The Crawling Ear column: Ode To The Best Record Store Ever

James Greene Jnr salutes a hangout where the music mattered - and the man who made it fun...

I’m still seeing a lot of stories in the press about physical record shops going the way of the dodo despite the supposed resurgence in popularity of vinyl. For every article I read about some big music outlet shutting down, I read two more about hipster douchebags embracing twelve inch LPs. Can vinyl save places like the Virgin Megastore and Crazy Pete’s Hawaiian Tape Deck? Maybe, if Apple can somehow figure out a way to make turntables portable. I’m picturing some kind of way-out headgear, kind of like when they drill holes into people’s heads at hospitals.

Anyway, it’s sad to think record stores might one day be as useless and forgotten as the telegram or Jimmie Walker. Here’s a piece I wrote a while ago for nobody in particular about my favorite teenage music shop hangout, Side One Records. I hope you enjoy it.

DeLand, FL, is a place synonymous with entertainment legends. Ted “Lurch” Cassidy majored in Speech at the town’s Stetson University. Sananda Maitreya graduated from DeLand High School before changing his name to Terence Trent D’Arby and sort of conquering the R&B world in the late eighties. Nautically wardrobed New Kids On The Block manager Maurice Starr owned a home in DeLand at one point – or his parents did. I’m not sure. I never got the full story on the Maurice Starr-DeLand connection.

The point is the Athens of Florida has seen its share of weirdos. One such weirdo was a stubby, spaced-out record shop owner who bore more than a passing resemblance to David Crosby. His name was Dave, in fact, a source of much humor for anyone who noticed the similarity between the struggling business man and the founder of the Byrds. Dave owned and operated Side One Records, DeLand’s flagship independent record store. I’m not sure when exactly Side One first opened, but I can tell you it was already a recognized and respected staple when I first walked through its giant brown door during my sophomore year of high school.

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I was on an afternoon thrifting jaunt with a few of my buddies. We had found a handful of interesting LPs at the Salvation Army that we decided to get appraised at the venerable Side One (which, despite its stellar reputation, was a dark, dank, dusty, cluttered mess – the tiny pre-electricity building that housed Side One was completely falling apart). Included in this lot of rescued records was the Cream classic Wheels of Fire. Its shiny cover made Dave’s beady little eyes bulge out of his skull when he saw it.

“I predicted this record,” he announced to us, looking up from his puke green upholstered chair behind the counter. I think he was expecting us to be bowled over. We just stood there and blinked. He continued:

“A week before this came out in ’68, I had a dream that Cream would release a double album with a silver cover. A week later, boom.” He paused for a moment and then made some kind of weird, ghostly noise with his mouth, kind of like an elderly man falling into a bottomless pit. I don’t know how I kept from exploding with laughter. This guy was off his rocker, and I loved it.

I became something of a Side One regular following that first faithful encounter, popping in at least twice a week to hear what lunacy Dave had to spew. His favorite greeting – regardless of time, day, or age of customer – was always, “School let out early today, huh?” He would say this in complete earnest, whether it was eight in the morning on a Tuesday or past midnight on a Saturday. The man was just eternally confused – that or he was putting forth an incredible simulation of the ultimate LSD burnout. Either way, it was extremely entertaining.

There was another side to Dave, though, the thoughtful, caring salesman who’d special order stuff you’d never even heard of on the off chance you might like it. That’s how I came to own and cherish both volumes of Burning Ambitions, the seminal British punk compilations that introduced this MTV-weary soul to greats such as the Buzzcocks and Dead Kennedys. I’m not even sure what I said or bought that may have tipped Dave off to my burgeoning interest in all things obnoxious pre-Green Day. He must have just been able to read my aura. Copious amounts of pot, I hear, can bestow that ability on people.

I spent many wonderful afternoons with Dave, his staff, and the various loners and bums who would wander into Side One looking to get their rock fix. There was the homeless guy obsessed with Loverboy. There was the Jim Gaffigan-esque Ramones fanatic who was always in his pajamas. There were the girls from Bitch Rag, a local feminist punk zine, none of whom ever seemed entirely comfortable with Dave’s corny jokes or cornier presence. There were the kids from the local metal band, No Control, who eventually broke up and sued each other over the songwriting credits on their homemade demo tape (I am not making that up). Such a colorful array of characters.

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And the records! Holy frijoles. On any given day, you could find something extremely rare or interesting in the stacks at Side One. I could devote an entire article to the shit I still regret passing over at that marvelous store.

Yessir, it’s a real shame it ever had to end. But, of course, it did.

Dave had a wife and kids, and he really wasn’t making any money with Side One (something he complained about nearly every second of every day). When his lease was up, he had to move Side One from its prominent position on Woodland Boulevard to some converted antique shop around the corner. For some reason, that two or three hundred extra feet of walking violently jacked Side One off life support. After about a month at their new location, Side One completely vanished without any warning. Dave reportedly sold all of his stock, including numerous Johnny Thunders bootlegs and rare Black Sabbath record I had my eye on, to a nearby flea market.

That, my friends, was the day the music died for me.

The last time I saw Dave was around 2001 or 2002. He came into the drug store I worked at near the Seminole Town Center mall with his kids. The store was having a big “Back to School” sale. All school supplies were fifty or sixty percent off. True to form, Dave walked up with a can of soda and was shocked when it rang up full price.

”I thought everything was half off!” he exclaimed.

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“That’s only school supplies,” I replied.

“But I’m gonna drink it in a school zone!”

I almost died laughing.

Dave, I don’t know where you are now, but thanks for Side One. I know I’m not the only Central Floridian who held in high regard and wishes it were still around.

Next week: finally, my giant Ramones remembrance.  Hey ho, dead guys!