The Swashbuckling Pirate’s Guide to Record Plunder in LA

I’m a swashbuckling vinyl pirate. I’ve spent years pillaging and plundering record crates in hot pursuit of record booty: ransacking thrift store bins, scouring dusty attics and moldy basements at estate sales, seeking out record shops near and far, hunting swap meets and garage sales. The stranger the location, the better records I’d find. I scored Chipmunk Punk, the new wave offering of Chipmunks Alvin, Simon and Theodore while thrifting my way through obscure Northern California locales: Willits, anyone? I plucked the Richard Simmons’ Reach  from the 25-cent sale bin at Salvation Army in Seattle. Imagine Richard Simmons’ shrill voice imploring you to “Lift it UP” over cheesy ’80s pop. Amazing.

Album © Universal Records

Frolicking through the autumn mist of thrift store dust bunnies, I uncovered Puff the Magic Dragon somewhere on Halsted Street in Chicago. I prized an ASWAD picture disc from the very eclectic selections of a porkpie-hat-wearing dealer at Spitalfields Market in London (I know nothing about the group, but couldn’t resist the purple picture disc prominently featuring ASWAD for the obvious reasons). The first pressing of Dick Dale’s Surfer’s Choice from Long Beach Antiques & Collectibles Market, the red vinyl Japanese pressing of Eno’s Here Come the Warm Jets from that legendary San Francisco trip—each record bears a story beyond the narrative or memorabilia of a music album.

Album © Deltone
Album © Deltone

After all these globe trotting record hunts, I’ve settled in Los Angeles, where vinyl is no longer the commodity it once was. Thanks in part to the digital music backlash, record sales have reached their highest point since 1997. I don’t have to jet to Gramaphone in Chicago, Atom Heart in Montréal or Seattle’s Bop Street Records to shop vinyl—countless new retailers are popping up all over Southern California. Here’s my guide to the best new (and old) record shops of LA.

Amoeba Records – Hollywood – 6400 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90028

The original, stalwart behemoth of record retailers, Amoeba is the largest independent music store in the world. The shop originally put several smaller mom-and-pop record stores out of business when it opened in 1990. I like to shop Amoeba if I have a long list of records to buy, but it’s not a place to go hunting for the unknown, as customers aren’t allowed to open plastic wrap or listen to albums before buying.

As the Record Turns – Hollywood – 6727 3/8 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, CA 90028

Great selection of the classics and the relics: visit As the Record Turns for Miles Davis, Chick Corea, Getz & Gilberto and the like.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Avalon – Highland Park – 106 N Avenue 56, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Avalon opened within the last few months and features a well-curated selection of punk, new wave and eclectic vinyl (first pressings of several hard to find, rare punk records), along with vintage clothing, 45 cases and all sorts of ephemera.

Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Avalon Records. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Gimme Gimme – Highland Park – 4628 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Featuring “rock, folk, soul, hip-hop, punk, psych, country, jazz, blues, disco, latin and more,” Gimme Gimme has a broad selection of eclectic finds. Owner Daniel Cook originally opened up shop in New York in 1994 before relocating to Highland Park 2 1/2 years ago.

Gimme Gimme. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mono Records – Echo Park – 1805 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

“Specializing in used and unique vinyl,” Mono Records offers a small but well-curated selection of rare gems.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Mount Analog – Highland Park – 5906 1/2 N Figueroa St, Los Angeles, CA 90042

WOW. Mount Analog has it all: imports, first pressings, new, used, 45s, LPs, collectible box sets, vintage posters, books, postcards, box sets, strange ephemera… this is, quite simply, a music and media mecca. Mount Analog’s leftfield, IDM and techno offerings are especially stellar. After the Sisyphean ascent and descent of your usual record store selection, climbing Mount Analog is about attaining the sonic zenith. Ascension. Nirvana.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow

Ooga Booga – Downtown – 942 N Broadway #203, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Small downtown boutique featuring rare books, art and vinyl.

Origami – Echo Park – 1816 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Shop and record label Origami has an especially organized and choice selection of rare gems. Gems galore.

Permanent – Eagle Rock – 1583 Colorado Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90041

Stocking both new and used vinyl in various genres, Permanent has locations in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Photo courtesy Permanent Records
Photo courtesy Permanent Records

Poo-Bah – Pasadena – 2636 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena, CA 91107

Poo-Bah is a boutique shop located near Pasadena Community College with a tasteful and eclectic (but not necessarily extensive) collection of both new and used vinyl.

Rockaway Records – Silverlake – 2395 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90039

Though Rockaway has a great vinyl selection, especially of first pressing, clean psychedelic rock, I usually visit for the collectibles: Family Dog original screenprint posters advertising ’60s and ’70s concerts, autographed Beach Boys memorabilia, even David Bowie “Just a Gigolo” film contact sheets. Rockaway is something of a music museum.

Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.
Mount Analog. Image © Sara Jayne Crow.

Touch Vinyl – West LA – 1646 Sawtelle Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90025

Touch Vinyl seems like a good spot for new vinyl in several genres, but hip-hop and electronic music are especially well represented.

Vacation Vinyl – Silverlake – 3815 W Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90026

Hipster Silverlake destination Vacation Vinyl has a good selection of used, fairly priced vinyl, along with a selection of new releases.

Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl
Image courtesy Vacation Vinyl

Wombleton – Highland Park – 5123 York Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90042

Wombleton trudges far off of the status quo beaten path: you won’t find Britney Spears here, glory be. Featuring original pressings, imports, standard LPs and 45s.

This list is by no means exhaustive. I compiled these selections from personal favorites and those of musician and DJ friends who specialize in crate-digging record hunts. Thanks to Travis Kirschbaum, Emily Griffin, Ian RaikowAndrea LaBarge Mills and Nichole Girard for their help.

See the original post on Collective 310.

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