Audiophile on Main St.

As Record Store Day 2013 quickly fades into the distance and the spring/ summer garage sale season in the wild and wooly streets of New Jersey ignites, I’m reminded of the many wonderful records that are available out there that are not in record stores! Why, just two weeks ago, I jumped out of the car and snooped around a garage sale in northern, NJ. When I saw no records for sale, I took a chance, smiled and said, “any records?”

With that, the older woman with the young face and the bad back perked up and said, “vinyls?”

At that point, I grew very excited about what was going to come next. Buying records, for this author, is akin to fishing. Sure, anyone can go into a record store—or, to their local fishmonger—and buy whatever has been carefully and cleanly curated and pay top dollar for it, if that’s your wish.

But, I think it’s an adventure to flip through garage sale records—in a store everything is cataloged neatly and organized politely. At a garage sale, you don’t know what kind of mess you’re getting into! You’re thumbing through grandpa’s stuff which is mixed in with someone’s daughter’s batch of discs from grade school in 1986. Anything is possible—Tiffany to Herb Alpert, Dokken to the Boston Pops. That is what makes record collecting exciting for me. The fishing.

Soon, this woman—and her family and I—were reminiscing about records and music as she summoned her son to bring the discs down from “upstairs.” He appeared with about 75 records, then he said he’d be right back and came down with 75 more, made one more trip with another 50 and said, “well, that’s about half of them!”

True excitement is getting first crack at a stash of records that hasn’t been picked through at all that day, or perhaps hasn’t been picked through in years. Records that weren’t for sale until four seconds after you inquired. That, my record collecting friends is a true rush, a real thrill. In these cases, you’re looking at a collection in its natural habitat, untouched by outsiders and devoid of an owner’s scrupulous hemming and hawing over the “value” of their collection. This, friends, is gonzo vinyl hunting.

The fine family invited me in to look at the records inside so their poor son did not have to schlep them all downstairs. They were very nice, and I was very polite and respectful, and walked away with a bunch of records at a very fair price: a lovely original copy of Exile on Main Street, Stevie’s Innervisions, the rarely seen Squeeze 10” 6 Squeeze Songs Crammed Into One Ten-Inch Record, the first pressing of Elvis Costello’s first album (yes, the one with the yellow back), some Romeo Void, The Paul Winter Consort, and other gems.

This very weekend, a certified “underground” record shop is closing. The mysterious dealer known to his record buying email list as Gregorious is selling off his entire stock—over 4,000 albums and 45s—at blowout prices this Saturday and Sunday.

“What was supposed to only be a 4 or 5 month stay in the new location lasted over two and half years. It was a good run filled with countless shenanigans, tomfoolery, international visitors, thousands upon thousands of records sold and, most important, a solid base of customers who became our friends.”

Though I’ve never attended one of his HPRS (Highland Park Record Show) sales, he seems to be a hybrid seller—part record show dealer and part record store in the form of a semi-permanent garage sale.

“One morning I woke up and decided that rather than bringing my vinyl to the people, I will bring the people to my vinyl. A date was picked, Craigslist ads were posted, signs were hung on telephone poles, and I was ready to have what I thought would be a one or two-time record garage sale.”

However, he would continue for years. “I knew that I had planted a seed that would grow and thrive as long as I maintained fresh inventory.” Needless to say, this is the kind of buying situation that is far more interesting than going to a record store, and will probably contain many screaming deals on albums.

The sale is this Saturday and Sunday, May 11th and 12th, at 960 Green Street in beautiful Iselin, New Jersey. As Gregorious says, “If you got the goods, people will come.”

He’s got the goods, so you should go. For more information, check out their Facebook page.

So, as you tool around the suburbs this summer, don’t forget to go garage sailing. You might discover a cool lamp, or some unique artwork, and you might find some great records at an extremely fair price. If you’re browsing, and you don’t see any vinyl being offered, don’t be shy, just smile and ask the person in the lawn chair, “Hey, you got any records?”

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