These downturns were nothing compared to what the industry has been braving the past couple of years. "In the '80s, we were battling home taping and the sale of promo albums," Leonard Singer reminded me during my recent visit. "We were clever enough to get around those things. But how do you get around digital downloading and pirated music and record labels that are conglomerates run by people who don't know music?"

You don't, apparently. Because if the Singers — people who've spent the past half-century helping us find our tunes — are throwing in the towel, then the story of music retail is clearly at its end.

The author (center) with his Hollywood Records staff, 1982
Laytchie McJeep
The author (center) with his Hollywood Records staff, 1982
Hollywood on Camelback
Laytchie McJeep
Hollywood on Camelback

"Leonard and I were given an award last month for our volunteer work at the Phoenix Art Museum," Angela recently told me. "And afterward, at the ceremony, people kept coming up to us and saying 'Oh, we're so sad that Circles is closing! We loved that store!' And I wanted to say to them, 'Really? Then why did you stop shopping there?'"

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Brad Myers
Brad Myers

I initially had reminiscent feelings of sadness when I was reading this, but by the end I realized that these record stores killed themselves off and I don't have much sympathy. Granted the record industry has changed a lot in the last 10 years; however, at the end of the day you're running a business. Sometimes you have to adapt, and sometimes you have to think about what you're doing and why you're doing it. You can't make fun of everyone who comes in to buy the new Nickelback or Lady Caca CD, because they are the ones who are ultimately keeping you in business. Nobody likes the cool guy at the record store who thinks he is cooler than everyone else even if it's evident that he's not. I guess if you're doing minimum wage at a record store you probably don't have business models running through your head though.

I've been buying most of my music online over the last 5+ years, because I don't want to drive across town and not be able to find what I'm looking for. Granted it's not the same as being able to flip through the inventory and find passed over gems, but that hasn't happened for a long time anyway. Maybe I just got lazy and got sick of losing "the hunt". It's real easy to find what you're looking for online (and I don't mean downloading). I hate to say these things, but that's the way it is.

Derrick Bostrom
Derrick Bostrom

Great article! I have a slightly different take on the record store clerk experience: that of being ridiculed by the staff for buying punk rock records in the late seventies. I rememeber waiting all afternoon and into the evening for the single copy of "Never Mind The Bollocks" to arrive at the Evolution Records (or had it changed to Rolling Stone Records by then?) on Camelback and Scottsdale Road. The clerks took their sweet time fishing it out of the box, and then they just kind of tossed it at me: "we don't want this crap; you might as well take it..." To think, these were the same guys who had lavished so much praise on me in previous seasons when I cbought Frank Zappa or King Crimson records from them...

Of course, over at the Tower Plaza Evolution, it was a different story. They always got good punk 45s in from the coast, and the lady at the counter would be noticably impressed when I marched to the counter with indie pressings by the Germs or the B-52s.

I guess it just serves to illustrate the point of how much fun it was to hunt for records back in those days. Even within the same chain, different outlets with different people would give you very different experiences. Record shopping was always an important part of my life, and I've got a room full of vinyl in my house to prove it. Thanks to all the Robrts of late-70s-early-80s Phoenix for helping nuture that addiction.

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