Below is a rough aggregate of Record Store Days past:
I stare at the alarm clock set to sound at 7:00AM on the dot. It’s 6:51AM. Do I wait for it or do I get up now? It had been a late night and today is Saturday. Normally I wouldn’t bother setting an alarm on Saturday but this is no regular Saturday. This Saturday is Record Store Day. Record Store Day marks my annual crate diving day with my dad. (A point of clarification: dad and I go crate diving a few times a year. Record Store Day is a day to justify spending more money than usual). It’s 6:55AM now. I’m meeting my dad at AXPONA – a high-end consumer audio show – at 8:30AM. Where else can you listen to Quadrophenia on a $400,000 system? Not a typo – Four. Hundred. Thousand. Dollars. Keith Moon could hear the crash of his cymbals and John Entwistle could hear the rumble of his bass and they’d both approve. It’s a fitting start to a day that will take us well into the afternoon, the halfway point marked by lunch at Louie’s Grill. I’ll order breakfast, dad will order lunch and we’ll pour over the Record Store Day album list. I’ll blow my budget, dad will chuckle (approvingly).
“Ugh,” I say with a groan, get out of bed, saunter into the kitchen, and brew the coffee my dad roasted the previous weekend. I need the rocket fuel. (Another point of clarification: dad takes coffee seriously. I have a coffee maker; dad has a coffee brewing contraption I’m afraid to go near). “Crap!” I exclaim as I fill the coffee maker with water. The alarm is blaring. I dash into the bedroom and dive across the bed to turn it off. I hear my upstairs neighbor rustle and get out of bed. I’m an ass. I jump in the shower hoping to get out of the house without running into the neighbor who’d most likely been awoken well before he expected. Freshly showered and ready to go, I pour a coffee for the road. “DAMNIT!” I say as the second alarm clock I’d forgotten about, an old-school clock with two bells and a hammer, screams. My neighbor was certainly awake now if he wasn’t before. I’m an even bigger ass. It’s 7:30AM now.
Cut to early afternoon. After checking out speakers, amps, headphones, and other pieces of stereo gear we’ll never buy we head to Louie’s Grill, eat our fill and walk over to our first record store: The Old School Records in Forest Park. This will be the last Record Store Day for The Old School Records in its current location. They’ll be moving around the corner in a few months. Owner Peter Gianakopoulos is sitting behind the raised counter ringing up a line of customers and talking to each about their finds. A big smile and a “hey hey!” greets dad and me. Dad sees an opening between, what appears to be another father-son crate diving duo, and goes in. I go to the Record Store Day Exclusive Release bin and start flipping. Dad and I finish up and make our way east to Val’s Halla Records in Oak Park. “We’re gonna be here a while,” says dad as we snake through the small crowd who are watching a band play in the front of the store. “Where have you two been?!” asks owner Val Camilletti with a smile. The hugs and the kisses and the smiles and the laughs and the exploring go on for an hour or so. The band is good but we leave with armfuls of vinyl before I can ask their name. It’s nearly 4:30PM before we head to what would end up being our final record store of the day: Oak Park Records. We park on Oak Park Avenue directly in front of the store. There’s time left on the parking meter but we plunk in a few coins just in case. A wave and a smile from owner Alan Heffelfinger who spots us before we walk through the door. He points to the far end of the counter and says “A few oatmeal raisin cookies are left.” Dad’s ears perk up as he hides his delight while casually making his way over. Alan swings his arm clockwise and points to the far wall and says to me “Allman Joys. Early Allman – Featuring Duane and Gregg Allman.” I scoop it up without even checking its condition. Like Val and Peter, Alan has an eye for grading and doesn’t bring in anything he wouldn’t play himself. Dad, with a discerning eye, agrees. (A final point of clarification: my dad is one of the coolest people I personally know and I look forward to next year’s Record Store Day before the sun sets on this year’s Record Store Day).
Local, independent, and family-owned record stores are one of the things that make Chicago’s music scene as vibrant as it is diverse. I was asked to contribute to a recent Discogs.com article for the Best Record Stores In… series. So were Greg Kot, Andrew Bird, Mark Guarino, and Richard Milne among others. I adore every record store on this list and have shopped at each of them at least once and feel privileged to weigh in. Read the list here and, as I often say on the radio, support artists, bands, and songwriters by seeing a live show and buying their music from, whenever possible, a local, independent, or family-owned music store. Let me know what you’ve been listening to! Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Insta , and Spotify – my handle on all three is RyanArnoldRocks.