Top Ten Reasons to Patronize Your Local Used Record Store
by Jeffrey Silverstein
In the course of my articles youll read about drool-inducing original vinyl I have the good fortune to fondle. While 77 year old Roger Roberge recuperated from his hip replacements last year, I helped out at his Mooncurser Records - the world-famous used record shop on City Island, New York. Ive seen Korean executives make this place their first-ever stop in America, and been there when a $5000. record was discovered in a box of junk. Best of all, being the guy with the VPI 16.5 at home, Ive gotten to bring home some of the good stuff for cleaning and a listen or two. So 8 out of 10 times, if I mention a recording in one of my articles, its likely not a CD, and may be moderately-to-really hard to find on original vinyl. Good. Many other writers will call attention to the readily available review copies theyve been sent. My plan is to send you on a treasure hunt... of tiny labels, of monos as well as stereos, and with special emphasis on what I call the Period BTF/HTMR (Before They Forgot How To Make Records).
Heres where I get on the soap box and tell you to get up, go to your windows, wave your CDs around and say "Im mad as hell, and Im not going to take it any more." Im not trying to dissuade you from investing in some of the great vinyl reissues available, or even to stop buying CDs. I wont penalize artists with the misfortune of reaching their creative prime after we stopped making records, whose work is only available to us on CDs. I wont even try to convince you that the Compact Disc is the Silvery Eucharist of the Digital Antichrist. But I am trying to get you to enrich your musical horizons and go out and make the effort to find a great used vinyl shop within "Saturday afternoon hanging out" distance. Heres why....
1. Vinyl Rules. If you dont know why, find someone to help you learn. If you disagree, and regularly use sign language to compensate for your lack of aural acuity - prove it buddy.
2. Far from everything is being reissued. A great used record store is a library of the stuff that isnt economically appropriate to reissue. Some of the wonderful reissue vinyl is lovely, but almost no one is doing monos, smaller labels, and lesser -selling artists. The world isnt limited to Living Stereo, Living Presence, Blue Note, and the most profitable reissues. Theres much more.
3. Its a beach on the ocean of the worlds music, and youre a beachcomber. You never know what youll find at a used record shop. People sell their possessions, collectors cant take it with them when they shuffle off this moving coil, and pickers bring in crates from the seven seas. Every visit to your record guy is an adventure.
4. You meet other music lovers. And they turn you on to all sorts of things. And unlike hanging out at an audio salon, people in used record stores listen to things other than hideous audiophile superdisks. Hanging out at Mooncurser for me has been a postgraduate degree in music appreciation.
5. Theres often a special, nostalgic, time capsule quality to a great used record store. If an owner does it right, and injects their love of music into the place, it cant help but be a mini-Smithsonian. Ive been spoiled knowing Roger, because he buys 78s, 45s, LPs, Edison disks, Berliner disks, old machines, and memorabilia. Theres a richness in learning the history of recorded sound that vinyl guys have which a CD-only shop hasnt yet achieved. 20 years from now (or much less), when CDs are big-time antiques, and all audio will float masslessly on the web, that will be different.
6. Its a better education about music than your Tower or Virgin Superstore. If the owner does it right, theres a "cracker barrel" atmosphere of magic at an old record store. You can read about a record in a magazine, or better, on another record jacket, and perhaps find its original the very next day. Heres a quotable Silverstein phrase: "When you listen to music in your home you are curating a sonic museum - you select an artwork, mount it, light it, and display it. The system is part of the museum, but the recording is part of the artwork."
7. Musicians love them. For all the above reasons, plus the diversity. Rappers and hip hop artists love Mooncurser - records are the raw material of their art. Naughty by Nature once dropped 40 grand in one shot at Rogers - his biggest sale. But jazz cats, folkies, metalheads, ethnos, 78 spinners, classical composers and juke box junkies not to mention Latino salsa fans mingle at the same time - its where the elite meet for a musical treat.
8. Its your duty as a music lover, and recycling is ecologically sound. Do you know how many bowling balls gave their lives for records? Dont let those millions of miles of grooves lie still when they could be vibrating your styli!
9. The actual object has more talismanic power than the reissue. Ive always found that theres magic in those grooves, the weight of the disc, the smell of the jacket, the glint of the label. Current quality reissues notwithstanding, they DID makeem better once upon a time, and you oughta know.
10. Great vinyl is often less expensive than reissues or CDs. And even if it wasnt - it would still be worth it. A quality reissue these days is about $30, give or take. A plain vanilla CD is what, 15-18 bucks? Do you know how good a used record you can buy for 20-30 bucks? Of course theres the yard sale as well. But I believe the guys in the used record business, honest ones, and even the weasels, and there are a few, are a kind of treasure. And that little shop is just waiting for you, somewhere.
229 City Island Avenue
City Island, NY 10464
(Note: Roger doesnt do mail order, doesnt have a single CD in the store, but his usual hours are 7 days a week 364 days a year youll just have to make the pilgrimage.)
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