Letters Column

Week of June 22, 2006


Keep the faith:
I am a record collector. It is a religion and [records] are my divine inspiration. The music I seek soothes everything. There will always be people out there like me to keep wonderful places like Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records open. We are devoted and have attended their services since we stopped listening to Color Me Badd, Creed and Limp Bizkit and started listening to Joy Division, Queen and Gang of Four. If Vintage Vinyl and Euclid Records are scared for their businesses to remain open, they shouldn't be. There are enough of us out there that find the "download phenomenon" an insult and are willing to buy that one extra album we were debating about per visit to keep them calm.

We love your stores. We find ourselves there. Our history is there. You are part of our family. Your product is our tangible relics and artifacts. I cannot find Kiss' Love Gun on vinyl on any Web site to download or at Circuit City because I have to hold the actual album and look into Ace Frehley's eyes and hear the few crackles on old vinyl to remember fifth grade. I cannot find that online for $0.99! I cannot remember one beautiful summer listening to Nine Inch Nails' Broken and trying to figure out how to play the mini disc it originally came with by purchasing just "Pinion," one song, online. Some of us respect the music and the artist enough to actually buy their whole album, take the ride with them. We read the lyrics. We imagine being in the artwork. We enjoy figuring out what the cover means to us. Public Image Ltd.'s "Rise" wouldn't sound the same without the rest of Compact Disc, the album, to back it up. It is an insult to want to only buy one song. Can you imagine someone only buying Gary Numan's "Cars," but not sticking around to hear "Metal"?! The independent record store should not be scared of this recent farce. As long as your store offers what it has for years — great music, great diversity, great prices, great sermons — we will always return for more. Our collections are never really complete, now are they?
Chris Koenig Jr., Kirkwood

Pricey CDs, snooty staff — who needs it? As a teenager in the early '90s, I loved going to Vintage Vinyl. It was like a musical Disneyland. By the late '90s, I rarely stopped in — the CDs were pricey and the staff was snooty. I moved back to St. Louis last year after six years away. I've been to the store a couple of times since coming home and it was like the late '90s all over again.

I'll stick to the Internet and my friends for my musical fixes.
Terry Blastenbrei, St. Louis

Too dire to read: As a devout music lover from way back, I found myself not being able to finish Randall Roberts' article about independent music stores. I have been a customer of Vintage Vinyl for decades and the thought that a business that has seen us through 45s, LPs, eight tracks and CDs for over 26 years and is now fighting to stay alive because of the Internet is a very sad commentary of where we are today.

I can't even think of the Loop without thinking about Vintage Vinyl, the street musicians playing and the music coming out of the store. The employees have always been helpful, knowledgeable and are always able to either find or order anything that I need. My daughter's boyfriend has a band that is able to play there and sell his band's CDs. The kids hang out at the store and talk music until midnight on the weekends. I remember seeing other popular musicians like Jason Mraz and Matisyahu play there for free. Where else can you go in this commerce-driven society and be with people who really understand music? If people want to sit in their p.j.'s and download music, that is their problem. They are probably the kind of people who choose cybersex over the real thing. I just don't think they get it. They are missing out on what music is and they don't truly understand what Vintage Vinyl has brought to the St. Louis community for a quarter of a century.
Barb Roodman, St. Louis

Why the Mason Jennings dis? Randall Roberts' short but bleak take on Mason Jennings in the cover story just evidences how the journalist puts his personal bias against major-label music before actually investigating an artist's past and humble beginnings. Sure, he might find Mason Jennings to be boring, but insinuating he's just the product of a major label and failing to mention that he started as an indie artist who has produced his own past records evidences a lack of interest in providing a well-rounded view.

I have listened to Jennings for a few years now and think he's a good-enough songwriter to be given more credit than was afforded him by Roberts. I hope that he isn't continuously cast as a flash in the pan because he's moved on to a bigger label.
Heather Lawson, St. Louis

Well, sure: The difficulties faced by independent music stores such as Vintage Vinyl remind me of the saying, "You don't miss the water until the well runs dry!"
Laura Edwards, Chesterfield

Who's hating who? I don't understand why Randall Roberts hates independent record stores. Instead of focusing on the positive things they do for the community of St. Louis and the local music scene and encouraging support for the stores, his article is full of sites where people can go to download or purchase specialty music and sites where they can get the same information from a blog that they can [get from] a store clerk. It's like he wants to put them all out of business.

This article was all about finances and business, but we're talking about music and culture here. Not all of us are in it for the money. And of course, it's easy to assume that every CD store in the nation could shut down tomorrow, and music fans will still get their fix when you have a computer and high-speed Internet access. It's too bad Roberts couldn't have written an article about the benefits of shopping in Vintage Vinyl versus online, but then again it wouldn't be the Riverfront Times if it weren't full of shit.
Brittany Hubbard, St. Louis

You want hate? Here's hate: I couldn't help but notice that Randall Roberts' obituary for Vintage Vinyl might be a bit misplaced. For it is Roberts' job (with his hitherto-unchallenged hipper-than-thou indie stance) that is in greater jeopardy than the status of Lew Prince and Tom Ray's endeavors. Roberts himself is no longer a gatekeeper of cool (and no longer a Vintage employee, I might add) and his pitiful attempt to gain street credibility by pissing on small business amounts to nothing more than a pathetic grasping of straws by a former hipster who is too conceited to admit to his own obsolescence.

We in the local music community have become all too accustomed to the sting of his pen, and the recent RFT cover story smacks of paranoia and the kind of self-serving, anything-for-a-story bullshit that's characterized his work for over a decade. A pox on it.
Ken Kase, St. Louis

The RFT — all about Steve Pick: I found Randall Roberts' article an interesting read, mostly as a puff-piece of advertising for the Euclid and Vintage Vinyl stores. Had the author really wanted to do an article about record stores, I think he would have visited the Record Exchange on Hampton, and talked to Jean (the owner).

He seems to be doing fairly well with his store that is crammed to the gills with an ever-growing selection. He seems to sell quite a few records every day/week/year. Of course, since Steve Pick hasn't worked there, it probably didn't rate an inclusion.
Chris Woods, St. Louis

Will somebody please buy Wallace's damn CD?! I used to buy a lot of used LPs from a Wuxtry Records in the West End back in the '70s. After they disappeared, I discovered Vintage Vinyl. For 20 to 25 years, I rarely went through a week without buying at least one record, and I almost always bought from Vintage Vinyl. I still buy CDs from them once in a while, but my rare-LP search is largely confined to eBay these days.

When I released my first CD in about 1998, Vintage Vinyl took three of them. I gave four or five to Euclid Records a few years later. The CDs didn't sell and Euclid Records threw them away — they didn't bother to call me even though my phone number was right there on the CD. I'll never buy anything from Euclid Records again. Vintage Vinyl still has one copy of my CD after about seven or eight years. If the damned thing sells now it would be a miracle, but I'll always appreciate that they gave me a chance.
Wallace Pryor, St. Louis

An amateur futurist weighs in: I shuddered a bit while reading your piece on the state of what's left of the independent record store. As a former and recovering indie record clerk (Streetside Records 1974-'87) who still can't keep his hands out of the candy dish, I can relate to what it must feel like now to be standing behind that counter watching my stock and my regulars shrivel up and blow away. Your friendly neighborhood record store is now iTunes, which has become kind of like a Tower Records with a Vintage Vinyl on the premises (watch what Verve and Rhino are doing with back catalogue at iTunes) and has set in motion a big, oily tsunami in the retail industry, effectively putting brick-and-mortar shops and, because iTunes is also virtually your friendly neighborhood record label, the record business as we know it out of business.

Which is just fine, to some degree, with this amateur futurist. The current debate in the land of curated reissues (my land) continues to be to what degree and in what form the "artifact" will persist. Perhaps the desire to possess or collect an artifact at all will pass away. Then again, the book-publishing industry remains persistently robust. Anything is possible. Which is why what remains of this industry, from clerk to mogul, must be as imaginative about the opportunities of this thinning of the herd as we are fearful of its consequences. Personally, I'm just happy to have lived through it.
Tom Lunt, Chicago, Illinois