Pure Pop Radio’s Countdown to Record Store Day 2015: Wednesday

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For day three of Pure Pop Radio’s exclusive countdown to Record Store Day 2015, I thought it would be fun to revisit the freedom I experienced in my late teens, driving around Long Island, visiting various secondhand record stores and snagging treasures beyond my wildest dreams.

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Right from the start of my record collecting days, I was a completist, or at least I tried very hard to be! I had seen the advertisements for Warner Brothers’ Loss Leaders, a series of one- and two-record sets (and even one three-record set) that compiled tracks from the company’s releases and rarities from both new and established WB artists (the releases were plugged on the company’s records’ inner sleeves). The artwork for the sleeves was colorful and exciting to look at, and the liner notes were full of great information and (sometimes) more than a smidge of attitude. Plus, the cost for the two-disc goodies was a measly two bucks (until the end of the series). How could you go wrong?

warner-bros-schlagerswarner-brothers-1969-songbookI drove my car everywhere I could in the hopes of getting as many, or all, of the available Loss Leaders as possible. Classics such as the first Leader, The 1969 Warner Reprise Songbook, and 1970’s soft-sounding compilation Schlagers!, which featured Trini Lopez, Frank Sinatra and the San Sebastian Strings, as well as Randy Newman, Petula Clark and Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, were must-haves. Until I left Long Island after graduating college in 1977 and moved to Delaware to start my radio career, I motored up and down the Seaford-Oyster Bay Expressway and other highways and byways in search of as many Leaders as I could find, all available for as little as 50 cents apiece.

warner-bros-looney-tunesThe Loss Leaders weren’t difficult to find, but it did take a lot of driving and wearing out of shoe leather to collect them. What I consider the treasure of the entire series didn’t become the crown of my collection until I moved to Brooklyn, New York in the 1980s. Walking toward Manhattan Beach one sunny day, my wife and I found a little record store that proved to be a goldmine of treasures. There, I found the only three-record set in the Leaders series, Looney Tunes Merrie Melodies, a box that featured on its cover a takeoff on the Warner Brothers cartoon logo, with Elmer Fudd center stage, and presented artists such as James Taylor, Harpers Bizarre (“If We Ever Needed the Lord Before”) and Van Dyke Parks (“On the Rolling Sea When Jesus Speaks to Me”). Showing off the Leaders’ fun and edgy attitude, one of the faux commercials in the set concludes with the tag line, “Warner Brothers Records: The shiny black chips you eat with your ears.”

Today, with a few holes still in my Leaders collection, I continue my pursuit of owning every entry in the series. And now, here in 2015, I am very, very close!

Read a quite detailed fun and informative history of the Warner Brothers Loss Leaders series by clicking here. Another detailed series history, played out in a survey of every release, two at a time, can be experienced by clicking here. More fun you can not have!

All record collectors can relate to the feeling you get when you’re this close to putting your hands on a particular platter to complete part of your collection. It’s quite exhilarating (even after all these years!)!

– Alan Haber

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, MarylandTrax on Wax, in Catonsville, Maryland, is the official record store of Pure Pop Radio. When in the Baltimore area, we recommend that you make Trax on Wax your number one vinyl destination. Visit Trax on Wax’s website by clicking here.

peanuts-cruiserThe Peanuts Crosley Cruiser is the official turntable of Pure Pop Radio.

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Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Spinning Gold: Record Store Day 2014 Delights Vinylites in Catonsville, Maryland

Spinning the coolest sounds!

Spinning the coolest sounds!

Record Store Day 2014!

Record Store Day 2014!

The national holiday of vinyl worship, held on one blessed day a year, has once again come and gone, but this year–this year of limited releases from big names; medium names; and smaller, perhaps hungrier names, and a special, most smile-inducing, now coveted item–was perhaps the best of them all, a day in the year that will go down as the day that the lure of vinyl became part of the way of life for even more new vinyl lovers than ever before.

The art of embracing the vinyl experience, of holding an album cover and experiencing every pixel of the art, of unfolding the included posters and examining the other included tchotchkes–stickers, cutouts and the like–is an art unlike any other. The whole vinyl experience is an all-encompassing one that can not come alive in a CD store or during an online purchase. Today, as in days gone by, the real vinyl experience occurs in a record store, independent in nature, owned by a music guy who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of the great platter. This store is staffed by similarly-schooled kids-to-adults who take the right amount of pleasure in turning a customer on to some cool, real, really real sounds.

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

On Record Store Day, which has been going strong and now stronger still since 2007, vinyl people–true music fans all–converge on their local, independent record stores to purchase Record Store Day releases that are noted with a sticker, announcing themselves as honest-to-goodness Record Store Day platters. Also in the mix: used records and 45’s and the usual new release suspects. This year, the stars in the bright sky converged to create the Crosley Peanuts Cruiser Record Store Day Turntable, a highly-coveted item adorned with Peanuts comic strip record-related illustrations. The turntable, as you might imagine, sold like the highly-coveted hotcake it is. From inside the box, the turntable screams “Oh Wow!” You are drawn to stare at the box for as long as you must, but really you must open the box eventually and get to spinning.

Record Store Day 2014 set Catonsville, Maryland alight!

Record Store Day 2014 set Catonsville, Maryland alight!

At Trax on Wax in Catonsville, Maryland, owner Gary Gebler, a deeply-knowledgeable record man with more than 40 years experience in the music industry, worked tirelessly with his manager, unpacking Record Store Day boxes bulging with Record Store Day releases as a line of vinyl hounds, long as can be, hugged the sidewalk outside of the store. The hounds pushed gently through the door when the store opened and, for the first hour of business on the Saturday, focused on the official Record Store Day releases, snapping up the Wizard of Oz soundtrack on green vinyl; a Donny Hathaway live album, recorded in 1971 at the Bitter End in New York City ; and a Devo disc, among other treasures.

It's customer mania on Record Store Day 2014 at Trax on Wax!

It’s customer mania on Record Store Day 2014 at Trax on Wax!

Gebler spoke exclusively with Pure Pop Radio’s Alan Haber about the 2014 Record Store Day experience. Through the eyes and ears of a music industry veteran, you get the inside-out view of the day’s purchasing and hoopla. If you’ve ever wanted to know the inside story of Record Store Day, you’ll want to listen to this spirited conversation about every vinyl fan’s time spent in the platter’s favorite mecca. Oh, and by the way: Record Store Day 2015 begins spinning in 353 days and 11 hours. The next meeting of vinyl minds is just around the corner.

Click on the play button below to hear Alan and Gary relive the Record Store Day 2014 experience!

 

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Hunting for Vinyl Vibes: A Visit to Trax on Wax

Alan Haber stands beneath the sign at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber stands beneath the sign at Trax on Wax

It was much like the old days, when I would make my rounds in Greenwich Village, going from record shop to record shop, flipping through the stacks and bins for those hard-to-find gems that had somehow eluded my grasp along the way. It was much like those hours on end, when conversation with a record shop’s owner could extend from the end of daylight into the beginning of night. It was the aroma that made life so much sweeter–the particular smell of vinyl and cardboard sleeves slid into plastic sleeves, slid into plastic bags just before you shook hands with the owner and bid him a fond adieu. “Until next time!”

It was a short, happy trip to just outside Baltimore in a quaint little town called Catonsville in Maryland, up 495 to 95 and on to 166–almost a straight shot along a couple of I’s and an MD. This part of Catonsville seemed like a sleepy, small college town. All sorts of handy shops lined the sides of the narrow street. And there, amidst the quiet of the middle-afternoon, cold and crisp air alight, was Trax on Wax, a shop stocked full of vinyl that spanned the ages. Old, rare, new; rock, pop, jazz and belly dancing; the popular, the left-of-center and the rites of summer, fall, winter and spring. A lost colony, if you will–something akin to a kind of Brigadoon, perhaps. A place out of time and, at the same time, in synch with the world. Or at least the part of it that swings, rocks and rolls.

I was already familiar with Trax, having conversed online with the owner Gary Gebler and enjoyed his posts of record-related pictures on Facebook for some time, so a trip to the store was one that seemed to always be in the cards. A fan of Pure Pop Radio, Gary had the station playing in the store as my wife and I approached it, so I knew we would be in good company.  The door opened and it all seemed so much like the black and white of Kansas changing to the color of Oz–thousands of vinyl record albums all of a sudden present and lining the walls and making themselves known in the center area and behind the counter–all immaculately arranged and displayed. This was the land of milk and honey.

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

Alan Haber and Trax on Wax store owner Gary Gebler

“Alan Haber?” Gary and I shook hands and my wife and I said hello. We talked awhile about the store, about music, about those things that one chats about when those sounds are all around them. I noticed a poster aside the counter that was promoting the music of Jacob Panic, whose songs play in rotation on Pure Pop Radio. “I don’t know if you know,” Gary offered, “but that’s my son.” It becomes a smaller and smaller world every day, right? Jacob was out for awhile, but would be back soon. I couldn’t believe my luck. Jacob had quickly become a favorite of mine–a multi-instrumentalist who is part power pop, part bluegrass, and part other stuff. He was the original banjo player in Graham Elvis’s Sgt. Popgrass collective. Truly a most talented individual.

Alan Haber browses at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber browses at Trax on Wax

We browsed and we bought–an self-titled album by a group called Glass Moon that I didn’t own–and met Jacob who, like his dad, was quite the warm and friendly sort. It was a great pleasure shaking Jacob’s hand and chatting with him. And then we took it all in some more. Trax was the kind of place that any music fan would be happy to get lost in or order from (the shop does mail order, too).  We took a few snapshots (lensed by award-winning, Daily Planet photographer Janet Haber) and we talked some more. I wanted the visit to continue, but darkness was falling outside and it was time to go, time to become one with the straight shot back to Virginia.

I understand what people mean when they shout “Vinyl is back!” Truth is, it never left. It’s always been there and continues to live and breathe inside shops like Trax–shops that are run by people who know and love the music and live for those platters that matter. Trax is not a job for Gary Gebler–it’s a calling. It’s the air that he and his customers breathe when they’re feeling the urge to spin a slab of black vinyl–when they can practically feel the head of the tone arm between their fingers; when they can feel the needle resting comfortably in the grooves of the music that gives them that certain feeling that can be felt more than it can be verbally explained.

Alan Haber and musician Jacob Panic at Trax on Wax

Alan Haber and musician Jacob Panic at Trax on Wax

It was indeed much like the old days for my wife and I, but these are the new days–the days on offer today–the days that we can count on to carry us on to tomorrow, when the urge to soak up those sounds that move us grabs hold of us and make us seem brand new. The romance of vinyl–the art of feeling the vibes that we are hunting for–is still with us. The art of putting the needle down into the grooves and laying back with the cover and liner notes and lyrics and posters and stickers and such is still with us.

Alan Haber takes in the atmosphere outside of Trax on Wax

Alan Haber takes in the atmosphere outside of Trax on Wax

It is the art of being alive.

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, Maryland

Trax on Wax, Your Vinyl Destination in Catonsville, Maryland

 

 

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber's Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes

Click on the image to listen to Alan Haber’s Pure Pop Radio through players like iTunes