By Jeremy Essig
By Jason Robinson
By Hans Morgenstern
By Joseph Hess
By Peter Gilstrap
By Julia Burch
By Jeremy Essig
By Nathan Smith
"The one thing Denis and Carl cared about more than anything else was betting on the horses and football," says Love Experts/Finn's Motel bassist Steve Scariano. "They were hardcore into it. Long story short, a few of my buddies from school and I wound up bonding with Denis and Carl over betting on football and the horses. They would make book on our bets. And, yeah, we still bought records from them, too, but most of our action with them at their counter centered around gambling."
Laughs Denis Toler today, "I don't know about that; I guess we were kidding around. We did go to the racetrack a lot so we usually had a racing form. But I used to see Steve at the racetrack too!"
But, really, the shop was all about the music — and one band in particular stood out among the stacks of used records that crowded Akashic's small space: the Stooges. Denis Toler describes the Iggy Pop-fronted Michigan band as "number one for me and my friends," while Paul Wheeler recalls that the store was decorated primarily with pictures of Iggy and the band in action. A fascination with the band also seemed to permeate the patronage.
But the store had a connection to the Stooges beyond mere fandom. Mike Shelton, the Dizeazoes' vocalist and a close friend of Denis Toler, had befriended the Stooges during its early appearances in St. Louis. Through Shelton, Denis Toler and some patrons of the store met the band after its show at the American Theater in 1973; at the hotel, Paul Wheeler recalls receiving a quaalude from Pop.
"It's interesting that most of my memories about Akashic involve the Stooges, and it says a lot about Akashic records," Wheeler says. "In those days Stooges freaks were few and far between, and the fact that I and at least some of the people involved with Akashic were Stooges freaks made us part of a very small brotherhood, even though we never got to know each other that well."
Akashic Records didn't last very long, and by 1978 the store had closed. But its influence on the early punk bands of St. Louis is undeniable. Not only did it supply the city's youth with the music that would influence them to start their own punk revolution, but it also unified the community's characters. In June 1977, Denis Toler hosted a party that featured performances from many of the earliest local punk bands, including the Moldy Dogs and Screamin' Mee-Mees guitarist Bruce Cole. The party is remembered as one of the first organized happenings in the history of St. Louis punk.
"That was at the end of the tenure of our record store," Toler says. "I was living in this apartment, and we had this major party. About 600 people showed up and a lot of crazy stuff broke out, you know — but that was kind of the end of it all."