101 Musicians Discuss Their Favorite Record Stores
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81. Alec Empire
Atari Teenage Riot
Store: Los Apson Records
Location: Toyko, Japan
I discovered the store in 1996, when I performed in Japan for the first time. It was like no other store I had ever seen. Very small…like somebody’s flat. You had to take the stairs a few floors up to get there. No shop window. Very unusual for a record store at the time. Artists like Boredoms, Merzbow and all the Japanese underground music legends brought rare vinyl, cassette tapes there to sell. Often in quantities not more than 50 copies. Handmade sleeves… you felt like you were given music by a friend of yours. The most commercial release you would find in there, was maybe a Sun Ra record or something by The Pop Group or Neu!
When I think back to that time, then I realize how far ahead those guys were. They dealt with music like most bands do now. A lot of effort went into packaging, the focus was only on the music because there seemed to be no budgets for ‘marketing’… only those who really really love music went there. The best thing about those types of stores were, that you met with like-minded people…in person. There is a lot more info, like body language, character, etc., transmitted when you communicate with people in the non-virtual world. I think we should get back to that because it was just more fun. One had to experience it to understand.
82. Andrew Dost
Location: Royal Oak, Mich.
I never feel ashamed or guilty for not knowing certain albums when I go into UHF. The people there are friendly and eager to share their knowledge, which makes it that much more rewarding to go in and discover something. Also their selection is great, and in immaculate shape. My favorite purchase there is probably a pristine copy of Nilsson Sings Newman. I got it on an extremely windy, rainy day, and I had to walk about a mile in it. They gave me a few extra plastic bags to make sure it got home intact.
83. Matt Sumrow
Store: CD Alley
Location: Chapel Hill, N.C.
CD Alley is the main record store in Chapel Hill, N.C., where I went to college. In about 1998 when it first opened, I can remember seeing the coolest posters hanging in there from local bands, bands I started to emulate. Chapel Hill has such an amazing local music scene, and CD Alley is the center of it all. Best vinyl collection in the south—there I said it—[it’s] my favorite record store.
84. Nick Loss-Eaton
Store: In Your Ear
Location: Cambridge, Mass.
Oh, man. I used to scour their cheap tape bin and pick up things I was curious about for $1. They have LPs stacked literally to the ceiling. You used to be able to find the same record in the same condition there for two different prices if you looked hard enough. I bought a lot of the basics there: Stones, Dylan, Talking Heads, a cheap Best of the Animals. The whole place smelled like used records and they used to play a lot of soul music on the turntable in the store. Went back recently and it hadn’t changed. I found a La’s CD for $1.
85. Emily Jane White
Store: The Last Record Store
Location: Santa Rosa, Calif.
I have multiple favorite memories of this store. One favorite memory was buying the Dutch reissue of PJ Harvey’s To Bring You My Love. I’d been waiting for years for a vinyl copy. Another favorite thing about the store is my favorite employee, Gerry Stumbaugh, who is also the owner of St. Rose Records. His enthusiasm for music of all types, especially local music and musicians is boundless and wonderful.
86. Victor Le Masne
Housse de Racket
Store: People’s Records
Location: 4100 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Mich.
People’s Records in Detroit was really something! We are huge fans of the Motown and being in Detroit was all about it. This shop was just across the street of the venue and we went there totally randomly. They’re really nice and have the best Motown collection ever.
It was so small but so full of records! We took all the early Stevie Wonder as possible and went directly to the Motown Museum!
Store: Record Stop (R.I.P.)
Location: Ronkonkoma, N.Y.
Arguably the best $1 record selection that existed post 1980’s, Record Stop was absolutely the catalyst to my severe addiction/love affair with vinyl. I started shopping there in 1997 with maybe a handful of records in my collection, and by the summer of 1998 I probably had 250 records. Record Stop put off many people, because of their high priced LPs in the bins—but anyone with a little time on their hands would discover that every LP they had in the bins for $25 you could find in the $1 selection that snaked around entire perimeter of the store. I can’t tell you how many hours I made my ass numb filling through countless dusty stacks. Yes, a lot of it was garbage, everything from Ambrosia to Zebra (as well as 750 copies of Sergio Mendes’ Whipped Delights), but with a little patience you could pull out some really amazing records.
At the time I was buying mostly Elvis Costello and Joe Jackson records (they had 100s), but I also found $1 copies of Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum, The Music Machine’s Turn On and via one of my best buds, MC5’s Back In The USA (He found it in the $1 bin, but then traded it to me—so that one has a disclaimer)—all of which turned me on to a whole different world of music. They also had a 3 for $1 45s section that I found countless good singles in—I once found an instructional 45 on how to teach your parrot to talk—ha!
But the cherry on top, was Big Mike behind the counter. He always wore a slightly silken button down shirt, that had just enough buttons undone to display this immaculately sleazy gold medallion, which hung from a gold chain like it was the fucking Holy Grail of Ronkonkoma. Mike unfortunately didn’t have a great memory, so I had introduce myself every time I was there, and I probably heard his story about being friends with the Psychedelic Furs 150 times. He was a nice guy, but just condescending enough to make you think he knew his shit—and for a 17-year old kid in Long Island to be able to go into a local record shop and talk to an adult about The Jam and The Buzzcocks was priceless (he of course had played shows with both!). Record Stop was the last of its kind and I miss it dearly Mike too!
88. Benjamin Wesley
Store: Cactus Music and The Record Ranch
Location: Houston, Texas
My favorite record store would be Cactus Music and The Record Ranch. This was one of the first stores in the big city that I went to that sold everything! Vinyl records, music documentaries, CDs, gag gifts, magazines—everything a good record store should have. Before they relocated down the street, and before Netflix, they would also rent out movies so it was a one-stop shop for entertainment. I loved going in there and spending a good solid hour browsing through records and movies. It was like going to a bad-ass library. I remember seeing a few in-store performances there, but one of the cooler moments I had was when Austin psych-rockers The Black Angels did a set there. I happened to be hanging out front when this long haired rocker came in trying to carry an amp and a guitar and several other things. I asked if I could help and he graciously accepted, so I got to carry this awesome vintage amp through the store. It sounds silly but when he was playing and they were grooving I thought to myself, “Man, good thing I was there to bring that amp up.” Haha. Cactus Music is such a great place. Kinda wild to being playing in-store performances there now myself. Life is such a trip.
89. Anya Marina
Store: Tower Records (R.I.P.)
Location: Mountain View, Calif.
I remember getting nervous to go to Tower Records in Mountain View. It was like going to a kegger at the cool kids’ house in high school except that it was afternoon, instead of beer it was a latte from Big City Coffee next door, and the cool kids weren’t jocks or cheerleaders—they were pierced, dyed, tattooed misfits listening to Siouxsie and the Pixies.
It was heaven.
90. Aaron Beam
Location: Fort Collins, Colo.
One of the guys who worked there was a local drummer called Lance, who was a few years older than us. He turned us on to so much good music. He was sort of like our connection to the outside world, in a way. There was no such thing as the Internet back then, so you had to rely on the expertise of people like Lance! Also, as cheesy as it was, I loved the name.