For the past couple years, I've been putting certain bargain hunts under the title of The Last Bargain Hunt, a series of reports of going to towns and talking about what I found. I had thoughts of writing a book about it but since the ratings of The Last Bargain Hunts have never been all that great, I decided to end this series.
Usually it's me going to Iowa City and returning to the thrift stores and antique stores or Waterloo or The Quad Cities, even Kirksville came into play. It's not that I'm retiring from bargain hunting, that will never be the cause as long as I live and as long as I see 45s or LPs or CDs on display somewhere. For the 10 people that do read these blogs, I continue to support and let people know that Ragged Records or Record Collector or Moondog Music and CD's 4 Change would be a worthwhile drive should you ever come across the great Midwest, or if you're in Madison, Mad City Music X, Strictly Discs, Sugar Shack and B sides will satisfy your vinyl hunger. And of course the thrift stores.
There's no shortage of bargain hunters out there and any place you go to, you will have competition from local vinyl hounds or crate diggers. I usually let them do their thing unless they're dragging around, then I jump in. Like a precise surgeon I can cut through all the crap to find the worthwhile stuff and get around the Madison area and not get lost. I haven't mentioned Minneapolis much, I have never been up there and probably won't although Hymies' Music Store has intrigued me and St Louis, I know where they're at, but I haven't been there in five years and probably need to check them out soon. It's been so long that the FYE store in a St Louis Mall is not only gone, so is the mall itself. Malls are a dying breed anyway, they used to be the hangout of the 80s and then the 90s came around and the internet and high rent has been the demise.
A lotta people don't like the Corporate Record Stores such as FYE or Hastings for that matter but believe me the places (provided if they're still open) do yield some cheap dollar cds from time to time. I'm sure I get strange looks from folks that think I'm in Arizona going to Hastings or FYE is my idea of a vacation. Finding Jeff Beck Beck Ola for 3 bucks new is my idea of fun, or in the case of the other day the latest Pharrell Williams already donated to Goodwill. I guess I'm a cheap date or easy to please but then again record collectors are easy to please. Point them to the nearest record store and they'll be happy.
While Vinyl sales have gone up 30 percent the past year, it does sound great but before you open up that record store please be advised that Vinyl sales new still only account for 3 percent of sales, whereas CDs are still 51 percent and downloading 43 percent. The day won't be long for downloads to overtake CDs but for myself, I don't download, I rather have the actual product in my hands. I love the guys at Ragged Records, Mad City Music X and even I have a love/hate affair with Kurt at Record Collector, I have always stop to visit them whenever I'm in town. But it's adds too many miles to the cars that I have.
When I first started doing blogs back around 2000, we still had plenty of places to buy music from, but in the 14 years, I have seen the end of Wherehouse Music, CD Warehouse, FYE, Sam Goody, J and R Music World, People's Records, Hastings Ames and of course Tower Records. And seen Relics, Rock and Bach and Ratz Records close up and Erin at Alter Ego saying FU to the major labels and records and selling only comic books instead. And seen Best Buy and Wal Mart shrink their CD selection down to nothing. Believe me it's not fun but what can you do about it? The major labels are promoting only singles and crap rap and bro country, and the days of album rock bands having the luxury of making three or four albums and getting better are over.
I long for days of Woolworth's and their 4 for a dollar 45s that got me hooked in the first place. Or Town Square Bookstore's quarter juke box records from the greasy spoon two doors down. Or even bullshitting with Jerry Scott or Bruce at Relics. Bruce always seems to know what bands to get when I was wasting afternoons at the store. I think I'm only happy at best, when I'm at the record store digging and searching for something to listen to. But then again, things end. Just like life does. While the future seems to be streaming on Spotify or Pandora, I rather much seek out some forgotten CD or LP of a obscure artist or rediscovering a jazz artist from the 50s. Or even a forgotten comedian like David Steinburg.
So I continue to search. Not because of being outdated and against the jukebox in the modem but because I've been doing this for 50 years now and it's a habit that I cannot or don't want to break. Plus I get bored easy on life itself. So, I'll leave you with this note. Everyday is national record store day when I visit a music store and The Last Bargain Hunt is always a forthgoing project.
Who knows, if you should come into a lonely looking guy, on his knees searching through endless boxes of Sadler and Young, Lawrence Welk and forgotten gospel folks, and hoping to find something worthwhile, chances are that guy just might be me.