There was a meme floating around on Facebook not too long ago in which people were posting lists of the records that affected them before they could legally buy alcohol.
You all can talk about your Top 10 teenage albums, but I want to talk about the record shop that got every penny from me as a young lad and the man who helped foster my love of punk and the blues: Jeff Loh of the Vinyl Solution.
Admittedly, an offensive name, especially given that the store was run by a white guy with a shaved head. But he took care of us young kids. I remember walking in and saying, "I've heard about this band called The Stooges. Any recommendations?" He came out from behind the counter and started flipping through the stacks. In his gruff voice, he said, "Start with this one. If you dig that, move on to this one. Then you can try this one if you're feeling adventurous."
We also used to go in on Friday nights and hang our jackets on his "security" system at the front door (those U-shaped chrome wands you see at JC Penny in the mall) and we’d shout, "Jeff, you drunk yet? It's easier to steal from you when you're drunk." He'd snarl back, "Fuck you," as he'd down another Budweiser while sitting behind at least eight empty bottles stacked on the counter while blasting some arcane Crass record. Those nights he'd often have pulled out the ashtray—customers weren't allowed to smoke, but he was. It was his fucking place, and he could do whatever he fucking wanted to.
All of his sales were written down in a spiral bound notebook—no computer or even a ledger book—just some piece of shit that you could buy at CVS for 99 cents to carry to your crappy 10th grade creative writing class.
Fuck, my high school punk band even wrote a song about him.
When I was in college—shortly before he had to shutter the shop a few months later—I walked in to pay my respects and dug $250 worth of records which I carried to the register. As he flipped through them and wrote them down in the notebook with a cheap Bic pen, he looked up at me with an arched eyebrow and grumbled, "Kid...I've watched you grow up in this store. And I'm glad to see that you've finally gotten good taste and no longer need my help."
Years later I bumped into him while having a cigarette break at a graphic/web design company I was temping for. Apparently he had started a record label to re-release the works of arcane swamp-blues records and my employer was doing the album art. He still remembered me and we had a good cough and a laugh sitting on the curb like a couple of aging punks while flicking our cigarette butts into the parking lot.
iTunes is cool and all, but nothing will ever surpass the smell of the crates or the existence of a man who is willing to guide you through the grooves.