There is musical treasure everywhere and a lot of different ways to find it. Some ways are easier than others. A lot of people now find new music online through streaming services like Spotify or Pandora where sophisticated algorithms can recommend you music based on certain criteria that interests you most. In the days before the Internet, you had to order albums from catalogues or thumb through bins at your local record store. What was once the norm has become a bit of a novelty today. Sure, vinyl sales have been increasing and the role of the record store in the community has been enhanced with events like Record Store Day. However, the physical act of looking through the bins past the more popular releases is still a niche one. It requires a level of patience that is harder to find given all of the conveniences computers and mobile phones provide us to find music instantly.
Whenever I go into a record store and see people looking, it mostly consists of people grabbing the new releases or older copies of well-established bands that have been around for decades. Of course, there is nothing wrong with that. Life isn’t a contest and not having been exposed to certain popular artists is no measure of one’s love of music. It is about the journey and there are many paths to take.
I have had my share of interesting record store hunts. Living in Chicago, there are several great record stores in the area with their own unique charm and stock. I may be in the mood for one store one day, and in the mood for a different one on another. On a warm day, I enjoy walking around the neighborhoods, stopping by, and perusing even if I don’t intend to buy anything. My vinyl shopping habits are specific. I rarely buy new records, I rarely buy new releases because they were recorded digitally, and I prefer an obscure compilation album over any other type of release. I have found a lot of cool, obscure releases by looking where others typically don’t often look. These obscure compilations have obscure artists, interesting cover art, and were cheap. Many of these are still in heavy rotation on my player years later.
I never really shopped for vinyl records until I left college. Growing up, I didn’t live in places where music stores were readily available. I lived in Alaska where they had an FYE, a store with overpriced music and nothing incredibly obscure, or Wal-Mart, where everything they sell is commonplace. There was no cool, niche music store. Even when I was in high school in Kentucky, I didn’t have anything nearby like I would have now.
In college, there was one record store. But, I was a broke college kid and not exactly interested in spending money. Though, it didn’t stop me from trying new things and listening to people who had more access to music growing up than I did. I spent all four years in college actively involved at the college radio station. It was great because I got to discover things that were outside of my wheelhouse. I was expanding my tastes and it allowed me to become more open and accepting of less mainstream and less accessible types of sounds. I was a bit envious of everyone because they knew about all this stuff for a while. It was all new and exciting to me. I’m sure it was for them when they were younger, but they didn’t know what it was like to not have much access in the first place.
Released in 1985, “Goodtime Romeo” by Price Jones was something played for my by a college radio colleague that still stands as one of favorite tracks from my collegiate years. It was a cool electronic pop song about this woman hooking up with this awesome guy. Nothing was particularly spectacular or groundbreaking about the song. The lyrics are fine and the arrangement is on par for the style at that time. However, it is a fun pop song and it doesn’t have to be deep or shatter listening norms.
What made this track really exciting was that my colleague had found it in a record store in Nashville. He didn’t know the artist, but liked the cover. As it turns out, he was blown away by the track. Since then, he hasn’t found out anything about Price Jones. He believed this was just a home-pressing with only a few copies in existence. He also suggested that Jones could’ve been a successful pop star if the record would have been given to the right people. Maybe. Maybe not.
I like the fact this is a really unknown song. It kind of makes things a little more special when I listen to it; like I’m in an elite music club with only a handful of members. In a time before I was a record shopper myself, I tended to gravitate to the fringe and indulge in the obscure. Now, I do that on my own in my leisure time and have found some amazing material. Sometimes, the most valuable treasure isn’t what is shiny and glitters the most; it can be the small, inconspicuous coin at the bottom of the pile. Happy hunting.