Thanks Rob! Hope you're doing better!
Post-Surgery Hunting Story #2:
So in 1996 I moved to Lubbock, TX, which is way out in the western part of the state where some of the Texans really are still cowboys. The girls are gorgeous, the guys will fight you over anything, the land is flatter than newly-pressed 180-gram vinyl, and the beer is....outlawed. Lubbock is in a dry county, so no beer or liquor sales outside of bars/restaraunts, which have a notoriously hard time getting licenses to serve. Neither my new roommate nor I knew this about Lubbock until we ventured down to a store and asked where the heck the beer was kept. The clerk's reply of "try the next county over" left both me and my new 'mate rather shocked and seriously questioning our life choices.
Once settled in after several days, I did what every good record collector did in 1998 when in a new place- I combed through the phone book to see where I might find heavy metal albums for sale! I had been collecting since the late '80s, all the way through college in the early-mid '90s. So I was firmly hooked and anxious to see if my new, beer-less home town would yield better record hunting than my last port of call.
I had spent the previous four years living in Ohio, firmly set in the American Midwest Rust Belt, on the shore of Lake Eerie and an hour or two south of Detroit. To say there was no metal scene in the area is an understatement. It took me about three years to meet someone who knew that HELLOWEEN wasn't a candy-ridden holiday typo. And trying to collect 'real' heavy metal in the US during the early 90s was a chore even in a more ideal locale. Unless you wanted to stock up on CDs of Cannibal Corpse clones or you thought 'Vulgar Display of Power' was true genius and the Future of Metal, you were shit out of luck. I had cobbled together a collection of used tapes, CDs, and vinyl, finding a handful of goodies in the used record store but mostly relying on mail order lists from the likes of Denis Gulbey (Sentinel Steel), John Allinson, Alfred Spremo, and Paul Rote (I don't think I crossed paths with John Haupt until a year or two later).
So there I was, scouring a phone book in a cowboy town, where the only thing bigger than the pickup trucks were the cowboy hats, hoping aginst hope to find some place I might buy a BLIND GUARDIAN CD.
Two record stores where in my area: Ralph's Records and Campus Records (being close to the campus of Texas Tech). So as soon as I had an afternoon off, I set course to check 'em both out. First up was Ralph's. The exterior was a small shop with bright pink roofing. Not exactly hope-inducing. But I go in and start digging. The clerk was a friendly guy who used to be into metal, and had put some of hi personal stuff in the used racks to try and sell. He assured me Lubbock had once had a thriving Metal scene. So I started digging with at least some hope of finding something passable.
On that first day, I came across the following:
Warlord Deliver Us
Warlord And the cannons...
Savatage Sirens on Par (black vinyl)
Cirith Ungol one foot in hell
Running Wild port royal
(both bands I was dying to hear albums by, having only heard 1-2 comp tracks from each previously).
The tapes were $3 each, the Warlords $10, and the Savatage $40, which had to wait until my next visit/paycheck.
There was a wall of oldschool used cassette tapes, tons of Metal Blade, a ridiculous amount of Noise titles, and also demo tapes! Hey, want to hear Desolation Angels' post LP demos? Check! I'd had the album for awhile and loved it- I didn't even know 'English Bastards' and the others existed! Want a Heathens Rage demo? Multiple copies sitting there. Want Oliver Magnum demos? Uh, how many copies? Combat releases? Take your pick!
Oh, and we're not done with the vinyl. One the clerk, Gary, saw me reappear a couple of times to keep buying his personal vinyl items, he started restocking and bringing things in just for me. Over the next couple of years, i bought the following from him:
Mercyful Fate 'Don't Break the Oath' pic disc for $20- had never heard King's pre-KD material. Took one spin of 'Dangerous Meeting' to make me sell my soul.
SA Slayer go for the throat. Oh yeah, Gary knew them, had seen them back in the day. You interested? Sure, I got a sealed copy of the LP. How's $8 sound?
Shok Paris 1st album on Auburn.
The list goes on and on and on.
Hell, even the used CD bin could produce gold.
Bathory 'hammerheart'? Yep.
The promo-only Savatage comp 'From the Dungeons to the Streets' that I had spent 4 years looking for? Sure; how's $8 sound?
Riot 'rock city'. Sure, how's $8 sound?
New ROTTING CHRIST album? Sure, how's $8 sound?
And it didn't stop there. Lubbock made a great stop for bands coming or going from Dallas, being about 6 hrs west of Dallas and another 6 hrs to anywhere else. I saw more good shows in 2 year in the plains of TX than in 4 years living maybe 2 hrs from Detroit.
Oh, DIO is coming to town, bring an album by the store and he'll personalize it for you while he's standing behind the counter signing autographs.
Oh, Fates Warning are in town and I got them to sign an LP copy of 'Guardian'. Here, happy birthday!
Hey, Misfits are coming to town! Did you know 'American Psycho' has a bonus track on the vinyl version? No? I'll get you a copy.
Hey, need some video footage of Glenn fronting the Misfits?
Hey, need an Iron maiden boot CD from the DiAnno era?
Hey, wanna borrow this huge metal book Martin Popof just published? Keep it as long as you want.
I cannot overstate how many of the classic 80s metal bands finally entered my ears and hands thanks to Gary and Ralph's Records. I don't have an exact count, but I'd estimate that, before I moved back East, I bought at least 100 titles from that place. I know at one point I averaged a new title once every 3 days, usually for $3 (tapes) or $8 (LPs or vinyl) each. I went from the guy who had heard of most of the bands to the guy who owned multiple albums by most of the bands.
Great story, huh? Oh, did I ever make it to that other store? Eventually, yeah. It was a pretty typical college town used record store. With one big difference; the bottom of the CD shelving units had sliding doors packed full of old vinyl. I flipped through a few with zero expectations.
The third album I flipped past was MEDIEVAL KILLS!
The 5th was the DEMON FLIGHT EP.
I had about 20 and a half racks left to flip through.
They were ALL littered throughout with pure 80s metal glory.
Two stores like this. Within maybe 4 blocks of each other. Both less than a 15 minute walk from where I was living.
I have died and gone to heaven.
My 4 years of Rust Belt purgatory have paid off all my karma, and I was reborn into the land of cowboys, pretty girls, no beer, and apparently all the metal I could handle. Quite a change from the Midwest, where the booze was as plentiful as the asshole frat boys, Biohazard was all the rage, and the girls were built like rugby players but with more testosterone and thicker beards.
So I proceeded to do the only thing I could do. On payday, I returned to the store with a notebook, created a numbering system for the cabinets, and then proceeded to sit in the floor for over three hours making a list of every heavy metal LP they had in the place. The clerk checked on me a few times before realizing what I was doing, at which point he just smiled and told me to take my time. That day ended in me carrying about 30 albums back to my place for $2 each. Here's a sampling:
Tokyo blade (1st 2 LPs; they also had a different pressing of the 1st LP I picked up on a later trip thanks to my store map!)
Celtic frost emperors return
Torch electrikiss red vinyl
Accept restless and wild red vinyl
Motorhead beer drinkers ( 'bastards' was picked up on a later trip)
lead weight comp (actually I left this for a later trip and it was the 1 LP on my store map that disappeared before I came back to buy it)
There was a sealed copy of 'Tales of Creation' for $10. I casually asked why that one was so much more expensive than the others. The clerk looked at it: "hmm, beats me, you can have it for $2".
The list goes on and on.
This store closed down after another year or so, but by then I had easily purchased close to 100 LPs as well as a few tapes and CDs. I had rescued most of the 'good' metal vinyl before they closed their doors, but there were still dozens of LPs left that I didn't get, mostly things that leaned a little more AOR/commercial but were probably worth picking up (stuff like TKO, more commercial-friendly NWOBHM acts, etc) Like with Ralph's. this store really helped get me over that hump of KNOWING about the bands to actually getting to HEAR and BUY records by those bands.
So if any of you millennials ever wonder why old codgers like me sometimes get pissy when some of you whine about not finding FAR EAST on YouTube, trying discovering new music the way we old farts had to- you move to west TX, spend hours making your own notebook list of the metal vinyl in the store, then spend every payday for 2 years doling out some cash so you can learn what Coroner sounds like via the used turntable you carried home from a pawn shop 19 blocks away- and maybe then you'll understand why we're not very sympathetic when your 3-second Google search yielded full audio of only one side of the METAL MERCHANTS EP.
So if it wasn't for those 2 years of living in the liquor-less land of Lubbock, I would never have gotten to own so many great metal albums by so many great metal bands.
A lot of that fare is gone now. Not every album turned out to be a winner. Some I later replaced; tapes became CDs, vinyl got upgraded. A big chunk of material was sold to Dave Weber around 2003 when I wanted to thin out my collection. The 'fight til the end' demo was ebayed to a Russian collector for about $150, which along with some KD pic discs and that 'English Bastards' demo, helped pay for my wife's engagement ring about 10 years after I left Lubbock.
I never did find a BLIND GUARDIAN CD in Lubbock, TX
...but I did find a used CD of 'Hypertrace' at Ralph's
Thanks Gary, $8 sounds just fine
"I'm sorry Sam, we had real chemistry. But like a monkey on the sun, our love was too hot to live"