I used to have a massive collection of vinyl records, so many, that I sometimes worried that their weight might collapse the floor in my little house. Several years ago I sold most of those record albums to a fellow collector in a neighboring town. I thought of that huge collection when I stumbled across the few gems I had set aside.
The very first record I ever purchased in a proper record shop was “Meet The Beatles”. I bicycled to a record store in downtown Lincoln, Nebraska one day in early 1964, to buy my copy. Yesterday, I pulled the disk out of its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. While the music played, I remembered the various record stores I once haunted, that no longer exist.
Here in Norfolk, Nebraska, the last “entertainment” store with a decently sized music department was “Hastings”. It closed its doors for good last December. Even though most of the albums they sold were on Compact Disc, a person could find some actual vinyl records for sale. With the closing of “Hastings”, Norfolk lost its last legitimate record store.
In earlier years, we had a downtown store that sold records and stereo gear. “Mid City” was destroyed in a fire caused by a roof resurfacing accident. The store then relocated to the outskirts of town, repurposed into a furniture and appliance retailer. It was at the original location that I discovered “Oxygene” by Jean-Michel Jarre, the LP that began my ongoing love affair with his music. During the 1980s, there was a store I patronized called “Plato’s Tunes”.
As more music was released on CDs, the demise of vinyl became inevitable. The proliferation of online retailers, like “Amazon dot com” and the introduction of MP3 audio pretty much killed vinyl and the fun stores it was sold in. I accepted these developments and even welcomed them with open arms. Yet, I do miss the joy of browsing through the bins at a brick and mortar record store.
I smile now, as I remember the old house in Wayne, Nebraska that was converted into “The Joynt”. It was a shop that sold mostly hard rock and psychedelic music. The walls were lined with black light posters that college students could buy. One corner of “The Joynt” was a head shop stocked with pipes and other marijuana paraphernalia. The business was fined and the paraphernalia confiscated by the local police a few times. The business survived the loss of the head shop merchandise by selling tee-shirts and bell bottom slacks in addition to the posters and LP records.
After I relocated to California, a downtown San Jose “Wherehouse” became my store of choice. One of the shopping malls had a “Tower Records” I sometimes checked out. However, my favorite record shops were the independent stores in Palo Alto, Berkeley, and San Francisco.
The best record shops for people watching were in Haight-Ashbury, where you could also buy music by local and obscure musicians. I didn’t go to the Haight during the “Summer of Love” in 1967, because I hadn’t arrived until 1973, just in time for the cleanup of the neighborhood. Even though I missed out on history, it’s probably a good thing that I was a late-comer.
“The Haight” is still popular with the aging ex-hippie tourist crowd and younger wannabees. A hint of the neighborhood’s heyday can be found at places like “Amoeba Records” at the west end of the district.
Now that vinyl is undergoing a rebirth, record stores are beginning to reappear. The reputed largest record store in the world is “HMV” in London, England. It was reconfigured three years ago and now has four floors filled with DVDs, CDs, and lots of vinyl records. “HMV” was originally opened by the classical composer Edward Elgar in 1921.
The oldest independent record store in the United States is “Rinehart’s Music & Video”, located in Kirksville, Missouri. The business originally began selling recorded music when Edwin Rinehart sold the, then, new-fangled wax cylinders in 1897.
Apparently the oldest record store in the world was founded in 1894 in Cardiff, Wales, UK. Henry Spiller opened “Spillers Records” to sell wax cylinders, shellac records and phonograph players. By the 1940s the store added musical instruments to their inventory.
Do you reminisce about the music stores in your past. Maybe you have a few LPs you still play once in awhile.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the lead singer for Depeche Mode, David Gahan. “When I was growing up in the early ’70s and really getting into music, waiting outside the record store for that 45, waiting for a single from The Dead, The Clash, David Bowie, or T-Rex or something to be there. There was something about that, that was so special.”