Record Store Day 2015: Crazy, Man. Crazy Good.

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Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland

by Alan Haber

It’s after lunch on this sunny Saturday, sometime after the regular crowd shuffles in to the various quick- and long-stop eateries along Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland. A woman, probably in her late thirties, maybe her early forties, walks carefully around the tight corners and through the narrow walkways separating the fully-stocked shelves and displays populating Objects Found, a neighborhood antique store within which shiny, happy jewelry pieces and Elvis Presley collectibles sit happily side by side in nooks and crannies and behind glass doors in crowded cases.

patsy-cline-crazy-45-label-sized-for-web-storyThe woman, looking here and over there, but not too far afield, is hearing the songs played through the store’s audio system, and they are coming one after the other and, what with her looking for just the right item or items to bring home, wrapped in tissue paper and put in bags at the counter, it is hard to distinguish one song from the other, but as if by some magical means, one song catches the woman’s ear and burrows into it. “Crazy,” the woman sings, “I’m crazy for feeling so lonely.” Whether she knows it or not, the woman is singing something approaching a duet with Patsy Cline; the woman matches Patsy word for word, perhaps not exactly in meter or in key, but she is right on the button with her.

“I’m crazy, crazy for feeling so blue…” All the while, as the melody flows through her, her face never betrays the feeling; she knows the song, has lived with that song for at least a time; maybe she heard it when she was growing up or discovered it at a friend’s house. Maybe she heard it on the radio, on some country station or oldies outlet. It doesn’t matter; she knows that song, and the act of singing it as she is shopping for something to cherish, however large or small, means that she cherishes the song, too. And then, as “Crazy” fades into another song that perhaps doesn’t strike a chord with her, the woman stops singing and moves forward through the store; a ring or a doll that looks vaguely Victorian is calling out to her, the way that music, the way that particular songs call out to people and burrow in and, really, what can you do about that other than sing along?

spot's-watering-holeThere was a lot of singing along, mostly, probably, silently, and tapping of feet at the famed Catonsville depot for vinyl records old and new and newer still on this Saturday in April, round about mid-month, just after tax day–a beautiful day, with the temperature rolling around the 80-degree mark; a day when even Fido could cool off with a tasty drink; shirt-sleeve weather delighting passersby and record geeks and music fans and folks who love the oldies or the latest hits or some kind of thing in between; people both young and older; people whose high-end sound systems can blow the roof off of their houses and their neighbors’ houses, and people with entry-level, all-in-one turntable systems; people for whom only the finest vinyl pressings will do and those who aren’t quite so fussy.

happy-birthday-golden-recordAll of these people are gathered at Trax on Wax in Catonsville, Maryland at about 11:30 in the morning, gathered together as one like-minded group, even if they don’t know it, snapping up the special Record Store Day releases and thumbing through the stacks that house upwards of somewhere in the neighborhood of 20,000 albums, give or take. Even a stack of old Golden Record 45s and other single delights shines brightly with one entitled Happy Birthday on top; the record inside of the brightly colored sleeve, depicting a kids’ party complete with lit candles on a festive cake, has part one of “Happy Birthday” on the a-side and part two on the b-side. The record, which advertises on the back of the sleeve other Golden Records–“3 Little Golden Records on a 45 RPM EP – 6 Songs and Famous Littles on Both 78 RPM and 45 RPM”–features the song stylings of the Sandpipers and Mitch Miller and his Orchestra and is from about 1960, when it could be had for a measly 29 cents. The Famous Littles were priced slightly higher in Canada–35 cents, to be exact. “Ask for the Fabulous Golden LP records, only $1.98 ea.” You could get a lot for so little back in the day.

But these Golden treasures, stacked on the floor in the back of the store, were only the tip of a very large iceberg; rock, pop, jazz, specialty, soul, comedy and just about anything you could want ruled the day and lined the shelves. Special Record Store Day releases were displayed on the walls to the left of Trax’s entrance.

trax-on-wax-full-of-customersAmidst the Record Store day chatter, you could probably hear people saying, “Hey, there’s the Sly and the Family Stone live album recorded at the Fillmore and never released until now!”, “Man, I love the White Stripes!”, or “Those Kinks EPs look rather tasty!” And “Do you have–” Well, that was probably the number one question asked of Trax on Wax owner Gary Gebler and his manager Jeff Ball and the other knowledgeable, passionate-about-music-just-like-you folks working that day. It was a day all about family; it was a day all about people who like the feeling they get when they are around other music and vinyl fans, people who grew up with the sounds of music and carried those deeply-set feelings through adulthood and people who just discovered the joy of holding a record album in their hands, of looking at people-sized artwork and included posters and stickers and full credits that tell you who played what and twiddled the knobs in the studio.

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(Left to right) Vinyl collector and music fan David Harris with Trax on Wax owner Gary Gebler

It was a day about the extended family of vinyl hounds and casual music fans converging on the little store that does in Catonsville, and, really, it was a day of getting together and turning each other on to some band or singer or spoken word artist who really rings the magic bell time and time again. It was a day of joy for  David Harris, a collector of records played on fine audio equipment who knows what’s what, who is like a moth drawn to a flame when color pressings are in his sights; a man who lives and breathes music and for whom vinyl is a way of life–a man who talks about his favorite records and vinyl finds and lights up with such strength that he could probably power a city like Las Vegas, if such a thing were possible.

For David Harris, vinyl is king, as he explains in the following interview:

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Longtime music fan Gwen Mister shows off the special 180 gram mono edition of the Doors’ Strange Days album at Trax on Wax

The first 45 that Gwen Mister owned was “Shop Around” by the Miracles (actually, by the Miracles featuring Bill “Smokey” Robinson, as the credits read on the Tamla single label). Gwen was at Trax on Wax looking for Record Store Day releases such as the 180 gram mono pressing of the Doors’ Strange Days album, which she found and proudly shows off in the picture at left.

shop-around-tamla-45-resizedIn a perfect world, if you looked in the dictionary under “dedicated music fan,” you would probably find a photo of Miss Mister. A retired accountant, who used to study the violin and loves Diana Ross, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Motown, Grace Slick, Bonnie Raitt and, perhaps most especially, John Lennon, Miss Mister is a gracious and dedicated music fan, as is obvious by listening to the following interview:

In a perfect world, and this world of vinyl hounds and fans of Diana Ross and fans of just plain good music is about as perfect as it gets, every day would be Record Store Day–that is, a day to visit local, independent record stores to visit with the staff, talk to the owner, greet the day with a new vinyl find and pledge to come back again soon now, you hear?

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(Left to right) Trax on Wax Owner Gary Gebler tells Alan Haber that Record Store Day 2015 was a great day

For Gary Gebler of Trax on Wax, Record Store Day 2015 was as perfect a day as he has had the pleasure to experience. Listen to Gary wax poetic:

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Frederick Road, Catonsville, Maryland

On April 18, 2015, a sunny day, a beautiful day along Frederick Road in Catonsville, Maryland, at the center, the hub of vinyl experience for vinyl hounds and music fans who know what’s what and what’s up and what to look for in a sea of treasures, Record Store Day shone. It was a crazy day, a great day, a day that will stand among other days that came before and will come after. This day, this quite sunny and spectacular day, will be remembered by the people who were there. These people will play their records and think back to this day, and next year, around the same time, they will hope for sunny skies still, but really, really, it’s all a state of mind; every day is a sunny day when the music is playing and the beat, ultimately, will go on.

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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.

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

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

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

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With just two days to go before Record Store Day 2015 commences at your local, independent record store, it’s time to get down to it and, well, confess: Turntables? I’ve had a few.

This week, I’ve been looking back to some of the reasons why I fell in love with records, and how that love has fueled my ongoing obsession with the 12-inch vinyl wonders of the world. Today, I find myself waxing nostalgic about some of the turntables I’ve had in my life. Turntables that have been pushed to their limits. Turntables that were able to play records at 78 rpm, which came in handy when listening to Moby Grape’s “Just Like Gene Autry: A Foxtrot,” a track on the group’s 1968 Wow album that played at 78 rpm. Turntables on which you could set the speed between the actual speed settings so you would be able to rock Beatles records back and forth to uncover clues to Paul McCartney’s death. Turntables like that.

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The Garrard 40B

The Garrard 40B was an entry level, three-speed turntable that seemed, for a time, at least, to be the go-to model for kids in my Long Island neighborhood. It seemed as though every kid had one. We played our 45s and our LPs on this gateway to the world of music that we were constantly discovering. It took a licking and kept on ticking. It was a reliable performer that did the trick time and again. It was what we had for a time, and we loved it.

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Not the Symphonic model described below

Then there was an all-in-one model by Symphonic (not the one depicted above, but sort-of similar) that had built-in speakers on either side of the turntable, which folded out to the front. Maneuvering the speed lever between settings, you could rock a record back and forth, slowly but surely, when trying to discover the various audio clues that proved, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Paul McCartney was dead. This was a handy (not official) feature, allowing my friends and I to go deep inside The Beatles, aka the White Album. Backwards clues? No problem. Not surprisingly, I fried one of these units doing the rocking thing. Thankfully, my father was tolerant and understanding when it came to me asking–begging–him to buy me another one. Good times.

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The Stanton STR8-20

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The ION ITTUSB

Today,  I can use any of three turntables to play my records. The Stanton STR8-20 is the top model in my main rack; the ION ITTUSB allows me to record needle drops on my main computer. But the Peanuts Crosley Cruiser, purchased on Record Store Day 2014, is the official turntable of Pure Pop Radio. I mean, just look at it:

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The Peanuts Crosley Cruiser

Today, as was the case yesterday and the yesterday before, there is no activity finer than bringing the needle down on a great record, getting the volume just right (pumping for the driving stuff and not-so-pumping for softer sounds), and plopping down on the couch–comfort is key–for an immersive listening experience. Holding the cover–taking in the majesty of the art, reading the credits (“Oh look, it’s Robben Ford on guitar!”), and checking out the inner sleeve–is beyond important. And singing along? Well, naturally.

Tomorrow, I bring this week of vinyl memories to a soft landing, just in time for Record Store Day 2015 to greet your Saturday. What joy!

– 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.

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

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

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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(Click on the image to enlarge)

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.

Click here to download our app for listening on the go with Android and iOS devices!

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