Sunday, August 19, 2012


Home of the Hits, Buffalo, NY

In the days of yore metalheads of all ages would go to an ancient institution known as a "record  store". Our first experience at those majestic places was often when we were young kids going along with a parent, older sibling, cousin or even an uncle. We'd stick by their side as they'd head to the "rock" section then watch as they slowly flipped through the vinyl and every now and then they'd grab one  piece and pull it up above the rest so they could see the cover in it's full glory then flip it over to see the track listing. Our young preteen minds were just beginning to truly discover music.  Radio (there was no mtv yet) was our biggest musical influence.

Choice finds from the early 1980's at Cavages.
On the left is European version on Bronze Records, on the 
right is the American version on Mercury/Polygram

 Ace's Records in Tampa FL, city location. Morbid Angel 'Covenant' listening party 1993. (photo - Cindy Moses)

It was the '70's and rock music was splintering into many genres. Stadium rock controlled the better part of the decade but by the end the backlash against it began to grow. As the decade ended new genres battled for a foothold in the minds of the youth....metal was bubbling up, punk exploded and the ghastly disco emerged (and just as quickly died). Our impressionable minds were exposed to the likes of Black Sabbath, Rainbow, Budgie, the Sex Pistols, the Clash, Ramones, Stiff Little Fingers and even some new English bands like Motorhead and Iron Maiden. The aural assault we faced would set the foundation for the people we were about to become. To this point the chain record stores still satisfied our needs, but that would soon change. We were content to head (with parents as we were still to young to drive) to Cavages to pick up vinyl copies of Iron Maiden and Motorhead.

Another early purchase from Cavages,
Iron Maiden's "The Number of the Beast"

We became teens and continued to seek out music beyond the realms of what our parents listened to. Mainstream radio was no long sufficient for our growing hunger for new music so we searched the dial and discovered college radio or a local station that would have a late late night show of heavier hard rock music. Suddenly we were exposed to music our parents couldn't understand. Rock music, but a little faster or heavier or experimental; all brand new to us. Like a junkie, we were always seeking our next fix, that new music that just hit us like a baseball bat to the chest. When you first hear metal you know right away if you're a metalhead,  it grabs you by the throat and affects you. Music wasn't just background noise to us it was much was our friend, our escape.

Eides Records (Pittsburgh, PA)

 Original Ace's Records t-shirt front. (photo - Alan Moses)

Original Ace's Records t-shirt back. (photo - Alan Moses)

Now full-fledged teens we were discovering bands you couldn't find at the chain record stores of the day. We had to find the smaller mom and pop owned record stores who often employed college aged kids as cashiers. Upon entering the record store we would be nearly overwhelmed as our first sight would often be the big message board filled with show flyers, flyers of people looking to form bands or bands looking for members. Often as you wandered the aisles randomly flipping through the albums the guy behind the counter would offer up some wisdom, first asking what band was your favorite then saying if you liked them you should check out this other band. You had never heard of the band he suggested, but still you bought the album....of course, after first checking out the artwork and song titles. 

Insert for the Accused's 1987 album, including thanks list

We were hooked, metal had taken us over. Now, we would go to record stores without anything specific in mind, we would just go to flip through the vinyl and check the new arrivals. It became commonplace for us to buy vinyl based solely on the cover, that glorious 12" by 12" record sleeve art. We discovered bands  solely because of the impressive album art, bands that didn't get airplay on any radio station. Sometimes we were disappointed, but many times we discovered gems that took us deeper into the realms of metal. After discovering a few gems we began a routine when we would buy an album, before we even put the vinyl on the turntable we'd be reading the insert and looking over the "thanks" list to see what bands were mentioned so that the next day or the next week we could head to the record store with a list of bands to check out.

The back of Possessed's 1985 masterpiece "Seven Churches"

By this point we were metalheads, even if we didn't realize it at the time. Record stores were becoming more than just a place to buy music. Many of us discovered our first fanzine at a record store. Friendships were started at a record store. While flipping through the vinyl another kid walks in wearing an Iron Maiden t-shirt ( a rarity in those days) and you immediately felt a camaraderie with him. He begins flipping through vinyl and you eye up what he's looking at..."that sucks", "that's killer", "have you heard of these guys?"...There was an immediate friendship, outcasts banding together. In your small town school you could very well be the only one or one of a very select few who listened to acts like Motorhead, Venom, Iron Maiden, etc so whenever you stumbled upon someone else with those same musical tastes you were compelled to talk music with them.

The Cro-Mags 1986 classic "The Age of Quarrel"

Record stores had become a hangout. You could spend hours there flipping through vinyl, checking out the flyers, talking to the counter person and other metalheads from the area. The college kid working the counter now knows you and your purchase history so he points out more and more undiscovered goodies. As your hunger for metal grows you discover other bands with a fast, aggressive sound. Bands like DRI, Cryptic Slaughter, the Exploited and other punk/hardcore/crossover bands squeeze their way into your collection alongside the early thrash acts you've discovered...Slayer, Metallica, Exodus, Possessed....

Ticket stub for the Buffalo show (at Buffalo State College)
of the 1986 tour featuring Motorhead, Wendy O. Williams and the Cro Mags

 Ace's full page ad which ran in most local publications and was also sent out in official Morbid Angel C.O.D. info packs to bring people to the store on their next US visit.

Fast aggressive music had us hooked. It was all new so we weren't limited by genre or self imposed musical labels. Punk, hardcore, crossover, thrash, speed metal, and the emerging bands that would become death metal, grindcore, etc. filled our vinyl collections. Almost by necessity shows featured a mixture of genres.....and we loved it. Tours with a mix of bands that wouldn't happen these days, like the 1986 tour of Motorhead, the Cro-Mags and Wendy O. Williams. We were outcasts but at shows such as that we saw that we weren't as few as we thought. Walking amongst a mixed crowd in those days it was commonplace to see punks wearing the patches of bands such as Slayer and Metallica (pre-Master of Puppets) and it was just as common to see metalheads wearing shirts by bands such as DRI, Agnostic Front and Cryptic Slaughter.

The 1990 classic; purchased at Home of the Hits (Buffalo)

The '80's were ending and thrash was being supplanted by the more aggressive sound of death metal. The local independent record store was the only place to go to purchase albums on the emerging European labels of Earache, Century Media, Nuclear Blast and Peaceville. Death metal was gaining popularity and the record stores took note and started carrying demo tapes and releases by smaller obscure labels. Often those smaller labels would only release vinyl as CD's were still new and expensive. Record stores began to be more than just shops, they began to be involved in the scene that gave them life. Buffalo's Home of the Hits underwrote the metal show on WBNY and offered discounts to anyone who brought in a flyer or ticket stub from the previous metal concert. Stores in other cities began to sponsor the occasional concert, host meet and greets and become not just the hub for their local scene but a tourist spot for bands and fans passing through town. No trip to Pittsburgh could be finished without first stopping at Eides Records and while there visiting with counter person Rob Tabachka (Eviction) and no trip to Florida was complete without stopping at Aces Records and visiting with James Murphy (Obituary, Death, Cancer, ...and more).

 Ace's Records, Oldsmar FL Flea Market location 1991. Employee's Alan Moses & James Murphy modelling the selection of hair band hats. (photo - Derek Petrovitch)

Alternate show flyer by Home of the Hits (Buffalo),
including a discount at the store

CD's had taken hold in popular culture but metalheads still cherished their vinyl. Record stores were carrying fewer and fewer pieces of vinyl and more and more compact discs. As they were morphing into something new, the record store began to lose it's charm. Compact Discs were the prevalent form of media in the record stores by the close of the decade. We once would spend hours at record stores looking at the glorious 12" by 12" cover art, but CD's didn't hold that same appeal. Now, we found ourselves heading to the record store for specific releases instead of just going there with nothing specific in mind. Our generation was becoming adults and it was time for the next generation to move in, but along with that new generation came the internet. Soon it would be possible to discover a far away band without having to trade for the demo and without having to head to the record store. The once hallowed record stores began closing their doors signaling the end of an era. 

12" vinyl on the left, standard CD on the right.
Vinyl purchased at FBS Records (Tonawanda, NY), 
CD purchased at Home of the Hits (Buffalo)

 Ace's Records staff jacket which belonged to owner Frank Dansecs. (photo - Alan Moses)

We sit back now as aged metalheads, a lifetime older than the age when people would tell our parents "It's just a phase, he'll grow out of it", remembering those days fondly and feeling sadness for those younger than us who will never truly know how special the record store was. We can look through our collections and tell you which store we bought that particular album at ...Home of the Hits, Rock Steady, Pop Tones, Aces Records, Eides Records, Metal for Melbourne, Utopia,...Holding that album the memories flood back of the store, the counter person, the friends we made there, the wall of flyers and much more. So, when someone younger asks "Were the old days really that good?", we can honestly answer "Yes. Yes, they were" and the record store was a big part of why those days were so special to us.

 Keith Collins (ex-Savatage, Tampa Bay Metal Awards, Tampa Bay Spike), David Vincent (Morbid Angel), Ace's Owner/Operator Frank Dansecs and Brutality vocalist Scott Reigel. 'Covenant' listening party 1993. (photo - Cindy Moses)

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