‘Public records request’ reveals politicians choices for Record Store Day
Apr 19, 2023, 8:55 AM | Updated: 9:00 am
(Photo by Christie Goodwin/Redferns via Getty Images)
Today is the 15th anniversary of the very first “Record Store Day,” which took place April 19, 2008, to celebrate and support independent retailers of recorded music around the United States. This year’s edition is coming up on Saturday, so KIRO Newsradio checked in with some local elected officials to gather their 45 rpm memories and visions of vintage vinyl.
We wanted to know if Governor Jay Inslee, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Seattle Mayor Bruce Harrell remembered the first record they ever bought with their own money, and if they had fond memories of particular record stores.
Governor Jay Inslee told me he didn’t personally buy any records – he said for his family, it was all about reel-to-reel tapes (which maybe we’ll talk about if there’s ever a “Reel-to-Reel Tape Day” – see below). But, when the future governor was just a child, he did actually have a favorite first record at grandma’s house.
“I do remember my first record, which was ‘The Ballad of Billy the Kid’ by Marty Robbins,” Governor Inslee told KIRO Newsradio. “My Grandma had it. I played that a thousand times. I was about six years old, and fortunately, it didn’t affect me, because I managed to not be a gunfighter.”
“So it turned out okay,” Governor Inslee said.
And here’s a little taste of “Billy the Kid” by Marty Robbins.
As a non-record buyer, Governor Inslee says he doesn’t have one particular record store that stands out in his memory.
“I couldn’t say I had a favorite, but I love them because they’re a small businesses and people connect with one another there,” the governor said. “They’re communities that shine and it’s great to have them. I’m glad they’re thriving, and I’m glad they’re on a resurgence.”
If tape experiences a similar resurgence, does the governor have any plans to declare “Reel-to-Reel Tape Day” anytime soon in the Evergreen State?
“No, but I’ll just say the new motto is ‘Keep it Reel,” Governor Inslee said. “That’s my new motto.”
King County Executive Dow Constantine is a total vinyl record and record store guy. He worked at KCMU, the precursor to KEXP, when the station was located on the UW campus, back when the future county executive was still in college. He also spent a lot of time at a favorite record store of many of a certain age: Cellophane Square on 42nd just off the Ave in the University District. That store was open until midnight most nights, and instead of shopping bags, they neatly wrapped your LP purchases in old newspapers.
When Executive Constantine was a kid, he lived in West Seattle, which is where he says he pedaled his Schwinn Stingray to go and buy his first record.
“There were two record stores in The Junction at the time, this was long before Easy Street,” Executive Constantine said. “There was Penny Lane and there was Turnabout, and Penny Lane was up the street from where Easy Street is now and Turnabout was down the street.”
“And I think I went to Turnabout, and I went in with my allowance and asked the clerk which single I should buy,” Executive Constantine continued. “They always had a rack of singles like the top 50 or top 100 or something. And he sized me up, and selected ‘Lean On Me’ by Bill Withers.”
Executive Constantine told KIRO Newsradio he buys new records all the time – or, more accurately, new releases of records he already has, but that are now available in limited release on colored vinyl.
He says that local, neighborhood record stores with real live staff are an essential part of their communities, and are on the front lines of what can still be special about the music industry.
“That’s the thing about record stores,” Executive Constantine told KIRO Newsradio. “You’ve got people who are just living this stuff and they’re not all going to share your taste but they could definitely guide you, help you, point out things that you might have overlooked.”
“And that is something that I think is kind of missing in the broader music ecosystem today,” Executive Constantine said.
Mayor Bruce Harrell told KIRO Newsradio that he used to be a vinyl guy and that he bought a lot of records at mom-and-pop record stores on Rainier Avenue. As a college student, he then shopped most often at Tower Records on Lower Queen Anne and in the University District.
But, the mayor says, he no longer has his record collection – and many people, sadly perhaps, can identify with the fate of Mayor Harrell’s vintage vinyl.
“Well, you’re recording this and I’m under penalty of perjury,” Mayor Harrell said, tongue mostly in cheek. “And so, let me tell you the truth. My wife and I both hung onto our vinyl until we moved from one house to another, and I’m carrying literally boxes and boxes and boxes of albums.”
“And so I recycled them about 10 years ago,” Mayor Harrell continued. “And I’m afraid to say I didn’t keep them.”
We should point out here, the term “recycled” is a euphemism for a more, shall we say, permanent method of disposal. As in, don’t go to Goodwill hoping to find old LPs with “Property of Bruce Harrell” written on their cardboard covers in ballpoint pen.
All that aside, the first LP Mayor Harrell ever bought was “The Way of the World” by Earth, Wind, and Fire.
Mayor Harrell says he loves record album covers, and he used to have Curtis Mayfield LPs on the wall of his bedroom. He gets that record stores – like local radio stations (full disclosure: KIRO Newsradio is a shamelessly local radio station) – are essential parts of the community fabric, and a bit of an antidote for instant gratification.
He says that record stores – and searching through the inventory, speaking with the staff for recommendations – are about “the art of slowing things down and enjoying the journey, just not the purchase.”
The mayor also says he has a playlist he listens to all the time, which, he says, is deeply rooted in all that old vinyl he “recycled.”
“I would say 80% of what’s on my playlist are songs that I listened to on vinyl,” Harrell said. “I’m very nostalgic about my vinyl days, including Curtis Mayfield.”
Is Perry KIRO’s “(The Bluest Skies You’ve Ever Seen Are In) Seattle” anywhere on the mayor’s playlist?
“Well, that one didn’t quite make the cut,” Mayor Harrell said, chuckling.
Record Store Day 2023 is this Saturday, April 22, and many local stores will offer special events and one-of-a-kind opportunities to support these vital businesses which continue to mean so much to so many people – including some who don’t even know who Perry KIRO is.
You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien, read more from him here, and subscribe to The Resident Historian Podcast here. If you have a story idea, please email Feliks here.