Back end theory
A visit to two Chicago record stores really drives home the pleasures of a majestic rear.
I’ve heard good things about Beverly. Namely that she’s one of Chicago’s best if you're the type to get off on old age and dust levels. Luckily she’s a record store. Still, you have to put the work in if you want to sample her aging treasures: I take the train all the way to the southern end of the Red line, and then get a bus south from 95th to 119th street. We then chug east for ages, before I'm dumped at the end of the line at Western Avenue – left standing among the manicured lawns and signs calling me to come and worship.
The store is a beauty: there are racks and racks of old LPs, acres of 45s, and plenty of tat on the walls and ceiling to show how old the store is – it's been around since 1967. There's only one problem: Jeremy Kyle is berating some Americans on the telly. ‘Whatever,’ he roars at some unfortunate idiot. It turns out he's the latest Briton to have a stab at building his reputation across the pond. Jeremy Kyle is the modern Beatles. I bet they never performed from inside a giant basketball.
I manage to stay, despite the rabid Kyle bile. That's the power of the $5 LP selection. I grab a stack on the first pass and find my way to the ancient listening station.
I'm having a lovely time. The store is great - the perfect size for a short afternoon dig. Or so I think, until the owner, a teacherly middle-aged man called Randy, comes out and shows me his sprawling back section. If it wasn't ace enough just getting the chance to meet a dude called Randy – we don't get many of them in the UK – the back space turns out to be bigger than the actual store bit. In this regard it reminds me of my old local Japanese video rental shop, when I lived just outside Tokyo. The shop part there was the size of a modest video store – and about a quarter the size of the majestic porn section out the back.
While I'm not going to find anything here anywhere near as disturbing as what was on offer there (no fish on man/eel on woman action), there is plenty of obscure stuff to titilate. The store’s ‘how to’ section, for example: two whole shelves dedicated to instructional records. It’s a proper hands-and-knees job in there, and I generate much dust pulling everything out. I'm coughing. There's a reason why seasoned diggers wear face masks and gloves. That must be on the 'how to look for records' record.
I resist this:
I buy these:
There's also a whole wall of movie soundtrack LPs. This is a section of perennial torment for me. Many years ago I set myself the challenge of locating a vinyl copy of the soundtrack to Cannonball Run, the Burt Reynolds masterpiece of coast-to-coast ambulance racing, brawling and Japanese-stereotype-fuelled tomfoolery. I said at the time that if I ever found that LP it’d be the last record I ever bought. It keeps me busy – whenever I'm in a record store I'll always glance at the soundtracks just in case. The problem, as revealed by my tentative online research a while back, is that the album is a massive rarity – not just because no one gives a shit about the film, but because for some reason the LP was only ever released in Japan. I make several trips up the precarious ladder, but it's not here either.
Otherwise it's a good haul for me – bits of Leonard Nimoy talking about aliens, a record of 'actual business letters' where we as listeners are privy to unknown and probably long-dead recipients being given the incredibly random information they long ago requested, and a record where a woman tells women to pull their finger out a bit. Plus some more classic Cannonball Adderley, the Jazz Crusaders and Roy Ayers.
Having taken me round the back, Randy then fills my pockets with sweets and gives me a lift to the station. I'm 35.
When I finally get downtown I head to Logan Hardware, which is not a hardware store but... a record shop. It's open till 9pm. These downtown stores couldn't be any further from the Beverly vibe: it's all tidy sections, lots of punk, and over-priced collectable toys. But there are bins of old jazz and funk stuff and plenty of 45s to dig through too, so there's potential for bargains.
While there's a distinct lack of dust, there is a free vintage games arcade out the back, so extensive digging can be broken up with goes on Track & Field or 720. Neither of which I’ve seen for about 20 years (they used to have Track & Field at Polkyth swimming pool, next to the Womble bins and sit-down version of Buggy Boy). It’s ace. Or shit, if you’re crap at video games. As I am, judging by my pathetic 4m05 long jump effort (you have to clear 7m to qualify).
By now my record bag is bursting at the seams, and I have to lug the fucking thing back to the UK, via New York. So I’m limiting myself to one record per store max. I manage to stick to it. Last night I’d been listening to YouTube clips of the several Cannonball Adderley records I've bought out here, and found my way to "Country Preacher: Live at Operation Breadbasket," which has an ace track on it that was sampled by white rappers 3rd Bass on their "Derelicts of Dialect" album back in 1991 – one of the first cassettes I played to death as a kid.
It's here for $3.99. Yes please.
I have another crap go on Track and Field and sod off happy.