By Lisa Morgan
The Record Alley participates in Record Store Day every year. Celebrated internationally on the third Saturday of April each year, the day celebrates the art of music, most especially the last surviving, tangible format of music left that cannot be copied or duplicated. More than the art of music contained within its ridges, vinyl represents the art surrounding the contents: the jacket, the lyrics, the notes, the photos. Now, used more for collectibles and for those who crave that classic needle to groove sound, vinyl represents a music era all but lost to us in these digital “daze”, when one would sit pouring over the artwork on the album cover and listen to the albums as the needle moved from the outer edge to the middle, from start to finish, because that is how the music was created to be played and that is how you truly came to understand the artists who crafted it.
Since 1978, when the music scene was a kaleidoscope of influences, Record Alley has managed, under great odds, to preserve a part of our culture that was almost lost to the impersonal and manufactured era of internet marketed music. Walking into this store that has been there for music lovers for decades, is truly an interactive experience that would be lost to our new and future generations if it weren’t for Record Alley. So for owners, Jim and Shelly Stephens, and their dedicated, incredibly brainy staff, Record Store Day is almost like Christmas. They always celebrate the day by making sure they have as good of a supply of used albums out as they can. They make special orders for the singles and albums that are being released specifically for the day, along with some special request items for their customers. But they never know what will actually arrive those hours before the big day.
“We won’t have any idea what we are going to get until Wednesday or Thursday,” shared Eleni P. Austin, a long time Record Alley shopper turned employee. “We asked for a bunch of stuff. There are about 400 titles, and we’re competing with every other record store in the country. There are going to be some very cool vinyls that we are hoping to get: from N.W.A., Straight Outta Compton, to Dolly Parton’s The Grass is Blue. All of Bruce Springsteen’s early 70s stuff is being remastered and put on vinyl as is the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack. Robert Plant is putting out something special. Foo Fighters is putting out a special 10″ disk. White Stripes is putting out their 2005 album on vinyl. The list goes on, and we will have no idea exactly what we’ll get until it comes in. It’s the same way everywhere. Last fall (during Black Friday, a second, smaller, annual Record Store Day) there was a Guardians of the Galaxy cassette that sold out quickly. I was able to get an album curated by Morrissey that compiled all of his favorite tunes from the Ramones.”
“We will be open at 10 am, and there will be a line,” warned Austin. “Rob Bradley will be covering the event while it’s happening for Channel 2. There will be records available at Coachella, but since Goldenvoice has taken over the merchandising, there will be a much smaller collection available. Also, you’ll have to carry around your vinyl with you all day in the hot sun and put it down every time you want to take a selfie…I don’t know how that’s going to work out,” she said, with the dry wit she is famous for.
Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1400 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.
The Record Store website boasts, “This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, DJs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April.”
Not every store qualifies and can participate in Record Store Day, but Record Alley does! A Record Store Day participating store is defined as “a stand-alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation (this means only real, live, physical, indie record stores—not online retailers or corporate behemoths).
And now a word from some of our time’s most influential troubadours in support of the independent record store and Record Store Day:
“The resurgence and survival of the vinyl record as a sustainable tangible format for music lovers to fetish, collect and enjoy for generations is a beautiful thing in this ever growing digitized, down loadable culture. Music, movies and products suggested by algorithms generated by our searches and purchases via the web is a reality we all live in, and I’m not saying that you-tube hasn’t turned me on to some really great music and visual art that I would have never discovered otherwise. However, there is something about the longevity of the vinyl record that gives me hope that we (the hopeless music fanatic at least) will always protect it and support it.
I remember very well, the local record store and the magic there within. In Palm Springs there were two that changed my life. The RECORD ALLEY which opened its doors in 1978, was where I bought my first KISS record, Aerosmith, Mountain, Black Sabbath, The Seeds, Jimi Hendrix, ZZ Top, then in the early 80’s all the punk treasures that we would discover, Ramones, DEVO, imports like the Damned, Peter and the Test Tube Babies, Crass, and Bauhaus. L.A., San Francisco and O.C. bands like X, Black Flag, Adolescents, the Minute Men, the Dead Kennedy’s – we couldn’t wait to hit the bins, scoring the Who, Pink Floyd, Ram Jam, The Plasmatics, Iggy Pop, Frank Zappa, Motorhead….it goes on and on. Still on my shelf to pull down, play and gaze upon the awesome art work and read the liner notes like they were written just for me. Try to download that!“ – Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson)
My introduction to all this great music and to ‘the music business’ came from hanging around, and eventually, working at independent record stores. Nothing beats browsing in your favorite store, listening to music, finding something new or old that you’ve been searching for, all that. And without these stores, there’s just no way Wilco would still be around.” – Jeff Tweedy (Wilco)
“I don’t know if I’d ever have had the exposure to the roots and world music…folk, blues, classic jazz, gypsy, Celtic, African, Latin, had it not been for combing the racks of the local independent record stores in the Cambridge/Boston area when I was in college and the years since. Those ‘mom and pop’ stores and small chains, like radio, provided the rich soil from which so much of my passion and education sprang. Having the ability to linger and talk about selections with a staff person who really knew their stuff and was able to illuminate why certain albums by a given artist were better than others or steer me to new exciting finds I never would have discovered without their help, is another reason why preserving these independent record stores is so crucial. It’s the personal connection, the vastly more extensive collections, and being part of the community of like-minded music fans, that makes such a difference. I loved striking up conversations or just spending hours reading notes on vinyl record covers and having the visceral experience of being surrounded by so much history and variety. Nothing like it. So much of what I love about music of all kinds and eras was hatched by just this kind of discovery and choice. The decisions about what to carry and the overall service of these stores is what has made so many of us who we are, as musicians and people. Indelible, irreplaceable…and a treasure to protect.” – Bonnie Raitt
“Some of my fondest childhood memories are of going to a small record store in Florence, AL called The Turning Point every Friday or Saturday. I would skip lunch at school and save my lunch money for the week and it would put me within a dollar or two of having enough for a record a week (1974 prices)…Here I am 43 with a wife and child and I’m still misappropriating my lunch money like in 5th grade. The record labels throwing the indie stores to the wolves and casting their lot with the faceless megastores is indicative the mindset that has put them in such sorry shape of late. The indie record store was the closest link between music and the consumer and there was no replacing that interaction. It is good to see that some of the surviving indie stores are in some cases showing growth largely due to sales of vinyl records. It IS an interesting time to watch how all of this is going to pan out. Long Live Record Stores!” – Patterson Hood (Drive-By Truckers)
“Independent record stores are much more than the name suggests. They are an international community and platform where music has an outlet and an opportunity to grow over the long term, in a way that sincerely connects with community and culture. They are also a magnificent mob of highly opinionated musical bandits which I am proud to call my pals! Bill, keep that Indian ring shining for me. Matt, I’ll meet you in the morning for breakfast. John, we’ll always have Paris. Rhino…..straight outta Claremont!” – Ben Harper
“Do yourself a tremendous favor and go to a record store today. The relatively mild exertion of getting off your fat, computer-shackled ass and venturing out to find the object of your desire, the thrill of moving through actual space and time, through row upon row of records, and the tactile ecstasy of fondling the quested treasure—all this will augment and enrich the mental associations the music invokes in you for the rest of your life.” – Grinderman
“Record stores keep the human social contact alive it brings people together. Without the independent record stores the community breaks down with everyone sitting in front of their computers” – Ziggy Marley
“The indie record stores are the backbone of the recorded music culture. It’s where we go to network, browse around, and find new songs to love. The stores whose owners and staff live for music have spread the word about exciting new things faster and with more essence than either radio or the press. Any artist that doesn’t support the wonderful ma and pa record stores across America is contributing to our own extinction.” – Joan Jett
Record Alley is located in the Westfield Mall at 72840 Highway 111, Palm Desert. For a current and complete list of on-going sales and merchandise check out their website www.recordalley.com