Many people talk about record stores in the past tense. While in the United States the chains are indeed a thing of the past, there is still a contingent of independent music sellers alive and, to varying degrees, well.
For an enthusiast such as myself, a visit to Los Angeles would not have been complete without a trip to one of the biggest record stores in business: Amoeba Music. In fact, Kay and I booked our hotel and mapped our outings in LA based on its location and its primacy of place in our plans.
Music store clerks often get a bad rap; think of Barry in Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity abusing a potential customer’s taste in music and basically banishing him from the store. While Barry is a character, and a good one at that, the cooler than thou stereotype persists, and with some reason. There are a few disaffected hipsters who emulate him and give customers a hard time. Fortunately, my favorite haunts in New York and New Jersey - Princeton Record Exchange, Other Music, Vintage Vinyl, the Record Collector – prioritize customer service. I have encountered many employees in these places who have been abundantly helpful and friendly.
That said, I was so appreciative of the staff at Amoeba, in particular Margaret, who rang us up. When we mentioned our saga to get to LA and how much we had been looking forward to visiting their store, they really went above and beyond to make us feel welcome.
The store’s stock is outstanding and we found many treasures: Jonathan Harvey, Tristan Murail, Ray Brown, Brydsol with hand painted artwork … but in terms of pizzazz, the best discovery has to be a comp with Debbie Harry performing John Cage! Still, what we’ll remember most is something we found at Amoeba that’s not material: hospitality and palpable enthusiasm for music artifacts and those who prize them.