By Patrick Prince
You have to get up early on a Saturday to get off to a good start on Record Store Day.
That's NOT the fun part.
The fun part is meeting up with friends who are real record buyers and store-hop. Waiting in line, grabbing as many Record Store Day releases as you can and then getting back home by 10am sounds more like a chore.
All participating record stores made an agreement to open their doors no earlier than 8am EST (hint words: flip and eBay). And I made a personal agreement with participating friends that waiting for a long time in lines would not be in this year's plan.
So our first record store to hit this year: Disc-O-Rama on 8th Street in the West Village, New York City. Disc-O-Rama will be closing up shop at the end of the month (the last of the NYC Disc-O-Ramas!) and offered a 40% sale off everything in the store, including RSD releases.
People waiting in line to get into Disc-O-Rama: 6. Waiting time: 10 minutes. Not very far away was the hipper Revolution Records with a long line making its way down the street.
The inside of Disc-O-Rama looks more like a convenience store than a record shop (you can actually buy a lotto ticket there), so it's not exactly what you would call hip or even slightly cool. It certainly won't impress your friends if you name-drop it. I certainly like Revolution Records better (it fits the description of what you think a record store should look and feel like) but, again, the no-line agreement.
Disc-O-Rama had a small RSD selection this year. Everything was behind a glass partition. You'd tell the clerk what you want and he'd deliver it to you from behind the counter — like asking for a carton of Marlboros. However, it did clear off our must-haves for the day: a Pink Floyd 12-inch of a previously unreleased "Interstellar Overdrive," The Smiths 7-inch of unreleased song versions, a replica of a 1973 ELP "Brain Salad Surgery" flexi, the Macca/Elvis Costello cassette demos and The Beatles "Strawberry Fields Forever"/"Penny Lane" 7-inch reissue. We'd never see that Macca and Beatles for the rest of the day. And as the day went on, all the others would be sold out as well.
We skipped digging through Disc-O-Rama's used records. We knew the selection of used vinyl at Disc-O-Rama was never top-notch — even at 40% off. If you wanted a copy of "American Pie," "Whipped Cream & Other Delights" or the movie soundtrack to Sgt. Pepper, you're golden, but the odds of finding, say, the first Klattu album (which I would find later on at a decent price)... well, you're better off trying your luck with a lotto ticket on your way out the door. Although, we each got a free Record Store Day tote bag filled with stickers, CD samplers and pinbacks instead.
On to the next stop: Village Music World. Village Music World is a step up from Disc-O-Rama and the prices were more affordable (apparently, Disc-O-Rama charged about 40% more for RSD releases to even things out). Every year, Village Music World mixes leftover RSD releases with the 2017 bunch. If you don't have "the list" handy, you can get a bit confused. It's kind of a drag, Picked up the Spoon 12-inch (new material, which includes unreleased tracks). I did a pass on the limited-edition Leon Russell CD. By this time, I lost track of what my RSD companions were buying.
We went by Revolution again, the line was still going down the block. Forget it. And a sad reminder that The Little Lebowski — a novelty store across the street which carried every possible merchandise related to the film The Big Lebowski — was shuttered and long cleaned out.
More bad news: we already heard Other Records had closed and neighbor In Living Stereo — where we'd get free PBRs on RSD every year, a tradition of sorts — was not participating in RSD. We could hit Good Records,Academy Records on East 12th or Record Runner — all quality stores — but their RSD selections were always half-assed.
It felt like a weak RSD in Manhattan. We had to change the mojo. We decided to drive to New Jersey. First, we returned to Village Music World to pick up their "Mystery CD Box" — 10 CDs of God knows what for $5 — for the drive around New Jersey.
It was certainly worth it. The drive, not the CDs (three Off-Broadway musicals, three ambient music snoozers, a weak comp of Jazz standards, a hip-hop mash-up, a Russian violinist and, believe it or not, "wurlitzer favorites," aka ice rink music). The CDs became a weird soundtrack to some excellent New Jersey record stores.
Tunes is a Jersey record store chain — and the Hoboken store is pretty damn good. There was a decent amount of RSD releases, separated by year. Most of the 2017 inventory had been bought by early birds. I did pick up Def Leppard's '70s EP and an etched Bullet For My Valentine 10-inch on vinyl. Previous RSD releases were half off. I finally got my 101ers for the right price.
The used vinyl section at Tunes was right on target. Affordable, usually near mint and a grand selection. This is where I picked up my Klaatu and other vinyl gems. And after the purchases (with free Record Store Day poster), Hoboken was the perfect place for a lunchbreak.
Vintage Vinyland Princeton Record Exchange are both amazing NJ record stops. Massive — you can spend hours in each one on any day of the week, let alone Record Store Day. Vintage Vinyl is an oasis in the middle of your common American strip mall. It's no Hoboken. But Vintage Vinyl is a gem in the rough and had a great set-up for RSD releases, with an employee handy to answer all your not-so-dumb questions. New vinyl releases, used vinyl and CDs are aplenty, and one of the best heavy metal sections a record buyer will ever see (it is New Jersey, after all).
One friend was put off by Vintage Vinyl's used vinyl policy. The "this tape-sealed record is Near Mint, trust us" policy. If you want to look at the record, you have to do so at check-out. It didn't stop me from buying. The section did, however, settle a debate about classic rock classification (see sign below). Yes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers are Classic Rock.
A decision to go to the outdoor Jersey City Record Riot was canceled due to a sudden downpour and we ended our day at Scotti's Record Shop in the town of Summit, NJ. Summit is a beautiful, affluent town, which probably explains the paid parking lot and Scotti's higher prices on used vinyl. But Scotti's is definitely a worthy record store to visit, stocked with cool merch, books and collectibles. Plus, the owner and employees are extremely helpful and nice. Add to that: the Record Store Day inventory was possibly the best, especially arriving there in the afternoon. Scotti's still had the exceptional Dennis Wilson 2-LP release, the live Uriah Heep set, Big Star "Complete Third" and, finally, a few copies left of The Shocking Blue. Of course, they had the Bowies but it was all gone by that time.
All said, Jersey was the savior of our 2017 Record Store Day. Lots of record-shopping fun — perhaps our personal best Record Store Day yet. It only seems appropriate for RSD's 10-year anniversary.
Regrets? Not picking up The Count Five's vinyl reissue of the mono "Psychotic Reaction." And the Leon Russell CD was a stupid pass. I could buy these on eBay for inflated prices but, in the end, I rather support the record stores. Maybe I will see some of these 2017 RSD releases in the "half off" bins during next year's Record Store Day.