A vinyl daze is returning

June, 1978. We were in the grips of disco fever. The number one album for 24 weeks was “Saturday Night Fever.” The national debate was whether to give the Panama Canal to Panama. Gas was at 65 cents a gallon. The record industry was complaining that home taping, facilitated by affordable cassette decks, would ruin the music business. 8-track tapes still had some life in them.

And Everybody’s Records opened in Pleasant Ridge selling used records.

Everybody’s is the second longest operating record store in the area behind Mole’s Record Exchange on Calhoun St. in University Heights, which celebrated its 30th in 2004.

“We’ve ridden some trends,” says Everybody’s owner Marilyn Kirby, who is celebrating the three-decade anniversary of the store she opened June 1, 1978 with an investment of $10,000.

Everybody’s has survived 30 years often bucking the trends. It’s been well-documented how the big-box stores have hurt numerous mom and pop entrepreneurs by selling loss leader products often below costs. The neighborhood record store has gone the way of the corner hardware, drugstore and grocery.

“We survived Record Theater, Media Play, Circuit City, Peaches, Target and Wal-Mart--all in our backyard,” Kirby says ticking off the list of competitors.

Everybody’s has also seemingly survived the digital music revolution that has restructured the music industry over the last 15 years, beginning with the CD burner that quickly became as ubiquitous as a toaster among young people. Now the i-Pod download revolution has made rock radio almost meaningless for a new MP3 shuffle generation, which may also be losing the very concept of the record album.

Indeed, a generation has come of age that never experienced the joys of browsing the bins at the neighborhood music hangout. But that is beginning to change. The pendulum is swinging back.

Everybody’s, along with stores like Mole’s and Shake It Records in Northside, survive partly because they remain true to their mission, which is simply being a record store.

“We’ve come full circle,” Kirby says amazed herself at the irony.

Yes, the store that opened selling used vinyl records finds itself 30 years later selling used vinyl records, accounting for a significant portion of its business--at least 25 percent, according to Kirby.

The vinyl LP is making a comeback with more and more young people discovering the joys of the record album.

Nielsen SoundScan reports nearly 1 million vinyl records were sold in 2007, up from 858,000 in 2006. Nearly a half million turntables were sold last year- almost doubling the 2006 number, according to the Consumer Electronic Association. Several major bands and hundreds of indie artists continue to release projects in vinyl. Elvis Costello’s new record was at first only available as an LP. In recent months, new albums from such bands as Radiohead, Bruce Springsteen, Nine Inch Nails, the Raconteurs and Cat Powers all have had vinyl releases. And record companies continue to put out vinyl reissues with such recent ones as Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde,” the Doors entire studio catalogue, and the Rolling Stones’ “Beggar’s Banquet.”

Music purists insist vinyl has a warmer sound compared to what they consider to be the sterility of digital recordings. Many Baby Boomers cling to their record albums because, well...they can read the liner notes without their glasses. And younger people are discovering the album cover is a wonderful slice of pop art itself.

“Almost everyday it seems some kid gets a laugh out of the pop-up band members when you open Jethro Tull’s, ‘Stand Up,’ ” says Harry Lushey, Everybody’s assistant manager.
 Record store operators cite several reasons for vinyl’s new hipness.

“My theory is it is a bit of technological backlash- a reaction to nebulous, MP3s that don’t really exist,” says Billy Carter in charge of vinyl sales at Shake It.  “The idea of having a tangible object is very important.”

Carter says Shake It’s vinyl sales have been steady for some time and “grown exponentially in just the last three years.”

Everybody’s manager Pat “Woody” Dorsey cites a more practical reason for the renewed interest in vinyl among young buyers.

“They realize it’s cheaper,” he says. “A lot of kids input the turntables right into their computer and burn the stuff to their i-Pods. You can get an old Led Zeppelin album for $5; it might cost $8-$12 to download it. And kids say burning a record has a better, warmer sound quality than if it was downloaded.”

Lushey says the love of vinyl has changed in just the last few years among younger folks. “I remember kids would come in to the store and wonder what that big CD was and where do you find a CD player that big,” he says.

Everybody’s does sell turntables for $100 to play those “big CDs.” It has always stocked needles for the vinyl diehards.

Kirby opened Everybody’s after working in the late ‘70s at her brother’s used record store in Dayton, Second Time Around. It would draw record browsers from Cincinnati and Kirby realized there was a solid market for used product. She joined Mole’s with the city’s second used store. 

Kirby’s first manager, Carol Appel, remembers helping to stock the store by going to garage sales and loading up on three-for-a-buck records in the cut-out bins at the discount chains.

In the ‘80s Kirby almost reluctantly added CDs, which proved a mini-boom for record retailers everywhere as many Boomers replaced their vinyl collections with the new technology. In 1989 Kirby expanded to the adjacent storefront with the current tidy configuration where used CDs and vinyl are on one side of the store and new product on the other.

By the ‘90s the hip hop scene was driving business at Everybody’s, along with the grunge wave that fueled a rock revival with the likes of Nirvana and Pearl Jam. The 12- inch rap record, or 99 cent CD single of the week, became a must-have with rappers acting as the CNN of the street with almost weekly releases.

“Rap payed for my kids’ college education,” Kirby says. “We would get boxes of each artist and they would sell out in one day.”

There are other intangibles about a neighborhood record store that Everybody’s has managed to foster. It features in-store appearances from local and touring artists. The neighborhood record shop is known for knowledgeable staff. For example, Dorsey has been at the store for over 20 years; Lushey since 1989 and assistant manager Michael Shuter started in 1992 (“That’s like a minute in Everybody’s time,” Shuter jokes).

And for cash-strapped young people, it’s nice to know you can sell as well as buy. Kirby notes the store has seen more people selling off pieces of their music collections this spring, especially young working class kids and students literally looking for gas money.

Photography by Scott Beseler
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