Saturday, November 1, 2008

Indie record store thrives

I want to thank the author, Liz Wahlman and the publication for allowing me to reprint this wonderful story about an independent record store located in Northampton, Mass.

Indie record store thrives

Dynamite Records in NoHo moves to new location with continued success

Written By Liz Wahlman, Collegian Correspondent

(Media Credit: Oliver Scott Snure, Collegian)

The indie record store is a piece of Americana that has influenced the lives of adolescents throughout the latter part of the 20th century. It's a home where the smell of vinyl is the only air freshener, and friendships form out of a love for Glenn Danzig. It's a place where local, music-obsessed individuals can interact with others like themselves while surrounded by the thriving force of good music. However, in the age of iPods, MP3s and music piracy, this important piece of American culture is becoming as outdated as hair metal.

One independent record store in Northampton, Mass., won't let the age of iTunes bring them down. Dynamite Records opened in 1982, and is the longest running independent record store in western Massachusetts. Dynamite started in the back of a station wagon in front of the Amherst Post Office, then moved on to spend 20 years in Thornes Marketplace. Recently, it moved to 33 Main Street in Northampton, between Lucky's Tattoo and Piercing and La Veracruzana. When Dynamite was invited to use the store front on Main Street, owner Ronnie Kwon jumped at the opportunity.

"We spent 20 years in Thornes, and we had really outgrown it," said Kwon. "We wanted a more visible location, since Dynamite had become a local secret that was difficult to find."

The store is as cozy as any home, with hardwood floors and an actual living room display in the front window, and an array of artists swarming the shelves. Dynamite Records specializes in new and used vinyl records, but also carries a wide variety of new and used CDs, pins, patches and posters.

"There's a lot of love in Dynamite Records, and that's why I love it," said Kwon. "I love records; I love the way they look, the way they sound, the way they feel, just everything about them."

The music industry is at a noteworthy place at this point in time. With the emergence of MP3s and digital file sharing, shelves containing a music library have been reduced to a hard drive that can crash at any time. The current echo boomer generation has taken creativity and good music for granted. Many people have substituted quality for convenience, and face-to-face communication for computers. Buying music online is nothing like going into a store and having the power to listen to everything happening around you.

"Independent record stores allow us to bypass what's playing on the top 40 and fill our ears with something real, something with heart," said UMass senior and psychology major, Rachel Schein. "It'll change your perspective on what music's all about."

However, it seems as if more and more people are trading the experience of a record store for the cheap thrill of a download timer. It has been proven however, that MP3s have a far worse sound quality than CDs or even records. In order to fit an MP3 onto an MP3 player, the file from a CD has to be compressed to an extremely small size. As a result, the song may sound much different, and small subtleties, like key changes, can't be detected by the listener. Yet many people, both young and old, are standing by their vinyl. Kwon has faith in his store and doesn't believe he'll lose many customers as a result of this new technology.

"There's always going to be change," said Kwon. "I think you have to learn to adapt and evolve and know that people still value music. We choose our standards and we have a lot of loyal customers."

One can truly feel at ease and at home inside Dynamite. There's always good music playing as the gazes of Siouxsie Sioux and Robert Smith look down from displayed posters. The store has a very relaxed atmosphere, where no one peers over your shoulder and you're allowed to be with the music in your own way.

"I think independent record stores are a good idea; keeps the small businesses up and running, and the awareness that records are still being produced and used," said Hampshire College student Taylor "Matchstick" McNeilly. "[Records have] a very different quality of sound, and are definitely enjoyable. I'm glad such places as Dynamite Records are still around, because it really lends something to the culture."

Dynamite Records also tries to help local artists obtain success by offering them a place to perform. The shop often has artists perform in the store itself or in the display windows. This gesture is how Mr. Kwon and his employees give back to the community.

"I feel like there are fewer opportunities than before for local artists to get out there," said Kwon. "Even in New York, there aren't a lot of places where local artists can perform. Music is such an important part of people's lives and of important value in communities. Dynamite Records has always been a community store and will always be a community store."

While Kwon is giving back to the artists, the artists are giving back to the record stores. Record Store Day, which will be celebrated on April 18, 2009, aims to make people more aware of the culture and history that record stores have.

On their Web site,, Boston native Amanda Palmer of The Dresden Dolls said, "My early record shopping experiences were my musical backdrop… it's not just the ability to touch, see and smell an album and the artwork ... it's the fact that you're in a real place with real people ... you can't get that feeling sitting behind your computer, ever."

Kwon doesn't wait for April to celebrate his love of music. To him, every day is Record Store Day.

"I just hope people still enjoy the experience of buying music," he said. "If you don't know what that is, come on in and we'll show you."

Independent record stores, their employees and their loyal customers are filled with a passion for music. They do more than just hear music; they can see it and feel it. It's a part of them. To them, shopping for music is more than just retail therapy, it's a ritual. It's not something they do, but something they experience. Independent record stores are alive today because of the people who want to have that experience.

Dynamite Records is located at 33 Main Street in Northampton.

Classic Rock Videos

50's Rock & Roll Tribute (Dance Swing & Boogie Woogie)

For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis

A great new book about the fabulous album cover art from the folks at Hipgnosis is now available. I have my copy on order and can tell you it is a fantastic look at the amazing covers of this legendary album cover art design group:

For the Love of Vinyl: The Album Art of Hipgnosis

by Nick Mason (Author), Peter Blake (Author), Paula Scher (Author), Aubrey Powell (Author), Storm Thorgerson (Author)
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: PictureBox
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981562213
ISBN-13: 978-0981562216
This title will be released on December 1, 2008.

(10 CC)
Hipgnosis was the biggest and best graphic design firm for the biggest and best bands of the 60s and 70s. Formed by Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell in London in 1968 (with the addition of Throbbing Gristle's Peter Christopherson in 1974), Hipgnosis specialized in creative photography for the music business, making classic album covers for bands and musicians like Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Electric Light Orchestra, Genesis, 10cc, Yes, Peter Gabriel, The Gods, Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Paul McCartney, Syd Barrett, Scorpions and Styx, among others.

Over the course of its 15 year existence, Hipgnosis produced timeless rock iconography--everybody knows at least one Hipgnosis cover, thanks to Pink Floyd's Dark Side of the Moon. The firm's inventive takes on the themes or titles of any given album opened up a new visual language in album cover art, one in which theatrical tableaux, trick photography and logo design played notable roles. For the Love of Vinyl is the first book to survey Storm and Powell's output in detail, focusing on more than 60 package designs--from cover to label--described with entertaining detail by the team who created them. Also included are short essays by musicians (such as Pink Floyd's Nick Mason and artists (British Pop artist Peter Blake) and fellow designers (Paula Scher) on their favorite Hipgnosis covers, as well as previously unseen photographs and ephemera. Complementing all this material is a lengthy critical-historical text examining Hipgnosis and its legacy. For the Love of Vinyl is the rock book of 2008.

Storm Thorgerson and Aubrey Powell are award-winning graphic designers and the founders of Hipgnosis.

Order Your Copy in time for Christmas!

40 Years of Hits From Tommy James & the Shondells

Collector's Choice Music has scored an exclusive with the first comprehensive hits package to include all of Tommy James' singles with the Shondells and as a solo artist. The 40th Anniversary Singles Collection was approved by James and carefully assembled to include every one of his A-Sides from his work on six different labels. Release is set for November 25.

The company has also kept collectors in mind by assembling some rarities on the album. The very first track is the original, slower version of "Hanky Panky" as released on the Snap label and is followed by 14 more original singles, all in glorious mono. Some songs like "I Think We're Alone Now" and "Somebody Cares" include extra vocal overdubs not heard on the more standard stereo versions.

In fact, many of these versions have never been released before on CD. I Love Christmas includes the original arrangement with an a capella choir. "Draggin' the Line" is the single mix that you probably heard on the radio during its original run which contains extra horns not heard on most album versions. "Calico" is the pop radio version, not the jazz version heard on other anthologies. Overall, these are the singles as they were originally released and, in a special treat, the album ends with "Long Pony Tail," a song cut by Tom & the Tornadoes in 1962.

The 2-CD set also includes liner notes by Ed Osborne and photo's from James' personal archive.


This Date In Music History-November 1


Dan Peek of America ("Ventura Highway") turns 58.

Keith Emerson of Emerson, Lake and Palmer is 64.

Country oddball Lyle Lovett was born in Klein, Texas in 1957.

Birthday wishes to Anthony Keidis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers.


The first Beatles solo album (George Harrison's "Wonderwall Music") was released in 1968. The songs are mostly Harrison instrumentals, aided by Eric Clapton, Ringo Starr and an uncredited banjo contribution by Peter Tork of The Monkees. The LP would reach #49 in the US but did not chart at all in the UK and would become the first album to be deleted from the Apple Records catalog.

While The Beatles were appearing at the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany in 1962, a recording was made on a small, portable tape recorder which would be pressed and issued by Singasong Records in 1977 as "Live! At the Star Club in Hamburg, Germany, 1962.

On The Ed Sullivan Show tonight in 1964, you could have watched the Dave Clark Five perform "Glad All Over." Comparing them to the Rolling Stones, Sullivan declared the Five "nice, neat boys." They would perform more times on his show than any other rock act.

The Festfolk Quartet, which would later become Abba, performed their first concert at a restaurant in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1970.

In 1955, an R&B group called The Famous Flames, led by singer James Brown, cut their first demo of "Please, Please, Please" at a radio station in Macon Georgia.

In 1966, three Elvis Presley albums were certified gold: his 1956 debut album, "Elvis Presley", "Elvis' Golden Records, Vol. 2" and "Elvis' Golden Records, Vol. 3".

In 1969, "Suspicious Minds" reached the top of the Billboard chart, becoming Elvis Presley's 17th and final number one hit. It reached #2 in the UK.

In 1972, the 33rd and final film of Elvis' career, "Elvis On Tour" opens in the US. It would be awarded the 1972 Golden Globe Award for Best Documentary, making it the only Elvis film to win an award of any kind.

In 2000, the Recording Industry Association Of America introduces guidelines for Parental Advisory labeling on recordings.

In 2004, 61 year old Terry Knight, the former manager of Grand Funk Railroad, was murdered at his home in Killeen, Texas (Knight was defending his daughter during a domestic disturbance). Knight began his music career by leading a Michigan band called Terry Knight and the Pack, who scored a Billboard top 50 hit with "I, Who Have Nothing.”

In 1969, the Beatles scored their 13th US No.1 album with 'Abbey Road.’ The cover supposedly contained clues adding to the ‘Paul Is Dead’ phenomenon: Paul is barefoot and the car number plate ‘LMW 281F’ supposedly referred to the fact that McCartney would be 28 years old if he was still alive. ‘LMW’ was said to stand for ‘Linda McCartney Weeps.’ And the four Beatles, represent; the priest (John, dressed in white), the Undertaker (Ringo in a black suit), the Corpse (Paul, in a suit but barefoot), and the Gravedigger (George, in jeans and a denim work shirt).