I bought a lot of albums, and then a lot of cds, from the Electric Fetus on Fourth Avenue, in Minneapolis.
It was right across the bridge over 34W separating Phillips from Whittier, although it didn’t really seem like Whittier until you crossed Nicollet. I lived in and around Stevens Square for a few years, and the feel in that neighborhood was different from—gritter than—Whittier.
Anyway, 4th Ave near Franklin Avenue was kind of shitty, what with cars screaming by on the interstate below. Above Franklin there was a huge brown wall to try to block out the noise, but it wasn’t clear that the wall was much of an improvement.
The Fetus was on the other side of Franklin, on the southwest corner. It was, initially, right on that corner, crammed into this tiny space next to an Ace Hardware. When the hardware store moved (into a space in a mini-mall on Nicollet & 18th), the Fetus stretched itself into that new space. It was a bit discombobulating, at first, but they made good use of all that room, expanding both the head-shop portion at the front of the store and the music in the rest. The classical section was the most spare, but the jazz and blues kicked ass, and the international selections were a revelation.
In addition to African and Brazilian music, I got into Nordic and Scandinavian tunes when I lived there (it didn’t hurt that NorthSide Records mainlined that stuff into the city): Hedningarna. Hoven Droven. Väsen. Garmana—have you listened to “Gamen”? Jesus. Go listen to it!—and my beloved, and still missing, Finnish Ambient Techno Chant.
I bought both new and used cds, and a lot of them. The Fetus had a policy that if you bought 3 or more cds, you’d get 10 percent off; three or four times a year everything in the store would be 20 percent off. It wasn’t my only record store, but they did get a lot of my money.
The folks who worked there were the Minneapolis version of the stereotypical sullen music snob, which is to say, not that sullen, and not that snobbish. And every once in a while they’d throw a free promo cd into your bag, sometimes because it was there, and sometimes because there was something you bought that made them think you’d like this new music, too.
They tossed in an Esthero ep, which worked: I bought the full-length cd. A Beth Orton ep led me to multiple cds, and if you asked what they were playing on the store’s sound system, they’d toss you the jewel case and let you inspect if for yourself.
They didn’t do the hard sell; the music was enough.
I found that same attitude in the guy who ran the used cd shop on lower St Denis in Montréal. I bought a lot at a shop on Mont Royal, but had almost no interaction with that shop’s staff; at this store—and I cannot remember it’s, or his, name—the owner loved to talk early punk and new wave. I was the right age (if a bit young) to have caught that music when it first hit, but, boxed in by AOR stations out of Milwaukee, I wasn’t exposed to most of it until I left Sheboygan Falls.
(I’ve told you the story about my first extended exposure to Patti Smith, right? Where the fuck was she when I was in high school?!)
He’s almost certainly closed up shop by now; he was thinking even back in 2003 that he wouldn’t last long, so I’d guess the collapse of the cd market has since wiped him out.
I can get any cd (or cd’s worth of music) I want online, now, so as a music consumer I don’t really need the music store any longer.
But as a music lover, I miss the curators.
188. esthero, breath from another
189. Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
190. Eurythmics, Be Yourself Tonight
191. Eurythmics, Revenge
192. Eurythmics, Savage
193. Everything But The Girl, Walking Wounded
194. The Falcon and the Snowman
195. Marianne Faithfull, Kissin’ Time
196. feelies, Time for a Witness
197. Feist, The Reminder
198. Christine Fellows, the last one standing
199. Aretha Franklin, Spirit in the Dark
200. Aretha Franklin, The First Twelve Sides
201. frente! marvin the album
202. Peter Gabriel, So
203. Peter Gabriel, Us
204. Peter Gabriel, Shaking the Tree
205. electronica gainsbourg
206. Gang of Four, A Brief History of the Twentieth Century
207. garbage, G
208. Garmana, Vengeance
209. Garmana, Hildegard von Bingen
210. Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
211. Gear Daddies, Billy’s Live Bait
212. Gentle Waves, The Green Fields of Foreverland
213. Lisa Gerrard, Duality
214. Stan Getz and Joao, Gilberto, Getz Gilberto
215. Giant Sand, Chore of Enchantment
216. Giant Sand, cover magazine
217. Giant Sand, Swerve
218. Giant Sand, Is All Over the Map
219. Beth Gibbons & Rustin Man, out of season
220. Astrud Gilberto, eponymous
221. Bebel Gilberto, tanto tempo
222. Estair Godinez Band, Live from the Dakota