Monday, June 17, 2013
For Those Who Still Actively Frequent Record Stores To Buy Or Sell Vinyl...
...though everyone is welcome to read and offer thoughts.
Vinyl this. Vinyl that. "I got it on vinyl." ON VINYL!!
While it seems like buying a record is the new Beatlemania, it really isn't. Yes, the record album has made a comeback, but not in the same way as say Aerosmith did in 1989, coming back from the skids where the Toxic Twins were living on smack and Slim Jims in cheap Herald Square hotels, only to conquer the MTV world with multi-platinum albums and million dollar tours. No. The comeback of the LP is more on a scale of say, Robert Forster in "Jackie Brown." Impressive, but what's next?
I can't speak for any other city than NYC, but every record store I visit is filled with a whole lot of nothing. Back before CDs took over the world, you would be able to go into any record store and find almost any record from the Tijuana Brass right on up to a Beatles' Butcher cover, with anything from average to rare jazz, death metal and good old fashioned rock and roll in between. Now, any record that has the potential to fetch $20 or more is saved for eBay. Every record store has become one huge budget bin with a roof and staff, less the budget price tags. Bin after bin in all of the record stores I patronize is filled with absolutely nothing. A LOT of nothing.
Go to the Beatles section...Ringo The 4th and McCartney's "Back To The Egg." Go to the Led Zeppelin section...Robert Plant's "Shaken And Stirred." Ornette Coleman section...nothing. Sparks? Nothing. Want a Clash record other than "Cut The Crap?" Forget it. Bowie? "David Live," if you're lucky. Beatles records are not rare. Ornette records are not rare. Bowie records are not rare. Certain ones, yes. But your standard original pressing of "Beatles VI?" No short supply...on eBay.
There is no short supply of anything, save the hundred or so holy grails of record collecting. Even big selling gems like Pink Floyd's "Piper At The Gates Of Dawn" or the one time bane of my existence, Simon & Garfunkel's "Bookends" in mono are there if you want them. You just have to pay. I'd love to have that opportunity in say...a record store.
There is one store in Chicago that does indeed stock everything. All of it is offensively overpriced, but at least the option exists. If you did want to buy Dr. John's "Gris Gris" you could. They are asking $65 when it usually sells for $25. T-Rex "Unicorn" or "Beard Of Stars" are right up on the wall, for $50 instead of $15, but all are there if you want them badly enough. I haven't been to Amoeba in ages, so I don't know what is available. Oddly, I have never been to Princeton Record Exchange. But, all of the obvious and not so obvious places in Manhattan and Brooklyn, amidst all the fanfare and publicity, stock nothing classic, rare or worthwhile, saving all of the desirable goodies for the internet.
You could argue that I couldn't possibly be in every record store at every minute of every day, so how do I know that these desirable items haven't come through and weren't immediately snatched up, and you will make a solid point...except...do a search for Led Zeppelin "2" or Iggy Pop's "The Idiot" on eBay, and you will find all of your fave shops selling them on their eBay marketplace page.
On a recent trip to a Brooklyn store to sell some records, I was put off a bit by the staff member who was appraising what I had brought in. Each record was propped up against his MacBook while he did research online, making what used to be a 5-10 minute job an eternity. (He was 24 years old, so obscure artists like Jackson Browne and the Lovin' Spoonful made his brain shift.) He'd look up Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road," see that there were 200 copies available on eBay for three to five bucks, and turn it down, even though my copy was the original black rainbow MCA pressing in mint condition and he had not one copy in the Elton John section. (If I was that guy, I would have given me $2, priced it at $10, with a little sale sign that read, "Elton's classic/MINT ORIG" and it would have sold. I wouldn't have to look it up, either. Anyway...) This went on for 30 minutes or more. I didn't want to be "one of those guys," so I just took it like a man, all the time thinking, "What's the point of having a record store if you're putting all the solid stuff online?"
I am all caught up in vinylmania and its resurgence, and when NYCD was riding high, I all but laughed most of my collection right into the street. I regret it daily, but who knew? Now that it's all the rage again and I no longer have the brick and mortar venue to sell my wares, I do a lot of back seat driving. Most record stores are not as much fun as they used to be, at least for someone looking for something other than blue vinyl RSD 45s or 180gram reissues of the MC5 catalogue for $25 a pop. At least not in my hood.