Weekly Survey: What was your most memorable record store experience?

After a period where it looked like the record store was headed for extinction, indie shops have made a comeback, largely on the back of the vinyl resurrection. In fact, people in the industry tell me that this year’s Record Store Day was the best-ever.

This got me thinking about the Olden Days–i.e. pre-Internet–when a visit to the local record shop was as important as a trip to the grocery or liquor store. Customers developed relationships with the employees, trading tips, recommendations and even arguing over what was worth buying.

I loved the ritual abuse I got at Toronto’s Record Peddler on College (d. 2001) across from Maple Leaf Gardens. The goal of any shopping excursion was to get the approval of the surly prick at the cash.

When I presented my picks at the counter, a typical exchange went like this as the clerk flipped through my stack of vinyl: “Shit. Shit. Shit. Not bad. Shit. Shit. Good choice. Shit. Still want all these?”

Sound familiar?

https://youtu.be/oyC0gcMD8O8

This brings me to this week’s weekly survey question: What was the most memorable experience you ever had in a record store? Maybe it was an encounter with a clerk that was good or bad. Perhaps you met someone in the aisles. Maybe someone warned you about one record and then steered you towards one that was brilliant. Or maybe you know of a regular who was something of a weirdo?

Share your record store experiences below.

 

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

14 thoughts on “Weekly Survey: What was your most memorable record store experience?

  • April 30, 2018 at 2:41 pm
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    My last ever visit to the HMV Superstore at 333 Yonge Street. I was buying a deluxe edition Labyrinth DVD box set, and Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream it’s Over” was playing in the store. The cashier said, “Jennifer Connelly also starred in Dark City, which was directed by the director of the video for this song…” It broke my heart. To have the pop culture dots connected at HMV one final time… Amazon’s algorithm will never do that. Spotify either…

    Reply
  • April 30, 2018 at 6:09 pm
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    Record Runner on Rideau Street in Ottawa. You could find anything…. UK singles and rare albums and EPs. My Mum could never understand why I’d dish out $15 for a UK single that only had 3 or 4 songs. Lol

    Reply
  • April 30, 2018 at 6:42 pm
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    The Vinyl Vendor in Kingston, Ontario. If they didn’t have the record you were looking for and you asked the owner Bill to order it for you, he would reply , “It’ll be in in Friday” and laugh in a stoner way. Needless to say no record ever requested arrived on Friday, or ever.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2018 at 10:35 am
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    I grew up in the 80s and I miss the role that radio played in discovering music back then, but I really don’t miss record stores at all. I would hear stuff on CFNY, get part of the song or band name, head down to the record store full of enthusiasm… and then get treated like some kind of unworthy aspirant who shouldn’t be allowed into the inner sanctum. I still rankle at the narrow-minded, insular, pettyfogging mindset of those self-appointed gatekeepers of cool. I think the whole experience ran contrary to the excitement and invitation to explore that your shows have always promoted, Alan. Sorry, I don’t miss the whole record store experience one bit.

    Reply
  • May 1, 2018 at 11:38 am
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    Mother’s Records, a basement store on the south side of Winnipeg’s Portage Avenue, was where I spent most of my part-time earnings in the late 70s. I spent hours in there each visit, and based on the records I chose, the staff would suggest other titles, which I’d often pick up as well… they always amazed me at how well they understood my musical preferences. And while the debut record by Boston has seemed to slip in favour over the years, I remember being in the shop the day it arrived, and likely being one of the first people in the city to take it home and be immersed in its progressive (for the time) sounds/recording. Bought *a lot* of records at Mother’s…

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  • May 1, 2018 at 11:58 am
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    Walrus Records in Kingston in the late 80’s and early 90’s, William and Hugh would say, you have to check this out! Nirvana Bleach on SubPop long before they became famous, Soundgarden. They got to know my tastes and always had something for me to listen to and/or buy. Loved that place!

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  • May 1, 2018 at 2:58 pm
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    My best ever? Having $500 left over after paying all the bills after Christmas, and taking a big list of songs from CFNY’s 1000 greatest songs of all time. I hit Sam’s first, and spent over 4 hours in the store, looking at every single cd in front section of the door. I walked out with 52 cds, hit HMV, got 10 more, then found a few more at one of used cd shops, then I had to buy another rack to hold them. Oh, and it did go over $500.

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  • May 1, 2018 at 3:16 pm
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    Sam the Record Man on Torontos Young Street. I bought my first album while visiting with my “cool” Aunt and Uncle. The Beatles White album. Once I got it home I found it was terribly warped, yet I still kept it. I couldn’t bear the thought of taking it back.

    Reply
  • May 2, 2018 at 1:17 am
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    I worked at The Record Peddler and for the record I would like it to be known that the “surly prick at the cash” was the other guy and not me. Thank you.

    Reply
    • May 2, 2018 at 7:39 am
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      Thanks for the clarification. I do miss that other guy, though. That was part of the fun of shopping there.

      Reply
  • May 2, 2018 at 4:17 pm
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    Record on Wheels Barrie. May 31 1985. Got work Early because the City shut off the electricity, because the tornado was on the way. I sat in the doorway of the record store and witnessed the rain, hail and sonic booms from the thunder storm as the tornado tore through the neighborhood i now live in. Or the first time I heard a CD played in that same store.

    Reply
  • May 3, 2018 at 4:30 am
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    That’s easy. Frequenting the Used CD, vinyl and cassette places in Toronto during the 90s, one of my favourite places was on the 2nd floor of building downtown, on Yonge Street a little south of College. Creaky floors, musty smell, glass displays of tapes, an unassuming place with character. Two decades later, I find out the place I frequented every week was once the legendary venue “The Bluenote”

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  • May 3, 2018 at 8:54 am
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    When the woman behind the counter was so impressed with my purchases that she gave me a whole bunch of free promo material including 5 cd’s…my friends got nothing so I was the star!

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  • May 4, 2018 at 12:14 am
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    MusiPlex on Portage Avenue in Winnipeg sometime in the late 80’s. I lived in the country most of my life and this place was amazing! First place you could actually listen to music on headphones before you bought it. Super technology back then…and on CD’s to boot. Ye haw!! Lol

    Reply

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