17 April 2009

Record Store Week, Day 5: 52.5 Records (Fifty-Two Point Five Records), Charleston, SC

If you're just tuning in, all this week at SIO, I'm profiling some independent record stores that have had an impact on my brief tenure on this bright blue marble. I am NOT ranking these record stores, merely providing anecdotes and/or vignettes of what these specific records stores mean in the context of a decade-plus of throwing money at patchouli-smelling, cooler-than-you hipster types.

I was apprehensive about moving to The Coast of South Carolina. There are about 10,000 reasons to live in ridiculously-hot Charleston; the ocean is a mere 20-30 minutes away from wherever you are, there's more American history and culture in the city than in most Western states, and the scenery is stunning--not everyone crosses two major rivers on their way to work every morning. Still, despite these obvious benefits, I was irrationally apprehensive.

Edisto Island was always a vacation destination for my wife and I. We would venture down to the secluded island with her family for a four to five days every year. Inevitably we would encounter one day where restlessness would set in; rain would appear or sunburn would prohibit another walk to the beach. These days we would venture into downtown Charleston for shopping and sight-seeing. I'm not one for shopping, so I always try to locate a bookstore or record store and spend hours on end in its loving arms.

We had the misfortune of being scheduled to go to Edisto the week of September 11, 2001. On September 11 my wife and I travelled somewhat reluctantly and sullenly down to the island from the Upstate. We were both unsteady, scared, and felt a little guilty for trying to enjoy a vacation in the wake of a national tragedy. That vacation sucked, anyway. Folks were glued to the TV in anger, frustration, and awkwardness, the weather was cloudy and rainy (except for the day we left), and internal political tensions were high. In a last-ditch effort to salvage some semblance of a good time, a few of us travelled downtown to Charleston for our requistite shopping excursion. I quickly located a record store by asking a few folks on the street and secluded myself in the small brick enclave that was 52.5 Records.


52.5 is no longer at the same spot that it was at in 2001. It's got some swanky new digs up the street about five or six blocks. (That seems to be a recurring theme with record stores this week, no?) In additiona to tons of vinyl, they've got a damn good DVD selection and magazine/zine selection. And they actually rent DVDs and offer a lending library for community donated books. They also are combining two of my favorite pasttimes into one stop: beer and records. That's the kind of progressive thinking I want in my record store.

But back to that rainy, bleak day in September. I only bought one item in the two and a half hours I perused the bins at 52.5, but it was a solid purchase: Charles Mingus, Mingus Ah Um. It's a pinnacle in the realm of jazz and in many ways it opened the door to my jazz-listening
experiences. It stayed with me all that week and felt like a cool balm on a deep burn and that's mostly how jazz feels to me now. It's also one of the reasons I have such great memories of going to record stores and perusing the shelves; when you find that perfect album, it can alter your mood, perception, your day, your week, or even your life. That sound corny, I know. But I love that feeling and I get it everytime I visit an independent record store.

Have fun out at Record Store Day tomorrow! Support the day with a big purchase. There's gonna be tons of awesome, limited stuff for sale. I'll be down at 52.5 in the morning and then will make my way to Monster Music after that. Thanks for reading this week.


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