October 4, 2008

Sure Missed The Dog!

Called around today to the main three campus record stores: Used Kids, Singing Dog, and Magnolia Thunderpussy. I was on the hunt for the new Pretenders album.

Two decades ago I was in all three of these stores nearly every day. I started going to Singing Dog around 1982, when we lived 45 minutes out of the city. Around Christmas my stepdad would take me up so I could sell some old records for some new stuff and have some Christmas money left over. I'd buy $30 worth of new albums and save $10 to get mom some cheap clip-on earrings or something. *snicker* Our weekly trip to the big city landed at Buzzard's Nest Records on the south side of town, it was at least a local chain. I so badly wanted to work at a Buzzard's Nest when I grew up. *snicker again* I did work at their main competitor for a few years, a ocal chain called RTO (Record & Tape Outlet). I wish I still had that job, I'd love to e one of them 40 year old dudes still working in a wrecka sto. Singing Dog was by far my fave store in town. Thunderpussy was right across the street so I always hit both places and nabbed a gyro from the Greeks above Singing Dog.

All of them are in new spots now- Singing Dog is across the street to the north of its old self, Thunderpussy is about a mile south. The original buildings for both were plowed down a few years ago and some high-end coffee shops and crap went up in their place- not only were they the best record stores in town but they were clustered in with the best trashy bars- all gone now.

I've been in Thunderpussy lately, it feels awkward now. Most of what they have in stock I've never heard of- although the posters and shirts all over the wall are familiar classic rock / punk stuff. And don't expect to be greeted by anyone working there as I walk around. I'm obviously some old perv that wandered in accidentally. It's a shame but the store is as welcoming as their half-assed website with its perpetual 'welcome to the NEW Thunderpussy' that's been 'under construction' for a few years. I've sent several emails through the site asking about titles- never received a reply. Somehow every year they are voted Best local record store. I think a lot of old farts like me must be voting based on memory. When I called today asking about vinyl Pretenders, 'dude' was pretty indifferent and didn't have a clue. He asked some chick next to him "this guy is asking about the new Pretenders do we have that?" I heard her pondering and sort of coming to the conclusion the release date must have been pushed back. Some yabbering between what I thought was them must have actually been for me and I informed him the CD release is next week but the vinyl came out a couple weeks ago. His reply AS he was hanging up, his voice fading with distance between his mouth and the counter was 'whatever dude we don't have anything like that.'

When I called Used Kids I'm pretty sure I spoke to the owner, the voice was familiar and I remember he was always nice and if he didn't know an answer he'd even call a competing store or friend and ask. He didn't have the Pretenders readily available but said it could be in the shipment he hadn't unpacked yet and didn't know what was in it (shipments were always full of surprises at RTO), he'd try to get it done in the next few hours if I wanted to call back. I told him I hadn't been in the store for over a decade and will come by before they close, and told me the old place burned out but they were now located were another store used to be a block south (World Records, which was new on the scene when for whatever reasons I stopped going to the campus stores and started going to the big chains that moved into town like Media Play). Used Kids Annex was an excellent hole in the wall where I discovered many great albums for 25 cents to a buck. It was so small if someone farted everyone there tasted it. It was a half basement under a filthy stairwell. The other half, considered a separate location with its own entrance was more 'collectible' stuff. And above them on street level was School Kids Records, where new stuff could be found. Visiting today was interesting, LOTS of albums to flip through (wow have I missed flipping through records!) They used to play some bizarre music, I never ever bought anything or liked anything they played while I was browsing. Today was the same story- something bizarre I assume from the 60's. I enjoyed it for the nostalgic value though. The owner was occupied with another fellow telling stories of "back in the day", so I never got to strike up a chat about my own "back in the day" to continue what we quickly discussed on the phone- so many people getting back into vinyl. I looked for Pretenders and a few others, flipped through rows of used and some interesting new stuff, but left empty handed. I'll come back soon, it's getting late.

But 'back in the day' Singing Dog was by far my fave. In the early 90's I told my partner at the time, when I die I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered behind the record bins there. When I was browsing there- many many times I just had to buy what they were playing. I remember being FLOORED when I first heard Love And Rockets' Earth Sun Moon. Mirror People became my theme song right there in the store and I left with two L&R albums. I remember when Thriller came out and going in that Christmas- they had a poster of the inside cover that was so big it covered the top half of the entire WALL. It was like the Michael God looming over the entire store. It was bizarre and exciting and mesmerising. When I called them this afternoon regarding the Pretenders, I barely finished my question when the owner said 'yeah we just got a whole bunch of those'. EXCELLENT!

Planning it as my last stop for the day, I had to hurry at the other places and I'm glad I did since he closed a little early today. Walking into the new location today for the first time- I had that old record store feeling again. I was in music heaven. Friends and ex's always hated going to record stores with me- they always said I 'zoned out' and the rest of the world- and their buzzing about in my ear- disappeared. It was true, and today I completely zoned out for the first time in way too long to remember. It seemed like a MILE of albums- newer stuff up front and the last 2/3rds of the isle is over-stuffed with classic rock platters.
Almost the first item I noticed as I walked in was a new-arrival rack with the Pretenders- a whole bunch of them. I gave them a 'nice to see you, I'll be back in a few' smile as I walked by and entered a musical wonderland. The vinyl isle stretches out right in front of the counter where the owner stood on the other side, elevated on a platform like a God. Oh how I remember being a record store God behind the counter.  Only myself and another guy in another part of the store were there. I had to be somewhat entertaining to watch for a minute as I looked around at the walls and the bins smiling to myself. Sometimes I stopped flipping just to look around again and see what I could. I never made it out of the vinyl isle, and I didn't even get through all of it when he announced he was closing up in a few. I was studying things I couldn't even believe he had, like Live's Secret Samadhi and Tool stuff and Red hot Chili Peppers, and so many boxed sets I could only reason with myself that I'd come back tomorrow to get my feet in motion towards the counter, stopping to pick up the Pretenders.

I told him about how long since I was last in, he said 'well welcome back' as if he knew he'd be seeing a lot more of me. I told him this is my first new-release vinyl and I had bought some stuff from eBay and getting my turntable going again. He said his own turntable has been put away for so long and he's been itching to get his going again as well. The other guy had come up behind me commenting how albums are coming back in a big way. I asked about Meet Glenn Campbell and he hadn't heard of it saying it sounds like an old album. I told him it was new and I'd seen him performing on a couple late night shows recently and been listening to the samples online. He looked it up and seemed surprised to see it (and confused about why it comes in two price brackets), saying he'd never have thought to order it and offered to do so for me. I could only laugh saying believe me- I never thought I'd ASK for a Glenn Campbell album!

My day started off with a stop at Needle In A Haystack for a new turntable belt and cartridge/stylus. It turned into a pretty fun conversation with owner Steve Flowers. He didn't have the AT316EP cartridge I had written down from a number of recommendations I found on Audio Asylum message boards. In fact the only p-mount cartridge he had in stock was a Shure M92E so that's what I ended up getting, despite not really wanting another Shure. He said I probably didn't need a new cartridge at all and I could just replace the stylus, but the old one looks just short of almost rusty. I had upgraded the cartridge when I bought the turn table- before I even brought it home. I picked it up at Sears and took it to a stereo store and had them do the upgrade to a Shure M99E which I was not all that happy with back then. On most 12" singles the highs were so bright they distorted. Albums played perfectly. When I called the place I was told it was because 12"s were made of inferior vinyl and wouldn't sound good with a better needle. Gimme a break. I'd already been playing albums and 12" singles for a decade and never experienced that to be the case on several different turntables. It was one reason why I used it less and less. I do still have the pre-installed Technics cartridge/stylus, but at the time I wouldn't dare try to swap it back to the original. Only last week did I venture under the hood of the thing, thanks to 'guide' videos on several sites for changing the cartridge, stylus and the belt. Now I feel like a goof about it. I never even knew you could just raise the platter off. Funny.

A little while ago I opened the Pretenders album. Impossible to keep the cellophane intact on this unless you cut the paper band that wraps around the cover. It's a different cover than the CD will have when it comes out next week, but the enclosed CD sleeve does have the same front & back cover. The album is die-cut on two sides to look like broken concrete, kinda reminds me of the inner sleeve photo of Blondie's AutoAmerican which is a section of the concrete wall from the cover painting. The inside sleeves are thicker than regular sleeves, each disc sleeve has the front or back cover of the CD version with lyrics on the flip side. Interestingly both sides of the inside gate are the same concrete picture as both outer covers, except only the inside is embossed. Why wouldn't that have been on the outside making it even more attractive to potential buyers? Or was that the intention and the plant made a mistake? I will play it tomorrow after I fix up the spin-deck. I'm fighting the urge to open more tonight, but I like savoring that during the first listen.


David said...

I too use to love going to the 3 main record stores near the Ohio State campus (and also Johnnys House 'O music) searching for the latest bargains.

Just this past week I was down at OSU visiting and seeing all the changes of the area. I went into Singing Dog in their 'new' location and was sad to see it was like a ghost town in there. Not a single person in the store except myself. It made me wonder how much longer these record stores can hold on in this day and age of digital music and iTunes.

BTW, Used Kids records (when they were in the basement next door) is what inspired me to start my web site www.musicstack.com which has been running for over 11 years now.

It was their music that I bought so cheaply in their $3 bin that I would resell on the original version of website.

Dave Stack

HiRize said...

Hey thanks for your comment David. My friend Jeff recommended your site when i first started buying records again, and I've been on it many times of course.

But on my now many trips to Singing Dog, I'm also concerned at the lack of other browsers and have wondered if he'd be better off moving somewhere more accessible for the old-timers like myself since the kids are all downloading almost exclusively. I THINK at least, folks around my age still want something physical to look at, hold, stack somewhere? I dunno...