Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ode to Record Stores: Needle to the Groove

Record stores take on the personality of the store owner. Case in point: Needle to the Groove in the historic Niles District of Fremont has a unique hip-hop character. The owner, Dan the Record Man, used to be a DJ before he opened the store, which explains the "mural" on the wall, the dual turntables at the counter, and all the boom boxes adorning the store. Sure, you can buy records online from a number of web stores, but none has the personalized character of a real, live record store. Needle to the Groove is also a hang-out for locals. Try hanging out at an online record store.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Onion Makes Me Cry

I used to think The Onion was funny until I read this parody.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Ode to Record Stores: Rooky Ricardo's Records

As a collector of soul vinyl in the Bay Area, you have to know the three R's: Rooky Ricardo's Records on Haight Street.  This is the place for soul records, especially 45s. One could easily spend an entire day digging through boxes of soul 45s here. And it would be a nice place to spend a day. The store has been recently spiffed up in cool 50s decor. The storefront space is perfect for just hanging out. You know, like people used to before our society became all about time management, daily planners, and the purpose-driven life. I think Rooky's got it right and it's got soul.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Record Collecting as Art

This year I've already bought two different copies of The Beatles' "White Album", an original German pressing made from UK plates with the top-loading cover (pictured) and an 80s German direct metal mastered (DMM) pressing on white vinyl. This brings my collection of White Albums to seven copies, which leaves me about 386 copies short of Rutherford Chang's collection. He only collects one record, the White Album. It's a fascinating art project, which you can read about here.

Chang approaches each copy of the record as a cultural artifact, the White Album being the perfect vehicle, a literal blank canvas, for history to be recorded. Not only will each record cover show different signs of wear and/or defacement, each record will sound different from varying groove wear and scratches. While I have several copies of the White Album, because I'm searching for the best-sounding version among many mastering and pressing variation, Chang is clearly collecting for different reasons. It's both physical and conceptual art. I think Yoko Ono, as a former member of the Fluxus art group, may approve.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ode to Record Stores: Grooves

A horrible thought occurred to me on the train to San Francisco. What if there were no record stores? What if we could only buy records online? Instead of a store you could walk into and browse through dusty LPs in overstuffed bins, there would be inaccessible amazonian warehouses housing records that would be shipped to you by clicking your mouse while staring at a screen. Or worse, what if records disappeared completely.

This thought struck panic in my heart. I changed my plan to photograph in the Tenderloin and Civic Center. Instead I felt it was imperative to photograph record shops in the city. The first one I hit was Grooves on Market Street. It is everything a record store should be: idiosyncratic, full of character, and a delight for the eye, as well as for the ear. I wouldn't want to live in a world where internet commerce wipes out places like Grooves.

"In a flash of clarity, he decided that light and color and form are what keep humankind from existential despair and loneliness, and that he wanted to devote himself to capturing that insight in some visual way."  - Susan Orlean writing about the artist Brendan O'Connell
I'll be posting more photos of record shops in the future. The panic attack also got me to revive this blog.