Vinyl Destination is selling music and making new memories in Lowell
By Rita Savard
Before fans went online for music, they got in line.
Neighborhood record stores were about more than just selling vinyl. They were places for exploring, for information to be exchanged, for selves to be defined.
If that sounds epic, vinyl addicts say that’s because it is.
“Listening to a record makes you feel more connected,” explains Dave Perry, a hardcore collector with more than 10,000 albums in his cache. “It’s an experience. You can touch it, pour over the art and liner notes — even the action of putting it on the turntable — it pulls you in like watching a good movie.”
The CD boom in the 80s and 90s prompted record labels to shutter their LP pressing plants and for a while albums seemed like forgotten relics, reserved for grandparents, collectors and a few good club DJs.
That was then.
Sales of record albums have skyrocketed over the past few years and the majority of buyers snapping them up were born after 1980. Now every major label and many smaller ones are releasing vinyl and collectors like Dave Perry are turning a hobby into a business.
On Sunday, Perry will open the doors of his brand new downtown Lowell record store, Vinyl Destination. The store will specialize in high quality used vinyl from all genres and “above all else,” Perry says, “will be a place where you can go and have fun and talk about music.”
You might say Dave Perry is a little obsessed with vinyl.
For Perry, a writer who spent the bulk of his career in journalism, opening Vinyl Destination is the culmination of a life shaped by flipping through stacks in yard sales, flea markets and hole-in-the-wall shops.
“My family wasn’t really into music that much,” Perry says.
Born in California (sometime before Woodstock), his dad was a navy pilot and the family moved around a lot. But there were always those Les Baxter records.
“It was a sort of exotica,” he laughs. “After World War II it was like a fake travel log where suburban folks in the 1950s felt they were going to far away places.”
Sometime in the 7th grade, the family was planted in Connecticut and Perry found himself at a yard sale where his eyes zeroed in on some interesting bundles.
“There were these big piles of albums tied together with string, like they were a kind of precious packet,” he says. “Whoever owned them previously had great taste in music. They were filled with The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Animals. It just kind of ignited this thing in me.”
He went on to college at San Francisco State, where he wrote a weekly music column and got to interview the players he listened to — the legendary Etta James and a kid playing in the student union, trying to make it big. His name was Chris Isaak.
Perry graduated in 1981, the year after John Lennon was shot. When the whole world was mourning over losing one of its most influential musicians on Dec. 8, 1980, editors called Perry in to take his music knowledge and “apply it to the news.”
“People always told me do what you love,” he says. “Music, from the beginning, had a big influence on what I ended up doing for work.”
In the 80s, Perry got a job at The Lowell Sun, where he became known as the music guy. From covering the local scene to writing about national acts, he kept an audience of audiophiles tuned into the sounds they loved and took them on a journey to discovering new ones.
A few years ago, he switched lanes and went to work for UMass Lowell, where he’s still writing and having conversations about music with people like Stephen King, who, visited the university in 2012 and John Hanlon, who co-produced Neil Young’s latest opus with Crazy Horse, “Psychedelic Pill.”
Looking back to his college days, when he’d go without eating for a week because he’d pop into the local record shop and fall under the spell of perfectly packaged deals for just $2.99, some things haven’t changed.
Record shops have always had a pull on Perry, who, in addition to his 10,000 some-odd albums, owns more than 6,000 45s and a house that keeps getting smaller to make room for his “friends.”
The thing that is changing, is the company Perry keeps.
For years, Perry has worked record shows throughout New England where, in the 90s, he’d only see a few die-hard collectors trickle in.
“If you go to a record show now, it gets packed,” he says. “And the cool thing, a lot of the faces in the crowd are college-aged and even younger.”
The reason for the resurgence goes deeper than the warm grooves in Perry’s Big Star albums. In the age of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, Perry thinks people are searching for the “experience” of listening to music again — not to mention the depth of sound an LP carries.
“It’s not like people are going to stop downloading music,” he says. “But there’s something to walking into a shop, flipping through records and having real conversations with people. It’s a memory or a story to tell that you can’t get from sitting alone in a room in front of a computer.”
As a result of the youth market, vinyl album sales soared in 2012 in an otherwise downtrending market with 4.6 million units moved, according to Neilsen SoundScan, which tracks and measures music sales.
Jack White, Mumford and sons, Adele, Bon Iver and Beach House all placed in the top 10 for vinyl albums sold last year. And in mid-may of 2013, when the French electronica duo Daft Punk released “Random Access Memories”, 6 percent of its first-week-sales — 19,000 out of 339,000 — were on vinyl, SoundScan reported.
Vinyl Destination, located in the ever-growing Mill No. 5 (where an indie movie theater, lounge, late-night cafe, chocolate shop and a whole lot more will be opening down the road) is a cozy space that will hold a huge and ever-changing collection.
Think of it as your local madhouse of audio, art and characters where music is the great equalizer and friendly humans like Perry and his son and buisness partner, Dan Perry, are ready to help you find exactly what you’re looking for. Well, almost.
“You won’t find any Justin Bieber,” Perry adds. “It’s just not a necessity.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Vinyl Destination
WHERE: at Mill No. 5, 250 Jackson St. in Lowell
INFO: Follow them on Facebook here. Call 978-866-6825 for more information.