The vinyl countdown

Barry Manilow: I’m a Fanilow.

Barry Manilow: I’m a Fanilow.

“She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind / She lost her youth and she lost her Tony / Now she’s lost her mind.”
—“Copacabana,” Barry Manilow

In the mouth a desert
Flipping through racks of records in a thrift store for just a few minutes is like trudging for miles in the Sahara Desert. Your hands get dry. Your nose and throat fill with dust. Eyes water. Back and knees seize up. All of this pain and discomfort just to discover a few gems hidden in the piles of
Lawrence Welk and Barbra Streisand.

I’ve been on a quest of late—not for love, not truth, not fire nor glory, but for cheap, dusty, musty, weathered vinyl. And I’ve found some sweet deals at our local thrift stores … but I’m not going to tell you where all the good ones are, ‘cause then I’d have to kill you … and sometimes I’m just really lazy.

The vinyl countdown
One of the most interesting things about thrift-store record shopping is imagining the tales behind those heaps of dusty cardboard and vinyl. Even with Bruce Springsteen’s
Born in the U.S.A., you’re talking about something that’s almost 25 years old. It’s probably changed hands once or twice, and someone’s surely chopped lines of blow on The Boss’ derrière. And I love the fact that people used to write their names on their records—I think about what Guy Junior Barnett, whose name I found on the back of an old Dolly Parton album, is up to these days.

As with money, some people just don’t want to know where a record has been. But thrift-store records are cheap—anywhere from 50 cents to a buck—so even if the album sucks, you’re not out too much money. And no matter where you go, you’ll always find the same names; the Salvation Army on Broadway has a ton, which leads me to believe it’s the place where grandma’s collection ends up after she goes to see ol’ Glen Miller perform live again.

Here are the five artists you’re guaranteed to see at a thrift store in Chico:

1. Johnny Mathis

2. Barbra Streisand

3. Lawrence Welk

4. Loggins & Messina

5. Barry Manilow

The runners-up are Herb Alpert and Dan Fogelberg. By the way, have you ever read the lyrics to “Copacabana"? That song sounds sunny and fun, but Manilow’s got a dark side.

But in this sea of easy-listening cheese, I have discovered some gems, like a still-sealed David Bowie album called Starting Point, which includes songs about laughing gnomes and gravediggers. I also snagged a record by a Chilean psychedelic-funk band from the early ‘70s called Los Angeles Negros. Then, of course, there’s the Fleetwood Mac and John Denver I picked up, but we don’t need to talk about that.

The Juice is loose
Vinyl in general is selling quite well again—funny how a medium whose beginnings essentially date back to the late 19th century has outlasted new technology.

In 2007 RIAA reported that vinyl sales were up 36.6 percent, while sales of compact discs declined 11.7 percent. And as we all painfully know here, our only real record store is … a store that sells records.

There are all kinds of online outlets that sell vinyl, too.
Craig Moerer has been doing it since 1974. He runs Records By Mail, which claims to house more than 1.3 million records in a 6,000-square-foot warehouse in Portland, Ore.

The site is actually one of the best-organized I’ve seen, and the guy has everything, including an un-Godly number of Annette Funicello records. There’s everything from jazz to rock to black metal, and I just saw The Beatles’ Yesterday and Today record for $16,000, and Brewers Droop’s (Mark Knopfler played in the band for three months) Opening Time for $175.

Maybe someday … right now I’ve got my eye on that 50-cent Juice Newton record at Thrifty Bargain.