November 28, 2002


I honestly can't remember the last time I went record shopping. Not the oh-I-think-I'll-stop-into-Other Music kind of shopping. And not the Internet kind. No, I'm talking about a record shopping excursion, where you set out to spend at least a couple of hours dirtying your hands flipping through countless rows of vinyl unsorted by either genre or artist. Where you eye the cheapie records on the floor and decide to squat down to breeze through a couple of rows, and next thing you know you're getting a leg cramp, and you're thinking -- fuck it -- I'm going to just sit on the floor, and you do, and before long you're basically sprawled out in the middle of the aisle in order to angle your short arms far back enough to reach the last few records in the bin, causing miffed shoppers to step over you in order to get to the, y'know, full price records that are located immediately above your head, but screw them because you're pulling out one record after another and -- goddamn! -- they're only a dollar apiece.

And I wish I could remember, because that's the experience I had today at the Princeton Record Exchange, and it was so much fun that I need to remind myself to do that more often. A friend and I had been saying to each other for at least a couple of months how we really ought to drive down to Princeton for some serious record shopping. So on Tuesday when the topic came up once more and he said, "How about tomorrow?", I said "Sure!" No time like the present, right?

So I fetched my little Honda from its home in Queens and off we went, expecting to get embroiled in some miserable pre-holiday traffic nightmare. (I mean, c'mon... Lincoln Tunnel and the New Jersey Turnpike -- we were asking for it!) Strangely enough, the roads were mostly clear both there and on the return, so we were able to focus on more exciting things, like playing a couple of new albums and old favorites over the car stereo from my iPod via the handy tape deck adapter.

Turning onto S. Tulane Street, I found a spot straightaway and we fed a ton of quarters into the meter to ensure maximum shopping time (two hours). I was a bit disoriented when we walked through the door, since they'd remodeled the interior since I'd last been there this past spring. But after scoping out the new layout, I made a beeline to the New Arrivals LP bins as usual.

(Side note: When shopping with a friend, esp. one who shares the same or similar musical tastes, please, for the love of god, SPLIT UP! Do not shop side-by-side, as that can lead to unwanted incidences of jealousy, resentment and heartbreak as you eye a long-coveted record priced at two cents or something equally ridiculous just before it's plucked out of the bin by your friend. Trust me, you do not want to be there to witness his or her Thrill of Victory as you silently (or perhaps not-so) crumple into your own private Agony of Defeat. Even though you know record hunting karma will work to eventually balance the scales and reward each of you in turn.)

I found a few cool things in the regular "Rock & Alternative" LP section, including a Wire 12", another copy of the fan-fucking-tabulous Verlaines comp for future gifting to a worthy friend, and an early OMD album (original pressing in the die-cut sleeve). The budget CD racks produced some $4-and-under gems as well: a compilation of early material by A Certain Ratio, a La-Di-Da comp, a Waaaaaaaaah! Records comp and a circa-'94 Spin Radio Network program disc featuring interviews with, and rare tracks by artists like Sebadoh, Kristin Hersh, Brainiac and Lush.

But just as I was winding down (so I thought) and starting to feel the full effect of the long drive plus lack of adequate sleep the night before (yet again), I decided to have a go at the dollar records on the floor for a few minutes. The clock in my phone showed that we still had a bit of time remaining on the meter, and I wasn't about to leave without covering as much ground as possible.

And in one of those weird strokes of luck that happen every once in a rare while (oh god, I could write about a few supremely memorable incidents where I stumbled upon veritable gold mines of impossibly rare records for dirt-cheap...), I stumbled upon my first indication that there might be some good stuff hidden amongst the Phil Collins and Huey Lewis LPs. About halfway through the second row (and halfway towards my leg cramp), I started to notice the look and feel of UK import LP sleeves mixed in among the typical thick U.S. cardboard ones. Hmm... A few inches' worth later, I pulled out a copy of the Rodney Allen album Happysad, on the Subway Organisation label. Then a Mousefolk LP on Tea Time Records. A Bachelor Pad 12", a 14 Iced Bears 12", a BMX Bandits 12". Bing, bing, bing... before I knew it a stack of 22 records from the dollar bins sat in front of me, fished out in less than 15 minutes of frenzied flipping. The Thrill of Victory! And none of my finds were anything that would have been even remotely interesting to my record-shopping pal, so all the better.

Another check of the clock -- time to go! I hauled my pile onto the counter and my records were rung up and bagged in one of the store's nice heavy-duty plastic LP bags with the wooden dowels in the handles for xtra strength. I wasn't the only lucky shopper, as my friend managed to amass a pretty good-sized pile of vinyl himself. Double-yay.

Note to self: get the hell out of NYC more often. Princeton is only a 90-minute trip away. And New Jersey gas is cheap. And -- hello! -- you live in Manhattan and own a goddamn car, so use it!

Posted by nstop at November 28, 2002 01:00 AM


Yesterday I super-excited myself by rediscovering the Kristin Hersh song on the Warner Bros. Trademark of Quality sampler from '93. (That was WBs "look, we're alternative even though we're a major label" sampler that year. I think somebody foisted it on me at CMJ cause I was there representing Lehigh college radio that year.) Anyhow, it's just another version of "Your Ghost" which is much much better than the album version because it's nearly identical except it doesn't include the second vocal part by Michael Stipe that ruins the one on the album.

I bet you're hella hard to shop for at xmas.

Posted by: martin on November 29, 2002 03:08 AM

You're right -- it is better. (I've got that comp too and just did a little side-by-side comparison.)

People like to groan about how I'm hard to shop for, but (contrary to the impression given on this site) I do like things other than music. Of course I like getting music, too. I'm listening right now to a mix CD a friend made for me, pleasantly suprised to find how many of the bands/artists on it I'm not familiar with whose songs are really good!

Posted by: nstop on November 29, 2002 10:48 PM

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