver Platters in Queen Anne.
    I’ve never bought music online and I can’t imagine doing so.
    I don’t want to live in a world (or town) without independant record stores. Where else would my pals work?

    Kat Metrovich
    (KEXP Volunteer / DJ Wife)

  6. Jim Brewer
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    As a teenager in late 60′s Eugene, mydiscovery of The Crystal Ship was a doorway into the mystic glimmering spirit of the Summer of Love. When it first opened it was a tiny hole in the wall half a block off Willamette Street, with a few dozen fruit crates filled with records, as well as incense, macrame...you get the picture. On my first visit there I came away with Joni Mitchell’s Clouds, having no real idea what if might sound like. After listening, I hurried back as soon as I had more cash to spend, hoping that there might be more good music. Over the next year I bought Tim Hardin, the Incredible String Band, the Grateful Dead, and Kaleidoscope. (OK, how many other than the Dead did everyone recognize on that list? All great artists)

    There were posters, there were freaky and friendly people working and hanging out, there was a window into Hippiedom. Later the store grew and grew, moved, expanded, became more of a regular business I suppose. Those original months when it was such a novelty and an unknown quantity still seem wonderful to me. In the category of purchases I wish I had made in my lifetime, right up near the top of the list, is the stack of letters with colorful sketches sent by Ken Kesey from Mexico. They sat in a cardboard box, a few bucks apiece. I looked at them idly, knowing very little about him then, and moved on to buy a record. I wonder where, if anywhere, they are now.

    So here’s to record stores, each its own little alternate universe. Long may they thrive.

  7. Doug
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    My big record store memory was getting the Ha Ha Ha / Love Canal single by Flipper at Roxy’s Music in the U District back in 1980. Up until then, punk rock like the Sex Pistols and Ramones was just rock and roll, but this was beautiful noise. It’s like when you hear some music and you realize this is what I’ve been waiting for. I remember alot of the old record stores like the little place that Kevin (of Love Battery) and Lillie used to have a little place in Capital Hill in the Late 80s. We used to have a lot of fun there. I used to tape a show named Bomb Shelter Videos where there’s that old Fall Out Records commercial where they use that old Butthole Surfers song with the Sweet Leaf Black Sabbath riff. We even taped some of the old tape show that Steve Rebow used to do where people would send in their home made tapes and they’d play them on the radio (how come you guys never do this?). Actually, my earliest record store memories was making a trip to the U District in the eary 70s and getting my Beatles bootleg records and underround comic books. It was really mellow back then. Later days.

  8. Dod
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    I have fond memories of taking a Greyhound bus down to Minneapolis (from Duluth) while I was a sophomore/junior in high school. My friend & I would spend the day shopping. We’d stock up on new vinyl with help and recommendations from Kevin Cole while he was working at (Tatters &) Platters. The stand outs: 7″s of Husker Du’s - 8 Miles High and Joy Division - Love Will Tear Us Apart. Lordy, that seems like another lifetime ago!

    Since moving to Seattle I’ve seen some incredible in-stores. The Ted Leo appearance at Easy Street was a stand out because he took a risk & tried “Played Dawn” acoustically.

  9. Dod
    Posted April 19, 2008 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Make that “Little Dawn”. Sheesh.

  10. Zerd Abdallah
    Posted April 21, 2008 at 1:28 am | Permalink

    my very first experience in bought vinyls records it was in the late 70′s , in London , i remember this time we spent only one day to buy records , Nothing Hill Gate , Shepherd bush , Oxford street ,we found in those stores thousand and thousand second hand vinyls ‘ Records & Tapes Exchanges ‘ are fantastics indeed !!! under 2 or 3 £ we bought Soul music , R&B , Jazz and Blues records in good conditions , all the music we love ...... it really was the good time !!

  11. Posted May 7, 2008 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Ah what memories....the best for inports and b-sides.

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