In honor of Record Store Day, I salute the memory of the late, lamented Rolling Stones Records (later known as Rock Records) on Washington Blvd. in downtown Chicago, a store where I spent more time (and, adjusted for inflation, money) from 1982-86 than I have at any record store before or since.
During my last two years of high school, I would catch the bus down to the Loop nearly every Friday afternoon, and return clutching albums that would change my life — London Calling, Setting Sons, Underwater Moonlight, Squeezing Out Sparks, Moondance, King of the Delta Blues Singers, Kick Out The Jams, Parallel Lines, The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society and the British pressing of Revolver were just a few of the crucial additions to my vinyl library that I remember bringing home in a bag with a Rolling Stones lightning bolt on it. During my year off between high school and college, I worked right around the corner, which meant I was able to spend virtually every lunch hour digging through their bins, in search of records I'd only read about in back-issues of CREEM and Trouser Press. Their three-dollar cut-out bin basically made me who I am today.
Rolling Stones used to sell bootlegs, too, and though they were generally out of my price range, I did buy a few Springsteen and Who boots there. I also vividly remember the day that the Feds busted them for it; I didn't know what was happening at the time, other than that I and all the other customers who were there during that lunch hour were instructed to leave immediately, while some very official-looking guy bolted the door behind us. The store was open for business again the following day, but all of the illicit records were gone, never to return.
Sometime in the late 80s or early 90s, they changed their name to Rock Records, though they kept their old logo, color scheme and Guy Peelaert-style window decorations. The store got a whole lot less interesting once the Compact Disc took over, but I would occasionally return for old times' sake, and maybe score a cool import CD or two. The last time I set foot in there was probably sometime in the mid/late 90s, while visiting family and friends in Chicago. Judging by its Yelp listing (from which I lifted these store photos), the place finally closed its doors for good in 2009 — this time it wasn't the Feds that shut it down, but the changes in the music industry and the challenges of running a nuts-and-bolts retail establishment in this age of online shopping.
As much of a vinyl lover as I am, I've never actually visited a record shop on Record Store Day, both because I hate the crowds and because I hate the way that major labels continue to jam up most of the country's remaining vinyl pressing plants in order to get their largely inessential RSD product on the shelves, a situation which causes massive delays for a lot of independent labels and artists who are trying to get their own vinyl product out there. That said, I have to admit that RSD has also been responsible for some of my favorite vinyl releases of the past five years, including Rhino's 2014 reissue of the Everly Brothers' phenomenal Roots LP, and Munster's 2016 reissue of the Mike Stuart Span's impossibly awesome 1968 single, "Children of Tomorrow". And if it helps keep record stores in business, and my friends and acquaintances who work at them put food on the table (as well as vinyl on the turntable), then so be it; just as long as we all continue to support our local record shops on the other days out of the year, right?
Anyway — here's to ya, old friend.