Record Store Day Celebrates Independent Music Retailers Conceived in 2007, Record Store Day is held on the third Saturday of April each year. Many musicians celebrate the day with limited-edition releases and in-store performances, but record-store enthusiasts Gary Calamar and Phil Gallo are celebrating differently: They've co-authored a book called Record Store Days: From Vinyl to Digital and Back Again.

Record Store Day Celebrates Independent Music Retailers

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Yesterday was Record Store Day.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: Now, if you think digital music downloads killed the record store -well, youre not quite right, though it is on life support. Many of the music mega stores have closed but there are still some small independent establishments. Sometimes they're no more than vinyl-crammed basements. People who find them can spend hours enthusiastically flipping through titles, gasping at rare finds, and pausing for a moment to admire the cover art.

In fact, the authors of a new book "Record Store Days," say today's record stores are run by music fans for music fans. And they join us from our studios at NPR West.

First Gary Calamar, he's the president of Go Music, a music supervisor for such shows as "True Blood" and "Dexter," and a long-time DJ on KCRW in Santa Monica. Welcome to the program, Gary.

Mr. GRAY CALAMAR (President, Go Music): Thank you very much, Liane. It's a pleasure.

HANSEN: And joining him is Phil Gallo, a long-time music journalist who's written for both Variety and the Los Angeles Times. Welcome to you, Phil.

Mr. PHIL GALLO (Music Journalist): Thank you very much.

HANSEN: Gary Calamar, do you think it's collectors and hipsters that are keeping the record stores alive?

Mr. CALAMAR: I think that's a big part of it. But I think the every day Joe is still going into record stores. You know, I love iTunes as much as anybody. It's very convenient and very easy. But there is nothing like the vibe that you get when you walk into a record store. And I think a lot of people are still thrilled to spend a half hour there and go through the bins and make some purchases.

HANSEN: Phil Gallo, are the stores today anything like the store you would've seen 30 years ago?

Mr. GALLO: Well, what's fascinating when we talk to some of the owners, some of those owners are finding that the people who come into the store, especially the older crowd, says I haven't seen a place like this since the '70s.

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. GALLO: And a lot of that is because when you went from the '60s to the '70s, a lot of entrepreneurial music fans created small record stores. And these stores that are cropping up now are quite often back to that very small store that we really had not seen because that could not compete with the chains back in the 1990s.

HANSEN: You know, the record stores weren't just about the records that were there. I mean there were poster, lots of ephemera, you know, John Goddard at Village Music, he had Billie Holliday's passport.

(Soundbite of laughter)

HANSEN: You know, you talk to so many record store owners, are there any other interesting items in their collection?

Mr. CALAMAR: They - you know, the record business is famous for making interesting chotskies over the years.


Mr. CALAMAR: I mean anything from a Peter Gabriel, you know, an actual sledgehammer to the thing that was on the cover of Led Zeppelin "Presence." Yeah, I mean that's a big part of the attraction, certainly for me, is the stickers and the buttons and the mobiles and the stand-ups. Actually, when we made the book, I told the publisher, I said if we're going to do this book we must do a bumper sticker.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CALAMAR: And we have the Support Your Local Record Store bumper sticker that goes long with it. But that is so much part of the fun for me, the chotskies.

HANSEN: A lot of bands got their start in record stores. They either played there or, you know, meeting other band members among the stacks. Who do you think we would not have heard had it not been for record stores?

Mr. CALAMAR: Certainly R.E.M. grew out of the Wuxtry record store in Athens, where Peter Buck was working and Michael Stipe came in to visit. And even their later manager, Bertis Downs, they all met and congregated at that record store. So I'm sure we wouldnt see those without the record store.

(Soundbite of song, "Pilgrimage")

R.E.M. (Rock band): (Singing) Take a turn. I'm gonna take a turn. Take your fortune, take your fortune.

HANSEN: That's R.E.M. singing one of their earlier songs, "Pilgrimage." Who else?

Mr. GALLO: Patti Smith Group, Lenny Kaye was a record store clerk, and he met Patti through various places. But he continued to work as a record store clerk while the Patti Smith Group was working throughout New York.

HANSEN: Mm-hmm.

Mr. CALAMAR: Yeah, it's a great meeting place, community center, art gallery, singles bar, music venue.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CALAMAR: I mean, the record store kind of covers a lot of ground.

HANSEN: I love that you used to be able to go in and - I mean, I know now in the stores with the CDs, you can push the button and hear some selections. But in a record store, you'd be walking in and they'd be playing something. And you'd go over and say, hey, what is that?

Mr. CALAMAR: I had worked at several stores. I worked at Licorice Pizza in Los Angeles and Rhino and Moby Disc. And a lot of times we would kind of see who's in the store and pinpoint, okay, I'm going to try and sell that record to this person and put a particular record on the in-store play and hope that they would respond.

(Soundbite of movie, "High Fidelity")

Mr. JOHN CUSACK (Actor): (As Rob Gordon) I will now sell five copies of "The Three E.P.'s

Unidentified Man #1: (Actor) Do it.

(Soundbite of music)

HANSEN: The movie "High Fidelity" did a really good job of capturing the mood of a record store. I mean, we just heard in that clip John Cusack targeting customers with certain music, The Beta Band. And then there's, you know, always a know-it-all clerk.

Mr. JACK BLACK (Actor): (as Barry) Do we look like the kind of store that sells "I Just Called to Say I Love You?" Go to the mall.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man #2: What's your problem?

Mr. BLACK: (as Barry) Do you even know your daughter? There's no way she likes that song. Oh, oh, oh. Is she in a coma?

Unidentified Man #2: Oh okay, buddy.

Mr. GALLO: There was a time where you would, say, have a two-block area and you'd have three record stores. One store had the surly clerks that were in charge of being the taste police. Another store would be all about the service and what can we special order for you and can we get you those imports? And the other place was all about the price.


Mr. GALLO: Somehow they all complimented each other.

HANSEN: Yeah. You know, record stores used to be the place where you could find the rare recording or a live recording or imported recordings. But now so many of these obscure things are available online. How do the stores compete with that?

Mr. GALLO: That's one of the big challenges and the issue was raised by an owner of a chain up in New England: how many independent stores were making their money by having bootleg copies of either concert recordings or imports that, you know, came in through the gray market? And as more of that showed up on digital, those stores went away because now you could find a way to get it.

HANSEN: Take us back to a memory of yours in a record store, each one of you, Gary and Phil, and give us a, oh my goodness, I can't believe that I found this moment at a record store.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CALAMAR: I would say my moment is fairly recent and it was seeing Paul McCartney perform at the Amoeba store in Hollywood. You know, the Amoeba store is an amazing store where you find amazing records every day. But to have someone like Paul McCartney do a small little concert there was just mind-blowing.

HANSEN: Wow. I can't imagine him ever having done that in the Beatles years. I mean, it would've been just a mob scene.

Mr. CALAMAR: Yes. Well, this was a mob scene as well.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. CALAMAR: But I think they brought in a little extra security that day.

HANSEN: Yeah. Phil, what about you?

Mr. GALLO: Mine's a little bit more obscure. I was an exchange student in 1972 in Mexico City, and we would hang out and listen to a lot of early '60s rock n' roll. And we would also listen to bands that were from South America and Mexico. And there was one particular record, and it was by a band called Traffic Sound and it really represented a time and a place for me, this great sort of psychedelic Peruvian rock band. And when I came back to the States, I started looking for it. It took 23 years...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. GALLO: ...but one day, I walked into Mondo Kim's and there it was, an original pressing for a mere $23. And I found it ironic that I had to pay $23 and wait 23 years to acquire this record.

HANSEN: Okay, here's another one. Phil Gallo, what was the first record you bought with your own money?

Mr. GALLO: I had a friend who lived down the street who was an intense Beatles fanatic and he said there's this new album called "Abbey Road." And so we grew up in the San Fernando Valley and we figured that Kmart had the best price. So we got on our bikes and rode three miles to Kmart and plunked down our $4.77 and got this brand new record called "Abbey Road."

HANSEN: Gary, what was the first record you bought with your own money?

Mr. CALAMAR: The first record I bought with my own money, my brother, my brother Ronny Calamar, who the book is dedicated to, he was three years older than me and he was - we lived in Yonkers, New York. He was allowed to take the subway into the Bronx to go to this record store, the Spinning Disc. And I was not allowed to go even with him on the subway.

But one Saturday afternoon he said hey, Gary, come on, we're taking you on the subway. We're going down to the Spinning Disc. And I said, what do you mean? We're not allowed. And he goes, come on, we're going.

He took me into the store the Spinning Disc and I was just blown away by the music and the people and all these singles on the wall - 45 singles. And the first purchase I made with my own money was a single by The Kinks, "All Day and All of the Night" and still one of my all time favorites.

HANSEN: A classic.

(Soundbite of song, "All Day and All of the Night")

THE KINKS (Rock Band): (Singing) I'm not content to be with you in the day time.

HANSEN: Phil Gallo and Gary Calamar co-wrote the book "Record Store Days," and they joined us from NPR West. Thank you, both.

Mr. GALLO: Thank you.

Mr. CALAMAR: Thank so much, Liane.

THE KINKS (Singing) The only time I feel all right just by your side. Girl, I want to be with you all of the time, all day and all of the night.

HANSEN: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Liane Hansen.

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