In the digital age, where the latest and greatest band can be discovered and had in a matter of minutes, owning a physical copy of a record is becoming a lost notion. Sadly, so too is the local record shop.
Over the years, music has been available in many formats from 8-track to vinyl, from cassette to compact disc and finally the Mp3. I don’t see a revival movement of 8-track or Cassettes coming any time soon, so the choices these days are Vinyl, CD or Mp3.
MP3s are a fantastic thing, to be sure. You can pretty much find anything you want, quickly, cheaply and (depending on your feelings on the concept) free. They can be transferred from PC to PC, to your MP3 player and even burned on to CD, which more or less reduces the inclination to go buy a CD.
However, there are camps that still get that jolt by owning the physical copy of the music; the cover art, the liner notes and of course the sound as it was meant to be.
I am not going to get into the age old conversation of CD/Digital vs. Vinyl. There are purists who maintain that nothing will ever touch the richness that a vinyl pressing provides and those who insist CD/Digital much more glossy and polished and don’t understand why someone would choose an older technology. That is a different argument for a different time.
There is no doubt, something to be said for owning those original pressings, proudly displaying their art and sitting down to listen with others that appreciate it as well. For me though, the biggest rush is the trip to the record shop.
No matter your preference, who doesn’t remember and long for the glory days of the local record shop? In the 80’s-90’s, this area was blessed with an abundance of choices in Ferndale, Royal Oak, Ann Arbor and Dearborn. Sifting thru the racks at Off The Record, Repeat The Beat, Play It Again Records, Sam’s Jams, Desirable Discs, and Neptune Records is one of the fondest memories of this area for many music fans.
There are still plenty of choices these days, even though they are a little more spread out.
One of my favorites is Underground Sounds in Ann Arbor. The shop is 45 minutes away, making me plan a day around it, which I am quite ok with. Taking a drive, walking around town, grabbing some lunch and then hitting this shop which ALWAYS pays off for me is a great way to spend a day. Unlike some shops, this one doesn’t make you hunt through stacks of Clapton and Captain Beefheart in hopes of maybe finding a Cure record.
You can go right to the C’s for Camera Obscura, J’s for Joy Division, M’s for My Bloody Valentine or to the new release wall to find the new Washed Out record. An added bonus is that they post the upcoming releases on their Facebook page, so I know to hightail it out there for a long sought after copy of Slowdive – Souvlaki.
Another of my favorites is not a record store at all, but a vintage furniture shop in Royal Oak, called Vertu. Rob is just an avid record buff who has a small but impressive collection that he loves to sell to people who love records. He is quite content with just having a small but loyal customer base, so I hope I am not doing him a dis-service by mentioning this. If you have a preference for 60-70’s Psychedelia, Jazz, 80’s Post-Punk or Detroit Garage bands this should be your shop. No endless sifting needed here. Just go right to the wall and check out the Velvet Underground, Bowie, Stone Roses, Echo and The Bunnymen, Smiths, New Order, Clash, Cocteau Twins, Bauhaus or White Stripes rack.
If you aren’t that specific, take a quick flip through the couple of 80’s crates for that Jazz Butcher, Throwing Muses or Camper Van Beethoven Record. My trips there tend to be a bit longer as I end up in a great music discussion with Rob before I can get out the door.
Vertu is located on Washington, which may become record shop row! 2 doors down from Vertu is Lost and Found Vintage, who also have a nice collection of records. Coming this fall, is UHF which will sit right between them. UHF has me and many others buzzing for the return of the glory days of the Record Shop. They will offer vintage vinyl, re-releases and new releases with weekly in-store performances and listening booths. The will also feature a variety of vintage pop culture oddities, magazines, posters and vintage audio equipment,
There are many other choices to satisfy the hunter in you. I tend to eventually hit them during my rounds. Each of these shops has their own specialties and might involve more effort but it's a special feeling when you find your diamond in the rough. You can spend hours in the Royal Oak-Ferndale Area (Solo Records, The Record Collector, Street Corner Music), East Side (Record Time, Melodies and Memories, Car City Records), Dearborn (Stormy Records, Dearborn Music) and Ann Arbor (Wazoo, Encore).
I apologize if I have overlooked any of our long-lost shops or even a current one. My aim though, was this. Pick a day and designate it Record Shop day (not to be confused with the annual Record Store Day). Kill your iTunes, get out of the house and enjoy the hunt.