Some people like to go on safari in Africa. Others enjoy hiking Mount Everest in the dead of winter. I personally dig spending my vacations checking out the record stores in cities all over the country. From Boston to New York City to Portland, OR to Austin, TX to Louisville, KY and beyond, I’ve spent a fair amount of time – and received a significant thrill from – poking around the dustiest record shops in all the land. Considering that they’re disappearing at roughly the same rate as the polar ice caps, I figure I’d better see ‘em before they’re gone.
The P had to be in Chicago on business this week, so I tagged along to soak up some of the (cooooold) Windy City vibe, eat some great food, and hang out with my buddy Furr. He and I spent all day Monday and Tuesday running around town searching out all the record stores we could. Forty-six LPs, three 8-Tracks, one cd, one t-shirt, one totally awesome piece of of glass painted to look like the cover of Pyromania, and $647.92 later, here’s what I learned…
2604 Clark St. – Chicago, IL * 773-929-6325
The skinny: Dave’s is one of the greatest record stores in the world. This very small shop is stuffed wall-to-wall with vinyl of every genre and vintage. While some stores will pack their racks to the point that you can’t flip through them, Dave gives you just enough elbow room to get around. His friendly, knowledgable staff are happy to answer even the silliest of questions, as Furr and I proved. These people know their stuff, so you’re not likely to find many bargains, but if you don’t mind paying, you can walk away with some great stuff.
Of interest: No cd’s here – vinyl only.
Bonus points: See above.
Key purchases: Reverend Gary Davis * Harlem Street Singer (original Prestige/Bluesville LP), GZA * Liquid Swords (reissue LP), Magnolia Electric Co. * Trials & Errors (LP), DJ Shadow * The Private Press (LP)
Dave’s piece of the pie: $173.20
2nd Hand Tunes
800 Dempster St. – Evanston, IL * 847-491-1690 * www.2ndhandtunes.com
The skinny: Rumor had it that this shop had folded, so Furr was overjoyed to find out that it was still around (it’s where he bought Ozzy albums during high school). Most of their stuff is priced from $5.99 to $9.99, with some rare stuff priced higher. Furr swears by their dollar bin, but I didn’t have time to look. Next time…
Of interest: Their wall of rare/super-expensive vinyl is impressive to behold. From Beatles rarites to oddball Metallica eps to rare pre-Credence Clearwater Fogarty, it’s a veritable museum wall of great LPs you’re not likely to see often.
Bonus points: Best… business card… ever.
[card has a real 45-adapter/record-spacer attached - 3D!]
Key purchases: Motorhead * Bomber (white label promo LP), Undertones * All Wrapped Up (original LP), Germs * GI (reissue LP), Cocteau Twins * Treasure (original LP)
2nd Hand Tunes’ cut of the cake: $156.30
1120 N. Ashland Ave – Chicago, IL * 773-342-5800 * www.dustygroove.com
The skinny: DJ-oriented shop that specializes in rare funk, soul, jazz, and hip-hop. Again, not too many bargains here, but if you’re willing to kick down, you could walk away with almost any album within the mentioned genres. The room is well-organized and brightly lit, and filled with albums that are fun to look at – browsing here is a pleasure to the senses.
Of interest: An amusing, if somewhat suspect, dollar bin.
Bonus points: To the two employees who kicked me down a free record bag even though I was $18 short of the prerequisite two hunge (they combined my order with Furr’s and gave it to me on the technicality).
Key purchases: Black Sugar * Black Sugar (LP), Sonny Clark * Sonny’s Crib (original Liberty/Blue Note LP), The Coup * Not Yet Free (12 inch single), The Last Poets * This Is Madness (original LP)
Dusty’s piece of the action: $182.85
Jazz Record Mart
27 E. Illinois – Chicago, IL * 312-222-1467 * www.jazzmart.com
The skinny: Old-school shop specializing in jazz of all styles and eras. Includes a smattering of blues, and an impressive international music section. The owner of the store founded the Delmark label, which – coincidentally – specializes in jazz and blues releases. It is one of the longest running independent record labels in America.
Of interest: Before they became famous musicians, Mike Bloomfield and Charlie Musselwhite worked here.
Bonus points: The signed and framed t-shirt bearing a loving inscription from Iggy Pop that hangs in the back of the store.
Purchases: Muddy Waters * Mud In Your Ear (original LP), Billy Strayhorn * The Peaceful Side (original Solid State LP), Willie Colon * Crime Pays (the lone CD purchased on this trip)
JRM’s payday: $26.13 (the total reflects the big pile of jazz vinyl I have yet to listen to, and nothing to do with this great store)
Laurie’s Planet Of Sound
4639 N. Lincoln Ave – Chicago, IL * 773-271-3569 * lauriesplanetofsound.tripod.com
The skinny: More than a record store, Laurie’s has tchotchkes of all kinds (I seriously debated buying the New Kids On The Block water bottle for a buck, but finally passed), a healthy DVD section, and a mid-sized offering of vinyl. Buyer beware: Laurie has a strict no-return policy, and some of the records are pretty beat up. That said, if you look carefully, you can find some good stuff in good shape. Better yet, skip the old vinyl and check out the impressive selection of brand new LPs.
Of interest: The LiteBrite™/Dark Side Of The Moon display that was titled ‘Brite Side’ – awesome!
Bonus points: For the amazing write-ups that were attached to some of the albums. Here’s a snippet from a card taped to Blue Cheer’s Vincebus Eruptum: “Blown out scuzz-sludge. Beautiful destruction. The air is cottage cheese.” Laurie, you can write on my blog anytime!
Key purchases: The piece of glass painted like Pyromania, ESG * A South Bronx Story (original LP), Screaming Lord Sutch & Heavy Friends (reissue LP), Sparks * Kimono My House (original LP), Sly & The Family Stone * Greatest Hits (8-track)
Laurie’s take: $109.44
[gunter glieben glauchen globen...]
Check out the second part of this post here…