One of the great things about the internet is that it makes it easy for us to check out music from all over the world. We become curious and off we go. As online commerce has grown, many record stores now let you scan their inventories through sites such as Discogs. Suddenly, your options are almost infinite.
For the most part, this is a great thing. It does, however, lessen your chances of walking into a record store and leaving with something truly remarkable. Many rare items acquired by used-record stores are put either on an auction site or in their online store. Chances are that by the time you are in the actual shop, the treasures are long gone.
The success of e-commerce also has induced many record stores to close and sell online exclusively. Not only are record stores less likely to have cool stuff, there are fewer and fewer to go to.
At this point, having a great day at a record store occurs with almost predictable infrequency. But now and then, you can really score. I am still buzzing from a record store experience that transpired only hours ago.
Slowboy Records is a vendor on Discogs and a record store in Dusseldorf from which I have bought more than once. Its selection is beyond impressive. Road manager Ward contacted Slowboy while I was in Dusseldorf for a show and asked if the store was open. The owners told Ward the store was closed and that it was actually moving, but they’d open for us. We would be the last two customers in the present location.
We arrived around 1230 hrs., met owners Günter and Andreas, and almost immediately started pulling great titles. I found records that I had but hadn’t seen for sale in years. It was as if someone’s record collection was on sale.
There is a record I have been obsessed with for decades. It’s not hard to find but there are some interesting variations. It’s a five-song 12-inch by The Cramps, called Gravest Hits. It contains the band’s first two singles, “Human Fly”/“The Way I Walk” and “Domino”/“Surfin’ Bird,” along with a fifth track, exclusive to the record when it was pressed in summer 1979, a cover of the Baker Knight classic “Lonesome Town.” It is one of my favorite 12-inch EPs, right up there with the B Stiff EP by Devo.
Over the decades, I have sought out all the early versions of Gravest. One that had been eluding me was the ultra–dark purple vinyl pressing. It looks black but, when you hold it to strong light, it is indeed purple. Slowboy Records had it, as well as an LP version of A Right Royal Fuck Up, a Damned bootleg that I previously had only on CD. Yellow Swans and XBXRX singles I was in need of were there, as was the clear vinyl version of Thee Oh Sees’ “Carol Ann” single, which stands to reason, as Slowboy put it out in 2008.
Put it this way: If you were starting from scratch, this store would be a very useful one-stop.
A row of framed posters caused both road manager Ward and me to stare in awe. There was a promo poster for the first Neu! album, the band formed by Klaus Dinger and Michael Rother after they left Kraftwerk, released on Brain Records in 1972. There was a poster with “Kluster” at the top and “Elektrische Eruption” at the bottom, which I guessed was a promo poster for Kluster album Eruption, released by Kluster member Conrad Schnitzler in a pressing of 100 in 1971. There was a poster for a Kraftwerk/Cluster show and one for a multinight live show in December 1970 featuring Kluster, Tangerine Dream, Amon Düül, Ash Ra Temple [sic] and Agitation Free. We were looking at some serious kosmische musik history!
We asked Günter and Andreas where the hell they had located these. Apparently the Kluster poster (part of a stack) was underneath Schnitzler’s couch for many years. His wife was going to toss them out and was persuaded to sell them to Slowboy instead. The Neu! poster came directly from Neu! member Klaus Dinger, which doesn’t get any better, provenance-wise.
We asked if there were extras of any of these for sale. Why yes, there were. Interested?
Ward and I were able to go through several copies of the Kluster poster, all hand-screened, in varying states of ink density, and pick out two great ones. I also apprehended copies of the other posters, as I am pretty sure that opportunity won’t be happening again.
“So, you like posters?” one of the Slowboys asked. He started pulling open drawers and showing me other ones they had. Tour posters for The Fall, Grotesque album era, and The Damned from the 1980 Black Album tour dates, never used, stared up at me. I had never seen the Fall poster, and I’d seen only severely damaged versions of the Damned poster. A vendor the Slowboys know used to go to the poster printer and buy overruns, then sell them to the store.
A little more than three hours after we arrived, road manager Ward and I staggered out of Slowboy, vinyl and poster tubes in tow. It was one of the most amazing record store days in memory.
I am sure interest among the world’s population in this kind of thing is severely limited, but I feel lucky to be among this grain-of-sand–sized demographic. It is finds like the ones I just detailed that make all the other record store crawls where I find nothing completely worth it. You must remain relentless. The search will never end!
Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.