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The Disappearing Record Store

Old Record Player

Old Record Player | photo from sashafatcat via flickr

Licorice Pizza

Generation X (b. 1961-81) may very well be the last generation to remember buying licorice pizza and frequenting the record store; the last to relate to the disaster of being one who lived in rural Kansas, 75 miles from the nearest store that carried the needle for your record player.

Ahhh, the disappearing record store. It’s already gone. When I write about this, I suddenly feel like my Silent Generation father pining for the corner drug store and the soda jerks who once served up strawberry ice cream sodas.

In 1999, I decided to take a solo road trip to Red Cloud, Nebraska, the home of one of my favorite American writers, Willa Cather. Following my visit, I headed to Omaha, because it was the home of the Wizard of Oz, and I thought maybe I should check it out.

There was this really cool record store in downtown Omaha, and its name was so clever, I swore I’d never forget it, but I did forget it. Now, it’s driving me crazy because record stores aren’t just disappearing from my memory, they’re disappearing from my life. I still remember Round Licorice, which I discovered during the summer of 1984 while visiting my brother in Los Angeles.

And, of course, I remember Oklahoma City’s Rainbow Records, which I frequented in the 80s and 90s. Maybe if there’d been a Facebook campaign when it closed up shop, we could have saved it, but probably not. Still, that’s what a Louisville group is trying to do. They’re trying to save ear X-tacy, an iconic record store beloved by Generation X Kentuckians.

In an article in the Louisville Courier by David Daley (who sometimes wishes it was still 1986), record stores are all but disappearing. If an angel steps up to fund them, they might be saved, otherwise, it appears they’re going the way of the smalltown newspaper.

Disappearing Record Store: Rainbow Records

I wrote about Rainbow Records some months back. I’m sad to report that nothing has changed. The broken-down vacuum cleaners still clutter the windows of the historic building at NW 23rd and Classen. The eyesore is worsened by the fact it bookends ongoing private development in the Asian District. In addition, the City has spent so much money streetscaping the district. Can’t somebody do something about all the junk in the window? Please?

But, what’s most disturbing is that the building that once housed Rainbow Records is just a cash-cow for the owner because it holds an impressive billboard space, consistently bought-up by Oklahoma City University. I wish every business in town would ban that billboard until the owner hangs some curtains in the window.

Maybe an Oklahoma City developer will take their footprint a little further west and buy the building. Even if they do, however, I don’t think the Record Store is ever coming back. Of course, you never know what might happen. Someone once lamented that video killed the radio star, but last time I checked, radio was bigger than ever, and MTV was no longer MTV. Sometimes, I wish it was 1986.


In 2008, Paste Magazine named the 17 coolest record stores in the U.S. Ear X-tacy was on that list. Check it out.


Did you ever have a favorite record store?

Gen X Blog Jennifer Chronicles

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  1. Poetikat

    Jen, I still buy albums. I don’t own an i-pod, or download music. I only play my cds or vinyl. I just can’t make that transition.

    Some day you’ll find the Hagood Hardy (or I will, and I’ll send it to you).


  2. CGHill

    You thinking of Drastic Plastic in Omaha?

    Oh, and at least some version of “Jennifer’s Song” can be had from the iTunes Store.

  3. kent fischer

    Jen your showing your age….. or is it Gen x is showing its age.

    You know your ageing when things you remember from your childhood or no longer to be found, but are just memories of times past.

    Each generation remembers the things past from their youth. I guess if we didn’t remember them we wouldn’t realize how much has changed.

  4. jen

    @KATHLEEN – I do remember a lot of people carrying LPs in peach crates. Especially in Oklahoma where the Stratford is king. What a cool memory. So glad you shared it. I always forget you lived in Chickasha. The toll is now at least $1.50. Maybe 2.

    @FLCONFETTI – Were you the blogger who wrote about twirling the cassette with a pencil so you could rewind to your favorite song b/c the cassette player was bustedand wouldn’t rewind. I loved that story – whoever it was. I miss cassettes, too. I can’t let them go. They’re all in the basement.

  5. jen

    @JENNIFERK – That is somewhat how Rainbow Records was like – visiting was an event. The vibe I get from the ear X-tacy article is that it was very community oriente.d Their Web site is so cool. Maybe it will come back. Like John said, everything old is new again. A girl can hope…Like POETIKAT said – I miss the sound of the scratch!

    @ANDI – I have music store memories, too. About two years ago, I attempted to visit a music store in OKC where I’d once bought wedding sheet music. I was so bummed to hear they’d been forced out of biz by the Internet. =/

  6. jen

    @JOHN FRANKS – We could do a great remake of that song – a spoof with new lyrics. I feel a YouTube creation coming on. Ha!

  7. jen

    @YOGI – Until you mentioned it, I’d totally forgotten about the great finds on the back of albums. Sprinsteen’s always had the lyrics. Sometimes, there were obscure references or memos to people. I do miss that!

    @POETIKAT – I miss the discoveries, too. I discovered Hagood Hardy in Norman, Oklahoma at a record store near OU. There was an instrumental on it, Jennifer’s Song. I’ll probably never hear it again. =/ Rare music finds. How can we discover anything but Top 40 now. We don’t buy albums anymore.

  8. FLConfetti

    Don’t know if it’s still there, but Vinyl Fever was a big hit with the college crowd in Tallahassee when I was there. I still have a used Cowboy Junkies cassette I bought there in ’89. (ok so it’s not technically vinyl, but it was still a jackpot find for me at the time)

  9. Friar

    When I first moved to El Reno I’d visit Wilcox Records in OKC when it was across the street from Penn Square. Also all three sites of what was then called Rainbow Records — 23rd and Classen, somewhere on the south side and then on North May, not far from what was a GIANT Sound Warehouse. At least it seemed like a giant one to me.

    The other day I was listening to the Spy and one of the songs cut out in mid-play. Ferris came back on and had a mini-rant about technology, which closed with “God, I want RECORDS back!”

    That said, I’m digitizing my vinyl. Weighs too much and I move too often to afford the luxury of lugging around all those LPs

  10. Andi

    Not too young to feel damn old, but I don’t have any record store memories. I have some music store memories from college, it seems now even CD’s are outdated with the existence of iTunes. Sadly things will be phased out faster and faster.

  11. Jennifer K

    Jen, my friend Nora and I just had a conversation on record stores. Record stores were so much more than a place to buy new records. At my favorite record stores I discovered new music, read fanzines, talked to music fans like myself and watched local bands. Record stores gave me a sense of community. Sadly, this is now gone. I love iPods and downloading but do they give us the same sense of community? Nope, they do not.

  12. Poetikat

    My friend Frank and I used to hop in his Lada and drive down the Queen Elizabeth Highway into Toronto to go to our favourite record store, Vortex.
    The best spot was in the basement where all the vinyl was stored in plastic covers in the bins and you could just pore through everything and take your time. Of course, being allergic to dust was a major disadvantage because I spent a good portion of that time sneezing!
    We would come home with armloads of gently used records with weird names like “The Pentangle” or something unusual by the Chieftains, or even the Irish Light Orchestra recorded by Radio Telefis Eireann. It was also the 80s, so we were happy to dig up some great extended play dance tracks.
    As Frank manoeuvred the Lada back home, I would sit in the passenger seat and flip through our treasure-trove. The only drawback was you couldn’t play them en route, but it was so exciting to get home and throw the first record on the turntable, crank it up and hear the scratchy goodness for the first time!


  13. Yogi♪♪♪

    Oh, I miss flipping albums in record stores also, pulling them out and reading whatsup on the back.
    Clicking through cd’s was ok but not the same.

    Yep, I think record stores are gone.

    Hey, I was in Eagar, Arizona in my early teens. 240 miles to Phoenix, 250 to Albuquerque, NM to buy albums and needles and such.

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