Christmas 1978; a six-year-old version of myself finds a gift under a tree with my name on it. It was obvious, even to my young eyes this was an album. The 12-inch square was distinctive, as I had already spent countless hours alone in my bedroom listening to music on my small record player. Normally, it was Snoopy vs. The Red Barron, or my personal copy of The Rescuers on Disney records.
I unwrapped this new gift only to find staring back at me the evilest thing I’d seen in my life. It was a demon. Hair silhouetted in a soft red glow, an evil grin, with blood dripping down to his chin from his slightly ajar mouth. To be honest, it scared the shit out of me. My sister, having a similar package under the tree with her name on it, displayed a similar album, of a man who looked like a cat, who seemed to glow with a similarly soft light, this one was green however. There was no blood, no danger, and when we each listened to our albums later that day, it was clear that in the ever-expanding game of sibling rivalry, I had not only won, it was a beat down.
The Gene Simmons solo Kiss album was my gateway drug into a new expanded world that included rock and roll. As I dropped the needle on the first track on side one (Radioactive), there was an expansion in my heart created by equal parts panic and curiosity as I listened to this madman laugh demonically. I imagined, what to me, could only be angels of death swirling around him granting him an unworldly power to create and destroy at will. I would watch the album spin on my small plastic turntable, which had been transformed into a pulpit, delivering constant sermons, from a constantly expanding variety of evangelists.
This was my first real rock and roll album, delivered to me on a medium that would never drift from my heart. It was tangible. It was a 12” full size, 33 1/3 rpm record album. In the 39 years, since I’ve collected many more of them, and carted them across the country with me on my life’s journey. There is nothing I’ve held onto so dearly as my collection of albums. They are the story of my life. Each one telling a personal story of who I was when I acquired it. You can tell who I am by exploring this collection.
There were years, when the medium was almost dead, that became difficult to find new music being pressed onto albums, but during these times, I searched resale shops to fill in gaps in the history of rock and roll that had escaped me. From The Kinks, to Joan Jett, to Grandmaster Flash, and Willie Nelson, I built a solid working history of what spoke to me at any point in my life. Along with comic books, record albums were the gateway to my soul.
Over the last decade, with the resurgence of record albums, now simply referred to as vinyl by many, shops that had once been a playground of solitude for me are now thriving with customers both young and old. I’ve found a new hobby of walking the isles, flipping through albums, and listening to young adults and teens get excited about their new discoveries. Seeing a kid pick up Electric Warrior by T.Rex brings joy to my heart, and hopefully to theirs as well.
I’m lucky enough to live in a city with amazing record stores in every part of town. When north, I make sure to stop at Breakaway Records to check out new arrivals in their amazing soul and hip hop sections. When downtown, Waterloo Records is a must for all new releases and an ever-expanding collection of jazz reissues. When I’m south, End Of An Ear is the destination for what is a rich history of what has come to be known as “Alternative” music. Finally, when I’m near the university campus, I sometimes stop into Antone’s Records to find some solid blues albums.
I’m lucky. I live in a city with a rich musical history and we celebrate the diverse tastes and cultures that add to our collective humanity. I work to support these businesses because I want them to be available to our community for years to come. If you’re not in a city where you have this opportunity, the good news is most of these stores have an online presence and you can browse their inventory from anywhere on the globe. I hope you do.
Music is my passion. Record albums are my medium of choice. I hope this explanation about the how and why I came to embrace this love gives you some insight into me and how I feel about music. I’ll continue to write comic reviews for Comic Crusaders, but we are also expanding our offerings to add to the soundtrack of our lives. I hope to expose you to some new things you’ve not yet heard, and hopefully, you’ll be engaged and let us know about some things that we’ve missed too.
Our tastes are expansive, and we’ll be providing content that appeals to different palates, so if one day you don’t like the album we’re talking about, come back the next and you may be more satisfied.
Bryan (aka Cheap Tacos)