Was this a record?

Was this a record?


norman lebrecht

October 05, 2015

Spare a moment t0 revisit our record haunts of a vanishing past, courtesy of Flashbak (via Michael Nyman).

If you have tears, prepare….

Click here for the full gallery.



  • Leonard Slatkin says:

    Not quite so fast for total oblivion. The Earnest Tubb Record Shop is alive and well in Nashville. I was reminded of the days when you could go into a record store and the sales person actually knew a great deal about classical recordings. Plus, at least at Wallach’s Music City on Sunset and Vine in Hollywood, you could go into a booth and listen to an entire LP before purchase.

  • V.Lind says:

    I remember Sam the Record Man — when I arrived in Toronto for university I had never seen such a thrilling place. A warren of little rooms, millions of records, helpful and knowledgeable staff, but freedom to wander. And bargains galore — it was manageable even on a student budget to walk out of there with musical gems.

    And in later days, when it was all CDs, it still had everything, including discounted things. And still the rooms to wander through. And still the good staff.

    There was another massive store just doors away, and of course I looked in there too, but it did not quite have the cachet of Sam’s, to the point I do not recall what it was called. And later a shiny HMV entered the lists just a few more doors down Yonge Street. It was the last one standing — I am not sure if it is still there.

    It is hard to believe that places that gave so much pleasure (and sold it) so recently are almost historical artifacts — looking at these pictures made me think of wandering ancient ruins of extinct civilisations. How did it get to this point, so fast? Yes, welcome the innovations of the net and the web — but do we have to lose everything else? Books? Radio? Even television? All on endangered species lists.

    • jaypee says:

      I remember Sam the Record Man in Montreal on Ste-Catherine. I came from a smaller city (Québec City) with decent-size record stores but, just like you, the first time I went there, I thought I just entered heaven… The classical and the jazz sections were so full, I just thought I would OD… Instead of having just a few Stravinsky albums (my hero then) as I was used to, there were dozens if not hundreds of records just waiting for me… In the jazz section, I remember seeing European imports I had only heard of…
      The store looked like sh*t though, everything you touched was dusty, no one spoke French (ah, Montreal…), but that’s what gave this store its special charm… You knew you would come out with a few records even with a student budget.
      Everytime I now walk on Ste-Cath and see the block where Sam used to be, I feel like saying a small prayer…

      When I moved to Vienna 23 years ago, there was a fantastic Virgin Megastore and god knows how much money I spent there… then, somewhen in the early 2000s, Virgin closed and a mega shoestore opened instead…

      I sure miss those record stores but let’s honest, after several desolate years, good -but smaller- record stores are back… And I mean “records”, not cd!

    • BillBC says:

      The other one in Toronto was A & A records…I preferred it to Sam…

  • Brian Hughes says:

    I loved Rose Records, a regular stop on my sojourns to Chicago. Adjacent was sheet music heaven, Carl Fisher’s. Alas, both are gone, but there is still great stuffed pizza on Wabash Avenue.

  • Anthony Rodgers says:

    Those were the times when there was a great trend of records and records store. It was kind of a happy trip. I liked to go out and buy some new records with my dad. I’m a musician myself and trying ear training now at Ear Training HQ. You have to admit that the level of details which you can attain on a digital music track is far better than the old record sound, but still I’m a romantic in this regard.

  • sixtus says:

    I too have taken pictures of the empty disc bins at the Lincoln Center Tower Records sitting forlornly in the dark, and of the gutting of the huge Barnes & Noble bookstore at 18st and 5th Ave in NYC. Sic transit gloria mundi. But Academy Records on 18th still survives and is the best place in NYC for used classical CDs and LPs.

    • Dan P. says:

      Going back to the 60s and 70s, New York City had many more record stores that one could ever imagine. Sam Goody alone had record stores all over town (two were even directly across the street from one another – one was dedicated to budget priced recordings). Then there was King Karol on 42nd Street and Record Hunter (just around the corner) and J&R down by City Hall. And these were just a few among all the used and specialty shops like Rizzolli’s, Discophile, and dozens of others. The list would go on and on. Of the more recent ones, besides Tower was Virgin Records, but one of my last memories going into their megastore in Union Square to see lots of people in the room dedicated to classical music downstairs. Usually, there would be only a couple shoppers at most, and as often as not, I was the only one there. So I had a smile on my face as I headed through the door, only to find out that they had moved CDs elsewhere and now the room contained movies. When I finally found the CD racks they had been reduced to a few in the middle of something else. Now all of these are gone. I wonder what it will be when we tell our grandchildren about what record shopping was like. My guess they’ll look at us like we were nuts.

  • David Boxwell says:

    It’s just not as much fun streaming music while naked.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    Who remembers Orchesography off St. Martin’s Lane? I felt it lost its soul already when it went CD…

  • Patrick says:

    Lest we forget….

    Liberty Records in Ann Arbor!

  • Michael Hurshell says:

    I have many happy memories of going to Sam Goody in Manhattan (back when I was a student at Brown). I still have “cut outs” of Haitink’s Bruckner on my shelf… friends (also making the special trip from various places – Rochester, Princeton etc.) and I would meet there and spend many blissful hours. And yes, I remember the days when record stores – like Fifth Avenue Records in Seattle – were staffed with folks who knew the classical catalog, made informed statements about interpretations/tempi/vocal timbre/orchestral balance… and how much fun it was to engage in lively discussion when opinions diverged…! All gone. Miseria!