As a small kid, I started out locally, on Garnet Ave. in Pacific Beach. The Wherehouse and Licorice Pizza were a couple of blocks apart, so when I was just learning my history, I could spend hours looking at album covers and picking up magazines at those places.
As a 13-year-old, something commercially available was usually on the top of my list (early Badfinger fixation), and those sorts of places usually fit the bill. For a while, Licorice Pizza had a cut-out bin that had some real finds. They also carried imports, and I have distinct memories of saving up the princely sum of $2.50 each to buy the early Sex Pistols and Clash 45s (with real art sleeves! And no big hole in the middle!). It was a double thrill, because it was the closest thing to international travel I would experience until I was much older.
As my tastes matured, a big, commercial record store just wouldn’t do anymore. Fortunately, further down Garnet Ave. was a little store called Stiff Competition, run by a local rock ‘n’ roll dude named Larry, who had been a manager of the Licorice Pizza and also the drummer for Land Piranha. They had lots of used records, imports, and they carried the new local stuff coming out- I remember buying the Penetrators singles there. The used stuff and cutouts were cool, too — much of my hard-earned dishwashing money went there. I got the fabulous first Moby Grape LP (with the original poster!) there for $2.
I have fond memories of Off the Record for being totally up-to-date with everything I learned about from Rodney on the ROQ, and I liked how they would play everything from Crass to reggae on the sound system. But the most special record experience for me was a trip to Blue Meanie Records in El Cajon. Since this was almost an hour drive, a ride there was the Holy Grail. So much great ’60s and punk stuff, all at the same time! I liked it better before it moved to the new location; the old, tiny house they used to occupy was packed but had so much character. I remember seeing an original copy of the live EP “Something Else by the Move” behind the counter for $50, an astronomical figure.
To be sure, the CD-reissuing wave followed by the MP3 era has made a lot of music like that way more accessible than it was back in the day. But part of me still misses flipping through the stacks, looking at the covers.
Remember records? Album covers? Record stores? Tell us about your favorites.
– Paul Kaufman