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Thursday, April 14, 2016 12:01 am

Spin the black circle

Hold on, Record Store Day is coming


Matt Hill, the clerk minding the store recently at Dumb Records on South Grand Avenue, seems a nice enough guy.

On a recent afternoon, Hill was playing selections by Scarves, a Seattle band whose interpretation of punk is described by The Stranger, the Emerald City’s leading alt-weekly, as “interestingly constructed, clean and sparkly guitars and emotionally up-front lyricism.” The band itself cites Devo as an influence and sells CDs online for $7 apiece, each with a handwritten note from Niko (you are, after all, not a rock star these days if you use a last name).

With long fingernails painted black and a taste for cassette tapes, which he says are great because they can be produced and sold for $4 or less apiece, Hill says that vinyl isn’t necessarily the most popular way for his customers to listen to music.

“They see the records and think they’re a cool format, but they don’t have the money for them,” says Hill, who isn’t above giving Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass a spin at the request of a customer who promises it’ll be fun.

Dumb Records is a throwback. A quarter-century ago, most every town of any size had at least one record store where the cashier breathed music and the shelves yielded all sorts of audio gold. This remains the case, as a recent hunt through the used discs at Dumb Records turned up a hi-fi copy of Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music by Ray Charles, Night Rider by Oscar Peterson and Count Basie and Back To The Roots by John Mayall (featuring Mick Taylor and Eric Clapton), all pristine and all for less than $5.

Vinyl is back in vogue, with record-pressing plants running full blast to satisfy a thirst that barely existed a decade ago. Sales of vinyl records have risen each year for the past 10 years, with annual sales increasing by 30 percent, to nearly 12 million discs, in 2015, when such classic artists as Pink Floyd (Dark Side Of The Moon), The Beatles (Abbey Road) and Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) accounted for three of the top-10-selling records, according to Nielsen, a company that tracks the viewing and listening habits of consumers.

Mom-and-pop, aka independent, record stores, while not as ubiquitous as back in the day, remain a must for the serious vinyl junkie in search of buying advice and hard-to-find records. In addition to Dumb Records, Springfield has Recycled Records, and there is no bigger day for a record store than Record Store Day, an annual celebration of all things vinyl.

This Saturday is the ninth annual Record Store Day. Conceived as a way to help keep stores solvent, Record Store Day has become as important as Black Friday for record stores. For customers, the draw is limited-edition records released on the day that are sold only in brick-and-mortar stores. Wait for the most desirable discs to hit eBay or other online secondary sources and you can expect to pay well above sticker price. In addition to contemporary artists, Dumb Records has ordered selections by the Modern Jazz Quartet, Frank Zappa, Cheap Trick and the Electric Prunes for the occasion.

Mark Kessler, owner of Recycled Records, says that people start lining up as early as 6 a.m., and about 100 people were waiting outside when he opened at 9 a.m. last year on Record Store Day.

“It’s very, very important to our business,” Kessler said. “Normally, it’s the biggest day of the year.”

Customers volunteer to work on Record Store Day, Café Moxo donates cookies and community radio station WQNA-FM will be broadcasting live, Kessler says.

“It’s all hands on deck,” Kessler said.

Big sellers, Kessler predicts, will be a picture disc of Never Mind The Bollocks by the Sex Pistols as well as releases from Johnny Cash, Emmylou Harris, John Coltrane, the Grateful Dead and Alejandro Escovedo.

“They (record companies) always manage to offer some interesting titles,” Kessler says.

At Dumb Records, owner Brian Galecki is also expecting his biggest day of the year. He started ordering records for the occasion in December and has grown accustomed to hearing from customers wanting to know what he’ll have on hand.

 “I’ve tried to go for the names that stand out,” he says. “People are calling, asking for stuff I’ve never heard of before.”

Contact Bruce Rushton at brushton@illinoistimes.com.


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