Everyone knows that a great record store rivals a religious experience, and most people understand that the thrill of getting a few platters for a screaming deal at a garage sale matches the fervor of Atlantic City’s blackjack tables, but there is another option for the thirsty record buyer. Welcome to the record show!
The record show lives in a sometimes-intimidating world between retail and a stranger’s backyard. Most record collectors might not even bother to visit a show feeling as though they might be out-collected by the serious diggers; even I have felt that way. But if you’re looking for a few fun experiences with your vinyl scores, then a show is the place to go. In the Garden State, there is no better first stop than the Second Saturday Record Show located at 97 Parish Dr. in Wayne, NJ.
Mr. Fred Falk holds his sales in different locations in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. They also have a great Facebook and email list situation allowing one to save a dollar, or two, off of the $6.00 admission just for being on their mailing list. Though I brought my email with the $1.00 coupon, the lovely woman at the counter recognized my name from my door prize entry.
“Why didn’t you bring the postcard? That’s $2.00 off!”
“I forgot the card,” I said, turning on the charm, “how do you recognize my name?”
“Who do you think does the mailing list?” she replied.
“Well, then you know I’m eligible for that discount,” I softly suggested.
She handed me back a dollar bill that would soon be spent on records. “Thanks,” I said, and rushed off to see what was going on in the main hall.
For those of you who have never had the honor of attending a record show, let’s set the stage. Mostly men – of all sizes, shapes and colors – dig through boxes of records and engage in friendly conversation with one another. The lighting is generally unromantic, rare facts about musicians are bandied about and, no matter where you are, it always smells a little bit like hot dogs.
There are generally three types of sellers at these soirees:
1. The $1.00 Blowout Guy: everything is one buck, but there is lots of it, so get ready to start digging. There will be a lot of common stuff, but one might find a few gems.
2. The Vinyl Connoisseur: Everything this fella has will make your guts go “bagoing-oing” but it is all highly priced. Negotiations are, however, possible. Don’t be shy.
3. The In-Between Dealer: This seller knows his items are priced well. Keeping his inventory low and his buyers happy are of paramount importance. One walks away feeling as though they got a great deal.
Not in the mood to do any excessively dirty digging this afternoon, I opted to begin with a great In-Between Dealer with a hefty selection of VHS cassettes, “only 40% of movies released on VHS are currently available in a digital format” he told me. Interesting, but let’s see some vinyl! Mr. Proserpio certainly knows his film and specialized in funky soundtracks. I immediately spied a great copy of Robert Blake’s 1973 masterpiece*, Electra Glide in Blue. It was reasonably priced, but I didn’t grab it. After watching the film’s opening below, I’m sorry I didn’t.
I did, however, grab the soundtrack to Lady in Cement, Isaac Hayes’ Joy, and Bow Wow Wow’s EP 12” single for “I Want Candy”. A very fair score indeed and, most importantly, a fair price was paid. Browse Mr. Proseripo’s extensive Discogs site here.
After a little more wandering, I met an older gentleman from the western wilds of NJ. He used to own a music store and gave lessons on any instrument that anyone was interested in! While I perused his boxes, I grabbed Doug Sahm and Band’s all-star, eponymous 1973 release on Atlantic Records.
“I didn’t think anyone knew who he was,” he chuckled.
“The man’s a genius. Never got his real due. Died of a heart attack in a hotel, I believe. Real rock n’ roll stuff,” I absentmindedly fragmented while browsing. It’s hard to talk and shop at the same time, but that did not stop our dealer from telling me about the time Johnny Rivers came into his store and demanded all available harmonicas. “He had his bus outside, and everything,” he reminisced. When all was said and done, I walked away with Sahm, Lee Michaels’ 5th, a reissue of Phil Ochs’ All the News that’s Fit to Sing, and Todd Rundgren’s, Utopia: yes, it included the weird, triangular, hat-like booklet.
My last stop was to Mickey Spillane’s stash (hey, that’s the name he goes by). Everything was neat, orderly and made for a pleasant browsing experience: six records for $5.00. In I dug, and began to converse with Mickey: a nice guy who used to have a radio program on WNTI, 91.1FM and now has a show called “The Dangerous R&R Podcast” which can be heard here. Mickey showed me not pictures of his kids, but photographs of his record collection and recording studio.
When all was said and done, I grabbed Joe Walsh’s Barnstorm and So What albums, Todd Rundgren’s The Ever Popular Tortured Artist Effect, Utopia’s Adventures in Utopia (that smells a little like gasoline, in a good way), Mink DeVille’s Where Angels Fear to Tread, and the soundtrack album to D.C. Cab! If Mr. T is on the cover, then I’m buying it. What is Mr. T wearing anyway, a man purse?
Done shopping – and with only $5.00 left in my pocket – I returned to Mr. Proserpio. “Look,” I said, “I’ve got $5.00 left. Give me something cool.” At that, he instinctively jumped up from behind his table and passionately began to flip through albums, “but like what,” he pressed, “what are we talking about here?”
“Well, how about a funky soundtrack?”
“Look, man. That’s just one adjective. What else are you thinking about?”
“Something left-of-center, I guess. Something weird…different.”
“Okay, how about this? This is an Israeli magician guy named Uri Geller. It’s bizarre; he gives all these weird mystical instructions. Look, on the back, the record company writes that they aren’t responsible for any of the things you might try at home.”
“Cool,” I countered, “very cool, but I don’t know if I can handle that mental baggage. What else?” Flipping though some more albums at a frenetic, yet surgical, pace, Mr. Proserpio pulled out a canary training record. With raised eyebrows, we both looked at one another for a few seconds. Breaking the suspense, I politely said, “I’ve already got a canary training record.”
“Oh!” he exclaimed. “Now this is a weird, weird record! It’s the dialogue from the 1971 film, Joe starring Peter Boyle. It’s called Joe Speaks. He plays like this bigoted, horrible, Archie Bunker archetype who’s totally fed up with crazy, hippie kids and their drugs and music. This is just the audio, though. There’s some music, but it’s a really weird record.”
The cover featured a very young Peter Boyle trying to look as old and crusty as possible. “Is that…” I began. “Yeah, that’s Susan Sarandon. It’s actually not a bad film; it’s kind of preachy, you know, a little dated, but it’s not bad.”
“Sold,” I said.
I packed up my goodies and headed home with a decent score for a sleepy, summer afternoon. If you’re looking to explore record shows that are well done, yet not overwhelming, the Second Saturday shows in Wayne, NJ are a great place to start. Just watch out for those haunted Uri Geller albums. This writer takes no responsibility for anything you weirdos do in the privacy of your own home!
* Electra Glide in Blue is not typically considered a masterpiece. I was kidding about that, but I’m still sorry I didn’t buy the album. I hope Mr. Proserpio hangs on to it for me until next month.