A few weeks ago, I found myself in Greenville, South Carolina. It’s a much bigger city than I live in and my wife had wanted to see the last weekend of a Katherine Hepburn costume exhibit at a museum there. I scoped out a Cuban cafe for lunch and they had maps of the city and my wife noticed a Mr.K’s as one of the featured businesses. After seeing the exhibit, we tooled around the downtown area, checking it out [and finding it wanting – due to the chains everywhere] then headed for Mr. K’s. The store was part of a regional chain of used book/DVD/CD/Record stores that we frequent. The one in our town is very close by, so we go there about every 6-8 weeks and usually one or two visits a year have us spending $80-100 on the goods…while all the rest see us leave empty handed. As with all used media stores, the quality of input stream means everything. The stores are big, so the churn rate there is probably very high.
2nd + Charles
So we were navigating via the map to where Mr. K’s was, when all of a sudden, I spotted a 2nd + Charles along the way and quickly turned into the shopping center housing it. 2nd + Charles is the national chain [run by Books-A-Million] with a business model exactly like that of Mr. K’s. In other words, they are the national chain that will devour your local used book/record store. Eventually. I first ran into the store while visiting Charlotte in 2015 and I had to admit, the quality of stock and price was pretty good. Enough to make an impulse turn into a shopping center in passing. We arrived at about 4:30 so there was at least 90 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to shop both locales by 6:00 p.m.
We entered and my wife and I split up on the CD stock as we always do. I had to say that this ship was run nowhere as neatly as the Charlotte store. Stock was all over the place and the bins were in a state of chaos. I was not feeling the love but slogged through the stock, as messed up as it was. I was getting nothing for my efforts, but my wife struck gold with 1996’s “Black Diamond,” one of the Stan Ridgeway solo albums that are always welcome in the Record Cell [and that are thin on the ground, out in the wilds]. After far too long plugging through the stock, I eventually found a few items of interest. Used CD bins in America often have Goldfrapp’s “Supernature” CD but others are scarce, so I was happy to see “Tales Of Us” and a Saint Etienne single from my cherished “Good Humour” period. At the very end of my search, I was rewarded with a Wire album I’d yet to hear: “The Drill.” Their 1989 album with nine versions of “Drill” from the “Snakedrill” EP. How I wish that they had recorded one more so that they could have called it “Ten Drills” instead.
We seemed to have much better luck in the used vinyl. I immediately glommed on to the US “Visage” album as I had bought the 1st CD pressing of this classic in 1987, when I had the stupid, practical policy of trading in any LPs I re-bought on CD, no matter how much I “collected” the artist! Good shape for the $2.00 asking price! Yes! My wife found some Steve Harley records that she had always wanted since the late 70s. She also picked up a 12″ by Flea, wondering if it was a rare [and early] solo turn by Anthony Balzary; beloved by millions. [Note: it wasn’t]
She also found an Ian Hunter album that had missed a berth in the Record Cell for too long. I saw what I thought was an early Pretty Poison 12″ from their indie period. It sort of wasn’t. It was the 1988 Virgin Records reissue [complete with Shep Pettibone remix]. I was fooled because of the 1984 copyright info I saw on it after a quick glance. It turns out that the other three tracks on this single were the original indie 12″ tracks from 1984, so it’s still good. I was never impressed with Pretty Poison once they hit the majors, but I had read intriguing reviews of their indie releases from the early 80s that probably never filtered down to Florida. My wife used to have the Hipsway cassette and now she had the album. What did we take home?
- Flea: Hard Rock (It’s The Beat Of The Street) – Atlantic – DMD 783 – USP – 12″ – 2nd + Charles/$4.00
- Hipsway: Hipsway – Columbia – C 40522 – US – LP – 2nd + Charles/$2.00
- Pretty Poison: Nighttime – Virgin – 0-96710 – US – 12″ – 2nd + Charles/$5.00
- Visage: Visage – Polydor – PD-1-6304 – USP – LP – 2nd + Charles/$2.00
- Ian Hunter – All Of The Good Ones Were Taken – Columbia – FC 38628 – US – LP – 2nd + Charles/$5.00
- Steve Harley + Cockney Rebel: Face To Face – EMI – SKBB-11661 – US – 2xLP – 2nd + Charles/$4.00
- Steve Harley: Hobo With A Grin – Capitol Records – SW-11770 – US – LP – 2nd + Charles/$4.00
- Stan Ridgeway: Black Diamond – Birdcage Records – SRDI 11007 – US – CD – 2nd + Charles/$5.97
- Goldfrapp: Tales Of Us – Mute – 9573-2 – US – CD – 2nd + Charles/$6.00
- Saint Etienne: Sylvia CD#1 – Creation Records – CRESCD 279 – UK – CD5 – 2nd + Charles/$4.00
- Wire: The Drill – Mute – 9 61103-2 – US – CD – 2nd + Charles/$4.00
Not bad, but the shabby condition of the stock made browsing difficult. Things weren’t just out of alphabetical order; they were in completely wrong genre areas and the like. By the time we finally got out of that mess and back on the road where Mr. K’s was just down the street, there was only about 25 minutes until 6:00 p.m.
As it turned out, Mr. K’s was just a quarter of a mile down the road at another shopping center. We entered with about 20 minutes to shop, but the difference in the cleanliness of the stock was light night and day! This was like shopping at our local store. Effortless, so I guess that Mr. K’s have better management policies than a corporation traded on the NYSE. We split up and hit the CD bins first as per our modus operandi. I quickly saw a welcome sight in the “B” section: Blow Monkeys. Nothing I needed – yet another compilation, but it was encouraging. I moved through the alphabet quickly.
I soon struck gold with what looked like this album [see left] in the Brian Eno section. Yes, Brian Eno had a bin title card here, which should tell you a lot about the differences between Mr.K’s and 2nd Charles. The album was something that I did not recognize. It was credited to Eno/Mobius/Roedelius/Plank and called “Begegnungen II.” It looked like a compilation of these artists together and apart, but look at that pedigree! You just buy an album like this, even if its a compilation. I dug up one of the remaining Marianne Faithfull albums we didn’t have and and a Lou Reed opus [“Coney Island Baby”] that scarcely fills the used bins [or new ones, for that matter].
I saw an OOP Mott The Hoople album [“Brain Capers”] I had never heard. I really like Ian Hunter/Mott The Hoople, so I sprang for it, even though it was going for $15. I took a gamble that I was not getting rooked on the price. I felt as though this was a good time to buy [when had I ever seen this CD], so I did. I checked the going rate at Amazon and Discogs later; a very stable $40-45 price, so my instincts are still working. My wife found gold with the third, elusive Television CD from 1992. Yes! We had heard amazing music from this one when we saw Television live in Athens in 2013 so that was a real score. She also picked up a Steppenwolf greatest its I could not say “no” to since the first songs I can remember loving as a young lad were “Born To Be Wild” and “Magic Carpet Ride.” It was the organ playing. I grew up with a 45 of each always in my possession and that’s been missing for decades. Time to revisit my roots!
I next moved to the cheapie bins that every Mr. K’s has and was quickly rewarded with a Future Bible Heroes album we needed and a Mark E. Smith duo album with Ed Blaney that caught my eye. I never see Fall or related stuff for sale used, so this was a surprise. I next made my way to the vinyl but the hour was getting perilously close to closing; they had already announced “last call” by that time. Instead of vinyl, my eye was drawn to the “Laserdiscs” bins clearly marked like a time warp from 25 years ago!
Laserdiscs were high quality for their time but what got released seemed to be kind of random. Lots of LD stock in the day was no-name indie productions of little distinction, with major name productions with little pull for me predominating. I wanted cult items on LD but they were harder to get. I would have more than the hundreds of LDs I had if not for the fact that stuff I wanted was kind of scarce in the format. What LDs exist in the wilds 21 years after DVDmageddon® are largely the nondescript varieties of disc mentioned first. Not here. This store had abut 200 LDs of very unusual “A-list” stock. Lots of James Bond/Star Trek titles. A few music titles [which I will still buy if the title is desirable] but nothing with my name on it. I ran through it all and it was all priced right [$3.00-$5.00] and clearly labelled so as not to confuse the youngsters hitting the bins for their “vinyls.” Then I saw this…
By the way, the timeline for seeing this LD above was right on top of the concurrent OMD thread on the blog. Was the universe trying to tell me something? If so, I was not listening. We checked out and ht the road home; enjoying Mott The Hoople and Lou Reed along the way. Try that with your “vinyls!” Here’s the take:
- Future Bible Heroes: The Lonely Robot – Instinct Records – INS613-2 – US – CD5 – Mr. K’s Greenville/$2.00
- Mark E. Smith And Ed Blaney: Smith And Blaney – Voiceprint – VP448CD – UK – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$2.00
- Cluster: Cluster 71 – Water – WATER 160 – US – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$7.95
- Marianne Faithfull: Blazing Away – Island Records – 842 794-2 – US – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$4.95
- Lou Reed: Coney Island Baby – RCA – ND83807 – GER – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$5.75
- Steppenwolf: 20th Century Masters – MCA Records – MCAD-19954 – US – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$4.95
- Mott The Hoople: Brain Capers – Atlantic – 8304-2 – US – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$15.00
- Television: Television – Capitol Records – CDP 0777 7 98396 2 9 – US – CD – Mr. K’s Greenville/$5.75
When I got home I found out that an error had happened. The Eno/Moebius/Roedelius/Plank album reflected by the cover was actually this album: “Cluster’s “Cluster ’71.” Just with the wrong cover. I was happy to have this one in any case. Maybe it was better than getting a compilation of tracks I would not need once I finally had those two Cluster + Eno albums that taunt me still. Mr. K’s was proven to be a great place to shop in all four of the locations I have visited, but 2nd + Charles was dramatically different to the experience that I had previously in Charlotte. I guess, that the larger Charlotte population meant that more [fringe] things I would want filtered in the store, but what I really did not like was the messiness of the stock. I am unsure if I would shop there again, even with the Visage album to their credit.
– 30 –
I have Begegnungen 2 in flac if you want it for the short term, until you zero in on the canonical material… Honestly, it’s pleasant enough, but nothing to write home about.
Chew No Hew – Thanx, chum, but I was happier just to get the Cluster album; adding to my stash.
Cool to read you visited my hometown. I agree that our 2nd + Charles is a mess. I stopped going there because it was more of a pain to browse and the results weren’t worth it. Mr K’s is great. I know you have been to Horizon Records on a previous trip. Earshot closed a couple of years ago but the same owner opened a new shop named Pharmacy Records that is basically across the street from where Earshot was located. Just thought I would mention that in case you happen to visit again.
Eugene Unger – Welcome to the comments! Yeah, as we drove by the former location of Earshot I couldn’t help but notice that it was no longer there. They had some great stock when I was there six years earlier. They had few really lovely things I bought and many more that I already had, but rarely saw for sale. That kind of store, which is still a great experience. I did not know about Pharmacy being across the street until I got home and looked up when Earshot gave up the ghost, which was not terribly long ago. That surprised me. I was used to record stores closing a decade earlier. We didn’t check out Horizon this time but they probably won’t go anywhere.
I’m surprised about both of these chains existing, as they don’t exist here in the Boston area. Do they do a good business? I recently heard that Best Buy will stop selling CDs by July, which is really no great shakes as the CD selection in my local one was rather skimpy the last time I checked a year ago. I got to go back to my local store soon, which is still open after the owner’s recent & sudden passing
Diskojoe – Mr. K’s is a Tennessee/North Carolina chain of four to seven stores but they seen to do good business. Some are branded Mr. K’s and others are Edward Kay’s. With the exact same concept. I seem to recall hearing it was a divorce settlement involved with the naming. 2nd + Charles are part of Books-A-Million which used to be run by Barnes + Nobel. Not certain if that is still the case. There are a dozen or more of those on the East Coast. They are a big money concern.
Your tale of Best Buy stopping CD sales chills my blood. Not that I ever bought there. The only time I bought a CD at Best Buy was when someone would give me a gift card and it was always a challenge to find anything good. Though I remember when Best Buy roared into Orlando in the mid-90s
Some stores are called McKays which exist in TN/NC/VA. Definitely worth checking out. My friend has found some treasures there.
I still love the random excitement of checking out used music stores, in the main for me now it’s a charity shop round the corner from where I live. You really never know what may turn up there. A week or two back I came out with some really good stuff, Pale Fountains first, Blue Aeroplanes, Swagger and a couple of original Smiths Rought Trade CDs (nicer mastering) all for under £10…very nice!
You should buy the deluxe Good Humor that was re-released last year if it is one of your favorites, it collects all the b-sides and has the Fairfax High disc that was originally a US bonus cd on release, as well as a book that details the history of the album.
A huge drawback is once you buy that you’re going to be so walloped with the overall quality that you’re going to want to buy the rest of these.
Good Humor is to me where they ended their career arc of making solidly good albums and things grew patchier and patchier from there.The last 2-3 albums do next to nothing for me.
Funny how every now and then you find a huge LD haul. A few years back I was in a resale shop in the Twin Cities and right as you walked in the place was this huge booth that had probably more laser discs than what we stocked at the video store that I worked at that rented them. On top of that was a motherlode of old Starlogs, Famous Monsters, Creepy, Eerie and then buried in that was comic book sleeves with all sorts of odd old stuff, instructions for building old Kenner Star Wars toys, toy catalogs from companies that are by and large now defunct….
….and then there was the vinyl. Did some uber-nerd with really good taste die and this was his estate sale?
To top it off, in the basement area of same store, was the best used vinyl booth I’ve ever seen in an antique/re-sale shop, and the prices were reasonable. I was awfully tempted with an old Julie London lp that had this gorgeous embossed cover (‘Round Midnight) but I was already financially tapped out by this place by the time I found that.
Dave Myrvold – Many thanks for bringing this article to my attention! It is exactly what I have been lamenting in dribbles and drabs when writing these Record Shopping Road Trip posts over the last few years and quite frankly, the muscling in on retail space of super profitable $20-$100 new vinyl pressings of classic rock canon at the expense of floor space formerly given to old used records [the kind I like] and even CDs [which I vastly prefer to LPs] has been most depressing. While I have many reasons to dislike the vinyl trend, this has been my primary gripe. And this article was definitely written with my perspective; complete with statistical graphs! Every reader of this blog should read that link!
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