I wrote a piece a while back, inspired by some of the best record stores I’ve been to. Now I haven’t traveled that much so in a way it was a pretty limited list but let me assure you that it was heartfelt and reflected my destinations and music sensitivies.
Now along comes this article to blow me out of the water – obviously I need to get out more.
They have better pictures too.
Here’s my original, somewhat lacking attempt…
It’s Independent Record Store Day in Australia and I’d like to do my small bit to proclaim the virtues of these important outlets.
So here they are – the stores that have captivated me and, like a siren song, draw me back again and again.
Amoeba Music Los Angeles CA
It claims to be the world’s largest independent music store and I can understand why. In 2001 Amoeba Music opened its biggest store, on Sunset Boulevard in downtown Hollywood. Occupying an entire city block, this store houses the biggest, broadest, most diverse collection of music and movies you could wish for. Altogether, the two shopping floors and the Jazz room boast millions of titles on CD, DVD and vinyl, new and used.
I was there in 2009 and lasted less than 90 minutes – my heart pumping, hands shaking and shopping basket straining under the weight. I had to get out before I did something nasty to my bank balance.
Also, an acclaimed music venue, featuring heaps of free live performances eg Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, John Cale, P.J. Harvey, Nancy Sinatra, Blind Boys of Alabama, Lucinda Williams, Pat Benatar, Ben Harper, Belle & Sebastian, The Rapture, Queens of the Stone Age and soul legend Solomon Burke. I missed Steve Earle by three days!
Amoeba San Francisco CA
Opening in 1997, Amoeba’s San Francisco location is in a converted bowling alley at the eastern edge of Golden Gate Park. Stocking hundreds of thousands of music and movie titles from every genre imaginable, and constantly buying great collections and bringing in new product. The beautiful, dynamic Haight-Ashbury neighborhood, with its history of music and free expression, is the perfect place for this store – a must-see part of San Francisco!
There’s particular attention to the experimental frontiers of rock, hip-hop, electronica and jazz. You’ll find amazing catalogues of artists like Sun Ra, Zappa and Stockhausen, tons of up-to-the-minute underground indie, garage, emo and art-punk bands and cutting-edge hip-hop. You’ll also find a world-class selection of Japanese rock and pop, the best roots reggae selection on the West coast, and deep experimental libraries from Derek Bailey, John Zorn, Merzbow and countless others.
Free in-stores have included M.I.A., Van Hunt, Ladytron, the Gossip, Will Oldham, Sonic Youth, Kid Koala, Sharon Jones, the Polyphonic Spree, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band and a well-remembered show by the late Elliott Smith. Music can also be enjoyed privately, at numerous CD listening stations throughout the store.
We have booked an apartment in Lower Haight for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival in October 2013. Our daily walk to the festival site in Golden Gate Park will require us to walk right pass Amoeba!
Basement Disks Melbourne Australia
My subterranean hometown choice – only three blocks away from my office.
Stocking a most interesting range of rock and pop (both current & “retro”), Jazz, Blues, R’n’B, Country, Folk, Americana, World & Roots Music, The Basement Discs is truly a musical Aladdin’s Cave!
Also with a great range of new vinyl sourced from around the globe, and able to supply beautifully reconditioned turntables/systems.
As well as extensive stock, there are magazines, comfortable chairs to read and research to your heart’s content. Apart from a broad range of CD titles across all genres, Basement Discs has regular in-store performances by big-name touring and local acts. Richard Thompson, Jimmy Webb, Ron Sexsmith, John Scofield, Michelle Shocked, John Hammond, Dave Alvin, Chris Smither, Stephen Cummings, Mick Thomas and Andy White have graced this small and intimate venue.
Descend the long, narrow staircase to the basement for a browse.
Coda Music Edinburgh UK
Coda is a folk music specialist shop trading on The Mound in Edinburgh since 1997. As well as Traditional and contemporary folk, it has an excellent selection of Americana, country, blues and world music. Small and enchanting, with very friendly staff. An excellent website – everything you see on the day is in stock and will be dispatched to you on the day of your order. If you’re not sure exactly what you’re after, check out their recommended titles and listen to each track! They pride themselves on tracking down anything available anywhere in the world for you.
Ernest Tubb’s Broadway Nashville TN
Founded by the legendary Grand Ole Opry country artist Ernest Tubb, the Ernest Tubb record shops have been meeting country needs for over 65 years. One of five, the Broadway store in downtown Nashville opened way back in 1947 and is a country mecca, a one-stop shop for country and bluegrass CDs, DVDs, LPs, books and memorabilia. This store retains the charm of the past while offering a wide variety of contemporary and classic country music. I like the fact that it stocks music at a variety of prices – there’s something there for every budget. Live in stores are down the back and have featured the who’s who of the vibrant Nashville scene.
When I was last there, I was served by a gentleman who was a friend of Townes Van Zandt – now that’s impressive. An added bonus is that the store is a stone’s throw from the the majestic Ryman Auditorium and The Country Music Hall of Fame.
Lousiana Music Factory New Orleans LA
The New Orleans scene wouldn’t be the same without the Louisiana Music Factory – the one stop site for all of your New Orleans music and Louisiana music needs.
From Cajun music to blues, Zydeco music to RnB, traditional New Orleans jazz to modern jazz, and more. The Louisiana Music Factory, located in the New Orleans French Quarter, carries the widest selection of Louisiana and New Orleans Music on compact disc and vinyl records in the world. In- stores a plenty, a magnificent selection of boxed-sets, books and T-shirts and almost opposite the House of Blues. This stores oozes local charm and is a loving and proud purveyor of the unique New Orleans and Louisiana scene.
Waterloo Records Austin TX
Waterloo Records opened its doors in Austin in 1982 and is now a central player in Austin’s music scene – one of the world’s great music cities. Texas music has always seemed to be vital and important, not only at home but far beyond its own confines.
Customers can listen to any album in the store before buying. The logical extension of this listening policy is its attitude towards returns. Even after purchasing a record, taking it home and playing it, customers still have ten days in which to return it – for whatever reason they chose! Whether they accidentally bought a live album by mistake, forgot that they already had the record at home, or just didn’t like it, no questions were asked and a full exchange was provided.
Along with a knowledgable staff and an emphasis on customer service, they form the cornerstone of what Waterloo Records is, has been, and will always be about. Add to that an extensive selection of music spanning all styles, a special propensity for Texas artists, and a simple genre free a-z filing system (there should be more of this), then it becomes readily apparent what Austin’s music lovers have been shouting about.
If I play my cards right, I reckon I could get to five of these marvellous stores this year.