Author: Record stores offer 'singular take' on a city's history
GPB's Peter Biello speaks with author Chad Radford about Atlanta's record stores.
Saturday, April 22nd is Record Store Day, a day devoted to the celebration of the culture of independent record stores. It’s about buying records, but it’s also about discovering new music and being among people who love to get their fingers dusty as they search through bins of vinyl.
The new book "Atlanta Record Stores: An Oral History" shares stories of the influence these stores have had over the past half-century. Author Chad Radford spoke with GPB’s Peter Biello.
Peter Biello: So what made you want to do a book on Atlanta record stores?
Chad Radford: So I'd been kicking around like several book ideas, and I've been kind of a record store....I don't know if I want to say junky, but definitely a regular since Ronald Reagan was still president. You know, I started buying records at the tail end of the 80s as a result of skateboarding and watching a lot of skateboard videos and going to a place in Omaha called Drastic Plastic, which was mostly a record store. But they also sold skateboards [and] kind of pushed me off on the music. And as soon as I found out about this whole world of underground music that existed, that was not The Rolling Stones and was not my parents' music, and it was something that could be mine. Even most of my schoolmates didn't know this whole world of music existed. It sort of became like a fascination with me.
Peter Biello: Record stores for you then seemed to be a place where you could discover new music and also create an identity separate from your parents.
Chad Radford: Yes, absolutely. And not only from my parents, from just everybody. You know, I grew up in a very rural Midwestern environment and knew I didn't fit in from a very young age and finding a lot of punk rock and indie rock and hip hop and even like, the more kind of out-there classical music and jazz at a young age really kind of helped me have the confidence to be myself. And that's all from going to record stores. So there's that. But there's also a big historical repository kind of element to going to a record store. You get like a very singular take on a city's history when you're standing inside the record store.
Peter Biello: Well, can I ask you about that? Let's focus on Wax 'N' Facts, one just among the many that you've mentioned here in this book. What can you learn about the city of Atlanta by walking into Wax 'N' Facts?
Chad Radford: Well, you can learn an awful lot about the city by walking into Wax 'N' Facts. That's one of the shops that has been in Atlanta for coming up on 50 years. And it kind of looks exactly the same as it did when it opened. It's expanded a little bit over the years. I think they opened up into another space that was next door, but just filled up that space with more of what they have. But those guys, like the owner, Danny Beard, Harry DeMille and even Sean Bourne, who has worked for them since pretty much the very beginning, have all been right there for almost 50 years. And you got to think like, how much has the world changed in 50 years? And these guys were there the entire time on the cutting-edge of pop culture, where people came to get music. RuPaul, who is sort of a global icon, got started in Atlanta as a musician and used to hang out at Wax 'N' Facts. If you go to Wax 'N' Facts and ask them about RuPaul, they'll hand you a record by the Cocktail Girls and say, This was RuPaul's backing band. And, there's like a level of history there that you just can't get anywhere else. It's not really preserved anywhere else.
Peter Biello: Worth mentioning, since tomorrow is Record Store Day, that Record Store Day has at least some roots in Atlanta.
Chad Radford: Yes. Eric Levin, who owns Criminal Records, is one of the co-founders of Record Store Day.
Peter Biello: A national thing now.
Chad Radford: Yeah, it's even a global thing now.
Peter Biello: So when people go to a record store tomorrow in honor of Record Store Day, how should they take in the experience? I imagine it's about more than just buying stuff.
Chad Radford: Well, patience is important because the thing about Record Store Day is lots of people come out of the woodwork. There's a certain contingency of of people out there who are angry at Record Store Day or they don't like Record Store Day because it's sort of like tourist season.
Peter Biello: Like the people who are in there all the time are like, "Oh, these people who are just here for this one day. Get out of my way."
Chad Radford: Exactly. It's like the tourists have come to the beach.
Peter Biello: Hmm. Okay.
Chad Radford: But that said, it truly is, like, a great fun thing. A lot of the releases are super limited, so you'll see people lining up at midnight camping out. Like it's the seventies and they're trying to buy concert tickets to see Aerosmith or Pink Floyd or something. It's generally done in the spirit of having a great time buying records.
Peter Biello: So on Record Store Day, are you going to be making the rounds to your favorite ones?
Chad Radford: Yes. Yes, for sure.
Peter Biello: Where are you going?
Chad Radford: Well, I'll probably start Wax 'N' Facts. It's people have asked me,"What's your favorite record store?" And I've got like five.
Peter Biello: Gonna try to hit all five, maybe?
Chad Radford: Yeah, I'll hit at least three of them. Wax 'N' Facts for sure. I love those guys. And at noon, I'm going to be doing a book signing over at Criminal [Records]. And then later in the day, if there's time, I'll probably head over to Wuxtry. That's another one of my favorites.