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I wish we had the time to address everything and everyone that Jason Cherkis attacks in his article on D.C. vinyl stores (“Final Vinyl Days,” 11/9), but apparently, time is of the essence, since, unbeknownst to us, our used-record stores are dying! If indeed demise is imminent, his so-called critique would appear to be the final nail in the coffin. In this day and age of CDs, online downloads, and Internet purchases, most of us veterans of the used- and new-vinyl marketplace manage to survive by expanding to mail order, doing record shows, and courting foreign buyers, as well as letting a few CDs stray into the mix (some more than others).
Yet if indeed our stores are as dismissible as Cherkis seems to think, why do so many foreign and out-of-town record buyers visit when time and Lady Fortune permit? Why do many local record buyers make regular trips around the vinyl circuit to see what’s new? Why do countless DJs grab up their record players to try and find those new samples? Why do so many young people now come through our collective doors, newly enamored of vinyl, looking for singles and LPs that have never seen the inside of a Best Buy or Sam Goody’s?
Most of us mentioned in the article have been selling and buying records in this town for 20-plus years. Orpheus started as part of the original Record and Tape Exchange collective created by Greg Bryce, Rick being one of the original cogs in that wheel. And over the years, as Rick acquired the Orpheus name from a defunct Georgetown shop, nary a mention from the Washington City Paper. His recent relocation to Arlington went largely unnoticed, with, again, not much more than a whisper from CP. As to being able to find what Rick has much cheaper in any thrift shop, give it a shot! You’ll waste quite a lot of time on a fruitless mission.
Now, Bobby at Smash, he’s a Hollywood story! He was buying records from all of us when he was just a teen, then opened up his own storeand greatly increased his vinyl supply after Rick and Orpheus located to Arlington. I see him at shows, at other stores, at yard sales buying up new material for his bins. Too bad it’s not the esoteric one-of-a-kinds that Cherkis says he’s looking for. Oh wait, it is! According to Bobby, many of the artists and selections cited in the article are in regular stock, and as to the raritieswell, they go quick. It’s not our fault Cherkis didn’t get there fast enough. Maybe next time.
As to the 15-year-olds just discovering Minor Threat, I’m not sure if Cherkis is saying that’s a good or bad thing, but in my view, you’re never too young or old to do that!
Late in the article, Cherkis urges us all to find a specialty, a niche, and stick with it. Yet almost in the same breath, he wants to be able to find all that he seeks in one store every time he visits. Can any one of us do it all for him? I think not. Music is a world of many shades and colors, as we are all driven to find the beat that makes our minds and spirit move. Each of our various stores has its own personality, allowing buyers young and old alike to discover sounds new to them, sounds that might otherwise have gone unnoticed. That is one of the basic joys of collecting records.
Cherkis managed to dis and dismiss most of the stores he mentioned, yet made no note of so many others still surviving, such as Roadhouse Oldies, Record and Tape Exchange, Record Mart, 12″ Dance Records, the monthly Arbutus record fair (a great source for vinyl of all sorts visited by many from the area), Bob Tierney’s D.C.-area conventions, DCCD, Sound Images by High Tech, Memory Lane, nor D.C.’s newbie, Capital City Records. A logical person might wonder, in this time of national stress and financial instability, why the City Paper couldn’t have done a legitimate comprehensive study of local vinyl stores. Surely the readers have a need to know, and if indeed we local used-record stores are in decline, one reason cited could be lack of factual and actual support from this paper. People in the community rely on the City Paper for information, not just one person’s jaundiced opinion. It is, first and foremost, a newspaper.
Travel to the Midwest, the deep South, or the upper north, where most towns and cities have no record stores of any sort. D.C.-area buyers are lucky to have as many choices as there are here, yet it seems pretty evident that Cherkis is just upset that regardless of their strengths or weaknesses, none of our area’s stores cater specifically and solely to his seemingly narrow, hipper-than-thou, High Fidelity tastes.
An interesting aside: Cherkis mentions his buds dancing to the music of the Eyes at a Pennsylvania rave. Many years ago, Al Ercolani, a record veteran in this town for many decades, played me his original Brit 7-inch EP, The Arrival of the Eyes, when we opened up Hit and Run in Kensington. Their outrageous Who-like freakbeat charisma was incredible, yet never available in this country until recently issued on Nuggets 2 and discovered by Jason and the Hipsters. When I split from Al at that store and started up Y&T (not dying, just in my 25th year here in the same location), Al kept on with Hit and Run, then worked at Joe’s for many years, and then had his own store again. Quite frankly he, and many others like him in our trade, has forgotten much, much more, than Cherkis will ever apparently know about quality music of all sorts, of all times, of all formats.
Cherkis mentioned Vinyl Ink and Phantasmagoria, Go!, and others departed from the scene, yet there are so many more stories to be told in that arena. There were Record Convergence, Record Dealer, Al’s Oldies, Empire Music, Penguin Feather, and dozens more that have come and gone while we remaining have tried to raise our heads above water and keep on keeping on. We’ve all had rock stars of the caliber of Iggy Pop and David Byrne shop at our stores, but our focus is on the local customer, who might come in today, or tomorrow, not just once in a lifetime!
Jason Cherkis, if you think things are so much greater just south of Manhattan, please don’t let us stop you from making that commute. This is America, after all. Just next time think twice before coming back!
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