I have a terrible memory about a lot of things, but somehow, things related to music stick with me much better. Music was always the place I could escape to. I have a very clear memory of a very young me, sitting by our small phonograph and singing my little ass off. In high school, night after night, headphones on, blasting my rock n roll dreams into my ears, way too loud.
Records were magic. My brother was 5 years older than me, so he was first to actually buy his own music. 45s started showing up — Incense and Peppermint, Little Bit O’ Soul. Buffalo Springfield, Delaney and Bonnie. Some I liked, some not so much. Then I got old enough to work and have a little money to buy MY things! I wore out The Rolling Stones, Get Your Ya Yas Out. I remember a place on Comm Ave that sold a lot of cut outs for $1.98. Endless trips there, mostly things I was not interested in. But sometimes, ah ha! Rod Stewart & the Faces Coast to Coast or a reprint of VeeJay, Introducing the Beatles.
It was a big deal when Strawberries opened in Copley Square. Much later, same with Tower Records at the Pru. I roamed a lot to find and rush home to find that music that was keeping my soul alive. Somehow I had heard that a lock and key place on Mass Ave had,gasp, bootlegs! That secret world of live recordings or things that escaped from studious, in both cases, not meant to ne distributed to the world. I found, The Beatles Live at Hollywood Bowl and HAD TO HAVE IT. Twenty five glorious minutes of The BEatles at peak mania. This was years before that was eventually released by Capitol. But I now knew where bootlegs were and I was an outlaw. A rock n roll outlaw.
When I went to college, I met a friend, Marc, who was another record hound. There were not a lot of places in Amherst or Northampton, but we pretty regularly scoped it out. Shout out to the old Faces of Earth in Amherst, Main St Records in No Ho. But when we were not in school and back in the Boston area, we made record trips in the city and Cambridge for years. Kenmore Square was always good — Nuggets, Planet Records and In Your Ear.
We shared a place for a while in Cambridge after we graduated and there was another place that was rich in vinyl gold from Central Square to Harvard Square. I loved the sheer volume of great lost music at Skippy White’s. Deja Vu carried some of those nefarious bootlegs. Record stores, second hand stores, Goodwill stores, Salvation Army…. we trekked, we bought and we played a lot of pinball.
At some point a friend suggested, hey you should check out yard sales and flea markets. Yard sales in particular had big opportunity. So many people had all these records just sitting around and wanted them out. Happy to help! Now purchases, whether a yard sale or a store fell into 2 categories. There were thing you wanted for yourself. Like if I fell into a few Beatle picture sleeve 45s, they were mine. Other times, you found stuff that you knew had value, but didn’t care about and could resell, for the next round of purchases. For instance, early CDs of Springsteen’s Nebraska that specifically came from Japan had a slightly longer version of 1 song on it. Springsteen collectors wanted it. Most places that had used CDs were not looking on the back for the small Made in Japan print. The 1st edition of The Modern Lovers vinyl — also a good resell.
These were my treasures, into my 20s and well even far removed from that age, still. I watched over the years as vinyl alllllmost but never fully died off. And I watched it coming back, not to the glory days, but as a desirable format, a re-embrace of a different quality sound you get versus digital. So many of those stores are gone. But even now, if I go to a yard sale or a thrift store and see apile of vinyl, my eyes light up and I’m crawling down to go through each record in every pile. Because the one record that has escaped me, might be out there. It’s a Beatles album, comment if you want to guess what Beatle rarity I’m talking about.