Once Upon a Record Store

 

Kids today. . .

It’s a common refrain uttered by countless older generations when discussing a younger, newer one. Sometimes the speaker may be complaining that these kids today don’t appreciate how good they have it. Other times, a speaker may be lamenting the loss of a past activity that no longer finds favor with the next generation.

It’s this one, lamentation over loss, that put me in mind to write about one such relic that is becoming more difficult to find as the years march forward. The other day I found myself at the local shopping mall. You know, the sort of mall that had been hugely popular during the 1970s, 1980s, and into the 1990s. This mall, originally opened in 1969, remains an easy place to meet my shopping needs. The ownership has maintained a clean and friendly environment that welcomes customers the way it did fifty years ago.

As a teenager, I spent many hours at the mall, shopping, hanging with friends, and flirting with girls. Back in the day, there were stores unique to malls across the country. Hot Sam’s soft pretzels were always a favorite while visiting. As was Orange Julius. Spenser Gifts offered some of the coolest items. While Spencer remains at the mall here, Orange Julius and Hot Sam’s have long-ago fallen by the wayside. So too have the record stores—which is what I want to talk about today.

Kids today. . . they don’t hang out at the mall. In fact, during my recent visit, I found a handful of elderly mall-walkers and a smattering of customers wandering through the near-empty space. There is truth in the fact that kids are kids—no matter the generation. But from one era to the next, certain things may get left behind and forgotten.

Record stores are among those lost to history’s tide. Kids today get their music from the internet. They buy downloads or they stream it—and even downloads are quickly fading. They listen to music that has been compressed and depleted of its full, rich tones and sound. But if you’ve grown up with this as your only source, you haven’t a clue what other possibilities existed once upon a record store.

For those of us above a certain age, we recall fondly a multitude of record stores that once dotted city landscapes across the globe. I remember spending many hours in local record shops perusing the latest albums or listening to the opinions of others regarding this band or that guitarist or who would be touring this year. We’d meet our friends there—or bond with strangers over the latest Led Zeppelin album.

But it wasn’t just about albums. At most record stores, we could find t-shirts and posters and buttons of favorite bands. We’d line up at these stores for tickets to the concerts passing through the area. And I’m not talking about the over-priced events ordered online these days. I remember buying tickets to see Blue Oyster Cult for $8.00 back in 1980. That was the first of many concerts I’ve attended throughout my life. I paid a mere $9.50 to see Ozzy Osbourne in concert—a show that included legendary guitarist Randy Rhoads. Sadly, Rhoads died in a plane crash just six weeks after I saw him. I still carry the memory of being mesmerized by this incredible talent. As I recall, the actual ticket price for the Ozzy show had been just $9.00. I remember being upset that the record store had the nerve to tack on an extra .50 to the cost.

Many were the days when a new album dropped, and I’d be there—early—just as the clerk began stocking the record bins. With the new disc or cassette (or even 8-Track) secured, I’d hang out a little longer, snooping through the import bins or the bargain bins, hoping to mine gold by discovering an album by a great unknown band or singer. The imports were usually those late 1970s and early 1980s British heavy metal bands that I’d read about in the music magazines. This is how I discovered Iron Maiden and Saxon and Motorhead and Tygers of Pan Tang. I lived and breathed metal in those days. Still do.

Sometimes, I’d hang out in the pop music department, over with the Duran Duran or Adam and the Ants albums. Why? Because that’s where the girls were found. I didn’t care for that sort of music, but I knew enough about it to hold a conversation with a pretty girl or two.

Record stores weren’t just for the young, either. I remember many a visit including my mother or father (and even grandparents), who had their own record collections to build upon. They enjoyed country music and rock-n-roll oldies from the 1950s and 1960s. I now possess many of those same albums. I also own CDs from Duran Duran and Adam and the Ants. It all comes back to memories tied to these wonderful stores and to the people who shared this same journey. Back to a time when life didn’t feel too busy or complicated.

Kids today, they’ll never know the joys of the record store, of the people and the culture that sprang from it across many generations. They have it easier, kids today. They can get anything they want simply by pointing and clicking on their smart phone or computer or tablet. But here’s the truth: something always gets lost when life becomes too easy. For many of us, that something is the record store. Gone but never forgotten.

 

21 thoughts on “Once Upon a Record Store

  1. Verwayne Greenhoe

    Nice article! I grew up in the triangle of Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Mt. Pleasant, giving me a lot of places to catch the same kind of acts you describe in the 70’s. Back then, Chicago and Detroit were great places to make a run to see a lot of wonderful music. Sadly, Chicago is no longer safe enough.

    A lot of music then was all local Michigan groups; BTO, Seger, and a ton of the Motown sound groups. As Lawrence Welk used to say… ‘Wunnerful, wunnerful!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      There certainly were numerous record stores in the area back then, Verwayne. I miss them a lot. BTO was actually a Canadian band. But they did perform in this area quite often back in the early 1970s. Seger? Yep! Grew up listening to Uncle Bob! Grand Funk, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent–all Michiganders! And Motown had the sound that moved the nation. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

      Liked by 1 person

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      1. Verwayne Greenhoe

        True story. Seger moved to my area near Lincoln Lake, about six miles west of Greenville. If you know his music, you’ll recall in his song, ‘Roll Me Away,’ he says “Headed out on my big two-wheeler, I was tired of my own voice!” He was wondering if the fame he was getting was worth the ‘trouble’ it was causing him, so he took off on his bike for about two weeks. When he returned from that journey, he stayed at a small cottage on the east side of Lincoln Lake for a month.

        One night, I get a call from my sister who lived on that very same lake, asking me what I was doing. I told her I was doing something not really important. She starts laughing and tells me, ‘Hang on, this guy wants to talk to you.’ I thought it was going to be some old geezer who lived back there near her, but I immediately knew the voice. Seger says to me, ‘Hey! BIG V! Come on out and let’s jam!’

        I went out there and spent six hours with Bob and the boys, and they jammed all night. It was a super fan’s dream come true. I have “Roll Me Away” set as my ringtone and every time I stray south of the Mighty Mac, we crank it up and let it blast as we ‘come home.’

        Thanks for the memory!
        V

        Liked by 1 person

      2. beemweeks Post author

        That’s such a fantastic story, Verwayne. Thanks for sharing. I grew up hearing Seger all the time. My father was a super fan. I have most of his albums. I still crank them up when working out and mowing the lawn in the summer. That music transports me back in time, stirs recollections of my dad. You’re lucky to have jammed with him.

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  2. ~Mar

    Music has always been an important part of my life, I can get absolutely lost in a music store. I’ve even stumbled upon some that still sale records and that always makes my heart smile. I remember having a family record player growing up. I don’t remember a lot from my childhood, but I remember listening to it. I still have my grandmother’s huge record player cabinet. Even though it may not work anymore, I haven’t had the heart to just get rid of it. So even as an 80s/early 90s baby, when cassette tapes were the popular music choice, I can definitely appreciate your article. 🖤

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Thank you for sharing, Marlena. Yeah, don’t get rid of Grandma’s cabinet. If it’s broken, there are people who can fix it. Those things offered amazing sound. I grew up on vinyl albums, 8-Tracks, and cassettes. I no longer have my vinyl. Nor do I own a turntable. But I intend to get one eventually. We still have a music store in our mall, called FYE. And we have a few used record shops. But I miss the days when I could go to five or six different shops in a single afternoon, and have a great time at each one.

      Liked by 1 person

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  3. Jan Sikes

    This is a true story, Beem. Rick and I, at one time, had a record collection of over 30,000. As his health failed, he reached out to try and sell them. Ironically, two young men who were opening a record store in Lansing, Michigan, bought all of them. It took a semi-truck to transport them. I still love record stores!

    Liked by 2 people

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      Wow. That’s a great story, Jan. Do you recall the name of their store? Perhaps the year? There’s a great used record store over in East Lansing. It’s called Flat, Black, and Circular. It’s been in business since the mid 1970s. But there have been others as well. Thank you so much for chiming in, Jan. Even now, record stores still seem to be bringing music fans together–even if only online.

      Liked by 2 people

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    1. beemweeks Post author

      I kind of agree with you there, Crone! They have it easier, though not necessarily better. Kids today missed out on so many places and things that no longer exist. But that’s just how life evolves. Thank you for stopping by.

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  4. John W. Howell

    I loved this post, Beem. I remember the record stores but from a very different age than you. We flocked to get the latest 45 and stood in line to do it. We loved our Detroit radio Jocks and would show up where ever they were doing a remote. In college, I worked at the Lansing Radio station WILS which held me in good stead when I decide to go back after I retired for the first time. I worked for a 50,000 watt station in South Bend IN for a year until I was discovered by organized commerce again. This is all to say music has been with me my whole life.

    Liked by 1 person

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    1. beemweeks Post author

      Ah, yes! WILS. I was a guest DJ for a morning there back in 1982. Part of a career day thing at school. My career of choice had been DJ. I had a blast. This was their FM side. The AM side played mostly news and sports by that time. But the FM was rock. I remember 45s. Those were the first records I ever bought. Songs. Then I discovered albums. That’s where it really took off for me. Music. It’s in my blood and soul. I also remember the local radio stations and their live remotes at record stores. And also, whenever bands came through town for concerts, they’d often do in-store meet-and-greets. Thanks a bunch for sharing your story, John.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  5. Shirley Harris-Slaughter

    Beem, I have some 45s and 33s RPMs from my motown collection. I couldn’t get rid of Mary Wells and “Hello Detroit” sung by Sammy Davis, Jr. especially for a Detroit promotion through my days at the newspaper. And I have Whitney Houston. All are classics and I even purchased a portable turntable to play them on. So if I want to go back I still have my memories here. I don’t feel that this streaming in order to listen to today’s music is going to cut it.

    Thanks for the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. beemweeks Post author

      I agree, Shirley. Steaming just isn’t the same. I enjoy holding a physical copy of my favorite albums while listening to them. You certainly have some classic titles in your collection. I’m a big Mary Wells fan! Whitney will always be a legend–as will Sammy! Thanks for stopping by.

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