Sunday, March 30, 2014

Record shops: Home away from home

Groovy-looking Best Records in Redondo Beach, 1978. (Courtesy photo)
Fugazi performs at ZED Records in 1987. (Joe Henderson photo)

By Andy

When I was a grade-schooler in the 1970s, I often spent so much time holed up in my bedroom listening to records that my mom once asked me to sign an agreement that I would venture outside a few times a week to play with friends.

I reluctantly scrawled my signature on the paper.

And I did leave the house on my bike, but that didn't mean that I was hanging out with friends. I was in essence given more free rein to frequent the record stores near my home. I was a fixture amid the rows of records and stacks of cassettes and 8-track tapes at places like Music Plus in Hermosa Beach and my favorite spot, Best Records in Redondo Beach. (Mind you, I liked my friends and going to the beach, but "I've Got the Music in Me," as the Kiki Dee Band once sang.)

My first vinyl purchase was the "Rock the Boat" 45 by the Hues Corporation and first album was "Desolation Boulevard" by Sweet ... and I wanted more.

I've always been fascinated with record stores: the sights (colorful album covers and black-light posters), smells (in the case of Best Records, copious amounts of incense, most likely to mask all the pot smoking in the back room) and the chatter amongst the employees and customers about what bands were hot. It was an educational experience each time I stepped in the doors. And when you found the record you were searching for and cued it up on the turntable at home -- LOUD, to my parents' chagrin -- you were stoked beyond belief. Discussing your new records was an essential part of schoolyard life on Monday after a weekend of scouring the vinyl bins. On one particular Saturday, I went far beyond my comfort zone and biked several miles to The Wherehouse in Torrance to score a UFO "Obsession" cassette -- a gem well-earned.

More Best Records action. (Courtesy photo)

Toward the tail end of grade school, Recycled Records opened next door to Music Plus and they stocked a healthy dose of new wave and punk records by bands we became familiar with by listening to KROQ radio's Rodney Bingenheimer and other hip DJs. Music Plus had some of these records, too, and I bought The Dickies' "Dawn of the Dickies" for a friend's birthday present; I chipped in with another buddy to purchase The Police's "Outlandos d'Amour," which we had joint custody of for awhile.

However, the game-changing records were my brother's Black Flag "Nervous Breakdown" EP and the "Jealous Again" EP, which he purchased in 1980 at Recycled and Music Plus. From then on, it was all punk for me and I was on a mission to collect as many of those records as I could find.

ZED Records in Long Beach was the prime spot that we heard of through Flipside fanzine. We simply had to go there!

So, one Saturday afternoon in '81, my mom -- yes, that's right -- drove me to the punk-record Mecca and dropped me off in front with $40 in birthday cash. She was to go shopping and said she'd be back in an hour or so.

When all was said and done, I walked out -- elated -- with a brilliant punk-rock haul: Minor Threat's first EP, DOA's "Hardcore '81," Channel Three's first EP and "The Future Looks Bright Ahead" cassette compilation.

That was just the beginning .....

Andy's 1981 punk haul from ZED's. 

Here's some record shoppers' memories and stellar finds:

*  Scott Hill, Fu Manchu --

ZED records, 1983: Found SSD "Get it Away" 12" / Necros "IQ32" 7" / Minor Threat "In My Eyes" 7" all for $14 total.      

Toxic Shock records, Pomona, Calif., 1985: KORO "700 club" 7" / S.O.A "No Policy" 7" both for $20 total (thanks Bill Tuck). Would try to go to a record store at least once a week and buy at least a record or zine or shirt or stickers every time.

*  Mike IX Williams, EyeHateGod --

I used to go to a store here in New Orleans called the Mushroom by my house and that's where I got my "beginners" vinyl like Talking Heads, Sex Pistols, Clash, Devo and all local punk outfits. Another one was called Leisure Landing and that had a huge import section and huge boxes of punk, hardcore and metal 7"s... I remember getting the first Crass records there, Germs, Dead Kennedys, all the early Discharge stuff, Stiff Little Fingers "Inflammable Material," Spizzenergi, Adverts "Gary Gilmore's Eyes" 7", Blitz 7", Eater "Thinking of the USA" 7" and their first album, the 1st Motley Crue on Leathur records and tons more. That's also where I got "Kill 'em All," "Show No Mercy," the Accept LPs, Celtic Frost + lots more later on.

I also ordered lots of vinyl from SST, Dischord, Touch & Go, Slash and record stores out of state like ZED and Raunch records. I was definitely an addict. Later on, there was a joint named Metronome and I would pilfer the bins and find gems like The Birthday Party, Sonic Youth, Einsturzende Neubauten, Scratch Acid etc...

In 2005, everything I owned went up in flames during the chaos of Hurricane Katrina so that was that! 25 years of collecting gone, but the music is still in my head. Material possessions. I still collect, though, 'cos it's in my blood and that never goes away!

*  Ron Reyes, Piggy --

I used to get on the bus from the South Bay to ZED Records in Long Beach to buy records. Also used to go to the old late-night, early morning Capitol Records swap meet in Hollywood. That was fun. Other than that, it was ordering imports at Licorice Pizza across from the Whisky A Go Go.

Those early days of discovering punk rock were pure magic. One friend would buy a record and call up the gang on a telephone with a curly cord and we would all come over and share in the magic.

Hollywood! (Courtesy photo)

*  Cat Rose, TSHIT photographer --

So many great memories with record (and cassette tape) shopping.

I remember my first record store voyage by myself to the Hawthorne Plaza in Southern CA when I was in 8th grade. After picking up some Karmelkorn -- a beloved snack of the day -- I headed to the store, money tightly clutched in hand. I can't remember the name of the record store, but my first choices were a "Back in Black" AC/DC tape and Led Zeppelin I on vinyl -- I think the record cost $3.99 and I was delighted with my first actual record store purchases on my own. Couldn't wait to take the bus home and listen to them again and again. That was the first of many visits to that store and the stores in Del Amo Mall, etc., any place that I could take the bus to.

Later, when my friends and I started driving, we could finally venture to the vinyl-laden lands of hope and surprise (for the secret and hard-to-find records) -- the promised land of Hollywood.

One of my most fond memories of going to Hollywood for records was when a gang of us in high school all piled into a big car and headed to Melrose Ave. right as school ended, I believe there were some California Coolers in the mix and cloves, for sure. We goofed around at some of the fun little shops until things got serious -- ending up at Aron's Records. That is when we got down to the business of flipping through A to Z. I wish I could remember what I came home with in that moment -- some little punk/alternative gem, I'm sure -- but fueled by the 4 Cs (California Cooler Courage and Cloves), I nabbed a Samhain gig poster off the wall for a friend. There were many more record store adventures before and after that, but I will always remember what fun we had on that crazy day.

Record-shopping fuel.

*  Erin Mountain, Society Dog --

Top finds:

Tales of Terror LP from the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, 1985. I saw them live that same year. Had to get that record and had no patience for the crappy mail order from that label. Life-changing record/band for me.

Drunk Injuns "Crimes Against Humanity" 10".  Found it in 1990 at a Goodwill thrift store on El Camino in Sunnyvale. Nearly shit myself, couldn't believe I found such a rare gem buried in all that polka and Streisand stuff.

Hendrix "Electric Ladyland," for 10 bucks in 2012 at a garage sale here in SF. It's the UK version with the naked ladies gatefold cover.

*  Michael Essington, writer --

Some things in life are hard to remember, like did I pay the cable bill or did I sign my son’s field-trip form? But other things like which record shop was the coolest to go to or what was the rarest record I ever bought?

I would say 90 to 95% of my album shopping was done at Moby Disc in Sherman Oaks, CA.  Moby Disc was on the first story of a two-story brown/wood building. On the second floor was the Nick Harris Detective Agency, I always wondered what was going on up there.

One of the things I remember most about Moby Disc was some of the employees: One of the cashiers was a guy named Kip Brown who was in the band The Little Girls who scored a hit on KROQ with "The Earthquake Song." And another guy, whose name I can’t remember, had somehow discover the identities of the members of The Residents and seemed genuinely nervous about this.

Moby Disc had a kind of hippie look to it -- it was dark and all the album bins were painted black with dark wood trim.  There was a big magazine rack in the front of the shop, where I bought all my issues of Slash, We Got Power, Outcry and of course Flipside. The album bins, kind of, snaked around the place and formed these little cubbies, so even if the place was full, you felt like you were off album hunting by yourself.

Old Flipside ad.

One of the best things about Moby Disc was their import section. If memory serves, Moby Disc was the only shop in the San Fernando Valley selling imports. My uncle Rick turned my brother and me onto some wild music over the years. Rick loved punk and super avant-garde stuff. He was a member of the Residents fan club -- weird, and always seemed to discover bands a year or so before everyone else. One of those bands was Devo. I remember my brother and me lucked out and got Devo’s "B Stiff" EP on Stiff Records. I believe it was either clear or white vinyl, I loved this thing. We bought a lot of British punk books also, Sex Pistols books, Oi books, you name it.

There were two things that were pretty rare I remember buying, that immediately come to mind. My brother found a collection of every Sex Pistols single every released. They were packaged in a clear-vinyl case that could be folded up to the seven-inch size or opened up to display all of the singles. It was great, I’ve never seen it anywhere else. The other thing that comes to mind was an issue of the English music magazine Smash Hits. Smash Hits was cool because they would always include a flex-disc with each issue, usually, of a band doing an unreleased song. The particular issue I picked up was of Adam Ant doing a song called "A.N.T.S." which was him reworking the Village People’s "Y.M.C.A."  Again, one of those things that I’ve never seen since.

Some time in January of 1981, I went to Moby Disc for my weekly trip with my mother and brother. When we walked in I b-lined to the magazines up front, looking for the latest fanzines, and I ended up reading through an issue of Action Now magazine. As I flipped through the magazine, I came across the Live Show Review section, and I read about the band, the Skoundrelz, that Tony Alva played bass for in the early '80s. There weren’t many people cooler than Alva, and next to his review was a critique for a band called Human Hands with a picture of their singer David Wiley.

Just as I finished reading the article, I looked up and Wiley was walking through the door of the shop. I was, momentarily, star-struck, here’s the same guy who had a color picture in a magazine next to Tony Alva, damn. I ran to the front of the store, next to the cash register where they kept their 45s, and grabbed the Human Hands single "Trains Vs Planes," then went up to Wiley and asked for his autograph. He turned bright red and said, “No.” He explained he wasn’t a rock star, then asked my name, shook my hand, we talked about music, and as he was leaving he told me to come and check out his band at the Country Club in Reseda in a few weeks, opening for Romeo Void (and Wild Kingdom). I said I would I’d be there.

I ended buying the single and got my dad to agree to take to the Country Club for their show (I was only 14, and transportation was scarce) -- more on the show another time.

Sometime in the late '90s, Moby Disc moved down the street into a hipper area of Ventura Blvd. The place was completely different inside, a very bleak art gallery feel. In other words, it sucked. The people were different and the era felt over.


  1. Great article, love Essington's story~

  2. I also share the same interest in music. I actually spend more time listening to music than hanging out with friends. Haha! LP records are my favorites. Sadly, those are slowly on their way to declining in the industry. Good thing, we can now convert them into MP3 format and save them on our playlist.

    Ruby Badcoe

  3. I was at that reseda show romeo void and wild kingdom
    what ever happened to that band?