Bob Say loves records. He is a collector and a connoisseur, a gentlemanly purveyor of vinyl discs and related objects, an enthusiast’s enthusiast. In a milieu full of cranks, snobs and cutthroats, Say is affable, open and unabashedly excited to share his passion. While others have burned out or moved on from the business of selling music, Say, who is 55, continues to live, breathe and champion records.
I first met Say at the Canoga Park branch of Moby Disc. I was a customer, he was general manager. Say was sifting through a large collection of records the store had acquired. Eager to see what had come in, I approached and we talked. Fellow obsessives, we formed a rapport. But Moby Disc, which was known for odd and often-affordable offerings in imports and used records, went under soon after it was sold to a large, Internet-based corporation. Say regrouped and opened Freakbeat Records, perhaps the best little record store in Los Angeles.
In an excessively homogenized landscape of mega-chain outlets, Freakbeat is an anomaly. The focus is on vinyl, those etched repositories of sound and sense. Traveling to record shows, garage sales and thrift shops — he’s even been known to dumpster dive for LPs — Say actively stocks his bins with a wide and idiosyncratic range of titles. His stamina is extraordinary.
“He can’t help it,” says his associate, Tom Gracyk. Say delights in the rare find, like chancing upon original Brazilian pressings of the first two Os Mutantes albums at a Goodwill in Van Nuys.
“He finds everything,” says musician Bill Davis, a Freakbeat customer.
When Davis mentioned his work with Big Brother (not to be confused with Big Brother & the Holding Company), the Freakbeat staff showed him a reissue by the relatively obscure band. Davis was astonished; he had no idea the album was in print.
Asked to characterize a life devoted to the pursuit of recorded music, Say is characteristically unassuming: “At this point in my life, I wouldn’t know what to do other than music. It’s what I like.”