The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Monday, December 22, 2008

Record Collector Nostalgia #1

12-22-08 Record Collector Nostalgia #1

Christmas-time always reminds me of my record collector behavior, when I was young. At the beginning of the 70’s, it seemed like I was always waiting for an LP boxed set from George Harrison. I distinctly remember hunting for my presents, and discovering “All Things Must Pass” (1970?) in a drawer, back in my parents bedroom. I don’t remember the details – but “Bangla Desh” (1972?), George’s big charity boxed set was another Xmas present, later on.

I think when I started to ask for LP’s as birthday presents – I started being given money for my birthday. “Let him pick it out!”, was their thinking, I’m certain. I remember being taken to Disneyland for my birthday – perhaps 1968 or 1969 – and finding a $10 bill on the ground! In the early 70’s, I was taken to Hollywood Blvd. for my birthday, with one of my friends. I don’t remember how much I would’ve had – enough for maybe two LP’s and a 45?

The store of choice was called “Lewin’s Record Paradise” – a shop that specialized in British imports (LP’s, 45’s & EP’s). In the late 60’s, the LP’s were $4.99, EP’s were $2.99 and British import singles were $1.75. Probably trying to spend all of my money, I remember selecting The Rolling Stones “Come On” 45 – it had two songs that I did not have! (I still have that 45).

Both of my parents took me places to look at records, perhaps my dad more so than my mom. My mom would’ve taken me to places like the record department at May Company, a department store of the day. Up on the 3rd floor, as I recall. Of course, we went to the ‘discount stores’ near our home – Cal Store, White Front, Zody’s – all of whom had records.

I don’t remember fretting over single LP’s – it was the multiple LP’s / boxed sets that posed a problem for me. With trading in an old LP at Wallach’s Music City, it was possible to get a new release very inexpensively. The deal was approx.: $4.98 list, $2.00 off when it was a “new release”, then a $1 off certificate (obtained when you traded in an old LP) = new release for $1.99 plus tax. Then LP’s started being $5.98 list or $6.98 list (The Beatles “Abbey Road”, for instance – I came to the Wallach’s a dollar or two short, not having anticipated the higher list price! Dad took mercy, and I took home an “Abbey Road” LP).

Then there was the “Woodstock” problem. The triple LP set was $8.98; the movie was rated “R” (i.e. one of my parents had to go with me to see it). Mom was the lucky one – and I remember her going out into the lobby to have a cigarette, while I thrilled to Joe Cocker or Alvin Lee. We went to a smaller movie theatre that mom liked. As I recall, she was also who took me to see “200 Motels”, the Frank Zappa movie. Back to the lobby, for more cigarettes.

I wonder what my dad thought when I started looking up record stores in the yellow pages? We drove to Downey (“Wenzel’s House Of Music”); we went ‘downtown’ to places we would not have gone otherwise (sorry, I don’t remember the name). I dragged my dad into hippie record stores – Licorice Pizza (5th Street, downtown Long Beach), Platterpuss (E. 7th Street) etc. Because Frank Zappa talked about them, I needed “records by The Coasters” (as he sung about in “Status Back Baby” on “Absolutely Free”). I do not remember the ‘how & why’, but my “Coasters Greatest Hits” LP on Atco came from a store on Pico Blvd. in Los Angeles! (That one must’ve been my mom – she liked to drive to Farmer’s Market on 3rd & Fairfax in Los Angeles – and that wasn’t far from there).

I remember a family vacation that I took with my dad and my grandmother – we went to San Francisco (by car) in the summer of 1968. That trip yielded the double LP “Electric Ladyland” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Tower Records, Columbus Street). I definitely remember my dad taking me to other record stores in San Francisco. On another visit, our family stayed at the Jack Tar Hotel (at Geary & Van Ness) – my parents were going to go ‘out to dinner’, so in the lobby of the hotel, I guess my dad bought me a copy of National Lampoon humor magazine (the summer of ’72? Nixon on the cover).

When I was 19, 20…21 (?) I developed my theory of driving to cities where they had colleges – as there were usually record stores near colleges. I was driving from L.A. to visit my friend Cameron, who lived in Berkeley – somehow, I stopped in Santa Cruz, California – I saw the guy playing a vibraphone on Pacific Ave. I discovered Logos, a bookstore on Pacific Street that had a big record department. Oh, there must be a college near here! I remember telling Cameron that I found a new place to look for records – and I don’t remember if he knew Santa Cruz or not. This was before I theorized that one merely follows the population (as opposed to colleges) to find places that sold phonograph records (a theory I still hold!).

It was definitely the summer of ’72 that I started riding my 10-Speed bike around – to record stores. How did I carry my LP’s back home? In a paper bag, under my arm? Or was it strapped to the rear of the bike? I don’t remember. These days, the only time I ever even think about bicycles is when I go to Holland.

I cannot over-emphasize how important it was to find inexpensive records (i.e. used records). New records were $3 and up – used LP’s could be as inexpensive as 10 cents. 99 cents was a typical price for used LP’s – often in new condition (but with a cut corner or promo stamp). “Hey, all these say ‘Not For Sale’ – can I still buy them?”.

Reader Ken H. says: It was around '72 or so that Warren and I started getting into YES as we also experimented with ELP and Warren also liked some Italian prog band (PFM?) Anyway, the first time I heard “And You and I” was in a department store I think in West Covina in the stereo/HI-FI dept. The radio was on, they played “And You and I” and I was blown away by the layered guitar sound. The stereo was one of those consoles; you know, when stereos were pieces of furniture.”


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