Friday, August 31, 2012

A Couple of Must-Stop Record Shops

The blog has been pretty quiet this month because I have been doing a bit of traveling with the family. The good news is, along the way, I got to hit two legendary record shops worthy of mention.

The first, the cozy Vintage Vinyl in Evanston, Ill., is an old haunt I have returned to several times since my college years there two decades ago. Back then, my pockets were full of lint, and this not a store for the poor. For the most part, all I could do was dream. Even now, with a shekel or two in the piggy bank, I still can't waltz out with much of a stack. There are no bargain bins, and I have never bought even a 12" single for less than $15 to $20. The most absurd price for an album I saw this time around was $100 for 'The Sound of The Hit Parade.' Still, if you can get past the dollar signs, the selection is a real head turner.

You can find every imaginable genre, including a very impressive selection of '60s rock, but the real treasures are unearthed in the UK-heavy punk/new wave section. Just to give you a taste, there aren't too many spots in the U.S.A. that would even have an Associates section, let alone one with 18 pieces of vinyl, as I witnessed on a recent Friday afternoon. I picked up a few gems, including a handful Lloyd Cole 12" singles that have eluded me for many years.

For a terrific mention of Vintage Vinyl from a real writer, read this piece from the great Dave Eggers that appeared in the Guardian back in '06.

Lloyd Cole & the Commotions - My Bag (Dancing Mix) (mp3)

The second shop I visited this month was one I heard about in a most unusual way. Back in February, during my trip to Scotland, I was looking for the works of several local bands at
Elvis Shakespeare in Edinburgh. As you may have guessed from its name, it was equal parts record and book store. I struck up a conversation with the owner and asked about the likes of Close Lobsters, Altered Images and others. He was out of virtually everything I desired. He explained he usually had what I was looking for but there were these two Americans that recently came in and cleaned him out. He said they fly over to the UK a few times a year and hit dozens of record shops, including his, to stock their own store back in Los Angeles. I took all of the info on this mystery store and hoped for a reason to be in SoCal.

Perusing the stacks at Wombleton Records made me anxious and giddy all at once. There were so many albums I had always wanted. There were so many more I had read about but had never actually seen before. Like Vintage Vinyl, the prices are out of my league. Since these fellas go to Europe, handpick the albums, hire a customs agent to take care of the bureaucracy and ship them to America, you can sort of understand why the Sounds' first album, for example, was $60.

Other than the prices, just about everything else at Wombleton is wonderful. It's an intimate and fantastically decorated shop. It's -- more or less -- all vinyl, and the real hard-to-find albums are given their own section. I have never seen so much C86 in my life, and I didn't see a single reissue. These were very old but well taken care of originals. And, oh, the 7" singles! At one point I had six from Postcard in my hand... even though I knew I would never be able to afford them all. It just felt good to hold them. When the dust settled, I got a Hit Parade 7" on Sarah, Orange Juice's "Poor Old Soul" and Josef K's 'The Only Fun in Town,' both on Postcard, a few rare Go-Betweens albums and an old favorite from Strawberry Switchblade. Seriously, if money was no object, I could have spent thousands of dollars. The scary thing is, according to the owner, his stock was low. They will be hitting the UK again next month. I hope I can find another excuse to head to Cali.

Josef K - Sorry for Laughing (mp3)

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Ah, yes, Vintage Vinyl. I spent much time in my college days there, as well--a few years before you, if the "two decades ago" is accurate. They would have all of these amazing singles by British bands so obscure we wouldn't even see them mentioned in NME, Melody Maker, or fanzines--some of the bands you've featured here, such as Close Lobsters, but also even more obscure ones such as The Tempest, Pop Parker, and the Househunters. My friend would buy armloads of them, and I'd listen to hers and then buy my favorites, too. We used to joke that they must have just pressed them up in the back based on what she liked! Good times. Thanks for the reminder.