I Miss Record Stores!

My first job was a paper route.  I delivered for both the Detroit Free Press and the Detroit News.  I guess I was probably about 10 or 11.  Some of your customers paid the paper directly, but most of the time, you had to go door to door to “collect” for the week’s deliveries.

My dad decided since I was making money, I’d need to have a bank account to put the money in.  He went with me and I opened an account at Michigan National Bank.  I think he had hoped that I would put money in there and save it for when I needed a car or something.  The fact that the bank was basically in the parking lot of the Hoover Eleven shopping center, which was almost directly across from my paper route, was probably a bad idea!

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There were two stores in the shopping center that ended up with most of my money.  The first was Circus World, a long gone toy store where we bought the latest Star Wars toys, Matchbox cars, and toy guns.  The second store, and the one that got most of my money, was a record store called Harmony House.  Oh, Harmony House, how I miss you!!!

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When I had my paper route, Harmony House was located in the original wing of the shopping center.  I had a turntable in my bedroom and I would go and buy 12 inch LP’s, 45 singles, cassettes, and eventually CD’s.  Some of the music blogs I follow have often said, “You never forget the first album you bought with your own money.”  I can say that isn’t true.  I don’t remember mine.  I can tell you the ones I bought, but don’t remember my first.  This is probably because many of the albums my dad had ended up in my collection.

What I remember is walking in and there was a wall which had a pegboard on it.  On the pegboard, there were pockets which had the new 45 singles on it.  Each pocket contained about 20-30 45 records in it.  On the front of the pocket was the title of the song and the artist.  If you were to compare that wall to the Billboard chart, it was basically the Top 30 or 40 songs that were being played on the radio.  I remember buying “Crazy Little Thing Called Love” by Queen on 45.

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The above pic is not really what the wall in Harmony House looked like, but it gives you an idea.  Looking at the picture, it reminded me that I lost the adapter that you put on the turntable to be able to play 45’s.  With an LP album, there was a small hole in the middle of it that the spindle went through. In the above picture you can see that hole on the “Creepers” record.  The hole on a 45 was much bigger, as you can see in the majority of the 45’s shown in the picture.  It seems to me that I had about 50 of those yellow 45 adapters at home for my collection!  It snapped in the record so you could play it.

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The singles were often released in hopes that you’d buy the album when it came out.  I was buying albums from artists that my dad introduced to me like Roy Orbison, Elvis, and others.  If I had to take a good guess, I would imagine one of the first albums I ever bought was from the Beatles.  Probably Beatles 65 or Beatles VI – both of which I loved!  In elementary school we had a “Record of the Week” which each class voted on and we could all bring songs in for the class to vote on.  I remember bringing in a Beatles Album.

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I used to spend hours in Harmony House!  I remember that occasionally there would be a huge cardboard cut out of a local DJ (like Arthur P from WRIF) with a spot for 45’s.  It would be their “Pick of the Week”.   They had a listening station where you could put headphones on and listen to the 45’s and you could probably find me there 50% of my visit!  I used to love talking about music with the people who worked there and became good friends with them in doing so.  It was always cool to have one of them say, “If you like that … you will really like _____!”

Vinyl sales started to decline with the rise of cassette tapes and cassingles (a single song on a cassette).  I used to take a vinyl album and record it to cassette so I could play it on my Walkman.  Then, I just started buying albums on cassette.  I DO remember the first album I bought on cassette –

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Eventually, CDs became the way to get your music.  I remember when they first came out, they came in a HUGE box!  The CD would sit at the bottom of the packaging, and the top half of it was pretty much nothing.  Now, when you buy a CD, all you have to do is remove the cellophane around it – back then you had to crack open that huge box!

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Let me preface this by saying I realize that I am probably gonna sound like an old man here, but I hate the fact that more and more music is being delivered digitally.  That being said, I will say that in some cases it is great – like for DJing.  All my new music is downloadable and clean edits.  It does make that very easy.  However, I miss the days of listening to an entire album from start to finish.  I miss picking out the songs I hoped I would hear on the radio.  I miss comparing “notes” with other friends who bought the album to hear what songs were their favorites and why.

It seems that there is little interest in albums anymore.  Hell, back in the day, there was a radio format called “AOR” which stood for “album oriented rock” and you got to hear those cuts that weren’t being played anywhere else!  My Tune Tuesday blog this week about Dwight Yoakam was about a song that never played on the radio, but it is still a great song and one of my favorites!  Think about growing up – no doubt you have an album that you could put on and play it from start to finish and you loved every song!!  Right??

I guess one of the things I miss most about record stores, aside of the music that I bought, is talking with people about music.  I loved being able to talk to staff members about music that had just come out.  I remember talking to a guy at Harmony House all the time about the “Future Releases” that were coming out.  We’d look at the list each week and talk about it.  It was always a great conversation when an artist would do something “different” from what they normally did (Pat Benatar’s True Love album comes to mind).

I had the same experience later on with a place in Roseville called Record Time.  My buddy Ken was the manager of the Oldies Department there and would steer me toward great imports and hard to find songs.  I had so many rare and hard to find CDs in my collection because of him.  Even though our music preferences weren’t always the same – it was always great to share thoughts with him.

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The other great thing about a record store is bumping into other music lovers.  So many times I’d be looking at the back of an album and another customer would walk up and say, “That’s a great LP!”  Those random conversations could also lead to discovering new music too.

It is nice to see that vinyl records are making a comeback.  I think it’s crazy that they are trying to sell them for $30 an album, especially when you can get the CD for $15-$20!  There is something to be said about hearing a song on vinyl, though.  I don’t really even know how to describe it, maybe you can help me do that, but the best I can do is – it sounds “fuller” and more “real”.  I don’t know, maybe that’s just the old man in me….

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Today, I am forced to look for CDs (if I am buying any) at Walmart, FYE (which is slowly becoming non-existent), Barnes & Noble (which is usually WAY overpriced), or online.  It’s not the same.  If I am at Walmart, the guy next to me looking at CDs is really there to buy toilet paper, not there solely to buy music.  With the internet, we have instant access to album reviews, which can be useful if you know what you are looking for.  I miss hearing about something that I didn’t know about from a fellow music lover.  I miss walking into the record store and hearing something playing in the store and wondering “Wow!  I like that!  Who is this and how can I get it?!”

Thank goodness there are still a few stores around that sell used CD’s, records, and even movies.  Sadly, they are as close as we’ll come to Harmony House or Record Time.

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“Cleveland Rocks!”

For our anniversary, my wife and I wanted to plan a little getaway to celebrate.  Neither one of us had too much PTO in our “banks” at work, so we decided on a weekend trip.  During the planning the destinations changed frequently.  Originally, we had hoped to head back for another trip to Florida, but due to the lack of time available, we decided on something a bit closer to home.

There was talk of going to Nashville and maybe catching a show at the Grand Ole Opry.  Then there was talk of Gatlinburg, where my mom so often talked about.  I think we even chatted about Pennsylvania, too.  Eventually, we decided that Chicago was where we wanted to go, but then realized that it was St. Patrick’s Day weekend, and we figured it might be just a tad crazy (although seeing the river turned green would have been cool.

Cleveland??

To be honest, I am not even sure how we decided on Cleveland, Ohio.  I had mentioned that my dad had gone to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and said it was cool.  I started to look at things in Cincinnati.  There was a lot to do there, but why wasn’t the Hall of Fame coming up in any of my searches?  I knew that Cincy was close to Louisville, KY and thought that we could maybe do something there, too.  I had gone as far as to drop a radio buddy a note to say we were gonna be down there and asked for good restaurants to eat at … only to then realize the Hall of Fame was in Cleveland!

Now that we had cleared that up, we were set for Cleveland.  Now, I will be the first to admit “Cleveland,Ohio” as the answer to “Where did you and your wife spend your first wedding anniversary?” is not at all romantic.  Many people laughed when I told them.  Here is the thing about my wife and I, the destination really didn’t matter – it was simply the fact that we were going to be together.  To me, this is just one of the reasons I love her.  We can be content with just having time with each other, no matter where we are, or what we are doing.

We have made it a tradition to go to restaurants that local wherever we go.  If we can go there at home, we’ll go there at home!  By doing this, we have really been treated to some amazing food.  We always try to find a good steak house or something very unique to the city we are in and we have yet to be disappointed.

The Hall of Fame

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Personally, I think Sam loves watching me get excited about stuff like this.  We both love museums, but I must have been like a little kid on his birthday during this trip!  I had, of course, seen pictures of the Hall of Fame, but it was something else to be standing in front of it.  The big red block letters that sit upon the sidewalk read “LONG LIVE ROCK”.  As I walked up the steps, there are phoney concert speakers erected by the hand rails. The excitement builds as you walk in.

As you enter, you walk into a huge foyer/lobby.  The gift shop is to your right, to the left a cafe/coffee shop, and in front of you there is an escalator to take you down to purchase tickets.  After buying our tickets, you get ready to enter and above the doors the perfect AC/DC quote to welcome you: “For those about to rock …”

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Walking into the main exhibition hall, the first thing I noticed were pictures of John Lennon and Ray Charles on the wall.  The first thing I am drawn to is a glass case containing Bill Haley’s guitar.  Bill is often credited as being the singer of the first “rock and roll” song – Rock Around the Clock.  There is a picture of him playing it in the case as well.  I am not sure why I was so taken in by it, but I was.

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The next thing we saw was a line of bass guitars that belong to Geddy Lee of Rush.  I didn’t count , but there had to be like a dozen of them.  The information said that this was only part of his massive collection.

The Roots

One thing I was thrilled to see here was the fact that the “roots” of Rock and Roll were well represented.  Rock really evolved from a combination of Gospel, R&B, Bluegrass, Country, Folk, and Blues music. Each of those genres was represented here.  Among my favorite things I saw:  a suite belonging to Hank Williams Sr.; Louis Jordan’s music folder with his music and cue sheets; stuff from Muddy Waters, BB King, and Mahalia Jackson; Ray Charles sunglasses; Carl Perkins Guitar; salutes to Johnny Otis, Big Joe Turner, and Sam Cooke and so much more.   The roots of rock were so well represented.  Without these people and the genres of music, there would be no rock and roll.

Elvis

There is a pretty cool section devoted to Elvis, who was one of the first 10 artists inducted into the Hall of Fame.  The Hall has a standing agreement with Graceland in Memphis (which is a museum in itself) and they send memorabilia to them often, so the exhibit changes often.  There was a very cool motorcycle that was custom-built for Elvis.  His gold sequins suit is there, and a jukebox which was given to him as a gift from RCA Records – it contains only Elvis records.  Also on display was a double Gibson guitar which he played in his film Spinout.

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The Summer of Love

With the 50th anniversary of the “Summer of Love”, there were some very cool things here.  I saw groovy outfits from the Mama’s and the Papa’s, clothing from Jimi Hendrix, and the HUGE mixing board that was used to record some of Jimi’s music.

On thing I really liked to see was the various things that song lyrics were written on.  There were quite a few original pieces of paper where the beginnings of songs were scribbled.  There were also plenty of hotel pads of paper with lyrics on them.  Loved seeing where changes were made to lyrics.

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Cities and Sounds

I loved that there was a section of the hall that saluted cities and sounds.  There was a section devoted to Memphis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, London and Liverpool, Seattle, and of course, Detroit.

In the Memphis section, there were plenty of neat things from Sun Records.  Johnny Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Roy Orbison all recorded there.  To stand in front of Roy Orbison’s glasses and guitar was pretty awesome.  My earliest musical memories are of my dad playing Roy’s music for me.

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A nice tribute to Motown is here with stuff from Barry Gordy, The Supremes (you can see some of their dresses), Smokey Robinson, and the Temptations are all here.  They were playing the episode of To Tell The Truth with Barry Gordy as we walked through this section.

The Beatles and the Rolling Stones each have a nice section at the Hall.  I thought Mick Jagger of the Stones was taller, but standing by some of his outfits, he’s shorter than I thought.  There is the Asher family piano that Paul McCartney donated, some of John Lennon’s outfits, and the handwritten lyrics to “In My Life”.  A very cool documentary was playing in their section as well.

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I jumped ahead a bit because the next section was London and Liverpool.  There were some very neat things from the Yardbirds, Peter and Gordon, Herman’s Hermits and the Zombies too.  All in all a nice salute to the British Invasion.

San Fran featured stuff from The Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin, while LA featured stuff from The Eagles, Jackson Brown, Joni Mitchell and Neil Young.  One cool thing here was a duffle bag full of hotel keys.  I don’t recall, but I think it said it belonged to one of the Eagles.  They basically kept the hotel key (and keychain) from every place they stayed while on tour.  The bag was stuffed full of some very cool looking keychains!

This section also had tributes to grunge music, punk music and a section called “Rave On” which focused on the “pioneers” of rock.  Those pioneers included Fats Domino, Chuck Berry, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.  Soul Music was also spotlighted here with some awesome suits from James Brown, stuff from Aretha Franklin, pieces of the wreckage from Otis Redding’s plane crash, and Sam and Dave.  Featured in the soul section were two amazing things – guitars from Donald “Duck” Dunn and Steve “The Colonel” Cropper.  They played on almost every Atlantic and Stax record.  They were members of Booker T and the MG’s, and also played with the Blues Brothers.  Very cool to see!!!

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Don’t worry metal heads, there was a section for Heavy Metal too. Oh, and a section for Rap, as well.

Protests

When Rock and Roll started to make waves, it wasn’t too popular with folks.  We tend to forget the hatred toward the genre, but they had plenty of newscasts about burning records, and protests that happened.  It was weird to watch the hatred toward the Beatles and read hate mail to the Rolling Stones.  Other artists that were discussed in this section were Frank Zappa and ELO.

On the Radio

As a radio guy, it was cool to be able to walk up to an interactive touch screen and select a region of the US and then listen to old airchecks of DJ’s from different eras.  Naturally, I had to listen to some of the Detroit personalities:  Dick Purtain, Robin Seymour, and The Electrifying Mojo!  There were plenty of familiar names from all over the states and it was nice to get to listen to their stuff too.

The Power of Rock

On the third level, there was a wall with each “class” inducted into the Hall of Fame by year.  You could also go to a touch screen and search by class, by year, or by artist, and listen to their music.  SO many great songs!!!

The Power of Rock is a short film by Jonathan Demme which features many performances from past Hall of Fame inductions.  So many stars and so many great songs were in this film.  The theater had a light show and great sound for the film and it was almost like you were watching a concert live.  The film ends with Prince’s guitar solo on While My Guitar Gently Weeps – WOW!  Forgot how amazing that was!  They also had some of the great quotes on the walls of the hallway that you left the theater by.  Prince’s outfit from that show and other outfits were there as well.

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Rock on TV

It was also very cool to see some of the TV show memorabilia on this level.  You could go and record something about your favorite singer or album in special booths.  It was pretty cool to stand in front of Dick Clark’s American Bandstand podium!  His microphone was in a glass case with other things like the set design for the Beatles appearance on Ed Sullivan.  They had TV cameras there, Don Cornelius’ suit from Soul Train, outfits from the Jackson Five and Sonny & Cher and the coat worn by Davy Jones of the Monkees that he wore on The Brady Bunch.  There was also some cool musically related stuff from Saturday Night Live, and from various music videos we all watched on MTV.  It was neat to see Paul Shaffer’s keyboard that he played for so many years on the Late Show with David Letterman.

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On the Radio – LIVE

One thing I didn’t realize was that Sirius XM broadcasts their “Classic Vinyl” station out of the Hall of Fame.  Rachel Steele was on air when we went through.  There is a glass window that allows you to look into the studio and watch them broadcast.  I actually felt bad for her.  One thing radio people like is the fact that they can go in to work without really worrying about what to wear, because….who is going to see you!?  Whoever is on the air here, really has to “doll up” every day.

Over all, I loved every second of my visit here!  Any music lover would enjoy themselves!!  If you have never been …. you have to!

Christmas in March

The final stop on the trip was The Christmas Story House.  It is the house featured in the holiday classic.  They renamed the street “Cleveland Street” in honor of the movie.  The Leg Lamp proudly sits in the front window and the Bumpass House is next door.

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This is such an inexpensive treat!  The house looks a little different on the inside, but they have restored much of it to be exactly like it looks in the film, which took a bit because there were a few owners since the movie.

We were allowed to take as many pictures as we liked.  There was a guide who took us through the house and told some stories.  You can see the bathroom where Ralphie solves Little Orphan Annie’s secret message, you can see the many plugs the tree was plugged into, pick up the phone that Mrs. Parker calls Flick’s mom on, see the boy’s room, and see the damper in the kitchen that billows black smoke because of the “clinker” furnace.

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From the backyard you can see the steel mill (still in operation), which helped Jean Sheppard (the author) pick that particular house for the film.  Across the street is a museum with the actual Red Rider BB gun used in the film, outfits from the cast, Darren McGavin’s plaster life mask (used for make up and such), plenty of behind the scenes pictures, and the Old Man’s car.  The gift shop is full of great items and yes, you can purchase a pink bunny suit or a leg lamp (in various sizes).

Sam told me she’d buy me a bunny suit, but only if I wore it every Christmas!  Incidentally, if you have the $$, you can spend the night in the house or next door at the Bumpass house.

The trip was short, but full of good memories.  I love that we were able to do it and I love that we got to spend time with each other. It was the perfect anniversary trip.

Cleveland, does indeed, ROCK!