In rotation: 1/13/20

Newport, RI | After six decades, iconic Newport store Music Box closes: When the final bell rang, Rob Lasky can recall taking the short walk from Thompson Middle School to the Music Box, where he would help his father run the family business. Charlie Lasky opened the record store in 1958 at 136 Thames St., and moved down a few doors down to 158-160 Thames Street in 1971. For decades, it was a popular spot for teenagers to meet up and check out the latest in music — be it doo-wop, rock ‘n’ roll, funk, disco, new wave, grunge or hip-hop. “So many people remember, back in the heyday, the Music Box was the destination to go downtown and meet and hang out. It was for a lot of people,” said Lasky, who worked at the shop alongside brothers Jay and Marc, as well as sister Marcia. But as music became more accessible online, the store in 2015 attempted to change with the times. It dropped the bulk of its CD selection, sold mostly vinyl records and expanded its inventory of toys and knickknacks. “The store is evolving…”

Brisbane, AU | Beloved Brisbane Record Store To Close: “The shoppe as you know it will be closing down here at 680 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley very soon.” A beloved Brisbane record store has announced it will be closing. Phase 4 Records, currently based in Fortitude Valley, shared the news on Facebook yesterday afternoon. “The shoppe as you know it will be closing down here at 680 Ann Street, Fortitude Valley very soon,” the store’s owners wrote. “So whether you might be crying into your hands or clasping them, stay tuned for updates and more detailed speech writing. New stock will still be hitting the floor as per normal as we got a nice swag of LPs in this week.” When approached by The Music, co-owner Julie Morrison confirmed the news but would not comment further. Opened in 2015, Phase 4 Records has become a staple in Brisbane’s vinyl landscape. We spoke to both Morrison and partner Donat Tahiraj, along with some other wax slingers from across the country, for Record Store Day last year about their collection.

Dallas, TX | Man Behind Iconic Dallas Record Store Dies: The Dallas music community lost a giant Saturday when Bill Wisener, the longtime owner of Bill’s Records, was found dead behind the register he’d manned for nearly 40 years. Wisener was a chain-smoker and had battled health issues over the last several years. Though a sign on the door of his South Lamar shop simply stated that the store was closed “due to unforeseen circumstances,” a small tribute started growing as regular customers stopped by to see if the rumors were true. Wisener first opened his store in 1981 on Spring Valley Road in north Dallas. “It was huge. It was the biggest record store you ever saw in your life. It was like an acre. It was just millions of records,” said Creative Director of the Kessler Theater Jeffrey Liles…That’s why several years ago, Liles produced a documentary for Wisener called “The Last Record Store.”

New York, NY | MoMA has opened a gorgeous new record store pop-up: New Yorkers have a new record shop in Soho with dozens of records to set their needles on. Through March 1, the MoMA Design Store at 81 Spring Street will have a special concept space it collaborated on with Williamsburg’s Earwax Records called The Record Shop. The pop-up, which is decorated with color blocks of bright pinks, yellows and greens, is meant to unite music and design in one space in a reflection of 20th century pop culture, MoMA says. Inside, audiophiles will find more than 45 records (Duran Duran, The Rolling Stones, Talking Heads, Miles Davis, Philip Glass) from MoMA’s permanent collection, featuring cover designs by modern artists like Andy Warhol, Raymond Pettibon, Richard Avedon and Robert Frank, all of whom have been featured at MoMA, which just recently reopened after a major renovation. “The best album covers are a compact visual expression or translation of the music they deliver,” Juliet Kinchin, the curator of Modern Design at The Museum of Modern Art, says. “As an art form, they have been attuned to the rapid changes in popular music, fashion and design that can be otherwise difficult to represent cogently in the collection.”

Flagstaff, AZ | Mark Hamill thanks Flagstaff store for returning signed Star Wars record from composer John Williams: The actor, who played Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars trilogies, said he hadn’t seen the record since the early 1990s. Mark Hamill, a.k.a. Luke Skywalker, took to Instagram and Twitter to thank a media store in Flagstaff that found and returned a Star Wars record signed to him from John Williams. Hamill thanked Bookmans Entertainment Exchange in Flagstaff for returning the LP (long playing record) from the legendary composer meant for Hamill. Williams scored each movie from all three Star Wars trilogies. Hamill said in his post he hadn’t seen the record since the early 1990s. “I’m so grateful to them & hope you consider spending lots & lots of $ at their store,” the 68-year-old actor wrote. In the message written on the record, Williams wrote, “Dear Mark Hamill, May the Force always be with us.” Bookmans posted about it on their Instagram writing, “We recently found an LP signed by #johnwilliams and were able to return it to its rightful owner THE Mark Hamill!!!! So happy we were able to help. Huge thank you to Mark for being so kind and giving us a shoutout.”

Philadelphia, PA | ‘Philadelphia is the city that sleeps on itself’: How a Brewerytown record store owner is shining a light on our overlooked musical past: Max Ochester has a mission. It isn’t small or easy: To preserve and celebrate Philadelphia music, particularly decades-old, forgotten treasures at risk of being lost to history. “Day by day, it gets harder to do,” says the owner of North Philly’s Brewerytown Beats record store. “You’re losing the stories. You’re losing the people. You’re losing the material. Tapes deteriorate. They have a shelf life of 30 to 40 years. It’s going to be gone.” But not if Ochester can help it. A 42-year-old record geek whose Girard Avenue shop is decorated with Herb Alpert Whipped Cream & Other Delights album covers, Ochester got started last year with Sounds of Liberation, the Germantown free jazz band whose two rare 1970s albums were issued by Brewerytown Beats on the group’s original Dogtown Records label. The reunited band, featuring guitarist Monette Sudler, was in the studio this week with Ochester and coproducer Aaron Levinson recording a new album with guests including sax great David Murray.

Forbes: One-Quarter Of All Physical Album Sales In The U.S. In 2019 Were Vinyl: When illegal downloading of songs first became a widespread problem in the music industry two decades ago, it looked like it was all over for people buying their favorite songs and albums. Overall sales do continue to fall year after year, but something very curious has happened as the masses have adopted streaming as their go-to way to listen to the tunes they love the most: vinyl purchases have climbed consistently, and now they are responsible for a larger market share than they have in a long, long time. Purchases of digital songs, albums and even physical CDs decline once again as another year comes to a close, but vinyl sales grow by double digits, and now they make up just over one quarter of all physical album buys. In 2019, Americans purchased 73.5 million albums in some physical format, be it CD, vinyl or even cassette tape, which is also enjoying a surge in popularity (though a much less pronounced one). Of that figure, 18.84 million were vinyl, which is up over 14% from the year prior…

Abbey Road Was The Best-Selling Vinyl Of The Decade: People are still coming together right now over the Beatles. As 2019 drew to a close, so did the entire decade, and according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s 2019 Year-End Music Report, the Beatles’ 1969 masterpiece Abbey Road — which got a big 50th anniversary reissue this year — was the best-selling vinyl record of both the year and the decade. Have we reached peak Abbey Road yet? And vinyl definitely isn’t dead. The two Record Store Day events of 2019 led to vinyl’s third-, fourth- and fifth-best-selling weeks since Nielsen began measuring the format in 1991. Vinyl represented 26% of all physical sales in 2019, with 18.8 million units sold throughout the year — compared to 54.8 million units of CDs. That’s up 14.5% from 16.5 million vinyl records sold in 2018. Check out the full lists of the year and the decade’s best-selling vinyl records below, and check out Nielsen Music/MRC Data’s full 2019 Year-End Music Report here Full disclosure: Nielsen Music/MRC Data is a division of Valence Media, Stereogum’s parent company.

French company makes cassette player for 21st century: Analogue music fans will soon have a new way to listen to cassette tapes on-the-go, as a French company is to start selling a modern range of “new generation” portable analogue cassette players. The Mulann Group, the only firm in Europe still making cassette tapes, will soon launch a new cassette player, its CEO Jean-Luc Renou has announced in an interview with newspaper Le Parisien. The players will be produced at the company’s Lannion (Côtes-d’Armor, Brittany) site, and have been designed in collaboration with Thomson engineers. The final product will have Bluetooth connectivity, allowing it to connect to speakers or wireless headphones. It will also be rechargeable, in the same way as modern smartphones. More information is expected in the coming months. While existing, old portable cassette players are still for sale online, Mr Renou said that they leave a lot to be desired. He said: “They leave us thinking that the sound of cassette players is not good, which is not the case. I said to myself that there had to be room [in the market] for a good-quality player.”

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