Monday, April 21, 2014

#745: The places

Well, I didn't do anything for Record Store Day -- my nearest used record store is 30 miles away in Tacoma, and I had to work. But reading stuff like Crabby's recap of Record Store Day (at Crabby's Record World) got me thinking about some of the places I've looked for music over the years.
I wrote a whole book about the first record store I remember ever walking into, because I ended up working there. (The book's called GUARANTEED GREAT MUSIC!, and you can find it at
But there have been a lot of others along the way. One of my favorites -- in Boise, Idaho, where I grew up -- was The Record Exchange, which started as a hole in the wall on Orchard Ave., right next to one of the world's oldest McDonald's restaurants.
When it opened, the store was just wide enough for one long table-rack full of vinyl and some room to move around the outside. There might have been a couple more tables along the walls and in the back. I found some great stuff there -- the Incredible String Band's folk-comedy album THE HANGMAN'S BEAUTIFUL DAUGHTER, among others.
The Record Exchange caught on and expanded. The owners moved it to a store three times as big on West Idaho Street in downtown Boise. I remember being in there at least a few times in 1982 after I quit the record store. There were so many albums in there that you could get lost for DAYS. Don't I wish I could go back there with what I know now....
About the only thing I REMEMBER buying from that store was an imported copy of England's GARDEN SHED, a sort-of Genesis/Yes hybrid, an album I'm not absolutely sure I ever played all the way through....
The Record Exchange continued to expand -- at one point they opened a huge, flashy-looking store on Boise's west side near the Towne Square Mall. I remember being in that store once when I was home on leave from the Air Force. But maybe they over-expanded for their market, because the last time I was home, the Exchange was back to their one store on Idaho Street downtown. The next time I'm back home -- this summer, I hope? -- I've GOT to get in there.
I left Boise and ended up in San Antonio, thanks to the Air Force -- and found lots of great used book and record stores. The best was Half Price Books, which was housed in what seemed to be three or four houses slammed together, just north of downtown SA. Though you could wander for days in the store's library/labyrinth, the music section was right out front. There I FINALLY picked up a copy of Fairport Convention's FAIRPORT CHRONICLES best-of, and found the keystone of British folk-rock. First heard Sandy Denny's haunting vocals and Richard Thompson's great guitar. Still have my copy.
In another dusty, hole-in-the-wall store in SA, right next to a dry-cleaner's, I found a copy of Nick Drake's BRYTER LAYTER and Amazing Blondel's FANTASIA LINDUM, two more classic pieces of British folk. Plus I finally heard the Grateful Dead -- by picking up a copy of TERRAPIN STATION. Why'd everybody think The Dead were so spacey? TERRAPIN almost sounds like progressive rock!
There were some OK second-hand stores in Wyoming, too. One good one in Cheyenne was in the Pioneer Mall -- but in those years I was put on a pretty strict allowance, because my ex-wife knew I'd spend all the rent and food money on books and music if I had a chance.
When I returned to Wyoming after two years in Turkey, Worland only had used books in a section of the local Ben Franklin hardware store. Still found some good stuff there.
When I moved to Raymond, Wash., the small town's only used bookstore had a TON of good stuff. But business wasn't that great, and the store closed. The only other decent second-hand store in town was taken out by a fire that ate up a whole city block -- before I even had a chance to check out their books and vinyl.
Where I'm at now in Port Orchard, Wash., there's a very good used book store about a mile down the road, called Book 'Em (free plug!). Swing by there and drop my name -- they know who I am. I've bought a ton of stuff from them over the years, traded off even more, and been shocked by some of the great stuff they've had on their shelves.
There used to be a narrow little hole-in-the-wall record store in Tacoma, just behind the B&I on South Tacoma Way, that reminded me a lot of the original Record Exchange -- tons of music, period posters all over the walls, cool clerks, etc. I scored a good amount of stuff from them -- but they disappeared without warning sometime before 2008.
I wish the other used record stores were closer, though. Tacoma used to have a whole line of great used record stores on 6th Avenue, but I don't think I've been to any of them since the economy went down the toilet. I wonder if any of them survived? Might be time to go check them out again ... as soon as I get paid....

1 comment:

R S Crabb said...

Last time I was up in Seattle in 2001, there were plenty of places to hit for music, Wherehouse Music I could look all day and find lots of cheap stuff. Too bad I didn't keep a journal back then, I have forgotten most of the places that I did go to. Cellophane Square had a roomful of cheap CDs but sad to say they're no longer around. As is Tower Records, which was expensive but I miss that place simply of the fact that they had oodles of records around. Me and the ex GF did shop at Half Priced books here downtown and don't think Seattle had them but Spokane had three Hastings stores.

Alas Cedar Rapids has only the thrift stores and Half Priced Books. Most of the indee record stores are history, Relics, Co Op, Record Store, Rock N Bach, Ratz Records. All a distant memory. Nice to be in driving distance to Madison or Dubuque and Quad Cities but I have to plan them about two or three months in advance. They don't have the Inventory Turnaround like they used to.