brent johnson takes you to his musical haven: Vintage Vinyl, a marvelous record store in Central New Jersey …
One of my favorite places in the universe is tucked in a strip mall along a busy stretch of Route 1 in Woodbridge, N.J.
It’s not obvious — wedged between a Chinese restaurant and a convenience store. And the giant, red sign above the door is simple, only describing what’s inside: “RECORDS.”
But Vintage Vinyl is much more. It’s the epitome of something that’s sadly been withering the last decade: a store that celebrates music, in the flesh, free of lazy downloads.
Walk inside, and to your right are posters advertising small, local concerts. In the back right corner are bins and bins of used vinyl albums. Next to the counter are rows of British music magazines. Along the walls are vintage copies of classic records — like Packet Of Three by Squeeze (the first release by the melodic and literate new-wavers) and Something New by The Beatles (a cool collection of singles packaged for the U.S. market in 1964).
Above all else, Vintage Vinyl is what any good record store should be: a music library. Next to the new releases (which don’t cater to hipsters only — you can find Katy Perry next to Belle & Sebastian) are CD reissues of essential albums from the last half-century. The rest of the store is divided into three sections: classic artists, modern artists and metal/hardcore artists. Jazz and ska are mixed in. Need a random Kinks album that Wal-Mart doesn’t carry? No need to order online.
I understand the convenience of iTunes. I, too, love my iPod. But an exciting, brick-and-mortar music store does is what a library is to books or a museum is to art. You can explore categories, row by row. You can compare album covers like little paintings. You can appreciate music as something visual.
Multiple times a year, you can also catch major artists like Pete Yorn and The Gaslight Anthem grace Vintage Vinyl’s live stage for mini, in-store concerts. Artists sign albums afterwords. Ozzy’s been there, so has Duff McKagen of Guns ‘N’ Roses and Matt Sharp of Weezer.
They must realize what I do every time I walk in there: That music is something you can collect, something that can teach you about life and even history. Give me a pillow and an air mattress, and I’d live in Vintage Vinyl. I’d curl up next to the record bins, wake up and start browsing first thing in the morning.
Because music is meant to be lived — not just listened to.