80s Record Store: Rainbow Records, OKC
In 1987, I visited Rainbow Records in Oklahoma City for the first time. I went by way of Ken and Phil, two of my favorite college buddies. The store was located in an historic blond brick building with brown brick trim at the the corner of NW 23rd and Classen Boulevard. It had literally thousands of LPs, and was the place in Oklahoma City to find music by obscure bands, most of which hailed from the United Kingdom and Canada.
Rainbow Records was a bit of a far-flung journey for the daughter of a Nazarene minister. I’d graduated high school with 50 other kids on a Kansas prairie. Most of us grew up on a steady diet of “Country-and-Western” music. When it wasn’t that, it was the usual suspects of Night Ranger, Air Supply, Journey and Styx. Springsteen was my big departure from the family of origin.
My father escaped into his study every night when he came home from work. When he wasn’t reading the poetry of Edgar Allan Poe and contrasting his existence with that of the Apostle Paul, he was spinning Hank Williams and Patsy Cline. He played his albums on a pale yellow record player, and when he closed it and clasped it, it looked like a suitcase. Once, when my mother came to visit me in college, I took her to Rainbow Records where she purchased a set of Gene Autry records for my dad.
I took anyone who would go to Rainbow Records, which is why I am certain I took my father. I just can’t recall the trip specifically. I really loved that store. I bet my dad loved it, too.
The more I visited Rainbow Records the more I enjoyed it. I fawned over round Springsteen memorabilia in Good-n-Plenty pink. True story. I really wanted that pink record, which sold for $140. I can’t even imagine what it would fetch today. Maybe more? Maybe less?
As best I can recall, Ken and Phil were not that taken with Springsteen. They bought Kate Bush and The Pretenders; U2, R.E.M. and Echo and the Bunnymen. I still listen to all of this music. I remember them holding up record jackets of The Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols and Skinny Puppy. My goodness; I so did not think this stuff was funny. In fact, I thought it was perilously disgusting, and I think they found my prudish aversion to it funnier than the thinly-veiled provocation of these bands. (Hi Phil. Hi Ken.)
By now, I’ve lived long enough to know that things have a way of coming and going. One day, you wake up and discover somebody has packed up your favorite donut shop and hung a closed sign in the window. How dare they!
Geodesic Gold Dome Bank
Today, I live less than one mile from the old Rainbow Records building, so I pass this store several times a week. I’m sure it bugs me more than most. But, it seems quite a shame that after all the attention that was focused a few years back on saving the geodesic Gold Dome, that now this architectural landmark would have to sit across the street from 10,000 broken vacuum cleaners. (As if it’s not bad enough that someone has named it Fantasia. Not kidding.)
I hate to sound like a snob. I apologize in advance for having my attention averted from more critical subjects like economic collapse, world peace and hunger, but I just wish, at a minimum, somebody would make this property owner hang some curtains in the windows. It would be grand if somebody would buy or rent this building and open up something special like a vintage store, gift shop or cafe. This is a landmark building in Oklahoma City, right next door to the longtime Macia’s Dance Center. Not only is it an anchor for the Asian District it is an anchor for Uptown, home of the Tower Theater.
I’ve refrained from posting the pictures I shot of cleaning buckets and spackle tubs in the windows, and those revealing serious water damage to the ceiling.
I’ve heard some argue that parking is the issue for this building, but please don’t tell that to the foot traffic in New York. And, don’t tell that to three SNU students in the 1980s, because we never had a problem finding a place to park. Our problem was getting back to campus. I still remember praying Phil’s old VW van would make it up the incline of NW 23rd.