Record Store Day celebrates new and old vinyl

Record Store Day, the international celebration of good old-fashioned, brick-and-mortal retail music outlets, is commemorating its 10th birthday on Saturday, and Claremont’s venerable Rhino Records is ready to party. 

Rhino, at 235 Yale Ave., open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday, will be putting out dozens of exclusive, not-available-anywhere-else items and hundreds of rare and out-of-print slabs as part of Record Store Day festivities. 

Among the exclusive items are a re-released box set of original Ramones seven-inch singles, complete with reproductions of original artwork; two new re-releases of original Kinks four-song, seven-inch EPs, “All Day and All of the Night” and “Got Love if you Want It,” both of which have never been available in the US; and a new David Bowie box set, “Cracked Actor,” a triple 12-inch live collection from the late legend’s 1974 Philly Dogs Tour, which will include previously unseen photos from his Universal Amphitheater show in Los Angeles during the same tour.

“It’s our busiest day of the year,” said Nathan Norio Wilson, a 28-year Rhino employee and the store’s resident expert on rare and out-of-print vinyl, adding that Record Store Day is “bigger than Christmas.”

Also part of the party is a trove of rare and out-of-print records that Mr. Wilson has been holding back for the occasion. The rarest is a “third state” copy of The Beatles’ 1966 “butcher cover” record, “Yesterday and Today.”

The original album had the fabs pictured in white butcher’s smocks surrounded by doll parts and bloody meat. Capitol Records initially shipped about 750,000 copies with the original cover, but reaction was swift, and the records were quickly shipped back to Capitol.

Once returned, a sticker with a presumably less offensive photograph of the group—looking much less enthused and hanging around a steamer trunk—was applied over the original. A “third state” copy of “Yesterday and Today” refers to these original returned records, with the cover-up sticker removed, revealing the original “butcher cover.” Rhino’s copy is priced at $200.

“Everybody always wants one of the ‘butcher covers,’” Mr. Wilson said. “It’s definitely rare. I’ve seen only about 10 and I’ve been here over 20 years.” 

Other rarities run the gamut from rare 12-inch singles from electronic music giants Kraftwerk to obscure treasures from Conrad Schnitzler, a pioneering German experimental musician. And of course there are plenty of other, more mainstream titles from which to choose. And not all of the rare vinyl is expensive. “There are hundreds of records going out that are basically five dollars and up,” Mr. Wilson said. 

Vinyl records have enjoyed a resurgence in recent years after nearly dying out completely when digital music became the standard in the late 1980s. Forbes reported recently that vinyl records are expected to sell 40 million units in 2017. And while that’s a big number when one compares it to the industry’s death rattle days of the early 1990s, there remains a long way to go to match the peak year of 1981, when one billion records were sold.

Through it all, Claremont’s Rhino Records has remained. The beloved store opened in 1976 and has gracefully endured all the highs and lows. Rhino avoided the fate of so many other independent record stores that called it quits as vinyl fell out of vogue and digital downloads exploded in the late 1990s. And while it’s been heartening to see the boost in vinyl interest from a new generation of music fans, and Rhino has certainly felt the uptick, Mr. Wilson said he would forego the victory party. 

“We have to take things day-to-day because things can change,” he said. “I think we’ve always been very fortunate given that we’re in the Claremont area and there’s always been a great base of people that keep us rolling here. And especially in southern California there’s a bit more of a culture for vinyl records or just of people who want physical copies as opposed to just getting downloads. Or they want to support their favorite music by buying an actual item instead of listening to a stream on Spotify where the artist might get half a cent.”

So what can we do, as regular folks on Record Store Day, to help insure institutions like Rhino will remain neighborhood treasures?

“Just go out and support your local record store,” Mr. Wilson said. “And if you’re not in Claremont and there’s a local, independent record store in your area, try and pay them a visit and buy a record, new, used, anything.”

Great advice, Mr. Wilson, and God Bless America.

—Mick Rhodes


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