Have you ever really loved a music store? I mean really really loved it? Am I lucky to have grown up during a time where even in a small rural town in eastern Pennsylvania there was a (very cool) local record store? Am I thrilled every time I return home and I visit said record store and it smells EXACTLY the same as it did when I first began frequenting it in middle school? I will do my best to answer all of these questions (and more!) in this letter.
The store I love is Record Connection in Ephrata, Pennsylvania. You’ve never heard of Ephrata you say? Well put visiting it on your “to-do” list and make sure to visit on a Friday so you can also hit up the Green Dragon farmer’s market which is conveniently located across the street AND which also happens to have a huge fiberglass green dragon as part of its sign!!!!
The first time I ever went into Record Connection was in 6th grade. My brother, who is 4 years older than me, had been going there for a few years and buying used copies of albums such as “Houses of the Holy” and “90125” on compact disc. He had also been occasionally taking CDs from the family collection and trading them in without telling anyone, but that’s another story for another time. On my first visit I bought a John Lennon t-shirt and my first used album “The John Lennon Collection” on compact disc (do you see a theme here?). I wore that John Lennon shirt religiously. I was a girl, in the 6th grade, in a small rural town, who wore an oversized John Lennon shirt at least once a week. Let me be clear, everyone else was wearing shirts featuring Guns n Roses (if you were male) and Janet Jackson OR Paula Abdul (if you were female). I did not fit in.
In 9th grade, my fervor for Record Connection really gained momentum when I became friends with someone who was also female AND who was likewise obsessed with music. Millennials, you have no idea how easy you had it/have it. These days it is completely socially acceptable to be female and be a music fan (even in small towns? You tell me. Because…I’d love it to hear about it). In the 1990s in little ol’ Denver Pennsylvania I assure you this was not the case. My friend and I were most certainly the minority. Thankfully, our love of music triumphed over our desire to be socially accepted. Wow! This letter is really about to take a crotchety old-timeresque turn when I tell you that on the day “In Utero” was released we walked 2 miles from her house to RC so we could purchase the highly anticipated album. I bought it on cassette so I could listen to it on my Walkman while I walked to school; she bought it on compact disc. We walked the 2 miles back to her house and listened to it in her room with a passion for Kurt Cobain pumping through our veins (there was probably some incense burning going on as well).
There was a period of time where she and I regularly traded in albums in order to buy new items. This process began in 9th grade and continued through our four years in high school. I have two very clear memories of specific trades/deals that were cut during this time. The first one involved me trading in “Pleased to Meet Me” on cassette so that I could buy “We’re Not Gonna Take it” on 45 (by this time I had a record player and was interested in vinyl). Needless to say, I was mocked. I remember the guy who worked there at the time who my friend and I privately referred to as “the young guy” (there was also an “old guy”) loudly commenting “She traded in a Replacements album so she could buy a Twisted Sister record!” A-hem! For the record (pun intended) I still stand by this trade today. I love the Replacements to death, but in my opinion the production on “Pleased to Meet Me” is turd city. Need proof? Listen to a demo or live version of “Can’t Hardly Wait.” Guitars trump horns Jim Dickson!
My other standout high school trading memory involves me repeatedly taking the Therapy? album Troublegum to the store and sneaking it into my trade piles until one day the “young guy” said, to no one in particular, “She just keeps bringing this in. Fine! I’ll just take it!” I think that maybe he gave me $2 in store credit that day. I can’t remember if/how I spent it.
Record Connection has been, for me, a lot like the tree in that Shel Silverstein book. As I have aged, it has continued to meet my needs. Whenever I return home to visit my parents I try to squeeze in a visit. These days I typically leave with a stack of $1 albums and/or some $1 bootleg CDs. God how I love this store! When you use the bathroom you are sitting the same room with the vinyl soundtracks which allows you to look for Beat Street immediately after you finish taking a leak.
How can I fit it all in? The way that the “old guy” starting referring to me as Cyndi somewhere in the middle of 9th grade because I would always buy Cyndi Lauper albums/memorabilia. How I probably spent a significant amount of money throughout my high school years on the new old stock 80s pins they kept in a plastic bin on the front counter. (Yes, I do have a Goonies pin featuring Cyndi Lauper and yes I am bragging.) And how recently I was in the store and someone asked “the metal guy” who (still!) works there how he was doing and he replied with, “Eh. VG minus.”
Record Connection, I love you. Please, never ever change. Keep on being great! You’ll always be a VG+ in my book!