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The Thrill Of The Hunt

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I’m not much of a “shopper.”

I know what I want. I get in. I get it

and get out.

In Chuck We Trust.

But there are two major exceptions. My husband knows, especially if we’re on an out-of-town trip, that he can expect to spend no less than an hour at used bookstores or vintage music stores.

And if, by any chance, the store is both? Well, that could be an entire afternoon.

I strive to be less acquisitive. But no promises if, say, we’re in Montreal and I see a comic book shop,

Or Manhattan, and passing by the (now late, lamented) Colony Records.

1619 Broadway, New York, NY.
1948-2012

He and I do not share the same tastes, but we have parallel interests. So, if we’re in Asheville and walk into the Battery Park Book Exchange, he’ll order a glass of wine and peruse thrillers or travel books while I see whether any Joel Whitburn collections are available.

An afternoon at BPBE, with a nice Merlot, and Billboard archival memorabilia.
Sounds like a perfect day.

If we hit a record store, he’ll browse the jazz and classical CDs while I see whether there are any old “American Top 40” sets, or boxes of 45’s or LP’s.

There’s nothing like the thrill of finding something long wanted, but unable to find.

In these days of the Internet and globalization, that’s less and less likely. Still, rummaging through stacks of vinyl transports me to decades past, even as I’m firmly aware of century 21.

One side note: Blame (or, as I prefer it, praise) the suburban Chicago FM outlet WYEN for fueling my love of sad-sack adult contemporary tunes.

As I look at these hard-to-find recordings, I realized most fell into that genre, which may be why they weren’t Top 40 hits.

No matter: I love them just the same.

Without further ado, a few tales from the collectible crypt:

The days of cutout vinyl:

In the late 1980s, everyone from chain record stores to mom-and-pops pushed out boxes and boxes of LP’s to make way for the booming CD market. You could get lots of music, even hit albums, for $1.99, $2.99, $3.99.

It was a great way to snatch songs you loved on a budget. During one such trip, I secured this copy of Rupert Holmes’ Pursuit of Happiness LP (literally a cutout – look in the upper-left-hand corner). This was not the album that featured “Him, Answering Machine, and Escape (The Piña Colada Song).

Rather, it’s a 1978 release that included my favorite recording of his, the No. 72-peaking Let’s Get Crazy Tonight.


A garage sale like no other:

I understand why people get hooked on garage and/or estate sales. But I just never developed the discipline for them. (And, besides, I’m an all-you-can-eat buffet for any mosquito in a five-mile radius). Still, when the St. Joseph County Public Library said around 1990 that it was getting rid of its vinyl and moving solely to CDs? Better believe I was at that “garage sale.” I picked up the eponymous LP by singer John O’Banion of nearby Kokomo, Indiana, featuring his No. 24:
Love You Like I Never Loved Before.


Miss you, Smoky:

Not long ago, I went back to Fort Wayne, Ind., for the first time in decades. Sadly, I couldn’t go to a favorite hangout. Smoky’s Record Shop was long gone, its storied owner and operator Charles “Smoky” Montgomery having passed in 2006.

According to one account: at the time of his death he had 20,000 records available for sale. The Midwest record chain Wooden Nickel absorbed a good chunk of them.

It was at Smoky’s that I was able to get my hands on several tough-to-find 45’s, including Larry Santos’ one-and-only trip to the Top 40, 1976’s We Can’t Hide It Anymore.


Promising sign:

Less than a year after I met my now-husband, I decided to follow him from Indiana to North Carolina. I was a little nervous about leaving the Midwest for “the South” (as all my friends referred to it).

Within a week of settling into a West Raleigh apartment, I found a hole-in-the-wall shop nearby that sold both vintage comic books and 45 records! I knew then that I’d made the right call.

Unlike Smoky’s, this dealer didn’t seem to care as much about his vinyl: Old 45’s were packed in a couple of cardboard boxes, with no record jackets. On the plus side, they weren’t very expensive, either.

I’m pretty sure I got this copy of Clout’s Substitute (a No. 67 peak in the U.S. but a smash around the rest of the world) for a buck or two.


A revelation in 30 minutes:

My husband and I took a ViaRail trip through Canada in 2002 for our 10th anniversary (we will reprise it next year for our 30th). One stop – I believe, Edmonton – gave passengers a 30-minute layover.

I found a strip shopping center across the tracks and, voilà, a record store with a box of cutout vinyl in front. Hubby chuckled as, pressed for time, I scrambled for buried treasure.

And I found it: a K-tel album with a song I’d wanted for years, Chi Coltrane’s Thunder and Lightning. I‘d never known that K-tel was a Canadian company and that Canadian versions of its compilations were different from U.S. versions.

For example, this “Superstars’ Greatest Hits” includes these tracks not found on the U.S. counterpart: Five Man Electrical Band’s I’m a Stranger Here, Chester’s Make My Life a Little Bit Brighter and the Downchild Blues Band’s Flip Flop and Fly. Worth the trek back to the States.


The upside of the Internet:

Clicking a mouse to charge a purchase doesn’t have the same thrill as discovering a record in a bargain bin. Still, if you’ve searched for a song for decades, there’s still the excitement when it arrives in the mail. That’s how I secured, via Japanese compact discs, Bill Champlin’s Sara, Marcus Joseph’s I Don’t Want to Get Over You and the KC/Teri De Sario duet Don’t Run (Come Back to Me).

On the vinyl 45 side, I found a European copy of Barbi Benton’s 1978 Ain’t That Just the Way. (I can honestly say I did not purchase it for its picture sleeve and was quite amused to see it.)

Closer to home, I snagged a copy of Lookin’ for You, a 1979 pop-disco nugget by Paper Cup (optimistically autographed by the band) that came to my attention on WYCR-FM in Hanover, Pa., where my cousins live and I spent summers as a teen. 

What are your favorite finds – and why?

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Chuck Small

Journalist-turned-high school counselor. Happily ensconced in Raleigh, N.C., with hubby of 8 years (together 30 this November).

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Eric-J
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Eric-J
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September 14, 2022 11:11 am

Back in the 90s, the Triangle was a paradise of used book and record stores. My home base was Books Do Furnish a Room, which had books, records, and comics, all crowding each other out. (I always felt that they basically used new release comics to subsidise their obscure Jazz LP habit, but they did have a decent selection of indy comics as well.)

For a while there was an empty motel that featured a flea market on the weekends. It felt like a Temporary Autonomous Zone – like you’re shopping for funk records, but in the next room they’re selling the meat of the Black Aquatic Centipede. My best friend was able to assemble an amazing selection of 70’s Funk records there.

Pauly Steyreen
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September 14, 2022 10:34 pm
Reply to  Eric-J

When I was a Triangle resident, i was attached at the hip to the local indie record store (Poindexters). I didn’t have a car so I was limited to what I could get to by walking or public transportation. Great discoveries even in a small store… the selection was well-curated and emphasized local indie acts.

cappiethedog
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September 15, 2022 1:53 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

I special ordered Archers of Loaf’s Web in Front at a small store called Hungry Ear. It was located near the army base. “Hey, little dude,” a guy in fatigues asked, “you ever heard of Girls Against Boys?”

Eric-J
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September 15, 2022 10:10 am
Reply to  Pauly Steyreen

Loved Poindexters! It’s always been the archetypal “College town record store” to me.

Virgindog
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September 14, 2022 11:44 am

I usually don’t go searching for particular old records but I like finding things I didn’t know existed. My favorite find is The Who’s “Tommy” as done by a group called Ye Olde English. It’s the entire rock opera done in a rocksteady style. That’s right, “Pinball Wizard” is now a reggae song. Parts of it aren’t good but the overture is delightful.

The best part is the booklet which has a picture of Avery Schreiber, the mustachioed comedian. It’s only after reading the liner notes that you find out he plays Uncle Ernie and his son Josh is Ye Olde English’s lead singer.

Chuck, if you’re ever in Nashville, plan to spend a day (or two) in McKay’s Used Books. They have vinyl, CDs, books, comic books, video games, DVDs, and more. It’s huge.

lovethisconcept
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September 16, 2022 1:36 pm
Reply to  Virgindog

I was going to direct him to McKay’s, as well. I believe that they also have a location in Knoxville. And in Nashville, Grimey’s has been around long enough to qualify as an institution. Anyone interested can check them out here.
https://www.grimeys.com/

JJ Live At Leeds
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September 14, 2022 1:08 pm

My mid to late teens was peak period for second hand vinyl. Never went searching for anything in particular it was just the joy of seeing what I found. This was early 90s and most of what I bought was 60s and 70s. I’m particularly fond of my Woodstock triple album. Still got my collection from that time but these days its book shops that take up most of my time. Can’t pass one without going in especially if it’s an independent. Again, its the joy of browsing and seeing what takes my fancy that day.

mt58
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September 14, 2022 1:33 pm

Recently, a co-worker who is between apartments for a few weeks asked if I would discreetly store their old records in my workplace office, behind my door. There were about 300 albums in the collection.

Pro-tip for all of you worker bees out there: Never agree to such a thing if you ever intend to get a project completed by deadline.

It was exactly like my “potato chip will-power:” I swore that I’d peruse just the first few in the stack. But I fell down the rabbit hole and couldn’t stop. Productivity last week was… not good.

But, hey: If you ever need to know anything about the track order on Love Will Keep Us Together, or perhaps confirm the Michael McDonald solo career discography?

I’m your guy.

JJ Live At Leeds
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September 14, 2022 2:23 pm
Reply to  mt58

Sounds like a perfect use of your time. There’s no way I wouldn’t be spending hours and days going through those albums. Don’t even need to play them, there’s a joy in just (very carefully as they aren’t yours) pulling out the inserts, going through lyric sheets, studying the tracklisting, noting the writing and production credits, looking who the additional musicians may be and feeling the jolt when connecting them to something else.

I’m now tempted to go have a look through my own, its been a while.

cappiethedog
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September 14, 2022 8:13 pm
Reply to  mt58

My father’s side of the family threw out the patriarch’s record collection. We don’t show a wide palette of emotions. It’s a family of Isabelle Huppert in The Piano Teacher accidentals. Nobody could tell I was angry. Original Martin Denny vinyl, in particular, Exotica. Period-piece Hawaiian music albums that you can only find at the Bishop Museum.

Ack!

Phylum of Alexandria
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September 14, 2022 5:29 pm

I haven’t had a functional record player in maybe decades now, and yet I still love riffling through LPs in a store. Something about it is so pleasurable.

And yes, I love finding rare treasures. It took me a while to fill out my Pere Ubu and Cabaret Voltaire discographies, and the effort provided me with many moments of excitement and perceived achievement. And man, visiting Tower in Japan gave me some great treasures, like various Tropicalia releases (Caetano Veloso, Tom Ze, Os Mutantes).

In the digital age, probably the closest feeling was the discovery of John Cale’s catalog on XE records’ web store. All of the albums not currently available otherwise are there, from the coveted “Mercenaries” single, to the panned/underrated gem Caribbean Sunset.

Last edited 13 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
cappiethedog
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September 14, 2022 8:24 pm

If it wasn’t for David Byrne, it’s possible that I wouldn’t have learned about Caetano Veloso until he wrote and performed “Burn This Blue” for Frida. I’m always disappointed when people don’t have the same reaction to “Um Canto De Afoxe Para O Bloco Do Ile” as me. To me, the other “out of this world” track from Brasil Classics 1 is Jorge Ben’s “Fio Maravilha”.

“Grease”, in a contemporary context, has lyrics that wouldn’t be out of place from the Tropicalismo era. “Grease” has this bizarre gravitas that never existed before.

Phylum of Alexandria
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September 20, 2022 12:27 pm
Reply to  cappiethedog

While it was my roommate around 2000 who turned me onto bossa nova, I believe I have David Byrne to thank as well for the Tropicalia artists, specifically the Luaka Bop compilation: Zero Accidents on the Job. And also I happened to hear Caetano Veloso’s Live in Bahia while working at Tower and I really got into it. And right around that time I saw him in Talk to Her, which only cemented his cool.

Out of this world Jorge Ben? Probably my pick is his A Tabua de Esmeralda. Aside from the occult subject matter, it’s him at his most hypnotic and introspective. This song can plausibly be called mathe-nova:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZhOhlmA9q8

Last edited 7 days ago by Phylum of Alexandria
dutchg8r
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September 15, 2022 12:41 am

Oh, I am right there with you Chuck.  Shopping for anything is a headache inducing chore.  But a used record store?  I lose hours and it seems like mere minutes have passed.

My very first introduction was when I was 16.  There was this church in suburban Philly that had this annual rummage sale that had been going on for decades, it was an Event with a capital E. We’d each go off and do our own thing for the day, checking back in at the car on occasion to drop off finds.  Anyhow, so this year when I was 16, I happened upon this quiet corner of the used book area where they had piles of magazines and vinyl.  I just sat down in this area for hours, no one bothered me, and I felt the world had stopped, I was so swept up in looking through everything.   I stockpiled a ton of Rolling Stone magazines (they were 10 cents each as I recall) after parsing through them for ones with either Duran Duran mentions or George Michael mentions.  As for the vinyl, I found copies of all 3 of Wham!’s albums, as well as pristine near mint copies of Duran’s first 4 albums.  The excitement for me was unlike anything I’d experienced in my life to that point to have found these gems (as far as I was concerned).  These were the first copies of those Duran albums I owned as well – I had to copy each of them from vinyl to cassette so I could listen to them on my Walkman on the bus.

I wrote up a post back on the mothership about my discovery of record conventions while at college; I think it’s still awaiting transfer to the new site format though, I couldn’t find it.  But yeah, I found myself driving all over Central Florida to these record conventions.  Anyone else ever go to them??  They were so awesome, so many vendors in one place.

On days when I’d make my Virgin Megastore pilgrimage,  I’d usually stop in downtown Orlando at Rock and Roll Heaven, which was the main used record place in town.  Hours upon hours spent just browsing through the entire place, it was so packed.

http://www.rock-n-rollheaven.com/

The best example though was my first trip to England in 1996.  I joked how grateful I was they didn’t tax vinyl through customs, cause I probably wouldn’t have been able to reenter the US.  I was popping in to any and every record store and used record booth I encountered.  I was so paranoid about anything happening to them on the flight home, I checked everything else and carried on the plane with me all my vinyl purchases.  Literally about 35 lbs in several bags, maybe even heavier, it was nearly half my weight probably at that time (felt like it!).  But I was not letting them out of my sight.

There’s a used record store here in town that just relocated into one of the old Victorian houses on main st, and its such a treat to peruse while in this historic building.  I know I’ll lose days in there, so I try very hard to limit my visits, but I’ll probably wind up spending the afternoon there when I go to finally pick up the Older box set they ordered for me.  

I’m so glad you wrote this Chuck!!  Totally agree – that rush of not only finding a used record store/booth, but scoring a treasure of a find, is just so exhilarating!!

mt58
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September 15, 2022 11:28 am
Reply to  dutchg8r

I’m an example of the stereotypical trope that “women shop, men buy.”

It’s one reason why I won’t darken the door of a clothing store unless absolutely necessary. And when I do, it’s a really fast process.

I once had to buy a new off-the-rack suit. 4 minutes from try-on to walking out of the door with the shopping bag.

To be fair, it probably looked like it.

Edith G
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September 16, 2022 1:20 am

I must say that I never went to find old albums, but there was a store in my city that used to sell imported LPs and cassettes, until they closed before mid 90s (my sister and I bought some albums there). By the end of the decade and early 2000s, I spent a few hours in the Mixup store that was (and I think there’s still) at the mall… wow, it’s been a long time ago.

LinkCrawford
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September 20, 2022 11:51 am

I remember being a jr. high aged kid trying to collect all the old Chicago albums. I so wanted Chicago III and Chicago VII, but I couldn’t find them. I couldn’t even drive yet, and this was just before the great LP dump when CDs came out. Both albums were out of print. I even had DREAMS about what the albums might look like. (I remember dreaming that Chicago III had a burlap cover with the logo somehow on the burlap. I was wrong…it looked like an American flag.) I was so excited when I saw Chicago VII in the store as a reissue in 1985. I quickly special ordered the reissue of Chicago III as well. Those were fun times!

blu_cheez
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September 26, 2022 5:49 pm

I told this story in a comment back on the mothership about a year ago, but my greatest find was in a book store that was going to be demolished to make way for a mall. The store had to have been 60-70 years old, and there was little to no organization – things were just stacked in weird piles everywhere.

I lifted a tarp near the back of the store and saw two comic long boxes – they were filled with 60s and 70s issues of Marvel & DC books (nothing with a cover price greater than $0.50). No bags, but they were in great shape.

I asked if they were willing to sell me the lot of them, and they said “sure” when I asked “how much?”, expecting the answer to be something like “$2,000” they said “Just add up the prices on the cover”

I broke out into a nervous sweat… I was getting $50 and $100 books for $0.12 or $.020 each. We did the math, and I grabbed everything for a couple hundred bucks. I called my wife and said “get the car over here NOW.” I loaded those boxes up so, so fast and sped away like I had just robbed a bank. Those books are a good chunk of the most valuable ones in my collection (not like I really ever plan on selling them, but..)

That’ll likely never happen again, but a guy can wish, right?

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