This was an impulse buy of sorts.  There seems to be a trend of “list books” going on – the 1,000 Places to See Before You Die phenomenon – and I’m not sure, but I think I’m getting weary.  There’s a list book for everything now.

However, I do visit the local record shops when I travel and, frankly, I waste more time than I find success, and I have more trips in the planning stage.  I was thinking to myself several things, as I leafed through this at the bookstore: “I am already in the middle of not reading several other books”, “this one would look good in my bookcase”, and “oh there’s a shop in Warsaw and I’m going there next year”.

So, I bought it.  Around the World in 80 Record Stores will, I hope, provide another resource to add items to a travel itinerary.  Looking through it a little more, I think I’ve only been to 3 of the 80 stores listed, so that gives me 77 reasons to buy the book.  I noticed this: the book features 8 London shops and 13 in the British Isles vs. just two in New York City and 13 in the entire United States; none in Seattle.  London-based author bias?  If I’d noticed this prior to buying it, I probably would not have purchased the book.

But I have.

Continuing my initial perusal, I was recounting 1992, when I took my first major trip, domestic or foreign.  It was an exciting time to visit Eastern Europe; The Wall had just come down a couple of years prior, repressive communism was running away to hide, and the fresh paint of free enterprise was in the air.  My travel partner and I didn’t really know what we were doing; after landing, a day in Berlin was sprung upon us when our morning train to Warsaw didn’t exist, and we secured tickets and reservations for a night train.  We were able to check our bags at the station, and it was a pretty cool city to walk around in, but we didn’t really do anything.

But now I know.

Berlin Next time I’m in Berlin, I’ll try to visit Spacehall in the Kreuzberg borough.  I’m not sure what “heavy metal to heavyweight techno” means exactly, but I’d hope it means they have a wide selection.  It is described as “Big, dark, and oh-so ‘Berlin’ – it’s a totally immersive experience, like no other”.

Warsaw I did visit a couple of music shops and I bought some cassette tapes.  One place had a clerk that spoke English well.  He was surprised, I think, that I was trying to find Polish rock music; I think all the clerks were delighted when he explained to them that I wasn’t buying Nirvana, but Chechowy, a sort of “Polish Beatles”.  Next time I’m in this town, I’ll go find Side One, it’s right near the train station, Warszawa Centralna.  I’m not really excited about techno, but I sometimes find something that I like.  Besides, it is described as a cultural hub and the information center for Warsaw’s music scene.  That’s what a record shop should be – an indispensable place in the community.

Prague Prague is the most beautiful city that I have been to.  Old town squares in Europe, generally, make for a good day of architecture, food and drink, nooks and crannies, and walking around.  But Prague … bonzai!  Next time, I will find Happyfeet.  It’s just a 15-minute walk from Karlův most (Charles’ Bridge); I think right near all the hotels, too.

Speaking of hotels, I had a fantastically thick-skin-hilarious moment of rudeness that you wouldn’t believe.  It was like a movie!  I’d made a reservation in the morning before flying in and arrived late.  The exchange went sort of like this:

Me:  Hi, I have a reservation.  (handing my passport)
Him: (looking in a notebook) No reservation! (slams book shut and starts to strut away)
Me:  I made a reservation, here (handing him a printout of my reservation)
Him:  hmmm, yes, we work with this company, but they did not send us this.  (Starts to walk away again)
Me:  Well, do you have a room available?
Him:  Yes.
Me:  May I book it?


So I got a room at a better rate.  Faulty Towers?

By the way, my favorite secret about Prague?  The modern art museum, Museum Kampa, is really cool.  The building is beautiful, the collection is bonzai, and the restaurant is fantastic.   Cross Karlův most to the west side of the river, then take a lovely walk south through the park along the river.  You can’t miss the museum.


Portland  The book does not list any of Seattle’s record stores, of which we have someSpace_Hall-IMG_0018-2-1280x854 great one and some good ones:  Easy Street is probably my favorite.  The store nearest to me that the book lists is in Portland, Oregon.

I visited Mississippi Records recently.  Cool place!  I picked up an LP of Velvet Underground demos that I’d never heard of.  (One track uses a harmonica.  VU using a harmonica?)  I picked up old soul singers Little Ann and O.V. Wright.  Amazing, smooth, and totally boss.  Mississippi is a ash only establishment, ATM across the street in the little market.


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