Written on my old blog for Record Store Day, April 2011. This has not been updated for 2012, so the first graf is incorrect.
Today is Record Store Day, an annual event at which independent record stores and the goateed, quirky people who run them are celebrated by the people who hold them dear.
I won’t be doing any record shopping today, mainly because I’m already surrounded by music that I haven’t gotten to know well enough, not to mention music I used to know well and could stand to reacquaint myself with.
Also, there’s an indie music store in Stroudsburg, Pa., that I want to get to know better; but they’re going full-out for Record Store Day, doing things like bringing in live bands.
That’s cool and all, but I like a less worked-up atmosphere when I’m rifling through bins of vinyl.
A couple people in the store (one of whom is bantering with the owner, so he doesn’t come over to me) … something laid-back on the store PA, like maybe Neil Young’s “On The Beach” … and I’m good to go.
That’s pretty much how things worked at my all-time favourite record store, the one where I spent at least three-quarters of my disposable income during my high school years, roughly 1987 to 1992.
It was called Fantasy Records at first, and it was located in a strip mall a couple of suburbs away from mine.
(The name later changed abruptly to Fantastic Records. I’m guessing they got a letter from Saul Zaentz.)
I could get there on my bike in roughly 40 minutes.
And on numerous occasions before I could drive, I stuffed my lawn-mowing money into my jeans pocket and made the trip out.
I would ride carefully back with one hand while I cradled my purchases in the other … never dropped one.
On one trip, I happened to run into an older boy and girl from my high school whom I knew from the track team. They took one look at me, getting onto my bike with a bag of eight or 10 LPs, and ordered me to ride home with them in their station wagon.
Mighty thoughtful of them.
(I remember that I bought King Crimson’s “Islands” LP that trip. Funny the things you remember.)
Fantasy Records had an extensive bin of $1 records, and it was there I did most of my shopping.
It was a combination of LPs that were a little on the beat-up side, and LPs of better quality that were just so infernally common that no one would pay more than the minimum for them — something like “Aqualung,” for instance.
Only once or twice did I get something that was scratched too badly to listen to. (My first copy of “Chicago III” was one such.)
For the most part, the contents of the dollar bin suited my needs just fine; and many of my dollar-bin loss leaders became friends for life (“The Wild, The Innocent and the E Street Shuffle” comes to mind.)
The staff was pretty cool.
The main guy I remember was named Steve Kiener; he’d gone to the same high school I attended (a number of years before me) and was also the brother of Barry Kiener, a gifted jazz pianist who played with Buddy Rich before dying too young.
He got to recognize me — it would have been hard not to, given how frequently I came into the store.
I sometimes wonder what he thought, as a more musically intelligent adult seeing this long-haired teenager work his way through the Grand Funks and Humble Pies and Uriah Heeps of the world.
But he was friendly enough, even though some of my loopier purchases — like the Digital Underground’s “Sex Packets” — would sometimes occasion a raised eyebrow or two as I checked out.
(I never realized how difficult it must be to work in a record store. There must be times when you want to shake the customer by their lapels and say, “No, dude. You’re not gonna like ‘All The Girls In The World Beware!!!‘ Seriously. Go try some Kinks from before 1977. Or some Miles Davis. This music will change your life. Ya gotta trust me.”)
I don’t know exactly when Fantastic Records went the way of all flesh, but I’m pretty sure it went under while I was in college.
I felt a pang of loss.
As record stores go, on the grand scale, it wasn’t the fanciest or the craziest or the best-stocked.
(I think the real hardcore vinyl-pickers in Rochester went to the House of Guitars or the Record Archive, both of which are still around.)
But I always did well by Fantastic, and it seems a shame to me that it isn’t around to celebrate this year’s Record Store Day.