A Boy And His Record Player

I remember way back in 2002 the idea entered my head for the first time to purchase a record player. Napster had hit it’s peak in popularity among people my age, and now sites like Limewire and Kazaa were overtaking the originator of P2P file sharing. There was something about that particular time and place that made getting an old, antiquated piece of machinery seem like the right thing to do.

We’d gone to the Trinity Mission Thrift Store a bunch of times. Thrift Store’s that offer student discounts are a great thing. Instead of paying a dollar for a piece of crap I’d never use, I only had to pay 85 cents! There was never much for me to buy in a place like this; old sofas that were pink and stained, John Grisham and Stephen King novels that someone had bought but never read, clothes. The clothes were always the item I was most hesitant about. For some reason I’m convinced that anything in a thrift store is a shirt or jacket that someone died in. Even the kids stuff. Like, maybe when Jimmy rode his bike out into the street and got hit by a car, he was wearing this Farmington Fruit Bats t-shirt. Irrational, I know.

There was always one item that caught my eye. A 1959 Sears brand Hi-Fi. It stood upright with a cabinet on the bottom for storage and a upward-opening top to get to the turntable. The original owner had added a 8-track player to the fold, but it did not work. Made of a deep mahogany with ornate trimming along the top and nice hardware on the cabinet doors, it must have cost the owner a pretty penny.

On student discount day, it cost me $33. It’s a heavy son of a bitch, so I had to call my friend Ian to help me pick it up and get it into my roommate’s truck. After getting it into our apartment I realized that I had failed to get any records to play on my new treasure. So I got back into the vehicle and drove back to the Trinity to get some old, cheap records.

The record bins at thrift stores might be the saddest place on Earth. It seems like everyone of a certain age listened to all the same records. I literally had to stop counting the Ray Coniff Singers albums for fear that I would be there the rest of my life. There are some hidden gems in with all the schlock, though. On that first day I picked up copies of: Elton John-Madman Across the Water, Bill Cosby-Himself, Bruce Springsteen-Born In The USA, and The Monkees self-titled debut.

And with that, a record collection was born. I’d hit up the Trinity a couple more times, but I started going to Von’s record store on the main campus strip where there was a much greater selection-and much higher prices. I made a few purchases here on my no-shoe-strings budget. The most controversial pick was Justified by Justin Timberlake. I took a lot of crap for that one. I make no apologies though. Justified is a great record, and Justin Timberlake is one of the most talented guys out there right now.

When we moved to Buffalo I felt like a kid in a candy store. There were at least 5 record stores that were decent within a short drive of where we lived in Delaware Park. I picked up albums like Kick Out The Jams by MC5, Jets To Brazil’s Perfecting Loneliness, and every REM album I could find. It was a grand time. I’m not sure how much money I spent on records in that one year, but I’m glad I had a decent paying job to support my habit.

And now we live in Chicago and I can’t spit without hitting a record store. The music gods have been shining on us for sure. I haven’t hit all of them, of course, but the ones that I have been to have all seemed like nice places. I really enjoyed Saki when I went. Especially after going to a place like Reckless Records, which is just huge. Saki is just the right size for me, even though I have to go to Logan Square to visit.

Record Store Day is only two short days away. Tomorrow I’ll have a little preview of the records I’m excited to check out. What are you guys looking forward to? Comment below if you’d like and tell us all about your favorite record store memories.

Mine is from when I lived in Buffalo and I was at a store getting the Strokes album Room On Fire. I reached for it, and at the same time the lead singer from The Tragically Hip tried to take the last copy. So I punched him in the throat, kneed him in the groin, and then ran out of the store. As I ran past the cashier I threw a 20 at him and reached for my keys. I knew from doing research for a book about The Tragically Hip that Gordon Downie is a eunuch, so a knee to the groin wouldn’t keep him down for long.

Some of the above isn’t true, but I’ll leave that to you, the audience, to figure out.