Record stores are like churches to me, except I never stole from a record store (Sorry Jesus, but I was poor, and it said “poor box”). When I visit either place, I’ll first check the architecture and vibes, and then see who’s providing guidance. I scrutinize the employees critically, they represent the ultimate good, so they are held to a higher standard than the lowly sinner looking for a little faith (or a 45 of George Michael’s Faith). when I was 20, and I had a lot more time, I devised a test to find out who were the honest record stores in Philadelphia (I had no such test for churches). I compiled about twenty crappy records, and one good one, a sealed copy of James Brown’s Sex Machine, a solid $100 record. I offered the stack to record buyers at every store I frequented, and was disappointed when most of them offered $5 for the stack, James and all. I tried not to let it show how mad I was, because I didnt want to get barred (excommunicated) from these stores, and to be fair, buying low and selling high is the name of the game, on both sides of the counter. After the third store offering me $5, I accepted the low-ball as the standard operating procedure, but (I think)Tom at Phila Record Exchange offered $20 for the James record, if I would take my other trash records with me, and Bob at Ninth Street Records went further to say “this might be worth a hunnert-fitty if its got the King labels, but dont open it. I’ll give you 40 in trade.” I forgot every store that tried to get over on me, because it doesn’t matter, I found true places of faith that were worth giving all my money to. Bob at Ninth Street would become a saint to me in the years to follow. He sold me my copy of Gil Scott Heron’s Pieces Of A Man (crispy: $20), told me about the Harlem River Drive record (“I’ve sold a dozen of them for anywhere from $7 to $150”), and indulged us (specifically, Ray Hayes from On The Go ) by letting us shoot amazing video of young DJ Cosmo Baker digging for beats in his shop and then charging him 2$ for the stack of great records(to be fair they were Cosmo’s records.) Bob left the record store life, as did Tom from Record Exchange, but their ways of treating people well and schooling people to the intricacies of records are still tenets in both stores, and the other stores that I adore everywhere.
(shite stills from the On The Go Repeat Offender Video, grabbed from YouTube)
Special mention to Tequila Sunrise, Beautiful World Syndicate, Double Decker, Academy Records, Princeton Record Exchange, the mighty Ameoba (alla them), the spicy Val Shivey (still never been, but when I go I’m buying Alan Freed’s pants), All City (the Dublin one, but maybe all of them), Jammers, Searchlight, Luv-N-Haight, Brewerytown Beats, True Vine, Repo Records, Love Garden, 2nd Street Rock And Jazz, Matt Bananas Records and maybe the best, Miss Kitty’s.
I found out Miss Kitty’s was (maybe) the best when Bob asked me jealously, “how you know Miss Kitty?” My very cool girlfriend Maryanne stepped up, “because I know Miss Kitty,” naturally. Her records are better than mine and it stands to reason her connects are too. She was thrifting in the Germantown section of Philly, why? Because the huge Goodwill that is over there, and around the corner were a few smaller second hand stores. Miss Kitty primarily sold furniture, but in the back was a couple thousand records, lined up on the floor, that came from the estate sales she would frequent. She had plenty of great records, super cheap, and a way of marking the prices and the date in pen on the back, so if a record sat long enough, she would give you an even better price than the already low price she set it at. Miss Kitty liked Maryanne, so she got a full run of Rolling Stones records from Between The Buttons to Exile for 30 bucks, and then Miss Kitty said, “give me $20”. Me spotting her writing on a record at Ninth Street is how me and Bob got to talking about Miss Kitty. Bob said, “I try to see her every week and stock this place with whatever she’s got.”
Besides Bob telling us his secret, he was telling us a secret about certain people, like Miss Kitty, who have a knack for finding records. “I could go to every place she goes before she gets there and she’s still gonna find records I’ll never find.” The fact that she was looking for furniture, not records, makes it all the more interesting. Maryanne has that knack, so does Cosmo, I’ve seen both of them go through a pile of records I already went through and they found something I missed. It’s not me missing something, it’s them finding something, over and over again. Every church needs a spiritual leader, like Bob, and every church needs true believers like Maryanne and Cosmo who dig up the gold that is beyond the the tips of most of our dusty fingers. The true believers give the rest of the congregation a reason to believe. Me? I’m a sinner trying to buy my way into heaven with records off the wall, but occasionally, I find God in the dollar bins, you seek and you find, maybe. If you have the knack, share your grace with someone, and if you are having trouble finding records, offer to drive a friend with the knack to a new record store. Go forth with faith, peace be with you, and Bob’s Yer Uncle, Amen.