Los Angeles has everything from grit to ridiculous excess and the record stores of the city somewhat reflect this. It’s the US city I’ve spent the most time in but due to it’s vastness (and traffic!) I still have only made a bit of a dent in the record stores of the greater LA area. For this trip I spend five days in the city with a fair chunk of that dedicated to checking out record shops.
Starting with the excess, Amoeba Music is said to be the biggest independent record store in the world and covers the most part of a city block on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. If you’re after any new releases and reissues there is a pretty high chance you’ll find it here, their second hand range is not as extensive but there are still some great records to find, especially in the 7” boxes.
Permanent Records, Echo Park
A few miles along Sunset in the Echo Park neighbourhood, a grittier but rapidly gentrifying part of the city, you’ll find Permanent Records, one of two in LA (the other in Glendale), both are small but well stocked and well-priced (probably the best priced in LA). Permanent have an indie/underground label angle but certainly also have a plenty of classic used vinyl titles. Also just down the road from the Echo Park Permanent is Cosmic Vinyl which is worth a look as well. Back to Hollywood and only a few blocks from Amoeba is The Record Parlour, another diversely stocked shop and if you spend some time digging the bargain crates, you’ll definitely find some cool records. My small world encounters while I journey around the world to record shops continues as I step outside of the shop and run into a friend from back in Sydney.
The Record Collector
Heading out towards Beverly Hills, and on Melrose Drive you’ll find The Record Collector. This was the strangest LA record shop experience, kind of like a vinyl version of Black Books or something. As you first walk in it is basically all classical and jazz records, lots of them! I’m greeted by the assistant, an older gentlemen, who once he knows I’m from Australia tells me about his fascination with our deadly animals and proceeds to ask questions about them. The owner suddenly appears and asks what I’m looking for, I give him a vague description and he demands his assistant to show me the other room. It’s down this dark hallway not seemingly part of the shop and loaded with tens of thousands classic records. There are no prices on anything and everything is standing in shelves, spine out so it was a bit of a task going through everything. Between regular questions about funnel webs, redback spiders, brown snakes and stonefish a few hours has passed but I do manage to pick out a few records.
The last Sunday of each moth is the Orange County record show so I head south for that. It is held in a massive auditorium and has a lot of stalls but the days of finding cheap records at these fairs are definitely over, most of the vendors here are priced right on standard retail prices. There is one stall that has a great few $2 boxes and also two great vendors side by side with a bit of a different range to the usual classics where I find Australian records from the likes of Beasts Of Bourbon and Massappeal. One of the vendors also tells me a few stores to go and check out. While I was in Orange County I also managed to check out a few other stores in the area including Burger Records, probably most famous as a cassette label and for the festivals they curate, the shop is also really well stocked with great second hand releases, all of their label releases and a well curated selection of other new releases in what feels like a lounge room setting.
One of those stores I was told to check out was Rockaway Records back in Glendale. It is one of the bigger stores in LA and like Amoeba it is extremely well stocked in new releases but I feel it’s second hand section is what gives the store a little edge over Amoeba. I find some really great second hand records in here including a lot of old New Zealand pressings for some reason. Another of the bigger stores is out at Long Beach, Fingerprints Music, it’s another one of those stores where you can definitely go to get all the latest releases and classic re-issues, but the second hand section is also really strong with pricing reasonable. Just around the corner is Bagatelle Records, your typical old school secong hand record shop where the stock has out grown the space and there is only a very vague order to everything. If you have some time to spare I'm sure you'd find some killer records in here but I only make it in half an hour before doors close.
Some LA vinyl finds
Over my time in LA I probably visited 20 or so record stores and still didn’t get to them all, one of them being Record Jungle in Montebello, a shop that a fellow Australian record digging friend who now lives in LA told me was a favourite of his but I ran out of time to visit. I’m sure I’ll be back before too long to get to some of the others, and Los Angeles being Los Angeles, some new ones will no doubt appear while some existing ones will disappear.