Vinyl Record Architect
Paul Rosenblatt's weblog on vinyl records, music, and architecture.
Vinyl Record Architect

Crate Digging With Paul

Crate digging with Paul

It is the day after Record Store Day. What did you find yesterday? I was down at Jerry's Records where I shared a list of my favorite obscure records everyone should own - all available, by the way, at Jerry's - and even found a few new treasures of my own. Today, I am reflecting on the many hours I have enjoyed crate digging since I got bitten by the vinyl bug. There is no known cure.

Over the last few months I have traveled up and down the East Coast, down to Tennessee, and in and around my own Western Pennsylvania environs. Everywhere I stop, I seek a record store. Some are better known than others, but all offer the possibility of good crate digging and the potential for some great hidden treasures. 

Princeton, NJ
I had never been to the legendary Princeton Record Exchange before, so I was excited that we had eaten lunch right around the corner. While the family was otherwise engaged, I snuck in for a peek.  Billed as one of the largest independent music stores in the country, I wasn't disappointed by the scale. It is a big store. In addition to many new titles, there are aisles of used vinyl records mixed in. Dollar bins on the floor. Kind of sterile, though. I was looking for some more atmosphere.

Notable Find: "Live at CBGB's," Atlantic, 1976. Liner notes by owner Hilly Kristal. Featuring Tuff Darts, Mink Deville, The Shirts, Manster, Sun, Stuart's hammer, and The Miamis. Tuff Darts's vocals were handled by Robert Gordon. 

Baltimore, MD
Our friends Gregg and Laura moved to the Catonsville neighborhood of Baltimore, near a great record store, Trax on Wax. It is a pure record store - no CDs in sight. Just rows of records, nicely organized by genre. The decor is worth the trip all by itself - it looks and feels like a record store should...They even have dollar bins. The manager, Jeff, was very helpful, playing some of my selections and even cleaning a few for me to make them sound as good as new! Well, practically. Nothing like some pop and hiss to remind you its a record.

Notable Find: "Down Home Style," by Brother Jack McDuff, Blue Note, 1969.

Knoxville, TN
While visiting Knoxville for the recent Big Ears music festival, I discovered Hot Horse, a consignment store next door to hipster, indie music club,The Pilot Light, in the Old City. Hot Horse is filled with antiques, used clothes, furniture, musical instruments and records supplied by Raven Records and Lost & Found, two of Knoxville's best known record stores. The selection here was great and the store atmosphere was memorable. Like the best record stores, staff was on hand to play records for customers so they can try before they buy.

Notable Find: "American Pie," by Groove Holmes, Groove Merchant Records, 1972.

Johnstown, PA
Every time I visit Johnstown for my work, I make a point of stopping in to see John George, the owner of George's Song Shop, the oldest record store in the United States. John's dad opened the doors in 1931 and the George family has been selling records ever since. John took it over from his dad in 1961, and has operated the five story emporium himself for more than 50 years. Although they specialize in 45s and also sell CDs - new and used - I visit for the LPs and am rarely disappointed.

Notable Find: "The Oxpetals", Mercury, 1970. 

Saturday is Record Store Day


Saturday is Record Store Day (RSD). What is Record Store Day you ask? Here is the 'official' word from the Record Store Day website:

"Record Store Day was conceived in 2007 at a gathering of independent record store owners and employees as a way to celebrate and spread the word about the unique culture surrounding nearly 1000 independently owned record stores in the US and thousands of similar stores internationally. There are Record Store Day participating stores on every continent except Antarctica.

This is a day for the people who make up the world of the record store—the staff, the customers, and the artists—to come together and celebrate the unique culture of a record store and the special role these independently owned stores play in their communities. Special vinyl and CD releases and various promotional products are made exclusively for the day and hundreds of artists in the United States and in various countries across the globe make special appearances and performances. Festivities include performances, cook-outs, body painting, meet & greets with artists, parades, djs spinning records and on and on. Metallica officially kicked off Record Store Day at Rasputin Music in San Francisco on April 19, 2008 and Record Store Day is now celebrated the third Saturday every April."

If you are like me, every day is record store day! Nevertheless, tomorrow is special. So, I'll be at Jerry's records tomorrow morning from 10-12 helping Jerry (above) and his crew celebrate. Come say hi... Although Jerry doesn't offer the special vinyl and CD releases and other RSD promotional products, he will be giving away 25,000 records in boxes of 100...nothing wrong with that!




Today is Jerry Weber Day in Pittsburgh



That is Jerry Weber, above, with some of his millions of records that he has for sale at Jerry's Records in Pittsburgh, PA, where I live. I am thrilled to be able to report to you that today is Jerry Weber Day in Pittsburgh. Of course, if you are a regular Jerry's Records customer and a friend of Jerry's like I am, then every day is Jerry Weber Day in Pittsburgh.

I'm not jagging you - Pittsburgh City Council officially proclaimed today Jerry Weber Day by proclamation. If yinz were there, yinz already know, but if not, now you do.

This week is the big buildup to Record Store Day 2014 which is this Saturday, April 19. All over the planet.

More on that in a moment.

For more on Jerry Weber Day:

http://blogs.post-gazette.com/arts-entertainment/pop-noise/41169-for-the-record-monday-is-jerry-weber-day-in-pittsburgh

Getting 'In Your Ear' - Cambridge, MA Record Store Visit



Not everyone gets 'In Your Ear.' I'm not sure 'In Your Ear' even cares! Wait a minute? What is 'In Your Ear' you ask? 'In Your Ear' is my favorite place in Cambridge, MA, to find used vinyl records.

I have been to Cheapo and Weirdo and Newbury Comics, too. Cheapo has a lot of used vinyl and Newbury, none. Weirdo has a small selection but it doesn't really grab me.

But, 'In Your Ear' does.

It is a cold, wet and slushy day in Cambridge. The wind is howling, wet snow and puddles fill the streets. My boots sink into slush and I feel my socks getting damp.Wet. Cold. Need new boots. Temperatures are well below freezing. My hat is back home, but my scarf is wrapped tightly around my neck. At least. At least. Why am I out today? I shouldn't really be walking around outside when there are plenty of warm and inviting coffee shops nearby. But, I am on my way to shop for used vinyl records at 'In Your Ear.' I'm not in Cambridge very often. This is my chance. I have been to the larger 'In Your Ear' on Commonwealth Avenue, but never here. What will I find?

A square sign beckons me down a short icy run of steps into a dark and slushy entry outside a door. Plastic bins are home to a stack of damp Greek Crooner Records that I nab for our friend Tricia. The sleeves will dry out  and the records are in great shape! I push open the door and see a dark red hallway filled with stuff. Crates, boxes. Stuff. Where do I go? Careful not to trip. No, this place isn't accessible. Barely accessible to the able bodied!

Inside are stacks of records, somewhat organized. This ain't for the faint of heart. But, digging here is a lot of fun.

What makes it fun? My digging rewards me with rare treasures in good shape at reasonable prices. Sopwith Camel. Tim Rose. And more...

Does the Condition of Your Record Album Cover Really Matter?



The Vinyl Records Collectors Guide (http://www.vinylrecords.ch/Vinyl/vin_grading.htm)
lists guidelines for "assessing the grading / condition of used records (based on Goldmine Grading for Records)." You can follow this link to find them or read them at the end of this post. (And thanks for all the great information on that site, guys!)

However, sometimes those conditions don't matter. It depends upon what you want to do with the record - and how much you paid for it!

If you are collecting as an investment, buying rare or obscure disks, or paying alot of money for them, then conditions matter - alot. But, if you are like me collecting records to listen to - and you are not overpaying for the albums, then you can be a little more flexible about your purchases.

Just realize that the 'book' values of the records in your collection are based upon excellent or near mint conditions, not lower.

When I find an interesting record in a dollar bin for a buck, I don't worry too much  if the cover has some things wrong with it. How is the record inside? For a buck, if it is playable and I want to hear it, I'll buy it.

For instance, I have an original pressing of Stevie Wonder's wonderful 1968 album 'for Once In My Life.' The album inside is on the old yellow Tamla label and is in mint condition. Plays great and sounds wonderful. The album cover, on the other hand, has been damaged by moisture in the past and is peeling and faded. Would I like a mint copy of this, yes, please! But, I can still enjoy the imperfect copy that I have....for now.

My copy cost me less than a dollar and that is probably what it is 'worth.' I have found - but not bought - 'very good' copies of the same record selling on Ebay for $25 and that is probably what they are worth. Cover conditions matter - to their monetary value, but not to their playability.

On the other hand, think twice before you buy a record that has alot of surface damage on the disk itself. A  few pops and scaratches are fine, but loud hiss will probably drive you crazy - no matter how clean the album cover looks!

Here are the Vinyl Records Collectors Guide's conditions guidelines:

MINT (M): Perfect! This record looks like it has just left the manufacturer, with NO flaws what so ever. It looks as though it had never been handled. No scuffs or scratches, blotches or stains. No stickers address labels, writing on the covers or labels. No tears or seam splits. No wear to the cover or record period! Age of the record has nothing to do with it.

NEAR MINT or NM, M- : this record appears virtually flawless A very minor scuff and very little else can appear on the vinyl. It should play without any noise over the flaw. The flaw is very hard to see. The cover looks as close to perfect with only minor signs of wear and or age. Minor impressions to the cover (due to the outer edge of the vinyl resting inside) may be acceptable, however the artwork is be as close to perfect as can be.

EXCELLENT or EX or VG++ : minor scuffs which are only slightly visible. There may be more than a few scuffs and NO Scratches COVER: Artwork is still as close to perfect as can be. Some impression to the cover (minor outer ring wear) but no ink wear! Some slight creases to the corners, but not wrinkled and obtrusive to the eye. The corners can show white (where the artwork pasted slick was) meaning, slight wear. No seam splits or writing on the cover or taped repairs can make this grade.

VERY GOOD PLUS or VG+ record shows wear, surface scuffs. The vinyl still has a great luster, but the flaws will be noticeable to the naked eye. If the flaws don't cause any surface noise, the vinyl can still make the VG+ grade. COVERS: A virtually clean cover, but may have small writing on it.The artwork looks clean with slightly more aging. The back of the cover usually gives away the age of the cover. Flat white paper will be somewhat yellow yet no stains or mildew from water damage. Some minor wear to the seams or spine, but no tears or holes popping through. The corners will be slightly dog eared yet no crackly bends, defacing the artwork. In essence, a VG+ cover should have no more than 3 flaws mentioned.

VERY GOOD or VG: this record is a record that is good enough. They are not really going to look very good, but it will STILL play very good. there will almost always be some surface noise when they are played. The Dynamics should still be excellent, overpowering the surface noise. A VG record will appear well have been played but still have some luster. VG covers will look worn, used. There may be some seam splitting . There will be some ring wear, where the ink has begun to wear off. Giving the cover a look of snow falling. If the artwork looks snowy all over, it is less than VG condition. There may be some writing on the cover (still, no Large letters in magic marker). It will look aged and more yellowish due to contamination's in the air (sometimes looking like cigarette smoke). Still it should be decent.

GOOD or G A good record will look very well played, dull, grayish and possibly abused. However a Good record should still play. It will have distracting surface noise. Such as crackle that is continuous or some hiss. Will also have some loss of dynamics caused from grooves being worn. It should play without any skips or any obtrusively loud pops or repeated clicks, caused by deep scratches. Good means that it will play with some form of decency, so one can still enjoy the music even though you can still hear noise caused from the wear. A Good cover will have just about everything wrong with it. It will have seam splits (possibly taped repaired, but only with scotch tape. No duct tape or masking tape repairs. These are big turn offs. May have magic marker writing on the cover but still if they are in huge letters, it is a big turn off.In essence, the cover will looked virtually trashed, but some artwork will still be noticed. If the artwork is worn, it is POOR and the cover is worthless.

On a scale from 1 (Poor) to 10 (Perfect) the above gradings are equivalent to:
MINT - 10, Near Mint - 8, Excellent - 7, Very Good Plus - 6 , Very Good - 5 , Good - 2

How To Crate Dig #2 - Ronco Teleproducts and Other Compilations




You come home after a long day at work and you want to throw a record on the turntable to listen to while you cook yourself some dinner. What do you want to listen to? Something soothing? Rocking? Funky? Bluesy? Can't make up your mind? Why don't you throw a compilation like the ones Ronco used to produce and you can have it all on one single record!

You remember those TV commercials for Ronco Teleproducts Inc. and many other song compilation labels. "20 Giant Hits - As Advertised on TV" Low priced and probably low fidelity - how did they get so many songs on each side? - these compilations offered many of the hit songs of the day in one convenient place.

Today, they are amazing snapshots of what was popular at a certain moment in time. they are also great fun to play, because it is like turning on your favorite radio station back in the day.

Compilations like this one called 'Do It Now' are pretty easy to find in dollar bins at Goodwills and garage sales and worth picking up. They are fun at parties and often contain at least one or two 'one hit wonder' songs by artists you had completely forgotten about or never really heard of. This 'collage album,' - whose effort were apprently donated to something called the 'Do It Now Foundation,' what ever that was - incluudes songs from many major artists (The Beatles, Melanie, Jimi Hendrix The Byrds, etc.) and a few less major. Do you remember a band called 'Crazy Elephant?' How about a duo named 'Mel & Tim?' Or 'Teegarden & Van Winkle?"

They are all here - and more - in a crate waiting to be dug near you.

Dig it?

I'm Baaack!

I haven't really gone anywhere, dear readers. I just took a short break from blogging to focus on another vinyl record related project, an upcoming art installation planned for next year. My apologies. Announcements soon on this site. In the meantime, I am coming up for air and will get back to more regular blog posts. Look out for at least one new entry each week on Fridays, with other postings possible as well.

I hope you have been well and have discovered some dusty treasures, guilty pleasures, and crate digging adventures.

I certainly have....

As I said: more real soon.

Vinyl-Palooza Starts Friday at Jerry's Records

For me, this is better that Record Store Day - Jerry is selling thousands and thousands of dollar records - all in good condition - plus lots of other cool stuff  like Paul Morrison's special collection of collectible disks and so much more.

From Friday through Sunday at the Irish Center in Pittsburgh.

Check out details on Jerry's website:

http://www.jerrysrecords.com/VPP2013.htm

And dont miss this update:

"Juice Jar Jerry Weber is adding a special mini-store to his Vinyl-palooza event. A mini-market (located on the stage of the Irish Center) full of albums, 45's, cassettes & books from the legendary Paul Morrison collection (may he rest in Record Heaven). Lots of Punk, Alternative, Noise, Avant Garde, Industrial, Electronic - the best bunch of rare and wonderful (some one-of-a-kind) underground music (spanning aforementioned genres across the board from the late Sixties to recent years) you've ever seen in one place! This is REALLY COOL stuff (obviously not part of the dollar sale, but priced to sell). You'll kick yourself if you miss this once-in-a-lifetime sale!"

See you there.

How To Crate Dig #1

'How To Crate Dig' is a new irregular feature of Vinyl Record Architect that I am introducing today. How To Crate Dig - or HTCD for short - is where I will give away all of my secrets about what I look for in records when I am digging...well, maybe not all my secrets.


But, I am asked quite often what I am looking for and how I decide what to buy in the dollar bins (or almost dollar bins - prices are rising! - when I am not looking for something specific. When I show friends my latest finds, they'll scratch their heads and ask, 'Why did you buy that? have you ever heard of them? Were you looking for that record? 

Well, no, it doesn't work like that, does it?

My favorite crate digging finds are discoveries I make of bands I have NEVER heard of before. How do I suss out the good ones? That is the subject of this irregular series....

In the meantime, I am going to share with you the funny advice of Chris Gibbs, a London-based collector and inveterate crate digger who was featured on YouTube in the Record Collector Profiles - Episode #7 - by shawn0612 - when asked how he decides to buy an unknown record while crate digging:

"Hairy people with beards on the front cover of an album from the 60s tends to denote it is going to be pretty good."

Great advice. Try it!

Pittsburgh is a Vinyl Town

Okay, it's official. Pittsburgh is a vinyl town, a great vinyl town. What is a great vinyl town? A vinyl town is a place that has more than a few great record stores, a place where prices are reasonable and the selection is varied. A vinyl town is a place that you might go out of your way to visit and not be disappointed by the number of record stores, the condition of the records available, and the prices.

According to these criteria, Pittsburgh definitely has it going on as a vinyl town.

Cities like New York City have sent most of its best record stores out of business or to nearby boroughs like Brooklyn. The rents are too high and the record stores apparently have to charge exorbitant prices just to pay their bills. That stinks for vinyl enthusiasts like me that would rather dig into crates of cheap records and dollar bins anyway, but who might also value a fairly priced obscurity that is in their sights....but New York was never really a vinyl town, because there are too many other things New York is!

A Vinyl Town is by definition defined as much by vinyl as by anything else. By my definition, that is, created right here and now. 

Once upon a time long, long ago Pittsburgh was a steel town but those days are past. Today, Pittsburgh is a burgeoning hipster Mecca, rife with cool new restaurants and bars, used bookstores and cafes, and, yes, more than a few record stores.

To start with, there is Jerry's Records, in Squirrel Hill, one of the country's greatest pure record stores. No CDs here. Just vinyl as far as the eye can see. Jerry is the king of vinyl town. Undisputed. There is no one else who even comes close.

But if Jerry were the only vinyl record purveyor in Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh wouldn't be a vinyl town. No, one store does not a town make.

Today, Pittsburgh offers so many vinyl shopping options that I have started calling it a vinyl town. In addition to Jerry's there is The Attic in Millville, Mind Cure on Polish Hill, Rather Ripped and Unifaun in Lawrenceville, Sound Cat in Bloomfield, and Dave's Music Mine on the South Side.

You could easily spend a few days digging into these varied record stores, large and small. 

Which, to me, makes Pittsburgh a vinyl town, A great vinyl town in fact. Come visit and judge for yourself.

Do you know or live in a vinyl town? Tell me about it and I'll plan a visit.


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